Fire and Rain
Last Saturday, Brad McGinley and I ventured into Rocky Mountain National Park to shoot the Milky Way over Lake Irene. It was raining at home (Denver Metro) and we spent right up to the last minute deciding whether we should go or not. On the one hand the weather forecast for the area called for clear skies at 11:00 PM though sunrise. On the other, my satellite image of the clouds indicated that this storm stretched from eastern CO to western UT and I couldn’t see where the clouds were going to go. On the pro side, I hadn’t had an opportunity to get out and shoot for a while, and on the con we all know how accurate forecasts are in this neck of the woods.
We decided to go for it, as my lack of opportunities outweighed the rain in the driveway. My whole drive up was cloudy and as I met Brad in Frazier (nearly 2/3’s to our destination) it was still the case. I did see a couple of breaks in the clouds during sunset which I took as a good sign, but for the most part I was thinking that it was going to be a bust.
On entering RMNP, as we gained elevation we began to see patchy fog on the road. The same kind you get when the cool rain hits a hot road, only it wasn’t raining. I didn’t know what to make of this except that I considered any change a hopeful step in the right direction. Arriving at the parking lot we opened the car door to an extraordinary sight. The sky was perfectly clear! But more than that, I’ve never seen stars so bright in my life. I know this side of the park is the darker side and I’m guessing the rain cleaned the dust out of the sky, but whatever the reason the stars were as clear as I’d ever seen. The Milky Way was easily seen by eye across the entire sky.
The next thing became aware of was how mild the weather was. I couldn’t feel any breeze at all which if you’ve ever been to RMNP you know is a rare occurrence. Lake Irene is small lake surrounded by pines. We set up on the north side of the lake, shooting towards the south/southwest. Between Stellarium and The Photographers Ephemeris I estimated the Milky Way to be across the lake near midnight, give or take an hour. These tools proved to be perfectly accurate as this shot was taken just after midnight. As you can see the lake is completely calm, but there was a mist rising off the water the entire night. That proved to be a mixed blessing a bit later as it fogged up our equipment when we tried to capture it. On this night, there was no moon as it was traveling in sync with the sun, so we overcame the darkness with a couple lanterns and my flashlight.
Hat’s off to Mike Berenson who shared this awesome location with the masses. It’s a great spot!