Hot Blue Heron

You know it’s a very hot day in the Everglades when the Blue Heron is panting. I had never before seen a blue heron open its mouth and flutter its tongue. Its neck was undulating too, and it was making sounds. I took a video, so I could ask the National Park ranger about it. Sure enough, the ranger said that the blue heron pants like a dog when it needs to cool off.

Great Blue Heron panting to cool off at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, Florida.

Which Gator Ate the Python?

When I biked the trail in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park yesterday, I saw more large alligators than I could begin to count. Which one, I wondered, ate the huge Burmese Python (a problematic invasive species) recently?

When I spotted this enormous alligator, I had a suspect. His belly looks very full, and it looks like he may be resting while the large meal digests. He looks mighty enough to have taken on the python and won the battle, don’t you think?

I took this photo with a 200mm Nikon lens from about 15 feet away, and I did not linger. The image is also cropped, making it appear that I was closer than I actually was. Alligators are dangerous, and they move very fast when they attack.
Here is a second image of this massive alligator in Shark Valley, part of Everglades National Park. He appears to be resting after a recent meal.

White Pelicans in Flight

#whitepelican, #pelican, #flying, #inflight, #wings, #sky, #howto, #nikon, #tamron
White Pelicans soar above Sanibel Island, showing their black wingtips. Their wingspan is the second largest for a bird in North America.

It’s certainly a challenge to photograph birds in flight. Your shutter speed must be fast enough (1/1000 second) and your depth of field sufficient to keep the birds in focus (f/20), as they won’t stop for you to capture your photograph. I used an ISO of 800 on a bright sunny day, to allow me to shorten the shutter speed and dial down the aperture. It helps if the birds are flying roughly parallel to your focal plane, rather than toward or away from you. And it takes practice. These beautiful birds look amazing as they come in for a landing, too.

3-2-1 — Contact. Back to the White Pelican Squadron on the sandbar.

The White Pelican says…

As the giant White Pelicans on Sanibel Island raised their wings and assumed different positions, I was poised to capture several close up photographs. Each pose seemed to call for a caption.

To me, it looked like the White Pelican was trying on an oversized dress. “Does this fit?”

The White Pelican’s reflection in the water makes a natural mirror.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to observe these beautiful migratory birds, who arrived from the northern United States in January.

Secret of the Aspens

The shimmering golden aspens of the Rocky Mountains are known for their white trunks and brilliant fall color, but did you know their biological secret? Clumps of aspen trees are actually clones of each other. Yes! They share the same DNA.

The National Forest Foundation explains it this way:

One aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism. A stand or group of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system.”

#aspens, #aspen, #trees, #vertical, #trunks, #whitetrunks, #forest, #clone, #yellow, #fallcolor, #pattern
Stands of golden aspen trees flourish in Grand Teton National Park. September, 2018.

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Along the Teton Fault

Did you ever wonder why the Grand Tetons rise straight up out of a flat valley? The Teton Fault separates two tectonic plates at the foot of the mountains. For the past 10 million years, the mountains have inched up to 13,700 feet, while the flat valley floor has sunk to its current level at 6,800 feet above sea level, according to the National Park Service.

During the Ice Age glaciers moved south from Yellowstone region, filling the valley and then eroding the mountains into jagged peaks and melting into lakes. All of this geology history tells a fascinating story too gradual for us to observe, but we can observe the changing seasons and fall color.

#valley, #grandtetons, #jacksonhole, #gtnp, #golden, #sky, #sunnyday, #wyoming, #grandteton, #landscape, #nikon
The valley floor appears golden in late September along the Teton Fault in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park.

Do the colors in this scene leave you feeling uplifted?

(The facts in this blog were provided by the National Park Service.)

Sunset on Jenny Lake

Grand Teton National Park is such a strong magnet for landscape photographers, that many of the popular lookout points are quite crowded for sunrise and sunset. Tripods legs are interlaced, and I consider myself lucky if the people around me are cooperative and friendly.  If an inexperienced photographer starts to set up in front of another photographer who has established his spot, look out! There will be fireworks.

Our workshop group of nine had this spot on the edge of Jenny Lake to ourselves. Check!  When we first arrived on the lake shore to see a bright blue sky and backlit mountains, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the location. We had carefully climbed down a rocky hillside, carefully making our own path over boulders and downed trees. I moved to the right and left, looking for foreground elements to create an interesting composition.

As we waited for the sun to sink lower and lower, the show began. Our group became very still when the orange light show reached its peak, and every photographer tried to perfect a long exposure.

#nikon, #howto, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #jennylake, #sunset, #lake, #reflection, #sky, #vibrant, #log, #nationalparks, #jacksonhole
Here is my final image of the evening resulting from a 2.5 second exposure at ISO 100 and f/16, an aperture that kept the foreground and the distant mountains and sky in clear focus.

As I packed up my gear, I could hear others murmur, “Did you see that reflection on the water?”

How could you miss it?

Learning from Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams made an iconic photograph of the Snake River Valley looking toward the Grand Tetons from this very spot in Jackson Hole in 1942. So, with my Sony mirrorless digital camera and the latest software, I followed the master’s lead and made this vibrant color image at sunset in late September 2018.

#sunset, #grandtetons, #snakeriver, #hdr, #lightroom, #clearnight, #jacksonhole, #rrstripod, #sonymirrorless
Four exposures merged in Adobe Lightroom created this vivid color image of the Snake River Valley and Grand Teton Range at sunset, from Ansel Adams’ lookout.

The view was even better in Adams’ day, because the Snake River made a serpentine curve leading the eye to the mountains. Today trees obscure part of the river from this lookout. It was still exciting to walk in Ansel Adams’ footsteps 76 years later.

Morning Moon in Jackson Hole

I can hear these words echo in my mind, “The Moon carries tremendous visual weight.” My photography mentors remind me to consider this when I compose a frame with the moon. I am listening. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the moon. To create balance in the composition, the other side of the frame needs some “weight.”  That’s where the Grand Teton comes in, the high peak on the right.

#moon, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #schwabacherlanding, #fallcolor, #fall, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #jacksonhole, #wyoming, #mountains, #snakeriver, #trees, #yellowandblue
While the lodgepole pine directs they eye to the full moon, the Grand Teton range cuts a jagged line in the morning sky.

This image also features a contrast of cool and warm tones. The blue and grey in the sky and mountaintops contrast the warmly lit fall color in the trees and grasses in the valley. Good morning, Jackson Hole! I’m enjoying a deep breath of your fresh air and cool Fall temperatures. It’s time for a warm cup of coffee.

 

Black Bear in Grand Teton NP

While Black Bears are not considered as dangerous as Grizzly Bears, they are still no match for a human, so we need to keep our distance and take care not to attract or provoke them. I spotted this bear quite a way up the hillside above the road, and I was able to use my 400mm lens, steadied with a tripod, to capture this photograph. (I was not as close to it as it appears.)

#bear, #grandtetonnationalpark, #grandtetons, #nationalpark, #wildlife, #sony, #RRS, #tripod, #staysafe, #keepyourdistance
Black bear grazing in Grand Teton National Park, observing a cluster of excited humans with cameras.

I have read that the Black Bear’s eyesight and hearing are better than a humans. Its sense of smell is WAY better, seven times better than that of a dog. Signs warn national park visitors not to leave food in a cooler inside a car, for a black bear might smell it and destroy the car to reach the food. Food lockers are available, but you better hope that everyone locks the locker well, or everybody’s supplies will be gone.

A human is no match for the speed and the strength of a bear. Take your photo, and then get back in the car and move on!