Miracle in the Morning

Foggy Eleven Mile

There’s only one word I can think of to describe yesterday’s photo trip… and that is “Stunning!”. The journey was underway before the first rays of sun began to warm the mountainsides so my first goal was to just not hit an elk or deer with my truck before sunrise. As I pulled into the meeting place at Eleven Mile Canyon a few golden rays of sunshine revealed a layer of fog that had settled in over the cool early autumn morning. I was prepared for wildlife photography, but the beauty of the canyon in the morning forced me to dig into my camera bag for my 18-150mm landscape lens for a few shots of the scene unfolding before me!

Soon Kevin arrived and our trip was underway. The plan was to drive straight to Jefferson Lake about an hour’s ride to the north, to look for moose. Many times we have made the trip in vain, only once have we ever seen a moose. On a dreary rainy afternoon a couple years ago we saw one cow moose with her two calves under the darkness of the pine canopy, but we had never seen the great beasts feeding in the beauty of the shimmering beaver ponds in the soft golden glow of early morning light.

Foggy Elk Herd

The trip was barely underway however when I spotted movement in the dense fog. A closer look revealed a herd of elk in an open meadow. It looked to be three big bulls with around 20 cows. We were careful not to scare them into jumping the fence, something our Rocky Mountain elk don’t seem to be very adept at doing. The bulls knew better than to let the herd run out onto the highway, quickly rounding up the group and moving them east toward the safety of the forest and away from the threat of humans. Eventually the majestic animals settled down and we had the opportunity to shoot away for a while, until the scene was adequately captured

Bald Eagle

A few more miles down the road and a giant bird was spotted in a tree along Highway 77, otherwise known as Tarryall Road. The majestic bird didn’t quite look like the usual red-tailed hawks that usually line the roadway and closer inspection revealed an amazing bald eagle. We carefully exited the car, hoping to capture a few images before the great bird took flight. However as it turns out, the eagle had no interest in vacating his perch, especially not for a couple of photographers consigned to the other side of the barbed wire fence. So we photographed and waited, moved around and waited… until it became apparent that the big raptor was not going to fly. With the hope of moose still before us, the decision was made to abandon the position and head for the beaver ponds.

Pair of Moose

Soon we were rumbling down the rough dirt road leading to the beaver ponds just hoping for a miracle. As we drew near I spotted a huge black figure moving in the mist and the foliage… A moose, and a big bull at that! We found a  good place to pull over and prepared for a few fleeting moments with a bull moose, an amazing event indeed! Much to our surprise the great beast wasn’t too impressed with us and continued his morning feeding only a few yards in front of us. Eventually I was confident that I had some good captures but soon another huge bull came into view… Would it be possible to capture two bulls in the same image, the answer soon came as both animals stepped into the shimmering waters of the beaver ponds with beautiful autumn foliage behind them. The huge beasts slowly made their way across the pond, allowing every possible angle and lighting opportunity. Before it was over I had over 1,000 captures of the powerful and elusive animals logged onto my memory card! It was only 9:30 in the morning and we already achieved  more than we could have possibly dreamed for!

Red-tail Hawk

The only question then was, do we just call it a day or keep pressing for more? The light was still good enough for some hawk pictures so we went back a couple of miles down Tarryall Road again where we knew the red-tailed hawks would be lining the road from their vantage points high on power poles. I was hoping for a capture of a hawk with the beautiful peaks of the Mosquito Range behind them and it wasn’t long before I had accomplished that goal as well! Although it wasn’t until I had brought them up on the desktop computer at home that I was able to see the extent of that success! I didn’t know it out in the field but I had captured exactly the image I was hoping for!

From there it was onward to Antero and Eleven Mile Reservoirs where we were able to capture additional images of more red-tails, white-faced ibis, killdeer, horned larks, and even a herd of American Bison!

I hope you all enjoy a few more images from this fantastic day!!

 

 

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” and this year’s wildlife calendar “Colorado Wildlife 2023“!

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!

Coyote on the Hunt

Quite a Day and a Roll of Film

Bitter cold greeted me two days from the official arrival of the Vernal Equinox, otherwise known as spring. One thing is for sure though, spring cannot be counted on in Colorado. So a day of photography that began with an ice scraper and frozen fingers could only get better from there, and a green chili breakfast burrito at the Mountain Burger in Florissant Colorado didn’t hurt 🙂

Frozen South Platte River Valley

Eleven Mile Canyon was also frozen, something I was anticipating and had planned for by bringing my old Canon AE-1 film camera with it’s six remaining frames of black and white film. Bald eagle photography hasn’t been great there lately due to the imminent spring hatch of new eaglets but I figured I could at least get a few shots of the frozen river valley following our spring snowstorm. The frost covered trees and frozen chokecherry bushes along the banks of the South Platte were as beautiful as they were frigid.

Mule Deer in the Brush

As Kevin and I cruised up the river there were no raptors to be seen. It’s about time for the osprey to return so we carefully watched the treetops on the ridge for their appearance, but it seems we will have to wait a bit longer. The literature says they can arrive anytime after the middle of the month and last year I didn’t see them until the end of March and the beginning of April. There were no eagles, but at the bend we spotted a small herd of mule deer so we pulled a little ahead and out of sight so we could sneak back and get a shot of them feeding down by the river. I only captured one clear image of one of the does before they wandered into the dense reeds along the river bank but it felt good to get out and do a bit of shooting, something I haven’t had much luck with lately!

Winter Elk

A few more miles down the road revealed another herd of animals, this time some rarely seen elk making their way down to the river bed. We thought they might be trying to get to the water but it soon became apparent that the reeds along the banks were their target, probably for their breakfast. From the distance we were at it was difficult to get a clear shot of them but I snapped a few anyway just to have a record of the unusual scene. I’m amazed at the awareness of elk, we were probably a hundred yards away on the other side of the river and yet these amazing animals were immediately aware of the vehicle stopping and windows opening.

Horned Lark at Eleven Mile

It didn’t appear that there would be any eagles visiting the canyon this day so we decided to move on to the big reservoir in Eleven Mile State Park where we had good prospects of photographing the herd of pronghorn antelope. A curious flock of small birds followed the truck as we proceeded along the road through the park. I wanted to get a bit ahead of these interesting little feathered visitors but they wouldn’t allow it. Each time the truck got close to catching up with them they moved further ahead. Finally I stopped to see if maybe they would come back within camera range. Sure enough, when the truck stopped they stopped and I was able to shoot out the window. I wasn’t confident that I’d get a usable image of the tiny birds but I hoped I would at least get a good enough picture for Merlin to identify.

Winter PronghornAnd as it turns out, my Merlin app identified the flock as horned lark, a lifetime first sighting for me! This particular specimen appears to be the less brightly colored female of the species.

Soon we spotted the main subject of this visit, a small herd of pronghorn antelope making their way through the snow. Unfortunately there was nowhere to hide and the furtive creatures spotted us right away and began to move further away. It’s difficult to get a compelling image of an animal that is moving away and showing you it’s hindquarters, but luckily they stopped few times to look back to see if we were following them. Our long lenses and 1.4x teleconverters came in handy to get good shots of the swift little ungulates.

American Bison in the Snow

By this time the sun was high in the sky and the lighting situation on the bright snow was nearly impossible. But a lone bison walking through the snow with the mountains of the Pike National Forest in the background was too tempting to avoid. I dialed in a stop and a half of exposure compensation to account for the dark animal on the bright white snow and did the best I could. With a bit of Photoshop help I was able to bring out some detail in the animal, probably creating my favorite image of the day mostly just because it was a buffalo. They are such amazing majestic creatures it would be hard not to like a picture of them!

To top off an amazing day, I was successful in shooting the remaining frames of my black and white film so I hope to make a trip down to the city to submit the roll for processing. Mike’s Camera still develops film on site, a rare thing these days so I plan to take it there. Since I use Ilford HP5 black and white film, it will be possible to develop it there with their C41 processing system. Apparently some black and white films need to be sent to the main lab in Boulder, still a reasonable turnaround time compared to some places that take weeks to get your film done these days!

I will be placing many more images from today on my website and my Instagram account so please feel free to follow my progress on both of these platforms!

Frozen South Platte River

 

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!

Week in June

Pair of Mule Deer

Quite a week it has been, three awesome photo adventures with photography buddy Kevin, eagles at Eleven Mile Canyon, a Wilson’s Warbler on a great hike to Anne-Marie Falls on Pikes Peak and a long desired photo trip to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Reserve near Denver Colorado 🙂

Last Saturday we had planned to make the hike to the pond on the Twin Rocks Trail in the Fossil Beds National Monument. Unfortunately not long after I arrived it had started to sprinkle and by the time Kevin got there we were in a full fledged rain storm with more to come throughout the day. The rain let up for a few minutes but we decided that we really didn’t want to get caught in a rain storm several miles back into the mountains.

Eventually we decided to go to Eleven Mile Canyon instead where we could quickly

Mother Bald Eagle with Her Eaglet

retreat to the shelter of the vehicle in the event of a rainstorm. It was raining when we got there so we just drove all the way to the end of the canyon making a mental not of all the good spots along the way.  I shot quite a few of the roaring river on the way back out but unfortunately I’m not really too thrilled with any of those images. The eagle at mouth of the canyon was however another matter! She and her eaglet were putting on quite a show 🙂 I had photographed the eagle and her youngster last winter, but the little one isn’t very little anymore! The little guy is almost full grown now and getting very close to flight. I was privileged to witness the eaglet spreading his young wings in the wind while gaining a few inches of altitude above the nest with mama eagle looking on intently.

Wilson's Warbler

Sunday was supposed to  be a much more hospitable morning so we decided to hike back out to Anne-Marie Falls on Pikes Peak in search of the little yellow Wilson’s Warbler. After arriving  we didn’t see any action so we took up a good vantage point and just waited. Eventually the diminutive bird began to circle in closer and closer and we were able to capture quite a few poses before he grew bored with the game and departed into the dense forest.

The day for our planned journey to the Arsenal arrived with an unexpected winter storm. I was tempted to bail, but the storm was supposed to give way by mid morning to a sunny pleasant day so I decided to chance the drive over the pass. It had been pretty warm all week and the snow was just melting on the roads at 3:00 a.m. when I arose so I really didn’t think there was  going to be a problem.

I was wrong… I didn’t encounter any snow on the roads on the way up the pass but by

American Bison and Denver Skyline

the time I got to Divide it was a total whiteout and the snow was piling up on the road. There was so much snow that I couldn’t even tell what lane I was in 😦 Eventually as we descended out of the mountains the snow gave way to rain and we were out of danger. However when we got to the arsenal it was still raining pretty hard so for he first hour we were having to shoot out the window and many pictures were ruined by the  lack of a good shooting angle 😦 Eventually the weather did clear and we got some wonderful images of buffalo, deer, pelicans, a blue heron and a few other kinds of small birds including the elusive swallows that have been taunting us for the last few days.

Female Redwing Black Bird

Today of course finds me at the computer monitor trying to deal with the couple thousand images that have been piling up on my computer these days! As always these images and more will be available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift and tech items are also available including t-shirts, coffee mugs, battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and pillows and much more!

Canada Geese and Goslings

 

 

Daniels Park and the Buffalo Herd

Marty McFly didn’t go back to the future to visit Douglas County Colorado in 1985… but if he had he would have likely found himself completely and utterly alone in the beautiful Colorado front range prairie landscape. Back in the day I visited this place every weekend… it was our winter training course for the Leadville Trail 100 race. My running bud and I would leave my house near Arapahoe Road, run down Colorado Blvd past County Line Road and into the prairie wilderness. Somewhere along the line Colorado Blvd. became Daniels Park Road, but there were no signs on that rugged and mostly deserted dirt road. There was nothing out there back then, just the road and the rolling Douglas County terrain. The beautiful rustic stone picnic shelter was positioned perfectly at the summit of Daniels Park Road and made a welcome rest stop about halfway into the long weekend run. It stood alone in those days, forgotten and forsaken at the edge of one of the most amazing views of the Front Range imaginable. There were no fences, no discernible trails and no sign of civilization other than the shelter and a couple of weathered picnic tables. Not too long after those winter runs I moved away from Littleton and never visited Daniels Park again.

Daniels Park, Douglas County, Colorado

Daniels Park actually has quite a history, the land donated by Denver high society member Florence F. Martin with the “The first 37.99 acres were given in 1920, and the second 962.76 acres given in 1937. Today there are still traces of Martin’s house and flower gardens. Ranch buildings remain on the land and demonstrate the architecture of a working 1920s ranch.”, according to the Castle Pines Connection website. Before 1864 Daniels Park Road was a major stagecoach artery between Denver and Pueblo and according to the Connection it is also the place where in 1868 Kit Carson made his final campfire before succumbing to poor health on his way home. Please read the article, it is quite interesting!

In 2007 Denver Mountain Parks and Douglas County teamed up to create the Daniels Park Master Plan to restore the park. Since then the park has become a popular destination for Denver and Douglas County area hikers, photographers, drone pilots and picnic goers. According to dayhikesneardenver.com miles of trails have been developed, overlooks created, restrooms added and plenty of parking provided.

This winter a picture of a beautiful bison rolled through my facebook feed and upon

Colorado Bison Herd

reading the post I discovered that a bison herd has been added to an enclosed area on the other side of Daniels Park Road and I was reminded of the good memories there. I vowed to return as soon as possible to see the improvements and the bison, and today turned out to be the day that all the factors converged… So early this morning, off the big dog and I went.

I chose to take Highway 67 all the way to Sedalia, through Woodland Park along the headwaters of the Platte River, through Douglas County and finally to Sedalia. From there I turned right along our old training run route and then left or north onto Daniels Park Road. It certainly was not the rough washboard dirt road of old though, now paved and lined with million dollar country mansions. About 5 miles north of there I encountered branch in the road indicating that a turn was required to stay on the route and thus avoiding Castle Pines. How you would get there from the north now is a mystery to me. With the addition of Castle Pines and Highlands Ranch both of which were just an idea back in the day, all the roads have been rerouted and renamed. What was once a straight shot down Colorado Blvd has now morphed into maze of bewildering new pavement.

Daniels Park Picnic Shelter

Eventually the old picnic shelter came into sight, now surrounded by a massive fenced elaborate parking lot which was not that easy to navigate! Back in the day the shelter stood alone, beside the dirt road on a humble unmarked dirt area that passed for a parking lot. Now there are fences everywhere, you can’t go down the ridge at all and there are manicured paths wide enough to drive a truck on that lead you all along the ridge. Since there was no way to go down into the valley below I just snapped a couple of shots and got back in the truck in search of the bison. I imagine it was about a mile up the road to the north when I finally spotted the huge beasts grazing in a fenced field.

Colorado Bison Herd

It was looking like I wasn’t going to get much photography done with the six foot wire fence in the way but as it turns out the links are far enough apart to squeeze the big 100-400 into and as long as the animals were pretty much straight ahead I was able to capture some images. Unfortunately the best view with the most animals and scenery required about a 45 degree angle today so just as I was about to give up I remembered my swivel viewing screen! I could hold the camera over the fence and look into the view finder! So I pushed the button, the mirror snapped up and out of the way and I was looking over the fence through my beautiful viewfinder! First time in four years I have ever actually used one of the most popular features of this camera model! Fortunately not too long ago I thought I was going to use that feature for something so I got out the manual and researched how to do it. Worked like a charm and saved the day!

Colorado Bison Herd

Well anyway, it was a great and memorable day, wonderful to visit the place that was such a big part of my life so long ago. I would urge photographers and hikers to visit Daniels Park in any season. The view stretches from probably Longs Peak to Pikes Peak and would be an awesome place to catch a sunset! The animals are also an awesome thing to behold… and if you get too close to the fence you might also hear the mighty huff of one of these Giants of the Plains which will quickly command your respect… and distance!

As always, these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and also as a myriad of cool gift, tech and household items with an image by #swkrullimaging!

%d bloggers like this: