After Action Report for Autumn in the San Juans

Mt. Sneffels at Sunset

I experienced another great trip to the San Juan Mountains for autumn photography this year.

For the second year in a row, the skies were clear and blue. A challenge, photographically speaking. One learns to shoot small and keep the overwhelming bright blue to a minimum, but still, it makes for interesting photography once the compositions are found.

My trip almost ended shortly before it started. While driving along the highway near Cimarron, Co, a group of deer jumped in front of my vehicle while doing 50 miles per hour. Deer scattering and darting around in traffic with no warning as they were obscured behind an oncoming semi-truck until they leaped into my lane. I managed to get to the side of the road quickly, but unfortunately one deer slid under my front left wheel as I was coming to a stop. I’m sad to report that my front tire crushed one of the deer’s front legs above the ankle. She hopped off into the sage brush, but I knew she wouldn’t survive long with that injury. As for me and my vehicle, all I suffered was minor damage to the faring on the front left of the SUV and a broken heart knowing that there was nothing I could have done to have prevented it. The incident still weighs heavy in my heart and makes me cry to think about it.

Having made it through that incident, I tried to focus (no pun intended) on the upcoming task of a week long photography trip with Jon Steele.

Jon was hosting a workshop out of Ridgway this year. My original intention was to photograph the mountains around Crested Butte this year, but one of Jon’s clients backed out at the last minute and we worked out a deal where I would work with his photography group.

It was sorta fun not being “in charge” for a change and I informed Jon on many occasions to consider me just another client. Still, I think it worked as a win-win for everyone, even though I’m not teaching and hosting workshop/tours any longer, my experience and knowledge of the area seemed to be of use to Jon and his group.

There had been a lot of noise on the internet and in the news about autumn color change being delayed by at least two weeks, due mostly to a much warmer than normal August and September this year. That wasn’t really the case, at least not in the Ridgway area, as color change seemed to be about normal if not delayed by a half week or so from normal.  In fact, color patterns this year felt more normal than the past couple of years, so I have no complaints.

We worked mostly on the North side of the San Juan range and along the Million Dollar Highway where color was peaking right on schedule. We also had one day in Silverton to photograph two trains of the Durango and Silverton NGRR.

Based on previous trips to the area, I was hoping to get at least two dozen usable stock photos for the portfolio. That effort was a success as I haven’t finished editing all the images from the trip and already have at least 26 photographs on the stock agencies.

It was a dusty week. Jon had rented a Chevy Suburban for the workshop and in all honesty, it wasn’t very well sealed from the deluge of dust and dirt churned up on the forest roads. I’ve never seen so much dirt in my camera bag. It took me several days to get the gear and camera sensors cleaned upon my return.

We found a great bar & grill near the hotel called the “Full Tilt Saloon” for several of our meals. One of the big challenges in the San Juans during autumn photography trips is finding restaurants open later than 8 pm. Full Tilt’s chili was excellent, the burgers were tasty and the beer was cold. Plus they were serving food until 10pm. What more could a fellow ask for when trying to cut a day’s dust?

The weather was warm and clear the entire week, until our final day on Friday when we woke up to cloudy skies and fresh snow on the peaks. If only it had occurred a day or two sooner. We did manage a dramatic morning shoot on our last day.

The six hour return trip to Denver that afternoon was a beautiful if not tiring drive back along the Collegiate range through South Park.

Within 30 minutes of arriving home, I was sound asleep in my king size bed with both dogs curled up against me.

2019 is in the books.

Autumn in Colorado

The Cimarron Mountains

 

My next photography adventure will be to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with my friend Jonathan Steele. We will be working out of Ouray the last week of September.

My previous visits to the Cimarrons have produced less than I had been looking for, due mostly to bad weather. I’ll take another crack at it this trip. Those foggy mountain scenes do make for nice photos though.

This shot was taken during a workshop I hosted in 2017.

LaPoudre Pass

LaPoudre Pass

I haven’t had much time at a computer lately. An old friend from Kentucky and his lady from Tennessee are visiting with me this week and I’ve been showing them the mountains in Northern Colorado.

Lots of road work, lots of moose, lots of mountains, I’m finally getting a look at some of the images I’ve taken this week.

Here’s a photo taken Thursday morning on LaPoudre Pass, Colorado. It’s a beautiful place.

 

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.

The Road Moose Travel

photograph of a moose next to a mountain dirt road
The Road Moose Travel

The 2018 moose photography season is off to a good start.

My first morning of hunting for moose after opening my cabin and I didn’t have to go far to ring the bell.

I was on my first cup of coffee when I headed out the door to scout the area around the village and to my surprise the moose were present in force less than a mile from my place.

I wasn’t prepared either. I normally configure the camera and have it sitting on the front seat of the truck. Well, it was on the front seat; however, I had not yet bothered to take the lens cap off and set the exposure for the early morning light. Driving down the pot-holed road from my cabin, my attention this early in the day, was limited to keeping my too full cup of java from sloshing around and burning me when it spilled. I slowed down long enough to get control and to my surprise there was a moose already in view. Moving rapidly across an open field, I knew where she was headed.

Another 30 seconds of driving and I had reached Dead Man road. An area where the moose funnel out of the Laramie Mountains and into the more open woodlands around Red Feathers.

Of course, seeing the moose and getting a good photo of a moose are two different things.

I stalked out a position along Dead Man road and waited for this young bull to come to me. When he poked his head from the budding willows, I was ready for him.

Dead Man. The road moose travel.

Daydreaming of The San Juan Mountains

Panoramic photo of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado
San Juan Mountains – Colorado

After three weeks of website work, I’m taking Friday off. My mind is burnt and I’m daydreaming about getting into the mountains.

Today’s photo was taken near Ridgway, Colorado a few years back.

I’ve visited this location many times over the years. It’s a grand view and the variation in weather, sky and autumn color from year to year always makes for a new and interesting scene.

I’ll be working in the San Juans this Autumn and taking bookings for private photo tours. Check out my main website for more information.

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