Work the Golden Hour. Don’t Leave Good Light to Find Good Light.

My long time good friend, flyfishing guide and award winning author Pudge Kleinkauf of Women’s Flyfishing once said to me while grayling fishing in Lake Clark:  “Don’t leave fish to find fish.”  I have always carried that with me with my photography.

Earlier this month we were at Molas Pass in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.  The aspen colors at lower elevations were not that good  so I came upon Little Molas Lake earlier in the day and decided to shoot sunset here.  With recent snow on the peaks, light winds and a sky full of dense cirrus clouds, this seemed like the best place to shoot later that day.  Besides, I’m always a sucker for water and reflections in my landscape photography.

I returned about an hour before sunset and found 10 other photographers there with tripods and pro level gear.  Fortunately  no other shooter occupied the spot I scouted earlier in the day.  The sky was clear on the western horizon but the rest of the sky still contained dense cirrus clouds.  This scenario usually means colorful clouds.  Cirrus, regardless of the season, are  ice crystals and almost always produce pink to orange colors pre sunrise or post sunset.

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013.

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013.

About 10 minutes before sunset, about half of the others packed up to “go somewhere else.”  I’m thinking, really?  Go where?  Beautiful lake, reflections, and good color to come meant stay put and be patient.   Don’t leave good light to find good light!   I never leave when the sun hits the horizon.  Sure enough, 15 minutes after sunset the sky exploded with color.

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013, minutes before the setting sun.

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013, minutes before the setting sun.

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013, 15 minutes after sunset with glowing dense cirrus and altocumulus clouds all comprised of ice crystals which produces the pink colors.

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013, 15 minutes after sunset with glowing dense cirrus and altocumulus clouds all comprised of ice crystals which produces the pink colors.

These 4 shots are less than an hour apart.  The first shot was about 15 minutes before sunset.  Sunset was to camera right so a polarizer helped to punch up the colors.  The last shot is 30 minutes later and a little into the “blue hour”

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013, into the Blue Hour about 25 minutes after sunset.

Little Molas Lake with recent snow on surrounding peaks, San Juan Mountains, Colorado on October 2, 2013, into the Blue Hour about 25 minutes after sunset.