Pic of the Week 9/28/18
Location: San Luis Lake State Park, Colorado
Date taken: 9/23/17
“There’s gold in them there mountains.” I did that in my best creepy, old prospectors voice, but you can only really hear it in your imagination. Now that I have completely derailed this blog post let’s see if I can’t get it back on track. There are so many times I have experienced incredible light when out making photographs. Typically, this light comes before/after a storm. This was the case in Colorado last year. My good friends Ian and Jaden had joined me in a short trip across southwestern Colorado. We spent our tripped cooped up in a small Ford Focus and driving several hours to and from Colorado. In between that time, we were out hiking and photographing Colorado’s amazing landscape. Our second day there was a big one. We would start with an early morning shoot at the base of Blanca Peak and then make our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park to hike up the Tall dune. You can read more about that experience here.
After finishing the sandy traverse, we retired to the small town of San Luis just a short 15min drive from GSDNP. We would stop there for a quick lunch and then some down time in the afternoon. Maybe we would stop and get some coffee (which we did). During lunch and the coffee, the weather made a drastic change. Rain was anticipated, but mostly on the higher elevations so we were a bit surprised to see that much rain happen that quickly. It wasn’t all bad as we had nothing else planned until sunset, but as that hour drew closer and closer I became concerned that our sunset would be a complete bust. My idea was to photograph sunset from San Luis Lake State Park overlooking the lake and sand dunes and Sagre De Cristos mountain range all bathed in stunning sunset light. For this shot to be effective, I had to have good light. Our sunrise shoot was hindered by cloud cover (here) so I really wanted to end the day on a positive note.
It’s now time to leave the café and get in position for sunset. We were tired, hungry, and much like the sky—melancholy. But we sucked it up and made our way to San Luis Lake State Park. The rain was really coming down now and all around us was a dull gray sky. But we were in a location we probably weren’t going to see for a while and that is why we waited. We sat in the car with the heater turned up and just hoping for some kind of sign for a good sunset. As I scanned the area all around me I could just barely make out the faint silhouette of the mountains to our east. They were now shrouded in curtains of heavy rain. Back to the west, there looked to be some improvement. Gaps in the clouds revealed some of the distant mountains and filtered sunlight reflected off the snow-capped peaks. This gave me enough confidence to step out of the car and look for some shots.
Rain began to fall harder and in bigger drops, but the skies to the west were starting to clear. Crepuscular rays stretched between the cloud cover and illuminated parts of the landscape. It was quite nice, but once the clouds gave way a massive and photogenic rainbow began to take shape over the lake. The huge arc hung above the lake revealing incredible detail of the vivid colors. It was big and so close you could almost reach out and touch it. I shot several frames but had to shoot a wide panorama to capture the rainbow in its entirety. Soon the gray skies transitioned to an orange-yellow hue and we watched as the rainbow faded away unveiling its “pot of gold”.
Golden Peaks © Ben Jacobi
The clouds dissipated to the west and the light ignited the scene in a fiery golden glow, like a dam that couldn’t hold back the waters any longer spilling a flood of light over the mountains. Immediately, I went into “full photographer” mode and was snapping away like crazy, but there was only one problem. I didn’t have my tripod out and I had my wide angle lens. I knew that the light could only last a few moments, maybe even seconds, before it all disappeared. But I ran back to the car and grabbed my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and my tripod and ran back as fast as I could. The light held on for just a few more minutes before the sun set behind the horizon. I made this exposure during all that chaos and decided to clean it up with a panoramic crop. Though I would have preferred to shoot a multi-image panorama, I was certain I wouldn’t have enough time to capture the fleeting perfect light. Still, this images became one of my favorites from the trip and it just goes to show if you chase the rainbow sometimes you’ll find the pot of gold. Either way I was so excited with this shot that I stood there dancing around like some crazy old prospector.