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At this place, the Rocky Mountains really live up to their name. This photograph was made on a cold October day, not long before the lake froze over and the long winter settled in. At an elevation of some 11,800 feet above sea level, Chasm Lake fills a deep cirque basin enclosed by the steep flanks of Mount Meeker (behind you, on the left, elevation 13,911 feet), Longs Peak (straight ahead, 14,259 feet), and Mount Lady Washington (on the right, out of the photo, 13,281 feet). Longs Peak's iconic, northeast-facing "Diamond" rises dramatically some 2,400 feet above this stunning emerald jewel. One could easily guess that Longs and Meeker form part of the Continental Divide, but a quick check of the map shows that they do not. Instead, this area is located a few miles to the east, in the southeastern part of Rocky Mountain National Park.
I can think of no more majestic cirque in Colorado - nor any more desolate or forbidding - but for this photographer it's always a challenge to "get it all in" the viewfinder. From a distance, Longs Peak seems to tower over its neighbors. For anyone who lives in north-central Colorado, it's a very prominent, identifiable mountain with a large blocky summit. But from this perspective, it's only one part of a very big scene. The truth here is you are surrounded by mountains no matter where you go, and they rise straight up above you in neck-stretching fashion. In most cases a wide angle lens is essential for even getting part of this vast landscape in view. The challenge, of course, is finding that balance between capturing as much of the dynamics of the scene as possible without optically rendering it too far back in the photo, thus minimizing its impact.
Chasm Lake - and the amazing alpine peaks that surround it - challenge me as a photographer like no other place I know. For me, therein lies part of its power, its mystique. And, its fun: it draws you back again and again, defying you to capture its essence, daring you to "get it all in" the viewfinder. However beautiful the photo may be, it could never hope to faithfully convey how breathtaking this place really is.
Rocky Mountain National Park
October 25th, 2010
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