I began my day about a mile from this location. Drinking coffee, waiting for usable light and dealing with an unkind chill that lingered about all morning. It wasn't a brutal chill by any means, but the pesky sting was not easy to ignore.
After finishing up my "early morning" shoot I drove back down the road to a spot I have visited once or twice in the past hoping I could have a productive "morning" shoot there. When I parked, the outside temperature registered 21 degrees F. I topped off my coffee and activated a couple of hand warmers then shouldered my camera pack excited to see what I might find.
Like I said prior, I have been here once or twice in the past so I am familiar with the lay of the land and how the light moves within this area and the possibilities which that brings. As far as aspen grove size go's, this isn't the largest I've seen in the area, but it is defiantly not the smallest. Unfortunately, it is easy to access this location, so it gets more than its fair share of visitors. Even more regrettable, many of the visitors have vandalized these magnificent trees. This is heartbreaking! Please stop carving up the tress people!!
I worked my way along and through the grove stopping frequently to study the environment and look for compositions (finding a few as I went.) Some of the area seemed vaguely familiar while others parts held deep hints of new discovery.
A short ways into my walk I came to a spot with a view of the lake. Below the path I was now following was a damp and barren gravel beach area big enough to hold a full grown St. Bernard or more likely a lone fisherman. It was empty. I was curious.
Moments later I now stood on the muddy gravel beach looking north out onto the ripple less lake. There was a very thin layer of ice along the water's edge. "Winter's coming" I thought. I also thought, "If I was a fisherman I would have to be very careful casting" because the view out onto the lake was tightly framed on both sides by tall trees and densely packed bushes. "Not much room for error." As I looked out on to the lake, to my left was an impassible section of shoreline. To my right was a small grassy spot that disappeared around more dense flora. I took a few steps out into the lake to improve my angle of view and saw that the grassy area on the right turned into a small peninsula! A few more steps out into the lake and I was in water just below the tops of my 15" tall waterproof boots and had an easy approach to the grassy peninsula.
I stepped out of the icy lake water up and onto a small frost covered grassy peninsula. The frost covered grass crunched with every step as I made my way up onto a Volkswagen Bug sized half moon shaped peninsula. At lake level the air had a much more aggressive bite. I pulled down my beanie to cover my ears and buried my fleece finger-less glove covered hands deep into the pockets of my comfy down jacket. Each hand quickly began a frantic search, wiggling deeper into the darkness of its pocket. Each hand desperate for warmth. Eureka! My eyes rolled into the back of my head as I squeezed the hand warmers tightly - grateful that I remembered to put them to use this morning (sometimes I forget and don't realize I need them until I'm over a mile away from my vehicle.)
The cover picture for this article (above) is the "big picture" view of my new discovery (taken from the grassy peninsula.) I mentioned earlier that I had been here before. But, I never noticed the muddy beach or the possibility of this vantage point. I just never saw them. I got out from under my camera pack and poured some hot black coffee into the thermos cap which doubles as a cup (good design guys!) A frosty morning, hot black coffee and a beautiful view experienced for the first time - Thank You Lord!
The sky was cloudless, but I didn't care (okay, maybe a little bit), the air was completely still and the lake water was a flawless mirror. I quickly set up and worked out my first composition. I'm sure a slight hint of relief appeared on my face when I realized that my fingers were warm and could easily move the dials and release the shutter. Click!
A little more hot coffee while I studied the scene in more detail. I was now looking for pictures within the picture. After a few minutes I had some possibilities in mind. I changed lens from a wide angle to my trusty 70-200mm and began to explore my initial visions.
For those of you that know me and follow my photography you know that I love including reflections in my photographs. I will get up extra early and or go way out of my way to pull that off. But sometimes I get lucky and stumble onto some very special opportunities. The above was immediately obvious. All I had to do was create a clean composition, dial in the correct exposure and release the shutter.
This one (above) was not immediately obvious to me. I see horizontal images better than I see verticals, but as the years behind the camera continue to add up I seem to be willing to go a little slower which in turn I think is helping me see a little better. Or, maybe it's seeing things differently that's taking place. Anyway, I thought I was done working this area and felt I had two or three nice shots in the bag. But it was so calm and peaceful there, so I decided to have another small cup of coffee and a snack and enjoy my surroundings for just a while longer.
The frost still crunched under my boots as I moved out on to the left most portion of what was now "my" little peninsula. The lake water was still mirror like and the reflections continued to beg for my attention. That's when I noticed the two dark green pine trees across the way (look at the cover photo.) The barren stand of aspens behind them created an interesting contrast. Once again, to improve my angle of view I stepped out into the lake. Now I was on to something! A little further out into the lake I saw the possibility, but I felt the pine tree on the far right was not picturesque. I covered it with my hand and I liked what I saw. Carefully, I brought my tripod mounted camera out into the lake and got it into position. I zoomed in and worked out my desired composition which did not include the "ugly" tree. I liked what I had! But, before releasing the shutter I had to wait nearly five minutes for all of the ripples I created getting in and setting up in the lake to dissipate. Click!