Above the Trees

An annual ritual for me is heading up to tundra country in Colorado. My quarry is always the Old Man of the Mountain flower. It size and color stands out dramatically compared to other tundra plants. And at sunset it displays a wonderful glow I tried to capture in this image.
On the technical side, I did blend two images; one for the brightest parts of the sky and the other for that land. Even the great dynamic range of the Nikon 850 couldn’t capture it all in one shot.
Cheers
Ken

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Fabulous photo!. I’m a Californian with little knowledge about Colorado. Could you educate me about “tundra country”, ie, what it means? Above treeline, altitude, etc. Thanks.

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Thanks Tony! Well, glad you asked about the tundra. Generally, alpine tundra in the lower US begins around 10- 11,000 ft above sea level. But that does vary depending on the latitude. And what I am referring to is alpine tundra. Arctic tundra is clearly at lower elevations, but the harsh climate doesn’t support much vegetation. Alpine tundra is generally characterize by the areas above tree-line. Because the elevation of a tundra is subject to intense radiation, wind, cold, snow, and ice; trees simply can’t survive. Additionally, the growing season is usually less than 180 days. Soils on the tundra exist but are shallow and well drained; not conductive to deep root establishment. Considering these conditions, the vegetation that does survive on an alpine tundra does so by having minimal vegetative parts and grows small and low to the ground. In fact most tundra flowers are no bigger than one’s pinky nail. And that is why the Old Man on the Mountain or Alpine Sunflower is so interesting. It defies the growth pattern of most other tundra plants. My understanding is that is doesn’t grow from seed to flower in one year. Not enough growing season for such a large flower. It may take many years for it to store enough energy in the roots to successfully create a flower.
Another interesting factoid about this flower. Most sunflower heads generally follow the sun each day. The Old Man on the Mountain faces east, always. That’s is certainly important for hikers if they get lost and need to find a bearing!
Hey if you want to see some alpine tundra in California, my understanding is that King’s Canyon NP has some. Although, I mostly enjoy the brief summer flowers on the tundra, it also can have a gorgeous color in the fall. Quite a few plants have leaves and/or other plant parts that turn orange or red.
Cheers!

Thanks for the info, it make me appreciate the photo even more.

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Beautiful shot all around!

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