My time in Colorado was rapidly coming to an end. On the other hand, the property inspection work was nearly completed. There were only a few sites left to
inspect in the greater Denver area. All the others were across the state at long distance and I didn’t plan to see them this trip. I knew I wouldn’t have
time over the coming weekend to do much, so I decided to get up early and take the time to make the drive to the Rocky Mountain National Park. It was either go
now or skip doing this for this trip. I really wanted to get back to the park before returning to the Northeast.
Scenic View - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/800 second at 80mm; EF70~200mm f/2.8L at f/10, ISO 250
I arrived at the park, paid the entrance fee and stopped at one of the Visitors Centers to pick up a map and other literature. I’d spent a
day here several years ago and had some idea of where I’d like to check to do some bird photography. I spoke with a Ranger and soon was on the
road. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day and the sky was clear blue with some clouds on the horizon.
Marmot - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/400 second at 840mm; EF 600mm f/4L + 1.4X at f/8, ISO 640
I made a few stops in the earliest part of my day. One was into a parking area that offered a pond and stream as well as some beautiful views of the
distant mountains. I observed some birds moving in a scrubby area and walked down to find whatever I could.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 5d, 1/1250 second at 400 mm; EF 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, ISO 800
I was pulled over at a scenic overlook looking down upon the valley and noticed some bluebirds below in the trees not too far distant. I’d been hoping to locate
some to add to my Bird Photography Index and this spurred my interest. I pulled the tripod out and got prepared to
shoot. After taking a few exposures at distance near
the vehicle, I decided to go down the hill to see if I could close the gap for a larger image scale. I quietly moved down and what I found to be generally the
case, the birds moved the same distance away from me. I stabilized the tripod on the steep incline, waited and took a few shots. After a few minutes I moved down
the slope again – the birds moved away the same distance… It didn’t take long to recognize I wasn’t going to get closer to the chosen subjects. I stayed down the
hill for about half an hour before deciding to move on. Shouldering the tripod, up the hill I went. I took my time on the way back; however, the thin air was an issue
becoming a significant problem. Denver is roughly a mile above sea level, here I was nearly twice that – two miles above sea level, and I wasn’t doing well putting my
northeastern physiology under stress. I started to get panicky as the lack of oxygen struck. But just as quickly it passed much to my relief – I’d be taking it easy afterwards.
Mountain Bluebird - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/50 second at 840mm; EF 600mm f/4L + 1.4X at f/10, ISO 250
I talked with a couple from Pennsylvania who'd visited the park on multiple occasions. They were birders and photographers as well. They kindly provided some insight on
places to check out as the morning progressed. I was also informed that where we were now was one of the better locations for birds. I would comment that pulling out the
600mm lens and tripod system sure is an ice-breaker when it comes to conversation…
Red-tailed Hawk - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 5d, 1/1600 second at 840 mm; EF 600mm f/4L + 1.4X at f/8, ISO 640
I left the overlook and continued with my day. I started to see some Rocky Mountain Elk along the roadway. When I came to a larger group I
parked on the shoulder and pulled the tripod out to see about obtaining some exposures on the elk.
Rocky Mountain Elk - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 5d, 1/500 second at 400mm; EF 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, ISO 800
I remembered my last visit at this park with Corey and the ladies several years before. I knew there was a turnout overlook at a higher elevation
that could prove exceptional for bird photography. I decided to drive until I located the turnout while looking for subjects along the way. The morning
was progressing rapidly and I hadn’t covered much ground. My photographer’s eye viewed so many opportunities everywhere I looked. When I arrived it was
as I recalled - high trees that were close to the elevation of the parking area. Although the trees were a bit farther away then I remembered, the possibility
of imaging subjects in the high branches was the same.
View From the Overlook- Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/320 second at 105mm; EF 70~200mm f/2.8L at f/8, ISO 400
There were a few birds I expected to find this day, Gray Jays, of the Rocky Mountain population versus
Pacific or Taiga populations, Clark’s Nutcracker
and bluebirds among them. I’d have to spend some time to learn what may be in the area. I spent most of my remaining time at this stop. Before I departed from this
overlook the weather had made a significant change for the worse. The sky formed angry clouds
and it started to rain, hard at times. Hard enough that my photographic day was ended...
Gray Jay - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/320 second at 200mm; EF 70~200mm f/2.8L at f/8, ISO 400
It looked like the Gray Jays made the rounds about every thirty-minutes or so. They’d fly in, check the area and if they didn’t view anything to scavenge, would
soon be on their way. As The Sibley Guide to Birds points out, ‘Bold, inquisitive behavior has earned this species many nicknames, including
'camp-robber’... I wasn’t disappointed about the Clarke’s Nutcrackers either. They came and went and I was pleased to obtain some exposures on
multiple individuals. The only time previously I’d photographed these birds was at this very spot – this was pretty cool!
Clark's Nutcracker - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/125 second at 840mm; EF 600mm f/4L + 1.4X at f/8, ISO 400
I talked to quite a few people at this stop as I worked with my cameras. I ended up staying for multiple hours as folks came and went. I could see some bird
activity below the stone wall and ledge and climbed over to have a look. Not realizing there was quite a flat section after the wall but before the drop off, some
of the visitors came over to warn me of the danger. Falling off the mountain wasn’t in my plan for the day, so I went over to the vehicle and pulled out the
tripod. There were birds and other subjects to photograph but one had to be patient I found.
Pine Grosbeak - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/80 second at 840mm; EF600mm f/4L + 1.4X = 840mm at f/8, 400 ISO
One fellow who stopped by was definitely a Class A birder. He was quite helpful and with a good binocular was well able to pick out birds at distance. I missed
having mine along although this represented more gear to carry afield – the field of view through the 600mm lens is narrow and as you’re viewing through the camera the image is dimmer than through a spotting
scope. A flycatcher landed on a treetop in front of us and my new friend identified it – a Hammond’s Flycatcher – and
a new bird for the Index…
Hammond's Flycatcher - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/100 second at 840mm; EF 600mm f/4L + 1.4X at f/5.6, ISO 640
One species I was really pleased to observe, even if I couldn’t obtain a definitive image was the
Steller’s Jay. Last time I was here
I obtained one mediocre image of this bird at this same spot. Today I’d viewed several although not in pristine conditions for a photograph. Now
there were some around but the weather was deteriorating. I was able to get some exposures on this species but never really 'nailed' one to my satisfaction, being hampered with slow shutter
speeds and poor seeing conditions. The color of this bird is rather unique when compared to their eastern counterparts.
Steller's Jay - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/80 second at 840mm; EF600mm f/4L + 1.4X = 840mm at f/8, 400 ISO
It wasn’t just birds of interest around the area. A group of Least Chipmunks and Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels were hanging around much to the delight
of all who stopped. They were both
entertaining and fearless when it came to finding food. I observed people sitting on the stonework eating lunch and a chipmunk would come right up and try to grab
their sandwich. Some thought it was funny, others freaked about having a small mammal so close. One lady had some French fries (is this still politically incorrect?
Should these be entitled, 'Freedom fries'?) and within a few minutes had
scurrying mammals doing acrobatics and eating out of her hand. They certainly could be comical as they chased about waiting for the next handout…
You can tell the squirrels from the chipmunks easily enough - if there are no stripes on the face, it's a ground squirrel.
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/500 second at 200mm; EF 70~200mm f/2.8L at f/8, ISO 400
Then there was the stunning scenery… This overlook proved as beautiful and majestic as any place it has been my pleasure to visit. You may have
noticed several composite images elsewhere in this article; both were photographed from this location. I’ll include a few more landscapes before moving
on with this photojournal…
View From the Overlook - Rocky Mountain National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1/640 second at 73mm; EF 70~200mm f/2.8L at f/8, 400 ISO
Our schedules hadn’t allowed Corey and me to spend much time together during the week. We talked on the phone several times and I indicated we should do something the
following weekend. I was flying out at 0600 hours on Monday and with the work tasks expected to be completed by Friday afternoon, I viewed the balance of time as
free. He mentioned we should go to Nebraska and visit his mother, Margie. At first I thought this was a bit outlandish but as we discussed it further and Corey explained
what to expect, I agreed. I’d never spent any time in this state and the drive out would consist of views of new territory. Late on Friday afternoon Corey and I met, transferred the luggage to one vehicle and commenced the 3½ drive...
Corn Field Irrigation System - North Platte, Nebraska
Canon EOS 5d, 1/500 second at 400mm; EF 400mm f/5.6L at f/8, ISO 800
Corey’s mother, Marge, had recently opened a restaurant at a country club in North Platte, Margie’s Bar and Grill. I learned this was a primary reason he wished to visit this
particular weekend – his mother had a few electrical repairs she wished him to address.
When we arrived in North Platte we went to the restaurant to check in with Margie and say hello. After a terrific meal it was time to think about unpacking and getting organized before going to sleep. We had several options but elected to stay in the ‘bunkhouse’ at the residence of Clint & Jennifer Schafer – Game Trail Farms. Clint was a physician in North Platte and I learned he was an avid hunter. The ‘bunkhouse’ was the guest house on his farm and it was quite nice. It had everything you’d ever require to live well – full kitchen, washer and dryer, etc., and was well furnished. It was also on the edge of a sportsman’s/nature lover’s paradise. Besides being surrounded with corn fields under cultivation there was a good deal of woodlands going down to a river. This place offered many opportunities to view the local wildlife.
Country Club View - North Platte, Nebraska
Canon EOS 5d, 1/250 second at 73mm; EF 70~200mm f/2.8L at f/5.6, 640 ISO
I was up early on Saturday morning – too early as it turned out. My body remained on Eastern Time throughout my trip, sometimes an issue, but it allowed me to view the sunrise
this day. It turned out to be a gloomy and overcast sunrise with little color and I didn’t set up a tripod to capture the event. I was concerned the weekend would be a rain-filled
wash-out… Corey, always an early riser as I recognized from experience, was up and we went behind the house to see what bird activity may be around at Clint’s feeders. We observed a
good deal of movement but it was so dark around the trees that it was nearly impossible to obtain an exposure that would work. We decided to go to breakfast and let the
sun get up some more.
Red-headed Woodpecker - North Platte, Nebraska
Canon EOS Mark III 1Ds, 1/125 second, EF 600mm f/4 + 1.4X = 840mm at f/8, 400 ISO
Clint owned several all terrain vehicles available to get around the grounds. With the multiple acres involved this was far superior to hiking although there’s no such thing as
a stealthy approach on one of these beasts. Corey chauffeured me around for the next two days. It was rough riding and a great workout trying to prevent being ejected. We
selected the larger vehicle because it offered a longer flatbed section to carry the tripod and optics. I used blankets to protect the gear in transit.
Game Trail Farms Transportation - North Platte, Nebraska
Canon EOS 5d, 1/400 second at 400mm; EF 400mm f/5.6L at f/7.1, 800 ISO
Corey and I swung by Margie’s Bar & Grill to say good morning and to allow him time to conduct the repairs she wished. He’d worked on the building retrofit to
get the facility opened and was familiar with the electrical systems. I’ve known Marge as long as I’d known her son – it was good to see her again. We talked for a
bit and while Corey set up for work tasks, I brought a camera system in to photograph the restaurant. Marge had some good ideas of what she wished photographed. I wasn’t set
up with equipment I normally would have on-hand for this type of shooting, but could make do. I dismounted the 600mm lens and used the Wimberley head on
the tripod – I didn’t have my ballhead tripod along...
Wine Barrel at Restaurant Entrance - Margie's Bar and Grill
Canon EOS Mark III 1Ds, 1/50 second, EF 24~105mm f/4L; 24mm at f/8, 800 ISO with Flash
A few months ago I’d purchased a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. I’d used this on several occasions and it has proven to be an asset. Often fisheye lenses are considered
novelties – fun to use every now and then, afterwards relegated to the camera bag with little employment. However, I have found my fisheye to be just what's required
for interior property inspections when the subject is close due to space constraints. A single exposure is easier than
shooting in counterparts and merging the images later in this application - these aren't shots one plans to print, just to document for file. For example, try photographing a kitchen layout when a normal lens can only view
one wall at a time – the 15mm fisheye can capture the entire scene with a 180 degree angle of view. I decided to use the fisheye and a short focal length zoom for shots around the restaurant.
Grounds in Front of Margie's Bar and Grill - North Platte, Nebraska
Canon EOS 5d, 1/400 second at 70mm; EF 70~200 mm f/2.8L at f/7.1, 400 ISO
Take a look at the image a right – a shot off the camera with the fisheye lens. The camera was fairly close to the countertop. This view is kind of neat with the curvature
but not really acceptable for a brochure or advertising purposes for the facility. Next take a look at the image below… Same image cropped a bit closer with some enhancements. I
have found the key to using a fisheye lens as a useful tool, outside of novelty images, is the software program DxO Optics Pro v6.2.
There a few differences in the rendered image that can be considered significant. The curvature has been removed – the software has a fisheye correction tool used for this purpose. Also you can
note the view through the windows at left has been restored. The image was double-processed in Photoshop so the light from the windows wouldn’t be a blown out mess. The overhead lights
in the image are angled in a funky look, which I didn’t try to correct in this case. In this image I’d be interested in the bottle assembly behind the bar. I believe the corrections and enhancing
techniques employed make this image usable.
Fisheye Bar View - Margie's Bar and Grill
Canon EOS Mark III 1Ds, 1/30 second, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye at f/5.6, 800 ISO with Flash
Saturday evening a storm front moved in with high winds and heavy rains. It was absolutely howling and woke me from a sound sleep. I got up, looked out the windows, and
then went outside to observe. I wasn’t outdoors for long – it was a nasty storm… The next morning the rain was still pelting down. During a break in the action, when it
stopped raining for a brief period, Corey and I went outside to police the area and picked up items that had blown around the yard. It looked like anything not nailed or tied
down had become airborne from the high winds. We planned to head back to Denver this morning anyway – it didn’t look like much of a day for nature photography shaping up…
Canon EOS Mark III 1Ds, 1/1250 second, EF 400mm f/5.6L at f/8, 640 ISO
We went in town and had breakfast. The storm was the talk of the morning by all in the restaurant - the area experienced significant flooding. Afterwards we returned to Margie’s to
say goodbye before packing the vehicle and heading out. Margie had a few more odds and ends she wished Corey to attend to, both at the restaurant and her home, so we delayed a few
hours. One of the staff at the restaurant mentioned to Corey he knew about an eagle observation point on a lake that we would pass on the Colorado return. I thought stopping to look
for eagles was a great idea - maybe the rain would subside by the time we got to the lake, which turned out to be the case.
Juvenile Western Bluebird
Canon EOS 5d, 1/1000 second at 400mm; EF 400 mm f/5.6L at f/11, 800 ISO
We did stop at the lake, which was a local park. However, we didn’t locate the eagle overlook as expected and nobody we spoke with knew anything about it. Oh well – just another disappointment
lesson - we could have been at the wrong location and it was time to move on. I did see a good deal of bird activity as we drove the gravel roads. Barn and Tree Swallows were flying everywhere and I observed Orchard Orioles in the trees. I
asked Cory to let me out for awhile – I wanted to photograph some male orioles if I could. I didn’t take many exposures on this day but did digitally capture some birds as can be viewed in the
following gallery, as well as an interesting scene of the water level in process of being lowered…
Swallow Flying in the Mist
Canon EOS 5d, 1/2000 second at 200mm; EF 70~200 mm f/2.8L at f/9, 800 ISO
I found a hotel near the airport to spend my last evening in Colorado. It was going to be an early morning to catch the shuttle and flight east. Although I was homeward bound there was one last work activity to address
before I returned to Maine. I was to meet an associate in Michigan to inspect a group of properties strung out between Detroit and Flint.
I keep my camera bag handy to photograph the properties and anything I viewed in the short time we had during the whirlwind of inspections. I took few non-work related shots but will post a potpourri from my travels over two days…
Floral View - Michigan
Canon EOS 5d, 1/1000 second at 400mm; EF 400 mm f/5.6L at f/11, 800 ISO
One of our stops took use near a large lake. We walked over to have a look and as we approached I observed a Mute Swan pair with a group of chicks. I thought this was intersting and approached to photograph the birds…
Mute Swan Chicks
Canon EOS Mark III 1Ds, 1/400 second, EF 24~105mm f/4L; 105mm at f/9, 640 ISO
It was a Tuesday when I arrived back in Maine. I’d been traveling for about two weeks but it felt like I’d been away from home far longer. It’s often been stated, ‘there’s no place like home,’ and
I was pleased to be returning and getting back to a normalized schedule. If you reviewed this account, in essence a business trip, you may wonder if I had time to do much that was work related. I can
assure you I did… The work activities were successful and because I was outside my normal routine, I had nights to work on reports and enhance image groups. If I didn’t place too much emphasis on time
to sleep, I found there was plenty remaining to do everything planned plus whatever came up. It had been an active time. I could go home, rest, work and prepare for the next adventure…
Canon EOS Mark III 1Ds, 1/200 second, EF 24~105mm f/4L; 24mm at f/10, 640 ISO