“December: Birth of a Winter Wonderland”
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If you found this page and are looking for Winter info, click these popular pages:
- If I Had Only One Winter Day in the Tetons:
- A Trip to Jackson Hole
- Winter in the Tetons: Tips for travel and photography.
December 31, 2016 – New Years Eve
Teton Village Fireworks: Happy New Year from Best of the Tetons!
Teton Village Fireworks: I used a Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-300 mm lens for these two shots tonight…on a tripod!
Watch for a new January 2017 Daily Journal tomorrow! Thanks to all the readers in 2016 and for your support throughout the year. MJ
December 30, 2016 – Friday
Elk Refuge Herd: This afternoon, I drove to the National Elk Refuge where I found a few thousand elk close the the roadway in the southern portion of the range. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Elk Refuge Herd: Something seemed to have spooked a large number of them from the northern section. Yesterday, a few people reported sightings of wolves chasing Bighorns and maybe even the Pronghorns. Of course, some similar sightings are actually coyotes and not wolves. Who knows? When I drove through the rest of the Refuge Road, all of the Bighorns were high on the ridges — none near the roads. This is often an indicator of wolf activity in the area. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Remember the Torch Light Parades at Snow King and Teton Village tomorrow night!
December 29, 2016 – Thursday
Teton Range: I took this shot at 7:37 am and official sunrise happened at 7:55. I love the sky color at this time of the day and it works beautifully against the snow covered Tetons. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.
Snow Mounds: Taken along the Moose-Wilson Road before sunrise. The area is a Winter Wonderland. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.
Teton Range: This shot was taken at 8:13 am as the morning’s amber light hit the range. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.
Teton Range: This shot was taken along Gros Ventre Road, across Blacktail Butte. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.
Bison: Taken along Gros Ventre Road, backlit with morning steam. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
December 28, 2016 – Wednesday
Mountain Goat: With overnight snow and blue skies in the weather reports, I waited until 11:00 am and headed down the Snake River Canyon. This time of the year, it is always a gamble. Yesterday, my youngest son passed through the same area at 11:45 am or so and saw 35 of Mountain Goats next to the highway. But, that was before the storm. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Mountain Goat: Instead of coming down to the lower sections, they seven or eight I saw stayed well up the mountain. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Mountain Goat: When snow is this deep, they tend to stay higher. It takes a lot of energy to make it through the powder. I hope for Mountain goats in the fresh white snow and relatively close to the road. Better yet if they are standing on the rocky cliffs. It only takes one Goat to make the trip worth it, but again, the trip is still a gamble. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Evening Ridge: The lesser gamble right now is the National Elk Refuge. Bighorns are usually visible close to the road, if not on the road. If I am lucky, they are on the rocks close to the road. I spent the late afternoon at on the National Elk Refuge and took a lot of nice photos of the Miller House. Today it was bathed in beautiful golden light on the south face. This shot was taken towards the west from the Miller House parking area. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Buck Rail Fence: This is a tight crop of the fence in front of the Miller House, using the very last of the evening light. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
December 27, 2016 – Tuesday
Black-billed Magpie: Magpies and Chickadees are regular visitors to my back yard during the Winter. I’ve never found either of these birds to be easy to photograph. Magpies like the peanuts and suet, while Chickadees like sunflower seeds, suet and peanut butter. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
My neighbor mentioned seeing a Long-tailed Weasel or an Ermine coming out of my yard a couple of days ago. I’ve seen a few randomly, but they are always on the move and deeper in the brush than I would prefer. I put some food out for it today and will hope for some positive results soon.
Black-capped Chickadee: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
JH Wildlife: The Elk Hunt is over in Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Hunters are still harvesting bison on the north edge of the Refuge, but the Elk seem to be relaxing some. They can sometimes be seen grazing along the sides of Crystal Butte and Miller Butte—mostly cows. Others have been grazing closer to the Miller House than in recent weeks. I would expect to see a wolf or two hunting them in the area now. A small herd of Pronghorns were at Miller Butte today. Bighorns were scattered along the roadway and along the Butte. A couple of Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles, plus a few Hawks and Ravens can often be seen above Miller Butte. A couple of Rough-legged Hawks are seen regularly along the Highway going north out of town. Scattered around the valley, people are seeing Foxes, Weasels, Ermine, Pine Martens, & Badgers.
JH Events: There will be torch light parades and fireworks at Snow King Resort and JH Mountain Resort on New Year’s Eve. Many of the outdoor skating rinks are opening around town. Most are free to the public. The rink in the Town Square was being prepared on Christmas Eve. It should be open soon. Many of the cross country trails are now open. Check out details and schedules on this site: Teton County & Jackson Parks and Recreation. You might also check out: Ranger-Led Snowshoe Hikes Began December 26. The National Elk Refuge is again partnering with the Teton Raptor Center to present a series of “Feathered Fridays” visits during the 2016/2017 winter season. The programs, offered each Friday from 12:00-2:00 pm, will run weekly from December 23, 2016 through March 31, 2017. Lots more info about the National Elk Refuge can be found on their site.
JH Weather Alert: A new storm is approaching Jackson Hole and the region. High winds and blowing snow is in the forecast for the rest of today and much of tomorrow.
December 26, 2016 – Monday
Neighborhood Moose: Yesterday, we headed out for our Christmas Day sledding. These two bulls were walking down one of the roads as we left our neighborhood. They’ll probably spend the rest of the winter along Flat Creek in town. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Pronghorns: These are two of six Pronghorns I spotted on Miller Butte this afternoon. Miller Butte is part of the National Elk Refuge at the Northeast corner of Jackson. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Bighorns: The rut is still underway at the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
The Miller House: On some days, you can see the Tetons behind the buttes, but the mountains were covered by clouds today. I stopped to take this photo on the National Elk Refuge, attracted by the glowing hillsides. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
I offer LICENSED One-On-One Photography Excursions in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge—with emphasis on helping clients with their camera and gear.
Each trip is customized based on client needs and requests. (Note: It says One-On-One, but I take two people on a trip for the same price). We find some of the best locations for scenic photography, and look for wildlife in the process. Check out some of the Client Comments. (Teton Photo Excursions is an Authorized Permittee of the National Park Service and the National Elk Refuge)
December 25, 2016 – Sunday ~ Christmas Day
Yesterday, I made two trips to downtown Jackson Hole for a few photos. It was beautiful…fresh new snow everywhere and new snow falling straight down. Last night, I processed a pile of the photos and created this new Feature Post: Christmas Eve in Jackson Hole, WY. If you are already a subscriber to Best of the Tetons, you would have received an email version of the page. This morning, I went through it again and modified some of the text, so it might be worth a second look.
Christmas Morning in Jackson Hole: This morning, we woke up to more snow, but winds are brisk and variable in direction.
Ely Springs Barn: I made a quick run to the National Elk Refuge, where I found a few Bighorns. They were feeding and not too active, so I did a quick South Park loop looking for critters, swans, and anything else to go with the fresh snow. I ended up photographing a few barns. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Stream Side Barn: This barn sits beside Flat Creek. The specks in the “sky” are actually shrubs and sagebrush on a distant hill. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.
U Lazy U Barn: Another of the South Park barns. The fresh snow helped with this barn today. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
Staggered Fence: This shows the top of a fence along South Park Loop Road. It’s interesting on any day, but the caps of snow accents the staggered tops. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
December 24, 2016 – Saturday ~ Christmas Eve
Merry Christmas from the Jackson Family and Best of the Tetons!
About this image: This shot comes slightly from “left field”, but maybe appropriate for the season. Hartland Plastics (Hartland, WI) created a variety of plastic toys and religious statues beginning in the late 1940’s through the early 1960’s. For quite a few years, my parents gave myself and my brother one of the western sets they produced, such as the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Matt Dillon, and Cheyenne. They were some of my favorite toys from my childhood and I later became an aggressive collector. This is one of the Nativity Sets produced by Hartland Plastics. Each of the standing figures are roughly 6″ tall and are quite detailed. The sets are sought after and quite collectible 60 years later. I photographed this set in 2009 with either a Nikon D200 or Nikon D300. I applied a palladium film effect using OnOne2017 software.
Around the Valley on Christmas Eve: It has been snowing all night here in Jackson Hole. It is still snowing as I write this note at 8:15 am. Hopefully, I will get out some today and can post a few photos later. The town is busy right now, with shoppers bustling around loaded with bags of gifts and goodies. Shops and businesses have done a great job of making the town look festive for tourists experiencing a “White Christmas”. The three area ski resorts got off to a good start with plenty of snow.
Bighorn: I captured this image on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.
December 23, 2016 – Friday
Rough-legged Hawk: Watch for at least two Rough-legged Hawks along the highway next to the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld.
Rough-legged Hawk and Sleeping Indian: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld.
Mule Deer: Mule Deer, like this one, are often seen on the west side of the highway along the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld.
Backlit Horse: Taken on Game Creek Road, south of town. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens. Handheld
December 22, 2016 – Thursday
Snake River Overlook: This monochromatic image was taken about 30 minutes before first light. As it turns out, there wasn’t much light on the peaks until late in the morning. I had hoped to see pinks and magenta in the morning sky, but clouds in the east thwarted my efforts. It was -18 degrees for a while! I checked out the Kelly area, but didn’t see moose. Bison were well off the road, so I didn’t take any photos there. I made two trips to the National Elk Refuge today, but had essentially the same results. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm
Swan in Flight: At this time of the year, Flat Creek is often frozen solid. That pushes the Trumpeter Swans to other open water. This shot was taken at Boyle’s Hill on the West side of Jackson. There are 14 breeding Trumpeters there at all times, plus 10 to 50 wild Swans at about any give time. Wild Swans go there for the free food and open water. The location is usually good for a few hundred to a few thousand clicks on the camera, depending of how many Swans are flying in or out. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
This page should give you more info, more photos, and a map to the area: Trumpeter Swans of Boyle’s Hill:
This page has more information about photography along Flat Creek during the Winter months: Wintering Trumpeter Swans Along Flat Creek:
Boyle’s Hill Swans: The Wetlands Society heads up the Trumpeter Swan recovery program, but there are also a few Canada Geese under study at Boyle’s Hill. Mallard Ducks are also commonly seen there. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
December 21, 2016 – Winter Solstice
Miller Butte Bighorns: This is the shortest day of the year—the Winter Solstice! With the sun low in the sky, we can take photos all day! I went to Miller Butte this morning, after striking out looking for the Great Horned Owl. I had hoped to get a few shots of it against today’s “Bluebird” sky. Still, it’s a beautiful day and not one I plan on spending in my office. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Bluebird Sky: Taken at Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Bighorn Chase: You can usually take a few photos of Bighorns on the Refuge, though it might take a couple of trips to time it correctly. Most of the time, they are just grazing on either side of the road. Occasionally we get lucky and have the opportunity to experience action sequences. Typically, one or two Ewes are in season, with one dominant Ram near her. If she slips off, other Rams rush in for their short lived opportunity to mate with her. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Bighorn Chase: Most of the shots today were captured at 1/1250th second. That’s usually fast enough to free the action at Miller Butte distances. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Bighorn Chase: Snow also makes a good reflector, bouncing light into the shadows. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Bighorn Ram: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Evening Ram: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Evening Ram: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
December 20, 2016 – Tuesday
Great Horned Owl: I haven’t had a lot of chances to photograph Owls this year. Fortunately, I was able to photograph this one, tucked deep in a Spruce tree south of town. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Tidbits: This morning started out dark, relatively warm, and very windy. It was a good day to stay home and work on the computer, but I succumbed to a quick cabin fever loop through South Park. Snow is predicted for later in the day, so I might get out again. Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice…the shortest day of the year. And, Christmas is approaching at a blazing pace! Regionally, groomers are beginning to smooth cross country ski trails over the new snow. Cheers! MJ
Bighorn Ram: Captured on the National Elk Refuge. There were only a few sheep down while I was there. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Horse and Red Barn: One of the South Park barns. Nikon D810 and Nikon70-200 Zoom Micro lens.
Afternoon Great Horned Owl: The owl was still in the same tree, but was a bit more alert this afternoon. I captured quite a few shots with more snow falling, but the flakes were often too large. Some covered the bird’s face or eyes. This one had a cleaner look. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
December 19, 2016 – Monday
Cow On Ridge: This Moose was searching for exposed bitter brush on the ridge above Gros Ventre Road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Red Dog: This is a very young bison calf for this late in the year. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Line of Bison: Typically, by this time of the year, bison born earlier in the year resemble the size and color of the third bison from the left. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 18, 2016 – Sunday
Cow and Calf: I am fairly confident in saying that many of the area Moose are moving from the sagebrush and bitter brush zones and back to the river bottoms. Some even move close to town to feed on branches and twigs. Many of the side roads are plowed in or snowed in, so it is more difficult to get to the remaining moose in the flats. These two were along the Gros Ventre, along with an anterless bull. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Approaching Bull Bison: Taken just north of Kelly as a herd crossed the roadway. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Red Rocks and Snow: I haven’t been “up the Gros Ventre” in a while, so I did that drive this morning. I am always on the lookout for a Mountain Lion, Mule Deer, Elk, Moose, and Bighorns. There can also be other smaller critters like Red Foxes, Pine Martens, Ermine, and Badgers, evident by the tracks in the snow. I only saw a few stray Elk today. Travel past the Atherton Creek Campground is limited to Snowmobiles, hikers, snow shoes, and cross-country skis. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Buck Mule Deer: I saw two nice bucks near Kelly today. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Moose and Bison: Another cow Moose making her way to the Gros Ventre, passing a few Bison. They are patiently waiting for the end of the hunt on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Moose in Motion: This cow had her eyes on the target—the Gros Ventre River bottom. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Winter ~ Area Tidbits: The Winter tourist season is in full swing now. Snow King is open, including the Tube Park. The Sleigh Rides on the National Elk Refuge are in operation again. I see trailers taking tourists out on snowmobile tours. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Ski Resort are experiencing great early season snow. Downtown is festive with all of the holiday garland and lighting. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Sleeping Indian covered in fresh snow: Taken from the Elk Refuge Road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Rough-legged Hawk: I should get better shots of this bird. I missed getting good light on it by only a few minutes. I spotted two on the fence posts along the highway next to the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 17, 2016 – Saturday
Alpenglow at Snake River Overlook: This was the first morning I have been able to see the Teton Range in a long time. I got up early and made it to Snake River Overlook just in time for a few early, cold shots. It was still -19 degrees when I made it back to the truck and I saw -21 on the truck’s thermometer as I was driving south. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm lens.
SRO Panorama: Click this image to see it much larger. After hanging around for the entire sunrise sequence, my fingers and toes were darned cold. Sometimes, that’s the price you have to pay! This is a four shot capture, stitched in Lightroom. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm lens.
Winter Morning: The newspaper mentioned two feet of new snow in the mountains. I pulled over in one of the highway pullouts to take this shot before the last of the low clouds disappeared. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm lens.
Cow Moose: Taken just north of Antelope Flats Road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Mormon Row: A long distance shot of the historic Mormon Row line of buildings at the John Moulton Homestead. Antelope Flats Road is now closed for the season. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Cow and Calf Moose: These two moose saw a distant bull and began making their way through the deep snow towards him. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Bull Moose in Cottonwoods: This is a tight crop of a long distance shot. I include it in today’s group of photos to show that some of the bulls still sport their antlers, but I don’t expect to see them much longer. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Cygnet in Kelly Warm Springs: Captured “through the steam” at the Warm Springs. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Ghostly Swans: Also at the Kelly Warm Springs. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Winter Red Dog: Most Moose calves are born in June. They are copper red for the first month or two before turning dark brown or black. This little calf is unusually small and red for this late in the year. I’ve been trying to get a shot of it for a few days. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Bison Herd: When I went out on Gros Ventre Road, I saw a lot of tracks, but no Bison. On my way back through, a large herd of Bison were returning from the Gros Ventre River. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Winter Bison: Most of the bison had a white beard of frozen water from their morning drink in the Gros Ventre. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Frosted Face: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Red Fox with Frozen Carcass: I spent part of yesterday cruising around looking for a Red Fox, or even tracks, but didn’t find either. This morning, I drove to the small town of Wilson. This Fox was trying to pull fur off a frozen carcass in Fish Creek. Most of the property along Fish Creek is privately owned, but you can occasionally find openings. The area is also good for Moose, Kingfishers, and Owls. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 16, 2016 – Friday
Moose Junction: Since I call this a Daily Journal, I thought I’d add a occasional weather photo and a few comments. It was warm in town yesterday, so precipitation was in the form of rain and drizzle. Same for this morning, however when I drove north past the airport, precipitation was in the form of heavy snow. Flat Creek has been frozen hard enough recently that Elk could cross it safely, but it looks mushy and open spots again. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Moose Sculpture: If I had wanted to climb through thigh deep snow, I could have changed the angle and eliminated the building in this shot. Maybe some other day. There is a lot of snow at the base of the mountain at Moose. The road to the Chapel of the Transfiguration is now blocked, much like Antelope Flats Road, so access to those areas would require show shoes or cross-country skis. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Young Cow Moose: Most of the large game animals have left the Moose-Wilson Road area, but this young cow is hanging around. I don’t believe they particularly prefer pine boughs, but this one ate most of them from the small tree. The Moose-Wilson Road is only open to the Death Canyon turnoff road. While I was there, the road was passable but narrow. That road seems to be at a low priority for the snowplows. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
GTNP Christmas Tree: Someone decorated a tree along the Moose-Wilson Road. I stopped and snapped a few photos from my tripod to be able to slow the shutter to keep a little streaking in the snow. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.
Bighorns: This is a test image taken from the National Elk Refuge. I wanted to test the Wi-Fi option on the new Ram truck. I was able to download the image to my Mac laptop, process it in Lightroom, and then upload it to the blog via the built-in Wi-Fi hot spot in the truck. I have a week of free data, so I thought it would be a good time to try it out. The daily data plan is $9.99, the weekly plan is $19.99 and a monthly plan is $49.99. All in all, it worked, but I am faster at home on my desktop computer!
Two Rams: I uploaded this shot from home…the normal way! There were half a dozen rams in one area at Miller Butte and even some occasional head bashing today. A lot of the snow has melted over the recent warm spell, but Refuge roads are still glazed and slick.
December 15, 2016 – Thursday
Winter Storm: This image was captured at 1/100th second, allowing the snow to streak across the Bison’s dark fur. Several hundred Bison are congregating north of Kelly. Moose were either already bedded down, or out of sight in the creek and river bottoms. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Snowy Bison Protrait: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Blowing Snow: Captured at 1/40th second. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Bison Head: Captured at 1/320th second. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Antelope Flats Road definitely appears to be closed for the season, as seen in the photo from yesterday. Today, there’s a three foot high bank of snow pushed to the gate by one of the snow plows. For the rest of the Winter season, we must travel on essentially “dead end” roads, then backtrack to head up another branch. Except for a few days of heavy winds and snow build up, forcing a temporary closure, the highway between Jackson and Dubois remains open all year.
December 14, 2016 – Wednesday
Road Closure: As of early this morning, it appears Antelope Flats Road is closed for the season. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Excited Bison: One of many bison crossing the East Boundary Road north of Kelly. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Young Sparring Moose: Taken along Ditch Creek Road. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Young Bull Moose: Taken along Ditch Creek Road. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Moose Cow and Calf: Taken in the Spring next to Gros Ventre River. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
December 13, 2016 – Tuesday
Bison: Just one of many Bison foraging for food north of Kelly. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Steamy Swans: This pair was hanging around in the Kelly Warm Springs. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Shane Fence: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Rams on Miller Butte: Look closely. There’s a Ewe bedded down near the left edge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Stand Off: Many of the Rams have established the pecking order. In this case a simple “stare down” was enough to keep these two at bay. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
The “GTNP Elk Reduction Program” (Elk Hunt) is over. I saw a Park Ranger removing one of the orange “Hunt Area” signs along the Gros Ventre Road. He told me the hunt ended Sunday. I had been told the Hunt ended around the 15th. Bison and Elk are still being hunted on the north end of the National Elk Refuge, but generally out of view and range of tourists and photographers.
December 12, 2016 – Monday
Ram in Winter: Bighorns were sprinkled in small groups along the National Elk Refuge road this morning. None were fighting, but a few nice Rams like this one, were traveling from group to group to check on the Ewes. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Ram in Winter: We are getting more snow today. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
I spent much of the morning dealing with insurance policies and CUA permit updates on the new Ram Truck. The truck is getting a bed cover today and hopefully a pair of steps soon. Seems almost poetic to be posting photos of a Bighorn Ram!
December 11, 2016 – Sunday
Bull Missing Antlers: Better hurry if you are still wanting to see and photograph bull Moose with their antlers. Some are dropping theirs now! Taken along the East Boundary Road just after sunrise. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Moulton Barn: You also better hurry if you want to drive to the Mormon Row barns along Antelope Flats Road. The Elk Hunt ends on the 15th and they close the road to vehicles soon afterward. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Mormon Row: Someone tried driving up Mormon Row this morning, but apparently had second thoughts. Expect a barricade there soon. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.
Bison: As I was going through today’s images, I realized I was able to photograph about all of the large game animals today. The species I missed was Elk, and I could have easily taken photos of a bunch of them on the National Elk Refuge. These two Bison were crossing the East Boundary road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Mountain Goat: Taken near the mouth of the Snake River Canyon near Alpine Junction. This was the only Mountain Goat I found this morning. She had an ear tag, but I cloned it out. She also had a collar, but it wasn’t visible from this angle. A half dozen Mountain Goats have been seen with some degree of regularity lately, but the trip there is still a gamble of time and gas. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Last Friday, I drove home in a new Ram 1500 Crew Cab truck to be used for my Teton Photo Excursions. I tested it out Saturday and Sunday! It should make a great touring vehicle—complete with heated seats and lots of room. I’ll be adding a bed cover and bed slide this week. The Toyota Sienna worked great for a couple of years, but this should make the tours even better.
Ram on Ridge: Speaking of a Ram, I found a few on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Ram Chase: A new storm was moving through the valley as I was at the Refuge. There was pretty good action for anyone willing to brave the elements (wind, cold, snow). Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Pronghorns: A recent newspaper story reported over 160 Pronghorns wintering on the National Elk Refuge this year. They don’t appear to be equipped for our deep snow and predators, but each year, more are staying in the valley. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 10, 2016 – Saturday
Wheels: I did a quick Kelly loop this morning. Bison were in the fields north of Kelly. Moose were way out in the sagebrush. The snow is getting deep enough now to make a hike out into the sagebrush a difficult trip for a human. Moose can move through it with no problem. I looked for Mule Deer near Kelly, where I stopped to snap this shot to show the new snow depths. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens handheld with VC ON.
Snowy Hillside: The Teton are covered up by the clouds right now. This is a long distance shot across the sagebrush to the hillsides south of the Gros Ventre River. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens handheld with VC ON.
Four Bull Moose: The bulls are congregating on the National Elk Refuge. Most are along the highway and safely out danger from the hunters. The large herd of elk behind them are mostly cows and calves. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens handheld with VC ON.
Black-capped Chickadee: I spent a good portion of the morning in the Snake River Canyon, hoping again to see Mountain Goats in their full winter fur against white fields of snow and flakes in the sky. The few that appeared stayed above the power lines, and well out of good photography. While I was there, the temperatures were just high enough to turn the precipitation into a rain and snow mix. I headed home and took a few shots of the birds in my back yard. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC OFF.
December 9, 2016 – Friday
Bighorn Ram: It snowed enough overnight that I had to run the snow blower. After lunch, it began so snow heavily and I ended up running it again! More than likely, I’ll have to run it tomorrow morning. Snowing now! This image was taken at the National Elk Refuge at roughly 10:30 am. A few of the rams were down, but didn’t appear to be bashing heads. I got a report that people had seen Moose this morning, but were not close to the roads. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
Bighorn Lamb: Quite honestly, we can take a thousand closeup shots on most days. I like the ones with a little expression. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
I’ve heard reports of the Mountain Goats being along the roadways in the Snake River Canyon lately. With the fresh snow, I may try it tomorrow. With the heavy new snow, I’ve started putting out food for the wintering birds. They seem appreciative! Lately, I’ve been seeing Chickadees, Flickers, Woodpeckers, and Magpies. The blind is set up again, so I should have a few shots of them soon, too!
Teton Photo Excursions. I offer LICENSED One-On-One Photography Excursions in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge, with emphasis on helping clients with their camera and gear. Each trip is customized based on client needs and requests. (Note: It says One-On-One, but I take two people on a trip for the same price). We find some of the best locations for scenic photography, and look for wildlife in the process. Check out some of the Client Comments. (Teton Photo Excursions is an Authorized Permittee of the National Park Service and the National Elk Refuge)
December 8, 2016 – Thursday
Great Blue Heron: I stayed in the warm house this morning. My wife was seeing -25 degree Facebook posts by some of her local friends. I am sure there were at least a few photographers out there, but I wasn’t one of them out early today. It was only -1 degrees at 1:00pm…probably the high for the day. Another storm is on the doorsteps. Mother Nature seems to be playing catch up after a few weeks of unseasonably warm temps. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Landing Swan: I checked the National Elk Refuge this afternoon. A few Bighorns were down, but they didn’t seem too active. I checked Flat Creek, where I saw the Heron, then headed to the Swan pond on Boyles Hill Road. Flat Creek is frozen solid, so some of the Swans are flying in and out of the pond. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 7, 2016 – Wednesday
Resting Ram: It was cold again today, so I didn’t head out until after lunch. There were a few Bighorns down from the top of Miller Butte. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
Rams Bashing: A few of the rams were bashing heads, but not as often as anyone would like. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
Running Lamb: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
Lamb on Rocks: It’s fairly easy to get shots of the Bighorns standing around or feeding in open. Rock formations add to the shots! Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
Elk Herd: This herd of elk were making a break from the hunters just to the north. They were heading up Crystal Butte. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
Portrait: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .
December 6, 2016 – Tuesday:
The overnight temperatures dropped last night! I snapped this shot with my iPhone while driving towards Kelly. I saw a few Mule Deer and roughly 21 moose this morning. None were in great spots, and definitely none of them warranted hiking out to them in this kind of cold.
Antelope Flats road is open again after being closed on Monday. Heavy snow and strong winds drifted it in Sunday afternoon. Flat Creek is frozen solid.
Trumpeter Swans are now in open waters of the Snake and in a few of the spring creeks. An aerator keeps the Ely Springs pond open during the cold months. That will probably a productive location until Flat Creek thaws some.
Mormon Row: I wouldn’t expect Mormon Row to be open much longer. The Park Service seldom plow it during the winter months, and close it once travel is risky. Antelope Flats should be open until after the Elk Hunt, which ends sometime around the middle of December. These kinds of photos highlight how tough the early Mormon settlers must have been. I was cold sitting in my heated van, wearing several shirts and a goose down lined parka jacket. It was close to -20 with a brisk wind this morning. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Fence, Sage and Drifting Snow: Taken along Mormon Row. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Elk on the National Elk Refuge: Almost overnight, thousands of elk appeared on the Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 5, 2016 – Monday:
Icicles: The Winter storm passed through over the weekend. I had to run the snow blower to allow me to get out of the driveway, so like everyone else in the valley, I am running late. This is a shot I took this morning of the icicles that formed under one of the warehouse lamps in front of our house. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Broken Nose: This old Ram has spent the winters on Miller Butte for quite a few years. He has a noticeable scab on his muzzle and is usually quite swollen. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Ram on a Ridge: I spent the afternoon at Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Light was much better! Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Side Attack: Action was better, too! Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Mating Disruption: As the rut progresses, a Ram establishes his dominance in that area. He finds a Ewe “in season” and stays with her, mating as often as possible. Occasionally, another Ram requires his attention and leaves his Ewe unattended. Nearby Rams attempt to capitalize on the situation and mate with the Ewe. Such activity is not looked upon favorably by the dominant Ram, and forces the intruder away. In this case, the dominant Ram rammed the smaller Ram from the back side, knocking the Ewe forward. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
A Jump: Sheep are amazingly acrobatic. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Steep Traverse:… and, they are deft at finding the most tiny of edges for footing. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Ram in Tall Grasses: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 4, 2016 – Sunday: Winter Storm Advisories in Effect!
Alpine Wagon: I had hoped to find Mountain Goats near the roadway in the Snake River Canyon, but I never saw a single one. I had also hoped to be there with snow falling, but that wasn’t happening either. More than likely, the Goats will come down at some point, but I felt I could do better in Jackson. This wagon shot was taken in front of the Flying Saddle Hotel, only a mile or so from where I look for the Mountain Goats. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Hoback Ram: My fishing buddy, Dave, told me he had seen Bighorn Sheep along the roadway near Camp Creek Inn. I did the little side trip on my way back up the Snake River Canyon and found a small herd on the highway. This is the biggest ram I saw. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens VC Off, Group Area Focus.
Hoback Wagon: This wagon is at the Hoback Store at Hoback Junction. I converted it to Black and White using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 in Photoshop. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Wagon Wheel Hub: One of the snow covered wheel hubs at Hoback Junction. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Back at in Jackson, I did a quick loop out to the National Elk Refuge. There were a few Bighorns just north of the Miller House, but the wind was howling and blowing snow into almost white-out conditions. I checked Flat Creek and saw a few hunkered down Swans. I saw a mink there late yesterday, so it was worth looking again. No mink. About then, my warm upstairs office, warm lunch, and a cold beer sounded darned good. I can hear my wind chimes clanging away. Bad conditions can occasionally be good conditions, but maybe not today!
Circuit Board: Oh yes, last night I set up a copy stand and photographed a bunch of old bill heads, letterheads, and other objects. No telling when I will work something like this into a composition. The right side of the image was converted to B&W in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Great Blue Heron: If you scroll down to yesterday’s post, you’ll see a shot of this GBH on a fence rail. I spent a few minutes in Photoshop, testing some techniques and some of my plug-in filters. There’s a lot of “Artistic License” at play here—especially in the vivid blues of a stylized Great BLUE Heron.
December 3, 2016 – Saturday
Bull Moose: I haven’t been out searching for moose in a while, so I gave it a shot this morning. There were around a dozen visible in the sage flats north of Kelly. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Bull Moose: I am not aware a of name for this bull. He has distinctive antlers — drooping out and down from his skull on both sides. He also has a distinctive, long dewlap and a couple of cuts in his right ear. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Swans in Flight: Taken from the observation platform along Flat Creek. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Swans on Ice: With the recent cold weather, Flat Creek is mostly frozen over. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Swans in Flight: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Great Blue Heron: This nice looking bird was along the Flat Creek Wetlands north of the Visitor’s Center. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 2, 2016 – Friday
A Few December Notes: As of December 1st, several roads and zones are closed for the Winter season. Most of them are south of the Gros Ventre River. I believe the road into Two Ocean Lake is closed, along with roads into Curtis Canyon. I should know about Schwabacher Landing tomorrow.
Miller House and Frosted Tetons: This is the time of the year the Bighorn Sheep begin to get active during their rut. Despite all of the other attractions in the valley, I keep going out hoping to find Rams squaring off. I went out early this morning, but they hadn’t come off Miller Butte. I pulled over to snap this shot to show the snow covered Teton Range, plus I liked the first light on East Gros Ventre Butte and the fog behind the historic Miller House. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.
Cygnets: At one point, I saw 6 degrees F on my van’s thermometer this morning. Steam was coming off Flat Creek as I captured this photo of two Cygnets. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Elk on the Run: Taken at the Gros Ventre Junction. A mid sized herd of elk were trying to cross the highway towards the Snake River. Heavy traffic on Highway 89/191 stopped them. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Elk on the Run: Instead, they headed north on the east side of the highway. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Bashing Rams: Action the National Elk Refuge this morning. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Bashing Rams: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Bashing Rams: These were all captured at 1/1250th second at roughly F/11. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Bashing Rams: For what it’s worth, I am still shooting in Manual Mode with Auto ISO. At 1/1600 second and F/11, ISO is still only at ISO 400 on a bright day like today. On a more cloudy day, I might drop back to 1/1000 second and F/8 or so to keep the ISO at a tolerable value on a D500. At least for my purposes, a D5 can handle much higher ISO and still look great. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Tundra Swan Cygnet: There have been a couple of swans hanging around Flat Creek that keep to themselves and have an entirely different sound. While I could easily be wrong, I believe the two are Tundra Swan cygnets. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
December 1, 2016 – Thursday
In December, I look forward to half a dozen subjects. Landscapes will begin to feature snow covered mountains, frosted trees, and migrating wildlife. Trumpeter Swans are usually visible and active. Bighorns are in the rut, and if I am lucky, I get a few shots of bashing rams. In the Canyon, Mountain Goats begin to show themselves close to the roads. Moose are still accessible and still have their antlers. Elk and Bison are migrating towards the National Elk Refuge and Wolves are more likely to be seen following their migration. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Resting Bighorn: Taken on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Up Close: I took this one from the window of my van. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
There are always surprises! Each year, there’s a basic ebb and flow to the seasons, but it seems something pops up unexpectedly to break up the “norm” in a favorable way. Could it be a fox, owl, badger, ermine? Weather can also trigger a better than normal cycle—or kill a dependable one. This year, Flat Creek is open to start the month and Trumpeter Swans are plentiful. Last year, the creek was frozen for much of the month, forcing the Swans to go to other open water. Typically, an anomaly lasts only a day or two, and then disappears. These unexpected and uncontrollable variables keep many photographers dedicated and interested in getting up to be out and in the wilds! Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Young Pronghorn: Speaking of surprises, I counted over 100 Pronghorns on the National Elk Refuge this afternoon. It appears they will be hanging around all winter. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Golden Eye: Taken along Flat Creek. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Wintering Great Blue Heron: I doubt my Florida birding friends see many Great Blue Herons on ice! I caught this one after giving up on the evening light shots of the Trumpeter Swans. This species probably qualifies as one of the pleasant surprises I mentioned earlier. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Sunset Heron: Last shot to post for the first day of December. Not a bad day! Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.
Throughout the month, I’ll be adding photos regularly to this page, so check in as often as you can. For now, you can check out November 2016 Daily Journal of Photos & Comments for Grand Teton National Park & JH. The beginning week or so of December should look a lot like the last week in November!
Teton Textures: In case you’ve never visited this site, check it out! I just added this image “Coat of Many Colors” to the site. Most of the images on Best of the Tetons are “straight photos”, with only the normal hue and saturation, color balance, contrast, and cropping adjustments. Images on Teton Textures feature multiple layers, textures, and a variety of artistic effects. Most of the posts there will have at least some basic explanation of how you might accomplish similar results. Check it out!
Lastly, please let your friends know about this site. If you haven’t already signed up to follow Best of the Tetons, now’s a great time!
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