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 🙂 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 🙂

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Beauty of the Storms

Snowstorm in the Sangre de Cristo

It snowed again so obviously I was obligated to go out in it this morning… and I’m glad I did! In the aftermath of this winter’s latest act of fury, the scenery was stunning and the wildlife were out in number taking advantage of the respite between storms. We saw herds of deer and elk at the edge of wilderness foraging for food, beautiful blowing snow,  amazing cloud formations and the majestic peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

I was wishing I had a circular polarizer for my 100-400mm long lens, but alas it has not yet arrived. Actually I’ve been Winter Storm Deerputting it off because there are a number of B+W circular polarizers from which to choose. I finally researched all the features and discovered the one that I need is the 77mm XS-Pro Kaesmann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano model. That’s a mouthful for sure, but more on that when the piece arrives 🙂

Also would like to mention today that my website has a new look! Fine Art America has made a number of improvements on

Winter in the Pike National

their web site hosting platform which I have

incorporated into my site as well. Now the landing page presents a nice slide show which you are welcome to watch for a while before placing an order if you like! The standard keyword search continues to be available and there is still a button for collections which allow you to narrow down your search by category. Additional buttons across the top of the slide show are now available to give you quicker access to the type of products you are interested in, for example… apparel, wall art, lifestyle, etc. I really like the new look, much easier to navigate!

Anyway, hope you enjoy today’s pictures!

Winter in the Pike National Forest

 

New Snow

Snow was falling steadily when I finally turned in last night. I knew it was going to be amazing this morning so at first light me and the big dog went out to investigate. With all the fresh powder from the night’s snowstorm the snowshoes came in handy! Big Dog was bounding through the new snow like a puppy, and the receding storm clouds over the Sangre de Cristo range were breath taking 🙂

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

And I have to say, this 400mm Canon lens is amazing, the magnification, the exposures, the contrast, all stunning. And for big 400mm glass, this lens is quite easy to carry around. The tension ring is a beautiful piece of engineering, easy to loosen when you want to zoom and easy to tighten when you don’t want the lens extending while walking or running. Plus you can lock your lens in place at any focal length and it won’t creep in or out while you are shooting.

This shot was taken from the top of the ridge where we finally turned around to head back to the trailhead, my favorite picture of the day. One day when I have more time I will go back and process some more of these captures for the stock agencies.

As always this image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and with traditional framing and matting. Cool gift, household and tech items are also available with one of our images! Just click on your favorite picture to see all the product options and pricing!

Diamonds in the Sky

It was cold  this morning, near zero I think but not cold enough to keep us from our hike on the high peaks of the Pike National Forest 🙂 Storm clouds were rolling in over the Sangre de Cristo Range but the sky was still a beautiful bright blue overhead. As Big Dog and I strode along through the high meadow I noticed that there were glittering

Diamonds in the Sky

snowflakes drifting down from the frozen sky. By this time we had gone around the summit past the amazing view of the Continental Divide and heading back east toward the rising sun. The snowflakes were glittering in the sunlight and it was like we were walking through diamond dust falling from the cold blue heavens.

We often experience that phenomenon up at this elevation. I guess this high we are actually in thin clouds sometimes and it is so cold that the moisture in the sky is literally frozen and falling out of the sky. If we were lower we would be looking up at a snow cloud but from here there is snow falling on a clear day. Well anyway, it was an amazing scene to see it in the morning light that way!

Gathering Storm on the Sangre

Also today I read a heartbreaking story called the Unnamed Foal. It was a story in my inbox about a foal that had died from shock in one of the cruel and violent BLM wild horse roundups. These beautiful creatures are literally dying from greed. Welfare ranchers in the west grazing their cattle on public land can’t stand the idea of sharing with a few of our wild horses collude with the government to have them rounded up and slaughtered. There is no excuse for it and it is just pure greed driving it. Please consider liking and giving to the American Wild Horse Campaign to try to save our wild horses. If someone doesn’t do something some day all of these magnificent creatures will be gone.

On a more positive note, our Yellowstone wolves hit the big time. High profile exposure on 60 Minutes in a segment called the Wolves of Yellowstone gives me hope that the good people of this country are finally catching on to the value of our wild animals! Doug Smith, researcher and spokesman for the park was asked if the wolves knew to stay in the park to which he explained that these wolves don’t know about hunters and they don’t know where the park boundaries are. Not a lot of people know that hunters wait just outside the park boundary for a wolf to step just a couple of feet over the line where they are then shot dead, robbing from thousands of park visitors the joy of seeing a famous and beloved animal forever. What is worse, the hunters often locate them with the very radio collar placed on them at great expense by the park researchers to study and preserve them. Please write to your congressmen to demand a buffer zone between the park and the selfish miscreants who seek to kill them.

As always, these photographs and more are for sale on my website as wall art and cool household and gift items.

The Storm Beckons

Much to my surprise fresh snow and black clouds greeted the sunrise this morning. And naturally I was unable to resist the call of stormy weather, never have been! It wasn’t a rush though, the storm clouds didn’t appear to be going anywhere very fast and I was glad to have a few minutes for some frozen waffles and coffee before heading out into the elements. However Big Dog quickly figured out that I wasn’t going to work and got excited, he could care less what the weather is doing… as far as he is concerned all days are good for hiking!

Fresh Snow in the Rockies

The mountains are always the same ones… my view of the Sangre to the southwest, but that’s the beauty of a Rocky Mountain storm. The clouds are like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two are the same. A good storm can transform the same old mountains into a scene that I have never witnessed before. The contrast of the morning sun on the fresh snow against the black clouds in the distance was amazing and well worth a couple of minutes to stop and take in a few shots on my way to the mountains.

Storm clouds on the Sangre

As we strode down the trail to my mountain overlook I was contemplating my life in the weather. I have always been interested in the weather, enough so that I signed up for weather school in the Air Force in hopes of a career doing something I loved. The twists and turns of life took me in another direction from there but my love for weather has never subsided. Always thought I should have become a storm chaser instead of a computer programmer after I got out of the Air Force… I wonder why I have never created a special gallery on my website devoted to weather? Hmmm… I have plenty of inclement weather images with which to fill it, what a great idea 🙂 There, it’s done… for now. All I need is a truck that runs and I can start chasing storms, never too late to start something new 🙂

The Mountains Decide

One of the rules of landscape photography is that you shoot right before sunrise or right after sunset or don’t even bother, the lighting won’t be interesting enough to make a decent image. However that rule, along with many others does not apply in the mountains. The mountains alone decide when they want to be photographed, climbed or just plain left alone.

Stormy Sangre De Cristo

Storm clouds on the Sangre De Cristo

Today was just such a day as sunrise was met with several inches of fresh snow and a layer of dense fog covering the entire area. I was thinking of an early hike with the camera but decided otherwise when I saw the conditions. Some biscuits and gravy at Bronco Billy’s seemed like a much better idea 🙂 However when I came out from breakfast everything was changed… The sun was trying to come out and I could make out some interesting cloud formations in the direction of the Sangre De Cristos so me and Big Dog headed for the trailhead.

The view from the trail summit was amazing, the clearest view I have seen of the mountains yet this winter! And to add to the scene, the storm clouds from the night before were still lingering, floating lazily just below the tops of the magnificent mountain range.

Sangre De Cristo Snow

Fresh snow on the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado

So for about an hour I had a window of opportunity to get some of the coolest shots of the season… not at sunrise or sunset, but on mountain timing. On my way home I noticed that the window was closing fast, the Arkansas Valley was rapidly filling with clouds and the mountain range was becoming invisible once again. By the time I got home it was snowing in earnest and the mountains were but a fond memory.  I thank the Almighty for the window of opportunity and for making me available to witness it in full glory.

Approaching Colorado Storm

I had heard on the news last night that winter was making a comeback in southern Colorado so I planned to awaken early to try to get in a hike before the snow began to fly. Fighting through the fog of fatigue, I managed to get out the door right at first light which gave me time to stop at Bronco Billy’s for some 50 cent breakfast of French toast and coffee.

Sangre De Cristo Storm Clouds

Clouds and fog fill the Arkansas Valley ahead of an approaching winter storm

As I got to Grouse Mountain the sun was just cresting the ridge on the east allowing the sunlight to shine on my peaks and fill the Arkansas Valley with a beautiful morning glow. The first sign of the winter weather greeted me as I summited the peak and could see to the west and south that the entire valley at the base of the Sangre De Cristo to the south and the Collegiate Peaks to the west was filled with a lake of clouds and fog. It was quite stunning in the morning light, I do have to say so myself! So obviously I had to take a break from hiking to set up for some shots of the amazing scene below. Now that I am looking at the images on my computer I am also delighted to see how much color there was in normally colorless fog bank below.

Pikes Peak Colorado

Southwest face of Pikes Peak Colorado

There was a small herd of cows on the trail where I usually take a loop around the side of the mountain to get back down so I decided me and the dog would just go back around the mountain the other way. Nothing good can come from walking the dog through a herd of cows, that much is certain! Nothing on the way down worth stopping for so we just loaded back up in the truck and headed for Victor. I like to take a loop around the big gold mine on the way back to Cripple Creek in hopes of spotting some deer or elk high on the pass, but no luck with the wildlife today. There was however a magnificent view of the southwest face of Pikes Peak in the early morning sun worth stopping for and on my way back to the truck I also noticed that the abandoned mines looked amazing in the early morning winter sunlight. The clouds were really getting gloomy in the valley though and the view back in the most scenic direction was too dark to be worth shooting.

Gold Mine near Victor Colorado

Abandoned mine near Victor and Goldfield Colorado in the beautiful winter morning light

By then I was really feeling the fatigue from my previous week of graveyard shifts and some coffee at home was sounding pretty good. So I turned the old Dodge towards home only to have to make one more stop. There was a nice view of town and the approaching storm available on the overpass so I stopped for a couple of captures there.

I would have to say my first real day of 14er training was a great success… unfortunately the wobble in my legs and aching muscles are telling me that my planned 14er summit on Quandary Peak is yet a way off! Fortunately I don’t have to lose a bunch of weight in my training regimen… just get my leg strength and endurance back from the long winter away from the alpine trails.

The clouds at home have thickened and the wind has picked up significantly, now blowing out of the north. I can feel snow in the cold air that is settling in here at 10,000 feet in the southern Colorado mountains. Glad to be home with my coffee and looking forward to processing more of these pictures!

These images and many more can be purchased as prints on beautiful glossy acrylic or metal sheets, in traditional framed and mat materials and on wrapped canvas. Commercial stock licensing is also available. Please click the links to the left, or in your menu if you are using a smart phone to view my complete portfolio.