In the Clouds

I know, it’s May 20th… but this is Colorado at 10,000 feet and we are in a winter storm warning, supposed to snow all day and pretty much all night. It’s already cold, cloudy and windy but I figured I’d better get the big dog out for his exercise before it really gets cranked up!

Clouds Forming in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

So we had a good hike and I even got to be part of an interesting weather phenomenon 🙂 Once on the summit where I could see all around I noticed a patch of what I first thought was fog. After watching a bit though I determined that it wasn’t fog, there was too much wind and it seemed to be forming right before my eyes! Turns out up on the summit at probably 11,000 feet or so I was watching the storm clouds form all around me. There was also a tremendous updraft so the cloud would form near the mountain and then shoot out of the trees into the sky. It was an amazing thing to behold, I never cease to be amazed at the splendor of these mountains!

Now as I sit here at my computer it is just gloomy and grey and flakes are beginning to fly. Soon I imagine, with this wind they will turn into this winter’s familiar stinging sideways projectiles. No matter, we are back at our cozy little cabin, toasty and warm watching the action outside 🙂

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Exploring Tunnel Drive in Canon City

I finally visited the Royal Gorge this spring for the first time and did some hiking along the Canyon Rim Trail. It was nice way up on the top of the canyon, but what I really want to do is explore the canyon from the bottom! On another failed attempt to do so on mountain bike I discovered a road called Tunnel Road which I was tempted to explore that day but instead opted for the visit to the main park on the canyon rim.

Royal Gorge Passenger Train

Had some stuff to do in Canon City yesterday so I decided to see where Tunnel Drive would take me. At first it didn’t seem very far, I took a wrong turn and wound up at the gate of the public works plant on the upper road. A quick turnaround and right turn back onto Tunnel Drive had me once again headed in the right direction 🙂 I was concerned that the tunnels would be too small to drive my big truck through, or too rough, or too busy… But none of that happened. After a short drive of no more than a mile or two I arrived at a nice little parking lot at the base of a trail called Tunnel Drive Trail… imagine that 🙂

So it turns out that the Tunnel Drive Trail is a nice developed trail head with a restroom

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

providing access to the canyon for families, mountain bikers and hikers. I grabbed my camera backpack and headed up the trail with no idea what I would find. After about a quarter of a mile up a steep concrete path I encountered a series of tunnels and a flat and wide dirt path heading through them and into the canyon high above the ugly brown water of the Arkansas River below. The tunnels were interesting enough for me to do a little research on the history of this trail and I discovered that the tunnels were originally blasted out by convicts as part of a water project. Apparently it was open to auto traffic for a while but now it is for recreation only.

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

The trail now runs about two miles out and back for a total of four miles with mileage markers and numerous benches and picnic tables along the way. There are great views of the Arkansas, canyon walls and the canyon visitor train and tracks snaking their way along the river below. Had I done a little research I would have discovered that this is a nice bike trail and I could have saved myself an hour and a half of walking by just getting my bike out of the back of my truck! If there is a next time I will definitely do this trail on wheels!

My real reason for wanting to get back into the canyon is so that I can do some whitewater rafting photography and I don’t think this trail is going to help me. It is way too far and high above the water for that but from there I did spot some kind of access path along the river bed on the other side. When I get some time I’ll try to figure out how to get on it with my mountain bike, a subject for another blog post!

Sometimes I Impress Myself!

Now I was not impressed at all later on in my hike when I discovered that at some point I had inadvertently turned off the Image Stabilization (IS) on my big Canon lens, which sent me from a point of elation to the depths of despair just like that. I really wanted that shot! We had cleared the ridge to find ourselves about 50 yards from a curious trio of deer peering at us from the brush near the summit in perfect morning light. I could not believe my eyes! I fired off a few shots, but as you might imagine the sight of Big Dog was causing quite a bit of consternation in the herd. No matter, I was pretty sure I had nailed the shot and we walked around the other side of the mountain from where the deer had gone in order not to disturb them any further.

Trio of Rocky Mountain Mule Deer

As we strode along I was looking forward to getting on the computer and processing those images and creating a good seller! That is until I noticed that the IS was off. Then I figured it was all over, the likelihood of getting that shot without the IS with a 400mm lens was about as good as threading a needle with a climbing rope. But I consoled myself with the idea that I would probably get a good enough shot to show on my Instagram account.

It was a beautiful morning… there is nothing like a trek through the high country at first light, before anyone else is up, before the wind starts blowing, when the mountain air is still cool and crisp with bright sunshine to warm my old shoulders. It was very quiet this morning too, only the sound of the birds happily chirping, my own breath and the clanking of Big Dog’s harness to break the silence of a perfect mountain morning.

Now back at home in front of the computer is where I am quite impressed with myself 🙂 I did get a salable capture from the set, hand held at 400mm, no IS, 60 years old, heart pounding from the climb, and all while holding on to a very exuberant 90 pound dog who very badly wanted to go play with the deer! I think maybe the shot could have been a little better with the IS turned on, but I am truly amazed that I was able to get this capture 🙂 Of course now in front of the computer, after I have done all my titling and keywording, I see that there is a fourth deer in the image, peeking out from behind one of the others, oh well, the more the merrier!

As always, this shot and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and tons of cool gift, household and tech items!

Beautiful Mule Deer Herd

Beautiful Snow Capped Sangre de Cristo Range

The Sangre de Cristo are always amazing… but sometimes they are more amazing and today was one of those days! Tons of new snow now graces these majestic peaks and there was almost no haze today to block the view. The pristine white snow against the stunning intense blue Colorado sky was just amazing this morning.

When the mountain landscape photography was done we began our descent and I

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

noticed a small herd of mule deer basking in the morning sunlight on the hillside. There are very few trees on the summit so I knew there was no way we were going to get close, but a deer herd in the mountains is going to make a great picture no matter what! My first shots were directly into the rising sun so I knew silhouettes were going to be the result of that situation,  but I snapped a few anyway for a record of the day in case they decided to bolt.

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

Once I was sure I had some captures the big dog and I began to circle around the hillside hoping that my non direct approach wouldn’t startle them into a run. They kept a wary eye on us as we descended and curved back but they didn’t run! I snapped a few more along the way as the lighting got better and then finally when we were completely on the other side they began walking to the summit. I was about to head for the truck when I noticed they were going to traverse the top ridge with the blue sky as a backdrop so we just waited a few minutes for them to reach the top. Nothing wrong with hanging out in the warm Colorado mountain sun for a while! Eventually they did reach the top of the ridge and I rounded out the days shooting with a line of them heading for cover in the dense wilderness to the south.

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sunny Side Trail

Sunnyside Trail

Been slightly interested for some time now in a trail I hadn’t yet explored… but not really interested enough to actually follow it. Today was the same, thought about it but decided to climb to the summit instead, hoping for the occasional elk or deer sighting in the high meadow. However as we got a few yards down the trail, Big Dog and I were met by a sweet looking free range cow followed closely by another one. Big Dog is pretty curious about cows and I knew it would be an ordeal to get past them but we pressed on anyway. Until of course we encountered the bull. Now I’m pretty sure he’s a friendly bull and Big Dog really wanted to meet him but I was thinking otherwise. So we stood still a second to see if maybe Mr. Bull would like to get off the trail and let us by, but soon he was striding toward us so the big dog and I hightailed it for the trailhead gate. I’m sure he was a friendly bull but you don’t want to wait until it’s too late to find out otherwise! And as you can see, Mr. Bull followed us all the way to the gate!

Free Range Bull

So with no way past Mr. Bull on my usual trail, the decision was made to try the Sunny Side Trail. It’s an easy trail that doesn’t particularly go anywhere interesting, but there were some nice views of the Sangre and Big Grouse Mountain from a couple of the overlook points. Also I have been noticing a curious aspect of my views of the Sangre de Cristo Range lately. From a point on the way to my overlooks the mountain range looks huge, then from the overlook it doesn’t look quite as huge. So on one of my trips over to Victor I watched the mountain range carefully and I noticed that there are two parts to it. There is a section of higher mountains to the south, a notch thingy in the middle and then a smaller section of mountains to the north side of the range. Unfortunately from all my favorite overlooks the big side of the range is blocked by the mountains surrounding me. The place where I can see the big ones is a crappy view with houses and power lines, not worth trying to get a picture.

Mystical Sangre de CristoThe good news is that from the Sunny Side Trail there is an awesome view past the east side of the Big Grouse Mountain and down to the big half of the mountain range. So on this day I was finally able to finally get a decent shot of the bigger Sangre de Cristo peaks :) However I still need to get down to Westcliffe for a closer look!

Today however I’m just really tired and seem to be more tired every day. Think maybe until the New Year turns over I will spend some time at the computer screen. There is no point uploading prints at this point with Christmas so close. However once the new year begins there will be a wave of stock image buying and I can use this time to get caught up on my uploads there. It’s been a long time since I really put any effort into Alamy, my highest paying stock agency but they have recently been making a push to add some photographer friendly features that I have been really enjoying the last few weeks. For example they have created this awesome portfolio page that we can customize and use for promotion 🙂 Some of my oldest images are in this agency which is not necessarily a profitable thing, but it is kind of fun to go back and see the origins of my stock photo business!

I know everyone has already blown their budget on Christmas but just in case, these images and more are now for sale as wall art and cool gift and household items on my website! If you like these images and are a fan of mountains and wildlife, please give it a look! Also I have recently created a new gallery called “Deer in Snow” which I have made quite a bit of progress with lately.

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 so  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 🙂

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.

 

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 😐

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!