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Best of the Tetons

Moose of Grand Teton National Park: 2013

MooseCalves2_June7

Moose are some of my favorite animals! Luckily, I live relatively close to some of the best moose photography and viewing areas anywhere!

By mid-December and into early January, bull moose drop their antlers. Up until that time, I try to photograph them as much as possible. Road access sometimes gets limited and I must stop—but each year is different. Once they lose their antlers, I lose interest in them for a while. They all look essentially like cows for six months, other than the small knob of an antler that starts growing in early summer. In the spring and early summer, they start shedding the fur from the previous year and usually look mangy. That period might be considered an “acquired taste” at best.

By sometime in mid July, the moose sport their new coat of fur and the bulls begin growing their trademark antlers. That’s also when I start getting interested again. The exception to this schedule, is of course interrupted in the last week of May or the first week of June when some of the cows have their newborn calves. Moose cows and calves are entertaining all year!

For now, I will add a bunch of this year’s images, but will add captions and shooting information as I have time. And, I will add in some new photos as I get them processed and copyrighted.

Almost all of the images were captured with either a Nikon D4 or a Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400 mm lens. Occasionally, I rig up the D4 with Nikon 28-300 VR2 lens to carry around with me for a relatively lightweight combo. The D800 works great for moose when they are feeding and milling around, but if they move close to water, I switch the 200-400 lens to the Nikon D4 body. That allows me to shoot quicker bursts and not worry much about filling the buffer. Image quality is great either way. When using the 200-400 mm lens, I am almost always on a Gitzo tripod with an Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, and combined with a Wimberley Sidekick. VR is Off when on the tripod. When using the 28-300 mm lens, I usually have VR on and am hand holding the camera.

 

MooseCalves3_June7

Mom and Twins: June 7, 2013  Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park about five or six days after birth. The mother was alert but more interested in something down river than me. She calmed down, then bedded down with the two little ones as seen in the image at the top of the page. I sat off to the side and got comfortable so I could prop the camera over my knees to hold it still.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 28-300mm lens.at 300mm. Hand Held, VR On, ISO 640, F/7.1, 1/160 th Second. The same settings were used for the image with the bedded down cow at the top of the page.

MooseCalves1_June7

Alert Mom and Twins: June 7, 2013  Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park about five or six days after birth. The mother was alert but more interested in something down river than me. She calmed down, then bedded down with the two little ones as seen in the image at the top of the page. I sat off to the side and got comfortable so I could prop the camera over my knees to hold it still.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 28-300mm lens.at 300mm. Hand Held, VR On, ISO 640, F/7.1, 1/160 th Second. There was a small amount of cropping on this one.

YoungBullEatingWillows2_Aug19

 

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Crossing the Main Channel: July 5, 2013  Bulls make slow and careful steps crossing a stream like this. Rocks on the bottom are about the size of a fist and are often covered with slimy moss.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 400mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/6.3, 1/200 th Second.

BullMooseCrossingWater1_July5

Calm Crossing: July 5, 2013  By this time of the year, some of the heavy flows on the Gros Ventre had dropped, leaving calm pools in the side channels.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 360mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/6.3, 1/160 th Second. I like to try to time my shots when they make a forward step like this one, making a forward splash.

CusterResting1_Aug17

 

YoungBullFeeding2_Aug21

 

GastonRunning1_Aug16

Double Timing it Back to the Willows: This bull had been feeding on the berry bushes on the opposite side of the road from the river. As more people stopped to see him, he finally left the area and headed back to the river bottom. This was taken early in the morning on a day when there was a little residual smoke from one of the Idaho fires. Between the normal morning gold light and the smoke, the light had a rich, mystical quality.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 400mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 800, F/8, 1/800 th Second.

MooseCusterStanding1_Aug27

 

BullMooseTorso1_July5

 

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Summer Bull Moose: July 5, 2013  Grass and willows are a beautiful hue of green in early July and early morning light aids in saturating everything. This was taken along the Gros Ventre river.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 200mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/6.3, 1/250 th Second.

MooseWashakieInWater2_Aug27

 

MooseCalvesFeeding1_Aug24

 

MooseCalvesFeeding1_Aug20

 

MosoeCodyShadowResting1_Aug29

 

MooseCusterStanding2_Aug27

 

CusterInRiffle1_Aug23

Bull Moose Pausing in the Riffle: August 23, 2013 This beautiful bull came out of the willows behind him after feeding for about 45 minutes.  I had hoped he would walk up the riffle, into the light, but he decided to walk across the pool in front of him. No complaints! Every shot with the water were vivid blue that morning. I had to tone it down to make it look convincing!

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 28-300mm lens at 150mm. Handheld, VR On, ISO 200, F/8, 1/250th Second. This is a case of having a camera with me at the right time. In some previous years, I’d hike around in the river bottom looking for moose, then go back and get my gear if I found them. It is not uncommon for me to walk a mile or two along the river bottom on some days. This year, I added the 28-300 VR2 lens just for this purpose. That lens is not as sharp as my Pro lenses, but it is still very good on my D4.

Moose_CodyShadow1_Aug30

 

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Bull Approaching Side Channel: August 22, 2013  Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 24-70mm lens.at 70mm. Hand Held, ISO 320, F/8, 1/800 th Second. If anyone would have asked, I would have said I had the Nikon 28-300 with me that day, but it wasn’t until I made this post I realized I grabbed a different lens that morning. Either way, having the extra body and lens gave me a chance to open the scene and catch the full moon overhead.

Bull Moose Standing in Willows

Waiting In Willows: September 1, 2013 This is one of my favorite bull moose. I caught him in the willows early one morning along the Gros Ventre river.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 400mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 400, F/7.1, 1/320 th Second.

MooseSparring1_Sept2

Bulls Gently Sparring: Sept 2, 2013 Photographed early in the morning on a slightly overcast day. These two bulls did their trademark swaying of their head and antlers to greet each other, then began to gently spar. This is a bit unusual, since neither of them want to tear their delicate velvet covering until it’s time. One of them had deep scratches, which dried up later in the day.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 300mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 1250, F/4, 1/100 th Second. Luckily, the action was slow and deliberate as 1/100th of a second will not stop much action. On this lens, F/4 is wide open so my only choice would have been to bump the ISO up to 1600. I typically have my D4 and a 28-300mm VR2 lens around my neck. I can shoot wider shots if necessary, or switch the body to the 200-400mm if I need more frames per second than the D800 can shoot.

 

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Soaked Gathering: September 2, 2013 This group of four bulls gathered along the Gros Ventre temporarily on a rainy morning. I got wet, but it was worth it. All four bulls were still in velvet at the time.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 200mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/6.3, 1/320 th Second. The shutter speed blurred the rain with only small streaks while freezing the slower action of the bulls.

MooseFamilyFeeding1_Aug20

 

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A Watchful Eye: August 17, 2013  Taken along the Moose-Wilson Road  at Sawmill Pond in Grand Teton National Park. This bull had a lot of spectators that morning. He kept an eye on everyone as he dipped his nose into the water for the plants.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 380mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 400, F/5.6, 1/640 th Second.

MooseBullTrio1_Sept5

Leaving the Sage Flats: September 5, 2013 These bulls had been grazing on bitter bush (like the darker green clump in the center of the image) out in the sage flats. As the light hit them, they moved back towards the river bottom.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 28-300mm lens at 90mm. Handheld, VR On, ISO 1250, F/5.3, 1/6400 nd Second. This body and lens had been around my neck all morning and the settings had been adjusted for the period before sunrise. I had been shooting the same bulls with a D800 and a 200-400mm lens on the tripod, adjusting it as necessary as the light changed. When they started moving, I grabbed the camera around my neck to capture the group of three. Looking back, I would have set the ISO down to around 640, and increased the Aperture to around F/8.  Shutter speed would have still been plenty to freeze them.  I removed a few annoying distractions in this image in Photoshop.

MooseBullOnRidge1_Sept5

Bull Moose on the Ridge: Sept 5, 2013 This is a shot taken a few minutes after the image above. I was able to anticipate his movements and be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, a bull will stop on a ridge to look around, but this bull kept on moving.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 210mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 500, F/9, 1/500 th Second.

GastonInCalmPool1_Aug22

Bull in Side Channel: August 22, 2013  Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 210mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/8, 1/320 th Second.

Moose_WashakieTorso2_Aug31

 

Moose_WashakieStanding2_Aug31

 

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Trio of Bulls: September 2, 2013 The smaller of these three bull moose finally had enough and took a little nap as the close bull stretched out. These bulls were found along the Gros Ventre River.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens at 280mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/7.1, 1/400 th Second. This is a fairly straight forward image. I was focused on the face and eyes of the closest bull, and a medium focal length. That let the far bull go out of focus slightly. I removed a couple of minimal distractions in Photoshop. It had been cool, with some overcast skies at the time I took this image.

GastonByRiver1_Aug16

Bull Moose in Spring Creek: August 16, 2013  Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 400mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 800, F/8, 1/500 th Second.

GastonApproachingInPool1_Aug22

Bull Leaving Side Channel: August 22, 2013  Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 240mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/8, 1/250 th Second.

BullMooseAgainstTetons1_Sept5

 

MooseBullFlatOut1_Sept5

Long Wait to Strip Velvet: September 1, 2013 Occasionally, a bull will stretch full out, but it is not that common to capture it. Sometimes, especially during the rut, one will completely fall asleep, but there are usually twigs and deep grass covering their face. This big bull was only flat like this for a few seconds. Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park.

Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 310mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 1000, F/5.6, 1/100 th Second. With a resting bull, I usually don’t need a lot of shutter speed, so it just a matter of balancing the expected action with the depth of field and the ISO. This photo was taken early in the morning with soft overcast light.

GastonFullBodyV1_Aug22

Edge of the Willows: August 22, 2013  Taken along the Gros Ventre river in Grand Teton National Park.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 310mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 1250, F/5.6, 1/125 th Second.

CusterResting2_Aug25

 

MooseCalvesMJ

 

GastonCrossingRiver1_Aug22

Bull Crossing the Gros Ventre: August 22, 2013  A scene like this happens fairly often in GTNP, however being there and being prepared to get the shot doesn’t happen that often.  This was definitely my best day of the year with the moose. I was able to photograph this big bull in a variety of locations before he finally crossed the river and disappeared into the willows. If you are a fly fisherman, you’d know what I mean if I said this was a “Green Drake Hatch Day”.

Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens.at 240mm. On a Tripod, VR Off, ISO 640, F/8, 1/500 th Second. It was apparent this bull was going to cross the river, so I was prepared for it. He grazed on some willows next to the river for a while and then stepped into the edge. I was flat on my stomach with the tripod spread out with me. I probably got 200 images of him while making the crossing. There were lots of good ones, too! The D4 was able to capture little bursts of steps, write to the card, and let me keep shooting. I have a 64 Gig Sony XQD Series S card as the primary card and a Lexar 1000x CF card as the secondary card. Both are very fast!

BullCrossingWithFreshAntlers1_Sept8

Newly Stripped Antlers: September 8, 2013 This bull moose had stripped most of his antlers overnight and in the early morning. He still had blood residue and a couple of hanging velvet tassels when I caught him crossing the Gros Ventre River.

Nikon D4 with 28-300 VR at 300mm. Handheld with VR On.  ISO 800, F/6.3, 1/800th second. Instead of carrying heavy tripod, ball head, and lens, I carry a D4 and the flexible 28-300 mm lens when I don’t know where the moose are at the time. I can cover a lot of ground quickly and will occasionally stumble upon a scene like this. This bull was fairly close to the water at the time I found him, so I didn’t want to chance missing a crossing by going all the way back to the truck for the other lens and tripod. Good call! For this shot, I was lying on my stomach on the rocks along the side of the river.

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Comments (8)

  1. Lowell Schechter

    There is not more I can say. These are amazing images of the Moose and the calves. Certainly too many to comment on. Its interesting about over time how the Moose loses and gains back his Antlers and fur .I fine it amazing that you can hand hold the D4 or even the D800 with the 28-300 lens. I have a D7000 and plan to get the Nikon 18-300 and hope that would okay for a days shooting.

  2. Great Images! I plan to be there Monday evening ! Should be in Gros Ventre campground

  3. It was great meeting you at the Aug art show and out at the barns with the bison. Your photography has always inspired me to take it up a notch. I should of stuck around for a few days after the show, your moose pics of them in velvet are inspiring. I was looking forward to spending some time with my son down here in Colo. There were three huge moose I found out about and was going to photograph the , then the rains started. My show was canceled in Estes Park due to the rains also, and my trip into Rocky Mountain National Park were also wiped out. There is always net year. Thanks again for introducing your self.

  4. Tim, I am so sorry for all the trouble everyone went through in Colorado. At least you made it through the even in one piece! Good luck with the rest of your fall.

  5. Trenna Sonnenschein

    So glad I accidentally found you. I travel through that way quite often and I love getting the tips you provide and I love your photography. I’m just a hobbyist that loves Wyoming. I’ll be headed up that way again soon. I have set aside the 4th and the 5th of October to enjoy and take pictures in that area. I’m hoping your tips will help me have better luck at finding the Wildlife. I never seem to get that lucky. Though I must say, that the last time we drove through the Kelly area we did see a lot of different species. Unfortunately we just can’t get close enough my lenses but it’s still very enjoyable just to be there and to see them. Thanks so much for all the work you put into this blog and thanks for sharing!

  6. Words could not do this collection of images justice. Incredible stuff, Mike!

    You need to do a book – I know there’s already a “Moose of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone” photo book out there, but this collection of Teton moose images is second to none in my opinion.

  7. Hey Sam,
    Thanks so much!Nice to see you out in the field. I hope people visit your wonderful images at samparksphotography.com.

  8. Oscar Nunez

    Love all your shots, Mike. Your site is a daily must visit for me. I have learned so much reading your posts. I really appreciate the detail you provide with your photos. Your tips are invaluable.

    I think Sam’s idea of a book is a good idea. I’d buy one.

    Thanks,

    Oscar (a/k/a Stormpeak)

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