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 🙂

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 🙂

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.  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 🙂

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!  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 🙂

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.

Cool Pictures from RMNP

Slowly making my way through the almost 900 images from this year’s trip to Rocky

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Misty Rocky Mountain Morning

Mountain National Park. For some reason I overlooked these in the editing process, the morning after the camp out. It was cold on that Wednesday morning, around freezing when I awoke just before sunrise. As I was walking around trying to get warm I noticed that it seemed kind of foggy or hazy or something… Was hoping my camera  buddy… and driver for this trip would soon awaken so we didn’t miss the morning show in the meadow! As luck would have it, another party awakening nearby just happened to set off their car alarm, abruptly awakening everyone in the entire campground 🙂

The elk were already active in the meadow, wandering around, eating and talking

Longs Peak at First Light

among themselves, the bull bugling out his commands… The meadow was filled with elk and an amazing mist, creating this mystical scene that I will never forget! The breeze was moving the mist around creating endless photo ops with the elk moving in and out of the foggy scene. The morning glow was lighting Longs Peak towering high above the fog in the valley. I had accidentally left my gloves  behind and my hands were frozen from the cold metal of the tripod but I kept shooting, I knew the scene would only last until the sun cleared the mountains to the east.

But I got these and a few more before the warmth of the day burned off all the mist and the harshness of the morning sun overcame the beautiful predawn glow. As always these pictures are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Misty Rocky Mountain Morning

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 day  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

Recovery Mode

Continuing with recovery mode today, after apparently having physically run myself into the ground.  Awoke early this morning with what felt like one arm in a vise grip. Tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t find a position that would relieve the pain in these old joints so I finally gave in and got up. This was about 5:30, so I just got a cup of coffee and settled down in my recliner with the puppies… soon I was back to sleep and my eyes didn’t open until 9:00 🙂 way to late of course for any meaningful photography.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado

So I just decided that for today some more stock photography uploads were in order. Next on my list of mostly overlooked photo shoots was my road trip to Westcliffe. It was actually a pretty amazing day photography wise… some awesome clouds had moved in over the Sangre de Cristo Range and not far off the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness,  and it was a fantastic day for shooting. I remember it was difficult at the time to decide which were going to be three star, two star and one star images. They were all pretty amazing! The difference might be the placement of the foreground, or the location of the horizon, or perhaps even the configuration of the clouds.

Well for some reason in my initial editing this one turned out to be a one star image which I think maybe could have been more if I had done a little work on it. From today’s batch I wanted to pick the one that was my favorite and with Photoshop make it into a nice print. Black and white seemed to provide some extra drama along with a slight curves adjustment and I believe I have a fine art print to share  and hopefully sell some day 🙂

 

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,  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 my  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.  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 my  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 🙂 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 🙂

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!