Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grand Tetons

Today was my first full day in Jackson, and I decided to start the day really early and try to catch the sunrise against the Grand Tetons.  I headed for the Snake River Overlook which was made famous by Ansel Adams, and found two other photographers waiting to do the same.  The hope was to see a great sunrise, but Mother Nature had other plans and placed a nice big dark cloud right where the sun was coming up.  That kept the light from hitting the mountains like it would normally do, and left no choice but to just make due with what light there was.  I'll be watching the sky tonight to see if I should go out and try again tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are a few of the photos from today.

Snake River Overlook at Sunrise
The upper part of the mountains should have had a nice glow from the sun by now, if it hadn't been for the dark cloud directly behind me.  Seems this trip has either been filled with no clouds at all, or a few too many.

Famous Barn on Mormon Row

Shortly after getting to this spot, the sun broke through the cloud and lit everything up making it look so nice and warm, even though I think it was still only about 45 degrees out there. It only lasted a few minutes and then another large cloud moved in and blocked the early morning light again.

I wandered over the Schwabacher's Landing after visiting the famous barn, and found this spot that so many others have stopped at before me to shoot photos.  It was just kind of fun to see these places in person after looking at so many photos from them over the years.

Chapel of the Transfiguration
This last set of photos was taken at another very famous spot just inside of Grand Teton National Park. I had to really hurry to get these three photos as there were people milling all around, mostly in front of the door, so when there was the shortest of gaps, I hurried and grabbed this shot, and also manged to take one inside between busloads of people being dropped off here.  If only the light would have been a little better.

I'm still trying to decide if I should stay another full day and give myself two mornings to catch a sunrise, or just try tomorrow on the way out of town, and just have to plan to come back another day and see if I have better luck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yellowstone - Day 3 and 4

Well, I've seen most of the official sights here in the park already, so decided today to head down to the section of the park furthest from me, and explore that area all day.  Turns out that section of the park has the largest buffalo population and I saw huge numbers of them in almost every open prairie, and blocking the road a number of times during the day.  I could almost imagine what they used to look like when they  dominated the land out here, especially when looking down on them along the river in the valley.  It was fun to turn off the car and just sit on the hill, listening to them in the distance. 

At one point today, I came across a smaller group that was about 30 yards off the road, and a number of the bulls seemed really agitated. Three of them were bellowing much louder than any I'd heard so far today, and they were each tearing up dirt and grass with their front legs, so I had a feeling something fun was about to happen.  I sat and watched as two of them suddenly charged each other and started slamming heads.  Here is one of the shots from the little encounter.

You don't realize just how big these guys really are until you feel the ground shaking when they are throwing down.  Not even sure I can explain what it felt like other than you could just feel how heavy they were and how hard they were going at it.

Another thunderstorm moved in late this afternoon and dumped rain again for a short time.  As the rain stopped and the sky cleared up, The land was just lit up with sun rays as they began breaking through the clouds.

Here are a couple more animal shots from the day as well.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Yellowstone - Day 2

Today was my first full day in Yellowstone, and I took full advantage of the time by hitting the park at 8:00 am and not finding my way back out until around 9:30 pm tonight.  I forgot just how big Yellowstone is, and how long it can take to get around in the park if you stop at all the exhibits and geysers.  I think I might have been lucky to even drive through a fifth of the park today.  I did hit the most famous landmark which everyone has to see at least once when they come here. :)

 Most of my day was spent stopping to see all the geysers in the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park. The photo above is just a sampling of the view all over this section of the park,  where all you can see is steam coming out of holes in the ground.  It's hard to wrap your mind around what is really going on under your feet as your walk around these areas. 

 There were a number of times where you would come around a corner and there would be a load of cars pulled over and right away you knew there was some kind of animal or other being stalked by the park paparazzi.  Of course I had to join in a few times since it was the thing to do.  The freakiest sighting today was heading out of the park, coming down a long dark stretch and then realizing there was something in the other lane... but it sure wasn't a car... and then coming to a near stop right next to a Bison as big as my car, slowly strolling the other direction in the middle of his own lane like a good driver. He just kind of looked at me and continued on his way, and so did I.

 One thing I was hoping to get pictures of today was some of the many waterfalls in the park, but once again the sun just wasn't going to cooperate with me, and this was the only waterfall I was able to find without the sun beating down on it and making it imposible to get a nice photo of it.  I will try again tomorrow, and maybe I'll get lucky and get to a few more before the sun can beat me to them.

The park is full of trees that have been killed off by the heat of the geysers. I thought this one was pretty cool, and hoped it would make a nice black and white. I was actually pretty happy with how it turned out.   There are a ton of other photos to go through still, and I know I should have a few that give you a good look into some of those springs. I'll try to post some of them soon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yellowstone - Day 1

I pulled into Yellowstone late this afternoon, after what was a very eventful and exciting drive across Montana.  Anyone who ever said video games are bad for you and you shouldn't play them, has never attempted to drive across the back roads of Montana late at night doing 70+ miles an hour.  LOL

It was an adventure to say the least, and felt like a real life game of Mario Kart or something.  Nothing gets your adrenalin pumping like coming around a corner and suddenly in the dark seeing two huge moose standing right on the shoulder of the road, or the deer that was in the middle of the road that came out of nowhere, and that's not mentioning the huge porcupine, a few other deer that were polite enough to wait for me to pass before trying to cross the road, and some animal that I can't even begin to guess at what it was, but just know that somehow I swerved just enough to have it pass by my driver's side mirror by a few inches.   It was almost 4 hours of just waiting for the next animal to come out of the dark so I could swerve at the last minute yet again.  :)

I think the last time I was in Yellowstone was when I was 11 or 12 years old. I had forgotten about the smells that come out of the ground here, until I stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs.  It'll certainly get your attention and turn you off of eggs for at least a few days.
Lower Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs

You can't see it in this photo, but the water coming out of the ground is very hot, and full of minerals which are what create these cool structures as they are deposited above ground.  Any tree that happens to be in the area, is killed off.  The whole area if full of trees like this that were killed by either the heat or minerals in the water, or both maybe?  It creates a very alien looking landscape.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Glacier National Park - Day 4

Today was filled with all kinds of surprises as it turned out it was National Critter Day or something.  What started out as a very long drive over Logan's Pass, filled with all kinds of delays due to road construction, turned into a day of watching animals you just don't see wandering around Seattle.

I drove up to Many Glacier which is on the other side of Glacier NP, and as I pulled into the parking lot at the end of the road, I looked up the hill and saw this mamma bear and her two cubs slowly making their way along the ridge line, stopping every now and then to snack on Huckleberries that were spread over the hillside. They quickly drew a crowd in the parking lot with cameras and telescopes trained on every move they made. 

While watching the bear, I heard some people coming back from a hike, talk about a big Bull Moose that was just hanging out in a lake, eating and drinking so I packed up my gear and decided to go take a look.  When I got to the lake though, the bull was long gone but there was now a female in the other end of the lake.  She was maybe 30-40 yards away and didn't really seem all that bothered that people were standing around watching her submerge her head in the water for long periods of time as she ate from the grasses and plants growing in the lake.  Moose aren't all that pretty to begin with, but the wet look certainly doesn't help matters. 

I think I sat and watched the first moose for close to an hour, and then decided to hike back to my car and maybe come back later to see if the male had returned.  I almost missed out, because I got back to the lake just in time to see him decide the handful of people watching him was just too much.  He was climbing out of the lake and I had to hurry and set up my camera.  Just as I fired off a couple of shots, he stopped and just stood in this spot for about 30 minutes.  First just staring straight ahead, and then every now and then, turning to look right at me when he would hear my camera.  It was either that, or he was just turning his head away from the three photographers that had managed to circle around to his right.  Every time they raised their cameras, he would turn his head away.  It was pretty funny, and made me happy to be standing where I was because I got pretty decent shots of his face.  :)

Theses photos are straight out of the camera, with no adjustments to make them look better.... sorry. It was just too long of a day to mess with that now, and I'm off to bed!  :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Glacier National Park - Day 3

Today was another warm, mostly cloudless day in Montana.  After all the driving I've done in the last few days, I decided to just kick back  and spend some time sitting down by Lake McDonald.  It was so nice and quiet today, with almost no one around, other than the occasional canoe or boat passing by.  

The water here is so crystal clear and not nearly as cold as I would have thought, not that I was going to go for a swim any time soon.

 Here is another shot taken from even further up the beach as the sun was setting. It was right about this time I started thinking maybe I shouldn't be the only one out here when it got pitch black.  It's not like they have street lights out there to help you find where you parked your car. :)

Lake McDonald After Sunset
This last shot might be my favorite shot of the day.  I stopped one last time on the way back out of the park and found this boat dock, which made a great addition to the photo now that the sun was down.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to change motels and move to the other side of the park, and then try to catch a few sunrise photos on the other side of those little rocks you see in the background here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Glacier National Park - Day 2

I decided to try something a little different today and instead of heading where all the tourists go, I decided to head up to the northwest side of Glacier today.  This side of the park still shows major signs of the fires from 2003, in which 145,000 acres (approx. ten percent of the park) burned.  It was kind of wild to drive 15 miles up this stretch of road, and see the amount of forest that burned in those files.  I don't even think I can describe just how much forest that is.  You have to see it to believe it!

The nice thing about heading this way, is that you almost feel alone in the park.  It was a lot more relaxing and gave me time to stop as much as I wanted, so I could look around.

As I was passing over one of the rivers, I spotted this eagle sitting in a tree, so thought I would try to get a photo or two. Little did I know that shortly after setting my camera up, I'd get to watch something I'd never seen before.  There was some kind of hawk sitting in another tree further up the river, and he seemed to suddenly decided that he was going to antagonize the eagle.  He just took off from his perch and came straight at him.  He certainly got the eagles attention!  He made 4 or 5 more quick passes and then it was over as fast as it started.  I was surprised the eagle didn't take to the air and go after the hawk.

The attack (or whatever it was) happened fast, but I did manage to catch a couple of pictures of the action. Nothing that would make National Geographic of course, but hopefully fun to look at.

Once the hawk left the area, the eagle kept alert and seemed to be watching for another attack.  I took a lot of photos today, but haven't had time to process any of them yet.  I'll try to get to some more tomorrow and post the best of the bunch from today.

Glacier National Park - Day 1

Yesterday was my first day in Glacier National Park, and because of Labor Day weekend, the park was packed.  This guy was just hanging out wondering what all the fuss was about I think. 

It was hard to find any parking at all where there were turnouts, and forget trying to park in any of the visitor lots. I didn't feel like fighting the crowds knowing most of them would be heading home today, so spent my first day just kind of exploring the park a bit.  Trying too see as much as I could on Day 1 and seeing what kind of photo opportunities there might be. 

The weather was actually TOO nice yesterday with clear blue skies and the sun just beating down on everything.  That makes it nice to get out and hike, but not all that great for photos. Today isn't looking too much more hopeful as far as photos in the middle of the day, but there is still a lot of park to explore to that's my plan today.  I think I'm going to try a few of the out of the way roads today and visit some of the less popular areas of the park

This is a photo taken near sunset after the park cleared out and I could finally find places to stop along the road.