Panorama of a Storm

The skies have cleared and the warm Colorado sun is shining on the freshly snow capped mountains once again. I decided to try and get out for pictures and a nice snow shoe trek… which turned out to be no easy task. I quickly discovered that my windshield scraper had met a cruel fate sometime in the last couple of days so I was reduced to trying to scrape with only a piece of the blade 😦 Eventually the defroster kicked in and I was able to get out of the driveway.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre

The roads in town weren’t too bad and I was quickly on my way to the trailhead. However the highway was extremely icy and even though I spotted an amazing looking herd of elk I dared not stop for fear of being unable to get going up the hill again 😦 As I passed by the overlook I noted that it had been plowed and was easily accessible if I were so inclined.

Unfortunately the parking lot at the trailhead was not plowed and as I pulled in I could feel my tires slipping and spinning on the icy snowy mess so I just kept going so I wouldn’t get stuck. I barely made it back out to the entrance so I ran the stop sign and continued back towards town.

The conditions weren’t that great for photography, lots of haze lingering in the air obscuring the complete bright white mantle of fresh snow on the Sangre de Cristo, but I decided to try my luck at the overlook anyway. I snapped a few of the magnificent range when it occurred to me that this might be a good day for a panorama 🙂 I set up the shots in manual mode, iso 100 with 160th of a second and f11 for good depth of field. The image combines 15 vertical exposures into a 120×20 inch full size image using thephotomerge feature in Adobe Photoshop. The sky wasn’t an even blue all the way across due to the bright sunlight on the middle of the scene, but I think it turned out halfway decent… What do you think?

Fresh Snow on the Sangre

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Photoshop Sky Replacement

Just downloaded Adobe Photoshop 2021 with the new sky replacement filter and it just so happens I recently captured the perfect picture to try it out! On last week’s journey to Tin Cup I captured this relatively boring image of the town with the San Juan’s in the background. Unfortunately with all the smoke and no clouds the mountains and sky were quite undramatic 😦

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

The new feature comes with three types of clouds, blue sky, sunset and spectacular if you really want to go all out! For this one, anything but one of the blue sky selections failed to match the plain sunshiny foreground.  So… with this feature you can adjust the lightness, darkness and location of the edge, brightness and temperature, and even apply some adjustments to the adjacent foreground!

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

So for this image I have chosen some wispy cirrus clouds which required no scaling at all to look realistic. The default color temperature worked well and only a little adjustment to the edge fading was needed to match it to the mountains.

I have to admit, I’m a bit torn about this feature… I am a bit of a purist in that I believe that a photographer should take whatever steps possible to capture the image in camera. However, at times replacing a sky can mean the difference between a salable image and a useless capture. Time will tell how my thinking evolves regarding this matter!

Frosty Fog

Frosty Fog

For the above picture I used a spectacular sky setting which required quite a bit of edge adjustment to overcome the software mistaking the fog bank for sky. I also faded the color of the new sky quite a bit to match the grey brooding mood of the day.

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Bucket List Tincup

Admittedly, Tincup  is a fairly minor tick on my bucket list, along with a number of other Colorado ghost towns that I would like to visit 🙂 It wasn’t even the main reason for visiting that part of the state this week… but what the heck, we were there and why not?

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

The main reason for the journey to the other side of the big mountains was the quest for a picture of moose in the wild. Kevin and I were told that moose hang out at Taylor Reservoir all the time. All we had to do was show up and moose would be flocking to us for the sheer joy of having their picture taken 🙂

So I awoke at 3:30 a.m. so as to be able to reach the other side of Cottonwood Pass by sunrise, when we knew we would have the best lighting conditions with which to photograph the numerous herds of moose that we would surely encounter. Alas, it was not to be so.  Just as with our previous fervent attempt at a moose picture on a difficult trek to Hartenstein Lake on the other side of the pass when the moose showed up a day late, we saw nothing 😦 With all the smoke from the fires, the rugged Collegiate Peaks mountains weren’t even an image worthy target.

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

With nothing better to do we proceeded down the eight mile dirt road to the ghost town of Tincup. According to undercovercolorado.com, the town got it’s start as a mining town in 1880 as the mining town of Virginia City, however confusion over three towns in three different states with the same name resulted in reincorporating the town as Tincup in the year 1882. Eventually the mines were exhausted and the town had pretty much died by 1918, when the final official election was conducted.

The rough dirt road led to the tiny picturesque town of few inhabitants where we found the best location to grab a few frames with the magnificent San Juan mountains to the west. That took all of about five minutes and then we were off to the Taylor Park Trading Post for a look around followed by one last effort to spot a moose in the marshy area adjacent to the water.

Fog and Frost at Cottonwood Lake Colorado

Seeing none, we headed back over Cottonwood Pass in hopes of spotting a mountain goat or a bighorn sheep in the thin air of the 12,600 foot byway over the Continental Divide. Again no luck on the pass, leaving Cottonwood Lake as our last chance to acquire the coveted large mammal images. As we descended down to lower elevations fog began to thicken and even though there were no critters in sight, fog on Cottonwood Lake looked incredible was pretty cool 🙂 Finally, a few images for the blog post!

Here we decided to call it a day and head for home. Little did we know that our luck was about to change on a detour to Eleven Mile Reservoir. But that is a subject for another blog post 🙂

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Rams at the River

A beautiful autumn day in Colorado lured me to Waterton Canyon where I hoped that I would have the opportunity to photograph the bighorn sheep rams coming down to the river too cool off and maybe even practice their fighting skills in preparation for the upcoming rut season.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon Autumn

As always in Waterton Canyon, my trusty mountain bike would carry me upstream along the South Platte River to the best sheep viewing locations. As I rode along my eyes scanned the canyon walls for signs of action among the wildlife. I have only seen the bears one time, but I always hope for another sighting! On the way in I did encounter a hawk, but by the time I was ready to shoot he was long gone.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon Autumn

Eventually I reached the upper dam where I have had good luck photographing them coming down the opposite bank. Sure enough, I spotted a big ram making his way out from the shady oasis on the cliff side where they seem to be residing lately. As I watched and waited more and more of their band began to emerge from the darkness of the shade under the pine trees growing right out of the rock. Then suddenly as if  the boss had put the word out, they all rushed down to the side of the river for a drink 🙂

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon Autumn

As they crowded into the lush grass on the embankment, they occasionally would clunk their heads together as they jockeyed for position along the beautiful south bank of the river. I was fortunate to be able to film a couple of the encounters, the collision of horns ringing out like a gunshot through the valley.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon Autumn

The rams remained at water’s edge for about an hour and a half before heading back up the embankment towards their shady spot. I slowly rode back downstream, looking carefully for more sheep and other wildlife that I might encounter. Eventually I spotted a small herd of females and lambs peeking over the cliff on the north side of the canyon so I stopped for a few shots of that action. They eventually came down and joined a larger group that were just lying in the shade on this hot lazy autumn day.

Autumn Colors on the South Platte River

Finally the lighting was just too terrible for photography so headed for home where later in the day I got some nice fall foliage along another part of the South Platte.

For your enjoyment I have also created a nice five minute multimedia video for my YouTube channel, of the rams coming down to the river and occasionally banging heads as they prepare for the upcoming rut season ! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Hiking the Pony Gulch Trail

I’ve lived here three years, always looking for new trails to hike and I just recently found out about the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail only a couple miles from my house! It’s not well known and if a few people hadn’t commented on it in the Alltrails app I would have never found it.

Pony Gulch Trail

Turns out it’s a fairly difficult four mile trek in the remote mountains southwest of Cripple Creek. I was a bit doubtful of the description at first, calling for almost 1000 feet of elevation gain in such a short hike, especially since I know the area and could not imagine a 1000 foot mountain higher than what I can already see. Well, maybe there is a hidden peak back behind that I can’t see I wondered!

Well it didn’t take long to find out the how the elevation gain was going to be accomplished… the very first thing you do once clearing the first ridge is to descend about 750 feet to the bottom of the gulch! Once there you do a bit more climbing to reach the end of trail at the Pony Gulch Homestead in another mile or so.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

A dirt road leads to the trailhead, I recommend using the Alltrails GPS directions to find it, where you can see a jeep road heading up a hill leading to the southwest. At the top of the hill you will be able to see a couple of cairns, which is all you are going to see… There is no trail through the first part of the rugged BLM land.  Once again, turning on the GPS in your phone to lead you through the first half mile is a good idea. Once into the BLM area about a couple of hundred yards there is a noticeable four wheel drive road which goes the wrong way… don’t take it, veer to the right and look for the gulch. Once you find the gulch there are more cairns and a discernible trail to follow.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

The first three quarters of a mile or so is a steep decline down slippery scree in places, my trekking pole got a workout here! There is some nice scenery along this part of the trail, especially in the fall with beautiful golden aspen backed by rugged pine covered cliffs.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

Finally at the bottom of the incline the forest opens up to a nice view of the bottom where I imagine a creek flows in the spring. The trail winds down to the dry creek and crosses and earthen dam where the descent ends and a climb begins which takes you another mile to the summit and the Pony Gulch Homestead. The end of the trail is marked by an iron gate marking the entrance to a ranch on private property I presume.

Pony Gulch Trail in AutumnFrom there I climbed another hill of mostly big chunks of quartz nearby to get a view of the valley below and also the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see with all the smoke these days. I Found a nice place to sit and have some food and water and to rest up for the return trip. I put on my 24-105 with a polarizer and took a few pictures to mark the far end of the journey :) I also went down to the homestead to investigate and snap a few more pictures.

Pony Gulch Homestead Trail in Autumn

Finally the time came to begin the return trip… I checked my GPS to make sure I was headed the right way and it was a good thing I did since there was a forest service road that was more prominent than the actual trail back! A short adjustment in direction and I was on my way. After about a quarter of a mile I came to the southernmost cairn and strode on by… The GPS map showed me straying from the route again on a dotted line that looked like it should be the trail but more careful observation revealed that the cairn marked a left turn down a more faint forest road. So another slight adjustment in direction and I was making the short climb past the high point on the section south of the dam.

Soon I was back to the dam and the mile long climb back up to Lookout Point loomed before me. I have to admit, I took quite a few rest stops to catch my breath on the nearly 1000 foot climb in one mile! Eventually I made my way to the end of the  gulch and found myself in search of the cairns that lead the way through the bushwhacking section of the route. Once again, the Alltrails GPS directions come in handy 🙂

I highly recommend this trail to more experienced hikers in a little better physical condition than some. This is not an easy trail and should not be underestimated. I also recommend on this one to let someone know where you are going, it is a very lightly trafficked route and phone signal is iffy at best in the gulch. You might have a long wait for help if you were to twist an ankle or something.

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot along the trail. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my  hike plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

HDR Photography

What is HDR photography you ask? HDR stands for high dynamic range, which according to Wikipedia is “a technique used in photographic imaging and films, and in ray-traced computer-generated imaging, to reproduce a greater range of luminosity than what is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques.”, and is also a feature in my camera that I have mostly ignored up until recently.

Rocky Mountain National Park in HDR

So, if you find yourself in a situation with bright highlights and deep shadows you might want to try HDR mode if your camera supports it. On the Canon 90D and many other higher end models you can select HDR mode in the menu. Once selected, another screen comes up which allows you to select standard, natural or art saturation or something like that. Then you can select how many stops you feel you need to cover, I have been using +3, which means that the camera is going to shoot three images in rapid succession with three different stops of exposure, before stitching them together in camera to produce one jpg image with the three stops of exposure.

_MG_5206So far I have tried the art mode setting on some autumn colors and now natural which I tried in Rocky Mountain National Park. Art mode proved to be too much for my tastes and resulted in some odd colors introduced into the shadows.  Natural looks a little better but I can’t say I’d trust a whole shoot to this technique. My attempts have been handheld which I don’t recommend due to the fact that I’m not sure they are matching the three images up perfectly. I would definitely use a tripod for a serious attempt at an image.

As for me, I will continue to do my serious photography in Raw mode as I don’t feel the benefits of the HDR feature outweigh the benefits of being able to adjust your images with Light Room, Capture One, or Adobe ACR prior to rendering your final image.

_MG_5188These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot in HDR mode. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my RMNP trip plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

This post was not sponsored by any equipment manufacturer. All equipment used was my own, purchased by me on my own volition.

Alpine Autumn

It was a beautiful morning above the treeline this morning, actually difficult to describe in words… Wonderful cool, calm and colorful experience, the kind  that makes me glad I live in the mountains. The trek

Young Buck and a His Doe

started out with a bang as a young buck and his mate galloped through the mountain grass about a quarter of a mile from me. I grabbed a couple of shots before they disappeared over the ridge and then looked around to see if I could figure out what they were running from.  I’m sure it wasn’t me as I was nowhere near, perhaps it was a coyote down in the valley below.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

I spotted a red-tail hawk in the tree tops about a quarter of a mile away, pretty close to the trail that I would be traversing near there. I set up my camera for a hawk in flight and hoped he wouldn’t take flight before I could get there. No luck there,  I looked up every once in a while to see if he was still there and before I could get anywhere near him he disappeared into the smokey morning mist while my eyes were on the trail.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

After that there were no more animals to be found, just a few colorful aspen trees in their lonely stand against the harsh high country existence. I found the starkness of the moment compelling as I spotted image after image in the distance… some dead aspen in the foreground against a colorful grove below in the valley. Another small aspen stand with the rugged peaks of the Pike National Forest in the background.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

Eventually my hike came to an end and I had to decide whether to continue my drive in search of more color, or to just call it a morning. It occurred to me that I still needed to scout out the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail on the other side of Cripple Creek so I drove on over there while scanning the tree tops and hillsides for hawks and deer. The GPS took me on a dirt road that I have not yet explored and up a steep hill that I’m not sure will be passable in the wintertime without a 4×4…

Autumn Gold Above TreelineI located the trail head and hiked back in about a quarter of a mile to assure that the Alltrails GPS route matched the path that appeared before me. As I strode along the unfamiliar route, the welcome sight of a series of cairns appeared before me. Others have mapped out the path and left the trail guides for those who would follow 🙂

Anyway, it was a great morning and these pictures turned out even better than I had hoped!

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Stunning Morning and Eagles

The stars all aligned this morning for a visit to Eleven Mile Canyon. Due to the Rocky Mountain National Park trip I haven’t been there in a while and I Bald Eagle Nesting Pairam always eager to check on the status of the raptor population. As I pulled into the parking lot just before sunrise I could already see two white heads in the nest. So I leapt out of the truck and made my way down to the riverbank as quickly as possible. Fortunately they were still there when I was finally ready to snap a picture 🙂

Pair of bald eagles who call Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado their home

They put on a pretty good show in some very nice light for a few minutes. One of them flew off for a few minutes and came back with a stick for the nest while the other hopped out of the nest and up to their strategic branch. Eventually the other one  took off and flew into the canyon, something I’ve never seen them do before… I was expecting a quick return so I waited motionless as long as I could… But it was cold this morning, and I just got colder and colder until I could barely move my fingers, and that was with gloves on! Finally I had to put my hands in my pockets and risked missing a shot.

Little Sparrow by the Water

In the meantime a sparrow came to the other side of the bank to entertain me and a flock of red wings went by… males and females flying together in the same flock, also something I hadn’t seen before. I somehow managed to get a nice shot of one of the males coming in for a landing in a thicket of reeds.

Red Winged Black Bird in Flight

The eagle never came back from the canyon and and eventually the remaining raptor took flight and few toward the lake, a lucky break for me because they usually fly directly away from me when they decide to go. This time I got a nice shot against the  blazing blue Colorado autumn sky 🙂

At that point I walked my shivering self back to the truck to get another layer to put on under my field jacket. As I prepared to make the trek up to the dam I spotted something in a tree high above the river valley… Could it be one of the osprey? I snapped a picture and tried to zoom in with the LCD viewer but I could tell is that it was a large bird.

Bald Eagle Nesting PairThen all of a sudden he took flight as well and I did my best to capture him in flight… I haven’t processed that image yet but on the LCD it looked like it might be the red-tailed hawk that occasionally watches over the entrance to the valley.

Doe Mule Deer in the Woods

My final bit of luck came as I stood on the dam… as I looked up from the dam onto the trail above I spotted a doe mule deer peering out from the woods… As quickly and quietly as I could I readied the camera for a picture and she watched me curiously while I grabbed a few images. Finally she meandered into the dense forest and the moment was gone.

I hiked a few feet up the trail and spotted the rest of the herd looking out from the edge of the forest and they too watched curiously as I moved about with the camera trying to get the best angles.

Bald Eagle in Flight

I considered walking into the canyon but by this time the weekenders from the city were already piling in, stirring up huge clouds of dust and I wasn’t up for all the noise, engines roaring and fishermen yelling at each other from all ends of the canyon… The trip home was uneventful and now I’m in front of the computer where I will spend a good part of the rest of my day 😦

These were my  favorite pictures dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!