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
Holy Crap, what a bloody amazing day! We started out with a much warmer day at -7 which always concerns me but we headed out just the same. We headed up the Madison River and 30min before sunrise I spotted five wolfs across the river. I yelled out pretty damn fast, “Wolves, Wolved, 10 o’clock across the river!” in time for everyone to see five members of the Canyon Pack before the disappeared back into the forest. Wow, what a start to the day!
We headed up to the Madison headwaters and there spent a couple of great hours with the Bison herd. We had a ton of great opportunities but it was the entertainment this Black-billed Magpie brought that was a great highlight. The magpie was just doing its basic biology but when you see it go into the ear of a Bison, up its nose or up it ass, or, peek on one’s back until it actually put the Bison to sleep, you ain’t seen nothin! It was the greatest show on earth.
And then there was just those simple moments when Bison are doing nothing other then looking like the master of the plains like they are. We have a great group here who are into photographing Yellowstone and Bison. I know because this was just the start of our Bison day.
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film
Then there are the Bison when it’s cold, they just look their best! This lone bull was right next to the road in the soft afternoon light plowing the snow looking for grasses below. The best part of the angle of the bank it was working, it was great for shooting right down and seeing right into the action. With all of that, we had to stop and work him for a while.
I think the biology of these massive creatures is amazing. This bull walked and walked and plowed and plowed for a good 20-30min before after all his work, he found some grass to eat. In winter, the survival game is all about calories in vs calories out. He spent a lot of time looking before finding that one patch of grass. But he is obviously healthy so whatever he is going is working for him. And with a face like that, it’s working for me too. Another 1800 image day, more to go through, and more to shoot tomorrow. I love the cold!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
Just stop, point and shoot!
We headed out to Artist Point at the Grand Canyon. The combination of steam and the height of cone basically made the falls disappear from this vantage point. No problem, there is always lots to photograph from here. I took out the big lens knowing this and had some fun. First, I photographed an old friend. I don’t know how many times I’ve photographed this tree on the point but made a note to myself to this time go home and pull them all up. I’m curious how much my photographic impression is of this tree and its change over the decades.
Then while I was looking at the cliff face, I started to see a face here and there. I like this one, look like Luke just before getting zapped by the snow monster. Yeah, I have a vivid imagination.
But no sooner then I find Luke, I find the snow monster. It makes me smile and any photograph that does that, is a keeper!
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
It was -38 when we headed out today, I knew it was going to be a great day. And it was! Once again, after the day and dinner with the gang it’s late and I’m cramming to get it all done so I’ve picked a couple of my favorites of the day to tell the story.
We were at Gibbon Meadow before the sun hit. It was just glancing off the immense ground fog bank created by the super cold temps. I love this meadow, spent hundreds of hours here and this morning was just another special one. Here’s the key to the photograph. How do you want to express your feeling from standing out in -38 air as the hoar frost floats by and bites your nose? You could underexpose and bring out the coming light. You could expose with zero comp and just let mother nature do the work for you or you could dial in +1/2 exp comp and bring out the lightness of the morning. All are correct, all would work and all could tell the world how you felt at experiencing this moment. Personally, I went with zero, I let mother nature do the work. What a great start to the day!
Photo captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
Our third stop was with the incredibly cooperative Bald Eagle. I’ve never spent so much time with a Yellowstone Bald Eagle as this one which stayed on this one perch for two and a half hours! We spent an hour with him, leaving once the light was too much for my taste. I wish we’d been on him much earlier because the hoar frost on the tree where he was perched was to die for! That’s what really made the shot which disappeared as time went on and the day warmed up to zero degrees. But let’s look at the major problem with this shoot. Can you tell what it is?
If you said background, you hit the nail on the head! The top shot is the very first vantage we had of the eagle. Since they normally don’t stick around, we made our “record” shot. I went vertical to grab a little something in the lower right corner to attempt to overcome the horrible scuz clouds in the background. I could only take this so long and once I figured out this guy wasn’t go nowhere, I moved!
I like the middle image background the most but that’s probably because the light was still OK. If you compare the top and middle image, you can see where that gray scuz really does suck for a background. The bottom image, I like the background because it says winter but by the time I got to this location, the light had become hard. The physically distance I walked from the top frame to the bottom was about 60yards. This is in part because of the major change I wanted in the background. It is also because of the trees on our side of the Firehole River we had to shoot through. The eagle was on the other side of the river and that along with the warmth of the sun is probably why it stayed around so long. By the time we left him, it was coming up on 13:00 and we’d only traveled a few miles since the beginning of the day. Excuse me now, I’m really excited to look at the rest of the day’s images.
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-20e on Lexar UDMA digital film
After making an A Stop, we turned south down the road taking us up the Firehole River. The day had warmed up to -10 by this point which isn’t great but still made for some great drama with light and steam. We came around the corner to see this gorgeous view. There was NO WAY we were going to pass up this magnificent offering to the B&W gods!
As I mentioned yesterday, the trick to making steam images I think is to click, click, click. In the case of both of these images, a total of 75 were taken to come up with these two I really like. What is it about them I like? The main subject, the couple of black, predominant trees amongst the rest. Those blacks set the stage for the rest of the shades of gray and white. Then there is the stair step pattern to those shades that is highlighted by the rising steam. The last key to the puzzle is knowing the power of Silver Efex Pro 2 and its Structure slider. It can pull out detail, subtle detail that makes the B&W really zing! What a great second stop to the day!
Photos captured by 24-70AFS / 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
Yeah baby, the weather turned our way with the morning low at -22! It was a SPECTACULAR day with great photography in God’s country of some rather basic subjects providing big time fun. I could have this day the rest of my life and be quite happy. With only five stops over 10hours, I have 2156 images to go through tonight. Wow!
Out first stop was with this massive gathering of Trumpeter Swans. I’ve not seen so many on the Madison for years so it was great to see and even better to spend time with them. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve not gone through all my images from the day yet. I quickly looked over what I shot and picked those images that tell the story of our day rather then the best photos I took today. These show the moment the sun came over the ridge and first kissed the swans.
The top image is looking west down the Madison. This family group of two adults and a Signet swam up just as the sun picked over. With their gorgeous white plumes and the shadowy background, they pop so it was a no-brainier click to make. The middle image is looking directly across from where we stood facing south. I liked the sidelight and how it pops the white subject from the white background. I don’t like the flare in the lower edge of the frame but included this in the post to show what flare looks like. This was caused from a single stray of light strikes the front element of the frame.
The bottom photo was taken looking east into the rising run. With the cold temps there was a ton of steam and I just love shooting into steam. This bottom and the very top image are my favorite because the direction of the light makes the story come to life. All I did to make the three different images was to swing the lens, I never moved the tripod with the images all made within minutes of each other. It was a glorious start to the day!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film
One of my personal challenges I’ve set for myself these next two weeks shooting in Yellowstone is the ultimate “steam” shot. With the cold temps, the steam from the geyser, steam vents, mud pots freeze on the branches of the trees. This in combination with the steam creating the “icing” is what I want the ultimate photo of. The elements needed then are the steam, the trees, light and luck. Why luck? The steam is never the same, never! The pattern is in constant flux with the wind. So you have to find the first three ingredients and make the last. How do you make the luck? With the first three in the viewfinder, you hit the hammer and let the motordrive create some luck for you. BTW…this is not a B&W image. Stick around, we’ll see how I do.
Photo captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
The Firehole River when it’s cold and there is snow is a great venue to shoot. What makes it unique is the fact the water is hot so the snow is sharply sculpted around the rocks in the river. When it’s cold enough, the snow piles up and the shapes come to life. All you have to do then is pick and choose those that you like.
To pick and choose, you need focal length since you’re shooting down from the canyon wall. This is a challenge because you are also shooting at a slow shutter speed, these taken at 1/2sec. For many, that slow a shutter speed when shooting with a long lens with the tripod perched in snow is difficult. But that’s how these images were taken. How did I get my shutter speed down that low? Closed down the lens all the way and set the ISO to L01. I finished the images using Silver Efex Pro 2, that was the easy part!
Photo captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
Welcome Back Yellowstone Adventure! That’s how I took our very first experience on a our first week back on our first venture in the park this morning. It was pretty classic wildlife photography 101.
We were cruising the Madison and up ahead was a lone bull walking the road. Pretty darn common since walking the groom rather then plowing through the fresh snow. He was walking into the light. So we cruised passed him slowly so as to not change his path. We then went up the road about a half mile, parked, got our gear out and waited for the bull to walk up to us. A few moments later there he came and like clock work, walked right up to us, stopped for a heartbeat and then walked right on passed us. Why stop for this bull? Look at all the frozen winter on his coat. It made him a stand out and a great start to a great day!
Photo captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
When I blogged about my minor discovery of how Vivid in Picture Control helped with contrast in a flat lighting situation, all sorts of emails, tweets and wallpostings came in. Then when I blogged about Exp Comp, even more showed up. Understandably, there is a lot of confusion in these regards stemming I think from a “Post Fix Generation” and general lack of understanding light. If you don’t understand light, you’re behind the eight ball at the camera and in post since light is what photography is all about.
The blog and it’s limited space only affords me so much in the way of help, but here’s something that I hope you can easily see on your monitor and it has to do with light and back engineering images to learn from them. When shooting in snow, as I’ve written about in the last few weeks, you have this magical, giant white reflector that bounces light everywhere. That’s if, you have light to bounce. Looking at the Bison photo above, you can see with the gorgeous filtered light the Bison’s great brown coat. To me, this is near perfect Bison light because you can see so many shades of brown. And with the white nearly a perfect white value, the exposure is about as good as it gets, technically.
Now look at this photo of a Bison, one from the series I posted from Vivid. Do you see any brown on the Bison? Do you see any white in the snow? No, the Bison is black and the snow is gray which indicates the total lack of light. The lesson photographers need to grasp. While both images were shot in overcast light, a must for Bison, the top photo is a very slight overcast and the bottom one, it’s snowing dood, there ain’t no light value sneaking in. The top image, the snow has light to bounce, the bottom image, the snow if yuck. In that scenario, the image will be dark because there is NO light. And light is everything!
Could either image be brightened up? You bet, you could use Exp Comp (if you’re shooting in Manual, this won’t work. But that begs the question, why are you shooting like it’s the ’60s?). Exp Comp on the Plus side would brighten up the scene. Should you do that? That’s your call, it’s YOUR photograph and YOUR story to tell. Do you need to technically? Who the %^#*# cares about technical, I sure don’t! Exposure = Emotion, plain and simple. You dial in Exp Comp to express the emotion you feel and want to communicate! And that’s the real problem for most photographers, they just don’t understand how to connect the emotion they feel looking through the viewfinder to the image they share.
Hummm…someone should write a book about that
Photo captured by D3s, 200-400VR (handheld) / D3x, 600VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
There’s this shot I’ve wanted for a long, long, long time. I saw it in my minds eye once, back in the days of film and traipsing around in the Bitteroots. It’s a shot in the perfect light of just a Bighorn ram’s eye and a little bit of its curl. I had the light and had a ram approaching me to where I thought I might get the shot. But no, it wasn’t to happen right this moment.
Thoughts of biology and possible biological events that could occur along with images I want constantly go through my mind when I’m shooting. I find that having those thoughts up front in my thinking helps me be prepared for then they occur to make the shot. I demonstrates at least to myself the importance of not thinking photography but thinking subject. I don’t know about you, but my mind can only process so much at one time. Thinking biology and possible images is where I reach my limits which is why I keep saying the technical side of photography must be dealt with on a subconscious level.
Photo captured by D3s, 200-400VR (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
“Moose, watch carefully, the pack is trying to cross the road.” We crept down the road and set up under the OP. From less then 100yrd away, over the ridge, a chorus of howls filled the air. Then on the ridge, 642F appeared and then disappeared as it jogged towards the pups. Then from behind us a lone howl bounced off the falling snow and down to us. It was greeted with another chorus from over the ridge. The beauty of the silence of the falling snow then filled with the howls from Blacktail and Lave Creek Packs was one of those great wildlife photography treasures we’ll never forget!
The black wolf is the beta 642F (F=female) of the Blacktail Pack. They made a big move north during the night, something they’ve not done for a while. They had made a kill just prior to our arrival at daylight near the heliport at Mammoth Hot Springs. Nate, the wolf biologist who told us the whole store and so much more was standing there telling us how cars on the road were keeping her from crossing (also told a few horror stories of photographers chasing these magnificent creatures) when she finally crossed and appeared on a ridge to the south. It was a great view and we really love this photo because it sums up the morning for us. These magnificent creatures are critters of the wilderness and that’s what we heard, saw, experienced and felt this morning of wolf work.
There was more action with the Canyon Pack since our leaving the Madison. My new friend Jesse has a blog (the wolf biologist) which covers what it is he does as a wildlife tech in Yellowstone. For any wildlife photographer, working with biologists is essential and readers of my work know I credit my success to these selfless folks doing amazing work. Give Jesse’s blog a read, you’ll learn a lot!
Photo captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film
You might be getting tired of all the sheep photos but I just can’t help myself (and there’s still more to come). While I love showing them off, I want to help you get the same image if you have even a hint of the passion for Bighorns I do. I wanted to talk about ridge lining.
These are the masters of the cliffs, literally! Their hooves are designed so they velcro to sheer rock on impossible faces in the nastiest of weather with no effort. This makes them love the high ground, making any predator coming up to them which is really, really difficult. So you often see sheep on ridge lines which is not only biologically very sheep, it’s photographically very cool.
And Sharon’s eye once again make the shot possible! I’m watching one slope and Sharon’s watching another. I have rams staring me in the eye and she’s scanning the ridge line for the cool photo opps. You have a young ram, old ram and a young ewe all demonstrating what it is to be a Bighorn. Once found, it’s a matter of light, background and image size to make the image speak sheep. I love the challenge, I love the results.
Photos captured by D3s, 600VR / 200-400VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
A pair of love struck coyotes in the falling snow stroll down the frozen Lamar River. They are incredibly small in the frame, butts are to the lens, breaking all the rules. I love the photo!
Photo captured by D3x, 600VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
I think it comes from film days when I had just enough money to buy film but not get it all processed right away. Shooting brief action was something I got low returns of success and when it cost money with every click, I wouldn’t take the chance on photographing brief action. Whatever the hesitation is on hitting the shutter release, I push myself now that whenever I see action no matter how brief if the image looks sharp, I hit the shutter release. It does pay off.
We were out in Lamar Valley seeing lots of critters, especially coyotes. There was a wolf kill and they seem to be pairing up, the combination brought them out of the woodwork. This pair was quite enamored with themselves and for a while, ignored the vehicles piling up to photograph them. In fact, most drove off, bored with the two just piss on this push and crapping on that, typical coyote behavior when in love (sound romantic, doesn’t it?).
Then they decided it was time to move and move they did. They ran down the hillside right towards us. I didn’t hesitate, got glass on the single animal, the D3x locked on and I fired. The combination of the action, spraying powder, dried weeds the same color as the coyote scattered about the frame, I really like the image and the whole time with the pair. When love is in the air, critters tend to ignore us and great images can come from that opportunity. With encouragement like this, gotta keep working on that old, bad habit.
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film