Wildlife Wednesday

Photograph of a Bison - Image Colorado
American Bison In Snow Covered Prairie Grass in Colorado

Bison are an interesting subject. Are they wild animals or are they livestock?

There are a lot of bison herds around the country and none of them are truly wild, though they do have very large areas to roam freely. Most of the bison in the US are treated as livestock though. I consider the genetically pure herds to qualify as wildlife, as they aren’t used for commercial food processing. Still, some of those herds are managed the same way livestock is managed.

I remember many years ago living near Chicago, there was a place called Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory, west of Chicago. I drove by it every day to/from work. They had a few bison running around on the grounds there and I recall taking the kids over to look at them through the fence. Don’t know if that’s still the case though.

Know Your Environment

Wild Deer In the Colorado Great Outdoors. Mule Deer Buck Feeding in a Snow Storm


More deer action from RMA during yesterday’s snow storm.

As a former wedding photographer, I learned about the problems of photographing lots of white in a scene.

The camera meters the white (wedding dress, or in this case snow) as being neutral and will tend to underexpose the image. In severe cases, upwards of 1.5 stops.

Knowing I was going to be taking photos with a lot of snow in them, I set an exposure compensation of +1 stop, and it was still not quite enough for this scene.

Know your environment.

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.

Small Surprises

Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in Autumn

For me, landscape photography sells almost 2:1 better than wildlife. My most popular theme is Autumn photography in Colorado.

Sometimes I take the scenic beauty in Colorado for granted. I’ve been doing this for long enough, going to my normal haunts around the state begin to feel redundant.

What I’ve discovered is to not concentrate on the iconic locations and scenes, photographed by thousands, over and over.

These days I spend more time looking for scenery in the nooks and crannies along the back roads. Areas that one doesn’t normally associate with group workshops and camera club outings.

I don’t recall ever seeing a photograph of this location, though the area is heavily covered by shutterbugs.

The best days are when you find small surprises.