The Maroon Bells

In 2016 I tasked myself with trying to capture unique views of one of the most photographed mountains in the United States.  Just outside of Aspen, Colorado sit the Maroon Bells, two 14,000 foot peaks surrounded by aspen grove.  The parking lot sits steps from a shallow pond that reflects on a calm morning, and there you will find a mass of photographers lined up nearly every morning throughout summer and fall.  So, how do you capture such a popular location in a unique way?  The first shoot I attempted came about as most do, by pure luck.  I was house sitting in Aspen when I saw crystal clear skies predicted in the weather report.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed up the valley in time for moonrise around midnight.  A quarter moon rose behind me to the east and painted the deadly bells in moonlit alpenglow as the stars streaked across the sky.  It's one of my favorite photos I've taken.  I was completely alone the entire night as I watched meteors streak across the inky black.  The second of three shoots in 2016 was better planned, but smoke from distant forest fires changed the game.  The faint layer of particles washed out the blacks, reflecting the orange glow of distant streetlights in Aspen across the milky way.  The third trip was a whirlwind trying to catch the changing aspen leaves with a quickly waning moon.  The sky never fully cleared, but I was granted with one glorious hour of variable moonlight.  The next day a wet snowstorm came through and retired the leaves for another year.