New Snow

Snow was falling steadily when I finally turned in last night. I knew it was going to be amazing this morning so at first light me and the big dog went out to investigate. With all the fresh powder from the night’s snowstorm the snowshoes came in handy! Big Dog was bounding through the new snow like a puppy, and the receding storm clouds over the Sangre de Cristo range were breath taking 🙂

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

And I have to say, this 400mm Canon lens is amazing, the magnification, the exposures, the contrast, all stunning. And for big 400mm glass, this lens is quite easy to carry around. The tension ring is a beautiful piece of engineering, easy to loosen when you want to zoom and easy to tighten when you don’t want the lens extending while walking or running. Plus you can lock your lens in place at any focal length and it won’t creep in or out while you are shooting.

This shot was taken from the top of the ridge where we finally turned around to head back to the trailhead, my favorite picture of the day. One day when I have more time I will go back and process some more of these captures for the stock agencies.

As always this image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and with traditional framing and matting. Cool gift, household and tech items are also available with one of our images! Just click on your favorite picture to see all the product options and pricing!

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Unexpected Gift

Mystical Clouds on the Sangre

My legs felt like rubber this morning and my eyes didn’t want to open. On my way to get my first cup of coffee I looked out the window and there was nothing but clouds in the direction of the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo. So I got my coffee and I sat on the couch, probably as close to comatose as you can get ;( Couple of cups of coffee and a healthy chocolate chip muffin later Big Dog was at the door, looking at me with those huge pleading brown eyes… what are ya gonna do. Grabbed the camera bag and headed for the snowshoe trailhead. Along the way I took a good look at the overlook at the mountains… still nothing. Looked like I was just going to have a nice morning romp in the snow with the big dog.

Eventually we cleared the ridge and the huge peaks of the continental divide came into view.

Mystical Clouds on the Sangre

The clouds and parted somewhat and the scene had evolved into this beautiful wispy, mystical cloudy mountain landscape made for picture taking! So I snapped a few then moved to the north a ways to get a different angle but by then the largest peak was becoming completely obscured again. Just happy now that I was there to capture these images at the right moment when the clouds parted for me to see the Sangre de Cristo Range 🙂

It’s been a while since I have seen any wildlife up there, I have no idea where they went. Maybe in the severe cold we have been having they all decided to move to lower elevations? I’ll get my chance to check out the lower valleys later this week so stay tuned!

Stunning Sangre de Cristo

It’s not always easy to put down my coffee and go out into the cold with my snowshoes at sunrise, but if you want to get the pictures there is no other choice. There is nothing like first light on the mountains. However it does help to have an enthusiastic partner… Big Dog is always ready to go, well before sunrise if need be 😦

So off we went, to the trailhead while looking for any deer or elk we might find along the way. Past the overlook, it didn’t look like this morning was going to be anything spectacular and I saw no need to pull over for any photography there. At the trailhead… strap on the snowshoes and head up the mountain into the cold and the wind. My eyes scanned the edge of the forest for any critters that might be trying to catch some early morning rays, but there were none. I don’t know where the animals all went but I haven’t seen any stirring since the elk departed the other day.

It was looking like all we were going to get today was some exercise, nothing wrong with that though! There is no such thing as a bad day of snowshoeing! But as we crested the ridge I could see the tops of the peaks and something had dramatically changed! The sun was shining underneath the cloud cover right onto the Sangre de Cristo Range giving them a stunning soft early morning glow that would take your breath away! So me and the big dog began running, not an easy thing to do on back country snow shoes! But I knew the scene would not last and there was no shot from where I was. It was about a quarter of a mile to the edge of the mountain I was on and we had to get there before the light changed!

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo

Of course Big Dog thought running in the snow was the bomb, but by the time we got there I was pretty out of breath and wondered if I would even be able to steady the long lens. But most importantly, we had made it in time and the soft glow of first light still shown magnificently on the rugged range in the distance. I dialed back the ISO to 200, down from the 400 that I was prepared to shoot wildlife with and decided upon a exposure compensation of +2/3. A little fiddling and I tried a few more with ISO 100 and a few with compensation of +1. As I look at the pictures on the computer I’m not sure which worked out better, but they all turned out beautifully 🙂 I’ll study the results more carefully later on, right now I’m going to have some more coffee and some waffles while I try to warm up!

Oh, here’s a nice tip… when you come in from the cold just leave your camera in the bag for a while. The camera is cold, the bag is cold and both will warm up slowly and safely. If you don’t expose the camera to the warm air right away there is a lot less chance of damage caused by condensation!

As always these images and more are available on my website in the “Sangre de Cristo Gallery” as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, and traditional framing and matting materials. #swkrullimaging pictures can also be purchased on a ton of cool gift, tech and household items such as t-shirts, gift cards, phone chargers, blankets, pillows and more!

 

A Day Off and Random Musings

Checked Accuweather when I awoke this morning… -11f with a real feel of -35f was the report. A quick trip outdoors for Big Dog’s morning duties also revealed another inch or so of fresh powder. Off in the distance I could hear the sound of snowplows out cleaning up the mess. Forgot to bring in the trash can from yesterday, finally found it a block away in a snowbank, I thought I could hear the wind howling last night through the fog of sleep.

Considering all that and also how dang tired I am from all the physical activity these days, the decision was made… a day off. Well almost off, Big Dog still needed his morning walk down the street to the open space to finish all his morning duties. My instinct was to grab the camera but I didn’t feel like it and off we went. Well the Sangre de Cristo Range was on fire from the sunrise on the new storm clouds heading this way and I was just sick… I knew by the time I got home and back with the camera the show would all be over. Oh well, I captured some the other day that were probably about the same and just as good.

Herd of Deer on a Winter MorningFortunately I did get out yesterday for some snowshoeing and shooting. Thought our hike was going to come up dry, but as we started our descent I saw three bucks headed the other way in a hurry, so fast in fact that I almost missed them! I didn’t have my camera on the right focus selection and I couldn’t bet my snowshoes turned around fast enough to catch them all, but I finally did get composed for one shot of the last buck making his way through the deep snow :) I wasn’t satisfied with the pictures from on our hike so we headed up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns might be out. Unfortunately they weren’t so I headed for home to start adding up the books so I can do my taxes. But as I neared my home I thought, “I wonder if I should drive up Teller 1 to look for the elk?”. Naa… probably won’t see any, it will be a wasted trip.

Used to be my only criteria for hopping in the truck and going somewhere was whether

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak

or not I wanted to go. Now there is always this voice in the back of my mind haunting me… asking, will it be profitable? Back in the day in school they made us study the Great Depression and one thing about it has always stuck in my mind… the people that went through that terrible time were changed forever, their whole way of thinking about the future permanently scarred. I didn’t really understand that then, but now after the Great Recession I get it. I was a software engineer in the aerospace industry at the time and we had seen many ups and downs. I had somehow managed to survive all the down times but I had plenty of friends who didn’t, but they all found other jobs some in completely different fields. And with contracts constantly won and lost we all knew that one day the axe would fall for the final time and we would all have to find something else to do.

Herd of Deer on a Winter Morning

There were plenty of jobs that I thought I would like, the camera stores for example,  we had a brand new Circuit City and they had techies there…  I loved book stores, maybe that would be a fun place to be. Our mobile disc jockey service had always done well and I was still picking up some wedding photography, perhaps more if I put my mind to it. Well that was until the Great Recession. Suddenly it was all gone… our brand new Circuit City went out of business, the book stores that I loved closed their doors, the computer stores were all boarded up, and 50 percent of Denver’s camera stores bit the dust. Every backup plan gone in an instant it seemed like. I still remember my wife asking me, “So what’s Plan B?”, my reply, “there is no Plan B.”. I still don’t know how we survived it, one day at a time, one miracle at a time I guess.

But like the survivors of the Great Depression, my thinking is changed, my confidence in the future diminished. So I guess that is why the usage of each dollar is prefaced with the question, “Is this going to be profitable, or is there a more thrifty option?”. So I almost didn’t go yesterday, the voice in the back of my mind was saying, “There aren’t going to be any elk.”.  But I decided there was enough of a chance that it would be worth such a small effort. Maybe 30 miles of driving for a good payoff?

Herd of Deer on a Winter Morning

Well as it turns out I didn’t see any elk, but I did see these deer out of the corner of my eye. Had to turn around and drive back to get the shots and I thought the freezing wind was going to blow me into the next county! But it was well worth the effort, the picture of the doe with the two bucks is one of my favorite of all time so I’m glad I made the trip 🙂 And maybe that is a lesson to be learned about taking chances. Those terrible years are behind us now, maybe it is time for a new mindset. Maybe I don’t want to be like the survivors of the Great Depression, maybe it’s time to leave fear and despair behind and take on a mindset of optimism and hope and winning again!

As always these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, canvas, traditional framing and matting and tons of cool household, tech, and gift items!

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

We have had a beautiful springlike couple of days but this morning’s clouds portend a change… Snow and cold are on the way for later this week, temperatures will be dropping back to near zero for a couple of days. Big Dog and I were up early today so just

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

before sunrise we grabbed the camera and the snowshoes and headed for the mountains. I could see that it was going to be a beautiful sunrise and indeed it was. But the real show was not to the east, but to the southwest where the alpenglow effect was illuminating the Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peaks ranges in a beautiful pink glow. I found a good spot and pulled over for a few shots before going on to the trailhead where I hoped for another photo op with the elk herd. For some reason however, they were not there today, no sign of them at all. It’s like they have vanished off the face of the earth! Oh well… maybe this week’s cold weather will bring them back down to lower elevations. Lol… and by lower elevations, I mean 10,000 feet 🙂

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

Our snowshoe hike yielded nothing in the way of wildlife. Did get a few shots of the storm clouds gathering on the Sangre though, some of the nicest that I have seen in a long time!

As always these pictures are available on my website as wall art and cool gift items! Please give us a visit if you like what you see!

The Privilege of Wildlife

On a morning like this I feel so privileged. There are very few places where a person can regularly go out a few minutes from home and suddenly find himself in the midst of a wilderness scene like the one I experienced this today 🙂

Elk Herd on a Winter Morning

I was at the trailhead early, just before sunrise and just in time to see the elk herd again. I think there were even more animals in the herd today and I could here them calling, talking to each other I guess. Anyway it was amazing to be in the presences of complete silence other than the breeze in the pine trees and the sound of pure wilderness. Well, there was no time to waste, all the talk I was hearing could be an elk discussion about heading up the mountainside! So I raised the big 400mm to my eye and steadied it on a fence post for a few shots. I always make sure I set up and start shooting as quickly as possible. Nothing worse than fiddling around and ending up with no record at all of your encounter!

Once I was sure I had something to show for the day I began slowly moving up the trail for a better view of the action. There is a fence at the trailhead to keep in the free range cattle so the

Elk Herd on a Winter Morning

elk had to negotiate that before moving higher. There is a gate which is kind of like a mini maze which does a good job of keeping in the cows. But the elk have figured it out just fine and most of the animals were just walking right through it, but some decided to jump the fence instead. Elk and deer have no trouble at all in jumping a five foot fence. They don’t even have to take a run at it. From a standing start they just hop right over.

Elk Herd on a Winter MorningSoon all the magnificent beasts were on the other side and they began the journey to the dense pine forest on the other side of the mountain top. I followed on my snowshoes for a while hoping they would stop. They did gather in the meadow at the top where I was able to capture a few more images, but they soon noticed me and vanished into the wilderness. Pretty much all the imagery I captured there was elk butt heading in the other direction!

I hiked another mile or so around the mountain in hopes of another encounter to no

Elk Herd on a Winter Morning

avail. However there was a good view of the sun rising on the southern mountains which made the extra miles worth the effort. Hopefully I’ll have time to process those in the next couple of days.

As a side note to myself, I may have accidentally learned a new trick. In all the excitement I accidentally bumped the exposure compensation wheel and shifted it from +2/3 of a stop to 0 compensation. I thought for sure I had blown the entire shoot, but as it turns out a quick check of the histogram showed a decent exposure to the left and the unintended benefit of that was a faster shutter speed. The images were well within tolerance of Camera Raw to be able to drag the exposure over and the faster shutter speed resulted in those images being sharper than the more accurately exposed ones! Don’t think I would make such an extreme adjustment on purpose, but I might consider a third of a stop shutter speed increase to be a good choice some morning!

As always these images and more are available as wall art on my website on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool household, tech, and gift items are also available! Just click the “elk” gallery to view only images of elk and then click an image you like to view all the product options and pricing!

Morning Delight

As I pulled the old Dodge into the trailhead parking this morning I thought I could see movement in the predawn light so I parked a little sideways to get a better look. Sure enough, there was an elk herd grazing and moseying up the mountainside from where

Morning Elk Herd

ever they were bedded down last night. Rather than charging up the hill with Big Dog like I usually do I got the camera ready and lingered a bit, hoping for the sun to crest the ridge to the east so I could have better light for a shot of the magnificent beasts.

Patience paid off as the sun finally did poke through bathing the mountain top in a beautiful warm morning glow. By then the animals had noticed me and were moving up the mountain into the light and I was able to capture this nice image of the mini migration. Lol, except for this young fellow below who had apparently found something else to do rather than pay attention to what the adults were doing. By this time he had noticed and was scrambling to catch up 🙂

Young Elk on the Run

I was hoping that as we rounded the hillside on the trail that we would get a chance to see them again in the high meadow, but by the time we arrived up there the elk were all gone. Vanished like ghosts into the dense wilderness to the south. Got a few more images of this herd that I will probably try to work on later… unless of course I just decide to go shooting again!