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Best of the Tetons

Impact Nov21

Late November Images: Some of My “Keepers”

Swans Flight  Against a Gold Background Nov30

Variety is the Spice of Life:

Each year, there is a carousel of events and cycles in Jackson Hole and the Tetons. Of course, no two years are exactly the same, but there are a few general patterns. Mother Nature supplies many moving parts and players to be woven into the tapestry. I love it! Even while smack dab in the middle of one photographic opportunity, I eagerly anticipate another upcoming opportunity. At this time of the year, Swans are migrating through the valley at about the same time Bighorn Sheep move onto the Refuge to begin their rut. Moose move to sage flats and gather in larger groups after the rut. Winter seems to take hold. Each week, the cold feels more permanent—and the cycle continues.

Shooting Data For Image Above: November 30: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 200mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/640th Second, -1 EV, ISO 1000, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Swans:

Trumpeter Swans migrate through the Jackson Hole valley in the late Fall or early Winter. Sometimes, there are a few Tundra Swans mixed in, but I don’t have any photos of them. The resident Trumpeters have to share their space with the intruders for a few weeks—sometimes resulting in turf wars. I normally get my Swan shots at either the observation platform along Flat Creek or the pond at Boyle’s Hill—a couple of miles West of the Maverik Convenience Store.

Swan Squabble Nov28

Squabble on Flat Creek: I doubt you’d expect it from such a graceful bird, but some of these skirmishes can result in blood and lost feathers.

November 28: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 400mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/1600th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 640, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Swan Pair In Flight Nov29

Pair in Flight: I love to capture these birds in flight against the evening blue sky.

November 29: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 200mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/4000th Second, -1 EV, ISO 640, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Evening Exit Nov29

Late Evening Take Off: This was taken at Boyle’s Hill.

November 29: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 200mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/1250th Second, -1 EV, ISO 1250, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Oncoming Trio Nov30

Trio Taking Off: This is a pair of adults and one Cygnet taking off at Boyle’s Hill.

November 30: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 210mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/800th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 1250, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Morning Stretch Nov27

A Morning Stretch: I shot this image on Flat Creek early one frosty morning.

November 25: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 400mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/2000th Second, -1 EV, ISO 500, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Swans On Ice Nov30

A Bite Out of the Intruder: While it might look like two Swans taking off, this is actually a photo of one adult Trumpeter Swan biting another Swan that got too close.

November 30: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 400mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/1000th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 1250, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Icy Take Off Nov25

Take Off On Ice: Swans will usually bob their heads in unison and squawk for a while before taking off. Once you see the behavior a few hundred times, you can easily recognize what is about to happen.

November 25: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 400mm, Aperture Priority, F/7.1, 1/640th Second, -1 EV, ISO 320, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Moose:

By late November, Moose move from the river bottoms of the Snake and the Gros Ventre to the sagebrush flats north of Kelly and around Ditch Creek. Most of the time, they are feeding on Bitter Brush, abundant there.

Sagebrush Moose Nov23

Bulls with a Grand Backdrop: Low fog clouds often build at the base of the mountains. It worked great here to isolate their antlers from the sometimes cluttered mountain range.

November 23: Nikon D4, Nikon 28-300mm lens at 170mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/1600th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 400, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Majestic Moose Nov29

Majestic Bull Moose: This bull showed up after most of the rut was over. I’d love to know where he spends his Fall! He has one of the most impressive, wide rack of antlers around. They stand out wide and sweep back beautifully.

November 29: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 360mm, Aperture Priority, F/4, 1/3200th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 640, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

The Strut Nov28

Slow Approach: When two Bull Moose get close to each other, their ears fold back and they go into a slow strut with their head swaying back and forth. Their eyes are glued on each other the entire time. It’s their way of sizing each other up. They still display the behavior even after the rut, but will usually let each other pass without an unnecessary confrontation.

November 28: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 300mm, Aperture Priority, F/14, 1/200th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 400, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

River Bottom Moose Nov29

River Bottom Moose: Moose can usually be found feeding very early in the morning. As first light approaches, they occasionally move to the lower river or creek bottoms.

November 29: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 400mm, Aperture Priority, F/4.5, 1/125th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 640, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

High Steppers Nov23

High Steppers: Moose can move amazingly fast through high, dense sagebrush and also through dense willows. Their long legs also allow them to step over deep snow in the Winter. In the Fall, hunters are allowed to kill female Elk inside some areas of Grand Teton National Park. These two had been grazing on one side of the road, then ran to the other side after hearing shots.

November 23: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 310mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/640th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 250, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Foggy Backdrop Nov23

Sights on a Distant Cow: Both of these two bulls caught the movement of a cow and a young bull moose. They didn’t move a muscle for quite a while, allowing me to move to a place to line them up with the Grand as seen near the top of this section.

November 23: Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 280mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/1250th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 800, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Ice Crossing Nov29

Icy Crossing: This bull spotted a few cows and calves on the other side of the frozen creek. He caught me off guard. I would have loved to captured a few more shots of him in the middle of the ice, but I was moving to a new location when he took off across the frozen creek.

November 29: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 200mm, Aperture Priority, F/5.6, 1/200th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 800, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Lip Curl Nov29

Lip Curl: The bulls smell the urine of a cow to check her status. The proper term is Flehmen Response, seen often in large ungulates.

November 29: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 300mm, Aperture Priority, F/4., 1/1250th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 640, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Sefe in the River Bottom Nov29

Alert in the River Bottom: This bull moose paused long enough for me to snap off a few shots in the river bottom. I’d much prefer to photograph them there than in the deep sagebrush.

November 29: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 360mm, Aperture Priority, F/4.5, 1/125th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 640, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Bighorn Sheep:

We had early snow storms this year. Bighorn Sheep moved to Miller Butte much earlier than normal this year. I was out there quite a few times, and still go as often as I can. It is only six or seven miles from my house, so I can check it out several times a day.

Impact Nov21

Impact: This is where having a fast camera comes in handy! On this particular day, the ram on the left was ready to clash with any other ram that was close. This is my cleanest shot of all the bashes I photographed. Normally, there is another animal right behind them.

November 21: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 270mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/2500th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 800, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Wintering Ram Nov18

Bighorn Ram: You can see a few of the yearly growth rings in this Ram’s horns. Tye often “broom” off the tips, especially once they get older and bigger.

November 18: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 280mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/1000th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 200, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Rams Eyes Nov18

Ram’s Eyes: Once the Bighorns make their way to Miller Butte, they know they are safe from hunters and people. They are often seen grazing along the side of the road or licking salt from ice dropped off vehicles. Tourists love it when a group of sheep surround their vehicle for a “Wyoming Car Wash”. It not uncommon for one to approach you within four or five feet.

November 18: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 380mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/1000th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 200, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Group Clash Nov21

Clash with an Audience: Early in the rut, the rams were gathered together. Sometimes it looked like a football huddle. Normally, I hope to get clashes without a lot of clutter, but I liked the single Ram watching his buddies go at it.

November 21: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 270mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/1600th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 800, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Resting Nov16

Snow Storm: Anytime it is snowing, I try to be out shooting. This is another time to shoot a lot. Snow flakes will be in front of their eyes on many shots. The auto focus will grab close flakes and look okay in the back of the camera. you won’t know you didn’t get the shots until the cards are downloaded to a computer and viewed much larger.

November 16: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 400mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.2, 1/1250th Second, 0 EV, ISO 1000, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Sleeping Indian Nov30

Sleeping Indian: While on the National Elk Refuge, you cannot get but a few feet from the edge of the road. The rule makes it hard to move to a spot to capture shots like this.

November 30: Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 200mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/2500th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 400, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Back Yard Visitors

I plan on doing a Feature Post like this one on Wintering birds and another on the Summer birds that migrate through Jackson Hole. (Hint: Sign Up to Follow The Blog) I have a blind in my back yard and put out numerous old tree trunk, branches and stems for birds and squirrels to use. I feed them all year!

Blue Jay Nov23

Blue Jay: So far, the “score” with this Blue Jay is around 400 to my one. It is quick and sneaky! Blue Jays are not common around here, so I don’t have many chances to get shots.

November 23: Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 400mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/320th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 800, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Red Squirrel On A Stump Nov23

Red Squirrel: We call this squirrel “Rocky”. It has a nest in a Flicker bird house I put out a few years ago and comes to the feeders anytime there are peanuts. The sun is usually south of my back yard in the summer, so many of the shots I get are either back lit or rim lit.

November 23: Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400mm lens at 310mm, Aperture Priority, F/6.3, 1/640th Second, -2/3 EV, ISO 800, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

Landscapes

I have a lot of late November landscapes I could include in this post, but I’ll just add a few of them. I look for days when I can see the top of the Grand and hopefully some clouds. It doesn’t take much, but I typically don’t shoot landscapes unless there at least some low, ground clouds or fog.

First Glow Nov28

Chapel with Fog: I went to the Chapel of the Transfiguration several times hoping to catch a good Alpenglow morning. I was drawn to the site on this morning because of the fog. I liked the way the cross stands out against it.

November 28: Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm lens at 86mm, Aperture Priority, F/8, .6th Second, 0 EV, ISO 100, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head, Wimberley Sidekick.

November Moon

November Moon over the Moulton Barn: I was up and in the right place early for this shot. This image was a “stitched” panoramic image created from at least three shots on my D800. Actually, I shot at least five parts, but ended up only using the middle three. (Click the image to see it much larger)

November 18: Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm lens at 70mm, Manual Focus, Manual Priority, F/8, 1/10th Second, 3 Second Shutter Delay, ISO 160, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head.

Morning at Lost Creek Nov30

Sunrise Near Lost Creek Ranch: I had just about given up on getting color in the clouds when it magically appeared. (Click the image to see it much larger)

November 30: Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm lens at 29mm,Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/60th Second, -1/3 EV, 3 Second Shutter Delay, ISO 100, Gitzo G1348 Tripod, Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head.

Please Note: All of the images on this page are fully copyrighted with the US Copyright Office.  ©2013 Mike R. Jackson – All Rights Reserved

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Comments (5)

  1. Marion Dickinson

    Your swans are just wonderful, where are they migrating from and to where, do you know?
    That Big Horn sheep on the rock in the snow storm is really great. They can be so hard to see on a ledge or rock at best, but to sight him during a snow storm is fantastic.

  2. Fantastic as usual. I’m just going to have to find a way to get out there early winter to try my best at getting a few shots like these. It’s a bit iffy driving from Kansas.

  3. Hi Bill,
    Access to our favorite spots gets limited here in the winter, but it is still beautiful and you can always find something interesting to shoot! You’ll love it. MJ

  4. Marion,
    I know some of the swans spend their summers in Yellowstone, but I suspect some go all the way to Canada. I don’t know at the moment where they end up when they pass through here. I’ll ask around. MJ

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