Glorious Indian Peaks Alpenglow
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If you spend enough time in the backcountry, you have a chance of seeing nature where everything goes right… where all the planets seem to line up just perfect. Last Sunday morning at Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area was just such a morning.

Here are all the things that went in my favor on this exceptional morning hike:

1. When I stopped at the entrance for the Brainard Lake Recreation Area to pay my fee (at 3:45 am), I read that I could just write my national parks pass number on the envelope instead of paying the fee. Cool! Nice way to start the day.

2. After starting my hike and the skies got brighter, I could see some clouds to the east that could threaten a good alpenglow. But fortunately, right where the sun would come up, there were no clouds - as best I could see. Sure enough, the first 15 minutes or so of light was unobstructed. Excellent.

3. As my last sunrise trip to Lake Isabelle a few weeks ago saw significant breezes, I saw no reflection on that trip. This was my motivation to try once again - which made the total absence of wind this time so incredibly rewarding. I've seen light wind and strong wind, but I don't think I can remember the last time I saw no wind. Ok, so it was probably just last summer, but my first look at the lake just about made my jaw drop.

4. Once I got to Lake Isabelle, I met up with a couple who had come up the trail behind me. The woman asked me if I'd seen the Mountain Lion she'd seen just off the trail. It had apparently seen me and my dog and her boyfriend before it was even seen (by her). It was a bit scary to think that I was one of the menu items walking up the trail right in front of a Mountain Lion looking for its next meal. I had done my best to make noise and to keep my dog healing inches from my feet for just that reason. But once again, this went in my favor. The Mountain Lion left us alone.

5. While having cloudless skies to the east is great for alpenglow, photographers really like clouds in their pics. And with a few minutes still to go before sunrise, the skies appeared boring and cloudless. I know, I'm picky. But just then, a little layer of poofy clouds started floating right over the peaks in our direction. Yes, at this point, I was in heaven!!! I had scouted the location just a couple weeks earlier and I had a plan. And this time, mother nature actually did her part.

6. To shoot the pics in and around the water, I'd brought my sandals that are great for getting wet in a river. Sure it was cold, but they worked great in letting me get any composition I wanted without limits of where I could step. My wife suggested I bring them along for the river and it worked great!! Thanks Annette!

7. I'd extended the rental on a wide angle lens I'd rented for the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival so I'd have it for this shoreline capture I'd envisioned at Lake Isabelle. Looking back on it, I don't know how I would have captured such an image without such a wide angle.

8. The other photographer that showed up Paul Brandner and I worked together at times in sharing our ideas for compositions. We knew the conditions were awesome. In fact, he said the conditions were identical the morning before only a cloud blocked the light from the east. So we were quick in making the most of it from a variety of angles. Try over there… Ok, try over here… It was great to see the spontaneous teamwork. Thanks Paul!

9. On the way down, I got a really cool shot of some wildflowers and waterfalls where the "bridge" crosses the river. I'll post that one soon, but for today, this image deserves my spotlight.

10. Further on down the trail, I ran into a Forest Service worker who thanked me for having my dog on a leash. Now this is getting a little weird!

With everything going our way from calm winds and poofy clouds to a mountain lion deciding to leave us alone, it was definitely a morning hike to remember. I was pretty excited to be able to capture both flowing water and reflection - something I thought really made the capture special especially with the puffy clouds over the peaks. I do hope you enjoy the results!

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lens rental

Glorious Indian Peaks Alpenglow

Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is always a pretty area to visit. But with wildflowers blooming, winds not blowing, and poofy clouds floating overhead, it was something to behold. Simply fantastic conditions and a good plan worked out for one of my all-time favorite captures.

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All downloadable files follow the limitations of a Creative Commons License - Attribution - Non-Commercial - No Derivs
Date Captured:
Jul 18, 2010
Colorado, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Photo Gear:
Nikon D300 with a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 Lens
Vertical 3:2
Alpenglow, Flowing Water, Ice / Snow, Mountains, Reflections, Sunrise/Sunset
Bright, Warm, Cool, Blue, Green, Red, Orange