Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 8 (FINAL Blog Post): Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Today was our final day in Yellowstone. Jared and I put 1,854 miles on the rental car driving in both parks for 8 days. We (the remaining MPEGers - 5 of the 9) started out at 6:00 am. Our plan was to make rounds throughout the entire (YNP) park on our final day. Mission accomplished!

and we went out with a bang!

Starting from West Yellowstone, we drove through Madison to West Thumb area , stopping at the Firehole River Canyon along the way to snap the falls. It was a beautiful morning in Yellowstone...mist rising from the Madison and Firehole Rivers as elk and bison grazed nearby. We stopped at Keppler Cascades to photograph the cascades. We made a pitstop at the Fishing Bridge then drove out towards the east entrance and back... then up through Hayden Valley stopping at the S-curve pullout, doing a few landscape images... then on to Tower Fall, we found an really cool Osprey's nest by the Yellowstone River on a rock structure allowing you to see IN THE NEST from above. The mom and her 3 very young chicks were in the nest. We photographed the mom leaving the nest and returning with a stick which she meticulously placed in a certain spot in the nest. The father arrived shortly with a piece of fish for the babies. We photographed his arrival, and the mother feeding the chicks. This was a very nature experience.

Moving on towards Lamar Valley, we turn the corner in Tower and a very nice Bighorn Sheep Ram was sitting in the grass posing for several photographers and other by-standers. Seeing a bighorn sheep ram was the furthest thing from our minds this morning, especially in Tower. We called this a "ram jam"..

We made rounds at Slough Creek where we were educated on the movements of the Slough Creek wolf pack, their den location and the four pups by the "wolfies". We didn't see any of the wolves during our brief stay.  We continued on through Lamar Valley and found the usual stuff (bison, etc.) but no "jams".

From Lamar Valley, we headed to Mammoth. We quickly came upon TWO young black bears (2 miles apart) grazing about 50 yards away from the road.

It started to thunderstorm and rain by now so we stopped in Mammoth for lunch.

After lunch, we drove from Mammoth to Norris, with plans to continue on back to Hayden Valley then finish up at the Midway Geyser basin before a final farewell dinner.......

Well,  those plans got derailed. As we drove from Mammoth to Norris, we ran into "grizzly jam" involving the well known Grizzly sow and her 4 cubs. It was raining hard, dark overcast and it looked like the rain would stay awhile. In about 20 minutes, the skies started to clear... and then Momma and her 4 cubs were on the go.... traveling south along the base on the valley and they were moving fast. The elk and the elk calves on the hill got " the heck out of dodge" as they smelled the Grizz coming. The elks were scattering in all directions....

The Grizzly sow at times would run and the 4 cubs would frolic ahead of her, wrestle with each other, start to climb a tree and then didn't, stand up on their hind legs and look around... they were adorable to watch through the viewfinder... a very special moment and of course, one is a runt, always lacking behind. (see pic).

The Park Rangers arrived and they expected her to cross the road so they started clearing traffic, asking us to stay back, etc.... while the rangers were concentrating their efforts south of us, someone near us, spotted the Grizz Mom about 50 yards from us in the woods!!  We asked a driver of a southbound car to alert the ranger... the ranger comes running down to our area and starts to clear traffic there. After a 2 hour ordeal, the Grizz sow and her cubs never crossed the road but headed back north. The ranger speculated that with all the people noise and cars, she become nervous and decided not to cross the road with her babies.

After that exhilarating experience, we headed south to Norris to Madison and found a very nice bull elk grazing and snapped a few images of this handsome guy.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped one last time at the Madison eagle's nest. Both adults were perched nearby in trees but no "fly ins to the nest" which is what I was hoping for.

Jared and I headed back the hotel around 8 pm, unloaded the car and had dinner with the other MPEGers, exchanging stories and memories of the last 8 days.

Jared and I are driving to Salt Lake in the early am, then flying home Friday afternoon.

This has been an unbelievable MPEG Groupshoot! I personally have 140 Gb of images to sort. 

We saw everything.. big horn sheep/lambs, grizzlies /cubs, black bears/cubs, wolves, bald eagles, golden eagles, osprey/chicks, marmots, elk /calves, bison/calves, proghorn/babies, beavers, badgers, ground squirrels galore, coyotes, sandhill cranes/chicks, mountain blue birds, violet green swallows and  I am sure I am missing something... AMAZING wildlife ops!.. and beautiful landscapes!

I would like to thank all of the attendees for being a great Group to work with the last week.  Thanks to all of you for reading the blog and  emails regarding the blog. A special Thanks to my wife, Kim  for "holding down the fort" the last week.

I will be posting images from this trip here over the next few weeks:

Be sure and check them out!

Goodbye to Yellowstone!


PS. Click on the pics to enlarge!

Grizz Sow and her 4 cubs in tow
Close-up of Grizz Sow
Runt of the 4 cubs catching up!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 7: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

I think all the wildlife took a day off today!

Jared and I started out at 7:00 am after getting an hour's extra sleep last night. The primary goal today was Grizzlies.

We started out driving to the Dunraven Pass area and no sign of the Grizz Mom and her 2 cubs. I asked some bear watchers who were there "parked and watching" and they reported nothing so far. We made rounds up and down Dunraven to Mt Washburn and nothing. Some photogs were photographing a few Grouse.  We decided to visit the Tower carcass and there were several "long lenses" there but the carcass was bare (ie. no takers).... the photogs were sitting in lawn chairs, drinking coffee and socializing.

We decided to head over the Tower Bridge area, and Slough Creek and nothing going on. We continued on to Lamar Valley to stake out the Osprey's nest by the Lamar River. The chick was in the nest and one adult was sitting in a nearby tree. My goal was some nest landing images.  In about 75 mins, there were two flights to/fro the nest by the adult. My fav is the pic below.  Time well spent. hope to stop by there Thursday as well.

We decided to move on towards the Fishing Bridge to have lunch. Hayden Valley was "dead". I snapped a few landscapes of the Yellowstone Mountains and River scenics.  Had a nice lunch at the Fishing Bridge with the three Columbus MPEGers who happened to be there as well. They also reported "seeing nothing" all morning...

After lunch, Jared and I decided to drive to the East Entrance via the Sylvan Pass.  Lo and behold, about 3 miles up the road, we come across a "grizzly jam" along with three YNP Park Rangers for crowd control.

A large Grizzly bear captured an elk calf for dinner and was "snoozing" since his belly was full. He was about 50 yards from the road. At one point, he got up, walked a few steps, then fell over, scratched his belly and fell asleep again.... I snapped a few before he feel asleep.  This was the highlight of the day!

We continued to drive over to East Entrance and took in the view. There was plenty of snow on the ground there.

We went back to Hayden Valley and set up camp (at our fav Hayden Valley turnout)  for the approaching dusk in hopes of seeing some wildlife activity. A few eagles flew by, I captured my first Mountain Blue Bird, saw a red tailed hawk get harassed by a raven, a few white pelicans flew by and several elk around but no wolves and no bears.

We left at 6:30 pm so we could meet everyone for dinner at 8:00pm.  We just left our fav spot and down the road about an mile, Jared spotted two wolves heading south by Creek Otter. No photo ops as their appearance was very brief as they disappeared in the trees. They looked like they were on a mission.

On the way back to the hotel, yet another "bison jam" (see pic of the Leader below). This pic was taken handheld out the window as the bison came within a foot of my car as they passed by.

We had a nice dinner and now looking forward to our last day here (Thursday) in Yellowstone and hopefully the day will be filled with great stuff!

Stay tuned for the FINAL blog post, June 10!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 6: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

No rain was expected today.. but our early start down to the Tetons was a foggy one for the most part. As we arrived in the Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), the skies were robin blue/partly cloudy with the peaks of the Tetons obscured with clouds... but a beautiful day in this beautiful National Park!

As we entered the GTNP (driving from YNP) around 9:00 am , we were greeted with a "grizzly jam". A young Grizz was looking for grubs under rocks in a meadow beside the road, about 100 yds or so away. Of course, there was a big crowd. We stopped and snapped a few of this young grizzly bear.

The Tetons were absolutely gorgeous! Well lit, snow covered but a bank of low clouds played havoc with the peaks, however. We proceeded to Oxbow Bend and found the tip top of Mt. Moran clear of clouds but the rest obscured with clouds. We had a decent reflection in water so we worked this area for a few minutes. On to the Snake River Overlook and found the same...clouds obscuring the peaks. We spent some time there and then went to Schwabacher's Landing. We found the water in the beaver pond "for the reflection" to be non-existent because of the high water flow. We didn't shoot much here.

We then proceeded to the Mormon Row area and again, found the Teton peaks obscured with clouds. We didn't shoot any landscapes at that time. The coolest thing about this location was a badger's den! A badger mom and her 4 young badgers.... I was turning the car around and Jared spotted the cute, furry guys in a field by the road. We shot the heck out of these guys! None of us had seen a badger before and we are proud of our first badger images.

I made a decision to break for lunch thus hoping the clouds (covering the peaks) will be gone after lunch... We arrived back at Mormon Row and was greeted by clear peaks! We spent a great deal of time here shooting all perspectives. Great landscape ops!

We re-visited the Snake River Overlook and Oxbow Bend and re-shot some scenes with the clear mountains/peaks.

We then drove back to YNP and visited Old Faithful. I then spent about an hour at the Madison eagle's nest looking for more nest landing ops. The Juvi was in the nest,  one adult was in one of the trees by the nest. While I was watching (hoping for) for the adult to fly from the tree to the nest (he never did), the other adult (flew in over my head from behind me) arrived and landed in another nearby tree. I waited until I was at 3200 ISO, +3 EC and a SS of less than 1/1000, then I hung it up for the night.

Driving back to the hotel, I found a beautiful sunset over the mountains NW of West Yellowstone and a snapped a few frames.

Well folks, another 14 hours in the Parks.

Two more days left. We plan to seek out more Grizzlies tomorrow, a few waterfalls, and maybe stake out an Osprey's nest in Lamar Valley... plus whatever else "pops up" unexpectedly which is normal for Yellowstone.

Stay tuned for Day 7,


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 5: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Rain, rain go away.. and it finally did after lunch... but another interesting day in Yellowstone!

We got started around 7:30 am, and decided to go North to get out of the worse rain. We used the new road under construction from Madison to Norris which is one lane from 8am-10pm each day. Just our luck, a large herd of bison decided to take the road as well and traveled up the road amongst all the cars to Gibbon Meadows. The herd "took it's good ol' time". This caused us to lose an hour of time. We were not happy campers ... but happy to see the next available rest stop after that ordeal!

We decided to go from Norris to Canyon to Tower... and of course, we missed the Grizzly and her two cubs by like 2 minutes! They just crossed the road when we arrived and went down in the ravine. Major bummer.

We visited the recent carcass in Tower and there was a young black bear feeding on it. He started to come towards us (Yes, we have bear spray with us) but it was a young black bear and the Park Ranger shooed him away into the woods across the street. Got some nice images of him. (see pic).

We moved on to Slough Creek to show the others the golden eagle's nest. No golden eagle there at that moment..then on to Lamar Valley where some mule deer and Pronghorn posed for us. We photographed the Lamar River Rapids (see pic). We discovered an Osprey's nest (with a baby osprey) in Lamar which I GPSed. We plan to check that out later this week. We headed to Mammoth for lunch and on the way, we spotted a coyote pestering a bison. No contest here. The bison will win this one.

After lunch, we looked again for some bighorn sheep rams but found only moms and babies.

The rain had finally stopped as we headed back towards Tower. We photographed Undine Falls. A wily coyote showed up and trotted along side my car and then got in the middle of the road in front of my car. They have the right of way...(see pic)

Near Dunraven Pass, we came across a foggy Dunraven area with the Grizz and her two cubs in the fog. Two rangers were there directing the Grizz jam. The bears eventually when back up the hill. I will get these bears before I leave Friday! They have been elusive for Jared, Jack and I.

We stopped by Artist Point of the Lower Falls and shot some landscapes there. The clouds were dramatic! Good stuff.

On the way back to hotel to have dinner with everyone, I stopped by the Madison eagles nest. One adult was in a nearby tree. I stopped, set up and snapped a few of him. I was lucky as he decided to fly to the nest and I was able to get a decent landing pic of him. (see pic: note the shadow of the eagle's head on his right wing!). The juvenile popped up and the adult begin to feed him for long period of time. (see pic).  All priceless!

Tomorrow, we will be in the Tetons all day. The weather looks A+ for Tuesday in Jackson, WY!

Stay Tuned for Day 6!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 4: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Today was "on your own" day for all the MPEGers.

The rain was back today for most of the day. We headed to the northern part of Yellowstone today to try to avoid as much as the rain as possible as the rain was tracking south of Canyon-Norris Road. We had some periods of no rain and just overcast skies but no blue sky at all today. The moderate/heavy rain limited the landscape ops but boy, the cool wildlife was plentiful but mostly in the Northern part of the park.

We (Jared, Jack and I) started by driving from West Yellowstone to Madison (one adult bald eagle was at the Madison nest in a nearby tree) then to Norris to Swan Lake Flats to check on the Grizz mom and her 4 cubs. The bear watchers there told us the Grizz Mom and the cubs crossed the road at 6:30 am but were not in sight at that time we were there at 8:45 am.

We went to big horn sheep country looking for some Rams but not one sheep found. We drove on to Tower and came upon a huge crowd at the Tower Bridge. Upon arriving, we learned that a black bear (about an hour prior to our arrival) had killed a elk calf for breakfast. The bear was sitting under a tree by the Yellowstone River next to his kill taking a nap but looking up occasionally at the crowd on the bridge.

The fun part of this event was watching a common raven trying to be very wily to get his share of the kill without the bear seeing stuff! We left there after taking many bear pics and proceeded towards Lamar Valley.

We stopped at Slough Creek and Jared spotted a bald eagle in a tree by the creek. We walked towards the creek and and snapped a few pics of my fav subject. While there, we were made aware of a golden eagle's nest on a nearby cliff. We spent about 30 mins there photographing the golden eagle at the nest . He flew to a nearby tree and then back to the nest, thus capturing a few in-flight shots. That was the first golden eagle I have photographed to date. IMHO, this was the highlight of the day. See pic.

We proceeded on to Lamar Valley and saw nothing exciting (bison, pronghorn). We back tracked and headed to Canyon via Dunraven Pass. It was very foggy in the Pass and still plenty of snow on the ground there. See pic. BTW, the Columbus MPEGers had a good day with some very nice Grizz sow and her two cubs!

We arrived in Canyon and came upon another large "jam" and this time it was the well known Black bear sow and her 2 cubs feeding along the road. A few photogs were photographing a coyote on a carcass (MPEGer Marty Belan got soaked but he was there to get those images) We got several nice images of the three bears in Canyon.

After eating a late lunch in Canyon, another bear was seen at the Fishing Bridge area but the rains picked up (heavy at times) again and we decided to head back to the hotel so we can meet up with everyone for dinner at 7:30 pm.

On the way to the hotel, we came across yet another "jam" at the Madison River just west of the road junction to Norris. The crowd was watching a Elk cow and her calf starting to cross the Madison River. The calf was following his mom into the river when we arrived. (All the creeks and rivers here are swollen with heavy current because of the snow melt and rain). As the calf was following his mom, the rapid water current was sweeping him downstream! The crowd was silent and I stood there thinking I was about to watch a elk calf drown before my very eyes...... I never thought about taking a picture...I was frozen .. watching this play out in front of me.... the calf was calling to his Mom for help as the cow elk looked helplessly at her calf....being swept downstream.

The calf eventually managed to swim towards the shore to climb out of the river (the crowd started clapping!).  The calf ran to his mom (obviously scared) and immediately got a drink of milk!

This was the most dramatic part of the day..... Amazing.

Trust me, in Yellowstone, you never know what you will witness at any moment..... Yellowstone is Wild by Nature!

Tomorrow, Monday, June 7, we are headed up north again to avoid the predicted rain for Monday. The weather for rest of the week looks pretty good. Tuesday will be "Tetons Tuesday" as all of us will spend the entire day in the Grand Teton National Park. Three members depart Wednesday morning and the rest of us depart Friday.

Four more days of sheer photography bliss!

Stay Tuned!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

DAY 3: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Today, the weather was surprisingly terrific! It was raining when we left the hotel at 5:00 am but by the time we arrived at Dunraven Pass it was snowing then it progressed to clear, blue skies.

On the way to Lamar Valley (via Dunraven Pass), we saw a "jam" in Hayden Valley and was greeted with the Otter Creek Wolf Pack working on a bull elk carcass. They were several hundred yards away but I might have a decent pic at share later that was taken at 700mm.

From the wolves/elk carcass, on to Lamar Valley, where we shot some landscapes, no wolves, and a very friendly colony of ground squirrels.  We saw some mountain goats at the cliffs in Lamar and a pronghorn mom and her baby posed for us. We moved on to Mammoth Hot Springs, as we watched a coyote start to chase an adult elk cow but thought better of it and moved on. We snapped the Sandhill Cranes and their two chicks at Floating Island Lake. A coyote (yesterday, it was reported) attempted to nab the chicks but the adult Sandhills repelled the attack.

Had Lunch at Mammoth, proceeded to Swan Lake Flats based on report from a park tourist that the Grizzy sow and her 4 cubs were there. We rushed over and sure enough, we got some decent pics of the mother and her 4 cubs.... we stayed around for 20 mins, the mother appeared to lay down, so we left and headed to Gardiner looking for big horn sheep. Honest.... within 10 mins after the leaving the Grizz at Swan Lake Flats, we heard on our radios, that the Mother Grizz has chased down an elf calf for her (and the 4 cubs) supper!  BUMMER! We heard it was spectacular...... I was depressed for some time.....

However, we got some GREAT Big Horn sheep images with their lambs..... the lambs put a smile on our face. We visited a Convenience Store in Gardiner and discovered that a bear cub had become separated from his mother, fell in the river, swam downstream, ascended the river bank and climbed the nearest tree it could find which was on the convenience store property!!.. it was clearly frightened as people gathered around. A YNP Park Ranger was arriving as we departed....Geezz.. there is wildlife everywhere!

On the way back into the park, we photographed the Roosevelt Archway.

We proceeded to Hayden Valley for some landscape pics... not much wildlife at that time but there were a ton of bison in the morning. We took a short drive towards the east YNP entrance and took in the breathtaking vistas that area of the Park has to offer!

Back to the hotel at 9:00 pm, after putting in 16 hours in the Park today.

Sunday, everyone is on their own for the day and we will have dinner at 7:30pm to learn from everyone about their experiences they had for Sunday. The weather is expected to be good for most of the day.

The Park (for a Saturday) had light traffic which is a good thing us photographers are trying to get to place to place quickly...

It starts all over again in about 6 hours!

Stay Tuned!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 2: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

The theme today was RAIN!  It rained most of the day with some very short periods of no precip. The next several days say 20-30% rain so we will take it day by day and work with it.

The five of us who arrived yesterday started out this morning from Jackson, WY around 6:45am.  We traveled some of the  local roads known for wildlife. We found the usual bison, elk and pronghorn. We turned down Mormon Row Road and I spotted a young Swainson's hawk sitting calmly in a tree. We spent some time with him until he flew.... He was cooperative though.

We shot some of the Mormon barns with the Tetons in the background shrouded in fog. The shoot there was a muddy mess. I hope the Rental Car folks don't mind a little mud.  Proceeded to Oxbow Bend but Mt. Moran was obscured by fog. The eagles were still hanging out there though.

The 3 Columbus MPEGers proceeded to Yellowstone while Jared and I waited for 2 members to arrive at Jackson Hole Airport. We had a quick lunch with them and then we escorted them to West Yellowstone.  As we drove through the YNP higher elevations, there was a significant amount of snow still on the ground.. and of course, the falls and rivers are flowing well!  Gorgeous (rainy) scenery.

We ran across a HUGE bull elk in the Lower Geyser Basin grazing by the roadside... he then proceeded to cross the road in between cars minding his own business..... and that's no bull.........then we saw many baby bison (a ton of them...) grazing by the Madison River with the parents, several of the babies together. This was quite a sight to see. On the way to West Yellowstone, the Madison eagle's nest was occupied by one adult... Yes, of course, we stopped and took a few snaps.

Meanwhile, the highlight of the day for the 3 Columbus members was they came across a young grizzly in the Lake Butte Overlook along with "a million other people" (aka bear jam) and got some nice images of  him.

We all had dinner together tonight and planned tomorrow by consensus which is a 5:00 am start and we are headed to the Northwestern part of Yellowstone looking for bighorn sheep, grizzlies, and wolves ... and whatever else shows up....we plan to eat lunch out of our cars to avoid losing valuable shooting ops so the local supermarket was happy to see us!

Doesn't this sound like fun?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 1: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Hello Everyone,

First, I have been awake for 22 hrs and if this post seems incoherent, you will understand why!

What a day! Flight to Salt Lake City was fine. The 5.5 hr drive to Jackson, WY was on schedule for Jared and me, but the 3 other members who were with us had a defective rental car and had to go back to the airport, replace the car and start over again. They arrived 3 hours late.

Jared and I (since the others were delayed) decided to venture out and see what we could find...Within minutes of driving into the Grand Teton National Park, we come upon a big bull moose grazing off the road about 75-100 yds. This was my FIRST bull moose experience. He does look like bullwinkle! There were several cars pulled over admiring this guy..... then we proceeded to Oxbow Bend...saw some elk and bison (the usual) on the way.. At Oxbow Bend, the sky was cloudy thus no sunset color but I snapped some images of the classic Oxbow Bend/ Mt. Moran scene with dramatic clouds. We will see how they turn out....

Within 45 minutes at Oxbow Bend, we snapped several American White pelicans in the Oxbow Bend water. Some took off in flight and flew right in front of the Tetons (see pic). We saw a nice big beaver by the water's edge and snapped him.

I was talking with a couple from Florida and I remarked, "all we need is an eagle to fly by" and (honest to God..) just as I said those words, a juvenile bald eagle flew out from the trees and circled over the water at Oxbow Bend... Amazing... You gotta love this place!

It is truly WILD! Unpredictable! It really is exhilarating to be here not to mention BEAUTIFUL... snow capped mountains....JUST BEAUTIFUL!

The rest of the MPEGers arrive tomorrow!

I am going to sleep... Goodnight!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"We are off to see the Wizard... of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons!"

In just under 48 hrs, 9 MPEGers will converge in Yellowstone for a MPEG GroupShoot they will remember for a long time!

I will be blogging daily here beginning June 3 to June 10, 2010!