The Perfect Rig

Photography Rig by the Pristine Waters of the South Platte River

I’ve been working for some time now to assemble the perfect rig for gaining access to the back country for landscape and wildlife photography. I don’t know whether it’s really the perfect rig or not, but it suits me perfectly and I was dying to try it all out together! I wanted the Tamrac Anvil 23 for it’s size and rugged construction, big and deep enough for all my gear and including a camera with battery grip and long lens. It also has straps on the center back strong enough to carry a heavy duty tripod comfortably. Then of course a carbon fiber tripod with a good video head, I decided upon the Manfrotto 502A for it’s rugged build plus it’s capability to operate effectively in the harsh Colorado winter. And of course the bike, which luckily I was able to find pre-owned and in like new condition, a Nishika Colorado 21 speed mountain bike with shock absorbers on the front forks ๐Ÿ™‚

My idea was that Waterton Canyon was going to be considerably warmer and the best

Pristine Waters of the South Platte River in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Winter

place to try it all out! However the weatherman was forecasting a cold gloomy morning and I was pretty sure that the sheep were not going to come down ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I felt kind of guilty driving 100 miles just to go on a bike ride so I was going to back out, but I called my favorite camera store Englewood Camera, and they just happened to have a good deal on a 4 stop ND filter that I’ve been wanting so I thought what the heck… I’ll stop in at the camera store and maybe I’ll even be able to try it out on my favorite part of the river. Years ago back in the film days I had captured a great image of the river and I’ve tried repeatedly through the years without success to duplicate it with the awesome new technology at our disposal these days so that I could have it for sale on my stock portfolio!

It was still cold and gloomy in the canyon by the time I got there at about 10:00 a.m. so I bundled up and hoped for the best. Indeed I did not see a single bighorn sheep in my entire ride to the top of the dirt road. Modifications I

Pristine Waters of the South Platte River in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Winter

had recently made to my bike, including seat, hand grips and pedals proved worth the investment as I rode hard all the way to the turnaround without having to dismount a single time ๐Ÿ™‚ On the way up I identified the very spot that I captured my favorite image so many years ago and on the way back down I stopped there for pictures and video. The other time was autumn so I knew I would not have the beautiful colors, but I have always wanted to try the image in winter as well. I spent a good amount of time there using wide angle and long lenses, the polarizer and a plain skylight filter. The water wasn’t flowing sufficiently to need the new ND, but I’ll try that out over at Eleven Mile pretty soon.

All in all I think I am satisfied with my winter images and I got a great workout on my mountain bike in the fresh mountain air of the Pike National Forest. As always these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and traditional matting and framing! Also I have no sponsorship or compensation of any kind from any of these products. I have purchased them with my own funds because I found them most suitable to my needs.

Gathering Storm

Approaching Storm on the Sangre de Cristo

As I looked out the window down the valley this morning it quickly became apparent that a change in the weather is afoot. The first evidence of an approaching storm often shows itself on the high peaks of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountain range to the southwest.

So of course I grabbed my camera and headed for higher ground in hopes of capturing the show before the mountains were completely obscured. My efforts paid off as I caught the action at it’s most dramatic point ๐Ÿ™‚ The days ahead will tell whether the storm works it’s way north or if the massive block fault range stops it in it’s tracks.

As always these pictures and more are 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. Cool gift items including coffee mugs, t-shirts, phone cases and much much more are also available!

Approaching Storm on the Sangre de Cristo

Merry Christmas from Colorado

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range

Every morning I look down the valley at the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Range to see how my day in photography is going to shape up. Most days there is enough haze to pretty much obscure the view and prevent any decent mountain photography. Today however, the view was stunning! So I grabbed my camera and headed to my favorite vantage point ๐Ÿ™‚

So anyway not much else to say about it,ย  I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas from this beautiful Christmas Eve Day with a stunning view of the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

As always, these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing!

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range

Autumn Adventure with the Bighorns

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

Probably our most successful outing with the bighorn sheep of the season. It was a great start to the day… a short ride of only a couple miles and we were already seeing sheep, right where they haveย  been congregating at the mouth of beautiful Waterton Canyon. At the time of our arrival though there were just a small group of ewes, youngsters and one big ram hanging around on the not very picturesque mountainside so we decided to press ahead past the diversion dam to see if we might see the bear or maybe the bigger herd of battling rams.

We saw no more wildlife at all on the four mile ride to the crossover so we decided to

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

just turn around and head back to where we saw the small herd. unfortunately the turnaround greeted Kevin with a flat front tire and there was nothing to do but walk the three miles back down ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

But the good news was, when we got back down to the sheep, that a couple more rams had joined the action and were jostling each other around a bit while also chasing around the ewes. Pictured in the video, one of the rams took quite a fancy to one of the girls and was chasing her all over the place. However, she wanted nothing to do with him and every time he got close she ran off. finally her patience was gone and she turned around to give him an unexpected blow between the eyes with her own horns… obviously she didn’t have the horns or the mass of a male, lol… but he did look pretty surprised for a little bit! After quite a few minutes of the chase she finally just laid down and put an end to it.

Eventually the entire herd decided to take a break and laid down in the shade of the big trees lining the bank of the South Platte River. We decided to do the same and I found a nice spot to sit on the other side of the jeep road. I wondered if we were done for the day but it was no more than a half hour before a few of the little ones were back up and meandering down the embankment for a drink at the river.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

The underbrush there was pretty thick and there did not appear to be a pathway to the river, but I knew if we didn’t get down to the riverbank we were going to have no opportunity at all for photography. I grabbed my trekking pole and picked my way down the steep riverbank to the thick vines at the bottom. As it turns out there was a faint trail at the base of a big cottonwood so I fought my way through.ย  And there they were, a little group of the youngsters and one ewe on the shoreline of the pristine river getting a drink. I picked a spot nearby, noticing that they were casting a wary look in my direction. I thought maybe if I just sat down a little distance away they might not perceive me as a threat and go back to their normal routine. It turned out to be a successful strategy and I was able to get some wonderful pictures with the beautiful blue water in the background. In the meantime a couple of ewes and little ones crossed over to try out the vegetation on the other side.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

There was a commotion on the other side of the river as a ram began chasing one of the girls around over there. Her evasion tactic was going to be a river crossing but the ram was not going to be deterred by a little water. He just chased her right into the river where we were waiting with our cameras at the ready ๐Ÿ™‚ At first I wasn’t sure I liked my shot of this, but the drama of the event is growing on me and this image has become one of my favorites of the day.

Eventually the big ram became interested in the girls on the other side and he too

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

decided to cross, the moment I had been waiting for! As soon as I perceived that he was going to cross I quickly made my way down the embankment and through the thick brush. Much to my surprise the massive beast had come down another way at the same time and I found myself in an unnerving face to face encounter with a huge bighorn sheep ram! I had no desire for a head butting challenge with the great beast so I quickly backed away and told him I’d be going the other way! He kind of looked at me and then thankfully turned towards the water in another direction.

Here I got some nice video footage of a few more of the young ones standing with the grandfather of the herd along the water, and eventually some shots of him in the water as well. It was one of those moments, at the completion of it, when you just know. I got the shots I came for. We packed up our gear and headed for the truck. My guess is that with such low key tussling among the rams on this day that the rut season is winding down. Will probably take a break from the canyon next week and do something else… some snow shoeing maybe!

As always, these pictures and more are available for purchase on my image website as wall art, Christmas cards, t-shirts, blankets, pillows, tech gadgets and more! Also feel free to watch the youTube video!

 

Quite a Day with the Bighorns

Fog Bank Sangre de Cristo

I have to say, yesterday was quite a day… the plan was to arise early and drive to Waterton in hopes of catching the bighorn sheep in full rut. The day got off to a bit of a rough start though, a heavy blanket of freezing fog had enveloped the entire region the night before and it took me about 20 minutes to chip my way into the truck before I could even depart!

On the way up the pass I looked back and noticed that the fog bank had created a beautiful blanket in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, so I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that! There was a pretty good haze in the air to go with the fog so the images aren’t as clear as they could be, but it was still an amazing sight to behold ๐Ÿ™‚

We began our mountain bike ride up the canyon fully expecting a good long ride before

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

seeing any sheep but after just a few short minutes of pedaling a group of the critters came into view. I assumed it was the usual herd of ewes and youngsters that so often inhabit the entrance to the park, but much to our surprise the little herd was also occupied by four good sized rams causing trouble among each other, one in particular who was kicking the others in hopes of starting a fight.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

I have long desired to witness the rams butting heads, and it looked like this day was going to give me that chance! I wanted to capture a still of the moment of impact, but I also wanted to get some video so my readers could also experience the excitement of the moment. As a group of three rams circled each other, jostling and kicking… I switched my camera to video to record the action. There was not the classic charge and clash impact in this scene, but I did manage to record the nudging and little head knocking on this video now available to watch on my Youtube Channel ๐Ÿ™‚

We watched transfixed by the action for at least two hours as the rams hassled each

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

other. They would graze for a couple of minutes while it looked like they might finally give it a rest and relax for a while, but soon the tension would again arise and the tussle would begin anew.ย  Just when we would think that nothing was really going to happen, all of a sudden without warning they would square off, take a couple of steps on two feet and smash heads. It was very difficult to photograph, zoom lenses were required to get the best view of the action, but too close to capture both animals when they were setting up for the action. It was also difficult to be focused in on the area where the impact would occur since it all happened so quickly without warning.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

But I do believe I managed to capture the exact moment of impact on this image, the huge beasts with their heads together and eyes closed for the crash. I think maybe it would have been better if my camera had fired a millisecond earlier, but again… maybe the smashed heads is what I was after!

Rumors of a bear further up the canyon finally tore us away from the sheep herd and off we went. We rode to approximately the 4 mile point without seeing any other wildlife so we turned back around to return to the herd for a few more images. The river was magnificent in the winter light and the ride an excellent aerobic workout. I’m looking forward to really getting in shape for some more serious riding in the spring!

As I crested the final ridge on the journey home I was greeted by this magnificent sunset,

Sunset on the Sangre de Cristo

beautiful golden colors and the remnants of fog from the storm the night before. A perfect ending to a perfect day ๐Ÿ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Click the link to explore!

Supreme Commander of the Valley

Still reveling in the images captured on our autumn excursion to Rocky Mountain National Park… I was thinking this image really captures the essence of the entire experience, with the majestic herd of elk that call Moraine Park home in the high mountain autumn season.

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Autumn Evening

In the background you have the aspen trees donning their autumn gold and red glory while in the foreground the big bull is rounding up his herd for nightfall. This big bull doesn’t get much rest during the fall rut, he has cows to keep safe, other bulls to fend off and territory to maintain. While the cows grazed on the mountain grass the stately beast stayed alert, maintaining vigil over his hard fought harem. The crowd of people gathered on the road with their cameras didn’t make this fellow’s job any easier ๐Ÿ˜ฆ In this particular scene some of the cows had crossed the road, while others were afraid to pass through the opening between the cars and people that the rangers had made for them.

Eventually the huge male crossed the road and rounded up the cows that were scattering on the eastern side of the park. Not a single creature in the entire park dare challenge him, the cows obeyed without question while several bachelor bulls watched on with envy

Lone Bull Elk

advancing no closer than a couple hundred yards, appearing tiny in the distance even through our powerful zoom lenses. There was one lonely bull bugling in vain over the ridge, out of sight but close enough to draw the ire of the massive leader. Eventually he trotted to a high vantage point at the top of the ridge to investigate, but returned when he was sure there was no challenge to his domain. Even the people lining the road scattered in fear as his thundering hooves shook the ground when he passed by.

Eventually dusk overtook the valley and there was no more light for our cameras to capture as the cows began to lie down in the quiet of a beautiful Colorado autumn evening. Finally, the supreme commander of the valley would finally get some rest.

As always, this image andย  more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items are also available with one of my images, including Christmas cards, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets, pillows, and tech gadgets including battery and phone chargers. Click the link to enter the site and explore the possibilities! The images are arranged by collection or by product if you desire!

Tough Day in the Canyon

The week began with bitter cold and snow, a lot of snow… but as luck would have it there would be a break in the winter weather just in time for our planned adventure in Waterton Canyon. The forecast was calling for sunshine and 40’s on Thursday and the plan was, the sheep would be ready for a break and would come down into the canyon to pose for us ๐Ÿ™‚

Red-taile Hawk in Waterton Canyon

Previous experience told meย  that the road into the canyon was going to be a muddy mess from the melting snow, terrible conditions for a mountain bike ride so the decision was made to attempt the journey on foot. Spirits were high as we began the trek into the wilderness wonderland along the cascading South Platte River, looking forward to another awesome bighorn sheep encounter. Soon we rounded the bend by the water pipe where we often see the herd of bighorn… no sheep in sight. No matter, there are other likely locations further in. Second likely location, no sheep…

After a break for some Gatorade at the picnic area we decided to press on to the old dam by the house… also no good. Finally we decided to continue past the halfway point dam to the highest point in the park where we have seen the elusive creatures this year. Again, no luck and we decided to head back down in hopes that the animals had come down from the upper reaches behind us on their daily visit to the river for water.

Once again, nothing but a long walk back to the bottom of the canyon. Finally we spotted a bike riding photographer stopped near the water tube looking up into the high peaks north of theย  canyon… sure enough, there were a couple of rams way up near the summit, pretty much out of range for decent photography. In the end we decided that at least one snap of the majestic beasts would be better than none, but while we were preparing for the shot they disappeared into the brush. it looked like a climb up the slippery slope might provide a better view so we began the ill advised ascent to the service road, which proved as treacherous as it appeared.

With a couple of slight mishaps and lenses covered with a good scoop of snow, we arrived safely at the plateau where the search for the better view began. Unfortunately all the climb accomplished was to increase the angle of view to the point where we could not see at all over the dry brush covering the mountainside ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Wintry Manitou Springs Colorado

On the way down the service road I spotted a white object on a cliff above us, so when we arrived at the closest point and best view we took a look through the long lens to ascertain it’s identity. Turns out it was a majestic looking Red-tailed hawk gazing fiercely over the canyon, I assume in search of prey that might become a good lunch. This would become my only wildlife photograph of the day ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The day wasn’t a complete bust though, we did get the benefit of a seven mile hike ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Plusย  on the way through the Colorado Springs area, there was an amazing view of Manitou Springs from the highway that I have been wanting to acquire for years. Sometimes I don’t have my camera, often I’m in a hurry and don’t have the time… But yesterday I hadย  the camera and the view was extra fantastic, no excuse not to stop!

These pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Also on my website is a new gallery just for birds, raptors, birds of prey, song birds, waterfowl, you name it! I finally feel that I have enough images of birds to warrant the new collection!