Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Scenic Route to Yellowstone

Yellowstone is rightfully famous for being the first national park in the world, the animals, the geysers, and the scenery.  It is a park visited by millions of people yearly.  It is a park, that believe it or not, most people miss the best scenery.

Cody, Wyoming is the jumping off point for many on a journey to Yellowstone.  They head west and go into the park.  That is a scenic route.  It is nice.  But, I can tell you a better route from Cody......The Chief Joseph Highway.

Head north out of Cody and then follow the route Chief Joseph took over the mountains to the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone River.  The views here are spectacular and the crowds are much more sparse.

I found it to be very green.  The grasses at the edge of the mountains, the pines, and the views were all very green dominated.  The colors of spring and summer were everywhere.  People were not.

Follow this route and you would then enter the northeast entrance of the park near Cooke City which is where the Chief Joseph would take you.

I only had a few hours to enjoy the road myself.  Since leaving the Snowys after breakfast and sunrise images, I did not arrive in Cody until 4pm.  I drove and enjoyed the views from the Chief Joseph and made numerous stops.  However, I was feeling pressed for time because I was trying to get a camp set up and then driving up my real goal for taking this route ( and my next post)....The Beartooth Highway.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Roadside Gems

Driving across Wyoming is a fascinating journey.  Going over mountains, following river valleys, crossing sagebrush flats, and passing through the Great Divide Basin had each been interesting. Through each area I kept finding little spots that drew my eye and camera.  Here is another one.  

On the far side of the Great Divide Basin you are back in sagebrush country.  There are rocks and hills and distant mountains and most of what you see is rather brown.  Then I passed this area of green.  I had to stop and check it out.  A small marker called it Ice Slough and told how this flat valley would have water a few feet below the surface that would stay frozen into the summer months and pioneers would dig down and get some for cold water.

Today not many people are digging for ice in the summer here but that shallow water sure keeps the grass in the slough green.  

With some nice clouds, I thought it was worth another image of another little roadside gem of a location.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Great Divide Basin

It is not long after leaving the Snowys that you enter the sagebrush country which covers much of central Wyoming.  North of Rawlins you enter a unique geological area-the Great Divide Basin.

Most people are familiar with the Continental Divide, a line where water flows to the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Atlantic on the other.  At the Great Divide Basin however, the water flows in and reaches no ocean.  Think of it where the line suddenly has a circle.  Or for those familiar with I-35 in DFW or the Twin Cities, how I-35 splits into I-35E and I-35W for those cities and rejoins itself on the other side.

Of course, this being sparse, dry country there is not much water to divide here anyway.

I am sure most folks just kick up their speed in hopes of reaching someplace else, but I found it to be fascinating.  I kept looking and seeing sights that made me stop.  Dry salt pan, distant mountains, the slight green of a wash.  For me it was one of those drives I kept stopping at taking images.  I was there in mid-day, so the light was not great but if I could be here around sunset, I think it might be a neat spot.  Note to self, remember this place.

I found this salt pan a great representation of the basin.  What little rain falls here runs into the basin to form an ephemeral lake that then drys out leaving some salt.  Over countless years, it has left a dry salt lake bed.  With the distant mountains that mark the edge of the basin and harsh light it really captures the desolate harsh beauty of the area.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is yet another easy to access lake in the Snowys.  As the name implies the calm surface of the lake casts marvelous reflections of the Snowy Range.

I was another location that I had hopes for the right conditions of a big sunrise.  It was another bust location as far as the clouds went, however even on a bluebird day the reflection there was nice enough to get a nice image out of it.

This was my last morning in the Snowys and I found it to be a fitting farewell before I headed out across the dry Great Divide Basin.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lookout Lake

After photographing Lake Marie for two days I decided to spend an evening and a morning photographing Lookout Lake.  It is just one of many lakes in the high country of the Snowys but it was scenic and also a fairly short walk.

You might think this easy access would make one lazy, but I have to admit after normally having to do a long backpack to reach such a location, having the easy access was nice.

I got rained on in the afternoon and even had to retreat to the car when the worst of the thunder and lightning was around the peaks.  I had hopes it would clear for a nice sunset and hiked up to the lake.  I found a good location along the shore with a neat piece of ice floating on the lakes surface to use as a foreground.  It stayed mainly cloudy and there was no color from the spot I had selected along the lake.  Still it was a great afternoon and even if the light was not ideal I had found a good piece of ice I hoped to use in the morning.

The next morning was clear.  Again.

I went up to Lookout Lake only to find my foreground ice had moved.  I started where I had picked out sans ice.  The I worked my way down the lake until I found a great large piece of ice floating across the width of the lake.  It is the lead image for this post and I could only wish for streaming clouds

All in all it was a good morning and a great location.  I certainly put it high on my list of places to revisit.  Like I said a few days ago, I'll take the Snowys ANY day of RMNP.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sunrise in the Snowys

For my first morning in the Snowys, I had decided that I would go back to Lake Marie to shoot star trails over the lake, sunrise, and with any luck spend the morning walking around the lake.

I left camp before 3am to clear skies and had a short drive up to the lake.  Another nice thing about choosing Lake Marie is that it is just a short 100 yard walk from the parking lot.  Normally I do not like to go for the "parking lot shots" but having such a fantastic view of an under photographed location, and add in that I was basically going from 500' to 9,000 feet in elevation and I was just adjusting to the altitude-it all seemed to work out.  Well except for the lack of clouds......

In what seems to be the norm in the Rockies for me, it is cloudless sunrises.  Now, I had thought that I could do star trails over the lake but even at 3:15 in the morning the stars are already fading fast and there was a very long gray twilight.  Those northern latitudes and their long days were in effect.  I tried a couple images that just did not work.  I went over to the cascade at the edge of the lake and did some twilight images where I light painted the water, then waited for the sunrise.

When the sun hit the peaks I started making images trying to capture the beauty of the morning, the lake, and the mountains.

After getting the top image here, I started working along the shore of the lake and picked up the second image.  By 6:15am it was full sunny.  I decided to pack up and go for a hike to check out some of the other lakes in the area.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Snowy Range

The Snowy Range of southern Wyoming is a fantastic location of rugged mountains, alpine country, and plenty of snow.  The heart of the Snowys is the rugged and imposing Medicine Bow Peak and plenty of alpine lakes.  Add to that the Snowy Range Scenic Byway bisects the range allowing you to drive into country that is often a 3 day backpack to get to.  Call it a gift for the photographer with limited time.  

Finally the Snowys are all but unknown.  You see everyone heads south a couple of hours into Rocky Mountain National Park, and ignores this location.  After all, it is in Wyoming and not Colorado-it cannot be any good.......

Personally, I hope people keep thinking that way.  Go fight the crowds at Bear Lake, I'll take the Snowys any day over it.  All the majesty of the Rockies just a short walk from your car and no crowd to compete with.  That made it a great place for day one since I had flown in from Texas and the sudden gain in altitude is tough on the body. 

As I planned this trip short notice, I was also worried that the Snowys might still be snowed in (there is a reason they are called Snowy). I was prepared to actually have to buy snowshoes on my way through Fort Collins.  However, the light winter snow pack and dry early summer conditions meant the Snowys were almost snow free.  I set up my camp down the mountain and drove up the the peaks to take in the view.  

It wow's me every time.

Then, I set up that first shot of Lake Marie and the small cascade at the end of the lake.  A classic shot in the bag.

Day one was already off to a great start.