Birds Eye View

I promised this bird’s eye view with the wide angle… and today was the day 🙂 I had other reasons for making this climb too… I wanted to see if I could find Mr. Hawk, the rough legged hawk I found up there the other day. There was a beautiful fog bank today so I was also thinking I might be able to get a neat wide angle of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

This time I was smart, in addition to packing the wide angle I also had the forethought to bring some fluids and energy bars 🙂 The initial climb to the top of the first ridge is pretty invigorating to say the least, but is often rewarded with a few shots of deer or elk at the top. Nothing today and no sign of Mr. Hawk either.

Beyond the high meadow is a patch of forest that I’ve been eyeing for a couple of years, the place where the elk go to vanish when I try to follow them. I’ve always wondered what it was like in there, I don’t see any sign of a real trail of any kind. I decided against going directly in there and chose a path around the edge as I climbed higher with the summit in mind.

Eventually I had two choices, the long way around the south end of the summit, or a short cut directly through part of the forest, I chose the short cut and finally after all these years I got to see inside the apparently impenetrable woods. It seems as though this forest has been untouched for a long time, many fallen trees lying all over the place making a direct path impossible. Don’t think I would want to be there in a windstorm, you might be the unlucky recipient of a large pine tree on top of your head 😦 I found a deer trail of sorts and followed it in and around all the dead foliage to the final approach to the summit.

From there it was just a short walk to my favorite vantage point, one that I had first

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

scouted out with my dog years ago. I found a good spot to take off my pack and sit in full view of the beauty before me. The dense fog of early morning had given way to a picturesque layer just beneath the Sangre de Cristo Range in the distance. I just sat there for a while taking in the view, but mostly just feeling heartbroken that my four legged buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge some time back and wasn’t there to enjoy the conquest with me.

Eventually I summoned the strength and attached my 24-105 lens with a circular polarizer to cut through the residual morning haze. As it turned out the images looked the best with about a 50mm focal length, any wider and the Sangre were too insignificant to do the scene justice.

Rough Legged Hawk in the Rockies

I continued to look for Mr Hawk on the trek down the other side of the mountain, but he was nowhere to be seen on this day. In fact the landscapes that I shot at the summit are the only record of today’s hike.

As always, the best of these images 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!

The Tree

I’ve been eyeing this tree for a couple of years now… The life giving flow of sap long ago ceased, it now stands as a stark reminder that nothing can live forever.

I’ve tried a number of times to capture the picture that my mind envisions but I have never quite gotten it.

Finally the other day I was hiking into the canyon on foot and I looked up and spotted it high on the cliff against the beautiful Colorado summer sky and I knew I was going to get the shot 🙂 As my only goal for going in was to photograph the osprey, my only lens was the 100-400. I tried a few different focal lengths in hope of getting just the right perspective and I liked them all.

Tree by #swkrullimaging

This particular one with the clouds and blue sky was the closest to the picture in my mind 🙂

As always, the best of these images 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!

The Osprey Family

Gray mountain jay getting a drink

A visit to Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado can never be a disappointment and today turned out better than usual 🙂 Of course I had to check on the eagles when I arrived but they were already gone from the nest. It was a beautiful morning so I imagine they were soaring high above Eleven Mile Reservoir in search of fish for their lunch.

So I drove over to the entrance and paid my fee to enter the park. I cruised along slowly over the awful washboard dirt road hoping not to shake my poor old truck apart 😦 I’ve photographed the river rapids so many times that I really wasn’t looking for the best scenery in the river, I was more looking up on the cliff on the west bank for eagles or hawks. It wasn’t long and I

Robin by the River

spotted a nest on a dead tree right on the other side of the river, so I stopped to check it out.

I was surprised to notice a little movement in the nest so I got out my long lens and found a spot for a better look. I could barely make out a couple of little heads moving around in the nest so I went down to the river for a couple of shots. Fortunately a little grey bird flew in to entertain me during the semi down time, stopping for a drink in the golden water of a Rocky Mountain sunrise. Eventually the little fellow flew away and a robin came to visit with a mouthful of weeds she was apparently planning to use for her nest.

Osprey Mother and Chick

I went back up to the bank and was happy to see that the large birds were starting to rustle around. It wasn’t long before one of the birds flew out and took up a perch on a tree branch that was a good distance away. I snapped a few pictures which I may have a use for someday, but I ended up with much better ones that are commanding my attention first.

Soon I could see the mama bird and a couple of little ones stirring around. The mama caught me by surprise by suddenly flying off and I was upset that I missed my chance for an in flight shot. It wasn’t long though and she was on her way  back with a large twig in her beak which she promptly installed in the nest. Then she was ready to go again, and this time I was ready 🙂

Osprey Taking Flight

After shooting in from that location for a while I wondered if I could find higher ground that would give me a better view of the nest. I looked around and it appeared that the mountain behind me was climbable so I started the climb the steep slope. Eventually I spotted a nice rock that looked like a good seat where I would be able to steady the camera on my knee and have a good 180 degree view of the river over the trees and bushes.

Osprey Taking Flight

The beautiful raptors put on quite a show… the little ones stood up exercised their wings in what appears to be very early attempts to go airborne. They have a ways to go though, they didn’t seem to get any lift yet, where the eaglet I have been watching can easily catch an air current and rise quite a few feet out of the nest. It did make for a great photo op though, the whole event lasting maybe a minute. I got the idea to try to film some video and did manage to capture some cute mother chick interaction and have created a YouTube video for my channel. It’s a beautiful five minute capture of the sights and sounds of my day set to music, so give it a click and a like and subscribe to my channel if you would like to see more!

Osprey in Flight

Finally the father bird left his perch high in the trees and flew off towards the reservoir and after a few minutes he returned with a stick of his own, putting on quite a show by circling the nest several times before delivering his contribution to the nest construction. I thought he would quickly fly off again but he hopped out of the nest and took up a perch on  one of the dead tree branches forming the foundation for the nest.

Osprey Portrait

It was such a good pose that I decided to try for a portrait and attached my 1.4x lens extension. By this time the sun was getting hot and I was fully aware of the male raptor’s patience for sitting on a perch. He had occupied his tree for a couple of hours before taking flight this time, and it was getting hot and the lovely morning light was giving way to the harsh midday sun… I decided this would be a good time to head for home and take a look at what the day had given me 🙂

As always, the best of these images 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 don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel if you want to see some of  my adventures in action!

Picture of the Day

Snowy Sangre de Cristo

While hiking the mountain on this cold gloomy morning I was inspired to try a new Facebook and LinkedIn advertising campaign, Picture of the Day. The campaign will be focused on my “Artist Choice” collection of images where I have placed my favorite pictures of all time 🙂 There are of course collections for every category of images I frequently shoot, for example wildlife, autumn and the Rocky Mountain Winter collections. So, each day I will be placing a link to the picture of the day on each of my social media sites! Hope you will stop in for a look, a like and a follow 🙂

As always, the best of these images 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 Ann-Marie Falls Colorado

wp-15909461786523841634482648751622.jpgThe most difficult part of hiking the beautiful Anne-Marie Falls Trail on Pikes Peak Colorado may be finding it in the first place! I have long wanted to experience this trail and finally today I was able to fulfill that wish 🙂 Today is a Sunday so photo buddy Kevin and I met at 7:00 a.m. so we could beat the weekend crowds sure to gather on the Colorado Front Range Trails. Even after diligently studying the trail maps we weren’t too sure of the exact location of the trailhead so I loaded the trail into my Alltrails app and turned on the direction finder. We journeyed down the four mile dirt road on the west side of the peak marked as the turnoff to the

Beaver Ponds on the Anne-Marie Trail

famous Crags Trail. As we passed a blocked gate on the road about a mile past the Crags Trail parking lot, the magic electronic GPS finder announced the trail on the left which didn’t jive with the narrative so we just kept driving.

Finally at the end of the Crags road there was a small parking lot and a well marked trailhead with a large map on a sign. We donned our backpacks loaded with camera gear and headed down the trail. The first mile or so was a pretty tough ascent on well maintained trail, but with a couple of breaks and a little Gatorade the climb wasn’t too difficult. The beautiful trail wound it’s way through majestic old pine forest amidst birds chirping happily from the tall pines overhead.

Wilson's Warbler

Finally we began a long descent which culminated in a clearing featuring a picturesque beaver pond which of course we had to check out extensively! We walked most of the way around, occasionally having to take some care not to sink too deeply in the marsh surrounding the pond 🙂 After capturing the scenery with our wide angle lenses and shooting a couple portraits we came across a colorful cheery Wilson’s Warbler that flitted around us striking all manner of nice poses for a photographer to appreciate 🙂

Eventually we decided to continue on in search of the falls, for which we had not seen a single directional sign. We walked back to the trail where we debated returning the way we came,  continuing on or exploring a totally unmarked poorly maintained trail leading towards the southwest and

Wilson's Warbler

Sentinel Point in the distance. It was here that my practice of recording the hikes onto my Alltrails profile proved to be quite advantageous! A quick check of my phone screen revealed our location at the beaver pond and a stretch of unfinished trail leading in the direction of the faint trail along the creek flowing out of the south end of the placid water of the dammed pond.

We opted to continue down in search of the falls where soon we heard the babbling of rushing water.  With some indication of success, we were inspired to continue in the direction of the encouraging sound where before long we found the tiniest of waterfalls. Perhaps during the snow melt this might be an impressive falls but in the early summer it is just the pleasant trickle of a beautiful pristine mountain stream. Here I snapped a few pictures of the falls and the tranquil calm spot at the base of the diminutive waterfall.

Anne-Marie Falls

After a nice break we headed back up the trail to the junction where the GPS indicated the possibility of a loop that might cut some distance and a long climb up the steep ridge! We began walking up the alternate route where I checked our location occasionally and indeed we did find ourselves successfully closing in on our final destination without having to climb the ridge again! Eventually we found ourselves on Forest Road 383 which ended at a blocked gate, the place where the direction finder first indicated a trailhead about a half mile down from the parking lot and the main trail marker.

Speaking of GPS, I highly recommend hikers on obscure trails in the Pike National Forest have some kind of direction finder. There are unmarked trails and jeep roads going everywhere and without some high tech assistance it would be quite easy to head off in the wrong direction and turn a beautiful day into a trying experience.

As always, these pictures 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. Tons of cool household and tech gifts are also available including the newly added Covid masks! You can also purchase apparel, coffee mugs, battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and pillows and much more!

Anne-Marie Falls

 

Hiking the Limber Pines Trail

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

If you want beautiful views of Pikes Peak and a brisk three mile hike in the mountains, the Limber Pines / Ring the Peak loop in Catamount Ranch just west of Woodland Park, Colorado might be just the ticket. If you are planning to go on the weekend I recommend getting there early, probably well before 8:00 a.m. To get there take highway 24 west from Woodland Park and just at the top of the hill past the hospital start looking for Edlowe Road on the south side. From there take Edlowe Road all the way to the end where you will see a small parking lot.

To start the loop just head up the trail and a steep hill to the trail map sign and a fence. Go

North Catamount Reservoir

through the wide gate and you will find yourself on a trail that goes left and right. It is the Limber Pines trail that is the start of the 2.8 mile loop. If you go right you will be on a beautiful forest trail that switchbacks down to the dirt road that is the Ring the Peak trail. Be sure to look towards the east for views of Pikes Peak as you make your descent towards the reservoir. Y

Take a left here and you will walk the road towards and the along North Catamount Reservoir where the road finally leaves the reservoir and begins a

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

long ascent up to the top of the ridge. There are some fantastic views of the peak and a beautiful mix of aspen and pine forest along the way. Finally you will find yourself near the top of the climb at which time you will want to be looking for a trail sign which marks the other end of the Limber Pines Trail. From there it is a short walk back to the gate where your hike began.

If you decide to go the other way, obviously you will be walking down the dirt Ring the Peak road past the reservoir where you will need to be looking for the trail sign and the ascent on the Limber Pines Trail back to the starting point. Be sure to bring plenty of liquids to drink, the trail is only 2.8 miles but the ascents can be strenuous for those not acclimated to the elevation.

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

Getting Easier

Climbing the big hill to the top of the ridge seems to be getting easier every day now. In fact its getting to the point where I’m actually looking forward to it again 🙂 I have to admit for a while there it was a major undertaking to get out of my chair to get dressed in the morning! Sitting in my chair again this morning… my mind turned to the woods and I began to imagine the wildlife I might be missing out on, and that’s all it took.

Bunny Rabbit

Soon I was dressed and on my way to the trailhead with high hopes of catching a glimpse of my deer friends. Of course there is always the hope of seeing a black bear, but I’ve not seen a bear in the area in the three years I’ve been frequenting this trail. haven’t seen the elk in a while either and unfortunately all I did see was a glimpse of the Three Amigos, my three favorite buck mule deer that always travel together. They were moving fast down the mountainside ahead of me on their way to the watering hole I assume, and I had no chance of photographing them moving through the forest.

I took note of where I saw them cross the trail hoping that maybe they didn’t run too far past that point, but they were nowhere to be found when I finally arrived at that location. Much to my surprise though was the presence of this little cottontail casting a sideways look at me while I was scanning the hillsides for deer and bear. He was backlit and not in position for a detailed photo but I thought I’d give it a try, cute animals of all sizes are not a thing to pass up!

 

Last Mile of the Marathon

I swear, these last few months crawling by before retirement from the regular rat race remind me of the last couple miles of a marathon. You’ve been running for three hours, you are exhausted, feet hurt, knees feeling like they are going to explode. Only two miles left but you still don’t know if you are really going to make the finish line, head down mind on that one singular moment in time…  when you see that white line pass under your feet.  But those last two miles feel like a whole new marathon ahead, like it is never going to end

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in winter

That’s what it’s like now… years of sleep deprivation, hundreds of hours of abuse from mouthy customers and managers bogging you down like an ocean of quicksand. I just want it to be over and I can’t seem to think about anything else 😦 It has even managed to affect my photography. The cold and the snow and the fatigue from the late nights of work have depleted my strength, my mornings now consist of trying to pry my eyes open instead of hiking on my favorite mountain.

But today, I looked out at the beauty of the Sangres and I found some strength in my legs, enough to go to my office and retrieve my camera. The morning sun on the snow was so amazing today that I had to go out and see it! I wasn’t sure I was going to need my snowshoes but I thought I would regret not lugging them along, the parking lot and the lower trail were dry and rocky but it looked like snow up in the trees. Sure enough, half way up the mountain, when I entered the trees the snow got deep and they became necessary. The surface of the snow was hard and crusty, impossible to get through with just boots, but a joy to effortlessly walk on top of  on with snowshoes!

Soon the summit and the anticipated view of the mountains… Tired and worn now, back in my office at the computer, but happy and proud that I was able to get it together and make the hike 🙂

Suddenly Spring

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

Last week in the high country of Colorado we were contending with blizzard conditions and temperatures that had plummeted well below the zero degree mark. A couple of days ago several inches of snow fell  in the night on top of last week’s melting snow, turning the entire region into a skating rink, I saw the aftermath including cars buried in the deep snow down the embankments on either side of Highway 67 when I had to drive into town for supplies. However, the view of the mountains as the storm clouds were receding was simply spectacular!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

I love it when the storm clouds, wind and blowing snow pour over the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range to the southwest making my job as a photographer so easy! Braving the wind and the cold aren’t so pleasant but having the chance to photograph such splendor sometimes feels like such an incredible honor.

Today however is an entirely different story, the sun is shining, snow and ice are melting and temperatures will soar into the 40’s for the next few days. Such as it is in Colorado, just when it starts to seem like winter is never going to end, suddenly and without warning spring arrives and for a time it is like winter never was. Of course until about the middle of June we have to keep in mind that winter can rudely reappear at any time with a vengeance!

As always  these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website and don’t forget to visit my latest YouTube video to see the elk herd in the deep snows of the high country! Please subscribe to my channel if you like what you see, I still need quite a few subscribers in order to get my custom #swkrullimaging URL that is so important when the time comes to set up my commercial options!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

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.