4 Tips for Getting the Best Photos at Rocky Mountain National Park

We asked professional photographer André Costantini how to make the most of your time in the park when it’s hard to predict what you might find.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

The seasons change quickly in Colorado. Sometimes, it seems like you can experience all four in a single day in Rocky Mountain National Park. We asked professional Tamron photographer André Costantini, one of the two instructors of our new online Night Sky Photography course, how to make the most of your time in the park when it’s hard to predict what you might find.

1. Don’t be hyper-focused on “the” shot. 

“You’re not always in control, and sometimes weather dictates where the picture is going to be,” Costantini says. You might have an idea of a picture you can try to take, and have it all set up, and then it doesn’t work out because the light is poor or the weather has turned lousy. “If you turn around 180 degrees, maybe there’s something that’s way better than you thought,” Costantini says, like a cloud formation you hadn’t noticed.

2. Be prepared for failure—and surprises.

You can almost never predict when sunrise will be amazing, and when it will be a bust. So have a plan B, Costantini says, and don’t hinge success on a single event you can’t control. “You also have to be prepared for surprises,” Costantini says. “That’s one of the great things about photography.” Look for rays of light illuminating individual features, like the way the light shines right through these aspen leaves.

3. Follow the light. 

If sunrise is a bust and there’s a bear jam or a snow pile keeping you from going elsewhere, stay put and look close, Costantini says. You might find patterns on the ground, individual leaves hanging on to branches, or even an interesting parade of bugs. “Maybe you’re not getting the light right or the vista you want, but you’re able to look at some little detail in front of you and photograph that,” Costantini says. Then move around till you find the interesting light. “Be able to look at what the light is doing, and move back and forth until it becomes interesting light. In images that capture light the right way, you do wind up with contrast and dimension.”

4. Embrace the light pollution.

Depending on where you are in the park, light from the town of Estes Park, Colo., might bleed into your shot. But that’s OK, Costantini says, because you can capitalize on that as if it were light painting. “It could look like an amazing sunset,” Costantini says. “What would normally be light pollution, something you wouldn’t want, can be used to make great image.”

hr-green_300x4
Tamron photographer, Andre Costantini helps a workshop participant at sunrise in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Tamron photographer Andre Costantini helps a photo workshop participant in one of Colorado's national parks.

André Costantini has been a professional photographer for more than two decades. His clients include American Repertory Theatre, Constellation Center, Tamron and Discovery Channel. He regularly teaches workshops on filmmaking and photography.

Want to improve your game on starry nights? Sign up for our 9-part online Night Sky Photography course, taught at your own pace by professional photographers André Costantini and Ken Hubbard.

Related

Sliding Cloud in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

4 Places to Shoot in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

It’s hard to understand this park's scale. But don’t be daunted—we asked professional photographer Andre Costantini where to approach the dunes for the best photos.

RV on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

5 RV Tips for Rocky Mountain National Park

Explore the majestic Rockies in your home on wheels with these tips to help you choose where to camp, how to prepare and what to do with your pets.

Photographer at Great Sand Dunes National Park

National Park Photo Contest presented by Tamron

Love to take photos in national parks? Whether it’s a landscape or a wildlife pic send it our way. You could win a Tamron camera lens!

Dylan Maddalena, Head Wrangler, YMCA Jackson Stables

Dream Jobs in Rocky Mountain National Park

What it is really like to live and work in RMNP? Peek inside the typical days of park rangers, stable managers, volunteers, and outdoor business owners.

Bear Lake Sunset at Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunsets and Night Skies in Rocky Mountain National Park

Need some essential advice to get fantastic shots in the evening and into the wee hours? Tamron photographer, Ken Hubbard, shares his tips.

Participants of the Photo Workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018

National Park Photography Workshops

National Park Trips Media and Tamron have teamed up to offer Photo Workshops inside your favorite national parks.

Bear Lake reflection at sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park

24-hours in Rocky Mountain National Park

We decided to spill one of our perfect days in Rocky Mountain National Park, just for you.

Far View cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park

Best Photos of Mesa Verde National Park

Each year we ask travelers to enter their best photos in our annual photo contest. Here are some of the best shots in Mesa Verde National Park.

View of the Gunnison River from the rim of the Black Canyon

Best Photos of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Each year we ask travelers to enter their best photos in our annual photo contest. Here are some of the best shots we've received in the Black Canyon.