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

On the Wings of Eagles

What an awesome day with the bald eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon! I drove in expecting to see them at the bend and just when I was getting worried that they weren’t going to be there I spotted one on the very top of a dead branch intently watching the placid water below. This particular stretch of river is a favorite for the raptors for it’s wide valley and slow moving water. I quietly parked and took up a position just on the other side of a bush so as not to bother the intrepid hunter too much.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

But man it was cold! I was only out for a few seconds and already my fingers and toes were burning. Soon I began to shiver and then there was no holding the camera still. I went back to the truck for my portable seat so that I could steady my elbows on my knees, and hopefully then the camera. And I waited… hoping to see the inevitable dive into the river for a fish. I watched for probably about a half an hour and then it happened. The eagle leapt off his perch and swooped downward. I fired off as many shots as I could hoping for a sharp image of the impact point. But he never got there… apparently he lost sight of his prey and just swooped back toward the sky.

I tried to watch where he went, packed up my gear and drove upstream… relishing the heat inside my vehicle! Eventually I spotted him again, this time on my side of the river… Luckily there was a large parking area so I situated the truck so that I could just aim out the window and shoot, without getting out into the cold. Soon I heard the call of an eagle on the other side… I spotted his mate high in the treetops watching the action from the other side of the river. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

train the camera on her from inside so I got out and braced my elbows on the hood of the truck. It wasn’t long before my fingers were once again frozen and burning… and I began to shiver uncontrollably. I tried to shoot some video and even the Image Stabilization feature of my lens was not able to overcome the onslaught of hypothermia. I just could not believe how cold it was!

The eagles took one more flight upstream where I was able to shoot a few more images before they flew on, apparently to their home out of sight. I hope somewhere along the line one of them was able to catch a fish so they have a good meal!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

In addition to the usual pictures I include in my posts, this time there is a YouTube video to go along with my submission. I was able to capture a few minutes of footage of these amazing birds which you can view on my channel here!

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!

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

My Happy Place

Decided to take the long route on my trail today… the one that takes me up to “my happy place”, the high ridge where there are no vestiges of civilization, no other people, no sound, just nature in all her glory 🙂 It’s not an easy climb… first there is the straight up the mountain trail from the parking lot to the top of the first

Pike National Forest Scenery

ridge, then a steep trek through the snow and dense forest to the top of what I call the Mount of Broken Dreams and finally another steep ascent to the top of Grouse Mountain. There are abandoned gold mines at the top which make nice wind breaks so I like to take a break there and just enjoy the spectacular scenery.

I had hoped to see some wildlife to photograph along the way, but today there was nothing. A couple of sparrows hiding from me to avoid having their pictures taken, but that was it! I haven’t seen the dusky grouse in a long time, I wonder if they migrate or hibernate? Maybe they have moved to a more friendly elevation. I have high hopes of someday finding an owl in the forest but so far I have no sign that there might actually be one there… just the hope. With no wildlife to photograph, I decided on these two landscapes to at least show the  beauty and ruggedness of the Pike National Forest. Visible is the rugged terrain in this part of the Pike National Forest with the stunning beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background.

Pike National Forest Scenery

Even though I didn’t see any wildlife I always enjoy the time of solitude and connection with my Maker, and a bit of exercise can never be a bad thing!

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!

Where the Spirit Moves

I had no plan at all when I awoke this morning… I might have been content to just sit in my chair with the dog and drink coffee, but as often occurs right about sunrise my mind wandered to my favorite mountain trail and it wasn’t long before I was dressed and out the door.

My hike to the summit of Grouse Mountain yielded nothing but a bit of exercise and before long I was back in the truck. As I contemplated going home with nothing to show for my day but the Spirit began stirring me to drive out to Eleven Mile again, a place I had recently decided I wasn’t going to visit for a while.

Big Herd of Elk

Saw this elk herd on my way, I would have stayed for more pictures but the huge beasts spotted me and began to run and I didn’t want them getting injured in a stampede so I quickly jumped back in the truck. The plan worked, almost as soon as I was out of sight they settled back down and went back to grazing on the mountain grass. Our elk in Teller County aren’t like the friendly ones in Rocky Mountain National Park that you can practically walk right up to!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

As I drove into the parking lot I spotted my two favorite bald eagles sitting on a huge boulder together, surrounded by a fan club of crows. Unfortunately by the time I got out my camera, one of the huge raptors had already flown over to an ice floe in the river. I snapped a couple of the remaining bird with the crows and then it flew off as well. Much to my surprise though, the eagle made a return trip… circling past me a couple of times before flying past the cliffs to a treetop near the nest. I believe this is as close as I have ever been to a bald eagle in the wild and I am so happy that all the settings on my camera were just right for an eagle in flight! Very fortunate event in the life of a wildlife photographer 🙂

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

In the meantime the other eagle had flown back into the woods as well, perching on another treetop behind the nest, almost completely obscured by tree branches. I watched for about an hour, listening to the two mates calling out to each other but it appeared that they were done flying around for a while. I have learned eagles are content to sit on their branches for hours at a time if they aren’t in need of a meal.

Just as I was ready to call it a day this little muskrat came out to visit, making a couple of passes to check me out and see what I was up to 🙂

Muskrat in the South Platte River

My plans for the last couple of weeks have pretty much been a bust, nothing much from a trip to Waterton and nothing to speak of from another planned visit to Eleven Mile State Park on free State Park day. Gets me to thinking… maybe it’s best to just go where the Spirit Moves, after all… they are His Creation!

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!

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 🙂

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

First Snow 2020

Summer didn’t give up without a fight… some of the hottest weather I’ve seen in the mountains persisted right through the entire labor day weekend.  Almost 80 doesn’t sound very hot to ya’ll flat landers but we aren’t used to that up here! it was much worse in Denver, Sunday I believe hitting 101 degrees. It was so hot and bright just after sunrise that I didn’t even bother leaving the house.

First Colorado Snow

But that all ended on Monday night as a cold front went through and dropped the temperature to 20f and the skies broke with eight inches of snow, wind and fog. The fog and low visibility lasted all day yesterday so I dejectedly continued my four day losing streak by not going out of the house at all, not even to exercise 😦 Today however was better, the sun was kind of out and I could see the fog was breaking up, ideal conditions for pictures! As I looked out the window my spirits were lifted by the spectacular conditions and my mind once again turned to the mountains and photography.

Mines on a Winter Day

So I laced up my winter hiking boots and hit the trail. I was hoping for that magnificent view from the top of the ridge with fog at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range but unfortunately all I could see was fog flowing into the valley from the southwest.  As I strode through the snow and fog on the summit the historic gold mine came into faint view through the fog, so I stopped for a bit to take in the view and capture the scene. The view of the valley below on the northeast side of the mountain was also well worth a couple black and white captures on the return trail.

Red-tailed Hawk

A pair of red-tailed hawks greeted me at the trailhead, each calling to the other through the mist from their own power pole. I was fortunate after a while that one of the great raptors left his pole and flew right at me 🙂 Nothing better than a good hawk in flight picture!

Mines on a Winter Day

After my hike I decided to drive through Victor and check on mine country in Goldfield, hoping for some photogenic fog and a view of the Sangres. Part of my wish came true, there was a nice foggy backdrop behind the mines which made for a nice landscape image despite the Sangre de Cristo being completely fogged over 🙂

I knew I had to make one more stop… Pikes Peak was bound to be amazing with new snow and fog so I drove to the top of Victor Pass for a look. And the great mountain did not disappoint 🙂 The cantankerous old lady always looks better in snow 🙂

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

By this time it was becoming obvious that our short bout with winter was about over. Heat rising from my sweatshirt was fogging over my sunglasses and I was getting really thirsty so I decided to call it a day. The fog never really did subside… I thought I was going to get a break on the way home but as I prepared for pictures  a new layer of fog streamed in from the valley below, totally obscuring my view of the distant mountain range.

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!

Last Mile of the Marathon

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

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

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

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

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