Quite a Day with the Bighorns

Fog Bank Sangre de Cristo

I have to say, yesterday was quite a day… the plan was to arise early and drive to Waterton in hopes of catching the bighorn sheep in full rut. The day got off to a bit of a rough start though, a heavy blanket of freezing fog had enveloped the entire region the night before and it took me about 20 minutes to chip my way into the truck before I could even depart!

On the way up the pass I looked back and noticed that the fog bank had created a beautiful blanket in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, so I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that! There was a pretty good haze in the air to go with the fog so the images aren’t as clear as they could be, but it was still an amazing sight to behold ๐Ÿ™‚

We began our mountain bike ride up the canyon fully expecting a good long ride before

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

seeing any sheep but after just a few short minutes of pedaling a group of the critters came into view. I assumed it was the usual herd of ewes and youngsters that so often inhabit the entrance to the park, but much to our surprise the little herd was also occupied by four good sized rams causing trouble among each other, one in particular who was kicking the others in hopes of starting a fight.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

I have long desired to witness the rams butting heads, and it looked like this day was going to give me that chance! I wanted to capture a still of the moment of impact, but I also wanted to get some video so my readers could also experience the excitement of the moment. As a group of three rams circled each other, jostling and kicking… I switched my camera to video to record the action. There was not the classic charge and clash impact in this scene, but I did manage to record the nudging and little head knocking on this video now available to watch on my Youtube Channel ๐Ÿ™‚

We watched transfixed by the action for at least two hours as the rams hassled each

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

other. They would graze for a couple of minutes while it looked like they might finally give it a rest and relax for a while, but soon the tension would again arise and the tussle would begin anew.ย  Just when we would think that nothing was really going to happen, all of a sudden without warning they would square off, take a couple of steps on two feet and smash heads. It was very difficult to photograph, zoom lenses were required to get the best view of the action, but too close to capture both animals when they were setting up for the action. It was also difficult to be focused in on the area where the impact would occur since it all happened so quickly without warning.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

But I do believe I managed to capture the exact moment of impact on this image, the huge beasts with their heads together and eyes closed for the crash. I think maybe it would have been better if my camera had fired a millisecond earlier, but again… maybe the smashed heads is what I was after!

Rumors of a bear further up the canyon finally tore us away from the sheep herd and off we went. We rode to approximately the 4 mile point without seeing any other wildlife so we turned back around to return to the herd for a few more images. The river was magnificent in the winter light and the ride an excellent aerobic workout. I’m looking forward to really getting in shape for some more serious riding in the spring!

As I crested the final ridge on the journey home I was greeted by this magnificent sunset,

Sunset on the Sangre de Cristo

beautiful golden colors and the remnants of fog from the storm the night before. A perfect ending to a perfect day ๐Ÿ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Click the link to explore!

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Tough Day in the Canyon

The week began with bitter cold and snow, a lot of snow… but as luck would have it there would be a break in the winter weather just in time for our planned adventure in Waterton Canyon. The forecast was calling for sunshine and 40’s on Thursday and the plan was, the sheep would be ready for a break and would come down into the canyon to pose for us ๐Ÿ™‚

Red-taile Hawk in Waterton Canyon

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

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

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

With a couple of slight mishaps and lenses covered with a good scoop of snow, we arrived safely at the plateau where the search for the better view began. Unfortunately all the climb accomplished was to increase the angle of view to the point where we could not see at all over the dry brush covering the mountainside ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Wintry Manitou Springs Colorado

On the way down the service road I spotted a white object on a cliff above us, so when we arrived at the closest point and best view we took a look through the long lens to ascertain it’s identity. Turns out it was a majestic looking Red-tailed hawk gazing fiercely over the canyon, I assume in search of prey that might become a good lunch. This would become my only wildlife photograph of the day ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The day wasn’t a complete bust though, we did get the benefit of a seven mile hike ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Plusย  on the way through the Colorado Springs area, there was an amazing view of Manitou Springs from the highway that I have been wanting to acquire for years. Sometimes I don’t have my camera, often I’m in a hurry and don’t have the time… But yesterday I hadย  the camera and the view was extra fantastic, no excuse not to stop!

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

A Sight for Sore Eyes

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

The big storm is over and the high country is covered in a new mantle of pure white. I poked my head out the door at sunrise to see what kind of of morning it was going to be and I was elated to be able to see down the valley all the way to the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range for this first time in months. Dust, haze and smoke from the Decker fire have all but made the mountains invisible until the big snowstorm cleaned it all up.

Hope you enjoy the view as much as I do, via pixels on the computer screen! As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

First Major Snow

Today definitely feels like winter! The wind is howling, snow is blowing around and Pikes Peak is turning white! There is this brief period of time for good photography of this angle of the peak where the snow has begun

Winter Storm on Pikes Peak

to decorate the massive mountain and there is still some light on the north face. After the solstice the peak will not see the light of sun until spring and pictures of the peak are pretty uninspiring.

For now though, it looked like a pretty wild day on the peak! I’ve been up there in that weather and the forces of nature are stunning at 14,000 feet!ย  I was up on the top of the ridge a few winters ago attempting a winter summit on the west face with climbing buddy Ralph when we suddenly found ourselves in a life threatening situation in that howling wind! Fortunately we found the strength to literally run down the trail to a safer elevation and lived to climb another day ๐Ÿ™‚

This image is now available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

Dreaming of Snow

Mule Deer Herd on a Snowy Morning

Summer is OK, the warm weather nice and we don’t have to worry about the hazardous perils of driving in the snow… but there is something mesmerizing about the tranquility of the woods when it is so quiet that you can hear the sound of snowflakes landing lightly on the ground.

These deer appear to feel the same way, the only creatures moving about the wilderness on this day ๐Ÿ™‚ For a bit though their peace and quiet was disturbed by this photographer wanting to capture the moment, not running but keeping a curious and watchful eye on me while I captured these

Mule Deer Herd on a Snowy Morning

photographs.

The moment was fleeting but I am thankful for these images and the opportunity to experience this magical morning.

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 framing and matting. Cool gift, household and tech items are also available with a beautiful Rocky Mountain scene! Click to explore!

Mule Deer Herd on a Snowy Morning

Lazy Summer Day

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

Too tired and too hot to go anywhere or do anything major today… So I’m working on pictures from last winter to cool down ๐Ÿ™‚ When I do a photo shoot I usually quickly process the very best to print and move on to the next photo shoot. This leaves literally hundreds of images in my queue of work to process. Eventually I have to get back to them and send the more ordinary ones off to stock agencies. Once in a while though, I discover one like this one that somehow slipped through my original editing that deserves a second look ๐Ÿ™‚

This one I am uploading as wall art to to my website,ย I really like the heavy snow on the Sangre de Cristo and the clouds on the horizon. Also there are some clouds or fog drifting over the foothills, filling in the Arkansas River Valley with an awesome looking dreamy layer of mist. I just love looking at the Sangre when they do that!

I will probably get around to hanging some prints on the wall today as well. Anything to stay out of the hot sun outside!

Summer Struggle

Elk in Fresh Snow

Summer is the worst time of the year for my wildlife and landscape photography. I work so late and the sun rises so early that’s it is almost impossible to get out for a sunrise session. Later in the morning the sun beating down from straight overhead pretty much washes all the color out of a scene and the animals are all avoiding the heat of the day hiding deep inย  the forest.

I try to make the best of it though, I still have hundreds images that I have flagged for upload to the stock agencies that are still waiting patiently on my hard drive for some attention! This image was one from the day after our huge “bomb cyclone” blizzard. I still remember this day, the elk had gathered near the summit where the snow had mostly blown away and access to the mountain grass easiest. There were about a dozen that I have uploaded to stock including this one. Don’t think I will put them on my website website as prints though, I have similar images already for sale there in the “elk” gallery.