Rocky Mountain Morning

I have to say, there is something very special about being in the woods high in the Rocky Mountains when the sun clears the ridges. The air is fresh and cool, the mist hovers in the dense pine trees, and the woods are still teeming with wildlife yet undisturbed in the predawn stillness.

This morning was one of those days, I awoke early for my morning coffee and quickly headed out the door hoping to arrive at the trailhead by first light. My efforts were rewarded by a particularly amazing morning in the high country, clear skies, cool air and just enough mist to create a solitude that can only be experienced alone in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Pair of Mule Deer Bucks

The first mile of the trail is the steepest here and I quickly climbed a thousand feet or soย  in hopes of seeing some deer or elk just over the ridge. As luck would have it though, I glanced up and noticed a herd of four magnificent buck mule deer grazing just on this side of the summit. The deer were already well aware of my presence so I proceeded slowly, avoiding eye contact and not approaching directly at them so as not to disturb them into flight. As I neared they got a little nervous and trotted a few yards down the mountain to keep a wary eye on me and my camera. Unfortunately there was a border fence directly behind them which was going to spoil my background so I just kept moving, hoping to get past them and beyond the fence where I could get a much nicer image. The animals never took their eyes off of me until I was beyond their comfort zone but they didn’t run! Once past, the trail dipped behind a small hill and curved towards the small herd and I was able to get into position for the shot without them seeing me. The sun wasn’t in the greatest position for the first set of images, but I felt fortunate to be a part of the action at first light high on a mountaintop.

Once I cleared the ridge, the plateau at the summit came into view along with a few smaller creatures that quickly scattered at the sight of me on the rocky trail. None of the larger animals were in sight as I had hoped so I just continued my hike, keeping an eye peeled for any movement along the forest edge. However it wasn’t long before I heard the thunder of footsteps as a huge bull elk ran past towards the safety of the dense pine forest. The massive beast was moving fast and I didn’t have time to squeeze off a shot as he ran by, but much to my surprise I noticed that he had stopped and was peeking over the ridge at me, something I had never seen an elk do before! Deer will stop and check to see if you are actually chasing them, but elk usually just keep right on going and you never see them again. Got one shot of just his head as he peered out from the safety of distance and a steep hill but his head seemed tiny in the distance against the expanse of the wilderness in the image frame.

I continued on to the overlook where I could see nothing but mist and headed on back down the other side of the mountain. Off in the distance I could see another herd of deer much too far away for me to get a good image. I assumed those were the mule deer bucks that I had seen on the other side of the mountain as my trek began. However as it turns out the ones I had originally photographed were still grazing near the same location and were now in much better position for an awesome photo op! I was rewarded by the best photography of the day as the bucks moved into a beautiful misty meadow and stopped to pose for me. The image shown here is one of the ones I captured right at the end of the hike, and is my favorite one of the day ๐Ÿ™‚

This image and a couple others from my hike in the clouds the other day are now available for purchase on my website as wall art, including acrylic and metal glossies, framed prints, cool gift and household items and Royalty Free Stock.

 

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Dumb and Dumber Photography

That scene in the movie when they were headed back across Nebraska going in the wrong direction… “I thought the Rocky Mountains would be much higher”… “Yeah, that John Denver is full of sh*t!”. Lol, that’s about how I feel right now after a previous blog post. I was looking at the google map on the weather site a couple of days ago when I realized I was no where near the mountains that I thought I was. At the Royal Gorge I turned north on Highway 9 assuming that I would be driving along the Sangre de Cristo Range… thinking, “I thought the Sangre would be much higher!” Well it turns out I was no where near the Sangre de Cristo Range… there was an entire ridge of smaller mountains between me and them and the Sangre were not visible at all from the valley I was cruising up ๐Ÿ˜

Mule Deer Bucks

Oh well, that just means I still have a road trip to look forward to! Not today though, feeling very tired and was even going to forego my planned hike with Big Dog. But he was having none of that so I relented and we got in a couple of miles in the high country before the heat was too much for him. Saw a pair of awesome looking buck mule deer off in the distance that I got these nice shots of. Was kind of wishing I had borrowed the 1.4x lens extension from my buddy, but still, a nice shot and a great experience. After I got this capture in the brush they kind of moseyed towards me in the prairie grass a bit before disappearing into the dense pine forest on top of Grouse Mountain. I will put a couple of those in the wildlife gallery on my website when I get the chance.

Also had this red sunrise… I have never seen the sun look like that before. It took a little bit for me to convince myself that it was the sun and not the moon due to it’s subdued brightness. Kind of weird, had me wondering if maybe it was one of those biblical signs or something.

Red Sunrise

Picture taking was followed by a nice cheese omelet and a frosted donut. Looking forward to processing my pictures to include with this blog post!

These pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website! Available on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional framed prints, plus many cool household and gift items!

After the Storms

A quick glance down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo at first light this morning dispelled any notion about skipping another hike with Big Dog today… Of course there was no debate going on in the mind of the Big Dog. As I was sitting on the couch sipping my morning coffee I could see that he was watching me, focused like a laser on the cup. Then the instant that he saw the cup tilt all the way to the bottom he was on his feet like a gunshot, ready to go, eyes pleading.

So… into the backpack for the day’s necessities… It was a crystal clear morning, the usual fog and haze blown away by a weekend of rain, snow and wind and the bright fresh snow on the rugged peaks told me that it was going to be a good day for my B&W circular polarizer. I always use B&W glass, a little pricey but the amazing German quality is well worth the extra expenditure. Finally, getting ready to go… polarizer cleaned and attached, check, chip formatted check, battery charged and inserted, check. Out the door, no turning back.

Clear morning in the Sangre de Cristo

It was a surprisingly cold morning. Last thing last night it was still fairly balmy and I was lulled into believing that Spring had finally arrived… but I was mistaken. Fortunately I had on my hoodie under my jacket by force of habit and my glove liners were still in my pockets from the previous cold snap. I bundled up on the way, hood up, gloves on, neck strap wrapped around to ward off the cold wind.

As I neared my vantage point on the trail I could see that I had made a sound decision to get off the couch and into the fresh mountain morning air. The mountains were magnificent today, the mountain air crystal clear, a perfect day for some more experimentation with the polarizer. Big Dog and I took up a position on the overlook with an unobstructed view of the entire range and shot away. I knew from my last outing with the polarizer that aperture priority with a setting of f8 would be ideal for these conditions so I just set it up and carefully focused the shots on the most dramatic peaks.

The cold wind was causing my eyes to water and I couldn’t really tell on the spot if the images were turning out so I just kept shooting on faith that I had planned my settings correctly. Now, in front of the computer it looks like the day has been a success. The images are clear and the details sharp. The polarizer cut through what little haze did exist and I have a good crop of images to work with.

Please be sure to visit my website to see all the new images I have put up lately along with my new Weather gallery that I discussed and created yesterday! Also, if you are interested in my work, pleaseย  click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish! Followers and viewers are how this page is financed, in addition to print and stock image sales so I really appreciate your support ๐Ÿ™‚

Also, I hate to talk about it too soon… but I’m getting kind of wired up already ๐Ÿ™‚ A bucket list development! My boss, also an avid Canon photographer has thrown it out there, the possibility of a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park this fall! Seems like too much to hope for right at the moment… but I have been longing for years to see the wolves. Lol, of course I am well aware that it could turn out like my last wildlife journey to Brainard Lake. All summer I was watching other photographers post images of the moose population there, but when I went in the autumn of course, there were no moose to be seen anywhere ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Well anyway, stay tuned and we’ll see how this develops!

The Storm Beckons

Much to my surprise fresh snow and black clouds greeted the sunrise this morning. And naturally I was unable to resist the call of stormy weather, never have been! It wasn’t a rush though, the storm clouds didn’t appear to be going anywhere very fast and I was glad to have a few minutes for some frozen waffles and coffee before heading out into the elements. However Big Dog quickly figured out that I wasn’t going to work and got excited, he could care less what the weather is doing… as far as he is concerned all days are good for hiking!

Fresh Snow in the Rockies

The mountains are always the same ones… my view of the Sangre to the southwest, but that’s the beauty of a Rocky Mountain storm. The clouds are like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two are the same. A good storm can transform the same old mountains into a scene that I have never witnessed before. The contrast of the morning sun on the fresh snow against the black clouds in the distance was amazing and well worth a couple of minutes to stop and take in a few shots on my way to the mountains.

Storm clouds on the Sangre

As we strode down the trail to my mountain overlook I was contemplating my life in the weather. I have always been interested in the weather, enough so that I signed up for weather school in the Air Force in hopes of a career doing something I loved. The twists and turns of life took me in another direction from there but my love for weather has never subsided. Always thought I should have become a storm chaser instead of a computer programmer after I got out of the Air Force… I wonder why I have never created a special gallery on my website devoted to weather? Hmmm… I have plenty of inclement weather images with which to fill it, what a great idea ๐Ÿ™‚ There, it’s done… for now. All I need is a truck that runs and I can start chasing storms, never too late to start something new ๐Ÿ™‚

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, โ€” and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of โ€” 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 airโ€ฆ .” 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 Iย  get out to views that I know not many people have set eyes upon ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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, batteryย  chargers and more!

Approaching Colorado Storm

I had heard on the news last night that winter was making a comeback in southern Colorado so I planned to awaken early to try to get in a hike before the snow began to fly. Fighting through the fog of fatigue, I managed to get out the door right at first light which gave me time to stop at Bronco Billy’s for some 50 cent breakfast of French toast and coffee.

Sangre De Cristo Storm Clouds

Clouds and fog fill the Arkansas Valley ahead of an approaching winter storm

As I got to Grouse Mountain the sun was just cresting the ridge on the east allowing the sunlight to shine on my peaks and fill the Arkansas Valley with a beautiful morning glow. The first sign of the winter weather greeted me as I summited the peak and could see to the west and south that the entire valley at the base of the Sangre De Cristo to the south and the Collegiate Peaks to the west was filled with a lake of clouds and fog. It was quite stunning in the morning light, I do have to say so myself! So obviously I had to take a break from hiking to set up for some shots of the amazing scene below. Now that I am looking at the images on my computer I am also delighted to see how much color there was in normally colorless fog bank below.

Pikes Peak Colorado

Southwest face of Pikes Peak Colorado

There was a small herd of cows on the trail where I usually take a loop around the side of the mountain to get back down so I decided me and the dog would just go back around the mountain the other way. Nothing good can come from walking the dog through a herd of cows, that much is certain! Nothing on the way down worth stopping for so we just loaded back up in the truck and headed for Victor. I like to take a loop around the big gold mine on the way back to Cripple Creek in hopes of spotting some deer or elk high on the pass, but no luck with the wildlife today. There was however a magnificent view of the southwest face of Pikes Peak in the early morning sun worth stopping for and on my way back to the truck I also noticed that the abandoned mines looked amazing in the early morning winter sunlight. The clouds were really getting gloomy in the valley though and the view back in the most scenic direction was too dark to be worth shooting.

Gold Mine near Victor Colorado

Abandoned mine near Victor and Goldfield Colorado in the beautiful winter morning light

By then I was really feeling the fatigue from my previous week of graveyard shifts and some coffee at home was sounding pretty good. So I turned the old Dodge towards home only to have to make one more stop. There was a nice view of town and the approaching storm available on the overpass so I stopped for a couple of captures there.

I would have to say my first real day of 14er training was a great success… unfortunately the wobble in my legs and aching muscles are telling me that my planned 14er summit on Quandary Peak is yet a way off! Fortunately I don’t have to lose a bunch of weight in my training regimen… just get my leg strength and endurance back from the long winter away from the alpine trails.

The clouds at home have thickened and the wind has picked up significantly, now blowing out of the north. I can feel snow in the cold air that is settling in here at 10,000 feet in the southern Colorado mountains. Glad to be home with my coffee and looking forward to processing more of these pictures!

These images and many more can be purchased as prints on beautiful glossy acrylic or metal sheets, in traditional framed and mat materials and on wrapped canvas. Commercial stock licensing is also available. Please click the links to the left, or in your menu if you are using a smart phone to view my complete portfolio.

Mountain View Different Every Day

Sometimes I get to thinking there’s no need to take the camera along on a hike, but then I take it anyway. And I am always amazed when I get there and somehow it all looks new and my latest hike was no different! It was an unusually warm day with some high thin clouds and a lot of haze that I assumed was going to ruin my outing.

Sange De Cristo Mountain Range

Beautiful view of the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range in Colorado in the wintertime

As a result I took a bit different route hoping to see some elk or some deer to salvage the day. But as I rounded the mountain a completely different view presented itself. The odd light through the clouds early in the day with the winter sun low in the sky created this cool layered effect that I had not noticed before. Experience told me to use my 70-200 lens zoomed in all the way to flatten the layers of mountains for the greatest two dimensional effect. The Sangre De Cristo Range is always beautiful and this new view is a great addition to my collection of landscapes ๐Ÿ™‚

This image and more are now available on my website as wall art on metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, and traditional print materials. Many cool gift and household items are also available, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, phone cases, portable batteries, towels, yoga mats and more! Just click the links to the left or in the menu if you are using a phone!