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.

I Have My Camera With Me

Colorado Landscape Photographer Gary Gray
Priest Lake Cabin

Browsing through my landscape photos this morning looking for a lazy day Sunday image, I came up with this photograph from the San Juan Mountains at a place called Priest Lake.

This photo was taken shortly after a robust snow storm hit the area near Telluride. It made for difficult driving but offered up some great photography.

I love it when seasons collide and I have my camera with me.

Photographic Cycles of Life

Bison Photo by Gary Gray
American Bison

For the past month or so, I’ve been concentrating on photographing Bison in a Winter environment. Photos of Buffalo covered in snow sell, plain and simple.

As I’ve grown older I’ve moved away from an active 9 to 5 type of existence into a more laissez faire approach to life in general.

I’m no longer interested in getting a “big job.” I’ve stopped photographing weddings and events. I’m more interested in finding the images that make me happy and the financial side is more or less secondary now that my wife is retired and I’m semi-retired. I don’t need the income to make ends meet and that probably is the driving force behind my approach. Man has to eat.

These days, I have been taking a seasonal approach to my photography. Living in Colorado affords me opportunities for wildlife and landscape work all year long and I find myself drifting from prime-time subject to prime-time subject for everything Colorado has to offer.

Right now. I want more Buffalo.

Trending on Tuesday

Ahhh, back to Winter here in the Denver area. We got about 6 inches of nice white dry powder snow here in the foothills. I wish we’d had some of this in December and January, but now is better than never. The snow is badly needed, here and in the mountains. This is our water.

Doobie has been enjoying his life of romping in the snow. At 6 months old, this is a first time experience for his little mind and he is soaking it in.

Doobie

Moose Monday

Moose Photography by Gary Gray
Bull Moose Sheds Velvet

A fresh start to a new week.

These days, I prefer weekdays to weekends. Being semi-retired, I’ve become accustomed to doing my local business when traffic and crowds are more thin.

A little relief from the Winter cabin fever we have been suffering from with a drive into the mountains yesterday to visit Trudy’s sister in Bailey, CO.  I always take a camera with me on the chance that there may be wildlife in the area. Mid day though, isn’t exactly when the moose are going to be hanging around the local stream.

NaDaa

So, I’ll start the new week out staring out the window at the fresh white stuff while I drink a tall cup of hot Dunkin Donuts coffee and work on getting more stock photos uploaded to the agencies.

Been watching the Winter Olympics, but honestly, I just can’t get in to it. I’m all for “Team USA” rah, rah, rah, and I hope we win lots of medals and everyone gets famous. The best part of it is the distraction from the political bullshit that has engulfed the US. Driven by everyone’s need to out scream everyone else and the lies are at a record crescendo it appears.

Who do you trust?  I don’t trust blatant liars, I know that much.

We’ll do our job come election day I reckon.

Train Tuesday

Train Photography by Gary Gray
Durango & Silverton NGRR on the Animas River in Colorado

It is “Train Tuesday” in my photography group.

It is also “Sunny Tuesday” which is nice to see as I look out my office window. Yesterday was a fairly cold and dreary Winter day. It reminded me of my years living in the Chicago suburbs. The difference, in Chicago the snow never melted and it eventually turned black from automobile exhaust. Naperville, Illinois, a suburban Winter hell and I don’t want to get going about life in Kentucky in the Winter. It doesn’t snow a lot in Kentucky, but there is nothing at all inviting about the cloudy, cold, humid, dreary Winters in Kentucky. I’ll take Colorado any day.

I probably should have made a run to Rocky Mountain Arsenal this morning for some photos, but I’m getting over some kind of bug and just not fully motivated at the moment.

No worries, I did get a handful of decent shots on Sunday morning and I’ll be editing and sending those up to the stock agencies.

I’ve noticed increased bird activity this week. Looks like the migratory birds are starting to come in to the area. That means I’ll need to start looking at the Tree in the Lake for Great Blue Herons. They started coming in last year in late February.

Enjoy your day.

Trending on Sunday.

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.