Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of those iconic National Park sunrise locations that is quite glorious. It’s very easy to find, and the placid morning water makes for some great reflections. When researching what I wanted to photograph in Rocky Mountain National Park, it immediately jumped out at me. So, our first morning there, we made the trek into the park at around 4 a.m., and found this spot.
If you’ve ever photographed a sunrise like this, you know there’s a lot of sitting around intently waiting for “the right” sunlight. As I was waiting for the light to hit with my tripod set-up just as the water’s edge, two elk wandered near me. They eventually passed within 10 feet of me and wandered into the water right in front of me. Deer are pretty common in our area (our brilliant dachshund tried to chase one in our backyard last year), and elk are basically more awesome versions of deer, so it wasn’t too intimidated, but it was pretty awesome to see these beautiful creatures up close. I remained in my spot and took photos of them as they wandered around me before quietly leaving.
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Not much to this one from a technical perspective. This was shot with my Nikon D700 and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Normally, I wouldn’t use a 50mm lens for landscapes, but after a few minutes of using my the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens and CHEAP-O® Vari-ND Filter, I realized that I was shooting at about 50mm anyway, and that the ND filter wasn’t doing anything. The water was already incredibly placid and the sky was cloud-free, so there was no use in using the filter…accept to make my images a tad softer. So, I switched to the slightly sharper 50mm for the rest of my shooting.
Post processing is relatively uninteresting here, I increased the recovery to restore detail to some areas with color bleed from the vibrant layer of sunlight and tinkered with the white balance and tint to get the colors how I wanted them. I followed that up with a quick curves adjustment layer in Photoshop, where I also used the healing brush to remove some dust specks from the sky.
Do you ever get up to see or photograph the sunrise, or is your sleep too valuable? I figure I can always sleep later, but the sunrise in each unique location I visit only happens X number of times while I’m there. If there’s an interesting sunrise to be captured, I’ll do just about anything to capture it. For our Yosemite trip, I already have plans to stay up through the night when I first arrive just so I can hike out to see and photograph the sunrise! Share your thoughts on the sunrise…or on anything else…in the comments! One lucky commenter might win a bag of Doritos!