Don't forget your camera. There is a lot to photograph in Rocky Mountain National Park, so much so that you could spend your an entire lifetime making photos in and around this gorgeous area.
Photography in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is an amazing place to do photography. I know, because I’ve spent nearly 20 years as a professional nature photographer focused on this park. Over these years I’ve hiked to nearly every remote location and I’ve taken many thousands of photos, yet I am still finding beautiful new views and compositions.
While some photographers complain about the lack of iconic views, this is actually a good thing because it helps you to not get stuck photographing the same thing as everyone else. In Rocky, photographers are able to see that there is natural beauty everywhere.
Because of the geography of Rocky Mountain National Park, morning is generally the best time of day to photograph. In the early morning the mountains light up with the warm light of the rising sun. This can make for dramatic photographs. In the evening, it is best to head to the top of Trail Ridge Road to watch the back side of Longs Peak glow and then watch the sun set over the Never Summer Mountains.
A couple of great sunrise locations are:
- Sprague Lake
- Moraine Park
- Dream Lake
A few good sunset locations:
- Rock Cut (Trail Ridge Road)
- Forest Canyon Overlook (Trail Ridge Road)
- Gore Range Overlook (Trail Ridge Road)
- Bear Lake
If you’re a photographer and love to take photos of the natural world, I strongly encourage you to become familiar with the Nature First Principles. Nature First is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible nature photography. Its lessons are ones that we should all be aware of. The most important of which is to prioritize the well being of nature over photography. Let's not be so focused on getting a certain image that we let ourselves damage the landscape, disturb the wildlife, or break park regulations just to get a photo.
Commercial Photography or Videography
Those interested in commercial filming activities on land managed by the National Park Service are encouraged to contact the park directly for more information about filming in the park and to discuss how to minimize potential impacts to visitors and sensitive park resources. Except for casual filming by visitors, special use permits for filming are required for all filming activities in wilderness areas, no matter the group size or equipment used.
Still photographers require a permit only when:
- the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
- the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
- park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.
You can find out all the details about the commercial filming and photography regulations here. If you are planning to lead a photo workshop in the park or take portraits for hire, you will need a CUA (commercial use authorization) from Rocky Mountain National Park.
Get the Guide!
If you’d like a more complete guide to Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park, consider buying a copy of, “The Photographer’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park”. It is the most comprehensive book available on photographing Rocky and is written to help both the amateur and professional photographer.
This is your guide to photographing Rocky Mountain National Park, with 136 photo locations, 40 maps, full-page color photos, and the guidance of a professional photographer who has spent nearly 20 years photographing its amazing landscapes.
Have you ever wanted to take spectacular photos of Rocky Mountain National Park but do not know how or where to start? Do you want to capture photographs of one of Colorado’s most beautiful wild spaces but are unsure of how to find the best locations? Then this guidebook is what you need! Award-winning author and nature photographer Erik Stensland has created a stunning anthology for photographers of all skill levels that will guide them through the 415 square miles of Rocky Mountain National Park to the best locations for photography. Stensland has spent nearly two decades exploring RMNP, becoming intimately familiar with the many moods of the park and the changes in light throughout the seasons. He knows when the alpine wildflowers and vibrant autumn colors will peak.
In this book, Stensland uses his breadth of knowledge to assist you translating the stunning views before you into the best photos possible, all while putting the well-being of nature first. This guidebook is filled with his own color photos, easy-to-read maps, and descriptions of when and where you should be for different subjects. These are accompanied by tips and insights only a local would know.