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Thread: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

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    terrib's Avatar
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    Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    We will be in Rocky Mountain National Park for 3 nights next week. I will have the opportunity for 3 sunrises, 2 full days, and 2 sunsets. The 3rd day, provided Ridge Road is still open, we'll be driving through the park and out the west side down through Grand Lake with time for several hours of stopping on the way home.

    I've been there many times over the last 30 years as a tourist/camper but never as a photographer. If any of you have been and have specific advise/opinions on preparing for or choosing locations, I would love to hear it. Concentrating on landscapes but also hoping to catch some elk and possibly moose. We are staying outside the park but not far from the east entrance on Hwy 36. Here's what I'm doing to prepare:

    1. Looking at pro pictures on the internet to find locations that interest me
    2. Using a few books, but mainly A Guide to Colorado's Best Photography Locations by Andy Cook. He was my landscape class instructor and also the one who pointed me to CinC and his book includes pictures, detailed directions and his opinions on best times of day for different spots.
    3. Using list of trails from the park to narrow down choices to the shorter hikes (due to time constraints and hip problems ) Trying to stay at one-way around a mile or less.
    4. Using the Ephemeris application for sunrise/sunset info
    5. Looking for CinC threads and other internet articles on how to shoot sunrises/sunsets.

    Still working on it but so far I'm thinking Bear Lake and Sprague Lake at sunrise, Dream Lake and Alberta Falls in early morning and Chasm Falls in late afternoon (if Fall River Rd is still open).

    I know I'm asking a limited number of the membership, but I'd love to hear any ideas and comments so I can be as prepared as possible. Thanks!

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    I've never been there and can't offer any specific suggestions re locations, but in terms of your preparations, you given yourself the maximum chance of coming home with photographs that you can turn into great pictures.

    it's music to the ears to hear/read about someone doing this sort of preparation. That, in my opinion, is what it is about, because I would go as far to guess that you already have the sort of images that you're going to make in your head. I always feel that is such a strong starting point.

    I'm going amidst the harsh and hilly mountain landscape of Scotland's north-west coast next week. we can compare how successful we've been when we both get back.

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    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    im jealous... lucky bloody you, but obviously luck wont be involved in your photography, enjoy your trip and i look forward to the photographs.

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    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    Thanks, Donald and Mark for the encouragement. I think I'll be fairly prepared so just hoping the weather cooperates. I do wish I had the time to scout out the locations beforehand but it will be a fun trip and a great learning experience regardless. I at least have a lot more information at my disposal than I would have trying this 20 years ago.

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    Re: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    I don't know whether Ephemeris provides information about where sunrise and sunset is in relation to a particular spot. If it doesn't do that for places such as the lakes and especially the waterfalls, try finding those places using Google Earth's satellite images. As an example, if you learn from an image that a particular waterfall faces east, that can be important in determining when to visit it. That information was extraordinarily helpful for me when planning my trip to Iceland.

    Best wishes for both you and Donald for wildly successful trips. Looking forward to your images and descriptions of your experiences!

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most photogenic areas in our nation. You have the opportunity to shoot both landscapes and nature. Unfortunately, I have not been there in at least ten years and only had a 2.0 MP Olympus P&S camera when I visited the Park.

    I was there in the Springtime and there were elk wandering all over. Driving through Estes Park, Colorado, the nearest town to RMNP, you could see elk wandering around on the streets. In fact, the week we visited, a lady had been trampled by a cow elk because she attempted to chase the elk and its calf from grazing in her garden. Unfortunately, as she did so, she got between the mother and the baby. Bad move!

    If I were driving through RMNP (or any place in the American West); I would always have my longest lens attached to my camera and I would not have the camera in a case. I would also have the ISO set at around 320 or 400 (most of today's DSLR cameras are capable of quite good imagery at these ISO's) and have the exposure mode set to Programmed. This way, if I saw wildlife (elk, goats, moose, etc.) I would have my equipment set for a quick shot. If I needed a wider focal length for a landscape or some other view, I would normally have time enough to set my camera any way I wanted. Landscape shots are not as fleeting as are wildlife shots. You will often have time to set up for landscape views but, need to act quickly for wildlife.

    BTW: on the drive from Denver (we flew into that city and rented a car) to Estes Park, CO, you pass through a rocky gorge with a beautiful river. There are often parking spots available at places where the scenery is great. I would advise shooting this on the way into Estes Park because I think that the views are better as you travel west.

    Actually, when traveling, I always recommend stopping to shoot subjects or vistas as you see them rather than thinking "Oh well, I'll stop and get this shot on the way back!" You are often unable to replicate the view on the return trip.

    BTW, don't neglect longer focal lengths for mountain landscape shooting. The distance
    compression of a longer focal length can often enhance the beauty of a vista.

    One shot (or series of shots) that I would not miss is of the St. Malo Chapel which is either in the Park or on the periphery of the Park. This stone structure is very picturesque and depending on the lighting can make a fine image.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=st.+...w=1280&bih=582


    Another area which I would not miss but, is difficult to photograph is the tundra section of the Park. This road with hiking trails is at a very high altitude and can be very cold and windy. IMO, this region would be best captured by using a tripod and shooting panos with a longer focal length lens.

    http://www.nps.gov/romo/naturescienc..._ecosystem.htm

    Have fun, I wish I were going with you!
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 5th October 2012 at 03:36 PM.

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    Re: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    Thanks, Mike. Ephemeris does a great job with that type info and so far it has found every lake or waterfall that I've entered. I'm using the free laptop version but may have to spring for the mobile app too!

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    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Preparing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    ...
    If I were driving through RMNP (or any place in the American West); I would always have my longest lens attached to my camera and I would not have the camera in a case. I would also have the ISO set at around 320 or 400 (most of today's DSLR cameras are capable of quite good imagery at these ISO's) and have the exposure mode set to Programmed. This way, if I saw wildlife (elk, goats, moose, etc.) I would have my equipment set for a quick shot. If I needed a wider focal length for a landscape or some other view, I would normally have time enough to set my camera any way I wanted. Landscape shots are not as fleeting as are wildlife shots. You will often have time to set up for landscape views but, need to act quickly for wildlife.
    Thanks, Richard. For the first time, we will have 2 dslr's so I can have 2 lenses ready at all times. This point is a good reminder, though, that I could try out the new 7d's C1, C2 and C3 settings on the dial. I could be ready with some starting point settings for landscape and wildlife! I haven't explored that yet.


    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    on the drive from Denver (we flew into that city and rented a car) to Estes Park, CO, you pass through a rocky gorge with a beautiful river. There are often parking spots available at places where the scenery is great. I would advise shooting this on the way into Estes Park because I think that the views are better as you travel west.
    That's the Big Thompson Canyon that you are talking about and it is beautiful but I think we'll be traveling a different way up so I'll be missing it this trip.

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    One shot (or series of shots) that I would not miss is of the St. Malo Chapel which is either in the Park or on the periphery of the Park. This stone structure is very picturesque and depending on the lighting can make a fine image.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=st.+...w=1280&bih=582


    Another area which I would not miss but, is difficult to photograph is the tundra section of the Park. This road with hiking trails is at a very high altitude and can be very cold and windy. IMO, this region would be best captured by using a tripod and shooting panos with a longer focal length lens.

    http://www.nps.gov/romo/naturescienc..._ecosystem.htm

    Have fun, I wish I were going with you!
    thanks for those place ideas. I don't remember seeing that chapel on previous visits and it is beautiful. And I'm really hoping that the weather holds so that Trail Ridge Road remains open so we can see the tundra. I have to get marmot shots too, after all!

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