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.

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!

Close Encounter with Bison

Sunday afternoon, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming —

A close encounter with five enormous bison?  It unfolded like this: As the bison waded across the hot spring that separated us and approached the road, we backed up several yards to give them plenty of space. We were mindful of National Park Service rules for keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and we  anticipated that the bison planned to cross the road and head up the snow covered hill. This scenario was unfolding peacefully until a pick-up truck, pulled up right in front of the bison, blocking their path.

What did the bison do? They looked down the road to us and gave us the stare-down. “Move the truck!” we said quietly — to the driver, but only loud enough that the three of us could hear. Luckily, the truck moved on after a pause of a few minutes (surely taking photos out the window and oblivious to the spot they put us in). I looked behind me for a tree to hide behind, but there were none. I’m not sure what we would have done, had they charged at us. There were several cars and spectators on the far side of the bison, but the three of us were isolated, standing on the road.

#bison, #buffalo, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #nationalpark, #grandtetonnationalpark, #gtnp, #sony, #safedistance #nps, #wildthingsofwyoming
Checking us out… could she tell that I had eaten (farmed) bison filet and bison chili recently? I hope not! I came in peace only to take your photo, Mama! Bison in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. March 2020.

Once the truck moved, the bison trudged across the road and up the hill, as we predicted, stopping a few more times to stare in our direction.

There were three adult and two young bison, causing the two mother bison to exhibit protective behavior. It was our job to stay distant, quiet and non-threatening. During this time, I used my 600mm Sony lens to capture as many action photos as I could. Watching these enormous wild animals at close range was a rare and special experience. If you like this image, stay tuned, as I’ve got more good ones!

And you thought forest fires were a problem?

At first glance, you might not look at this photograph and realize something is terribly wrong. Something is killing the lodgepole pine trees in Western Canada. Do you see the “red” trees? They are dead lodgepole pines, and the blight has engulfed nearly half the forest in Jasper National Park.

In this picturesque view of the Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, you can see the “red” trees. Acres of lodgepole pine trees are dying, and they only regenerate after a forest fire.

The villain behind this vast arboricide is a tiny insect called the mountain pine beetle. It lays eggs under the bark that leads to fungus, blocking the circulation inside a pine tree trunk, killing it. With the warmer weather of climate change, the pine beetle has flourished, unchecked by mild winters.

What is Parks Canada going to do? For a long time, the answer was “nothing,” because the philosophy was not to interfere with the ways of Nature. Recently, however, workers have begun cutting down some of the dead trees to reduce fire risk to nearby communities.

Botanists have discovered that the lodgepole pine cones, containing the seeds that would start regeneration only open in the extreme heat of a forest fire. After a natural forest fire has swept the acreage, then the seeds will begin to grow the next generation of lodgepole pines. To me, it seems like a harsh path of evolution wherein the pest thrives, the verdant hillside dies and waits for lightening to strike.

To read more about the pine beetle crisis, you can click here.

Full Moon Sets at Sunrise

If you visit someplace scenic like a National Park for the Full Moon, you can look forward to a Moonset with gentle morning light on untouched Nature. That’s what we found on the morning of May 20 in Joshua Tree National Park. The Full Moon (95% full) looks brightest when the sky is still a bit dark, and a little bit of light on the landscape allows you to see the amazing landscape in the foreground. You will only have a few minutes to balance the darkness and the light for optimum effect.

The rising sun has lit the distant mountains and clouds but not the Joshua Tree in the foreground, which appears almost in silhouette. The low light reveals some detail in the highly textured tree, but makes it a strong visual element in the composition where the moon is the “star.” May 2019

Discovering the High Desert

As a part-time Floridian, I’m in love with the coastline, the ocean, tropical plants and birds. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an adventure into the California desert, but I did!

My daughter booked an Airbnb in Yucca Valley for a couple days’ visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and we got to hike and explore the “high desert,” something new to me. I found the Joshua Trees to be really funky, and the sandstone boulders fascinating too.

We could see the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance, while taking in the textures of the high desert terrain at our feet. Just a short time after sunrise, the sunshine was brilliant.

We were lucky that the temperatures were moderate for our May 20-21 visit, and that we stayed close to the national park, in order to get there for sunrise. Stay tuned to this blog for more photographs from this special national park, Joshua Tree.

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!

Fall’s Fog and Color

I love to watch fog moving along the surface of a river in the Fall. I have memories of that fog on the Potomac when I lived in Washington D.C. and on the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. In Jackson Hole, morning fog crept across the Snake River as we watched the sun rise.  A thicker layer of fog — not so translucent — filled in the valley closer to the mountains.

#fog, #fallcolor, #mountmoran, #jacksonhole, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #sunrise, #nationalparks, #snakeriver, #fall, #landscape, #wyoming
The changing colors of the trees and the morning fog on the river made this sunrise scene in Jackson Hole extra special.

The trees are reaching their colorful peak in Pittsburgh today, and the sun is shining, but rain is on the way. I hope to capture some Fall color close to home. Happy Halloween!

 

A Blanket of Color

#sunset, #clouds, #light, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalparks, #light, #color, #landscape
The setting sun turned the blanket of clouds vivid shades of orange and pink in Grand Teton National Park, September 23, 2018.

While the sun’s brilliant orb slipped behind the Grand Tetons, the clouds reflected the orange glow of sunset. That evening the clouds took on a rippled texture as well as a misty, ethereal quality.  We could feel the temperature fall. The light show was brief. Soon it would be dark.

Shooting into the Sunset

Landscape photographers understand that shooting directly into the sun, even at sunset, creates such extremes of brightness and darkness that it is difficult to make a successful image. The foreground falls into shadow, while the sky becomes impossibly bright. What to do?

Photographers planning to shoot sunset in Grand Teton National Park face this challenge every day, because all views of the mountain range face west. While today’s digital software can help brighten the shadows and darken the highlights, it ain’t easy!

One approach is to wait until the critical moment when the sun touches the edge of a tree or a mountain in the foreground. If you set your camera manually to a small f-stop such as f/22, the sunlight will refract and create a brilliant sunstar. I like this technique, as it gives punch to the scene.

#sunset, #grandtetons, #schumacherslanding, #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalparks, #sunstar, #noclouds, #sky, #reflection, #stillness, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #evergreens, #howto
The Grand Tetons and the evergreens reflect in the beaver ponds of Schwabacher’s Landing as the sun sets.

Reflections in the beaver pond as well as the V shape of the trees that flank the mountains give this image a peaceful symmetry.

After this capture, I packed up my tripod and camera quickly, for soon it would be dark.