Monthly Archives: September 2014

Why Photograph Maroon Bells?

Crater Lake,Maroon Bells,Aspen,Colorado,sunrise

Crater Erupts! : Prints Available

Spectacular sunrise from Crater Lake in the Maroon Bells Wilderness area near Aspen.

Because the Bells are the most awesomest thing to photo, EVER! You can go there on even the dullest, grayest showery morning of September and still walk away with superb photos that will get 3 million likes on FB, and Peter Lik will beg you to hang your prints in his Aspen Gallery. Never mind that you will be elbow-to-elbow with 200 other photographers who share your undying love of the Bells, because the three inches between you and the guy-leading-the-workshop next to you will result in a slight angular difference that will make your photo your unique vision! 🙂

Lololololol!

With no vacation time off from work this season, I had to make do with a weekend
which did not look too promising for a good sunrise. But, it looked like there was at least some chance of light Sunday morning before a storm moved in, so that was my target. With little time to plan, I stayed at a hostel Saturday night, then headed for the Maroon Bells at about 4:30 am. Since there had been a thunderstorm the night before, and the main area of rain was still on the way, I wasn’t very hopeful. But my main goal was to shoot some time lapse for a video I am working on, and the beauty of time lapse is that even overcast skies can be interesting when set in motion.

When I headed out from Maroon Lake, even in the darkness I could tell that there wasn’t much hope for spectacular sunrise light on the Bells. But there was a glimmer of light on the southeast horizon, which gave me some hope. My plan was to hike up to Crater Lake, about two miles and 1,000 feet above Maroon Lake. In my opinion, the views of North Maroon Peak and the Bells are superior from Crater–plus it gives one the option of shooting from more varied directions. There are few options from Maroon Lake, especially when you are surrounded by throngs of other photographers.

The hike up to Crater was quiet and peaceful. A couple of guys passed me on the way to climbing Pyramid Peak, one of the toughest 14,000 foot-plus mountains in Colorado to climb; they were seemingly unconcerned about the downhill trend in the weather. When I got to Crater with plenty of time to spare for sunrise, I was the only person up there. All the signs posted warning of bears in the area were a little unnerving, but I saw no signs of bears. As sunrise approached, it became clear that the higher clouds above would block most if not all of the sunrise light from hitting the Bells, so I shifted strategies and set up from the far side of Crater Lake looking east, where I could see the light was trying to break through at the horizon. Just before sunrise, there were more breaks in the clouds to the east, and the sky began to light up in hues of pink and then yellow. The reflections on the lake were ever-changing, and made for an exciting time lapse. I felt sorry for the mob down at Maroon Lake–they probably missed all of the excitement that was happening behind them as they focused on the gray skies above the Bells. The photo above was at peak color; without a second camera I was forced to halt my time lapse to grab a shot of the spectacular sunrise. As expected, a few rain drops started to fall as I made my way back down to the parking lot.

I didn’t come away with the ‘classic’ views of the Bells that draw the crowds to the area each year, but I was far from disappointed. I just hope my secret stays safe in the coming years, so I can continue to have Crater Lake all to myself!

The unexciting skies to the west:
Fall2014-g

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Glacier National Park: Triple Falls

Glacier National Park, Montana

Out of the Fog : Prints Available

Fog clearing after sunrise along a beautiful creek near Logan Pass.

Triple Falls is one of those icons every landscape photographer has on their ‘bucket list’. Most photographers were introduced to this location by the late Galen Rowell’s photos of this area taken in the 90’s. My introduction came by way of one of Galen’s protege’s– Marc Adamus, a well known adventure photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. His fresh look at the place got me thinking about getting a shot of the falls with some unusual conditions. I was hoping for some fresh snow, but the snow fell a little bit too high–not quite cold enough in early September! Fortunately the strong west winds ensured a bank of fog would form west of the Continental Divide. A quick look at the weather maps convinced me that would happen. So my plan shifted to trying to get a shot of the falls as fog cleared from the peaks at sunrise.
The stars were out as I headed up Going to the Sun to get to Logan Pass. A large bull moose stood in the middle of the road at one point, and I had to break to avoid hitting him. I could see the clouds banked on the other side of the divide, and when I finally got to the parking area it was completely fogged in, and pretty dark as well. I was a bit wary of hiking in the dark off trail in heavy fog through prime grizzly bear habitat. I ran into another photographer, Denis Dessoliers, as we both prepared to hike out to the falls, and we agreed to stick together to minimize the bear threat. The fog was dense enough that I was not optimistic that it would clear for sunrise. Here’s Denis setting up at the head of the falls.

Glacier National Park, Montana

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Denis Dessoliers at Triple Falls

For the next half hour or so, before and after sunrise, the fog toyed with us and kept revealing pieces of the surrounding peaks but never the whole grand landscape. While Denis patiently waited, I ran around frantically from spot to spot, trying to grab a shot of the emerging peaks with the falls in the foreground!

Glacier National Park, Montana,sunrise

Foggy Games : Prints Available

The fog toyed with the mountains at sunrise, leaving just glimpses of the peaks.

Finally, the fog started to break up a bit as the sun tried to rise above the distant peaks. It was a magical period of time as the light bounced around the fog bank and pushed its way over the peaks. The light and the spectacle were changing dramatically from second to second, and I blasted through about half a memory card as I shot from the edge of the waterfalls.

Glacier National Park, Montana,triple falls,fog,sunrise

Triple Play : Prints Available

Fog, sunrise, and fresh snow on the peaks, at Glacier National Park’s Triple Falls.

Glacier National Park, Montana,Triple Falls,fog

Trifecta : Prints Available

Sunrise from Triple Falls, as the fog clears.

With the best light behind us, We hiked to another waterfall and grabbed some more photos as the fog continued to make advances and retreats into the valley. The atmosphere was special; nothing can really top morning fog in the high country of the northern Rockies!

Glacier National Park, Montana,fog

Misty Memories : Prints Available

A foggy morning in the Glacier high country.

When we got back to the parking area at the pass, it was well past sunrise but the fog was still hugging the divide and spilling over into the eastern portion of the park. I grabbed a few last shots of the mountains and fog before heading back down the scenic highway. It was a great way to wind down my short stay in Glacier–hopefully when I get back I’ll be able to go deep into the back-country to see the heart and soul of Glacier.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Hugging the Divide : Prints Available

Fog over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.

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Glacier National Park: Autumn Approaches

Glacier National Park, Montana,leaves

Autumn's Arrival : Prints Available

Maple leaves changing color in early September.

As my week long vacation approached a couple weeks ago, I was trying to decide whether to backpack in the San Juans or head north to Glacier National Park. The forecast of snow for the National Park made it an easy decision; nothing beats early season snow! Plus, I hadn’t been up in Glacier since I was a kid, and I was anxious to get back. This time, I hit all the touristy spots–hopefully I can hit the backcountry for my next visit. As the top photo shows, Fall was already well underway in Glacier even though it was Labor Day. I started my trip with a hike up to Iceberg Lake near Many Glacier; as the photos that follow show, it was a rather showery afternoon (I got drenched by cold wind-driven rain at the lake) but the summer wildflowers were still going strong.

Glacier National Park, Montana,Iceberg Lake

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Flowers still going strong in early September in the Glacier high country.

Glacier National Park, Montana,Iceberg Lake

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Flowers on the slopes surrounding Iceberg Lake

I went to St Mary Lake for sunset. I had seen a lot of shots taken at sunset from various vantage points along the lake. I hadn’t researched shot locations beforehand, but it was pretty obvious from the terrain where the best vantage points were. I just picked the first turnout off the road and made a bee line for the lake shore down a little ‘trail’ that quickly turned into a semi-bushwack, probably carved out by other photographers since I quickly recognized the landscape from photos I had seen of the lake. It was a nice windy sunset with lots of waves crashing on the rocky shore!

Glacier National Park, Montana,St Mary Lake,waves,moon

September Storm : Prints Available

Waves break across the rocks at St. Mary Lake as a September storm approaches. Note the quarter moon rising.

The next morning, I set up for sunrise at Two Medicine. The clouds were already on the way from the upcoming storm, enough clouds to prompt one photographer from Texas to take off from the lake shore before sunrise. This left one other photographer and myself at the shoreline waiting for sunrise, and sure enough, the clouds broke in time for a colorful post-sunrise display. As I have learned time and time again, when it comes to sunrises and sunsets–it aint over til it’s over!
I spent the rest of the day exploring Going to the Sun and all the little stops and trails along the way. Thanks to road construction and labor day, it was a rather traffic congested day…

Glacier National Park, Montana,Two Medicine Lake,sunrise

Good Medicine : Prints Available

Sunrise at Two Medicine Lake

Glacier National Park, Montana,Iceberg Lake

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Fields of flowers near Logan Pass in Glacier NP.

Glacier National Park, Montana

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A mix of colors in early September along Going to the Sun Highway.

The rain began falling that night, and the NWS put out a snow advisory for Logan Pass and the high country for 3-6 inches of snow. I was hopeful; my goal was to photograph an area near Logan Pass after the fresh snowfall. I sent the next day waiting out the weather. I hiked to a few waterfalls, but the showers were plentiful and it was a better excuse to try some of the beers at St Mary Lodge… Next blog entry: the photos from after the storm. Hint: the 3-6 inches didn’t materialize–most of the snow was 1,000 feet higher up. Here’s a shot from the day of snow and rain, see y’all next blog entry!

Glacier National Park, Montana

Transitions : Prints Available

Snow Line at about 6,500 feet.

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