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.Β  It took a lot less timeΒ  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 πŸ™‚

Bucks in Grouse Meadow

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Over the Hump

Read an interesting factoid the other day… Apparently August 2nd is a significant day in Colorado, it is the day that marks the beginning of the rapid falloff in temperatures in the slide towards fall and winter. The chart below from the U.S. Climate Data site shows in dramatic visual form the steep curve of change in temperature and precipitation as the heat of summer loses it’s edge to the receding light of the sun.

And to me that means I am over the hump of my most Screenshot_2019-08-04 Climate Colorado - temperature, rainfall and averagedifficult time of year πŸ™‚ For a landscape photographer, the harsh direct overhead light of the summer sun is death to an image. The bright sun drains out all the color and shadow that can make an image compelling. For a Colorado wildlife photographer, stifling heat by 8:00 a.m. means all the animals are lying down in the shade in the dense pine forest well out of view. Sunrise at 5:00 a.m. means a 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. start to the day if you want to catch the best light, a difficult goal when you are up until 12:30 trying to make a living the night before. For Big Dog, the heat of the summer sun shining through the truck window means he has to stay home a lot more often, and without my hiking buddy along my weekend excursions a lot less enjoyable.

Here in Cripple Creek it was a beautiful cool morning, the birds are chirping happily and

Trio of Autumn Bighorn

the Teller County Fair is over, the legion of trucks and campers are pulling out and making their way home. I’m tired today, the sun is already shining brightly and I think I’ll take a day off from hiking and shooting to just sit here and enjoy the peace that the end of the hustle and bustle of summer brings with my favorite time of year just around the corner. Autumn… and I have wisely scheduled two weeks off so that I can make the most of it πŸ™‚ Teller County has some of the best aspen color viewing in the state and this year I will be able to enjoy the Fall Color Festival, something I bitterly missed last year because I was working through the entire thing.

By autumn the sun has traveled significantly to the south, it’s low profile in the sky creating a much more friendly lighting scenario for photography. The leaves of the great aspen stands will be in full glory and the crisp clear mountain air sets an inviting stage for hiking and mountain biking in the back country.Β  The animals will emerge from the dark of the forest, the elk, deer and bighorn sheep in full glory for the autumn rut and the bears all out in their determined search for enough calories to nourish them throughout the long Rocky Mountain winter.

So today I rest in the knowledge that I am over the summer hump, my mind turning toward the joy of autumn, my laptop trained on topo maps of the great Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Ahhhh….

Crystal Creek Autumn

 

Dumb Mistake

Whitewater in Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River

Me and the big dog went out again this morning in search of the beautiful buck mule deer that we’ve been seeing on the trail… We didn’t see the bucks but there was a nice looking elk cow meandering across the meadow that was visible when we reached the summit of our little mountain. My camera was ready to go… or so I thought, so I zoomed in and snapped the shutter. The usual satisfying mirror slap and shutter click sounded a bit off but I paid it no mind and captured a few more before she disappeared into the dense wilderness of the Pike National Forest.

Eventually our trek was complete and we found ourselves back at the parking lot where Whitewater on the South Plattte in Eleven Mile CanyonI gave Big Dog his drink and loaded ourselves back in the vehicle. As usual I made a quick check on the LCD screen of the day’s captures… First picture I looked at didn’t look too good, out of focus maybe? I always refocus a few times to make sure I get the shot so I checked another hoping to find at least one usable picture… no such luck, I stupidly didn’t check the mode wheel on the top of the camera and it was still set to Aperture Priority, which was still set for a long exposure of the river a couple of days before. Absolutely no chance of getting a sharp image of a moving elk at dawn with a 30th of a second shutter speed 😦 Nothing else to do but hit the reformat button on the memory chip and vow to do better next time.

That means I have nothing to work on today except the trip to Eleven Mile Canyon earlier this week. No wildlife to share today, but I do have a few more of the South Platte River whitewater for this blog!

As always these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Cool gift items, apparel and handy tech gadgets are also available… just click an image to see the options!

Whitewater in the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon

Brown’s Canyon National Monument

Brown’s Canyon National Monument is another one of Colorado’s hidden gems… almost too well hidden! I’ve been wanting to visit this place for years, ever since I missed the day of hiking with the Sierra Club. Well I finally did it πŸ™‚ I was in the area photographing rafters on the Arkansas until finally I found myself in Salida. What the heck, the park is just on the other side of Salida so I consulted my phone for directions and headed up 291 in search of the entrance… piece of cake πŸ™‚

Arkansas River in Brown's Canyon National Monument

Not a piece of cake. You would think that being a national monument there would be huge signs everywhere. But no… no signs anywhere 😦 Totally passed it by, drove all the way up 291 until I finally hit Johnson Village and had to turn back around. At that point I decided to let my GPS guide me in and managed to find the place, County Road 191 to the east from 291 will take you right in… after a couple of miles on a curvy dirt road over a ridge. When you finally do get there you will be greeted by a big sign with some of those fee envelopes and a $8.00 per day use fee. So I paid my fee, dropped the envelope in the box and went on in.

There is a large parking area and a campground along the Arkansas River where the

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rafting companies were all ready to pick up rafters. I grabbed my camera and trusty trekking pole and headed down a trail along the river towards the south. The original plan was to mountain bike back in but it didn’t take long to ascertain that the trail was above my meager riding skill level so I just hoofed it in a ways. The trail and the river are amazing and the area is vast. I imagine you could easily hike for days and not see it all.

 

By this time it was really hot and dry and I was not at all prepared for a long hike so I just turned around and vowed to hike up the other direction for a while but quickly abandoned that idea too and chalked the whole visit up to a successful scouting mission for a longer visit on another more prepared day.

On my way back through Salida the Soulcraft Brewery looked like the perfect answer to my parched throat and worthy of a stop πŸ™‚ Tried the Dopple Bock brew and it was delicious. Being short of time I didn’t try any food, and didn’t really see anyone else eating either. I assume they have food there, but would have to be something for another day as well.

Cute Doe Mule DeerWas hoping to photograph some more rafters along the Arkansas on my return trip, but by the time I was passing by again the rafting was all over for the day. Nothing but the long drive home to look forward to at this point.

If you are a fly fisherman the trail along the river is an awesome place to visit! For hiking though, I’m not so sure. There are no high peaks to scale and except for along the river it appears that there are a lot of miles of parched land to explore. It appears to me that the Continental Divide Trail passes through there on it’s way to the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista and there are miles of fun to be had for moderately skilled mountain bikers and a lot of rocky cliffs for rock climbers to hone their skills on! And I didn’t see many in the heat of the day, but I imagine there would be a ton of wildlife to photograph early in the morning.

 

 

Sangre Mountain Sunrise

Sangre de Cristo mountain sunrise

There is nothing like watching the alpenglow at sunrise in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado!

Moonset in the Rockies

Followed by the setting of the moon πŸ™‚

In the Clouds

I know, it’s May 20th… but this is Colorado at 10,000 feet and we are in a winter storm warning, supposed to snow all day and pretty much all night. It’s already cold, cloudy and windy but I figured I’d better get the big dog out for his exercise before it really gets cranked up!

Clouds Forming in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

So we had a good hike and I even got to be part of an interesting weather phenomenon πŸ™‚ Once on the summit where I could see all around I noticed a patch of what I first thought was fog. After watching a bit though I determined that it wasn’t fog, there was too much wind and it seemed to be forming right before my eyes! Turns out up on the summit at probably 11,000 feet or so I was watching the storm clouds form all around me. There was also a tremendous updraft so the cloud would form near the mountain and then shoot out of the trees into the sky. It was an amazing thing to behold, I never cease to be amazed at the splendor of these mountains!

Now as I sit here at my computer it is just gloomy and grey and flakes are beginning to fly. Soon I imagine, with this wind they will turn into this winter’s familiar stinging sideways projectiles. No matter, we are back at our cozy little cabin, toasty and warm watching the action outside πŸ™‚

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!