Quite a Day with the Bighorns

Fog Bank Sangre de Cristo

I have to say, yesterday was quite a day… the plan was to arise early and drive to Waterton in hopes of catching the bighorn sheep in full rut. The day got off to a bit of a rough start though, a heavy blanket of freezing fog had enveloped the entire region the night before and it took me about 20 minutes to chip my way into the truck before I could even depart!

On the way up the pass I looked back and noticed that the fog bank had created a beautiful blanket in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, so I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that! There was a pretty good haze in the air to go with the fog so the images aren’t as clear as they could be, but it was still an amazing sight to behold πŸ™‚

We began our mountain bike ride up the canyon fully expecting a good long ride before

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

seeing any sheep but after just a few short minutes of pedaling a group of the critters came into view. I assumed it was the usual herd of ewes and youngsters that so often inhabit the entrance to the park, but much to our surprise the little herd was also occupied by four good sized rams causing trouble among each other, one in particular who was kicking the others in hopes of starting a fight.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

I have long desired to witness the rams butting heads, and it looked like this day was going to give me that chance! I wanted to capture a still of the moment of impact, but I also wanted to get some video so my readers could also experience the excitement of the moment. As a group of three rams circled each other, jostling and kicking… I switched my camera to video to record the action. There was not the classic charge and clash impact in this scene, but I did manage to record the nudging and little head knocking on this video now available to watch on my Youtube Channel πŸ™‚

We watched transfixed by the action for at least two hours as the rams hassled each

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

other. They would graze for a couple of minutes while it looked like they might finally give it a rest and relax for a while, but soon the tension would again arise and the tussle would begin anew.Β  Just when we would think that nothing was really going to happen, all of a sudden without warning they would square off, take a couple of steps on two feet and smash heads. It was very difficult to photograph, zoom lenses were required to get the best view of the action, but too close to capture both animals when they were setting up for the action. It was also difficult to be focused in on the area where the impact would occur since it all happened so quickly without warning.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

But I do believe I managed to capture the exact moment of impact on this image, the huge beasts with their heads together and eyes closed for the crash. I think maybe it would have been better if my camera had fired a millisecond earlier, but again… maybe the smashed heads is what I was after!

Rumors of a bear further up the canyon finally tore us away from the sheep herd and off we went. We rode to approximately the 4 mile point without seeing any other wildlife so we turned back around to return to the herd for a few more images. The river was magnificent in the winter light and the ride an excellent aerobic workout. I’m looking forward to really getting in shape for some more serious riding in the spring!

As I crested the final ridge on the journey home I was greeted by this magnificent sunset,

Sunset on the Sangre de Cristo

beautiful golden colors and the remnants of fog from the storm the night before. A perfect ending to a perfect day πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Click the link to explore!

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First Major Snow

Today definitely feels like winter! The wind is howling, snow is blowing around and Pikes Peak is turning white! There is this brief period of time for good photography of this angle of the peak where the snow has begun

Winter Storm on Pikes Peak

to decorate the massive mountain and there is still some light on the north face. After the solstice the peak will not see the light of sun until spring and pictures of the peak are pretty uninspiring.

For now though, it looked like a pretty wild day on the peak! I’ve been up there in that weather and the forces of nature are stunning at 14,000 feet!Β  I was up on the top of the ridge a few winters ago attempting a winter summit on the west face with climbing buddy Ralph when we suddenly found ourselves in a life threatening situation in that howling wind! Fortunately we found the strength to literally run down the trail to a safer elevation and lived to climb another day πŸ™‚

This image is now available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

Storm Chasing Debut

Tornado watch in parts of the state, flash flood advisories, hail and torrential rain… all in the forecast. I had the day off on Thursday and I could already see the storm clouds billowing into the sky to the west. Looked like it was going to be a great day to get some storm pictures so I consulted the weather charts to find the most likely viewing opportunities. I was hoping the storms would come right up from the Arkansas River Valley where I would get a good view from all my favorite overlooks… but no such luck. Pikes Peak is so massive that it often creates it’s own weather, and even more often it shapes the weather as it pleases. On this day it appeared that the big mountain would split the storm with the worst of the activity streaming towards the north over Woodland Park and on into Colorado Springs.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds

There have been reports of bighorn sheep activity along highway 67 so what the heck, I might be able to get some wildlife pictures and storm pictures on one trip.. so I loaded up my gear and headed over the pass. Unfortunately there were no sheep but it wasn’t long before I was in a major downpour! Obviously being in the midst of the storm is not the optimal photographic scenario so I pressed on to Divide thinking that the park on top of the hill might be a great place to see the storm development in all directions. Well I could definitely see in all directions but the best part of the storm was still right over me with no good views of the thunderheads in any direction. Bummer… well I thought, maybe Pikes Peak will have some interesting activity to view from the mountainsides in Woodland Park. Needed to stop there for supplies anyway so off to Woodland Park we went.

The big peak was putting on a pretty good show so me and the big dog climbed the ridge on the north side of Ute Pass and we got a few nice shots from there. We also saw some deer but were not able to get into position for any decent pictures, the underbrush is just so thick and lush due to all the rain this year. It almost looks like a rain forest like Oregon or Washington! So a few shots of clouds streaming over the massive mountain were all that we were going to get on this day.

On the return trip I could see storm activity all around but no matter where I went… there were trees in the way, or a hill or a mountain or the edge of a cliff with no place to park.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds Finally I thought I might be able to see from the top of the gold mine… but there was still the rest of the mountain to the north in the way of the best view. A quick trip down to Victor Pass from there provided a somewhat anticlimactic view of the remnants of the days storm on the south face of Pikes Peak, but overall the whole dayΒ  was a major disappointment.

I guess the lesson learned from this story is that storm chasing in the mountains might be a losing proposition… Colorado is not like Kansas where there is a uniform network of farm roads that allow you to get anywhere you want to go in a hurry. We have long winding roads with mountains in the way everywhere! I did get a tip though that might prove useful in the future. Apparently there was a good view from the one place I didn’t go, the high plateau traversed by Teller County Road 1. I’ll give that a shot next time.

As always these pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items, tech gadgets, apparel and household items are also available with a beautiful mountain scenery by S.W. Krull Imaging.

Springtime in the Rockies

Ghostly Figures in Foggy Mine Country

Springtime is an unpredictable mess in the Rockies but no one can say it isn’t beautiful! On this day a dense fog rolled in from below in the Arkansas River valley creating this amazing ghostly scene in the Cripple Creek / Victor mining district. The Peak itself however, was not to be outdone. There was just enough fog and approaching cloud cover to create this amazing vista on the south face of America’s Mountain.

As always, these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and cool gift items!

Fog and Clouds on Pikes Peak

Between Storms in the Rockies

Staying inside today… a grim looking ice storm in progress outside. I will go out in most weather to get the picture but for me an ice storm is over the line 😦 I was out… long enough for me to discover that my truck is encased in a quarter inch of ice. Not going to deal with that in late May.

Herd of Colorado Springtime Mule Deer

Yesterday before the storm was awesome though, for a while anyway. Had to take Big Dog into town for a teeth cleaning so I had to make our hike a solo event 😦 Probably just as well though,Β  the snow and ice from the week’s series of storms was pretty slippery. Skiing down a steep embankment in tow behind an exuberant Big Dog is not my idea of fun!

Once past the semi dangerous embankment, the rest of the hike was awesome, sky a brilliant blue, aspen trees blooming and warm sun shining down into the dense forest of the north side of Ute Pass. It wasn’t long before I spotted a small herd of deer making their way around the mountainside, tasting the green forest grass along the way. Unfortunately they quickly spotted me as well so the closest I was going to get to them was the other side of a large ravine at a range of probably 75 yards. These distant captures were the best I could do, even with myΒ  Canon 400mm lens. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring along my monopod / trekking pole so I was able to steady the camera pretty well and was able to capture some pretty good detail despite the expanse between me and the critters.

By the time my trek was near it’s end the weather was changing rapidly. The wind had

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

picked up and an icy cold fog was beginning to roll in.Β  Clouds were also beginning to form on the summit of 14,115 foot Pikes Peak as well, including some misty thin clouds spreading across the north face at about tree line. The clouds on the peak were a bit blown out so I stopped to put on myΒ  B+W circular polarizer which brought out the detail in this majestic scene.

Springtime Buck Mule Deer

Later on I encountered this big fellow who was obviously aware of my presence, and completely unconcerned! I snapped away and he just kept chewing his food. He is a beaut of a buck though, I’ll bet those are going to be some pretty formidable antlers when they reach full growth for the autumn rut!

By this time I was hungry and could not resist a brat and a Dunkel at Bierwerks, my favorite watering hole in the Pikes Peak high country region πŸ™‚ By this time Woodland Park was completely socked in with clouds, cold, wind and fog and even a few snowflakes… so I was perfectly content to wait out Big Dog’s procedure indoors sipping my favorite beverage πŸ™‚

And as always, these images and more are available on my website or purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting plus tons of cool gift, tech, apparel and household items with an S.W. Krull Imaging picture on them!

 

 

 

 

In the Clouds

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!

Clouds Forming in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

So we had a good hike and I even got to be part of an interesting weather phenomenon πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

Snowy Morning in May

Snowy Mine Country

Woke up early this morning. As soon as I could pry my eyes open I took a quick look at my weather app, 27 degrees with snow… perfect! Not going to go out the door with no coffee and frozen waffles though, not going to happen. In the meantime, a look down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo looked promising. Couldn’t really tell if I was looking at a cloud or a fog bank, but it was nice and I knew I was going to be taking out the camera into the weather!

As the big dog and I wound our way along the mountain road to the trailhead it started

Mule Deer Herd on a Snowy Morning

to snow a little… beautiful dry wispy snowflakes falling down from the sky, kind of like a snow globe πŸ™‚ I was hoping for a good mountain view of the Sangre de Cristo from the summit, but there were too many clouds. Nice clouds though, with a few bursts of snow going on in different places, well worth a couple minutes break in the hikingΒ  for some weather photos!

But that was nothing compared to the treat I encountered in the woods on the way back down! A small herd of mule deer had gathered in the mountain grass at the edge of the aspen forest for their breakfast πŸ™‚ They cast a few curious looks in our direction but mainly just kept eating. Thanks to my big Canon 400mm lens I didn’t have to get too close to get some decent shots. I’m sure with my old 200mm I would have tried to get closer and scared them off. So we shot, they ate and the snow kept falling. I chose ISO 400 in hopes of freezing the snowflakes. I’ve learned that too slow a shutter speed makes for snow streaks instead of snowflakes and that’s no good.

Mule Deer Herd on a Snowy Morning

I really couldn’t see on the display whether or not the snowflakes were visible, but I just kept shooting. I wasn’t going to be able to get a faster shutter speed in that light anyway. However now at home in front of the computer I was in for some pleasant surprises πŸ™‚ One of these shots I thought had two deer in it actually had three with one kind pf peeking around another one and the snowflakes turned out to be just right. Some are just small dots, some of the closer ones turned into surreal looking globes but that’s ok.

I was thinking about boosting the contrast and color in Photoshop but I eventually decided that any special effects betrayed the dreary mood of the scene, and it is that dreary snowy mood that I love and live to get out in and experience! I guess that’s a good thing since life in the Rocky Mountains at 10,000 feet serves up a lot of mornings like that!

As always these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool household, tech and gift items are also available by simply clicking an image you like and scrolling down to the options menu! Sometimes I come across a situation and some captures that are so special to me that I really don’t want to sell them as stock where they sometimes go for peanuts. Such as it is with these, they are only available in print form on my website and not as RF stock on the stock sites. Stay tuned, there are many more of these to come, plus a couple of weather landscapes of the nearby peaks.