Trying Topaz DeNoise and Sharpen

I do a lot of low light wildlife photography and some images even though captured perfectly under the conditions suffer from noisy high ISO values. I have recently seen a lot of good reviews about the Topaz AI products so I thought I’d download the trial versions to see if they might be beneficial to my work. I must add, this blog post is not sponsored by Topaz or any other product.

So the first image I was interested in is this shot of a Great Blue Heron. This fellow would fly past me once each morning, well before the sun had cleared the ridge on the east side of Eleven Mile Canyon. There was no way to wait for better light, the heron made his one flight at first light and that was it. On this particular image I was using a 400mm zoom with a 1.4x extension. Shutter speed was 1/1250th at F9 and ISO 16000. So on this image I ran both Sharpen and then DeNoise in that order. The image on the top is the unprocessed image while the one on the bottom has been processed using Topaz AI. I find that running the sharpen first, followed by the noise reduction seems to product the best results.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using only Photoshop v22

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using Topaz AI DeNoise and sharpen plugins with Photoshop v22

Both images are in the acceptable range, I had originally submitted the Photoshop only image to my stock agencies and it was accepted by the reviewers. However I do find the Topaz AI processed image to be more appealing. The colors are much smoother and when viewed at 100% and details on the bird are more discernible and the eye is especially sharper and clearer, a very important detail in wildlife photography.

This red-tail hawk in flight capture I made was on the verge of being unusable in my stock image portfolio. Just a slight amount of motion blur when combined with digital noise from a low light situation put this capture slightly out of tolerance for viewing at 100%. I found that Topaz AI sharpening and noise reduction combined were able to put the image back into tolerance, thus rescuing a very valuable image. Again, the unprocessed version is on the top and the Topaz version is on the bottom:

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop V22 only

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise

This next image is a bald eagle also photographed in low light. I wanted to set the camera at a 1600th or 2000th of a second but the lighting conditions resulted in ISO values of 9000-16000, and I was hoping for a clearer image so I went with 1/1250th again. This time I was not using the 1.4x so I was able to use F5.6 and ISO 4000. Again, the Topaz processed image is on the bottom:

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop only

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

This was a near perfect image to start with so unless looking at it at 100% the differences are almost indiscernible. However even with these small web sized versions, when viewed at 100% the Topaz processed picture is obviously the cleaner image.

I also wanted to see what the software could do with a failed image. In this shot of the eagle I either didn’t achieve focus or there was too much motion blur. Not sure which it was but the image is unusable in my portfolio:

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop only

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

Now in this situation the original image is obviously blurry and unusable. In the sharpening window I used the “focus” tab and had to slide the sharpen slider all the way to the right. This image has made an amazing transformation. From blurry and unusable it has become sharp and focused, quite an impressive feat!

All in all I’d have to say I am very impressed with these products and I will be purchasing both Sharpen and DeNoise for sure. I haven’t tried GigaPixel yet, not sure I am going to need that. So far I have found with my 32mp camera my images are plenty large enough even after relatively severe cropping. Also the stock agencies don’t like uprezing and my print lab recommends against it as well. They probably have their own version of uprezing software and don’t want to mess with double enlarging of images.

I hope you found this review useful, and don’t forget to click the follow button if you want to be the first to see my next blog post!

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!

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Reprocessed with maximum sharpness

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

Barr Lake Photo Adventure

Late December through February every year a growing population of American Bald Eagles gather in Barr Lake State Park Colorado to winter and search for mates. Kevin and I have been talking about making the journey up there for a couple of years now and finally we decided it was time to get it done!

Buck and His Doe in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

We started the day at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal though as there have been rumors of eagles gathering there as well. We didn’t see any eagles but there was a nice herd of mule and whitetail deer grazing on the dry winter grass surrounding the lake that cooperated with us for a few pictures. We also saw some kind of woodpecker banging out a meal high in the massive cottonwood trees along the lake. Unfortunately I was not able to get a picture of that little fellow so you will just have to imagine!

Northern Harrier

Eventually we pressed on to Barr Lake while sighting a red-tail hawk along the way. We got a few of him on a power pole, but beyond credit for the sighting of a raptor I’m not too thrilled with power pole images.  Once inside the park we spotted a northern harrier that we had seen back in the fall that appeared willing to cooperate with a few captures. I managed to get a couple of him soaring high in the beautiful blue Colorado sky, but no dramatic closeups.

Eagle Population at Barr Lake

It was a 1.3 mile trek around he south side of the lake where the state of Colorado has constructed a  beautiful gazebo for watching the eagles which were gathered along the far south and west side of the lake… unfortunately about 1,000 yards away. I had my 400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter taking me out to 560mm of focal length, but even that was not enough to bring in very much detail. However it was quite a beautiful scene with the snow capped Colorado Rockies in the background. We saw a nesting pair in a huge cottonwood tree along with a few more mature and juvenile eagles standing on the shoreline of the scenic reservoir.

Geese at Barr Lake

The eagles were far outnumbered by a huge flock of  Canada Geese that looked like a cloud when they all took flight! I got a few still captures of the amazing scene but when I went to try to get video footage the silly waterfowl refused to cooperate 😦 Eventually we decided to spend the golden hour of sunset back at the Arsenal with the deer.

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!

Deer in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

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!

First Picture of 2021

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonI went out looking for hawks yesterday, without success… but today at Eleven Mile Canyon I had better luck. Got my first picture of the year as the bald eagles appeared over the South Platte River. The first one spotted was perched high in the tops of the pine trees, and he remained in place long enough for me to get my very first image of 2021 🙂

Eventually he took flight and I got a few more before he disappeared around the bend. The rest of the day was quite successful as well, with the capturing of numerous images of the proud birds in flight and perched in the trees above the bitterly cold South Platte River.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

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!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Wild Winter Solstice

Herd of Mule Deer

It was a wild morning on this 2020 winter solstice! I was much relieved to see the Three Amigos again, I haven’t seen them for months and was afraid a hunter had gotten them. Actually I am thinking of calling them the Fab Four since they have been roaming with another buddy since the fall, the fourth member was already at the tree line when I took this shot. Of course I know the Fab Four is also the name for the Beatles, but if you ask me the musicians don’t hold a candle to these big boys! They didn’t stick around long though, soon after they spotted me they began meandering toward the dense woods on the north and west side of the mountain.

Herd of Mule Deer

As my trek veered toward the north I spotted the rest of the herd making their way west as well, enjoying some mountain grass along the way. It looked to me like I would get some really nice shots in good light if I used some patience and waited for them to pass, so I took a seat on a big rock and waited. They were actually moving along pretty steadily so it wasn’t long before I began to get some good opportunities. However I noticed that they started nervously looking back and moving a little faster. I was pretty sure I wasn’t disturbing them as I peered into the distance to see what might be coming out of the trees over the hill, a coyote perhaps? Soon the disturbance came into view… my nemesis with the two dogs was coming up the trail behind me, and soon the deer were galloping

Herd of Mule Deer

toward the safety of the trees to the north. I did my best to capture the herd running, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for such an event. The original plan was to leisurely shoot them grazing in the grass at a relatively slow shutter speed and correspondingly low ISO value. I scrambled to reset the camera and fired a few frames off over a few seconds and then they were gone. I tell you, this guy is ruining my life, every day chasing away my livelihood 😦 I hope he moves on soon… or maybe this is a sign that it’s time for me to move on, perhaps closer to Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe even Montana.

Such a brief encounter wasn’t enough to satisfy my wildlife fix today so I decided to drive on up to Eleven Mile Canyon in hopes of spotting some eagles or maybe some more deer or even a herd of elk! The initial drive up the canyon yielded exactly nothing, except that I did see the eagle lady driving back down the canyon… peering intently into the trees along the river. At the top I just turned around and headed back down hoping for a more fruitful pass through the canyon on the return trip. On my way down I spotted the eagle lady headed back up, I guess I should find out her name…

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually my journey came to an end and I had nothing to show for it. I pondered the eagle lady’s strategy and began to wonder if I should make a second trip? What the heck, I had already paid the fee and I wouldn’t be coming back for a while so I turned big blue back around and began a second pass through the beautiful wilderness along the headwaters of the South Platte. Soon I came upon the eagle lady out of her car with camera in hand, so I pulled up behind her and got out to see what the excitement was. Sure enough she had spotted a baldy in a pine tree looking intently at a section of open water, for fish I presume!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile CanyonEventually he flew off in the opposite direction and I continued my drive up the canyon. No more eagle sightings but I did find a nice red-tailed hawk, also fishing along the river. He didn’t stay perched for long and I managed to get a nice shot of him in flight before he drifted away, well out of range for pictures.

I hoped for more on the way down but I was satisfied with the days good fortune and just enjoyed the scenery and the solitude the rest of the way down.

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 Eleven Mile Canyon

A Frozen World

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Range was exquisite this morning, the golden glow of sunlight reflecting off fresh snow on the 14,000 foot peaks as a new winter storm begins to build in the distance. This was the highlight of my trek to the top of my favorite mountain today. Perhaps the four footed critters sense the approaching weather and have already hunkered down. As I began my descent I noticed that the distant peaks were already becoming obscured by dark clouds, it’s a good thing I got an early start!

Approaching Storm

Unsatisfied with the results of my adventure in the high winter wonderland, my thoughts turned to Eleven Mile Canyon. The clouds were giving me that beautiful soft light that I knew would be perfect for photographing bald eagles. Plus I know it is nearing the mating season and I am hoping that some of the migrating raptors decide on Eleven Mile as a place to hold over before they meet up and journey on.

_MG_2161A quick glance as I entered the park showed no activity at the nest so I decided to drive the entire six miles into the canyon, hoping for eagles especially, maybe even a  golden… but satisfied to see any kind of wildlife stirring in the frozen world that is the Colorado Rocky Mountains! The river at the mouth of the canyon was mostly frozen over, a situation inhospitable to any of my favorite wild creatures! About halfway up, openings in the ice began to appear and it wasn’t long before I spotted a lone American Dipper fishing along water’s edge. Much to my surprise the brave little fellow was actually leaping off his perch on the shoreline to dive under the icy water in search of a meal. It was a challenge to capture him in the air as he dove into the water but I finally managed to get a satisfactory image. I tried to follow him under the water to capture his exit, but that proved to be nearly impossible. The little guys actually swim under the surface for several seconds, changing direction all the while!

Icy South Platte

As I drove up the canyon I noticed that all of my favorite locations looked amazing in the snow and ice, the water even more beautiful than usual. I stopped several times to get out and photograph the amazing scenes using my 25-105mm lens with a circular polarizer attached, which was perfect for shooting the river as it snakes it’s way out of the mountains. I thought about trying some long exposures but it was extremely cold down by the water. I think I’ll wait for my 10 stop ND to arrive in the mail later this week and make another run at it next week with a heavy coat on! I decided this image looks best in black and white… and I also used my own toning method that I have perfected over the years to add a hint of blue to enhance even more, the mood of the bone chilling cold!

Winter Eagles

As I got back in the truck I spotted the faint shadow of a huge bird passing by… It was a bald eagle flying low, up the canyon towards the reservoir. I tried to keep an eye on him as I proceeded up the canyon, but a driving mistake here could be catastrophic! I was in no mood for a swim in the river so I eventually lost track of my intended subject 😦

More and more open water began to appear and the ducks and geese were taking advantage of it for themselves. I hoped that where waterfowl were gathering there would also be eagles in search of fish. My eyes scanned the shoreline and the treetops as I searched for the huge raptors. Finally, a large bird in a tree about 60 yards off the opposite bank. I put my 400mm and 1.4x extension back on and took a look. It was a bald eagle, staring at me from the distance. I snapped a couple using the truck window frame to steady the camera and dialed in the proper exposure compensation, well over a stop against the bright morning sky. Once I had captured the perching scene I looked down to reset my shutter speed to a 1600th of a second in anticipation of a flight. When I looked back up the great bird was no longer on the perch. I leapt out of the truck and looked around frantically for him and eventually

Winter Eagles

spotted him heading right at me! I acquired focus and completely loaded my buffer. A couple seconds later the camera buffer had cleared and the eagle soared past and made a circle just overhead. I felt so blessed to have witnessed such a tremendous flight 🙂

Eventually he flew around a rock outcropping and steered toward the east end of the reservoir, an uninhabited area of the lake where I have long believed the raptors go to spend their days. As I made my way back down the canyon I spotted the second eagle of our nesting pair, high in a tree on top of the mountains, motionless as if frozen as surely as the river they depend on for sustenance. I captured a couple more images even though I knew she was too far off for a usable picture, I can’t help myself.. a bald eagle!

My day wasn’t done though… as I drove along another large raptor flew past on his way down the canyon. I tried to follow what appeared to be some sort of white hawk, but he never stopped and I didn’tget a chance to get out the camera. A couple more scenery pictures of the frozen river and I decided to call it a day, and what a day it was in the frozen world of the Colorado Rocky Mountain winter.

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!

American Dipper on an Icy Perch

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!

Raptors in Motion

The excitement is building in the world of raptors, especially in the bald eagle department! The mating season is near and the unattached birds are preparing for migration. That means here in Colorado we photographers are getting ready for the highlight of the year when hundreds of the great raptors descend upon our rivers and reservoirs to look for mates and make the journey south for warmer digs.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

The nesting pairs that choose to stay however, are busy getting their nests ready for the long cold Rocky Mountain winter. And that’s exactly what my favorite nesting pair was up to at Eleven Mile Canyon on this photo adventure. It was chilly when I left before sunrise so I made sure to bundle up in my warmest winter gear for what was sure to be a bone chilling visit to the banks of the South Platte River at my favorite eagle viewing vantage point.

As I drove into the park and the nest came into view I was delighted to see that both eagles were still on location just as the sun was clearing the mountains to the east. The light was perfect and I was going to get the opportunity to capture some great moments!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonAt first there didn’t seem to be a lot going on so I settled into my camp chair for a long visit along the frozen banks of the clear cold South Platte River as it flows out of the Rockies toward it’s destination in eastern Nebraska. Pretty soon I began to see some activity, one of the eagles hopped out of the safety of the nest onto the “eagle porch”, a piece of dead branch sticking out over the nest.

I took this as a sign that something was about to happen, these eagles often hop up there when they are about ready to depart for their favorite fishing grounds for the day. It wasn’t long before the pair flew away without my being able to get a very compelling image of them in flight. I decided to stick around for a bit to see if maybe they would come back. And it’s a good thing I did, both birds returned with a stick for the nest! I watched as the mother eagle carefully decided upon the optimum location for the new building materials… Speaking of building materials, I recently read that an eagles nest can grow to ten feet wide and weigh up to half a ton!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually both birds took flight again, this time in a direction more toward me, as they flew past the beautiful cliffs behind the nest where I could get closer and more interesting images. I thought myself fortunate for this brief moment but much to my surprise both of the huge raptors  flew skyward and circled together past me several times 🙂 I have never seen them do this before and I snapped each of their approaches toward me several times as they circled higher and higher, eventually drifting away and out of the range of my camera.

It was still early though and I wasn’t quite ready to give up on my day… so I decided upon a hike into the icy canyon to see what else might greet my day. As I strode along the river I noticed a herd of mule deer mirroring my journey on the other side of the river. I wondered if they might have the low point along that side in mind for a drink or a possible crossing so I did my best to stay out of sight as I tried to beat them to the spot.

Doe Mule Deer in Eleven Mile Canyon

I arrived first and took up a seat to wait patiently on a rock partially obscured from view on the other side by some foliage. I was right, it wasn’t long before the small herd of does arrived along the shores if the river for a morning drink. Unfortunately just as I was about to get some good river shots a fisherman roared up in a monster truck to disturb my scene and scare off my subjects. I was able to catch some pretty nice images of the herd as they departed, this being my favorite one. I also chose this image to try out the new radial filter in Adobe Camera Raw… the background was a bit bright for my tastes and I was pleased to be able to create this nice low key rendition of the scene as the furtive herd drifted back into the safety of the tall pines and mountains beyond.

American Dipper Fishing

The fisherman mentioned that he had been seeing what he thought was a mink swimming in the water near there so as I made my return trip I kept my eyes on the water, hoping for yet another photo opportunity on this beautiful early winter morning. And just as I was nearing the fast water, and the end of my ambition to photograph river life in he canyon, I spotted some movement, a sign of life in the cold dark water. It was an American Dipper… jumping from the safety of a rock into the icy water in search of a meal.

American Dipper Fishing

I watched in amazement as the diminutive bird actually dove under the water for several seconds at a time before popping back up several feet away with a little prize. These little birds are amazing, but I never imagined that they would actually swim underwater, submerged for seconds at a time! This proved to be very difficult to photograph however, I was never able to get focused in time for the entry and I was also unable to guess the exit location in time to be able to get a shot. The best I could do were a few images of the little guy on the rock, planning his next attempt.

I’m looking forward to the climax of the mating and migration season in the middle of next month. Another eagle watcher in the canyon yesterday said that she had been seeing a few more eagles, five in one day… including both golden and bald eagles!  Be sure to click the button to follow my page and not miss the next episode in the wilderness of these beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains!

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!

Stunning Morning and Eagles

The stars all aligned this morning for a visit to Eleven Mile Canyon. Due to the Rocky Mountain National Park trip I haven’t been there in a while and I Bald Eagle Nesting Pairam always eager to check on the status of the raptor population. As I pulled into the parking lot just before sunrise I could already see two white heads in the nest. So I leapt out of the truck and made my way down to the riverbank as quickly as possible. Fortunately they were still there when I was finally ready to snap a picture 🙂

Pair of bald eagles who call Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado their home

They put on a pretty good show in some very nice light for a few minutes. One of them flew off for a few minutes and came back with a stick for the nest while the other hopped out of the nest and up to their strategic branch. Eventually the other one  took off and flew into the canyon, something I’ve never seen them do before… I was expecting a quick return so I waited motionless as long as I could… But it was cold this morning, and I just got colder and colder until I could barely move my fingers, and that was with gloves on! Finally I had to put my hands in my pockets and risked missing a shot.

Little Sparrow by the Water

In the meantime a sparrow came to the other side of the bank to entertain me and a flock of red wings went by… males and females flying together in the same flock, also something I hadn’t seen before. I somehow managed to get a nice shot of one of the males coming in for a landing in a thicket of reeds.

Red Winged Black Bird in Flight

The eagle never came back from the canyon and and eventually the remaining raptor took flight and few toward the lake, a lucky break for me because they usually fly directly away from me when they decide to go. This time I got a nice shot against the  blazing blue Colorado autumn sky 🙂

At that point I walked my shivering self back to the truck to get another layer to put on under my field jacket. As I prepared to make the trek up to the dam I spotted something in a tree high above the river valley… Could it be one of the osprey? I snapped a picture and tried to zoom in with the LCD viewer but I could tell is that it was a large bird.

Bald Eagle Nesting PairThen all of a sudden he took flight as well and I did my best to capture him in flight… I haven’t processed that image yet but on the LCD it looked like it might be the red-tailed hawk that occasionally watches over the entrance to the valley.

Doe Mule Deer in the Woods

My final bit of luck came as I stood on the dam… as I looked up from the dam onto the trail above I spotted a doe mule deer peering out from the woods… As quickly and quietly as I could I readied the camera for a picture and she watched me curiously while I grabbed a few images. Finally she meandered into the dense forest and the moment was gone.

I hiked a few feet up the trail and spotted the rest of the herd looking out from the edge of the forest and they too watched curiously as I moved about with the camera trying to get the best angles.

Bald Eagle in Flight

I considered walking into the canyon but by this time the weekenders from the city were already piling in, stirring up huge clouds of dust and I wasn’t up for all the noise, engines roaring and fishermen yelling at each other from all ends of the canyon… The trip home was uneventful and now I’m in front of the computer where I will spend a good part of the rest of my day 😦

These were my  favorite pictures 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!