Tag Archives: National Parks

Yellowstone National Park

On Wednesday, I planned to get up early for sunrise photography, and to start driving up to Yellowstone.  But I woke to rain in Jackson, and slept in another hour.

I drove up through Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway and entered Yellowstone National Park at the south entrance.  I continued north, and rain turned into snow.  It was 34 degrees and the roads warm enough to not have trouble with ice.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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I tried to be a tourist and visit a roadside sight or two.  Here’s Lewis Falls, with me standing on snow, watching the snow fall.  Did I mention it was 34 degrees?

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Soon, I decided it was best to just keep driving on to Old Faithful.  By the time I got there, the snow had subsided, and there was just a little bit of rain.  I arrived a few minutes before the famous geyser erupted.  Not the photo I imagined with a brilliantly colorful sky in the background, but this is more of a snapshot anyway.  In the peak of summer (and in better weather), you would see thousands more people surrounding Old Faithful.

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Peak season begins Memorial Day weekend, and I was there just before that.  So it was beginning to get crowded, but nothing like the park sees later on.  Being a week or two before the busy season begins also means that not every road (or campground or lodge) is open—but it’s still a great time to visit.  The creeks, rivers, and waterfalls were really flowing.

Here’s the inside of the historic Old Faithful Inn, with people waiting to enter the dining room.  Some consider the inn the largest log building in the world.

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I walked around for awhile in the rain in the Upper Geyser Basin in the Old Faithful area.  It was nice to get out and walk around.  Here’s one of the pools in the area:  Morning Glory Pool.  Pro tip:  bring your polarizing filter to cut down on reflections in the water.  I left mine at home.

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My destination for the night was Canyon Lodge, so I kept on driving north (no more falling snow!), past the other other geyser basins.  Here’s an overlook showing the Norris Geyser Basin in the distance.

Continue reading Yellowstone National Park

More Time in the Grand Tetons

I’m back in Austin now.  I chose not to keep up with the blog as I went.  A combination of 16+ hours of light for photography each day, lots of travel time, time with friends, and a little bit of allergies all conspired to help me choose sleep instead of half-hearted writing into the night.  But I’m back, and have four more blog posts in the works after this one.

Sunrise each morning was about 5:50 AM, so I’d get up every morning about 5:00 and head out to see what the sunrise would bring.  We never had any truly spectacular colors in the morning, but it was still beautiful to be in this amazing place to see how the sun would first light the mountains.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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Balsam Root, the yellow flower in the foreground of the photo below, was blooming in many places in the valley.

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Some mornings would start with fog in low-lying areas.  Clouds in the mountains were constantly changing.  This infrared photo is from the same day as those in my earlier blog post about the Snake River Overlook.  It was taken about fifteen or twenty minutes before the images I posted last week.

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I dropped by another couple of famous places for photography.

Oxbow Bend, below Jackson Lake on the Snake River often has still water in the mornings, great for reflections of Mount Moran, and to its left, the mountain known, at least for now, as Mount Woodring.  (And further left are Mount St. John and Rockchuck Peak.)

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Mormon Row is a section of Grand Teton National Park that I suspect most people don’t visit, but is famous among photographers.  A group of Mormons from Idaho homesteaded here beginning in the late 1800’s, and lived here through the mid-1900’s before being sold to the National Park Service.

Perhaps most famous is the Thomas Alma Moulton barn, shown below.

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I didn’t do much hiking this trip, but I did take an easy five-mile hike on Tuesday up to Phelps Lake.  This is where I saw the moose in my earlier blog post about Grand Teton Wildlife.

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Here’s the GPS track for the hike.  It’s part of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve in the southernmost section of Grand Teton National Park.  This section was donated by Laurance S. Rockefeller to the National Park Service in 2001.

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Grand Teton Wildlife

I’m a day behind in my blog posts.  I’ll eventually catch up.  Both yesterday and today, I took photos of some of the wildlife here.  Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours in the morning with Bear 399 and her two yearling cubs.

But first, I had to wait for a small herd of bison to cross the road.  Here are a couple getting into a tussle before they jump over the fence in the background.  (And the last one over clumsily knocked down that fence.)

As always, click any image to enlarge.

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Bear 399 has been hanging out around Pilgrim Creek, so there are typically “bear jams” as people crowd the side of the roadway waiting for the bears to do something interesting.

Here are a few photos from Monday morning.

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Not far away were a few elk…

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Then this (Tuesday) morning, I hiked up to Phelps Lake, in the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, in the southern end of the park.  I ran into a couple of people who asked, “Did you see the two moose?”  They told me where to watch for them on the way back.

I finally noticed them about 30 yards off the trail.  Can you see the two moose in the first picture?

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I zoomed in on the moose on the left.  It’s amazing how well two very large animals can hide only a few yards from a commonly used trail.

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Another couple of blog posts are coming soon.  Tomorrow, I leave the Grand Tetons and start a short couple of days in Yellowstone.

Snake River Overlook

Pro Tip:  If you’re going to use your iPad for your alarm clock, confirm that it’s set to the right timezone, so that you don’t accidentally wake up at 4 AM when you were planning for 5 AM.

This morning’s forecast was for mostly clear skies, so I woke up early and headed into the park.  I decided to start at the Snake River Overlook, made famous by Ansel Adams in his 1942 photo, The Tetons and the Snake River.  The view’s not quite the same, because the trees have grown so much taller in the last 76 years.

I spent about an hour there, before and after sunrise, shooting a variety of compositions.  Here are a couple of similar photos that I liked, one visible light, one infrared.  The first is closer to sunrise, with the fog still lifting off the river.  The infrared image is from a bit later, after the sun started to illuminate the foreground.  Which one do you like better?

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After I left the overlook, I headed down to Schwabacher’s Landing to take advantage of the reflections in the relatively still water.

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I saw elk and geese today, and hoping I see more wildlife tomorrow.

Grand Teton National Park

I flew to Jackson, Wyoming, today.  I’m here, in part, for a North American Nature Photography Association Nature Photography Celebration.

Today’s forecast called for an 80% chance of rain, but that can lead to some nice dramatic photos.  I headed north into the Grand Teton National Park, stopping at the Moose Junction Visitor Center to find out about trail conditions during this early part of the season.  I continued driving north, to get my bearings.  It’s been over twenty years since I was last here.

The weather held out just fine.  It was mostly cloudy, with intermittent rain showers that never lasted more than a few minutes.  I think the weather will improve somewhat during my stay.

Here are a few images to give you a taste of what it was like today.  Click on any of them to enlarge.

Grand Teton, Mount Owen, and Teewinot Mountain:

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Mount Moran, in the clouds:

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The first image was taken with a Fujifilm X-T2, with a Fujifilm 18-55 lens.

The second and third images were taken with a Nikon D300 and Nikkor 18-200 lens.  Camera converted to infrared by LifePixel.

More coming up later this week.

Northern Lights

There exist websites that forecast the likelihood of seeing the northern lights.  Despite being in Alaska for a week last year where the prediction was occasionally high, I’ve never seen them.  On our second night at the lodge, the prediction was once again fairly good, so most of us set our alarms to wake up in the middle of the night and look for them.  And once again, my hopes were dashed.  My camera was all set up, so I decided to take some photos for star trails in the dark, clear night sky…

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The next night’s forecast was not as good, so we didn’t set any alarms.  However, I woke up and went to the bathroom about 1:30 AM, and decided to peek outside.  And there they were.  I took a couple of 20-second (ISO 800, f/5.6) exposures, then woke my friends before returning to my camera to take a handful more exposures.  A friend of mine staying in Denali (several hundred miles north) that week said they were wonderful up there.

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Coastal Brown Bears of Lake Clark

It was finally time.  We’d been planning this trip for almost two years, and still didn’t comprehend what it was going to be like to photograph these bears.  After arriving at the lodge, we unpacked our camera gear and went right out into the field to find some bears to photograph.  We remarked in the moment, “do you think we’ll make fun of ourselves later this week for taking so many photos of bears sleeping in the meadow?”  We acknowledged the answer was “yes”, but we took them anyway.  Several thousand photos of bears later, this photo doesn’t bubble up to be among the best, but here it is anyway…

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The excitement of watching bears graze on grass and then take a nap soon wore off, as we moved to the beach to watch the bears dig for clams.  Their keen sense of smell (and an abundance of razor clams) lets them quickly find a spot to dig into the sand with their paws and bring up a clam to eat.  Different bears have different strategies for opening the clams, but the “smush the clam on the sand, then pry it open with your teeth” technique was pretty common.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

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Watching the bears fish was the most exciting.  The bears would sit in or near the water, and then start running after a swimming salmon.  They failed many times, so it was sensational when they succeeded.  As you might expect, being along Silver Salmon Creek, these are Silver (Coho) Salmon.

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We saw three different moms with cubs.  The moms would catch fish, eat part for herself, and share with her cubs—while chasing away other bears who might try to grab the fish.

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Speaking of cubs, they have a lot of personality.  They can be playful.  They can be whiny.  They pick fights with their siblings.  And they are cute enough that mom (usually) puts up with it all.

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After eating, it’s of course time to stretch out and take a nap.

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Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska

I just got back from hanging out with bears in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, in southern Alaska about 125 miles southwest of Anchorage.

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These are coastal brown bears, ursus arctos horribilis. They’re genetically the same as grizzly bears—“grizzly” generally refers to inland bears.  A couple of hundred bears spend time along the coast here.

Living along Silver Salmon Creek, the bears have access to a varied diet of  salmon in the creek, clams on the beach, and sedges in the tidal marshes.

(Click any of the images to enlarge.)

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The focus of this trip was bears, but we saw a few birds, too—bald eagles, puffins, plenty of seagulls, a couple of harriers, and red-winged blackbirds, to name a few.  Here’s a bald eagle on the beach, thinking about fish.

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Here’s a greater yellowlegs, tringa melanoleuca, wading at the edge of Silver Salmon Creek.

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In upcoming posts, I’ll share a few more bear photos, talk about the lodge that served as home base, and discuss my photo gear choices.

Please comment if you have questions you’d like me to answer in upcoming posts.

Alaska, Day 12

The rain continued off and on through day 12 in Kantishna, but that didn’t stop us from hiking a bit.  In the morning, we went to Blueberry Hill, near Wonder Lake.  We tasted wild blueberries and low-bush cranberries along the way

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View of Wonder Lake (and behind the clouds, Mount McKinley) from Blueberry Hill

As you can see, it was overcast.  We hiked in mist and the occasional rainshower.  The cloud ceiling was only a few hundred feet.

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In the afternoon, we hiked to the cabin of Fannie Quigley, a woman and local legend who lived in Kantishna from 1906 (before the park) until her death in 1944.

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We also hiked a couple hundred extra yards to get to the official end of the road at the air strip.  Here’s proof…

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Next up, a long day of travel from Kantishna back to Anchorage.  More to come.

Alaska, Day 11

I’m catching up after being off the grid in the Denali backcountry.

After the great weather in Talkeetna, the rain came again.

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Storm approaching Eielson Visitor Center

We took a bus to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, at the end of the park road, 92 miles from the entrance.  It was a six-hour bus ride, which included stops when we saw wildlife.  Our driver/guide pretty much talked non-stop for that six hours, describing scenery, animal behavior, park history, and anything else relevant for our trip.

Along the way, we saw Dall Sheep, Moose, Caribou, Grizzly Bear, Gyrfalcons, and WIllow Ptarmigan, to name a few.

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More to come tomorrow, as I continue catching up.