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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Wildlife in Winter

January 17th, 2009 · No Comments

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Boulder County Parks and Open Space offered a “Wildlife in Winter” program at Caribou Ranch today. I joined the crowd of a dozen people there to learn about how wildlife survives the winter.

Th announcement in yesterday’s newspaper said to “be prepared for a moderate, two-mile hike in snowy, cold, and windy weather.” The hike was certainly moderate as the group moved much slower than I do — and I am certainly not a fast hiker. Caribou Ranch is about 8,600 feet, so we certainly had snow.

Most of the other people we encountered on the trail were on their snowshoes. The trail itself was packed hard. But when I went off the trail to take pictures, I discovered that the snow was usually about a foot and one-half deep. Again today I could have used my gaiters to prevent snow from getting into my boots.

But cold and windy it was not! We had bring sunshine with temperatures in the mid 40s and absolutely no wind. I didn’t even wear my gloves a lot of the time.

Mostly I learned from the volunteer naturalists about animal tracks and scat. Here are the two volunteers at the trailhead:

Volunteer Naturalists at Caribou Ranch Trailhead

Volunteer Naturalists at Caribou Ranch Trailhead

The group did hike about two miles. But when they turned around, I kept going for another mile or so, because the morning was too beautiful to miss.

I don’t think that any of us saw moose, elk, or even deer today. But that didn’t stop me from clicking my camera!

At the meeting of the Colorado Natural Camera Club a couple of evenings ago I picked up some great tips from the speaker, Weldon Lee. His talk was generally about “Taking the Winning Image,” which didn’t turn me on, because I am not competitive with my photography. But his specific points about how to eliminate background clutter to achieve the simplicity that winning images almost always have energized me, and I applied every one of these tips to my best shots today:

1. Use a large aperture (like f/2.8 or 4), which blurs the background
2. Change position, maybe just a few feet to get a better background
3. Get “down and dirty,” by which he means lie down on the dirt (or in my case today, the snow) to get a better angle
4. Zoom in tight
5. Position a light subject against a dark background (or visa versa)

This is what I did today with that guidance:

A Lonely Plant in the Snow

A Lonely Plant in the Snow

Just a Red Branch

Just a Red Branch

Dried Pinedrops

Dried Pinedrops

The tips from Weldon Lee were geared to wildlife photography. But it seems to me that they work just as well even when you don’t see any animals on the trail.

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