Above the Clouds
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A few weeks ago, I had yet another random day off during the week and an urge to do something productive. I had been to Rocky Mountain National Park four or five times, but never specifically for photography like I had now done for so many of the other national parks. I had either visited in my pre-photography days or with the mid-day [crap] light.
I rolled out of bed in Grand Lake around 4 a.m., which was just horrible, and headed up into the park – the glowing eyes of elk all along the side of the road were staring me down as I cautiously drove through Kawuneeche Valley. As Trail Ridge Road climbed past Poudre Lake, I realized that I might get skunked for sunrise – fog began to whisp past the headlights as I drove into the clouds at Medicine Bow Curve. I could tell it was starting to get light out as sunup came closer, but I had to tone it back to about 10mph to make sure I stayed on the road. I trotted up the paved Tundra Communities Trail and hunkered down behind some rocks to get out of the blistering wind. I did not plan on this.
Once and a while, a slight opening in the clouds would blow through for a brief moment, but for the most part, I was completely socked in. Sunrise had came and gone and I was in desperate need of coffee so totally disappointed, I packed it up and headed back to the car. The forecast for the day was ‘clear’ so I figured I’d head down towards Estes Park and hope for the clouds to clear early enough to still get some okay light. As I started to make my way down some switchbacks from Rainbow Curve, it began to look promising and as I entered Horseshoe Park, the clouds/fog just opened up for me – the peaks of Mount Chaplin and Chiquita poking through the mist.
It was an unbelievable scene and different from what I had ever shot. The clearing of storms can always create some awesome pictures, but whenever I tend to go out and try and capture that, my bad luck kicks in and the storm doesn’t actually clear. It would have been nice if this could have happened an hour earlier for the lower light, but it was still awesome.
I decided to fore-go that coffee and make my way back up Trail Ridge Road in hope I could actually get some shots from above the clouds. I basically spent the next 3 hours driving up and down the park hopping out at each overlook – The shift in the clouds was changing the scene every minute and although a lot of my pictures turned out similar, none were the same.