Fools Errand

Snowstorm on the Sangre

One glance out my front window this morning was all it took to convince me that today was a day that was not to be experienced from indoors! The storm clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range were stunning and and the cold crisp mountain air needed to be experienced from the heights of alpine glory!

Coyote on the MountainI had just gotten started when I spotted a coyote hunting on the mountainside, too distant for a really good picture… So I determined that I should pursue him in an effort to get a better shot! He already knew of my presence so a direct approach was not going to work. It looked like the best idea was the long way around the mountain, out of the sight of the wary canine with a stealthy approach back down from the summit. A stiff icy wind was blowing in my face so I had high hopes that he would neither hear nor smell my approach.

Coyote on the Mountain

Sounded good on paper… until I went into oxygen debt trying to scale the steep mountain in overdrive 😦 Finally at the top I stood gasping for air looking around for the stealthy beast. For a brief moment it appeared my plan was successful, there he was no more than 30 yards away, staring out at me from the safety of the tall grass. I had cleared the summit ready to snap a picture… or so I thought 😦 The wily coyote had spotted me the instant I spotted him and as soon as I raised the camera he disappeared into the mountain grass like a ghost 😦

I knew in my heart he was gone, but I wandered over to the hillside anyway to see if I might catch a glimpse of him on his way back to the thick brush he calls home. Of course I was fully aware I was on a fools errand at that point, once a coyote decides to vanish there is little hope of seeing him again.

Snowstorm on the Sangre de Cristo

So I continued my trek over the summit to the edge of the west side where there would be a spectacular view of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range with it’s brand new mantle of white. I can only imagine the horrendous winds that were propelling these amazing clouds and blowing snow.

I didn’t get the hero shot of the coyote but I am happy to have at least a small prize to commemorate the sighting. Also got some great exercise, fresh air and some great shots of the mountains after our latest winter storm πŸ™‚

Snowstorm on the Sangre de Cristo

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!

Coyote on the Mountain

Wild Morning

Rough Legged Hawk

It was a wild and wonderful morning on the mountain, I saw a little of everything today πŸ™‚ I wanted to see some wildlife today and I was debating a long drive to up my chances but in the end I decided on a short drive to my usual local trail. I knew it was a good omen as I was climbing the hill and I heard the screech of a hawk.Β  It sounded close by so I looked around and there he was perched on top of a power pole. Unfortunately he had is back to me and I couldn’t get a decent shot. So I waited hoping the big raptor would take flight but that didn’t work out either. When he finally flew he went down and all the power lines and the pole were in the way… later on I got a shot of him high in the brilliant blue Colorado sky but a closer shot would have been much nicer.

Herd of Mule Deer

I continued my trek up the hill and soon I spotted a lone doe mule deer in a perfect pose in the perfect morning light πŸ™‚ But now my camera was stuck. I live in Tv mode and the front wheel wouldn’t change the shutter speed, it was stuck on a 2000th of a second from my birds in flight efforts yesterday. So I went to manual and that was a no go too. Av mode was next on the list and it was fine but it was setting a wildly outrageous ISO which I quickly locked in at 400. Now, free to choose my exposure compensation with the real wheel I set up for the shot. By then a few more deer had moved into the lush meadow to feed and I probably got in about a half hour of uninterrupted shooting. Kind of wish now that I had done a little video, but in all the excitement it didn’t occur to me. Eventually for some unknown reason the front wheel started working again and I finished up the scene in the preferred Tv mode using a 500th and a 640th of a second for a few captures before the deer disappeared into the wilderness.

Sage Sparrow on a  Perch

Eventually I was on top of the ridge in the clearing where I heard a faint but urgent chirping to the north. I looked over but didn’t see anything… a closer look revealed a sage sparrow on top of a bush singing her song with a fresh batch of nesting materials in her mouth! Usually those little guys stay perched for about a billionth of a second but today she stayed for a full portrait session πŸ™‚

While descending the mountain I spotted a big coyote over by the prairie dogs standing and just staring at me. Naturally I stopped and snapped a few pictures before she began a wary retreat. Every few steps she would stop and look at me to see if I was a threat and I was hoping she would just stop and wait, but she finally trotted away and disappeared over the ridge.

Coyote Hunting Prairie DogsMy extraordinary morning in the mountains was at an end, I was back in the parking lot when I spotted what I first thought was the hawk again but it turned out to be a White American Pelican. I once again adjusted my camera for bird in flight and tried my hand at capturing he soaring majestically overhead. You can really go overboard with a bird soaring in the air with the rapid fire button and in about 10 minutes I had already rattled off about 150 more pictures… pictures I really didn’t feel like processing :( But a couple did turn out pretty nice so IΒ  guess it was worth it :)

Fortunately a good number of my images from today made for good print candidates and

American Pelican

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 ofΒ  my adventures in action!

Unsocial Distancing

Elk Herd on the Mountain

Hit the trail for the first time since my surgery, observing my usual “unsocial distancing” practice. My rule of thumb for that is six miles rather than six feet, basically I’m annoyed if I see anyone at all πŸ™‚

The climb up the ridge was not any easier than it was before I got all out of shape sitting around the house recovering, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath for sure! I thought for a minute I was going to have to turn around when I saw a giant snowdrift ahead but fortunately with all the freezing and thawing the snow was hard packed and easy to cross.

Elk Herd on the Mountain

The climb turned out toΒ  be worth it though when I saw the elk herd πŸ™‚ The lighting was horrible so I didn’t get the glory shot, but it sure was nice to be back in the great outdoors! And the frosting on the cake were my coyote friends who cut loose with a good coyote song for me while I hiked on past πŸ™‚ you can hear the beautiful song in this short video on my YouTube channel! Please subscribe to my channel if you like, I need a few more to get my custom URL!

The hike started out in snow and fog but by the time I reached the summit the beautiful snow capped Sangre de Cristo were beginning to shine through πŸ™‚

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

Snow Shoes Required

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Today there were no questions about whether the snow shoes were going to be required. One look at the trail and the question was answered, deep snow all the way to the summit and beyond. There was a cold wind out of the west this morning and as I strode up the mountainside and it wasn’t long before my ears began to tingle in pain from the searing cold. I shivered a little and pulled my sweatshirt hood over my head and then for good measure I cinched up the hood from my windbreaker as well.

My hopeful eyes scanned the ridge line as the dense pine trees drew closer, but there

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

was no wildlife in sight on this frigid morning. Finally I cleared the summit hoping to be greeted by the Three Amigos as I call them, the three bucks that seem to so thoroughly enjoy that mountaintop but they were not there. In fact there was no sign of life in the high clearing at all, no tracks, no droppings, nothing at all to indicate that I was going to have any wildlife photography success.

So I resigned myself to the idea that I was just going to have a nice snowshoe workout and maybe some good views of the mountains. And as always, the view from the summit never disappoints. The Sangre de Cristo were spectacular today under their heavy coat of

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

fresh snow with what appears to be another winter storm gathering on the high peaks of the beautiful block fault range.

On my way down I encountered the tracks of a lone coyote and I wondered how he would survive the long hard Rocky Mountain winter. How could any animal survive the wicked cold and winds at this elevation? As I listened to the whoosh, whoosh of fresh powder beneath my snowshoes I found myself hoping he would, hoping I would hear the howls of his pack in the spring warning me not to get too close to a new litter of pups.

And as I thought upon the beauty of these small feisty predators it also came to mind that

Coyote

I shouldΒ  write some letters to the politicians to demand an end to the indiscriminate and cruel murder so many of these tenacious animals face, and I hope you will write some letters and make some calls too. And please make special mention of halting the inhumane and unnecessary medieval practice of trapping that has been banned in over 70 civilized countries all over the world. Also please do all you can to bring an end to “yoting”, the vile so called sport practiced in Wyoming and Montana described in this excellent article from High Country News,Β  of running these animals over with snowmobiles, leaving them wounded and maimed, left to suffer a horrible painful death, alone in the snow. What kind of people are they who think of this as fun?

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift and handy household items are also available, including coffee mugs, phone chargers, blankets and pillows, apparel, all with a beautiful Rocky Mountain image from SW Krull Imaging

Brave Little Pack

Had an awesome little trek this morning… Got to the trailhead acceptably early so I was hopeful that I would be in time for a successful wildlife encounter. Put the camera on ISO 400 and selected only the center focus point, my preferred setting for precise focusing on the animals eye, and strapped the camera over my back with the big lens attached. Off we went up the trail… me and the big dog. As we cleared the summit I spotted some movement in the shade and readied the camera, ready for the herd of deer to present itself. Lol… well it was a herd all right, not deer but wild turkeys! By the time I readjusted my composition the little buggers had already scampered into the dense forest 😦 Oh well… all I could see was there little heads above the thick mountain grass anyway.

Small Pack of Coyotes

Onward and upward… soon we had traversed the mountain and were on our way back down when I heard the bark of a dog followed by a couple more barks. I assumed the barking was coming from the parking lot far below until I heard a chorus of howls to go with the racket. It was my little pack of coyotes thatΒ  I had photographed in the spring just as they were in the process of beginning their new lives πŸ™‚ It took a bit but I was finally able to spot them in a thicket of trees, by now all joining in on the beautiful wilderness song. I had to smile though, they are bigger now but their squeaky voices are still small πŸ™‚ I think their original plan was to hold their position in the thicket and stand their ground but after seeing the massive size of Big Dog they soon lost their nerve and took off for a more distant position from which to make their presence known.

Even with the big 400mm lens attached, the animals were too far away for a salable

Small Pack of Coyotes

capture… but I at least got these to record the amazing encounter with these distant shots πŸ™‚ Already though on my Instagram account… a comment to jolt me back to this present reality, something about an AR-15 which I of course immediately deleted. Some people, all they can think of when they see an animal is how they can kill it. These little predators are not hurting anyone and they deserve to live in peace, performing their intended task ofΒ  keeping the rodent population down. It’s no wonder there are so many mass shootings in these times, we live in a culture of death which will only worsen until people are taught from an early age to value all life, starting with an appreciation for these beautiful wild creatures.

Good Hunting

Coyote on the Hunt

Up late last night so today’s trek got off to a late start. I was quite surprised to see this healthy looking coyote doing his part in the heat of the mid morning sun to keep the prairie dog population under control. I wasn’t very close but my big 400mm Canon brought him in well enough to get a decent image. I wanted to take the time to attach my 1.4x but he was on the move so I figured I had better get while the getting was good! Sure enough, it wasn’t long before I was noticed and the little prairie wolf was putting distance between us in a hurry!

The Coyote

After a couple day’s rest I was feeling a bit better but today’s trek was still a bit of a mental struggle… I was starting to wish I had just stayed home when just then I spotted a couple of ears sticking up above a nearby ridge line. I didn’t know if the critter would go down into the ravine or come up and run along the top for a photo op but I got the camera ready anyway. Set to ISO 400 and middle focus zone I figured I’d be ready for whatever turn the scene might take.

Colorado Rocky Mountain Coyote running free

Well as luck would have it a coyote cleared the ridge, immediately spotted us and started to trot along the ridge line towards her home in the thick brush below. I just held the back button focus down and blazed away until my camera’s buffer was full. Then I shot a couple more for good measure.Β  Afterwards a quick check on my LCD screen looked promising. Exposure looked good and the images mostly looked sharp, even when zoomed in with the touch screen πŸ™‚

My joy at spotting this beautiful animal is tempered by sadness from some of the information I’ve been reading lately, though. Some people are afraid of coyotes… I don’t know why, they are afraid of people, prefer to eat small rodents or rabbits, and pretty much bother no one. Of course there is the odd city person who moves to the mountains, insists on living in the countryside in wildlife habitat and is then stunned to find out he can’t leave his shih tzu out in the yard at night, and of course there are the welfare ranchers who demand to be able to graze their sheep on public national forest land in predator country while not giving a damn about the wildlife or the people who enjoy watching them… but for the most part the wildlife prefers to mind it’s own business, bothering no one and performing their God given task of keeping the rodent population down.

I have known for quite some time that there is no shortage of hunters who love nothing

Colorado Rocky Mountain Coyote

more that blasting away at our beloved wildlife, not to mention people’s pets, a lady in her driveway, other hunters and pretty much anything else that moves, but I had no idea the depth of depravity that is condoned in some states until I recently read an article in Mountain Journal called “A Death Of Ethics: Is Hunting Destroying Itself?”. Apparently in many states predators including wolves, which were protected until Obama sold them out, are considered nuisance animals and can be killed without limit and not even afforded minimum animal cruelty protections.

The article describes all the horrible methods used by sadists in these backward states to destroy these innocent creatures including but not limited to, strangling them in snares, stomach shooting them to cause the slowest and most painful death, and running them down with snowmobiles. Apparently the latter is a preferred family activity in Wyoming as parents teach their children the joy of chasing down a terrified animal and running over it multiple times until it is finally dead. Personally I think that parents that teach their children this kind of cruelty should be charged with child abuse and their children placed in foster homes. The article is long and difficult to read but is an excellent in depth scientific study complete with names and history and useful resources that I highly recommend everyone read who cares about wildlife and our wilderness heritage.

Lest we continue to devolve into a nation of barbarians I hope kinder and more sane people will vote out the politicians who allow these practices in favor of leaders who understand that these animals are valuable sentient creatures who deserve to be treated humanely just as domestic animals are. In addition to their important function of limiting rodent populations, these animals are precious to many people who just want to have the wilderness experience by viewing them. Please contact your representatives today to demand change. Please help to insure that future generations will be able to experience what I was able to witness today… A beautiful example of God’s creation, running free in the beautiful countryside of our great nation.

As always these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art and cool gift items including useful household items, tech gadgets, apparel and more! Give the link a click and explore over a thousand great wilderness images created by #swkrullimaging!

 

The Coyote

Picture perfect morning in the mountains, the formerly frozen peaks of the Pike National Forest now basking in the warm glow of early morning spring sunshine. There was sign of wildlife everywhere but no sighting on the top of the ridge. No matter, I was just enjoying the solitude, the quiet and the beautiful scenery of the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Mama Coyote Barking a Warning

Too soon I was making my way down the mountain past the rocky gorge in full view of the majestic Sangre de Cristo range when the silence was broken. The urgent howl of an upset coyote echoed through the valley filling my ears with the pleasant sound of pure wildness. I could tell from the direction and the volume that the noisy prairie wolf was relatively close by. Canis latrans, literally barking dog…Β  living up to it’s name down in the valley. I assumed it was probably a female with pups given the frantic nature of her warning.

She was too far away for a good picture, but I wanted a record of the scene anyway so I stopped for a few quick captures. Perhaps I will return with a tripod and my 1.4x extender for a little closer view, in the meantime I hope this distant image will give my readers an idea of this treasured experience in the Colorado wilderness!

Signs of Spring

Elk Herd in the High Country

Signs of Springtime in the Rockies were everywhere this morning… the sun was shining, the wicked sting of frozen air was absent, the snow is rapidly melting, birds were chirping and there were critters everywhere! We saw two different herds of mule deer, a herd of elk, a ton of those cute little Rocky Mountain Jays, and a coyote! Unfortunately the coyote saw us too and quickly disappeared into the trees before I could even lift up my camera. I’m sure he wanted nothing to do with Big Dog this morning.

Elk Herd in the High Country

It was a good hike, still a few places where there are hard packed snow drifts to negotiate but most of the trail is dry. I have to say, even I am finally tired of winter and content to put away the snowshoes for the season. It was a good long winter and IΒ  got to do more snowshoeing in one season than in the entire previous decade.

My big 400mm lens came in handy today as the critters are pretty wary as they first Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Springtimeventure out from the dense wilderness where they have been hiding all winter. The little jays were too quick for me though, even with the long lens they sensed my presence and would not sit still long enough for a portrait. It didn’t take the elk long to see me and head into wilderness either, but I did manage to get in a few very distant shots before they vanished.

Tomorrow the forecast is calling for snow showers and cold, but for today spring was upon us πŸ™‚

Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain SpringtimeMule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Springtime

Focus on Infinity

“Infinity: unlimited extent of time, space, or quantity : boundlessness”, according to Merriam Webster. A difficult concept under any circumstances, infinity in photography can be an even more elusive state. In photography, the definition of infinity includes “A distance between a subject and the camera so great that rays of light reflected from the subject may be regarded as parallel.”, and “A distance setting of the camera lens beyond which everything is in focus.”.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Recent travails in shooting distant landscapes has me studying the issue in more depth, and today was the day for some cursory field testing. The plan was to conduct a scientific experiment to determine if the auto focus mechanism on my Canon 70D with my 70-200 lens was handling infinity properly. Today was supposed to start with a beautiful clear morning, following days of snow and fog and I was glad to finally be able to get out and do some shooting with Big Dog.

As usual though, my experiment didn’t turn out to be all that scientific or even informative, but I had fun and got some good usable shots πŸ™‚ What I did find out though was gratifying in that I believe that my lens is performing exactly as it should. My method was to take two shots of every scene, one with the auto focus and the second identical shot with the lens set to manual and the focus set to or near the “infinity” mark focused on the distant Sangre de Cristo mountain range as sharply as possible. Then, in front of Photoshop a 100% view of the two images side by side was going to tell me which method is better. I had recently watched another photographer on Youtube who claimed that manual mode focused on infinity was the way to go.

Now the really confusing part of the experiment is that many professional lenses have the capability to focus “beyond infinity”… where nothing is actually in focus. Apparently the equipment can compensate for micro expansion and contraction of the metal due to temperature changes and may require that space slightly beyond the infinity line for that purpose.

Fox with Prey

It was indeed a beautiful morning and we were awarded a couple of bonus shots for our effort πŸ™‚ Along the way I spotted both a fox hunting and then later a coyote hunting in the beautiful fresh snow. The fox was already heading for home with a tasty morsel in his mouth and the coyote was still hunting but paused to cast a wary glance in our direction.

Coyote in Fresh Snow

Coyote in Fresh Snow

The mountains were magnificent as usual and the clear day was perfect for my little test. My scene is perfect with some nearby pine forest covered foothills backed up by the distant peaks of the Sangre. As I conducted my tests I noticed some curious behavior exhibited by the equipment. When focusing on the nearby mountains the camera on auto focus chose to focus exactly on the infinity mark, while the distant mountains resulted in a focus slightly beyond the infinity mark. I thought I was onto something there, a possible malfunction in the auto focus mechanism perhaps. But the follow up shots using manual focus proved the auto focus to be exactly correct based on what I was focusing on.

These findings were very good news for confidence my equipment, but also raised a new question that I have no definitive answer for. Why are the close mountains which are at infinity focused differently than the distant mountains which are also beyond infinity. I guess the simple answer to that is that the close mountains are at a sufficiently varied distance and angle to result in a slightly different infinity value from the vastly distant Sangre de Cristo range more than 60 miles away. In any case, the idea of just setting the camera to the infinity mark is out of the question, at least for a 200mm lens. This practice would probably work fine for a wide angle lens where the infinity point is only a few feet from the camera. Each scene is going to require evaluation to determine what exactly is the most important feature to render the most sharp in the image. If the entire image needs to be sharp, focus stacking in Photoshop might be required.

All in all, the day was a success, important knowledge acquired, some nice images to work with collected, and now in the last couple of hours some more great shots of the little fox family that I found the other day πŸ™‚ Please be sure to visit my image website to see all the new pictures that have been made for sale as wall art, cool household items and royalty free stock!