A truly great sunset photo requires a good foreground. You know, the parking lot or the neighbor’s house won’t do. Many of us head for the mountains or the sea to watch the sunset and capture the fleeting natural beauty in a photograph.
But the second ingredient in a great sunset photos is the sky. The texture and the reflections of the golden light in the clouds separates the good sunsets from the great ones.
Both the foreground and the amazing clouds came together along the banks of the Snake River on this magical evening in Grand Teton National Park. Mount Moran and the Grand Teton mountain range, although backlit, made a pretty majestic foreground. For scale, notice the tiny boats on the left side.
What can I say about the clouds? As wispy as cotton candy and as vivid as a flame?
This herd of bison can often be spotted near the state road 191 in Grand Teton National Park several miles north of the Jackson Hole Airport. I made sure to take my husband there to see them, since he was raised as a Buffalo Bills football fan.
In this image, you see the bison from a safe distance, since it would not be safe to approach the herd on foot. (My mother would be happy to hear me say this.)
There are an estimated 500 head of bison in Grand Teton National Park, and many more north of here in Yellowstone National Park. Spotting wildlife — bear, moose, bison, coyote — is a big part of what makes American national parks an exciting destination.
Even more exciting than spotting my first moose was watching a spontaneous show of behavior between two male moose in the presence of a female and calf. Joining a Brushback Wildlife Tour in Grand Teton National Park one evening at dusk was definitely worth the investment.
What are these two moose looking at, you might ask? All eyes are on a mother and calf grazing on the nearby hillside. The young buck just wanted to get close enough to say hello, but the senior moose (notice the superior headgear), would block his path. Young buck takes a few steps to the left, Big Moose takes a few steps to the left. A few steps to the right are also blocked.
Light was low, and I had to increase my ISO to 3200 and use a tripod on the Sony aIIr7 with the Sony 100-400mm lens in order to capture these images.
It’s not too hard to spot a black bear by the side of the road in Grand Teton National Park. They are gorging on berries and getting ready for hibernation season. I used my 100-400mm Sony lens on my Sony aIIr7 mirrorless camera, mounted on a tripod to capture this close-up.
One just has to keep a safe distance, because bears move very fast despite their heavy weight and they and kill a human quickly if they want to. Photographers and hikers are urged to carry bear repellent spray to use in case a bear comes at you. The grizzlies are considered more dangerous than the black bears (which come in black, brown, cinnamon and golden colors), but you don’t want to startle a black bear or find yourself between a mother and her cub. Rangers (“wildlife management’) try to manage the enthusiastic humans who would otherwise get too close. These rangers should be called “tourist management.”
See the earrings and necklace on the bear (tags)? This bear was trapped, tagged and released, so rangers can monitor him.
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.
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.
Why do alligators lie there with their mouths open wide? Pretty much the same reason that a dog pants — to cool off. They might also lie in the shade or swim, but this gaping mouth gives us a good look at the gators large jaws and sharp teeth.
The “Everglades” means ever flowing river of grass. It is a massive shallow river of grassy swamp that drains fresh-water Lake Okeechobee in a wide path southward. Its depth varies from the wet season to the dry season, and it creates a fertile habitat for thousands of species of reptile, fish, insects, birds and plants.
December is just the beginning of the dry season, but there is still enough water (with the help of from Hurricane Irma in September) — to provide reflecting pools like this.
While this gator casts a wary glance at me, I am quite wary of him too, and I keep a respectful distance. On a recent trip to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I learned a few new facts about the American Alligator. If he chases you, don’t run serpentine, like the wive’s tale says. Run in a straight line, as fast as you can for alligators are very quick for just long enough to catch you. (They can run at 20 miles per hour.) The jaws too are powerful (2900 pounds of force recorded), and no match for human self-defense.
The 70mm lens on my Sony a2r7 camera makes it appear that I am close to the gator than I really am. (“Kids, don’t try this at home.”) Park rangers suggest a distance of at least 15 feet. Watch behind you, too. There are hundreds of alligators in the Everglades, some hidden underwater, Any fresh water watering hole in Florida could contain one.
The “street photographer” in me cannot resist taking photos of my fellow photographers when I find myself on location in an amazing landscape. Shooting Bryce Canyon National Park in a heavy snowstorm was one of those occasions. My colleagues Joel and Dennis perched themselves with their tripods pretty darn close to the edge of the cliff.
Both Dennis and Joel are very talented photographers. We have kept in touch and swapped stories over the years.