Summer Vacation Part X – the Journey Home!

Our last day in Yellowstone Park and we woke with mixed emotions. We were sad that our Yellowstone adventure was over, but we were excited to be heading home. Imagine my surprise when I opened the cabin door to get the truck and found this…

…Elk calf enjoying a little breakfast just outside our door…and then I noticed the white stuff! SNOW on June 8!

Just a dusting by our standard, but fun and exciting nonetheless.

After brushing the snow off the truck, we loaded up, got a little breakfast, and headed out. Our route took us up the hill south of Mammoth Hot Springs and we saw the sign to drive the Upper Terrace Loop. We decided on a little side trip adventure. Holy cow – were we in for a surprise!

In this view, Mammoth Hot Springs is on the left just outside the frame. The road you see is headed to Tower Junction.

Looking down to Mammoth Hot Springs…with the snow, the colors were wonderful.

And then we found the Upper Terrace. This view through some trees…

…and this view of the Upper Terrace. This image went viral on the ‘Wyoming Through the Lens’ group on Facebook. I printed it as a triptych (3 panels, each 13″ wide x 19″ high) and display it in my home.

Having gotten in the habit of taking pictures of our ride each day, I couldn’t pass up the PhotoFun50 in the snow!

Continuing down to Madison Junction, the scenery and wildlife did not disappoint. We found several herds of Elk close to the road.

We had pulled off the road and I walked back to where we saw several Elk. When I came back to the truck, I saw this pair – closer – with a nice view of the river in the background.

This Elk cow was a little further down the road…and something on my left had her attention.

I love the new green grass under the snow cover, with a little frosting on the trees.

Beautiful scenery everywhere you look.

Of course, the Bison were looking for something to eat.

Leaving the Park by the west entrance, we passed all the Saturday traffic trying to get in. Some of our friends from the Yellow Bus were headed east and some were headed south to catch their plane at Jackson Hole. We’re not sure how their trips went, as the storm had closed the roads to the south, east, and northeast entrances to Yellowstone. The storm also closed Bear Tooth Pass, where we had traveled the week before (the day after that road had opened from the winter snows). Obviously, we got home safe and sound, a couple thousand miles added to the odometer of my pickup.

Thanks for sharing our adventure. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Advertisements

Summer Vacation Part IX – Yellow Bus Tour Day 4…

Day 4 is the final day on the Yellow Bus. We will depart Lake Village and proceed north through the Hayden Valley, Canyon Village, past Mt. Washburn to Tower Junction, and on to Mammoth Hot Springs. We parallel the Yellowstone River and make our first stop at Artist Point – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

We stop briefly to see the Upper Falls. We crossed the bridge at the top of the image on our way to this view. Mother Nature gave us a beautiful rainbow to enhance the shot.

The Yellow Bus at Artist Point parking lot.

The iconic view of Yellowstone Falls, with an obliging sky.

In portrait orientation.

Tour guide Nancy helped us out. She’s pretty good with a camera that also makes phone calls. Even on June 7, it was jacket weather.

My lovely bride with Matt, our Yellow Bus driver…

…and Nancy, our tour guide.

This is Lower Yellowstone Falls from the other side of the Yellowstone River, and a little closer than Artist Point.

A view of the Yellowstone River looking downstream from the Falls area.

After a lunch stop at Canyon Village, we continued north through Dunraven Pass. Throughout the day, we saw lots of wildlife: Sandhill Cranes, Blue Heron, many small birds, Osprey, a Bald Eagle, and Great Horned Owls in a faraway nest.

Of course, Bison were common. An artsy Bison shot.

After seeing several Coyotes from some distance, I finally got the chance for some up close shots of this one hunting. We had been watching a couple Coyotes at some distance when, as usual, I turned around to see what was behind me. This hunter was just across the road and intent on getting some lunch.

Even with all this wildlife around, the focus of the day turned out to be (drum roll please) the Bears.

This big guy was walking through a thermal area which explains his wet appearance.

We pulled into the Tower Fall parking lot and heard everyone talking about the two Black Bears just down the path.

I grabbed the big camera and ran down the path. Sure enough, a young Black and this Cinnamon Black were playing together in the trees across a ravine.

Since I had run from the Yellow Bus with the big camera, all I had for a picture of the Tower Fall was my trusty mobile phone.

I had been trying for pictures of a Great Horned Owl nest some distance away, when my tour buddies started talking about the Bear in the trees below the nest. (Matt had his spotting scope out and was checking to see what was around.) This Black Bear sat on this rock and watched the people watching him!

I grabbed this shot out the Yellow Bus window as we crawled along with the rest of the traffic. We encountered six Bears in a brief stretch of road.

Another of the many Bears we saw that afternoon.

The Yellow Bus was alive with chatter about our unusual luck seeing bears that day. Nancy and Matt deemed us the luckiest tour that either had ever been on.

We arrived back at Mammoth Hot Springs for our last night in Yellowstone. We all gathered in the Mammoth Dining Room for one last meal together, recounting our wonderful week with newfound friends. As we arrived back at our cabin, all was right with the world.

This Cow Elk was grazing just across the street from our cabin.

We repacked the PhotoFun50 for the trip home and got to bed, still discussing our lucky Bear Watching day.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Summer Vacation Part VIII – Yellow Bus Tour Day 3…

We departed Old Faithful and headed east towards Yellowstone Lake. We stopped at the Continental Divide and had a couple nice surprises.

This is a Barrows Goldeneye. He swam around and climbed on this log for me. A beautiful bird and very accommodating for the camera.

I found this gorgeous scene across the road from the parking lot. A quick shot with my ‘camera that also makes telephone calls.’

Yellow Bus at the Continental Divide.

Our next stop was the West Thumb Geyser Basin on the west shore of Yellowstone Lake.

To protect the fragile landscape, the Park Service constructed boardwalks from the parking lot to the shore. I made this image from the boardwalk.

An interesting feature – a geyser in the lake.

We were fortunate to see wildlife there. This cow Elk was across a geyser field.

We enjoyed our lunch in the lobby of the Lake Lodge.

Matt posed with the Yellow Bus at the porte cochere.

After lunch, we headed to the Yellowstone Lake Marina for a hike but the trail was closed due to bear activity.

We walked around the marina. The tour boats were not operating yet, but we saw the boat operators getting their safety and other training to start operating tours the following week. The Park staffs up during the summer months to handle the increase in visitors. Of course, much of Yellowstone is closed during the winter months.

We stopped into the Marina Visitors Center and had a wonderful guided tour through the displays there.

Since we couldn’t go hiking, Matt drove the Yellow Bus towards the east entrance to see what we could see. Near Lake Butte, we found lots of vehicles parked along the road and people were looking down the hill. We saw two Grizzly Bears engaged in, well, an intimate moment.

We’ve all heard the old joke that asks what bears do in the woods, but never this version…

After a half hour or so, the sow kicked him off and they just rooted around for a while…

I have many friends who regularly take pictures in the Yellowstone ecosystem, and through them I learned that this sow is named Raspberry…

With our hike canceled, we had some extra time on our hands, so we watched these two for another hour or so. They eventually moved off and the crowd dissipated. We drove up Lake Butte and found this stunning view.

The versatility of my iPhone helped me have success on this trip. This is a panorama from my iPhone, and can be printed at 48″ wide by 12″ high.

A different view of the Yellow Bus on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake.

From Lake Butte, we drove west across Fishing Bridge (where you can’t fish from the bridge) and turned north, following the Yellowstone River to the LeHardy Rapids. We saw a pair of male Harlequin Ducks doing a little fishing.

Harlequin Ducks are found in the United States along the Washington, Oregon, and northern California coasts, in a narrow section of central Washington into Oregon, and from Yellowstone Park north along the Montana-Idaho border, into Canada (British Columbia and Yukon provinces) and then into Alaska.This fella’ stepped out of the water for his close up.

After a little more sightseeing along the River, we headed back to the Lake Lodge for the night. Our accommodations were in the Cabins.

Very nice inside. A little bigger than the cabins at Mammoth Hot Springs. Matt was good enough to drop us off and pick us up literally at the door.

We had a wonderful dinner with Nancy, Matt, and the others in the dining room at the Lake Lodge.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

My Summer Vacation Part III!

Drive south from Cody WY on the South Fork Road (along the South Fork of the Shoshone River) to see some gorgeous country and the opportunity for wildlife pictures.

My lovely bride and I headed out with her brother the day after our visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum. Our mission was to find Deer and Elk, and maybe some Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. We completed our mission in spades. My lovely bride is a wonderful wildlife spotter – proven time and again – and she was invaluable on this trip. She spotted this cow Elk in a valley off the side of the road. The Elk were birthing their young, and the females usually go off alone. This one was getting ready.

Further down the road, she spied a bunch of Big Horns in some brush. Even with her directions, I needed a few moments to spot them.

The fields were full of Elk.

We saw lots of Deer with the Elk, but the real bonanza came down the road. We found a herd of Big Horns in a field. I love this picture of a Ram.

I have developed a habit of taking pictures of a subject and then turning around to see what is behind me. I spied a lone Ram up the hill just doing Big Horn stuff, but he captured my attention. I recorded his movement as he worked his way down the slope towards us.

He kept his eye on us as he approached, but didn’t seem too concerned.

He finally crossed the road about 50 feet away, and obliged me with a nice profile.

Happy with my images from South Fork Road, I was just enjoying the scenery as we approached Powell. I had seen a few Pheasant in fields as we drove, but found this handsome fella’ close enough to stop.

The Pheasant breeding season was nearing its end, so the males were in full color. We saw another in the growth of another field…well, sort of saw him.

A wonderful day with family, and a wonderful day of shooting. Critters that I don’t normally get to see and record!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Photo Editing Software…and Rocky Mountain National Park!

In previous blogs, I’ve talked about the ways photography has changed due to the transition from film to digital photography.  The basic principles of controlling and recording light have not changed, but editing processes have changed dramatically.  Like many photographers, I work to get the best possible image in camera but further processing on the computer is essential to my success as a photographer.  Thankfully, there are really smart people who have developed great software to make this part of photography easier.  I use Adobe’s Photoshop (PS) CC (Creative Cloud – yes, I pay my access fee every month!) and Camera RAW (ACR) as my primary software.  I also purchased Corel’s Paint Shop Pro X7 when it was cheap (PSP X8 had just come out) and work it every now and then, but PS and ACR remain my go to software.

As those smart guys at Adobe make their products better and easier to use, and I learn how to use the features I have along with the new stuff, I try to produce better images.  Recently, the Adobe CC guys announced a new feature in Lightroom (LR), a sister software to PS.  As background, I prefer PS to LR because I can use layers in PS.  ACR and LR use similar menus and controls for processing, so I’m not missing out on those features.  LR manages files which PS does not do, however, I use Adobe Bridge for my file management.

Back to the cool new tool in LR – Boundary Warp.  If I create a panorama in LR, Boundary Warp allows me to adjust the image without having to crop and lose content.  Regardless of how well I shoot a series of images to merge into a panorama, there is always inconsistency in the edges requiring cropping and/or filling.  Boundary Warp minimizes data loss and is very cool, from my perspective.  I processed several panoramas using both PS and LR to determine if one is preferable to the other, but I’ll let you be the judge in the images below.

Oh yeah, LR now has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature in PhotoMerge, but I prefer PhotoMatix Pro for my HDR images.

Today’s images come from the day I spent in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), located in north central Colorado, last month.  I entered RMNP from the east side (US Highway 36 from Estes Park CO).  After a quick stop in the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center for some shopping and a stamp in my national parks passport book, I proceeded into RMNP and that portion of US 34 known as Trail Ridge Road.  Trail Ridge Road is only open in the summer months, as its 12,000 foot (+/-) elevation makes for a very snowy road in the winter months.

I came across a flock of turkeys, but failed to get a decent image of them.  I drove by this beautiful vista.

RMNP-Pano1-2016-08-16-LR-a-z-z

I believe the peaks to be (left to right) Mt. Wuh, Stones Peak, and Terra Tomah Mtn, with Tombstone Ridge in the middle ground.  This panorama was created and edited in Lightroom, using the Boundary Warp feature.

RMNP_Panorama2-e1a-f-z-w

Here’s the same view processed in Photoshop.

The differences in brightness, contrast, and color are my adjustments and experimentation.  I manually cropped the LR version to a standard 5:1 ratio panorama, the same as the PS version.  What’s important to note is that there doesn’t appear to be geometric distortion from the Boundary Warp, however, there is more foreground in the PS version (check the tree line) which indicates a larger availability of data in the LR image.  Based on my totally non-scientific experiment, I opine that the use of PS versus LR for panoramas is a matter of personal preference at the moment.

Back to pictures.

RMNP_Panorama3-f-e1a-z-w

I believe these peaks to be Mt. Chiquita (l) and Mt. Chapin. This is a panorama merged in PS.

ROGR9794-w

For comparison, I shot this image using a wide angle lens. For this view, either shooting method works fine.

RMNP-Pano6-LR-2016-08-16-a-z-w

This is a panorama of Sundance Mtn. While I was at this location, I visited with a very nice young lady who was shooting with her Canon T2i and a Canon 100-400 zoom lens. We had a nice discussion about lenses and photography.

PMX9881-4_Interior-3-z-w

One of my favorite shots on the day. This is an HDR. When I shot this, the flowers in the foreground were in deep shadow and HDR allowed me to bring them into the light, so to speak. The wind was blowing at 12,000 feet, as you might imagine, so there is a touch of movement in the flowers. A few minutes later, the clouds moved off but the wind came up. The flowers in the full light images were blurry due to the wind.

ROGR1041-w

If you’re an Elk in the mountains on a hot summer day, how do you keep cool? They’re on a snow bank enjoying the cool. They were probably 1/2-3/4 mile away.

ROGR1023-a-z-w

And these Elk were using the trees to keep cool, again, 1/2-3/4 mile away.

RMNP_Panorama7-2016-08-16-e1a-z-f-w

I believe these peaks to be (l-r) Stones Peak (the sharp pointed one), Sprague Mtn, Nakai Peak, Mt Julian, and Terra Tomah Mtn. This is a panorama merged in PS.

ROGR0953-a-z-w

I came around a corner with lots of people looking up a hill, watching this Bear. He was a couple hundred feet away and cared less about the crowd at the bottom of the hill. I parked and came back for this shot, the best of what he gave us before disappearing behind the trees.

ROGR0988-w

When he disappeared, the crowd dissipated. I hung around to see if he would make another appearance, and made a few images of the flowers and landscape.

RMNP_Panorama11-2016-08-16-e1a-z-f-w

Beautiful mountain flowers.

LUMIA-20160816-011-a-z-w

I made this image with my trusty mobile phone. Every now and then, it makes a nice image. Note the wildlife.

RMNP-Pano9-LR-2016-08-16-a-z-w

I believe the center mountain to be Terra Tomah Mtn, with Jackstraw Mtn on the immediate right. This is another panorama merged in LR using Boundary Warp.

RMNP_Panorama9-2016-08-16-e1a-z-f-w

Same view from a PS merge.  I see a subtle difference in the foreground, especially on the right side, but not enough to conclusively say one is better than the other.  Both images are stunning!  oh yeah, the LR image is cropped to 5:1 ratio and the PS is at 3:1.

ROGR9994-a-z-w

I was making a series of images for a panorama when I caught movement out of the bottom corner of my eye. This Marmot, also called a Rock Chuck, was very busy and unfazed by all the people just 30 feet away.

ROGR1065-w

The rocks were alive with these North American Pika. About the size of a Guinea Pig, these little fuzzballs were busy working on nests for the coming winter.

I have established a page dedicated to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Visit the page to see more images from this part of my trip.

Since I got home, I’ve spent some time in the yard with my flowers, so I’ll close with them.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

PMX0225-8_Natural-a-z-w

One of the Rose blooms in the backyard.

PMX0186-7_Interior-3-a-z-w

My favorite Candy Tuft. The sun was going down and lighting up the side of the bloom.