Chaos in the Canyon

Cold and dreary today, my bones ache so I can be pretty sure winter is returning to the high country tomorrow. That was definitely not the story yesterday though, it was nice enough in the mountains but it felt like summer in Waterton Canyon. Beautiful day for a mountain bike ride so even though I was running behind from my trip to Englewood Camera, there was no way I was going to miss out on that!

Beautiful Blue Water of the South Platte in the Rockies

On the mountain bike ride up the canyon I saw evidence of the bighorns, mainly in the form of rocks strewn all over the trail in a couple of prime spots but unfortunately I didn’t see any animals. Stopped on my way back down to try out my 4 stop ND filter on a particularly beautiful spot on the river. Got some nice pictures but the water is really not running fast enough at the moment to warrant a motion blur picture. The canyon walls were dark and would remain so until late afternoon, long after I intended to be on my way home.

Sometimes I like to ride hard on the way down but this day I just took up a leisurely pace

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

hoping to give the sheep time to come down from the mountaintops for a photo op. As I rounded a bend about three miles in I saw a small group of ewes and perhaps one young ram gathered by the river. I rode in just close enough to get set up without disturbing them and readied my gear. It was looking like my 28-105 would be the right lens for the situation, the big 400 mm was not going to be necessary with the critters right on the road and I was hoping to get a wide angle video of them at the stream getting their daily drink of water from the South Platte.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

It all started out well, the sheep ventured down the riverbank to the beautiful pristine blue water of the headwaters of the Platte for their drinks and I moved over to a rocky outcropping in the stream for a good view. All was going well until some other hikers and a couple of horses appeared on the scene. The little herd ran back up the embankment onto the dirt road at the edge of the cliffs and began to feed on the grass and make their way to their

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

trail back up the mountainside. Finally they were out of range for the wide angle so I switched to the big 400mm lens.

As they were meandering up the hillside they dislodged a couple rocks which made quite a noise, scaring the horses who took off running in the other direction. The thundering hooves scared the sheep who then high tailed it to the top of the ledge, knocking a bunch more rocks down, which of course dislodged even more rocks in my direction. I wisely scampered to the opposite side of the road keeping a close eye on a few hefty threats rolling toward me in case I needed to dive out of the way!

Fly Fisherman in the South Platte River

Finally the chaos subsided, the horses stopped running and the sheep went back to eating. But they hadn’t forgotten… every animals was keeping a wary eye on those horses as their riders coaxed them back into their trek up the canyon. it did make for some interesting pictures, all the sheep lined up in a row at the top of the ledge πŸ™‚

Eventually I packed up and headed back down the canyon. I knew there would be no more sheep so I pedaled hard to the trailhead for my long drive back to the mountains.

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 matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items are also available with a beautiful mountain scene, including apparel, bedding and pillows, shower curtains, coffee mugs and tech gadgets includingΒ  battery chargers and phone cases!

I have also created a YouTube video on my channel for some HD footage of the action! Please subscribe if you like! I have a long way to go to get my first 100 subscribers so I can get my own custom URL!

Winter Wonderland

This is what gets me going every day… Sitting there drinking my coffee, warm puppy on my lap, I’m always thinking, not today, today I’m just going to sit here and enjoy this moment. But soon I begin to wonder, what am I missing, what wildlife is on my mountain, what kind of weather am I missing? And off I go and I am almost never disappointed :)Fog Bank in the Colorado Rockies

Such was the case today. It seemed just like a normal partly cloudy morning, no wildlife to be found, perhaps only a day of exercise on the snowshoes was going to be my reward. But then we crested the mountaintop and this amazing winter scene came into view. A beautiful Colorado winter wonderland to behold πŸ™‚ Well worth the effort it took to get myself up the snowy hillside!

As always, this image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

Unexpected Gift

Mystical Clouds on the Sangre

My legs felt like rubber this morning and my eyes didn’t want to open. On my way to get my first cup of coffee I looked out the window and there was nothing but clouds in the direction of the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo. So I got my coffee and I sat on the couch, probably as close to comatose as you can get ;( Couple of cups of coffee and a healthy chocolate chip muffin later Big Dog was at the door, looking at me with those huge pleading brown eyes… what are ya gonna do. Grabbed the camera bag and headed for the snowshoe trailhead. Along the way I took a good look at the overlook at the mountains… still nothing. Looked like I was just going to have a nice morning romp in the snow with the big dog.

Eventually we cleared the ridge and the huge peaks of the continental divide came into view.

Mystical Clouds on the Sangre

The clouds and parted somewhat and the scene had evolved into this beautiful wispy, mystical cloudy mountain landscape made for picture taking! So I snapped a few then moved to the north a ways to get a different angle but by then the largest peak was becoming completely obscured again. Just happy now that I was there to capture these images at the right moment when the clouds parted for me to see the Sangre de Cristo Range πŸ™‚

It’s been a while since I have seen any wildlife up there, I have no idea where they went. Maybe in the severe cold we have been having they all decided to move to lower elevations? I’ll get my chance to check out the lower valleys later this week so stay tuned!

Phantom Canyon

Funny the twists and turns my days make… I had fully planned to take Big Dog for a short hike followed by a road trip up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns were still there this morning. However on my way through Victor I glanced down towards the south and thought, “Hey, it looks like the trees are changing down there too! I wonder what the road is like?”. I’ve been wanting to explore Phantom Canyon Road along the Gold Belt Tour series of day trips since the day I first saw it on the map! Surprisingly the road is listed on the “Dangerous Roads” website, but I didn’t think it was that bad… although it could be inΒ  bad weather! So… I turned the old Dodge south and headed down the dirt road toward the canyon. After a couple of miles I was thinking it really wasn’t too bad. The last time I even attempted that route, the ice and snow of the Colorado winter had made a complete mess of it. Now it was a little rough but not a brain rattling washboard like Rampart Range Road the other day… So I just kept going πŸ™‚

According to my brief study of the road’s history, the road actually began as a narrow gauge railroad bed providing access to the gold fields of Cripple Creek and Victor. The name of the canyon is also steeped in history as well according to the website Colorado.com, which attributes to a ghostly inmate who was executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in the 1880’s. I saw no ghosts on my trek through the haunted canyon πŸ™‚

Entrance to Phantom Canyon

The northern part of the canyon really isn’t too much of a canyon. Just a nice dirt mountain road past a lot of golden aspen leaves with a nice view of the Sangre de Cristo range in the background. Stopped a few times for pictures of the mountains and even the road winding it’s way back into the trees while making my way ever further south. Soon I was way too far down the 30 mile road to consider turning back and I’m glad I didn’t! The canyon is magnificent, beautiful high walls along the sides between really pretty aspen groves and meadows.

There are a couple of places where the road gets slightly dicey, pieces of it somewhat Phantom Canyon Drive in Autumnwashed out and other places are quite narrow due to rock walls on both sides. No big deal today, but I could see where it would be a pain in the butt on a busy weekend day, especially during leaf season. It is possible somebody would have to back up if two cars met in just the wrong place. There were even a couple of one lane tunnels through the rock that I tried to get shots of with my phone but the bright light at the other end of the tunnel coupled with the dark canyon turned out to be an unrecognizable photographic disaster! Oh well… And there was a very cool old wooden bridge that I really liked but was on it before I realized it and so I didn’t get a shot of that either. Come to think of it, a canyon in general is quite difficult to get pictures of. The high walls look very impressive to the three dimensional capabilities of the human eye, but not so much to a two dimensional camera view. So mostly I just cruised along in second gear, enjoying the tight turns, the dense forest, cool rock formations and high cliffs along the sides.

Phantom Canyon Wall

I did get one shot of the road behind along the canyon wall with my phone camera, but as far as capturing the canyon as I saw it with my eyes, it was pretty much a photographic bust. Even the shot I did get is much less impressive than the view that my mind was enjoying! You can kind of make out the path along the cliff that the road is taking but it seemed much steeper when I was driving! I would have liked to have stopped and gotten out and spent a little time in the dense forest, but didn’t have all day… I mainly just wanted to drive the road so I could check the bucket list box in the sky πŸ™‚ Actually I’m much more of a high peaks person than I am a canyon person anyway… I like to get up where I can see! I was also surprised that I didn’t see any wildlife at all on the entire trip… I don’t know maybe deer and elk aren’t big fans of canyons either?

I have to confess, by the time I was about two thirds of the way through, I was just wishing that I was all the way through. Finally with about five miles remaining, the road widened out and the bumps relented allowing me to finish quickly in the 30-40 mph range, followed by some black top road where full speed was possible and I was in Canyon City in no time.

Pondered going on through to Salida to see the Sangres, but as I thought about that I realized I had actually been to Salida before and don’t really remember the Sangres being all that impressive from right beside them. So I opted for the Highway 9 and High Park Drive turnoff for a quick trip back to Cripple Creek. I had read somewhere that there are supposed to be great views of the Sangre range from High Park but I didn’t see it. I’ll go visit the Sangre de Cristo range when that is all that I have planned for the day. Maybe in the winter when the peaks have snow and aren’t just big brown rocks!

These pictures and more are now for sale on my website as wall art, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional framing and matting. You can also purchase a good variety of cool household items and gift items such as phone chargers and hard cases, t-shirts, beach and yoga mats, shower curtains, greeting cards and much more!

The Elk Herd

It was a beautiful morning for a hike although my arrival at the trailhead was a bit behind schedule, greatly diminishing my chances of a successful wildlife sighting and with the smoke from the summer fires my chances of photographing the distant mountains were just about zero. Undaunted, I slung my camera over my shoulder anyway. As I climbed the steep grade to the top of the ridge my eyes scanned the forest edge for any sign of wildlife. Before I started my trek I had set my camera to ISO 400 in preparation for wildlife photography, so with nothing in sight and not much hope of any shooting I just left the settings as they were.

Over the top of the mini mountain I strode along, settling for a good day of exercise in the solitude of the Rocky Mountain wilderness when all of a sudden Big Dog went on alert and pointed me to the direction of interest. It was the most amazing thing, a huge herd of elk streaming up the mountainside towards the dense pine forest near the summit. I quickly brought up my camera, zoomed my 200mm lens all the way in and

Elk Herd

started shooting. The elk kept coming and coming, over the ridge and into the forest… there were at least a couple of hundred of them all together. Finally once they were past I quickly made my way across the mountainside to where they went in, hoping to find a few of them still lingering so that I could get a closer shot. Amazingly within just that quick minute that it took me to get there, like a herd of ghosts they were just gone. I could not believe that so many of these huge beasts could so quickly and silently pass by and disappear… like they were never there.

Lone elk cow

I ventured a bit further into the dense pine forest hoping to catch one of the magnificent animals departing when I spotted this straggler that had stopped to feed on a pine branch. I was only able to snap off a couple of shots before she noticed me and the Big Dog and quickly scampered to the safety of the large herd. The whole scene unfolded in a matter of minutes and I feel so fortunate to have been at just the right place at just the right time to witness such magnificence. And I would not have noticed them at all were it not for Big Dog’s ever vigilant nose and super powered ears. Sometimes I get to thinking he’s a pain to have along when shooting wildlife, until I have a moment like this and am reminded of how many images I would have missed without his extraordinary senses.

These images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, traditional matted frames, wrapped canvas and a huge selection of very cool gift items and handy household gadgets including phone cases, yoga mats, greeting cards and more!

Canon 1.4x and the Fox

Well my buddy gave me a little more time to play with the 1.4XL Canon lens extender and I finally got a decent day to take it out for some fun! Naturally Big Dog was ready to go at sunrise today so off we went into the early morning light. I scanned the open field for my intended subject, some sort of wild animal, a fox, coyote, hawk, eagle, deer… just about anything that a camera can focus on. As luck would have it I spotted a red fox frozen in the grass, intent upon some kind of prey, most likely a mouse I imagine. And just as I was ready to snap the picture he noticed me, turning a wary eye towards me and the big dog. Fortunately I was ready, zeroed in with focus right on his eye and I snapped the image. The lighting turned out to be amazing, the fox was facing the west and the sun was rising in the east right behind him. As he turned his head the light fell upon his face as if I was in a studio planning a portrait. Amazing πŸ™‚

Fox in Grass

So the 1.4XL appears to pass the sharpness test, the fox’s eye from about thirty yards away is about as sharp as it can be. Of course with my 200 mm F4L Canon lens with a 1.4x attached is not going to give me much depth of field, so I can’t claim that anything other than the beautiful predator’s eyeball is going to be in sharp focus but the image is attractive enough for me to put up for sale on my stock site and gift item site. Also, the part of my totally unscientific testing that I was most interested in… Without the 1.4x, shooting the fox in the field at about the same range I only was able to render a 2×3 inch segment of the image, while with the 1.4x on this image, the final result was a 4×6 inch segment. While I am not going to be making any billboards with an image this size, it is at least a printable and saleable image. My website is showing that it is able to create a 7×10 inch unframed print of this image. I think I will redo it soon when I have more time so that it can be a more useful 8×10 print. Naturally if you are going to put it in a frame with matting any size frame can be used.

Well, hope you enjoy the image, and I hope that I can get out and shoot a few more with the 1.4x before I have to return it! Also I am hoping to be able to purchase the new Canon 100-400 Mark II before autumn πŸ™‚ We will see ????

Fun in Cripple Creek

A good memory from last year… had to go down to Cripple to look at a house so I went early to get my favorite 50 cent breakfast. I was seated in Bronco Billy’s restaurant by 10 enjoying biscuits and gravy with some scrambled eggs. Granted… that’s technically two 50 cent breakfasts but who is going to quibble πŸ™‚

Then I needed to get the doggies some exercise so we buzzed over to Victor to climb Little Grouse Mountain and take in some scenery. Difficult to make out the Sangre’s today though with all the smoke from the fires but the doggies enjoyed the climb immensely πŸ™‚ During the hike I could hear the mournful sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor narrow gauge railroad which reminded me of how long I have been trying to get a shot of it!

Victor Cripple Creek Train

I was thinking I had seen a good vantage point in Victor for getting a shot of the train, but if there is I could not find it. So back to Cripple we went, in search of the tracks. I could see the railroad bed beside the road for awhile so when I got to town I followed it using some rough dirt roads until I found a place I could park and access the tracks. Then all I had to do was find a comfy spot and wait a short time for one of the trains to go through. I discovered that the track there is a two way so it is a good place to get the train coming one way and then again coming from the other direction. It took me about an hour to gather all the views and angles that I thought I might need.

Sat down in the truck to look at my haul and the breeze was blowing, birds chirping and thunder was beginning to rumble in the distance, perfect recipe for shut eye! I guess the storm must have passed without dumping any rain though because I woke up a while later, boiling in the sun 😦 Still had about an hour though so I took the doggies over to the Double Eagle parking garage out of the sun and had a whirl at the slot machines. Didn’t do too well there, lost my $5 that I put in, but I got a free beer so I’m calling it a break even… close enough anyway πŸ™‚

Checked out the house, which turns out not to be finished yet… no wall sockets or furnace of any kind. I’m suspicious that not everything is being done to code, so we will have to wait and see if there will be any financing available… Honestly I don’t really know why I am continuing to look… It’s been a discouraging 6 months looking for a place to live. Going down to the city is out of the question… so don’t even mention it! I spent my entire life trying to figure out how to get out of the city and now that I’m out I’m not going back! Who knows… maybe this one will work out after all, small but I did kind of like it and the location.

Herd of Elk

Then one final treat as I was on my way home… an elk herd in the high prairie land between Cripple and Divide. Unfortunately I was not able to get very close, but still got some nice ones of the distant herd. I thought of trying to get closer, but there was a fence and as other people began to gather the elk noticed and began to move further away. It’s not likely that I could have gotten closer even if I had tried.

Back home now processing the pictures while listening to the sound of thunder and hail rattling my roof. All in all an excellent day I’d say πŸ™‚

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Archives

Well that was easy, recently noticed that many of my favorite blog posts had been archived and are unavailable. So a quick review of the help section gave me the idea to attempt to add an archives section, which I thought was going to be a major undertaking. However it turned out to be quite easy using a free widget that is provided to the business theme my site uses πŸ™‚ So now if you would like to see posts that have been archived you can easily go to the bottom of my main site page and review them by month and year!

Swimsuit Model

Speaking of archives, while technically this isn’t a blog archive it is definitely one of my favorite mental archives πŸ™‚ One of my first attempts at photographing models and one of my favorite images of all time! This one was of course captured back in the days of film, long before instant feedback on a digital screen and long before there was such a thing as ISO 3200 available to capture images like this in the waning light of dusk and an approaching rainstorm. I shot this one with 100 speed Fuji Reala film and an off camera flash unit with a gold reflector. I hope you like it as much as I do πŸ™‚

Don’t forget to visit my site for recent blog posts with pictures and also my new section at the bottom of the menu pointing to my archives!

First Light

Did three things before first light today that I was not planning to do… The first was to get out of bed before first light. I had the day off and was planning to sleep in and catch up on some shut eye, but apparently I am used to arising at 4:30 a.m. now and that is just the way it is. I was also not going to take any pictures and the third thing I was never going to do again, ever… was to ride my mountain bike! After I tried it last week for the first time on these hills that was going to be it forever. My legs were quivering when I got done 😦 The reason I was not going to take any pictures is because I am tired of shooting from the same location all the time and also I watched a Youtube video where the title and theme were, “Nobody cares about your photography.”, which is probably true but just the same, a very discouraging thought.

Sangre de Cristo Lake of Fog

So unfortunately I was awake at 4:00 and Big Dog as eager to go for a walk. So without the camera we headed down the trail for his morning duties. Saw some deer in the darkness running towards the hills and then I noticed that there was an odd white glow coming from the direction of the Sangre de Cristo range. In the darkness I couldn’t tell if it was a new mantle of snow or clouds or fog or what. I could tell the sky was clear though and that the red band of alpenglow was descending upon the mountain range. So I thought, well… I’d better not miss this, it could be good!

Took the dog home, grabbed my backpack and jumped on the bike. I was not going to make it back there in time on foot and the mountain bike was the only way I was going to make the show. Fortunately my legs seem a bit stronger this week, maybe my decision to quit the bike riding was a bit premature? As I neared the overlook to the mountain range I could not believe my eyes, the fog bank and cloud action was some of the most amazing that I have seen in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre.

Sangre de Cristo Lake of Fog

I sat on a rock at the best spot and watched it all unfold. The alpenglow effect descended upon the mountains and the fog began to blow around building into tall spires almost as big as the mountains they were obscuring. I put into effect all the information I have been gathering about the best way to photograph this valley at the base of the Sangre, trying various shutter speeds and even my B&W circular polarizer for a bit. Finally the sun crested the mountains behind me and the fog began to burn off. As the mist turned to vapor in the air the Sangre became too obscure to get good pictures and I headed for home.

Lol… as it turns out though, my bike riding was not yet done for the day… Big Dog saw something he wanted to chase and snapped his wire cable in a bid for some temporary freedom. It wasn’t long before he had me on mountain bike along with two of Cripple Creek’s finest circling the blocks in their black and white SUV’s. After about an hour of chase he finally blundered into a fenced yard and decided to visit the people having a hitherto relaxing morning on their deck. Knowing him he was probably hoping for some burgers and fries, but they corralled him and I was able to give the police a thumbs up and they too went about their business.

Now I’m working on the pictures… have to say the scene was pretty amazing! Hope you enjoy them too πŸ™‚ I will soon be putting these on my website for sale as wall art and RF stock so stay tuned!

Dust in the Wind

Tremendous wind howling up from the Arkansas River Valley last night. Big Dog was startled out of a sound sleep at 5:00 a.m., leaping to his feet and letting out a massive woof that woke up the entire town I think. I looked around with the flashlight and didn’t see anything so I was going to just go back to sleep, but instead got to thinking I would like to see the sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo. Sunrise would not be until 6:30 though, so there was time for one of my favorite activities… morning coffee πŸ™‚

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise

The wind overnight had created a dust bowl out of the valley making the mountains barely visible, but it was still an inspiring sight when the alpenglow band settled down over the peaks. The effect was only good for a few minutes and we were headed back home for some more coffee.

The old 1970’s song by Kansas, “Dust in the Wind” was going through my mind as the wind whipped the dirt up into a veritable cloud around us. Got me to thinking about the truth of the song, “Everything is dust in the wind”. Everything in this life is truly temporary, jobs, houses, relationships… I was thinking back on my computer career realizing that all the software I had been paid to write is now gone, along with the very computers that it was meant to operate. Even the company I worked for is gone, like it was never there. The job seemed so important at the time, deadlines, overtime, status meetings to explain how it was all going to get done on time, weekends misspent at the office, and now that it is all gone it seems so silly to have been so stressed out, so stupid to have spent so much time away from family, to have lost so much sleep.

Even life itself is temporary. For some people, life is long and fulfilling. For others like my wife, life itself can be unexpectedly swept away far too soon. We never know when we are going to be struck down by illness, accidents or natural disaster. Cancer took my wife along with all the things she dreamed of, collected and worked so hard for. Everything we had together is now like the song, just dust in the wind. Her life itself is a faded memory in the minds of few, the fruit she and I measured our lives with now remembered by no one.

In the end it all comes down to the words spoken at the final judgement, “Well done good and faithful servant.” If we have lived our lives in friendship with Him we will never have to hear the bitter words, “Depart from Me, I do not know you.”, our legacy will live on in the afterlife and all we have done in this life will not be blown away forever, like dust in the wind.