09/03/2010 12:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Colorado RainBells, Bottle Gentians and SuperMarmots (PHOTOS)

"Somewhere over the rainbow
skies are blue,
and the dreams that you dare to dream
really do come true".
- E.Y. Harburg

Colorado has so many photogenic places to focus one's camera upon that it is easy to capture beautiful images. As a nature photographer, my big challenge is to avoid photographic clichés by finding new perspectives. When I travel across this state in search of unique visual treasures, I am usually rewarded in some,often suprising, way.

Finding a new viewpoint is especially difficult to achieve at the Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed places on Earth. These magnificent peaks rise over 14,000ft/4260m and are the centerpiece of the White River National Forest. The Bells are framed and reflected in glacier-scoured Maroon Lake and Valley, making this a wilderness composition hard to resist. I decided to camp out to try to capture some of dawn's early light in a panoramic photograph. Unfortunately, the climate didn't cooperate, leaving me soaked under rainy skies for two days. This was about the most blue sky I could find on 31 August 2010 at 1:30pm...


A Cloudy Day In The Maroon Bells Wilderness Area @ 39.098711,-106.943257

This cloudy weather did have its silver lining. When I looked back at Maroon Lake on my soggy trek back to the trailhead, the dreams that I dared to dream really did come true. Thanks to this double rainbow I discovered the answer to the Maroon Bells photo cliché problem...


Maroon RainBells

In addition to the Maroon Wilderness geology and meteorological phenomenaI I also discovered some flora and fauna to focus upon.

The sun would occasionally appear long enough to brighten the last of the subalpine wildflowers hurrying to finish their brief pollination. Here's a hearty little Parry Gentian, or "Bottle Gentian," taking advantage of a brief moment in the sunshine...


Open Parry Gentian (Pneumonathe parri)

...but they quickly close when clouds reappear...


Closing Parry Gentian

This high mountain yellow bellied marmot didn't mind the clouds as he glared at me from his rocky perch. Marmots hide their tunnel entrances under rock piles making them harder to meet for dinner...


Yellow Bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)

I discovered this tale about the marmot from the journal Nature. It appears that global warming is favoring the chubby rodent. According to a study by researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado, yellow bellied marmots are getting much bigger and there are three times as many of them today as there were 10 years ago! Marmots may be climate warming winners by enjoying a reduction in their hibernation intervals. Salad is a healthful choice for this modern marmot...


Munching Super-Marmot

Super-marmots are not the only wildlife challenge to campers in the wilderness. Porcupines can disable your car...


The porcupines disable your car...

So the bears can move in...


So the bears can get you

Nevertheless, it will be well worth the survivor wilderness challenge in my quest to capture these Bells again when the skies are blue, the aspens are bright yellow and the lake is a placid mirror reflecting the perfect colorful Colorado cliché.

"Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops that's where you'll find me." - E.Y. Harburg