Hawks, Hunting and Gold

I fully expected to go out to another flat tire this morning so I was pretty happy to discover that the tire had held air overnight. Ran back in the house, grabbed my camera and headed for the Victor / Cripple Creek gold mining district where the leaves are changing around the old historic gold mines of a past era.

Gold Mine in Autumn

The leaves up on Victor and Tenderfoot Passes are in peak color, but a few  feet lower down in Victor there is still quite a bit of green so I was not expecting any photography there until later in the season. However there was a view of one of the mines with some gold in the background so I stopped to capture an image. I had to shoot with the long lens and crop pretty tight to get the leaves in the image, hopefully on another day I’ll have a wider field to work with. I also need to get back out in the morning and find the names of these mines for the metadata!

Red-tailed Hawk Hunting

I worked my way north up Victor Pass hoping for some more cool images when I spotted a red-tailed hawk hunting in the prairie dog town. I followed him around a bit until I finally saw him take a dive and snatch up a rodent, I assume a prairie dog. I would think the little creatures would be more mindful of the “death from the sky”, but maybe the young ones aren’t too smart yet. The great bird must have killed the rodent instantly because I never saw it so much as wiggle once he was in the grasp of the razor sharp talons of the powerful raptor.

Red-tailed Hawk Hunting

The hawk carried his prey high into the sky and then headed out across the open field, perhaps to bring to a young one or to a more private place to enjoy his breakfast. I was ready for some breakfast myself by this time so I headed back down the hill when I spotted a good view of this mine (below), the Vindicator I believe… with some golden leaves in the background. I stopped and readjusted my camera for a still shot of the mine and snapped a few pictures.

Unfortunately there was a large crowd at the Gold Camp Bakery so I decided to just go home for breakfast. Not a fan of the large crowds of leaf lookers up here in the mountains at this time of year.

 

Gold Mine in Autumn

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.

Autumn, My Favorite Time of Year

Gold in Mine Country

I absolutely love this time of year… the clear fresh mountain air, the brisk mornings, the active wildlife and the beautiful colors as aspen trees turn to gold. Sort of a utopia for nature photographers! As soon as it was light this morning I headed out into prime leaf country. Victor, Colorado is one of the finest places for aspen leaf looking in the state. There is an awesome view of the south face of Pikes Peak from Victor Pass covered with aspen trees and I wanted to capture it before we lost the moisture in the air leftover from yesterday’s rains.

Gold in Mine Country

And today it was magnificent probably within a couple of days of peak color. I set the camera to manual with a 320th of a second and an aperture of F8 for good depth of field, and checked a couple of exposures before making my way around to all the best vantage points. It was early morning with the sun nearly at my back so I knew there would be no need for a polarizer. Eventually I knew I had captured the scene so it was off to the Gold Camp Bakery for some biscuits and gravy 🙂 There were quite a few leaf seeking customers there today so my order took a bit longer, but I never get tired of looking out the window at historic Victor while I contemplate my the rest of the day.

Mule Deer in the Rockies

I decided to take a short jaunt down the hill to see if the deer might be stirring on such a beautiful morning, and I was not disappointed! I found a herd of four beautiful bucks, which I assume is probably the Three Amigos + One. Don’t know why but each fall the three inseparable friends pick up a fourth prior to the rut season, which is soon to come. Once they get interested in the ladies you won’t see them together until later in the winter.

Mule Deer in the Rockies

Eventually the two herds meandered into the trees and I headed back up the mountain to see what the brighter light may have done for my autumn scene. Indeed it was a bit different so I retraced my earlier steps to recapture all the best angles in the more intense light.

Satisfied that I had sufficiently captured the scene I was ready to call it a day. There was still hope that I might see a few more deer or perhaps even some elk but it was not to be. They don’t like to stay out in the bright sunshine and retreat to the dark depths of the pine forest to while away the days hidden in the shadows.

My one last stop was to check on my pieces at the Victor Gold Camp Artist’s Coop and hopefully chat with a few of the potential customers trickling through. If you get up to Victor this season be sure to stop in and check on the mountain art! It’s well worth the effort 🙂 I have a few pieces scattered around the place and a notebook of prints on a table right in front of the cash register. Be sure to pick up one of my picture business cards!

 

 

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.

Hiking the Pony Gulch Trail

I’ve lived here three years, always looking for new trails to hike and I just recently found out about the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail only a couple miles from my house! It’s not well known and if a few people hadn’t commented on it in the Alltrails app I would have never found it.

Pony Gulch Trail

Turns out it’s a fairly difficult four mile trek in the remote mountains southwest of Cripple Creek. I was a bit doubtful of the description at first, calling for almost 1000 feet of elevation gain in such a short hike, especially since I know the area and could not imagine a 1000 foot mountain higher than what I can already see. Well, maybe there is a hidden peak back behind that I can’t see I wondered!

Well it didn’t take long to find out the how the elevation gain was going to be accomplished… the very first thing you do once clearing the first ridge is to descend about 750 feet to the bottom of the gulch! Once there you do a bit more climbing to reach the end of trail at the Pony Gulch Homestead in another mile or so.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

A dirt road leads to the trailhead, I recommend using the Alltrails GPS directions to find it, where you can see a jeep road heading up a hill leading to the southwest. At the top of the hill you will be able to see a couple of cairns, which is all you are going to see… There is no trail through the first part of the rugged BLM land.  Once again, turning on the GPS in your phone to lead you through the first half mile is a good idea. Once into the BLM area about a couple of hundred yards there is a noticeable four wheel drive road which goes the wrong way… don’t take it, veer to the right and look for the gulch. Once you find the gulch there are more cairns and a discernible trail to follow.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

The first three quarters of a mile or so is a steep decline down slippery scree in places, my trekking pole got a workout here! There is some nice scenery along this part of the trail, especially in the fall with beautiful golden aspen backed by rugged pine covered cliffs.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

Finally at the bottom of the incline the forest opens up to a nice view of the bottom where I imagine a creek flows in the spring. The trail winds down to the dry creek and crosses and earthen dam where the descent ends and a climb begins which takes you another mile to the summit and the Pony Gulch Homestead. The end of the trail is marked by an iron gate marking the entrance to a ranch on private property I presume.

Pony Gulch Trail in AutumnFrom there I climbed another hill of mostly big chunks of quartz nearby to get a view of the valley below and also the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see with all the smoke these days. I Found a nice place to sit and have some food and water and to rest up for the return trip. I put on my 24-105 with a polarizer and took a few pictures to mark the far end of the journey :) I also went down to the homestead to investigate and snap a few more pictures.

Pony Gulch Homestead Trail in Autumn

Finally the time came to begin the return trip… I checked my GPS to make sure I was headed the right way and it was a good thing I did since there was a forest service road that was more prominent than the actual trail back! A short adjustment in direction and I was on my way. After about a quarter of a mile I came to the southernmost cairn and strode on by… The GPS map showed me straying from the route again on a dotted line that looked like it should be the trail but more careful observation revealed that the cairn marked a left turn down a more faint forest road. So another slight adjustment in direction and I was making the short climb past the high point on the section south of the dam.

Soon I was back to the dam and the mile long climb back up to Lookout Point loomed before me. I have to admit, I took quite a few rest stops to catch my breath on the nearly 1000 foot climb in one mile! Eventually I made my way to the end of the  gulch and found myself in search of the cairns that lead the way through the bushwhacking section of the route. Once again, the Alltrails GPS directions come in handy 🙂

I highly recommend this trail to more experienced hikers in a little better physical condition than some. This is not an easy trail and should not be underestimated. I also recommend on this one to let someone know where you are going, it is a very lightly trafficked route and phone signal is iffy at best in the gulch. You might have a long wait for help if you were to twist an ankle or something.

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot along the trail. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my  hike plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Alpine Autumn

It was a beautiful morning above the treeline this morning, actually difficult to describe in words… Wonderful cool, calm and colorful experience, the kind  that makes me glad I live in the mountains. The trek

Young Buck and a His Doe

started out with a bang as a young buck and his mate galloped through the mountain grass about a quarter of a mile from me. I grabbed a couple of shots before they disappeared over the ridge and then looked around to see if I could figure out what they were running from.  I’m sure it wasn’t me as I was nowhere near, perhaps it was a coyote down in the valley below.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

I spotted a red-tail hawk in the tree tops about a quarter of a mile away, pretty close to the trail that I would be traversing near there. I set up my camera for a hawk in flight and hoped he wouldn’t take flight before I could get there. No luck there,  I looked up every once in a while to see if he was still there and before I could get anywhere near him he disappeared into the smokey morning mist while my eyes were on the trail.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

After that there were no more animals to be found, just a few colorful aspen trees in their lonely stand against the harsh high country existence. I found the starkness of the moment compelling as I spotted image after image in the distance… some dead aspen in the foreground against a colorful grove below in the valley. Another small aspen stand with the rugged peaks of the Pike National Forest in the background.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

Eventually my hike came to an end and I had to decide whether to continue my drive in search of more color, or to just call it a morning. It occurred to me that I still needed to scout out the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail on the other side of Cripple Creek so I drove on over there while scanning the tree tops and hillsides for hawks and deer. The GPS took me on a dirt road that I have not yet explored and up a steep hill that I’m not sure will be passable in the wintertime without a 4×4…

Autumn Gold Above TreelineI located the trail head and hiked back in about a quarter of a mile to assure that the Alltrails GPS route matched the path that appeared before me. As I strode along the unfamiliar route, the welcome sight of a series of cairns appeared before me. Others have mapped out the path and left the trail guides for those who would follow 🙂

Anyway, it was a great morning and these pictures turned out even better than I had hoped!

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Trail Closed

Autumn on the South Face of Pikes Peak

After a couple of days rest from my Rocky Mountain National Park Adventure I was finally ready to resume my regular regimen of hiking and wildlife photography. However a rude surprise was awaiting me at my trailhead in the form of an earth mover the size of a house. My trail is closed and they are building a super highway to the summit of my mountain. I’ll probably never see wildlife there again 😦 I don’t know why they can’t just leave some things alone.

As long as I was that far down the road I decided to go check on the leaves on the south

Autumn on the South Face of Pikes Peak

face of Pikes Peak. They are still a bit green but in the early light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise it was still a beautiful scene… Worth a few pictures anyway!

As always, these pictures 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. Tons of cool gift, tech and household items are also available with a beautiful Rocky Mountain Image from S.W.Krull Imaging! Click to explore!

Bighorn Break

Caught a break today… my fall photography hasn’t been going too well thus far, a fierce wind is blowing the leaves off the trees and unfortunately there is a huge fire burning out of control near Salida. Between the smoke and the wind and the heat it really isn’t turning out to be much of an autumn.

Autumn and the Bighorn Sheep

Today’s big break was the bighorn sheep sighting… I was on my way home from buying supplies for my Rocky Mountain National Park camping trip tomorrow when an approaching car flashed it’s brights at me, a sure sign that there were either sheep or state patrol in my future. As I rounded the bend I saw the telltale gathering of people with cameras looking intently at the mountainside and sure enough, there were the sheep standing by the road.

I found a place to park and jumped out with the camera and my 400mm lens. The closest ones were on the rock and dirt hillside which is OK, but I hoped they would move further up into the changing aspen leaves. As I gazed intently into the leaves I discovered that there were a few of the nimble creatures up higher with the leaves in the background. A little bit too far for my 400 so I went back

Autumn and the Bighorn Sheep

to the truck for the 1.4x which turned out to be just about perfect, 560mm not including crop factor.

Patience was rewarded as all the animals eventually got tired of gleaning the salt out of the rocks and made their way up the mountainside into the more colorful foliage of autumn. The little herd was made up of ewes and lambs, the big boys continue to evade me on this side of summer 😦

I don’t leave for Rocky until tomorrow but I already have the pre-game jitters. I imagine I won’t sleep much tonight and the butterflies won’t leave until the first pitch is thrown, baseball analogy 🙂 I know we will see some big bull elk and some awesome scenery in the park… hoping to round out the trip with bear and moose too!

Autumn and the Bighorn Sheep

Lot of Catching Up

Not much happens in the world of stock photography between Christmas and the new year… But in January the publishers will go back to work and begin their ad campaigns and projects for the new year. So I am spending the time catching up. I still have

Historic Mine in Autumn Aspen

hundreds of photographs from throughout the year that I have not yet processed and uploaded.

I remember this photo shoot well, just as the leaves were reaching peak color in the Cripple Creek area. I did load a few of these into the autumn gallery on my website, but for the most part any images I work on now will be uploaded to my stock agencies where they will be on sale for commercial purposes.

Do Over

Well, for whatever reason, yesterday’s fall picture trip was a bust. I failed to notice power lines in a lot of the images and those things are really time consuming to remove with Photoshop. Also it was too windy so the blowing leaves just made the images look blurry. And the wasted time… yesterday I decided that it would be a good idea to drive up Rampart Range Road  which I just noticed has made the most dangerous roads list, and photograph the Peak behind the golden aspen of autumn. However, the golden aspen are still green up there, the road is absolutely wretched and the Peak just looks like a big brown rock. Outside of Kansas, it was just about the ugliest scene ever.

Historic Gold Mine Colorado

So as I was pondering what adventure today might bring I was thinking a do over was probably the most profitable remedy possible. The autumn leaves around Cripple Creek seem to be the most magnificent that I have seen anywhere and the loop is an easy one to complete. So I arose early this morning and loaded up Big Dog for a hike. Fortunately we were able to beat the wind this morning so the leaves were behaving nicely on the trees and as luck would have it there were the coolest cirrus clouds hanging around high in the bright blue Colorado sky. They reminded me of angels… perhaps there were angels helping me today 🙂

After our little hike we headed south to Victor in hopes of getting some images of the mines and the north face of the Peak… without power lines :-|I was thinking that maybe the polarizer was to blame for some of yesterday’s failure but I could see the colors were so much more saturated with my sunglasses on that it was going to be necessary to use the dark blue glass again. Today the effect was amazing… it really brought out the blue sky and the angel clouds! To account for the one stop of light loss I was just extra careful to steady the camera on the hood of the old Dodge or on handy fence posts. Now that I’m back home in front of the computer I can say I am extremely happy with the results. The images are clear and sharp, the blue sky magnificent, and the colors deeply saturated just as I had hoped.Pikes Peak in Auutmn Aspen

Now I’m ready for tomorrow… truck all gassed up and maintained, pictures backed up, memory chips cleared, camera equipment ready to go… and with a clear head from our nice hike today I think tomorrow’s destination is going to be Twin Lakes. I have seen some images from there lately that make me confident that the leaves have achieved  peak color, the water should be awesome, the sky clear and the temperature amazing! I made that trip a decade ago and ruined the day with a bad choice. When I rolled into Leadville I went out to Turquoise Lake first only to discover that there really isn’t any autumn color there, only pine trees. By the time I got to Twin Lakes it was an ugly cloudy gray day… the trees up Independence Pass were beautiful, but the gray skies and wind made the water choppy and murky and with no light on the color it was a total bust. It has been a long wait for my return to that location, but it should be worth it!

These images and more are now for sale as wall art on my website, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and with traditional framing and matting!

Autumn Blitz Day 1

Do or Die… my most lucrative time of the year, autumn in the Rockies. Today was my first full day off in the midst of peak aspen leaf season and so far I have made the best of it.  Woke up early and took off for the trailhead with Big Dog. After a short analysis of the situation I decided on the polarizer to add some drama to the bright clouds and sky. Not too much of great autumn interest along the trail today, was kind of hoping for a deer or elk as a subject, or maybe a neat shot of the mining equipment against some golden aspen, but no such luck. There were a few trees changing in the direction of the Sangre de Cristo so I tried a couple of captures in that direction, time will tell if it was worth the effort.

Autumn Color on Historic Mines

After the hike we were off to the Goldfield mine fields where there was one nice view of a series of abandoned mines in the midst of a colorful aspen grove. That turned out to be one of my favorites of the day 🙂

Then it was off to an unofficial overlook at the top of Victor Pass for a view of the north face of Pikes Peak. Upon arrival there I was surprised to see a lineup of ladies in lawn chairs and umbrellas… looked like a picnic might be in the making! Turns out they were the local Cripple Creek painting club on scene to paint the magnificent view on such a beautiful morning. Lol, I needed to get in front of them to get the shot I needed but was hesitating… the ladies assured me that I would not be accidentally painted into their pictures if I quick jumped in for my photographs… Which cracked me up because for a second that exact thought crossed my mind! Guess I’m not used to seeing painters at my scenes 🙂

Autumn on Pikes Peak Colorado

After that I decided on the loop behind the Newmont mine to see if maybe the aspen were in peak form at the top of that pass. Looks like the trees in Cripple Creek are going to need another week or so to reach their full color so I didn’t bother to stop, deciding to hurry home to process the ones I already had.

Tomorrow will be a much bigger day… planning to leave the house by 4 a.m. to make Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise. I will hit Bear Lake first I think to capture the sunrise on the lake, followed by an attempt at seeing some wildlife in Morraine Park. From there I hope to drive Trail Ridge Road followed by some more wildlife viewing on the west side of the park at dusk. Also hoping for my first visit to Fontenot’s Restaurant for some blackened catfish… back in the day the wife and I used to make a special trip up to Winter Park just for the pleasure of a meal at one of my favorite places 🙂

After that, who knows? I still have my sights on Quandary Peak in hopes of bagging at least one 14er this season! I would also like to make it up to Twin Lakes and maybe some fall colors along the river along the bottom of Independence Pass. Anyway, stay tuned, I’m just  getting started 🙂

These pictures and more are available on my image website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional frames and matting and as art on many cool and handy household and gift items, including battery chargers, apparel, beach towels, greeting cards and more!

Bighorn Fortune

I always take my Canon DSLR with me… usually to no avail. Sometimes I tell people that I carry it as protection from wildlife… as long as I have it with me there is no chance that I will encounter any wild animals 😦 Fortunately this day was different, I encountered a herd of bighorn sheep on the side of the mountain posing in a grove  of beautiful autumn colored aspen 🙂

Leaping Bighorn

I quick snapped off a few pictures and then noticed that the nimble beasts were intent upon crossing over a large crevice by jumping from one large boulder to the next. So I quick set my camera to ISO 400 in hopes of getting a sharp action picture. One by one the critters deftly leapt from one boulder to the next over to a rock clearing where they could rest. As fortune would have it, they decided to take their afternoon break right in a grove of aspen trees that were some of the few that have already taken on their autumn colors.

It was a bit bright by that time in the afternoon and I noticed that my highlight warning was indicating quite a bit of  clipping on the light end of the scale so I decided to reach into my pack for the polarizer. One quick turn of the dark filter and the leaves took on the expected amazing deep saturated coloring that I was envisioning.

Trio of Autumn Bighorn

The sheep, safe on their high precarious perch were completely unconcerned by the activities of any humans far below and I was able to shoot for as long as I wanted. When the entire herd had made it across the boulders to the clearing the leader began another short migration to the next vantage point but I knew I had the shot I wanted and departed the scene as well.

My plan for today was to head over towards Breck in hopes of scouting out the trailhead to Quandary Peak. I’m not too confident about completing a 14er in style this year, but the thought of spending another entire winter thinking, “maybe next year” is too disheartening to contemplate. I have to see 14,000 feet this year, that’s all there is to it and 14,265 foot Quandary looks doable even in my less that optimal physical conditioning. According to 14ers.com the East Ridge route is only a little over six miles with a difficulty rating of Class 1 all the way. Since I already live at nearly 10,000 feet and regularly climb to over 11,000 feet extra elevation training is not that big of a concern.

So next week I will make the drive to scout out a camp site on Hoosier Pass and have a lookat trailhead parking. Don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark looking for a place to park when I should be getting a jump start on the climb!

These pictures and more are now available on my website as wall art, including glossy and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional framed and matted prints. Many cool household and gift items are available as well including, gift cards, t-shirts, beach towels, battery chargers, phone cases and more! Once you are in the site, choose gallery mode to find your favorite category, or image mode to see the latest additions. Click on each image you like to view product options and pricing!