Signs of Spring

My day started out with the unpleasant task of having to drive down to the city to renew my drivers license for the umpteenth time. I can’t believe how fast the last five years have gone by. I had just gotten a new license prior to moving to Cripple Creek so I had only had my license for a few months before the address was incorrect. All these years I have meant to get back down there to get the address change completed and now suddenly five years is gone and I never got it done. Fortunately the process went smoothly and my new license with the correct address will soon be in the mail.

Storm on the Peak

I used to go to Colorado Springs all the time with my wife shopping and looking for antiques so I sat in my truck and wondered what nostalgic thing I might be able to do while I was there. But as I sat and wondered I realized that all those years I was going there just for her. None of the places we used to go had any interest at all for me. There was a pet store nearby so I grabbed some pet food and just headed back up the mountain.

On my way up the pass I could see weather moving in on the great peak so I hoped I might have an opportunity to shoot my millionth picture of the mountain enshrouded in fog and snow. As I passed through Woodland Park I realized there was one thing that I might like to do, I used to love to go to the Donut Mill first thing in the morning and sit at the end table where I could drink coffee and stare out at the peak while trying to get my brain going. It was at that very table a decade ago that my idea for a wildlife and nature themed blog and website was hatched. That’s something, ten years of blogging, launched from that very chair. So once again I sat and pondered life with a cup of coffee and a massive maple frosted doughnut.

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

After that I needed to go pick up some puppy meds near the Eleven Mile Canyon and decided upon at least one trip to the southern dam and back. Afternoon isn’t the best time for photographing wildlife in the canyon but anytime I get within a few miles it seems a shame to pass up the chance to get some pictures. So as it turns out I didn’t see any eagles or hawks but I did see welcome signs of spring. As I passed the lake and the calm section of the river I noticed the tell tale sign of ice melt by the darker blue ice in the middle of the channel. The lake is still frozen solid but in a month that ice too will be getting thin and the ice fishermen will be pulling their fishing huts off the ice and  back to their summer homes.

Pair of American Dippers

The lower rapids that were totally frozen over a couple of weeks ago now have an open channel through the middle and most of the rest of the river is now mostly open water. A few very happy American dippers were singing and playing along the river bank. I hoped to see them fishing but they were just singing and playing while making their way downstream. They were successfully evading all my attempts to photograph them until this moment when I was fortunate to catch them together in an image before they vanished.

The osprey should already be well along in their perilous 4,000 mile journey back to the canyon from their winter home in South America and I’m very much looking forward to that. I have to say, photographing osprey might just be my favorite photographic activity. They seem to have a lot of personality and are fairly tolerant of photographers… and other people too. In my home town they built an osprey platform right in the middle of the baseball fields and a pair of osprey were willing to put up with all the activity and build a nest in the midst of the humans. Last year our osprey arrived on the last day of March.

 

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

Where Were You on 9/11

I don’t know where you were on that fateful day but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at work as a software engineer writing satellite communications code for the aerospace industry. The day had started like any other day, a cup of coffee at my desk, yesterday’s emails to review, a few notes to guide the day’s programming efforts in a makeshift stack on my table.

At about 9:00 a.m. the first email came in, a passenger jet had struck the Twin Towers. I didn’t think too much of it, I assumed there had been some sort of catastrophic malfunction onboard resulting in a terrible accident. I could hear the keystrokes of my co-workers as they continued their work, no one said anything. Twenty minutes later another email arrived, a second airliner had struck the second tower. I was instantly aware that New York was the victim of a terrorist attack but I assumed that would be the end of it and that the military would be on the case quickly sorting out the culprits and the response. I kept working and so did my co-workers, but I could hear the indistinct conversations starting up in our four man cubicles. I picked up my land line and called my wife, I said “turn on the TV”. She said, “What, why?”… I said, “I can’t…”, I couldn’t think of any words, “Just turn it on”.

Soon more emails began to arrive, air traffic was being grounded and more planes in the air were not responding to air traffic control communications. It slowly settled in on our group that something huge could be in progress… I logged into the direct channel to see if anything was being said on the daily briefings but there was nothing. A half hour later reports arrived that the Pentagon had been hit and everyone knew we were at war. By this time it had become impossible to work and my co-workers and I began to make our way to the break room where where we could see out the only windows in the building and also where we knew that CNN would be broadcasting on the monitors, back when CNN actually reported news.

By the time the first tower fell the entire facility was in the break room watching in horror, as the events of the day unfolded. As F-16s began to scramble from Buckley AFB we became aware that the base and perhaps even our own facility could be a target, soon the announcement came over the loudspeaker that any employee who wished to go home was welcome to leave but no one did. For hours we all remained glued to the news monitors while F16’s screamed overhead. No one spoke and many tears were being dried as initial estimates of up to 30,000 dead began to be discussed. Fortunately for some reason there weren’t as many people in the towers as there are sometimes and the estimates were rapidly revised down to under 10,000. Eventually employees began to trickle back out of the break room and back to our workstations where we began to fight the war in the only way we knew how, with our minds and our computers.

Today as I watch the 20 year anniversary of those attacks on the news our nation is divided like it never has been before. Our leaders have subjected our nation to an ignominious defeat at the hands of the very enemy who attacked us then. Hundreds of Americans are trapped behind enemy lines, subject to the barbarous impulses of the savages that we have held at bay for two decades. Our foolish leaders have lost sight of who our real enemies are, once again erecting razor wire around the capital to defend against a non-existent enemy that they have conjured up in their fearful cowardly deluded depraved minds.

I can’t think of any better quote to sum up the lesson we need to learn on this day, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”. Don’t let our leaders accomplish in our minds what our enemies could not achieve on the battlefield.

Back in the Print Business

Well I did it… I went and bought a printer. Back in the day I always had a printer… I remember when I bought my first computer with the advent of Windows 95, along with a 15 inch monitor and a Canon 720×720 printer… That printer cost me $550 in 1995 dollars and if I remember right, after only a little while I had to send it in for repairs at the big box store where I bought it, now out of business and I can’t even remember the name. I never did get it back, it somehow went into the repairs black hole and was never seen again.

Canon Pixma iX6820

However, things were changing so fast in the PC world that by that time the dots per inch had doubled, inks and paper had improved and prices had dropped dramatically. So instead of fighting the losing battle against the system, I just bought a new one. From then on I was perpetually in a quest for the latest and greatest and for a time I even had an oddball dye sublimation model from some company that eventually went out of business, and consequently the ink became unavailable.

Eventually Canon came out with a model that could print 13×19 inch prints and the ink was good enough by then to actually be useful in a professional setting. It was then that I discovered Ilford Pearl paper and my prints were virtually indistinguishable from prints produced in a professional lab without the hassle of multiple trips through the city traffic to finally get a print done right.

Then came the 08 financial crash. I had no photo jobs, no money to buy ink… and eventually no home. Everything but the camera and my 70-200 F4L lens had to go. I held on to my printer for a couple more years but without frequent use it soon fell into disrepair. I considered selling it but I didn’t want to take the chance of someone having a problem with it, so my pride and joy eventually went off to Goodwill 😦

So for the better part of a decade I just didn’t print anything. All my photography was for stock and the only record of my images were ones and zeroes stored on magnetic media and at stock agencies in the ether. As my wife battled cancer I barely kept my photography going, occasionally venturing out on foot onto the trails of the nearby mountains in search of deer and elk. There was little need for printing in those days, there was nowhere to hang them if I did and uploads to the stock agencies were all I could handle anyway. With access to the internet only through the local library, even that was problematic.

However things have really turned around in the last few years following her passing, I have been capturing the best images of my life in the mountains surrounding my new home in Cripple Creek. I’ve been sending a few images off for metal prints and now some excellent bird images including hawks, osprey and bald eagles, have been just piling up on my hard drive. I’ve sent a few off for prints when I can get a good deal, but without any method of proofing the results have often been disappointing.

4x6 inch proof print of a coyoteI had heard that Canon had in recent years produced a printer worthy of the trademark professional red stripe so I went online to research it. I would love to have one but they aren’t cheap and with the limited printing I do I’m sure one wouldn’t be cost effective. So I began to look at other models and I soon found a 13×19 inch 9600×2400 dpi model for only $179 called the Pixma iX6820. For that price I had to have it :)

It was available for pickup at Best Buy yesterday so I made the journey down to the city for the printer and supplies. I still have a good supply of the Ilford Pearl in the 13×19 and 8.5×11 on hand so I just needed to pick up some 4×6 proofing paper and some 11×17 Pearl for my wide images of the hawks and eagles. Soon the inaugural proof was rolling off the printer… with incredibly splendid results 🙂

So with a great deal of joy, I’m back in the printing business and looking forward to seeing my best images proudly matted and framed on my walls for everyone to enjoy 🙂

Please don’t forget to visit my YouTube channel , and if you wouldn’t mind I could use the thumbs up and a subscribe if you enjoy the content and want to help my channel!

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

How to Win an Argument

As I’m sitting here in my favorite spot along the river waiting for the wildlife situation to develop, it occurs to me that I’ve learned a valuable bit of wisdom in my years upon this earth. An idea is more like a seed than a hammer.

Autumn Color in Eleven MileIf you have an idea and you know you’re right, just say your piece and walk away. If you stay around and bludgeon people with it many will become angry and stop listening. Use your idea like a hammer and it will be like a seed planted on stone. No matter how hard you try to pound it in, it will never take root.

If you just plant your idea properly with faith and patience, like the seed of a plant or flower it will take root. Remember, even the mighty oak tree starts with a tiny acorn.

The seed may take longer than the hammer, but the end result is more fruitful.

Between Storms and Monochrome Toning

It finally warmed up a bit this morning, well above zero with mostly clear skies so I thought it was a good day for a hike. As it turns out it was also a pretty good day for pictures! Although it was just partly cloudy here there were thick ominous clouds hanging over the Sangre de Cristo range at sunrise and it was quite a sight!

Stormy Sangre Sunrise

I saw a lot of evidence of recent wildlife activity in the snow but saw no actual animals on my two mile trek through the fresh snow. Still, there’s something therapeutic about a walk in the mountains. 

These images looked pretty nice in color, but so early in the morning with a lot of haze from the previous storm there wasn’t much color to work with. I decided that these would look much more dramatic in black & white so I used the channel mixer to create the best monochrome version possible. They looked pretty good but I thought I could do even better with a little bluish toning which I accomplish using the “hue and saturation” tool in the Photoshop adjustments drop down. First I click the colorize check box which adds a horrific color and hue to the image. From that starting point I adjust the saturation, in this case I chose 12 to apply just a bit of color. Then I change the hue to the value most representative of my plan for the image, which was 242 in this case. The lightness value I left alone, at zero.

I actually got the idea for doing this while reading an Ansel Adams book filled with some of his best landscapes. I noticed that the default values for black and white weren’t nearly as dramatic as the ones in the book so I read up a bit and learned about the process of toning from the era of photographic film processing. I wanted to find a way to recreate that look and it was just through experimentation and trial and error that I eventually came up with this method.

And of course no day of hiking would be complete without a quick trip over to historic Victor for some biscuits and gravy and coffee at the Gold Camp Bakery 🙂

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!

Stormy Sangre Sunrise

Emerald Lake Bucket List

First day back from my three day photography trip to Rocky Mountain National Park… I scarcely know where to begin, three days, two parks on the journey up to Rocky plus two mornings and two evenings with the elk, a long beautiful hike, a drive over Trail Ridge Road and another evening with some elk on the west side of the park and over 1,600 pictures. There is just no way to cover it all in one blog post!

Portrrait at Emerald Lake

So I guess I’ll just start with my favorite part… the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes. Many times I have visited Bear Lake through the years, and each time I have stared longingly at the rugged peaks to the south of the lake. I always try to get a decent picture of them from Bear Lake, but when you use a wide angle to get the beautiful lake in, the peaks in the background are unacceptably diminished.

But on this trip we decided to take the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes, about a four mile round trip trek. The 1.1 mile hike to Dream Lake was pretty easy, except for the relentless incline. My hopes were high as we approached the lake that I would finally have an unimpeded view of the rugged peaks that I could see

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

from the parking lot. But it was not to be… however this lake with it’s placid water and lily pads was a dream just as the name indicates! We took a break there to shoot some pictures and rest up for the even steeper and rockier eight tenths of a mile remaining to Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As we neared our next destination the magnificent peaks came into view and my hopes were rising that we were going to see something special! Finally we drew near to the beautiful alpine lake and it was then that I realized that my long time dream was about to be realized 🙂 From the lake there is an incredible view of the rugged terrain above the lake. We of course had to stop there and make sure the amazing scene was adequately captured and we also decided to shoot a couple portraits of each other to mark the occasion 🙂

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I highly recommend this hike which begins at the Bear Lake trailhead… I may decide to return at a different time of day other than high noon to see if I can get a more dramatic image of this amazing alpine lake in better light, but for now, this is truly a bucket list item checked!

In the coming days I will be publishing more blog posts, pictures and at least one video for my YouTube Channel! Be sure to follow my blog and subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss anything!

For your enjoyment I have created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

The Circle of Life

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Was privileged this weekend to witness another milestone in the circle of osprey life in Eleven Mile  Canyon. I arrived at sunrise as usual hoping to catch the flurry of activity that occurs only at that magical moment in time. If I am lucky I might see the Great Blue Heron flying back from the dam to his favorite placid water where the river widens out. Sometimes the big beaver can be seen leaving his lodge and swimming downstream for his daily activities. The deer also are active at this hour and will often cross the shimmering river, and if I am extra fortunate I might witness the osprey diving for a fish just as the glorious light of sun appears

Mule Deer Crossing the South Platte River

Today fortune shined upon me as I spotted the blue heron winging towards me just as I had made the final adjustments to my camera in preparation for the moment 🙂 I could hear the whoosh of his giant wings as he powered past me on the other side of the river. I panned my camera hoping for a good shot of the huge aquatic bird, a quick check of the LCD screen looked promising. For a brief moment I thought I could hear the loud chirping of the osprey in the distance… I scanned the mouth of the canyon for the great birds to no avail. Perhaps I had mistaken the angry squawking of the peregrine falcons for the call of the osprey.

Osprey Soaring and Fishing

Eventually I began to wonder if the osprey had left the canyon for their winter destination so I decided before any further waiting I would hike into the canyon and have a look at their nest. Sadly there was no activity at the nest so I ventured further upstream to investigate a wide area in the river that I believe the osprey have been fishing. As I neared the hunting grounds I heard the unmistakable sound of the osprey call and shortly thereafter spotted him high on a treetop, peering down hopefully at the water.

Osprey Soaring and Fishing

Soon his sister came soaring past and took up a perch in another tree. The two didn’t linger long and flew downstream toward their nest. I turned around and swiftly walked the quarter of a mile or so back to the nest and took up a position on the mountainside opposite the osprey nest and waited. Soon one swooped in with a good sized fish and began to feast on a nearby tree, quickly followed by the other… also with a good sized fish!

Mule Deer in Eleven Mile Canyon

It was only last week that it appeared the younger raptor was still not yet very good at the art of fishing, she just sat in the nest and cried for mama to feed her. I wasn’t sure the parents were still in the area so I was relieved when mama bird delivered a fish to the nest. This week however there is no sign of the adult birds at all. All the literature I have read says they will fly south anywhere from the middle to the end of August and I believe them to have taken that journey by now.

Osprey in Flight

Fortunately in just one more week both of the juvenile birds now appear adept at catching fish. They will remain for up to a week, gorging on fish and gaining strength for the long flight to Central America where they will remain for a couple of years before flying north to look for a mate and continue the Circle of Life.

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!

Morning Sunshine

With a terrible ache in my heart I set out on my morning routine without my four legged friend. It was hard but there isn’t really anything else to do, I need the exercise, I need the pictures, and I need to eat breakfast. The other choice is to sit at home and do nothing which is no choice at all for me… I have to go, that’s just the way it is.

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

It’s been a long time since I have seen my deer friends on the ridge but today I looked up and there she was, peering out from the forest at me. She paused long enough for me to attach my camera to the monopod and get a couple of shots off in the beautiful morning sunshine of a late Colorado summer day.

As I proceeded further along the trail I heard the thundering of hooves as a couple of bucks just below the summit detected my presence and made a run for it. I was

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

hoping they would not run too far before turning around to see what I was up to. The good news is they did stop, but the bad news was they stopped part way into the shade of a tall pine tree at the edge of the wilderness. I took the shot anyway hoping that I would be able to make a decent picture in post with Photoshop. I’m not totally thrilled with it but at least there is a record of the sighting 😉

From that point I just descended the mountain and headed off to breakfast. With tears in my eyes I swallowed the last bite, the one I always saved for my exuberant friend. Anyway, it’s done… I made it all the way through the morning. Maybe tomorrow will be easier.

The picture of the doe is available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas or traditional framing and matting. All kinds of cool gift and household items are also available with a picture including apparel, tech items, stationary and more.

 

My Go To Move

One go to move has served me well throughout my entire life, when I am down and can’t think of anything I want to do I can always find the motivation to “get in shape”. Since my best buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge last week I haven’t felt like doing anything, nothing sounds good, nothing sounds fun and I have been just laying around the house watching stupid shows on TV.

Bucks in Grouse MeadowBut today the old message finally came through, “You can’t get all out of shape now.”. So even though I didn’t want to and I knew I was going to feel nothing but sadness on top of the mountain that I have never climbed without my Big Dog, I packed up my gear and drove to the trailhead.  It took a lot less time  to reach the summit without having to stop and dig up every prairie dog hole along the way and I got a lot more out of breath with the more steady pace that I can set without so many distractions.

But without the unbridled enthusiasm of my big four legged buddy to light the way, most of the joy has been removed from the experience. However there is still the idea in the back of my head that I am training for something greater, perhaps there will be a 14er in my future, or maybe a long hike into the wilderness to see a waterfall. I have been looking at Mount Quandary on my 14ers.com account… Maybe it will be my first peak in my sixth decade of life on this earth. Time will tell.

I didn’t see any animals at the summit, but on my way down I encountered my three buck mule deer friends who were on their way in a hurry, probably to some favorite location in the high meadows 🙂

Bucks in Grouse Meadow

Farewell My Friend

He was my best friend… He went with me everywhere, pretty much anything I did, I did it because of the pure joy I received from the great enthusiasm he had for life and nature and all that could be discovered in the great outdoors. I met him full grown in 2016 and it wasn’t long before we became inseparable. He was the smartest dog I have ever known and it wasn’t long before he figured out that our main goal on all of our excursions, whether it was a hike or just a ride in the truck, was to find wildlife. As we drove along the mountain roads his eyes would scan the hillsides and ridge lines looking for deer and elk. When he finally spotted something he would let me know by pointing and woofing. Out on the trail his nose was in constant motion, his ears eventually alerting me to the presence of wildlife long before my human senses had any hope of detecting them. At the end of our treks we would go to the grocery store and get a ham, egg and cheese sandwich that I would bring out to the truck to eat. I would give him a puppy treat while I ate my breakfast and he would wait patiently and expectantly for the last bite of my sandwich. By day he was at my side, by night he slept at the foot of my bed. His snoring put me to sleep at night and his whining to go outside would awake me in the morning. He asked for nothing other than to be at my side wherever I went and when we got home from our travels he would lick me on the cheek to show his gratitude as I reached for his leash to hook him up to his run in the back yard.

Son Boy waiting in the truck

Now, suddenly and without warning he is gone. Struck down in the prime of his life by complications from his Lupus Medicine. Monday began like any other day with a long hike in the woods. Monday afternoon he ate his food and a few hours later he was gone.

My heart is broken, I can’t seem to do anything because everything I try to do just reminds me of him and without him there is no joy in anything. I’m sure in time I will find the strength to go on, I always do. But for now I mourn with no desire to do anything so you all will probably not be hearing much from me for a while. My camera lies dormant in the corner along with my hiking boots, out of sight so that they cannot remind me of him. Without his hopeful eager eyes to spur me to action I have little incentive to reach for them.

Sooner or later my heart will once again yearn for the snap of the camera shutter, the sight of God’s creatures peering out from the woods at me and the smell of pine in the crisp Colorado mountain air. Eventually I will answer the call of the wild, but for now it just doesn’t seem worth going on.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he is running free in the tall trees on the other side of Rainbow Bridge where he will meet me some day and we can resume our adventures in eternity.

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

 

 

 

 

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