Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

We should have already landed in Cape Town a week from now for the start of our African Vacation. We’ve been planning it for almost a year and a half and it is finally here – crazy how it sneaks up on you as we still have a lot to finish up this week in preparation to be gone for over two weeks.

The image below is from one of my favorite and easiest landscape photography spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. An easy trail winds around the lake from the parking lot and brings you to this spot which – in the summer – has these two rocks prominently occupying the foreground of the image. I know I’ve posted a lot of Sprague Lake shots in the past but the blue sky in this one and clouds reflecting in the lake make it one of my favorites for non-sunrise/sunset times of day.

Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

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Hallett Peak over Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

After taking in sunrise at Dream Lake I stopped at Sprague Lake to take some pictures of the Continental Divide and my favorite peak in the park – Hallett Peak. Last year I climbed to the top of this – 12,713 feet the highest I’ve ever been – and the view from the top is spectacular.

Hallett Peak over Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Hallett Peak over Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Seeing that it was the middle of the day I converted the image to black and white since the light wasn’t too impressive. I liked the imposing size of the mountain against the wispy cloud streaking across the sky.

Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

This has to be one of the easiest ‘postcard’ views throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. At sunrise, you just have to allow around 10-15 minutes to take a nice flat path a half mile around Sprague lake to get the perfect reflection of the Continental Divide as the sunlight hits it. The ease of access makes it one of my go to locations when I’m in Rocky Mountain National Park during the off tourist season. This shot though was taken during the height of summer – August 2014 – and wasn’t my original destination. However, as I drove to a different location I noticed some nice clouds forming over the mountains and detoured here trying to get that perfect sunrise. At first light I was able to catch these colors…Sprague Lake at Sunrise (Rocky Mountain National Park)….this shot is around a half hour after the early morning sunrise.

Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Perfection at Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

This is perhaps the easiest ‘iconic’ shot in Rocky Mountain National Park. The view from the quick and flat half mile hike from the parking lot to this spot on the shore of Sprague Lake is absolutely perfect. The rocks in the foreground make a nice point of interest and then the obvious star of the show is the Continental Divide in the background which is highlighted by my favorite peak in the park – Hallett Peak (which BTW I hiked to the top of during my last visit. More on that in another post as I’m pressed for time at the moment).

When I woke up in the morning for sunrise I had another spot in mind to take pictures at because I’ve been to this particular lake so many times before…however, when I turned to go towards the park and saw the big puffy cloud over top of the Continental Divide I knew this morning had a chance to be special and I didn’t want to miss it. As the sun came over the horizon to light the peaks the cloud started to glow as well – the water was calm as it usually is in the morning – and I shot what I consider to be the perfect photograph from this location. Big puffy clouds turning pink, nice reflection, colorful peaks and interesting foreground objects with the rocks. I could not have been happier the rest of this day!

Perfection at Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Sprague Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

We are on the cruise heading up to Juneau tomorrow and are going to be hiking to the Medenhall Glacier – it was my Mom and sister’s birthday yesterday so I should also wish them a happy birthday!! I also missed one of my best friends weddings this past weekend (I feel awful about it – he understood that the timing of this trip was such that I couldn’t miss it and I love his understanding of the situation – Congrats Shaun and Misty!)

Sunrise over Sprague Lake

What a difference a few months make – I visited Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in May and in August and the water levels were markedly different in one of the park’s easiest accessible lakes.

The picture below was taken in nearly the same place as the May photo but in the one below the rocks in the foreground are much more prominent. This lake does freeze over but in November when I’m back there I expect – with all the flooding they’ve had – that the rocks may not even be noticeable.

Photo of the Day – Sprague Lake

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I was browsing a website this afternoon – Images of RMNP – and I was getting so jealous that this guy had such easy access to the park and was able to get there so frequently (a few times a week) to capture the perfection that is the natural landscape. After my week in Glacier National Park where I rarely saw the sunny skies it is such an advantage to be so close that you can pick and choose the weather you take the pictures in. Of course, the fact that a place never looks the same – similar yes but never the same – based on when you are standing there in that unique moment is one of the appealing things to me. Alot of my pictures – certainly the early ones – were copies of photographers I’d seen online but no matter what I could never perfectly emulate it because the conditions the photograph was taken in always differed.

The Continental Divide

An early morning look at the Continental Divide at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was the first time I’ve ever been to this lake for sunrise that I didn’t run into any other photographers – most of the time there are five or ten other people walking around and trying to find a shot but for whatever reason on this particular Saturday the lake was all mine. I spent the majority of the morning on the Continental Divide side of the lake shooting back at the rising sun but worked my way over to this spot just prior to the light getting too harsh to get any decent shots of the mountain.

Photo of the Day – Sprague Lake Stream

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A few winters ago I tried to take a picture of this bridge – it was winter so the stream wasn’t running nearly as fast – and the snow made the image a little too bright. I’ve shot it a few other times since then and have never been happy with the results. However, I kept coming back and kept trying different angles figuring I’d eventually get one that I liked.

The Day I nearly Died for Photography

I go out early and I stay out late. Often I am out hiking before the sun rises and I’m out well past the time the sunsets. I have multiple head lamps that I keep in my pack at all times because I never want to be without some sort of guiding light but as anyone whose used those knows your sight line is only limited to what is illuminated with the head lamp. The rest of the world remains completely dark and mysterious and what lies in the darkness can often be fierce and deadly if you sneak up on it. A few weeks back while hiking around one of the most frequented and easy to access places in Rocky Mountain National Park I had an encounter with Mama Moose. Now many wouldn’t think a Moose could be a violent creature but when they are protecting their young they will certainly turn from docile to attack mode pretty quickly. In fact, in the state of Alaska there are more Moose attacks annually then bear attacks.

It was pre-dawn – around 45 minutes before sunrise – so the sky was starting to light up a little bit. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness and I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was in front of me because I was distracted by the beauty of the lake and the mountains in the distance. I was also focusing and trying to figure out the best possible place to stand for what I hoped would be a great sunrise. It wasn’t until I heard the grunt about 15 feet in front of me and slightly off the trail that indicated to me that I was in trouble. I picked my head up and illuminated by the headlamp was a fully grown female moose with two young calves behind her. Her head and ears were back indicating that she didn’t want me to come any closer. I froze and didn’t know what to do but instinctively I knew I needed to get away so I dimmed the headlamp and started to slowly back away never letting the moose out of my sights….eventually when I sensed the moose was comfortable with where I was I turned and walked quickly, than trotted in the opposite direction. I came across a few other photographers on my way back around the lake and warned them of the potential ‘killer moose’ up ahead.

Photo of the Day – The Killer’s smile

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After capturing a beautiful sunrise over Sprague Lake with the Continental Divide reflecting in the calm waters I started to pack up my gear. It was then that I saw the mama moose hop into the water. She spent the next half hour to forty five minutes just walking around, bathing and drinking water while the calves trailed her on the other side of the lake (you can see them in the distance). In this particular shot she had just reached down for a drink of water and picked her head up. I fired off six shots and in this particular one as the water is dripping out of her mouth it seems like she is smiling at me (if you click the image – and all images on the blog – it will bring up a larger version and you can also make it larger with some options on that page). I took that to me that she forgave me for my intrusion earlier in the morning. As the great portrait photographer Peter Hurley would say….’Shabang!’