Saturday, December 9, 2017

Mule Deer Moment - A Dramatic Effect

Mule Deer Moment

On a dreary, early-autumn morning in the Front Range foothills, swollen, gray clouds have descended to the earth. The colorless curtain shrouds the countryside with an air of mystery and eerie silence.

There’s no reason to carry a camera because the low light makes it impossible to even conceive of documenting this unique weather phenomena. In the cold and wet there’s plenty of solitude as there’s not another living soul in sight.

A steady drizzle of much needed moisture causes the outline of all elements in the landscape to soften and become blurred. Despite the absence of light, the fall color is more vibrant when the grasses, trees and brush are coated with a vaporous sheen.

The soggy jaunt comes with no expectations of anything special as it’s just a chance to soak up the surroundings. Suddenly, up over the crest of a broad ridge a trio of gentle animals is grazing right at the forest’s edge.

It’s a mule deer moment that’s just too irresistible to disregard. Grab your camera, line it up, try to focus and maybe you’ll get a lucky shot but be quick because these cautious creatures will be off in a flash.

Fortunately, the young bucks seem unconcerned by the visitor’s presence and continue to proceed with their feeding. The stable situation allows the photographer to fire off a few shots with hopes of getting something worth saving.

Surprisingly, some of pictures turned out so now you don’t have to rely totally on memory to recall such a wonderful, wildlife encounter. After taking some time to reflect, I guess that murky sunrise wasn’t so bad because it definitely enhanced the photos with a dramatic effect.

A dreary morning in the foothills

A unique weather phenomena

The fall color is vibrant

Gentle animals

A lucky shot

Unconcerned by visitors

A stable situation

Dramatic effect

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mount Sneffels Summer - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Mount Sneffels Summer" Colored Pencil

Situated in southwestern Colorado, Mount Sneffels is a spectacular precipice rising out of the San Juan Mountain Range. Looming above a field of vigorous dandelions and rolling foothills, the solemn monarch prevails over all comers.

It's a pleasant summer evening and the setting sun bathes the scene in a peaceful ambiance that seems to permeate the entire area. Low, evening light floods in from the west creating strong shadows that define the rugged portrait of this beautiful peak.

The picturesque scenery is lit by a golden hearth that burns from within so a warm undertone continues to show through even after successive layers of color are added. The result is a landscape drawing that glows with cheerful optimism.

The lower section is bursting with bright yellow while blue shadows define the rigid structure of the impressive Rocky Mountains. The thoughtful design is influenced by the fact that elements filled with warm colors appear closer to the eye than those elements filled with cooler colors.

By taking advantage of this principle, the drawing is instilled with a nice sense of space. Warm colors are used in the foreground and gradually cooler colors as the picture recedes into the distance, creating an illusion of depth that captures the vast expanse of this special place.

Mount Sneffels and its range of rugged peaks pierce a smooth, summer sky while a few soft clouds occupy the infinite airspace as they slowly drift past. Blue tones from above are carried down below, unifying the entire composition with common hues.

Several different pigments have been layered over the top of each other creating a vibrant tapestry of deeper, more interesting color. When viewed from a distance, the jumbled mosaic fuses together in the viewer's eye.

Dominating the rugged skyline, Mount Sneffels is the undisputed focal point of the composition. Aesthetically, the apex of this pretty peak is placed in the compositional sweet spot according to the guidelines laid out by the golden ratio.

The complex arrangement of peaks has been transformed into austere forms of light and shade. This intentional simplification gives Mount Sneffels an imposing presence and the heightened contrast at it's summit will hopefully catch hold of the viewer's attention.

If you’re interested in learning more about the step-by-step process involved in drawing landscapes with colored pencil, please check out this link: Draw Landscapes

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Evergreen Lake - Wonderful Waterfowl

Evergreen Lake

On an exceptionally beautiful morning at Evergreen Lake, a dusting of fresh snow was hard evidence of a cold night. As the transition to winter gradually occurs, the last bit of open water was vanishing beneath a veil of thin ice.

Clouds of moist air began to disperse but they diffused the low light, resulting in an effect of milky atmosphere. Usually during the quiet season, you won’t glimpse a single soul in the vacant wetlands but on that day we observed a pair of wonderful waterfowl.

Perched on a rocky outcrop, a double-crested cormorant was drying its wings down below the dam’s spillway. Distinguished by piercing blue eyes, this prehistoric-looking creature was probably just passing through while on his way to a much warmer place.

Around on the far end of the blue reservoir, we encountered one of my favorite species, the American dipper. It was a pleasant surprise because I normally see this chunky, little bird farther downstream feeding in the fast-flowing current.

This incredible year-round resident spends its entire life on the water and it has the fortitude to withstand the coldest temperatures nature can conceive. The outgoing ouzel danced a bobbing jig on the rocky shoreline before completely submerging into the frigid pond.

It had been a while since we visited the preserve but we found the lake displaying its full splendor. Fortunately, the entire morning’s events were faithfully reflected on a fluid canvas which allowed me to record a few frozen moments in time.

A beautiful morning at Evergreen Lake

The transition to winter

A veil of thin ice

Vacant Wetlands

Double-crested cormorant

Piercing blue eyes

A prehistoric looking creature

Just passing through

A chunky, little bird

Spends most of its life on water

A bobbing dance

A frozen moment in time

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chief Hosa Trail - Peaceful and Beautiful

A study in contrast

Looping casually behind a historic chalet, Chief Hosa Trail is a hardened pathway that passes through forests of Douglas fir, lodgepole and ponderosa pine. Devoid of much activity during this season, autumn is a fine time to bask in nature’s glory.

The enlightened track circumnavigates a broad ridge that knifes through the wilderness, sharing with the keen observer a study in sharp contrast. By traversing the hillside, you’ll encounter two distinctly different ecosystems.

The north-facing slope is mired in an eternal shadow where giant fir and spruce trees envelope the lush undergrowth of glossy ferns. Once inside you’ll discover that deep snow is ever-present and white aspen glow against the dark backdrop.

The south-facing slope is flooded with bright sunlight where the ponderosa pine are twisted above an open scrubland of yellow grasses. Out there the rocky terrain is wide open with far-reaching views that extend all the way to the Continental Divide.

Mule deer favor the damp seclusion provided by the murky backside while small birds seem to prefer the sunny front where they cheerfully flit about. Passing through such diverse life zones sparks a curiosity to learn more about the plants and animals that inhabit this special place.

Chief Hosa Lodge opened in 1918 on the far west side of the circular setting. Named after the Southern Arapaho leader Little Raven, also known as Chief Hosa, the rustic retreat was made from local stone and logs so that it would blend seamlessly into its natural surroundings.

Back in its day, it provided shelter and amenities to Denverites escaping the bustling city for a few days in the tranquil foothills. If you come to visit, you’ll see that Hosa is a fitting name as that word comes to us from the Ute Indian tribe and it means peaceful and beautiful.

Mired in shadow

Flooded with sunlight

Pine above a yellow grassland

Rocky terrain

Views extend to the Continental Divide

Chief Hosa Lodge opened in 1918

Peaceful and beautiful

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Little Bighorn Valley - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Little Bighorn Valley" Colored Pencil

It’s springtime on the northern plains and the Little Bighorn Valley is a kaleidoscope of lively colors. From the rim of this lonely overlook, one can review Montana’s remarkable landscape.

Carving a rugged valley within the vast prairie, a winding river comes rushing down out of the big, gray mountains. You can barely catch a glimpse of the water as its concealed by a sprawling forest of cottonwood.

The lush treetops form wavy bands of foliage that are highlighted with lemon yellow. The trees are mostly green and modeled with dark shadows that appear more blue as they recede into the distance.

The sweeping hillside is steeper than it looks as it blends smoothly into the canyon floor. Just below the summit, a small patch of scrubby woodland has found its niche in a crease of earth called a coulee.

Blemishes of sagebrush are stippled randomly throughout the countryside’s quilted patchwork of fresh growth. Flowing across the picture’s foreground, lush grasses steal their color from the rest of the composition.

The approaching storm is nothing compared to the historical drama that haunts this ground’s turbulent past. Once the scene of a bloody battle, this place has healed itself into a peaceful refuge for solemn contemplation.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Genesee Mountain - Bursting with Beauty

Genesee Mountain trail

When heading up out of Denver, the first big peak you’ll encounter is the wonderful Genesee Mountain. A network of well-worn trails spirals around its flanks, taking you all the way to the top.

On a cold November morning the colors are dull and gray but the spectacular setting is classic Colorado foothills. The steep, grassy slopes are golden ochre and covered by an old-growth forest of ponderosa pine.

Erected at the precipice, a sturdy flagpole flys an American flag that’s tattered from the constant barrage of blowing wind. The historic guidon is a beacon of national pride and it’s determined flight is a symbol of the pioneer spirit.

Every Flag Day since 1911, an organization called the Daughters of the American Revolution has replaced the shredded banner with a new recruit. Off towards the west a patriotic path, inspired by the Stars and Stripes, descends gradually into a wide open meadow.

After you break out of the woodland, you can get right up close to a fence that encloses another western icon, the buffalo. A large herd of these impressive creatures roams majestically all over the pasture’s rolling hills.

Just a few miles from home, it’s interesting to view the town of Evergreen from such a unique perspective. You can see all the recognizable landmarks but mighty Bergen Peak is surprisingly dwarfed by the snow-capped Mount Evans Massive.

Genesee Mountain Park is often overlooked by those traveling I-70 to the Rockies’ more exotic locales. The truth is, though, that this underrated area bursts with just as much beauty as almost anywhere else in the state.

Wonderful Genesee Mountain

A spectacular setting

Classic Colorado

Steep, ochre slopes

An old-growth forest

American flag at the summit

Buffalo roam these hills

Bergen Peak and Mount Evans

Bursting with beauty

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Red Rocks Park - Garden of the Angels

Garden of the Angels

By the end of October in the Colorado foothills, the birds have slipped away, the first snow has loosened and most of the leaves have fallen. Luckily, lower down near Morrison there’s still enough color to brighten your day.

On a gorgeous, golden morning at the Garden of the Angels, autumn’s palette is composed from red, yellow and orange. The little creek that flows gently through this geologic wonderland is still lined with lush cottonwoods.

With the world famous amphitheater set as its centerpiece, this unique state park is currently known as Red Rocks. It’s a surreal place where sandstone slabs are tilted precariously, thrusting upwards towards a deep, blue sky.

Stair-stepped trails weave through the preserve, offering a fresh viewpoint at every turn. If you’re able to position yourself at just the right angle, you’ll see pale foliage set against dark shadows, creating a striking contrast of color and tone.

The search for a last bit of this year’s vibrant hues has ended in the transitional zone where the plains meet the mountains. Historically a sacred spot revered by native peoples, this heavenly hillside still feels like hallowed ground.

This year the temperatures are warmer than usual but a cool breeze blowing down from the white peaks gives you a chilly forewarning. Each successive day is supplied with gradually less light so now it’s time to start preparing for that dreaded season of darkness.

Color to brighten your day

Autumn's palette

A geologic wonderland

Cottonwoods line the creek

Sandstone slabs are thrust upwards

A fresh viewpoint

Pale foliage set against dark shadows

A transitional zone

Hallowed ground

Prepare for the season of darkness