Sometimes I Impress Myself!

Now I was not impressed at all later on in my hike when I discovered that at some point I had inadvertently turned off the Image Stabilization (IS) on my big Canon lens, which sent me from a point of elation to the depths of despair just like that. I really wanted that shot! We had cleared the ridge to find ourselves about 50 yards from a curious trio of deer peering at us from the brush near the summit in perfect morning light. I could not believe my eyes! I fired off a few shots, but as you might imagine the sight of Big Dog was causing quite a bit of consternation in the herd. No matter, I was pretty sure I had nailed the shot and we walked around the other side of the mountain from where the deer had gone in order not to disturb them any further.

Trio of Rocky Mountain Mule Deer

As we strode along I was looking forward to getting on the computer and processing those images and creating a good seller! That is until I noticed that the IS was off. Then I figured it was all over, the likelihood of getting that shot without the IS with a 400mm lens was about as good as threading a needle with a climbing rope. But I consoled myself with the idea that I would probably get a good enough shot to show on my Instagram account.

It was a beautiful morning… there is nothing like a trek through the high country at first light, before anyone else is up, before the wind starts blowing, when the mountain air is still cool and crisp with bright sunshine to warm my old shoulders. It was very quiet this morning too, only the sound of the birds happily chirping, my own breath and the clanking of Big Dog’s harness to break the silence of a perfect mountain morning.

Now back at home in front of the computer is where I am quite impressed with myself πŸ™‚ I did get a salable capture from the set, hand held at 400mm, no IS, 60 years old, heart pounding from the climb, and all while holding on to a very exuberant 90 pound dog who very badly wanted to go play with the deer! I think maybe the shot could have been a little better with the IS turned on, but I am truly amazed that I was able to get this capture πŸ™‚ Of course now in front of the computer, after I have done all my titling and keywording, I see that there is a fourth deer in the image, peeking out from behind one of the others, oh well, the more the merrier!

As always, this shot and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and tons of cool gift, household and tech items!

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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

 

The Cattle Drive

Free Range Bull

Cows everywhere, cows on the trail, cows in the parking lot and cows in the ditch… And as me and Big Dog got out of the truck, cows on their way to the highway where the local ignoramuses like to drive about 100 mph on the curvy mountain road. Normally I have no interest in helping out the welfare ranchers that let their cows crap up public lands but I really didn’t want the cows to get hurt so it looked like a mini cattle drive was going to be in order. Me and big dog circled around and headed the wayward ungulates off at the pass. A couple hee yahs later and the semi brainless critters were back behind their fence and out of danger πŸ™‚

Not much else to report from today… the mountain view was ordinary and we didn’t see any other photo worthy critters. However it must be spring, the prairie dogs are out of hibernation, which caught the big dog’s attention! Now I just have to figure out how to get my shoulder back in socket 😦

One piece of excitement… according to the USPS tracking information, my B+W Circular Polarizer is supposed to be waiting for me at the post office even as we speak, so to speak πŸ™‚

Wilderness at First Light

Last night I knew that there was a very good chance today was going to be a great day! The snow had stopped last evening and the storm had moved out into Kansas and Oklahoma. The temperature wasn’t going to be in the below zero or single digit range, and the mountains are always awesome after a big snow. So, tired as I was I dragged my butt out of bed at 5:30 this morning to get in a cup of coffee before the short journey to the trailhead πŸ™‚

Frozen Gold Mine

Early fog and mist created this beautiful ghostly scene of one of the many abandoned mines in the Cripple Creek area and was well worth the stop for a capture. It turned out even better than I expected, which I’m pretty happy about. So many of these mine pictures just turn out to be so ordinary that I have almost given up shooting them! Glad to finally have one I am proud of πŸ™‚

A deer was at the trailhead to greet me, although the lighting wasn’t too spectacular with the sun yet to clear the ridge on the east side. She showed some slight interest and gazed at me for a few moments while chewing some mountain grass. Cute mule deer

I was hoping to see a big buck mule deer on top of the ridge, but was excited to see that the elk herd was right out in the morning sun, well on their way to their hiding place in the dense pine wilderness. I don’t think they ever really saw me as they didn’t break out into a gallop likeΒ  they so often do, but just continued a leisurely stroll along the edge of the forest. They did stop and look my way, which is always good for pictures but I really am surprised they didn’t run.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

With my 100-400mm glass I was able to isolate groups of them on their way as well as capture the overall scene with my favorite tree in the background. I also had time to snap a few to make sure I at least got something on my sensor before switching to aperture priority mode and f8 to make sure I got a sharp rendering of all the elk, not just the ones closest to me, which was where I chose to focus.

Eventually all the huge beasts disappeared into the woods and the moment was gone. I saw a couple of deer along the road on the way home but nothing spectacular enough to include in this blog post.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and on many cool household, tech and gift items!

Winter Morning Elk Herd

 

 

Winter Morning Elk Herd

 

After the Bomb Cyclone

What an incredible storm… a 24 hour whiteout with two feet of snow and 80 mph winds. Finally it is over and the beautiful blue Colorado sky has returned, albeit with 3 degrees above zero this morning! But I wanted to get out, I thought I might find the elk and I also thought the snow would be awesome for snowshoeing πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Well it turned out to be a pretty rough morning, first of all I awoke at 3 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep, probably anticipating the beautiful day I was going to have! Finally the sun came up and it actually warmed up to six degrees so me and Big Dog were out the door only to discover a snowdrift in the back seat of my truck, which remains a bit of a mystery. All the windows were closed except for a slight space in the back window which now appears closed. Well anyway my hat and gloves were wet, not a welcome development. Then I surmise because of the snowdrift in my backseat, the inside of the windows are just as frosted over as the outside so I got to scrape both while we waited for the defroster to take effect. Besides all of that, my tires were frozen to the mud which seemed risky to just drive out of, but I did it anyway and managed to survive which is better than you can say for the trash can that I ran over on my way out of the driveway, which did not 😦

Elk in Fresh Snow

The road to the trailhead was snow packed which is fine except that it was over a deep layer of solid ice which on a curvy and hilly mountain road was not fine. But there was nowhere to turn around so I just white knuckled it on to the trailhead. Once there I got out the snowshoes and began the trek. I immediately encountered a deep snowdrift so we stopped and strapped on the snowshoes. Then I had to take them off again, and put them on and take them off and put them on. The tremendous winds had blown all the snow off in some places and piled it up in others, very annoying. Finally the snow got deep for good right about at the cattle gate… which was frozen. Try as I might I could not unlock the gate. Finally I just unscrewed the big eye hook from the post and screwed it back in once on the other side. We were on the trail πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Getting onto the trail was not such a blessing on this day… in the trees near the top of the ridge, the wind had piled up several feet of fresh powder on top of a semi hard crust which was quite a challenge for me and the big dog. I managed to post hole about three times, plunging the lens of my camera into the snow. So three times I had to stop and remove the lens hood to wipe off the front filter while gasping for air from the elevation gain and deep snow. Finally we punched through to the top of the ridge where I spotted the elk herd. They had found one of the spots where the wind had blown the snow away and were enjoying the morning sunshine. I decided to take a few shots from afar with my 400mm lens, opting to not cause them to have to run into the deep snow.

Finally we had struggled back to the bottom and to the truck where I put my snowshoes down and opened the door for Big Dog before going around to get in myself. Unfortunately the windows had refrosted so I let the truck run awhile and scraped the inside again. There was another car abandoned in the parking lot so I took some care backing around when I heard a crunch, which turned out to be my snowshoes that I had put down to let the dog in 😦 I leapt out to recover and examine them, assuming that they were ruined… but fortunately my trusty MSR’s had survived with only a slight bend in one of the side rails which I should easily be able to repair. What a relief, these are some tough snowshoes!

Once leaving the parking lot we were able to return home without incident, so I’m hoping the rest of the day goes better than the start!

Of course as usual, these images are available for purchase on my website in the elk gallery as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, traditional framing and matting and stretched canvas. Also available are tons of cool gift, household and tech items with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them!

 

Snowshoes Changed My Life

They did… snowshoes literally changed my life. I have loved long distance running for as long as I can remember, probably from the time it was invented by Forest Gump back in the 70’s πŸ™‚ In the 80’s I combined this passion with my love of the mountains to begin a long love affair with trail running. However, there was always one problem, winter. The magnificent mountain trails were inaccessible to me in the wintertime. So countless hours were spent boring myself to death on treadmills, stairmaster machines, and street running, dying for winter to end so I could get back on the trails.

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Don’t know why I had never really considered snowshoes at the time, it just seemed like a foreign concept and running in the winter in the mountains just hadn’t occurred to me. But that all changed on one particular day when I had to take my dog to see Doc Gurney in Aspen Park. Bear had to undergo a series of tests and then wait under observation for the results. In the meantime I had nothing to do and there is a set of trails nearby in a county park called Meyer Ranch that I had visited in the summer months while Bear was undergoing treatments. I thought oh, what the heck, maybe it’s packed down and I can run a little bit. Turns out most of the trail was packed down and I had a nice run through the three sets of loops. At the top of the high loop the snow was soft and a little deep for running shoes, but I plowed through anyway. As my feet were getting wet and snow was filling my shoes I was thinking, boy it sure would be nice to have some snowshoes or something!

Well, not too long after that we had a series of massive snows in Parker and my running trail was utterly buried under several feet of snow. Trail running in my neighborhood was out of the question, possibly for months. And all of a sudden it hit me. I was going to make a run up to REI to purchase snowshoes. And it was awesome, I went out every morning before it was even light to get my run in before work. I just loved it. Soon my running buddies were into it also and winter trips to the mountains became an amazing reality. A whole new world had opened up! I even got Bear his own set of snowshoes and he loved coming with me on our treks through the wilderness surrounding my neighborhood… Of course that was before they tore it all down to build mansions for all the city people wanting to experience the country life 😦

Finally the March sun ended my fun and I was sad to see winter go. And from that point on winter became my life πŸ™‚ Of course the trails in the summer are still fun and I get out on them as much as I can, but the solitude of the winter trails is now my love!

Snow in the High Country

Today me and Big Dog ventured onto the mountain for our second trek since the big snows of last week. The snow has crusted over so it is no longer drifting and the trail we made a couple of days ago was still there. I took alternate steps today to complete a packed path in order to make life a little easier for the dog, giving him a place to step without post holing. He wants to be lead dog so cutting the trail the other day was a real chore for him!

As we crested the summit the sun was rising higher in the sky and these patterns in the snow caught my eye. I had the big camera but what was needed was an extreme wide angle to adequately capture this scene. Didn’t have a wide angle lens with me so the phone cam was the best I could do. The picture turned out pretty well though, pretty much what I saw!

I have to say, I sure do like my new MSR snowshoes! Back in the day snowshoe bindings were fairly primitive. You had to tie them on like a pair of shoes and they were hard to tie with frozen fingers, they collected ice and they would never stay tight. My MSR’s have a really cool strap that you just pull over and hook. It only takes seconds to get the shoes on and off you go! They never come loose and I have yet to have them freeze up with ice. Highly recommended. Also they are built on a solid piece of plastic so they don’t get ripped up on the rocks like the old soft rubber decking used to.

Well anyway, we had a pretty great morning and now I hear there is more white stuff on the way! Don’t forget to give my website a visit, I have bunches of new digital imagery for sale as wall art and cool household and gift items with a #swkrullimaging picture!

A Tough Slog

We’ve had a lot of snow lately and a lot of cold to go with it! I’ve been waiting out the worst of the cold before attempting any treks into the back country. Must be getting soft in my old age, but deep snow and sub zero temperatures seemed like a good excuse to stay home and get caught up on my stock photo uploads.

Snow in the Colorado RockiesWell, today was the day, no more excuses. It was 18 degrees and sunny this morning, a perfect morning for a hike. So off we went, me and the big dog. upon arrival it looked like the trail had been packed down by more intrepid hikers than myself so up the mountainside we went. Unfortunately the trail was cut for only about a half mile by what appears to be kids and their toboggans. Following that was a deep snowdrift covering the trail all the way to the top :(

The backside of the mountain was no better. The wind has done an awesome job of piling deep drifts on the entire trail, making for a long tough slog. Apparently the short respite has not hurt my cardio conditioning much as we were able to continue through the beautiful fresh powder without gasping too badly for air πŸ™‚ looking forward at the top of the ridge though, the snow looked pretty deep and we decided to abort this attempt about a half mile early.

There is yet another storm headed our way for this weekend and I’m pretty sure that will about do it for hiking up there without snowshoes. So the first thing I did upon returning home was to dig out my winter gear. Found the snowshoes and the ice trekkers. I haven’t quite located my gators yet but I have a pretty good idea where they can be found. Looking forward to my next report on snowshoe hiking in the high country around Cripple Creek! We haven’t had enough decent snow for snowshoeing in quite a few years! This is just awesome πŸ™‚

There are tons of new winter pictures on my website now available for purchase as wall art and cool gift items plus household items and handy tech gadgets with an #swkrullimaging picture on them! Please visit my site if you like pictures of the Rockies in snow!