Mount Evans Excursion

Finally had a day off that coincided with my buddy Kevin’s day off so we took advantage and made an excursion to the Mount Evans, Colorado summit via famed Mount Evans Road, the highest paved road in the country.  It was a great day for it too! Last time I went the clouds rolled in way too early and about the time I was ready to get my best pictures it got really dark and started to rain. We had some clouds this time but the light remained satisfactory for photography throughout the whole day 🙂

One Horned Bighorn Sheep

We were encouraged that it was going to be a good day as we saw a few mountain goats and bighorn sheep on the steep curvy drive to the summit, but none with a place we could pull off the narrow road for pictures. No matter, goal number one was to reach the summit before the expected thunderstorms moved in. Lightning on a mountain summit is nothing to mess with! First order of business once we found a parking place was to take the quarter mile hike on the rocky trail to the actual summit and locate the geological survey marker! I’m pretty sure you have to touch it or the entire journey fails to be recorded in the big box in the sky 🙂

 

On our way up the trail there was a guy admiring the scenery who told us that on this particular day there was a good view of Mount Holy Cross in the distance. I have read about it, some of my friends have hiked the mountain and some have climbed it… but I had never seen it with my own eyes. I aimed my camera in the direction he indicated but didn’t see

Mount Holy Cross

anything… we were determined to reach the summit so I just snapped a picture thinking that I would look for it in Photoshop later. Finally on the way back down I looked again through the long lens and saw what I thought must be the legendary cross. Today I compared my image to the ones on the forest service site and I am reasonably certain that I have captured a good view of it in this image. That blackish pile of rocks on the left is Mount Bierstadt, a 14er upon which I triumphantly stood only four short years ago! You can see the cross in the background near the middle of the image, snow filled cracks in the great mountain that give the appearance of a cross. According to History.com, “William Henry Jackson became the first person to photograph Colorado’s elusive Mount of the Holy Cross, providing reliable proof of its existence.”. Also, according to Summitpost.org, “The first reported and official sighting of the cross occurred on August 29th, 1869 when the second in command of the Whitney (A Harvard Man) expedition, a Mr. William Brewer (then a Yale professor) reported seeing a far-off cross. As the expedition was returning to Denver, the group decided to ride their horses to the local mountain of Grays Peak. While atop, Brewer wrote that, “The Mount of the Holy Cross was forty miles away, with its’ cross of pure white, a mile high, suspended aginst its side.” “.

As usual on the summit at least one set of people saw our cameras and asked us to do their portraits… with their camera of course. Given our camera equipment they said it looked like we knew what we were doing! I replied, well either that or I just spent a lot of money trying to look like I know what I’m doing 🙂 Anyway I snapped a few shots for them with the magnificent Rocky Mountains in the background.

After a short stay at the summit we headed down to the visitor area where the bighorns and mountain goats were hanging out. The main goal of the day was to get some good

Baby Mountain Goat on Mount Evans Summit

captures of the wildlife, and hopefully some of the way too cute baby ones. After only a couple of minutes a mama and goat kid were located, unafraid of the people and willing to pose for a few pictures 🙂 There were also some adult goats making their way around the boulder pile that made for some good captures too.

 

Finally we felt we had captured the scene adequately and began the drive back down. I was hoping we would see some larger herds feeding on the alpine tundra with a nice view of the amazing peaks surrounding Mount Evans and we weren’t disappointed! It wasn’t long before we encountered the unusual scene of mountain goats and bighorn sheep traveling in the same group! Pretty scraggly looking they were at this time of year when they are shedding their winter coats, but still a sight to behold! There was also a small mountain goat family making their way across the tundra, the little ones putting on a good show for the onlookers 🙂

Eventually they ambled off and we decided to head for home. 350 images I captured yesterday, going to take a while to get all the good ones processed! In the meantime I have a couple uploaded to my website, ready for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas or traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items, handy household items, tech gadgets like phone cases and batteries and much more!

Baby Mountain Goat in Wildflowers

 

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If This Jacket Could Talk

If This Jacket Could Talk

As luck would have it, I got a really good deal on a new Gor-Tex jacket the other day. Later that day as I went to zip up my old one it didn’t feel right, looked down and the zipper was broken… zip all you want, but it isn’t going to close. The shell is starting to rip out in places too so it is looking like it might be time to retire this old garment. I’ve been looking for a replacement for it for about a year now, so I was a bit surprised to have found the replacement on the day that I needed it! Although I shouldn’t be, I can’t count the number of times Providence has filled my need at the exact instant it was required. The words of the Apostle Paul, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in Glory.”

Summit Elbert Steve.jpgWell anyway, that jacket has served me faithfully for many years. Not too long after we were married, probably springtime in the mid 90’s, Tricia and I were grocery shopping at the Whole Foods on Colorado Blvd. in Denver. There was an Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) right beside it back then and they were having and end of season sale that we could not resist. That is when we got a really good deal on matching Gor-Tex suits, the blue jackets and black pants. That would make my jacket over 20 years old this year if my memory is correct!

So if that jacket could talk, it would have some stories to tell! Countless snowshoe treks through the woods together with our dog Bear outside our home in Parker. Those were our best years together, enjoying prosperous life in the horse country south of the city. Since then the forest that we hiked in has been plowed under by a developer and is no longer accessible, a heart breaking story on it’s own of an unsuccessful bitter and protracted battle by residents to save pristine forest land.

The jacket kept me warm through countless training runs, snowshoe races in Breck, Dillon and the Eldora ski area, treks through Chautauqua Park and up Bear Mountain Fern Canyon, Mallory Cave and the Arch. The jacket has been on top of Pikes Peak, and 14ers Elbert, Yale, Massive, and Harvard. I can’t count the number of times it protected me from the snow on the Chicago Lakes Trail on Mount Evans and on countless treks to the summit of Bald Mountain in all kinds of weather. And of course it was my constant companion during the capturing of some 6,500 stock photo images, keeping me and camera safe and warm during photo shoots in snowstorms every year for the last two decades.

The jacket was with me in the hard times and the good times. I can’t count the number of times I had to wear it in winter bike rides up the pass, getting to work to try to save money to get the truck fixed. The jacket saw blizzards, hail storms, torrential rain, wind and every sort of mayhem that these mountains are capable of throwing at a person. I was wearing that jacket pretty much every time over the last few years during the funerals and burials of two dogs and three cats that made the journey to these mountains with me. I don’t remember for sure, but I can imagine the jacket was with me two Marchs’ ago as I waited for the outcome of our final trip to hospice. Tricia never got the chance to wear out her jacket… too many health problems to count kept her indoors way more that she would have liked.

I believe though, that this image shot by my buddy Ralph sums up the greatest moment in this jacket’s long history. The winter summit of Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak. I’m not sure I can throw this coat away… think I might just hang it in the closet as a reminder, a trophy commemorating the best moments of two decades of adventure. For sure, my new jacket has a lot of living up to do to exceed the adventures of my first one, but I am ready for a run at it!

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Back Button Focus



It was in the autumn in the high alpine regions of the Colorado Rockies when Mount Evans Road finally opened last year and I was able to make the drive to the summit. I had high hopes of seeing abundant wildlife, based on the reports of my competitors who had made the trip in previous years.

bighorn-sheepI had gotten an early start and made the first toll gate around sunrise, but I was a bit surprised at how long it took me to get up to Summit Lake. I had seen quite a few cars go past while I was paying my fee and I feared that the summit parking lot was going to be full. So I pulled into Summit Lake parking lot and spotted a ranger. I asked him how long it would take me to hike from there to the summit, and whether or not I would see any wildlife. He advised me to just drive the last few miles, that the hike would take hours and rain was coming in. He also told me the bighorns and the mountain goats would be on the summit.

So I jumped back in my truck and headed for the summit, where I parked and gathered up my gear. I looked for the trailhead and was glad to see only 1/4 of a mile to the summit. I looked diligently as I neared the summit for the animals only to be disappointed, nothing in sight. As I rounded a turn in the trail the summit facilities came into view below and much to my surprise, it was surrounded by animals just walking around the parking lot area, right along with the people. Well, there was no way I was going to have come that far without touching the summit plaque, so I just walked a bit further and made sure that m feet were planted on the summit of a 14er. Of course it didn’t count as a climb from only a 1/4 mile away, but I got the feel of 14k feet plus just the same.

Went back down to the facilities where I took about one million pictures of the goats and marmots standing around … the only problem there was making sure there were no people in the background to give away the ridiculous proximity of people and animals. Clouds rolled in and I really wasn’t too keen about driving down the highway in heavy rain, so I packed up and headed back down.

On my way back down I noticed a gathering of vehicles on the side of the road so I looked and saw a huge herd of both bighorns and mountain goats on both sides of the road. They were a bit far off for my 200mm lens, but I thought I’d get a few shots anyway… when again, much to my surprise, a baby bighorn started running towards me. I pushed down the shutter button and held it, getting probably 20 images before the little guy turned aside.

This is where the point of the story comes in… Of course the camera focused the first time I pushed the button and every image after that was out of focus 😦 I wasn’t expecting such action, so I had my Canon 70D on one shot mode. It was after experiencing the disappointment of so many failed images that I got to thinking maybe I should learn back button focus. I had heard that it was the best way to photograph unpredictable sports and wildlife subjects.

So naturally I have managed to procrastinate and delay implementing it for another six months… but for some reason, last night was the night to take the plunge. So I got on the internet and looked up how to do that with m 70D. I found a number of tutorials describing how to accomplish the camera settings and buttons, but nothing about what to actually do when shooting and when to use it!

The first thing I learned is that you have to go into the most obscure custom functions and set the shutter button for exposure only. Having the shutter button focus turned on conflicts with the operation of the back focus button, so you will need to consult your camera manual to determine how to do that.

Once that is done, look for the back focus button. On the newer Canon DSLR’s, it is called AF-On. To operate in back button mode, it is advantageous to put the focus mode in continuous mode, or AI Servo on Canon cameras. With a still subject you then depress the back button to focus and let go of the button. The camera will stay focused at that distance until you click the back button again. You can recompose as many times as you like before  focusing again.

Now here’s the really good part. If the subject goes into motion, you can just click the back button and hold it down while continuing to track the subject with the camera. As long as you hold the button down the camera will operate in continuous mode, refocusing constantly while you concentrate on composition and getting the pictures! So with one simple and easy to use button, you can quickly operate the camera in all the focusing modes that you might need. Separating focus and exposure also allows you to get more accurate exposure metering than having both done at the same time with the shutter button. Using the shutter button half push to lock focus and exposure only works if you don’t drastically recompose. With the back button focus, the shutter button activates the exposure on the new composition.

So, as you can see if I had been using the back button for the baby sheep I could have pressed and held while the animal was approaching and I would have had many sharply focused images instead of just one.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items