Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall sunset in RMNP

last wednesday, I decided to take off and go shoot some fall color somewhere. I ended up in our awesome Rocky Mountain National Park, where I saw many beautiful Aspen groves such as this one (click for a bigger version and to buy prints ;-) ): Update 10/16/08: There is also a full set on flickr now.

This is with back illumination which brings out the color in the leaves very well and I pulled up the foreground a little using a grad ND filter.

When I got to the park, I realized that I should just hike to a lake that I photographed years and years ago and that on the map looked like it was ideal for sunset photography - Mills lake. It is a short 3 mile hike from the trailhead and I was in time to make it. It was 4:45 when I started and the sun would set around 6:30 pm. On my way there, I saw many people with big photography gear coming down which surprised me. Don't they know that the best light was still to come? And I can tell you it absolutely did. Strangely enough this is a thing I see quite a bit. To get the best light for the better pictures, you need to sacrifice your dinner or breakfast time and often hike in the dark and cold. The Aspen grove I posted above was just a quarter of a mile onto the trail. This scene was a little further on the trail (much better large):

By this time, the trail had become completely empty and I had the place basically to myself.
Getting closer to Glacier gorge, the sun peeked over the edge of the mountains and illuminated some trees in the valley below:

A little later, I came around the corner to a point where 8-years ago or so we had shot our christmas card photo. The moon was rising above the edge of a nearby mountain that was illuminated by the setting sun. Just spectacular I think:

In the forest after this overlook, there was a beautiful waterfall. After the waterfall, you come accross a rock overlooking the valley. I had taken a picture a long time ago in this same spot that you can compare this to.

After taking some pictures of Longs peak being reflected in a little pre-pond to Mills lake, I reached Mills lake still in time for the sunset. At the headwater side of Mills lake there are many trees lodged into the outlet. I had photographed them in winter. This time around I was struck by the superb reflection of the sunlit peaks in the lake and the geometric shapes the tree trunks made. Here is one example:

I also shot a very high resolution version of this that can be seen here.

This long lens image of Longs peak is striking because of the moon and the beautiful color.

At this point, the sun started setting and the colors took on this amazing red tint:

I love how you can see the reflection of the moon in the water and how the submerged logs take on the sunset color.
Now the sun had set mostly completely and I started walking down the trail. I talked a little to two campers that were going to camp just on the other side of the lake and that were hurrying to get there before it became completely dark. A waterfall begged for my attention and turning around, this amazing scene unfolded:

Seeing scenes like this is like a religious experience. The warm feeling wore off just a little when I realized that I was quite a ways off from the trailhead and that it was becoming dark really quickly. Since I hadn't planned on going on a hike, I had not brought my headlamp, so I walked back the three miles in the moonlight.

That's such a long exposure that the moon moved a bit causing the slightly oblong shape. The white dots are stars coming out. The hike back, notwithstanding the dark was beautiful and serene. I had to use my cell phone's light a few times to check the signs at trailsplits and arrived at my car around 8. I love trips like this.

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