Birds Eye View

I promised this bird’s eye view with the wide angle… and today was the day 🙂 I had other reasons for making this climb too… I wanted to see if I could find Mr. Hawk, the rough legged hawk I found up there the other day. There was a beautiful fog bank today so I was also thinking I might be able to get a neat wide angle of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

This time I was smart, in addition to packing the wide angle I also had the forethought to bring some fluids and energy bars 🙂 The initial climb to the top of the first ridge is pretty invigorating to say the least, but is often rewarded with a few shots of deer or elk at the top. Nothing today and no sign of Mr. Hawk either.

Beyond the high meadow is a patch of forest that I’ve been eyeing for a couple of years, the place where the elk go to vanish when I try to follow them. I’ve always wondered what it was like in there, I don’t see any sign of a real trail of any kind. I decided against going directly in there and chose a path around the edge as I climbed higher with the summit in mind.

Eventually I had two choices, the long way around the south end of the summit, or a short cut directly through part of the forest, I chose the short cut and finally after all these years I got to see inside the apparently impenetrable woods. It seems as though this forest has been untouched for a long time, many fallen trees lying all over the place making a direct path impossible. Don’t think I would want to be there in a windstorm, you might be the unlucky recipient of a large pine tree on top of your head 😦 I found a deer trail of sorts and followed it in and around all the dead foliage to the final approach to the summit.

From there it was just a short walk to my favorite vantage point, one that I had first

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

scouted out with my dog years ago. I found a good spot to take off my pack and sit in full view of the beauty before me. The dense fog of early morning had given way to a picturesque layer just beneath the Sangre de Cristo Range in the distance. I just sat there for a while taking in the view, but mostly just feeling heartbroken that my four legged buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge some time back and wasn’t there to enjoy the conquest with me.

Eventually I summoned the strength and attached my 24-105 lens with a circular polarizer to cut through the residual morning haze. As it turned out the images looked the best with about a 50mm focal length, any wider and the Sangre were too insignificant to do the scene justice.

Rough Legged Hawk in the Rockies

I continued to look for Mr Hawk on the trek down the other side of the mountain, but he was nowhere to be seen on this day. In fact the landscapes that I shot at the summit are the only record of today’s hike.

As always, the best of these images 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!

Gear Test: B+W XS-PRO Circular Polarizer

In my quest for the perfect circular polarizer for my Canon 100-400 lens I finally settled on the B+W 77mm XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano Filter. Dang, that’s a mouthful but what does it all mean? For starters, Kaesemann is a precision glass company purchased by Schneider Optics of Germany in 1989. The high transmission designation refers to the ability of the glass to transmit light. This filter is advertised at 99.5% with a filter factor of 1 to 1.5 stops of light loss due to the darkened blue glass. The MRC feature is Multi-Resistant-Coating, which is a series of layers designed to prevent reflections and ghosting while the NANO designation refers to a hardened eighth layer that assists in keeping the filter clean. The B+W filter is constructed using a brass outer ring that provides an exceptionally smooth threading capability when affixing the filter to the lens. The rotating mechanism for turning the filter is stiff but very smooth. The construction of this filter is superb.

That’s all well and good of course, but does it work, that is the real question! Today looked like a perfect day to find that out as the sky is perfectly clear and the sun was beating down on the snow capped Sangre de Cristo at almost a perfect 90 degree angle this morning. Just looking at the mountains they appeared washed out and faded to the naked eye, perfect conditions for a polarizer.

So, I pulled into the overlook parking lot and shot one picture with no filter followed by another picture with the circular polarizer with the glass turned to maximum effect. I shot in raw as always, but applied no processing to these two images, as I didn’t want to pollute the results of the test with a bunch of Photoshop adjustments. Here they are, first the mountains with no filter and then with the filter:

Springtime Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Sangre de Cristo Range

As you can plainly see, the second image has significantly increased saturation and detail in the white highlights of the snow capped peaks with a much deeper blue in sky. The snow and trees just below the peaks are also much more visible in the polarized image.

I will also be trying the filter out over water when I find some! Not much water around here in this mountain desert, but sooner or later there will be a river or a lake in the sun where I will find the filter useful! All in all I would say I’m extremely happy with this purchase from B&H Photo Online and would highly recommend the filter to anyone using a DSLR camera.

Road Trip Salida

Took Big Dog out to the mountain for our morning hike as usual and got some really nice shots of the fresh snow on the Sangre de Cristo along the way. Completed the relaxing trek through the local mountains and Big Dog jumped back into the cab of the old Dodge. Then I just sat there thinking… I really don’t want to go back home and my thoughts turned to the distant mountain range that I had just been photographing. I have been longing for a closer visit to those mountains, but there is always something… too much to do, not enough gas money, you name it. And today I was thinking… gas will cost too much, the pictures probably won’t sell, I don’t even know if its a nice day there, blah, blah, blah.

And I still couldn’t go home. Got to thinking, sometime someday has to be today! So off we went for some Gatoraid and a breakfast burrito. Once I had made that little move towards leaving town we were off. Headed down High Park Drive towards Canon City. This time though, instead of going on into Canon we turned west on Highway 50.

Autumn Arkansas River

It wasn’t long before I was rewarded with some beautiful views of the Arkansas River lined with beautiful golden trees of the Colorado autumn. I had been rafting on this section of river many years ago in my Leadville 100 running days but it was so long ago. Thirty years had pretty much erased my memory of this section of river and lately I have been wondering where to find it. Well I found it and now I have a river to get some winter ice flow pictures which is also something I have been planning! As we got closer to Salida I came across this wonderful view of the river and autumn trees with the Sangre de Cristo in the background and as luck would have it there was a great little pullout from the road where I could walk Big Dog and get this shot. I think it is my favorite of the day 🙂

Storm Clouds on the SangreCotopaxi is about where I thought I would really start to see some views of the Sangre but unfortunately I discovered why I had not been impressed with the Sangre all those years ago. For one I wasn’t really looking for them then, and two… there is a wretched ugly ridge between the river and the mountains making it all but impossible to get a decent shot of the mountains. Apparently the only way you can get the best view is to take Highway 285 south from Buena Vista or maybe Highway 69 south from Texas Creek to Westcliffe. But today I chose to make the turn back east on Highway 285 back home. Perhaps  the thing to do would be to just make a run down to Westcliffe and then back up to Texas Creek for a return trip back home the way  I came. I was going to look for a nice micro brew in Salida but a stop at the time I went through didn’t feel right, I was still thinking I was going to get some more pictures. I did get a couple  of the Collegiate Peaks from an overlook on Highway 285, nothing to jump up and down about.

Cliffs in the Sangre de Cristo

But on the upside I did get some really nice pictures of the river and of the Sangre in the brief moments that they were visible. Perhaps better planning would have made it a better day but now that I know the lay of the land I am in better position to make a plan. The turnoff to Westcliffe was well marked so I’ll know just what to do next time! As far as camera and equipment go, I used my 70-200 F4L lens today with a polarizer on and it looks like that is a good choice for the winter months as the sun is making its way along it’s most southerly route. The polarizer works best when the sun is close to a 90 degree angle from the direction that the lens is pointing and that worked out well today.  I would like to get a much earlier start though so that the light is more at my back for some of the early shots, giving me a nice warm glow on the mountains and no need for a polarizer.

Well as always, these photographs and more are now available on my website for purchase as prints and wall art. I finally also created a special gallery for the Sangre de Cristo Range that I have been shooting so often these days! Just click on the gallery and then click on an image you like! All available products including wall art, framed art and cool household items and gifts will become visible!

Do Over

Well, for whatever reason, yesterday’s fall picture trip was a bust. I failed to notice power lines in a lot of the images and those things are really time consuming to remove with Photoshop. Also it was too windy so the blowing leaves just made the images look blurry. And the wasted time… yesterday I decided that it would be a good idea to drive up Rampart Range Road  which I just noticed has made the most dangerous roads list, and photograph the Peak behind the golden aspen of autumn. However, the golden aspen are still green up there, the road is absolutely wretched and the Peak just looks like a big brown rock. Outside of Kansas, it was just about the ugliest scene ever.

Historic Gold Mine Colorado

So as I was pondering what adventure today might bring I was thinking a do over was probably the most profitable remedy possible. The autumn leaves around Cripple Creek seem to be the most magnificent that I have seen anywhere and the loop is an easy one to complete. So I arose early this morning and loaded up Big Dog for a hike. Fortunately we were able to beat the wind this morning so the leaves were behaving nicely on the trees and as luck would have it there were the coolest cirrus clouds hanging around high in the bright blue Colorado sky. They reminded me of angels… perhaps there were angels helping me today 🙂

After our little hike we headed south to Victor in hopes of getting some images of the mines and the north face of the Peak… without power lines :-|I was thinking that maybe the polarizer was to blame for some of yesterday’s failure but I could see the colors were so much more saturated with my sunglasses on that it was going to be necessary to use the dark blue glass again. Today the effect was amazing… it really brought out the blue sky and the angel clouds! To account for the one stop of light loss I was just extra careful to steady the camera on the hood of the old Dodge or on handy fence posts. Now that I’m back home in front of the computer I can say I am extremely happy with the results. The images are clear and sharp, the blue sky magnificent, and the colors deeply saturated just as I had hoped.Pikes Peak in Auutmn Aspen

Now I’m ready for tomorrow… truck all gassed up and maintained, pictures backed up, memory chips cleared, camera equipment ready to go… and with a clear head from our nice hike today I think tomorrow’s destination is going to be Twin Lakes. I have seen some images from there lately that make me confident that the leaves have achieved  peak color, the water should be awesome, the sky clear and the temperature amazing! I made that trip a decade ago and ruined the day with a bad choice. When I rolled into Leadville I went out to Turquoise Lake first only to discover that there really isn’t any autumn color there, only pine trees. By the time I got to Twin Lakes it was an ugly cloudy gray day… the trees up Independence Pass were beautiful, but the gray skies and wind made the water choppy and murky and with no light on the color it was a total bust. It has been a long wait for my return to that location, but it should be worth it!

These images and more are now for sale as wall art on my website, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and with traditional framing and matting!

After the Storms

A quick glance down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo at first light this morning dispelled any notion about skipping another hike with Big Dog today… Of course there was no debate going on in the mind of the Big Dog. As I was sitting on the couch sipping my morning coffee I could see that he was watching me, focused like a laser on the cup. Then the instant that he saw the cup tilt all the way to the bottom he was on his feet like a gunshot, ready to go, eyes pleading.

So… into the backpack for the day’s necessities… It was a crystal clear morning, the usual fog and haze blown away by a weekend of rain, snow and wind and the bright fresh snow on the rugged peaks told me that it was going to be a good day for my B&W circular polarizer. I always use B&W glass, a little pricey but the amazing German quality is well worth the extra expenditure. Finally, getting ready to go… polarizer cleaned and attached, check, chip formatted check, battery charged and inserted, check. Out the door, no turning back.

Clear morning in the Sangre de Cristo

It was a surprisingly cold morning. Last thing last night it was still fairly balmy and I was lulled into believing that Spring had finally arrived… but I was mistaken. Fortunately I had on my hoodie under my jacket by force of habit and my glove liners were still in my pockets from the previous cold snap. I bundled up on the way, hood up, gloves on, neck strap wrapped around to ward off the cold wind.

As I neared my vantage point on the trail I could see that I had made a sound decision to get off the couch and into the fresh mountain morning air. The mountains were magnificent today, the mountain air crystal clear, a perfect day for some more experimentation with the polarizer. Big Dog and I took up a position on the overlook with an unobstructed view of the entire range and shot away. I knew from my last outing with the polarizer that aperture priority with a setting of f8 would be ideal for these conditions so I just set it up and carefully focused the shots on the most dramatic peaks.

The cold wind was causing my eyes to water and I couldn’t really tell on the spot if the images were turning out so I just kept shooting on faith that I had planned my settings correctly. Now, in front of the computer it looks like the day has been a success. The images are clear and the details sharp. The polarizer cut through what little haze did exist and I have a good crop of images to work with.

Please be sure to visit my website to see all the new images I have put up lately along with my new Weather gallery that I discussed and created yesterday! Also, if you are interested in my work, please  click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish! Followers and viewers are how this page is financed, in addition to print and stock image sales so I really appreciate your support 🙂

Also, I hate to talk about it too soon… but I’m getting kind of wired up already 🙂 A bucket list development! My boss, also an avid Canon photographer has thrown it out there, the possibility of a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park this fall! Seems like too much to hope for right at the moment… but I have been longing for years to see the wolves. Lol, of course I am well aware that it could turn out like my last wildlife journey to Brainard Lake. All summer I was watching other photographers post images of the moose population there, but when I went in the autumn of course, there were no moose to be seen anywhere 😦 Well anyway, stay tuned and we’ll see how this develops!

Misty Mountain Afternoon

I was so planning to just rest today… but apparently I’m not good at just resting 😦 My legs are tired, my knees hurt, my back hurts, everything hurts and I really think some rest might have been a good idea. But there is a mountain snowstorm going on and there is something in me that just compels me to venture out into every storm. Don’t know what it is, but I have to do it. It could be hereditary… I remember back in 1975 in the worst snowstorm anyone can remember to hit northwest Iowa, 6 foot snow drifts, 75 mph winds, -90 wind chill, my dad and I had to venture out into it… Don’t remember the reason, probably wasn’t one, just the need to see what it was like.

Misty Mountain Afternoon

Fresh snow and fog in the Colorado Rockies

Well today was no different, except now I have somewhat of a reason to go out into the storms. Somebody has to get the pictures! I could see there was a cool cloud / fog system blowing up from the Arkansas Valley into Cripple Creek and I wondered if it might look awesome from my overlook. So me and Big Dog geared up and headed out into the fresh snow and mud and wind to see what we might find. Turns out it was kind of cool looking over the gold mine, so I snapped a few of the huge mound of mine tailings with some of the old historic strucDrtures visible. Then on we went, up the trail to the overlook. I was surprised to be able to see anything with all the fog, but there was a small window of time when some of the nearby foothills were visible through the blowing moisture. I stood in the cold for a while getting the best moments of the day before even denser fog rolled in and I could not seqe anything.

Then there was just the long hike back home. Big Dog is a big muddy mess and so are my boots but I’m glad we went, always love the experience of a storm 🙂 The pictures are kind of interesting… Thinking the clouds and fog would be more dramatic, I used a circular polarizer today and I like the effect. Be sure to visit my website where I have added a few from today’s adventure!

After the Storm

The latest cold front has passed through along with the tremendous winds that accompanied it. The Sangre de Cristo Range was beautiful this morning and the bitter cold was not quite as biting as yesterday. Windchill of -7 instead of -13 for some reason felt much better! Big Dog was ready to go for a jaunt so I decided today would be a good day to try out the polarizer.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

I haven’t really used it much for a long time since previous efforts have resulted in disappointment. Somewhere I read that professional travel photographers always use these things and that there is no Photoshop substitute for replicating it’s effect. Previous attempts have resulted in unacceptable and irreparable digital noise so I just quit using it, but advancements in newer sensors have done a lot to reduce the noise that plagued early digital imaging technology. So the hope is that with my much newer camera the polarizer is a piece of equipment I can now put to good use. My polarizer is a top of the line B&W brand circular polarizer so there should be no worry of glass quality adversely affecting the image.

Armed with the necessary equipment and enough winter gear to fend off the cold, off we went. A couple of miles into the woods we were confronted with an excellent view of the magnificent snow capped mountains so I stopped to get the shots. White balance on daylight instead of auto so as not to negate the effects of the dark blue polarizer and +1/3 exposure compensation to make up for the slight loss of light from the dark glass. While looking through the viewfinder I turned the glass until I could see the most effect and I have to say it looked amazing!

But now in front of the computer the results are once again disappointing. There is an unacceptable softness in the images due to what appears to be loss of contrast, perhaps from light dispersion. I should have paid more attention to the aperture when I was shooting, but I don’t think a wide lens opening can be blamed for this much softness. Hoping for a quick answer, I went outside to photograph the gas company sign across the street using f11 as an f stop. In looking at those images with and without the polarizer, it does appear that there is some softness that I find unacceptable for my main purpose, which is the marketing of images as stock.

I do appreciate the beautiful saturated effect of the filter so I don’t think I’ll give up on it just yet, but next time I’ll definitely have to conduct a much more controlled series of pictures. Tripod, f11 and side by side images of the same scene with and without the filter. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the picture, the mountains are beautiful and the effect on a small version of the picture create a wonderful scene 🙂

Fly Like an EagleThis mystery raptor is as of yet unidentified. I have looked though every hawk, falcon, eagle and osprey picture on the internet that I can find and I can’t find a match. So, please, if anyone knows what this magnificent fellow is I’d be happy to hear from you!

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Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Sangre de Cristo, meaning “Blood of Christ”, according to this article in Wikipedia. Here in Colorado it is also a rugged and magnificent mountain range, one that I have been meaning to photograph in winter with just the right light for a long time. I knew that recent snow storms and cold temperatures were creating just the right conditions so I have been on the alert for the perfect day. I have been scoping out the right time of day for a while and when I saw that we had fresh snow followed by a clear day in the weather forecast, I knew that today was going to be the day.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range on a bitterly cold Colorado winter morning.And quite a day it was. Unfortunately when I awoke I was dismayed to discover that it was three degrees below zero here in southern Colorado with a bit more snow last night than I was planning on. Three below with a -10 windchill made me want to just crawl back under the covers and go to sleep, but the little voice told me it was going to be a great day. Often the bitterly cold days following a snowstorm produce amazing scenery here in the high country. So… I walked the dogs and loaded up my gear. Also called my friend to find out if she was still down with our planned trip… and after a slight hesitation she replied, “sure, what time?”. That was it… Come hell or high water I was going, and after a slight detour to Walmart for supplies we were on our way.

Not much to see but valley between Divide and Gillette Flats, but as we cruised through the high mountain prairie I could see it was indeed going to be a great day 🙂 A few more minutes and Tenderfoot Pass was in the rear view mirror and the mountain range came into view. And it was amazing to say the least… The bitter cold and snow had produced one of the most amazing scenes I have ever encountered in my 30 years in the mountains. Soon the overlook came into view and we pulled in… Solid ice on the pavement made stopping in time a challenge, but a few pumps of the brakes and I was out capturing the day’s income! And it was cold… the wind was blowing hard from the west and the temperature at 10,500 feet was not very accommodating either! The wind chill was probably -20 I imagine, but I was not going to let a minor detail like that keep me from getting these images!

However, there was one little item to cut the session short… I promised my friend we would make the .49 cent breakfast at Bronco Billy’s casino in Cripple… so 136 images later we were on our way into town… and 30 minutes ahead of the deadline for breakfast. So my friend decided it wasn’t too much of a risk to gamble $1, which she turned into $19 by the time we got the call for our reservation 🙂 $2.25 later and we were both stuffed… with eggs, hash browns, pancakes and toast and jelly 🙂

Next destination, the park west of the court house to walk the doggies… another damned cold endeavor, but fortunately the puppies got their jobs done in a hurry 🙂 Then onto the house we are buying… to make sure it is still there of course 🙂 Assuming nothing goes wrong… I will be calling Cripple Creek home in about a month 🙂

There is one more nice overlook between Cripple and Victor which seemed like a worthwhile stop, as long as I was this far… While shooting from that spot I noticed that the mountains were a lot more clearly visible with sunglasses on. Too bad my camera doesn’t have sunglasses. Wait, it does! I shuffled through my camera bag of goodies and there it was, my awesome B&W circular polarizer (ABWCP). Now of course I had to go back to the original location and shoot some more with the filter on, which proved well worth the effort. The best image of the day was one shot with the polarizer. Reminds me of a senior picture session I did one time… after an entire morning of shooting in Botanic Gardens in Denver, on our way out I spotted a bench with some colorful flowers in the background. One more shot, and the last shot of the day proved to be the best one of all. Lol… I could have gone there first and taken one shot and gone home 😦

So far I only have one image completed, the one shown in the article. But soon there will be many more available for purchase as prints, gift items, apparel and stock licensing for commercial use. Please click the link to my Fine Art Website to view the images as I complete them.

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