How to Photograph Mountain Goats on Mt. Evans Colorado

I’ve had a few people ask me how I got the mountain goat pictures on Mt. Evans so I thought it might be worth a blog post to explain how to plan a successful photo trip to one of the closest and most accessible fourteeners in the Colorado Front Range!

Beautiful Mount Evans Colorado

Well, the first obstacle you must overcome is the getting there. Ever since the onset of the Covid virus a timed entry ticket is required for entry. To acquire one of these go to the website recreation.gov and set up an account. It’s a fairly easy process and if you like to visit the parks you are going to want one eventually. The site lets you make reservations at all the national parks and many other interesting locations that now require the timed entry permits. For Mount Evans I recommend the 8:00-10:00 a.m. time slot for a couple of reasons, the first being it is the best arrival time to catch the animals when they are active, the second being it allows you the most time on the summit before the inevitable inclement weather sets in. Once you successfully create your reservation you will be given the opportunity to download the PDF ticket which you can print or save on your phone. I recommend doing both, either method is acceptable at the entry kiosk so if you happen to lose your printed version hopefully you will still have your phone!

Mountain Goats on Mount Evans

There are several options when choosing your ticket as there are a number of attractions on the way to the summit, including the Goliath Interpretive Park and the Summit Lake trailhead. The most expensive ticket of course is going to be the one that provides access to all the attractions including the summit area.

There are two routes to the mountain, one from the Evergreen side and another from the Idaho Springs side over old Squaw Pass Road, now known as Highway 103. Take 103 all the way to it’s summit where you will arrive at Echo Lake and the junction with Highway 5 which is Mount Evans Road and the access point to the summit. A short distance up the road  is the ranger station where you will have to present your timed entry ticket. I was told to leave my printed ticket on the dash board throughout my visit.

Marmot on Mount Evans

Here is where the fun begins, the long narrow winding road, mostly without guardrails, that takes you to the summit! Drive carefully, there may be wildlife on the road and it can be a trick to negotiate oncoming traffic both on the way up and the way down. Watch for the mountain goats and bighorn sheep as you ascend the scenic mountain, they don’t spend the night at the summit so as the day warms they can be seen making their way up the mountainside to the summit where they enjoy spending their days.

Hopefully by the time you reach the summit parking lot the wild goats will be there as well… if not you can take the rugged half mile trail to the actual summit and take in the fantastic 360 degree view including the Mount of the Holy Cross and other fourteeners including Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks. Oh, I forgot to mention, you will want to include clothing on this trip that will cover anything from summer to winter weather! On my recent trip the the sun was shining with about 75 degree temps at Evergreen and on the summit the wind was blowing about 40mph with parkas and winter head gear required!

To actually acquire good photographs of the animals you are going to want a good camera with the capability of manual settings and  a telephoto lens of at least 200mm. This allows you to shoot away from a distance without disturbing the animals. I used my 100-400mm lens and found it to be about right. Of course you can photograph the closer animals with a phone, they are basically unafraid of people

Mountain Goats on Mount Evansand many walk right up to them, way too close for their own safety. Keep in mind that these are wild animals and even though they tolerate people they occasionally feel threatened and may attack. Trust me, you do not want to be attacked by a mountain goat… they can really mess you up!

 

To get the best capture you are going to want to have a good understanding of how to set the exposure on your camera. The goats are bright white and the sky in the morning is going to be bright blue, a combination that is going to wreak havoc with your camera’s metering system. I found when the goats were on top of the rocks with the sky in the background I was dialing in at least +1 to +2 stops of exposure compensation (EC). Later on as we descended the mountain +.3 EC was better for photographing the darker bighorn sheep against the rocks.

Most afternoons severe weather is going to be moving in over the high peaks including heavy rain and lightning. By 2:00 p.m. your day on the summit is most likely going to be over and you should be on your way down. Once the lightning starts you don’t want to be standing outside, it is much safer inside your vehicle. One top of the mountain your chance of getting struck by lightning go from one in a million to highly likely.

A visit to the beautiful mountain towns of Georgetown, Idaho Springs and Evergreen is a great way to spend an afternoon, taking in some lunch, a micro brew and the many gift shops!

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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!

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This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

Bighorn Sheep on Mount Evans

Time for Some Hot Chocolate

Massive Bighorn Sheep

Another cold windy day and I spent a good part of it out in the elements! Now I’m cold to the bone and I can’t seem to get warm. The furnace keeps coming on but it doesn’t seem to help so maybe some hot chocolate will help boost my core body temperature 🙂 Have to say though, looking back it was a pretty good day except for the 45  minutes or so on top of Tenderfoot Pass with no coat on trying to unlock my truck with a stick through a partially open window. Yup, in my excitement to jump out and get a picture I managed to lock myself out. Big Dog was just sitting there looking at me like I was nuts 😦

Bighorns frolicking in the Colorado Rockies

Got in a good hike on this beautiful Colorado winter day and I also got to shoot these awesome bighorn sheep! I’ve been waiting a long time to get a shot of the big dude… I have had occasion to photograph the younger smaller ones but not the big guy. I’ve seen him a few times but never in position to be able to get a good picture.

It was also entertaining to watch the youngsters running around on the side of the cliff. They seemed to be having fun, kind of reminded me of when I was a kid doing some stupid thing like building a huge jump at Baby Bighorn Playing on the Rocksthe bottom of the lake bank for our toboggan jump! We knew we were going to have a spectacular crash… the worse the better! We would play in zero degree weather on our Christmas break until we were absolutely frozen at which time we would adjourn to our friend’s grandmother’s house for hot chocolate and Yahtzee until we were warm enough to go back at it again!

I was amazed that the elusive beasts didn’t run away today, they just kept playing while the head sheep kept a wary eye on me. Up and down the mountainside they went… and I just stood there and filled my memory card until I was sure I had “the shot”.

I was on the west side of the mountainside as the sun was rising in the east so I could have used better lighting, but I’m still happy with what I was able to capture. As always, these images and more are for sale as wall art and cool gift and household items on my website! You can find these in my new “Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat” gallery!

New Photo Galleries on Website

Cold out this morning… not that it stopped me, I still took the big dog for his walk but with wind chills of zero we didn’t go quite as far. Instead today I am restructuring my website. Seems some of my categories are getting a bit full making it difficult to locate the images you might be looking for. So, I have added new galleries for bighorn sheep, for predators such as fox, wolves and coyote, and a whole section just for elk! However, if you just feel like perusing through a lot of wildlife pictures the original all inclusive wildlife gallery is still available. I have also retained the all inclusive Rocky Mountain Winter and Colorado Rocky Mountain galleries with huge collections of mountain landscapes 🙂

Baby Mountain Goat

I also had a gallery for Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak that I set up when the only images of Pikes Peak I had were shot from Garden of the Gods. And that was when I lived in Parker! Since then I of course have moved to Woodland Park and now Cripple Creek where my pictures of Pikes Peak have massively expanded! So today I have separated out the two subjects into specific galleries for Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. There is also a gallery for Manitou Springs and the Incline if that is what you are looking for 🙂

And of course I have also had to add new galleries for Cripple Creek and the historic mining district, and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range which are my main subjects these days! There is also a weather gallery for those seeking pictures of storms and approaching foul weather! I hope that I have done  this in time to assist my readers in giving the gift of art for Christmas!

Cap Cloud on the Sangre

Next on my list… off to the store to purchase a new lead for the big dog. He somehow managed to break his unbreakable tether supposedly good for dogs up to 150 pounds! I swear 😦

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!

Back Button Focus



It was in the autumn in the high alpine regions of the Colorado Rockies when Mount Evans Road finally opened last year and I was able to make the drive to the summit. I had high hopes of seeing abundant wildlife, based on the reports of my competitors who had made the trip in previous years.

bighorn-sheepI had gotten an early start and made the first toll gate around sunrise, but I was a bit surprised at how long it took me to get up to Summit Lake. I had seen quite a few cars go past while I was paying my fee and I feared that the summit parking lot was going to be full. So I pulled into Summit Lake parking lot and spotted a ranger. I asked him how long it would take me to hike from there to the summit, and whether or not I would see any wildlife. He advised me to just drive the last few miles, that the hike would take hours and rain was coming in. He also told me the bighorns and the mountain goats would be on the summit.

So I jumped back in my truck and headed for the summit, where I parked and gathered up my gear. I looked for the trailhead and was glad to see only 1/4 of a mile to the summit. I looked diligently as I neared the summit for the animals only to be disappointed, nothing in sight. As I rounded a turn in the trail the summit facilities came into view below and much to my surprise, it was surrounded by animals just walking around the parking lot area, right along with the people. Well, there was no way I was going to have come that far without touching the summit plaque, so I just walked a bit further and made sure that m feet were planted on the summit of a 14er. Of course it didn’t count as a climb from only a 1/4 mile away, but I got the feel of 14k feet plus just the same.

Went back down to the facilities where I took about one million pictures of the goats and marmots standing around … the only problem there was making sure there were no people in the background to give away the ridiculous proximity of people and animals. Clouds rolled in and I really wasn’t too keen about driving down the highway in heavy rain, so I packed up and headed back down.

On my way back down I noticed a gathering of vehicles on the side of the road so I looked and saw a huge herd of both bighorns and mountain goats on both sides of the road. They were a bit far off for my 200mm lens, but I thought I’d get a few shots anyway… when again, much to my surprise, a baby bighorn started running towards me. I pushed down the shutter button and held it, getting probably 20 images before the little guy turned aside.

This is where the point of the story comes in… Of course the camera focused the first time I pushed the button and every image after that was out of focus 😦 I wasn’t expecting such action, so I had my Canon 70D on one shot mode. It was after experiencing the disappointment of so many failed images that I got to thinking maybe I should learn back button focus. I had heard that it was the best way to photograph unpredictable sports and wildlife subjects.

So naturally I have managed to procrastinate and delay implementing it for another six months… but for some reason, last night was the night to take the plunge. So I got on the internet and looked up how to do that with m 70D. I found a number of tutorials describing how to accomplish the camera settings and buttons, but nothing about what to actually do when shooting and when to use it!

The first thing I learned is that you have to go into the most obscure custom functions and set the shutter button for exposure only. Having the shutter button focus turned on conflicts with the operation of the back focus button, so you will need to consult your camera manual to determine how to do that.

Once that is done, look for the back focus button. On the newer Canon DSLR’s, it is called AF-On. To operate in back button mode, it is advantageous to put the focus mode in continuous mode, or AI Servo on Canon cameras. With a still subject you then depress the back button to focus and let go of the button. The camera will stay focused at that distance until you click the back button again. You can recompose as many times as you like before  focusing again.

Now here’s the really good part. If the subject goes into motion, you can just click the back button and hold it down while continuing to track the subject with the camera. As long as you hold the button down the camera will operate in continuous mode, refocusing constantly while you concentrate on composition and getting the pictures! So with one simple and easy to use button, you can quickly operate the camera in all the focusing modes that you might need. Separating focus and exposure also allows you to get more accurate exposure metering than having both done at the same time with the shutter button. Using the shutter button half push to lock focus and exposure only works if you don’t drastically recompose. With the back button focus, the shutter button activates the exposure on the new composition.

So, as you can see if I had been using the back button for the baby sheep I could have pressed and held while the animal was approaching and I would have had many sharply focused images instead of just one.

 

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