Adventure in the Pike National Forest

https://youtu.be/Ga7N6DfZK4o photo adventure including deer and the Sangre de Cristo range

First Picture of 2021

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonI went out looking for hawks yesterday, without success… but today at Eleven Mile Canyon I had better luck. Got my first picture of the year as the bald eagles appeared over the South Platte River. The first one spotted was perched high in the tops of the pine trees, and he remained in place long enough for me to get my very first image of 2021 ๐Ÿ™‚

Eventually he took flight and I got a few more before he disappeared around the bend. The rest of the day was quite successful as well, with the capturing of numerous images of the proud birds in flight and perched in the trees above the bitterly cold South Platte River.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

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!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 theย  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!

Christmas Star

Decided to try my hand at shooting the Christmas Star last evening… this is my first time shooting anything past the moon so I wasn’t holding out much hope… It seems like it would be easy enough shooting, just focus and shoot! Well, it turns out to be not so easy!

The Christmas Star

I did a little research and set the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Camera on my big carbon fiber tripod… live view and two second timer to avoid camera shake. I believe I actually captured the best image I could get with the equipment I have. The conjunction looked pretty sharp on the screen… not so much on the image itself. With a little experimentation I found that a third of a second with ISO 100 gave me the sharpest image. Anything faster than 1/3s and all I got was two faint blips in the sky. Slower than that and the planets were just a blur.

Perhaps I will still try my hand at a long exposure of the stars someday, but the planets would appear to require much more sophisticated equipment to successfully capture. So many factors… the earth is spinning at 1000 mph and traveling around the sun at a rate of 30 kilometers per second. Jupiter is moving as well, traveling around the sun at a speed of almost 30,000 mph and rotating at almost 28,000 mph. Then you have to factor in how much dust or other material might be in the way of an object 552 million miles away! So my little camera and my relatively slow lens with a best aperture of f8 with the 1.4x teleconverter is incapable of freezing all that action.

As you can see in the image Jupiter has already moved in just a third of a second. Saturn fared a little better, you can actually see the rings, even if there is little detail left in the spinning mass of gas. Saturn is further away… over a billion miles from the earth and traveling a bit slower at only 21,000 mph.ย  As expected, it isn’t quite as distorted as Jupiter in my images, but still no real detail.

The image below was shot at a one second shutter speed with ISO 400, more blurry and less detail than the shorter exposure, but I was able to bring in Jupiter’s moons ๐Ÿ™‚ย  All in all a fun experience, but I believe I’ll be sticking to wildlife photography in the future!

The Christmas Star

Wild Winter Solstice

Herd of Mule Deer

It was a wild morning on this 2020 winter solstice! I was much relieved to see the Three Amigos again, I haven’t seen them for months and was afraid a hunter had gotten them. Actually I am thinking of calling them the Fab Four since they have been roaming with another buddy since the fall, the fourth member was already at the tree line when I took this shot. Of course I know the Fab Four is also the name for the Beatles, but if you ask me the musicians don’t hold a candle to these big boys! They didn’t stick around long though, soon after they spotted me they began meandering toward the dense woods on the north and west side of the mountain.

Herd of Mule Deer

As my trek veered toward the north I spotted the rest of the herd making their way west as well, enjoying some mountain grass along the way. It looked to me like I would get some really nice shots in good light if I used some patience and waited for them to pass, so I took a seat on a big rock and waited. They were actually moving along pretty steadily so it wasn’t long before I began to get some good opportunities. However I noticed that they started nervously looking back and moving a little faster. I was pretty sure I wasn’t disturbing them as I peered into the distance to see what might be coming out of the trees over the hill, a coyote perhaps? Soon the disturbance came into view… my nemesis with the two dogs was coming up the trail behind me, and soon the deer were galloping

Herd of Mule Deer

toward the safety of the trees to the north. I did my best to capture the herd running, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for such an event. The original plan was to leisurely shoot them grazing in the grass at a relatively slow shutter speed and correspondingly low ISO value. I scrambled to reset the camera and fired a few frames off over a few seconds and then they were gone. I tell you, this guy is ruining my life, every day chasing away my livelihood ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I hope he moves on soon… or maybe this is a sign that it’s time for me to move on, perhaps closer to Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe even Montana.

Such a brief encounter wasn’t enough to satisfy my wildlife fix today so I decided to drive on up to Eleven Mile Canyon in hopes of spotting some eagles or maybe some more deer or even a herd of elk! The initial drive up the canyon yielded exactly nothing, except that I did see the eagle lady driving back down the canyon… peering intently into the trees along the river. At the top I just turned around and headed back down hoping for a more fruitful pass through the canyon on the return trip. On my way down I spotted the eagle lady headed back up, I guess I should find out her name…

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually my journey came to an end and I had nothing to show for it. I pondered the eagle lady’s strategy and began to wonder if I should make a second trip? What the heck, I had already paid the fee and I wouldn’t be coming back for a while so I turned big blue back around and began a second pass through the beautiful wilderness along the headwaters of the South Platte. Soon I came upon the eagle lady out of her car with camera in hand, so I pulled up behind her and got out to see what the excitement was. Sure enough she had spotted a baldy in a pine tree looking intently at a section of open water, for fish I presume!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile CanyonEventually he flew off in the opposite direction and I continued my drive up the canyon. No more eagle sightings but I did find a nice red-tailed hawk, also fishing along the river. He didn’t stay perched for long and I managed to get a nice shot of him in flight before he drifted away, well out of range for pictures.

I hoped for more on the way down but I was satisfied with the days good fortune and just enjoyed the scenery and the solitude the rest of the way down.

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!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile Canyon

Fitting End

Rocky Mountain Sunset

This amazing Rocky Mountain sunset is a fitting end to a great weekend… Friday of course was the beautiful sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Range where I was able to capture such a nice pano. Saturday was the magnificent morning in Garden of the Gods… and this evening, such a beautiful sunset marking the end of the weekend.

I almost missed the entire thing, just happened to need to take out the trash and the second I stepped out the door I noticed the soft orange glow enveloping the entire town. I looked to the west and to the south and saw these spectacular lenticular clouds shining in the soft glow of the setting Colorado sun. I ran in and got my camera and quickly fired off a couple of shots. Unfortunately my 100-400mm lens was too long to adequately capture the scene so I had to scramble back in the house to get the 24-105.

Rocky Mountain Sunset

Fortunately the fiery display was still in full glory so I grabbed a few more frames. I started out with 1/400th of a second because that’s just what the camera happened to be set to, but I quickly noticed the high ISO value and dialed it back to 1/60th which brought it down to a much more agreeable ISO 250. With those settings I shot until the colors began to fade.

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!

Rocky Mountain Sunset

Alpenglow on the Sangre

Something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time… a panorama of the Sangre de Cristo at first light in the alpenglow. My original plan was a quick hike up Grouse Mountain to look for deer and elk, but as I drove past the overlook I noticed the amazing pink glow on the beautiful range named for the “Blood of Christ”.ย  I took several images in three sets to capture the entire range and I find myself happiest with the first set.

Alpenglow on the Sangre de Cristo

In blending the images to pano in Adobe Photoshop I noticed that the “auto” option doesn’t always work right. For this one the “perspective” option produced the best rendition.ย  I also noticed an odd effect prior to “flattening” the image, there was the appearance of the images looking like puzzle pieces.ย  At first I thought I had made a mistake in the shooting that might cause them not to stitch properly, but after a bit of research it appears that the effect was just an artifact of the many layers not displaying correctly. Once I flattened the image the stitching was perfect.

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!

Where the Spirit Moves

I had no plan at all when I awoke this morning… I might have been content to just sit in my chair with the dog and drink coffee, but as often occurs right about sunrise my mind wandered to my favorite mountain trail and it wasn’t long before I was dressed and out the door.

My hike to the summit of Grouse Mountain yielded nothing but a bit of exercise and before long I was back in the truck. As I contemplated going home with nothing to show for my day but the Spirit began stirring me to drive out to Eleven Mile again, a place I had recently decided I wasn’t going to visit for a while.

Big Herd of Elk

Saw this elk herd on my way, I would have stayed for more pictures but the huge beasts spotted me and began to run and I didn’t want them getting injured in a stampede so I quickly jumped back in the truck. The plan worked, almost as soon as I was out of sight they settled back down and went back to grazing on the mountain grass. Our elk in Teller County aren’t like the friendly ones in Rocky Mountain National Park that you can practically walk right up to!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

As I drove into the parking lot I spotted my two favorite bald eagles sitting on a huge boulder together, surrounded by a fan club of crows. Unfortunately by the time I got out my camera, one of the huge raptors had already flown over to an ice floe in the river. I snapped a couple of the remaining bird with the crows and then it flew off as well. Much to my surprise though, the eagle made a return trip… circling past me a couple of times before flying past the cliffs to a treetop near the nest. I believe this is as close as I have ever been to a bald eagle in the wild and I am so happy that all the settings on my camera were just right for an eagle in flight! Very fortunate event in the life of a wildlife photographer ๐Ÿ™‚

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

In the meantime the other eagle had flown back into the woods as well, perching on another treetop behind the nest, almost completely obscured by tree branches. I watched for about an hour, listening to the two mates calling out to each other but it appeared that they were done flying around for a while. I have learned eagles are content to sit on their branches for hours at a time if they aren’t in need of a meal.

Just as I was ready to call it a day this little muskrat came out to visit, making a couple of passes to check me out and see what I was up to ๐Ÿ™‚

Muskrat in the South Platte River

My plans for the last couple of weeks have pretty much been a bust, nothing much from a trip to Waterton and nothing to speak of from another planned visit to Eleven Mile State Park on free State Park day. Gets me to thinking… maybe it’s best to just go where the Spirit Moves, after all… they are His Creation!

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!

Giving Thanks

Today I’m giving thanks that I spent my day out in the wilderness instead of fighting Black Friday crowds ๐Ÿ™‚ Cold but beautiful upon arrival at Eleven Mile Canyon, the cold and fog were bone chilling, the eagles absent and sunrise appeared non existent. It didn’t take long before my hands and feet

Sunrise in the Rockies

were so cold that I decided to give up on waiting for action by the river. Kevin would be arriving soon and I decided to just wait it out in the truck. I know, what a wimp right?

However the instant I turned around I spotted a peak, one that I have apparently never noticed before… This time it was enshrouded in fog and the morning sun was shining right on it. I’ve probably looked at it a million times, but I had never seen it glowing with such glory!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile Reservoir

Kevin and I decided to hike over for a quick look at the other side of the dam where we saw a lone goose and some really cold icy looking water. We heard one lone bird on the west side of the canyon calling out from a really good hiding place and we decided to just head over to Eleven Mile Res for free state park day. The reservoir proved to be even colder and foggier than the canyon but we took a quick drive through the park in hopes of spotting the eagles. No eagles, but we did see a really miserable looking prairie falcon sitting on a fence post. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one before, but according to my ebird app, I have a new life sighting with this capture! That can’t be a bad thing!ย  As stealthily as possible we got out of the truck to capture an image. I quickly grabbed this shot of him on the fence post but he quickly flew away below

Scenery in Eleven Mile State Park

the fence line where I couldn’t get focus on him. By the time I was able to get an in flight shot all I could get was a distant flying away image, certainly nothing to jump up and down about.

A short hike on the hiking trails revealed some spectacular stark beauty. Something about the cold and

Scenery in Eleven Mile State Park

snow inspires me… I can never resist the opportunity for these captures! We hiked around an inlet in the lake in hope of spotting bald and golden eagles on the other side but it quickly became apparent that the fog was going to obscure our view of the northeast side of the reservoir from seeing much of anything so back to the truck we went for a return trip to the canyon.

Doe Mule Deer in Eleven Mile CanyonThe view was much better upon our return to the canyon so we decided upon a road trip into the deeper reaches along the beauty of the pristine South Platte River, thinking just maybe… the eagles might be fishing in some of the deep pools in the calm parts of the waterway…

Fog and Snow in Eleven Mile Canyon

Once again, no luck with the raptors, but we did spot a small herd of mule deer enjoying the lush grass on the other side of the river. One particularly cute doe proved to be my favorite of the day ๐Ÿ™‚ There were also a couple of magnificent scenes in the snowy icy waters of the magnificent canyon that merited a stop and a few captures.

At first I was thinking the day was a bust photographically but after loading my take for the day onto the computer it turns out I am actually pretty happy with what we experienced. Of course any day in the wilderness is going to be a day in the city hands down!

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!

Waterton Collection and New Photoshop Techniques

Working on some new stuff these days… I finally have enough images of beautiful Waterton Canyon to make a separate collection on my website for them.ย  Included in this amazing category are tons of bighorn sheep, beaver, deer and the lovely pristine waters of the South Platte River as it streams out of the Rockies on it’s way through eastern Colorado and Nebraska, all the way to it’s destination as it joins the Mighty Missouri River near Omaha.

Bighorn Sheep Waterton

Fortunately I was able to add a few more to the new Waterton Collection today from our latest mountain bike adventure yesterday. The sheep weren’t too active on such a lazy beautiful early winter day but we were lucky to see Scruff all by himself making his way past the cliffs and up to higher ground where he would enjoy his day from the lofty heights of the canyon walls.

Bighorn sheep herd in Waterton Canyon Colorado

As we rode up the rugged road we did spot the entire herdย  resting up on a grassy mountainside, not a very photogenic scene but a welcome sighting anyway. As we waited and hoped for them to come down for a drink in the river a rumor emerged that a beaver was busy building a new lodge near the diversion dam at the 2.5 mile marker near the picnic grounds.

Beaver in Waterton Canyon

We decided to take a quick ride up there to see if we could get a shot of the little guy hard at work. Indeed, we did catch a few glimpses of the hard working wilderness construction worker as he brought a few sticks from upstream to add to his new home which will hopefully house up to six of the photogenic aquatic rodents in the near future!

After a small lunch at the nearby picnic grounds we headed back down for another look at the sheep herd which had barely moved in the hour or so that we were upstream. We watched for about 45 minutes for any sign of action before giving up and heading back to the truck.

I’ve been messing around with a couple of features that I’ve never felt the need for in the past, the radial and graduated filters now available in Adobe Camera Raw. Others have been using these features to create much more dramatic images so I guess I’m going to have to keep up!

Bighorn Sheep Waterton

Anyway, I have been using the radial filter on certain wildlife images, mainly the portrait style captures of bighorn sheep. I just click on the animal’s head, adjust the ellipse to cover a pleasing area of the face and horns, select invert selection to adjust only the background and less important parts of the subject and make adjustments to darken or brighten the background as needed to make the face stand out more. You can also adjust the percent of feathering to make the transition in the mask less noticeable. In this particular image I left the face alone and darkened the back part of his body and the cliff walls to create a more dramatic effect.

South Platte River in Waterton Canyon

The use of the graduated filter is more obvious, darken or lighten certain parts of the image to correct uneven lighting. To use this I just select the filter and drag up or down to set the direction of the effect. You an also change the angle of the horizon to match the needs of the image as well.ย  In this image the contrast between the dark and light parts of the river was too great to create a useful image so I used a dark filter on the top half to calm down the intense brightness of the sunshine on the water.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonAs the action in the bighorn sheep rut season winds down I am looking forward to the next great mating season in Colorado. The time of the eagle migration and mating season is nearly upon us and rumor has it that a few of theย  great raptors have already been gathering in Eleven Mile Canyon. I am also looking forward to up to 50 bald eagles making their winter visit to Barr Lake State Park next month to fish and look for a mate! Be sure to hit the follow button so you don’t miss any upcoming action in the Colorado wilderness!

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!