Thanks for enjoying the ‘Be There’ series. This is the final chapter in that series.
From our recent trip to Wyoming, specifically to Grand Teton National Park. The images are of the stunning Teton Range. I took a photo workshop from the Nature in Focus team. We were based at the Triangle X Ranch (awesome food and great accommodations!)
If you haven’t visited Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park, you’re really missing out! Winter was a fantastic time to visit (even though I wore long underwear and insulated pants every day!). I hope the ‘Be There’ series makes you want to go! After all, it’s the first rule of photorgraphy!
That’s the first line in Chapter 4 of Joel Sartore’s wonderful book, Photo Basics The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Great Photography. In my last blog, I referenced a different chapter. Light is an appropriate introduction to this blog, as great light was key to getting the images you will see.
Sartore quotes Jim Stanfield who said, “It’s not the light, but where you are in it.” As a wildlife and landscape photographer, I am very cognizant of where I am in relation to the available light. For landscape and scenery, I can somewhat control the light and where I am in it by showing up at dawn or dusk (to take advantage of the Golden Hour and Blue Hour), or when the light is optimal for the subject. Sartore also says, “The good news is that there are few completely unacceptable light conditions. Some light is more challenging to work with than others. Regardless, light can make or break a photograph, and how we face the challenge of mastering it is what shapes us as photographers.”
Wildlife is not always so forgiving. Critters don’t have a schedule or follow directions, and they don’t really care that they’re not in the best light for my camera. (Just try getting a model release!)
I’ve discussed the challenges of light in past blogs, and will likely do so in the future. But you may be asking, why is this critical to today’s blog? It’s simple. One afternoon, our workshop facilitators drove us to the National Elk Refuge, just north of the City of Jackson WY. Vehicles and pedestrians are not allowed on the Refuge, but one can buy tickets to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. As we boarded the sleigh, our facilitator’s wife gave the driver’s direction – ‘These are photographers! They want the sun behind them and the Tetons in the background! Make it happen!’ Well, words to that effect anyway.
It worked, the drivers gave us great scenes and positioned us nicely for great shots. The sky also cooperated and gave us some of the best light on the Tetons for the week we were there. And the Elk – the Elk were very accommodating and magnificent!
Well, I have more images from the last position than I could possible show here. The light worked for us on this afternoon, as we were able to position ourselves for best advantage. Having the Elk cooperate was a huge bonus. When you visit Grand Teton National Park during the winter months, the National Elk Refuge is a must see!
I hope you enjoyed our afternoon on the National Elk Refuge. We were only in the sleigh for 2 hours, but it was a fantastic couple hours.
A few days ago, I was asked to provide some biography information for an undisclosed (for now anyway) project. This caused me to reflect inward a bit – talking about myself in a serious way doesn’t come easy to me. As a starting point, I pulled up my ‘About’ page here and reviewed the information I included there. One of the things I quickly realized is that I hadn’t updated the page in a very, very long time (like, I was still shooting my Canon EOS 60D). As a result, I have now updated my ‘About’ page and think I have a nice biography to share when I need it.
In my new biography, I talk about how I learned photography. I am mostly self-taught, meaning that I read a lot of books on photography. I also have a network of wonderful mentors who aren’t shy about critiquing my work and helping me to improve my photography skills. Back to the books! When selecting a book to read, I’m sometimes interested in something new (HDR, Macro, Night Photography, etc.) but sometimes I buy a general photography book because it looks interesting. My latest book is called Photo Basics The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Great Photography by Joel Sartore, published by National Geographic. Like so many books on photography, there is excellent discussion about cameras, lenses and gear, composition, exposure light, etc. Even though the information is pretty consistent with other books, I enjoy the repetition as a learning/reinforcing tool.
In this book, Chapter 6 is titled ‘Thinking Like A Photographer.’ (Stay tuned, as I’ll be referring to this chapter in future blogs!) The author’s introduction to the chapter is titled ‘Get Into The Mind-Set.’
“…Making good photographs means more than knowing how to work the controls on your camera. Thinking like a photographer means having a good eye for moments that could yield iconic images, but also developing patience and persistence, doing your research, and always showing up prepared…”
I often talk about developing my photographer’s eye, or seeing a photo in a given scene. This adds a new dimension to my approach to photography, even though I seriously doubt that I make images that could be considered iconic. Most important there is patience (I have little) and research (I don’t do enough). Maybe I’ll change.
The focus (pun intended) for today’s blog required little patience or research! While in Wyoming last December, we took a couple drives up the road paralleling the North Fork of the Shoshone River. This is the road between Cody WY and Yellowstone’s East Entrance. Many animals exit Yellowstone to winter in this area. The Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep are plentiful, often they are on the road itself to lick the salt off the road! No patience was needed as there were plenty of animals to shoot (pictures, always pictures) and they are where they want to be at any given moment, just knowing they are in the area is all the research one needs to do. And so, enjoy the Big Horns!
I have many more images from this magical time. I hope you enjoyed these few. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR
Ever since I was a little boy, Bison have been one of my favorite animals. When I was a little boy, the City of Cheyenne had a few Bison in pens in Lions Park, on the north side of town. In the summer months, we’d make lunch and head to the Park to have lunch with Dad. We’d frequently go by the Bison pens and marvel at their beauty. Eventually, the Bison went away, along with the Deer and Elk that the City had in adjacent pens. The Terry Ranch, south of Cheyenne on I-25, rebranded itself as the Terry Bison Ranch and we were able to see lots of Bison on our trips to and from Colorado. The Terry Bison Ranch also operated a restaurant with Bison on the menu. When we visited Mom and Dad, we stopped by for a delicious Bison Burger. After I got serious about photography, I’d stop by the Terry Bison Ranch for pictures.
Another favorite venue is the Bear River State Park in Evanston WY. I always stop there on my way home, say howdy to the Bison, and visit with the Park staff. It’s a great rest stop!
When my lovely bride and I visited Yellowstone National Park four years ago (has it been four years already?), we encountered Bison up close in the Hayden and Lamar Valleys. Taking pictures of Bison is challenging. Their bodies are dark, so the tendency is to overexpose to bring out detail. In bright light (like the middle of the day), that’s a deadly combination. Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t. On that trip, the magic was mostly ‘doesn’t.’
Our recent trip to Wyoming, however, was a different story! We saw Bison on the North Fork of the Shoshone River, the road between Cody WY and the east entrance to Yellowstone, near Meeteetse WY, and along the road in Grand Teton National Park. The skies were frequently overcast, diffusing the light, so I was able to make some great Bison images on this trip. I hope you like them!
North Fork Road (along the Shoshone River between Cody WY and Yellowstone National Park):
West of Meeteetse WY:
Grand Teton National Park:
Bison are magnificent animals! In the right light, they photograph very well. Or, if one is a good photographer, one can account for the light better! Regardless, the most important thing to remember is ‘Don’t Pet the Fluffy Cows!’
All good things must come to an end – and it’s time to ‘put a bow,’ signaling the end of the 2022-2023 Eagle season – for me, at least. Since we returned from our trip, we’ve seen many Eagles in the Carson Valley but lately there have been few the last week or so. The nearby area outside the Valley has had no Eagles in the last few weeks so, for me, Eagle Season is over. It’s okay, with the weather warming up a bit we have lots of other projects around to occupy my time. And I’m still processing image files from the trip.
2022 was my best Eagle year ever! While I’ve taken some great pictures in past years, I got more great Eagle shots in 2022 than any time before. As you saw in one of my ‘Be There’ posts, my Eagle year continued while I was in Wyoming. Here’s a couple more Carson Valley area shots from 2022.
With an incredible finish to 2022, I was excited to return home and get out to see what 2023 would bring. Sadly, my lovely bride and I both got a crud on the way home, so we stayed very close to home for a couple weeks after our return. When we were able to get out, we found lots of subjects. Most, however, were fairly far away – even for my Canon RF 800 f/11 lens. An 800 mm focal length really brings those far away subjects up close. When combined with the 45 MP sensor on my Canon EOS R5 camera body, I have lots of data to work with when editing images. My greatest challenge is getting good focus on far away subjects. That’s not the fault of the equipment, rather, it’s the limitations of the photographer’s skills. We all have our limitations. Thankfully, I found the Topaz Denoise and Sharpen software, which can rescue some of my poorly shot image files.
Here’s the stuff from 2023! All in the Carson Valley.
A second hot zone was on Old Foothill Road, just south of the state line.
And that’s it for my 2022-2023 Eagle Season! I’ll still have my cameras out and about and may bump into something, but I won’t be actively looking for Eagles for the next 10 months or so. Stay tuned for the rest of the ‘Be There’ series because there’s lots more to come (Bison and Big Horns and Elk – oh my!)! Enjoy – PHOTOROGR
In part 3 of the ‘Be There’ series, I’m highlighting the beautiful Deer that my brother-in-law and I found in the Meeteetse WY area, near Upper Sunshine Reservoir. We found these lovely creatures on the road to the Reservoir, and they were very accommodating for our cameras. My brother-in-law had expressed interest in ‘upping his photography,’ so we loaned him my lovely bride’s camera. He didn’t do too bad!
The 2023 Nevada Northern Railway calendar is on the street! I encourage you to get yours as soon as possible to support the NNRY and, more importantly, I have two pictures in the calendar! Speed is critical because the first picture is February!
To order calendars or other NNRY gear or to become a member or make a donation, go to nnry.com or call 775.289.2085.
In my last blog, I discussed the importance of getting out there. One cannot make great images unless one is in a place to do so. Shortly after I made that post, my lovely bride and I departed for Christmas in Wyoming with family. We left on a beautiful Monday morning, overnighted in Utah, and arrived at my lovely bride’s brother’s home in Powell WY on Tuesday. The plan was to head to Billings MT the next day, Wednesday, for a Christmas play. We woke to blowing snow and temperatures in the minus 30’s and 40’s! With roads in the area closed, we didn’t get to the Christmas play.
When the storm subsided, my brother-in-law and I headed out to the Greybull River and Meeteetse WY area to check out the wildlife scene. We saw some Eagles and Deer along the Greybull River, Turkeys in Meeteetse, and Deer, Bison and Eagles on the ranches west of Meeteetse. And it was cold! Thankfully, the heated seats in the F-150 made the trip a bit more bearable. Here’s a sample of the critters we saw that day! Enjoy – PHOTOROGR
My lovely bride and I visited Yosemite National Park in August 2017. The schedule was driven by a night photography workshop in which I participated. We decided to spend a week there and had a wonderful time. In one of the gift shops, we found a poster with ‘Orland’s Penultimate Compendium of Photographic Truths’. It hangs in a frame in my Study, just to the left of the Digital Darkroom (aka my computer desk). The Compendium is a list of mostly humorous statements:
“The best scenic turnouts are clearly designated by highway signs reading NO STOPPING ANYTIME.”
“Falling cameras are attracted to rocks.”
“At critical moments your camera will alert you to amazing photographic scenes by flashing the words WARNING: LOW BATTERY”
In the tiniest of fonts near the bottom of the poster is this statement: “The First Rule of Photography: BE THERE!”
Those two words have so much meaning. They describe a concept so simple, yet so true. BE THERE! One cannot make an image of the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful, or a steam locomotive, or an Eagle flying along a river without being there. For the travel photographer and tourist, landscape scenes are done by simply being there (even though one must be there when the light is best for truly great pictures, but that’s a whole different post).
For the wildlife photographer, life is a bit different. Sadly, critters have their own schedule and their own view of the world. I’ve said it many times, critters don’t take direction! They won’t tip their head or turn their bodies when one asks them to. They arrive and depart on their schedule, with little to no regard for the person standing there with a camera. How rude! And ask them to sign a model release. Forget it!
A couple days ago, I was out looking for Eagles in an area that I know they hunt. The roads go up mountain passes and have closures during the winter for obvious reasons. I had just driven along a stretch of river and reached the closed gates. Preparing to turn around, I saw this Eagle fly up from the direction I had just driven. He landed in a tree and gave me a look that seemed to say, “Well, you didn’t stop for pictures before so here I am now!” I obliged and got some fantastic images, and I gave thanks to that Eagle and the Photo Gods for sending him to me.
I’m not always fortunate to find exactly what I’m looking for, so I take pictures of the wildlife I find and frequently of the gorgeous scenery I’m passing through. This post is about the wildlife I’ve been finding while out looking for Eagles this season.
A couple weeks ago, my scheduled spotter canceled at the last minute so my lovely bride came with me. We were driving to the Eagle area when she suddenly says, “There’s a Bear!” Sure enough, this handsome critter was about 20 yards off the road and allowed me to grab a few shots.
Sometimes, the predator is a bit smaller. Like this character.
I was hiking the road behind the closed gates when I saw this Coyote near the river. I tracked him through the brush, across the road, and up the hill.
Sometimes the subject is small, like this little Junco who was hopping the snowy road while I was hiking. He was not concerned about me until I knelt down to get a better angle, then he took flight. Darn it!
Occasionally, I get a real treat. I had seen their tracks in many places along the road, but I came over a small rise and these three ladies were in the road. They quickly went up the hill, but stopped to let me get several images. This one is my favorite.
If I hadn’t been there – even though I was there for a different purpose – I wouldn’t have gotten these images! These two words have become my new photographic mantra – BE THERE! But watch for rocks under your feet and keep your batteries charged! I love what I do, and hope that you do, too.
Well, the Eagles and the Photography Gods have been very good to me in this young Eagle Season! I started heading to my regular area in early November and was not disappointed. I have not come up empty for Eagles this year (knock on wood!). I don’t always get pictures, but I see them. This Season has also provided some bonus pictures. Read on!
I have been most fortunate with my action shots this Season. I’ve had my camera up and ready when they take off!
I amazed myself with this one! I haven’t had luck in the past ‘getting glass on’ a flying subject, much less getting a usable image.
One of the greatest challenges with Eagles is getting proper exposure, especially in full sun. Their bodies are dark brown and their heads are white (I know, that’s obvious!), so how does one get an exposure that works? Well, I generally underexpose the keep the head from being ‘blown out’ (meaning totally white with no detail and no recoverable data) because software is much better at recovering detail in the shadows (darker areas of an image). The key is to watch the histogram while shooting to ensure that there will be usable data.
This guy was out on a blustery day. Note the feathers being moved around by the wind. He doesn’t look happy, but Eagles always look like that. They’re just serious.
I can’t help but think about vampires when I look at this picture. But I know he doesn’t want to drink my blood!
Another thing that amazes me about Eagles is the position of their wings in flight. A fully mature Eagle’s wingspan extends over 6 feet – wider than most people are tall! And yet, they are so graceful in flight.
While this Eagle appears to be out of control, he was just taking flight.
Here’s the bonus content!
Kingfishers are small and fast, and very camera shy! I saw this guy across the river and was able to capture him in pixels before he took flight!
When I’m in the ‘hot zone’ in the area I look for Eagles, I usually drive at about 10-20 mph (but I keep an eye on my mirrors to ensure I’m not blocking traffic). I call this ‘slow rolling.’ While slow rolling one day, this shy guy was on the road and quickly jumped into the brush. I was able to get this image before he disappeared.
And the ultimate bonus prize this year was this youngster. I was slow rolling around a corner and there he was in the middle of the road. He looked up and saw me, and bounded up the hill! I quickly parked and got out of the F-150 to see if he would be visible, and there he was up the hill. My RF 800 lens used every millimeter of focal length to get this image.
And so, I’m off to a good start this year. I have a bunch of pictures of Eagles sitting in the trees, but I wanted to share the action shots. Stay tuned – there will be more in the coming weeks!