Where the Spirit Moves

I had no plan at all when I awoke this morning… I might have been content to just sit in my chair with the dog and drink coffee, but as often occurs right about sunrise my mind wandered to my favorite mountain trail and it wasn’t long before I was dressed and out the door.

My hike to the summit of Grouse Mountain yielded nothing but a bit of exercise and before long I was back in the truck. As I contemplated going home with nothing to show for my day but the Spirit began stirring me to drive out to Eleven Mile again, a place I had recently decided I wasn’t going to visit for a while.

Big Herd of Elk

Saw this elk herd on my way, I would have stayed for more pictures but the huge beasts spotted me and began to run and I didn’t want them getting injured in a stampede so I quickly jumped back in the truck. The plan worked, almost as soon as I was out of sight they settled back down and went back to grazing on the mountain grass. Our elk in Teller County aren’t like the friendly ones in Rocky Mountain National Park that you can practically walk right up to!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

As I drove into the parking lot I spotted my two favorite bald eagles sitting on a huge boulder together, surrounded by a fan club of crows. Unfortunately by the time I got out my camera, one of the huge raptors had already flown over to an ice floe in the river. I snapped a couple of the remaining bird with the crows and then it flew off as well. Much to my surprise though, the eagle made a return trip… circling past me a couple of times before flying past the cliffs to a treetop near the nest. I believe this is as close as I have ever been to a bald eagle in the wild and I am so happy that all the settings on my camera were just right for an eagle in flight! Very fortunate event in the life of a wildlife photographer 🙂

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

In the meantime the other eagle had flown back into the woods as well, perching on another treetop behind the nest, almost completely obscured by tree branches. I watched for about an hour, listening to the two mates calling out to each other but it appeared that they were done flying around for a while. I have learned eagles are content to sit on their branches for hours at a time if they aren’t in need of a meal.

Just as I was ready to call it a day this little muskrat came out to visit, making a couple of passes to check me out and see what I was up to 🙂

Muskrat in the South Platte River

My plans for the last couple of weeks have pretty much been a bust, nothing much from a trip to Waterton and nothing to speak of from another planned visit to Eleven Mile State Park on free State Park day. Gets me to thinking… maybe it’s best to just go where the Spirit Moves, after all… they are His Creation!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Giving Thanks

Today I’m giving thanks that I spent my day out in the wilderness instead of fighting Black Friday crowds 🙂 Cold but beautiful upon arrival at Eleven Mile Canyon, the cold and fog were bone chilling, the eagles absent and sunrise appeared non existent. It didn’t take long before my hands and feet

Sunrise in the Rockies

were so cold that I decided to give up on waiting for action by the river. Kevin would be arriving soon and I decided to just wait it out in the truck. I know, what a wimp right?

However the instant I turned around I spotted a peak, one that I have apparently never noticed before… This time it was enshrouded in fog and the morning sun was shining right on it. I’ve probably looked at it a million times, but I had never seen it glowing with such glory!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile Reservoir

Kevin and I decided to hike over for a quick look at the other side of the dam where we saw a lone goose and some really cold icy looking water. We heard one lone bird on the west side of the canyon calling out from a really good hiding place and we decided to just head over to Eleven Mile Res for free state park day. The reservoir proved to be even colder and foggier than the canyon but we took a quick drive through the park in hopes of spotting the eagles. No eagles, but we did see a really miserable looking prairie falcon sitting on a fence post. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one before, but according to my ebird app, I have a new life sighting with this capture! That can’t be a bad thing!  As stealthily as possible we got out of the truck to capture an image. I quickly grabbed this shot of him on the fence post but he quickly flew away below

Scenery in Eleven Mile State Park

the fence line where I couldn’t get focus on him. By the time I was able to get an in flight shot all I could get was a distant flying away image, certainly nothing to jump up and down about.

A short hike on the hiking trails revealed some spectacular stark beauty. Something about the cold and

Scenery in Eleven Mile State Park

snow inspires me… I can never resist the opportunity for these captures! We hiked around an inlet in the lake in hope of spotting bald and golden eagles on the other side but it quickly became apparent that the fog was going to obscure our view of the northeast side of the reservoir from seeing much of anything so back to the truck we went for a return trip to the canyon.

Doe Mule Deer in Eleven Mile CanyonThe view was much better upon our return to the canyon so we decided upon a road trip into the deeper reaches along the beauty of the pristine South Platte River, thinking just maybe… the eagles might be fishing in some of the deep pools in the calm parts of the waterway…

Fog and Snow in Eleven Mile Canyon

Once again, no luck with the raptors, but we did spot a small herd of mule deer enjoying the lush grass on the other side of the river. One particularly cute doe proved to be my favorite of the day 🙂 There were also a couple of magnificent scenes in the snowy icy waters of the magnificent canyon that merited a stop and a few captures.

At first I was thinking the day was a bust photographically but after loading my take for the day onto the computer it turns out I am actually pretty happy with what we experienced. Of course any day in the wilderness is going to be a day in the city hands down!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Waterton Collection and New Photoshop Techniques

Working on some new stuff these days… I finally have enough images of beautiful Waterton Canyon to make a separate collection on my website for them.  Included in this amazing category are tons of bighorn sheep, beaver, deer and the lovely pristine waters of the South Platte River as it streams out of the Rockies on it’s way through eastern Colorado and Nebraska, all the way to it’s destination as it joins the Mighty Missouri River near Omaha.

Bighorn Sheep Waterton

Fortunately I was able to add a few more to the new Waterton Collection today from our latest mountain bike adventure yesterday. The sheep weren’t too active on such a lazy beautiful early winter day but we were lucky to see Scruff all by himself making his way past the cliffs and up to higher ground where he would enjoy his day from the lofty heights of the canyon walls.

Bighorn sheep herd in Waterton Canyon Colorado

As we rode up the rugged road we did spot the entire herd  resting up on a grassy mountainside, not a very photogenic scene but a welcome sighting anyway. As we waited and hoped for them to come down for a drink in the river a rumor emerged that a beaver was busy building a new lodge near the diversion dam at the 2.5 mile marker near the picnic grounds.

Beaver in Waterton Canyon

We decided to take a quick ride up there to see if we could get a shot of the little guy hard at work. Indeed, we did catch a few glimpses of the hard working wilderness construction worker as he brought a few sticks from upstream to add to his new home which will hopefully house up to six of the photogenic aquatic rodents in the near future!

After a small lunch at the nearby picnic grounds we headed back down for another look at the sheep herd which had barely moved in the hour or so that we were upstream. We watched for about 45 minutes for any sign of action before giving up and heading back to the truck.

I’ve been messing around with a couple of features that I’ve never felt the need for in the past, the radial and graduated filters now available in Adobe Camera Raw. Others have been using these features to create much more dramatic images so I guess I’m going to have to keep up!

Bighorn Sheep Waterton

Anyway, I have been using the radial filter on certain wildlife images, mainly the portrait style captures of bighorn sheep. I just click on the animal’s head, adjust the ellipse to cover a pleasing area of the face and horns, select invert selection to adjust only the background and less important parts of the subject and make adjustments to darken or brighten the background as needed to make the face stand out more. You can also adjust the percent of feathering to make the transition in the mask less noticeable. In this particular image I left the face alone and darkened the back part of his body and the cliff walls to create a more dramatic effect.

South Platte River in Waterton Canyon

The use of the graduated filter is more obvious, darken or lighten certain parts of the image to correct uneven lighting. To use this I just select the filter and drag up or down to set the direction of the effect. You an also change the angle of the horizon to match the needs of the image as well.  In this image the contrast between the dark and light parts of the river was too great to create a useful image so I used a dark filter on the top half to calm down the intense brightness of the sunshine on the water.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonAs the action in the bighorn sheep rut season winds down I am looking forward to the next great mating season in Colorado. The time of the eagle migration and mating season is nearly upon us and rumor has it that a few of the  great raptors have already been gathering in Eleven Mile Canyon. I am also looking forward to up to 50 bald eagles making their winter visit to Barr Lake State Park next month to fish and look for a mate! Be sure to hit the follow button so you don’t miss any upcoming action in the Colorado wilderness!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Raptors in Motion

The excitement is building in the world of raptors, especially in the bald eagle department! The mating season is near and the unattached birds are preparing for migration. That means here in Colorado we photographers are getting ready for the highlight of the year when hundreds of the great raptors descend upon our rivers and reservoirs to look for mates and make the journey south for warmer digs.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

The nesting pairs that choose to stay however, are busy getting their nests ready for the long cold Rocky Mountain winter. And that’s exactly what my favorite nesting pair was up to at Eleven Mile Canyon on this photo adventure. It was chilly when I left before sunrise so I made sure to bundle up in my warmest winter gear for what was sure to be a bone chilling visit to the banks of the South Platte River at my favorite eagle viewing vantage point.

As I drove into the park and the nest came into view I was delighted to see that both eagles were still on location just as the sun was clearing the mountains to the east. The light was perfect and I was going to get the opportunity to capture some great moments!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonAt first there didn’t seem to be a lot going on so I settled into my camp chair for a long visit along the frozen banks of the clear cold South Platte River as it flows out of the Rockies toward it’s destination in eastern Nebraska. Pretty soon I began to see some activity, one of the eagles hopped out of the safety of the nest onto the “eagle porch”, a piece of dead branch sticking out over the nest.

I took this as a sign that something was about to happen, these eagles often hop up there when they are about ready to depart for their favorite fishing grounds for the day. It wasn’t long before the pair flew away without my being able to get a very compelling image of them in flight. I decided to stick around for a bit to see if maybe they would come back. And it’s a good thing I did, both birds returned with a stick for the nest! I watched as the mother eagle carefully decided upon the optimum location for the new building materials… Speaking of building materials, I recently read that an eagles nest can grow to ten feet wide and weigh up to half a ton!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually both birds took flight again, this time in a direction more toward me, as they flew past the beautiful cliffs behind the nest where I could get closer and more interesting images. I thought myself fortunate for this brief moment but much to my surprise both of the huge raptors  flew skyward and circled together past me several times 🙂 I have never seen them do this before and I snapped each of their approaches toward me several times as they circled higher and higher, eventually drifting away and out of the range of my camera.

It was still early though and I wasn’t quite ready to give up on my day… so I decided upon a hike into the icy canyon to see what else might greet my day. As I strode along the river I noticed a herd of mule deer mirroring my journey on the other side of the river. I wondered if they might have the low point along that side in mind for a drink or a possible crossing so I did my best to stay out of sight as I tried to beat them to the spot.

Doe Mule Deer in Eleven Mile Canyon

I arrived first and took up a seat to wait patiently on a rock partially obscured from view on the other side by some foliage. I was right, it wasn’t long before the small herd of does arrived along the shores if the river for a morning drink. Unfortunately just as I was about to get some good river shots a fisherman roared up in a monster truck to disturb my scene and scare off my subjects. I was able to catch some pretty nice images of the herd as they departed, this being my favorite one. I also chose this image to try out the new radial filter in Adobe Camera Raw… the background was a bit bright for my tastes and I was pleased to be able to create this nice low key rendition of the scene as the furtive herd drifted back into the safety of the tall pines and mountains beyond.

American Dipper Fishing

The fisherman mentioned that he had been seeing what he thought was a mink swimming in the water near there so as I made my return trip I kept my eyes on the water, hoping for yet another photo opportunity on this beautiful early winter morning. And just as I was nearing the fast water, and the end of my ambition to photograph river life in he canyon, I spotted some movement, a sign of life in the cold dark water. It was an American Dipper… jumping from the safety of a rock into the icy water in search of a meal.

American Dipper Fishing

I watched in amazement as the diminutive bird actually dove under the water for several seconds at a time before popping back up several feet away with a little prize. These little birds are amazing, but I never imagined that they would actually swim underwater, submerged for seconds at a time! This proved to be very difficult to photograph however, I was never able to get focused in time for the entry and I was also unable to guess the exit location in time to be able to get a shot. The best I could do were a few images of the little guy on the rock, planning his next attempt.

I’m looking forward to the climax of the mating and migration season in the middle of next month. Another eagle watcher in the canyon yesterday said that she had been seeing a few more eagles, five in one day… including both golden and bald eagles!  Be sure to click the button to follow my page and not miss the next episode in the wilderness of these beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Fierce Winds and a Panorama

The mountains were magnificent today, recent storms have blown away all the smoke and fog. It was cold and windy this morning and I knew the hike to the summit for the view was going to be unpleasant at best, but I was determined to get a panoramic image of the splendor before me. Unfortunately I was right, the fierce winds were freezing my ears so I had to pull up both hoods, my sweatshirt and my coat were both needed to stay warm. My lungs burned from the cold and the steep ascent as I made my way to the best overlook of the distant mountain range.

Clear Skies on the Sangre

Finally, I was at the top and the great mountain range spread across the horizon before me. As I stood in the fierce winds I readied the camera for a panoramic shot, camera on full manual… shutter speed at 1/250th, aperture f8 and ISO 100 for the best possible quality with the least amount of digital noise. I tried to shoot hand held but 50 mph winds were buffeting me so that I was not able to even stand still. The horrendous wind was causing my eyes to water and freeze shut, definitely not conducive to shooting a carefully arranged panorama!

Eventually, half frozen I finally got my five shots to cover the range and hustled back down the mountain into the shelter of the trees. There was no wildlife on the mountain today, apparently the animals were smarter than I am 🙂 There were a few little birds hiding in the shelter of the grass but I didn’t take the time to try to capture any images of them on this day, it was just too cold on the mountain.

Pair of Mule Deer

Back at the parking lot I decided that I wasn’t ready to call it a day though and turned Big Blue towards Eleven Mile Canyon. I was hoping to see some elk or deer along the way and I was also hoping that my favorite spot along the river might be sheltered from the wind. I found a small herd of mule deer grazing just outside the boundary of a llama ranch so I stopped to get a nice shot of this buck and his doe 🙂

Beaver at Eleven Mile

The eagles weren’t at the nest when I arrived  but I decided to pull out my camp chair and and just wait awhile to see what might develop. As I sat I heard a loud slap in the water upstream… the telltale sound of a beaver entering the water. Sure enough, the beaver had exited her lodge and begun to slowly swim around in search of something… then something unusual, she decided to just drift slowly downstream while facing upstream, something I had never seen a beaver do before. Eventually the huge rodent was right across from me about 10 feet away, enabling me to get a few nice closeup images

Beaver at Eleven Mile

The eagles eventually did show themselves but unfortunately I was not able to get a shot of either of them.  The male appeared briefly over the mountain and then flew away before I could get focused and the female landed on a branch behind the trunk of the tree. Frustrating!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Fools Errand

Snowstorm on the Sangre

One glance out my front window this morning was all it took to convince me that today was a day that was not to be experienced from indoors! The storm clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range were stunning and and the cold crisp mountain air needed to be experienced from the heights of alpine glory!

Coyote on the MountainI had just gotten started when I spotted a coyote hunting on the mountainside, too distant for a really good picture… So I determined that I should pursue him in an effort to get a better shot! He already knew of my presence so a direct approach was not going to work. It looked like the best idea was the long way around the mountain, out of the sight of the wary canine with a stealthy approach back down from the summit. A stiff icy wind was blowing in my face so I had high hopes that he would neither hear nor smell my approach.

Coyote on the Mountain

Sounded good on paper… until I went into oxygen debt trying to scale the steep mountain in overdrive 😦 Finally at the top I stood gasping for air looking around for the stealthy beast. For a brief moment it appeared my plan was successful, there he was no more than 30 yards away, staring out at me from the safety of the tall grass. I had cleared the summit ready to snap a picture… or so I thought 😦 The wily coyote had spotted me the instant I spotted him and as soon as I raised the camera he disappeared into the mountain grass like a ghost 😦

I knew in my heart he was gone, but I wandered over to the hillside anyway to see if I might catch a glimpse of him on his way back to the thick brush he calls home. Of course I was fully aware I was on a fools errand at that point, once a coyote decides to vanish there is little hope of seeing him again.

Snowstorm on the Sangre de Cristo

So I continued my trek over the summit to the edge of the west side where there would be a spectacular view of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range with it’s brand new mantle of white. I can only imagine the horrendous winds that were propelling these amazing clouds and blowing snow.

I didn’t get the hero shot of the coyote but I am happy to have at least a small prize to commemorate the sighting. Also got some great exercise, fresh air and some great shots of the mountains after our latest winter storm 🙂

Snowstorm on the Sangre de Cristo

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Coyote on the Mountain

Sacred Sighting

Feeling pretty blessed this morning… Just as my trek up the mountain began I was  greeted by this beautiful red-tailed hawk. I was hoping to see one of my feathered friends so my camera was at the ready, shutter speed at a 1600th of a second, aperture f8, and auto ISO to guarantee a correct exposure.  My 1.4x extender was attached to my 400mm long lens and IS mode 2 was selected

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

for the optimum value for panning in case I could catch a raptor in flight. My eyes scanned the hillside looking for one of the great birds perched on the tree tops and there he was, already aware of my presence and watching warily from his distant perch.

Fortunately for me the trail snaked back and forth up the steep slope culminating with a pass just in front of the beautiful hawk on it’s journey into the dense pine forest. Finally I stood on near the summit right

across from the prize, still staring at me intently… I readied the camera and the instant that I achieved focus he took flight, well  before I was ready to begin tracking him 😦 By this time I was close enough that keeping him in the frame proved to be difficult, but I managed to get in a few nice captures before I lost him in the clear blue Colorado sky.

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

I watched where he flew and made sure my trek included a pass by those distant trees in case I might catch him again, but I would see no more raptors on this day. I have to say though, any day you can capture a hawk in flight is a good day 🙂

So as I began this blog post I did a quick search for “red-tailed hawk” so I could provide link to general information about this bird and I discovered that viewing one of these great birds is quite the spiritual experience! There were numerous links available to discover the deeper meaning of these fortuitous  encounters!

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

According to the “Power of Positivity” website, “Hawks represent the messengers of the spirit world, so seeing them definitely means the universe wants you to learn powerful lessons or expand your knowledge and wisdom. Hawks also encourage you to use laser focus and precision to get things done, and to take the lead in life. So, if you happen to spot hawks often in your life, the universe could be trying to send you these important messages.”. Who knew I was so close to destiny today 🙂

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Bighorns in the Water

Another magnificent morning in beautiful Waterton Canyon… That seems like such an understatement! When photo associate Kevin and I arrived, a small part of the herd was already on it’s way down the embankment and into the river for a

Waterton Bighorn

crossing to the rugged cliffs on the south side. I would have never dreamed that such an inhospitable place would be their choice location for the day! But there they were, standing precariously often pushing and shoving, on the towering cliffs along the South Platte River. We remained at that location for quite some time, watching and photographing the nerve wracking action!

Waterton Bighorn in the Platte

A crowd began to gather upstream where another part of the herd was coming down from the mountains to the north, and we decided to move on, choosing to photograph in the brighter light of sunshine on that side. While we worked the north side rumors began to spread of a bigger herd a few miles up the canyon and eventually we decided to ride up past the dam and check it out. The river is more beautiful there, and more accessible to sheep and photographers alike!

Pair of Waterton Bighorn

As we neared the location a couple of rams were walking down the dirt path towards us. We readied our cameras and got a few shots of the regal creatures striding towards us. It wasn’t long before they too entered the river for a crossing to the prize grass on the other side, affording us a great opportunity for some awesome images if the sheep wading through the beautiful pristine waters of the South Platte River.

Bighorn River Crossing

Soon a very large herd of the massive beasts began to make it’s way down the mountains and onto the dirt road and we had an amazing good time watching them interact and cross back and forth across the river in search of the lush grasses along the riverbank.

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!