Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wildlife Encounters - Early Autumn

Mule Deer Fawns

It’s early autumn in Evergreen, Colorado and animals are on the move. Hiking along the edges of Bear Creek Canyon, I’m lucky enough to experience some remarkable wildlife encounters.

Up on top, a pair of mule deer fawns and their mother skirt the wide ridge. They forage furiously as their winter survival depends on the calories they consume now.

On the lush, north-facing slope, more muleys are like gray apparitions emerging from the shadows of a dark forest. As they pass through a stream of diffused sunlight, their movements are sheer stealth.

The trees are quiet because most of the birds have gone but down in the creek below, a curious fellow still remains. Watching the American dipper hunt in the midst of whitewater rapids is an absolute delight.

Across to the other side and the eerie bellow of a Rocky Mountain elk can already be heard. Upon reaching the impressive creatures, I find them resting and grazing in the cool shade.

Browsing on the community’s fringe, a young male still has fuzzy velvet on his stubby antlers. With the rut about to begin, I’m afraid the massive bulls will keep him at bay on the outside looking in.

Finally, a fat ground squirrel with cheeks full of food is a fitting symbol for fall. Before long, the cold weather will settle in and we’ll be looking at our first snow.

Bear Creek Canyon

A mule deer mother and twins

A wide ridge

A gray apparition

Diffused sunlight

Upper Bear Creek

The American dipper is a delight

A big bull elk

A young male

On the outside looking in

A fat ground squirrel

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Viele Lake - An Urban Oasis

Viele Lake

Viele Lake is a pretty reflecting pool located below Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. The man-made reservoir is an urban oasis that clearly attracts lots of people.

The Flatirons rock formations create an impressive backdrop that’s mirrored symmetrically across the placid pond. On this September morn, structural white clouds float across a deep-blue sky.

During this season, trees display their yellow leaves through a flickering pattern of light and shade. As summer comes to an end, the birds are full of nervous energy before their eminent departure.

The community park is a fisherman’s delight as the lush habitat harbors big catfish and giant carp. A purple bridge is a photogenic arch that spans the lake’s narrow midsection.

The tranquil setting is perfect for a peaceful nature walk in order to clear your mind. It’s time to put your head down, don’t look too far ahead and just keep doing what you’re doing.

Nestled below Fairview High School

An urban oasis

The Flatirons are an impressive backdrop

Mirrored symmetrically

Structural white clouds

The trees are turning yellow

A flickering pattern of light and shade

A lush habitat

A tranquil setting

A peaceful nature walk

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saddle Rock - The Wild West

Saddle Rock

On a sweltering summer day in Nebraska, we hiked at Scottsbluff National Monument all the way up to the top of Saddle Rock. Unfortunately, a natural roadblock forced a detour but that didn’t diminish our resolve.

Just like the first pioneers, we approached the remarkable formation by crossing the rolling hills of a flower-filled prairie. Recent rainfall had transformed the vibrant grassland into a kaleidoscope of vivid color.

The spacious summit was a unique habitat featuring steep ledges, ponderosa pine and dangerous rattlesnakes. Views were far-reaching as a wide vista included the Twin Cities and most of the North Platte Valley.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to migrate across this vast landscape so many years ago. Things are different now but when you visit a place such as this, you still get a sense for what it was like when the West was wild.

Scottsbluff National Monument

From the top of Saddle Rock

Rolling hills

A flower-filled prairie

The grassland was a kaleidoscope of color

A spacious summit

Steep ledges and rattlesnakes

A wide vista featuring the twin cities

I can only imagine what it must have been like

A sense for when the West was wild

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Animal Portraits - San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is a beautiful, 100 acre park known for its lush gardens, naturalistic habitats and transcendent animal encounters. It’s an extravagant home to more than 3700 rare and endangered animals representing about 660 different species.

During my visit to the seaside sanctuary, I had the chance to observe, in person, animals that I would otherwise never have the privilege to see. It was a bittersweet experience because it hurt my heart to watch as some of the animals suffered from being held in captivity.

Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve had a passion for studying wildlife and my parents have passed down to me an acute sensitivity to animal’s feelings. I have a knack for perceiving their joy, curiosity, anger, fear and pain.

With camera in tow, I wanted to create an intimate picture of the animals I saw there so I focused on portraiture. Hopefully, the following collection of photos captures the beauty of these innocent creatures and expresses the sympathy I have for them.

Zoo critics claim that wild animals in zoos suffer physically and mentally because their complex social and behavioral needs cannot be met in unnatural manmade environments. They say many animals show signs of anxiety caused by the stresses of being held captive.

Lack of space is a major issue with animal rights activists as they believe most of the larger animals aren’t allowed the necessary room to roam. Some of them are forced into small cages where their every move is on display in front of the bustling crowds.

Zoo proponents argue that their main priorities are animal welfare, conservation and education. They believe that zoos give people from all walks of life the unique opportunity to experience and learn about the animal kingdom.

Today in this troubled world, wild animals must negotiate a labyrinth of challenges such as habitat loss, destructive weather, poaching and war. Proponents hope a visit to the zoo will inspire people to participate in protecting animals and conserving their environments.

I do think zoos offer a sort of protection as they play a critical role in the survival of threatened and endangered species. I just have a feeling that if the animals could talk, they would probably say - “We’d rather be free.”

An extravagant home

3700 rare animals

A bittersweet experience

Hurts my heart

Sensitivity to animals feelings

An intimate picture

Focused on portraiture

Innocent creatures

Animals need room to roam

Wild animals must negotiate a labyrinth

Proponents hope a visit will inspire

Zoos play a critical role

Saturday, August 27, 2016

California Beaches - A Place to Chill

Mission Beach, San Diego

I love exploring the Rocky Mountains of Colorado but it was nice to encounter the Pacific Ocean during our recent trip to southern California. We managed to hit a few beaches and it was surprising to discover how different they were from each other.

Each beach seemed to have its own, unique personality based on the type of people, waves and scenery that distinguished it from the others. There were also similarities between them that went far beyond the obvious basics of salt, sea and sand.

A common theme running through each visit was the sublime sunsets, persistent seagulls and tight parking. I’m not sure I could survive for very long in the Golden State as the behavior there is unbelievably intense but maybe you just get used to it.

Fast-paced traffic is a fitting symbol for the frenetic, California lifestyle but the beach is someplace where everybody slows down. The hypnotic nature of the crashing waves seems to chill all of those restless natives.

Mission Beach down in San Diego was probably my favorite because I was able to get out on the sand early, before the crowds arrived. The morning skies are overcast and the air is cool as a pink sunrise permeates the gray clouds. The water is warm with choppy waves that pound the shoreline with relentless force.

Early morning before the crowds

Overcast skies

Seal Beach is a local hangout so it’s not quite as touristy as many of the others. The wide stretch of sand offers plenty of space and relief from the sizzling interior. The water is dark and cold as the swells recycle in a nice rhythm. There’s a rickety, old pier stretching into the ocean that’s a favorite perch for opportunistic sea gulls.

Dark, cold water

Persistent sea gulls

Newport Beach is a glamorous locale brimming with beautiful people. The water is a bit colder but the smooth waves are perfect for boogie-boarding. The wooden pier is superb for watching the yellow sun disappear in an instant. After dark, the party really gets started as this oceanside resort enjoys a vibrant nightlife.

A beautiful, wooden pier

Superb sunset

Venice Beach is a trip. This place is a tourist’s delight as the atmosphere overloads all five senses. It’s pure California with bright colors, big crowds and cool characters around every corner. The green waves are tremendous as they curl over on top and crash into a rocky outcrop. Featuring fitness, shopping and surf, Venice is a diverse community with something for everyone.

A tourist's delight

Pure California

Tremendous waves