Hidden Landscapes in the Tetons

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The weather has been an absolute horror these last few days in Jackson Hole. Rain, rain, and then more rain. This morning we had a little change with a touch of snow, but not enough to do anything for us in terms of our photography. With all of this crazy weather, the wildlife photography has been somewhat hit and miss. Sure we have photographed massive bull moose and black bears, but over all things have been a lot slower this year.

Luckily though, this is Jackson Hole we are talking about. Wildlife, though it may be my particular cup of tea, is not the only game in town when it comes to photography. Let’s not forget that this place also happens to be one of the top landscape photography locations in North America as well. So when nature tosses you lemons, you put a shorter lens on and make lemonade.

This photograph is from Lupine Meadows at the base of the Tetons – a particularly favorite location of mine for capturing some of the more subtle details of the Tetons range. With gold and reds mixed in with the dark green of the spruce and fir trees on these lower ridge lines, the pulsating clouds that crept up and down the mountain all morning made for some really cool scenics.

The fun part about photographing situations like this is that these moments are evanescent. The scene is constantly changing as the fog rolls down and lifts up, breaks apart in one place, and thickens in another. From one minute to the next, completely new compositions reveal themselves and then disappear forever. It can be trying at first to wrap your mind around compositions when they are so fleeting. However, given a touch of patience you begin to see the different possibilities before they actually occur and with time begin to create order out of chaos.

The two ridge lines cutting across the photograph offer strong compositional elements thanks to the repetition and diagonal lines they create. Once visually found, this became my base from which I knew I wanted to create a photograph of. When the fog comes rolling through like this in the Rocky Mountains, the scene can quickly become very monochromatic in nature. With the splash of color thanks to the hues of Autumn, I was able to do so much more. After I developed a general idea of what my composition was going to be, it was then a matter of waiting out the fog. As it rolled up and down, new scenes and even elements revealed themselves until finally, the one that I had pre-visualized in my head began to develop.

ISO 250 | f/11 | 1/15th | 200mm | D4

Rut in the Tetons

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With a chance of snow in the immediate forecast, the golden hues of aspen and narrow leaf cottonwoods lighting up the edges of the forest, the evening bugles of elk filling the air, and the moose, those lumbering giants of the river valleys battling it out for the hearts and minds of the ladies all across the valley, I can honestly say there is no place else I would rather be right now! This place is like Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. Given that we made the monumental decision to pack up and move across the country to North Carolina in order to film a documentary, coming back out here two months later like this and experiencing everything that I love about this place in just one single day has me already looking trying to find a rental house to pack up and move back out here to.

 

Red Pygmy Rattlesnakes

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North Carolina is a strange place. Its on the list of the top ten most biologically diverse places in the United States. On the western side of the state there is the Smoky Mountains which harbors more species of trees than the entire continent of Europe and is literally the salamander capital of the world. Moving east you then find the long leaf pine savannas such as the biogem known as the Green Swamp that harbors more species of carnivorous plants than anyplace else in the world. This is a truly extraordinary place.  Continue reading »

Wyoming Wolves Protected Once Again

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Yesterday on September 23, 2014 Wyoming wolves were once again brought under the protective folds of the Endangered Species Act. A judge overturned the 2012 ruling that gave Wyoming control over small population of wolves living in that state.

As soon as Wyoming obtain legal control over wolves, they were immediately listed as an animal that could be shot on sight or killed by whatever means necessary in 75% of the state. The remaining quarter which are those areas around the National Parks, a hunting season was established and tags were being sold for around $25.

This is tremendous news and comes about from so any people and organizations fighting tirelessly to stop Wyoming from erasing decades worth of hard work and millions in tax payer dollars that was spent to bring the wolf, and apex predator and crucial ingredient to the Rocky Mountains’ ecosystems back from extinction in that area.

For more information on this court decision check out: http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2014/sep/23/court-reinstates-endangered-status-wyoming-wolves/

Bears of the Smoky Mountains

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After I finished up with my responsibilities at WNC Fotofest in Montreat North Carolina this weekend, I just could not help but notice how close I was to the Smoky Mountains. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of my absolute favorite places in the country to photograph. Biologically speaking, its the most biodiverse location in North America. There are more species of trees in this national park than the entire continent of Europe! From wildflowers to wildlife this place is very much unlike any other place we have in North America.

Now, with all of this said, Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not give up its really good wildlife opportunities easily – especially with the bears.  Continue reading »

If only I had a picture of me taking this picture

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I had just pulled my boat into the protected bay inside of the marsh where these horses were feeding. I was still actually idling my way in when this whole scenario began to unfold and really had no time to get myself into position, the boat anchored securely, and me and my gear into the water and set up on a shoal (sandbar) to shoot this.

Realizing I was in a sort of do or die moment here, I chucked the anchor of the bow, ran back to my camera, wrapped my leg around the chrome pole to the hardtop over the center console of my boat, and then hurled my body over the side of the boat. The result was me dangling head first over the water with me ankles hanging onto that pole for dear life.

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Wild Photo Adventures and Wyoming Grizzlies

bear-journalSo it’s been a minute since I have updates this here Photographer’s Journal. Busy summer to say the least. I kind of have this whole Johnny Cash thing going on in the back of my head. . . “Ive been everywhere man”

One of my recent projects was working on another episode of Wild Photo Adventures. We were actually supposed to do another wild horse show – though in Montana / Wyoming not North Carolina. However, due to permit weirdness this year we had to switch gears at literally the last minute. Faced with the decision to cancel a show, I decided that we could pull off an episode photographing grizzlies high up in the Absaroka Mountains of Wyoming.

I chose to focus on bears in this mountain range simply because it was NOT one of the national parks. That meant that we would be on our own. No people. No distractions. Fewer restrictions. So hopefully better photography.

Season 5 of Wild Photo Adventures airs this winter on PBS. So keep your eyes open for our show on photographing grizzlies in Wyoming.

Shoot this Now: Baby Mammals!

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One of the best things about spring for wildlife photography is the deluge of baby mammals all across North America. From whitetail deer to grizzly bears, red foxes to bison, spring is the time of rebirth. All of these babies makes for some incredible wildlife photography and since this only happens once a year, you need to be shooting this RIGHT NOW!

When it comes to photographing natural history, you have to think in terms of capturing the essence of your subject. Why is your subject worth photographing? What makes it special? What makes it worthy of being in front of your lens? Every potential subject has a story to tell. Every subject has something about it that makes it unique in the world. It is your job to understand what this story is and to figure out how to tell that story with your photography. This is what takes your work from little more than snapshots made with really expensive equipment to art that communicates and connects your viewer with your subject.

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Shoot this Now: Rookeries II

Overcast---snowy-blgoEach and every scenario in nature photography has its own nuances and challenges that it will throw at you the photographer. Some are completely random of course, whereas others are fully predictable.

Rookeries are no different. Each rookery that you visit will be completely different from the last. There will be different backgrounds, different challenges to access it, different lighting situations, and the list goes on. However, there will also be certain constants that you can mentally prepare for.

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Shoot this Now: Rookeries I

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Wading bird rookeries are without a doubt, one of the undisputed champions of springtime wildlife photography. Many of these communal breeding sites harbor mixed species and therefore not only provide you with a seemingly endless variety of photographic opportunities, but also a diversity of different species at the same time. From flights shots to nest building, courtship displays to feeding chicks, photographing rookeries is something you need to be doing RIGHT NOW!

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