Spring in Rocky Mountain National Park: Lunar Eclipse, Snow-Capped Mountains, Baby Animals, and More
Oct 12, 2022
I've been spending a lot of time up in Rocky Mountain National Park over the last six months, but while I've been capturing a lot of photos and videos I haven't kept up with sharing them as well. Now that the fall season is winding down and winter will soon be on its way I'm going to be working hard on sharing those experiences.
Here in Colorado the typical seasons are a little different than a lot of other places. Spring is really just the months of May & June, summer is July & August, autumn is of course September & October (and maybe not even all of October...), and then winter takes over for 6 months from November through April. In my latest video on my YouTube channel, I'm sharing those spring adventures to Rocky to photograph the Lunar Eclipse in May and then share a day the first weekend of June exploring the freshly opened Trail Ridge Road and seeing wildlife left & right.
Lunar eclipses are events I'm always very interested in photographing, and since they are very predictable I often try and plan out a shot ahead of time. While that tight shot of the red moon is the classic view, I always try and find a way to incorporate it with the landscape as well. For the eclipse in May of 2022, that meant setting up something in the eastern sky just after sunset. After exploring a lot of different options, I settled on a shot of the moon sliding up along the side of Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park as it passed through the phases of partial eclipse into the full eclipse. I'm not usually one to do composite images, but this time I thought I would try something different and merge together photos of the moon as it worked its way through the phases and rose in the sky along the side of the mountain. The photo at the top of this post is the final result after merging together the best of the images I captured. All photos were captured from the same position at the same focal length, showing the moon exactly where it was in the sky during the hour and a half that I was capturing those photos. After the moon had moved out of the frame of that shot, I of course had to pull out my longer 200-500 lens to get that tighter eclipse shot as well before the moon began to move out of the earth's shadow. It was a beautiful night up in the park with only a few passing clouds to mar the views.
Trail Ridge Road usually opens fully across the park over Memorial Day weekend. In 2022 it did open that Friday, but bad weather in the higher elevations caused it to reclose for a few days before opening again the first weekend of June. I decided to take my son & daughter up to the park to go exploring and see what we could see up there.
A first stop was in the Alluvial Fan area at Horseshoe Falls to see how strong the falls were flowing with the snowmelt. The water was moving fast but the bright sunlight made it challenging to get a good picture so we soon began the drive climbing up Trail Ridge. Along the way we had our first wildlife sighting of the day, making a quick stop to see this mother moose and calf resting in the shade along the edge of the forest.
Climbing up into the higher elevations found views of snow-capped peaks with moody clouds. A stop at the Gore Range overlook near the highest point on the road offered this view of the Never Summer Mountains.
Wind and rain drove us down into the Kawuneeche Valley on the west side of the park, searching for our favorite picnic area in Harbison Meadow to eat lunch. This was my first time into the west side of the park since the East Troublesome fire in October 2020, and coming around a bend in the road the devastation left behind even a year and a half later came into full view. Even seeing photos and videos don't really prepare you for the stark landscape that goes from the valley floor up and over the mountain tops. While the first signs of life are starting to appear, it will likely be decades before this forest recovers to what it once was. There's a quick clip of the views of the burned out forests in the middle of my video.
The areas where the Colorado River flows through the valley form ideal moose habitat, and I almost always see at least one moose every time I'm over there. This time, we saw multiple moose and two mothers with their babies in different areas of the valley. This baby wanted to get out and explore the open meadow, but when it would get too far away the mother would call and it would come running back.
After doing some hiking in the valley, the storm clouds were moving in again and it was time to head back over the mountains in the direction of home. We had yet to see any elk yet, and I had heard there were some mothers in the Moraine Park area, so I wanted to make a stop there to see what we could see. On the way I made a stop to take in one of my favored views of Longs Peak and capture this photo with the still moody clouds looming overhead.
As we made the turn into Moraine Park, sure enough we saw an elk cow with her little one on the hillside. This little one was staying close to mom, even nursing at times while we watched from a safe distance. This photo was captured with my telephoto at 500mm and then cropped in even a little bit more. It's a beautiful moment between mother and young one.
It felt like the fitting end to an amazing day in the park. If you'd like to watch the video of this adventure, click the video below to watch on my YouTube channel. And don't forget to subscribe while you're there, I've got more great videos coming up. If you enjoy sharing in the experiences of adventures like these, I hope you'll sign up for my email newsletter if you haven't already. You can subscribe right here on this blog post, or click my newsletter signup link in the footer. New subscribers get a new customer discount coupon as a thank you for signing up. Don't forget to follow me on Facebook & Instagram too. Thanks for checking out what I do, and I hope you'll keep following along!