My favorite photos of the year! This has been another year, that’s for sure. I even kept the first ever New Years resolution I made, so that’s good, but this year my goal was to try to balance the desire to be constantly surrounded by nature with opening my gallery. Thankfully, I was able to be out doing something or other in the mountains near my home just about everyday, and my gallery was even open almost all the time is was supposed to be!
I went up some 14ers, fell in a river, saw some baby moose take their first steps, went hiking in the moonlight, fell in another river, was charged by a rude sheep dog, spent so much time wandering the forests in search of my moose friends, and even to my surprise photographed a wedding! There’s so many more incredible moments that I witnessed this year, and I’m so thankful to have been there for them all. I just hope I did them justice in whatever photo I took.
I’m not sure how sustainable this will be going forward as while I spent so much time outside, I didn’t even begin to spend enough time there, and I didn’t even spend many nights out. So I’m looking to improve greatly on that, and hike so much farther, and come home less often next year. None of that matters too much today though. So I went through what I saw this year and tried to pick my favorites, which is impossible, and changes every time I look at them and remember the experience behind taking the photo. These are the final photos though, all taken within 20 miles of my front door. So which one is your favorite?
You can order prints of any of these images by clicking on the photo!
Fast forward 6 hours from yesterday’s photos, and this was the scene!
"I got up at 6 AM and went to look for critters as I try to do every few days. Usually, I just see the moose and elk regulars, but yesterday I saw them plus bighorns, coyotes, a golden eagle, and the grand finale, a mountain lion! I’ve lived here and have been hoping to see one for over 8 years now, and it finally happened due to pure luck! I had stopped because I saw my three coyote friends crossing the river. Once they disappeared, I turned around to get back in my car and saw a golden eagle with maybe 20 magpies/crows competing over an elk carcass about 100 ft away up the hillside. I watched them for maybe 45 minutes, and when the golden eagle took off I assumed the party was over. He circled a few times and the crows joined him in circling before following the river north. Then the magpies all made a noise and took off in unison, and this mountain lion walked into the light out from behind the trees. The entire scene unfolded so beautifully and perfect. The lion was fixated on the carcass, and I almost think he had no idea I was there. The first time it looked at me and heard the shutter it almost looked shocked and retreated behind a tree. Then it looked back into the trees and made several kind of whistling noises before slowly walking off in that direction. It was all over in about 2 minutes. I waited over an hour hoping it/possibly they would reappear, but the magpies and crows returned in time, and the world once again was filled with their squawks and calls. I headed home elated to have witnessed this incredible animal, but had already decided to come back a few hours later....
I had hoped the mountain lion would be there. It made sense for it to be there, but when I got there I didn’t see anything. That was to be expected, of course, because what are the chances you would see a mountain lion twice? Even if it should be/has been there. I turned around so I could pull off the road, and set up my camera for the wait. I had about an hour of light left so there was plenty of time, but the second I put the camera out the window it’s face peeked out from behind a rise to look at me. I started shaking with adrenaline again and taking photos. I feared I would scare it off again, but after a brief staring contest and full buffer on my D500 it carried on with its meal. The snow was now coming down pretty good and the wind and magpies/crows/eagle had all gone leaving just the mountain lion and me in silence. This is definitely one of the most incredible scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Not only did I never think I’d get to experience something like this, I never even let myself imagine this perfect of a scenario. After about 15 minutes watching it somehow got spooked, and it was now obvious he was uncomfortable with my presence as he tried to drag the elk away. When that failed, he hid under the tree again. I knew those were my signs that it was time to go, as the first rule of wildlife photography is to never cause stress to the animal. I took a quick final few photos, and looking back as I drove off, I saw him head back to his meal in peace."
"The Full Wolf Moon setting behind the peaks of Uncompahgre, Matterhorn, and Wetterhorn.
I’ve been planning this photo for years, but it’s never quite worked out due to snow, clouds, being out of town, or mainly the fact this opportunity only comes around about three days a year. It all finally came together yesterday morning though. There was a predicted 47% cloud cover and snow later on, in which Uncompahgre is usually obscured very early on, but I woke up, and saw stars through the window, and was out the door into a cold and very windy dawn. Once I arrived to the aptly named point, this was the view I was rewarded with. For the next 30 minutes, I watched the moon creep down towards the mountains as the sun rose behind me all the while trying (and failing) to not lose feeling in my hands. All was worth it, though, as I think I came away with a new favorite photo of the peaks, and I even saw a moose on the way home!"
"A Mountain Bluebird out enjoying the warm Spring weather."
"Bull Moose in a spring snow storm"
"A torrential downpour isn’t the best time to look for moose as they’ll usually hunker down somewhere inconspicuous, and that’s exactly what happened here. This time, though, I was able to spot just half of his antler with him laying hidden completely in the brush. I waited for the rain to ease and then walked out to a safe distance. After a few minutes of me sitting in the brush, the rain ceased, and he rose! He was in a meandering mood and didn’t really do anything interesting, barely staying visible, but being there was enough so I was happy to sit and watch. Then the sky lit up in a most brilliant pink/purple, and he stepped out into a clearing filled with wildflowers! The color in the sky went as quick as it came, and he was back in the willows, invisible once more. That left me in the decreasing light, wet, with the rumble of thunder both behind and in front of me now, but elated. It was time to go before the lightning on the horizon came and the light had completely gone, so I packed my camera and portable lightning rod away to head back home, but not before one more stop..."
"They’re growing up so fast! Moose twins on their one month birthday"
"I’ve been doing my absolute best to spend as much time as possible out in the mountains! Here’s a photo from an all too short hike (8 miles) on a section of the Continental Divide Trail (3100 miles) as it passes through a large expanse of tundra at over 12,000 ft between Lake City and Creede."
"A perfect peaceful summer morning in Colorado shattered by a moose calf who wanted to play! This little calf went from zero to sixty instantly running laps around and through the pond splashing her mom pretty good and interrupting breakfast! This continued on for 15 or so minutes before the calf strayed a little too far and mom got out of the pond to chase her down. After that, mom got back in the pond and the calf, presumably now in time out disappeared into the trees."
"Finally found some deer willing to pose in front of Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn!"
"I definitely don’t possess a climber’s heart, preferring a nice solid footing wherever I’m standing. Having said that, I’ve recently acquired the goal to climb the six 14ers near where I live. Starting with the easiest first, I started out early under threatening skies that produced only a few flakes of snow in August and not the feared lightning.
Thankfully, about halfway up, the skies to the West started to clear, and I could continue ever upward into the wind. Despite an attempt to turn around near the summit (remember no heart for this), I made the summit after, thankfully, I was prodded on by friends! 14,058 ft high!
Actually being able to hike this after a fun battle with Lyme disease that left me unable to walk for months the year earlier and a torn meniscus made this easily one of the happiest moments of my life. I never thought this day would ever come after so many obstacles that took years to overcome.
Anyway, the wind and cold made our stay on the summit relatively short, but during the descent the weather improved so we enjoyed the views more and more while taking our time back down the mountain. You can’t really ask for a more incredible day out in the mountains, but stay tuned for Class 2...."
"Still can’t believe this sunset happened or the reason I was there to witness it!
I was sitting in my gallery half asleep after a morning hike, and the busiest Saturday in two months when a couple came in looking for a photographer for a wedding that was to take place in 2 hours. That’s something I have no experience in, and I was definitely happy for it to stay that way. While moose don’t particularly care how their photos turn out, people do, and I find that way too stressful so I’ve always avoided it.
Considering their original photographer was in a car accident, and couldn’t make it to Lake City, it was a parent with an iPhone or me. That seemed less than ideal for them, so I reluctantly agreed! With my shoes still soaked from a trip through a creek a few hours earlier, I headed up Engineer. The wedding went great with minimal stress, and as good as a first experience as I think possible! Then after the ceremony, the clouds started to light up and the most incredible light began to fill the valley and sky! The unbelievable pinkish and orange hues only intensified, and thankfully, the couple didn’t mind as my natural state as a landscape photographer returned, and my focus returned to the mountains and Engineer’s newly changed autumn tundra!"
"Not sure why it makes me so happy to see these first snows of the year because along with that blanket of beautiful snow on the mountains will follow true Winter, and all that it entails. Darkness, severe isolation, cold, a ton more snow, and what I’m sure is to be a glorious case of cabin fever. Nevertheless, It snowed, twice now, and I am happy because of it."
"Visiting Lake City this Summer?
Make sure to stop by my gallery located on the Alpine Loop (133 Second Street). I’ve got a large selection of nature photography completely from the San Juan Mountains so you can take the mountains you love home with you!!
I’ve got prints (for every budget), calendars, greeting cards!
I’m open 10-4 everyday (except Sundays) on 133 Second Street in downtown Lake City. Stop by anytime, and make sure to share with your friends and family!"
New photos or maybe ramblings from Michael Underwood, a photographer.