Hunting the Hawks

Red-tailed Hawk in FlightOr hawks hunting… Could go either way! I was out early this morning hoping to photograph some red-tailed hawks but this was beyond expectations! As I rounded the curve outside of Victor I spotted a red-tail hunting in a grassy wetland area so I quietly pulled closer hoping to get a shot… Much to my surprise though, it wasn’t one hawk, there were at least four of them circling and diving down to the grass, for some kind of rodent I assume! I wasn’t quick enough to catch any of them on the ground but it wasn’t long and a couple of them were perched in the nearby trees where I could get close.

I set my camera to shutter priority mode (Tv) on a 2000th of a second. As usual I left the ISO on auto to ensure enough light for the capture and then dialed in +2 on the exposure compensation to account for the bright Colorado sky.

The intrepid raptors eyeballed me for a few minutes and then took flight for a better view. There was a breeze on this morning so the great birds were having no trouble staying afloat right above me. One managed to remain almost stationary right above me as he looked down assessing my presence. I was able to snap off about a hundred images before they drifted ever higher into the blue Colorado sky.

 

 

Red-tailed Hawk in FlightAs 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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

Avian Air Show

Sangre de Cristo in Summer

I awoke way way too early on this morning, so at first light I glanced out the window down the valley towards the mostly non existent Sangre de Cristo Range these days,  to see what the day was going to look like. We have been unable to see the distant mountains in a long time, not since the fires started early in the summer… especially the big ones in California. Much to my surprise it was a fine cool clear mountain morning and it appeared that if I hustled I might even capture a few photographs of the stunningly beautiful peaks.

Soon I was on the trail just as the sun was turning the amazing scene into gold as it ascended above the peaks to the east of my valley. I strode quickly to the edge of the ridge where I could get the best view, all the while watching for the wildlife that so often joins me on the summit of my happy place. Today they were nowhere to be seen, but except for a lingering haze from the day before,

Rain Cloudseverything was perfect for a few captures of the amazing scene unfurling before me. I snapped a few captures and then switched to video for a few seconds of footage which I’ll be publishing later.

 

Eventually it began to rain and I was forced off my position to hide under a pine tree until the shower had moved past. The hike back down yielded no wildlife so it was off to the Gold Camp Bakery for some biscuits and gravy, something I can always look forward to no matter what the weather conditions on the trail 🙂

Red-Tail Hawks in Flight

By the time breakfast was done the sun was shining brightly high in the sky and the air once again filling with smoke, so I decided to head  back to my office to take a look at the pictures. However as I rolled past the trailhead I spotted four raptors soaring in the air above the parking lot so of course I had to pull in for a better look! Luckily for me the great raptors circled overhead for a long time, racing and chasing in the sky, climbing high and swooping low.

I set my camera on a 2000th of a second while leaving the aperture and the ISO up to the camera, the best way I know to assure proper exposure in a rapidly changing situation. The sun was shining brightly so I bumped up the EC to +1 and snapped away. Eventually the colorful raptors soared higher and higher and finally disappeared into the blazing Colorado sun. A quick review of the LCD screen revealed some promising images 🙂

I hope you enjoy them, and stay tuned… I should have the video of my hike to the Sangre de Cristo overlook ready later today!

 

 

Red-Tail Hawks in Flight

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado in summertime

Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado in summertime

Cloud Dancers

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Snow is flying on Trail Ridge Road already, if you ask me that’s a good omen 🙂 This morning greeted me with 43 chilly degrees, clouds and a pretty stiff breeze. Of course for me, that only meant that I needed to get out in it 🙂 My favorite close by mountain seemed like good medicine for this day, a guaranteed good long hike at elevation 🙂 I haven’t seen any wildlife there in a while though, I’m kind of thinking maybe the dusky grouse has already migrated. Come to think of it, my osprey pair in Eleven Mile Canyon may also have migrated, according to the literature late August is their assigned time for departure for their southern locations. It seems like the adults leave early while their youngsters hang around awhile perfecting their fishing skills and strengthening their new wings. Last year our juveniles at Eleven Mile remained until around mid September.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Sure enough, I hiked all the way to the summit without seeing a thing to photograph, the Sangre de Cristo Range is completely obscured by the California smoke and there was no bird song at all at the summit. I wonder if many of the little species have already migrated… It makes me wonder what kind of horrific winter we may be in store for!

On my way down I was happy to see the pair of red-tailed hawks sitting together on one of the power poles, for the longest time there was just one hawk so I’m glad he or she has found a mate 🙂 I was in pretty good position for a shot so I set up the tripod and switched to live view where it was easier to keep an eye on them through the three inch LCD screen. Plus I don’t have to strain my neck so much to just sit and look at the “big screen”, rather than the little tiny viewfinder!

It wasn’t long and the beautiful pair took flight and headed north for their daytime locations which I’m not privy to. I waited a bit to see if they would come back but it appeared that the decision was made for the day so I decided to go on up to the Gold Camp Bakery in Victor for some  biscuits and gravy, always a treat 🙂

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Eventually the sun was shining brightly and it appeared that my day of photography was over so I turned Big Blue back down the pass towards home. But as I passed the trailhead I looked into the sky and saw four large birds soaring and chasing each other in the sky. I trained my big lens on them and by golly it was four red-tail hawks, just playing in the sky 🙂 I suspect that the two extra must be the offspring of the nesting pair that I’ve become familiar with. All the more red-tails to photograph in the months to come!

They circled overhead for quite a while, twirling and diving and chasing each other all over the beautiful blue Colorado sky. I followed them with my lens as best as I could, shooting whenever I was in focus and they were close enough.  I probably snapped about 120 captures before it was all over and the amazing cloud dancers drifted off into the distance.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

Journey into the Clouds

Snowing again for the I don’t know how many days in a row… I was trying to figure out what to do today while actually considering taking a day off and staying inside. Finally I made up my mind to just go out and shovel a bit and clear the snow off my truck so that I could go somewhere if I could ever figure out what to do. Once I was dressed and out I decided to just go visit my local trail and see how amazingly beautiful the trees of the high country forest might be on this cold dreary spring morning.

High Country Snow

Once on the trail it came to me that the key to finding something rewarding to do in this beautiful state of Colorado is just getting out the door. Once you are out in the great outdoors it doesn’t really matter what you have decided to do. Being outside in these amazing mountains is reward enough. Anything after that is a bonus. It doesn’t matter if you are visiting the same trail for the millionth time… it looks different every time you go. You never know what you are going to find. You could see some amazing cloud formations, a herd of elk, deer, a coyote hunting, a bald eagle or a red-tailed hawk.  If that doesn’t happen you might discover a new species of bird to add to your lifetime sightings collection!

As for me today, I wound up at my usual trail… I didn’t want to drive very far as the weather forecast was calling for a significant amount of snow and I don’t like to take chances with bad weather on the road. I began my climb up the hill and decided that at a minimum the trees covered in a beautiful mantle of white were going to be a great subject for today. I put my camera on a 650th of a second with auto aperture and ISO. I knew the bright white snow would affect the meter so I set my exposure compensation to +1 and snapped a test shot.  Then I wrapped my camera and lens in my trusty rain shield and headed up the hill.

High Country Snow

Amazingly at the summit I noticed that I was actually inside the storm clouds. The weather app indicated that it wasn’t snowing but a quick glance around proved definitively that was not the case at this elevation. This is often the case when you find yourself high enough to be in the clouds. I could see them swirling around me so I attempted to capture some of that action on video. I captured some idea of the effect but even video didn’t do the wonder of the scene justice!

As a bonus for the day I managed to capture a couple of images of deer and a red-tailed hawk in the snow. All in all I have to say I am quite happy I decided to just go outside… with or without a plan!

High Country Snow

Again there are far too many images from today to fit them all in this blog post, so please feel free to follow my Instagram page to see  the rest and much much more!

Also watch my Youtube Channel for a short video clip of the great blue heron!

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.

Deer in Snow

Trying Topaz DeNoise and Sharpen

I do a lot of low light wildlife photography and some images even though captured perfectly under the conditions suffer from noisy high ISO values. I have recently seen a lot of good reviews about the Topaz AI products so I thought I’d download the trial versions to see if they might be beneficial to my work. I must add, this blog post is not sponsored by Topaz or any other product.

So the first image I was interested in is this shot of a Great Blue Heron. This fellow would fly past me once each morning, well before the sun had cleared the ridge on the east side of Eleven Mile Canyon. There was no way to wait for better light, the heron made his one flight at first light and that was it. On this particular image I was using a 400mm zoom with a 1.4x extension. Shutter speed was 1/1250th at F9 and ISO 16000. So on this image I ran both Sharpen and then DeNoise in that order. The image on the top is the unprocessed image while the one on the bottom has been processed using Topaz AI. I find that running the sharpen first, followed by the noise reduction seems to product the best results.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using only Photoshop v22

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using Topaz AI DeNoise and sharpen plugins with Photoshop v22

Both images are in the acceptable range, I had originally submitted the Photoshop only image to my stock agencies and it was accepted by the reviewers. However I do find the Topaz AI processed image to be more appealing. The colors are much smoother and when viewed at 100% and details on the bird are more discernible and the eye is especially sharper and clearer, a very important detail in wildlife photography.

This red-tail hawk in flight capture I made was on the verge of being unusable in my stock image portfolio. Just a slight amount of motion blur when combined with digital noise from a low light situation put this capture slightly out of tolerance for viewing at 100%. I found that Topaz AI sharpening and noise reduction combined were able to put the image back into tolerance, thus rescuing a very valuable image. Again, the unprocessed version is on the top and the Topaz version is on the bottom:

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop V22 only

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise

This next image is a bald eagle also photographed in low light. I wanted to set the camera at a 1600th or 2000th of a second but the lighting conditions resulted in ISO values of 9000-16000, and I was hoping for a clearer image so I went with 1/1250th again. This time I was not using the 1.4x so I was able to use F5.6 and ISO 4000. Again, the Topaz processed image is on the bottom:

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop only

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

This was a near perfect image to start with so unless looking at it at 100% the differences are almost indiscernible. However even with these small web sized versions, when viewed at 100% the Topaz processed picture is obviously the cleaner image.

I also wanted to see what the software could do with a failed image. In this shot of the eagle I either didn’t achieve focus or there was too much motion blur. Not sure which it was but the image is unusable in my portfolio:

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop only

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

Now in this situation the original image is obviously blurry and unusable. In the sharpening window I used the “focus” tab and had to slide the sharpen slider all the way to the right. This image has made an amazing transformation. From blurry and unusable it has become sharp and focused, quite an impressive feat!

All in all I’d have to say I am very impressed with these products and I will be purchasing both Sharpen and DeNoise for sure. I haven’t tried GigaPixel yet, not sure I am going to need that. So far I have found with my 32mp camera my images are plenty large enough even after relatively severe cropping. Also the stock agencies don’t like uprezing and my print lab recommends against it as well. They probably have their own version of uprezing software and don’t want to mess with double enlarging of images.

I hope you found this review useful, and don’t forget to click the follow button if you want to be the first to see my next blog post!

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!

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Reprocessed with maximum sharpness

Christmas in the Wilderness

Well I have to say it was a pretty darn good Christmas… Not the traditional kind of course, but a good one out in the woods with the furry and feathered critters. It was really tempting to just stay home and watch Christmas movies, but I guess that’s not how I roll. So I scraped the frost off my windshield and headed over to

Mule Deer in the Pike National Forest

my usual trailhead. Along the way, just as the sun was just barely coming up over the mountains to the east, shining right on a pair of cute doe mule deer peering out at me from the forest over a fence. Thinking these might be the only deer I was going to see all day long, I stopped and snapped a couple of portraits of them as they looked at me with great curiosity.

The hike itself yielded nothing but some good exercise so I decided to move on to Eleven Mile Canyon. On that drive I had the opportunity to jump out and snap a few images of two red-tailed hawks perched on power poles along the highway. The second one took a leisurely flight over my head, allowing for a couple of in flight shots 🙂 By this time I was feeling pretty lucky… Images of red-tails in the bank already and I wasn’t even at my intended destination yet 🙂

Red-tailed hawk in the beautiful blue Colorado sky.

Finally at the canyon, I’m getting a pretty good idea where in the six mile stretch of river it is that the eagles like to do their fishing.  Below the dam is completely frozen over now, so my old standby location for eagle watching is no longer available. About five miles in the river widens out and rounds a bend. So I just drove in slowly with that destination in mind while scanning both sides of the river for deer, American Dippers and raptors perched on branches above open water.

Bald eagle looking for fish in the Platte River below in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

Seeing nothing along the way my search grew more intense as I neared the bend, and then… there he was! Perched majestically on a dead branch above the river he watched the ducks and slowly moving water below. I got out and aimed my long lens at the great bird and watched. He cocked his head left and right and stared intently at the water. Using the hood of my truck to steady the camera I snapped a few of him on the branch before moving in closer along the river bank for a better angle. Eventually the majestic bird looked right at me, signaling that I was getting too close… So I grabbed one more capture and then retreated  back to my truck.

Eventually he took flight, perhaps to find a more successful fishing hole. I drove the rest of  the way to the dam and turned around for the return trip. Just before reaching the bend again I spotted another red-tailed hawk on a tree top. I knew I wasn’t going to have long for this capture so I readied the camera before getting out. And I was right, I got off one maybe two shots and then the handsome hawk was airborne, rising rapidly out of camera range and over the mountains to the east.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

And then I spotted the bald eagle again, perched on another dead tree just a few yards down from where he was before. This time there was no need to leave the truck and I used it for a hide as I steadied the camera on the hood once again. Again he flew after a bit, this time right toward me! And I was ready with camera settings for a bird in flight. I followed him with the view finder, snapping in high speed until my buffer was full.  The pictures looked good on the back screen but it wasn’t going to be until I was home at the computer before I would know for sure!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

I decided not to try to follow him again, I already had almost 300 images to sort through! Christmas day was rapidly winding down and I wanted to get home before dark,  so satisfied with my digital Christmas presents I decided it was time to pack it in 🙂

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!

Red-tailed hawk in the beautiful blue Colorado sky.

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Wild Winter Solstice

Herd of Mule Deer

It was a wild morning on this 2020 winter solstice! I was much relieved to see the Three Amigos again, I haven’t seen them for months and was afraid a hunter had gotten them. Actually I am thinking of calling them the Fab Four since they have been roaming with another buddy since the fall, the fourth member was already at the tree line when I took this shot. Of course I know the Fab Four is also the name for the Beatles, but if you ask me the musicians don’t hold a candle to these big boys! They didn’t stick around long though, soon after they spotted me they began meandering toward the dense woods on the north and west side of the mountain.

Herd of Mule Deer

As my trek veered toward the north I spotted the rest of the herd making their way west as well, enjoying some mountain grass along the way. It looked to me like I would get some really nice shots in good light if I used some patience and waited for them to pass, so I took a seat on a big rock and waited. They were actually moving along pretty steadily so it wasn’t long before I began to get some good opportunities. However I noticed that they started nervously looking back and moving a little faster. I was pretty sure I wasn’t disturbing them as I peered into the distance to see what might be coming out of the trees over the hill, a coyote perhaps? Soon the disturbance came into view… my nemesis with the two dogs was coming up the trail behind me, and soon the deer were galloping

Herd of Mule Deer

toward the safety of the trees to the north. I did my best to capture the herd running, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for such an event. The original plan was to leisurely shoot them grazing in the grass at a relatively slow shutter speed and correspondingly low ISO value. I scrambled to reset the camera and fired a few frames off over a few seconds and then they were gone. I tell you, this guy is ruining my life, every day chasing away my livelihood 😦 I hope he moves on soon… or maybe this is a sign that it’s time for me to move on, perhaps closer to Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe even Montana.

Such a brief encounter wasn’t enough to satisfy my wildlife fix today so I decided to drive on up to Eleven Mile Canyon in hopes of spotting some eagles or maybe some more deer or even a herd of elk! The initial drive up the canyon yielded exactly nothing, except that I did see the eagle lady driving back down the canyon… peering intently into the trees along the river. At the top I just turned around and headed back down hoping for a more fruitful pass through the canyon on the return trip. On my way down I spotted the eagle lady headed back up, I guess I should find out her name…

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually my journey came to an end and I had nothing to show for it. I pondered the eagle lady’s strategy and began to wonder if I should make a second trip? What the heck, I had already paid the fee and I wouldn’t be coming back for a while so I turned big blue back around and began a second pass through the beautiful wilderness along the headwaters of the South Platte. Soon I came upon the eagle lady out of her car with camera in hand, so I pulled up behind her and got out to see what the excitement was. Sure enough she had spotted a baldy in a pine tree looking intently at a section of open water, for fish I presume!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile CanyonEventually he flew off in the opposite direction and I continued my drive up the canyon. No more eagle sightings but I did find a nice red-tailed hawk, also fishing along the river. He didn’t stay perched for long and I managed to get a nice shot of him in flight before he drifted away, well out of range for pictures.

I hoped for more on the way down but I was satisfied with the days good fortune and just enjoyed the scenery and the solitude the rest of the way down.

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!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile Canyon

Sacred Sighting

Feeling pretty blessed this morning… Just as my trek up the mountain began I was  greeted by this beautiful red-tailed hawk. I was hoping to see one of my feathered friends so my camera was at the ready, shutter speed at a 1600th of a second, aperture f8, and auto ISO to guarantee a correct exposure.  My 1.4x extender was attached to my 400mm long lens and IS mode 2 was selected

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

for the optimum value for panning in case I could catch a raptor in flight. My eyes scanned the hillside looking for one of the great birds perched on the tree tops and there he was, already aware of my presence and watching warily from his distant perch.

Fortunately for me the trail snaked back and forth up the steep slope culminating with a pass just in front of the beautiful hawk on it’s journey into the dense pine forest. Finally I stood on near the summit right

across from the prize, still staring at me intently… I readied the camera and the instant that I achieved focus he took flight, well  before I was ready to begin tracking him 😦 By this time I was close enough that keeping him in the frame proved to be difficult, but I managed to get in a few nice captures before I lost him in the clear blue Colorado sky.

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

I watched where he flew and made sure my trek included a pass by those distant trees in case I might catch him again, but I would see no more raptors on this day. I have to say though, any day you can capture a hawk in flight is a good day 🙂

So as I began this blog post I did a quick search for “red-tailed hawk” so I could provide link to general information about this bird and I discovered that viewing one of these great birds is quite the spiritual experience! There were numerous links available to discover the deeper meaning of these fortuitous  encounters!

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

According to the “Power of Positivity” website, “Hawks represent the messengers of the spirit world, so seeing them definitely means the universe wants you to learn powerful lessons or expand your knowledge and wisdom. Hawks also encourage you to use laser focus and precision to get things done, and to take the lead in life. So, if you happen to spot hawks often in your life, the universe could be trying to send you these important messages.”. Who knew I was so close to destiny today 🙂

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

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!