Not only are there moose around but if you get up very early and can locate some elk you my be treated to watching a bull elk taking care of his harem (this means watching over the cows and driving away rivals) and bugling.
As the moose rut progressed the bulls were getting more active. One morning we got to watch this bull drive away a younger one then chase the early cow first i n one direction then in another. They were moving at good speed and sent some photographers running. They can turn on a dime and are as agile as a lot of horses.
Down by the river the willows grow very tall and thick. This provides food for the moose and also hides them very well. I tend to not go into the willows, you never know what may be in there with you!
Every wonder how a hot air balloon gets from its bag to up in the air? Last Saturday I had a chance to see the process. While the balloons never flew they were all inflated and most impressive in the dark. The Classic was held close to where I’m camped at a friend’s so we went over to spend the evening and see what we could learn. I expected that spectators would be held back by fences, kept away from the balloons but not so. We were able to get up close and watch as the baskets/gondolas were moved into place, the deflated balloons unfurled and spread out then inflated. It was an interesting process and really takes quite a crew to get it all done. Needless to say putting them away is another process that involves a good crew.
As the evening progressed and it got darker the balloons really did glow. There were close to 20 balloons at this event. It was such fun to see and photograph them and now I have a new appreciation of the work that goes into managing a hot air balloon. I imagine the camaraderie the balloonists have is similar to what we Casita folks or photographers have. A common bond we all enjoy.
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From the Grand Canyon I headed south to Sedona where I had a reservation at Cave Spring CG. That is about 7-9 miles north of downtown Sedona in the lovely Oak Creek Canyon. Sedona itself is a bit of a hassle, full of tourists (like me) and a single 2 lane road through it. The rock formations around the town are wonderful but not easy to get to. I did take one road up to a trailhead and got a few images, the rest were taken through the windshield with my trusty Canon P&S.
I grew up in a location much like Sedona and decided after a day or two I needed to get out. I headed west and found a small campground at the top of Mingus Mountain with the unlikely name of Potato Patch CG. At that elevation the aspens were turning, it was quiet and only about 1/3 full so I stayed a few days just relaxing with the dogs. No cell signal at the campground but if I drove further up the mountain on a gravel road I could get a signal and had an awesome view of the sunset, too.
One day when I was walking the dogs we came across what I think was a Tarantula (my first) on the pavement. It was only about 1.5″ across but I kept the dogs away from it and hustled to get my camera before it disappeared into the grass.
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From Utah I traveled the Grand Canyon. I got to the Desert View campground(a new one for me) before noon on a Wednesday and was able to get a very nice site. This campground is small, 50 sites, all paved with a nice bathroom and plenty of water spigots. It’s also quiet and sort of out of the way compared to the much larger campgrounds in the park. I’ve spent time at the Grand Canyon before, so I didn’t take a lot of images here. Tried to get some night images, though. When I first got here the moon was full and lit up the canyon.
One of the great things about this campground is that it is away from the central/busy part of the park. I can stand outside my trailer after dark and see the Milky Way from one end to the other in the sky above me, a fantastic sight.
As time went on the moon came up later and I was able to get a few images with the Milky Way over the canyon. Needless to say the canyon doesn’t make much of a foreground, being a big black hole so one night I took my high power spotlight with me and tried lighting up the nearby canyon walls at a couple of overlooks.
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Nightscapes, astrophotography, dark sky images, to me they all mean a very interesting time out in the dark, standing in awe of the night sky. Finding places that are dark enough and yet have an interesting foreground can be challenging sometimes, at other times nature provides wonderful features. Here at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone NP the terraces of the hot springs make an interesting foreground and the nearby commercial area provides just the right ambient lighting so there is no need for light painting (which would be frowned upon because it might disturb animals). This time of year the Milky Way is in just the right place to make an interesting image even better.
I’ve made several trips to Lamar Valley from this base, spending lots of time watching a bison carcass in hopes of seeing a bear or wolves. The best time is at sunrise but the thing is too far away (close to a mile it has been estimated) for me to get any decent images so I opt for a bit later time and still enjoy watching whatever critters can be seen. Yesterday there was a pack of 10 coyotes running and playing below the carcass but still on the far side of the river. A herd of Bison moved by us and I enjoyed watching them graze and interact. A couple of bulls were sparring, maybe practicing for the future? The mature bulls can get up to 6′ high and are quite impressive as they move slowly along.
Monday, Sept. 1, I moved from Mammoth Hot Springs campground over to Madison Jct. campground. That evening it was very clear so I headed out to see what could be photographed. Great Fountain Geyser does erupt but not all that frequently or predictably so I had to settle for some steam from it being lit by the moon.
Just down the way on Firehole Drive is White Dome Geyser which erupts every 20 minutes, allowing me some nice images. This first one was taken just after the moon set, giving enough light to silhouette the geyser but allowing the Milky Way to be seen.