Western Wild

Dave Showalter's Conservation Photography Weblog

Colorado Mountains

Gold Rush

October 4, 2012 | Permalink | 21 Comments
marcellina mountain, aspen

Marcellina Sunset : Prints Available

Marcellina Mountain (11,348') and the surrounding aspen forest seems to glow in warm evening alpenglow of an October sunset.

We just returned from a magnificent fall color trip to Kebler Pass in the West Elk Mountains and Telluride in the San Juan Mountains. Conditions varied greatly, from brilliant stands of gold and red to bare trees, stripped by storms a few days prior. Photographically, it was a completely different situation every day, and exhilarating to make images of the inevitable march towards winter. I hope you enjoy my photo essay – just click on more: (more…)

Colorado Mountains


September 28, 2012 | Permalink | Post a Comment
aspen trees, east snowmass creek

Snomass Creek Autumn : Prints Available

Aspen trees in various stages of gold approaching peak autumn color. The gold aspen on the ridge above East Snowmass Creek contrast nicely with the maroon rock characteristic of the Elks. 

It seems crazy that just three or so weeks ago we were backpacking in the San Juan Mountains, mid summer conditions, a warm tundra color pallette the only hint of fall coming. I made this image while we were in Aspen/Snowmass last week where the colors were peaking. We’re having one of our best autumns in years, so it’s time to chase the gold rush some more. I hope to have a colorful photo essay late next week.

Colorado Mountains

Autumn Moose

September 21, 2012 | Permalink | 2 Comments

Bull moose in autumn, Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado

Since photographing a bachelor group of bull moose last month, I’ve been making regular trips to their willowy habitat around 10,000 feet on the Front Range. The bulls have dispersed and are on the move following cows during the autumn rut. The largest member of the deer family is more imposing this time of year, grunting and snorting, thrashing willows to polish antlers, and rapidly covering a lot of territory in pursuit of a female. This male was following a cow with two calves, juveniles now, and she did a good job of keeping her distance.

Moose are famously ornery during rut – I’ve read accounts of moose attacking cars in Alaska. I’ll keep going back while giving moose plenty of room.


Birds and Blooms ~ Dancing With Cranes

September 18, 2012 | Permalink | Post a Comment

Kirsten Sweet wrote “Dancing With Cranes” for the Oct/Nov 2012 Birds and Blooms Magazine

Our Zapata Sandhill Crane Photo Workshop is featured in the just published Oct/Nov Birds and Blooms Magazine. Associate Editor Kirsten Sweet was a 2011 participant and did a nice job of capturing the photo experience for the magazine – with photos from class particpants!
Michael Forsberg and I will be back at Zapata for the third annual workshop, scheduled March 11-16, 2013. The class is filling up, so contact Tess at Zapata Ranch to reserve your spot. Zapata Ranch, a Nature Conservancy property managed by the Phillips family, is situated in the heart of the San Luis Valley and borders Great Sand Dunes National park – it’s one of the finest photography venues in the land.

Colorado Mountains

Peak To Peak Color

September 17, 2012 | Permalink | 2 Comments

“Aspen Mosaic” Aspen mixed with pine approaching peak fall color along the Peak To Peak Highway near Nederland, Colorado

Aspen are rapidly changing to peak fall color in the Colorado high country. There’s been a lot of talk about an early autumn because of the drought; and maybe it’s a few days early on the Front Range. I’m just enjoying the transition to cooler temps and active wildlife. This image was made with a 600mm lens to isolate the tapestry of color.


Travelin’ Light

September 12, 2012 | Permalink | 5 Comments

My basic backcountry and travel camera kit – light and flexible. a. Lowepro Toploader zoom 50 AW bag b. Nikon D7000 DX DSLR with Kirk L bracket and Nikon 16-85mm zoom c. Lightweight Gitzo tripod, ballhead, and QR clamp d. Eagle Creek bag with Singh-Ray split ND filters, 3-stop ND, and Circular polarizer e. Optional Nikon 70-300mm in a OR insulated water bottle holder.

After posting “Walk Among Giants“, I received an email from a friend that I’ll call Jed. Jed is flummoxed about what gear to bring on an upcoming international trip that requires a bunch of other gear. Jed is looking at his full frame DSLR setup and all of the sexy pro lenses, asking “what if I need the 14-24?” I just put my 14-24mm lens on the scale and it weighs a whopping 2 1/4 lbs. The short answer is for travel and backcountry travel, you can’t afford the weight penalty of this specialty piece of equipment or any of your heavy pro lenses. Too harsh? Let me explain: (more…)

From The Vault

Everest Base Camp and “Do It Now”

September 10, 2012 | Permalink | 6 Comments

At Everest Base Camp with our guide, Lhakpa and assistant guide.

“I was older then, I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan

In 2002, Americans weren’t traveling much while the U.S. was still reeling from 9-11. Nepal was in civil war. The government had a tenuous hold on power as Maoists controlled the sparsely populated countrysides where tourists like to go trekking. But my wife, Marla likes to say “do it now, while you can” and we traveled halfway around the world to go trekking in the Everest region. Our trek lasted 16 days and took us over 18,000 feet three times; at Gokyo Ri, Cho-la Pass, and Kala Pattar. Gorak Shep sits below Kala Pattar, a round mound standing 5,545 meters in a sea of giant peaks that offers a classically awesome view of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. We stayed one night at Gorak Shep, where we were out of breath just from rolling over in our tent. And although Everest base camp wasn’t on our itinerary, Marla convinced our guide to take us there, just a few kilometers up the trail at 17,600′. Other than a rock table, there were no signs of the temporary climbing village constructed on the glacier during peak climbing season in May. Just a beautiful glacier of whitish-grey stone below the Khumbu Icefall and the biggest mountains in the world. This picture takes me right back to that trek, the most ambitious of our travels, and reminds me how “do it now, while we can” holds meaning in our daily lives and our adventure life.

From The Vault, Prairie

From The Vault: Common Nighthawk

September 6, 2012 | Permalink | 6 Comments

Common nighthawk roosting on fencepost. Pawnee National Grassland, CO

While working on my Prairie Thunder book in 2006, I visited the Pawnee Grassland on a particularly hot July day. I made a lot of these missions for the project where I’d leave home in the afternoon and blast up to the Pawnee until sunset, then make the long drive home in absolute darkness. With the thermometer pushing near 100 degrees, this nighthawk roosted on a fencepost, waiting for darkness when insects come out. A member of the goatsucker family, nighthawks have wide mouths to help them snare insects in flight. Listen for their nasally peeent call at dusk and marvel at their ability to instantly change direction in mid-air. I’ve long wondered about the term “goatsucker”, so I looked it up using the Google box. Oxford says the origin began with the European nightjar: early 17th century: so named because the bird was thought to suck goats’ udders. Thanks Oxford, I’ll probably have a nightmare about this.

Colorado Mountains

Walking Among San Juan Giants

September 4, 2012 | Permalink | 18 Comments
Wetterhorn Peak, blue moon, Matterhorn Peak

Wetterhorn Moon : Prints Available

 The August "blue moon" sets beyond Wetterhorn Peak (14,015') before dawn. The perspective is from the summit of Matterhorn Peak (13,590').

We have a tradition of taking a long walk – usually with some mountain tops mixed in for our Labor Day break. Winds of change led us to the San Juan Mountains in our home state this year, just about the only place around to escape fire smoke riding the jet stream from Idaho. The San Juans are such a spectacular range; you simply can’t go wrong no matter what area you choose to explore. So after a couple of days in the Sangre De Cristos near Alamosa, we traveled to Creede and on to Lake City to launch a trip into the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area. Click more to see many more images: (more…)

Colorado, Energy, Politics

Another Haliburton Highway?

August 23, 2012 | Permalink | 4 Comments

Flowering rabbit brush lines a two lane road in the Thompson Divide area, near Carbondale, Colorado. This entire area is leased for natural gas development.

In “Drilling The Roaring Fork Valley. Really?” I highlighted yet another plan to turn a truly special place into an industrial-scale gas field. Marla and I have traveled to the Aspen/Carbondale area quite a few times, usually to hike around Mount Sopris or photograph the aspen forest on McClure Pass near Marble. I recently learned that the entire area north and west of Carbondale is leased for drilling and could become an industrial wasteland. The Thompson Divide is the only buffer between Carbondale and the Piceance Basin, a mega-field sacrificed landscape, industrial complex in northwest Colorado. Along the Thompson Divide, ranchlands and rolling sagebrush give way to aspen and conifer forest in the shadow of towering Mount Sopris. Crystal River pours from the high peaks, cutting through the valley to its confluence with the Roaring Fork in Carbondale. The Roaring Fork is a significant tributary of the Colorado. The Thompson Divide is important mid-elevation habitat for migrating deer and elk, the Crystal River irrigates hay meadows,and it’s a hiking, mountain biking, wildlife-watching, fly fishing, photography and hunting mecca; providing year round revenue for surrounding communities. The Thompson Divide Coalition, with 3,200 members, is advocating for protection of the entire area and I fuly support their position. This simply isn’t the place for a massive fracking industrial park, with the thousands of truck trips, toxic chemicals threatening air and water, and pressure on rural towns. I made a trip last week to make images that I hope will support the opposition – click more to continue: (more…)

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