They are so cute! I just love grouse chicks. As soon as they are dry after hatching, they are up and going! Now they might trip on the grass, run under mom everytime a pine needle hits the ground, but they are just amazing! Now, how do you take advantage of this kind of situation?
First, I’m incredibly lucky this all unfolded on our property. It’s just me and the grouse. Watching their actions, feeding and moving on, watching their path and looking towards where they are going you can figure out possible places they will stop and graze. Mom is walking as slow as she can, the kids are running all out to keep up. And the light….it’s just dark!
With all that movement and the slow shutter speed (1/25 – 1/80), any movement will blur. That can be a plus and a minus depending on how you plan your shot. Using Peak of Action, you can stop a lot of movement even at slower shutter speeds. You will still have images that are soft, but you will have many that are sharp. In this case of the dandelion blossom disappearing, I like the little bit of movement.
Still on one knee, handholding and with the light no better, I was shooting nearly wide open. The band of focus is pretty narrow and at 400mm and how close the click was to me, it worked perfectly! I didn’t want the background in focus, didn’t want the foreground either so I placed the chick as you see it in the frame for those reasons. Pretty simple stuff, just having fun shooting the wildlife in the yard.
10min later, they are heading back towards the forest and the rain is coming harder. I had errands to run so I put the camera in the house, told Jake where the grouse family were and left. As we were leaving, Jake was walking out with his 200-400 and had more fun with the family until the down pour just got too intense.
Why no flash fill? I know that question is coming so thought I would head it off at the pass. Many reasons, the main one being I liked the light quality. I didn’t need to mess with it, I wanted the stormy feel to the images. The next, it would add more weight to the gear and I was already shooting slow enough I didn’t want to hassle it. Lastly, I didn’t want to take the few extra minutes to grab it. Could you use flash fill here? Heck ya, easily and quite successfully. If all conditions were perfect, do you wish you had grabbed your flash? Nope! Why not? Flash would have changed the whole feel. I like it just the way they it is.
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
My wife has the best eyes! Besides being able to melt me to the kwik, when it comes to spotting wildlife, there is no better! “It’s, a, come quietly, don’t disturb the dogs, ah….it’s in the yard!” She was looking for the word Sooty Grouse but her mind was stuck on Blue Grouse which is what they were called just a couple of years ago. No matter, I knew what she was saying. I walked over to the window, spotted them, saw their line of travel, grabbed the gear despite the rain and got outside. It was dark when I started, shooting at 1/25 under the pines and at 1/80 when they family went out across the open.
By the time I got outside, the family group, hen and 4 chicks had moved from the front to the back and over to the neighbors. They were focusing in on dandelions, the young leaves and flower blossoms and doing a good job cleaning them up. It wasn’t like I had some place to hide, the rain was dropping so I took a knee and let them walk up to me. And they did, walked right up to me and then pass me. We always wonder if this is the same female that has been coming to our meadow for a decade, one of her chicks, just who she is. When a Steller Jay flew overhead, one of the chicks (7-8 days old) scurried for safety under mom. I like this shot. mtc
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
“Say thank you now!” I don’t know how many times I was reminded that growing up, but it sure seems like it was an awful lot. It was one of those lessons in life which made no sense to me at the time but man, it sure does now. It seems at times we got to where we are all on our own but we know that’s not the case. There are an awful lot of folks behind us helping get where we are. This is especially true if you’re successful in photography!
While I am thankful for those who have shared their photographic knowledge with me, I am more thankful for those who have shared their worldly knowledge with me. For example, I have written forever that my success as a wildlife comes from the biologists I work with (and now in aviation it’s the pilots making me successful). Like the marmot project up in AK, I would never had my glass on the Alaska Marmot one day and then on the Hoary Marmot (pictured here) the next without dedicated biologists. The adult and spring young were amazing subjects and ones we would have not gotten on without the biologists. We had to make the shots, but they got us there to make those shots. Like I’ve always told our sons, “I can open the door for you but you have to walk through it.”
In photography, no matter what genre you’re in, saying thanks is a must and not just for your own sake! Had an conversation with someone in the last couple of days that brought this topic to mind and I guess, because for me it seems rather natural, the story really fried my feathers (yes, Moose have feathers). Bottomline, the person I was working with had been burnt by a number of photographers, not just one but a number. He’d put himself, knowledge and time out their for these photographers and he never got a thanks, a print, a file, nothing. The photographer took and never gave back. And yet, because of their nature allowed one more, me, into their world. It might seem strange, but I do this blog to say thanks to those long ago who gave freely of themselves so I could grow. Most of them I know don’t read the blog because sadly, time has marched on and they have passed. But that debt remains that a simple thank you still doesn’t suffice. So sending the biologists prints of this moment in this marmot’s life with flies buzzing all around them yet taking time to say hello means alot. Means a lot to the biologists and to the photographers who come along after me so the door is still open for them.
What’s the best way to say thanks? The words at the moment don’t hurt, that’s for sure. But the best way is the gift of art. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, giving the print is the best thing you can do. It say thanks like no other gift. And on the business side, if your art is hanging on someone’s wall, they will never forget you. That my friends is very powerful stuff! We keep the Epson 4900 humming all the time making thank you prints and what flows from them just keeps the world turning. I had no clue growing up how much that constant reminder of saying thank you would effect me later on. It drives me nuts when folks don’t say thanks to me and even more when other photographers burn bridges when they don’t say thanks to those who make the photograph possible. Many ask what’s the secret to making it in this business for 30yrs. I know it’s not my charm, but it might be I at least know how to say thanks. Thanks goes a long ways!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-20e3 on Lexar UDMA digital film
The Panamint Chipmunks are out in force this spring, the ground seems to be moving there are so many of them. They provide hours and hours of entertainment especially right now as they are in love. You can easily spend hours chasing them with glass right now as they run about finding mates and making chipmunk love and come back with very few clicks. They just don’t hold still. Seriously, you can see 20+ at one time from our office window darting about! Well, I don’t have that kind of time plus, I’ve made a click or two of them over the years so I pick my time and place.
What I do anymore is wait for them to come to me. That really is simple, they climb Tree2 and wiggle across the branch towards the feeders and wait their turn in line. Our yard is bursting this year with Evening Grosbeaks and they rule the roost. Other then the Steller Jays, no other bird, chipmunk or squirrel takes them on. There can be as many as 8 at the feeder at one time (with a dozen waiting in line) and that’s enough bills to hold everything else at bay. This makes for a great photo opp for me as the chipmunks wait their turn.
Using my favorite “out the window” lens, the 300f4AFS, i simply stood at the window when I saw a chipmunk make its move. Part of the trick is to not flush all the grosbeaks (Evening and Black-headed, no Rose-breasted yet) that scare off the chipmunks. The grosbeaks are so close I need my reading glasses to focus on them, that’s close! There are only certain times in the day I’ll do this, when the light spotlights certain parts of the branch. Many of the branches are too thick so I won’t shoot things on them. Others are just not to purty and others have bad backgrounds. So my shooting time is a narrow window. When the conditions are right, I just wait until I have a character show up. I liked this guy (I knew it was a guy when it turned around) because of the determination that was on his face trying to wiggle into the feeder line. Because of that I underexposed a little more then normal to make the shadows drop and opened the lens up to f/4 so only its face was sharp. What often happens and always makes me laugh is the frustration the chipmunks often face and how they display that when they can’t get to the feeder. The bottom shot is so typical, that is the reaction when the frustration gets to them. These kinds of photos besides being so much fun to shoot are great money makers for a couple of reasons. Most don’t spend time with chipmunks and who doesn’t love a chipmunk making them good page fodder. Too much fun!
Photos captured by D3x, 300f4AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
Here in the Sierras, nesting is now in full force with most species just now setting down on eggs. I realize we’re behind some areas and a head of others but here at home, it’s time for portraits. What do I mean by that? The majority of bird species, the female with her dual plumage does most of the daytime nest tending. The males, the brighter colored of the two is either standing guard or bringing food into the female. Either case, they tend to be T’d up on a perch dying for their portrait to be taken.
The first thing you need to do is find the nest. That often requires some bin time, sitting, watching and learning. The males will often have one perch they favor and that’s what you need to find. Once it’s found, you kinda wanna figure out their routine. Not that you can set your watch by it, by you wanna limit your time with a camera to safeguard the nest. No photograph is worth sacrificing the welfare of a subject! With all of this, look at the light and background. With the Raven above, it was real simple. Nice lighting and clean background. With this American Kestrel, great background but not so nice light. This is a great example where flash fill was needed.
This perch the male California Gnatcatcher used after it left the nest, not before. I kinda like those better because the pressure to take in food and being careful of predators is not so intense so the critters are more “relaxed” in the frame. The last thing you can do is keep the bird off nest! This is also my favorite kind of light for taking portraits, that’s overcast. Overcast not only is this giant softbox but means cooler temps which works best for the nest. Heat stress kills and kills fast!
But using overcast light, you either need to introduce flash for color (Captured has a whole chapter on this) or have a reflector to bounce in light. In the Gnatcatcher photo, the sand/shrubs did a great job reflecting light into this bird so small, it weight less then a nickle. The Upland Sandpiper, a favorite bird of mine, the white side of the Suburban acted as the reflector and did a killer job! Now how long can you stick around and take these portraits? I don’t know about anyone else, but I get bored pretty fast because once you set up and make the clicks, not a whole lot will change. I do take the time to watch the routine so I have an idea for when the eggs hatch or the kids fledge, otherwise I make the great portrait and move on so I don’t effect the adults. With subjects normally always on the move, it’s nice that at least for a short time each year, they will hold still for a portrait.
Photos captured by D3x, D2xs, D1, D3, 600AFS / 600VR w/1.4 or 1.7x on Lexar digital film
I love Bison! It comes in part because of all the 1850 history I’ve read, I see Bison and my mind goes back in time when the west wasn’t won, a timeless landscape waiting to be discovered (the eeky part of history I try to ignore). Here’s a photo tip.
You might notice how in these top two images, the Bison seems to “pop.” This is a combo of using 600+1.7, shooting at f/6.7, getting down low, having the Bison on a ridge and the clouds in the background. I set up so I had all those things working for me. A recent question I’m getting alot is how to work in highnoon light. Here’s another example of that and this case, all that tan grass is bouncing light up into the dark Bison filling in some of the shadow.
And this photo? Oh, I posted it just because I love that face!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e / 600VR (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
I’m at one of my favorite places, the Black Hills in SD. I’ve been coming here for 24yrs and I just never get tired of the views, the critters and the tranquility. One of the great species here are the Pronghorn. I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds watching and photographing them. There is one very important secret to making the shot work that was past on to me by a dear friend so I’m going to pass it along to you.
It’s real simple. Look at the eye(s). What do you see?
You don’t see anything in the middle image, just a black hole. That big bulbous eye is the biggest dang reflector you’ve ever seen and when it isn’t reflecting a thing, the pronghorn looks as dead as dead can be. The bottom photo, it is obviously backlit. If that the case, then how come it’s not in shadow and more importantly, you can see into the eye. How come? The Suburban and gravel are bouncing light into the pronghorn. Use everything you’ve got to make the shot!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
I love shorebirds and have traveled north (as in Alaska / Canada) to photograph them on their nesting grounds many times. That’s because I love seeing them in their breeding plumage. So we were photographing the clouds in the last posting when I turned and looked over in the river to see a bird silhouetted. I said, “Willet?” How could that be, in April, here? It wasn’t moving fast and I began to wonder if it got caught in the blizzard and blown to where it was now.
I burrowed Sharon’s binoculars and sure enough, it was not only a Willet, but one in breeding plumage! Well, had a heartbeat or two of hesitation, I went back to the truck and grabbed the 200-400 w/TC-17e and headed over to the river bank. It wasn’t a great photo opp with the backlighting but this was the only the 2nd time I’ve seen them in breeding plumage and first time to try to photograph them. So I went for it. As first, it hunkered down and then it perked up and decided to start foraging. I was crouching down, shooting handheld off one knee.
After a few minutes of foraging, it had walked right up to me. While not the greatest Willet photo I’ve ever taken, it is the first in breeding plumage and the first in the Eastern Sierra so I’m darn happy. After this, I scooted away and left it to its foraging. The light was just getting worse and there was no way I could improve it and I was supposed to be teaching landscape photography so off I went. What a cool treat though. Just goes to show you that you get out with your camera, something will appear.
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film
To be honest with you, I don’t even remember the last time I tried to photograph a soaring bird with the 600mm mounted to a tripod! I can tell you by my performance, it was a really long time ago. I was on the bend of the levee working the Ripairan Brush Rabbits with wildlife really just about everywhere going about their life as if I wasn’t there. The way I like it. I had a Coyote cruise right past me, never stopping or looking at me. I had a mink, my first wild one, jug past me as well. And overhead all morning were the raptors like this Swainson’s Hawk (listed species in CA).
Back to being rusty (putting it nicely). It’s not that I had a sharpness issue, panning the 600mm on the tripod even with the lens pointing to the sky wasn’t an issue, I’m not rusty there. Rather, it’s getting the subject in the viewfinder in the first place that I’m rusty! Panning at eyelevel is pretty simple but as soon as you point that lens skyward and you have to bend at the knees and careen your neck, life gets hard. Especially when you have to navigate the tripod legs. I missed a number of great opportunities until I finally got back in the flow of doing this. The worst thing was, I couldn’t raise the tripod like I would have wanted or really move much because I didn’t want to tip my hand to the bunnies that I was even there. I thought the raptors overhead (I had Red-tailed, Swainson’s, Blk-shdr Kit & Harriers) would have sent the bunnies looking for cover, but such was not the case. And when it comes to the final photo, I like the bottom photo much more then the top. Shooting straight up on a raptor, looks like a mobile you find in some nature store. There is no life to the flight, it’s just there. It’s the bottom photo I prefer where the bird has room to soar, the primaries have a bend to them from catching the wind and the head is cocked suggesting that flight is really easy. And before I head out with the rabbits again, I’ll be lookin for some way to practice my long lens / overhead technique. I hate missing photos because of pilot error!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film
I stepped out the front door to see a shooting star streak by, I took that as a good omen. It was 04:30 when I pulled out of the drive and headed down the road. The wind was blowing pretty hard, which in the winter means a storm is coming but looking up, all I saw were stars. I headed north to a gorgeous sunrise over the Sierra crest. I made a turn west on Hwy 50 and headed over the mtns. I no sooner got west of Lake Tahoe and the rain started, and it poured! I was driving 396 miles and rain would definitely put a damper on my day.
The Riparian Brush Rabbit is a listed species I first photographed 20yrs ago when the world population was best guessed at a couple dozen. Way back then, I spent five days to get a couple clicks of one individual. It was a lot of time for the shot, but it turned out to be “the” shot for the species for a long time. Since then the same biologists I worked with back then have been working amazingly hard to help recover the species. I arrived on site just after noon today and was instantly in the researchers’ vehicle looking for rabbits. You see the winter has been a wet one here in CA and the rivers levels has raised to the point where the RBR habitat has flooded out in many regions and they’ve had to go by canoe and rescue rabbits that are up in the tops of trees trying to escape the flood. Last week 125 rabbits were rescued with 34 being found drowned. Yeah, the population has increased with the captive breeding program the biologists started a decade ago.
We cruised down the levy and much to my delight I saw over 30 RBR this afternoon! I’m not here to take just portraits of the RBR but since I had the opportunity this afternoon, I took advantage of it. The rain had stopped and when the sun came out the bunnies came out to warm up. They are brush rabbits so photographing them in the brush is an important part of the photograph. At the same time, getting a clean shot of the eye is a must and after that, it’s to taste to tell the story. You become an expert real quick of finding their runways, tunnels through the brush that you can shoot down. Then it’s a fine dance up, down, left, right to get the shot tuned, including needed elements and excluding the rest. Handholding is a must to have that kind of flexibility in framing. After that, it’s getting the right gesture in the rabbit, which includes eyes, jaw and ears. I like this one because the wabbit has attitude that I see as, “I’m not going to smile so take your damn shot and leave me alone.” We spent about 10min with it before we continued down the road on task. This is another long term project I’m very honored to be a part of, starting back in the days of film. Well, it’s time to hit the sack. I’ll be up again early tomorrow. Shhhhhh, be vewy, vewy quiet, we’re hunting wabbits.
Photo captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film
It’s that time of year again when the snow disappears and spring brings a new beginning. Depending where you are, you might be seeing the birds just arriving back from migration, they might be just now courting or they might already be on eggs. Birds are such a killer way to celebrate spring, while you’re reading this we’re celebrating as I have for 24yrs, out on the lek with Greater Sage Grouse (it will be our 1st morning with them this season). While the portraits are very cool and an important part of the wildlife photography story, telling the whole story requires a little bit more biology, technology and time.
Be it Common Murres, Arctic Terns, Eared Grebe or a House Finch in your own backyard, they are make great subjects. Photographing nesting birds is a huge challenge and a great responsibility. I’m still of the opinion anyone can do it if they take great care, understand basic biology and start now when time is still in your favor. Where do you start? Well, there is a little read paper right hear on the site on photographing nesting birds that I personally think is a great place to start. But it’s not the end all!
For example, when you read that piece written a long time ago, you’ll notice technology has changed a lot. The biggest change for the 2011 season I’ll be making is employing the Pocket Wizard MiniTTl. One of the past issues has been having the flashes placement restricted by line of site. This can be a major problem when you have branches and the like between you and the flashes. Here’s the key to all of this, start now! So I’m testing the flashes with the Minis now but setting up the gear, finding obstructions and testing. You might not be at that place yet, you might be at the beginning. I highly recommend you read the paper here on the site on nesting birds and see if it even interests you first. If it does, you should then pick up a copy of Captured and give it a read. Now if you get through all of this and still are interested, give this video a watch. If you’ve made it this far, then get a pair of binoculars, get out and start looking. The rewards are huge IMHO but you pay the price with the investment in time. I’ve provided a the recipe, you’ve gotta do the baking but the cake when it comes out is oh, so schweet!
My images of the San Joaquin Kit Fox have been on the pages of Nat’l G to the cover of Smithsonian, children posters, books and just yesterday on the CBS Sunday Morning show and that’s still not enough! They are still endangered, to few of the public know their story. Now coming back skunked from a shoot with the SJKF, I’ve done that many times. It’s simply part of the game since wildlife. Just because you’ve put the dates on the calendar and you show up doesn’t mean they will. This is especially true when you’re working with an endangered species and there are 200-400 to possibly work with in the area. Amazingly, I saw 16 individuals and had glass on 15 this trip so that’s one damn, fine start to the year!
I’m starting a new phase/project with the SJKF which will take the next year to knock out and I can’t be anymore excited with the start. 10-12 hours days paid off with big dividends. What you see here is an adult coming up from its den mid morning to see the world and take a nap in the sun. It’s pup season so the den gets really crowded so adults come up to get some space. I saw and photographed six pups at two different den sites, all around eight weeks old. Pups are just so much fun to watch because of all their energy. That’s probably why this adult looks not awake yet. You might be wondering about the background. That’s broken sidewalk, cement which the kit fox has dug underneath and made their den. It’s a very active street and yet this pair has been in this location for years have raised many families from what seems to be a very dangerous location for a fox to live.
Probably the most exciting part of all of this is bringing new gear, techniques and ideas to what is an old subject (I’ve been photographing the SJKF for 24yrs). The SJKF is basically a nocturnal critter though you could easily slip them into the diurnal category. Lighting at night is just not an option for every reason, everything from it being an endangered species to they don’t hold still and in one place. Working with what light is available is a must so the magic of the D3s is really proving itself. I’m not a “raise the ISO” kind of guy but in this case, it is the only option. So shooting at ISO 9000, biology is being photographed not captured before. What was really cool for us and the researchers was shooting video at night at ISO 9000. It’s simply amazing! I shot video with the D3s, D7000 and S9100 with all three doing a perfect job for what they were applied to do.
The project is really, really going to push me which excites and scares me to death. Being on scene basically every other week for the next year will push my calendar and productivity to the max. That scares me. Spending that much time with one of my favorite critters excites me to no end! And getting the shots that will hopefully make a difference is a huge responsibility that evokes the same emotions. I think the last 30yrs has prepared me for the challenge, only time will tell.
Photo captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
Wildlife was on the menu for the day on our Na Pali coast tour. We saw a ton of whales and a lot of breaching. None of the breaching was close enough to photograph but watching the one calf jump for over ten minutes straight! What a show. Well, the whales weren’t the only think jumping.
Not bad for a D3x! We came upon a small pod of Spinner Dolphins. In the pod were a number of kids and they were having a ton of fun jumping and spinning, what they are known for doing. Then an adult and kid came from under the boat heading away from us. Since there was so much jumping and they were so close, I instantly through the lens on the pair. I no sooner did that and the kid launched into the air. I hit the hammer and shot. You can see the entire series here. Talk about big time fun! The camera was set to aperture priority, f/5.6 about 1/1500, -1 exp comp and the AF set to AAA. What a blast!
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
The Red-footed Boobies are absolutely great fliers that just suck me in for hours upon hours. Then I remember to put the lens to my eye. On Kauai at the lighthouse, you can do just that and it’s great! And watching other photographers, this is the photograph they seem to be trying to capture. The basic sharp flight shot.
And there is nothing wrong with that, not one thing. You can see on photographers faces when as they chimp how well they did in their photographic attempts. There is nothing better then to see a smile as they chimp. But being me, I looked over at the monitor and wanted to shake the photographers and say, “There is so much more!”
The problem is, I didn’t have the shot to show what I was thinking. While this bottom shot does begin, barely, to show off the expertise and elegance of these goofy birds in flight, it’s not they shot. The shot is this amazing graceful bird soaring just inches above the rough surf just below. No matter how I tried today, I couldn’t get that shot. I’m going back though and if I’m lucky, I’ll have it to share with you later. The point is, while the basic image that is sharp is good start, don’t stop there. Push, push, push!
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
Once down to just 30 individuals, the world’s rarest goose, the Hawaiian Nene is now while still listed as endangered is up to about 1700 individuals. Each of my visits to the islands over the years, I’ve wanted to photograph the Nene.
I’ve never gone actively looking for it, just figured that in my travels I would come across it and get some shots of it. After my third visit seeing a glimpse of one, it started to bug me I couldn’t get glass on it.
The thought went through my mind again when I saw the sign for a Nene Crossing. Saw the signs but no birds. Saw the sign this morning but saw no birds. Jake saw some but he had no idea that dad wanted to photograph them. So there we were watching the boobies when all of a sudden I saw one just appear right next to me. I left everything else and started to work with the one bird. Then a second appeared and I spent more time with them. Ten minutes later they disappeared and I figured that would be my one and only encounter with them and was grateful for the small time I had. As it turned out, all I saw the rest of the bloody day was the entire Kauai Island population of Nene at every turn. The question in my mind is, will I see any tomorrow?
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
I’m brutal to my group! With 20+mph winds, snow blowing horizontally, I take them out to some amazing winter photography! The challenge as I see it is to transport you who is sitting warm inside to walking with those Bison outside. How do you do that?
There is a couple of things. The first is the color temp, don’t warm it up. Let the “blue” of the mismatch of kelvin and AWB give the image a blue color cast. Why would you want blue? Blue is a color that often is associated with cold and in this situation, I want you to feel that cold.
Next there is the wind, there is no setting in the camera or post that makes the wind hit you in the face. So then we can imply wind and let the mind fill in the blanks. In this case, the snow is blowing horizontally so by using a slow shutter speed, we can blur that blowing snow. How slow a shutter speed? That really depends on the wind and in this case, I was down to 1/45. But you can only see the wind blowing where in the photo?
You can only see the white snow blowing in front of something dark, like the Bison itself. To finish this whole thing off, I think you have to capture a posture in the critter that we might interrupt and misery. I feel this bottom photo does that best with the head down gesture brings that out. Hoopefully the photos give you a slight chill.
Photos captured D3s, 200-400VR2 (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
I do love watching and photographing Bison. Next to Grizzly Bear, they are probably my largest file. Spring when the calves are born and winter are my favorite times with them. In my mind though, the winter works only when it looks like winter which I think takes more then the white stuff on the ground. It takes some knowledge and some luck.
Living in the Sierra where we can watch snow storms rolls gives one some insight about coming storms. So there we are cruising through lower geyser basin when we come up to a good lookin herd close to the road and more importantly, frontlit. Even more importantly is the storm I see behind the herd, real dark clouds coming our way. Since the herd was “bare” that depending storm is the only reason we stopped.
And it stormed! Big, beautiful flakes fell and at times obliterated the herd. We didn’t run for cover but rather, kept on shooting. There were some marvelous photos taken in this “bad” weather. Some of the best photography is in the worst weather!
The snow flurry lasted perhaps 20min top and then blew out. The storm didn’t phase the Bison, didn’t phase the photographers but most certainly improved the photography. Knowing some biology, combining that with photography and adding in the magic of Mother Nature’s weather and you’ve got the recipe for great Yellowstone photography!
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
The moment I saw her, I was in love! She had spent some time on the downward wind side of a thermal and when the steam hit in the cold, it coated her in a splendid winter jacket. We stopped and we shot and as how things often happened, nature moved in our direction.
What does that mean? The herd slowly walked to us so the distance was closed at their leisure.
Yeah, it was real simple. With the ice drops hanging frozen from her eyelids and just about everywhere else, she posed at point blank range just long enough to make the shot. It was an amazing Bison day!
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film