One of the main reasons I come to the Tetons now is to watch and photograph the moose. This time of year they are in wonderful coat, all shiny and sleek and the bulls are on the lookout for cows. The day after I got settled in at the campground I drove along the river to see what I could find. Lo and behold, there was a bull hanging around a cow with twin calves of this year. I think it was wishful thinking on his part but great to see them all. They graze on the willow shrubs that grow along the river stripping the leaves off the thin branches. Haven’t seen the cow with twins since but it’s good to know she’s out there.
One day I took a drive along a narrow winding road that goes from Moose (yes, it even has a post office!) to Wilson. This handsome elk bull was just coming out of the trees into a large field. When he spotted the stopped cars he kept moving away from us at a dignified pace so I was able to get an image. Butt shots aren’t my favorites but in this case it was this or nothing.
Recently the moose have been coming into the campground early in the morning. I managed to get over to where there was a bull (he’s named Custer) and a cow. This is the same bull I saw at the river earlier. They were both laid down when I got there, he stayed down for 2 hours, got up and moved 10′ and laid down again. They were not particularly close to each other but when the cow got up (after a 4 hour rest) he did too. His efforts to get close to her were wasted so he headed the other way to do “bull moose things” like rubbing his antlers on shrubs or tree trunks, making a wallow. As he did this he swung right coming very close to where I was and thwarting the majority of photographers who anticipated a different direction for him. This gave me some great images as I hid behind 2 trees. I did move back after getting about all I could safely. My 4 hour wait was well rewarded I think.
This morning I was up and out but just missed the real action. Wysockie, a mature bull who seems to be dominant here had arrived. I’ve heard he knocked Custer to the ground. Custer headed away and I followed, thinking Wysockie and the cows would head the same way. Unfortunately my guess was wrong but I was able to get a nice image of Wysockie before he headed to the river with 2 cows.
This afternoon I took another drive just a short way out on the Moose-Wilsoon Rd. On the way back I was stopped by rangers who were holding up traffic…… I got to see 3 bear cubs cross the road and got a few photos through the windshield. Not the best but better than nothing. The sow had already crossed. From the coloring and head shape I think these are grizzly cubs.
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During visits to Yellowstone I usually try to stay on the west side for a few nights. Madison campground makes a good base for getting around to the geysers and thermals. This year was no exception. The Milky Way in the SW sky made a wonderful backdrop for some of the features in the park.
One night I was very fortunate to be able to photograph Great Fountain geyser as it went off. The breeze was blowing the wrong way for trying to capture the Milky Way behind it but it worked out OK. Usually night photography is a solo experience, but at times having at least one other person around is handy. In this case the people happened to be lighting the geyser in just the right way so my photographs were enhanced beyond what I could have done alone. This geyser is unpredictable, the sign said it might go off between 9 pm and 1 am. Fortunately it went off between 10 and 10:30 pm.
When I’m traveling up this way I regularly check out the website, http://www.spaceweather.com. It gives great info about the sun’s activity and possible Aurora sightings. As it turned out there was a faint bit of the aurora visible one night. Not much compared to some I’ve captures but fun to see.
Sunsets, while technically not night photography, can be quite spectacular in Wyoming. With the foregrounds in Yellowstone they are truly fun to photograph.
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Smoke from forest fires was really bad in British Columbia and Alberta on my way south so getting to Glacier NP was my destination. Unfortunately there was a bad fire on the west side of the park with the east side covered in smoke. That made for unpleasant conditions and I left after just a few days. From there I went to Mammoth Hot Springs CG in Yellowstone. The cg is all first come first served which works out fine for me. I got a favorite site and settled in for nearly 2 weeks. I haven’t been to the upper terraces for several years so I went there one morning while the sun was at a nice angle and the crowds hadn’t yet descended
I went to Lamar Valley a few times but didn’t get much in the way of images. Managed to get out one night up to Bunson Peak Trailhead for the Milky Way. Good friends from TN joined me at Mammoth for a few days. It’s a spot they’ve never been to and I think they enjoyed relaxing and seeing the sights. Always fun to spend time with Lynne and David.
From Mammoth I moved down to Canyon Village cg, another favorite place. From there I explore Hayden Valley and a few other spots. This year I didn’t spot but one bear but I made good use of my new spotting scope in the evenings watching the bull Elk come down into the valley with the cows. Fascinating to see them in action though I wish they had come a bit closer. The first evening I took a few images but after that I just watched them with the scope.
The bison were around with 2 or 3 herds moving from one side of the valley to the other, at times causing some massive jams. On the other hand they also created some unique opportunities for photos.
I did get up early one morning to see if I could get the mist rising from the Yellowstone River, that worked out well.
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From Yellowstone I headed back to the Tetons for several days, hoping to find some moose. Second night I was there it was very clear so I headed up to Ox Bow Bend to see if I could capture the Milky Way over the water. All the while I was there I heard Elk bugling.
The moose were around. First morning at Gros Ventre as I was putting on my shoes my youngest (and most watchful) dog started barking at something outside one of the side windows. I got up to look and was face to face with a moose cow that was under the awning looking at me. Yikes!! No chance to get a photo, either! I made certain she was gone before opening the door with the dogs. Sure enough she and a mother cow were a ways behind the trailer so I hurried the dogs in the opposite direction and hoped they wouldn’t notice the moose. They didn’t so all wen well. Once they were back in the trailer and fed I grabbed my camera and headed for the river since the moose were likely to head that way. Sure enough, but with the 2 cows and a bull somewhere around it was also a bit spooky in the willows. Fortunately there weren’t any close encounters and I did capture this young bull crossing the river.
At one point I turned and captured a mule deer who came down to the river.
That was it for the moose until a few days later I was headed out and came across some folks watching a cow, calf and bull at a creek. Managed to get a few images of them.
A couple of days later there were 3 cows and a bull in the campground so I spent several hours watching them. I find it so interesting to watch them interact. When I got there they were all laid down, but eventually they got up and then it got interesting. They all keep an eye on each other, if one cow got near the bull another cam trotting over, but that second one had run away when approached by him. With them all moving about we had to keep our eyes on all of them so we weren’t in their way and didn’t upset them. To be honest watching moose takes a lot of patience, they seem to spend a lot more time laying down than moving around. But for me it’s worth it.
The weather turned very cold, with my down jacket and wind pants being the norm when I went outside. It was also liable to spit snow at any time. After one such day I went over to the well known barn on Mormon Row, the snowy Tetons made a nice backdrop for it.
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I moved up to Mammoth Hot Springs campground the end of August for several days. The fires in both ID and Montana are causing a lot of smoke to blow this way. It’s rare to see a blue sky and when the moon rises it is orange. This makes a good base to head over to Lamar Valley in search of wildlife so I’ve been there a few times and expect to return before I leave here. There is a small herd of Pronghorn Antelope that is sometimes visible so I took advantage of that one day.
I’ve heard of and seen some photos of the Big Horn sheep that live on the cliffs on the road to the North Entrance. Finally spotted them on the way back from Gardiner so I stopped and spent quite a while watching them. I wanted to see where they would go on the cliffs. They moved across the cliffs then went up and around out of sight.
Back in Lamar the bison are all over the place it seems. Yesterday morning I stopped to watch one group and was pleased to also see a Coyote hanging around them. They didn’t seem particularly worried about it but finally one of the bison chased it off. Before that happened I watched a calf following a raven around for about 5 minutes. The calf was always about 6′ behind the raven and seems quite curious.
Then I moved further into Lamar Valley and saw that some of the bison were on the move from up in the hills to down by the river. I parked where I thought a group would be crossing and sure enough, I was right there, too close for many photographs as it turned out.
This last image shows how much smoke has been around.
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On my way to Yellowstone I stopped in the Tetons for only 4 nights. Got another great site at Gros Ventre CG. There is a lot of smoke around, sometimes you could be at the south end of the Tetons and couldn’t even see the north end of the range. Last year the fires were raging in both Yellowstone and GTNP, this year they are not in the parks but still affecting them.
The second night I was there it was wonderfully clear so I went out to see what I could photograph. First stop was one of the old Mormon barns. There were a couple of guys there already and they were using some LED flashlights to light the barn. Not the best light since it tends to be a very cold white but I warmed it up a bit in the processing.
The night was so clear I wanted to take advantage of it so I headed down to Schwabacher’s Landing unsure if the setting would work or not. Yes! Just the spot to capture the Milky Way over the calm waters.
Friday May 26 I was up bright and early to drive from Mammoth Hot Springs campground down to Canyon Village campground. That was the day it opened for the season and I had no idea if there would be a long line of folks waiting or not. I had to take the road on the west side of the park down to Norris then across to Canyon. It snowed a bit and I encountered a group of Bison with some calves making their way along the road. Eventually I got to the campground and was surprised to find I was one of the first to arrive and check in. Good thing they weren’t facing a rush of folks because their computers were not working right. The campground had obviously been plowed out and there were great piles of snow everywhere. When I first pulled in it was like backing the trailer into an icebox. As the days warmed up a bit the snow started to melt. I was assigned a nice site with good exposure for the solar panels which I set up promptly. This year I was pleased to see a few other trailers also had solar panels of one sort or another. It was extremely cold and snowed off and on the first couple of days I was there and I was amazed at the number of tenters. So glad I had the trailer even though the furnace was not working consistently.
There were some Bison in Hayden Valley, along with lots of Elk. I stayed at Canyon for 9 nights and didn’t see any Elk calves until late in my stay. The Bison were often close to the road but the Elk tended to stay on the other side of the Yellowstone River, a long ways away, even with the telephoto lens I have.
One afternoon while hanging around at a pullout I saw a black Wolf. It it was by itself, sort of chasing some Elk. I lost sight of it quickly and moved to another pullout later on. Lo & behold I saw movement and realized it was the Wolf, directly across the river from me. Managed to get a few shots of it, what you see here are greatly cropped.
Late one day as I was headed back to the trailer I came up to what was a growing “bear jam”. There was a pullout with no cars in it so I swung in and grabbed my camera. Just had time to catch it as it ran across the road and across a small open area into the woods.
Bison do swim, not going to win any awards but they can get from one side of the river to the other, with some drifting in the current.
One afternoon I was surprised and dismayed to see some obviously foreign visitors using a drone. Drones are not allowed in the park and it is stated plainly in various info sheets handed out. These people, along with the make and registration of their vehicle,were reported to the Rangers. I really hope they were caught and that the drone was confiscated.
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