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 soΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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!

Fun in Cripple Creek

A good memory from last year… had to go down to Cripple to look at a house so I went early to get my favorite 50 cent breakfast. I was seated in Bronco Billy’s restaurant by 10 enjoying biscuits and gravy with some scrambled eggs. Granted… that’s technically two 50 cent breakfasts but who is going to quibble πŸ™‚

Then I needed to get the doggies some exercise so we buzzed over to Victor to climb Little Grouse Mountain and take in some scenery. Difficult to make out the Sangre’s today though with all the smoke from the fires but the doggies enjoyed the climb immensely πŸ™‚ During the hike I could hear the mournful sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor narrow gauge railroad which reminded me of how long I have been trying to get a shot of it!

Victor Cripple Creek Train

I was thinking I had seen a good vantage point in Victor for getting a shot of the train, but if there is I could not find it. So back to Cripple we went, in search of the tracks. I could see the railroad bed beside the road for awhile so when I got to town I followed it using some rough dirt roads until I found a place I could park and access the tracks. Then all I had to do was find a comfy spot and wait a short time for one of the trains to go through. I discovered that the track there is a two way so it is a good place to get the train coming one way and then again coming from the other direction. It took me about an hour to gather all the views and angles that I thought I might need.

Sat down in the truck to look at my haul and the breeze was blowing, birds chirping and thunder was beginning to rumble in the distance, perfect recipe for shut eye! I guess the storm must have passed without dumping any rain though because I woke up a while later, boiling in the sun 😦 Still had about an hour though so I took the doggies over to the Double Eagle parking garage out of the sun and had a whirl at the slot machines. Didn’t do too well there, lost my $5 that I put in, but I got a free beer so I’m calling it a break even… close enough anyway πŸ™‚

Checked out the house, which turns out not to be finished yet… no wall sockets or furnace of any kind. I’m suspicious that not everything is being done to code, so we will have to wait and see if there will be any financing available… Honestly I don’t really know why I am continuing to look… It’s been a discouraging 6 months looking for a place to live. Going down to the city is out of the question… so don’t even mention it! I spent my entire life trying to figure out how to get out of the city and now that I’m out I’m not going back! Who knows… maybe this one will work out after all, small but I did kind of like it and the location.

Herd of Elk

Then one final treat as I was on my way home… an elk herd in the high prairie land between Cripple and Divide. Unfortunately I was not able to get very close, but still got some nice ones of the distant herd. I thought of trying to get closer, but there was a fence and as other people began to gather the elk noticed and began to move further away. It’s not likely that I could have gotten closer even if I had tried.

Back home now processing the pictures while listening to the sound of thunder and hail rattling my roof. All in all an excellent day I’d say πŸ™‚

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

First Light

Did three things before first light today that I was not planning to do… The first was to get out of bed before first light. I had the day off and was planning to sleep in and catch up on some shut eye, but apparently I am used to arising at 4:30 a.m. now and that is just the way it is. I was also not going to take any pictures and the third thing I was never going to do again, ever… was to ride my mountain bike! After I tried it last week for the first time on these hills that was going to be it forever. My legs were quivering when I got done 😦 The reason I was not going to take any pictures is because I am tired of shooting from the same location all the time and also I watched a Youtube video where the title and theme were, “Nobody cares about your photography.”, which is probably true but just the same, a very discouraging thought.

Sangre de Cristo Lake of Fog

So unfortunately I was awake at 4:00 and Big Dog as eager to go for a walk. So without the camera we headed down the trail for his morning duties. Saw some deer in the darkness running towards the hills and then I noticed that there was an odd white glow coming from the direction of the Sangre de Cristo range. In the darkness I couldn’t tell if it was a new mantle of snow or clouds or fog or what. I could tell the sky was clear though and that the red band of alpenglow was descending upon the mountain range. So I thought, well… I’d better not miss this, it could be good!

Took the dog home, grabbed my backpack and jumped on the bike. I was not going to make it back there in time on foot and the mountain bike was the only way I was going to make the show. Fortunately my legs seem a bit stronger this week, maybe my decision to quit the bike riding was a bit premature? As I neared the overlook to the mountain range I could not believe my eyes, the fog bank and cloud action was some of the most amazing that I have seen in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre.

Sangre de Cristo Lake of Fog

I sat on a rock at the best spot and watched it all unfold. The alpenglow effect descended upon the mountains and the fog began to blow around building into tall spires almost as big as the mountains they were obscuring. I put into effect all the information I have been gathering about the best way to photograph this valley at the base of the Sangre, trying various shutter speeds and even my B&W circular polarizer for a bit. Finally the sun crested the mountains behind me and the fog began to burn off. As the mist turned to vapor in the air the Sangre became too obscure to get good pictures and I headed for home.

Lol… as it turns out though, my bike riding was not yet done for the day… Big Dog saw something he wanted to chase and snapped his wire cable in a bid for some temporary freedom. It wasn’t long before he had me on mountain bike along with two of Cripple Creek’s finest circling the blocks in their black and white SUV’s. After about an hour of chase he finally blundered into a fenced yard and decided to visit the people having a hitherto relaxing morning on their deck. Knowing him he was probably hoping for some burgers and fries, but they corralled him and I was able to give the police a thumbs up and they too went about their business.

Now I’m working on the pictures… have to say the scene was pretty amazing! Hope you enjoy them too πŸ™‚ I will soon be putting these on my website for sale as wall art and RF stock so stay tuned!

Baby Fox

I was greeted with a rare clear warm sunny morning today following a week of absolutely wretched freezing cold windy days. I could see from a glance out the window that the view of the Sangre de Cristo was already obscured from heavy haze and there were no interesting clouds either. Just a perfect Colorado mountain morning for me and Big Dog to go out walking in.

Mama and baby fox

I figured it was still early enough that there would be a good chance of seeing some deer or elk on the mountainsides so I grabbed the camera. I have plenty of shots of the Sangre in early morning sunshine so I didn’t bother to bring the polarizer. Sure enough on the trip out we spotted some mule deer grazing high on the mountainside, way too far away to get any kind of a reasonable picture. Looks like the prairie dogs are starting to come out of hibernation, or whatever the heck they do in the winter. Saw a few of them in the distance sticking their heads up to keep an eye on the dog I suppose. Haven’t done my studies on prairie dog behavior regarding hibernating and such, except that I did read that although cute from a distance they can be a bit violent and cannibalistic towards each other!

Looked like except for some good exercise for me and the dog, the day was going to be a photographic bust. But just about then I thought I could see a couple of ears sticking up above the mountain grass… Then after a closer inspection through the glass, I discovered that it was a red fox near her den so I took up a position to see if fortune would be in my photographic favor. As I steadied the camera I was delighted to see that mama was out sunning with some new babies. I thought there might be at least two but apparently by the time I got my lens focused only one was brave enough to stay above ground and pose for the camera. Unfortunately I could not get close enough to avoid having a few blades of the mountain grass obscuring part of my scene, but I was able to get a few cute ones nevertheless πŸ™‚

Little one finally scampered into the den but mama fox didn’t seem to mind me standing at a distance photographing while she continued to bask in the sun drenched mountain morning. Looks like I’m going to have to do some significant cropping on these so I don’t think I’m going to be able to make any large prints, but the wildlife sighting was a rare treat and I do a have a few nice ones to keep a record of the day πŸ™‚

The Wall

 

No not the border wall… a different wall. I expected worse this morning after a night of snow and the sound of the wind thundering across the high plains of the southern Rockies. Nevertheless, the alarm was set for 05:30 and it was going to stay that way. The coffee pot was ready to brew, the camera ready to go and the hike set.

Sangre de Cristo Alpenglow

Sangre de Cristo Alpenglow

Sipping my morning coffee and getting the weather stats I discovered that the wind was still strong enough to bring the windchill down to -1 and it looked like all I was going to be able to see was fog. However a few minutes later when it began to lighten a bit I noticed that I could just barely make out the snow capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo. Big Dog was ready to go so I bundled up and headed out the door.Β  As we headed down the trail I noticed that the alpenglow sunrise was already taking effect in the sky and I was dismayed to realize that I hadn’t accounted for the sun rising about 15 minutes earlier than the last time I tried this! So we had to run a couple of miles to make up for the miscalculation and still nearly missed the show. On the way I snapped a couple of sub par compositions just in case I managed to miss the entire thing from the top of the ridge 😦

Deer on the Mountain

Pair of mule deer on the mountain

Fortunately we arrived on the mountainside in time to witness a pretty cool sunrise. The Sangre were a beautiful red wine color, the color that Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio must have seen when he named this range the “Blood of Christ” mountains. After making sure I captured the scene to the west I noticed that the rising sun in the east and pink glow on the morning clouds made a beautiful backdrop for some aspen trees and a rustic country fence. I was really cold and wanting to get back home, but we had to stop and explore that subject for a while. After we froze our butts long enough the show was over and we turned around to head home. As we strode through the frozen landscape I noticed a couple of spots on the mountainside across the valley that looked new. Upon closer inspection I determined that they were actually a small herd of deer and although I could not get very close they did turn the usually boring mountainside into a worthy composition πŸ™‚

As we made the return trip I was still reveling in the magnificence of the Sangre de Cristo sunrise. The Sangre de Cristo range is called a fault block mountain range, a rugged wall of mountains rising directly up from the plains much like the Tetons in Wyoming and the Sierra Nevada in California. As a result of their formation by risingΒ  or falling cracks in the earth’s crust there are no foothills, just an imposing massive impenetrable wall of mountains.

When standing in the presence of such beauty it is impossible for a spiritual minded person to neglect the Creator of such majesty. While considering the towering wall formed by the “Blood of Christ” mountains I began to ponder another wall created by the Blood of Christ, the wall between the carnal and the spiritual.

Lately many in the media and social media feel themselves to be eminently qualified to comment on and gleefully insult concepts they know nothing about. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” That they know nothing about what they are saying is not their fault. They cannot comprehend the other side of the “wall” because they have never seen the other side and knowledge of it has been closed to them. Fortunately there has been provided one and only one door for mankind to pass through and obtain access to the other side of that wall.

Β β€œEnter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The Sangre de Cristo is the narrow gate that few will discover. Only those who have accepted that truth will experience the other side of the great divide separating the spiritual from the carnal. Until then those who have not passed through remain unqualified to comment on Christianity, the scriptures and the faith of the believers that they so despise. In fact they are not even qualified to read the scriptures… they can try but they will read in vain, without understanding. My hope is that the blind leaders of the blind will honestly seek answers to the questions they so glibly and hatefully attempt to answer, and open the door to the Savior who stands ready to open the narrow gate to all who truly want to enter,Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

 

Some Days There’s Only One

Not such a successful couple of days shooting, if you want to count keepers. Yesterday there was a beautiful sunrise lighting the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and I was able to get a few shots of it before the light changed… Unfortunately none of them turned out. It was a difficult situation with the a nearby landscape in front of the more distant mountains. I assumed that the horizon was far enough away for the lens to focus on infinity, making both the foreground and the mountains both sharply in focus, but I was wrong. Usually that works, but in this case there was just too much distance between the two landscapes and the foreground details were simply too close. The foreground would have disappeared nicely into silhouette and the distant mountains would have been sharp, if I had chosen more accurately. I should have tried both, but apparently I thought I had nailed it. Oh well, live and learn, with emphasis on learning!

Sangre Mountain Sunrise

Sunrise and Fog on the Sangre

On the other hand maybe any photo batch that has one keeper could be considered a success. I was luckier this morning, I made the same mistake but in this case the distant mountains were shrouded in clouds and fog and the lack of sharpness there didn’t adversely affect the image πŸ™‚ So, lesson learned and one keeper to show for it.

The day has devolved into a cloudy windy snowy day, perfect for staying inside snuggled up on the couch buried in puppies. As always, this image and more are available for purchase from my image gallery both as wall art and commercial stock. Hope you will stop in and have a look! New images include beautiful lighting on the south face of Pikes Peak, some mountain landscapes of the Sangre and some shots of elk and deer to round it out!

Making a Life vs Making a Living

Another in a jumbled pile of random thoughts that has been prodding me lately… Finally after half a year of grave yard shifts, next week I get to move to the day shift. Apparently there is an odd soul who despises working days who is more than happy to take my place πŸ™‚ Anyway, I don’t sleep well or even at all during the day so I have basically gone pretty much without sleep four days out of the week for this entire time. On the nights I work I spend the entire day trying to sleep and worrying about the next day… by the time the week ends I am so trashed that I am completely disfunctional until it is time to go back to work and do it all over again.

Deer in Wildflowers

So… for all these months I have been making a living, but not a life. However, I am finally getting put together the things that help make a life, things like a checking account, internet service, a routine and friends. I am looking forward to once again having a life, not just living to make a living.

As I was working on my laptop today which I have largely neglected since I didn’t have internet service I noticed that all my accounts, my agencies and my blog have the wrong phone numbers, address and various other details that require my attention. Not terribly surprising… but I also noticed that I haven’t shot many pictures worth uploading lately. So I decided to take a look back at last year, especially since with my latest photo shop updates I have acquired the Adobe Stock publishing button available right in Adobe Bridge πŸ™‚

Misty Peak

What is surprising to me though, is an apparent inattention to uploading that plagued my photography last year… I wonder what was going through my mind to just shoot these images and not upload them? When I look back a few years at some of my older photo shoots I can remember the very day that I captured the pictures… What I was doing, thinking, and where I was at that exact moment. As I look back on last year I don’t remember these pictures or how I came about getting them.

Interestingly last year was the same as this year… working late at night at a physically exhausting job. No energy for anything but work, no strength to make a life, just a living. Anyway, now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel I am glad I had the mental acumen to keep my camera with me and keep shooting because some of these pictures are amazing! I just wish I could remember having fun shooting them!

Oh well, no great words of wisdom on what to do about it but at least if you read this and find yourself making a living and not a life, perhaps you might recognize it and hopefully make a change… Sometimes it is all out of our control though and all we can do is pray for the strength to get through it.

As always there are many new images for sale on my website which you can view by clicking the links to the left, or by bringing up the menu if you are on a smart phone!

Winter Photography, Shooting in the Snow

Snow is probably my favorite photo subject… If not the actual snow, maybe it is the beautiful transformation of vvour big brown rocks into an amazing  Rocky Mountain winter wonderland that captivates me!

Elk in a Colorado snowstorm

Rocky Mountain elk in a Colorado snowstorm

Today brings the first real snow we have seen in the mountains in a long time, so of course I had to go out in it πŸ™‚ I’m pretty sure Big Dog loves the white stuff even more than I do so I had no trouble talking him into a trek! He seems impervious to cold and wind and was up for whatever we needed to do!

The wind is blowing pretty hard and those snowflakes sting! I decided on my snorkel parka today which was perfect. It’s not actually that cold so my Gortex Asolo light hikers were fine for protecting my feet. No snowshoes needed today, looks worse out than it is. Three or four inches is about all we are going to see out of this one.

For camera protection I prefer the AquaTech rain shield, good for rain or snow. It has to be a pretty rough day for me to need more than my REI glove liners, which are perfect for operating the camera controls in cold weather. The last time they were used as actual glove liners was on top of Mount Elbert!!!

The whiteout conditions make a mockery of the camera metering system and it is difficult to run the controls with the rain cover so I just set the ISO to 400 for the cloudy conditions with exposure compensation at +1.5. I also lock the control wheel so it won’t inadvertently change and ruin my day!

With that done I’m good to go and with any luck the deer and elk will be huddled somewhere I can find them!

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 πŸ™‚

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!