The Photographic Cycles of Life in Colorado

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American Bison at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

By mid-October, Winter weather begins its grip on Colorado. As a matter of fact, it’s snowing as I type this. Our first noticeable snow storm of the season here in Denver.

The warm season doesn’t last long here at high altitude. Mountain folk think of Denver and the Front Range dwellers as “flat-landers” to a certain degree.

Being a flat-lander doesn’t dial us suburban folks out of the mountains though. And it certainly doesn’t prevent us from experiencing and photographing wildlife. My primary residence is in the foothills on the South West side of the Denver metropolitan area and for me to get into the mountains is not much trouble. Living in the Denver area provides us locals with plenty of wildlife to photograph.

A popular location is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, about 20 miles north-east of downtown Denver, near Denver International Airport.

My next photographic cycle of the season will involve returning the Arsenal for photographs of deer, eagles, hawks, coyote and bison. All of these subjects are worthy of the effort, as I sell quite a few stock photos of these critters. Most popular among them are the bison.

One of the “holy-grail” photos I’ll be after will be the snow covered buffalo. I have a few, some better than others, but there’s always a better shot to get and I will put forth the effort to find that new and better snowy buffalo.

I still call them buffalo too. Techincally speaking buffalo aren’t really buffalo. As every pedantic wildlife enthusiast in the area knows, they are American Bison, but who cares. Nobody ever heard of Bison Bill. He was called Buffalo Bill and he’s buried on top of Lookout Mountain near my house.

I read somewhere that there are over 500,000 buffalo in the United States, the majority of which are actually domestic livestock that are genetically a mix of regular cattle and buffalo. Buffalo meat is tasty and ranchers breed the buffalo with cattle to make the animal more docile and easy to manage in large numbers, though you’d be hard pressed to look at one and know if it’s a Beefalo or a Buffalo.

We have a number of genetically pure buffalo in the state though. The Arsenal herd is a genetically pure herd, so I try to keep it as authentic as possible and go for the pure species specimens.

So with all those happy thoughts evoked, my next goal is the Buffalo.

Mooseaholic Monday

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Young bull moose walking through a pond.

Six Hundred photos for the opening of summer in Red Feather Lakes.

My first impression this year is that the moose are there and just waiting for me to find them. The few I found within a mile of my place prove that they are on the move looking for the best food.

Environmentally speaking, the Aspen trees have just greened up above 8,000 feet and most of the willows are sprouting fresh green shoots, which is what attracts these hungry ungulates.

I managed to get a full test in of the new kit. I’m shooting with the Nikon D810 using the 200-500mm VR and the Nikon D750  using the 70-200mm f4/VR. No complaints. I don’t have to swap lenses in the field. If I need wider angle, I have a D7200 the 24-120mm VR and a couple of fast & wide primes. I’ve been shooting in predawn light and both cameras handle it well.

I’ll probably take a few days of down time and edit shots. I’m looking forward to getting back out though. The summer is only starting.

Moose Photography in Colorado

Moose Photography Workshop by Gary Gray
Shiras Moose – Northern Colorado

Are you interested in Moose Photography in Colorado?

Private Moose Photo Tours and Workshops  (click here to find out more)

My 2018 Colorado Moose Photography private tours are now available for booking.

I will be offering single or multi-day bookings from July 9th – August 27th, 2018.

Booking will be by telephone/email only.  303-948-1972

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Photography by Gary Gray
Bison Sparring at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

A nice little snow storm landed on Denver yesterday and they have been far and few between this season to use an overused cliche.

As a result, my friend Tim and I took the opportunity to spend Sunday morning at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Northwest of Denver.

We lucked out with a herd of about 100 or so Bison being positioned in good light near the road.

The kit today.  Nikon D750 with the 200-500mm VR and the Nikon D7200 with the 18-140mm VR.

Bison are one of the more difficult larger animals I’ve photographed over the years.  Reason being, their fur.  Bison fur is very course and thick and doesn’t provide a lot of edge contrast for the autofocus on most cameras to accurately pick up on.  End result, I get a higher than normal amount of out of focus shots with Bison.  Therefore, I take lots of shots when I’m shooting Buffalo, just to add a little more water to the gravy so to speak.

Couple the fur/focus issue with the fact that we were working in large open fields of snow, and you’re just asking for trouble with the cameras focus and exposure.  Today, I cranked in +.7 stops of exposure compensation to make up for metering in an almost solid white environment.