Tag Archives: water

A Final Night and Morning in the Grand Tetons

I got up early on Friday to drive the three hours from Canyon Village in Yellowstone, through West Yellowstone, and then down to Idaho Falls.  Why?  Because of some upcoming international travel, I needed a Yellow Fever immunization.  Due to timing, and a nationwide shortage of said vaccines, it was most convenient for me to make an appointment with Eastern Idaho Public Health.

I arrived early (as planned, just in case), so I went down to see the eponymous falls.  A Mormon Temple is in the background on the left.

Click any image to enlarge.

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After my immunization, I had lunch, and headed eastward to go over Teton Pass.  From the top, you can see a nice view of Jackson Hole.

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I drove on down to Jackson and got settled into the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park for my final night.  I did a little infrared photography in the bright afternoon sun, before heading back to Jackson to meet with a couple of friends for one final night.

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Because of the great location and view from near my hotel room, I set up my camera for star trails.  I did a couple of 35-minute captures from about 11 PM to a little after midnight..  Here’s one of the photos.  The moon was waxing gibbous, and provided plenty of illumination for the snow on the mountains.

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Despite the late night, I rose early in hopes of great color at sunrise.  I got a little bit of pink in the sky, much like earlier in the week.  Here are a couple of photos—one of Mount Moran, and one of Mount St. John.

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Before I knew it, it was time to leave for the airport and fly home.

The general consensus at the Nature Photography Celebration (organized by The North American Nature Photography Association) is that it was a successful event that we should repeat in new locations in the future.  We heard from great photographers presenting about their latest projects, and we had plenty of free time to go out and photograph great locations on our own.  (And we even had a small trade show with support from many camera manufacturers, camera stores–especially Gary Farber at Hunt’s Photo & Video–and other organizations.)

A big thank you to my friend Charlotte for sharing wine, cheese, and a hyperactive dog in her beautiful home, and for including me in her network of friends, who all made me feel welcome a long way from home.

I am grateful for the beautiful places like the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, and all the other National Parks and National Monuments we are blessed to protect for future generations.

Quake Lake

The first time I went to Yellowstone was in the mid-1980’s.  Harnessing the power of the internet, such as it was back in 1985, I found suggestions for places to go in the region.  One suggestion was to visit a place called “Quake Lake”, a few miles northwest of West Yellowstone, Montana.

In 1959, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake occurred, centered near Hebgen Lake on the Madison River in southwestern Montana.  It caused a massive landslide in Madison Canyon, killing several people camping along the river.  It also created a new lake, below Hebgen Lake, named Earthquake Lake.

Every time I visit Yellowstone, I have also ventured over to this area.  There are roadside information displays, and a visitors center with more information about the quake.  If you are at all interested in geology and earthquakes, I encourage you to visit.

Here’s the view of the landslide from the visitors center…

Click any image to enlarge.

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Here’s a view of Quake Lake, looking to the west.  Trees that were inundated by the water are shown in the foreground.  The landslide is at the far end of the lake.

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Yellowstone Wildlife

Yellowstone is known as much for its wildlife as its geologic features.  Until this year, I’d never had a “long” camera lens with me in Yellowstone for wildlife.  This year, I had a Fujifilm XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, and also a Fujifilm 1.4x teleconverter.  With my Fujifilm X-T2, which has an APS-C sensor, I had the 35mm equivalent of up to an 840mm telephoto lens.  All of the images below were shot with this lens/TC combination.

On Thursday morning, I started the drive up to the Lamar Valley.  I stopped along the way to visit the Tower Falls area, where I saw a bunch of cars stopped by the side of the road (a “bear jam”).  I got out and saw that the fuss was about a black bear and her cub.  I stayed for about half an hour observing and photographing the bears.

Here’s the mom…

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And the cub, up in a tree, working its way down to see mom.

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Finally mom comes up part way to encourage the cub to get past a tricky section of branches…

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Once on the ground, mom played with the cub.  Here, it’s about to swat it lightly on its rump…

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Now, let’s see who can make the most ferocious face…

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And then it was time to move on, to see what there was to see around the next bend.  Back at Tower Junction, near the Roosevelt Lodge, a few pronghorn were grazing…

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And a little further north, some bighorn sheep, just hanging out on the hillside…

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As I continued deeper into the Lamar Valley, I hoped to see, but did not expect to see, one of the wolf packs.  I did see hundreds of people, over several miles, hoping to see wolves, but never saw any myself.

But there were plenty of bison, in several herds.

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I even saw a few bison calves…

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The bison were starting to shed their winter coats…

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And then it was time to move on again.  In my next post, a visit to an interesting geologic location just outside the park.

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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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.

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 7

Okay, time for the home stretch.  We spent the night in the ski village of Cortina d’Ampezzo, host of the 1956 Winter Olympics.  We began to disperse back to our regular lives.  James and Marina left soon after we got to Cortina.  In the morning, we bade farewell to Jake and his family.  The remaining five of us, Kerrick, Julie, Mark, Jennifer, and I caught the morning bus to Venice.

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From there, we left Mark at the airport, and Jen and I took the Alilaguna Water Transport to the city.  This took about 90 minutes.  Pro tip:  We could have, like Kerrick and Julie, taken the bus to the train station, taken a shorter trip on the water, and saved about an hour.

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In Venice, I shifted gears to street photography instead of grand landscapes.  I had been told that Venice is a maze, and that’s an apt description.

Here’s an infrared shot from the Pont dell’Accademia, reached after crossing a bridge we probably shouldn’t have, and then making many, many wrong turns trying to find our way back to our hotel.  So many paths dead end at the water, and you have to backtrack and try another path.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

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Once over the bridge, we walked a bit further and passed through the famed Piazza San Marco.  Here’s an infrared photo of Basilica di San Marco.

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After arriving again at the hotel, I attempted one of the greatest challenges of the trip:  how to send a postcard back to the US.  Italian Post Offices close early afternoon, so it was too late for that.  To buy stamps at other times, you have to find a tobacco shop.  That’s not hard.  The hard part is having them sell you the right kind of stamp.  (If anyone needs a stamp that’s only good for mail to the rest of Europe, let me know.)  I asked at the hotel, and it took a good 15 minutes looking things up on their computer for them to come to the conclusion that the stamp I was sold was indeed not the stamp I needed.  They then sent me to find a street vendor, many of whom sell postcards, as well as private mail stamps.  So I bought one of those stamps—and oh, by the way, you can only send your postcard by way of their mailbox.  I’ll let you know in a few weeks if my mother got her postcard.

That evening, Jen and I met up for one final dinner with Kerrick and Julie.  It was a great ending to a great trip.  The next morning, we all began our trips home.

Here’s a collection of some of my snapshots from Venice.  Thanks for reading.  I’ll have one more post after this where I talk about my photo gear.  Stay tuned.

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Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 5

(This is my 100th post on this blog.  Thank you all for reading.)

The morning of July 1, we left Selva/Wolkenstein for Lago di Dobbiaco.  I kind of think of this as a rest day between our weather-challenged hike from yesterday, and the 8000-foot-elevation hiking of tomorrow.  We also swapped out our guides–trading Hayden for Jake, who would be with us until the official end of the trip.  Both guides provided by AlpineHikers were excellent.

As we drove over to Dobbiaco, we saw many bicyclists preparing for the following day’s Maratona dles Dolomites, an 85-mile bike race with nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain.  (The winner averaged 18.6 mph.)  Nearly 30,000 cyclists apply each year for one of the 9,000 starting positions.

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We checked into the116-year-old Hotel Baur, which sits right on the lake.

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(Click on any image to enlarge.)

We walked around the lake, then I settled on a view facing south for most of my images.  We played around with reflections, and slow shutter speeds as the water flowed over a dam at the north end of the lake.  Here’s an infrared photo from late in the day.

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Here’s a group shot of all of us on a bridge near the hotel.

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The next morning, we drove into the Tre Cime Natural Park and began our hike to Rifugio Locatelli.  Stay tuned for more.

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Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 3

The next day, we took the bus to the end of the road, and went for an approximately 7-mile hike near Santa Magdalena at around 2000 meters elevation.  Here’s the trail we took, hiking from east to west:

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As I mentioned in my last post, the weather turned overcast with a low ceiling, and a nearly constant threat of rain.  The good news is that it didn’t actually rain much—a couple of passing showers that lasted only minutes.  The bad news is that we had to imagine what the scenery looked like:

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(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once again, I turned to my infrared Nikon D300 to find elements of drama in the larger scene.  On this trip, I used the versatile Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for all of my infrared photos.  This shot is using a focal length of 65mm (35mm equivalent of 100mm) at f/5.

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Another approach to photographing with uncooperative weather is to focus on details, such as this flower.

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I believe this is a Phyteuma orbiculare.
Common name: Round-headed Rampion

The weather improved marginally as we neared the end of our hike, descending to Santa Magdalena to catch the bus back to the hotel.  The mountains were still in the clouds, but we could at least appreciate more of the scenery.

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The next day, we hiked again for about five miles in the same area, heading more east:

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The weather was slightly improved from the day before—the ceiling had lifted ever so slightly, and we saw some blue sky as the day progressed.

Here’s my favorite infrared photo from the day, with the brooding clouds hanging just at the top of the peaks.

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As long as the sky was cloudy, we could switch our focus to scenes that don’t include it.  I photographed these waterfalls with a 1/3 second exposure at f/22.

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The photo below is a 1/10 second exposure, also at f/22.

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, one of the themes of this week was to find different ways to photograph something interesting while having challenging weather conditions.  This led us to time-lapse photography.

Here’s a very short video of sixty time-lapse frames.  Each frame was taken 3 seconds apart, and the video below speeds it up by 36x.  I’ll have a few more examples like this in later blog posts.

Next up, an afternoon in Ortisei, on our way up to our first mountain hut, the Rifugio Resciesa.

Alaska Homestead Lodge, Silver Salmon Creek

[Updated:  See addendum at the end of this post.]

While in Alaska, we stayed at a great lodge, The Alaska Homestead Lodge.  It’s part of a small Alaskan bush community at Silver Salmon Creek.  The owners, James and Shelia Isaak, live next to the lodge and keep it in great shape.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

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The lodge itself is on the inland side of the tidal marshes, only a few hundred yards from the coast.  It was common to be sitting in the upstairs dining room and watching bears walk in from the beach, right past the lodge on their way into the forest.

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We also had a great guide, Belle, who has been guiding three years at the lodge.  There are two lodges along the coast, and the guides from both lodges cooperate with each other to share information on the radio about what the bears are doing.  The guides drive four-wheel ATVs with small trailers.  I did this trip with four of my friends, and we all rode in the trailer together up and down the beach, through the creek, and along the trails.

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Here’s a snapshot showing a typical morning at the beach, with a group from each lodge watching the mom and three cubs dig for clams.  We all wore rubber boots (supplied by the lodge) to keep our feet dry.

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A pleasant surprise was the food at the lodge.  Not just good; it was great.  Our chef’s summer job last year was at Bouchon.  Meals were prepared in the lodge’s upstairs kitchen and served at the communal dining table.  The grilled salmon was fresh and expertly prepared—I think we had it three different nights.  We also had pork tenderloin, lasagna, chicken fajitas—and fresh desserts, such as berry crisp, and chocolate pie.

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The lodge had a garden and greenhouse from which the salads came… lettuce, kale, broccolini, cabbage, and more.  For the most part, the bears left these alone—even the berries used in the desserts.

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Like much of Alaska, the only reasonable way in and out of the lodge is by plane.  We used Natron Air Taxi as our charter to get to the lodge from Anchorage.  We had cloudless, blue sky for our flight on this GA-8 Airvan.

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And here we are coming in for a landing on the beach.

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The weather continued to be great for the first five days.  The previous three weeks were rainy, and the following two weeks were predicted to be rainy—but we had five solid sunny days.  And then it turned foggy, misty, and rainy for us, too.  The lodge recommends having a buffer travel day on each side of your stay, in case you get weathered in and can’t get into or out of the lodge.  We almost were stuck at the lodge an additional day.  Tim, our pilot, persisted and was able to land further north and taxi down the beach for a couple of miles to get us.

On a positive note, the fog and clouds added some variety to our scenery and photographs.

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[Addendum]

It occurred to me after posting this that I didn’t describe what a typical day was like.  Each day, you work out your schedule with your guide.  We’d typically get up for an early shoot around 7:00 AM, then back to the lodge at 8:00 AM for breakfast.  Then we’d head back out after breakfast for a few hours, and return for lunch around noon.  Because of the high latitude, the quality of light stayed pretty good until 10:00 or 11:00 AM—even longer if it was a little hazy.  If something especially good is happening, our guide would radio the lodge to let them know we’d be running late.  After lunch, we’d often take a break (nap time), and head out again for a few hours before or after dinner.

A lot is dependent on the tide.  At high tide, the bears are usually in the meadow eating grass and sleeping.  At lowest tide, they are clamming.  Near low tide, they could fish.  During our week, high tide was in the afternoons, so we spent most of the time photographing in the mornings.

Just talk to your guide about the photos you want to take, and they’ll do their best to make it happen.  If you want photos of bears eating grass, you’ll love going out during high tide.  If you want photos of bears fishing, you might go out a few hours after high tide.