Brainard Lake Recreation Area is one of the most beautiful spots in the Front Range. Nestled between Nederland and Ward, Brainard Lake is just 45 minutes up the mountains from Boulder. To complement summer hiking, fishing, backpacking, and cycling, this area offers incredible winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and picnicking.
From about November to May, the Brainard Lake Road is closed beyond the entrance station. This road turns into an excellent start for any skiing, snowshoeing, or picnic adventure. From the entrance station, you have three route options: stay on the road, veer left onto Lefthand Park Reservoir Road, or turn right onto the Sourdough Trail.
Heading straight on Brainard Lake Road offers adventurers a relatively flat path, perfect for learning to cross country ski or snowshoe. Red Rock Lake is the first destination on this path, just ½ mile beyond the entrance station. From here, users can follow the road another 1.5 miles to Brainard Lake.
Those looking for some elevation gain may opt to follow Lefthand Park Reservoir Road to Lefthand Park Reservoir for beautiful views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This winter trail climbs 600 feet over the course of 1.8 miles to the reservoir.
For people who enjoy the solitude of snowy singletrack, Sourdough Trail offers miles and miles of pristine winter wilderness. This trail connects to South Saint Vrain and Waldrop trails for a long, scenic route to Brainard Lake.
Erik Stensland, an Estes Park resident and photographer, visits Rocky Mountain National Park regularly to photograph all the beauty within; spring flowers, sunsets and waterfalls overflowing. Like many creative nature enthusiasts, Stensland prefers to wander outdoors in solitude.
"I just need silence to rethink things. It keeps me whole and sane. I need that time of personal reflection." - Erik Stensland
Though you aren't going to become his best hiking buddy, Stensland is willing to share some of his wisdom when it comes to taking photographs while venturing through the park. And it's advice you'll want to take!
Tip #1 - Timing is Everything
Aim to photograph your desired subject or area when the light is warm. If you can shoot within 15-20 minutes of sunrise or sunset, you'll be amazed by the results. More people prefer sunrise photos than sunset photos, due to the clarity during that time of day. Winds die down and urban activity slows significantly during the night, leaving a window of time just before and during sunrise that provides a more clean and clear atmosphere.
Tip #2 - What Are You Shooting?
It's easy to become distracted by everything around you and before you know it, you've taken 300 photos in the first 15 minutes of your hike and you're late for that sunrise shot you'd planned on getting! Before you head out, be very clear about what the subject of your image is. Why did you come out today? What did you hope to photograph? What was the overall feeling you wanted to convey with this image? Focus on one clear subject and you'll hike home feeling triumphant.
Tip #3 - Learn to Love Cloudy Days
Sure, it may go against your nature to hope for clouds in the sky as you pack up for a day outside. But in Stensland's opinion, if there aren't clouds in the sky, it isn't worth going out with your camera in tow. "Clouds really create the emotion in the image", he says. Subjects such as waterfalls and shadowy forested areas benefit greatly from the diffused light that grey skies bring. Clouds truly are nature's softbox, so take advantage of overcast days!
He sells his images online and in various galleries in New Mexico and Colorado. If you're more of a social media guru, he shares images daily on his Facebook and Twitter with inspiring messages attached for you to enjoy (free of charge!)
After a nature-filled Labor Day weekend, what better way to usher in another week than a short film featuring Colorado's fast-approaching Fall season?
Toby Harriman is a photographer, timelapser, content creator and a social influencer. He has worked with large clients, such as CBS, CNBC, Red Bull and many more. As a kid growing up in Colorado, he can appreciate and capture the beauty and wonder that is this amazing state - and he's done just that in his most recent short film, 'A Slice of Colorado's Autumn.'
"During September and October of 2013 and 2015, I drove from San Francisco back to my birth state of Colorado to experience a bit of fall," explains Harriman. "Growing up there, I was young and not really into photography yet. So it is amazing to go back every year now and see it with a whole new perspective. I did sneak one clip in from summer."