New Snow

Snow was falling steadily when I finally turned in last night. I knew it was going to be amazing this morning so at first light me and the big dog went out to investigate. With all the fresh powder from the night’s snowstorm the snowshoes came in handy! Big Dog was bounding through the new snow like a puppy, and the receding storm clouds over the Sangre de Cristo range were breath taking πŸ™‚

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

And I have to say, this 400mm Canon lens is amazing, the magnification, the exposures, the contrast, all stunning. And for big 400mm glass, this lens is quite easy to carry around. The tension ring is a beautiful piece of engineering, easy to loosen when you want to zoom and easy to tighten when you don’t want the lens extending while walking or running. Plus you can lock your lens in place at any focal length and it won’t creep in or out while you are shooting.

This shot was taken from the top of the ridge where we finally turned around to head back to the trailhead, my favorite picture of the day. One day when I have more time I will go back and process some more of these captures for the stock agencies.

As always this image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and with traditional framing and matting. Cool gift, household and tech items are also available with one of our images! Just click on your favorite picture to see all the product options and pricing!

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Unexpected Gift

Mystical Clouds on the Sangre

My legs felt like rubber this morning and my eyes didn’t want to open. On my way to get my first cup of coffee I looked out the window and there was nothing but clouds in the direction of the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo. So I got my coffee and I sat on the couch, probably as close to comatose as you can get ;( Couple of cups of coffee and a healthy chocolate chip muffin later Big Dog was at the door, looking at me with those huge pleading brown eyes… what are ya gonna do. Grabbed the camera bag and headed for the snowshoe trailhead. Along the way I took a good look at the overlook at the mountains… still nothing. Looked like I was just going to have a nice morning romp in the snow with the big dog.

Eventually we cleared the ridge and the huge peaks of the continental divide came into view.

Mystical Clouds on the Sangre

The clouds and parted somewhat and the scene had evolved into this beautiful wispy, mystical cloudy mountain landscape made for picture taking! So I snapped a few then moved to the north a ways to get a different angle but by then the largest peak was becoming completely obscured again. Just happy now that I was there to capture these images at the right moment when the clouds parted for me to see the Sangre de Cristo Range πŸ™‚

It’s been a while since I have seen any wildlife up there, I have no idea where they went. Maybe in the severe cold we have been having they all decided to move to lower elevations? I’ll get my chance to check out the lower valleys later this week so stay tuned!

Stunning Sangre de Cristo

It’s not always easy to put down my coffee and go out into the cold with my snowshoes at sunrise, but if you want to get the pictures there is no other choice. There is nothing like first light on the mountains. However it does help to have an enthusiastic partner… Big Dog is always ready to go, well before sunrise if need be 😦

So off we went, to the trailhead while looking for any deer or elk we might find along the way. Past the overlook, it didn’t look like this morning was going to be anything spectacular and I saw no need to pull over for any photography there. At the trailhead… strap on the snowshoes and head up the mountain into the cold and the wind. My eyes scanned the edge of the forest for any critters that might be trying to catch some early morning rays, but there were none. I don’t know where the animals all went but I haven’t seen any stirring since the elk departed the other day.

It was looking like all we were going to get today was some exercise, nothing wrong with that though! There is no such thing as a bad day of snowshoeing! But as we crested the ridge I could see the tops of the peaks and something had dramatically changed! The sun was shining underneath the cloud cover right onto the Sangre de Cristo Range giving them a stunning soft early morning glow that would take your breath away! So me and the big dog began running, not an easy thing to do on back country snow shoes! But I knew the scene would not last and there was no shot from where I was. It was about a quarter of a mile to the edge of the mountain I was on and we had to get there before the light changed!

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo

Of course Big Dog thought running in the snow was the bomb, but by the time we got there I was pretty out of breath and wondered if I would even be able to steady the long lens. But most importantly, we had made it in time and the soft glow of first light still shown magnificently on the rugged range in the distance. I dialed back the ISO to 200, down from the 400 that I was prepared to shoot wildlife with and decided upon a exposure compensation of +2/3. A little fiddling and I tried a few more with ISO 100 and a few with compensation of +1. As I look at the pictures on the computer I’m not sure which worked out better, but they all turned out beautifully πŸ™‚ I’ll study the results more carefully later on, right now I’m going to have some more coffee and some waffles while I try to warm up!

Oh, here’s a nice tip… when you come in from the cold just leave your camera in the bag for a while. The camera is cold, the bag is cold and both will warm up slowly and safely. If you don’t expose the camera to the warm air right away there is a lot less chance of damage caused by condensation!

As always these images and more are available on my website in the “Sangre de Cristo Gallery” as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, and traditional framing and matting materials. #swkrullimaging pictures can also be purchased on a ton of cool gift, tech and household items such as t-shirts, gift cards, phone chargers, blankets, pillows and more!

 

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

We have had a beautiful springlike couple of days but this morning’s clouds portend a change… Snow and cold are on the way for later this week, temperatures will be dropping back to near zero for a couple of days. Big Dog and I were up early today so just

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

before sunrise we grabbed the camera and the snowshoes and headed for the mountains. I could see that it was going to be a beautiful sunrise and indeed it was. But the real show was not to the east, but to the southwest where the alpenglow effect was illuminating the Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peaks ranges in a beautiful pink glow. I found a good spot and pulled over for a few shots before going on to the trailhead where I hoped for another photo op with the elk herd. For some reason however, they were not there today, no sign of them at all. It’s like they have vanished off the face of the earth! Oh well… maybe this week’s cold weather will bring them back down to lower elevations. Lol… and by lower elevations, I mean 10,000 feet πŸ™‚

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

Our snowshoe hike yielded nothing in the way of wildlife. Did get a few shots of the storm clouds gathering on the Sangre though, some of the nicest that I have seen in a long time!

As always these pictures are available on my website as wall art and cool gift items! Please give us a visit if you like what you see!

Maiden Voyage

Well this is it… my first outing with the Canon 100-400 L Mark I. I have been wanting that 400mm lens for over ten years! I had a Sigma 100-500 back before the Great Recession that I had to sell and I always regretted that. At the time I didn’t have the money to do

Deer on the Mountainside Title

any traveling and didn’t need it to photograph the deer in my little game reserve near home, my f4L 70-200 was perfect for the trails in those woods. But like always, as soon as I sold it everything changed and I needed it again! Well anyway, my photo buddy found an entire camera and lens collection for sale on Craigslist, including a Sigma 150-500 that I was going to buy from him if he bought the set. But alas, the guy didn’t get back to him and sold the set to someone else.Β  I was pretty bummed because I thought I was going to at least have my Sigma back!

Well, bummed enough to make some calls anyway, and as it turned out my favorite camera store, Englewood Camera just happened to have the Canon 100-400 Mark I. This was late in the day on Wednesday so I wasn’t able to get up there but they were nice enough to hold it for me until yesterday. The lens is in perfect shape, looks like it has never been used so of course I had to have it!Β  It was a long drive, but I always enjoy a nice visit to the store and I am tickled to have the lens!

Canon 100-400Normally I wouldn’t take such a big lens on a long hike, but I had to test it out! So I loaded it up, along with the snowshoes and Big Dog and off we went to the trail πŸ™‚ I can tell you, lugging a heavy camera through the snow with Big Dog making his own decisions about which direction we should be going was a struggle! And we didn’t see a thing to photograph 😦 Until the end of course when I was exhausted, my heart pounding and my arms quivering from fatigue. But in the distance on the barren face of the hillside I thought I spotted something… Could be a few rocks or dirt spots, or maybe some deer or elk. So I brought up the big 400mm to my eye for a look and indeed it was a small herd of mule deer foraging for food.

I have to say I am amazed that I got this shot. As I said, my arms were shaking and I was tired. Lugging along the Manfrotto was out of the question so the shot is handheld, zoomed in all the way at 400mm, ISO 400, f8 at a 500th of a second. I could barely even see these deer at this distance and this lens has given me a salable picture! All I had to do is crop a little bit of pine beetle ugliness out of the pines on the right and this picture was ready to go. And this is without using my 1.4x lens extender, which would have pushed me out to 560mm, but I doubt I would have been able to hand hold that anyway.

So all in all I am so far delighted in the quality of this lens. I can’t wait to get out with a tripod where there is an abundance of wildlife such as in Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe Waterton Canyon or the mountain goat viewing area in Cottonwood Pass and really give this thing a workout! But for strenuous hikes in deep snow where the weight I am carrying makes a difference, I’ll be going back to my old faithful, the f4L 70-200 with the 1.4x extender. I’ll have to concede the long distance shots in lieu of a more enjoyable hike.

As always, this image and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on metal, acrylic, canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool gift, household andΒ  tech items are also available with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them, including battery chargers, blankets and pillows, gift cards and much more. Just click on an image you like and you will see the full preview plus all the product options and pricing!

 

Fresh Powder

Fresh Powder in the Colorado High CountryTen degrees, wind blowing, face frozen, drifting snow, complete solitude… It doesn’t get any better :) Perfect day for snowshoeing. Most of our trail has been buried by the drifting snow from yesterday’s storm but most of the time I could ascertain where the packed trail probably was. Sometimes not though, but the feel of the fresh powder beneath my snowshoes was well worth the extra effort. Big Dog seemed to be better at finding the trail as he charged ahead, I suppose he could locate by smell! Good companion to have along :)

Was hoping to find that the elk had gathered at the edge of the forest near the summit so I could get some good wildlife photographs,

Snowshoe Tracks in the Powderbut I saw little sign of life anywhere on the frozen mountain. Looking back at where we had come from all there was to see was our trail in the snow over the top. Thought it made for kind of a neat scene though! On our way down I did find elk tracks leading up a different trail around the other side of the ridge, so maybe tomorrow we willΒ  go investigate.

 

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!