Tough Day in the Canyon

The week began with bitter cold and snow, a lot of snow… but as luck would have it there would be a break in the winter weather just in time for our planned adventure in Waterton Canyon. The forecast was calling for sunshine and 40’s on Thursday and the plan was, the sheep would be ready for a break and would come down into the canyon to pose for us 🙂

Red-taile Hawk in Waterton Canyon

Previous experience told me  that the road into the canyon was going to be a muddy mess from the melting snow, terrible conditions for a mountain bike ride so the decision was made to attempt the journey on foot. Spirits were high as we began the trek into the wilderness wonderland along the cascading South Platte River, looking forward to another awesome bighorn sheep encounter. Soon we rounded the bend by the water pipe where we often see the herd of bighorn… no sheep in sight. No matter, there are other likely locations further in. Second likely location, no sheep…

After a break for some Gatorade at the picnic area we decided to press on to the old dam by the house… also no good. Finally we decided to continue past the halfway point dam to the highest point in the park where we have seen the elusive creatures this year. Again, no luck and we decided to head back down in hopes that the animals had come down from the upper reaches behind us on their daily visit to the river for water.

Once again, nothing but a long walk back to the bottom of the canyon. Finally we spotted a bike riding photographer stopped near the water tube looking up into the high peaks north of the  canyon… sure enough, there were a couple of rams way up near the summit, pretty much out of range for decent photography. In the end we decided that at least one snap of the majestic beasts would be better than none, but while we were preparing for the shot they disappeared into the brush. it looked like a climb up the slippery slope might provide a better view so we began the ill advised ascent to the service road, which proved as treacherous as it appeared.

With a couple of slight mishaps and lenses covered with a good scoop of snow, we arrived safely at the plateau where the search for the better view began. Unfortunately all the climb accomplished was to increase the angle of view to the point where we could not see at all over the dry brush covering the mountainside 😦

Wintry Manitou Springs Colorado

On the way down the service road I spotted a white object on a cliff above us, so when we arrived at the closest point and best view we took a look through the long lens to ascertain it’s identity. Turns out it was a majestic looking Red-tailed hawk gazing fiercely over the canyon, I assume in search of prey that might become a good lunch. This would become my only wildlife photograph of the day 😦

The day wasn’t a complete bust though, we did get the benefit of a seven mile hike 😦 Plus  on the way through the Colorado Springs area, there was an amazing view of Manitou Springs from the highway that I have been wanting to acquire for years. Sometimes I don’t have my camera, often I’m in a hurry and don’t have the time… But yesterday I had  the camera and the view was extra fantastic, no excuse not to stop!

These pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Also on my website is a new gallery just for birds, raptors, birds of prey, song birds, waterfowl, you name it! I finally feel that I have enough images of birds to warrant the new collection!

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Autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park

There is no better time than autumn for a camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park! The colors and the wildlife action are at their peak, the weather is cool and dry and the crowds of summer have largely subsided. So photo buddy Kevin and I loaded up our gear and steered towards Estes Park for the once a year elk photography bonanza. Last year we only gave ourselves one day and found there was far too much to take it all in.

Headwaters of the Big ThompsonThis year we decided to give ourselves the best part of two days, a nice trip up on the first day for the sunset scene followed  by a night of camping with the idea of catching the sunrise action on the second day. The only  problem with this plan was that even two days isn’t enough to take it all in! Rocky Mountain National Park is so vast and beautiful that you probably could not even take it in if you had a week to explore it.

But our plan as it was came together perfectly. We arrived in the park by early afternoon giving us time to look around, survey all the best elk viewing locations and get our gear set up for the evening appearance of the Moraine Park Elk Herd. And quite a scene it was… The main herd was lorded over by one huge bull who stayed busy until dark keeping his cows together while watching diligently and listening intently for any

Herd of Elk on a Foggy Morning

threats to his domain. At one point he heard the bugling of a rival bull over the ridge and trotted off to address the threat. Some unruly cows crossed the road and his harem was split, which would have been no big deal were it not for the unbroken line of cars and spectators right through the middle. Some of the cows were afraid to cross so eventually the big male returned and was forced to address the chaos. He crossed the road and ventured to the distant

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

boundaries of his domain to warn off some bachelors that were nosing around his perimeter. The park ranger patrolling the road, when she discovered the issue, separated the crowd, moved some cars and made way for the herd to pass back and forth. The bull was then able to round up all the wayward females and reassemble them in the meadow on the west side of the road.

The inevitable onslaught of darkness finally brought the photography to an end and we

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

make the short journey over to Moraine Park Campground to set up camp. Tent campers are provided an entire loop on the far end of the campground away from all the RV’s and their generators, so we proceeded to our designated spot in D loop. It’s a beautiful quiet campground with clean facilities, flat tent pads, bear boxes and fire pits. It’s also the only campground open in the winter months, which is fine but if you plan to go there you should definitely call the park for a reservation. Due to the presence of bears there are no trash receptacles, any packaging or food wrappers will need to be stored in the bear box until can get to the main dumpster at the entrance.

Cold Foggy Morning in Moraine Park

I’m not going to lie, the autumn night air is going to be chilly so bring the proper winter wear! It was only 35 degrees at sunrise when we once again took up our position in Moraine park. The big bull and his harem were already gathered on the east side of the road in the heavy fog of the cold morning. It was here that I captured some of my most dramatic imagery as the morning sun lit the fog and the autumn leaves in the background. The animals were quite active, making use of a tripod a bit difficult but necessary due to the subtle morning light.

Autumn on Trail Ridge Road

By the time the sun was completely up we were ready to check on some other locations and wander into Estes Park for some breakfast while we discussed the plans for the day. At length we decided to break down camp and explore Fall River Road, the old dirt road that carried travelers to the park summit which is now the Trail Ridge Road visitor center.  Fall River Road is a rough nine mile one way dirt road that skirts the south side of the ridge with beautiful views of Longs Peak to the east with a beautiful hike and waterfall about halfway into the drive. The falls were in harsh light by this time, with shadows too deep for  good photography but that didn’t stop me from capturing some video with my phone 🙂

The wind and cold on the summit were horrendous, blowing so hard that I was barely

Summit on Trail Ridge Road

able  to stand still enough to even capture this phone cam picture! After scouring the visitor center for a couple of souvenirs we began the drive through the fierce winds down Trail Ridge Road in view of massive Longs Peak. I tried a couple of spots for pictures but the wind and harsh afternoon light got the better of me, not overly excited about the images I captured from the high alpine reaches of the park.

By the time we were back in the valley it was early afternoon and Bear Lake was the last thing we had in mind to explore. However by that time the park was filling with visitors and the parking lot was full, according to the sign at the park and ride. A ride on the bus with an armload of camera gear wasn’t too appealing by this time so we decided to call it a day and head for home.

Today of course finds me at my computer monitor looking over almost 900 images and reveling in the memory of an amazing trip. As always the best of  the day’s capture are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Also available are tons of cool gift items, apparel, tech gadgets and handy household items with a S.W. Krull Imaging picture.

Eleven Mile Autumn

Autumn on the South Platte River

It was a magnificent autumn morning in Eleven Mile Canyon this morning with the leaves changing all along the banks of the South Platte River. I wanted to get some pictures that were a bit different than the usual trees and mountains without having to drive halfway across the state today and the headwaters of the Platte were just the ticket!

I knew from previous visits that some of the most beautiful scenery is along the banks of

Autumn on the South Platte River

the river in the first couple of miles so I just pulled off at the first spot possible and hiked the river trail. As I made my way along the trail I looked for rocks I could climb on to get the best views of the whitewater cascading down the canyon.

My reward was a lot of nice pictures and wet feet! Unfortunately I was not always able to find my footing on the top side of the rocks 😦

Autumn on the South Platte River

As always the best images from every shoot are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Many gift, tech and household items are also available with a S.W. Krull Image!

 

 

Brown’s Canyon National Monument

Brown’s Canyon National Monument is another one of Colorado’s hidden gems… almost too well hidden! I’ve been wanting to visit this place for years, ever since I missed the day of hiking with the Sierra Club. Well I finally did it 🙂 I was in the area photographing rafters on the Arkansas until finally I found myself in Salida. What the heck, the park is just on the other side of Salida so I consulted my phone for directions and headed up 291 in search of the entrance… piece of cake 🙂

Arkansas River in Brown's Canyon National Monument

Not a piece of cake. You would think that being a national monument there would be huge signs everywhere. But no… no signs anywhere 😦 Totally passed it by, drove all the way up 291 until I finally hit Johnson Village and had to turn back around. At that point I decided to let my GPS guide me in and managed to find the place, County Road 191 to the east from 291 will take you right in… after a couple of miles on a curvy dirt road over a ridge. When you finally do get there you will be greeted by a big sign with some of those fee envelopes and a $8.00 per day use fee. So I paid my fee, dropped the envelope in the box and went on in.

There is a large parking area and a campground along the Arkansas River where the

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rafting companies were all ready to pick up rafters. I grabbed my camera and trusty trekking pole and headed down a trail along the river towards the south. The original plan was to mountain bike back in but it didn’t take long to ascertain that the trail was above my meager riding skill level so I just hoofed it in a ways. The trail and the river are amazing and the area is vast. I imagine you could easily hike for days and not see it all.

 

By this time it was really hot and dry and I was not at all prepared for a long hike so I just turned around and vowed to hike up the other direction for a while but quickly abandoned that idea too and chalked the whole visit up to a successful scouting mission for a longer visit on another more prepared day.

On my way back through Salida the Soulcraft Brewery looked like the perfect answer to my parched throat and worthy of a stop 🙂 Tried the Dopple Bock brew and it was delicious. Being short of time I didn’t try any food, and didn’t really see anyone else eating either. I assume they have food there, but would have to be something for another day as well.

Cute Doe Mule DeerWas hoping to photograph some more rafters along the Arkansas on my return trip, but by the time I was passing by again the rafting was all over for the day. Nothing but the long drive home to look forward to at this point.

If you are a fly fisherman the trail along the river is an awesome place to visit! For hiking though, I’m not so sure. There are no high peaks to scale and except for along the river it appears that there are a lot of miles of parched land to explore. It appears to me that the Continental Divide Trail passes through there on it’s way to the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista and there are miles of fun to be had for moderately skilled mountain bikers and a lot of rocky cliffs for rock climbers to hone their skills on! And I didn’t see many in the heat of the day, but I imagine there would be a ton of wildlife to photograph early in the morning.

 

 

Sangre Mountain Sunrise

Sangre de Cristo mountain sunrise

There is nothing like watching the alpenglow at sunrise in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado!

Moonset in the Rockies

Followed by the setting of the moon 🙂

Recovery Mode

Continuing with recovery mode today, after apparently having physically run myself into the ground.  Awoke early this morning with what felt like one arm in a vise grip. Tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t find a position that would relieve the pain in these old joints so I finally gave in and got up. This was about 5:30, so I just got a cup of coffee and settled down in my recliner with the puppies… soon I was back to sleep and my eyes didn’t open until 9:00 🙂 way to late of course for any meaningful photography.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado

So I just decided that for today some more stock photography uploads were in order. Next on my list of mostly overlooked photo shoots was my road trip to Westcliffe. It was actually a pretty amazing day photography wise… some awesome clouds had moved in over the Sangre de Cristo Range and not far off the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness,  and it was a fantastic day for shooting. I remember it was difficult at the time to decide which were going to be three star, two star and one star images. They were all pretty amazing! The difference might be the placement of the foreground, or the location of the horizon, or perhaps even the configuration of the clouds.

Well for some reason in my initial editing this one turned out to be a one star image which I think maybe could have been more if I had done a little work on it. From today’s batch I wanted to pick the one that was my favorite and with Photoshop make it into a nice print. Black and white seemed to provide some extra drama along with a slight curves adjustment and I believe I have a fine art print to share  and hopefully sell some day 🙂

 

Between Storms in the Rockies

Staying inside today… a grim looking ice storm in progress outside. I will go out in most weather to get the picture but for me an ice storm is over the line 😦 I was out… long enough for me to discover that my truck is encased in a quarter inch of ice. Not going to deal with that in late May.

Herd of Colorado Springtime Mule Deer

Yesterday before the storm was awesome though, for a while anyway. Had to take Big Dog into town for a teeth cleaning so I had to make our hike a solo event 😦 Probably just as well though,  the snow and ice from the week’s series of storms was pretty slippery. Skiing down a steep embankment in tow behind an exuberant Big Dog is not my idea of fun!

Once past the semi dangerous embankment, the rest of the hike was awesome, sky a brilliant blue, aspen trees blooming and warm sun shining down into the dense forest of the north side of Ute Pass. It wasn’t long before I spotted a small herd of deer making their way around the mountainside, tasting the green forest grass along the way. Unfortunately they quickly spotted me as well so the closest I was going to get to them was the other side of a large ravine at a range of probably 75 yards. These distant captures were the best I could do, even with my  Canon 400mm lens. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring along my monopod / trekking pole so I was able to steady the camera pretty well and was able to capture some pretty good detail despite the expanse between me and the critters.

By the time my trek was near it’s end the weather was changing rapidly. The wind had

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

picked up and an icy cold fog was beginning to roll in.  Clouds were also beginning to form on the summit of 14,115 foot Pikes Peak as well, including some misty thin clouds spreading across the north face at about tree line. The clouds on the peak were a bit blown out so I stopped to put on my  B+W circular polarizer which brought out the detail in this majestic scene.

Springtime Buck Mule Deer

Later on I encountered this big fellow who was obviously aware of my presence, and completely unconcerned! I snapped away and he just kept chewing his food. He is a beaut of a buck though, I’ll bet those are going to be some pretty formidable antlers when they reach full growth for the autumn rut!

By this time I was hungry and could not resist a brat and a Dunkel at Bierwerks, my favorite watering hole in the Pikes Peak high country region 🙂 By this time Woodland Park was completely socked in with clouds, cold, wind and fog and even a few snowflakes… so I was perfectly content to wait out Big Dog’s procedure indoors sipping my favorite beverage 🙂

And as always, these images and more are available on my website or purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting plus tons of cool gift, tech, apparel and household items with an S.W. Krull Imaging picture on them!