Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What you can't see

The Big Dipper over an eroded rock formation in the badlands of western North Dakota.

I arrived at Theodore Roosevelt National Park just before sunset and quickly made my way to an overlook of the Little Missouri River.

The color on the clouds was gone in minutes and I scambled to make some useful images.

After the sun went down I drove the park road looking for possible photos. 

I parked in a gravel parking lot off of the main road and walked about a hundred yards to the base of a large eroded rock formation. As the night got later the Big Dipper became visible just above it.

I set to work photographing the scene.

While I was photographing the night sky I could hear a great horned owl in the distance and coyotes howling nearby.

After a few minutes I heard a clip clop, clip clop, on the asphalt road several hundred yards away. The sound was getting louder and I realized that wild horses were trotting on the road. It sounded like they were coming towards me and I heard one or more of them whinny.

I smiled and continued photographing the butte and starry sky. Then I heard the sound of hooves on gravel and stood there in the dark looking towards the source of the sound.

Although it was dark, I could see three horses running right down the trail I had walked in on and coming towards me. I kept a hand on my camera and tripod and stood there watching what the horses would do.

I had a big smile as the three young stallions ran within thirty feet of me. One of the horses seemed to be chasing the others off. After they got forty yards past me he swung his rear around and kicked at the other two horses. Those horses whinnied and kept right on running.

The triumphant horse paused, stood there, and watched them leave. Then he turned and ran back the way he had come in. As he went past me I told him, "thanks a lot and have a great night". He swung his head over, looked at me and continued running.

What a cool night.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Come on Sun, You Can Do It

I spent a considerable amount of time in the Upper Geyser Basin on this trip. I saw Old Faithful erupt more than twenty times(even at night), but this was my favorite eruption.

Everything came together and made for outstanding images. 

Remnants of storm clouds from the night before moved across the sky.

Just a minute earlier with the sun hidden behind the clouds the scene looked like this. To the east I saw a gap in the clouds and rooted for the sun to come out before the geyser erupted. "Come on sun, you can do it."  

I visited with a guy from Ohio, one of only a few dozen people waiting for the eruption at 7:30 in the morning. We both continued to wait and hoped for the sun. 

The conditions were perfect for great images, the golden grass, the beautiful clouds, the blue sky. All I needed was the sun.

Old Faithful coughed a little and burped a little water and steam, indicating an impending eruption. I held my breath, waiting on the sun.

Just as a column of super heated water and steam shot out of the geyser and over 100 feet into the air everything came together. The clouds parted and the sun shone through.

It was even better than I had hoped. There was more steam, the colors were more vivid, and the eruption lasted longer than most. Old Faithful had shown its best.

The colors and light were unbelievable. I was smiling and laughing as I photographed the scene.

The eruption lasted only a few minutes, five at most. Lucky for me, the sun made it through the clouds just in time and stayed out for at least six minutes. Perfect.

After the eruption a column of steam rose from the cone of Old Faithful Geyser and steam from Castle Geyser mirrored it.

What an excellent morning in an outstanding place. Only Yellowstone.

No One Was There To See It

I love this image of empty benches and red steam rising from Old Faithful on a stormy night.

The park was still crowded at the end of August just before Labor Day weekend. During the day hundreds of people filled the benches around Old Faithful to watch the world's most famous geyser erupt.

Yet, at 4am the benches were empty and no one else was there to see this unlikely sight.

I'm glad I was.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What a Night

I finally made it back to Yellowstone and didn't want to waste a minute or any opportunities while I was there, so I kept my camera working through the nights.

I would have preferred to be in Yellowstone the second week of September. By then the elk are rutting and the nights are cold enough to allow for huge amounts of steam over geysers and thermal features.  

Life, and my schedule dictated that the end of August would be my only chance to go west. So I found myself living my Yellowstone dream during the last week of August.

I sure am glad that I went. As I can still say there is never a bad day to be in Yellowstone.

I made this photo of red steam rising from the cone of Old Faithful Geyser and lightning in the distance at around 3am.

The photo hasn't been manipulated with photoshop or any other software. The colors are as they appeared to me and the camera at the time.

You may wonder why the steam is red. This is the short story. 

The night started out starry and clear.

I used long exposures to paint star trails above Old Faithful Geyser. 

And then.... huge thunderstorms rolled through the area bringing rain, wind, and lightning. The storms were fast moving and were gone in just an hour or so, leaving clear skies behind.

Just after I made this image of stars and lodgepole pine trees, the thunder rolled and rain began to fall. I moved to a sheltered location and kept on shooting, hoping to catch lightning over Old Faithful.

Lightning struck fairly close by while I was standing there photographing the night sky and fire alarms went off at the Old Faithful Inn.

The alarms were loud and unyielding. After about twenty minutes firemen parked their truck outside the Inn and left the lights on as they went inside. The red from the fire truck's lights made the steam rising from Old Faithful red in the image.

Once the alarms were quieted and the fire truck left it was almost sunrise and I continued to shoot as big clouds rolled across the sky and lightning occasionally lit the insides.

What a beautiful night in the world's first national park.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It was late and the bugs were bad, but I'm glad I stopped...

Well after sunset on Fish Creek and Lake Superior.

I've been trying to figure out how best to photograph a certain area of Lake Superior for a few days now. With mixed results.

Tonight's plan was to wear my swim trunks, take my camera and tripod and stay in the lake.

After just a few minutes I found this painted turtle. I tried to get some photos, but it was tough going. There was no dry land or shoreline to speak of. There was no good place to put the turtle down and get to work.

It took some effort, but eventually I found a log out in the water and made a few images.

Things didn't start out smoothly. Or end smoothly, for that matter. I was kneeling in water about 2 feet deep and working with my camera on a tripod just above the water.

I used to be a lot more cautious with my cameras and water. At some point I realized that the cameras were only tools and of little value if I couldn't take them where the best photos were possible. 

So I'd set the turtle on the log, capture a couple of images and it would slide off and swim away. I'd catch the turtle and do it again. After only a couple of times I realized it wasn't the answer, but as I stood up to catch the turtle the sand under the tripod shifted and the camera was heading towards the drink. I grabbed it quickly.

The lens and body were a little wet, but I caught it before the entire thing was submerged. I used my cotton t shirt to dry it and blew the water off of and out of any places I could. After the camera was about as dry as I could get it I took a photo to see if it was still working. Jackpot! It seemed no worse for wear.

So I set the turtle free and made a few images of it in the shallow water as it left.

The timing was pretty good and when I looked up I saw this cloud to the east. 

To the west the sun was almost at the horizon.

I kept scanning the sky for good looking clouds, color, and compositions as the light quickly changed.

These clouds presented a more subtle view to the east.

And red, blue, and black to the west.

When I got done I was standing knee deep in the lake a couple of hundred yards from the nearest land. It was well after dark when I carefully put my camera into its mostly dry case and picked up my tripod to walk back to the car. I had at least a half a mile to walk through the lake and I couldn't see the bottom now that the sun was gone. I was leaving a different way than I had come in and didn't know how deep it was. The water was warm and it had been a hot day, so it was still a pretty good place to be.

I walked through the water back to the nearest shoreline. There were reeds and plants all the way into the water, no beaches to walk on. So I walked next to the land in the lake until I got to a point where the bottom dropped out. It went from knee deep to waist deep in one step and it was only getting deeper. So I chose to backtrack.

Plan B was to cut across a fairly wide river channel at its mouth where it met the lake. If I got across I could walk along that shore up to a road that would take me back to the car. I didn't know how deep it would be and any concern I had was for my camera. So I held the camera bag on my shoulder with my left hand and put the tripod over my right shoulder. If it got too deep I'd drop the tripod and do whatever it took to keep the camera dry.

With that I headed across. It never got deeper than my chest and I made it to the other side with my camera and tripod still dry. As I walked in the water along that shore I noticed the sky to the west and stopped to get the camera out again.
It was late and the bugs were bad, but I'm glad I stopped.

This is what I saw. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Nick of Time

It had been overcast for hours when I saw some light in the sky. I grabbed a camera and tripod and made for Lake Superior.

I got there just in time to catch this cloud above Fish Creek where it meets the Great Lake. The light only lasted a minute.

Lucky for me there was still light over the lake.

So I made several images in the little time I had.

Like this.

And this.

And this.

And then it was gone.

Just getting wet

It was still 90 degrees just before sunset when I got to Lake Superior. I kicked off my shoes and got in the water. I had only a few minutes before I lost the daylight as the sun went down.

There were almost no clouds in the sky and the day just sort of slipped away. 

This is what it looked like just after sunset.

Since I had no subject and wasn't in a hurry to leave the water, I screwed around and made a few self portraits. I'm glad I did, because about ten minutes after sunset the sky to the west got a little color.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this.

It surely wasn't a spectacular sunset, but I was glad to be standing knee deep in the lake on a such a warm night.

Another self portrait with the western sky behind me.

I made the mistake of setting my camera bag down on an exposed sandbar in the lake as I took my camera and tripod and went further out to get photos. About twenty minutes later I looked back to what had been the sandbar and saw only my camera case on the water.

It was already pretty dark as I made my way back to see if anything important had gotten wet. My extra memory card was sealed in a Ziploc bag and seemed no worse for wear. A couple of filters and an owners manual got soaked, no big deal.

I'm gonna have to google it, but I'm pretty sure that Lake Superior has tides similar to an ocean's. The water had risen a few inches in just half an hour.

All in all it was a good night. I didn't get the photos I was hoping for, but I had fun trying.

Update- I did google it, and found the water fluctuations in Lake Superior aren't actually tides, they are called seiches(pronounced saysh).

You can click here to learn more 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another day, another tree frog

When it rains, it pours.

After several years of seeing no eastern gray tree frogs and one unsuccessful attempt at photographing said frog, I finally found and got photos of a tree frog about a week ago. Then without even trying I found another gray tree frog last weekend.

It took a couple of hours for the sun, wind, and frog to all cooperate, but eventually I was able to make some pictures of this frog as well.

So I've gone from no good tree frog images to a plethora of them.

Lucky me.

I really like the dexterity, balance, and overall stickiness these frogs exhibit. They are some of the coolest critters out there.

I hope my luck holds up and I keep getting more cool things falling in my lap.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

At least this one made it

My dad had bluebirds nesting in a house on his land. The birds had successfully hatched their chicks and had been feeding them regularly.

One day when I was with him my dad asked me to check the nest. So I walked over and opened the bird house door to look inside.

The good news was that this fledgling eastern bluebird was inside the house.

The bad news was that its four nest mates were dead and the nest was soaking wet.

It had stormed and rained heavily a day or two earlier and apparently the water got blown into the house and onto the young bluebirds.

I carefully took the live fledgling from the house and then cleaned out the wet nest and dead birds. The little bluebird looked pretty rough and there were no adults around so I couldn't tell if it had been abandoned or not.

I decided to take the baby bird and get some meal worms and see if it would eat.

I googled bluebirds and learned what I should try to do. Once I got the worms from a local bait shop I offered one to the baby bird. It wouldn't eat, but it did poop.

I took that poop to mean that it had been fed by its parents fairly recently. I got some tissues to use as bedding in the now empty birdhouse and took the bluebird back home.

I put the tissues and baby bird back in the house and closed the door. Then my dad and I waited to see if the adult birds would come to the nest.

It was less than a minute before an adult male bluebird landed on the birdhouse and then went inside. When he came out he went to the ground, caught an insect and went right back inside the house to feed the baby bird.  We watched for about ten more minutes as the male bluebird continued to catch and deliver food for its baby in the house.

It didn't feel so great to have four bluebirds dead in the house but I was glad one made it. We checked on the little bird the next day and it looked and acted much healthier. A few days later when we checked the bird had already fledged and was no longer in the house.