Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 8: 2012 MPEG Yellowstone/Grand Teton NP Groupshoot (FINAL BLOG POST)

It was another exciting day in Yellowstone but sadly, it is the final day of this MPEG Groupshoot.

Everyone was on their own today.

Jared and I started out before sunrise (5:15am) with the goal to get to Lamar Valley by 7:00am. We decided to take the Madison-Norris-Canyon to Tower to Lamar route today.

In Norris, we found a coyote hunting and 6 bull elk grazing by the road and one huge bull elk standing in the middle of the road. It was still pretty dark so I didn't take the time to photograph them.

The drive to Lamar was uneventful. We arrived there around 7:00 am. We cruised Lamar a few times and other than a zillion bison and their babies, and some pronghorn nothing super exciting was seen.

During these cruises of Lamar, We visited the Soda Butte picnic area once and found a cinnamon bear grazing but he was too far out so we returned to the SB picnic area again around 9:30am. The Uinta ground squirrels were out with their babies BUT so was the ermine (short tailed weasel) who resides there as well.

Marty and George joined us photographing these critters. The ermine finally came out of his den, and like lightening, he snatched up a Unita squirrel baby and went back into his den in like 3 seconds!

I was chimping my previous images and I missed the 3 second event but Marty and George got like 2-3 frames... Marty got a nice image of the ermine in midair.

The adult squirrels chased him but it was too late. The weasel would poke his head out and several adult Unitas would go after him...

then a mother Unita ground squirrel started (one by one) picking up her babies and carrying them to safety in their nest in her mouth.

I have never heard of or see such an event. It was fascinating to watch and photograph. She worked hard to protect her babies. I have some great images of this behavior.

We had lunch in Gardiner with Marty and Linda at Cowboys.

After lunch , we went back to Lamar but it started to cloud up and rain.

We ran into a "black bear jam" but there was no photo op but several tourists thought there was one. We moved on.

It was raining pretty good by the time we got in Lamar. A few jams but mostly folks with spotting scopes. Another bear jam but again, no photo op.

We were coming back into Lamar after a short trip back to the Soda Butte picnic area and there was another jam... this time a wolf jam!

A grey wolf was up on the ridge but then disappeared.... I asked Jared to drive down around the bend as she might be there..... with my 70-200 in hand, window open, we go around the bend and OMG, there she was, like 30 yards from me and I froze......just froze. I was stunned she was so close.... she wanted to cross the road but cars and people blocked her way so she retreated back up the hill and I quickly got my 500+1.4TC and took several snaps handheld of her on the hillside. She wasn't going to "get away from me". I got 2 good frames of her. This was the closest I have been to a YNP wolf and it was just plain awesome.

After that event, it was raining harder so we went to the Hitching Post pullout and my photog friend, Jim Chagaras radioed my photog friend, Ralph Kerr (we were all on the same channel) and Jim told Ralph a golden eagle just flew over his car and landed on a rock on the hillside.

Time for more action, I asked Jared to drive parallel to the eagle on the rock and I took 6 frames or so of the golden eagle, handheld at ISO 3200. The images turned out pretty well.

All of this happened within 10 minutes. Whew.

We decided to head back to the hotel around 5:30pm and take one last loop around the park.

We photographed two nice bull elk in Hayden Valley; Another bull elk by Yellowstone Lake (though I asked a lady "whats going on'? she said "its a moose!" and I said "great".... and then I look over the edge of the river bank and the "moose" was a bull elk..... I love Yellowstone and all that comes with it.

We then traveled to Madison and found some nice cow elks and some calves by the Madison River. I wanted elk calf pics so I photographed them along with the cow elk. (see blog pic)

We proceeded to the Wild West Pizzeria for the Groupshoot finale dinner at 8:30pm. Everyone had a a great time and has some memories that will last a lifetime.

I asked everyone at dinner "what was your most memorable photographic moment?"

Here are the answers:

Mark P: The Unita ground squirrel mom carrying her babies one by one out of harm's way from the ermine.

Jared P: Schwabacher's back ("like glass") reflecting pond with reflections of the Tetons.

Marty B: The Bull Moose at the east entrance

Linda B: The Swan Lake Flat Grizzly and her two cubs

Dane A (and Shari): The Pine Marten at Hell Roaring.

George L (and Margaret) : The Rainy lake black bear and two cubs

Barb G: The rainbow at the brink of the lower falls.

The 2012 MPEG Yellowstone/Grand Teton NP Groupshoot was very successful with near perfect weather all 8 days (rain just 7 hours out of 8 days!). The timing was right as the Park is getting busier every day with this weekend expecting to see a huge influx of tourists from now until after Labor Day.
I want to Thank Kim, my wife, for holding the fort down at home alone; Jared for his companionship and driver role at times; My photog friends, Ralph Kerr (from Idaho) and Jim Chagaras (and Debbie) from Indiana for their friendship and the laughs along the way.

Of course, my Thanks to Barb, Dane (Shari), George (Margaret), and Marty and Linda for their appreciation of the opportunity and their kind support and co-operation.

AND a Special Thanks to all of the 100+ readers of this blog during this groupshoot. your kind comments and emails have been most appreciated!

I will offer this Groupshoot again in 2013 (tentative dates June 2-9, 2013) but it will NOT be offered in June 2014 as MPEG will be planning a Groupshoot to Yosemite National Park in May 2014.

If you haven't been to Yellowstone to the Grand Teton National Parks, you must go!

Happy Shooting!


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