When to Go:
The park is at its peak visitation in summer and fall June – September. Trail Ridge Road is only from Memorial Day to mid-October, but the dates may vary. The crowds are thinner in early June and later September. Fall foliage starts to peak in mid September. The yellow Aspens make for some stupendous images.
Spring can be a chance to get some new growth, or you could still be hit with a blizzard. You can photograph both, but there is a chance of plane delay if a storm rolls in. June will vary and can be rainy. July – September. Up on Trail Ridge Road, it can be 15°F–20°F cooler than at the park’s lower elevations. Wildlife viewing and fishing photography are good all year long, but fall has the rut when the bull elks get active.
Aperture Priority – It is used to get your depth of field (control how much is in focus from your subject back). If your shutter speed drops to 1/30th sec. or lower it is because you lack light you will need to put your camera on a tripod to avoid blurry pictures. Anything handheld below 1/30 sec will be blurry. The higher the “f” number the less light that will come in and your shutter speed will drop to let more light in. When your “f” number goes up your aperture closes. At f-22 you are barely letting any light in. Always watch your shutter speed. When taking your shot look at the bottom of the screen through the viewfinder and check your shutter speed. Do not to let your shutter speed go too low when hand holding. Sometimes you cannot get a super high f stop because you do not have enough light. This will happen quite often at times such as sunset. Again, put your camera on a tripod and now your photos will not blur except for any subject that is moving in the image.
When doing shots such as flowers, you might want the opposite effect. That is when your subject is in complete focus and the background is totally blurred called the bokeh effect. You will use your lowest F-number such as 2.8, or 3.5. Go as small as your particular lens will allow. Shooting in Aperture Priority allows you to control this.
Shutter Priority – If you have moving subjects such as the birds flying by you will want to shoot in shutter priority to be sure they come out clear. When people are walking through shoot at 1/250th sec. and adjust your ISO accordingly. If people or animals are running by increase your shutter speed to about 1/500th sec. If it’s a bright sunny day go as high as 1/1000th to 1/1200 sec. to get the birds crystal clear as they fly by.
Manual Mode – If you find moving waters here you can do your long exposure running, milky water shots. You will have to use a tripod for this effect. All of your settings will vary depending on the lighting and what neutral density filter you have. You will shoot in manual mode for the milky waters. ISO is always 100 or as low as your camera will allow. Aperture is f22. Your shutter speed will vary depending on the light. Take some test shots to decide on your shutter speed after you put your neutral density filter on. (It’s like sunglasses for your camera to stop light from coming in). Use your live view mode to focus to lock the mirror up and avoid any camera movement. Use your shutter release or your 2-second timer to also prevent camera movement. Voila. You now have your milky water exposure. You will want at least a 2-second exposure for running water. If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you may not get more than 1/15th of a second in the sun. That does not give you a good effect. Go to our store to buy your ND filter. I have a 3.0 for super long exposure in the sunshine.
Read more on our Photography Techniques Page. You can go to our waterfall photography section to learn how to shoot any moving waters. You can also go to our Basic Photography section if you need a more detailed explanation of shutter speed or aperture priority modes.
If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you can buy one here. We highly suggest you do not go anywhere without one. It makes all the difference between lifeless images and outstanding, dynamic images.
Read more on our Photography Techniques Page