The Perfect Rig

Photography Rig by the Pristine Waters of the South Platte River

I’ve been working for some time now to assemble the perfect rig for gaining access to the back country for landscape and wildlife photography. I don’t know whether it’s really the perfect rig or not, but it suits me perfectly and I was dying to try it all out together! I wanted the Tamrac Anvil 23 for it’s size and rugged construction, big and deep enough for all my gear and including a camera with battery grip and long lens. It also has straps on the center back strong enough to carry a heavy duty tripod comfortably. Then of course a carbon fiber tripod with a good video head, I decided upon the Manfrotto 502A for it’s rugged build plus it’s capability to operate effectively in the harsh Colorado winter. And of course the bike, which luckily I was able to find pre-owned and in like new condition, a Nishika Colorado 21 speed mountain bike with shock absorbers on the front forks 🙂

My idea was that Waterton Canyon was going to be considerably warmer and the best

Pristine Waters of the South Platte River in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Winter

place to try it all out! However the weatherman was forecasting a cold gloomy morning and I was pretty sure that the sheep were not going to come down 😦 I felt kind of guilty driving 100 miles just to go on a bike ride so I was going to back out, but I called my favorite camera store Englewood Camera, and they just happened to have a good deal on a 4 stop ND filter that I’ve been wanting so I thought what the heck… I’ll stop in at the camera store and maybe I’ll even be able to try it out on my favorite part of the river. Years ago back in the film days I had captured a great image of the river and I’ve tried repeatedly through the years without success to duplicate it with the awesome new technology at our disposal these days so that I could have it for sale on my stock portfolio!

It was still cold and gloomy in the canyon by the time I got there at about 10:00 a.m. so I bundled up and hoped for the best. Indeed I did not see a single bighorn sheep in my entire ride to the top of the dirt road. Modifications I

Pristine Waters of the South Platte River in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Winter

had recently made to my bike, including seat, hand grips and pedals proved worth the investment as I rode hard all the way to the turnaround without having to dismount a single time 🙂 On the way up I identified the very spot that I captured my favorite image so many years ago and on the way back down I stopped there for pictures and video. The other time was autumn so I knew I would not have the beautiful colors, but I have always wanted to try the image in winter as well. I spent a good amount of time there using wide angle and long lenses, the polarizer and a plain skylight filter. The water wasn’t flowing sufficiently to need the new ND, but I’ll try that out over at Eleven Mile pretty soon.

All in all I think I am satisfied with my winter images and I got a great workout on my mountain bike in the fresh mountain air of the Pike National Forest. As always these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and traditional matting and framing! Also I have no sponsorship or compensation of any kind from any of these products. I have purchased them with my own funds because I found them most suitable to my needs.

Eleven Mile Winter

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

Something I’ve always wanted to do… See the headwaters of the South Platte River flowing through Eleven Mile Canyon in wintertime. Shouldn’t be that hard to do but I never seemed to have the right tires or brakes or time or whatever… But yesterday it finally all came together and I made the journey! I was kind of thinking about leaving my truck at the entrance but that idea was quickly abandoned when I got out to pay. Dang it’s cold in that canyon! Apparently the canyon walls are quite good at holding in the cold!

The road was snow packed and icy in places as I entered the canyon but as the road

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

turned to the west bare dirt greeted me and it looked like the journey should be doable even in a two wheel drive truck. As I drove past the roughest part of the river, a place where I usually climb down to the riverside for some shots and video of the roaring whitewater it became apparent that climbing on the banks was going to be out of the question in winter. Oh well I thought, I was sure the riverside would be accessible in other places.

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

And it was in a few places but mostly a riverside visit in the Rocky Mountain winter is a pretty treacherous endeavor 😦 In some places there was just deep snow to go through, but in others it was ice so solid that my Ice Trekkers were not even enough for traction. And in other places there was an icy shelf over the river bank so that it wasn’t possible to tell where the bank ended and the river began. One wrong step and one might find himself on an unpleasant winter swim in the icy waters of a raging Colorado river!

So getting pictures turned out to be a very difficult proposition. In summer you can pick

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

yourself right down to the waters edge to get past the vegetation that lines the entire bank for an unobstructed view of the river. But in winter so many good views are ruined by a bush or a tree or just bramble sticking up from the riverside. Getting just the right angle on the view is so important but I was simply not able to do that yesterday.

But I certainly enjoyed myself and had a great morning along the beautiful river. The canyon is always a beautiful sight to behold with it’s magnificent cliffs and eagles soaring overhead. Unfortunately the times I saw an eagle I was equipped with a wide angle for shooting the river. When I put on my long lens I could not find an eagle anywhere!

Well anyway, I did manage to get a few pictures I like, some of which are up on my website for purchase as wall art on  glossy metal or acrylic sheets and I also was able to put together a nice movie called Eleven Mile Winter on my YouTube site 🙂 Don’t forget to subscribe if you like the video and want to be notified each time a video is published!

Also note that I was not sponsored by Ice Trekkers, I purchased them with my own funds because I think they are a good product and frequently find them useful on my winter adventures! I also recommend using a trekking pole or cross country ski poles for safety as you climb the banks of the river in snow!

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

Supreme Commander of the Valley

Still reveling in the images captured on our autumn excursion to Rocky Mountain National Park… I was thinking this image really captures the essence of the entire experience, with the majestic herd of elk that call Moraine Park home in the high mountain autumn season.

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Autumn Evening

In the background you have the aspen trees donning their autumn gold and red glory while in the foreground the big bull is rounding up his herd for nightfall. This big bull doesn’t get much rest during the fall rut, he has cows to keep safe, other bulls to fend off and territory to maintain. While the cows grazed on the mountain grass the stately beast stayed alert, maintaining vigil over his hard fought harem. The crowd of people gathered on the road with their cameras didn’t make this fellow’s job any easier 😦 In this particular scene some of the cows had crossed the road, while others were afraid to pass through the opening between the cars and people that the rangers had made for them.

Eventually the huge male crossed the road and rounded up the cows that were scattering on the eastern side of the park. Not a single creature in the entire park dare challenge him, the cows obeyed without question while several bachelor bulls watched on with envy

Lone Bull Elk

advancing no closer than a couple hundred yards, appearing tiny in the distance even through our powerful zoom lenses. There was one lonely bull bugling in vain over the ridge, out of sight but close enough to draw the ire of the massive leader. Eventually he trotted to a high vantage point at the top of the ridge to investigate, but returned when he was sure there was no challenge to his domain. Even the people lining the road scattered in fear as his thundering hooves shook the ground when he passed by.

Eventually dusk overtook the valley and there was no more light for our cameras to capture as the cows began to lie down in the quiet of a beautiful Colorado autumn evening. Finally, the supreme commander of the valley would finally get some rest.

As always, this image and  more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items are also available with one of my images, including Christmas cards, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets, pillows, and tech gadgets including battery and phone chargers. Click the link to enter the site and explore the possibilities! The images are arranged by collection or by product if you desire!

Tough Day in the Canyon

The week began with bitter cold and snow, a lot of snow… but as luck would have it there would be a break in the winter weather just in time for our planned adventure in Waterton Canyon. The forecast was calling for sunshine and 40’s on Thursday and the plan was, the sheep would be ready for a break and would come down into the canyon to pose for us 🙂

Red-taile Hawk in Waterton Canyon

Previous experience told me  that the road into the canyon was going to be a muddy mess from the melting snow, terrible conditions for a mountain bike ride so the decision was made to attempt the journey on foot. Spirits were high as we began the trek into the wilderness wonderland along the cascading South Platte River, looking forward to another awesome bighorn sheep encounter. Soon we rounded the bend by the water pipe where we often see the herd of bighorn… no sheep in sight. No matter, there are other likely locations further in. Second likely location, no sheep…

After a break for some Gatorade at the picnic area we decided to press on to the old dam by the house… also no good. Finally we decided to continue past the halfway point dam to the highest point in the park where we have seen the elusive creatures this year. Again, no luck and we decided to head back down in hopes that the animals had come down from the upper reaches behind us on their daily visit to the river for water.

Once again, nothing but a long walk back to the bottom of the canyon. Finally we spotted a bike riding photographer stopped near the water tube looking up into the high peaks north of the  canyon… sure enough, there were a couple of rams way up near the summit, pretty much out of range for decent photography. In the end we decided that at least one snap of the majestic beasts would be better than none, but while we were preparing for the shot they disappeared into the brush. it looked like a climb up the slippery slope might provide a better view so we began the ill advised ascent to the service road, which proved as treacherous as it appeared.

With a couple of slight mishaps and lenses covered with a good scoop of snow, we arrived safely at the plateau where the search for the better view began. Unfortunately all the climb accomplished was to increase the angle of view to the point where we could not see at all over the dry brush covering the mountainside 😦

Wintry Manitou Springs Colorado

On the way down the service road I spotted a white object on a cliff above us, so when we arrived at the closest point and best view we took a look through the long lens to ascertain it’s identity. Turns out it was a majestic looking Red-tailed hawk gazing fiercely over the canyon, I assume in search of prey that might become a good lunch. This would become my only wildlife photograph of the day 😦

The day wasn’t a complete bust though, we did get the benefit of a seven mile hike 😦 Plus  on the way through the Colorado Springs area, there was an amazing view of Manitou Springs from the highway that I have been wanting to acquire for years. Sometimes I don’t have my camera, often I’m in a hurry and don’t have the time… But yesterday I had  the camera and the view was extra fantastic, no excuse not to stop!

These pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Also on my website is a new gallery just for birds, raptors, birds of prey, song birds, waterfowl, you name it! I finally feel that I have enough images of birds to warrant the new collection!

Bighorn Afternoon

Winter weather is on the way, 8-15 inches of snow they are saying, but this morning it was beautiful! Checked the forecast and it looked like I would have until about 5:00 p.m. to go off and do something! Over coffee and a cinnamon roll I decided another run at Waterton Canyon would probably be the most profitable. I arrived at the canyon at about 10:00 a.m., strapped on my pack and headed into the canyon on mountain bike hoping for some good photography, but planning only on a good workout and a beautiful ride along the beautiful blue South Platte River in stunning autumn colors.

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

I wanted a good cardio workout so I was pedaling hard past the lowest bighorn viewing area with no beasties in site. Breathing hard I pushed ahead watching the cliff to the north for sign of the animals. Another mile passed and I thought I could see some large animals on the path ahead. I slowed down and carefully pulled up to park my bike at a safe distance to unpack my gear and ready myself for photography. As I neared on foot I noticed that the trio was a small group of rams wandering along the river while occasionally sparring with each other.

One of the beasts eventually moved into the grass to graze while the other two stood head to head, waiting for the other to make a move. Hoping for a clash I started a video but the two gladiators eventually separated and moved apart, the smaller one joining the other for lunch on the riverbank.

While I was getting some good portraits of the biggest ram, I noticed he had begun to

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

stare intently up the canyon towards the west. When I looked over to see what he was so interested in I saw the herd of ewe sheep and young ones walking toward us. Eventually the males and females joined and walked downstream together, grazing on the vegetation along the bank while occasionally approaching the river for drinks when a path to the water was available.

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

I just followed along with the herd, hanging with  them trying to get the best shots of especially the rams and the cute little yearlings who would occasionally butt heads as if trying to get the feel of the big game the rams were playing. The steep bank along the north side of the river finally gave way to a shallower approach and the rams took interest on some vegetation on the other side. All three of the big brutes walked to the edge of the stream and I could see that they were going to jump in. I thought they might just walk in and stroll across, but instead they leaped in and powered across as fast as they could! I wasn’t really ready for that but I think I got a couple of good shots of the action 🙂

One of the bigger females joined the rams in the feast when all of a sudden the little ewes

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

and lambs took off running downstream. Something obviously spooked them and they quickly headed for their favorite rocky cliff where I usually find them in the morning. I stopped for a few shots, and I would have liked to just stay forever… but dark clouds had already begun to move in and I sensed  that the weather was going to turn ugly earlier than predicted. Eventually I gave in, climbed back on my bike and pedaled for the truck as fast as I could.

Good thing too… it was snowing hard in Monument and raining and snowing already in Colorado Springs. At the time of this writing tonight, snow is falling hard in many parts of the state and car accidents are already piling up at an alarming rate.

I did manage to get some video footage which you can view on my Youtube Channel. Please subscribe if you like,  I need 100 subscribers so I can get my swkrullimaging URL!

As for me, I’m happy to be back home in the glow of my computer monitor as I review the splendid day that I had 🙂 As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool gift and household items and tech gadgets are also available with a picture. Just click the link to explore!

Where I’m Most at Home

Autumn on Trail Ridge Road

The alpine tundra, high above the treeline… that’s my favorite place to be. Never have been a big fan of hiking in valleys or dense forest. I like to be up high, above the treeline where I can see stunning peaks and valleys! It’s not always the most hospitable place to be, the winds and weather can be ferocious here and this day was one of the worst! It was a nice toasty warm day down in Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, but up here, at the summit of Trail Ridge Road, the winds must have been blowing at least 50 mph. And it was cold too, can’t imagine what the wind chill was!

These were also difficult conditions for photography, the wind was blowing so hard I could barely open my eyes which were watering profusely from the horrendous draft. It was difficult to steady the camera and it was too uncomfortable to be messing with the tripod which would have probably blown over anyway. I tried to steady the camera on boulders where possible, guard rails when present, anything I could find. From the

Autumn on Trail Ridge Road

look of some of my images I was not always successful, even though I was using my 18-55 wide angle lens with image stabilization turned on.

But it was so beautiful up here, rugged peaks, aspen and tundra turning to gold before the onslaught of the harsh Rocky Mountain winter. There was no question about it, weather notwithstanding, I was going to get the pictures of this magnificent place!

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Cool gift, household and tech items are also available with one of these images, including t-shirts, coffee mugs, battery chargers, stationary, greeting cards, blankets and pillows and much more!

Autumn on Trail Ridge Road

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