The Photographic Cycles of Life in Colorado

American, Bison, blue, buffalo, bull, calf, coat, Colorado, cow, fur, generically, grass, heavy, herd, hoofed, horned, large, mammal, nature, plains, prairie, pure, seasons, sky, snow, tall, thick, trees, ungulate, water, wild, Wildlife, Wyoming
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.

Rocky Mountain High

Bighorn Ram photo by Gary Gray
Bighorn Ram – Colorado Rocky Mountains

Back to the summit this morning.

My main mission was Rocky Mountain Goats, however, the goats were scarce. I had to settle for the bighorn instead.

Beautiful morning on the mountain though. The clouds were blowing through fast and wafting below the summit of Mt. Evans.  All in all, it was a productive morning.

 

I’m Not a Weekend Warrior

Photograph of a wild mountain goat
Juvenile Mountain Goat – Colorado

Mountain goat season is here.

This is a photo from June of 2016.

With the tourist season upon us here in Colorado, I try to avoid getting out on weekends. The crowds form quickly and the probability of getting nice photos goes down dramatically.

I’m not a weekend warrior.

Mooseaholic Monday

moose, wildlife, animal, photography, photographer, nature, water, grass, young, bull
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.

My Job Is To Explore

Elk Photograph by Gary Gray
Young Bull Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

For me, the month of May is the time of year when I begin gearing up for wildlife photography here in Colorado.

I’ll be heading to Northern Colorado later this week, where I will be spending a lot of time this summer. The Laramie Mountains of Northern Colorado are, from my view of the road, one of the least frequented areas of the state for photography. What that means to me is I get to work without crowds of tourists and weekend warriors to wade through.

Not that the northern mountains don’t get tourists, but the ratio of tourists per square mile is much lower than areas to the south such as Rocky Mountain National Park.

As a matter of fact, I’ve pretty much abandoned working in National Parks due to over-crowding and hostile park rangers. They can keep it. There are lots of unexplored and lesser known areas between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs.

My job is to explore.

That’s A Different Story

Bull moose in a lake. Northern Colorado
Bull Moose – Northern Colorado

I suppose I’m a traditional type of person in that I find emotional comfort in certain traditions.

For internet purposes, I practice the tradition of “Moose Monday.”

I’m not quite certain of the origins of “Moose Monday” as it’s been observed by quite a few people I associate with. I’m I the reason? I don’t think so, but I may have contributed to the delinquency of others.

The Moose Collective. I think the first guy other than me who I recall using the phrase was Matt Dirkson and he too appears to have this insatiable appetite for photographing wild moose but we aren’t alone. Birds of a feather so to speak, it was inevitable that we collide and join a growing a photographic tradition of naming specific photographic themes for days of the week. Some days are better than others, literally.

Still, no one person gets credit for anything organizational in a collective. It’s more symbiotic than organized. We have “Moose Mommas” in the group too, so it isn’t a guy thing, I know that much.

These things aren’t just limited to Moose either. Us moose people in the collective are sort of a sub-collective. There are many sub-collectives in photography and we all appear to be traditional people from what I can see. Many of us are obcessed with our traditional ways, so we find our collectives and carry on.

To add to the confusions, I’ve picked up a nick-name as well.”The Moose Whisperer.” I’m not certain of the origin of that name, as I’ve heard it used many times over the years describing me but that’s a different story.

 

Sunday Morning Deer Action

Wildlife photography by Gary Gray
Mule Deer Doe

Out to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR this morning.

There have been news reports of newborn bison at the Arsenal so my buddy Tim and I made a run through the arsenal this morning.

Lots of bison, lots of deer, not a lot of photography as the animals weren’t exactly in good light for most of the morning.  Still, we managed to spot three newborn bison calves. One looks like it was born in the past 24 hours as the mother was looking quite raw and low on strength.

Bison photograph by Gary Gray
Newborn Bison Calf

The placenta is still fresh and hanging from the calf and the mother is on her feet.  One of three calves we spotted.

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