Road Trip Salida

Took Big Dog out to the mountain for our morning hike as usual and got some really nice shots of the fresh snow on the Sangre de Cristo along the way. Completed the relaxing trek through the local mountains and Big Dog jumped back into the cab of the old Dodge. Then I just sat there thinking… I really don’t want to go back home and my thoughts turned to the distant mountain range that I had just been photographing. I have been longing for a closer visit to those mountains, but there is always something… too much to do, not enough gas money, you name it. And today I was thinking… gas will cost too much, the pictures probably won’t sell, I don’t even know if its a nice day there, blah, blah, blah.

And I still couldn’t go home. Got to thinking, sometime someday has to be today! So off we went for some Gatoraid and a breakfast burrito. Once I had made that little move towards leaving town we were off. Headed down High Park Drive towards Canon City. This time though, instead of going on into Canon we turned west on Highway 50.

Autumn Arkansas River

It wasn’t long before I was rewarded with some beautiful views of the Arkansas River lined with beautiful golden trees of the Colorado autumn. I had been rafting on this section of river many years ago in my Leadville 100 running days but it was so long ago. Thirty years had pretty much erased my memory of this section of river and lately I have been wondering where to find it. Well I found it and now I have a river to get some winter ice flow pictures which is also something I have been planning! As we got closer to Salida I came across this wonderful view of the river and autumn trees with the Sangre de Cristo in the background and as luck would have it there was a great little pullout from the road where I could walk Big Dog and get this shot. I think it is my favorite of the day 🙂

Storm Clouds on the SangreCotopaxi is about where I thought I would really start to see some views of the Sangre but unfortunately I discovered why I had not been impressed with the Sangre all those years ago. For one I wasn’t really looking for them then, and two… there is a wretched ugly ridge between the river and the mountains making it all but impossible to get a decent shot of the mountains. Apparently the only way you can get the best view is to take Highway 285 south from Buena Vista or maybe Highway 69 south from Texas Creek to Westcliffe. But today I chose to make the turn back east on Highway 285 back home. Perhaps  the thing to do would be to just make a run down to Westcliffe and then back up to Texas Creek for a return trip back home the way  I came. I was going to look for a nice micro brew in Salida but a stop at the time I went through didn’t feel right, I was still thinking I was going to get some more pictures. I did get a couple  of the Collegiate Peaks from an overlook on Highway 285, nothing to jump up and down about.

Cliffs in the Sangre de Cristo

But on the upside I did get some really nice pictures of the river and of the Sangre in the brief moments that they were visible. Perhaps better planning would have made it a better day but now that I know the lay of the land I am in better position to make a plan. The turnoff to Westcliffe was well marked so I’ll know just what to do next time! As far as camera and equipment go, I used my 70-200 F4L lens today with a polarizer on and it looks like that is a good choice for the winter months as the sun is making its way along it’s most southerly route. The polarizer works best when the sun is close to a 90 degree angle from the direction that the lens is pointing and that worked out well today.  I would like to get a much earlier start though so that the light is more at my back for some of the early shots, giving me a nice warm glow on the mountains and no need for a polarizer.

Well as always, these photographs and more are now available on my website for purchase as prints and wall art. I finally also created a special gallery for the Sangre de Cristo Range that I have been shooting so often these days! Just click on the gallery and then click on an image you like! All available products including wall art, framed art and cool household items and gifts will become visible!

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Awesome Autumn

Crystal Creek AutumnEverything came together like a dream. For years I have been looking longingly at photo magazines, facebook posts by other photographers and online articles dreaming of actually going somewhere new to do some shooting. There was always something, somebody was sick, not enough money, truck broke down, whatever… always something to keep me from going anywhere.  This year though was truly awesome! Made it to several places I have been wanting to get to, like forever it seems. Rocky Mountain National Park, Phantom Canyon, Crystal Reservoir

Sunset on the Collegiate Peaks

My week long autumn blitz is about over… Fitting that I was able to get this wonderful sunset picture on the last night of my project 🙂 Not that I am done shooting for the year, I will still get out on days off and on the mornings when I don’t sleep too late! Already though I can see that the wind has taken it’s toll on the autumn leaves, some of the trees are already looking a bit threadbare. The actual fall color season in the Colorado high country is quite short…. wind and rain and even snowstorms are quick to bring the amazing color show to an end. At lower elevations it is quite different, I’m sure down in the cities the trees haven’t even begun to change yet. But up here where I live the long Rocky Mountain winter is making it’s steady advance, bringing with it a stark beauty of it’s own.

 

Steve on Trail Ridge Road

Today finds me at my computer screen, looking over all that I have captured over the last week, happy in my memories of successful photo shoots. The day in Rocky Mountain National Park though will be the one day that stands out in my memory the longest. It is so amazing there, the rugged beauty of Trail Ridge Road, the wildlife, the amazing blue Colorado sky and fresh air are unparalleled 🙂 Please be sure to check in on my website often, I will be putting up new imagery as quickly as I can!

 

Phantom Canyon

Funny the twists and turns my days make… I had fully planned to take Big Dog for a short hike followed by a road trip up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns were still there this morning. However on my way through Victor I glanced down towards the south and thought, “Hey, it looks like the trees are changing down there too! I wonder what the road is like?”. I’ve been wanting to explore Phantom Canyon Road along the Gold Belt Tour series of day trips since the day I first saw it on the map! Surprisingly the road is listed on the “Dangerous Roads” website, but I didn’t think it was that bad… although it could be in  bad weather! So… I turned the old Dodge south and headed down the dirt road toward the canyon. After a couple of miles I was thinking it really wasn’t too bad. The last time I even attempted that route, the ice and snow of the Colorado winter had made a complete mess of it. Now it was a little rough but not a brain rattling washboard like Rampart Range Road the other day… So I just kept going 🙂

According to my brief study of the road’s history, the road actually began as a narrow gauge railroad bed providing access to the gold fields of Cripple Creek and Victor. The name of the canyon is also steeped in history as well according to the website Colorado.com, which attributes to a ghostly inmate who was executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in the 1880’s. I saw no ghosts on my trek through the haunted canyon 🙂

Entrance to Phantom Canyon

The northern part of the canyon really isn’t too much of a canyon. Just a nice dirt mountain road past a lot of golden aspen leaves with a nice view of the Sangre de Cristo range in the background. Stopped a few times for pictures of the mountains and even the road winding it’s way back into the trees while making my way ever further south. Soon I was way too far down the 30 mile road to consider turning back and I’m glad I didn’t! The canyon is magnificent, beautiful high walls along the sides between really pretty aspen groves and meadows.

There are a couple of places where the road gets slightly dicey, pieces of it somewhat Phantom Canyon Drive in Autumnwashed out and other places are quite narrow due to rock walls on both sides. No big deal today, but I could see where it would be a pain in the butt on a busy weekend day, especially during leaf season. It is possible somebody would have to back up if two cars met in just the wrong place. There were even a couple of one lane tunnels through the rock that I tried to get shots of with my phone but the bright light at the other end of the tunnel coupled with the dark canyon turned out to be an unrecognizable photographic disaster! Oh well… And there was a very cool old wooden bridge that I really liked but was on it before I realized it and so I didn’t get a shot of that either. Come to think of it, a canyon in general is quite difficult to get pictures of. The high walls look very impressive to the three dimensional capabilities of the human eye, but not so much to a two dimensional camera view. So mostly I just cruised along in second gear, enjoying the tight turns, the dense forest, cool rock formations and high cliffs along the sides.

Phantom Canyon Wall

I did get one shot of the road behind along the canyon wall with my phone camera, but as far as capturing the canyon as I saw it with my eyes, it was pretty much a photographic bust. Even the shot I did get is much less impressive than the view that my mind was enjoying! You can kind of make out the path along the cliff that the road is taking but it seemed much steeper when I was driving! I would have liked to have stopped and gotten out and spent a little time in the dense forest, but didn’t have all day… I mainly just wanted to drive the road so I could check the bucket list box in the sky 🙂 Actually I’m much more of a high peaks person than I am a canyon person anyway… I like to get up where I can see! I was also surprised that I didn’t see any wildlife at all on the entire trip… I don’t know maybe deer and elk aren’t big fans of canyons either?

I have to confess, by the time I was about two thirds of the way through, I was just wishing that I was all the way through. Finally with about five miles remaining, the road widened out and the bumps relented allowing me to finish quickly in the 30-40 mph range, followed by some black top road where full speed was possible and I was in Canyon City in no time.

Pondered going on through to Salida to see the Sangres, but as I thought about that I realized I had actually been to Salida before and don’t really remember the Sangres being all that impressive from right beside them. So I opted for the Highway 9 and High Park Drive turnoff for a quick trip back to Cripple Creek. I had read somewhere that there are supposed to be great views of the Sangre range from High Park but I didn’t see it. I’ll go visit the Sangre de Cristo range when that is all that I have planned for the day. Maybe in the winter when the peaks have snow and aren’t just big brown rocks!

These pictures and more are now for sale on my website as wall art, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional framing and matting. You can also purchase a good variety of cool household items and gift items such as phone chargers and hard cases, t-shirts, beach and yoga mats, shower curtains, greeting cards and much more!

Do Over

Well, for whatever reason, yesterday’s fall picture trip was a bust. I failed to notice power lines in a lot of the images and those things are really time consuming to remove with Photoshop. Also it was too windy so the blowing leaves just made the images look blurry. And the wasted time… yesterday I decided that it would be a good idea to drive up Rampart Range Road  which I just noticed has made the most dangerous roads list, and photograph the Peak behind the golden aspen of autumn. However, the golden aspen are still green up there, the road is absolutely wretched and the Peak just looks like a big brown rock. Outside of Kansas, it was just about the ugliest scene ever.

Historic Gold Mine Colorado

So as I was pondering what adventure today might bring I was thinking a do over was probably the most profitable remedy possible. The autumn leaves around Cripple Creek seem to be the most magnificent that I have seen anywhere and the loop is an easy one to complete. So I arose early this morning and loaded up Big Dog for a hike. Fortunately we were able to beat the wind this morning so the leaves were behaving nicely on the trees and as luck would have it there were the coolest cirrus clouds hanging around high in the bright blue Colorado sky. They reminded me of angels… perhaps there were angels helping me today 🙂

After our little hike we headed south to Victor in hopes of getting some images of the mines and the north face of the Peak… without power lines :-|I was thinking that maybe the polarizer was to blame for some of yesterday’s failure but I could see the colors were so much more saturated with my sunglasses on that it was going to be necessary to use the dark blue glass again. Today the effect was amazing… it really brought out the blue sky and the angel clouds! To account for the one stop of light loss I was just extra careful to steady the camera on the hood of the old Dodge or on handy fence posts. Now that I’m back home in front of the computer I can say I am extremely happy with the results. The images are clear and sharp, the blue sky magnificent, and the colors deeply saturated just as I had hoped.Pikes Peak in Auutmn Aspen

Now I’m ready for tomorrow… truck all gassed up and maintained, pictures backed up, memory chips cleared, camera equipment ready to go… and with a clear head from our nice hike today I think tomorrow’s destination is going to be Twin Lakes. I have seen some images from there lately that make me confident that the leaves have achieved  peak color, the water should be awesome, the sky clear and the temperature amazing! I made that trip a decade ago and ruined the day with a bad choice. When I rolled into Leadville I went out to Turquoise Lake first only to discover that there really isn’t any autumn color there, only pine trees. By the time I got to Twin Lakes it was an ugly cloudy gray day… the trees up Independence Pass were beautiful, but the gray skies and wind made the water choppy and murky and with no light on the color it was a total bust. It has been a long wait for my return to that location, but it should be worth it!

These images and more are now for sale as wall art on my website, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and with traditional framing and matting!

Trail Ridge Adventure

Been waiting for this outing for a long time! Vehicle repairs, too many hours at work, too many life commitments… This trip to Rocky Mountain National Park has been on delay for an entire decade! Finally, yesterday was the day… truck running in tip top shape, camera equipment all working and autumn in full swing 🙂

Set my alarm for 2:30 a.m., in fact I set two alarms… didn’t want to miss this event because I didn’t wake up in time! 1:30 a.m. came around and suddenly I was wide awake. Thought about rolling over for another hour but my heart was already pounding and more sleep was just not going to happen!

It’s been hot lately, in fact I heard Colorado Springs set a record for most days over 90 degrees in September. But as I sat in the dark sipping my Morning Joe it felt unusually cool and there was a strange sound of water dripping. Thinking that the kitchen faucet might be dripping I wandered in for my second cup to notice that the dripping sound was coming from outside, a cool rain was steadily drenching the southern mountains. My first inclination was to call my buddy and suggest we pick another day… Second thoughts reminded me however that weather is my friend, some cool mist can turn an ordinary mountain meadow in to a spectacular moody mystical masterpiece!

Soon I was off and on my way to pick up my buddy at the planned time of 4:30 a.m. in hopes of entering the park at about sunrise. It was not until we were on our way did we finally decide to enter the park from the west side in hopes of catching some wildlife in the western meadows during the rain while exploring Bear Lake on the east side after the rain had hopefully ceased.

We hit Winter Park just as the sun was rising in the east with a fog bank in view to the north, probably hovering over Grand Lake but it had mostly dissipated by the time we arrived at that point. The sun was gaining in strength as we entered the park, unfortunately maybe a little too much strength as there was no wildlife to be found 😦 We eventually encountered a small herd of elk hiding in the shade of the dense forest along the road, but nothing like the large herds we were hoping for.

Autumn Tundra on Trail Ridge

Soon we were past the bottoms and on our way up to the lofty elevations of Trail Ridge Road, The drive wasn’t as long as I remembered and soon we were above tree line looking at some of the finest scenery Colorado has to offer!

The visitor center was the first place that looked worthy of a stop along the “highest continuous motorway in the United States“. It was cold there at 12,300 feet of elevation and the wind was blowing hard. We grabbed a couple of cameras and made a beeline for the gift shop where I was hoping for a nice heavy hooded sweatshirt as my prize for reaching the summit. Unfortunately I didn’t find just what I was looking for so I left the gift shop empty handed. As we made our way outdoors the unmistakable sound of a bugling bull elk filled the crisp thin air, so we ventured onto the observation deck to see if the source could be located. Far beneath the visitor center in the colorful valley below the huge bull elk was visible. Clamped on my long lens and steadied the camera on the wall for a few shots of the distant beast hoping that this would not be the closest I was going to get to the majestic animals.

Storm Clouds on Trail Ridge

Soon we found ourselves traversing the pinnacle of the drive, hugging the yellow line all the way! It looked like the clouds were going to clear and a magnificent warm afternoon was in the offing… Lol, soon Colorado struck back and it was snowing in earnest as we explored  one of the many trailheads on the way down the east side of the drive. A quick look back at the high peaks revealed an angry looking snowstorm enveloping the rugged range, well worth taking the time for a few shots of the action high in the majestic western mountains.

By the time we got to the lower elevations of the east side of the park the snow was but a fond memory. The sun was beating down and the Gortex had to come off. We did begin to encounter a few small herds of elk and deer but in fact it was so hot by that time that the animals were hiding in the shade. Hard shade surrounded by bright sun makes for impossible wildlife photography.

So I was thinking that Bear Lake is surrounded by tall mountains, a location that might be enhanced by some direct light from above so I turned the blue Dodge to the south towards the lake. Along the way we tried our hand at some motion blur whitewater along the creek, but getting to a location where the water was even visible proved to be a daunting task. In fact it soon became apparent that getting the water shots was more than daunting… it was downright impossible! Back to the task at hand, photographing the lake and mountain scenery. Soon we neared the the lake and encountered an unwelcome packed parking lot but by some miracle we managed to snag a spot, albeit the most distant one possible.

Bear Lake Peaks

Knowing the price that would be paid in footsteps for leaving some necessary piece of equipment behind, we loaded ourselves up with four camera bodies and probably twice that many lenses. That plus lens filters, extenders, maps and sustenance for a long hike made for a pretty heavy load! The arsenal of camera equipment proved to be well worth it though, as the location demanded nearly all of it’s use. Wide angles to take in the lake and the magnificent scenery beyond, long lenses to capture the rugged mountains surrounding the water and polarizers to enhance the water and filter out bright sunlight! Of course all that gear also serves to encourage the tourists to run up and hand you their phone cameras in hopes of a professional looking free portrait 😦 Oh well… what do you do. Should have had some business cards handy! Live and learn.

Finally we were satisfied that we had sufficiently captured the lake scene and headed for the truck. The sun was still beating down making good wildlife photography unlikely, so we decided to try our luck with some lunch in Estes Park. After some quick reconnaissance we decided upon some nice barbecue at Smokin’ Dave’s. We still had a lot of work to do in the park, but I was confident that one pint of Smokin’ Brunette was not a bad idea 🙂 At least I think that’s what that particular brew was called! I tried to make a post at the time but my phone wasn’t cooperating 😦 Anyway, great place, great beer, I’ll definitely be returning for more!!!

Finally by 5:00 p.m. the sun was losing some of it’s power and we ventured back into the park. I had once encountered a huge herd of elk in Morraine Park in a snowstorm so it seemed worth a check to see if the elk might also like that park on a sunny autumn afternoon as well 🙂 As we neared the meadow it quickly became apparent that my instincts were correct… at least by the sheer number of vehicles that had gathered along the road! It seemed like we had to drive forever to reach the end of the line where we could finally find our own place to park… once again, the long walk back meant that we were going to be packing everything from the previous hike, plus tripods for shooting in the inevitable darkness that was soon to be upon us.

Pair of Rocky Mountain Elk

As we neared the scene, the reason for the large crowd became apparent. A huge bull elk in perfect late afternoon light and his harem were enjoying the mountain grass on the west end of the meadow. Unafraid of the people and unconcerned by their antics, the elk were just going about their business of being elk. The majestic bull appeared to be posing for pictures, stopping occasionally to rear back his head and voice his loud opinion. Here we tried every conceivable combination of camera, lens and filter in hopes of the perfect capture. This one was my favorite of the day. There were many that I really like, but this one with the young cow in the scene seems to best depict the moment.

Finally darkness fell and the the elk began to meander off to the east further from the throngs of people with their big lenses, phones and ipads. We were tired but happy in the knowledge that we had made the best of the day and would be coming home with even more good images than we could have possibly hoped for 🙂 Already we are plotting a return to the park, and possibly one of the nearby campgrounds in hopes of capturing the activity that is sure to occur in the park at first light. One day in the park was good… but two would be even better!

These images and more are available on my website as wall art, available on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional mat and frame. Also available are tons of cool household and gift items including t-shirts, phone cases, battery chargers, yoga mats, shower curtains, throw pillows and more! Images can be viewed there from newest to oldest, or by category. In gallery view just click the category that you are most interested in and the appropriate images will be displayed. Click the images you like and receive product possibilities and pricing will be displayed! Businesses requiring commercial use of my images can view the stock portal for licensing information.

Autumn Blitz Day 1

Do or Die… my most lucrative time of the year, autumn in the Rockies. Today was my first full day off in the midst of peak aspen leaf season and so far I have made the best of it.  Woke up early and took off for the trailhead with Big Dog. After a short analysis of the situation I decided on the polarizer to add some drama to the bright clouds and sky. Not too much of great autumn interest along the trail today, was kind of hoping for a deer or elk as a subject, or maybe a neat shot of the mining equipment against some golden aspen, but no such luck. There were a few trees changing in the direction of the Sangre de Cristo so I tried a couple of captures in that direction, time will tell if it was worth the effort.

Autumn Color on Historic Mines

After the hike we were off to the Goldfield mine fields where there was one nice view of a series of abandoned mines in the midst of a colorful aspen grove. That turned out to be one of my favorites of the day 🙂

Then it was off to an unofficial overlook at the top of Victor Pass for a view of the north face of Pikes Peak. Upon arrival there I was surprised to see a lineup of ladies in lawn chairs and umbrellas… looked like a picnic might be in the making! Turns out they were the local Cripple Creek painting club on scene to paint the magnificent view on such a beautiful morning. Lol, I needed to get in front of them to get the shot I needed but was hesitating… the ladies assured me that I would not be accidentally painted into their pictures if I quick jumped in for my photographs… Which cracked me up because for a second that exact thought crossed my mind! Guess I’m not used to seeing painters at my scenes 🙂

Autumn on Pikes Peak Colorado

After that I decided on the loop behind the Newmont mine to see if maybe the aspen were in peak form at the top of that pass. Looks like the trees in Cripple Creek are going to need another week or so to reach their full color so I didn’t bother to stop, deciding to hurry home to process the ones I already had.

Tomorrow will be a much bigger day… planning to leave the house by 4 a.m. to make Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise. I will hit Bear Lake first I think to capture the sunrise on the lake, followed by an attempt at seeing some wildlife in Morraine Park. From there I hope to drive Trail Ridge Road followed by some more wildlife viewing on the west side of the park at dusk. Also hoping for my first visit to Fontenot’s Restaurant for some blackened catfish… back in the day the wife and I used to make a special trip up to Winter Park just for the pleasure of a meal at one of my favorite places 🙂

After that, who knows? I still have my sights on Quandary Peak in hopes of bagging at least one 14er this season! I would also like to make it up to Twin Lakes and maybe some fall colors along the river along the bottom of Independence Pass. Anyway, stay tuned, I’m just  getting started 🙂

These pictures and more are available on my image website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional frames and matting and as art on many cool and handy household and gift items, including battery chargers, apparel, beach towels, greeting cards and more!

Dog Days of Summer

My photography really struggles this time of year. The landscape is all dried up and the lighting is harsh. Sunrise is way too early and by sunset I am so tired I’m ready to drop. Hence… not many pictures taken lately.

Sunrise Mine

But the time has not been wasted. I have had an Instagram account for a long time but it was pretty lame, only a couple of dumb pictures of myself taken with my phone. I briefly tried to use the laptop to upload a couple of better ones from my DSLR, but couldn’t find a button that would let me do that. So my account has languished for years, until now. I purchased a data wire so my laptop and my phone can work together and found a way to upload my best ones from my laptop 🙂

Don’t know if an Instagram portfolio is going to do me any good. I got off to a roaring start with tons of followers but they are slowly beginning to dwindle, probably in direct correlation with the number of images I am uploading. Time will tell, but I am having fun going through all my old best images, reminiscing about the adventures that I have undertaken 🙂

Morning Bucks

Did pick up a couple of nice shots of this mine the other day though… Big Dog and I working hiking out in the mining district hoping to see some wildlife. As we were strolling along just after sunrise I happened to glance up at the mine and noticed the beautiful splash of color directly behind it. That was about it for the day, but sometimes one good one per outing is a pretty good day!

This image and more are available for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, and traditional frames. Tons of cool gift items are also available including beach towels, battery chargers, phone cases, greeting cards and more!