Giving the Canon R7 a Workout

Finally got a chance to really let the R7 shine. A trip to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal yielded some great photo ops with an osprey fishing, snowy egrets in flight, some cute little killdeers along the shore and a double-crested cormorant. For this exercise I left the focus system in animal tracking mode with animal eye focus turned on. I narrowed the focus area to a large middle zone with all surrounding helper points activated. The R7 had a very easy time of tracking the birds with the smooth blue water behind them and I found the camera a complete joy to use on this day.

Cold and Snowy on Mount Evans

Our trip to Mount Evans was a bust, sad to say… although we were lucky to even make the summit with the weather going on. People were still going up as the heavy rain and most likely impending snow were moving in, and I would not have wanted to be heading up after 2:00 or so. We didn’t see any goats or sheep, which was a great disappointment for what will probably be our only chance at the summit this season. I was able to capture a few nice shots of the weather though, using the RF18-150 STM kit lens with the new lens hood and circular polarizer I purchased for it on Amazon 🙂 I found the lens a joy to use and have no complaints about sharpness or Chromatic Aberration.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Rain and hail also spoiled a visit to Georgetown and Guanella Pass. We saw a few forlorn and very wet bighorn ewes hiking along the road but the rain was so heavy that we really didn’t feel like getting out to shoot. Jefferson Lake on the other side of the pass was beautiful, but no moose showed themselves and there were no pronghorns to photograph along Tarryall Road. We saw a couple of hawks near Lake George but they were too far away and flew the wrong way when they did take flight. Here is where my R7 struggled the most, with a distant bird flying into a backdrop of trees. It really wasn’t able to find the bird and track it. Not sure how to handle that situation, I guess I will have to narrow the focus system down to one point and hope I can get it locked on the distant raptors.

On the other hand the bird was too far away to photograph anyway, so I probably could resolve that issue by not bothering to take the picture in the first place. Oh, and by the way… I used DXO Pure Raw to process the raw images and decided to license the full production copy for my workflow!

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite pictures, hope you enjoy!

 

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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!

They’re Back, the Osprey Have Returned

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon in early spring

Last year I first spotted my first osprey of the season on the 31st of March and the second the next day to reunite our nesting pair. It just so happened that I could make the trip to the canyon today so I made sure to look closely for osprey. Didn’t see any on my way up the canyon but was rewarded with two bald eagle sightings for my effort. Well actually I think it was one bald eagle spotted twice. I was messing around when he took flight the first time so I completely blew some perfectly good in flight shots but was lucky to see him again for a redo.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

I was hoping to get a lot of good footage for a video so I made sure to switch for a few seconds each time. I didn’t notice right away but I had left my picture style on monochrome so I ended up with monochrome video 😦 Oh well, there wasn’t much color early in the morning so I guess it didn’t hurt anything. Saw some deer on the way back down the canyon but no more eagles. Then just as I was passing the tree where we think the osprey might build their new nest this summer I spotted a white head in the top of a pine tree, a very unusual place for an osprey. So I snapped some pictures and took a few seconds of video before he flew. He landed on a cliff which was perfect for pictures and then flew again to the next cliff face.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

I never did see the mate, the lone osprey did seem to be looking around for her so maybe like last year she will only be one day late. I would sure like to see a few more of the amazing white hawks move into our valley, there was one extra for a while last season but it appears he moved on without finding a mate to nest with in the canyon. We have another pair over at Manitou Lake but the pictures are so much more attractive in the canyon.

Well anyway, it’s off to the city tomorrow to pick up my CD and black and white film at Mike’s Camera, so I don’t think I’ll have time to stop in but perhaps I’ll check on them again Sunday.

I’m getting better at Premier Pro all the time so I hope you enjoy the video! If you enjoy the content and would like to help out with the cause, please feel free to click the donate button!

Osprey 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! 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! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

Cloud Dancers

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Snow is flying on Trail Ridge Road already, if you ask me that’s a good omen 🙂 This morning greeted me with 43 chilly degrees, clouds and a pretty stiff breeze. Of course for me, that only meant that I needed to get out in it 🙂 My favorite close by mountain seemed like good medicine for this day, a guaranteed good long hike at elevation 🙂 I haven’t seen any wildlife there in a while though, I’m kind of thinking maybe the dusky grouse has already migrated. Come to think of it, my osprey pair in Eleven Mile Canyon may also have migrated, according to the literature late August is their assigned time for departure for their southern locations. It seems like the adults leave early while their youngsters hang around awhile perfecting their fishing skills and strengthening their new wings. Last year our juveniles at Eleven Mile remained until around mid September.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Sure enough, I hiked all the way to the summit without seeing a thing to photograph, the Sangre de Cristo Range is completely obscured by the California smoke and there was no bird song at all at the summit. I wonder if many of the little species have already migrated… It makes me wonder what kind of horrific winter we may be in store for!

On my way down I was happy to see the pair of red-tailed hawks sitting together on one of the power poles, for the longest time there was just one hawk so I’m glad he or she has found a mate 🙂 I was in pretty good position for a shot so I set up the tripod and switched to live view where it was easier to keep an eye on them through the three inch LCD screen. Plus I don’t have to strain my neck so much to just sit and look at the “big screen”, rather than the little tiny viewfinder!

It wasn’t long and the beautiful pair took flight and headed north for their daytime locations which I’m not privy to. I waited a bit to see if they would come back but it appeared that the decision was made for the day so I decided to go on up to the Gold Camp Bakery in Victor for some  biscuits and gravy, always a treat 🙂

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Eventually the sun was shining brightly and it appeared that my day of photography was over so I turned Big Blue back down the pass towards home. But as I passed the trailhead I looked into the sky and saw four large birds soaring and chasing each other in the sky. I trained my big lens on them and by golly it was four red-tail hawks, just playing in the sky 🙂 I suspect that the two extra must be the offspring of the nesting pair that I’ve become familiar with. All the more red-tails to photograph in the months to come!

They circled overhead for quite a while, twirling and diving and chasing each other all over the beautiful blue Colorado sky. I followed them with my lens as best as I could, shooting whenever I was in focus and they were close enough.  I probably snapped about 120 captures before it was all over and the amazing cloud dancers drifted off into the distance.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

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.

Eleven Mile and a 2x Converter

Had an opportunity to borrow a Canon 2.0x III teleconverter yesterday so I immediately thought of the eagles nest at Eleven Mile Canyon which has always been just out of reach for a good crop with my little 1.4x converter and 400mm lens. As I drove into the park area I didn’t see any eagles at the nest so I cruised on into the canyon in search of the osprey and blue heron and hopefully even the juvenile baldies.

Great Blue Heron at Eleven Mile Canyon

Didn’t see the osprey or the peregrines near the entrance so I motored upstream searching the banks of the river and nearby trees where I have seen the great birds many times. Eventually I spotted a blue heron in a tree, mostly just taking a nap, but looking up every once in while for possible threats. Unfortunately he was on the dark side of the river and with the 2x which introduces a two stop loss of light, my ISO values at a shutter speed of even just 1/800th of a second were up around 10k to even a less workable 12,800k. There was so much noise in the preview that I really couldn’t even tell if I had the image in focus. Oh, forgot to mention, with the 2x I’m limited to F11 and my Canon 90D won’t autofocus with a lens combination smaller than F8.

Osprey at Eleven Mile CanyonUnfortunately I didn’t get another opportunity to photograph until I had been all the way up the canyon and almost back out, when I finally spotted a large bird across the river resting in a dead tree. A quick glance through my long lens verified that the bird was an osprey so I rested my camera on the window frame of my truck and captured a few images. Eventually the beautiful hawk took flight and I was lucky to be ready, capturing a few images of him as he flew off with a fish in his sharp talons.

I quickly exchanged the 2x for the 1.4x which allows for only one stop of light loss and auto focused on his flight against the beautiful blue Colorado sky 🙂 Later as I looked through my images it appears as though the tree the osprey was using to eat his breakfast could be a good candidate for a nest next spring. I hope she or he was taking good notes, it’s going to be a long winter down in the tropics before they return again to breed next spring!

Osprey at Eleven Mile CanyonHappy with my captures I departed the canyon, taking a quick look one more time for the peregrines on the cliffs of the canyon entrance. The eagles nest once again appeared to be empty, but I decided to put the 2x back on to do a magnification check against the 1.4x, just to see what it would be like to watch the nest a bit closer. As I peered through the lens and monkeyed with the focus ring I spotted one of the juvi’s in a tree a few yards behind the nest. I snapped a couple shots of him and decided to go down to the river bank for a closer look.

I grabbed my big tripod with the heavy duty Vanguard ball head and took a better look. Just as I got focused the third young bald eagle flew right in front of the other two and landed in the nest. Quick reactions resulted in a pretty amazing capture of all three of the offspring in one frame drawn in close with the 2x converter 🙂

Juvenile Bald Eagles

So I have to say it was a pretty happy day in the canyon with good images of a great blue heron (taken with the 1.4x), the osprey and the young bald eagles!

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

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.

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

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!

Lessons Learned

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

It was quite a summer of photography and I definitely had to up my game this season! For nearly four decades in Colorado I have enjoyed photographing our beautiful mountain landscapes, iconic wildlife including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, elk and even a few bear! I have been successful shooting all these subjects from the fully manual era to auto focus, early digital, and finally to these times of amazing technology that could barely be imagined when I first began this amazing journey with my Minolta X-700 35mm film camera.

Bald Eagle in Flight

My first digital camera was the original Canon 1D. The camera was so intuitive and amazing that I never even bothered to learn how to use it’s advanced focusing system. The camera was so good at finding the subjects I was interested in that I didn’t even need to learn any more about it beyond it’s most basic settings. Unfortunately that camera had only a 4.5 megapixel sensor and quickly became obsolete as camera technology exploded at light speed.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

By the time the Canon 40D was introduced I was doing a bit of sports photography and was forced to master single focus point selection which involved only one additional button and a joy stickl on the back of the camera. By the time the 70D arrived I was confronted with increasingly difficult situations which required learning “back button focus“. With that skill mastered, I was able to rapidly switch between servo and single shot photography with just a thumb and one button on the back of the camera.

Mother Bald Eagle with Her Eaglet

But this summer was different, starting with the discovery of the eagles nesting in Eleven Mile Canyon. No big deal at first, the mother eagle was just sitting in the nest with her eaglet and my previously acquired skills were perfectly sufficient. Then it happened, the eagles flew! They took flight in some of the most magnificent photographic opportunities I had ever been presented with!

Osprey Gathering

And suddenly I was a complete failure as a photographer 😦 All my pictures were blurry and the opportunity for game changing images was lost. Back to the drawing board… Of course there were some obvious solutions, shutter speed too slow being the first major culprit. A quick trip to the internet provided the necessary information, birds in flight require a shutter speed of at least 1/1250th of a second, preferably 1/1600th and up. I decided upon shutter priority mode with auto ISO to accomplish this task and I began to get some pretty decent eagles in flight captures.

After extensive observation I learned a bit about eagle habit, what time of day they might fly, when they might return and even a couple of indicators for when they might be getting ready to take flight. Eagles are big and tend to soar in steadily making accurate focus a fairly dependable action. I believed I was set, my skills were up to the task of photographing raptors 🙂

Doe and Fawn Crossing River

One day the eagles weren’t there and I decided to venture further into the canyon in search of them. As I scanned the banks of the South Platte River looking for signs of additional subjects I spotted a huge nest on a dead tree high overhead. Closer inspection revealed a bit of motion in the nest so I parked Big Blue and got out with my long lens for a better look.

Sure enough, there was a large bird in the nest with two small bobbing heads… But what was it, a hawk of some kind perhaps? I climbed the opposite bank for a better look and surmised that this beautiful birds must be osprey. I shot for awhile and headed for home with my cache of fascinating images. A quick check on the internet confirmed my original assessment, indeed there was a family of osprey nesting high above the pristine waters of the South Platte River.

Great Blue Heron in Water of Glass

Subsequent trips to the viewing area revealed that further advancement in my birding skills was going to be required… for the first time I was forced to deep dive into the capabilities of my camera. Settings that I had glossed over when I purchased my Canon 90D were now items of interest… First image priority, second image priority, acceleration and deceleration, erratic motion and focus point switching were all in play with the osprey. Flight without any kind of warning, rapidly changing direction, flying through the trees and dipping and diving had rendered my previously learned skills completely inadequate.

Osprey and Hummingbird

Now by the end of summer, many dozens of hours of practice, study and trial and error have elevated my skills to a new level. I have confidence that I have my camera settings dialed in, my skills honed and my patience perfected… as much as humanly possible 🙂 Now for what I have learned …

In a nutshell, I’m not going to try to go into great detail about camera settings since each camera manufacturer and each camera is different… but at least for birds in flight and probably many other additional applications, this is what I have learned:

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

For starters, if I am anticipating birds in flight right from the get go, I’ll put my camera on shutter priority at 1/1600th of a second  with auto ISO. For birds in flight you are going to need at least a 400mm lens if not longer, so I make sure I am using my 100-400 with my 1.4x extension attached. That limits me to F8 and consequently one focus point, but I’ve discovered that unless the bird is flying against a pure backdrop such as the sky I have better luck with the greater magnification and a single point anyway. Tv mode also allows me access to the rear wheel for quick adjustment of exposure compensation which I am going to need if the bird flies high with the bright sky in the background.

Double-crested Cormorant in Flight

If I  get on scene and the birds are in the nest I may want to dial back my shutter speed to 640 which is going to bring the ISO down quite a bit for a cleaner picture. If a beaver is swimming downstream or I see some deer walking across the stream I may bump the shutter speed up to 1/800th or so to freeze the motion. But if nothing else is going on and I am going to just watch a nest for action I’ll bump the shutter speed back up to at least 1250 or 1600 depending on the light.

Wilson's Warbler

Also if I find myself in a low light situation anticipating action I may go to manual on the mode dial and use the widest aperture available, which is going to be F8 with the 1.4 attached, or F5.6 for my lens at its widest focal length without the 1.4x, and the lens fully extended to 400mm. In Tv mode, the camera may select a stop down from the widest aperture which may bump you into a higher and less clear ISO range. And of course always be paying attention to your background. If it is brighter than the light on your subject you may need to bump up your exposure compensation. A bright sky may require at least +1. As in the case of the osprey and bald eagles with their bright white heads, you are probably going to want to dial that back to -1/3 or -2/3 to avoid blowing out the brilliant white feathers.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Well I guess that’s about it for now… I have to say though, I’m looking forward to autumn and prime season for the majestic large mammals that mostly stand and pose for me.  Even with all the learning and practice a lot of birds in flight don’t turn out and I am going to enjoy the much higher success rate on the big animals 🙂

For your enjoyment I have created many short 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 our adventures!

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!

Juvenile osprey in flight

Houston We Have Lift Off


Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

Well that’s it… all the osprey we have been watching all summer are officially in the air 🙂 About a week ago the older chick took his first tentative flight from the nest over to the top of a nearby cliff, after which he took the leap and soared high into the clear blue Colorado sky. Today the younger fledgling hopped up and down, wings flapping furiously in a sustained test flight above the nest.  Papa osprey took up his usual perch overlooking the area as he kept a watchful eye out for any danger to his family while mama left the nest  for a nearby perch to give the young one space to take the plunge out of the nest. The older offspring soared high overhead as if to give the nest bound chick the confidence to take the leap.

Osprey Chick First Flight

Anticipation was high as the entire valley knew something big was up… Then it happened, the nest was left behind with a flight that swooped low at first and then gained altitude as the exuberant raptor flapped his wings and soared high above the pristine waters of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. After a couple of triumphant fly by’s the young bird found a landing spot and took up a perch in a tall dead tree high on the canyon walls.

Osprey Chick First Flight

We watched for a long time, the young aviators joyfully taking turns soaring over the canyon to practice and show off their new skills. For a while the siblings actually flew simultaneously and perched side by side on a tree limb to celebrate the moment together.

Not much attention was paid to the nest on this day, it appears that the summer home as a social gathering point has become secondary as the new flyers learn to soar and hunt for themselves. It is with a twinge of sadness that I realize our task as photographers to document this momentous occasion may be complete for this breeding season, although I may journey further into the canyon to see if I can discover the best fishing spot in hopes that I may capture the victorious moment a meal is snatched out of the water.

Osprey Chick First Flight

I also wonder what next summer will bring, will the young ones find a mate and return to the canyon to nest and raise a family of their own? Or from their vantage point high above the bonds of earth will they spot a better location to continue the circle of life? Time will tell…  as my thoughts turn to autumn, changing colors and cooling temperatures, and the rut season for the big mammals… the bighorn sheep, elk and deer.

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!

The Eagles Were Smiling

Bald Eagle in Flight

Well I don’t know if the eagles were smiling but God definitely was smiling upon me this morning 🙂 All the places I usually go in the summer to photograph wildlife were closed this summer due to the virus so I was forced to find some new places and learn some new skills. As it turns out Eleven Mile Canyon is fairly close by and it’s big attraction is raptors and birds of various types. I have spent my summer honing my skills photographing eagles and osprey while watching the progress of our area’s favorite eaglet as he grows in strength and has finally learned to fly.

Bald Eagle in Flight

I started the summer with all my camera settings and skills calibrated for photographing large mammals and I have to say, birds in flight is a whole ‘nother game! Well anyway, today it all came together, including my finding the camping chair which has been lost for as long as I can remember… it was folded up and sitting in plain sight in my room of course but this morning I just happened to spot it, completely by accident 🙂

So off I went, just before sunrise in the hope of arriving just as the sun cleared the ridge to  the east, providing perfect light over the eagles nest and the pristine waters of the South Platte River as it flows out of the Rockies on it’s journey through Nebraska to the Mighty Missouri.

Bald Eagle in Flight

With the warm sun spilling over my shoulders I set up my rig on the bank of the river with a “birds eye view” of the restricted raptor area on the west side. Ready for action, my camera set to Tv mode with auto ISO, 1/2000th of a second… plenty of shutter speed to capture an eagle in flight. I wasn’t too worried about the aperture, with my 1.4x extension attached I’m pretty much guaranteed the camera will use F8. I’d like a little faster but with the loss of a stop of light from the 1.4x, F8 is the widest my 400mm F5.6 can achieve. Usually I sit for hours with not much happening other than a little flapping of wings in the nest as the fledgling practices his newfound wing skills. The eaglet was indeed on the nest but I also spotted the mother eagle on a perch not far away so there was some hope that today could be special.

It wasn’t long and the youngster took flight and tried to join mom on the higher perch, Fledgling Bald Eaglet in Flightbut she was having none of it. The eaglet landed on a branch near her and immediately the mother eagle took flight and made a wide circle over the entire area before disappearing behind the mountain. Much to my surprise however, she was soon back and flying right over me at low altitude after which she just circled and circled for a  good long time. with each pass I shot more images as she approached, while letting off the shutter as she turned her back to me in preparation for another pass.

Eventually she swooped in and landed in a tree above the fledgling. I thought the show might be over so I packed up to go visit the osprey further up the canyon, but after walking a few steps I looked back and all three eagles were in the air!  It was clear the show wasn’t over so I just went and sat back down in my chair and decided to remain on the banks of the Platte until the heat of the day drove all the critters into the shade of the dense pines in the San Isabel National Forest.

Bald Eagle in Flight

And what a show it was, one by one each of the eagles went on a long flight above me, soaring high on the mountain air currents and circling past over and over, as if they knew I was ready and wanted me to photograph them! By the time the sun began to beat mercilessly down upon the forest I had accumulated over 800 images, almost all perfectly exposed and tack sharp 🙂

These I have included today are just a few of my favorite ones, there are many more including some cool shots of the red wings and some geese paddling by in the golden beauty of the early morning water that I photographed while waiting on the eagles 🙂

As always, the best of these images 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!

Cold in the Canyon

I awoke at sunrise and took a peek out the front window to see what kind of day it was going to be, and  already I could see a beautiful day in the making.  I thought about a further trip but being the 4th of July weekend I was all too aware of the obligatory traffic jams in the mountains as the weekend travelers make the journey back home. I hadn’t seen the adult bald eagles for a few days and someone was trying to convince me that they had left for the season, so I decided on another trip to Eleven Mile Canyon to check it out for myself.

Morning Mule Deer

When I arrived the fledgling was perched on a branch above the nest, facing the wrong way of course… I waited about an hour and then he finally flew, but just from the nest back further into the trees where I couldn’t see him at all. Today there were no deer on the banks of the river either so I decided to make the hike back into the park to check on the osprey family.

It appears though that the deer had all congregated deep in the canyon today, and they were all trying to make their way out as I was making my way in. They warily approached me so I decided to appear non threatening and just sat down on a rock while they nervously passed. Right in that particular spot there is a cliff wall on one side and a drop off to the roaring whitewater below on the other, there is no other choice but to share the road! I did get a nice portrait of this doe though, with the beautiful canyon wall on the opposite side of the river creating a nice background for the image 🙂

Eventually the osprey nest came into view and I could see even from a distance that

Osprey Fledging

there was a bird in there. As I drew closer I could see that the mother and the two chicks were nestled snugly in their home on top of the trees. I made my usual climb up the other side of the bank to my vantage point and settled in for the wait. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before one of the fledglings was feeling frisky and started furiously flapping his wings 🙂 Of course my camera was on rapid fire for that display!

Osprey in Flight

Next on tap was a flight by daddy osprey who left his perch from a dead tree high above the nest, where he keeps a close eye out for danger. He flew off and was back in a short time with a stick which he swooped in to give to mama osprey. I was fortunate to capture a good one of him coming in for a landing at the nest clutching a prize in his formidable talons. He remained but a few seconds and flew back to his perch where he remained sentry for the rest of my morning.

Osprey Family on the Nest

Mama continued rustling around, occasionally reaching into the nest to tend to the chicks before finally taking perch on top of the edge of the nest. I was able to get some nice pictures of her and the chicks but I was really hoping for a flight.

Being the middle of summer I had left my sweatshirt in the truck and it wasn’t long before I was regretting that move! As I sat there in my short sleeved shirt sitting on the cold rock I just got colder and colder. Finally by 10:00 I think hypothermia was starting to set in and I was shaking so badly I could no longer steady the camera. I hung in there another half hour or so but mama didn’t appear inclined at all to go on a fishing trip so I gave it up and climbed back down the embankment, not an easy task on cold legs that had been doing nothing but stiffening for the last couple hours! Fortunately I made it back down without falling over the edge 🙂

As I neared the truck I thought I could see some action in a tree high above the eagles

Bald Eagle Fledgling

nest. I aimed my long lens up there but couldn’t really see anything except a big brown object. It looked kind of like an eagle but it could also just be a tree branch. Finally I snapped a picture and used the LCD playback to zoom in and examine the subject more closely. Sure enough, it was mama eagle sitting in the tree with her back facing me. Once again I devoted more time in the hope she would fly, but from what I could tell she never even twitched from her statuesque pose. As I was standing up getting ready to depart I heard the eaglet in the distance calling out to mama. She answered with a screech that echoed across the valley… and soon the young one was airborne and gliding toward the nest. Fortunately I ready and was able to capture a good image of him coming in for the landing 🙂 He is just a youngster but as you can see he is already looking quite fierce!

Now as I write, there is a beautiful rainstorm in progress, thunder echoing

Osprey Learning to Fly

through the valley to keep me company. I can’t say that I’m upset that the holiday weekend is almost over, definitely not a fan of the crowds the big days bring to the mountains.

As always, the best of these images 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!