Many of you know that I have been watching the Bald Eagle and Osprey nests that I discovered in Eleven Mile Canyon since early spring. I saw one eaglet grow up under the careful eye of his mother and father, spread his wings and finally take flight to begin his life as America’s National Bird. He still lives at the nest, gaining strength and learning from his parents how to hunt. Today I saw him take his longest flight yet 🙂
The Osprey family has two chicks, both of which are growing in size and strength. Today I witnessed a new development… the mother osprey made a short flight across the river over to a dead treetop not far from my favorite perch. At first I thought she was going on a fishing trip but then I thought she landed… I couldn’t see very well from my precarious position but I kept looking and eventually I spotted her through the branches of a tall pine tree. I slid over on the pine needles to a better spot which later resulted in the need for tweezers 😦 and got a shot of her watching over the youngsters. Soon she was calling out the the chicks, apparently encouraging them to fly and they did their very best! The older one flapped his wings furiously and for the first time he actually gained some air! It was quite an experience to behold 🙂
In the meantime a couple of turkey vultures were circling overhead, eventually drawing the ire of the father osprey who took flight to confront the intruders. They were apparently not eager for a fight with the fierce predator and promptly fled the scene. I tried my best to photograph the aerial incident but the confrontation was far too high in the sky for me to adequately capture.
As I sat at my vantage point and watched the action I was struck by the dedication of the osprey and the eagles to the task assigned them by their Maker. The spend their days doing what they are supposed to do, asking nothing more and nothing less out of their lives. There is no question in their minds about what they are, what they are supposed to do or whether there might be something else in life they might pursue. They find a mate, hatch their eggs and tend to their chicks. The mother is content to nurture the young and the father stands guard on a perch high above the nest with a view of any danger that might approach and occasionally bringing a fish to sustain his family. It is Nature’s Way.
I only wish that people were so disciplined, so obedient and dedicated to the purpose given to them by their Maker. Unfortunately it is not so with humans constantly disobeying their Creator, ignoring all restraint in quest of their own will. Unlike the raptors I have been watching humans are never satisfied with their God given reality, aspiring instead to create their own kingdoms to the detriment of themselves and everyone around them. Those who seek that kind of power over others have something terribly wrong in their souls, they are evil and may God Himself destroy their tyrannical aspirations.
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The sun was shining when I went to take the trash out this morning and warm rays streaming down upon my face tilted the scales towards another hike this morning. I was thinking about just going for a bike ride this afternoon but I know myself too well… If I don’t get moving before about 7:00 I can be pretty sure I’m not going to get going! I’m a morning person, always have been…
Well a few steps down the trail almost had me wishing I had stayed home! It wasn’t nearly as warm on the mountain as it was in my sheltered back yard and the wind was just whipping! Fortunately my jacket has a hood or I might have gotten frost bite on my ears. On the other hand, in wind like that I’m pretty sure any ideas of a bike ride would have been abandoned for sure.
Thought it was going to be a photography shut out until just as I was making the final turn to go back to the parking lot. As I scanned the terrain I spotted the mule deer herd in the distance, contentedly grazing on mountain grass. There was no way I was going to get close to them though, you can see from the pictures that they were well aware of my presence at least 100 yards away!
Now I want to talk about something else that absolutely infuriated me yesterday. Late last light an article by the local online news site Out There Colorado alerted me to a policy enacted by Colorado Fish and Wildlife (CFW) mandating that starting in July a hunting or fishing license will be required to visit wildlife areas. Reasoning provided by CFW states “By policy, state wildlife areas are acquired with hunter and angler dollars, and are intended specifically to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation,” said Southeast Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. “This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties.”.
The policy alone infuriates me enough, but the comments following the piece were even more maddening, the bulk of which lauded the new policy because basically “hunters fund these areas” and hikers and climbers, photographers and tourists have no right to be there. First of all, how is a nature hike or wildlife photography or birding considered non-wildlife use of the land?
Secondly I am sick and tired of the BS spewed by hunters that they are the only ones who have a right to the land because they are the ones who pay for it. A quick check on the Colorado funding page indicates that only 34% of the state budget comes from passes, fees and permits, a figure which does not indicate how much of that 34% is comprised of hunting and fishing licenses versus entry fees, daily and weekly visitation permits, and commercial license fees paid by professional photography and film companies for special use. A full 34%, equaling the entire portion paid for by fees is funded by the Colorado state lottery and Great Outdoors Colorado. The Federal Government kicks in another 10% of the budget of which of course is funded by the U.S. taxpayer and the remaining 22% is funded by additional non-hunting resources.
If you consider only “wildlife management”, which is not defined by the Colorado funding site, 68% is funded by license fees and permits, which again is not itemized so that we can learn how much exactly hunters are actually paying. Incidentally, the Colorado Department of Education devotes half of it’s site to education about birding, hiking, climbing, camping, and wildlife watching without disturbing the animals. I guess that half of the site will have to be eliminated in favor of only hunting and fishing if this decision is allowed to stand.
The entire premise that hunters pay for public wild lands stems from the North American Model mostly inspired by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat from over hunting and development. One hundred years ago hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, birding, camping and photography were not really a thing and were of course not given any consideration at the time. This article in the Mountain Lion Foundation gives an indication of how much things have changed in over a century, stating that “94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public”. Another thoughtful article provided by WyoFile provides a similar figure, indicating that 95% of the funding for wildlife related agencies comes from the non-hunting public. This article from NPR cites a study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife that reveals only 5% of Americans 16 and older actually hunt. Other studies, especially in areas like Yellowstone in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, show just how much revenue the states and municipalities benefit from wildlife tourism, a figure that far exceeds the paltry sums collected by the states from hunters.
The idea that a miniscule 5% of the American populace should control the nation’s wildlife is a concept that has gone the way of the 19th century. It is well past time that the vast majority of nature loving Americans be given a voice in how our wildlife is preserved. Hopefully this egregious ruling will be quickly overturned in court and millions of Coloradoans and out of state visitors will be able to continue enjoying their land in their own way. If we continue to be denied a voice in decisions about our precious wildlife I urge you to make your voice heard at the ballot box. If our wildlife officials won’t listen, we need to vote in officials who will listen.
After a couple of days rest from my Rocky Mountain National Park Adventure I was finally ready to resume my regular regimen of hiking and wildlife photography. However a rude surprise was awaiting me at my trailhead in the form of an earth mover the size of a house. My trail is closed and they are building a super highway to the summit of my mountain. I’ll probably never see wildlife there again 😦 I don’t know why they can’t just leave some things alone.
As long as I was that far down the road I decided to go check on the leaves on the south
face of Pikes Peak. They are still a bit green but in the early light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise it was still a beautiful scene… Worth a few pictures anyway!
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Well I finally did it… I drove the length of Gold Camp Road from Victor to Colorado Springs, something I have always wanted to do but never quite worked up the nerve to actually do! I wasn’t planning on it… The plan was to test out the GPS on the phone by driving in a couple of miles to Almagre Mountain and hike a couple miles to the summit for some exercise. The GPS worked splendidly, taking me not a couple of miles, but five miles to a turn off and then three more on a rugged forest road to an unmarked turnout, at which time it told me I had “arrived at my destination”. There were no trail markings, no real hiking trail, just an ugly jeep road heading right up the side of the mountain 😦
Pretty soon another four wheeler pulled up and saw me looking up the mountain and asked me skeptically I might add, if my truck had 4wd. No, I replied… my plan was to hike the short route on foot to the summit. Looking relieved he responded, well it’s about two miles up this jeep road to another jeep road at which time you turn left to another jeep road and it will take you to the summit. Apparently there is another trailhead up yet another jeep road a couple of miles up Gold Camp that is supposed to be shorter but I wasn’t able to locate that route. Having already climbed Grouse Mountain earlier in the day I decided to abandon that plan and head for home…
However once I got back to Gold Camp Road I got to thinking it might be fun to check off that bucket list item and complete the drive down to Colorado Springs. So I turned the old Dodge left and went for broke. Lol… now for my description of Gold Camp Road… It is a stupendously bad washboard riddled, pothole filled, rocky, curvy narrow road traveling through numerous single lane sections between rocky walls that don’t always stay in place and some allegedly haunted tunnels. Several times I had to maneuver around minor cave ins, large rocks in the road and huge holes. My truck was rattling, my teeth were rattling and everything passing by in the other direction was rattling! And that was the good part… when I got closer to the Springs the ride got steeper, rockier, and even more filled with holes!
That being said though, the scenery was spectacular, especially the steep part near the Springs. There were a few places where it was possible to look back on the rugged mountains of the Pike National Forest and even though it was mid day by then some of my pictures are kind of nice, at least I think so anyway 🙂 Also the road is lined with aspen groves from end to end so I would highly recommend this route to autumn leaf seekers! I think the colors will be spectacular in late September and early October this year!
Finally I arrived at the end of the dirt road and wound the rest of my way down to the city on the paved portion of Old Stage Road, which I think is what Gold Camp used to be called. According to Westside Pioneer Online, the road has a rich old west history with it’s beginnings as a railway to transport gold ore between Cripple Creek and Midland. Now it popular with four wheelers and ATV enthusiasts and I also saw a few mountain bikers negotiating the steep ascent from Colorado Springs.
Don’t think I’ll need to make that trip again, unless maybe I finally get the jeep that I have been wanting my entire life… but that’s a whole ‘nuther story! As always a couple of these images are available for purchase as wall art and gift items on my website! The traffic and the heat down in the city were horrendous so I think I’ll just sit out the rest of the holiday weekend and wait for the tourists to go home. Next week when the mountains aren’t so crowded I may visit Waterton Canyon again and I have hopes of hiking to Continental Falls near Breck 🙂 Stay tuned!
One go to move has served me well throughout my entire life, when I am down and can’t think of anything I want to do I can always find the motivation to “get in shape”. Since my best buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge last week I haven’t felt like doing anything, nothing sounds good, nothing sounds fun and I have been just laying around the house watching stupid shows on TV.
But today the old message finally came through, “You can’t get all out of shape now.”. So even though I didn’t want to and I knew I was going to feel nothing but sadness on top of the mountain that I have never climbed without my Big Dog, I packed up my gear and drove to the trailhead. It took a lot less time to reach the summit without having to stop and dig up every prairie dog hole along the way and I got a lot more out of breath with the more steady pace that I can set without so many distractions.
But without the unbridled enthusiasm of my big four legged buddy to light the way, most of the joy has been removed from the experience. However there is still the idea in the back of my head that I am training for something greater, perhaps there will be a 14er in my future, or maybe a long hike into the wilderness to see a waterfall. I have been looking at Mount Quandary on my 14ers.com account… Maybe it will be my first peak in my sixth decade of life on this earth. Time will tell.
I didn’t see any animals at the summit, but on my way down I encountered my three buck mule deer friends who were on their way in a hurry, probably to some favorite location in the high meadows 🙂
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 difficult time of year 🙂 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
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 🙂 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. 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….
Me and the big dog went out again this morning in search of the beautiful buck mule deer that we’ve been seeing on the trail… We didn’t see the bucks but there was a nice looking elk cow meandering across the meadow that was visible when we reached the summit of our little mountain. My camera was ready to go… or so I thought, so I zoomed in and snapped the shutter. The usual satisfying mirror slap and shutter click sounded a bit off but I paid it no mind and captured a few more before she disappeared into the dense wilderness of the Pike National Forest.
Eventually our trek was complete and we found ourselves back at the parking lot where I gave Big Dog his drink and loaded ourselves back in the vehicle. As usual I made a quick check on the LCD screen of the day’s captures… First picture I looked at didn’t look too good, out of focus maybe? I always refocus a few times to make sure I get the shot so I checked another hoping to find at least one usable picture… no such luck, I stupidly didn’t check the mode wheel on the top of the camera and it was still set to Aperture Priority, which was still set for a long exposure of the river a couple of days before. Absolutely no chance of getting a sharp image of a moving elk at dawn with a 30th of a second shutter speed 😦 Nothing else to do but hit the reformat button on the memory chip and vow to do better next time.
That means I have nothing to work on today except the trip to Eleven Mile Canyon earlier this week. No wildlife to share today, but I do have a few more of the South Platte River whitewater for this blog!
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Needed a close place to photograph today… Buddy Kevin had a day off coinciding with my day off but unfortunately I had a 1:00 dentist appointment which was going to cut our day short 😦 Kevin had never been to Eleven Mile and I was thinking I was not done shooting that place yet, so the Headwaters of the South Platte River it was! The idea was going to be another attempt with the 10 stop ND filter for motion blur whitewater.
We didn’t get in on the best pre0sunrise lighting but we had some pretty good success with a couple of very scenic sections of the river with
wild whitewater scenes, along with some more traditional shots with a polarizer. Not much more to say about the trip, but here are three of my favorites :) Funny though, the one shot through the trees was an afterthought, almost didn’t even bother to shoot it, which might be the lesson of the day… go with your first instinct when you see a scene! Over analyze it and you might miss a great photo op!
As always, these images and more are available as wall art on my website on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Tons of cool gift items are also available, including household, tech and apparel! Just click the images to bring up the options!
Borrowed a 10 stop ND filter from a buddy for the weekend to shoot the whitewater of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon again. Set out early in hopes of finding a bounty of wildlife in the canyon before all the people arrived, but came up empty with that effort 😦 The plan was to drive all the way to the end of the canyon in search of wildlife and then try out the ND on the way back down.
On the way up the canyon I scouted out a few good spots where I thought an ND would work well and hit each one along the return trip. I will say this, using a 10 stop requires a lot of concentration! Fortunately I downloaded a neat little app for my phone the night before called simply “Exposure Calculator”. To use it I just set my camera to A mode at f8 and ISO 100 to get an exposure reading and plugged that info into the app as the base exposure. Then for the new exposure I plugged in the same data and selected 10 as the ND factor and wala, the app gives me my new shutter speed 🙂
I forgot my cable release so in order to successfully execute a long exposure I set my drive mode to two second timer, camera to maunal exposure mode and lens to manual focus at the same focal length and focus as the shot prior to installing the 10 stop. I also switched over to live view mode to lock up the mirror and then took the shots. Playback showed that I indeed got the correct exposure and I could see that the water was smoothed out as expected 🙂
Satisfied that I had captured the scene, I returned the camera to all the normal modes and continued down the river. Then of course I
repeated this entire process at each location, getting both motion blur and regular images of each spot. Very time consuming and the big dog didn’t appreciate all the standing around the tripod one bit 😦 Don’t think I would have the patience to do this all the time like I see some photographers on YouTube doing. But I do really like these two images and may actually get myself a 10 stop someday!
Of course these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift, household and tech items are also available with a picture, including, apparel, coffee mugs, phone battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and more! Just click the link to visit the site!