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 haveΒ  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 😦

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.Β  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 πŸ™‚ 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!

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You Can Go There in Your Mind

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

I’m still basking in the glow of a mind blowing Rocky Mountain National Park sunset, even though it’s been a couple of weeks since that photo adventure! I’ve been watching the short video on my YouTube channel that I shot a couple of weeks ago on the camping trip, In my mind I can still hear the bulls bugling and the cows talking to each other in that beautiful sun drenched meadow.

Plus I still have hundreds of images to process, which is what I’m all about today. I try to get about three a day done and posted on my website for purchase as wall art, any more than that and I start to lose concentration and make mistakes.

Anyway I really like the image above of the herd in the glow of the late afternoon Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Eveningsunshine, the bull running around keeping the herd tight while warding off challengers, and the cows and calves grazing on the mountain grass and resting.

Later this week the plan is another ride in Waterton Canyon with the hope of seeing the big rams and possibly even the bears. If you enjoy the video clips feel free to subscribe to my Youtube channel which I plan to begin expanding in earnest. And if you like the pictures, prints are available on my website along with tons of cool gift items. Just click to explore! Also be sure to click the subscribe button on my blog to be notified of future posts!

Over the Hump

Read an interesting factoid the other day… Apparently August 2nd is a significant day in Colorado, it is the day that marks the beginning of the rapid falloff in temperatures in the slide towards fall and winter. The chart below from the U.S. Climate Data site shows in dramatic visual form the steep curve of change in temperature and precipitation as the heat of summer loses it’s edge to the receding light of the sun.

And to me that means I am over the hump of my most Screenshot_2019-08-04 Climate Colorado - temperature, rainfall and averagedifficult time of year πŸ™‚ For a landscape photographer, the harsh direct overhead light of the summer sun is death to an image. The bright sun drains out all the color and shadow that can make an image compelling. For a Colorado wildlife photographer, stifling heat by 8:00 a.m. means all the animals are lying down in the shade in the dense pine forest well out of view. Sunrise at 5:00 a.m. means a 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. start to the day if you want to catch the best light, a difficult goal when you are up until 12:30 trying to make a living the night before. For Big Dog, the heat of the summer sun shining through the truck window means he has to stay home a lot more often, and without my hiking buddy along my weekend excursions a lot less enjoyable.

Here in Cripple Creek it was a beautiful cool morning, the birds are chirping happily and

Trio of Autumn Bighorn

the Teller County Fair is over, the legion of trucks and campers are pulling out and making their way home. I’m tired today, the sun is already shining brightly and I think I’ll take a day off from hiking and shooting to just sit here and enjoy the peace that the end of the hustle and bustle of summer brings with my favorite time of year just around the corner. Autumn… and I have wisely scheduled two weeks off so that I can make the most of it πŸ™‚ Teller County has some of the best aspen color viewing in the state and this year I will be able to enjoy the Fall Color Festival, something I bitterly missed last year because I was working through the entire thing.

By autumn the sun has traveled significantly to the south, it’s low profile in the sky creating a much more friendly lighting scenario for photography. The leaves of the great aspen stands will be in full glory and the crisp clear mountain air sets an inviting stage for hiking and mountain biking in the back country.Β  The animals will emerge from the dark of the forest, the elk, deer and bighorn sheep in full glory for the autumn rut and the bears all out in their determined search for enough calories to nourish them throughout the long Rocky Mountain winter.

So today I rest in the knowledge that I am over the summer hump, my mind turning toward the joy of autumn, my laptop trained on topo maps of the great Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Ahhhh….

Crystal Creek Autumn

 

Autumn Blitz Day 1

Do or Die… my most lucrative time of the year, autumn in the Rockies. Today was my first full day off in the midst of peak aspen leaf season and so far I have made the best of it.Β  Woke up early and took off for the trailhead with Big Dog. After a short analysis of the situation I decided on the polarizer to add some drama to the bright clouds and sky. Not too much of great autumn interest along the trail today, was kind of hoping for a deer or elk as a subject, or maybe a neat shot of the mining equipment against some golden aspen, but no such luck. There were a few trees changing in the direction of the Sangre de Cristo so I tried a couple of captures in that direction, time will tell if it was worth the effort.

Autumn Color on Historic Mines

After the hike we were off to the Goldfield mine fields where there was one nice view of a series of abandoned mines in the midst of a colorful aspen grove. That turned out to be one of my favorites of the day πŸ™‚

Then it was off to an unofficial overlook at the top of Victor Pass for a view of the north face of Pikes Peak. Upon arrival there I was surprised to see a lineup of ladies in lawn chairs and umbrellas… looked like a picnic might be in the making! Turns out they were the local Cripple Creek painting club on scene to paint the magnificent view on such a beautiful morning. Lol, I needed to get in front of them to get the shot I needed but was hesitating… the ladies assured me that I would not be accidentally painted into their pictures if I quick jumped in for my photographs… Which cracked me up because for a second that exact thought crossed my mind! Guess I’m not used to seeing painters at my scenes πŸ™‚

Autumn on Pikes Peak Colorado

After that I decided on the loop behind the Newmont mine to see if maybe the aspen were in peak form at the top of that pass. Looks like the trees in Cripple Creek are going to need another week or so to reach their full color so I didn’t bother to stop, deciding to hurry home to process the ones I already had.

Tomorrow will be a much bigger day… planning to leave the house by 4 a.m. to make Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise. I will hit Bear Lake first I think to capture the sunrise on the lake, followed by an attempt at seeing some wildlife in Morraine Park. From there I hope to drive Trail Ridge Road followed by some more wildlife viewing on the west side of the park at dusk. Also hoping for my first visit to Fontenot’s Restaurant for some blackened catfish… back in the day the wife and I used to make a special trip up to Winter Park just for the pleasure of a meal at one of my favorite places πŸ™‚

After that, who knows? I still have my sights on Quandary Peak in hopes of bagging at least one 14er this season! I would also like to make it up to Twin Lakes and maybe some fall colors along the river along the bottom of Independence Pass. Anyway, stay tuned, I’m justΒ  getting started πŸ™‚

These pictures and more are available on my image website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional frames and matting and as art on many cool and handy household and gift items, including battery chargers, apparel, beach towels, greeting cards and more!

Changing Seasons

So I put the COMPLETE stamp on summer by finishing my Intemann Trail article for the Examiner. It was quite an adventure that took pretty much all summer, starting with a two and a half hour “short cut” from Red Rock Canyon over to Manitou Springs in quest of my press pass for the Pikes Peak Ascent.

Goats

Mountain Goats on Mount Bierstadt

It was a great summer that included a bunch of things I have been meaning to do for years, the whitewater festivals, visiting the wolves in Guffy, the mountain goats on Mount Evans, climbing 14ers Bierstadt and Yale, climbing the Manitou Incline with my brother and meeting Robin and best of all meeting new friends in person that I had only known through Facebook prior to this summer.

The fall colors come early in the Colorado high country, in fact it still feels like summer in the lower elevations when it is time to go up for the fall pictures. Fall felt like it officially started yesterday with the running of the annual Pikes Peak Road Runners Fall Series I race in Bear Creek Park down in the Springs.

I have to say I am not looking forward to the short days and long hours of darkness but the summer has left me with a bounty of over six thousand pictures to work with over the cold months. I am also looking forward to working on some new projects, including the re-start of my portrait photography services and a new line of T-Shirts now available on my Fine Art website along with many other products that are available there.

So anyway, have a great autumn everyone, I am certainly planning to πŸ™‚

End of Summer

The Labor Day weekend is a bittersweet time where I live, especially the Monday holiday. It is unofficial end of summer and the highway through town will be jammed with cars and pickups pulling camper trailers. Thousands will stream out of the mountains to head back to their homes in the cities and plains of the Midwestern states to start school and go back to their jobs. It will be a good day to avoid the highways and byways and to just stay home and get things done around the house.

The mountains will become quiet and a peaceful cool will settle in as autumn sets in. This is my favorite time of year for photography as the aspen trees change and the mountains take on their mantle of gold before becoming covered in winter’s blanket of white. Fall is my favorite time in the mountains. The storms of summer will come to an end and the days will be filled with beautiful late summer sunshine providing excellent lighting for landscape photography. I like to get out during the week to enjoy the solitude of the workweek when even the weekenders are absent from my favorite places.

I also look forward to participating in many of autumns great events. This year I plan to attend Oktoberfest in Woodland Park and we are going to have our own ultra marathon in the Pike National Forest not too far north of town. And I am already looking forward to my annual hike up the Crystal Falls Trail to Crystal Reservoir to see the colors on the big Peak.

Today however, winter and snow are on my mind and on this crazy day on the roadways I will stay home and make preparations for the inevitable onslaught of white.