On the first morning of our first day in Yellowstone in January 2016, we came across a lone coyote ambling along the road. We drove well past him and got out of the vehicle, crouching as a group next to the front of the vehicle as the coyote continued undeterred and apparently unconcerned about the large dark lump by the vehicle. It was the first time I’d seen a coyote up close and the first time I’d used my 300mm lens. What an introduction to both.
Today, I’m traveling to Yellowstone National Park and the United States Government has shut down because the Congress did not pass a resolution by midnight yesterday to keep it operating. Most government operations will cease. During the last government shutdown in 2013, I was on another photography trip to Grand Teton National Park. On that trip, we never were allowed to enter the Park. And, I thought the same thing was about to happen again. I thought a government shutdown would prevent our entrance to Yellowstone National Park. However, apparently a loophole will allow some of the national parks, including Yellowstone, to remain open with limited resources. So, the trip is on. But, the public restrooms will be closed. Wish me luck.
This is a photograph of one of the pools in Yellowstone’s West Thumb Geyser Basin that I took in 2016. Yellowstone is breathtakingly beautiful in winter and I’m looking forward to exploring Yellowstone in winter again.
Last night at my camera club meeting, I was criticized for the placement of the subject in one of the photographs I submitted for the night’s critique. The photograph (click here) is of a Sandhill Crane very near to and flying toward the edge of the frame not into the frame. This is a photo club composition no-no. In fact, when I first saw the photograph, although I loved it, when I looked again I thought, “it’s too close to the edge of the frame” meaning, there’s no room for the bird to fly. I discussed my concerns with Moose and told him that I was showing him the photograph because I loved it but I also knew the bird was in the wrong place in the frame. He assured me that it wasn’t in the wrong place and that it was really OK to break the rules of composition. Sometimes that can create a powerful statement which is what I felt in this case. The bird’s eye is focused on something out of the frame and it is heading toward it. The placement creates tension and urgency and that contributes to the story. It’s not just a Sandhill Crane flying…it’s a Sandhill Crane flying someplace. A couple of club members asked me why I chose to place the bird where I did (I actually didn’t choose it; I was panning and just trying my best to keep the bird in the frame but I liked the result). One member even offered to move the bird to a better place in the frame using Photoshop. While I appreciated the generous offer, I told him I knew how to do that but I liked the tension in the photograph. I don’t think I convinced him. It was a bit ironic, I thought, because the evening’s judge started out by talking about breaking the rules of composition. Apparently though, sometimes it isn’t acceptable to break the rules.
Here are two other shots from the sequence. They are still not ideally placed according to the club, but they are not as close to the edge as the original. However, the original shot is still my preferred shot because of the bird’s expression and the wing placement.
When the temperatures at Bosque del Apache drop below freezing, the water in the Train Ponds freezes and the legs of the Sandhill Cranes, sleeping in the pond, become encased in ice. When they awake and begin to move about, bracelets of ice sometimes remain, encircling their legs. This crane is trying to dislodge the ice bracelet so that he can take off more easily. It’s looks sort of like the crane is dancing on ice.
Ross’s Geese and Snow Geese are very similar looking birds and the vast majority of the geese that we saw at Bosque del Apache were Snow Geese. But there were some Ross’s Geese mixed in with the Snow Geese and I think the first photograph shows two Ross’s. The beaks of the two species are slightly different with the Ross’s beak a little shorter and the head a little rounder than the Snow Goose’s. In the second shot, the most visible bird is a Snow Goose. The beak is larger and has a large “grinning patch” on the edges of the beak. The Ross’s beak is shorter with no prominent “grinning patch.”
Late afternoon at the Track Ponds in Bosque del Apache marks the end of the day for the Sandhill Cranes. They return there to roost after feeding all day but there’s always room for whatever delicacies they find on the bottom of the pond. It really is The Golden Hour there.
Tens of thousands of Snow Geese lift to the skies over and over throughout every day in Bosque del Apache. Sometimes their flight is triggered by a predator. We occasionally saw a single Snow Goose paddling in the water after all its flock mates exited, an indication that the bird was not well and would likely soon fall prey to one of the many predators in area, including coyotes, Northern Harriers, and Bald Eagles I’m not sure if it was this Northern Harrier, seen wings outstretched in the lower left quadrant of the photograph, or a bald eagle we saw a few times in the area that caused this particular exodus but the Harrier was feasting on a Snow Goose.
After waiting so long to get photographs of Homer (or Homer, Jr.) with his entire gorget aglow in glorious magenta (Click here), I got to thinking about what a black and white hummingbird photograph would look like. After all, there must have been wildlife photographers shooting hummingbirds with black and white film before the days of color film. I used the Kodak T-Max 100 Pro filter in Macphun’s Tonality CK to convert one of the photos I took a couple of days ago to black and white. I was amazed to see that this B&W film is still available (at least through B&H Photo) and is described as having a very fine grain and high sharpness. It is ASA 100 film, the equivalent of ISO 100 on a DSLR but I made the digital exposure at ISO 1600 because it was quite dark on my north facing patio late on a rainy afternoon. I think the resulting photograph is interesting…a kind of Kodak moment, if you will.
Yesterday’s photograph from the Oregon Coast (well techinically it was the California Coast—but it was my Oregon Coast Trip) was in black and white for two reasons: first, there was almost no color in the original photograph because of the misty, dark, and gloomy skies; and second, I wanted to eliminate what little color there was in the photograph because I wanted the photograph to look stormy and dark, with the wave crashing violently onto the single rock. Today’s photograph, on the other hand, features color. It was one of the last photographs I took on the Oregon trip, at Bandon Beach as the sun dipped beneath the horizon. We stopped shooting a minute or two after I took this shot. The tide was coming in and the orangey gold hues of the sunset reflect on the tide waters rising toward us.