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.

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.”

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.