At the first weekend of October, I visited the most photographed Maroon Bell for the first time. The closest town to Maroon Bell is Aspen, CO but the hotels there are very expensive. So I reserved a hotel room in Glenwood Springs.
On the Saturday morning, I woke up at 4 am and left the hotel at 4:15 am. It took about one hour and fifteen minutes driving to Maroon Lake. The sunrise was at around 6:40 am. Even arrived at 5:30 am, more than one hour before the sunrise, there was still a group of people that came earlier than me. People come to this place crazy early for a reason. There would be so many people around the lake during sunrise. I have never seen so many photographers at one place at the same time. If you come late, for example, half an hour before the sunrise, you won't have a choice where to set up your tripod. Since I came one hour before the sunrise, I was able to choose my composition.
Unfortunately, the first morning turned out to be windy and the lake wasn't still enough to make the reflection of Maroon Bell clear. The best photo I got from the first morning is the one above taken at 5:40 am. Since it is well before the sunrise, there were still stars in the sky.
I hiked a little bit around the park in the morning and then I came back to the lake around sunset. This time I went to the other side of the lake facing the east.
I really like this composition. The mountains and the clouds in the sky became my background. The lake is the middle ground. The trunk of a tree formed my foreground and created a separation from the lake. I took this photo around 6:20 pm, about 10 to 15 minutes before sunset. Right after I took this shot, there was a moose coming right at me from the opposite side of the lake. I was excited to see the moose coming towards me, thinking I could get a unique photo. I kept waiting for the moose to come closer so I could get a clear shot of it with my wide angle lens. When the moose came to the middle of the lake, a ranger appeared suddenly and shouted at me "Hey, you! Get out of that area immediately!" So I had to leave that area before I could get the shot of the moose. Later I was told Moose is highly aggressive and the ranger was charged by a moose the day before. Well, even though it was for my safety, I still feel a pity I couldn't get that shot.
The next morning I woke up at 4 am again as my second attempt to shoot Maroon Bell and the reflection in the lake. Luckily that day the lake was still and the reflection is clear. When the sun came out from the horizon, it lightened up the tip of Maroon Bell and warmed it up. After about five minutes, the sun lights became much stronger so the color of Maroon Bell lost the warmth and became harsh highlights and shadows. Most photographers, including myself, had been waiting for more than one hour just for those five minutes when the tip of the mountain turned red.