The Elk Herd

It was a beautiful morning for a hike although my arrival at the trailhead was a bit behind schedule, greatly diminishing my chances of a successful wildlife sighting and with the smoke from the summer fires my chances of photographing the distant mountains were just about zero. Undaunted, I slung my camera over my shoulder anyway. As I climbed the steep grade to the top of the ridge my eyes scanned the forest edge for any sign of wildlife. Before I started my trek I had set my camera to ISO 400 in preparation for wildlife photography, so with nothing in sight and not much hope of any shooting I just left the settings as they were.

Over the top of the mini mountain I strode along, settling for a good day of exercise in the solitude of the Rocky Mountain wilderness when all of a sudden Big Dog went on alert and pointed me to the direction of interest. It was the most amazing thing, a huge herd of elk streaming up the mountainside towards the dense pine forest near the summit. I quickly brought up my camera, zoomed my 200mm lens all the way in and

Elk Herd

started shooting. The elk kept coming and coming, over the ridge and into the forest… there were at least a couple of hundred of them all together. Finally once they were past I quickly made my way across the mountainside to where they went in, hoping to find a few of them still lingering so that I could get a closer shot. Amazingly within just that quick minute that it took me to get there, like a herd of ghosts they were just gone. I could not believe that so many of these huge beasts could so quickly and silently pass by and disappear… like they were never there.

Lone elk cow

I ventured a bit further into the dense pine forest hoping to catch one of the magnificent animals departing when I spotted this straggler that had stopped to feed on a pine branch. I was only able to snap off a couple of shots before she noticed me and the Big Dog and quickly scampered to the safety of the large herd. The whole scene unfolded in a matter of minutes and I feel so fortunate to have been at just the right place at just the right time to witness such magnificence. And I would not have noticed them at all were it not for Big Dog’s ever vigilant nose and super powered ears. Sometimes I get to thinking he’s a pain to have along when shooting wildlife, until I have a moment like this and am reminded of how many images I would have missed without his extraordinary senses.

These images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, traditional matted frames, wrapped canvas and a huge selection of very cool gift items and handy household gadgets including phone cases, yoga mats, greeting cards and more!

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Rocky Mountain Morning

I have to say, there is something very special about being in the woods high in the Rocky Mountains when the sun clears the ridges. The air is fresh and cool, the mist hovers in the dense pine trees, and the woods are still teeming with wildlife yet undisturbed in the predawn stillness.

This morning was one of those days, I awoke early for my morning coffee and quickly headed out the door hoping to arrive at the trailhead by first light. My efforts were rewarded by a particularly amazing morning in the high country, clear skies, cool air and just enough mist to create a solitude that can only be experienced alone in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Pair of Mule Deer Bucks

The first mile of the trail is the steepest here and I quickly climbed a thousand feet or so  in hopes of seeing some deer or elk just over the ridge. As luck would have it though, I glanced up and noticed a herd of four magnificent buck mule deer grazing just on this side of the summit. The deer were already well aware of my presence so I proceeded slowly, avoiding eye contact and not approaching directly at them so as not to disturb them into flight. As I neared they got a little nervous and trotted a few yards down the mountain to keep a wary eye on me and my camera. Unfortunately there was a border fence directly behind them which was going to spoil my background so I just kept moving, hoping to get past them and beyond the fence where I could get a much nicer image. The animals never took their eyes off of me until I was beyond their comfort zone but they didn’t run! Once past, the trail dipped behind a small hill and curved towards the small herd and I was able to get into position for the shot without them seeing me. The sun wasn’t in the greatest position for the first set of images, but I felt fortunate to be a part of the action at first light high on a mountaintop.

Once I cleared the ridge, the plateau at the summit came into view along with a few smaller creatures that quickly scattered at the sight of me on the rocky trail. None of the larger animals were in sight as I had hoped so I just continued my hike, keeping an eye peeled for any movement along the forest edge. However it wasn’t long before I heard the thunder of footsteps as a huge bull elk ran past towards the safety of the dense pine forest. The massive beast was moving fast and I didn’t have time to squeeze off a shot as he ran by, but much to my surprise I noticed that he had stopped and was peeking over the ridge at me, something I had never seen an elk do before! Deer will stop and check to see if you are actually chasing them, but elk usually just keep right on going and you never see them again. Got one shot of just his head as he peered out from the safety of distance and a steep hill but his head seemed tiny in the distance against the expanse of the wilderness in the image frame.

I continued on to the overlook where I could see nothing but mist and headed on back down the other side of the mountain. Off in the distance I could see another herd of deer much too far away for me to get a good image. I assumed those were the mule deer bucks that I had seen on the other side of the mountain as my trek began. However as it turns out the ones I had originally photographed were still grazing near the same location and were now in much better position for an awesome photo op! I was rewarded by the best photography of the day as the bucks moved into a beautiful misty meadow and stopped to pose for me. The image shown here is one of the ones I captured right at the end of the hike, and is my favorite one of the day 🙂

This image and a couple others from my hike in the clouds the other day are now available for purchase on my website as wall art, including acrylic and metal glossies, framed prints, cool gift and household items and Royalty Free Stock.

 

Dumb and Dumber Photography

That scene in the movie when they were headed back across Nebraska going in the wrong direction… “I thought the Rocky Mountains would be much higher”… “Yeah, that John Denver is full of sh*t!”. Lol, that’s about how I feel right now after a previous blog post. I was looking at the google map on the weather site a couple of days ago when I realized I was no where near the mountains that I thought I was. At the Royal Gorge I turned north on Highway 9 assuming that I would be driving along the Sangre de Cristo Range… thinking, “I thought the Sangre would be much higher!” Well it turns out I was no where near the Sangre de Cristo Range… there was an entire ridge of smaller mountains between me and them and the Sangre were not visible at all from the valley I was cruising up 😐

Mule Deer Bucks

Oh well, that just means I still have a road trip to look forward to! Not today though, feeling very tired and was even going to forego my planned hike with Big Dog. But he was having none of that so I relented and we got in a couple of miles in the high country before the heat was too much for him. Saw a pair of awesome looking buck mule deer off in the distance that I got these nice shots of. Was kind of wishing I had borrowed the 1.4x lens extension from my buddy, but still, a nice shot and a great experience. After I got this capture in the brush they kind of moseyed towards me in the prairie grass a bit before disappearing into the dense pine forest on top of Grouse Mountain. I will put a couple of those in the wildlife gallery on my website when I get the chance.

Also had this red sunrise… I have never seen the sun look like that before. It took a little bit for me to convince myself that it was the sun and not the moon due to it’s subdued brightness. Kind of weird, had me wondering if maybe it was one of those biblical signs or something.

Red Sunrise

Picture taking was followed by a nice cheese omelet and a frosted donut. Looking forward to processing my pictures to include with this blog post!

These pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website! Available on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional framed prints, plus many cool household and gift items!