Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 7 (final blog post) - YNP/GNTP- 2011 Fall Trip

7x6 bull elk in Yellowstone's first fall snow. by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)

First, A big thanks to all of you following this blog. I have appreciated your emails and FB messages. Today was our final day in Yellowstone. Because of the snow storm system, we decided to travel to Idaho Falls tonight and leave from here in the morning for the Salt Lake City airport to avoid any potential travel delays associated with the storm. We will be home by midnight Friday night.

We slept in a little and got into the Park around 8:30am today. It was cloudy, rainy with snow expected after 2:00 pm. Yellowstone National Park is expected to get 6-10 inches of snow. Several roads were closed by the rangers by 3:00 pm. Several cars slid off the road over by Old Faithful.  It's amazing how different parts of the park vary dramatically with snowfall. When it snows at 7,000+ feet, it snows!

We traveled through Madison (the bull elk and his harem were there) but didn't stop. We moved on through Norris (really foggy), on to Hayden Valley, no rain there but cloudy, several wolf watchers there with spotting scopes. Two wolves of the Canyon Pack were running around too far out for photos but saw these beauties through a scope. From Hayden, over Dunraven. Dunraven was VERY rainy, foggy,  at some point, visibility was 50 feet! This was an "exciting" drive. Kim drove it and did well. No wildlife seen in Dunraven or Tower. On to Lamar, cloudy and rainy as well but YNP is gorgeous this time of year with red, gold, and orange grasses. Just beautiful. We stopped at the "carcass" but the carcass was nowhere to be found. We were told two grizzlies were on it yesterday and at one point, 7 members of the Pack came in together and drove the grizzlies off of the carcass. We were told (also) that it was Monday evening when the Pack chased and drove the elk cow into the Lamar River (shallow area), and the elk cow fought them off as long as she could until tiring. Several people stayed around until 8:30pm Monday and the wolves had not made the kill yet but did so during the night sometime. The carcass image I posted Tuesday was taken after 1pm Tuesday so that means the carcass was picked clean in 17 hours or less!

While we were at the carcass today, someone yelled "grizzly!"and there was a young grizz at the top of the hill behind us. We watched him travel east to west for a few minutes then he disappeared.... which means Kim (finally) saw her first grizzly bear! A bald eagle landed in a tree by the Lamar River and reared it's head back calling upon landing. It made me smile.

From Lamar, over to Mammoth, more rain and no wildlife spotted. Had a quick lunch in Mammoth, on to Norris, then on to Madison.  I snapped a few landscapes along the way. I spotted a bald eagle sitting in a tree across the Madison River. Perhaps the same one who eluded me yesterday? I was determined to get this one (see pic below). We stopped (we were the only car parked) but we started an "eagle jam". I snuck across the street to get a better view. I snapped several images and then this guy pulls up, gets out of his car and slams his door shut loudly and the eagle flew off. Some people just don't get it. 

It was beginning to snow heavily now and I found the 7x6 bull elk and his harem and got some "snow images" (see pic above). I have a zillion images to go through just of this bull elk! We left YNP around 5:30pm and arrived in Idaho Falls at 7:45pm.  The snow was really falling and the road through the Targhee National Forest was untouched and treacherous. It was 35 miles per hour for a long ways until the roads improved.

Dan and Bonnie went on their own today. They are in YNP one more day.  It was a pleasure having Dan and  Bonnie in the Park at the same time. They had a great time. It was their first YNP/GTNP visit.

This trip is now sadly over.

Kim had a great time, seeing far more wolves than I thought we would see. We were lucky having a carcass (It's simply the circle of life in YNP.)

 This will be one birthday present, Kim won't soon forget.

Every time we visit YNP/GTNP, the trip goes so fast. We really don't want to leave....

We love this place.

Thanks again for following!


YNP Madison River bald eagle- Oct. 6, 2011

This one didn't get away from me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 6: YNP/GTNP - 2011 Fall Trip

behind Signal Mountain Lodge by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)

Today was a bad weather day and tomorrow is worse (based on prediction). 1-2 inches of snow expected Friday but we are heading to the airport Friday morning. I hate rain in YNP. It puts me in a bad mood.

Based on the forecast, we went south to the Tetons today. Left West Yellowstone around 7:30am and arrived at Oxbow Bend around 9:30am. The weather was better than YNP. It rained heavy then some sun, lots of clouds then cloudy most of the day.

On the way down, I snapped a few YNP scenics. Except for a few bison and a couple of mule deer does, the wildlife seems to have vanished. Maybe they sense the big weather changes and snow coming?  We went looking for moose and we found a cow moose bedded down in tall grass. No photo op, IMHO but a zillion people were there shooting away. Grabbed a few images of the Chapel of the Transfig. I wanted to find Kim a bear and we found a cinnamon bear but he/she was back in the brush eating berries and Kim only had a 3 second glimpse of him/her. (Noteworthy in that, a significant amount of leaves have come down since our October 1 visit. We lucked out with a great day in GTNP on October 1.)

After finding essentially zero wildlife, we had a nice lunch at Signal Mountain Lodge. I snapped this image (see pic above) from the back of the restaurant. Not a bad view while eating, huh? The clouds obscured the mountains which was a bummer but that was what the day was like.

We headed back to YNP (snapping a few scenics like Lewis Falls.) by 2:00 pm. We stopped at the Old Faithful General Store, and then headed up to Norris and saw no wildlife except for a couple of bison. It was raining pretty hard by now and we decided to head back to the hotel BEFORE dark! In all my 5 trips to YNP, this was the worse weather day and least productive wildlife viewing wise. It was frustrating. I never even used my 500mm at all today.... and to top it all off, as we were headed to the hotel, I spotted a mature bald eagle in the top of a tree by the Madison River all hunkered down in the wind and heavy rain.  I thought this would make a great "bad weather" wildlife image... so we found the road to get down to the eagle. Kim was driving. I asked Kim to pull up across from him (he was across the river) and my thought was to photograph him out the backseat window with the 500 + 1.4 TC. So Kim stops the car, I quietly get out of the front seat , get in the back seat, scramble for my 500, trying to manage it to be handheld, and just as I was about to open the window... Kim said those dreaded words: "nevermind, he flew off"...... I was less than pleased. I would have made a sailor blush with my reaction.

I thought , of course, he flew off at the last second. It was consistent with the day. Sucky. then more bad news, as we arrived in cell service, my Apple iPhone received a text message, stating that Apple founder, Steve Jobs had died.

R.I.P. Steve, you literally have changed the World. My condolences to his family and the World.

We had dinner with Dan and Bonnie. They were in the Tetons today too but we didn't know it until we had dinner with them. They were going to check out the Beartooth Highway today but decided against it with the impending bad weather.

Our last day in YNP is tomorrow, Thursday, October 6. The weather looks bad all day.

Somehow, I need to find a way to end this trip with a bang!

Stay Tuned for  Day 7, the final trip blog post.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 5: YNP/GTNP - 2011 Fall Trip

Grey wolf on carcass by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)

We started at 7:00 am but the weather forecast looked gloomy. It was very cloudy at 7am and we figured it would be a high ISO day but it turned out to be a good weather day overall. After a McDonald's breakfast, we headed into the park and quickly came upon a 7x6 bull elk and his harem. We got some beautiful images of this elk and his girls. We discovered an osprey's nest by the Madison River occupied by two osprey.

We then proceeded towards Mammoth with the intent to check out the Blacktail Plateau 6 mile drive. No wildlife found but a few nice landscapes. We moved on to Tower area. I suggested we drive Lamar and see if anything is happenin'.  We saw tons of bison along the route to Lamar. As we entered Lamar Valley, a coyote popped up from the roadside and crossed the road in front of me, I got a nice image of him from the car with the 70-200.

Things looked quiet... until we turned the bend and I radioed Dan and said," we have a big jam" up ahead. We stopped and asked "what ya got"? and it was one word, WOLVES!. We parked, and set up and didnt realize at first that the Lamar Canyon pack took down an elk cow Monday night (the night before) and the carcass was 200 yrds (rough guess) or so from the road. I used my 1DM4, 500 + 2X TC with a 30% crop on the image posted above. We spent around 3 hours with the wolves skipping lunch. There were 4 wolves present total but only one at a time on the carcass. Also present, a ton of ravens (of course), several magpies, at least 2 coyotes hanging around waiting for their turn, and we had 4 bald eagles around, with two landing and picking at the carcass. The wolves kept chasing all these "visitors off", so they were busy all the time. It was great to watch all the action. Just really cool. It's amazing how "picked clean" the carcass was in such a short period of time. We were hoping a grizzly would show up but no grizz while we were there. We endured 3 rain episodes during this time. We had no plans to leave. Rain be damned.

After this highlight of the day, we split up. Kim and I went over to Hayden and did a few landscapes, went out to Sedge Bay and no significant wildlife noted. We headed back to the hotel and stopped by Madison again and spent a few minutes with the elk and his harem again.

We had a pizza with Dan and Bonnie for dinner.

The weather is progressively getting colder with a real good possibility of significant snow on Thursday. We are hoping for below freezing temps the next two days. The worse the weather, the more wildlife out and about. Plus we want that elk bugling with some nice breath in the frosty air!

So far, it has been a terrific trip. I still need to find Kim a bear. The bears are few and far between here now.  "They are around" but nothing like the Spring (of course).

Two more days to go.  Stay tuned for Day 6.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 4: YNP/GNTP - 2011 Fall Trip

Bison Jam in Lamar Valley by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)

Another YNP day in the books.  What a day it was!

We started out (again) in Lamar Valley looking for the Lamar Canyon wolf pack. I really wanted Kim to see them so we left earlier this morning hoping for better luck.... and lucky we were!

We found the "YNP wolfers" at the pullout east of the Hitching Post pull out. And within minutes, of arriving, the pack (I counted 6, others say all 11 of the pack were there) was clearly visible to the naked eye and moving west towards the Hitching Post pullout so we all jumped in our cars and head there.

The wolves arrived at that area as predicted, played around for a while, went up the Cache Valley trail and disappeared. Kim and I traveled west of Lamar as Dan and his wife stayed in Lamar. Kim and I checked out the Slough Creek area and found some pronghorn and bison. We headed back east to Lamar and got into a 3 mile long bison jam. Bison jams are a slow go. See bison jam pic above. Note the beautiful fall colors of the grasses in Lamar (actually all over Yellowstone). In the pic, this is the car in front of us.

Dan and Bonnie stayed in YNP as I took Kim on the a tour of very scenic Beartooth Highway, (on the way there just east of Cooke City, a red fox shows up and is walking down the road towards us, I stopped the car and snapped a few pics of him on the road), we had a great lunch in Red Lodge, MT and then drove to Cody, WY, then to the YNP east entrance, then over to Hayden Valley. Lots of drive time but the Beartooth highway was breathtaking! This is a must see, IMHO. The drive to Cody from Red Lodge showcases beautiful country as well!

On the way into YNP, Kim and I got into ANOTHER bison jam in the Fishing Bridge area. Thats two for the day! Geez.

Kim and I went on to Hayden Valley, snapped a few landscapes, no wolves sighted, some mule deer does, and a bald eagle perched on a tree stump. We then drove to West Yellowstone (Madison) and found Dan there snapping pics of a beautiful bull elk and his harem! Gary D. from Facebook found us in Madison and we all chatted for awhile. We decided to have dinner together at my hotel tonight.

Overall, another great day in Yellowstone.  A big weather system moving in by Thursday, maybe a foot of snow at 7, 000 feet or higher.

Stay tuned for Day 5.  This trip is going fast as they all do!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 3: YNP/GTNP - 2011 Fall Trip

bear print on car by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)
bear print on car, a photo by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group) on Flickr.

Day 3 and another long day. The weather forecast was 80% chance of rain and it never rained a drop, with cloudy to sunny all day!

We left for Lamar Valley at 7:00am. We arrived in Lamar around 7:35am and (of course) we were told we "just missed " the wolf pack. Dang! (hint: not the word I used). We quickly found a pronghorn buck and 3 females grazing near the road. We photographed them of sometime. Suddenly, the buck took off full speed about 200 yrds west and we wondered why then we saw the coyote it saw... the buck ran at the coyote, stopped about 10 yrds short of him, stared at him, the coyote got the hint, and left the area by crossing the road to the hills. A couple of  other stunning coyotes (beautiful winter coats) showed up and got some nice images of these guys.  Dan stayed with the pronghorn while Kim and I went through Lamar Valley and checked out Slough Creek and found a huge bison herd within yards of us. Got some great frame filling images of these guys. Dan and Bonnie joined us there. 

We moved on over to Mammoth, found several elk cow and a few bucks lounging in the yards in Mammoth. We went to Gardiner, had a very nice lunch and took pictures of the north entrance arch. We proceeded down to Norris area, and photographed Gibbon Falls. We stopped at Sheepeaters Cliff and got some nice images of a few birds and some "least chipmunks". We moved on to Hayden Valley and found a ton of people at the Grizzly overlook.... and sure enough, the Canyon wolf pack was running around about 3/4 mile out in Hayden Valley. With binocs, a spotting scope  or a long lens, you could easily watch them. The alpha female is beautiful. We saw a total of 5 wolves. Kim got to see her wolves but we are hoping for a better day in the morning at Lamar Valley. It is always exciting to watch the wolves.

The day slipped away from us and we headed back to Cooke City for dinner. We are headed to West Yellowstone tomorrow for the next 3 nights.

When we got back in Cooke City for dinner, we parked by the restaurant and a guy, standing near our car (where we parked) remarked to us about a "bear paw print" on our car door! I said, "huh?" and he said,  "look here"!  and sure enough there's a small bear paw print. (see pic above). It looks like a young black bear print. Apparently, the bear made it rounds to the cars in the parking lot as Dan's car had paw prints too! We HAD food in the car but moved it inside for that vary purpose- not to entice the bears. Apparently the smell of food being there lingered on the car. Bears have an amazing sense of smell, for good reason, as their survival depends on a great nose...

Another day in unpredictable Yellowstone.

What will tomorrow bring?

Stay Tuned for Day 4.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 2: YNP/GNTP - 2011 Fall Trip

Oxbow Bend Civil Twilight by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)

Up at 4:45am, Down at 11:30pm. It was a full day today as it always is here in these Parks. Alot to see and precious little time to see it. We only have 10- 11 hours per day of decent light.

We started out with a fantastic sunrise at Oxbow Bend. The place was crowded. The parking lot was full. A school bus of several photography students showed up... it seems like "everybody and their brother"was there. The Fall colors in the Tetons are peak and very near peak at Oxbow. Dan and I even climbed the hill across the street (remember this place is 7,000 feet above sea level) so it was a nice treadmill type of workout to get there. We got some terrific images from Oxbow. The posted pic is from my Canon P&S. The place was simply beautiful this morning. After Oxbow, we went Cattlemans bridge, Jackson Lake Dam, Schwabachers Landing (great reflections) then to Mormon Row.

We were told of some Moose over at Gros Ventre Campground. We went there and found nothing.We drove down the road and found a "jam" and the folks were watching a huge bull moose and a cow
down a small hill by a stream bed.

The cow was feeding on some leaves. the bull resting. The light was awfully harsh but we stayed anyway. Dan wanted to get a better shot of the cow so he went down into the stream bed, maybe 30 yds from the cow. The cow "pushed him away" telling Dan he was too close so Dan backed off. The bull gets up and walks toward the cow. The bull apparently sees Dan and decided to bluff charge him (gets within 6-7 feet according to Dan) sending him a message.... I was down in the stream but decided to go back up the hill...about the time I get up the hill, a hear some branches breaking (the bull crashing through the brush) a lady who was down there with Dan comes flying up the hill WITHOUT her camera and tripod! The next thing I see is Dan flying up the hill too! A little startled (eerr shaken up). Folks, this was a huge bull moose.  Let's just say Dan vamoosed it out of there.  ;-) He is ok but the bum knee is sore.

We had lunch, then drove to Yellowstone photographed Moose Falls (yes, no kidding, Moose Falls) ...West Thumb, Fishing Bridge, Hayden Valley, Dunraven, Tower and Lamar Valley. We had a wily coyote decide to walk down the middle of the road in front of our car and Dan and Bonnie experienced their first bison jam in Lamar Valley. Bison all around us. You could touch them if you put your hands out the window (which I didnt...)

We are staying in Cooke City the next two days... the town with ZERO cell service.

6:15am wake up call. Hope to find some wolves at sunrise in Lamar Valley.

Stay Tuned for Day 3.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

DAY 1: YNP/GTNP - 2011 Fall Trip

Quarter moon over the Tetons by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)

Kim and I flew from Cleveland to Baltimore then Baltimore to Salt Lake City. Dan Behm and his wife, Bonnie were on the same flight. The flight out was on time and flawless. Great landing in Salt Lake by the pilot. Nice and smooth.

We picked up our bags, got our rental cars and started the 5+ hr scenic drive to Jackson, WY.

The day was sunny, hardly a cloud in the sky. Beautiful. After some lunch, we resumed our journey.

Once we got to Idaho Falls, we split up. Kim and I continued on to Jackson. Dan and Bonnie got a few groceries and arrived about 45 minutes behind us.

The ride through Swan Valley, ID was very pretty with some great fall colors. Yellow aspens were the dominate color. The ride through the Targhee National Forest and the Teton Pass was beautiful was well. Once we started descending into Jackson Hole, the fall colors were really vibrant. We saw a moose upon entering Jackson Hole. Didn't stop for pics. We decided to spend the rest of the light we had (we got in JH around 6:55pm, Sunset was 7:06 pm.) driving through the park. We saw a male pronghorn, bison (of course) and a wildlfire at the Albright Turnout. (see pic below). We proceeded up the main park route and folks, the fall color now is spectacular! We hit it spot on! By the time we got to Oxbow Bend, it was too dark but looks like great color as far as my eyes could tell. There were several cars still in the OB parking out. We drove by Oxbow and saw a "jam" on the road to Jackson Lake. It was "dark" now BUT we knew why everyone was there as there were several bull elks bugling in the grasslands right by the road. We could see one bull's silhouette and he was a BIG guy!  It was a stereo experience of elk bugling. The rut is on! Kim's first elk bugling experience.

There was a beautiful quarter moon above the Teton range. See pic above. Again, this was a P&S pic with flash going off of course. (ahemmmmm, I know) but again, you get the idea.

We then drove back to Jackson Hole, has some dinner, and checked in hotel. We will be spending up to 2:00 pm in the GTNP Saturday, October 1 trying to see as much as possible as the weather is expected to change here (Jackson) to rain for the next few days. After our visit here, we are headed north to Yellowstone!

We have a 4:45 am MST wake up call. Headed out for sunrise at Oxbow and go from there.

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Albright Turnout wildlife

Albright Turnout wildlife by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)

Please excuse the IQ. This was a P&S image out the car window, in low light at 55 mph but you get the idea!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Countdown is on!

The countdown is on for my Fall Yellowstone/GTNP birthday trip for Kim. 48 hours to go!

Kim is looking forward too seeing her first bear and/or wolf in the wild!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks in the Fall!

I am returning to 'heaven on earth" September 30-October 7, 2011 with my wife, Kim. This trip was planned as a surprise birthday gift for her. She loves wolves so the big objective this trip is wolves!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I am home! plus a couple of Yellowstone wildlife notes.

(1) The coyote pups were not seen all day Saturday, June 18, 2011. That pretty much confirms the parents have moved them to another den. We were very luck to get the photos we did on Wednesday, June 15.

(2) The Madison Eagles: I have learned that the female was killed over the winter, thus the reason for no eaglets this year. The male has paired up with another female, thus there will be (likely) a new family in the spring of 2012.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 9: Yellowstone / Grand Teton Trip - 2011 (FINAL TRIP BLOG POST)

Sadly, after 2,845 miles driven, 74 hours and 7 mins of car time with my son, Jared, and countless special moments and laughs, my (and Jared's) Yellowstone/ Grand Teton 2011 trip has come to a special ending........ I will never forget this trip.

Today was very special. I was able to photograph a Yellowstone black wolf in Lamar Valley. This was one of my goals this trip. Unless you are very lucky, the Yellowstone wolves are elusive and difficult to photograph as they are often "far off", viewable by only a spotting scope. Today, this goal was accomplished. See pic posted above.

Jared and I started out at 5:05 am and arrived in Lamar around 7:00 am, making a few landscape images along the way. It was a beautiful, colorful Yellowstone sunrise. We saw a few black bears along the way to Lamar but didn't stop....

We could hear the wolves howling soon after we arrived in Lamar.

There were many "wolf watchers" in place with spotting scopes.  The radio signal (this wolf was collared) was getting stronger that she was near...... and in a few minutes, this beautiful black wolf appeared over the hill, trotted across the expansive Lamar plains, swam across the river, shook herself off, and crossed the road at the same point as always towards their den.

I can not tell you how thrilling it was to watch this beautiful animal in my viewfinder the whole way. I almost forgot to take pictures, I was that awe-struck. Trust me, you have to experience it. It gives you the chills....

After that experience, Jared and I made our way over to Hayden Valley, then the Fishing Bridge for lunch.We drove to the east entrance but no moose but we did see 6 big horn rams. We drove the west loop and wanted to photograph the Grand Prismatic Spring but it started to rain so we decided to head back to Lamar for spend our final hours of the trip.

We arrived at Lamar at 4:30 pm. There was a light rain and wind. We decided to stay as it looked like it (the weather) would pass over.

When we arrived, we were told that a golden eagle flew about 20 feet over everyone's head and then landed across the street. Just my luck.... I miss it by an hour as I would love to have a nice golden eagle in flight image. Besides, my high school mascot was the golden eagle, the Belpre Golden Eagles!

I said to Jared, "I would love to see that golden eagle again"....

So, I set up my gear and we waited for more wolves to return at sunset but no luck... it was beautiful in Lamar (as always) but quiet........ After 2.5 hours, I was about to pack up the gear and Jared said, "Dad, whats that bird? It's big "... and I looked and, yes, it was a golden eagle soaring over my head! It was pretty far up even for my 1300 mm (35 mm equivalent) with overcast dark skies but I fired away and came away with a decent golden eagle image.   Wow, how cool was that? My trip was complete now. We packed up and made the rainy drive back to West Yellowstone and had a pizza together for dinner. We are packed and headed home in the morning, on Father's Day.

What a Father's Day present! spend 9 days in Yellowstone with my son, Jared.

Kim, Jared and I all love Yellowstone.  It is a very special place. 

If you have never visited, you must do so... sooner rather than later.  If you have experienced Yellowstone, then you know what I speak of.........Yellowstone Simply Rocks!

Thanks to all of you who have followed this blog. I hope you found it entertaining to read.

Best Regards,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 8: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park Trip - 2011

The plan today was to explore GTNP more and hopefully see the coyote pups again and some interaction with their parents.

We left West Yellowstone around 6:00 am and arrived in GTNP around 8:00 am. We saw a nice grizzly bear along the road on the way in with a bear jam but we didn't stop. We figured, "ah, just another grizz."

On to Jackson Lake dam, we saw an juvi eagle perched in a tree but he/she wouldn't fly for me, and some pelicans. We drove from the dam to Moose junction looking for moose but none seen then on to Gros Ventre Road and no moose there nor the campground area (but Jim Brown reported getting great pics of moose several hours later!).

Moving on, we visited the site of the "Shane " cabin. The cabin was used in the 1953 movie, Shane. See pic posted above.

Feeling adventurous, we drove by Miller Butte (no big horn sheep found), then on to the Curtis Canyon overlook. I came across a unique landscape op on the way back from the overlook.

We then grabbed some lunch and met up with Cindy, Wilma, Jim and his wife and MPEG professional member, Ed Heaton and his son at Mormon Row. This was the first time,  Ed and I (and the other members) have met. Ed is a very pleasant guy.

I am sorry to say the coyote pups were NOT seen from sunrise up to 2:00 pm today. I suspect Mom and Dad have relocated them because of all the car and human traffic in the area. This makes our coyote images from Wednesday even more rare!  We enjoyed watching those guys/gals and I hope they survive in the Tetons. Wait until you see some of these images.  Really, really special.

We decided to head back to Yellowstone but stopped at Jackson Lake dam again but nothing going on.

I spoke with several people and YNP was pretty quiet today. We explored from Hayden Valley to Fishing Bridge to Mary Bay and nothing.  We headed back to Hayden Valley and two grizzlies are spotted a few hundred yards out and one was headed our way.

A photographer with a long lens (it looked like a Nikon 200-400mm) decides she is going to walk out TO THE BEAR coming our way. The folks, watching the bear,  tried to talk her out of it (this is a very stupid thing to do...BTW). She walked about 80-90 yards out, had second thoughts and retreated back to the cars.

What in the world is wrong with people? An experienced wildlife photog should know better, IMHO.

We decided it wasn't worthwhile to hang around as the light was really low. We had dinner in Canyon and returned to West Yellowstone around 10:00 pm

We have a 4:15 am wake up call for Saturday. We plan to be in Lamar Valley by 6:30 am and finish this amazing trip with a BIG BANG by covering the whole eastern part of the Park.

Wish us luck!

Stay tuned for Day 9 (FINAL blog post) tomorrow.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 7: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot (FINAL MPEG GROUPSHOOT DAY)

Jared and I "slept in" today after 6 days of an average of 4.5 hours sleep/day. We have been busy guys.

Also, today was the last official day of the MPEG Groupshoot as most everyone is headed home tomorrow to begin the arduous download/post processing task.

Jared and I  realized this was a day where we may see little since we didn't get into the Park until 10:30 am.

Each day since Tuesday this week, the Park has gotten more populated as the tourist season ramps up next week.  Except for one day (out of the 5 GS days), we have had perfect to near perfect weather each day for the Groupshoot!

This morning, Jared and I started into Madison (one eagle on the nest with a mild "eagle jam") but the eagle was backlit  so not good light. The best light for this nest is late afternoon, about 2 hours before sunset.

Otherwise, nothing going on in Madison except for the usual elk and bison. Nothing in Norris to Mammoth. We had lunch in Mammoth and visited the great horned owl's nest there, snapped a pic of the adult but she kept her eyes closed. On to Gardiner canyon but no big horn sheep. An osprey flew at us and over our car there. Mammoth to Tower- nothing significant.  We went to Slough Creek to check on the golden eagle's nest and the eagle was soaring high over the cliffs when we arrived.

While in Slough Creek, a couple of tourists told us about a carcass in Canyon with grizzlies, blah, blah. We skipped Lamar Valley, went to Canyon and found nothing, asked a Ranger and he never heard of anything (and these guys are in the know) so we have no idea what the tourists were talking about.

We continued on through Hayden Valley. We were "complaining" how boring it was and suddenly, we see two cars stop and two ladies jumped out of their cars. I said to Jared, " wonder what's up"? Jared said, "oh, it's just a bison" and I saw the same brown blob on the hill, he thought was a bison but when the big grizzly bear lifted her head, I knew it wasn't a bison! It was the grizz sow and her two cubs that I photographed in pouring rain a few days ago... now, I have another shot at them in better light.

I set up quickly and started shooting away.  The bears were 100 yards away across the field from 4 elk. The elk "ignored the bears" until the bears got a little closer then all 4 elk "froze and stared" in the direction of the bears but we could see no bears.... then here the bears come towards the elk... and the elk slowly but surely retreated into the woods. By this time, there is a massive traffic jam and a 150+ people watching these bears. See pic posted above of the sow and her two cubs with one being the runt...

We all thought we were going to witness a grizz-elk confrontation but it didn't happen.

We stayed at the bears until 6:00 pm or so then headed back to West Yellowstone to meet everyone for the final MPEG Groupshoot dinner at 8:00 pm

All 13 Groupshoot attendees (including me) had a group dinner at the Wild West pizzeria. Good times had by all. Everyone had a great Groupshoot and all were telling exciting stories of their Yellowstone/Grand Teton experiences at dinner.

This Group was a real pleasure to work with! I want to thank my son, Jared for his assistance with the Group and his companionship throughout this trip.

Also, My Thanks to Jim and his wife, Eve; Steve and his wife, Judy; Peter; Tim and his wife, Julie ; Wilma, Cindy and Judy and her son, Toby for being a delight to work with and it was my pleasure to show them around these two great National Parks.

Everyone will have some terrific images and stories to post soon.

Jared and I are staying two extra days and will return Sunday, June 19, on Father's Day.

We plan to revisit the Grand Teton National Park Friday most of the day then return to Yellowstone in the afternoon. We will give Yellowstone one last go around on Saturday. We will head to Salt Lake City early Sunday morning and hope to visit Antelope Island State Park (suggested by my FB friend, Gary D.) on our way back to the airport.

I gotta run, we have a 5:00 am wake up call in 5.5 hours.

We are rounding third and heading for ...... home.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 6: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

WOW.. is all I can say! What a day...

We had a 3:00 am wake up call and left West Yellowstone at 3:56 am for the Tetons. 11 of the 13 MPEGers made the trip. We arrived at Oxbow Bend at 6:09 am, just in time for some very nice light and a beautiful, cloudless morning at Oxbow Bend. The reflections were the best I have seen there.

After Oxbow Bend, we broke up into two Groups, Jared lead some members primarily interested in landscapes to the Signal Mountain area and I lead the wildlife folks to the Cattleman's Bridge area. We regrouped at Oxbow Bend at 9:30 am.

At Cattleman's, two members left for the car early. Cindy and  I followed shortly. I radioed ahead to make sure the other two were "Ok".. and they radioed back and "there's a bear here"... and I said, " like where?" and they said just a feet from you in the woods to the right" and I said, " Oh, "Sh........oot"...

Both of us got our bear spray out and walked slowly back to the cars. It was a nice, big black bear just 10 yards or so from us..... of course, this caused a bear jam and before you knew it, we had 15-20 people there gawking.

We proceeded on to Cunningham's cabin and spent a good deal of time there, then Schwabacher's Landing then to Mormon Row. I wanted to wait until 10am or so for some clouds to develop for the Mormon Row shoot..... and indeed, we had great clouds.  Actually, the day was perfect weather wise until it got windy in the afternoon as predicted.

The plan was to finish up at Mormon Row, grab some lunch then "go on our own".......well, that plan collapsed quickly.... and here's the story...  As I was walking back to my car to put my stuff away, a lady comes up to me and says," Do you know where the coyote pups are?"... and I said, " No, I don't" and she said, "well, they told us they were by the pink house here" and I said, " I am not aware of them"..... THEN as I walked further to my car, I happen to glance to my right and THERE they were!  Running around the log cabin beside the pink house!  3 were out playing and for a brief time, all 5 were out (their Mom never showed up as we left at around 5:30 pm or so). I snapped the pic above when all 5 looked our way. This was a great experience.... We spent 5 hours there!

Around, 5:30 pm, I said to Jared, let's head back to West Yellowstone, but let's stop by Jackson Lake Dam on the way back and let's see if anything is going on there..... Well, we witnessed eagles, osprey, pelicans, a very stupid human (will post a complete story on the MPEG Forums soon) and I snapped a pic of an incredible wildlife encounter that many will swear it was "photoshopped". One bystander even offered to be my witness if people didn't believe it. He asked for my business card so he can view the pic on my website and say "I was there" to his friends.  I will post this amazing event on the Forums as well.

We stayed at Jackson Lake Dam for 2-3 hours then drove back to West Yellowstone in record time after being up for 21 hours. We got back to the hotel at midnight. We both fell into bed and woke up 8.5 hours later.

June 15 was just another unpredictable, breathtaking, amazing, unbelievable, and incredible day in these two fine National Parks.

We are planning (Thursday) to spend just an 8 hour day in Yellowstone.  The MPEG "final night" dinner is tonight at the Wild West Pizzeria at 8:00 pm.

I (and Jared) am staying 3 more days and departing Sunday, June 19, Father's Day.

Day 7 coming up tonight!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 5: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

What a difference a day makes!

Today started as a beautiful, foggy sunrise (see photo above) in Yellowstone and progressed to one of the most beautiful days I have ever witnessed here. The weather was "picture perfect" all day!

Jim and his wife Eve asked if they could tag along with us today and I said, sure!  Jim says "I can find stuff!".......

We started in the Park around 5:50 am. We stopped by the Madison eagle's nest and noone was home.... but as we just started back on the road, an adult eagle was flying straight at us, flew over the car and I am guessing,  went to the nest. We missed him/her by 10 seconds!  It's all about timing sometimes.....  We didn't go back to the nest as we had a long day ahead of us.

We stopped briefly at a carcass in Madison which has been picked clean. One of the MPEG members reported that 2 wolves were there the previous night around 8:00 pm.

We proceeded north and stopped by Sheepeater's Cliff. We found one marmot who posed for us and we snapped a few pics. Jared was getting something from the car when he came over and informed us that he saw a black bear walk out of the woods, crossed the road about 30 yards from him and headed to the river. We never saw the bear again. Jared was jacked about the event.

We went to Mammoth and checked out the great horned owl's nest at the Visitor's center. One adult was there and an owlet but they were sleeping so no good photo ops. As we were driving out of Gardiner area, an osprey flew over our car, headed to the very swollen and rushing Gardiner river, splashed down and came up with a fish and flew right back at us heading south. It was amazing.

How in the world did that Osprey see that fish in a rushing, foamy river in bright sun and nail it. ?

The whole thing was over in seconds. I never had a chance to photograph anything as I was in the car driving the opposite direction. Birds of prey never cease to amaze me.

The Gardiner Canyon was void of Big Horn Sheep again. We proceeded to the sandhill crane's nest in the middle of Floating Island Lake. One adult was on the eggs and the other feeding in the grass on shore. I was hoping for a fly into the nest by the other adult but it didn't happen.  There were a variety of ducks there as well along with a proud Canada geese couple and 3 chicks.

We cruised through Lamar Valley and saw the usual stuff.. bison, elk and pronghorn ...before stopping by Barronette's Peak and we spotted two mountain goats and photographed them.

We then drove out the NE entrance, drove through Silvergate and Cooke City.... then drove the Beartooth Highway for a few miles then took the 62 mile Chief Joseph Scenic Highway to Cody, WY.

Let me tell you folks, this is no exaggeration, this was the most scenic routes I have ever witnessed! Some vistas were simply jaw dropping. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Jim and his wife treated us to lunch in Cody.

We proceed on to Yellowstone from Cody which is very scenic too! We didn't see much of anything super exciting the rest of the afternoon in Yellowstone (the Fishing Bridge area and Hayden Valley).

We spent most of the day outside the Park so I am sure we missed something....

Jared and I wanted to get back at a decent hour as the Group is headed to the Grand Teton National Park at 4:00 am to get to Oxbow Bend by 6:15 am for nice early morning light... we will spend the better part of the day there tomorrow.

I am headed to bed as we have a very early start and another long day ahead of us...

Stayed tuned for Day 6.


Day 4: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Wow, what a day!  I am not sure where to start but here goes...

We got in the Park by 5:00 am. We proceeded to Hayden Valley (HV) first.  The drive to HV was quiet, peaceful and beautiful. Hayden Valley had a strip of fog across the snow capped mountains with dramatic clouds and color. I got some really nice landscape images there. We saw no wildlife action, yet.

We then proceed to Lamar Valley and witnessed grizzlys, mountain goats, sandhill cranes, 3 playful young coyotes, and a couple of very busy badgers with ground squirrel catches. We spent a great deal of time with two young grizzlys (male and female, mating and playing). Famed YNP photographer, Tom Murphy was there with a ranger giving a mini lecture on bear behavior to a few park visitors.

The weather was BEAUTIFUL up to 2:00pm then the overcast skies and rain came.....

After lunch, we went over to Mary Bay area and spent time with another grizzly very close to the road. I got some terrific, "fill the frame" images.

Then we decided to go over to the east entrance (with Jim and his wife) and came across two nice Big Horn Sheep rams, a really cute Pika and a cow moose with a newborn (born this morning!).

On the way back from the East entrance, we photographed a proud bald eagle perched in a tree by the road. It was continuing to rain so we decided to go back to the hotel via Hayden Valley and whoa, here was a massive "bear jam" and the Hayden Valley sow and her two cubs were about 80 yards from the road foraging for food. By this time, I am in a cold, pouring rain trying to photograph this grizzly family in the dark practically as the skies were really overcast with the storm front.

'I hope to capture this griz family in better light/weather before we leave.

Oh, Just another "boring day" in Yellowstone.............

The MPEG Group was on their own today. I heard from two members and they had great days in the Park as well.

We had a quick McDonald's dinner and "retired" as we are back at it at 5:30 am again.

I hope the weather improves tomorrow as we still have much to accomplish this trip.

Stayed tuned for Day 5.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 3: Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Park Groupshoot

Young Grizzly Close Encounter by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)
Young Grizzly Close Encounter, a photo by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group) on Flickr.

The MPEG Group entered Yellowstone at 5:39 am this morning. The forecast wasn't pretty but we worked through it.

Over half of the 12 MPEG members on this Groupshoot have never been to Yellowstone or visited many, many years ago so I spent the day giving the Group a "Tour of Yellowstone" to help them become acquainted with Yellowstone and it's areas (Madison, Norris, Canyon, etc.)

Throughout the day, we experienced: RAIN, FOG, SNOW, SLEET, and SUN with temperatures from 33F - 47F. It rained about 40% of the day.

We started via Madison (from West Yellowstone) and I pointed out the Madison eagle's nest. There was one adult bald eagle sitting proudly in the nest but the light was too low (as it was raining and overcast)

We made our way to Norris to Dunraven Pass where the snow line was above our vehicle's roof on Dunraven Pass. It was snowing most of the way through the Pass. I "wished everyone a Merry Christmas" on the our walkie talkies. We then stopped by the Tower Falls osprey nest and were greeted with two big horn sheep ewes and a lamb within 30 feet of us..... and we enjoyed the ospreys bringing in fish and sticks to the nest! Great stuff .. We then encountered a black bear in Tower. I got some nice frame filling images of her/him.

We stopped at Slough Creek. No wolves but a grizzly far up on the hill. We proceeded to Lamar Valley and saw a beautiful snowed tainted landscape with many bison, elk, pronghorn, and a grizzly foraging for food on the ridge line. Everyone loved Lamar Valley.

After Lamar, we moved on to Mammoth and Gardiner. No big horn sheep detected in Gardiner Canyon. but saw a bald eagle and two osprey. We drove by Swan Lake Flats which was flooded then on to Hayden Valley. It rained most of the way then stopped for awhile while we were in Hayden Valley.

The Hayden Valley Grizzly and her two cubs were on the west side of Hayden Valley but were pretty far out. We moved on to the Fishing Bridge area for lunch then out to Mary and Sedge Bays and then on to Lake Butte Overlook. At this point, the group "broke up" to "do their own thing" for the rest of the day.

Jared and I went back to Hayden Valley and found a cow elk nursing her calf but she (cow elk) laid down to rest before I could get set up but I got some decent images of the calf.

We were driving east past the Fishing Bridge and I said to Jared, "Lets go back to Mary Bay and see if there are any eagles around"... and..  (you cant make this stuff up folks) at that moment a bald eagle flew over our car into the woods by Mary Bay. While at the May Bay eagle's nest ( no eagles on the nest, BTW), we were told by another visitor that there was a bear up the road so we quickly changed plans and zipped up the road.  

About a mile or so, there was a young grizzly bear eating grass by the bay... he/she ran at some canada geese and flushed them.... he/she then came up the hill right towards us (not charging us, just working his/her way to us while eating grass. Of course, many people with no brains got real close. Though Jared and I were not that close, we did unlock our bear spray and had it ready!  

The image above was taken at 300 mm (no, that's not my car). I have some frame filling images taken with the 500 + 2X TC but we had to go down the road a bit in order to get the whole bear in the frame which means we were at a safe distance. I will post these images on my website soon.

After this exhilarating close encounter of the grizzly kind, I went to meet  and introduce myself and Jared to one of my FB friends who works at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel. I had never met David until today. He has been kind in helping me prepare for my trip to YNP. I appreciate David's kind assistance.

David's YNP blog is here: if you would like to read about his YNP adventures.

Jared and I  returned to West Yellowstone at 8:45 pm (but stopped by the Madison eagle's nest but no eagles around) . We had a great pizza at Wild West Pizzeria for dinner and called it a 15 hour day.

We are back at it again at 5:00 am. All MPEGers are on their own Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. We are spending Wednesday all day together in the Grand Teton National Park.

Day 4 adventures coming tomorrow. Stay tuned.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 2: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Today, Jared and I spent from 5:30am -2:00pm in the Grand Tetons then moved on to West Yellowstone to meet with the rest of the MPEG GS attendees for our 7:00 pm dinner.

It was raining when we left our hotel at 5:30 am (3 hrs of sleep). By the time we got to Oxbow Bend for sunrise light, it was beautiful!  We didn't make it for the beginning of sunrise but was told by a few other photogs there we didn't miss much in the way of color. The best light was 6:30am to 7:00am then a cloud bank ruined it.....

I got some different compositions of Oxbow this time around. There were some western grebes in the water close by but my long lens was in the car at the time.

We proceeded to explore the Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain areas.We drove up to the tip top of Signal Mountain overlook, took a few pics and watched a young black bear forage for food. We discovered Jackson Point overlook and was WOWed by the view there!  Just one picturesque scene after another at all the turnouts.

We had some breakfast at Signal Mountain Lodge then explored the Jackson Lake Dam area. As we drove into the Dam(n) parking area, I spotted an adult bald eagle flying in the tree line. This area is known for eagles and osprey.

We explored Cattlemen's Bridge and discovered another amazing vista plus a beautiful mountain blue bird posed for us, a couple of colorful flickers posed as well and of course (the long lens is in the car 1/4 mile away!!) PLUS I witnessed an osprey circle overhead, dive in the water for a fish, struggle with the fish in the water then an american white pelican rushes over to the osprey to try and snatch the fish away from the osprey... as I watched in stunned silence.

Jared, did said to me, as we parked the car and started walking to this area (about a  1/4 mile): "Dad, you sure you don't want to take your long lens?", I said, nay.... "we are just going to check this place out, what can happen? " LOL.....Thats the beauty of these parks.......the unpredictability and when we will I ever learn????

We then visited Cunningham's cabin (some unique images there), Schwabacher's  Landing, Mormon Row, went to lunch at Dairy Queen..... then revisited the Moran Junction Osprey nest. One chick is in the nest but we didn't see any adults on the nest. I told Jared look nearby as they usually perched close to the nest and BINGO, there she was .... perched in a nearby tree (See posted pic above). I was on the wrong side of the light but it was a fun find anyway.

We then headed to Yellowstone. Still tons of snow on the ground in south Yellowstone. In fact, so much snow, you could take some "winter 'scape" pics in June and people would swear they were taken in December.

Lewis Lake is still frozen solid.

We had a very nice dinner with all the MPEGers tonight. We discussed our plans for the week. We head out into Yellowstone at 5:30 am MST for the first official day of the MPEG Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Park Groupshoot.....

Stay Tuned for my Day 3. The word is there is a carcass in the Canyon area and we plan to check it out first thing in the morning....


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 1: Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot: The Arrival

Oxbow Bend June 2011 sunset by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group)
Oxbow Bend June 2011 sunset, a photo by Mark/MPEG (Midwest Photography Enthusiasts Group) on Flickr.

Jared and I flew from Cleveland to Salt Lake City, UT (with a change in planes in Chicago) then rented a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and made the scenic 5.5 hr. drive to Jackson, WY (Grand Teton National Park). All flights were smooth and pleasant. We arrived in the GTNP around 8:12 pm MST(local time).  I posted several updates with some pics on Facebook as we travelled along the scenic route.

The mountains are BEAUTIFULLY snow covered! Better than last year! The trees have early leaves, looks very nice and spring-y!  We timed this Groupshoot perfectly. ALL major roads are open in both Parks AND the Beartooth Highway from Cooke City to Red Lodge opened TODAY!!!

We saw a Mule deer along the side of the road in the Targhee National Forest. We saw numerous cow elk in the park and we  spotted a cow elk and her cute, young calf! We had a bison herd cross the road in front of us (we had to wait for them to cross) on the way to Oxbow Bend.

We decided to go directly to Oxbow Bend (see pic above) vs to hotel as we were running out of light.

We arrived at Oxbow Bend around 8:57pm (sunset was 9:03pm). There were only 2 other photogs there. The cloud coverage in the west was too thick and sadly no significant sunset color BUT I couldn't resist and took a P&S pic to post here. The place is down right too pretty to pass up any photo op. 

At Oxbow Bend (it was very low light) but we saw two osprey fly overhead and several river otters playing in the water close by. No pics as the long lens was still packed.

After giving up on sunset, we drove to Jackson Lake Lodge and had some late chow at the Pioneer Grill then headed back to the hotel to check in, etc. On the way to the hotel, we saw MANY (20+ elk along the side of the very dark road back to the hotel - even bright headlights didnt help much). One elk crossed in the front of us. Good thing I was going the speed limit. ;-)

We plan to hit it bright and early in about 5 hours, head back to Oxbow Bend for a sunrise (hopefully), then scout out several new areas for the MPEG members who are all arriving tomorrow evening. 

We will kick off the Groupshoot with a private 7:00pm dinner Saturday and discuss safety rules and go over the agenda for the week.

Over half of the 12 MPEG members are Yellowstone/GTNP newbies so I am excited to give them this opportunity.

Stay tuned for Day 2!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mormon Row barn- June 2010

48 hours to go until our arrival in the Grand Teton National Park!

The weather looks great for the MPEG Groupshoot's duration.

All road are open in the park as of today, June 8 and we are good to go!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lone Bison in Yellowstone National Park

In 10 days, I will be leading a group of 12 MPEG members/spouses on a 6 day (June 11-17, 2011) photographic journey in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

I will be blogging daily on our day to day adventures in these two great National Parks..

Please join us via this Blog.