Skies, Weather, Clouds

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All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

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Colorado Mountains *

People don’t move mountains.  Mountains are considered to be static, motionless, rock-solid, constant.  But they do change. Sometimes they rise in elevation.  They also crumble under the forces of nature, be it weather, erosion or earthquakes.

People don’t move mountains.  But mountains move people.

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Every mountain has multiple personalities brought to life by a viewer’s angle, perspective and elevation.  The mountain changes with the time of day, the type of light, the season, the location relative to other geographical features, the direction it faces, the altitude, the geography, the weather.

Mountains don’t just sit there. They are dynamic, slow as it may seem.
Mountains don’t just sit there. They scream!
They create weather, they shed their skin, they harbor wildlife.
They lure the curious, the admirers, the unwary.
They create addictions —  some beneficial, others risky.

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THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS:  “Backbone of the North American Continent”

What treasures do Colorado’s mountains and forests harbor?

Wind-driven snow and ice crystal patterns on a west-facing rock face.

Morning sun reflecting on a thin layer of overnight ice on the creek.

Afternoon light accentuating the colors of rainbow trout shifting direction one foot below the creek’s surface.

Erie, distant echoes of howling coyotes.

Nights marked by such complete stillness and silence that you feel guilty for breathing.

Stars so plentiful and bright that your body surges with intergalactic intrigue.

Cool nights that send bugs and mosquitoes packing for Arkansas.

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In the mountain valleys, creeks surge with ferocity in the afternoon and evening, then retreat after midnight as the cooling temperatures slow the melting process.
Then they surge again as the process begins again the next day.

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Wildflowers of so many varieties that they turn mountainsides, meadows and creek banks into masterpiece theaters.

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Cool, damp moss draping creek banks.

Old-growth forests that create cool, cavernous hollows.

Rock formations that turn imaginative glances into surrealistic movie scenes.

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Winds you can see with your ears as they trace a path across a valley and dance through the lodgepole pines and aspen groves.

Mountain climbs that offer greater dividends as you increase in elevation.

Creeks and rivers reborn or reactivated with spring’s cascading snowmelt create a thundering, never-ending roar.

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Afternoon thunderstorms that temper and refresh the heated day, abating the dust and triggering the landscape’s fragrances.

Rainbows dazzle the eyes as a passing storm moves east and the sun re-emerges in the west.

Africa: Botswana & South Africa (Part II)

All photos, text and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

Related Posts:

http://ericschickler.com/2013/11/11/bull-elephant-rampages-our-african-tent-camp/

http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/23/africa-bostwana-south-africa-part-i/

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Africa: Bostwana & South Africa (Part I)

All photos, text and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

Related posts:

http://ericschickler.com/2013/11/11/bull-elephant-rampages-our-african-tent-camp/

 http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/23/africa-botswana-south-africa/

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Vail Mountain, Colorado – On the Edge of Autumn 2012

Vail Mountain, Colorado – On the Edge of Autumn 2012

Two wheels, two legs, three hours, one lens, one quart of lemonade, two Nature Valley granola bars, two miles uphill from top of gondola, too beautiful.

Related Posts:

http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/29/autumn-colors/

 http://ericschickler.com/2013/12/02/autumn-colors-2/

http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/10/october-colors-in-upstate-new-york-2/

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Super Ball

Not only was May 5, 2012, Derby Day at Churchill Downs, and Cinco de Mayo for Mexicans, the evening brought us the so-called “Super Moon” in all its full glory.

This moon appeared 14% larger than other full moons you’ll see in 2012, and 30% brighter. Scientists call it a “perigee” moon because of its proximity to Earth. Apogee occurs when the moon is farthest away from our planet, and perigee occurs when it is nearest. The moon was as close to Earth as it will be for some time, a mere 221,000 miles away! Ha. Ha. Right around the corner if I owned one of those now-grounded Space Shuttles.

Having just moved to back Vail, I saw this as a photo opportunity I’d better not miss. I pondered various locations that might provide a good foreground profile for the images. I wanted the moon to rise directly over the majestic, jagged Gore Range east of Vail, but had no idea where or exactly when it would rise over the mountains.

At dusk, I ventured up a dirt road on Vail Mountain in my car to a regular and trusted overlook and photographic vantage point. Interestingly, it was the same path I skied down on my final run of the season just 3 weeks ago. I couldn’t help but notice the irony as I drove down the trail a few minutes later.

As I arrived at the spot, a woman in a parked car waved at me to stop. I sensed she was observing some wildlife. I turned off my headlights and engine, glanced to my left, and by golly, here come two fuzzy, clumsy moose calves skipping playfully across the grassy ski trail in front of us. What a completely unexpected treat! If I didn’t capture the moon shots, I was content to know that just trying got me out on the mountain to enjoy this gratifying wildlife experience.

After 30 minutes, I sensed that the moon would be rising far south of the Gore Range, so I left this location, drove down into Vail Village and up a road on the north side of the valley. After seeing yet more wildlife–a fox in the middle of the dirt road–I saw that the sky was generally clear, except for some obscuring cloud banks on the eastern horizon over the Gore Range and Vail Mountain. I realized I would not get the shots I was hoping for. Not in this area of Colorado at this time.

Disappointed, I drove back home.

Twenty minutes later, as I ventured back out to join a friend for some Cinco de Mayo celebrating, I spied a bright glow over the mountainside directly to the south of my West Vail condo. Here comes that full Super Moon after all, in a place with no major clouds. It couldn’t get any easier than this! I set up my tripod and camera smack dab in the condo parking lot and grabbed a few good shots.

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Snowy Scenics – Evergreen, Colorado

Winter in Evergreen is remarkable, and scenic beyond belief. Within one mile of my home are the most scenic spots, that take on a magic quality when the blankets of white fall from the sky. I find subject matter that is simple, grand, intriguing, soothing, peaceful, invigorating, quaint, inspiring and fascinating.

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These images were taken in, around and near Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, and along Bear Creek, just east of Evergreen.

The park has 770 acres of ponderosa pines, silver-plume quartz outcrops and scenic open meadows, accessed by 10 miles of gentle trails. The primary early landowners, the Alderfer family, named the landmark rock outcrops after their children: the “Three Sisters and the “Brother.” The park has become very popular with mountain bikers and hikers, many of whom drive up from the Denver metro area on weekends.

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I find endless moments of adventure, exercise and solitude in the park during the week, when you can often explore for hours without seeing a solitary person. Animals represent a higher percentage of the population at these times. I’ve seen coyotes, deer, elk, fox, bear, marmots, and plenty of hawks and eagles.

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One of my favorite little critters is the Abert’s squirrel, distinguished by its black coat and fuzzy upright ears. It is named after Colonel John James Abert, an American naturalist and military officer who led the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which mapped the western U.S. in the 1800s. The squirrels are found primarily in ponderosa pines forests, which they use for food, protection and nesting.

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One inhabitant I’m happy to have never met on the trail is the mountain lion. They are known to inhabit the park, and I have heard a few growling off in the distance. I learned early on that it’s not a great idea to run the wooded trails at dusk or dawn.

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The elk population in and around Evergreen has grown significantly over the past several decades due to their protected status and the small remaining number of mountain lions, their primary predator.

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Human-elk interactions are a daily occurrence in Evergreen, where the concept of “Rush Hour Traffic” is very different from that found in the city. Rush hour in this community often refers to a herd of elk in the middle of the road, on your driveway, sidewalk or in your backyard. Automobile traffic is stopped by both traffic lights and elk herd crossings.

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The funniest Evergreen “rush hour” moment for me was watching five elk parading aimlessly around a traffic circle in the center of town at 5 p.m., paying no heed to the well known rule that vehicles already in the traffic circle have the right of way! Fortunately most resident drivers are very alert to sudden elk appearances, and show great patience in allowing them their migratory freedoms in and around town. Letting them ravage one’s deciduous trees and gardens is another matter altogether.

When snow covers the park, hikers strap on snowshoes, skis and ice & snow crampons to tackle the trails. Some hardy mountain bikers continue to ride the trails when the snow is hard-packed.

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Winter is such a highly rewarding time for photography. That’s when I experience and document unique contrasts, the mix of cool and warm light, soft gradients, the visual delights of falling snowflakes, the juxtaposition of stark blue skies and sheets of white, and the dance of snow clouds as they rake the mountaintops.

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Then my lens moves to the fascinating formations of snow on the sturdy ponderosa pines and aspens, the gentle lines and reflections along the waters of Bear Creek, the sparkle of Colorado’s dry champagne powder, and the soft draping of powder on exposed rock outcrops.

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My most successful winter images are those that actually capture and convey the hush that exists when a deep blanket of snow covers the landscape. That peace and serenity is also why I so enjoy braving the elements to bring you these images. Which brings me back to the primary reason I am a nature photographer. It keeps me outside and away from the computer!

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As I get older and find myself staring down yet another winter, my mind drifts to thoughts of a warm tropical beach and all the comforts that come with it. But then I look out my door and find scenes like these in the Colorado foothills. I could never move to a one-season location. Look what I would miss!

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Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula – Part 2 – Our Exotic Adventure

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Eric Schickler’s full-length travelogue,Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula”

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Exotic Adventure on the Osa Peninsula

Our Costa Rican fun started with a rather turbulent, attention-getting flight on a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin-Engine Otter (capacity: 19 people). We flew out of the capital city of San Jose at mid-morning, up and over the Talamanca Range (Cordillera de Talamanca).

Even with turbulence, the 45-minute, 236-mile flight was visually rewarding, thanks to the special over-sized viewing windows Nature Air installs on its planes. The final leg took us over Corcovado National Park, one of Costa Rica’s largest, and the crown jewel of the Osa Peninsula.

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The second half of the flight was along the Pacific coast, southward to the small port town of Puerto Jimenez, home to just 1,780 people, but the largest town on the peninsula.

It is best known for its gold mining and logging that started in the 1960s and, as late as the 1980s, was considered a frontier cowboy town bustling with commercial activity and gun-toting miners. Even today, with some gold mining still occurring (much of it illegal), rough-and-tumble gold diggers add a wild west feel to the bars at night.

The mining and logging decades caused considerable damage to the natural beauty of the area. When the government designated the peninsula’s lands as protected nature reserves, the influx of conservationists and adventurers caused a revitalization of the town as a staging grounds for area eco-tourism.

The airstrip in Puerto Jimenez was more like some farm’s back cornfield than an aviation center. I thought the pilot was confused about our landing, as we came in so fast and dropped so quickly into a narrow gap in the treed costal area, onto a hidden strip of pavement on “the farm.” I learned that our plane was a STOL aircraft (Short Take Off & Landing). It was aptly named.

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The terminal was nothing more than an open-air lean-to with a corrugated tin roof, tucked snugly under some trees—built for shade and that’s it.

Children on bikes and clueless animals intermittently cruised along or crossed the very small runway.

The airstrip was adjacent to the town’s cemetery, leading me to wonder if its close proximity is related to occasional mishaps between aircraft and runway inhabitants.

Even more interesting, the Century 21 Real Estate office is next to the cemetery. Yet another coincidence?

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The puritan architecture of the lean-to terminal left me confused about where to get our luggage.  No problem, there’s the pilot himself getting them out of the storage compartment for us. What service.  What multi-talent.

Wait, isn’t he the same guy who had the judge-and-jury attitude back at San Jose International Airport? The man who eyed the luggage scale so scrupulously as my bag’s reading hovered near the 27-lb. limit? What a champ. What a transformation of character.

“Your bags, sir. Enjoy your stay on the Osa Peninsula. Pura Vida.”

The Osa Peninsula is one of just a handful of ocean-piercing peninsulas found in all of Central America. There are also just four or five gulfs. The rest of the continent’s shoreline is fairly smooth and consistent. The peninsula is far away from civilization and very close to the border of Panama to the south.

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Remote, sparsely populated and almost entirely protected as forest preserves, the Osa has but a few small towns, which are accessed only by air, sea or primitive, dangerous roads. Some mountain roads get little or no maintenance, and can be impassable during the rainy season (May-November), when they turn to mud and nearby rivers over-run their banks.

The Osa is described as pristine, peaceful, beautiful, rustic and adventurous.

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Don’t expect huge five-star hotels with modern-day accoutrements. Located in the south portion of the Puntarenas Province, it is bordered on the Pacific side by Drake Bay and by an inlet known as Golfo Dulce.

Drake Bay, discovered by Sir Francis Drake of England when he circled the globe in the late 1500s, is at the northwestern end of the peninsula and the expansive Corcovado Park, which covers one-third of the peninsula.

The tiny town of Drake offers a few places to eat, a scattering of small stores and tour-business shops. But most importantly, it has an airport and several luxury resorts and lodges nearby.

IMG_8265.JPGBeach lovers will feel as if they have escaped civilization on Playas San Josecito and Cocalito. Walks in the rain forest nearby will take you up close to kinkajous, sloths and monkeys, to name a few.

Cano Island, just 12 miles off shore, boasts outstanding snorkeling and diving, and is a biological reserve. Its waters are almost always crystal clear. Look for white-tip reef sharks, needle fish, sea turtles, dolphins and whales.

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Golfo Dulce (“Sweet Gulf”) runs along the southeastern coast of the Osa Peninsula, and is the tenth deepest gulf in the world (600 feet in the middle).

It captured the attention and passion of marine conservationist and explorer Jacque Cousteau decades ago for its pristine beauty, biodiversity and abundant animal and marine life. He believed it was a close runner-up to the Norwegian Fjords, and called it a “tropical fjord,” one of only three such “fjords” in the world. Although technically, fjords are carved by glaciers.

It is one of the most humid and wettest parts of Costa Rica, receiving 200+ inches of rain annually. The entire gulf shoreline (27 miles long and five miles across) is virtually uninhabited by people and development, but rich in flora and fauna.

The Osa Peninsula is home to the largest concentration of Scarlet Macaws in the world. Locals call them lapas.

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They are the largest member of the parrot family, are monogamous and pair for life, 35-45 years. If one mate dies, often times the other dies shortly thereafter. Their appeal as pets and the impact of deforestation have kept them on the endangered species list.

The gulf is a calving area for the north and south Pacific humpback whale groups and attracts schools of whale sharks from April to May. Bottlenose and spinner dolphins are also abundant.

Swimming is very popular, as the gulf is very calm and smooth and contains a great amount of fresh water from nearby rivers. Thus the name Dolce, meaning “Sweet” or “Fresh.”

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It didn’t take long to get a feel for the area, and a feel for tropical relaxation.

Our Toyota touring truck moved slowly through the small town, and we instantly noticed the slow pace and friendliness of the people. Children smiled and waved. Automobiles were few and far between. Horses, motorcycles, bicycles and feet were the main modes of transport.

We were beyond the town in mere minutes and suddenly out in wide-open plantation country. All we saw were a dozen dwellings over the entire three-mile ride.

The truck had an open rear bed with two long, cushioned sightseeing benches.  We loved the great views, but there was a risk of getting clipped by overhanging roadside tree branches. Better pay attention, stay close to the middle of the truck, and look ahead!

Weather on the Osa is fairly predictable.  The nicest months (the “dry season”) are December through April. The May through November “green season” has higher rainfall totals, especially August through September.

The May through November “green season” has higher rainfall totals, especially August through September.

 

To continue the travelogue, click here to go to Part 3:  http://ericschickler.com/2011/06/20/costa-ricas-osa-peninsula-part-3-iguana-lodge/

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© Eric Schickler Photography, Communication & Design

All photography, text and artwork seen here is copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography, Communication & Design. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.