Moose, Grand Teton NP - The Tetons finally came through for us as far as wildlife. In past trips, they've always produced a fair amount - beaver, moose, bear, otter, etc., and the last two days have been pretty dry. However, it wasn't for lack of trying, as we patrolled all the usual hotspots at all the right times. Today was different. We found several baby great horned owlets with their mom, a grizzly, that walked right by our vehicle and two very good moose sightings. Almost every time we've sighted moose, they've always been at least partly hidden within the willows. In both cases today they were feeding out in the open, allowing enough time for just the right poses. They accommodated us nicely! Tomorrow, Utah!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Teton Reflection - Sunrise was early today, being only two days after the longest day of the year - June 21st. I was up by 4:30 AM with time to drive to the classic location for reflection pictures of the Teton range - Schwabacher Landing. This is normally a tough image to capture in just a single frame, due to the wide dynamic range (light to dark). In this case, I exposed for the highlights and by using the modern tools in Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom, I lightened the trees using Fill Light and darkened the sky a bit with Vibrance. I may try this again, especially if there are more clouds in the sky. Interestingly, there were just three of us there during the best light. Once the peaks were fully lit, hordes of photographers arrived, completely missing the boat. Ya gott'a get up early for the best pictures!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
More Americana - This steer skull embraces the entrance to a laundromat in Debois, WY. Debois is a nice little town right on the Wind River, east of the Tetons, and is along the route of one of Wyoming's Scenic Byways. This reminds me of a similar skull in front of a restaurant entrance near Tucson that we photographed last year. We'll be spending the next couple days in Grand Teton NP.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Elk - From Antlers! - We stayed in the quaint town of Debois, west of Grand Tetons NP, and right on the Wind River. It's soothing listening to the constant gurgling. While driving through town today, we ran across this very special bull elk made entirely from antlers. It stands in front of the Antler Store on Main St. We spent the day exploring around the Shoshone NF and found several osprey nests - some with babies looking out over the landscape. Tomorrow, we're off to explore the Tetons!
Bringing Home the Bacon - We captured this coyote bringing home a fat marmot(?) near the same area (south of Mammoth Hot Springs) where we found the gray wolf yesterday. The ranger kept the line of vehicles moving, so this was shot out the window with my 100-400mm lens while moving slowly. So glad Sheila likes to do the driving!
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Grey Wolf, Yellowstone NP - We hit paydirt today - we were greatly blessed when a grey wolf passed by our vehicle, not 30 feet away! Several were reintroduced to Yellowstone in the 1980s and are typically very scarce. When observable, they are quite a distance away. To have one walk right by us, and so close, is a real treat! We watched him cross a small stream and then walk on by, completely ignoring us. Definitely a highlight of the day!
Friday, June 18, 2010
Black Bear with Cub - Just south of mammoth Hot Springs, we had decided to park in a turnout and scope out the willow wetlands before us for moose. After about a half-hour, Sheila exclaimed, "wouldn't it be nice if we could just wait here and have a bear cross just in front of our vehicle?" Not 15 minutes later, here came a mama black bear with her cub - crossing right in front of us! Here they are after just crossing the highway and starting up the embankment.
Breaking news - we were just informed a mother grizzly with FOUR cubs had been sighted yesterday just south of Mammoth Hot Springs. We'll head there in the morning.
Grand Prismatic Spring - Located in the Midway Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic can only be photographed in its entirety from way up on the side of the adjoining hillside or via aerial view. It's huge! This is only a small, but colorful, portion. We spent an enjoyable day touring friends Ellen and Donald around the park, seeing plenty of wildlife, Old Faithful Geyser (of course) and plenty of other scenic delights. We finished off the day with baked trout encrusted with crushed pistachio nuts and parmesan cheese at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Yum!
Sorry for the delay - poor Internet connections the last several days. A travel day today. We had several errands to run in Billings this morning, after which, we proceeded to West Yellowstone KOA via Bozeman, MT. About an hour away from Bozeman, we ran into a terrific thunderstorm with nickel-sized hail. Talk about deafening! Fortunately, no damage to the truck. The drive south on Hwy 191 was very scenic and we arrived in West Yellowstone by dinner. This is the view as we sat at the side of I-90 during the hail.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Grizzly Bear Family, Yellowstone NP - This was a "beary" good day for bears. We were fortunate to see this mama grizzly with her two cubs grubbing for food just off to the side of the road, not 50 feet away. We later saw two black bears and another grizzly chowing down on an elk carcass. But that's not all. We saw mountain goats, elk (live ones!), pronghorn, mule deer, golden mantle ground squirrels, great blue heron and, of course, numerous bison. Near the end of the day, we found a den of wolves - three adults and three little ones. Unfortunately, they were still very small specks; even with the equivalent 1344mm lens system we used. We'll be in the Yellowstone/Tetons region for the next week, so we'll keep trying for closer-in wolves.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Little Bighorn Battlefield, MT - Nearly 134 years to the day, Maj. Gen. 7th US Cav., George A. Custer and most of the soldiers under his command were killed in battle with the Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow and several other other native american tribes, who were all under the leadership of Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull. The native american encampment along the Little Bighorn River were estimated to be around 5000, or more, with about 1500 warriors. Custer had about 400 soldiers and was literally outnumbered, outflanked and picked off quickly in the difficult-to-defend rolling hills in this area. In the interest of balance, I've also included a couple markers for two of the native american warriors. These hills are silent now; but reflect a sad period in US history...for both cultures.
Roughlock Falls, SD - One of the more impressive waterfalls in South Dakota lies just off Spearfish Canyon, South of Spearfish. There is a pleasant walkway down to the bottom where one can see this view. We're still camped at Devils Tower and will be heading west closer to Yellowstone, where we'll be on the lookout for the reintroduced gray wolves of the Lamar Valley.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Today, we moved from Badlands NP to Devils Tower NM in northeast Wyoming, where we'll be staying for a couple nights. Rain was definitely the order of the day, but it partially cleared enough for photos of the formation late in the day. We'll hope for a little sun tomorrow!
Friday, June 11, 2010
Here's a double-header for you today! We were up well before sunrise and spent most of the day touring through Badlands NP with fog early and high overcast throughout the remaining day. The first picture was taken near Cedar Pass off Highway 240. It was about 6:40 AM and the sun was unsuccessfully trying to make it through a thick fog layer. I liked how the craggy peaks of the badlands faded away in the fog. The second picture was taken during a spur-of-the-moment excursion late in the day to the Buffalo Gap National Grassland (BGNG), which lies just south of the Badlands North Unit. BGNG is an area where the endangered Black-Footed Ferret was reintroduced. Although we didn't see any ferrets, we did see huge fields of wildflowers with multicolored buttes and hills in nearly every direction. Tomorrow, we head to Devils Tower.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
We traveled from the Black Hills to Badlands NM today. Rain was the order of the day and while we were able to outrun the storm on the way east, it soon caught up to us and made the formations pretty drab. The exception was this fantastic sunset taken near the Panoramic Overlook. A tripod-mounted Canon Rebel T2i (1.6X crop factor) plus a 400mm (equivalent of 640mm) was used to zoom in to this light show. This is unaltered right from the camera. What do the cloud formations remind you of?
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Tatanka (Sioux for American Bison) - We spent an additional day prowling through Custer State Park for wildlife and immediately ran into a major herd of about 250 head. New animals added to the list included a marmot - unexpected at this moderate altitude! We also drove the Needles Highway to Sylvan Lake, where we ate lunch and walked the perimeter trail. Then, back to the main park, where we caught this fine fellow. We named him Weldon, after a dear friend.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
We spent the day in Custer State Park, South Dakota, mainly photographing the wildlife there. The picture of the day was taken by Sheila of a mama white-tailed deer with little one. The baby was still walking very awkwardly, which means it was likely born just days ago. We were on Highway 16, the "Wildlife Loop" within the southern part of the park. We were able to rack up quite a list of wildlife spotted today - bison (with babies), wild mules, elk, lots of white-tailed deer, a jackrabbit, several wild turkeys, a meadowlark, turkey vultures, robins, red-winged blackbirds and pronghorn. Photographed with a Canon Powershot S3 IS compact camera zoomed at 10X and cropped for composition. Very mild sharpening and saturation applied using the new Adobe Lightroom 3 just released yesterday.
Monday, June 07, 2010
Wyoming Ranchland - Sheila and I left for a loop trip starting in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The loop will take us to Badlands NM, Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower NM, Yellowstone NP (where we'll be meeting friends Ellen and Donald), Grand Tetons NP, then down into Utah (parts unknown) and eventually meeting up with daughter Linda and husband Robb in Grand Junction. The image below is quite representative of much of eastern Wyoming. The rolling hills are occasionally cut by small streams, a couple larger rivers and large numbers of shallow dry washes. This windmill was taken on Wyoming Highway 16 on the way towards the South Dakota town of Custer, where we plan to spend a few days. As we headed east, large black clouds with rain and hail greeted us and it's been a little wet all the way to camp. This was taken just prior to heading into the main squall.