Photographer Ken Krehbiel captures Roaring Fork Valley’s wild side
Ryan Summerlin February 24, 2014
For more information about Ken Krehbiel’s wildlife photography and more photos, visit http://aspenjournalism.org/2014/01/19/whats-out-there-in-the-dark/.
Ken Krehbiel is a wildlife photographer who rarely sees the subjects he photographs. Krehbiel uses hidden, battery-powered cameras triggered by motion detectors that capture some of the most secretive animals.
A mountain lion with kittens feeds on a deer carcass artfully concealed beneath a thatch of sticks and grasses. “This image,” explained Krehbiel, “was taken at a place that’s only a stone’s throw from where I live in a residential neighborhood along the Crystal River.”
A huge, blondish sow bear and two cinnamon-colored cubs devour an elk carcass Krehbiel left in the Flattops after a successful hunting trip last fall. “I like to go back to see what’s left after a week or two, and often find only the teeth. Apparently, that’s the only part of the elk that doesn’t get eaten. Everything else — hide, skull, bones — is gone.”
Raccoons, skunks, coyotes, turkeys, ducks and, of course, deer proliferate among Krehbiel’s photos, many shot in his backyard where an apple tree serves as a natural lure.
“These cameras are the ultimate live trap.”
Ken Krehbiel, photographer
One night the camera produced a mysterious image of a creature wandering his backyard that took some study before recognizing it as a neighbor’s dog wearing a sweater. “I said, ‘What’s that?!’ Another image shows Krehbiel’s wife making a face at the camera. “You never know,” he laughs.
One picture he chooses not to share features his own backside. “I was home in the hot tub when I heard a sound beneath our retaining wall by the river. I jumped out to have a look and forgot I had a camera set up. It caught me very clearly as I leaned over the wall.”
Krehbiel is a formidable hunter and fisherman. In the back room of his Signature Picture Framing shop at the Basalt Trade Center is what his wife Sue calls, with a wry smile, his “Wall of Shame.”
Photos show Krehbiel with trophy elk and deer taken with muzzle loading rifle and bow and arrow. “I don’t know what I’d do without a freezer full of elk,” he says.
Krehbiel taught five years for Outward Bound, but his love of the wilds stems from long before that as a childhood fascination with wildlife gleaned as a boy growing up in Morrison, Colorado. “As a kid, I set live traps. I loved to catch animals and let them go,” he recalls. “I have always been absolutely fascinated by nature.”
Krehbiel usually fastens his cameras to trees in specially designed, metal bear boxes. He learned that bears will otherwise tear them off trees. “They’re so curious,” he says, referring to incredible close-ups of bear’s noses where you can look right into their nostrils.
Krehbiel knew that the smarter, wiser animals move around a lot, and most of them are nocturnal. Some cameras use a flash that can frighten the subjects. Others rely on infrared, but produce only black and white images. The flash cameras give full color. Most shots were triggered in the early morning hours.
Krehbiel usually places the cameras by himself, something he’s prone to do because nobody seems willing to tag along with him on his wilderness forays.
Using cameras to hunt animals, says Krehbiel, is a hunter’s version of catch-and-release. “You get to hunt them and they have no idea what catches them. These cameras are the ultimate live trap.”
Aspen Journalism is an independent nonprofit news organization working in the local public interest. More at www.aspenjournalism.org.