Dream at Dawn
The alpine lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park are a favorite for their beauty both during the day and under the stars. Last year, I had been to Nymph lake and photographed the Milky Way as my bemused wife looked on indulgently. So ideally my friend Agastya and I would shoot the stars at one or more of the pretty lakes near Bear Lake and photograph the sunrise there. Three of lakes we planned to visit, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake are beautiful in their own right any time of the day. But under good lighting conditions, they become heavenly. I really had wanted to capture the stars shining on the Lilies in the Nymph Lake. I did not however know that Colorado in July is quite cloudy and stormy so we could not photograph the night skies.
After a short nap, we woke up at 2am and arrived at Bear Lake Trailhead by about 3:30am. It was surprising to see a few cars already in the parking lot which would be packed during the day. When a lady in hiking gear and backpack came over to us and asked, are you guys here for such and such person’s wedding, we were confused. I said, “no but where is the wedding?” She told us that two of her best friends were getting married and they were having a mountain wedding. All the guests and the couple would hike up a mountain and the couple would exchange vows as the sun comes up. I thought that was such a neat idea. The “Dawn” of a new relationship at the peak of their lives. Looking back I wonder how spectacular the wedding might have looked under the lighting that was chosen by the upstairs people that morning.
We began our hike in the pitch darkness. I gave a stick to Agastya to use as hiking pole and told him to beat other sticks or rocks periodically while I did the same with my hiking pole. We were near "Bear" Lake after all. But in all honesty, I was more concerned about startling an elk or moose than encountering a bear. With our headlamps and the noise we were making, the wildest animal we saw was a jackrabbit.
When we got to Nymph lake I saw the Nymphs blooming on the still water which I did not see the previous time I visited when the lake still had some snow on it. We kept going as we had to get further up past Dream Lake onto Emerald Lake where Hallet Peak would be closest. A further climb up the trail, I saw the red glow of the sun peeking through the clouds. At that point we decided to move quickly and shoot the sunrise at Dream Lake. There was another lake along the trail that looked like a sheet of glass with pine trees reflecting in it. I saw Mountain Bluebells, columbines, Indian paintbrush, Lupines and other wildflowers growing along the trails.
With such pretty distractions, we barely managed to get to Dream Lake when the light started to emerge and you could see beams of warm light shining through the evergreen tree branches and making them appear a hue of gold. The reddish orange alpenglow started to appear on the Hallet peak. Then it started to intensify to a simmering Scarlet color. While this was happening, I managed to capture the view to the east which was no less spectacular. I must have missed the best part of the alpenglow by about 5 minutes. There was still so much color on the mountains, it made for the most unforgettable light I had witnessed. After trying out three or four compositions, I found the log jam near the outlet of the Dream Lake interesting. I am usually content with one memorable image from a photo shoot like this but I came away with two that I will have lasting memories of.
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