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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rocky Mountain High


With an analytical approach and a love for dramatic peaks and roaring rivers, Glenn Randall lives where he gets plenty of photographic opportunities every day of the year

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rocky mountains
Vestal Basin Sunset
After years of driving up and down dirt roads all over the state each September, I know where the biggest groves and best peaks are, but no one can predict which groves will have pure, vibrant color in any particular year. That means that each year I do lots of driving on the same dirt roads I explored the year before, searching for the best color.

Logistically, winter is, by far, the toughest season to shoot in Colorado. Many roads are closed for the season, the weather is harsh, and forecasts beyond 24 hours are unreliable. Yet winter also is one of the most beautiful seasons. Rocky Mountain National Park is among the best places for winter photography, but it’s also one of the worst, and it can flip from one to the other in a matter of hours. Most of the time, strong winds from the west lash the park, stripping the snow from the trees and scouring exposed slopes above timberline. Every now and then, however, particularly in March and early April, the wind switches direction and blows from the east in what’s called an upslope storm. These gentle giants can dump huge amounts of wet, clinging snow, creating a marvelous winter wonderland for a few fleeting hours. Then the westerly winds reestablish themselves, and the wonderland vanishes until the next upslope storm. Rocky Mountain National Park also is a favorite location for me, since I can decide to go the evening before and still be somewhere interesting at sunrise. My motto for these shoots is simple: “Sleep is for photographers who don’t drink enough coffee.”
With extended depths, deep skies and enormous peaks, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains provide nature photographers with an enormous visual palette in more ways than one.
After 16 years of specializing in Colorado, finding fresh images is a challenge. I’m now experimenting with high-ISO moonlit night scenes with exposures so short the stars don’t appear to streak across the sky, 180-degree panoramas from sunrise to moonset and shooting sunrise from the summit of 14,000-foot peaks. So far I’ve done 10 fourteeners, three of them more than once. My goal is to capture the exhilarating, humbling and awe-inspiring experience of being a tiny speck on top of the world. Given the seemingly endless mountains so close to my home, it’s a goal that should keep me busy until the end of my career—or until my knees give out, whichever comes first.

To see more of Glenn Randall’s work, visit his website at www.glennrandall.com.

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