After the Bomb Cyclone

What an incredible storm… a 24 hour whiteout with two feet of snow and 80 mph winds. Finally it is over and the beautiful blue Colorado sky has returned, albeit with 3 degrees above zero this morning! But I wanted to get out, I thought I might find the elk and I also thought the snow would be awesome for snowshoeing πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Well it turned out to be a pretty rough morning, first of all I awoke at 3 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep, probably anticipating the beautiful day I was going to have! Finally the sun came up and it actually warmed up to six degrees so me and Big Dog were out the door only to discover a snowdrift in the back seat of my truck, which remains a bit of a mystery. All the windows were closed except for a slight space in the back window which now appears closed. Well anyway my hat and gloves were wet, not a welcome development. Then I surmise because of the snowdrift in my backseat, the inside of the windows are just as frosted over as the outside so I got to scrape both while we waited for the defroster to take effect. Besides all of that, my tires were frozen to the mud which seemed risky to just drive out of, but I did it anyway and managed to survive which is better than you can say for the trash can that I ran over on my way out of the driveway, which did not 😦

Elk in Fresh Snow

The road to the trailhead was snow packed which is fine except that it was over a deep layer of solid ice which on a curvy and hilly mountain road was not fine. But there was nowhere to turn around so I just white knuckled it on to the trailhead. Once there I got out the snowshoes and began the trek. I immediately encountered a deep snowdrift so we stopped and strapped on the snowshoes. Then I had to take them off again, and put them on and take them off and put them on. The tremendous winds had blown all the snow off in some places and piled it up in others, very annoying. Finally the snow got deep for good right about at the cattle gate… which was frozen. Try as I might I could not unlock the gate. Finally I just unscrewed the big eye hook from the post and screwed it back in once on the other side. We were on the trail πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Getting onto the trail was not such a blessing on this day… in the trees near the top of the ridge, the wind had piled up several feet of fresh powder on top of a semi hard crust which was quite a challenge for me and the big dog. I managed to post hole about three times, plunging the lens of my camera into the snow. So three times I had to stop and remove the lens hood to wipe off the front filter while gasping for air from the elevation gain and deep snow. Finally we punched through to the top of the ridge where I spotted the elk herd. They had found one of the spots where the wind had blown the snow away and were enjoying the morning sunshine. I decided to take a few shots from afar with my 400mm lens, opting to not cause them to have to run into the deep snow.

Finally we had struggled back to the bottom and to the truck where I put my snowshoes down and opened the door for Big Dog before going around to get in myself. Unfortunately the windows had refrosted so I let the truck run awhile and scraped the inside again. There was another car abandoned in the parking lot so I took some care backing around when I heard a crunch, which turned out to be my snowshoes that I had put down to let the dog in 😦 I leapt out to recover and examine them, assuming that they were ruined… but fortunately my trusty MSR’s had survived with only a slight bend in one of the side rails which I should easily be able to repair. What a relief, these are some tough snowshoes!

Once leaving the parking lot we were able to return home without incident, so I’m hoping the rest of the day goes better than the start!

Of course as usual, these images are available for purchase on my website in the elk gallery as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, traditional framing and matting and stretched canvas. Also available are tons of cool gift, household and tech items with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them!

 

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My Wedding Photography on Instagram

Been thinking about attacking my wedding photography with a bit more vigor for some time now and it occurred to me that one good way to do that would be to create a special Instagram account for just that purpose! Of course it wasn’t that easy, first I had to create a special email account because it wouldn’t let me use one that I had already used for S.W. Krull Imaging, and I had to update my wedding facebook page that I have long been neglecting 😦 But it looks like I have managed to provide the basic structure… now I just have to flesh it out with pictures, an activity for another day I’m afraid!

Western wedding couple with horse

For now I am going to get ready for tomorrow, have to get the bed of my truck unloaded from selling my camper trailer so that I can load up my mountain bike for tomorrow’s intended adventure! Been wanting for so long to go to Waterton Canyon and hopefully photograph the bighorn sheep. The Waterton Canyon trail is a pretty long one, six miles one way, too far to go on foot in any reasonable amount of time, hence the mountain bike.Β  It has been a long time since I have made that trek so I don’t remember how far in it is before you can find the sheep, I hope not all the way to the end! Although there are some awesome compositions of the river itself to be had as it spills out of the dense pine trees of the Pike National Forest.

Anyway, better get to it, we’re burning daylight!

 

Break in the Weather

Fortunately for me the weather forecast for this morning was wildly inaccurate. It was

Foggy Sangre de Cristo Mountain Valley

supposed to be 4 degrees and snowing so my popplans were to just sit on the couch like a vegetable and drink coffee πŸ™‚ I was getting a pretty good start on just exactly that when Big Dog came wandering in from the bedroom asking for his morning constitutional… So on went the coat, gloves, hat and thermal underwear and out into the elements we went!

Frosty Aspen Trees

I had looked out the window earlier and could not see the mountains for the clouds and mist so I didn’t bother to bring the camera, we just walked down the street to the open space. But as we got a bit closer to the saddle I could see that it wasn’t just clouds I was viewing! Filling the Arkansas River Valley was a beautiful layer of fog which I knew was going to need some closer examination! So I hurried Big Dog along and loaded him into the truck while I ran in and got the camera.

And off we went to snowshoe trailhead for a better view of the Sangre de Cristo and the Arkansas Valley from the summit of Little Grouse. And it was so well worth the trip. First of all the snow and fog had left behind a beautiful coating on the aspen grove at the bottom of the hill which I deemed worth a couple of captures and I thought the bright blue Colorado sky was amazing!

Then from the summit the view was stunning. The mountains in the background were just beautiful as they jutted above the fog in the valley below, and there were a couple of the smaller peaks that were just peeking through the fog in the lower valley. And as with the aspen trees, the dense pine wilderness of the Pike National Forest was also sporting a new mantle of white from the fog and snow.

These images are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas as well as traditional matting and framing.

Maiden Voyage

Well this is it… my first outing with the Canon 100-400 L Mark I. I have been wanting that 400mm lens for over ten years! I had a Sigma 100-500 back before the Great Recession that I had to sell and I always regretted that. At the time I didn’t have the money to do

Deer on the Mountainside Title

any traveling and didn’t need it to photograph the deer in my little game reserve near home, my f4L 70-200 was perfect for the trails in those woods. But like always, as soon as I sold it everything changed and I needed it again! Well anyway, my photo buddy found an entire camera and lens collection for sale on Craigslist, including a Sigma 150-500 that I was going to buy from him if he bought the set. But alas, the guy didn’t get back to him and sold the set to someone else.Β  I was pretty bummed because I thought I was going to at least have my Sigma back!

Well, bummed enough to make some calls anyway, and as it turned out my favorite camera store, Englewood Camera just happened to have the Canon 100-400 Mark I. This was late in the day on Wednesday so I wasn’t able to get up there but they were nice enough to hold it for me until yesterday. The lens is in perfect shape, looks like it has never been used so of course I had to have it!Β  It was a long drive, but I always enjoy a nice visit to the store and I am tickled to have the lens!

Canon 100-400Normally I wouldn’t take such a big lens on a long hike, but I had to test it out! So I loaded it up, along with the snowshoes and Big Dog and off we went to the trail πŸ™‚ I can tell you, lugging a heavy camera through the snow with Big Dog making his own decisions about which direction we should be going was a struggle! And we didn’t see a thing to photograph 😦 Until the end of course when I was exhausted, my heart pounding and my arms quivering from fatigue. But in the distance on the barren face of the hillside I thought I spotted something… Could be a few rocks or dirt spots, or maybe some deer or elk. So I brought up the big 400mm to my eye for a look and indeed it was a small herd of mule deer foraging for food.

I have to say I am amazed that I got this shot. As I said, my arms were shaking and I was tired. Lugging along the Manfrotto was out of the question so the shot is handheld, zoomed in all the way at 400mm, ISO 400, f8 at a 500th of a second. I could barely even see these deer at this distance and this lens has given me a salable picture! All I had to do is crop a little bit of pine beetle ugliness out of the pines on the right and this picture was ready to go. And this is without using my 1.4x lens extender, which would have pushed me out to 560mm, but I doubt I would have been able to hand hold that anyway.

So all in all I am so far delighted in the quality of this lens. I can’t wait to get out with a tripod where there is an abundance of wildlife such as in Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe Waterton Canyon or the mountain goat viewing area in Cottonwood Pass and really give this thing a workout! But for strenuous hikes in deep snow where the weight I am carrying makes a difference, I’ll be going back to my old faithful, the f4L 70-200 with the 1.4x extender. I’ll have to concede the long distance shots in lieu of a more enjoyable hike.

As always, this image and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on metal, acrylic, canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool gift, household andΒ  tech items are also available with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them, including battery chargers, blankets and pillows, gift cards and much more. Just click on an image you like and you will see the full preview plus all the product options and pricing!

 

Fresh Powder

Fresh Powder in the Colorado High CountryTen degrees, wind blowing, face frozen, drifting snow, complete solitude… It doesn’t get any better :) Perfect day for snowshoeing. Most of our trail has been buried by the drifting snow from yesterday’s storm but most of the time I could ascertain where the packed trail probably was. Sometimes not though, but the feel of the fresh powder beneath my snowshoes was well worth the extra effort. Big Dog seemed to be better at finding the trail as he charged ahead, I suppose he could locate by smell! Good companion to have along :)

Was hoping to find that the elk had gathered at the edge of the forest near the summit so I could get some good wildlife photographs,

Snowshoe Tracks in the Powderbut I saw little sign of life anywhere on the frozen mountain. Looking back at where we had come from all there was to see was our trail in the snow over the top. Thought it made for kind of a neat scene though! On our way down I did find elk tracks leading up a different trail around the other side of the ridge, so maybe tomorrow we willΒ  go investigate.

 

Snowshoes Changed My Life

They did… snowshoes literally changed my life. I have loved long distance running for as long as I can remember, probably from the time it was invented by Forest Gump back in the 70’s πŸ™‚ In the 80’s I combined this passion with my love of the mountains to begin a long love affair with trail running. However, there was always one problem, winter. The magnificent mountain trails were inaccessible to me in the wintertime. So countless hours were spent boring myself to death on treadmills, stairmaster machines, and street running, dying for winter to end so I could get back on the trails.

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Don’t know why I had never really considered snowshoes at the time, it just seemed like a foreign concept and running in the winter in the mountains just hadn’t occurred to me. But that all changed on one particular day when I had to take my dog to see Doc Gurney in Aspen Park. Bear had to undergo a series of tests and then wait under observation for the results. In the meantime I had nothing to do and there is a set of trails nearby in a county park called Meyer Ranch that I had visited in the summer months while Bear was undergoing treatments. I thought oh, what the heck, maybe it’s packed down and I can run a little bit. Turns out most of the trail was packed down and I had a nice run through the three sets of loops. At the top of the high loop the snow was soft and a little deep for running shoes, but I plowed through anyway. As my feet were getting wet and snow was filling my shoes I was thinking, boy it sure would be nice to have some snowshoes or something!

Well, not too long after that we had a series of massive snows in Parker and my running trail was utterly buried under several feet of snow. Trail running in my neighborhood was out of the question, possibly for months. And all of a sudden it hit me. I was going to make a run up to REI to purchase snowshoes. And it was awesome, I went out every morning before it was even light to get my run in before work. I just loved it. Soon my running buddies were into it also and winter trips to the mountains became an amazing reality. A whole new world had opened up! I even got Bear his own set of snowshoes and he loved coming with me on our treks through the wilderness surrounding my neighborhood… Of course that was before they tore it all down to build mansions for all the city people wanting to experience the country life 😦

Finally the March sun ended my fun and I was sad to see winter go. And from that point on winter became my life πŸ™‚ Of course the trails in the summer are still fun and I get out on them as much as I can, but the solitude of the winter trails is now my love!

Snow in the High Country

Today me and Big Dog ventured onto the mountain for our second trek since the big snows of last week. The snow has crusted over so it is no longer drifting and the trail we made a couple of days ago was still there. I took alternate steps today to complete a packed path in order to make life a little easier for the dog, giving him a place to step without post holing. He wants to be lead dog so cutting the trail the other day was a real chore for him!

As we crested the summit the sun was rising higher in the sky and these patterns in the snow caught my eye. I had the big camera but what was needed was an extreme wide angle to adequately capture this scene. Didn’t have a wide angle lens with me so the phone cam was the best I could do. The picture turned out pretty well though, pretty much what I saw!

I have to say, I sure do like my new MSR snowshoes! Back in the day snowshoe bindings were fairly primitive. You had to tie them on like a pair of shoes and they were hard to tie with frozen fingers, they collected ice and they would never stay tight. My MSR’s have a really cool strap that you just pull over and hook. It only takes seconds to get the shoes on and off you go! They never come loose and I have yet to have them freeze up with ice. Highly recommended. Also they are built on a solid piece of plastic so they don’t get ripped up on the rocks like the old soft rubber decking used to.

Well anyway, we had a pretty great morning and now I hear there is more white stuff on the way! Don’t forget to give my website a visit, I have bunches of new digital imagery for sale as wall art and cool household and gift items with a #swkrullimaging picture!

Cutting the Trail

I arose early this morning in preparation for a snowshoe trek over the top of the mountain, the wind was not as bad and the snow has taken a break for now. I knew it was going to be a tough morning though, cutting a new trail through the deep wind blown snowdrifts!

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo

As I began the climb with Big Dog I was thinking maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad after all… the wind had blown the snow completely off the trail and we were just striding along in comfort on the hard packed base. But… it wasn’t long, the trail took a turn and we found ourselves in a deep drift which seemed to go on forever. Big Dog was really struggling to get through and for a bit I thought we were going to have to give it up. But soon for some reason the drift hardened, and with the snowshoes both me and big dog could hike along in comfort right across the icy surface.

Up in the trees there were a couple of spots where we had to cut a new trail, but on the top of the ridge the snow had mostly blown away. The view from the summit was of course amazing as usual so I stopped for some pictures. A couple of bucks were also of the mind for cutting a new trail and I could see that they were having a tough day as well. Buck Mule Deer in Deep Snow

The backside of the mountain was easy, the snow had completely blown away leaving bare grass and dirt most of the rest of the way. Here I encountered a trio of doe mule deer foraging on one of the pine tree. So intent upon their task were they that they paid us no mind at all making for a great photo op and a couple nice portraits. These are not shown in this blog post, but are definitely for sale on my website in the wildlife gallery!

Now that I have the hard part done I’m looking forward to another trek over the top in the morning and hopefully some more wildlife pictures! There are rumors of more snow though… stay tuned!