Quite a Day with the Bighorns

Fog Bank Sangre de Cristo

I have to say, yesterday was quite a day… the plan was to arise early and drive to Waterton in hopes of catching the bighorn sheep in full rut. The day got off to a bit of a rough start though, a heavy blanket of freezing fog had enveloped the entire region the night before and it took me about 20 minutes to chip my way into the truck before I could even depart!

On the way up the pass I looked back and noticed that the fog bank had created a beautiful blanket in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, so I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that! There was a pretty good haze in the air to go with the fog so the images aren’t as clear as they could be, but it was still an amazing sight to behold πŸ™‚

We began our mountain bike ride up the canyon fully expecting a good long ride before

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

seeing any sheep but after just a few short minutes of pedaling a group of the critters came into view. I assumed it was the usual herd of ewes and youngsters that so often inhabit the entrance to the park, but much to our surprise the little herd was also occupied by four good sized rams causing trouble among each other, one in particular who was kicking the others in hopes of starting a fight.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

I have long desired to witness the rams butting heads, and it looked like this day was going to give me that chance! I wanted to capture a still of the moment of impact, but I also wanted to get some video so my readers could also experience the excitement of the moment. As a group of three rams circled each other, jostling and kicking… I switched my camera to video to record the action. There was not the classic charge and clash impact in this scene, but I did manage to record the nudging and little head knocking on this video now available to watch on my Youtube Channel πŸ™‚

We watched transfixed by the action for at least two hours as the rams hassled each

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

other. They would graze for a couple of minutes while it looked like they might finally give it a rest and relax for a while, but soon the tension would again arise and the tussle would begin anew.Β  Just when we would think that nothing was really going to happen, all of a sudden without warning they would square off, take a couple of steps on two feet and smash heads. It was very difficult to photograph, zoom lenses were required to get the best view of the action, but too close to capture both animals when they were setting up for the action. It was also difficult to be focused in on the area where the impact would occur since it all happened so quickly without warning.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

But I do believe I managed to capture the exact moment of impact on this image, the huge beasts with their heads together and eyes closed for the crash. I think maybe it would have been better if my camera had fired a millisecond earlier, but again… maybe the smashed heads is what I was after!

Rumors of a bear further up the canyon finally tore us away from the sheep herd and off we went. We rode to approximately the 4 mile point without seeing any other wildlife so we turned back around to return to the herd for a few more images. The river was magnificent in the winter light and the ride an excellent aerobic workout. I’m looking forward to really getting in shape for some more serious riding in the spring!

As I crested the final ridge on the journey home I was greeted by this magnificent sunset,

Sunset on the Sangre de Cristo

beautiful golden colors and the remnants of fog from the storm the night before. A perfect ending to a perfect day πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Click the link to explore!

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A Sight for Sore Eyes

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

The big storm is over and the high country is covered in a new mantle of pure white. I poked my head out the door at sunrise to see what kind of of morning it was going to be and I was elated to be able to see down the valley all the way to the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range for this first time in months. Dust, haze and smoke from the Decker fire have all but made the mountains invisible until the big snowstorm cleaned it all up.

Hope you enjoy the view as much as I do, via pixels on the computer screen! As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Huge Bull Elk

Had to share my mountaintop with a huge bull elk this morning. As I cleared the ridge I spotted a few buck mule deer in the distance running back and forth making it difficult

Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

to get a decent shot. As I moved around a grove of trees in hopes of getting a closer view without disturbing them even more I spotted something else in the woods staring out at me. A massive bull elk was peering through the branches at me! I quickly attached my camera to the monopod / trekking pole and got off a couple of zooms. Unfortunately my camera must have picked up a branch or twig near the animal’s face because those turned out slightly out of focus 😦

As I continued my way along the trail the elk moved out into a clearing where he was keeping a close eye on me. I got a few captures with him posing against the wildflower filled meadow and then he moved onto the top of the ridge where I was able to include the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

Unfortunately it was quite a gloomy morning so the images don’t pop as much as I would like, but I’m very happy to have seen the majestic beast and happy to include these images into the permanent record πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website in the elk and wildlife galleries!

Elk in the Sunshine

These elk appear to be having a relaxing morning! I saw them grazing on the mountain

Elk Herd in the Wilderness

grass near the edge of the dense pine forest. For some reason they saw me but did not retreat into the safety of the trees, but slowly walked along the edge of the wilderness while I snapped away using my big 400mm Canon lens. Usually they disappear like ghosts into the forest the moment they spot me. This was my favorite one with the rugged snow capped Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the backgroundΒ  πŸ™‚

Elk Herd and the Sangre de Cristo

As always, this image and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool household, tech and gift items are also available with #swkrullimaging artwork on them! Click the link if you want to see more!

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™‚

Exhausted

Today finds me completely and utterly exhausted, like gravity has somehow tripled or something. It was a struggle just to get out of bed, much less wrangle the big dog outside 😦 Maybe too much hiking, too many hours at work, too little sleep. Maybe all of the above.

Fog on the Sangre

Thinking of taking a break from shooting for awhile. I have all these one star images to process and upload to stock in Photoshop… not going to do any fancy editing, just exposure and contrast in Camera Raw and away they go.

Storm on the #sangredecristomountains by #swkrullimaging
This was my favorite one of the day, and one from yesterday.

Another Stunner

The clouds at the base of the majestic Sangre de Cristo were an incredible scene this morning and I was looking forward to the vista I was going to behold from the summit of the highest mountain on our morning hike. But as it is many times… what actually greeted me as I cleared the ridge was even better that I had hoped πŸ™‚ This awesome herd of deer happened to be standing in perfect position for me to include them in the image with the mountains and the foggy clouds! These mountains never cease to amaze me πŸ™‚ If you look carefully you can see another deer in the shadows of the pine trees and yet another peeking out from the branches to the right. Those might actually be the Collegiate Peaks in the background of this image. From here you can see both mountain ranges and it isn’t that easy to determine where one ends and the other starts!

Mountain Mule Deer