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

Nature’s Way

Mama Osprey

Many of you know that I have been watching the Bald Eagle and Osprey nests that I discovered in Eleven Mile Canyon since early spring. I saw one eaglet grow up under the careful eye of his mother and father, spread his wings and finally take flight to begin his life as America’s National Bird. He still lives at the nest, gaining strength and learning from his parents how to hunt. Today I saw him take his longest flight yet 🙂

Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

The Osprey family has two chicks, both of which are growing in size and strength. Today I witnessed a new development… the mother osprey made a short flight across the river over to a dead treetop not far from my favorite perch. At first I thought she was going on a fishing trip but then I thought she landed… I couldn’t see very well from my precarious position but I kept looking and eventually I spotted her through the branches of a tall pine tree. I slid over on the pine needles to a better spot which later resulted in the need for tweezers 😦 and got a shot of her watching over the youngsters. Soon she was calling out the the chicks, apparently encouraging them to fly and they did their very best! The older one flapped his wings furiously and for the first time he actually gained some air! It was quite an experience to behold 🙂

Osprey in Flight

In the meantime a couple of turkey vultures were circling overhead, eventually drawing the ire of the father osprey who took flight to confront the intruders. They were apparently not eager for a fight with the fierce predator and promptly fled the scene. I tried my best to photograph the aerial incident but the confrontation was far too high in the sky for me to adequately capture.

Bald Eagle Fledgling

As I sat at my vantage point and watched the action I was struck by the dedication of the osprey and the eagles to the task assigned them by their Maker. The spend their days doing what they are supposed to do, asking nothing more and nothing less out of their lives. There is no question in their minds about what they are, what they are supposed to do or whether there might be something else in life they might pursue. They find a mate, hatch their eggs and tend to their chicks. The mother is content to nurture the young and the father stands guard on a perch high above the nest with a view of any danger that might approach and occasionally bringing a fish to sustain his family. It is Nature’s Way.

I only wish that people were so disciplined, so obedient and dedicated to the purpose given to them by their Maker. Unfortunately it is not so with humans constantly disobeying their Creator, ignoring all restraint in quest of their own will. Unlike the raptors I have been watching humans are never satisfied with their God given reality, aspiring instead to create their own kingdoms to the detriment of themselves and everyone around them. Those who seek that kind of power over others have something terribly wrong in their souls, they are evil and may God Himself destroy their tyrannical aspirations.

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!

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!

The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

Baby Bald Eagle in Flight

Today was the day… the day we’ve been waiting for with great anticipation for weeks! The eaglet has finally taken flight 🙂 And even better, I was there with the camera to capture it! The little guy has been spreading his wings for a while now, gaining altitude above the nest, flapping his wing sand working up the courage to actually leave the nest and go out on his own 🙂

The youngster left his nest early this morning and made one good pass showing off as if he knew I was there watching.

Baby Bald Eagle in Flight

He then swooped in low to land on a boulder across the river. He remained there motionless until a deer went running by and startled him into flight again. This time he flew directly in front of me just on the other side of he river and into a thick area of pine forest, out of sight and out of range of my camera. I remained on the river bank for about an hour hoping he would take flight again but unfortunately I didn’t see him again today.

Baby Bald Eagle in Flight

The adult eagles were not to be left out of the action either, they were flying around swooping low and flying high, as if they too were celebrating the youngsters success! I did my best to take it all in with the camera but they were really moving! Not an easy task to stay on target with a long lens, and unfortunately the lighting was not all that great 😦  After putting on a good show they picked their favorite pine tree high on the cliffs for a perch where they sat motionless, side by side like the two love birds that they are.

Eventually I decided to take a little hike up the canyon to see what the osprey were up to but not much was happening, looks like I’m going to need an earlier start if I want to catch the best light and the most action in the canyon! I made the best of the little hike along the South Platte by shooting a couple images of the landscape and the whitewater which I have uploaded to my website… and also there was a cute little chipmunk who decided to entertain me for a little bit while I watched the osprey nest. 🙂

Bald Eagle Flight

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!

Bald Eagle Flight

 

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

 

 

Exploring Mueller State Park

Finally after all these years of wondering what was up the dark road in the trees along highway 67 I have taken the plunge 🙂 Drove up to the ranger station and paid my daily pass fee. The nice lady gave me a map of all the attractions and trails available in the park and off I went!

I decided to first just drive all the way through and get the lay of the land before delving into any trail exploration and the winding road took me a few miles back into the vast park, past picnic grounds, campgrounds, horse facilities, an RV park and finally to the turnaround at the north end.

Forest of Mueller State Park ColoradoI was most intrigued by the Ridge View Trail so I opted to hike that one. It looked pretty rugged and I’m no expert mountain biker so tackling that one on foot was my only option. It wasn’t a long walk before indeed there was a stone outcropping and an overlook. Unfortunately there is so much haze and smoke in the air these days that there wasn’t much of a view, just some close by hills in the Pike National Forest.

Finally the turnaround came into view at about 1.5 miles in and there was another

Golden Eagle in Flight

overlook with a little better view than the first spot… I think I would have been able to see the Sangre were it not for all the stuff in the air. As I was preparing to take a picture some kind of eagle soared majestically toward my position so I switched my camera to wide area focus and tried for a couple of captures. At first I was thinking this was a golden eagle, but now I’m not sure what it is, possibly even just a turkey vulture. Don’t know and I don’t feel like trying to find out, I simply don’t have the patience to be a  bird photographer. Then I was trying to decide whether to go back the way I came or to continue on into some more rugged terrain hoping for a loop back to the trailhead… by the way, the map that they give you at the park entrance, bring it with you on your hike… those trail numbers may come into play later on. Eventually I did the smart thing and just went back  the way I came. As it turns out the trail I was on came to and end right where I was and there was a possible loop back but it would have involved two additional numbered trails, which of course were on the map that I failed to bring with me 😦

Mule Deer in the Wilderness

I was also interested in exploring the Elk Meadow trail, sounded like a good place to find some elk to photograph! Not so much… but I did see a fine specimen of a mule deer buck who just stared at me so I could photograph him. After a few shots I went back to my truck for the 1.4x lens extender and the tripod, but by the time I was ready again the huge buck had disappeared into the woods.

When I got to the Elk Meadows trail I could see where it went, right through a large meadow and there simply were no elk there. I had also read that there might be more elk on the north end of the park along the old Cheeseman Ranch Trail so I went to check that out. You have to drive all the way through all the camping areas including the tent sites to get to the trailhead, which is also the trailhead for the Grouse Mountain Overlook. It’s a seven mile trail through the meadows at the north end, which seemed longer than I wanted to hike at that point so I just walked a few yards along the wide path to see if I could see anything. There was another trail off to the left with a sign so I went to check it out. No bikes it said…. hmmm well that must mean that there are bikes allowed on the trail I was on!

Wonderful, with my bike I was going to be able to explore that trail after all! I climbed on my bike and began a long enjoyable glide along the well maintained artery through the woods. I became a bit concerned when after a while I realized I had not had to pedal for a long time… approximately four miles of long time 😦 Eventually the trail gave way to an unmarked jeep road with a couple of signs that said “emergency exit” and I was getting a little nervous that I had made a wrong turn somewhere. But I fought the urge to chicken out and turn back and finally the trail veered to the west and then made a turn back into the park through a marshy area just behind the ridge. There were a few tough inclines followed by long flat cruises that I was easily able to handle so I took hope that the designers of the park had found a way to get back to the beginning without any killer hills!

In the marshy area I spotted something in the brush moving around so I stopped and dismounted while

Wild Turkeys

gazing intently into the ground cover. I soon discovered that there was a flock of wild turkeys scampering around near a pool of water so I slowly got out my camera and inched my way towards the little group. Unfortunately they spotted me and made their way into a thicket where I couldn’t see them very well. I did get off a couple of not so good shots in poor lighting as they popped in and out of the branches on their way to safety at the top of the ridge.

And just as I was starting to feel pretty good about a quick return to the trailhead, there it was… the price of an easy four mile downhill ride. A trail pretty much straight up the side of the ridge… I quickly shifted into low and powered up the mountain, sweat pouring down my face and stinging my eyes. I could hear the blood pumping through my ears and the sound of myself sucking wind. I thought I was going to spit out my lungs when I finally gave up and decided to stop and catch my breath. Eventually I got back on and promptly had to jump right back off when I couldn’t get going 😦 At that point there was nothing left to do but push the bike up the hill, a long hard two mile slog to the top of the ridge.

Finally the trail leveled out and I was looking forward to some more pleasurable riding when immediately I came across the sign for the trailhead and that trail was done, just like that!

By then my day was nearing an end and I began the drive back out of the park, hoping to see some stray wildlife in the meadows along the main road. Now that I have some idea of what the park has to offer I’m sure I’ll be back, if for nothing else some nice training rides along the long Cheeseman Ranch mountain bike trail!

After the Storm

The latest cold front has passed through along with the tremendous winds that accompanied it. The Sangre de Cristo Range was beautiful this morning and the bitter cold was not quite as biting as yesterday. Windchill of -7 instead of -13 for some reason felt much better! Big Dog was ready to go for a jaunt so I decided today would be a good day to try out the polarizer.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

I haven’t really used it much for a long time since previous efforts have resulted in disappointment. Somewhere I read that professional travel photographers always use these things and that there is no Photoshop substitute for replicating it’s effect. Previous attempts have resulted in unacceptable and irreparable digital noise so I just quit using it, but advancements in newer sensors have done a lot to reduce the noise that plagued early digital imaging technology. So the hope is that with my much newer camera the polarizer is a piece of equipment I can now put to good use. My polarizer is a top of the line B&W brand circular polarizer so there should be no worry of glass quality adversely affecting the image.

Armed with the necessary equipment and enough winter gear to fend off the cold, off we went. A couple of miles into the woods we were confronted with an excellent view of the magnificent snow capped mountains so I stopped to get the shots. White balance on daylight instead of auto so as not to negate the effects of the dark blue polarizer and +1/3 exposure compensation to make up for the slight loss of light from the dark glass. While looking through the viewfinder I turned the glass until I could see the most effect and I have to say it looked amazing!

But now in front of the computer the results are once again disappointing. There is an unacceptable softness in the images due to what appears to be loss of contrast, perhaps from light dispersion. I should have paid more attention to the aperture when I was shooting, but I don’t think a wide lens opening can be blamed for this much softness. Hoping for a quick answer, I went outside to photograph the gas company sign across the street using f11 as an f stop. In looking at those images with and without the polarizer, it does appear that there is some softness that I find unacceptable for my main purpose, which is the marketing of images as stock.

I do appreciate the beautiful saturated effect of the filter so I don’t think I’ll give up on it just yet, but next time I’ll definitely have to conduct a much more controlled series of pictures. Tripod, f11 and side by side images of the same scene with and without the filter. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the picture, the mountains are beautiful and the effect on a small version of the picture create a wonderful scene 🙂

Fly Like an EagleThis mystery raptor is as of yet unidentified. I have looked though every hawk, falcon, eagle and osprey picture on the internet that I can find and I can’t find a match. So, please, if anyone knows what this magnificent fellow is I’d be happy to hear from you!

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Slipping the Bonds

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air… .” John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Hawk soaring

Bird of prey soaring overhead

OK, so technically my feet are still on the ground, but when I am in the solitude of mountains above 11,000 feet with the hawks and the eagles soaring overhead it feels like I have slipped the bonds of earth. Today it also feels like I have finally slipped the bonds of civilization. I have been a bit disappointed since moving here that I have not been able to find an easy way to get beyond the limits of the town and into the wilderness that taunts me from the edges of town. To make matters worse, the clutch went out on the old Dodge a couple of weeks ago and I have been limited to the distance that my feet will carry me. Today I decided that Big Dog and I were going to find a way past the dreaded cattle guard and explore the mountainside on the southwest side of town. Fortunately someone has taken down the gate beside the guard so that my four footed hiking buddy could pass and we were home free.

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

We made our way to a hilltop where there is an awesome view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and few people have experienced. I love it when I  get out to views that I know not many people have set eyes upon 🙂 Didn’t see any large wildlife, but there are hawks and eagles circling the hillsides there and they are a challenge to photograph to be sure!

As I looked around I noticed a wealth of excellent mountain bike trails that I will have to explore that are well beyond the distance that my feet would like to take me. One of my great disappointments in the Woodland Park area was the dearth of places to ride a bike without getting killed by bike hating lunatics in pickup trucks. My bike has been chained to the wall since moving here and I’m sure the tires are flat but hopefully they aren’t dry rotted as well because I can’t wait to get out there 🙂

I am also determined to remember to bring along my circular polarizer as I believe it would dramatically add to the appeal of the distant Sangre’s. But for the rest of today though, me and Big Dog will be content to hide from the wicked wind that has developed on this mountaintop! A sandblasting is not something that I feel I need 😦 Maybe tomorrow!

As always, these pictures and more will be available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, matted and framed and as RF stock for those needing commercial licensing. Also available are many cool gift and household items including yoga mats, blankets, pillows, apparel, battery  chargers and more!