So, I don't fancy myself a landscape photographer but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it and want to get better at it! Inspired by another photog blogger I made the hike up to Rocky Mountain National Park to try my hand at Chasm Lake, at sunrise no less! ugh.
It was a 1:30 am getup at home, make it to the trail head at 3:00 am kind of a day. I was actually pretty darn excited about this one and really didn't mind getting up so early. I much rather would of liked to park at the trailhead and sleep in the car but there are lots of signs warning people not to do it. With that said there are lots of folks who do. I guess I did not want to risk getting woke up by a ranger and having to find a new sleeping spot.
About twelve of us took off at 3am, everybody in complete silence with the occasional whisper breaking the cool early morning air. Head lights bounced around in complete darkness as we found the trail and started the slow, cold, climb.
It was truly a blessed hike up. I would stop and shut off my headlamp, complete darkness engulfs you immediately, forcing your other senses in high gear, the trees slowing rustling in the light wind, the river gurgling, the sounds were so rich and alive. I was lucky enough for just a small sliver of moon so the sky was black which made the stars so bright you could stare up at them with your mind wandering for hours...
It's an easy trail, well marked and to get to Chasm Lake you just stay left at the two junction points. I did however have some trouble finding the lake... the last sign points you basically straight up a steep rocky incline and from there I veered left when I should of veered right. It was completely black out with just a small sliver of a moon. After stumbling around and thinking how hard is it to find a lake! I finally saw the inky black water. I still had 30 min before sunrise to find my spot and get the tripod set up.
Using my 14-24mm lens at 14mm I still could not fit the entire scene into the frame. So your first thought is pano. Here is where the first of the hard knocks came about. I just have not played around much with panos and my lack of experience came around to bite me hard. The first two shots were 4 frames starting at the left and working my way right being sure to overlap the photos by about 50%. 4 frames was the proper amount, I was able to stitch the 4 frames together and keep all the elements that I wanted in the picture. The problem really started when for some crazy reason I thought 3 frames for the pano would be enough and I shot all the rest of the panos at 3 frames (like 12 more sets) and you know what? 3 frames is not enough to capture the scene and crop the photo. Ugh! I was not happy that so many pictures were essentially worthless due to my lack of experience. The lesson learned for me is, as far as panos are concerned more is better. You can always crop out extra elements that you don't want but you can't take it the other way!
The positive thing about learning a lesson the hard way is that you won't forget it. I'll always think back to Chasm Lake now every time I'm setting a pano shot up.
I'm pretty happy with the two shots that I got, next time I'm going to change up my position and capture more of the water from a lower standpoint. I was not blessed with a particular stunning sunrise and the sky was clear leaving me no chance of having beautiful clouds reflecting the soft pink sky of sunrise. I am no fan of the pure blue sky. I just don't like the look at all. Clouds here for me make all the difference.
I was shocked at the beauty of the whole place. I knew it would be great, but I had no idea it would be so awesome. It's kind of funny, the whole walk up your surrounded by darkness and don't get to see thing but just a few hours later your walking down and your smacked in the head with the shear beauty and awesome power of such raw rock, powering straight up 2000 feet above your head.
Just below the lake there are small water falls, lakes and beautiful lush grass growing in the shallow creeks. It's almost a shame you miss the first half of the trip.
I really like this shot below. The grass and the rock really work well together. I just did not know which way to push it. Below you see 3 different version of the same shot. I like them all. I do this with a lot of shots, push it three or four different ways. Most of the time one is the clear winner and you move on but some shots are different, they work in many different directions.
You can clearly see my mistake here. The sign is the focus point for me, it really is the reason for the shot and I did not use it for the proper expoure. So I ended up with the trail all blown up, and way over exposed.
I like this shot in black and white as well.
Overall it was a great day and I learned some really important things about number of shots for panos. If you get the time don't hesitate to take this hike. It's about 8-9 miles round trip depending on how much wandering you do, the sights really are worth it.
To see some really incredible shots and lots of good learning check out Bryan Maltais, his website WildernessShots is really well done and Bryan has way better pictures than I do! If your in Colorado and need ideas for landscape shots he has lots of good info.