Stunning Morning and Eagles

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

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

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

Little Sparrow by the Water

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

Red Winged Black Bird in Flight

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

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

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

Doe Mule Deer in the Woods

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

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

Bald Eagle in Flight

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

These were my  favorite pictures dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Autumn Beauty in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

https://youtu.be/5Z-_2lA1KBo Sights and sounds of a beautiful autumn morning in magnificent Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado including amazing fall colors, bald eagles,  and mule deer. Don’t forget to subscribe if you like and don’t want to miss the next episode!

Autumn in the Canyon

Fall has come early to Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado… With the departing of the osprey some of the pizzazz has  gone out of my visits here, but the amazing color has made up for it! I arrived just after sunrise and was delighted to notice that both bald eagles were in the nest.

Eleven Mile Bald Eagle Pair

I grabbed my camera and my official observation chair and hurried down to the riverbank in hopes of catching them before they left for the day. Right around sunrise these days they can be found flying back and forth with sticks to fortify their nest for the harsh Colorado winter, but the show doesn’t last for long. Within an hour it is likely that they will both be off for the day doing eagle stuff!

Eleven Mile Bald Eagle PairJust after I got situated, one of the pair took off and flew into the canyon. Unfortunately my camera was nowhere near ready. Exposure compensation was set at +2/3 and my shutter speed was only at a 500th of a second. My first opportunity was completely blown. Quickly I adjusted my settings for eagles in flight, -2/3 exposure compensation to assure that the bright white of their head feathers are not blown out and about a 1250th of a second shutter speed. I usually like a 1600th or faster but in such low light 1250 is a good compromise.

Autumn Color in Eleven Mile

Eventually the eagle returned and I was able to get a couple of nice shots of the pair in flight. Soon after of course, the show was over and I decided to walk in and investigate the fall color situation. The sunshine had not yet reached the river valley so I was able to get a couple of nice motion blurs of the flowing stream and see that the colors were going to really pop with the light of the sun.

I went back to the parking lot to retrieve my truck for a long day of fall photography.  I slowly drove along the riverside road looking for all the best views. The colors along the river were well worth some sketchy scrambling on hands and knees down to waters edge and I took advantage of every opportunity! In addition to all the wonderful still images I was able to capture, I thought it important to capture some of the sound and motion of the beautiful golden water of the river. Still images are nice but sometimes they just don’t do the scene justice!

Three Deer Crossing

On my way out of the canyon I spotted a young deer crossing the river so I stopped and grabbed my camera. The yearling was soon joined by two other doe mule deer in crossing the river but unfortunately, once again I was unprepared for the situation… my camera was still equipped for scenery pictures with only a 24-105 lens and a shutter speed of 160th of a

Three Deer Crossing

second… but there was no time for adjustments and I just started shooting. Luckily it looks like a couple have turned out, one with a bit of pleasing motion blur 🙂

For your enjoyment I have created a nice 10 minute YouTube video with still imagery and video of today’s experience.  There are also many other adventures that I have documented with multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to

Autumn Color in Eleven Mile

watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons moreof my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Autumn Color in Eleven Mile

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

Another Excellent Adventure

Bald Eagle on Nest

It was another excellent morning for photography at Eleven Mile Canyon. First of all I was glad to see that reports of a wildfire in the area were either not true or the fire is already out, no smoke anywhere in the area 🙂 I arrived just before sunrise and went immediately down to water’s edge to check for any action in the river below the dam. On a lucky day I might see the big beaver working on his lodge or even the osprey fishing for trout in the placid water. As I was getting my camera ready I spotted the great blue heron already on his daily return flight from the reeds and fish in the calm water above the dam. Unfortunately  I was not able to capture the

Tree Squirrel Eating

daily event as I was still fiddling with batteries and lenses 😦 I did however, notice that there was some movement in the eagles nest that I haven’t seen for some time! It was one of the adult bald eagles sitting on the nest and I quickly readied my camera for an eagle sitting still shot… Tv mode with a 400th of a second, ISO 640, F9 and -1/3 exposure compensation so as not to blow out the bright white on the eagle’s head!

Pair of Canada Geese

A quick scan of the area revealed nothing but a few Canada geese swimming in the placid water well below the dam. I thought I might be able to see the osprey watching for trout above the dam, but there was nothing but a bunch of tiny grey birds flitting back and forth between the cliff on the west side and the pine trees on the east side of the river 😦 This cute tree squirrl and this pair of Canada geese seemed like worth subjects though!

Mallard Duck

I looked on all the usual tree tops for the osprey but they were nowhere to be seen. The falcons were also taking a day off and I began to wonder if they and the osprey had already headed for South America. There was a cute duck quacking and swimming around in the glass like water by the reeds so I snapped a few of those, although I usually don’t bother shooting ducks and geese… but today I just wanted to make sure I captured something!

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

With nothing going on above the dam I decided to venture back into the canyon to investigate the osprey situation. As I neared the nest I was surprised when one of the majestic birds flew right over my head. I wasn’t able to recover in time to get the shot but luckily I had arrived at the beginning of the morning feeding so the first raptor took up a position in the nest. I also took up my position high on the opposite bank with my favorite view of the nest and the entire riverbank.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

The youngster in the nest chirped noisily so I hoped the parents would soon answer with a fish… However it was the sibling who first answered the call and he too landed in the nest. But being in no mood to share his catch he quickly departed with his prize and perched on a dead  branch on my side of the river. In quick succession though, the mother osprey appeared with a stick for he nest followed by the father who delivered some kind of catch… It didn’t look like a fish, perhaps one of the ubiquitous ground squirrels was the preferred catch of the day!

Doe Mule Deer in the South Platte River

Eventually the majestic birds all disappeared so I headed upstream to see if I might find them fishing in the wide part of the river a couple hundred yards to the south. I didn’t see the osprey but I did spot this nice doe mule deer eating the lush grass on an island. She cast a wary glance in my direction so I just sat down and hoped she would continue. She quickly became comfortable with my presence and began to eat again. I snapped quite a few images of her in various positions but this one at water’s edge is my favorite!

Gold Finch Eating Flowers

After shooting a few stills of the beautiful flowing water I headed back to my truck where I noticed this little gold finch feeding on some wildflowers. A nice ending to an excellent morning.

For your enjoyment I have created a short multimedia video 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!

Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain 🙂 I decided to go further than ever before in the park today, thinking it would be a good stepping stone for my “hoped for” ascent of Mount Quandary this fall. I know,

Band of Brothers Mule Deer Bucks

it’s an easy one… but I’ve never climbed it before and it would be my first 14er in my sixth decade of life on this planet 🙂 Plus it was only a few months ago after surgery it was all I could do to walk a half a block down to the store! So anyway, I was pleased with my progress on this hike and am feeling more confident about a 14er summit this autumn!

As I cleared the top of the ridge I saw a buck mule deer peering through the trees at me so I avoided the trees and took the long way around the dense pines to the other side where I hoped to approach them without scaring them away. This resulted in a tough rocky climb that I had hitherto deemed impossible. I guess it’s true “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”. Had I gone through he woods they would have instantly bolted at the sound of my clodhoppers crashing through the branches. Fortunately they couldn’t see me until I cleared the summit and at the distance I was from them they just looked at me Summit Grouse Mountainwith curiosity. In fact one of the brothers took a few steps toward me to get a better look!

Then I set my sights on the distant peak, the summit of Grouse Mountain. It was actually difficult to tell if that peak was any higher than the one I was on, but I wanted to check out the unobscured view of the Sangre de Cristo. This may be the only place where you can see the entire eastern range without some kind of mountain or trees in the way! When I arrived at the top I took a look back and it was indeed quite a bit higher.

Female Dusky Grouse

Along the traverse I spotted a pretty good sized bird waddling past one of the old mines so I decided to take a break from the climb to see if I could get a picture of this peculiar bird I’d never seen before!  Well this one was quite a character, when she noticed me she quickly scampered under the cover of dense trees that had created an oasis of this abandoned mine high on the barren rocky mountain tundra. I quietly approached the mine hoping to get another chance and I saw her trot over to the other side of the mine behind the trees.  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I could  get a decent shot, but wherever I went, she went the other way around the mine, never coming out from the shade of the tall trees 😦 Finally I decided to just shoot through the trees and do the best that I could to get a record of my sighting.  I posted the picture but didn’t get an immediate response on the ID of the bird so I downloaded a free app from Cornell Labs called Merlin.  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse 🙂 it said that she was an uncommon find in these parts!

Lone Doe in the Pike National Forest

From there it wasn’t far to the summit with the fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo block fault range (above). It was awesome to stand in full view of the mountains from a place I had been eyeing for so many years 🙂 I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade 🙂 I traded out my long lens for a wide angle with a polarizer to cut through the morning haze, and captured a few views of the distant mountain range.

The trip back down was easy with only a small part of it on unfamiliar terrain. There really isn’t a trail most of the way, only the faint wagon tracks left behind by the miners over 100 years ago, most of which I have already explored. This was such an enjoyable hike that I hope to make it once a week to get in shape for the upcoming 14,000 foot climb to the summit of Mount Quandary! I was hoping to see the resident Rough Legged Hawk on the way down, but no such luck. I was privileged to spot this lone doe foraging on the mountain grass! If you look carefully you can see the massive Collegiate Peaks mountain range appearing faintly in the background!

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!

 

Going for Broke

Beautiful Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

Today I decided to go for broke… I decided to leave my 1.4x lens extender on the entire day. Doing so makes focusing a bit more difficult, the lens and extender combination results in a minimum aperture of F8 and a focusing restriction of only one focus point which I set to the center point only. However, the reward is great, another 40% magnification over the usual 400mm focal length that my lens provides. Much to my surprise, I had a great day, most images were tack sharp with possibly even better results than I get using a nine focus point zone!

Great Blue Heron in Flight

My day began as always on the riverbank of the South Platte in Eleven Mile Canyon just watching the sunrise show develop. Heavy rains the night before resulted in a  dense fog situation which apparently most of the wildlife took as an excuse to sleep in 😦 Luckily the Great Blue Heron decided to fly by with no warning and I was happy to find that I managed to get the shot anyway!

Juvenile osprey in flight

I waited in the fog until I was convinced that the usual cast of characters including the bald eagles, were not going to make an appearance before I made the short hike to the osprey nest. I was greeted at the nest with a flurry of activity as the youngsters took turns flying up and down the valley while I scrambled up the steep slope to my own perch! It remained a fairly entertaining morning at the nest with a lot of flight by all four of the family. Fortunately, maybe due to the fog they confined most of the flights to a few yards from the river which made judging image contrast much easier! I was able to capture a couple of the season’s best pictures, despite continuing with the

Osprey and Hummingbird

1.4x and only one focus point!

I was also privileged to witness a continuous parade of various critters, including this crazy hummingbird checking out the osprey! I need to research this but there seems to be some kind of relationship between the hummingbirds and the osprey. We’ve seen the hummingbirds visit a number of times this summer and they seem to be paid little notice by the huge raptors, they’ve looked at them curiously but

Yellow goldfinch

have never made an aggressive move whatsoever towards the lightning quick tiny little birds. While I was sitting on my favorite rock high on the opposite bank I was visited by a doe and her fawn, a colorful little goldfinch, and a cute little tree squirrel 🙂

As noon approached the osprey lunchtime ritual started to develop. The youngest juvenile appeared and began to call loudly to his family. The father osprey took up his perch high on the canyon wall on his favorite dead pine. Mama osprey however took an unusual

Mama Deer and Fawn

action by perching on a tree on our side of the bank not to far from where I was sitting. The other juvenile had departed some time before and didn’t return. As the youngster complained the mother ignored his call and didn’t go for a fish.

We watched until the heat of the day overtook the canyon and decided a new paradigm must be in place. Early in the day one of the juveniles had a fish in the nest, perhaps one

Tree Squirrel

he managed to catch by himself. We surmised that perhaps the mama was trying to convince the youngest to go fishing for himself.

Eventually we made the trek back to our vehicles and just as I was ready to leave, I spotted the mama osprey overhead. She made a couple of circles right above me as if to say goodbye and then flew off towards the lake, ending weeks of speculation about where they were finding the fish! Perhaps now I’ll try hanging out by the lake for a while to see if I can capture the victorious moment when dinner is extracted from the lake!

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!

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

 

 

El Quattro

Herd of Mule Deer Bucks

El Quattro, my son Chris’s idea… when a new buck joined the “Three Amigos” band of buck mule deer.  Not sure, I’m just calling them the “Three Amigos + 1”. I was near the end of my hike this morning and it was looking like they were nowhere to be found. But as I was walking down the mountainside rolling around ideas to avoid a photographic shutout, I looked across to the next ridge and spotted a lone buck. he was looking right at me so I quick snapped a picture.

Herd of Mule Deer Bucks

Soon however others began meandering up the steep hill so I just found a place to sit and watch to see how this scene was going to develop. Two of the band of four drew closer together and I was able to capture a couple images of the friendship before they wandered over the hill and down into the valley.

I decided to go around the ravine and see if I could spot them on the downside but I could only find one of the majestic fellow. He was posing against a very nice rugged backdrop though, nicely rounding out my morning! Any thoughts of a long drive to another location vanished as I looked through what I had already captured. Instead of continuing on I decided upon a nice breakfast and home to process the images!

Herd of Mule Deer Bucks

Yesterday I was looking for an image of the Three Amigos on my website to send to someone and decided that it was time to add a collection with just deer. I have a specialized collection for Deer in Snow but I think it’s now a  good time for the Just Deer collection to contain my huge collection of deer imagery including those in snow and all seasons including some beautiful autumn captures 🙂

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!

Where Eagles Dare

Herd of Mule Deer

Well technically hawks in this case 🙂 I didn’t set out to do anything special this morning, I just wanted to climb my usual mountain just for the exercise. About halfway up the ridge though I spotted a buck mule deer just off the path standing in the shade staring at me. The sun was about to clear the ridge line on the east so I decided to interrupt my hike and wait a few minutes for the morning light. While I waited the third buck joined the group I like to call the Three Amigos.

Herd of Mule Deer

Once the group was reunited, they began to move towards the top of the ridge and into the sunshine. As they moved I slowly followed and shot various combinations of the three animals until they eventually crossed over the top of the ridge and out of view. I was hoping they would still be there when I circled around the mountain on the trail.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

However as I circled the mountain I had my eye on another mountain… the one directly to the south. I have been looking at it for years, approaching occasionally in vain pursuit of the elk herd, but I have never climbed it. As I pondered the view from the top I began to veer towards what looked like a deer trail angling up the east side. The closer I drew to the steep approach to the summit, the more I  wanted to see the top. From there I knew I would have an awesome 360 degree view of the entire area 🙂

Rough Legged Hawk

I chose a route that crossed the mountain to the south and then angled back, it looked like the easiest approach. As I passed a tall solitary pine tree there was a commotion and a hawk took flight, I believe this to be the Rough Legged Hawk that has been soaring high above the mountains lately, but I’m not sure. I readied my camera as quickly as I could and started shooting. Unfortunately I was on the wrong focus mode for the initial captures so I changed to zone mode and began to shoot. A faster shutter speed would

Rough Legged Hawk

have been better but it looks like a got a couple of good ones 🙂

When I was almost to the summit I could see the Three Amigos, now miles ahead of me heading for some serious wilderness over the ridge line connecting the local peaks. Even though the distance was great between us, the majestic beasts spotted me and hastened their journey over the ridge and out of sight.

Herd of Mule Deer

The view from the summit was indeed spectacular, obscured only by the smoke and dust from the summer fires to our southwest. The local peaks were in full view along with the Sangre de Cristo range to the south. I’m thinking this will be an excellent vantage point when the colors change in the fall and when the snow flies in the winter.

From the summit I could see the real trail so I followed an old wagon trail down the south side of the mountain and onto the main trail. By now I was wishing I had planned better and brought along some water! Perhaps I’ll make the trip again this week with more supplies and a wide angle lens to better capture the grandeur of these 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!

Wild Morning

Rough Legged Hawk

It was a wild and wonderful morning on the mountain, I saw a little of everything today 🙂 I wanted to see some wildlife today and I was debating a long drive to up my chances but in the end I decided on a short drive to my usual local trail. I knew it was a good omen as I was climbing the hill and I heard the screech of a hawk.  It sounded close by so I looked around and there he was perched on top of a power pole. Unfortunately he had is back to me and I couldn’t get a decent shot. So I waited hoping the big raptor would take flight but that didn’t work out either. When he finally flew he went down and all the power lines and the pole were in the way… later on I got a shot of him high in the brilliant blue Colorado sky but a closer shot would have been much nicer.

Herd of Mule Deer

I continued my trek up the hill and soon I spotted a lone doe mule deer in a perfect pose in the perfect morning light 🙂 But now my camera was stuck. I live in Tv mode and the front wheel wouldn’t change the shutter speed, it was stuck on a 2000th of a second from my birds in flight efforts yesterday. So I went to manual and that was a no go too. Av mode was next on the list and it was fine but it was setting a wildly outrageous ISO which I quickly locked in at 400. Now, free to choose my exposure compensation with the real wheel I set up for the shot. By then a few more deer had moved into the lush meadow to feed and I probably got in about a half hour of uninterrupted shooting. Kind of wish now that I had done a little video, but in all the excitement it didn’t occur to me. Eventually for some unknown reason the front wheel started working again and I finished up the scene in the preferred Tv mode using a 500th and a 640th of a second for a few captures before the deer disappeared into the wilderness.

Sage Sparrow on a  Perch

Eventually I was on top of the ridge in the clearing where I heard a faint but urgent chirping to the north. I looked over but didn’t see anything… a closer look revealed a sage sparrow on top of a bush singing her song with a fresh batch of nesting materials in her mouth! Usually those little guys stay perched for about a billionth of a second but today she stayed for a full portrait session 🙂

While descending the mountain I spotted a big coyote over by the prairie dogs standing and just staring at me. Naturally I stopped and snapped a few pictures before she began a wary retreat. Every few steps she would stop and look at me to see if I was a threat and I was hoping she would just stop and wait, but she finally trotted away and disappeared over the ridge.

Coyote Hunting Prairie DogsMy extraordinary morning in the mountains was at an end, I was back in the parking lot when I spotted what I first thought was the hawk again but it turned out to be a White American Pelican. I once again adjusted my camera for bird in flight and tried my hand at capturing he soaring majestically overhead. You can really go overboard with a bird soaring in the air with the rapid fire button and in about 10 minutes I had already rattled off about 150 more pictures… pictures I really didn’t feel like processing :( But a couple did turn out pretty nice so I  guess it was worth it :)

Fortunately a good number of my images from today made for good print candidates and

American Pelican

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! Also don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel if you want to see some of  my adventures in action!