Snowy Morning in May

Snowy Mine Country

Woke up early this morning. As soon as I could pry my eyes open I took a quick look at my weather app, 27 degrees with snow… perfect! Not going to go out the door with no coffee and frozen waffles though, not going to happen. In the meantime, a look down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo looked promising. Couldn’t really tell if I was looking at a cloud or a fog bank, but it was nice and I knew I was going to be taking out the camera into the weather!

As the big dog and I wound our way along the mountain road to the trailhead it started

Mule Deer Herd on a Snowy Morning

to snow a little… beautiful dry wispy snowflakes falling down from the sky, kind of like a snow globe πŸ™‚ I was hoping for a good mountain view of the Sangre de Cristo from the summit, but there were too many clouds. Nice clouds though, with a few bursts of snow going on in different places, well worth a couple minutes break in the hikingΒ  for some weather photos!

But that was nothing compared to the treat I encountered in the woods on the way back down! A small herd of mule deer had gathered in the mountain grass at the edge of the aspen forest for their breakfast πŸ™‚ They cast a few curious looks in our direction but mainly just kept eating. Thanks to my big Canon 400mm lens I didn’t have to get too close to get some decent shots. I’m sure with my old 200mm I would have tried to get closer and scared them off. So we shot, they ate and the snow kept falling. I chose ISO 400 in hopes of freezing the snowflakes. I’ve learned that too slow a shutter speed makes for snow streaks instead of snowflakes and that’s no good.

Mule Deer Herd on a Snowy Morning

I really couldn’t see on the display whether or not the snowflakes were visible, but I just kept shooting. I wasn’t going to be able to get a faster shutter speed in that light anyway. However now at home in front of the computer I was in for some pleasant surprises πŸ™‚ One of these shots I thought had two deer in it actually had three with one kind pf peeking around another one and the snowflakes turned out to be just right. Some are just small dots, some of the closer ones turned into surreal looking globes but that’s ok.

I was thinking about boosting the contrast and color in Photoshop but I eventually decided that any special effects betrayed the dreary mood of the scene, and it is that dreary snowy mood that I love and live to get out in and experience! I guess that’s a good thing since life in the Rocky Mountains at 10,000 feet serves up a lot of mornings like that!

As always these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool household, tech and gift items are also available by simply clicking an image you like and scrolling down to the options menu! Sometimes I come across a situation and some captures that are so special to me that I really don’t want to sell them as stock where they sometimes go for peanuts. Such as it is with these, they are only available in print form on my website and not as RF stock on the stock sites. Stay tuned, there are many more of these to come, plus a couple of weather landscapes of the nearby peaks.

 

 

 

 

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The Cattle Drive

Free Range Bull

Cows everywhere, cows on the trail, cows in the parking lot and cows in the ditch… And as me and Big Dog got out of the truck, cows on their way to the highway where the local ignoramuses like to drive about 100 mph on the curvy mountain road. Normally I have no interest in helping out the welfare ranchers that let their cows crap up public lands but I really didn’t want the cows to get hurt so it looked like a mini cattle drive was going to be in order. Me and big dog circled around and headed the wayward ungulates off at the pass. A couple hee yahs later and the semi brainless critters were back behind their fence and out of danger πŸ™‚

Not much else to report from today… the mountain view was ordinary and we didn’t see any other photo worthy critters. However it must be spring, the prairie dogs are out of hibernation, which caught the big dog’s attention! Now I just have to figure out how to get my shoulder back in socket 😦

One piece of excitement… according to the USPS tracking information, my B+W Circular Polarizer is supposed to be waiting for me at the post office even as we speak, so to speak πŸ™‚

After the Bomb Cyclone

What an incredible storm… a 24 hour whiteout with two feet of snow and 80 mph winds. Finally it is over and the beautiful blue Colorado sky has returned, albeit with 3 degrees above zero this morning! But I wanted to get out, I thought I might find the elk and I also thought the snow would be awesome for snowshoeing πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Well it turned out to be a pretty rough morning, first of all I awoke at 3 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep, probably anticipating the beautiful day I was going to have! Finally the sun came up and it actually warmed up to six degrees so me and Big Dog were out the door only to discover a snowdrift in the back seat of my truck, which remains a bit of a mystery. All the windows were closed except for a slight space in the back window which now appears closed. Well anyway my hat and gloves were wet, not a welcome development. Then I surmise because of the snowdrift in my backseat, the inside of the windows are just as frosted over as the outside so I got to scrape both while we waited for the defroster to take effect. Besides all of that, my tires were frozen to the mud which seemed risky to just drive out of, but I did it anyway and managed to survive which is better than you can say for the trash can that I ran over on my way out of the driveway, which did not 😦

Elk in Fresh Snow

The road to the trailhead was snow packed which is fine except that it was over a deep layer of solid ice which on a curvy and hilly mountain road was not fine. But there was nowhere to turn around so I just white knuckled it on to the trailhead. Once there I got out the snowshoes and began the trek. I immediately encountered a deep snowdrift so we stopped and strapped on the snowshoes. Then I had to take them off again, and put them on and take them off and put them on. The tremendous winds had blown all the snow off in some places and piled it up in others, very annoying. Finally the snow got deep for good right about at the cattle gate… which was frozen. Try as I might I could not unlock the gate. Finally I just unscrewed the big eye hook from the post and screwed it back in once on the other side. We were on the trail πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Getting onto the trail was not such a blessing on this day… in the trees near the top of the ridge, the wind had piled up several feet of fresh powder on top of a semi hard crust which was quite a challenge for me and the big dog. I managed to post hole about three times, plunging the lens of my camera into the snow. So three times I had to stop and remove the lens hood to wipe off the front filter while gasping for air from the elevation gain and deep snow. Finally we punched through to the top of the ridge where I spotted the elk herd. They had found one of the spots where the wind had blown the snow away and were enjoying the morning sunshine. I decided to take a few shots from afar with my 400mm lens, opting to not cause them to have to run into the deep snow.

Finally we had struggled back to the bottom and to the truck where I put my snowshoes down and opened the door for Big Dog before going around to get in myself. Unfortunately the windows had refrosted so I let the truck run awhile and scraped the inside again. There was another car abandoned in the parking lot so I took some care backing around when I heard a crunch, which turned out to be my snowshoes that I had put down to let the dog in 😦 I leapt out to recover and examine them, assuming that they were ruined… but fortunately my trusty MSR’s had survived with only a slight bend in one of the side rails which I should easily be able to repair. What a relief, these are some tough snowshoes!

Once leaving the parking lot we were able to return home without incident, so I’m hoping the rest of the day goes better than the start!

Of course as usual, these images are available for purchase on my website in the elk gallery as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, traditional framing and matting and stretched canvas. Also available are tons of cool gift, household and tech items with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them!

 

My Beautiful Friends

As I cleared the first ridge with Big Dog this morning I peered into the dense pine of the Pike National Forest looking for a hint of my deer friends that I so like to see. The sun was just clearing the ridge behind me and as I gazed into the trees I thought I saw a

Morning Mule Deer Does

familiar face. It was difficult to tell, but it looked like the sun was shining right on one of the furtive creatures. So I lifted up my long lens to take a better look and sure enough, there she was, standing and curiously staring from just inside the cover and safety of the wilderness. However it wasn’t until I got home and brought the image up in Photoshop that I discovered that there were two deer in the picture! The second one was hiding in the darkness of predawn shade and it was just luck that I got her in the picture too πŸ™‚

Later on I came across the rest of the herd foraging for food in the deep mountain grass.

Mule Deer Portrait

Unfortunately they were in the shade so the best possible image wasn’t available, but I do think I got a nice portrait of a really cute one though πŸ™‚ These did not flee from me, they just looked on with a fairly uninterested expression on their faces while they filled their bellies on the lush grass.

These images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal, acrylic, canvas, and traditional matting. One inside the image website, just click on a picture you like and all the product options and pricing will become available!

Sheer Joy

I got my first camera over 30 years ago… it was a Minolta X-700 35mm camera, well before the advent of personal computers, camera phones, Photoshop… and even before auto focus. It was state of the art gear at the time though, with auto exposure, aperture priority and shutter priority modes and a sync socket for professional flash units. I didn’t buy the camera to make money, only to finally have a camera that didn’t disappoint me every time I got my film back from the lab. I wanted to have clear pictures of my kids and pets for me to look at and enjoy. I got the camera to experience the sheer joy of photography.

Red Fox Napping

Red Fox Napping

It never occurred to me that I could make money with a camera until I was going through a divorce… a guy at work admonished me to be sure to keep the camera, that I could make money with it! I didn’t really think too much about it at the time but I knew that I wanted the camera anyway, so it was the one thing that didn’t go out the door with the ex along with everything else I owned 😦 But… as it turns out, child support is expensive and so was photography at the time. Buying film was pretty low on the things to do list and the camera remained unused in the bag for years, except on special occasions like trips to visit the kids and my rare trip to Phoenix with my buddies for the first annual Phoenix Marathon.

In he early 90’s, the computer business was changing rapidly and I could see the writing on the wall… there wasn’t going to be much use for mainframe operating systems analysts much longer. I wondered what I was going to do for a living if my computer career went completely south. People kept telling me that the pictures I took were better than the ones they hired someone to shoot and I recalled the words of my friend about making money with my camera. So I thought what the heck… a little research about how to go into business and I put out my shingle. A decade of senior portraits and wedding photography later I purchased my first digital camera, the Canon EOS-1D. It was awesome and without the cost of film and processing to consider I could finally consider my dream of becoming a stock photographer. Those were great times, not many photographers had made the transition to digital, prices for images were good and the internet was exploding along with the need for quality imagery. The future looked bright!

But then the price of the cameras came down, image quality at all levels improved by leaps and bounds and it wasn’t long before everyone was getting in on the action. Not long after I started submitting images I had a large enough portfolio that I could count on receiving a check every week and I was making plans for a new career. But it wasn’t long before the industry was awash in imagery, prices were crashing as big players cashed in trying to corner the market with profits on volume and razor thin margins.

Now I’m lucky to get one minuscule check in an entire month. Photographers are treated like dirt by the agencies who profit from their work, some taking as much as 85% for themselves and their stock holders while often paying the photographer just pennies for an image. Stock photography has become barely worth the effort, in fact it has become little more than an insult to the artists.

So today I almost left my camera behind, what was the point in bringing it along? But as I strode along through the woods I was glad I had it with me. I love the feel of the cold steel in my hands, the sound of the lens jumping to attention in it’s effort to quickly focus and the clack of the mirror scrambling to get out of the way in less than a thousandth of a second to make way for the light to come pouring in through the lens and onto the sensor. Today I didn’t see much, the mountains were the same, the trees the same, the lighting the same… but I was still happy to be carrying the camera. Then I spotted the distant fox sunning himself in the prairie grass. The animal was way too far away to get a salable shot but I stopped to shoot anyway, I couldn’t resist. As I shot the images I thought back to the days of my clunky manual Minolta X-700 and the joy that it brought me to just create for the sake of creation. Not that long ago I would have passed the fox by knowing that he was not going to make me any money… but now I realize, I still love photography and I still love creating for the sake of creating.

Once again, it may be time for a change in philosophy, from a mind focused on business to simply a camera focused on the sheer joy of making pictures. Mr. Fox here could be the turning point, the first sign of a new life focused on joy instead of profit.

Baby Fox

I was greeted with a rare clear warm sunny morning today following a week of absolutely wretched freezing cold windy days. I could see from a glance out the window that the view of the Sangre de Cristo was already obscured from heavy haze and there were no interesting clouds either. Just a perfect Colorado mountain morning for me and Big Dog to go out walking in.

Mama and baby fox

I figured it was still early enough that there would be a good chance of seeing some deer or elk on the mountainsides so I grabbed the camera. I have plenty of shots of the Sangre in early morning sunshine so I didn’t bother to bring the polarizer. Sure enough on the trip out we spotted some mule deer grazing high on the mountainside, way too far away to get any kind of a reasonable picture. Looks like the prairie dogs are starting to come out of hibernation, or whatever the heck they do in the winter. Saw a few of them in the distance sticking their heads up to keep an eye on the dog I suppose. Haven’t done my studies on prairie dog behavior regarding hibernating and such, except that I did read that although cute from a distance they can be a bit violent and cannibalistic towards each other!

Looked like except for some good exercise for me and the dog, the day was going to be a photographic bust. But just about then I thought I could see a couple of ears sticking up above the mountain grass… Then after a closer inspection through the glass, I discovered that it was a red fox near her den so I took up a position to see if fortune would be in my photographic favor. As I steadied the camera I was delighted to see that mama was out sunning with some new babies. I thought there might be at least two but apparently by the time I got my lens focused only one was brave enough to stay above ground and pose for the camera. Unfortunately I could not get close enough to avoid having a few blades of the mountain grass obscuring part of my scene, but I was able to get a few cute ones nevertheless πŸ™‚

Little one finally scampered into the den but mama fox didn’t seem to mind me standing at a distance photographing while she continued to bask in the sun drenched mountain morning. Looks like I’m going to have to do some significant cropping on these so I don’t think I’m going to be able to make any large prints, but the wildlife sighting was a rare treat and I do a have a few nice ones to keep a record of the day πŸ™‚

Slipping the Bonds

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, β€” and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of β€” wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air… .” John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Hawk soaring

Bird of prey soaring overhead

OK, so technically my feet are still on the ground, but when I am in the solitude of mountains above 11,000 feet with the hawks and the eagles soaring overhead it feels like I have slipped the bonds of earth. Today it also feels like I have finally slipped the bonds of civilization. I have been a bit disappointed since moving here that I have not been able to find an easy way to get beyond the limits of the town and into the wilderness that taunts me from the edges of town. To make matters worse, the clutch went out on the old Dodge a couple of weeks ago and I have been limited to the distance that my feet will carry me. Today I decided that Big Dog and I were going to find a way past the dreaded cattle guard and explore the mountainside on the southwest side of town. Fortunately someone has taken down the gate beside the guard so that my four footed hiking buddy could pass and we were home free.

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

We made our way to a hilltop where there is an awesome view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and few people have experienced. I love it when IΒ  get out to views that I know not many people have set eyes upon πŸ™‚ Didn’t see any large wildlife, but there are hawks and eagles circling the hillsides there and they are a challenge to photograph to be sure!

As I looked around I noticed a wealth of excellent mountain bike trails that I will have to explore that are well beyond the distance that my feet would like to take me. One of my great disappointments in the Woodland Park area was the dearth of places to ride a bike without getting killed by bike hating lunatics in pickup trucks. My bike has been chained to the wall since moving here and I’m sure the tires are flat but hopefully they aren’t dry rotted as well because I can’t wait to get out there πŸ™‚

I am also determined to remember to bring along my circular polarizer as I believe it would dramatically add to the appeal of the distant Sangre’s. But for the rest of today though, me and Big Dog will be content to hide from the wicked wind that has developed on this mountaintop! A sandblasting is not something that I feel I need 😦 Maybe tomorrow!

As always, these pictures and more will be available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, matted and framed and as RF stock for those needing commercial licensing. Also available are many cool gift and household items including yoga mats, blankets, pillows, apparel, batteryΒ  chargers and more!