Between Storms and Monochrome Toning

It finally warmed up a bit this morning, well above zero with mostly clear skies so I thought it was a good day for a hike. As it turns out it was also a pretty good day for pictures! Although it was just partly cloudy here there were thick ominous clouds hanging over the Sangre de Cristo range at sunrise and it was quite a sight!

Stormy Sangre Sunrise

I saw a lot of evidence of recent wildlife activity in the snow but saw no actual animals on my two mile trek through the fresh snow. Still, there’s something therapeutic about a walk in the mountains.Β 

These images looked pretty nice in color, but so early in the morning with a lot of haze from the previous storm there wasn’t much color to work with. I decided that these would look much more dramatic in black & white so I used the channel mixer to create the best monochrome version possible. They looked pretty good but I thought I could do even better with a little bluish toning which I accomplish using the “hue and saturation” tool in the Photoshop adjustments drop down. First I click the colorize check box which adds a horrific color and hue to the image. From that starting point I adjust the saturation, in this case I chose 12 to apply just a bit of color. Then I change the hue to the value most representative of my plan for the image, which was 242 in this case. The lightness value I left alone, at zero.

I actually got the idea for doing this while reading an Ansel Adams book filled with some of his best landscapes. I noticed that the default values for black and white weren’t nearly as dramatic as the ones in the book so I read up a bit and learned about the process of toning from the era of photographic film processing. I wanted to find a way to recreate that look and it was just through experimentation and trial and error that I eventually came up with this method.

And of course no day of hiking would be complete without a quick trip over to historic Victor for some biscuits and gravy and coffee at the Gold Camp Bakery πŸ™‚

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!

Stormy Sangre Sunrise

My Happy Place

Decided to take the long route on my trail today… the one that takes me up to “my happy place”, the high ridge where there are no vestiges of civilization, no other people, no sound, just nature in all her glory πŸ™‚ It’s not an easy climb… first there is the straight up the mountain trail from the parking lot to the top of the first

Pike National Forest Scenery

ridge, then a steep trek through the snow and dense forest to the top of what I call the Mount of Broken Dreams and finally another steep ascent to the top of Grouse Mountain. There are abandoned gold mines at the top which make nice wind breaks so I like to take a break there and just enjoy the spectacular scenery.

I had hoped to see some wildlife to photograph along the way, but today there was nothing. A couple of sparrows hiding from me to avoid having their pictures taken, but that was it! I haven’t seen the dusky grouse in a long time, I wonder if they migrate or hibernate? Maybe they have moved to a more friendly elevation. I have high hopes of someday finding an owl in the forest but so far I have no sign that there might actually be one there… just the hope. With no wildlife to photograph, I decided on these two landscapes to at least show theΒ  beauty and ruggedness of the Pike National Forest. Visible is the rugged terrain in this part of the Pike National Forest with the stunning beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background.

Pike National Forest Scenery

Even though I didn’t see any wildlife I always enjoy the time of solitude and connection with my Maker, and a bit of exercise can never be a bad thing!

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!

HDR Photography

What is HDR photography you ask? HDR stands for high dynamic range, which according to Wikipedia is “a technique used in photographic imaging and films, and in ray-traced computer-generated imaging, to reproduce a greater range of luminosity than what is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques.”, and is also a feature in my camera that I have mostly ignored up until recently.

Rocky Mountain National Park in HDR

So, if you find yourself in a situation with bright highlights and deep shadows you might want to try HDR mode if your camera supports it. On the Canon 90D and many other higher end models you can select HDR mode in the menu. Once selected, another screen comes up which allows you to select standard, natural or art saturation or something like that. Then you can select how many stops you feel you need to cover, I have been using +3, which means that the camera is going to shoot three images in rapid succession with three different stops of exposure, before stitching them together in camera to produce one jpg image with the three stops of exposure.

_MG_5206So far I have tried the art mode setting on some autumn colors and now natural which I tried in Rocky Mountain National Park. Art mode proved to be too much for my tastes and resulted in some odd colors introduced into the shadows.Β  Natural looks a little better but I can’t say I’d trust a whole shoot to this technique. My attempts have been handheld which I don’t recommend due to the fact that I’m not sure they are matching the three images up perfectly. I would definitely use a tripod for a serious attempt at an image.

As for me, I will continue to do my serious photography in Raw mode as I don’t feel the benefits of the HDR feature outweigh the benefits of being able to adjust your images with Light Room, Capture One, or Adobe ACR prior to rendering your final image.

_MG_5188These were myΒ  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot in HDR mode. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my RMNP trip 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 channelΒ  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!

This post was not sponsored by any equipment manufacturer. All equipment used was my own, purchased by me on my own volition.

Emerald Lake Bucket List

First day back from my three day photography trip to Rocky Mountain National Park… I scarcely know where to begin, three days, two parks on the journey up to Rocky plus two mornings and two evenings with the elk, a long beautiful hike, a drive over Trail Ridge Road and another evening with some elk on the west side of the park and over 1,600 pictures. There is just no way to cover it all in one blog post!

Portrrait at Emerald Lake

So I guess I’ll just start with my favorite part… the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes. Many times I have visited Bear Lake through the years, and each time I have stared longingly at the rugged peaks to the south of the lake. I always try to get a decent picture of them from Bear Lake, but when you use a wide angle to get the beautiful lake in, the peaks in the background are unacceptably diminished.

But on this trip we decided to take the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes, about a four mile round trip trek. The 1.1 mile hike to Dream Lake was pretty easy, except for the relentless incline. My hopes were high as we approached the lake that I would finally have an unimpeded view of the rugged peaks that I could see

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

from the parking lot. But it was not to be… however this lake with it’s placid water and lily pads was a dream just as the name indicates! We took a break there to shoot some pictures and rest up for the even steeper and rockier eight tenths of a mile remaining to Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As we neared our next destination the magnificent peaks came into view and my hopes were rising that we were going to see something special! Finally we drew near to the beautiful alpine lake and it was then that I realized that my long time dream was about to be realized πŸ™‚ From the lake there is an incredible view of the rugged terrain above the lake. We of course had to stop there and make sure the amazing scene was adequately captured and we also decided to shoot a couple portraits of each other to mark the occasion πŸ™‚

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I highly recommend this hike which begins at the Bear Lake trailhead… I may decide to return at a different time of day other than high noon to see if I can get a more dramatic image of this amazing alpine lake in better light, but for now, this is truly a bucket list item checked!

In the coming days I will be publishing more blog posts, pictures and at least one video for my YouTube Channel! Be sure to follow my blog and subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss anything!

For your enjoyment I have created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelΒ  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!

The Tree

I’ve been eyeing this tree for a couple of years now… The life giving flow of sap long ago ceased, it now stands as a stark reminder that nothing can live forever.

I’ve tried a number of times to capture the picture that my mind envisions but I have never quite gotten it.

Finally the other day I was hiking into the canyon on foot and I looked up and spotted it high on the cliff against the beautiful Colorado summer sky and I knew I was going to get the shot πŸ™‚ As my only goal for going in was to photograph the osprey, my only lens was the 100-400. I tried a few different focal lengths in hope of getting just the right perspective and I liked them all.

Tree by #swkrullimaging

This particular one with the clouds and blue sky was the closest to the picture in my mind πŸ™‚

As always, the best of these images are available for purchase onΒ my websiteΒ 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!Β For my viewers interested inΒ images for commercial use, please visit myΒ image licensing portal!

Hiking the Limber Pines Trail

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

If you want beautiful views of Pikes Peak and a brisk three mile hike in the mountains, the Limber Pines / Ring the Peak loop in Catamount Ranch just west of Woodland Park, Colorado might be just the ticket. If you are planning to go on the weekend I recommend getting there early, probably well before 8:00 a.m. To get there take highway 24 west from Woodland Park and just at the top of the hill past the hospital start looking for Edlowe Road on the south side. From there take Edlowe Road all the way to the end where you will see a small parking lot.

To start the loop just head up the trail and a steep hill to the trail map sign and a fence. Go

North Catamount Reservoir

through the wide gate and you will find yourself on a trail that goes left and right. It is the Limber Pines trail that is the start of the 2.8 mile loop. If you go right you will be on a beautiful forest trail that switchbacks down to the dirt road that is the Ring the Peak trail. Be sure to look towards the east for views of Pikes Peak as you make your descent towards the reservoir. Y

Take a left here and you will walk the road towards and the along North Catamount Reservoir where the road finally leaves the reservoir and begins a

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

long ascent up to the top of the ridge. There are some fantastic views of the peak and a beautiful mix of aspen and pine forest along the way. Finally you will find yourself near the top of the climb at which time you will want to be looking for a trail sign which marks the other end of the Limber Pines Trail. From there it is a short walk back to the gate where your hike began.

If you decide to go the other way, obviously you will be walking down the dirt Ring the Peak road past the reservoir where you will need to be looking for the trail sign and the ascent on the Limber Pines Trail back to the starting point. Be sure to bring plenty of liquids to drink, the trail is only 2.8 miles but the ascents can be strenuous for those not acclimated to the elevation.

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

Winter Wonderland

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

Awoke to an amazing world of white calling my name πŸ™‚ A foot of fresh powder blanketed the mountains of the Pike National Forest and I was eager to put on my snowshoes and tackle the deep powder. But not before some coffee and pancakes at the Home Cafe of course πŸ™‚

The winding mountain road had been plowed but was still covered in a thin layer of the slippery white stuff requiring a good bit of caution to negotiate before I arrived at the trailhead. Unfortunately the parking lot had not yet been cleared but I decided to take a chance and enter anyway. I didn’t think I’d get stuck but figured even if I did that the lot would be plowed before I was back from my hike. It wasn’t long before I had lost momentum and was indeed stuck in the deep snow. No matter, no one was going to be around to complain about my poor job of parking πŸ™‚

It was a long tough slog up the mountainside in the deep powder, fortunately faint

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

imprints of my previous climbs were still visible or I would have been sinking two feet into the deep mantle of white! As always I was hoping for a glimpse of the elk herd or even some mule deer, but I was well aware that the animals were too smart to risk a cougar attack with unnecessary risk in the deep powder. Indeed there was no sign of wildlife anywhere on the mountain, save for a rabbit or two.

The storm was over but as it does many times at this elevation on the mountain, snow continued to drift lazily out of the haze enveloping the entire world, reflecting light like a million tiny prisms. I tried capturing the phenomenon but it does not appear that I was successful. I had packed my 100-400mm lens in hope of capturing some wildlife and it was not the best choice for the expansive scene before me, but I did enjoy shooting a few of the snow covered trees with it. Eventually I was relieved to arrive at the summit and catch my breath. The snow was still deep but at least the steep climb was done with!

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

The aspen and pine trees were covered in frost and snow, looking like ghosts in the distance against the white snow and grey skies in the background. More snow is on the way today so if all goes right maybe I’ll get another chance tomorrow to visit my favorite winter wonderland!

Finally back at the parking lot I was faced with the unpleasant reality that my two wheel drive truck was deeply embedded in the slippery white stuff 😦 I cleared a bit of snow with the snow shovel that I had wisely packed but it did little good other than to get me a couple more feet along my way. Eventually it became clear that I was not going to get out of putting on the chains, which proved to be the right weapon to get me back on the road πŸ™‚

Tired and sore now, but still happy that it was a good day in the Colorado high country. As always some of these images and more are 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. Cool gift and household items are also available with a beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain scene from S.W. Krull Imaging!

Snowshoe trail

Snowshoe trail in deep Colorado snow

Another Stellar Mountain Morning

Not much to say other than stunning… I feel so blessed to live in view of the jaw dropping

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Rangesplendor of theΒ  Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. One time I drove all the way down to Westcliffe to try to get a better view but it turns out that in this case, closer is not better! Of course many days the view is obscured by smoke and haze but most of the time the rugged range is putting on a pretty good show. For this image I used my my Canon 100-400L glass with circular polarizer on full effect to achieve this crystal clear scene. I love the clouds hanging over the range like a halo and almost a mirror image of the snow on the foothills below!

Now the view is gone as our next winter storm moves in, I can’t see the mountains at all. But there is a silver lining, there will be another amazing show after the snow is done falling πŸ™‚

Anyway, this is my favorite one of the day, hope you enjoy it! Feel free to follow my #swkrull instagram page to see the rest of the ones I got processed today, along with a few more of the bighorn sheep from Christmas Day πŸ™‚

As always, this image is available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing, just click the link to explore!

Merry Christmas from Colorado

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range

Every morning I look down the valley at the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Range to see how my day in photography is going to shape up. Most days there is enough haze to pretty much obscure the view and prevent any decent mountain photography. Today however, the view was stunning! So I grabbed my camera and headed to my favorite vantage point πŸ™‚

So anyway not much else to say about it,Β  I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas from this beautiful Christmas Eve Day with a stunning view of the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

As always, these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing!

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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!