Making the Best of Bad Weather

Great Blue Heron at RiverBoy it’s been tough to catch a break lately, seems like every time I get a chance to go out and shoot it is either raining or snowing! That doesn’t work very well for bird photography which requires a lot of high quality light, but sometimes it can work out well for landscape work. The Sangre de Cristo Range usually is a good candidate for bad weather photography, but as beautiful as they are… you can’t get good pictures in the rain of a subject that is sixty miles away :( Also, as in the case of dense fog… you can’t see them at all!

One of my days was just cloudy with a little haze so I was able to go to Eleven Mile Canyon where the canyon is so narrow, if you do find some wildlife it is a sure bet that the critters

Osprey at Eleven Mile

will be fairly close to you if they don’t scamper away! In fact the great blue heron like cold cloudy weather so I was able to grab a couple of my best captures ever of those majestic birds. The less than bright light also works well for the white headed osprey.  If you don’t get the exposure just right you will lose all detail in the most important part of the image. In direct sunlight negative two or more stops of exposure compensation is required which wreaks havoc on your background, so a little bit of diffusion from the cloud cover can be quite helpful!

In the case of dense fog, some great images of the pine trees and aspen yet to acquire leaves can be had. The historic ghost mines of the Cripple Creek / Victor mining district also make for good subjects on a foggy day. Now that the area has been modernized and and tourist defended, there are a ton of fences and signs that look terrible in a picture. A bit of dense fog hides a multitude of hideous photographic blemishes

Dense fog in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

A video hike through the fog is also an attractive possibility, like this trek I filmed on the way to the top of Grouse Mountain. A bit of fog added some mystery and entirely new look to my usual mundane hike that I mostly just do for exercise and the possibility of spotting some deer or cute little birds, now that the warm weather is here! Speaking of cute birds… just yesterday I was able to add a new life sighting of a green-tailed towhee that I photographed at the end of my hike when the sun was finally starting to break through!

And then there is always storm chasing, something I might try this afternoon with some tremendous thunderstorms promised starting at about 3:00 p.m.

Fog on the Mountain

Please don’t forget to visit my YouTube channel to watch videos of many of my adventures in the mountains, 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.

Cute little Green-tailed Towhee in the grass

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Misty Mountain Morning Hike

I was tired this morning… tired enough that just sitting in my chair drinking coffee sounded like a pretty good plan. However when I got up to get that cup of coffee I saw all that beautiful fog outside and I knew I was going to have to go out in it! Fog in these mountains can turn an ordinary day into a glorious day of photography 😉

Foggy Pike National Forest

Fog was really all I expected to see but much to my surprise I was met by a herd of mule deer at the top of the ridge. For some reason they were a bit wary of my presence today so I wasn’t able to get a whole lot of pictures before they wandered off into the deep forest.

The fog was inspiring enough that I decided to make a video out of today’s hike and while I was filming the amazing looking fog I mentioned all the songbirds I was hearing on the summit. First time this year I have heard any at that elevation! I discussed how they like to hide in the grass on the mountaintop and fly away the second you find them but I was surprised to notice a little bird off in the fog that wasn’t flying away. So I put my camera on my monopod and snapped a few stills of what turned out to be an amazing looking little yellow and black bird that I didn’t remember seeing before! He stayed long enough that I switched the

Yellow Rumped Warbler

camera to video and filmed him for a couple of minutes hopping around plucking things off the  ground! Later in front of my desktop computer, I discovered that the little fellow was a yellow-rumped warbler, a version of which I have apparently spotted before according to my ebird account.

I also decided to drive on up to Goldfield to see how the fog was affecting the old historic mines there. on the drive to the top to Victor Pass there wasn’t much fog so I didn’t worry too much about pictures. At the turnaround as I looked back though, one of the mines was obscured by a bit more fog so I snapped a few stills as the fog rolled in. It wasn’t long and the mine was completely obscured by a dense mist. Good thing I got the shot in when I did!

Biscuits and Gravy

A nice plate of hot biscuits and gravy  with coffee at the Gold Camp Bakery seemed like a fitting way to end this cloudy misty morning so I turned Old Blue back toward Victor. As usual the place was quite hospitable and a nice place to sit and enjoy being inside and out of the cold wet fog!

Please don’t forget to visit my YouTube channel to watch the video of today’s adventure in the mountains, 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.

Mule Deer in the Woods

Fog in Mine Country

Encouraging Osprey Update

On a day I thought was without hope for a photo shoot, there was a break in the persistent Colorado snow as of late, giving me a short window to visit Eleven Mile Canyon. That is not to say it was a beautiful sunny day, on the contrary it was cold, foggy and gloomy. But as a photographer, this kind of day is sometimes the best of all!

Deer Herd in Snow

The drive to the canyon was magnificent, amazing stormy clouds and fog, and beautiful white snow covering the pine trees of the Pike National Forest like vanilla frosting. As I approached the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument I spotted a herd of mule deer at the base of the stunningly beautiful hillside, so I pulled my truck over onto Upper Twin Rocks for a good vantage point. Soon a huge black Dodge blocked my line of sight, as I looked up I discovered it was some old friends from my church in their new ride stopping to say hi 🙂 They drove on and I proceeded to capture as many views and focal lengths as possible before the gentle ungulates moved on.

Storm Clouds on South Platte Rvier

I glanced over at the eagles nest upon arrival at the canyon entrance and mama eagle was on her usual perch. There isn’t much room in the nest these days with three voracious young ones all simultaneously clamoring for sustenance! However it was early and with all the gloom I knew that at best I would be able to obtain a bland noisy image, the likes of which I already have a collection of hundreds.

I made a slow cruise past the old osprey nest hoping to spot some action on the hillside indicating the construction of a new nest, even though I know that the possibility of such a thing is extremely unlikely following a failure to reproduce. Unfortunately I saw nothing to support my hopes for the newly homeless osprey couple. I continued my slow cruise up the rough canyon road carefully watching the dead trees along the banks of the South Platte as well as the riverbed for signs of wildlife.

Northern FlickerI stopped to snap a couple of images of the river and canyon along the way, but the trip upstream yielded nothing in the way of wildlife. Near the big dam at the headwaters of the canyon I heard a peculiar chirping sound, so I pulled big blue over to the side of the road and got out to investigate. I quickly spotted an unusual colorful bird, slightly bigger than a robin or common blackbird calling out from one of the choke cherry bushes. I snapped a couple of images for Merlin and then began to make my way around to the south where I knew I would have better light. Unfortunately I was never able to get a front view of this little character, but I did get a good enough image for Merlin to identify it as my first ever northern flicker of the woodpecker family. shortly thereafter I captured an image, another lifetime first, a chubby little bird known as a townsend’s solitaire, which I’ll soon be adding to my Instagram page, along with a ton of other images from this shoot and many more!

Great Blue HeronThings began to look up on the trip down as I made several sightings of a beautiful great blue heron fishing along the river banks. Most of the time the giant water bird took to flight before I could get an image but fortunately I was able to capture one fleeting moment and a couple of satisfying images.

Eventually the winding river road returned me to osprey territory. I wanted to film a little video footage by the stream so I decided to get out with my camera at a particularly beautiful spot along the river. Much to my surprise I spotted one of our osprey flying in from downstream, so I readied my camera for a white bird in flight image against the stormy Colorado morning skies: shutter priority, a 2000th of a second and auto ISO with +1 dialed into the exposure compensation. I was stunned and woefully out of position when the great raptor landed along the banks of the pristine river. I tried to stealthily approach in hopes of a closeup but I was quickly detected and the beautiful hawk took flight.

Osprey Retrieving a Stick

Fortunately my settings were still good for a flight against the sky and as he circled me a couple of times I was able to capture a number of images. At first I thought he had caught a fish, but later in the truck as I zoomed in with my LCD screen to inspect the image I discovered that he had actually made the trip in quest of a stick from the riverbank. I have been heartsick since discovering the downed nest so earlier I had prayed for a sign that the impossible would happen, that the pair would spend the remainder of the summer rebuilding for a return to the area following this year’s migration. And I believe this simple stick is just the sign I was looking for, why would the osprey pair be gathering sticks except for the construction of a nest? 

Heavy Snow on the South PlatteI tried to follow the determined traveler but big blue is unfortunately no match for osprey wings. I spotted one of the pair again later, flying past the eagles nest heading back into the canyon, but soon the ever frequent Colorado snow had obscured my sight and I decided to call it a day. However, it is now my belief that the intrepid couple are somewhere on the hillside, busily preparing for next year’s offspring. I will continue to make frequent visits to the area in hopes of locating their new home.

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.

 

 

Sand Hill Cranes and the Dunes

Well we took a much longer road trip than usual yesterday, all the way over to the Great Sand Dunes and the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. The journey started early, with a 3:30 a.m. wake up alarm followed by a sleepy drive over the pass where I met up with Kevin in Divide. We were already heading over Poncha Pass in light snow before the sun even

Sand Hill Cranes

started to rise. One stop for fuel and a gas station cappuccino later we were at our first destination, the wildlife reserve at Monte Vista hoping to spot some sand hill cranes to photograph. We knew we were pushing the limits of the great semi annual migration and the spring flight to the Nebraska Sand Hills, but were still hopeful that we might see a few of the amazing birds lingering behind.

The morning visit yielded a few captures of a small number of the great birds wandering around the refuge but we quickly decided to move on. The plan was to try another refuge located a few miles to the east, near Alamosa called the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge. It was exciting to see the Rio Grande River for the first time, and a beautiful northern harrier, but once again, the visit resulted in limited success.

Northern HarrierOnward to the Great Sand Dunes… It looked like it was going to be a cold dreary day at the dunes as heavy clouds were building over the Sangre de Cristo Range, but really it wasn’t too bad. We hiked a bit in the soft sand but the imposing dunes and the approaching winter weather convinced us that a trip to the summit of the dunes at this time of the day was not in the cards. I did get a few nice pictures of the towering piles of sand and the magnificent

Sangre de Cristo Range though, which I was pretty pumped about 🙂 One thing I learned, even though the wind wasn’t that bad, the fine sand blowing across the surface is not going to be friendly to camera equipment. Next time I’ll bring and old camera and lens with a rain cover over the gear for good measure. And no changing lenses while on the dunes! That fine sand could grind up internal DSLR parts in a hurry!

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

From there we decided another visit to the Monte Vista Refuge was in order. We were hoping some more of the birds had completed their daily travels in pursuit of food and had returned to the wetlands. A quick stop at the riverside viewing area proved the decision to be a good one. Several hundred of the gangly birds had gathered near the viewing area in a large bunch and we had a blast photographing them walking and hopping around as they foraged in the rich  grasses along the banks with a magnificent panorama provided by the snow capped San Juan’s in the background.

_MG_0983Eventually the birds began to squawk and hop around while stretching their wings so we believed that a mass take off was imminent, the very event we had been hoping to photograph. Unfortunately the entire flock didn’t take flight at once but we did get some nice pictures of a number of good sized groups leaving the wetlands for their nightly roosting locations in the fields.

At that point it was  getting late and we decided to head for home… but the photo ops were not completely over with, the view of the western slopes of the Sangre with the afternoon sun shining through storm clouds was magnificent! Some of the scenes were so fantastic that photo stops along the roadside were necessary! And that wasn’t the only excitement on the way home… the wildlife began to come out for the evening and we saw deer, buffalo and a huge herd of elk in the Platte River Valley on the high prairie between the front range and the big mountains of the continental divide.

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Today finds me sorting through over a thousand images as I identify the best ones for my website and a few for the YouTube video that I have just completed! I hope you enjoy the video and please don’t forget to give it a thumbs up and hit that subscribe button! My channel is finally beginning to grow with all of your help 🙂

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.

Herd of Elk

 

 

Weathering the Storm

New YouTube video of my snowshoe hike in the howling wind and driving snow on top of Grouse Mountain Colorado. Wasn’t able to record audio on the mountain due to the tremendous winds but I hope you enjoy the beauty of such harsh conditions! My Ruggard rain cover performed admirably on my camera, very easy to use and provided excellent protection for the camera, especially for such a great price! Looks like my minor repair on my MSR snowshoes is holding after accidentally running over them with my truck last year 😦

Ground Blizzard

Neither the video nor this blog post was sponsored, all equipment used in the production were purchased on my own volition.

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!

Epic Battle in the Sky

Every day I go out I think is more amazing than the day before and today didn’t disappoint! Yesterday I wanted to get some motion  blur images of  the river flowing through the snow in Eleven Mile Canyon but by the time we were done

Icy South Platte River

with photographing the eagles the sun was too high in the sky, and that much contrast is not conducive to that kind of imagery.

So today my plan was to get back to the canyon early and photograph the river before the sun cleared the ridge on the east side, with the hope that I would spot some more bald eagles fishing along the banks of the South Platte. As I neared the entrance to the canyon I cast a quick glance over at the nest to check on the action there. It appeared that the great birds had already left the area so I quickly purchased my pass and entered the recreation area.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Along the way I stopped a few times to shoot some particularly scenic spots along the river with my 24-105 and nine stop ND filter. I began to watch the treetops more carefully as I neared the bend, which is the eagle’s favorite place for fishing. Bang… sure enough there was a beautiful bald eagle perched high on their favorite dead tree. I pulled over and readied the camera for eagle photography, had to completely reset shutter speeds, apertures, the shutter drive mode and attach the 100-400mm lens and 1.4x converter. I carefully exited the truck, being careful not to startle the huge raptor too much.

I took a few shots of him on the perch even though he was in an inopportune spot with a branch right in the way, just so I could make sure I had my exposure compensation dialed in. There wasn’t much light yet so I was stuck with ISO values that I wasn’t too happy about, but sometimes in wildlife photography early in the morning you just have to deal with it.

Bald and Golden Eagles

After a minute or two the majestic raptor took flight and fortunately I was well prepared for the event. I probably got about half a dozen really nice ones before he soared high into the sky. I was busy tracking his movement hoping to discover where he might be going next, when much to my surprise he circled back towards me! I quickly reset the exposure compensation to +0 and checked my histogram. He soared away and then circled back once again… but this time with a few friends! It was difficult to tell what all kinds of birds had joined in but I’m pretty sure I spotted three bald eagles in the sky along with what I thought was a bald eagle juvi that continues to reside with his family.

However it appeared that the eagles were actually trying to drive away the golden colored one and as I zoomed in with the display I discovered that the odd one was actually the golden eagle that I see occasionally. I knew that guy was big, but until I saw him next to the baldies I had no idea how big! That bird is mammoth! And the group circled several times giving me a chance to include more than one of the great hunters in a single frame! Eventually the epic battle in the sky came to an end and the all the eagles soared away out of range of my camera. Unfortunately the light was on the opposite side so my captures are a bit silhouetted, but I still consider myself fortunate to have seen such a spectacle!

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

It’s difficult to put into words what it was like to see and hear this stunning encounter. This was one of those times when it is all over that I find myself just standing there thanking God for blessing me so. And believe it or not, my day wasn’t over… I had one more excellent sighting of a red-tailed hawk and some great weather photography as our next winter storm rolled in over the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. All I can say is wow… what an epic morning!

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!

Sangre de Cristo Winter Storm

A Good Omen

Whenever I see a fox in the wild I think of it as a good omen 🙂 Not sure why but it just seems like life is a little better when I have an awesome wildlife encounter like this! We had a pretty good snowstorm yesterday so I was ready to jump in the truck at sunrise in the hope that I would experience a great opportunity for one of those magnificent “after the storm” panoramas on the Sangre de Cristo Range to my southwest.  As I rounded a couple of sharp curves on highway 67 it was becoming apparent that my trip out into the cold early morning sunlight was going to be richly rewarded!

Snowstorm on the Sangre

I was going to have to hustle though, already another storm was moving in and the scene was changing rapidly. I leapt out of the truck at the overlook, switched my camera to custom mode 2 which I had set up for rapid access to my favorite motion blur and panorama settings. C2 takes me directly to full manual, shutter speed at 160th of a second, aperture f8, and the ISO set to 100 in order to get a uniformly exposed series of images with good depth of field and low noise to work with in the automate function of Adobe Photoshop. I snapped off about 15 images to cover the entire range followed by a blank frame to mark the end of the series. Then I turned my attention to a few more intimate images of the individual peaks as I watched the storm clouds roll in over the picturesque range of towering mountains.

Red Fox HuntingThen off to a hike on my favorite trail to hopefully capture some elk or deer in the beautiful fresh fallen snow. As I cleared the top of the ridge much to my surprise I came almost face to face with this beautiful red fox happily chowing down on a freshly caught rodent of some sort, probably a mouse I imagine. Even more to my surprise the little fellow didn’t immediately run off! He just looked at me like he recognized me and kept on with his business. Eventually he strode toward me and walked right past me not four feet away! Too close to even get a shot, with my long lens and 1.4x teleconverter attached for long distance wildlife photography! He just slowly made his way over the ridge, back to his den with a full belly I suppose 🙂 I just stood there in disbelief at what I had just experienced. Most fox encounters I’ve had have been long range sightings, barely close enough to get an image large enough to display in my blog… much less a print quality closeup!

Red Fox Hunting

Eventually I resumed my trek through the winter wonderland on the summit of the mountain. I have to say I love the snowstorms, the times when I have the mountain completely to myself 🙂 Not much was stirring on the mountaintop this morning. Perhaps the wild creatures are all aware of the oncoming weather on the heels of the first storm, snug and warm in their nests and dens.

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!

Snowstorm on the Sangre

Disclaimer – This post is not sponsored and I have not received compensation from any of the products or equipment used in the creation of this post.