Best Of: Best Of 2012

 These images are my favorite Rocky Mountain National Park photos from 2012. They may not be the most popular or the best selling but they are the ones that I would put at the top of my list for the year. Often, the reason for their selection has a lot to do with my experience at the time and the emotions I felt while viewing these scenes. I guess what surprises me is that after 9 years of photographing Rocky Mountain National Park, I continue to find new views and possibilities that have never been shot before. To me that is exciting and gives me hope for the future. 
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Ocean of the Sky

Rainbow Curve, Rocky Mountain National Park

This morning I awoke to a dark and cloudy day. I almost decided to spend a quiet morning at home and then I noticed just how low the clouds were, so I jumped into my car and raced up Trail Ridge Road to Rainbow Curve, arriving just a few seconds before the sun came over the horizon. What a surprisingly beautiful start to the day. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Glacier Creek Autumn

Storm Pass Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park

It was the first morning of October. The air held a hint of crispness, mixed with the fragrance of fall leaves. The willow were dressed in their fine autumn coat, the waters of Glacier Creek gently meandering between them. High above, Hallett Peak stood tall while a dusting of snow covered nearby Otis Peak. Could anything be more perfect? Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Sunset from the Top

Mount Meeker, Rocky Mountain National Park

Those who climb to the highest points of Rocky Mountain National Park enjoy a world seen by few others. Here the air is thin and the views are long. This is harsh, unforgiving terrain but the beauty to be found makes the risk worthwhile. In this image Mount Meeker and Longs Peak reach skyward as the sun sets in the west. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Kawuneeche Western

Kawuneeche Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park

This is my favorite perspective of the Kawuneeche Valley. It seems to me like one of those classic western scenes which was just made to be photographed. From this perspective you can see the mighty Colorado River begin its journey southward as Mount Baker and Mount Stratus watch from above. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Summer Dream

Hagues Creek Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park

This is my idea of an idyllic mountain scene: mountains, meadow, cascades and sweet light. These are the moments I search for when out photographing but rarely find. On this evening I was in a remote location and had this entire valley to myself as the last light of the day warmed the mountains while the recently melted snow gurgled down in front of me. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Epic Estes

Lake Estes, Estes Park, Colorado

Yesterday morning we had an absolutely amazing sunrise here in Estes Park, Colorado. It was one of those rare occasions where the sky seemed to simply light on fire. I raced down to the lake as I knew that would provide some great reflections. I was thrilled to see that the lake had thawed quite a bit providing a nice combination of ice and open water. (I know this may look quite unreal and over-saturated but this was actually very close to the actual scene.). Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Cathedral Storm

The Loch, Rocky Mountain National Park

The great cathedrals of Europe were built to create a sense of awe and wonder. They force us to lift our eyes and realize just how small we actually are while giving us a glimpse of the greatness of God. Rocky Mountain National Park here in Colorado has a rock formation known as the Cathedral. It is aptly named for it too causes us to stand in wonder and recognize a greatness far beyond ourselves. I photographed this image on a February afternoon as a storm moved in from behind, while the icy Loch below waited in anticipation. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Morning Whisper

Devil's Gulch, Estes Valley, Colorado

On this April morning fog settled over the Estes Valley while gentle clouds drifted above. This type of weather rarely happens up here in our dry air. I had intended to head for the mountains for sunrise but I couldn't resist the potential provided by the fog. It took me quite a while to find a good spot to incorporate both the fog and Longs Peak with its fresh snow, but in the end I found a spot near Eagle Rock. The bird in this photo was a wonderful surprise. I had no idea he was in the photo until I saw the image later. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Hinting at Spring

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

The lake begins to thaw at Dream Lake in early April following a spring snowstorm. I've always found these trees to have a very artistic quality to them and today with their fresh coating of snow and ice they looked particularly attractive. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Mahana Glory

Bluebird Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Day after day I am out seeking beauty in Rocky Mountain National Park, but so rarely do all the elements come together. Either there are too many clouds for there to be good light or not enough clouds leaving photos with a very empty feel, but this was a Goldilocks Morning where everything was just right. This is Mahana Peak in Wild Basin. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Spotted Aspen

Lily Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

A pair of aspen trunks are covered in spots about the same size as the nearby aspen leaves adding a distinctive character to them. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Evening Melody

Forest Canyon Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park

On this cloudy evening I was up on Trail Ridge Road hoping for a beautiful sunset. During the final minutes the sky put on a dramatic show behind the Never Summer Mountains while a bull elk stood only a couple of hundred feet behind me with his harem, bugling every so often. It is in these magical moments when I find myself gently humming Louis Armstrong's song, "What a Wonderful World". Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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