Finally managed to create the video to go along with my how to article on photographing eagles that I published the other day! It was bitter cold in the Canyon today which put a damper on my hiking plans so I was just cruising up and down the canyon searching in vain for the bald eagles. I decided to put my driving time to good use so I discussed my strategy for success along
Bald eagles fishing in the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, Coloradowith some footage and musings of other endeavors throughout a relatively dull day on the road. I hope you enjoy it anyway 🙂
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An amazing morning on top of the mountain greeted me today… As I cleared the ridge I noticed something new out in the meadow. At first I thought maybe it was a bush I hadn’t noticed before but I was curious enough to take a look through the long lens just to be sure. As it turns out it was a buck mule deer with his head turned away from me so that he just looked like a round blob in the distance!
I made my way over the summit and down towards the right in hopes that I could get a little closer without disturbing him when I discovered a second buck lying down in the grass. Then the third big guy came out from behind a tree to take a look at me and I recognized the magnificent trio as my favorite Three Amigos, three buck mule deer that have been hanging together all summer 🙂 These are the closest and clearest shots that I have ever been able to capture of this little stag club!
They weren’t too worried about me at the distance I chose to set up my gear but eventually they did began to amble off towards the wilderness on top of the ridge.
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This morning’s award came early in the trek. Just as we rounded our first switch back I saw a small herd of deer on top of the ridge. Unfortunately they had already detected our advance up the hill and were on high alert. So I had no choice but to just stop right there and try to get a few shots in the distance. I was pretty sure that if I waited for the second switchback in the rugged trail that the majestic beasts would be gone.
As I looked in the viewfinder through my long lens at first I thought maybe the big guy was a moose, I could only hope! But now looking at the images on the computer monitor I can see what I was looking at was the big mule deer buck’s ears against his recently sprouting antlers.
The rest of the hike proved unproductive as far as photography goes, but we still got some good exercise and the experience of peace that can only be found in the solitude of the wilderness 🙂
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I know, it’s May 20th… but this is Colorado at 10,000 feet and we are in a winter storm warning, supposed to snow all day and pretty much all night. It’s already cold, cloudy and windy but I figured I’d better get the big dog out for his exercise before it really gets cranked up!
So we had a good hike and I even got to be part of an interesting weather phenomenon 🙂 Once on the summit where I could see all around I noticed a patch of what I first thought was fog. After watching a bit though I determined that it wasn’t fog, there was too much wind and it seemed to be forming right before my eyes! Turns out up on the summit at probably 11,000 feet or so I was watching the storm clouds form all around me. There was also a tremendous updraft so the cloud would form near the mountain and then shoot out of the trees into the sky. It was an amazing thing to behold, I never cease to be amazed at the splendor of these mountains!
Now as I sit here at my computer it is just gloomy and grey and flakes are beginning to fly. Soon I imagine, with this wind they will turn into this winter’s familiar stinging sideways projectiles. No matter, we are back at our cozy little cabin, toasty and warm watching the action outside 🙂
The Sangre de Cristo are always amazing… but sometimes they are more amazing and today was one of those days! Tons of new snow now graces these majestic peaks and there was almost no haze today to block the view. The pristine white snow against the stunning intense blue Colorado sky was just amazing this morning.
When the mountain landscape photography was done we began our descent and I
noticed a small herd of mule deer basking in the morning sunlight on the hillside. There are very few trees on the summit so I knew there was no way we were going to get close, but a deer herd in the mountains is going to make a great picture no matter what! My first shots were directly into the rising sun so I knew silhouettes were going to be the result of that situation, but I snapped a few anyway for a record of the day in case they decided to bolt.
Once I was sure I had some captures the big dog and I began to circle around the hillside hoping that my non direct approach wouldn’t startle them into a run. They kept a wary eye on us as we descended and curved back but they didn’t run! I snapped a few more along the way as the lighting got better and then finally when we were completely on the other side they began walking to the summit. I was about to head for the truck when I noticed they were going to traverse the top ridge with the blue sky as a backdrop so we just waited a few minutes for them to reach the top. Nothing wrong with hanging out in the warm Colorado mountain sun for a while! Eventually they did reach the top of the ridge and I rounded out the days shooting with a line of them heading for cover in the dense wilderness to the south.
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Today as always, I crested the ridge with anticipation… There is always something amazing to behold up there. And today did not disappoint, a whole herd of elk just resting in the sun and the snow at the edge of the Colorado Rocky Mountain wilderness. I knew I wasn’t going to get close so it was my hope that I could get the best shot possible from the distance I found myself. I managed to get inside an abandoned mine building without the animals noticing me. From there I was able to hide and steady my long lens on the windowsill and shoot at will.
Some of the massive beasts were in the meadow at the top while others had not made the complete climb yet and were grazing on the deep mountain grass on the east mountainside in the sunshine. And what an amazing morning it was, the bitter cold of recent storms has resided and has been replaced with a beautiful sunny warm morning, probably in the 20’s 🙂
Since there was no way the animals were going to let me get anywhere near them and they seemed to be so enjoying the sunshine, I didn’t have the heart to disturb them. So instead of continuing along the trail and forcing them to run I decided to just turn back. On my way down I did circle the east side of the mountain to see if I could get a closer view, but to no avail. So Big Dog and I just called it a day and headed for breakfast.
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I was looking over my portfolio this morning and was thinking, “I have too many pictures of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, better stop shooting them for a while.” But then I came over the ridge and saw this view! All thoughts about not photographing the Sangre vanished in an instant and I just started shooting. How could I not photograph something this magnificent! It seems another storm is moving in and the first place I get to see the evidence is over the Sangre range. The slight hint of color from the early morning sun only added to the stunning beauty of these mountains this morning.
Also saw a trio of doe deer foraging for food on the mountainside which needed some photography! These were some of the cutest faces I’ve seen in a while. They appear to be pretty young. Fortunately they didn’t just run, stopping to pose for a few minutes before disappearing over the ridge 🙂
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Lucky for me the big dog was impatient for this morning’s trek through the Colorado wilderness. I am always expecting to see something along the trail, but today held an extra special surprise… a large herd of elk in the golden light of sunrise. Most of the animals were passing silently by in the shade but a few presented themselves against the aspen trees in the beautiful morning light. This one was my favorite. Oh and if you want my advice… get a dog, they are very motivating :)This picture and more are available on my website as wall art, greeting cards and many more cool gift and useful household items!
My favorite part of the day comes after I have made the long steep climb to the summit and break through the trees into the high clearing where there is the anticipation… I never know what I am going to get to see. There might be a herd of elk, some mule deer bucks, a coyote hunting for his meal or even a hawk or eagle. One thing I can be sure of is that I will get to see the Continental Divide marked by the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. They may be obscured by a fog bank or blowing snow but they will be there, towering above all else with imposing jagged peaks of such beauty I never get tired of looking at them.
On this day dark gray clouds, tremendous wind and blowing snow greeted me as I crested the ridge. The trail was completely obscured by the drifting snow that had covered a layer of ice on the mountaintop making for some arduous progress. Softball sized rocks were also hidden under the snow making for some painful ankle twists as I searched the drifting snow for the trail with each step through the fresh powder. Blowing snow swirled like a tornado in places and the steady wind made the barren clearing on top of the mountain look like waves on a lake. I imagined what it must have been like 100 years ago for the miners searching for their fortunes in gold in this rugged terrain and fierce weather without the benefits of all the high tech winter gear available to us now.
I was hoping that the fresh snow would attract the elk herd but the wind probably caused them to remain in hiding under cover of the dense pine forest to the south. There were no deer willing to brave the blowing snow either but the amazing view of the Sangre de Cristo Range was even more magnificent than usual! Although there was a dark cloud above me the light from the early morning sun was able to break through and illuminate the beautiful snow capped peaks, creating a perfect Colorado winter scene worthy of a postcard 🙂 Big Dog was eager to continue with his exploration but I had to stop and make sure that scene was adequetely captured!
Eventually we made our way over the top of the mountain and around the other side where the snow and wind subsided and the trail was easier to negotiate. I was hoping the lower forest would yield some wildlife but no such luck. There was no view of the mountains through the fog and snow to the south so we just enjoyed the walk back to the car as I continued to scan the woods for animals to photograph.
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It was a beautiful morning for a hike although my arrival at the trailhead was a bit behind schedule, greatly diminishing my chances of a successful wildlife sighting and with the smoke from the summer fires my chances of photographing the distant mountains were just about zero. Undaunted, I slung my camera over my shoulder anyway. As I climbed the steep grade to the top of the ridge my eyes scanned the forest edge for any sign of wildlife. Before I started my trek I had set my camera to ISO 400 in preparation for wildlife photography, so with nothing in sight and not much hope of any shooting I just left the settings as they were.
Over the top of the mini mountain I strode along, settling for a good day of exercise in the solitude of the Rocky Mountain wilderness when all of a sudden Big Dog went on alert and pointed me to the direction of interest. It was the most amazing thing, a huge herd of elk streaming up the mountainside towards the dense pine forest near the summit. I quickly brought up my camera, zoomed my 200mm lens all the way in and
started shooting. The elk kept coming and coming, over the ridge and into the forest… there were at least a couple of hundred of them all together. Finally once they were past I quickly made my way across the mountainside to where they went in, hoping to find a few of them still lingering so that I could get a closer shot. Amazingly within just that quick minute that it took me to get there, like a herd of ghosts they were just gone. I could not believe that so many of these huge beasts could so quickly and silently pass by and disappear… like they were never there.
I ventured a bit further into the dense pine forest hoping to catch one of the magnificent animals departing when I spotted this straggler that had stopped to feed on a pine branch. I was only able to snap off a couple of shots before she noticed me and the Big Dog and quickly scampered to the safety of the large herd. The whole scene unfolded in a matter of minutes and I feel so fortunate to have been at just the right place at just the right time to witness such magnificence. And I would not have noticed them at all were it not for Big Dog’s ever vigilant nose and super powered ears. Sometimes I get to thinking he’s a pain to have along when shooting wildlife, until I have a moment like this and am reminded of how many images I would have missed without his extraordinary senses.
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