Jul 132014

What happens when you add wolf to Yellowstone?  So far history is showing that the park becomes healthier.  One consequence of adding the Wolf to Yellowstone is that the elk population has dropped dramatically. As of February 2013, the northern herd, which is only a portion of the park’s entire elk herd, has declined from a high of more than 19,000 before wolves were reintroduced into the park in 1995 to  a low of 3,915 Elk.  As Yellowstone’s most abundant ungulate, elk comprise approximately 90 percent of winter wolf kills and are an important food for bears, mountain lions, and at least 12 scavenger species, including bald eagles and coyotes. Competition with elk can influence the diet, habitat selection, and demography of bighorn sheep, bison, moose, mule deer, and pronghorn. Elk browsing and nitrogen deposition can affect vegetative production, soil fertility, and plant diversity. Thus, changes in elk abundance over space and time can alter plant and animal communities in Yellowstone.  I search for these incredibly beautiful mammals.  In the spring they are in full velvet.


Coming off a harsh Yellowstone winter some of the Elk look pretty ragged  as a portion of their winter coat hangs on them.

The amazing thing is that the Elk antlers while in “velvet” can grow an inch or more a day.  That’s amazing if you think about it.  As thrilling as the late summer rut is, this time of year the elk are absolutely gorgeous!


Elk have played an important role in the cultural history of a number of peoples. Pictograms and petroglyphs of elk were carved into cliffs thousands of years ago by the Anasazi of the southwestern U.S. More recent Native American tribes, including the Kootenai, Cree, Blackfeet, Ojibwa and Pawnee, produced blankets and robes from elk hides. The elk was of particular importance to the Lakota, and played a spiritual role in their society.  At birth, Lakota males were given an elk’s tooth to promote a long life since that was seen as the last part of dead elk to rot away. The elk was seen as having strong sexual potency and young Lakota males who had dreamed of elk would have an image of the mythical representation of the elk on their “courting coats” as a sign of sexual prowess. The Lakota believed that the mythical or spiritual elk, not the physical one, was the teacher of men and the embodiment of strength, sexual prowess and courage.   My bet the drawings and depictions of Elk did not reflect some of the unusual positions elk take to scratch and shake of insects.


Like other large Mammals in the park the elk can be taxi’s for black birds……


I really do search out photo opportunities with the Elk.  Early morning travels are almost exclusively for Elk now that the  population has dropped.  For the most part, it’s more difficult to find the big guys.  I did photograph numerous cow elk.  It’s just not the same photo in the end.

A week of shooting elk in Yellowstone did produce one shot I will keep close………..

 Posted by at 4:32 PM
Jul 102013

My most recent visit to Yellowstone was at the very least Horrible!

Spent 6 of the 8 days in the Hotel.

The last day I found a beautiful bull Elk.  Though I saw many, this one was unusual.  He was larger and older than the others I had followed.  More importantly he posed on a ridge with late day side lighting. “A Kodak Moment”.

 Posted by at 6:29 PM
Sep 292012

I couldn’t leave today without one more short trip into Yellowstone.

For only being in there for a few hours I was blessed.  I walked back to the upper madison and followed a bugling bull elk.  It didn’t take time to find him and his “girls”.  A magnificent animal.  I shot some video today and hope to figure out how to post it.  All in all this week was incredible.  Though I am anxious to get home I will miss this place.




 Posted by at 10:36 PM
Sep 262012

Today I met a very nice couple (newlyweds) from the Spokane area.  We only talked for maybe twenty minutes.  Two people who have helped others most their lives.  One a retired Pastor and the other works at the VA Hospital.  Delightful people!  One of the joys of my trip to Yellowstone.

Today though I saw quit a bit of wildlife it felt like a Scenic Day shooting day.  A real test for my NOT-so-good abilities at scenic beauties offered here in Yellowstone.  Water was my draw.  Starting with Gibbon Falls.


Then on to Hayden Valley.  Mid-day.  Not the best time to shoot.  Had lunch in the shade along the river.  Watched the “folks” going crazy around the Buffalo.  Those foreigners are amazing.  Real stupid.  Yes some were getting almost close enough to pet the buffalo!  Simply amazing.


After lunch I hiked back a mile or so from the road in Hayden Valley.  Peace and quiet.  My next stop was the falls near Nez Pierce.  A popular place to shoot.


At the falls the reflections in the water were incredible.  I ran into a wonderful friend and famous photographer Laurie Excel.  She had a photo excursion group with her.  It was fun to catch up quickly with her.


Of course I need to add to my elk collection.  Especially when the light was PERFECT!!!!



Just before the sun went behind the mountain I rushed back up the Madison and had took get this Black and White.   Beautiful!!!  All the elements where is place for just a minute or two!

 Posted by at 11:03 PM
Sep 252012



Worked until noon today then made my way to heaven on earth.  I love Yellowstone.  It’s not just the wildlife photography.  It’s the peace and quiet.  The constant meeting of new friends that experience God’s wonders with me.  And a slower heart rate, no teeth grinding, little or no phone calls, green apples, lunchables, low temps, and The Ten Tenors softly serenading.  Checked in the Hotel.  Then made my way into the Park at about 4:30pm.  A couple of hours to enjoy.  The Madison is a good place to start my adventure with the Elk during their Rut!   With rain making it’s daily mark I found my first Bull and his group of cows.  The usual bugling and herding taking place.  Fun, Fun, Fun to watch and capture.

The bull rarely eats.  And is constantly moving/herding his cows.  When bringing a cow back to the group the bull throws his head back and charges the elk that is wondering too from his control.

I stayed until the rain was really coming down and the light was diminished.   Heading back down the Madison A Bald Eagle caught my attention.  When perched along the Madison the Eagles are usually fishing.

To my surprise the Eagle flew across the Madison and landed full talons out on a small animal.  I could not tell what animal it was.  If you look close at the eagles talons you can see the little critter.

 Posted by at 9:24 PM
Jul 072011

When did the real passion for photography start?

I can think back on several occasions….mostly while a camera was to my eye or the likes of Moose Peterson or Joe McNally encouraging a group to “get out and shoot”

Or times like this week.  It appears that the prominent photography store in Utah and the west may hang a couple of my photo’s in their store.  They asked me!  What an honor.  Which photographs do I send to them?  Do I really have anything worthy of hanging in their store?  Really this an honor. Especially for the likes of me.  I am not a professional.  Yes a pretty darn serious amateur.  But I don’t sell.  Haven’t even tried.  The pic’s won’t be for sale. Display only I guess.  Huge prints.  Giant “murals” on the walls.  And my name on them.  Almost embarrassing.  Yet a great honor.

Have to decide what pics to send.  What a journey. I went back many years and started to review some of my favorites.  Every pic has a story.  Every single one of them has a story and emotion connected to them.  Stayed up several nights looking and remembering.  The night before the deadline to get the digital form of the photo’s to them I was up until 3:00 a.m.    Wow.  A great adventure all over again.  It was fun.  I ended up sending quite a few photographs to them.  Mostly because of my low self esteem about my photography.  I am my worst critic.  Who knows how they will react.

Many years ago I bought my first 600mm lens.  A manual focus lens.  A behemoth.  Big heavy and sharp as a tack.  The first morning in Yellowstone the lens and I were up long before sunrise.  With just a little light reflecting from the sky I captured this MONSTER!


I was shaking worse than I can ever remember.  Looking through the monster lens at the biggest elk I have ever seen.  I almost forgot to fire the camera.  Then he let loose.   Click, click, click.  Three shots is what I remember.  My first long lens shot…..

Late that afternoon I carried the lens along the Madison River in Yellowstone.  Following another Elk.  Wanting “that” shot.  Just seconds before the sun set over the ridge he bent down and quenched his thirst….and mine.  What a beautiful animal.


 Posted by at 3:33 PM
Sep 282010

I thought I had seen it all.

All cameras are aimed at the Bull Elk.  They are performing.  By myself just off the Madison River and near the Fire Hole River I witnessed a first for me.  The Cow Elk having a “cat fight”.  Really………

Cow Elk Fight border

These two ladies stood on their hind legs and proceeded to slap each other.  Incredible. I was so shocked I almost missed the shot.  The cows have always proven to be a great mother to the calves.

Cow elk love calf border

Last spring I witnessed wolves tracking and “collecting” an elk calf.  In the process the cow fought until there was no obvious way to save the calf.  She injured one of the wolves.  The battle went on for about an hour.  Even when the calf was mostly ingested she was still attacking the wolves.  There is amazing interaction between the calves and cows.

Yellowstone Bobcat Profile

This day my camera caught on several occasions the calves and cows looking up.  Smelling?  No planes above.  Not sure.

calf praying

cow prayer

Maybe just wishing they could escape from this BIG pain in the ………….neck?

bull sniff cow b&W border

 Posted by at 11:26 PM
Sep 272010

Elk do the craziest things!

Elk love is in the air – Kinda.

September is when we pack in the park to hear and see the Elk during the rut.  What a show.  Do the cow elk care?  Not much.  Holy cow (or elk in this case)?  The bull’s are crazy in love.  Their whole life revolves around the “act” with the cow for weeks.

Bullandcow border

Little food.  A lot of running.  Fighting other bulls.  During the rut the bull loses a ton of weight. Past years I have focused on the extreme actions.  This year I was moved by the appearance of being tired.  Exhausted.  Yet getting up and going at it.  A later post will show a video taken with my D3s that shows how extreme their actions are.  I need to figure out how to get the video from CF card to the blog.

The majesty of these animals always blows me away.  This year it was very difficult to find the bull and his girls.  Found a wonderful area up from the Madison near and on the Fire Hole river.  I witnessed something I have never seen before…..post to come.

It was late in the day.  Perfect light.

elk headshot at sun

Photography is all about the light.  Elk are a little more of a challenge to shoot in this type of direct light.  There is great risk of great contrast.  Especially when posting to the web.   In person it was incredible.  It was if the bull was posing for me.

Bull Elk in Stream

This experience is almost spiritual.  We have a lot in common with the actions of the Bull.   Being a witness for several hours (a snippet) of a bulls day shows me their passion for their life progression.  Sure it’s instinct.  But do we not have the very same instinct, even with our “greater” intelligence.  The basic instinct to progress our lineage is common with the Elk and Man.

The bull feels the passion.  Desires the passion.  And exemplifies the very term “passion”.  To the point of literal exhaustion………….

ull elk head back morningfilter

 Posted by at 9:37 PM