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Winter Wonder 1/2/2021

Morning light hits the top of the Maroon Bells as I was the only one observing the spectacle of the morning.

The fist rays of light hit the upper peaks as the moon hangs over the Elk Mountains.


I have always wanted to visit the Maroon Bells in Colorado in the winter. Just this month actually on January 2nd I was able to fulfill that desire. We went on an unexpected ski/snowboard trip to Aspen Colorado and that prompted me to remember the beauty of the Bells. I had taken some photos of the Bells about 4 years ago in the Fall when driving through Colorado with my wife. It was crowded as we got up early (before sunrise) to be able to catch the first light on the peaks. The shore was lined with hundreds (it seemed like that many) of photographers in the dark getting ready to click and capture the moment. My hope and objectives for that shot was to be able to shot the Bells with 4 main main goals. A) Be there in the Fall at the height of the colors turning - normally the last week in September. B) Get good lighting on the peaks - just as the sun comes up the peaks get hit with the rays of the Sun. C) Calm water in the lake below, this gives a mirror like image of the mountains above, with the arc of the mountains on either side with the Bells in the center created an amazing photo - hence the hundreds of photographers lining Lake Maroon shore. And finally 4) some clouds behind the Bells to fill up the sky and add to the beauty of the shot. Unfortunately there was a bit of wind and clouds on the peaks, so we never saw the full peaks, the wind also created ripples in the lake so the mirror effect did not happen (see pic below). The light on the peaks was minimal. This is still on my bucket list to be able to try again on another September Fall morning, I did get the clouds and fall!

Maroon Bells in the fall, overcast and wind on the Lake.


So this winter my goals were close to the fall goals. I did not know if the Lake freezes over or not, I had seen photos with and without Ice on the Lake. The road going into the campground that surrounds the base of the lake was closed, actually 6 miles of road leading up to the end of the parking lot was closed. I was thinking of walking in but was concerned that the time it would take to walk in would be to great and I would miss the first light on the peaks. I was going to give up on the idea but after talking with our hotel concierge advised me to try T Lazy 7 Snowmobiles, maybe you could go on an group trip to the bells or even better yet as if they would do an early charter at sun rise. I called a few times and finally got ahold of the manager who gladly booked my private tour.

After taking a taxi 35 minutes I arrived an hour and 15 minutes before Sunrise - it was 1°c. I was cold, it was dark and no one was around- I was hoping they did not forget about me. Soon a man appeared I got suited up with nice rubber boots and a helmet and off we went, about 40 minutes before sunrise. I was the only one there (besides my guide) it was quiet and peaceful very serene. I noticed right away the lake was frozen and no clouds in the sky. I was a little bummed out but did notice the Moon over one of the mountains so I thought I would use a wide angle lens to see if I could capture the Moon with the bells in the background. I used a 14-24mm wide angle lens with a Nikon D850 camera. This was my first shot of the morning. I was out on the lake to get the best angle, my tripod keep slipping in the snow and wasn't sure I got the shot. With the lake being frozen I decided to go close in on the Bells I found a nice line for the composition leading from the bottom left that zig zagged back and forth to the base of the peaks. Overall I was happy with my two shots and the adventure of the morning, I went back to snowboard with my wife and daughter - it was a good day!

At the base of the parking lot, with the Bells in the background - I strapped on my gear and headed home - not sure I got much of anything.

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