Frozen Beauty

As freezing temperatures grip the Northeast United States this week, we are reminded that a frozen landscape offers a new kind of beauty. The colorful palette of autumn leaves are nearly gone, and winter’s snow introduces a new aesthetic.

The Grand Tetons are draped in a blanket of fresh snow, while the valley underlines the scene with golden foliage. The Wyoming winter is approaching.

This image is one of 12 featured in Cathy Kelly’s 2022 Wyoming Nature calendar. There is still time to order one for the holidays. Email Cathy for details.

Introducing the Pronghorn

This beautiful mammal is truly one of a kind, as the pronghorn’s 11 closest relatives are extinct. It is the last surviving member of the Antilocapridae family. The Pronghorn’s closest living relative is the giraffe!

The pronghorn (female shown here) is the fastest land mammal in North America, running up to 55 miles per hour. Grand Teton National Park.

You might have seen some pronghorns running at top speed around the national parks of Wyoming, because the species is repopulating, coming back strong from near extinction in the early 1900s, when it had been over-hunted by humans for food. It’s numbers dwindled to about 13,000. Private groups began buying up land to create a refuge for the pronghorn until the 1930s when Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt (FDR) created enough public land for them to live in a protected habitat. The presidents also put hunting restrictions in place. Now the pronghorn is estimated at 500,000 to a million in the American Rockies. (Read full details on Wikipedia.)

Now we could say of our fast-footed friend, that she is one in a million.

Horses are Smart

My friends who own horses have told me stories about how smart they are. So, perhaps this stately white horse really knows how lucky he is. He spends his days grazing in full view of the Grand Tetons. No human could enjoy real estate like this for under $15 million, in round numbers. A ranch within Grand Teton National Park? What a life.

White horse, photographed after sunset, enjoys life on the ranch inside Grand Teton National Park.

After the sun set behind the Tetons, we turned our backs to a herd of bison, crossed the road and greeted this horse, backlit by the waning light.

Not the Same Old Moulton Barn

Returning to Grand Teton National Park for the second time in the Fall, I was hoping to return to several of my favorite locations, but NOT take the same photos all over again. What fun would that be?

Mother Nature helped me out. On the night before I went out to Mormon Row to photograph the one of the old barns in the foreground of the majestic Teton mountain range, it snowed on the peaks. Adding to the drama were the clouds.

Fresh snow on the Tetons made a dramatic backdrop to the Moulton Barn on Monday morning.

Would you like to see how different this scene looked in 2018? Here is a link to my photo of a nearby barn on Mormon Row. Which image do you prefer?

The Best Part of Wildlife Photography

I think the most exciting aspect of Wildlife Photography is the chance to observe wild animals in their habitat, doing what they like to do. You can learn a lot from watching their behavior, and in doing that, I feel like a privileged secret observer. While we always keep a respectful distance in order not to distract or interfere with the animal, we whisper to each other, and our excitement is palpable.

Early one morning in Grand Teton National Park, we spotted a bull elk in the field, and his silhouette in the bright morning sun was striking.

Bull elk in Grand Teton National Park with morning light and fall colors.
A photograph of this bull elk in his habitat tells the story of his life in the wild. Grand Teton National Park, September 2021.
Bull elk running after his “girl,” an elk cow, during mating season in Grand Teton National Park.

At one point, we observed the interaction of the bull, the cow and the calf elk, and then they ran out of our line of sight. While close-up photographs are satisfying and show us exactly what the animal looks like, these experiences are exciting, and the photographs share a story. Autumn is a busy time in Grand Teton National Park for the elk, as well as the moose and bears.

How to Improve Your Photography

Looking through my archives for color photographs that would make a satisfying black and white image made me realize that “seeing in black and white” will make me a better photographer. Any consistently successful photographer will pre-visualize the image before image capture. For starters, one evaluates dynamic range, depth of field, light quality, composition, timing of the action and whether the subject is meaningful.

To choose a good subject for black and white photography there are more factors to evaluate: tonal range and contrast, simplicity, shape, texture, interest. I like my black and white images to be strong. The image has to be eye catching and hold the viewer’s interest without the help of color. I admit, I’m a photographer who loves color, so this challenge is fun for me!

This photograph of a mother Bison and her calf grazing on top of the hillside made the cut for a color to black and white candidate. In my judgement, it has simplicity, large repeating shapes, texture in the fur, wide tonal range and plenty of interest — from the unusual wildlife sighting to the eye contact and tongue in mid-air.

#bison, #motherandcalf, #buffalo, #gtnp, #grandteton, #wyoming, #jacksonhole, #givethemdistance, #safedistance, #wildlifephotography, #wildlife, #photography, #nature, #blackandwhite, #sonyalpha, #nik, #silverefexpro
Mother and calf bison grazing in Grand Teton National Park (shot from a safe distance inside a car with a 600mm lens).

Crystal trees in Jackson Hole

As we begin another week in Southwest Florida of temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a heat index around 100, I’m thinking back on a bitter cold morning in Jackson Hole when my fingertips and toes were frozen.

Venturing through Grand Teton National Park with two other photographers, we spotted elk, bison, eagles, trumpeter swans, big horn sheep and a coyote during the day. We also admired the shapes in the snow-covered landscape.

#hoarfrost, #frost, #jacksonhole, #winter, #snow, #snowy, #cold, #ice, grandtetonnationalpark, #gtnp, #morninglight, #sonyalpha
Hoarfrost coats the branches and leaves of this enormous bush in Jackson Hole, WY, February 2020.

A visual treat of the early morning light was the hoarfrost on the trees along the creek. Rising water vapor coated branches and froze overnight. Before the midday sun melted the ice, we were able to capture some photographs of these crystalline trees.

#hoarfrost, #frost, #winter, #snow, #snowy, #cold, #winter, #landscapephotography, #naturephotography, #landscape, #nature, #morninglight, #sonyalpha, #gtnp, #jacksonhole
Hoarfrost makes the trees look crystalline in early morning light, Jackson Hole, WY, 2020. Zoom in to see the branches in detail.

Lone Tree in Grand Teton National Park

We interrupt this close examination of bison 😉
for a wider view of the landscape in Grand Teton National Park. Grand it is! How glorious are the vistas of the wide open spaces. In this image, we see a lone tree punctuate the snow covered flat lands at the foot of the steeply rising Grand Teton mountains.

#grandtetonnationalpark, #grandtetons, #nationalpark, #lonetree, #snow, #winter, #mountains,
Lone juniper tree punctuates the snow field in Grand Teton National Park. February 2020

In February, it was bitter cold and windy with many nighttime temperatures dropping into negative numbers (-25!). Snow pack is higher in the mountains than in the lower Snake River Valley, but many low lying roads and areas accessible during the Spring, Summer and Fall are off limits now. During our week in Wyoming, we picked up an additional 7” to everyone’s delight. Then, we also enjoyed “bluebird skies” like this in the image. The skiers and photographers were happy.

Bison Action in Wyoming

Near Kelly, Wyoming —-  Who knew that bison have black tongues? In this image, I caught Mama Bison chewing some plants while looking in my direction. I was shooting with a 600mm lens from a safe distance.  At least, we hoped we would be safe!

#bison, #buffalo, #feeding, #tongue, #action, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #sony, #outdoorphotography, #naturephotography, #nature, #wildthingsofwyoming
Adult bison forages on plants that emerge from the snow in Grand Teton National Park, March 2020.

In this next close-up, you can see the bison trudging up the hill in fresh snow. It was also snowing, windy and cold. I like the raised hoof indicating the action taking place. In no time, all five bison had traveled from the field where they were lying, through the hot spring, across the road and up the hill.  

#bison, #buffalo, #wyoming, #grandtetonnationalpark, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #action, #nature, #naturephotography, #sony, #outdoorphotography, #wildthingsofwyoming, #kelly, #jacksonhole,
With the sun on her back, Mama Bison climbs the snowy hill to “greener” pastures in Kelly, Wyoming, March 1, 2020. Grand Teton National Park.

This was our best sighting of the week in Jackson Hole. While we spotted moose several times, we never had a good opportunity for photos like this. A shout out to our guide with Wild Things of Wyoming, Colin Boeh, for his experience with finding and safely observing wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. Thanks to Colin, we had a fascinating and very educational day!

Moonset on Mount Moran

My visit to Grand Teton National Park was well timed to coincide with the peak of fall foliage and the moonset as well. For every month, the full moon sets at virtually the same time that the sun rises. That singular morning is a great opportunity to capture the full moon close to the horizon while the sun has only gently lit the scene.

When I’m at home, the moon sets behind my neighbor’s house. The view is not at all comparable to the rugged peak of Mount Moran with fall foliage in the foreground. Traveling out West with a group of photographers gave me a better opportunity and the incentive I needed to wake up in the dark and venture outdoors in the cold.

#fullmoon, #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalpark, #mountain, #foliage, #fallcolor, #september. #moonset, #sunrise, reflection, #snakeriver, #mountmoran, #mtmoran, #wakeup, #frozentoes, #landscapephotography
In the moments before sunrise, the full moon slid toward the horizon alongside Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park.

A large number of photographers gather along the shore of the Snake River at Oxbow Bend to take advantage of the possible reflections of the mountain, the trees and the moon in the water. As the sun rose, fog began to form and the wind blew it across the surface of the water. My fingers and toes turned to ice cubes before we finished the shoot, but the experience was worth it, especially in the company of friends.