It’s All About the Sky

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?

#sky, #grandteton, #nationalpark, #mountmoran, #sunset, #clouds, #backlit, #aurorahdr, #sony, #gtnp, #landscape
Mount Moran is backlit by the sunset in Grand Teton National Park. This image is all about the sky.

 

Where the Buffalo Roam

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.)

#bison, #buffalo, #grandtetonnationalpark, #jacksonhole, #jacksonholeairport, #wildlife, #landscape, #sony
I was able to shoot this photo with my Sony aIIr7 and the 100-400m lens handheld at ISO 1600, f/5.6 and at 1/500 second. I hoped the fast shutter speed would eliminate blur from camera shake as well as movement of the bison. 

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.

Moose Maneuvers

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.

#moose, #behavior, #male, #grandtetonnationalpark, #sony, #sony100-400mm, #wildlife, #brushback, #nationalparks, #wyoming, #nature
A younger male moose tries to approach a mother and calf, but the dominant male moose blocks his path. No way, Jose. It’s not happening! Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
#moose, #wildlife, #wyoming, #male, #rack, #dominant, #behavior, #noway, #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalpark, #nature, #sony
As the younger male inches forward, casually munching on some grass, the dominant male keeps an eye on both the intruder and the mother and calf.

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.

Bear and Berries

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.”

#blackbear, #berries, #wildlife, #bear, #bears. #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalpark, #trees, #fall, #september, #hiibernation
This black bear ignored human spectators while harvesting berries in Grand Teton National Park along Moose Wilson Road.

See the earrings and necklace on the bear (tags)? This bear was trapped, tagged and released, so rangers can monitor him.

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.

 

 

Alligator, Open Wide!

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.

#alligator, #gator, #mouth, #teeth, #yawn, #why, #sony, #sunnyday, #everglades, #miami, #nationalpark, #nature, #wildlife
Alligator cooling off on a hot day in Shark Valley, part of Everglades National Park near Miami, Florida.

 

River of Grass

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.

#everglades, #sharkvalley, #clouds, #florida, #sunnyday, #nationalpark, #bluesky
December water levels turn the Shark River Valley into a reflecting pool on a sunny day.

Wary Alligator

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.

#gator, #alligator, #americanalligtor, #everglades, #nationalpark, #florida, #sharkvalley, #dangerous,
Keep your distance from the American alligator. While humans are not its favorite food, it is both fast and powerful.

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.

Snowstorm Photography

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.

#snow, #photography, #workshop, #lookout, #cliff
My friend Dennis shooting landscape photography in Bryce Canyon National Park. Dennis lives in Hawaii, where he tries not to fall into lava tubes.

Both Dennis and Joel are very talented photographers. We have kept in touch and swapped stories over the years.

#snow, #bryce, #brycecanyon, #hoodoo, #careful, #cliff, #dontfall, #tripod
My friend Joel spotted a hoodoo with a lone tree growing on top, a formation that made a great composition.

 

 

Snow in the Forecast

Winter storm Benji is blanketing the Northeast of the United States with fresh snow today. Thoughts of fresh snow on the landscape remind me of a very cold morning in Bryce Canyon National Park.

#snow, #bryce, #brycecanyon, #nationalpark, #winter, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #cold, #windchill
The wind chill was super freezing here on Sunset Point (at sunrise), but the snow made Bryce Canyon National Park even more beautiful.

After that morning shoot, I went shopping for a second layer of gloves. I am not a Morning Person!