Rocky Mountain is the People's Park by Ben Fullerton


Rocky Mountain National Park is more than a pretty postcard—it's a playground for all kinds of visitors. Here are a few ways people enjoy the park, plus pro tips for shooting amazing photos.

Photos and advice by Ben Fullerton

Go With the Flow

Hikers at Alluvial Fan in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hikers at Alluvial Fan

Location Alluvial Fan
See it From West Alluvial Fan parking lot on Endovalley Road
When to go July-October

The Alluvial Fan was created in 1982, when a monumental flood redistributed boulders in the Roaring River. The 2013 flood changed the area again, washing out trails and covering roads with rocks. Be very careful when exploring this now-trailless area.

Pro tips To shoot moving water, use a tripod and a slow shutter speed for this silky effect. Any people in the photo must stay still, or they'll come out blurry.

Shot Details Pentax 645D camera, 25mm lens at 25mm, ISO 100. f/13, 1/50th second

Reach New Heights

Climber in Moraine Park at Fern Lake Trail

Location Moraine Park
See it Look for boulders along the first 2 miles of the Fern Lake Trail.
When to go Summer for the best bouldering and climbing conditions

The park is a great spot to try bouldering (low rock climbing without a rope). Head to Lumpy Ridge, Tyndall Gorge, or Chaos Canyon for popular routes.

Pro Tips Viewers' eyes will be drawn to what your subjects are looking at. Use this principle to make viewers notice what you want them to: Here, the climber looks at his hand, so all eyes will be focused on his next move.

Shot Details Pentax K-5IIs camera, 16-50mm lens at 26mm, ISO 500, f/7.1, 1/60 second

Follow that Dog

Hikers at Mount Neva in the Indian Peaks

Location Outside of the national park, off-trail near Mt. Neva, Indian Peaks Wilderness
See it Start from the Fourth of July trailhead and head toward Arapaho Pass.
When to go Trails are typically snow-free from mid-June to early October.

Just south of the national park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness is a fantastic destination for hiking, backpacking, and climbing. Many consider Mt. Neva, a 12,814-foot peak, a classic climb.

Pro Tips Scale subjects to the landscape. Any one of these hikers alone would look lost, but four (plus a dog)stand out. And from the cover of Abbey Road to this image, people walking in sync makes a strong visual statement.

Shot Details Pentax K-5 camera, 16-50mm lens at 16mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1000 second

Portrait Studio

To capture close-up portaits of your hiking partners, shoot at dawn and dusk for the most flattering light. Use a slight fill flash to eliminate shadows on the face, or employ a headlamp to light your subject. Use a 200mm lens with a wide-open aperture, and shoot from about 10 feet away (or put your point-and-shoot on portrait mode).Congrats—your friend has a new favorite profile photo.

Saddle Up

Horse Trail Ride on the Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Location Fern Lake Trail
See it To reach the Fern Lake trailhead, head toward Moraine Park Campground and keep left.
When to go Summer and fall

The park hosts two stables, one in Moraine Park and the other at Glacier Creek off Bear Lake Road.

Pro tips Compose your photo to include many planes of interest to give it a sense of depth. Here, everything from the grass and trail in the foreground to the river and bridge in the middle to the distant trees and sky, plus the line of riders entering the image from back to front, come together to establish an almost three-dimensional depth.

Shot details Pentax K-3 camera, 16-50mm lens at 16mm, ISO 100, f/8, 1/200 second

Sparkling Personality

Everyone wants gorgeous photos of friends and family enjoying the outdoors. To nail it: DON'T hang back and shoot your subjects from behind (butt shots are never as inspiring as your friends' faces). DO run ahead and photograph people coming toward you. DO capture friends in candid moments, such as lighting a campfire or saddling a horse: Relaxed subjects make for better photos. DON'T stick to the same angles all the time: Crouch and shoot friends from the ground up or scramble above them for more interesting, dynamic compositions.

Walk the Line

Slacklining at Lily Lake

Location Jurassic Park
See it Park at Lily Lake and hike the Lily Ridge Trail
When to go Year-round

This craggy area above Lily Lake is a destination for climbing and slacklining—balancing on a strip of webbing like a tightrope. Hiking trails also circle the lake and head into the mountains from this spot just south of Estes Park.

Pro tips Anytime you want to make something look bigger or higher, get lower. By shooting this slackliner from a lower vantage point, you see the background and even the surrounding peaks below him, making him look a thousand feet off the ground.

Shot details Pentax K-5 camera, 16-50mm lens at 19mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/100 second

Take a Hike

Hikers on Torreys Peak Trail in the Arapaho National Forest

Location Torreys Peak Trail, Arapaho National Forest
See it Hike 4.2 miles from the Grays Peak trailhead.
When to go June to October

Torreys Peak and its neighbor, Grays Peak, are two of the best Fourteeners for first-timers because they don't require technical climbing. Try them if you're not quite ready for Longs Peak inside the park.

Pro tips Try shooting into the sun. Backlight not only makes the foliage light up, it also gives a rich sense of texture to the world and adds a halo of light around your subjects.

Shot details Pentax K-30 camera, 16-50mm lens at 16mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/60 second

The Rule of Thirds

To master this basic principle of composition, imagine two equally spaced horizontal lines and two vertical lines on your viewfinder or LCD screen (creating nine identical panels). The most pleasing compositions tend to place the subject or focal point of the photo at a point where the lines intersect rather than in the exact center of the frame.

When to Use a Tripod

A tripod helps ensure crisp images in low light. Rule of thumb: Use a tripod when your shutter speed is slower than the focal length. Invest in the lightest tripod you can afford (and that can support your camera with its heaviest lens). Using a cable release or the self-timer button also helps capture clear shots by reducing hand shake from pressing the shutter. Even point-and-shoot cameras can benefit from a small tripod, like the flexible GorillaPod models (

Earn your Turns

Snowshoeing on the east ridge of Quandary Peak

Location East Ridge of Quandary Peak
See it To hike Quandary, start from the trailhead near Breckenridge, CO, in the White River National Forest.
When to go Summer and fall for hiking, winter and spring for skiing

For experienced skiers, nothing beats the thrill of climbing a backcountry slope and finding an untouched stash of powder. Avalanche education is mandatory for anyone looking to try off-piste skiing.

Pro tips Diagonal lines create movement. Everything in this shot—the slope of the snowfield, the ridge in the background, the slant of the ski poles, the skier's shadow—work together to give a strong sense of forward motion.

Shot details Pentax K-30 camera, 18-135mm lens at 28mm, ISO 100, f/8, 1/800 second

Catch the Big One

Fishing in Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Location Lily Lake
See it Go 6 miles south of Estes Park on CO 7 to reach this drive-up lake.
When to go July through October for the best fishing and full lake access

Lily Lake is home to greenback cutthroat trout, a threatened native species and Colorado's state fish. All fishing at Lily Lake is catch-and-release only, and a valid state license is required.

Pro tips Whenever you're photographing action, like this fisherman casting, shoot lots of frames (try your camera's burst mode) to up your chances of the perfect composition. Small variations in the position of your subject's body and fly rod can make the difference between a good shot and a great one.


Hiking at Bluebird Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain Picture Show by Ben Fullerton

Get inspired by Ben Fullerton's photos of Rocky Mountain National Park trails, streams, autumn trees and wildlife. Follow tips for your own photos.

Alluvial Fan in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain Photography - All-Star Scenery by Erik Stensland

Get inspired by Erik Stensland's photos of Rocky Mountain National Park skies, clouds, and mountains. Follow his tips to take your own beautiful photos.

Moose in Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain Photography: Wildlife by Erik Stensland

Get inspired by Erik Stensland's photos of Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife. Follow his tips to take your own beautiful photos.

Sprague Lake at sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain Photography – 24 Hours by Grant Ordelheide

Every minute in the park brings new perspectives and surprises. Go around the clock with our dawn 'til dusk photo collection.

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.

Photographer too close to elk

3 Places Not to Take Selfies in Rocky Mountain National Park

Waterfalls, mountain ranges, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and meadows, are all just a few of the natural wonders inside Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding regions.

Clouds at Forest Canyon Overlook on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain Photography: Landscapes by Erik Stensland

Get inspired by photos of lakes, waterfalls, sunsets, and flowers. Follow tips to take your own photos.

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.

Autumn Leaves in Rocky Mountain National Park

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 when it’s hard to predict what you might find.