Deer on the Summit

Fog on the Summit

After a few nice days we were due for some crappy weather and today is it! Fog, rain, snow, cold, you name it we are having it! Bad weather never deters the big dog though so off we went into the soup for our morning hike to the summit. I really didn’t expect to see anything but fog today but I was in for a pleasant surprise! A small deer herd foraging for food on the grassy summit above tree line πŸ™‚ And for some reason perhaps the poor visibility from the fog, the deer weren’t that alarmed to see me. Or maybe they are just getting used to me, I’ve been climbing that mountain almost every day for two years!

I set the camera to ISO 400 and allowed auto shutter and aperture, knowing that my

Mule Deer Herd in the Fog

equipment would make a good decision in these conditions. I took a couple of test shots and noticed that the bright fog was going to require some additional exposure compensation and finally settled on +1.5. As I worked my way through the settings and watched them through the lens the deer looked on curiously for a while before meandering off into the cover of the dense wilderness. Finally me and the big dog trekked back down the mountain and back to the truck. Another great day in the mountains πŸ™‚

Mule Deer Herd in the Fog

 

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Adventure at the Royal Gorge

This was supposed to be a mountain bike adventure along the River Walk Trail in Canon City… and it was for a while, at least until the trail soon became Ditch Walk Trail. I was intending to ride up the river until I found something interesting, but the ride only lasted about a mile before it turned away from the river and up a drainage ditch before dead ending at the college. So I just turned around and rode back to the truck. Tried to think of other things I could do, but already too much time had been wasted so I just headed for home.

Royal Gorge Colorado

As I climbed the hill out of Canon I saw the sign for the Royal Gorge… What the heck, might as well drive back in there and see what I could see was my thought. So I turned left and took the windey paved road back to the gorge. Noticed a small parking lot at a trailhead for some mountain bike trails but pressed on. I wanted to see the gorge, have been in Colorado over 30 years and have never been. Also noticed an interesting dirt road to the left, something about a picnic area and overlook. But again I pressed on to the visitor center figuring that’s where the best experience might be.

Finally there… parked and walked to the visitor center hoping there would be some kind of observation deck, but no… just a bunch of souvenirs that I can’t afford. Looked all around there for a view but there wasn’t much. All I could see was the other side of the canyon wall, no way to look down without paying for the gondola ride or a trip across the bridge.

Well there was still the overlook and picnic area so I got back in the truck and headed for

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

the dirt road. The road wasn’t bad, a few bumps and twists and turns but nothing that couldn’t be handled by any passenger car. Some of the picnic areas were full so I didn’t find a parking place until almost the end, which as luck would have it is where the overlook actually is located. Not only was there an overlook, but a whole trail system surrounded the area. Some visitors were getting out mountain bikes to ride on a trail that would at times come uncomfortably close to the 1000 foot or more drop off the edge into the river. Not for me! In fact after a short distance I went back for my trekking pole! The area is filled with cactus and I had no desire to face plant one one of those devils, plus I was feeling extra clumsy today 😦

I was expecting to see only canyon and river on this outing, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some excellent views of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo across the canyon in the distance πŸ™‚ Storm clouds were already forming over the majestic peaks and it was an amazing scene to be sure πŸ™‚ Finally, satisfied that I had seen all there was to see I loaded up the camera and headed for home. Thought of going back into town for a micro brew at a new place called the Worlds End Brewing Company but already too much time had been spent. I was tired and ready for the drive home.

Probably won’t go back there, although maybe sometime the train ride might be fun… but not on one of my usual solo adventures. That doesn’t seem like a solo activity. Well as always these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets plus tons of cool gift, household and tech items! My site has been redesigned and might bear some explaining. There is a row of buttons near the top of the landing screen where you can choose the type of product you are interested in. This then brings up a page with all of my collections, or galleries. These two images can be found by clicking “more collections” and then the “Colorado Rocky Mountains”. Or you can just look below the collections on the landing page where my most recent images are displayed.

Alpenglow on the Sangre de Cristo Range

Alpenglow, the amazing solar effect that causes a pink glow in the atmosphere opposite the rising sun is how the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado acquired it’s name.Β  The Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio was impressed by the reddish snow capped peaks at sunrise and named the range after “the Blood of Christ”.

Alpenglow on the Sangre de Cristo

I too am impressed by the beautiful effect on that magnificent mountain range and had planned to arise early enough on one of my days off to make it to the overlook for a photo session. This is the best time of year to see the effect, the sunrise in the east is at a perfect angle for the effect to fall from the sky on the rugged range.Β  I think it apropos that my opening would fall on Easter weekend, when the Blood of the Jewish carpenter was poured out to save souls in eternity for all who would believe and call upon His Name.

I have been watching the sky every morning for a few weeks, judging the sunrise and looking for the time of morning with the greatest effect. That time turns out to be between 6 and 6:30 at this time of year, so it was coffee andΒ  blueberry muffins at 4:30 this morning to give me enough time to come out of my morning coma before hitting the trail. Big Dog and I pulled into the overlook right at 6:00, just as itt was just starting to get light and the band of red spread across the sky high above the mountains. It would be another 15 minutes or so before the light would settle down upon the beautiful snow capped range.

Alpenglow on the Sangre de Cristo

When it finally did I was ready, ISO 100, camera set to Av mode and aperture at f5.6. I wasn’t too concerned about having a lot of depth of field, pretty much everything in my photograph was going to be at infinity. I was parked at a perfect angle so I just steadied the camera on the door of my truck rather than get out and mess with a tripod. In retrospect, after looking at some of my resulting shutter speeds, I probably should have. I have a lot of 1/30 and 1/15 of a second captures and with a long lens it would have been wise to have had extra steady support. Oh well, the pictures look nice anyway πŸ™‚ The first one I think is the best example of this wonderful solar effect that I have ever achieved!

These pictures, the spectacular snow capped mountain picture with the polarizer that I was testing with yesterday and some of my recent bighorn sheep pictures are available on my website as wall art printed on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Tons of cool gift, household and tech items are also available with a picture, including t-shirts, battery chargers, gift cards, yoga mats, shower curtains, beach towels and much much more!

 

Gear Test: B+W XS-PRO Circular Polarizer

In my quest for the perfect circular polarizer for my Canon 100-400 lens I finally settled on the B+W 77mm XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano Filter. Dang, that’s a mouthful but what does it all mean? For starters, Kaesemann is a precision glass company purchased by Schneider Optics of Germany in 1989. The high transmission designation refers to the ability of the glass to transmit light. This filter is advertised at 99.5% with a filter factor of 1 to 1.5 stops of light loss due to the darkened blue glass. The MRC feature is Multi-Resistant-Coating, which is a series of layers designed to prevent reflections and ghosting while the NANO designation refers to a hardened eighth layer that assists in keeping the filter clean. The B+W filter is constructed using a brass outer ring that provides an exceptionally smooth threading capability when affixing the filter to the lens. The rotating mechanism for turning the filter is stiff but very smooth. The construction of this filter is superb.

That’s all well and good of course, but does it work, that is the real question! Today looked like a perfect day to find that out as the sky is perfectly clear and the sun was beating down on the snow capped Sangre de Cristo at almost a perfect 90 degree angle this morning. Just looking at the mountains they appeared washed out and faded to the naked eye, perfect conditions for a polarizer.

So, I pulled into the overlook parking lot and shot one picture with no filter followed by another picture with the circular polarizer with the glass turned to maximum effect. I shot in raw as always, but applied no processing to these two images, as I didn’t want to pollute the results of the test with a bunch of Photoshop adjustments. Here they are, first the mountains with no filter and then with the filter:

Springtime Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Sangre de Cristo Range

As you can plainly see, the second image has significantly increased saturation and detail in the white highlights of the snow capped peaks with a much deeper blue in sky. The snow and trees just below the peaks are also much more visible in the polarized image.

I will also be trying the filter out over water when I find some! Not much water around here in this mountain desert, but sooner or later there will be a river or a lake in the sun where I will find the filter useful! All in all I would say I’m extremely happy with this purchase from B&H Photo Online and would highly recommend the filter to anyone using a DSLR camera.

Mission Bighorn

The mission once again was to find and photograph the bighorn sheep in Waterton Canyon. However upon arrival it appeared that a rain out was a distinct possibility 😦 The wind was blowing, the air was chilly and there was a steady light rain falling. Undaunted, we began our trek up the canyon hoping for more light and a break in the precipitation.

Herd of Bighorn Sheep at Play

Eventually the weather gods smiled upon us and although not completely sunny, we did have some nice light and a break in the rain for an hour or so. But no bighorns… we asked several mountain bikers and a fisherman if they had seen any and each responded with a discouraging negative. But fortune smiled upon us again… just as we were about to give up a lady coming back down said she had just seen two bighorns on the hillside just around the bend from our location.

So we had her point them out and we finally spotted a pair of them lying down in the grass near a rocky knoll. Out came the cameras, the 100-400mm lenses, and then even the 1.4x lens extenders! They were probably at least 100 yards away, not easy to see and even more difficult to photograph.

It didn’t take long to capture that scene… two sheep lying down at a range of 100 yards doesn’t make for a lot of creativity!Β  But just as we were about to give up we spotted another one on top of the rocky knoll… then another, and another! Finally there were at least half a dozen of them playing on the rocks between feeding on the grass and moss, putting on an awesome entertaining show πŸ™‚

We hoped they would come down and get a drink from the Platte River gurgling temptingly behind us, but eventually they grew weary of the games and began to lie down for an afternoon nap. We also were hoping to see the big rams but they weren’t there and soon the dark clouds returned. Our nice soft light soon turned to darkness so we decided to call it a day, but a good day for sure πŸ™‚

The image is my favorite one of the day and is available for purchase as wall art on my website in the bighorn sheep and elk collection. Tons of cool household, apparel, tech items and more are also available with any image from the site!Β 

 

On the Run

Morning Sun Deer Herd

Not much to say about today… we woke up and hit the trail early. We found the animals and tried to get close for some good captures. But all things don’t always go according to plan and as you can see all we have to show for this morning’s work is the backside of some deer running away from us 😦

Hopefully tomorrow will be better, another trip to Waterton Canyon is planned and with God’s grace my camera chip will once again be filled with images of majestic bighorn sheep! And hopefully maybe some deer and a bear πŸ™‚

Morning Splendor

Sangre de Cristo First Light

Looked out my window through the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo Range this morning and just saw an ordinary wall of purple, nothing to get excited about. Lucky for me the big dog is excited by every day no matter what the weather! Even as we passed the overlook on our way to the trailhead, the view towards the mountains was just ordinary.

So we took the lower trail today in an effort to try to give these old tired legs a rest! This trail has no views of the Sangre until the very end when there is a view on either side of one of the minor mountains in our area. By then things were looking up so I made a mental note to check the view from the trailhead upon our return.

By then the morning light had broken through the cloud layer on the east and the rugged

Morning Deer Herd

peaks of the Sangre de Cristo were perfectly lit with a warm morning glow that would take your breath away! Oh, and as an added bonus, we saw a small herd of mule deer that were well worth a few snaps πŸ™‚ It took some patience though, the herd was originally standing in front of a very distracting backdrop and I had to wait for a while for the shy quiet critters to move on pastΒ  it. I think it was worth the wait and this is my favorite one of the set πŸ™‚