…I’m hungry. This week has been Bison Week in Yellowstone National Park for me. The past two winters we saw very few Bison in the park. Happily this year, we have seen several herds in the park. Bison seem to roam everywhere we’ve been including at Old Faithful where a small herd “photobombed” our shoot at Old Faithful Geyser. On our last morning, we were the first snowcoach into the park which gave us the opportunity to see fresh critter tracks and to see the herds of Bison before other park visitors could disturb them. Shortly after our entry into the park, we encountered a herd of Bison still bedded down as the morning sky began to lighten. We were careful to speak softly and not move quickly. The herd members that saw us soon realized we were not a threat to them and went back to sleeping or eating. The young calves were often the earliest to stir and we had a great time watching them nudge the older Bison in an effort to get them to move. This little one was especially adorable as it nudged and nuzzled its mother, seemingly in an effort to get her up.
On Tuesday morning when we stopped at Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park for hot chocolate, one of the yellow Snow Coaches was stopped in the middle of the roadway because a resident Dusky Grouse was underneath it. We weren’t sure how it got there but a few minutes later when we returned with our camera gear, the grouse had moved out into the open on the snowy road. Several of us flopped down flat onto the snow for a better angle of view and focused on the grouse. The bird, that apparently was acclimated to people, worked its way slowly across the snow until it got near enough to the trees that it flew into the nearby pines.
We’re having great luck photographing Bison in Yellowstone National Park this visit. They are everywhere, lumbering past our Snow Coach on the roads, grazing and sleeping in the vast meadows of Yellowstone, warming themselves near thermal pools and geysers. This Bison was just beginning to forage early the other morning as the snow fell and the wind blew past. His face is crusted with ice and snow.
Nothing conveys the cold of Yellowstone in winter better than a snow-crusted Bison. We spent a couple of hours Monday morning photographing a herd of Bison that had bedded down for the night in a meadow and were beginning to stir with the first morning light when we arrived. Their backs were covered with a thick layer of snow and their faces were encrusted with clumps of ice. This one looked particularly miserable.
On our first day in Yellowstone National Park, we watched Old Faithful Geyser erupt and then walked the trail through the Upper Geyser Basin. As we crossed the footbridge spanning the Firehole River, we watched a Bison eat his way toward the river directly across from a fumarole spouting steam at the river’s edge. Two things immediately come to my mind when I think of Yellowstone National Park: Geysers and Bison. The fumarole is not a geyser but it is a common geothermal feaure of Yellowstone. When the Bison entered the water surrounded by steamy fumaroles, I couldn’t help but think this scene was quintissential Yellowstone.
The Oregon Coast is an exciting place to be in winter. When you’re standing on the Barview Jetty at the inlet of Tillamook Bay in the early morning with 43 MPH wind gusts, it is exhilarating. There were warning signs that the jetty structure was not for public use, so we were careful and proceeded at our own risk past the giant boulders that served as a windbreak for us. The several wooden crosses erected as memorials to some souls lost at the jetty were an ominous reminder of the potential dangers. We did have to brace ourselves when the winds gusted but feeling the ocean spray stinging our faces, watching the crashing waves, and hearing the thunderous roar of the ocean in the midst of the stormy waters on the narrow jetty was a thrilling start to the day.
This past week, while visiting the Oregon Coast, we stopped by Tillamook Bay to photograph some sea stacks. We had to walk along the railroad tracks that parallel the Oregon Coast Hwy. (Hwy. 101) and over some boulders to the beach. I am afraid to walk on unstable rocks but I managed to get down to the beach. For our photographs, we were using 10-stop Neutral Density filters to get a dreamy, blurry effect in the water and the clouds. Using the 10-stop filter required long exposures. After about an hour, Moose and the others went furtherdown the beach toward Crab Rock. Not me. I took one look at what they had to walk over to get there, a sea of unstable, rounded rocks, and decided there was no way I would make it with my camera and tripod. My friend Karen stayed back with me. She was not afraid of the rocks but took pity on me, and lent me moral support. The light was changing and I knew if I wanted to get photographs of Crab Rock, I had to get across the foreboding expanse of unstable rocks. I also had a suspicion that there was another, easier, route back up to the road which was further motivation for me. Karen led the way, making sure I was following and offering a supporting arm when I found myself in what I felt was a precarious position. It took me about ten minutes to go 50 feet but I finally made it over those ominous rocks. I set up and started my long exposure (5 minutes 42 seconds) only to hear the “call of the wild pancake” announcement. The morning shoot was over. We were headed to breakfast. This would be my only chance to photograph Crab Rock. Fortunately, my first and only attempt at a long exposure of this rock turned out. I am happy with the result. And, as luck would have it, there was an easier, smoother path back up to the highway on this side of the sea of ominous rocks. Nikon Z7, Nikkor 14-30mm f/4 S, Breakthrough 10-Stop ND filter.
From our hotel in Astoria, OR, we had great views of the Columbia River flowing out to sea. The fishing boats moored there came and went with seemingly no schedule. Sometimes they were there in the day, sometimes they were there in the night. Usually at night when the boats were moored, they were lit by only a single overhead light, the white lights pictured here. On only one night, the entire dock was lit. I didn’t have access to my tripod and it was raining intermittently so I rested the camera on a towel on the balcony railing to get this shot from my hotel room. Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 S.
Cape Disappointment is nothing short of spectacular. The guy that named it (Capt. John Meares) was obviously not a photographer. But then, since he named that cape in 1788, 100 years before the first Kodak camera was sold, he couldn’t have known what a joy it is to preserve the beauty of the world around him. We were at Cape Disappointment for several hours the other day and the gorgeous light there was changing constantly, keeping us constantly alert to its nuances. As the sun reflected its orange glow over the lighthouse the shadow of the lighthouse appeared on the face of the rock as the waves rolled in.
The spectacular waves that engulfed Cape Disappointment the week before we arrived had calmed. Even without the killer waves though, the area is still quite compelling and it is hard not to be drawn to its rugged beauty. The orange glow of the early morning sunrise silhouetted the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse as waves crashed far below at the base of the rocks.
In 1906, the Peter Iredale, a four masted steel sailing vessel ran aground as it attempted to enter the mouth of the Columbia River during a storm. There were no casualties and apparently minimal damage to the ship, but continuing inclement weather thwarted attempts to refloat the ship and it became embedded in the sands where its skeletal remains are still visible after more than 100 years. It is now a part of the Fort Stevens State Park. I used a 10 stop Neutral Density filter to create an 80 second exposure to blur the water surrounding the rusting ribs as the tide rose.
Cape Disappointment does not disappoint. At least in this day and age. Located at the extreme south western tip of Washington State where the Columbia River crashes into the Pacific Ocean, it was dubbed Cape Disappointment by Captain John Meares when his expedition failed to cross the river bar in 1788. In 1856, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was built to guide sailors into the treacherous mouth of the river. In the winter, storms can create huge waves that crash over top of the lighthouse. On our visit there this past week, the storms had calmed from the previous week. But even without the spectacular waves, it is still a gorgeous place to visit. I took his photograph with more than two stops of negative exposure compensation to darken the image. The photograph was taken about 9 in the morning and when the sun disappeared behind a cloud, the dark exposure suggested a moonlit night instead of daytime. Adding the lighthouse beam in Photoshop completes the illusion.
Astoria, Oregon was once known as the salmon-canning capital of the world. By the late 1870’s, the Astoria area, located at the mouth of the Columbia River, was home to 17 salmon canneries. The Columbia River system was the largest producer of chinook, coho and sockeye salmon and steelhead trout in the world. A century later, most canneries, including Bumble Bee, the largest salmon canning company in the world, had closed. The Hanthorn Cannery Museum at Pier 39 in Astoria preserves the history of the canneries and its workers. On the back dock, the aging cannery building proudly exclaims “Salmon for All.” The salmon hued glow of the sunset reflects in the windows and on the sign.
Winter is the time for drama on the Oregon Coast. We’ve had lots of rain, ball snow, and pea-sized hail. We stayed a couple of days at the Silver Sands Motel in Rockaway Beach. One of the great things about our accommodations was that our rooms looked out onto the Pacific Ocean. Just behind the hotel, a sand dune separated us from Rockaway Beach. One afternoon, I walked over the sand dune onto the beach as this squall approached. It was a sample of the kind of weather soon to come. In the distance at lower right, the Twin Rocks sea stacks, south of Rockaway Beach. Nikon Z6, FTZ, 70-200mm f/4.
Early on a December morning at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the rising sun begins to color the New Mexico sky. The clouds and the small hills and shrubby trees that define the horizon line at one of the larger ponds, reflect onto the still waters.
The gorgeous colors of the New Mexico sky at sunset silhouette this pair of Sandhill Cranes as they soar between the clouds on their way to their nighttime roost.
One of the reasons I love photographing birds is that it is mesmerizing to watch them in flight. Capturing that flight in a photograph is a thrill for me. This pair of Snow Geese seems to be floating on air last month in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Their moves seem effortless. Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF.
The water in the Track Pond at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was agitated by the Snow Geese and Northern Pintails paddling around the pond. The lines at the top of this image are the wakes from the feet of a Northern Pintail that swam toward this Sandhill Crane as it took off one morning this past December. Instead of a perfect reflection in the still waters of the pond, the crane’s reflection is broken by the movement of the water.
The colors at sunrise and sunset in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge are nothing short of spectacular. The intensity of the reds and oranges reflected onto the ponds and filling the skies is gorgeous. Many of my favorite images from my December visit to Bosque were silhouettes of birds in the sky or on the water with the intense colors surrounding them like this one, as a family of Sandhill Cranes prepares to roost for the night. Nikon D5, Nikkor 300mm PF.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge has lots more to offer than Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. Of course the main attractions are the Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese but winter is a time to see lots of other birds there. At the refuge’s visitor center, just outside the main entrance, there are opportunities to see lots of other birds, drawn to the area by water features and feeding stations. This White-crowned Sparrow posed for me for quite a while while Gambel’s Quail scurried beneath in the brush.