Above the clouds for the elk convention

Above the clouds for the elk convention

My plan this morning, after again sleeping in to 4:30, was to go set up a time lapse of the sunrise near the parking lot at the end of the Upper Beaver Meadows road.  I wanted to do a meadows sunrise, since I have not done one  yet, and the way the light would fall on the land would be perfect for a time lapse.  Unfortunately, there was a thick band of low clouds hanging over the east side of the park, so I instead decided to get up above the clouds, taking the Trail Ridge Road for sunrise.  While I could not get any first light shots on the landscape, the sun burned through soon enough to still get some nice warm golden light in various areas.  The clouds added a nice element of the drama to the scene, and was a welcome addition. 

Then, I decided I would head back down into the Moraine Park area to take advantage of the cloud cover to photograph some areas, like the cascading falls at the Alluvial Fan, that photograph best under such diffuse light.  But, as I passed the Forest Canyon Overlook, I saw the head and antlers of a bull elk just over the edge, out of full view.  Then I saw another.  The light falling on them was gorgeous and the background perfect.  So, I turned around, parked at the overlook parking lot, and grabbed the gear.  There turned out to be three bull elk at first, and I did what I could to photograph them with the landscape, using a polarizing filter when the angle was right to improve the light.  After a while, I moved back toward the parking lot, waiting to see what the elk would do. 

After a while, one by one, more elk came into the area, then bedded down.  It’s interesting to watch how they get to the ground – kneeling first on their forelegs, then slowly dropping to the ground.  Eventually, nine bulls came to the area and lay down for the morning.  I positioned myself so that Long’s Peak would be in the background, making sure not to approach the wildlife but to move parallel to them – the last thing I wanted to do was to disturb them and the photo opportunity. 

Eventually, another photographer came along after they had all bedded down.  I didn’t catch his name, but he looked like he was using a large format or possibly a 6×17 panoramic camera.  I just saw that it was a large format and he was using a bellows.  Later, a photographer for the Estes Park Trail-Gazette, Walt Hester, came by to check out the action.  He was up to cover a bike tour that would be starting at Rock Cut and going down the hill to Estes Park.  While he waited for the group, he photographed the elk and the photographers.  I mentioned I had seen people biking up the Trail Ridge Road, and how nuts I thought that was – he said he had done the ride before and it was great.  Yikes!  People here are in way too good of shape for my comprehension.   

When the light got way too harsh for my taste, I headed down to see if there was still ample cloud cover to photograph the Alluvial Fan.  I was able to get off a few good shots before the sun returned to dominance in the sky.

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