Signal of Fall

Rocky Mtn Elk captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5

It was one of those classic Yellowstone scenarios, fall cold temps, a hot springs steaming like a train engine and the king of the Rocky wilderness, a bull elk. This Rocky Mtn Elk bull was busily replenishing his fat reserves after a night long bugling contest. He was looking for any grasses left that hadn’t turned yet, munching ever green blade he could. When we first came upon him, it was long before the sun had kissed the skies, he and we were all alone. Yellowstone is empty, basically having the park to ourselves permitting us to photograph to our hearts content with no one pushing the critters. We’ve been able to just watch the critters, letting go about their lives as we click away. The bottom shot, this was the case. The bull calmly munching away, the morning frost still on his back. For about twenty minutes we stood by the van up on the road enjoying his company as he did just the one thing. Then …

A truck went by, slowed down, slammed brakes and pulled in in a very big hurry. I knew it was a photographer. Argh. Dressed in camo (why I don’t know cause just his driving told the elk trouble was coming) rushing up passed us, who were there first and for a long time and very respectfully just watching and shooting, to get his shot. The top shot was the bulls reaction to the photographer. He was a classic example of a panic photographer moving here and there trying to get what he thought I’m sure would be the award winning shot. The elk reacted by trying to find an exit to get away from this photographer who was running from one end of the parking area to the other. We just stood there, it was obvious that our calm encounter has been thrown out the window. Finally, the bull just made a beeline for the trees. I not only regretted the total lack of ethics of the photographer, total lack of field craft, my shooting with the Z400. I needed to have a zoom to deal with this elk being pushed about by this other photographer. Oh, we never got any kind of aware winning photograph (neither did that other photographer) but we were rewarded with an amazing experience before the sun rose with the best signal of fall!

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NWR Week Day 5

San Joaquin Kit Fox pups captured by F4 / 400f2.8 on Agfa Film

Pixley NWR is one probably only five of us have ever heard of. Located in the lower end of the San Joaquin Valley, it’s the home to a number of endangered critters, the San Joaquin Kit Fox is just one. These six week old pups are staring at the camera because they are looking at their dad. Their dad is enjoying the shade that I and my chair are creating as I sit out in the 101 degree sun.It’s at Pixley where I fell in love with this very charsmatic very endangered critter.One of the first species to be listed as endangered in the US, it’s on the edge of disappearing completely. With less than 5% of its historic range remaining, it literally has no where to run. It’s why in part we have a NWR system and why all this week, entrance is free. Visit the one close to you and take in the wild heritage we were left and responsible to passing on to the next generation!

NWR Week Day 4

Roseatte Spoonbill captured by D3 / 600f4AFS w/TC-14eII

Ding Darling NWR located on Sanibel Island, FL is an incredibly special mangrove swamp habitat preserved for the unique critters of the south. I originally went there because of the large gathering of Roseatte Spoonbills. This crazy looking bird’s color in spring is crazy pinkish-rose with a long bill that flattens and widens at the end. This specialized wading bird was once hunted to near extinction for its gorgeous plumes made a great comeback. Ding Darling for a long time was an easy and gorgeous place to enjoy this gorgeous bird. Ding Darling has been hit many times since I’ve been venturing to it by hurricanes. Its mangrove swamp habitat is adapted to take the hit. Yeah, there is some damage from the hurricanes but they come back. I’ve not been able to hear about and possible damage from Ian but I can’t wait until 2023 when I’m back down in FL and hope that access to Sanibel is restored so once again I can take in the jewel of the NWR system!

NWR Week – Day 3

Caribou on ANWR captured by D2H / 200-400f4

2PM in early spring looks quite different on ANWR. The northern most NWR I think is one of our most treasured and one few have the opportunity to visit. This remote outpost on the edge of the Beaufort Sea well above the Arctic Circle. I’ve only had the good fortune to spend a few weeks on ANWR in a handful of visits over the years but I fell in love with it the first day I stepped out of the plane at Whale Mtn on the Kongakut River. This herd of Caribou can’t even be described as a drop in the bucket when describing the vastness of the herds. I friend too a four image pano with a 500mm lens years back and there isn’t a pixel in the pano that doesn’t have at least five Caribou in it. The herds are that big. To the unvisited it appears to be a vacant, sparse and harsh environment. But take one step personally on ANWR and you find instantly that is far from the truth. It is an incredibly rich, backed, diverse world I so want to spend more time exploring with my camera!

NWR Week – Day 2

The very endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse captured by F3 / 300f4AF w/PK-11a

San Francisco Bay and the land and marshes that surrounded it was a biological marvel prior to 1850. We know this because of the very small slice preserved by the SFBay NWR. An unique member of this habitat is the very endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. Weighing less than a nickle, smaller than your pinkie, this mouse can swim drink and eat saltwater. This old, Kodachrome shot came to be but a freak of luck as a woman at the marsh saw the mouse and shreeked. I was shooting there with the 800f5.6 and would I heard this, I stopped traffic as I stood in the road trying to get the shot. In the mean time, Sharon was rushing back to car to get the 300f4AF and ext tube before the mouse disappeared back into the marsh. Lucky for me, it sat eating its pickleweed until I got the lens and made the click. A special member of our wild heritage!

Celebrating NWR Week!

Sandhill Cranes captured by Z 6II / 800f5.6 AFS

My first time was just as magical as my last time last December to my favorite New Mexico Nat’l Wildlife Refuge, Bosque del Apache. In Nov ’85 I went to Bosque not prepared in any sense of the word for the experience. I definitely did not have warm enough clothing. I ran short of film (yeah, this was film days) the third of my fifth day there. And especially the visual and audible experience this very special piece of our wild heritage Bosque protects. Many ask, “Has it changed?” The answer is a resounding YES and I regret, not for the better. Water is the heart of Bosque and every year, there is less and with less water, so there are fewer birds. And people, they have increased in number and decreased in field ethics and craft. The combination has made the photography not even the same as the “good ‘ol days.” We are so fortunate to have the Refuge system that we do! We are still guests of nature though, we are entering their home and we’re not being the good guests we should be. Managers are having to “corral” us to protect this fragile and vanishing resource. I still say today what I’ve said since the first time to Bosque, it’s one of nature’s greatest spectacles. Everyone, everyone should it experience more than once!

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