Best Of: Best Of 2011

 These eleven images are my favorite Rocky Mountain National Park photos from 2011. 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. As I look through those that I've chosen, two things stand out to me. Firstly, it becomes very clear that I am drawn to the grand landscape scenes with alpenglow. Most of the images below reflect this. Even though I did take a number of other shots ranging from closeups to wildlife, it is the rugged mountain scenes that move me almost more than any other natural scene and so it is strongly reflected in this list of favorites. If you would like to see some of the many other images I shot this year you can find them here. You may have a very different list of favorites. Another thing that stood out to me as I reviewed my selection below was that I have very few summer images. This is due to the head injury which I suffered this past year which put me out of commission for much of the summer. The accident could have been so much worse and I have much to be grateful for. I now am fully healed and able to fully enjoy the beauty of each day.  As I look forward to the blank sheet of 2012 I wonder what scenes I will have the opportunity to view this year. I only hope that I can communicate through my photography something of the wonder and beauty of life which draws us to its very source. 

longs peak, autumn, reflection, sunrise, dramatic, aspen, co, photo

Long Awaited

On a perfect autumn morning the warm light of the rising sun bathes Mount Meeker and Longs Peak in its gentle pink hues as they reflect on the surface of a tranquil pond. For many years I've been coming to this same spot each autumn but have never found the dramatic beauty I was seeking. This morning all the elements finally came together to create a beautiful and dramatic scene. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

milky way, stars, mount alice, rocky mountain national park, photo

Alice's Universe

As two friends and I hiked back from a trip to a remote mountain lake, the sun set and the stars came out in all their brilliance. As we made our way down from the Continental Divide we stopped and looked with wonder as the Milky Way seemed to emanate from the top of Mount Alice. The distant lights of the Front Range provided enough light on the peak to perfectly illuminate this spectacular scene. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

alpine lake, ice, reflection, jewel, photo

Alpine Jewel

This morning I spent sunrise at a little visited alpine lake. It required an early start but it was well worth it. It was a cold night and a thin layer of ice had formed over much of the lake. As the ice moved with the wind it created a magical sound adding to this already beautiful scene. This is one of my favorite images of 2011. It represents something of the idyllic mountain scene which my heart years for. As a child I always drew scenes on paper with rugged peaks, a few stand of pine, blue skies and a glassy reflection. This photo approaches that scene which I am always seeking. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

notchtop, gabletop, alpenglow, clouds, reflection, photo

Morning Hope

On this morning clouds blanketed the peaks and there seemed to be little chance of a sunrise, yet somehow the sun found an opening and lit the bottoms of the Notchtop and Knobtop Mountains for a few glorious minutes. It filled me with a sense of both wonder and hope as it reminded me that the storm would break and the sun would shine again. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

tundra, snow, pastel, pink, solitude, , photo

Pastel Simplicity

 I had the tundra all to myself on this beautiful June evening. Trail Ridge Road had not yet opened due to a record level of snow. After shooting sunset at Rock Cut I began making my way back only to find that the sky became even more beautiful. I quickly climbed up a snowbank and began searching for compositions. The simplicity of this snow-filled tundra with pink and purple clouds above expressed something of the solitude I felt this evening. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

stars, milky way, longs peak, mount meeker, night, stars, ch, photo

Chasm Trail Stars - v

There is beauty to be found even in the middle of the night if you can get far enough away from city lights. This morning I knew conditions were going to be just right for photographing Longs Peak and the Milky Way. Just under half of the moon was out and was going to shine from the east to illuminate the peaks but not so brightly as to overwhelm the stars. I had hoped to photograph them from the top of Mt. Lady Washington but I got a late start and so made the most of the Chasm Lake trail as it is a great way to pull the viewer into the scene and up to Mount Meeker and Longs Peak. Anyway, it all came out as I had hoped and made for a great start to the day. For those of you who are curious, this was shot at 2:45am. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

calm, color, clouds, fire, sprague lake, , photo

Sprague on Fire

Mornings like this seem to only happen about once a year. I'm not sure if our senses could take it if it happened more often. The scene at Sprague Lake was incredibly beautiful with colorful clouds reflecting on the still water and then all at once the simmering color seemed to explode as if someone had thrown a piece of paper into a fire. I wanted to clap and cheer as I watched the scene unfold. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

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Haiyaha Blue 2

I've taken a lot of ice abstracts in recent years and it is taking more and more to really capture my attention. Well, this wonderful little ice contrast did it. The clear difference between the two colors of ice with the nice snow line between them created a wonderful abstract which I couldn't resist shooting. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.

longs peak, sunset, evening, trail ridge road, rocky mountai, photo

Trail Ridge Classic

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most amazing drives in the United States taking you into a world high above treeline where the harsh weather has created a world of amazing beauty. On a warm September evening Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, was lit by the setting sun as the sky and the surrounding tundra took on pastel hues. Soon, autumn would give way to winter and this stunning alpine world would again become inaccessible. Photo © copyright by Erik Stensland.