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 102014

What is the most common animal sighting at Yellowstone?


If you watch them long enough there are interesting behaviors they exhibit.  The first day at Yellowstone I was enjoying watching and photographing a group of Buffalo.   It didn’t take long to realize one of the new mom’s was severely injured.  Injured bad enough that she didn’t move much.

When she walked she dragged her back left leg and limped on her front right leg.  I really doubt it was a sickness.  It appeared to be an injury from a predator.  She had a beautiful calf that didn’t even seem to realize her condition.  After nursing and nap the calf would run all over the place!


For a few days the mother and calf could be found in the very same vicinity.   Then on my 4th day at Yellowstone they were both missing.  When last seen they stayed in an area in Hayden Valley.  With her injuries I suspect they became a dinner meal for the local Wolf pack in Hayden Valley.

The buffalo are pretty active right now and there is a lot of heading butting going on…




In Lamar Valley surprisingly there was significantly more calves.  This calf was tired.  It’s a lot of work being a calf at Yellowstone.


Often the buffalo are a main attraction for black birds that take advantage of he bugs stirred up as the buffalo move around.


I always look for my daily “artsy fartsy” photograph!


Lastly meet ELVIS!!!

 Posted by at 12:36 AM
Jul 082014

The increase of the wolf population and the decrease of the Coyote population at Yellowstone has created the opportunity for the increase of the Red Tail  Fox population.  Up until only a few years ago coyotes were found around almost every corner.  It is not the case any more.  I would typically take away from yellowstone thousands of Coyote photographs.  This last trip NOT ONE photo.  Not even one Coyote sighting.  The Fox and the Coyote have similar hunting and scavenging technics.  The first time I saw a coyote jump up and dive straight down on a mouse I about lost it.   Since that first time I have watched coyotes for hours hunting.  Much less time has been spent with the fox.  They are not a public critter. They run when greeted by US two legged weirdo’s.  With more fox I had more opportunities this trip.  I had to plan better for the shots than with the coyotes.  High on Mount Washburn I found a hunting fox.  I was much lower in elevation than she was so the opportunity to get a nice ridge shot presented itself.

This cute gal was hunting but not having much luck finding a snack.  I was hoping like crazy for her to do the jump-dive thing on a rodent.  For a video of a Red-tail Fox diving into snow click here.  If that does not make you laugh?    Finally she started her approach and then up she went.  At that point I remembered I was shooting with my Nikon DF not the D4s.  I keep the D4s on the 600mm lens.  The D4s shoots at 11 frames per second.  The DF shoots at best 5 frames.  DANG IT!!!!  At least I got the  dive shot….

This next shot was the killer!   I never got the belly shot before. All I could think was that must really hurt.  They must have a nose made of steel.  Unlike diving into snow (like in the attached video) to dive head first right on it’s nose?  OUCH!!!!

Another great adventure that day.  And big laughs.

Here is link to Wikipedia about the Fox.

(By the way I need to edit my blogs better for spelling, grammar and mistakes.  My last post I said I had taken 300,000 photos this trip.  Uh 300,000?  It was more like 30,000.  Still a ton but more closely to what really happened)

 Posted by at 8:21 PM
Jul 072014

Ok Ok

I’m posting!

It is pretty easy to find Bears in Yellowstone.  About half of my time this June was spent with these incredible critters.  At some point I will share one of the most dramatic captures I have ever been involved with.

There are several colors of Black Bears.  One of my favorites is the Cinnamon Black Bear.

The cinnamon bear (Ursus americanus cinnamomum) is a color phase of the American black bear, native to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming, Alberta, and British Columbia.  The most striking difference between a cinnamon bear and any other black bear is its brown or red-brown fur, reminiscent of cinnamon, from which the name is derived.  The subspecies was given the designation because the lighter color phase is more common here than in other areas.

Like other black bear subspecies, Cinnamon bears are omnivorous. Their diet includes fruit, vegetation, nuts, honey, and occasionally insects, and meat, differing from other subspecies because of regional habitat differences. Cubs weigh approximately 230 grams (8 oz) at birth, with adults weighing between 92.1 and 270 kilograms (203 and 595 lb). The life span for this bear is a maximum of 30 years.

Cinnamon bears are excellent climbers, good runners, and powerful swimmers. They are mostly nocturnal, though sometimes active during daylight hours. The cinnamon and brown bears of this country are simply color phases of the black bear, the blondes and brunettes of the family. The various colors are frequently intermixed in the same family; hence it is a common occurrence to see a black bear female with brown cubs, a brown and a black cub, or even all three colors. The bears hibernate during the winter months, usually from late October or November to March or April depending upon the weather conditions.  Their scat resembles that of domestic dogs.


Over the years I have photographed many cinnamon black bears.  Most notably a mature that killed a sow and 2 cubs.  An experience I will never forget.  This 2 year old cinnamon is a blend of color due to it’s immaturity.  She was not very accepting of us two legged creatures.  If this photo of her  is not enough incentive to keep a safe distance….well I’m not sure what would be.

 Posted by at 9:30 PM
Jul 042014

A little over a week ago I had another great adventure in Yellowstone.  Wow what a week.  All day.  Everyday capturing scenics, critters and some videos!

My adventures one day was with a Yellow Bellied Marmot family.  With a week to play I could take my time and  wait for the best shots.  The Marmots did not disappoint.  I was laughing more than anything.

Marmots reproduce when about two years old, and may live up to an age of fifteen years. They reside in colonies of about ten to twenty individuals. Each male marmot digs a burrow soon after he wakes up from hibernation. He then starts looking for females, and by summer may have up to four female mates living with him. Litters usually average three to five offspring per female.  Only about half of those pups survive and become yearlings.  Marmots have a “harem-polygynous” mating system in which the male defends two or three mates at the same time.  Female offspring tend to stay in the area around their home. Male offspring typically leave when they are yearlings and will defend one or more females.

Yellow-bellied marmots spend about 80% of their life in their burrow, 60% of which is spent hibernating.  They often spend mid-day and night in a burrow as well. These burrows are usually constructed on a slope, such as a hill, mountain, or cliff.  The hibernation burrows are can be up to 5 to 7 metres (16 to 23 ft) deep, but the burrows constructed for daily use are usually only 1 metre (3.3 ft) deep. Their hibernation period varies on elevation, but it is typically from September to May. Occasionally, they will climb trees and other flora, but they are usually terrestrial.

My experience this day with these curious critters was entertaining.   Though my efforts did not produce images of the young.  Their antics is burned into my mind.

As more time went by the adult male was less intimidated by my presence.  In fact he seemed to be playing with me a little!

The very best part was when I placed met GoPro near the den.  At first I set it a reasonable distance from the den.  Then as the big male got more familiar with it I would move it closer.  Until finally I put it on a rock next to one of the dens.  Click Here for the video of the curious dad.  When I finally got back to the trailer that night, I about laughed my head off.  They really are curious little creatures.

 Posted by at 5:10 PM
Jun 082014

A few years ago we went to Brazil.  It was a great trip.  Though I probably would never go back.  Late one night we walked down the famous beach in Rio.  A night stroll with our spouses.  My wife was moderately scared.  I was calm.  She was on me constantly to put my camera away.  Is the sun coming up tomorrow?  I’m in a foreign country!  I’m taking photographs!  Most of locals are pretty small.  It would take a small army to get my camera from me.  So the question arises..what to shoot at night on the beach.  Actually I recently found some photo’s I forgot about.  It took me right back to that beach that night.  Some distance from the hotel  two statues.  A man and a women.  They looked like clay statues.  At a closer examination it was obvious they were live statues.  Painted with some sort of mud, crusty material on their faces.  the balance of their body was covered.  Just as you may see a monk with their hood up.  I am truly not sure what they represented.  Being the aggressive photographer that I can be I was right in their faces.  When I found the photograph’s I was disappointed that most of them were blurry.  It was dark.  And there was very little light.  Basically the street lighting off in the distance was the only available light.  I did get two pretty good photo’s.  The photo below is the male.  It is somewhat interesting.  As a subject and as a photograph.  Enjoy!

 Posted by at 3:23 PM
Apr 272014

At a fault, I look for simplicty with all my photography.  It does not matter if it’s scenic, wildlife or people.  Clutter in a photo drives me crazy.  It helps define the subject and directs the viewer to the subject in a hurry.  So when I photographed these falls at the Grotto, it was tough.  Too simple looked weird to me. The photograph ended up with some trees to one side and in the front of the photo.  To me it gives some dimension to the falls and adds contracts to the silky look of the falls.  I’m not sure if it’s my favorite.  It is kinda artsy fartsy….

 Posted by at 4:32 PM
Apr 272014

I have a 2010 Honda Stateline I bought last year.  My wife says I bought it on false pretenses.  Looking back that is partially true.  She did say I could have a motorcycle!  But it was supposed to be a scooter.  The salesman at the scooter shop laughed out load when I inquired about me buying a scooter.  I guess he may have thought that my poster boy for weight watchers size played a factor on a scooter actually hauling me around.  Another words I’m huge in comparison to a VESPA scooter.  In the end I bought the Honda Stateline for  half what the scooter would have cost.  So I ended up with a 1300CC bike that hauls my fat butt around pretty dang good.   I love the feeling when riding it.  Open space, no seat belt constraints, and wind blowing in my face.  All good things for a guy with “ism’s”.

Last week I was invited to ride with a group of contractors from a new store opening to Zions National Park,  Kanab and a few other places.   It was like Christmas for me.  The night before I could not sleep.  Like a kid I had my leathers out, helmet ready and all the ancillary items ready and packed.  It was a BLAST!   It has been a very long time since I felt so munch relieve from my stress and anxieties.  The group of riders were great.  The camaraderie and conversations was what I expected from these great men.  We made several stops along the way not traveling much for than 30+ miles at a time.

I hope I can do a ride like this another time with such great company.

My Honda Stateline is at the far right in the photograph

 Posted by at 4:14 PM
Apr 272014

Today I put my D4s to my eye again at FBWR.  There are so many daily observers the wild critters are few and far between.

This Blue Heron was waiting for me though, so I may capture it mid day.  But to me the real subject is the Goose in the background.  It’s like he  is saying what I think every time I see a Blue Heron take off – “WOW”

 Posted by at 3:53 PM
Apr 082014

My first shots with my new D4s.  I have had the camera for a couple of months but could not  shoot until today.  It’s an incredible machine.  WOW!!!

I played a little with this shot.  Ran through Silver Efex Pro2 – High Key then erased back the stretching Avocet in the center of the shot.

 Posted by at 9:29 PM