danielbuckenmyer
danielbuckenmyer

Bear Lake Sunrise



The Rocky Mountains National Park is reflected in the still waters of Bear Lake just after sunrise.

The Rocky Mountains National Park is reflected in the still waters of Bear Lake just after sunrise.
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Behind The Lens

Location
Just inside the Rocky Mountains National Park at the Estes Park entrance, you can take Bear Lake Road through fields, forests and past rivers and cascades until you come to the parking lot for Bear Lake. This photos was taken from the eastern edge of the lake off of the Bear Lake Trail, just to the north of where the stream drains from the lake.
Time
We were at a family reunion at the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center, a fantastic place for a vacation, reunion or retreat, and I had checked out what time dawn and sunrise were. I got up at 4 am so that I would be sure to have time to drive to this area (the road was under construction at the time, so I had to allow for extra time in case of washout or road equipment being in the way), scope out the best location and then get set up. After shooting several other shots with the Alpenglow hitting the far summits, I finally snapped this shot. It was taken on June 21st, 2013 at 6:22am, the first day of summer, which meant that the sun was as far north in the sky as it would get. I used The Photographer's Ephemeris, which is a website and phone app that gives you sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset times and the direction that they will be rising and setting from and to, in order to approximate which direction the sun would be coming from.
Lighting
I was trying to get the Alpenglow on the mountains, but those photos were not as striking as this later one that allowed for the reflection off of Bear Lake. The early morning light gave good definition and contrast to the crags on the mountains and in the forest of pines.
Equipment
For this shot, a good sturdy tripod was necessary, as there had been a steady breeze up until just before this shot was taken. You can still see some of the ripples on the lake. I used a Nikon D7000 camera with a 18-105 kit lens. I had a Tokina wide angle with me, but the kit lens was better suited for this shot and yielded a nice image. This shot was taken at 1/13th of a second, at f/11, ISO 100, Auto White Balance, shot in Manual Mode, all modes set to normal. A circular polarizer was in place on the lens, but was mostly turned to minimize its effects.
Inspiration
Before I left Missouri on our trip to Colorado, I studied places to shoot from in RMNP. Being that my wife and kids are not prone to getting up at 4am on their vacation to go take pictures with Dada, I knew that I would be on my own and have plenty of time to go do as I wished. Although I was at the YMCA for 5 days, I knew that I would really only have one good morning to go shoot, so I planned it out as much as possible. The Bear Lake shot is one of the most popular shots in the park, and since the road was torn up and you had to be out of there by a certain time (it was either 8 or 9am) before you were boxed in for the day, I decided that I would probably have the place to myself and thus an undisturbed shot. I saw one person as I was in the parking lot, and he was heading out on an overnight hike to the top of the mountains.
Editing
This photo had a little bit of contrast added, as there was a slight mist in the area that clouded the shot. There is also a discrepancy between the level in my camera and the bubble level on my tripod. I had to thus slightly tilt and crop the shot so that it had a level horizon.
In my camera bag
With the aforementioned camera, lenses and tripod, I also carry a Sigma 70-300 Macro Zoom Telephoto and a Nikon f1./8 50mm fixed length lens. The Tokina Wide Angle is an 11-18, and is a great lens. I highly recommend it. Being as the D7000 is a cropped sensor camera from Nikon, all of the focal lengths should be multiplied by 1.5 to yield the 35mm equivalent length.
Feedback
If you are wanting to capture a similar shot, definitely get there early to scope out the shot and beat other photographers to the area. I went back the next day to show my family where I had taken the shot (We were leaving to go onto Utah, so we had to get up early) and go there at 7am. The parking lot was packed and even had several 15 passenger vans that had tourists piling in and out of them. The shoreline of the lake was lined with photographers. Go during the week, not the weekend, and have a great time enjoying the view.

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