The Obvious Choice: X

Standing on the bluff overlooking ice fishermen on the frozen lake and a wide vista of snowy Utah mountains, I did not at first recognize the most dramatic composition — the one that included the X on the ground. “X” marked the landing pad for a rescue helicopter. Yes, the X attracts the eye and tells a story about a dramatic rescue that took place here.

Aren’t the best photographs, the ones that tell a story? Maybe not the most obvious story, but stories that happened in the past that we can only imagine?

Utah, winter, mountains, ice, lake
One tragic day a school bus careened over this cliff, and a rescue helicopter landed here. “X” marks the spot on this frigid day in the Utah winter.

Frozen lake’s sights and sounds

My eye followed the leading lines in this frozen lake across to the Wasatch Mountain Range. While the mountains were lacking in fresh snow, the temperatures were very cold, in the single digits and teens on this February day. Nearby, a well-bundled man was ice-fishing.

Wasatch mountains, lake, Utah
Frozen lake at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

While I was taking in this vista, I noticed the interesting sounds the ice was making. Have you ever listened to the sounds of a frozen lake?

Attention Horse Lovers

Have you ever seen such a furry horse? The thick coat on this horse makes him look almost like part bear! Surely this blanket of fur helps this horse stay warm in the frigid Utah winter, when temperatures often lurk near zero (Fahrenheit).

horse
A thick winter coat helps to keep this Heber Valley, Utah, horse warm on cold winter days.

If any of you horse experts want to chime in, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on what type of horse this is. I’m not sure if the legs are stocky, or the overgrown hair obscures slim legs. I have never seen a horse with this appearance.

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.

Creative Processing

When travel restrictions keep a photographer at home for months at a stretch, it’s a perfect time to exercise one’s creativity with new ways to process images in the archives. On this sunny day in June, I pulled up one of my favorite images of 2020: my daughter and son-in-law on a dog sled in Wyoming with a stunning background.

I was so happy that my dogsled, traveling just behind Courtney’s sled stopped in an opportune spot for me to frame her sled before tall pines, snow-capped mountains and a happy sky, blue with puffy clouds. And for just one second, Courtney and her husband Scott looked up at me and smiled. The triangular composition gives the scene balance and also offsets the white dogs.

#jackson, #jacksonhole, #thingstodo, #winter, #winterfun, #dogsled, #topaz, #adobe, #sonyalpha, #stayathome, #processing, #photography, #family, #creativity
Processed in Photoshop and Topaz Simplify, this photograph gained a painterly effect. I believe that the viewer can more easily place themselves in the scene when the faces are modified. I hope you agree that this image is more than just a family photo now.

Our winter adventures in Jackson Hole will give us some interesting options for holiday cards this year, and maybe a 2021 calendar. I’m sure your photographs from your family trips bring you joy at this time.

Ever See a Badger?

Seeing a North American Badger might not be on your bucket list, but for four photographers in Jackson Hole, seeing a badger was a “bonus.” Having photographed bison, trumpeter swan, elk, coyote, bald eagle and golden eagle earlier in the day, the we called the badger sighting our “Bonus Badger.” For me, it was a first.

#badger, #wildlife, #jacksonhole, #elksanctuary, #nature, #winter, #nocturnal, #
North American badger comes out of his den to look around in the Elk Sanctuary in Jackson Hole, WY.

Reading about the badger’s behavior on Wikipedia, I discovered that it’s not surprising that sightings are rare. Badgers are solitary creatures, living in underground dens and are mostly noctural. Their predators are golden eagles, coyote and bears all of which are plentiful in this part of Wyoming. Moreover, they are aggressive animals, so I’m glad I was able to capture this photo from the safety of our car.

I like the badger’s furry coat and face markings, and I’m glad I had the chance to see it. Look at those long claws!

Bald Eagle in Winter

February 28, 2020 — It was just after dawn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with temperatures hovering around 8 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was scouting for wildlife with three other photographers. We spotted a Bald Eagle high in a frosty tree. A long lens (400 mm Sony) afforded us a closer look.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #winter, #wyoming, #wildlife, #nature, #jacksonhole, #eagleintree
Bald Eagle in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a frosty morning in February 2020. Perched high in an aspen tree along a stream, this eagle kept watch for possible prey.

For my friend Chris, this was his first time seeing a bald eagle. I had just been bald eagle watching and photographing in Florida the previous week, but seeing a Bald Eagle is always exciting.

We were only weeks away from the lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, but we were blissfully unaware. How blessed we were to complete this trip to Wyoming before the crisis hit the United States. I think of that childhood game of Musical Chairs. This is where we were just before the music stopped.

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.

Wake up time

I’m the first to admit that I like to sleep in. Waking up to a buzzing alarm clock when it’s dark outside is NOT the way I like to start my day, especially when it’s cold outside. Proof positive that I braved the dark and the cold and forced my sleepy body out of bed at 6am in Jackson Hole is this photo of Rendezvous Mountain at sunrise. As you can see, I was in position to take this sunrise exposure before the first skier appeared on the slopes.

#snow, #mountain, #ski, #trails, #rendezvous, #tetonvillage, #jacksonhole, #sunrise, #cold
Winter sunrise on Rendezvous Mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Sunlight had not yet reached the valley floor. Can you spot a single skier on the trails? February 2020

With the temperature only reaching 8 degrees Fahrenheit, my toes felt like blocks of ice in few minutes outside, so I got back in the car to look for some wildlife. We found some bald eagles in short order!

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.