Today’s post is a short one, though I believe it imparts an important lesson. Last week I embarked upon a 4 day, 3 night motorcycle trip to Crested Butte, Aspen and beyond. I didn’t have a set itinerary although I knew I wanted to photograph an autumn sunrise of the Maroon Bells reflecting in the placid waters of Maroon Lake. On the evening before the final day of my trip I arrived in Aspen and took the road leading to the Bells. I found an idyllic campsite in the Silver Queen campground only a couple miles from the lake. Once camp was set up I headed to the lake to scout compositions for sunrise the next morning.
Having heard stories from friends about dozens of photographers lining the lake with their tripods overlapping I knew I’d need to arrive early the next morning to stake my claim. I awoke early, threw on layers of warm clothing to protect me from the chilly 34 degree ride and proceeded to the lake. Arriving a full half hour before sunrise I was a bit surprised to find seven cars already in the parking lot.
I grabbed my gear and headed up to the lake. I found a nice little spot away from a gaggle of photographers who had all set up right next to one another at the end of the lake. In the pre-dawn light the peaks had a subtle glow about them and were reflected almost perfectly in the lake. I made a single exposure of the peaceful scene. And then, the waters rippled. A breeze! Not a strong one, but potent enough to destroy all reflections. The sun came up, the peaks glowed that beautiful and well-known red and shutters whirred – except mine. I made a couple exposures and was unimpressed with the results.
I turned around to enjoy the light on Sievers Mountain. And then my eyes locked on to such a sweet little scene that it almost made me giddy. I snapped up my tripod and ran over for a closer look. The foliage and grass lining the lake was covered in a thin layer of frost. Even better, some of the plants were displaying brilliant fall colors! I quickly went about hunting for a compelling composition. As I did, I couldn’t help but notice the other photographers. Several of them looked at me, with my camera aimed straight down at the ground, and one of them even pointed and commented to his buddy. One thing remained constant: every last one of them (by now there were over a dozen) still had their cameras trained on the mountains and lake.
I discovered this little arrangement and worked it for a while. I knew I’d made an image I would be proud of as soon as I saw this on the LCD screen. I fiddled around a bit more, packed up and then headed out as the light on the peaks transitioned from warm red to flat, boring and colorless. As I passed the gaggle an older photographer looked at me and said, “Giving up already, huh?” I didn’t even break stride. I just looked at him, smiled and said, “Enjoy your day!”