Summer Solstice 2021

The summer solstice arrived in Colorado last night at 9:32 p.m last night during a raging hailstorm in my little town in the mountains ushering in the first official day of summer today. 45 degrees with a dense wet fog seems a strange way to start the summer considering that we were suffering from record heat a couple of days ago.

Minolta x-700 with strap

Today was momentous for another reason as well… I purchased a beautiful new neoprene stretchy padded Optech camera strap for my Canon 90D. Now that’s not the occasion to which I am referring… the big event is my nearly four decade old Domke strap going home. I purchased my first real camera from Waxman’s Camera way back in 1984 and the strap that came with it was too short for my taste so I purchased this grey and black strap made by Domke. I really liked the strap and bought several identical ones through the years, but whenever I got a new camera it received the original version which had long since been removed from the Minolta, which hasn’t been used since the dawn of the digital age. Well today that strap is going back home, back onto the Minolta X-700. I thought the occasion worthy of some kind of recognition, hence the mention in this blog post 🙂

Canon 90D with Optech Strap

Until recently I haven’t needed a new strap, the original one is still in fine working order but the weight of my gear has increased substantially as of late. My X-700 weighed only pound or two even with a 75-300mm lens attached. I think now my 90D with battery grip, batteries, a 100-400L zoom lens and the 1.4x converter weighs in at a hefty 11 pounds. The other day at Englewood Camera I was looking at the new straps and decided the Optech Weight Management System sounded like a good idea, so I took the plunge and went for the upgrade. I have to admit, the new high tech stretch padding feels pretty good and does seem to distribute the weight nicely. Not sure it actually makes the camera feel lighter but for sure I notice a lot less neck pain when carrying the beast around.

As for the state of photography at the beginning of this new summer, my outlook is guarded at best. As a result of the pandemic and market saturation, stock image sales are way down with no sign of recovering. Editorial sales seem to be doing the best in a bad situation, perhaps because all events have been cancelled for so long there is a market for past public gatherings. As the world sputters back to life perhaps it would be worth it to capture some new event images, time will tell.

My YouTube Channel is growing at a brisk rate, but for all the wrong reasons and for an unwelcome audience. My newest creations are my best of course due to increased experience, but are attracting little attention. It appears most of my channel growth is due to one video, the elk rut in Estes Park from last fall. Thek audience for that is unfortunately almost exclusively male animal hunters 😦 As I try record the beauty and majesty of God’s Creation to convey the importance of preserving and enhancing the lives of these beautiful creatures, it appears I am attracting an audience of those who only want to destroy them. Plus the analytics show that only about one percent of the viewers of that video are subscribers with any interest in the rest of my library. Continuing that endeavor seems pointless at this time.

The enjoyment I receive from spending time in nature observing and photographing the animals ensures that I will continue to do so as much as possible, but to bolster my revenue I may have to do a little thinking outside the box. As a result I have been rethinking my Patreon Channel and big changes are coming to my presence on that platform so stay tuned, although I have to admit I will be appealing to an entirely different audience there.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to a productive and enjoyable summer as the pandemic winds down and life begins anew! I hope you will all continue to enjoy my excursions into the rugged high country of the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

Please don’t forget to visit my YouTube channel , and if you wouldn’t mind I could use the thumbs up and a subscribe if you enjoy the content and want to help my channel!

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Back in the Print Business

Well I did it… I went and bought a printer. Back in the day I always had a printer… I remember when I bought my first computer with the advent of Windows 95, along with a 15 inch monitor and a Canon 720×720 printer… That printer cost me $550 in 1995 dollars and if I remember right, after only a little while I had to send it in for repairs at the big box store where I bought it, now out of business and I can’t even remember the name. I never did get it back, it somehow went into the repairs black hole and was never seen again.

Canon Pixma iX6820

However, things were changing so fast in the PC world that by that time the dots per inch had doubled, inks and paper had improved and prices had dropped dramatically. So instead of fighting the losing battle against the system, I just bought a new one. From then on I was perpetually in a quest for the latest and greatest and for a time I even had an oddball dye sublimation model from some company that eventually went out of business, and consequently the ink became unavailable.

Eventually Canon came out with a model that could print 13×19 inch prints and the ink was good enough by then to actually be useful in a professional setting. It was then that I discovered Ilford Pearl paper and my prints were virtually indistinguishable from prints produced in a professional lab without the hassle of multiple trips through the city traffic to finally get a print done right.

Then came the 08 financial crash. I had no photo jobs, no money to buy ink… and eventually no home. Everything but the camera and my 70-200 F4L lens had to go. I held on to my printer for a couple more years but without frequent use it soon fell into disrepair. I considered selling it but I didn’t want to take the chance of someone having a problem with it, so my pride and joy eventually went off to Goodwill 😦

So for the better part of a decade I just didn’t print anything. All my photography was for stock and the only record of my images were ones and zeroes stored on magnetic media and at stock agencies in the ether. As my wife battled cancer I barely kept my photography going, occasionally venturing out on foot onto the trails of the nearby mountains in search of deer and elk. There was little need for printing in those days, there was nowhere to hang them if I did and uploads to the stock agencies were all I could handle anyway. With access to the internet only through the local library, even that was problematic.

However things have really turned around in the last few years following her passing, I have been capturing the best images of my life in the mountains surrounding my new home in Cripple Creek. I’ve been sending a few images off for metal prints and now some excellent bird images including hawks, osprey and bald eagles, have been just piling up on my hard drive. I’ve sent a few off for prints when I can get a good deal, but without any method of proofing the results have often been disappointing.

4x6 inch proof print of a coyoteI had heard that Canon had in recent years produced a printer worthy of the trademark professional red stripe so I went online to research it. I would love to have one but they aren’t cheap and with the limited printing I do I’m sure one wouldn’t be cost effective. So I began to look at other models and I soon found a 13×19 inch 9600×2400 dpi model for only $179 called the Pixma iX6820. For that price I had to have it :)

It was available for pickup at Best Buy yesterday so I made the journey down to the city for the printer and supplies. I still have a good supply of the Ilford Pearl in the 13×19 and 8.5×11 on hand so I just needed to pick up some 4×6 proofing paper and some 11×17 Pearl for my wide images of the hawks and eagles. Soon the inaugural proof was rolling off the printer… with incredibly splendid results 🙂

So with a great deal of joy, I’m back in the printing business and looking forward to seeing my best images proudly matted and framed on my walls for everyone to enjoy 🙂

Please don’t forget to visit my YouTube channel , and if you wouldn’t mind I could use the thumbs up and a subscribe if you enjoy the content and want to help my channel!

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

How to Photograph Eagles in the Canyon

I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how to photograph the eagles…  I guess it’s time for a “how to” blog post 🙂

For starters I guess in order to photograph them you have to know where and when to look! I have to admit, it took a couple of seasons for me to figure out this part of the game myself. The when is easy be there at sunrise, by the time the sun gets high in the sky so do the eagles. Once they can catch the updrafts from the warming of the day they will only be found a thousand feet high in the sky. When I first heard there were eagles I looked high and wide with no luck at all. I thought I would see them high in the sky or high in the trees along the ridges but I never did. Eventually one time I was driving up the canyon doing some long exposures of the flowing water when I saw one of the bald eagles perched in a dead tree right along the banks of the South Platte.

Bald eagle looking for fish in the Platte River below in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

That little piece of knowledge completely changed the way I searched, and now with a little practice I can spot them a mile away. That still doesn’t completely solve the problem though, it takes some practice and finesse to be able to get ready without annoying the eagles and causing them to fly away before you ever get a chance to take a picture. Of course the eagles aren’t naturally tolerant of people and perceive anyone as a threat. I don’t know, sometimes I think many animals are so intelligent that they remember people and are in time able to become comfortable with the people they know not to be a threat. This of course takes a lot of time and patience and comes with great responsibility not to betray that trust. Also this is only possible with raptors that have established a permanent presence in a location. Migratory birds by nature are temporary and are a completely different ballgame

Once you have cleared that major obstacle you can then concentrate on the photography. For starters you are going to need a long lens. I recommend at least a 400mm professional model and it is going to be of sufficient quality to resolve feather detail at long distance. Even after a rapport has been established you will be lucky to get closer than 50 yards. I personally use a 400mm professional lens with a 1.4x resulting in 560mm of magnification. Even with that it is common for an image to be severely cropped in Photoshop to acquire a respectable composition.

_MG_8555Acquiring an extensive command of your auto focus system is also going to be necessary to capture such difficult images as it will be necessary to quickly switch between focus modes. Sometimes it will be better to utilize all the focus points your camera is capable of. Other times there will be branches in the way and it will come down to using only a single precise focus point. There are times when I am using a single point on a perched position and have to quickly switch to a zone of nine points when the bird takes flight. Once in the air against the clear sky it might be best to switch to a wide open array of focus points.

I have also used another feature on my camera that is available on most DSLR’s widely know as back button focus. This setting uses an additional button on the back of the camera labeled AF to set the focus, conveniently removing the focus selection from the main shutter button. With the standard half depress and re-compose method, very few correctly focused captures are going to be possible. The instant the bird moves focus is going to be lost. While continuous mode focus called SERVO in Canon lingo may be able to recover focus, it is much more convenient to use a completely free button. With back button focus the best of both worlds are achieved. One click of the button allows focus on a still subject, and until that subject moves focus remains for as many captures as you are able to manage. Once the bird starts flying, holding the AF button down puts the camera in SERVO mode until you release the button. Plus it is the thumb, a free appendage that is used on the back button, allowing your shutter finger to fire away with no additional duties.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

I also recommend a camera that can accomplish around 10 frames per second. The first two seconds after the animal takes flight are the best opportunity for dramatic images and the more captures accomplished in that time the better! A good sized buffer that can hold at least 15 or 20 captures is also a good benefit in these critical seconds.

Exposure and shutter speed are another difficult trick. At the distances that are often required I recommend no less that 1/1600th of a second for a shutter speed, at least a 2000th of a second when in flight if there is enough light. Of course in low light situations more than a 2000th of a second might result in requiring an ISO of 20,000 or higher which is going to begin to adversely affect the detail in your image. Aperture values, the amount of light and depth of field your lens can perceive is also going to be a significant factor in the quality of your image. Unless you have a very expensive lens a long telephoto is probably going to be able to open only to F5.6 at best. With a 1.4x attached that becomes F8. Both of those values are sufficient to give you plenty of depth of field.

Which leads me to my next subject, my method of best settings for any situation that may arise. I keep my camera on shutter priority mode (Tv), set to a 1600th or 2000th, depending on the amount of available light and my prediction for what is going to happen. If I think the bird is ready to fly I like to make sure I’m ready with a 2000th of a second. The camera is going to select the fastest possible aperture which is going to be F8 in my situation. I keep the camera on auto ISO to assure that a correct exposure is going to be possible. If the lighting situation results in a ridiculous ISO value I may dial the shutter speed down and carefully snap a few perched images to make sure I have captured something acceptable from the scene. It’s possible that I might have to get out the tripod if this is the case.

_MG_9343.jpg

The other important variable and quite possibly the most important factor in photographing bald eagles is the exposure compensation. The issue here is that bright white head, the most critical part of the entire image. If the highlights on that part of the image are even slightly blown the image is ruined. Without the intricate detail of the head feathers and the eye, there is no image at all… just a bitter reminder of what could have been. Each camera is different of course so it will require some experimentation, but I find that early in the morning before the sun is beating down a value of -2/3 of a stop seems to render a good exposure. later in the day when the sun is shining the compensation needs to be dialed back to at least a full stop, and the other day in bright sun I was getting highlight warnings all the way down to two full stops under. That selection on this image provided for detail on the white head and wing feathers as well.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

The beauty of Tv is that the shutter speed can quickly be adjusted on the front wheel of my Canon 90D and the exposure compensation at the ready on the back wheel. That way if the eagle flies above the trees and into the bright blue sky I can quickly dial the compensation wheel a few clicks to the right to get a good exposure against the bright sky. Depending on the light the compensation can be anywhere from -1/3 to a full stop over. Again, experimentation is going to be required for each individual camera.

 

If you are blessed with an expensive lens, something like an F2.8 400mm prime for example, you may find that manual mode is necessary. If you find the camera selecting F2.8 there may not be sufficient depth of field which would necessitate fixing the aperture to F5.6 or 8. Adjusting the compensation quickly in manual becomes problematic, with the front dial assigned to the shutter speed and the back dial assigned to the aperture, the only access to the compensation is through some sort of menu option. Canon has the Q button on the back that can go directly to the necessary screen, but making a change in a fraction of a second becomes impossible.

Tremendous concentration and patience are required in this endeavor. In time a photographer will learn to watch the eagle for signs that he is about to take flight. At first you will believe that there is no warning at all, but in time you will spot certain telltale signs, a twitch here, a twitch there, a ruffling of the feathers, an agitated glance… And when it happens the photographer must be ready to explode into action, two seconds and the entire show may be over with and the opportunity lost.  

Even packed with all this knowledge there is no substitute for practice, no substitute for muscle memory that automatically leads your fingers and thumbs to exactly the right button at exactly the right time. Practice on every bird that flies by, leave no opportunity unchallenged. Geese, ducks and crows are a lot more abundant and provide for any amount of practice necessary.

I hope you have found this piece helpful, if you enjoy the content please be sure to click the follow button to be alerted each time I publish a new article. In addition to the still imagery found in my blog posts I also have a YouTube channel where I will soon be publishing a video on this subject. Please subscribe so you will be sure not to miss it!

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 blog post is not sponsored. Any equipment used in the production of this post was purchased by myself on my own volition.

Eureka!

No long photo trip for this morning… just a nice visit to my favorite local mountain. The “Three Amigos” were there, along with a couple of new buddies that have joined them. If these fellows stick around I’m going to have to think of a new name for the group! The guys were not in the best place for lighting purposes but there was no way I was  going to make it past them and around to the other side so I just had to do the best I could. Luckily it was a bit cloudy so I didn’t have to contend with a super bright background. I think these came out OK!

Portrait of a Mule Deer Buck

A good day, and to top it off I solved a problem that has been vexing us all summer, the issue of setting exposure compensation (EC) when in manual mode. Normally manual means manual and EC is irrelevant but it comes back into play if you select auto ISO, which now means you aren’t really shooting in full manual mode. You can select the shutter speed and the aperture to control the creativity in your shot but if there isn’t enough light for the selected ISO you will underexpose your image. The easy fix of course is to select your creative parameters and let the ISO float, allowing the camera to assure a correct exposure.  But then your front wheel is used for the shutter speed, the rear wheel for aperture and there isn’t another control with which to select your EC.

Mule Deer Portrait

My original solution to the problem was to just use Tv mode, knowing the camera would probably select a decent aperture. But!!!! I finally looked into it and discovered the real solution at least for Canon cameras, the Q button… EUREKA! If you click the Q button all the pertinent parameters come up on the LCD screen where you can change them, shutter, aperture, ISO, and a graph for the EC! If you have a camera new enough for a touch screen you can just change it right there to whatever you desire. With the 1DX that has no touch screen I assume you could wheel over to it and change it with the set button.

I have to say, I have grown quite fond of  Tv mode as a method of controlling my images, especially when it comes to bird photography. It is easy to quickly change from bird in

Herd of Bucks

flight to photographing a deer in  the meadow with a spin of the front dial to change the shutter speed if you run across an unexpected subject change. However I am glad that I can once again just leave the camera on manual most of the time, knowing that I have control over all my important settings.

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! Also I should add that this article was not sponsored by Canon or any other camera company. All equipment used was purchased by me on my own volition.

 

Evolving Shooting Philosophy

Sunrise Mule Deer Bucks

You may remember that I had finally settled on the settings that I was going to include as part of my custom modes on the mode dial on my Canon camera. Well those settings were blown apart yesterday morning. I had settled on Aperture Priority set to F8, Auto ISO capped at 3200, exposure compensation +1… and a new setting that I found in the auto ISO menu section that allows a photographer to boost shooting priority to a faster shutter speed which I decided upon because of the difficulty dealing with the massive pixel density of the 90D. I boosted that to the maximum value of three stops in hopes of avoiding slow shutter speeds in low light that might not be sufficient to overcome camera and subject movement.

All was well and good shooting in the low pre-dawn light of the mountain mornings and

Mule deer bucks in the early morning sun

in the persistent overcast conditions that we’ve been experiencing as of late. Enter the sun… yesterday was a beautiful brilliant sunny morning and there were deer everywhere! I shot well into the morning as the sun rose higher in the sky. It was definitely brighter, no where near the harshness of the mid day sun but bright enough for me to want to recheck my settings and exposure values. Well it turns out my camera was still shooting at ISO 3200 with shutter speeds of a 2500th and even faster!

Sunrise Mule Deer Bucks

There is no way that I am going to need a shutter speed of 1/2500 of a second to shoot deer in bright light that are mostly standing still looking at me! Even if you consider eliminating camera shake, using the rule of reciprocal with a focal length of 400mm and a crop sensor, your starting point would be a 540th of a second. I double that speed these days to account for the amazing pixel density that modern cameras are capable of so the next increment using that theory would be 1250th on my camera with my settings. Back in the day I used to shoot bike races at 1000th of a second and those riders were flying!

Sunrise Mule Deer Bucks

So I pondered that problem for a while and realized that is was just not going to be feasible to allow the camera to guess at what I would like for shutter and aperture values. The only way to solve the problem would  be to use manual mode for the shutter and aperture. I’ve already decided that with my 100-400 meter lens, the optimum aperture for wildlife photography is F8. Starting with the resulting 1250th benchmark factoring for camera shake, I compensated for the two stop image stabilization available on my lens and dialed back to an 800th of a second, plenty fast enough to capture any action my docile deer friends might be engaged in. I’m happy with the +1 exposure compensation I’ve been using to achieve ETTR exposures and optimize the signal to noise ratio.

The only exposure value I’m going to allow to float is the ISO. I previously had it capped at 3200 but I have removed that allowing the camera to go all the way to 25600. The reasoning behind that is if I have to unexpectedly leap out of my truck and grab a shot in a hurry without having time to mess with settings, at least I’ll get some kind of properly exposed shot… it may be noisy but I will at least capture something to mark the moment to put on Instagram!

Fortunately I was able to test out my new c1 setting today and I’m pretty darned happy with the results! I got some pre-sunrise shots followed by some captures in light similar to what I experienced yesterday. I purposely did not mess with the c1 settings so as to make sure to test my expectations. On a normal day I might decide to use c1 as a starting point and make adjustments to my shutter speed based on changing conditions and subject activity. Hope you enjoy these captures of my friends the “Three Amigos” 🙂

What the Heck Happened to Steve

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

It’s been more than a month since my last post and more than a few people have been starting to ask if I’m still alive. I’m happy to report that rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated and that I am indeed alive and kicking 🙂 This month however has not been without it’s challenges!

 

On March 14th I finished my shift at my full time job looking forward to a week of vacation in which I had visions of photographing mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and maybe even a bear or two! By midnight after the swing shift it was becoming apparent that my plans were changing rapidly. Soon a 911 call, a new lesson in pain and an ambulance ride were in the works and my vacation plans were kaput. A couple of hours later I was in surgery for repair of a life threatening incarcerated hernia followed by a second surgery the next night which was necessary to correct some pesky internal bleeding. Now a full month later I am finally feeling like life could return to normal at some point!

Whiling away the hours discussing cameras and photography with my photo bud Kevin have revealed that I need to direct some much needed attention to unexplored camera functions that I have never managed the time to look into.  Especially in Waterton Canyon I have noticed the requirement to rapidly and extensively change camera settings for different subjects.

One moment I might be photographing a beautiful landscape along the river while the next moment might find me scrambling to capture a bighorn sheep preparing to leap into the clear blue water. This can be difficult and often the action occurs before the settings are changed and the moment is lost.

Enter Custom Modes 1 and 2, something I’ve never bothered to mess with in 18 years of digital photography. So I’ve decided to have one function for wildlife and the other for landscape photography. For wildlife I’ve selected Auto ISO with a cap of 1600 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. An exposure compensation factor of +1/3 of a stop seemed like a pretty reliable selection along with high speed drive mode, back button focus and AI Servo for a focus mode. Then you just go to menu settings and find the custom camera modes, select and then register settings. The menu will ask you if you want C1, C2…. or more if you have a camera with additional modes. Wildlife is now C1 on my Canon.

For C2 and landscape photography I selected aperture priority set to f6.3, ISO 100, slow drive mode and again exposure compensation of +1/3.

Now I can easily and quickly switch between wildlife and landscape modes with one quick turn of the main dial. No more missing the money shot! As for the video settings I don’t really care, I don’t make money on video and the camera seems to just do what I want as if by magic.

Now all I need is for somebody to come up with a cure for this blasted CoVid-19 so the stay at home order can be lifted!

If you would like an escape from the monotony of staying at home you might enjoy a visit to my YouTube channel for some nice footage of deer, elk and bighorn sheep! Please subscribe if you like the videos and want to be notified next time I publish!

My Thoughts on Good Enough Camera Equipment

I’ve been pondering the intricacies of image resolution ever since I heard the Canon 90D was coming out with the new 32mp sensor. Many lenses they say do not have the resolving power to make use the the new high pixel density sensor. So the question is, do you forego the upgrade if you are using a 70D or 80D for fear that your version I L series lenses “aren’t going to work”, that the new sensor is going to “make your pictures blurry”?

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

Well the fact is that it is physically impossible to decrease your overall image quality by increasing the resolution of one or more of your components. Would your images be better if you bought all new series II lenses, of course… unless you have managed to snatch the latest lens technology off the assembly line, there is always going to be a better lens. Given enough money you will always be able to find a better lens than the one you have now.

So the question you have to ask yourself is an important and very basic question, am I still getting the shot? Are your customers still happy with your product? If the answer to that question is yes, I am still getting the shot. My customers are still happy with the product I am delivering, or I am not losing sales to my competitors with newer gear, then you probably should not upgrade yet. If you find that you will benefit significantly from more megapixels and newer camera technology then go ahead and take the plunge. If you can use greater cropping ability, better low light capability, better noise reduction and higher dynamic range, not to mention 4k video, then go ahead and buy the new camera and don’t worry about if there is another lens out there that can give you even more amazing results. You can cross that bridge when you come to it.

Colorado Black Bear Family

For me I am finding that my results with the 90D and series I lenses are good enough for now. My large metal prints look beautiful on the wall, my wildlife pictures are sharper than they were with the 70D with the same lens, and I am having more success with image acceptance at the stock agencies, in fact 100%. Due to new low light picture quality and higher dynamic range I am able to shoot earlier in the morning and later at night, while capturing more keepers. From just higher ISO and faster shutter speeds alone I am capturing more salable images. If I can capture an elk’s whiskers at 70 yards using the 1.4x extender and my 400mm series I lens, which by the way I can now use with auto focus, I’m thinking… it’s good enough! Would I still like to acquire a couple of newer technology lenses? Of course, I am always striving to improve the quality of my gear but for right now, good enough is good enough!

This article is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used was purchased by me on my own volition.

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.

Before the Snow Flies

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak

Snow is in the forecast for the next three days so I arose early today and headed for the trails! Wanted to get a good hike in before the snow begins to fly 🙂 At the trailhead the mist had already begun to settle in creating a wonderful quiet paradise to walk through. As I walked along the trail on the north side of beautiful Ute Pass in the Pike National Forest I noticed how the barren aspen trees stood out against the dark forest so I stopped to snap a few.

Barren aspen trees in the cold light of a winter morningThis was also a good opportunity to test out my new old lens, the Canon 28-135 Dust Sucker :) Got this lens with my first digital camera back in 2002, and I have shot thousands of images with it, but when I got my 70D a few years ago for some reason this lens wouldn’t work with it and since I had gotten the 18-55 STM as part of the 70D kit, my old favorite wound up forgotten in the bottom of a bag of camera junk.

For years now I have  been almost exclusively a nature photographer, wildlife, landscapes, mountains, etc., which is fine of course but I’ve been thinking of trying to get back in to portrait photography which got me to thinking about a portrait lens. Of course I would like to have the Canon 28-70 F2.8L, but the funds for a Canon L are just not available yet! So I was reading about cheaper alternatives when I saw a review of my trusty 28-135. The literature still says that the lens should work with any EOS camera so I was wondering… would it work with my 90D?

Well here’s the answer! I took it out for some testing today and indeed it does work! The

Herd of Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Winter

best perspective on the above aspen tree in the background was too close in for my wildlife lens so I put on the 135. This particular image was composed with the lens zoomed into 90mm and it looks pretty decent! It’s not a Canon L by any stretch, but it will do in a pinch, especially in a portrait session where you don’t really need to see every pore in a model’s skin! In fact back in the days of film photography I used to use a #3 soft most of the time anyway! Of course now with digital and Photoshop soft focus can be applied sparingly and only to the areas where it enhances the image. So until I get my pro Canon lens, it looks like I have a portrait lens to work with!

Herd of Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Winter

Well I continued my journey, hoping to see some deer or maybe even a bear when I came to a climb to a vantage point with a view of the north face of Pikes Peak. Here it became obvious that the winter storm the weathermen have been forecasting was at hand! In just a few minutes the Peak was completely obscured, so I thought I’d better get back over the pass before the roads got bad. Fortunately along the way I did encounter this beautiful mule deer herd, one buck and a few does were grazing on mountain grass in the cold mist of the approaching weather.

All in all I would have to say this was a pretty good day 🙂 I felt like I had gotten a free lens, got some nice pictures of the tree, some deer and some cool weather on Pikes Peak 🙂

There are tons of new images, including bighorn sheep, deer and elk in Rocky Mountain National Park on my website from which to create Christmas gifts, so give it a click if you enjoy my work! Choose from beautiful wall art, apparel, household items, stationary, tech gadgets and more! And all with a beautiful image by S.W. Krull Imaging!