Bird, wildlife, and landscape photography by Jon Rista
Last Landscapes of 2011
During the last week of December in 2011, the week after Christmas, I stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies with a friend in Rocky Mountain National Park. The original plan was to hike around for a few days and get some winter landscape photos. This was my first opportunity to use my bran new Canon EOS 7D camera, a very high-powered, professional grade DSLR. Its quite a camera, and a big step up from my original 450D. I was pretty excited to go out and use it in a more “real” capacity since my purchase of it a couple weeks before (kind of my own personal Christmas gift!) As often occurs, life threw me a curve ball.
The first day there things started moving a bit late. It took longer to get to the park than expected, and longer to get settled in at the YMCA than expected. We had some time to scout around the park and plan out the next few days. The second day of the trip turned out to be the only productive day, as a very large winter storm started moving in by late morning, and it was sure to engulf the park in a high altitude mountain blizzard within a day. We took our chances and headed up one of the Bear Lake trails, and hiked through the snow all the way up to Emerald Lake, nestled just beneath Hallatte and Flattop peaks in the continental divide.
This hike was probably one of the best, and most grueling, of my life. It is only a few miles from the trailhead to Emerald Lake, but it becomes a much longer journey when you are carrying a camera bag full of gear and a tripod with you over snow and ice. It took us a couple hours to get up to the top, and along the way I managed to get a few landscape shots. The first shot was strait down a frozen dream lake towards Hallatte and Flattop peaks. The wind was blowing harder than I’d ever seen personally up on those mountains (if it was any windier, I wouldn’t be up there in the first place), gusting probably around 60mph. There were a couple times when my gear and I slid backwards along the ice sheet covering the lake due to the sheet force of the wind. It sounds rather terrifying, however it was actually rather exhilarating. Nothing quite like the crisp, fresh, cold air of winter in the Rocky Mountains…its refreshing. There were people hiking up and down the lake (rather surprising how many people there were, given the conditions and the time of year), so I tried to get as many shots as possible to assist in removing the unsightly traffic once I returned home. After a few attempts at re-positioning, I managed to get the money shot pictured above. The reflection of the landscape on the rippled ice, which itself stretched from my feet right down the entire length of the lake, was quite a sight. Its too bad we can’t capture the sensation of a moment as well…bring that cold, crisp air along with the photo. 😉
The shot above was the only other really decent keeper out of the day. The distant peak of Flattop Mountain shot through the trees along the trail as we were headed back down off the divide. The encroaching winter storm can be seen just beginning to shroud the mountains at this point. By the time we were back down to Bear Lake, the mountain peaks were fully backed by dark clouds, and that was barely even 3pm, when we had started hiking around 11am. By evening the entire divide was buried in the brooding clouds of a monster storm, and the next day the storm was moving down into Estes Park. The trip was sadly cut short at that point, but I am glad I managed to get a couple good landscape photos out of it.
I also had the chance to explore my new Canon 7D, and learn its capabilities. All I can say is, wow!I love this camera!!