Best of the Tetons

Costa Rica Scrapbook

A Warm Couple of Weeks in Central America

Sunset at Dominical
Beach at Dominical, Costa Rica

This year, we booked the flights and grabbed the passports for a couple of weeks of warm temperatures, lush green terrain, and time to explore an area rich in wildlife. Despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Daily temperatures in Jackson Hole typically range between -20° to +20°F. Daily highs in Costa Rica in January hover close to 88° F. It’s an easy trade!

Costa Rica Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

Costa Rica has been on my “bucket list” of places to go for quite a few years. Since our kids are grown and have moved out of the house, we’ve been able to travel a bit more. Costa Rica lived up to all of my expectations!

Costa Rica's Nauyaca Waterfalls
Nuykaya Waterfalls

This page will not be a travel guide to all you would need to know if you are planning on making a trip to Costa Rica, but more of a journal or scrapbook of what we did and what we saw.

Jesus Christ Lizard

Wildlife is abundant and extremely varied. The rain forests covers most of the country. Each acre probably contains thousands of interesting critters, however they are not always easily spotted.

White-faced Monkey
White-faced Monkey

Some of the animals are easy to spotif you are in the right place at the right time.

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw: Some wildlife is “common” only is certain areas. Guidebooks can help! Guided trips are even better.


Some the wildlife looks amazingly familiar, including Kingfishers, Osprey, Doves, & Great Blue Herons.


And, some wildlife seems to come from another world or another time. Iguanas are relatively common in Costa Rica, but I find them extremely fascinating.

Costa Rica Vulture
Black Vulture

Costa Rica MapCentral America connects continents of North America with South America. Costa Rica connects the countries of Panama on the south to Nicaragua on the north. The Caribbean Ocean spans the length of the east coast, while the Pacific Ocean runs the length of the west coast. Mt. Chirripó, the highest mountain in Costa Rica is 12,532 ft. above sea level. We could see smoldering volcanos down the spine of the country from our plane window. Before coming here, I knew none of these details!

Costa Rica Beach
Coastline at Dominical

We drove to Dominical, after flying into San Jose.  It is a popular tourist spot for Americans, and many of the locals speak English when needed. A Central American version of Spanish is the common language. The country runs on the Metric System. The country is in the Central Time Zone.

Sunest Surfer
Surfer at Dominical

There are public beaches along the ocean in many areas. Dominical is a mecca for  surfers of all skill levels, while many beaches are signed with notices of dangerous under currents or rip tides.

Sand Dollar

Red Flower
Red Flower

Green is the predominant color in Costa Rica, but other brilliantly colored subjects can be found without much effort. Fruit, like pineapples, bananas, oranges, limes, mangos, and coconuts are abundant and cheap. Restaurants cater to the tourists and locals with a wide variety of food types, usually at prices similar to what we see in Jackson Hole. Hard to beat a a meal cooked with fish fresh out of the ocean.

Three-toed Sloth
Three-toed Sloth

People come to Jackson Hole typically hoping to see Moose, Elk, Deer, Pronghorns, Bears, Bison. Depending on the time the year, they might also hope to see Bighorns and Mountain Goats. In Costa Rica, I might hope to see Sloths, Macaws, Toucans, Whales, Dolphins, Crocodiles, Monkeys, Parrots, and so forth. The country also has many species of big Cats and mid-sized mammals. There are over 50 species of Hummingbirds!

Costa Rica Hikers
Bridge to Nuykaya Waterfalls

Costa Rica has at least 22 National Parks! Considering the entire country is roughly the size of West Virginia, parks are fairly close to most areas of the country. Additionally, the country has numerous reserves and privately protected zones. Some of the National Parks require a certified guide, while others allow self-guided entry. Prices for guided trips seem to range between $28 to $200. (I am sure some are much more). Our hiking trip to the Nuykaya Waterfalls was only $8 per person.

Costa Rica Moth
Detail of Owl Butterfly

Butterflies, jumbo Grasshoppers, and Moths flutter around. Lizards, frogs, toads and snakes are harder to see, but fill the rain forests. Some of them are poisonous. At our duplex residence, we see a variety of birds, insects and lizards. Geckos chirp part of the evening as they wait to ambush small bugs.

Tours, Parks, and Guides

Guided tours are common in almost all regions we visited. Like Jackson Hole, being out very early or late makes a difference. Wildlife is more active during those hours. We took quite a few tours and we winged it several times. The guided trips are well worth it! They know where to look (sometimes a result of the animals not moving very far or they return to a limited number of resting places), and they are good at spotting animals. Some parks, like Parque Nacional Marino Balena require a guide. If interested, check out Anywhere Costa Rica for additional information on tours and travel.

Hacienda Baru: This place is only a few miles from Domincal. I went there several times…possibly the best deal we found! Normal entry is only $8 per person. Guided Bird Watching tours are only $25 or so. A ticket is good all day, so you can return several times. If you return with your previous map and ticket, entry is only $4, and good all day. I did a two hour morning tour, which turned out to be a private tour for $20. After my tour, I returned several more times and found things I know I would have missed.

Crested Guan
Crested Guan

Post Trip Reflections

I had originally planned on making a post while in Costa Rica, then adding photos to it regularly during the trip. My Norton Security protection stopped while in Costa Rica and I was hesitant to be online without it. I waited to submit this post until I was home and safe. Looking back, I’d say we had a great trip. My wife is already talking about another trip there. (I’d like to get back to Sanibel Island in Florida someday, too). The beginning of the “dry season” starts in mid-December in Costa Rica and runs for four or five months. January is a good month to be there. We heard the whales are in a few of the bays in February, so that might be a worthwhile consideration. We based our trip out of Dominical and we spent a lot of our time within 40 miles of there. It’s a much bigger country, so we know we only scratched the surface. I’d definitely budget for as many guided tours as possible if going there (again). I didn’t find time to take a night tour, but many places offer them. Maybe next time! I’d also like to time some of my shots better. For example, the Nuykaya Waterfalls shot was taken in mid morning on a bright day. I might prefer to go there on an overcast day, but that simply isn’t an option when you only have a few days. Same for the shot of the Macaws…by the time the tour made it to the park entrance, it was already mid day. At Carara National Park, we paid a guide to show us additional locations outside the park. I could now go there at sunrise and have chances for photos with much better light.

If You Go: There aren’t many road signs in Costa Rica. The rental car company offered a “Mobile Hot Spot” cube ($8 per day), which came in handy for connecting to the Internet and navigation. The “Waze” app worked well for navigation. “WhatsApp” allows people to call the US (if connected to the Internet), without the normal out of country fees. It also works for texts. I used a Spanish/English app to help with tough words. That app is downloaded onto the phone, so an Internet connection was not needed. I also downloaded a speech version of Spanish/English. We had “Cellular Data” turned off on our phones, tablets and computers.

The Wet Season: We were in Costa Rica in the “dry season”, but I asked about the wet season. Along the coast, the guides told me it can often be clear in the morning, then turn cloudy by noon and rain the rest of the day. Most tourists don’t like that scenario so those months equate to the “off season”. Some roads can be impassible and dangerous. The Baru River, for example, was only knee deep in January, but the high water marks along the river indicate it could be a dangerous and raging river at times. Personally, I’d like to go there when the seasons are changing!

Bull Moose
Jackson Hole, Wyoming in Winter

Back in Jackson Hole, snow is deep and temperatures are dropping to well below freezing. When we pack up to leave Costa Rica, we’ll be re-entering a more familiar environment and reality.

Below, I will include a list of the gear I chose for this trip, and following that section, I’ll add a few more random photos. Cheers! MJ

My Costa Rica Equipment Choices

It is always difficult to know what equipment to take, or to be more specific, how much can be stuffed into legal sized bags. Photographers coming to Jackson Hole surely suffer the same dilemma. I chose to bring my Nikon D5, figuring it could handle the low light situations. Speed might also be a factor. I picked a Nikon 24-70mm all around landscape lens and a Tamron 150-600mm lens for the wildlife shots. I own a new Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens, but I haven’t been 100% satisfied with it. I own a Nikon 200-500mm lens, but I like the extra reach of the Tamron lens. The obvious filler lens would have been my Nikon 70-200mm lens, but instead I chose my older style Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro. I love that lens! It work fine as a standard lens, but it also is incredibly sharp when used as a macro lens (Nikon calls them Micro). I managed to get my disassembled four piece tripod and ball head into my travel duffel bag. Lastly, I brought a Nikon SB910 strobe, and SU800 controller, Radio Poppers, and a CamRanger. I carried the core of my gear in my ThinkTank back pack. That turned out to be a good call since our checked bags didn’t arrive with us in San Jose. Delta Airlines delivered them to us in Dominical the next day, but I have to admit the thought crossed my mind that I might never see my tripod and strobes again.
I would make exactly the same equipment choices again today, for all the same reasons.
Note: I read over the Costa Rica customs documents about photography gear. It mentioned allowing only one camera body.I am not sure how strict on that issue, but it might be worth noting here. 

Additional Random Photos

Black-headed Vultures

Black-headed Vultures: Dominical Beach

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret: Dominical Beach

Diocesis De San Isidro

Diocesis De San Isidro: San Isidro, around 30 miles inland from Domincal

Diocesis De San Isidro

Diocesis De San Isidro:

Downtown Market

Downtown Market: San Isidro.

Farmers Market

Farmers Market: Tuesdays and Thursday in San Isidro.

Fresh Onions

Fresh Onions: Tuesdays and Thursday in San Isidro.


Watermelon: Tuesdays and Thursday in San Isidro.

The Edge of the Rain Forests

The Edge of the Rain Forests: Near Dominical

Cherry Tanager

Cherry Tanager: Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge near Dominical.

Squirrel Monkey

Squirrel Monkey: Along the Sierpe River on the Osa Peninsula.

Costa Rica Heron

Tiger Heron: Baru River near Domincal.

Coastal Sunset

Coastal Sunset: South of Dominical


Squirrel: Hacienda Baru Preserve near Dominical

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron: Parque Nacional Marino Balena on the Osa Peninsula.


Crocodile: Along the Sierpe River at Sierpe on the Osa Peninsula.


Crocodiles: Take from the bridge over Rio Tarcoles near Carara National Park.

Nesting Macaws

Nesting Scarlet Macaws: Carara National Park.

Flying Macaw

Flying Scarlet Macaw: Carara National Park.

Costa Rica Heron
Tri-colored Heron: Along the Baru River near Dominical.




























A Trip to Jackson Hole

—Suggestions from a 30 Year Resident.

This page contains thoughts on a few topics that could help make your trip to Jackson Hole more successful, enjoyable, and productive. It’s longer than I had originally hoped, but I believe the information might be valuable enough to be worth the time it takes to read it!


A Few “Keywords” to Consider

Practice — Patience — Persistence — Preparedness — Pragmatism

All pros still practice—no matter the discipline. No doubt, rookies need more practice. If you are planning a trip to Jackson Hole, you might consider taking your camera and favorite lenses to a local soccer game and practice beforehand. Players move quickly and erratically, just like a Fox or Pronghorn! Practicing on soccer kids is great because failures aren’t disasters! You get plenty of chances and you can always go back for additional practice. You seldom get second chances with wildlife in the Tetons. The moment is over in an instant and is difficult to repeat.


Patience is usually a more difficult discipline for a traveling photographer. I’m often guilty of the “greener pastures syndrome” when out of town, too. Should I wait for the clouds to break, or wait for the animal to move towards water in the evening, or should I move on to something that might be better right now? The answers to the questions are often based on previous experiences—and we simply don’t have those gifted to us. The experiences require us to actually have the experience in the first place! (Of course, a guide can help!) I’ve seen tour companies drive up to an owl perched on a branch. The tourists pile out of the van, get their shots, then climb back in the van and head down the road in search of a different subject. Once gone, the owl flies down and captures a vole or mouse and the patient photographers get the shots! Animals never actually follow the script we’d like them to follow, of course, but anyone watching owls long enough knows they eventually do fly!


Persistence is a luxury for a resident photographer. Once I find a good sunrise location, I can return to it as many days as it takes to get the shot…you know…with purple skies and rose tinted clouds. Tourists coming here, or when I am somewhere else, are forced to do their best with the day or two in front of them. Sometimes, I’ve gone back to a subject half a dozen times to try to hit it perfectly, only to have a passing tourist walk up and get that same shot on their first time. Great for both of us! Even on a short trip, persistence can pay off. If a specific animal, like a fox, isn’t visible at the time, driving by several other times can increase the odds of seeing it. Luck is great…but most of our best shots are often obtained through persistence.

Schwabacher Pano

Practice and Preparedness can be intertwined. If you are buying a new camera for your trip to the Tetons, I’d suggest having a camera body shipped to you weeks before coming to a place like Jackson Hole. Same for your tripod, ball head or Gimball head and all of the plates and attachments. Dial in the camera’s Autofocus Fine Tune with each lens and make sure all of your tripod parts work together. Give it a good workout! With Alpenglow fading, you definitely don’t want to be struggling with your gear! Likewise, you don’t want to have to figure out how to change ISO or Aperture settings when a Bull Moose is crossing a stream in front of you! If on a trip with me, I can help, but you’ll eventually want to make simple changes without too much of a delay.

Moose Calves

Preparedness can take on several different forms. You can pre-visualize an entire series of shots you’d like to capture before you come to Jackson Hole. However, there are additional realities that you need to understand. You will not be able to capture an image of a Bull Moose with a big set of antlers in February, March, April, May, June, and July. The window for antlered Moose is late August to the end of December. That’s simply a reality associated with the yearly life cycle of a Moose. You might not get the antlered Moose shots in the summer, however other opportunities await photographers. Baby Moose, or calves, are born in early June. You might see them in the willows and grassy bogs throughout the summer. Baby bison, pronghorns, deer and elk are also born in the early summer—not that they are easy to find! You won’t be able to photograph a Mountain Goat in the summer with a full winter coat. If you were to see one, the coat would be quite shaggy. Each month and each season offers a virtual patchwork of opportunities, but not all of them are optimum at all times of the year! In short, you need to do some homework so you can be prepared to find particular seasonal opportunities. Or, stated another way, if you want to photograph a specific subject, you need to schedule your trip to coincide with its optimum period.

2015 Daily Journals:
Jan: | Feb: | Mar: | Apr: | May: | June: | July: | Aug: | Sept: | Oct: | Nov: | Dec:

Each month, I create a journal of what I see during that month. The links above cover the entire year of 2015. While there are always a few variables from year to year, the overall pattern remains relatively consistent. If you are planning a trip to Jackson Hole, I’d strongly suggest you go over the months surrounding your upcoming trip. If you have the time to scroll through all of them, you might be inspired to return during one of the off peak tourists month to experience the park in a completely different way. The bulk of the tourists leave, but the animals are usually active well into December. Don’t stop your research with just the 12 months linked above! Best of the Tetons is absolutely loaded with tips and posts about this area. Feel free to subscribe to get emails when new posts are made.

Elk in Rose Sky

A Pragmatic approach might help you find your subjects. At about any time, a photographer can wander into a unique opportunity—the kind all of us dream about! Lacking those moments of “shear luck”, you will find that some subjects require a little research. Here’s an example: With only a token bit of research, you will learn that both Moose and Elk can be seen most often during the first hour of light.  More importantly, you will learn that Moose generally inhabit river bottoms while Elk like the forest edges. Early mornings around Oxbow Bend might offer a chance for both, however the most Moose are concentrated along the Gros Ventre River. Historically, the most visible Elk are often closer to Jenny Lake. Those two areas are roughly 20 miles apart. Knowing you can’t be in two places at the same time. you would probably need at least two days to get shots of both. A full week in the Tetons would greatly increase your chances to capture them! Elk and Moose can also appear late in the day, but with the Teton Range casting a shadow across the valley, evening Elk are difficult photographic subjects. Mornings are probably best for them.  You’d have a better chance with evening Moose along the Gros Ventre. If you want to be guaranteed of seeing Elk, and lots of them, visit Jackson Hole in December through March! There will be thousands of them visible each day. With a sleigh ride, you can be within 30 yards or closer to them! As you can see, a pragmatic or practical approach can improve your chances of finding and capturing images of tough subjects.

Elk on Parade

Expectations and Realities

With only a few exceptions, you get only about 30 minutes of premium morning light for a typical (good) sunrise. If you are willing to get up very early, you can get some wonderful images during the Alpenglow period, but the actual sunrise part with color in the clouds and light on the peaks is relatively short. It is possible to capture several unique shots at one location by moving around and by changing lenses, etc. Still, it is difficult to pick up and move to an entirely different location, set up, and capture two or three places during one sunrise.

 Snake River Overlook

So, if you were to find ten really good sunrise locations (there are a lot more), it would mean going to them one at a time over a period of a couple of weeks. Let, me back up. You CAN go to all of them in one day and get shots of all of them in one day, but the beautiful morning light is extremely short lived—and that’s if the clouds cooperate!

Bumble Bee

Many people cruise around the valley during the middle of the day, scouting for their next morning shoot. You can often get good wildlife images during the shoulder periods of the morning or afternoon. On some days, a thunderstorm can pass through the valley and people can capture spectacular images during the midday periods. Afternoons with broken clouds are also great for capturing bands of light drenching just a single stand of trees, barn, or mountain peak. In other words, you don’t want to systematically “sell out” the middle of the day. With the sun very low in the sky, Winter visitors actually can shoot all day.  Summer visitors, here for only one day won’t bother with whether they are shooting at times when others say the light is too harsh. They’re out all day because that’s all they have! I take photos all day, especially when the subject matter is above average. Today’s software is getting so good, we can recover most difficult images. We can draw down the highlights (recovering some that might have been considered blown out in earlier years), and open up shadows on high contrast images.

Cascade Canyon

Open Minded / Scavenger Mentality

When coming to Jackson Hole and the Tetons, the last thing I’d suggest  is to get “tunnel vision” and looking only for a few specific subjects—like bears, wolves, and moose. Some professionals take that approach, but they do it on purpose. I could have added this in the “Reality” section above, but in living here and being out regularly in GTNP for the past ten years, I’ve only seen maybe fifteen to twenty wolves—total! I’ve only been able to get a few halfway reasonable photos of them and nothing really good. Grizzly and Black Bears have a 100 yard viewing and photography minimum distance according to the regulations. In fact, so do wolves. Some rangers let people be closer at less peak times of the year, but the rules are in place to move everyone back at any time. Great shots are not easy to get, and the bulk of those are taken by photographers willing to be out for long hours every day of the season. Moose are some of my favorite subjects, but I work hard to get my images. Occasionally, they will be grazing along the roadways early and late—but usually in the sagebrush. Not that many people are willing to hike the river bottoms looking for them.


Instead of succumbing to tunnel vision, I’d suggest visiting photographers to stay open minded. Move around the valley and stop to take a photo of anything that looks interesting. I mean anything! You’d be surprised what pops up while working on other subjects. Most of that phenomenon is a result of actually stopping or slowing down. Dew drops or rain drops on a leaf or a spider web can make wonderful subjects. Ice patterns in a puddle of water are another. Rusty farm equipment and broken windows on the old homesteads can fill in voids in the day and fill your cards in the process. The big subjects will often fall into place if you are patient and not frantic to get the shots you have in your head. Don’t get me wrong, it helps to have pre-visualized your shots so you can be prepared— if and when the opportunity unfolds. Work the zones where your “target subject” is commonly seen, but stop and capture the other subjects as they present themselves. Be prepared, but be flexible!

Mountain Goats in Snow

Remember the the weather can be finicky and unpredictable. This is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing—and realistically there is nothing we can do about it. I was in the canyon last year and bumped into another photo tour guide. I was by myself and he had two or three grumpy clients. They were not happy about the falling snow ruining their shots of the Mountain Goats. I was there because of the snow! Foggy days, snowy, and rainy days can be very good for some subjects, but that usually means you don’t see the Tetons on the same day. I can usually still fill a card on the days other people had rather stay home. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve bumped into people that are not happy about a few clouds in the sky. They’d rather have a solid sheet of cobalt blue above and behind their Teton shots. I seldom take photos of the range unless there are some clouds. Tastes vary! Just about anything can be a compelling subject—some even more so during inclement weather. Again, be prepared and be flexible!

Summer Clouds

The Coffee Table Book Approach

If you come to Jackson Hole as though you are “on assignment” to create a coffee table book of photos on the area, you’ll likely go home with several cards full of images. This follows along with the preceding section, but having the visual of a finished book can crystallize the concept for most people. You’ll want a big, vista view for the center spread, then a good shot of just the Grand (maybe with the moon setting over it), and a shot of Sleeping Indian and Mt. Moran. The big four locations: Schwabacher Landing, Mormon Row Barns, Oxbow Bend, and Snake River Overlook simply have to be in there. Don’t forget to look for different angles of each. The book would need a wildlife section with a few shots of each of the big game animals—plus a few of the smaller critters like squirrels, ground squirrels, badgers, and of course the various birds. You can capture big stands of trees, then walk into a grove and shoot up into the trees to create images with converging lines. Afterwards, focus on individual leaves, bark and lichen. We have waterfalls, river, streams, and ponds. Some of the still ponds have beautiful floating pads and bright yellow flowers. Of yes, don’t forget the wildflowers and berries! Better yet, watch for a bumble bee on a wildflower! Cold, early mornings are great for Dragonflies asleep on stems. You can occasionally capture captivating shots before they have time to warm up and fly away. Scattered around the valley are historic structures like Menor’s Ferry, Chapel of the Transfiguration and some of the other barns and buildings. We have hikers, bikers, boaters, kayakers, mountain climbers, and paragliders in the summer and people on skis and snow shoes in the winter.  Watch for fishermen in the Snake River and smaller streams. You can find people sitting on the decks of the various restaurants, enjoying an evening glass of wine. If you are lucky, you might get a thunderstorm and maybe a rainbow. Images of the spectacular clouds with no other subjects can be powerful. A passing Bald Eagle or group of Canada Geese could add a cherry to top. Think “grand” then work smaller and smaller until you can’t focus any closer. You don’t have to capture them all in a linear order either! Just shoot away. Oh yes, go to town and capture the buildings, Elk antler arches, stagecoach, shoppers, evening shootout, and the Cowboy Bar sign. Go back at night and do it again! If you are in town on Memorial Day weekend or the 4th of July, there are parades and fireworks. Challenge yourself with this assignment and you’ll go home happy!


Whether you take a photo tour with me here in the Tetons or not, the Coffee Table Book approach can guide you to lots of shots on just about any subject. I used it when we went to Maui a couple of years ago, and again last year when we were on Sanibel Island, FL. We’re headed back and I’ll apply it again. But remember, I just wrote “any subject”! Think about how you might make a coffee table book on rodeos. How about fly fishing, or tractor pulls, or covered bridges, or your kid’s summer of baseball! Think big at first and then work to the smallest of details.

Schwabacher Landing

Smarter Today

I recently heard a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “I’d like to think I am smarter today than I was yesterday”. Digital photography is ideal for helping photographers grow—and grow quickly! Almost all technical information about a particular shot is stored in the metadata. We can see which camera took the shot, which lens we used and whether we used a flash. We can see the shutter speed, ISO settings, and Mode (aperture, shutter, manual). EV or exposure compensation is recorded, along with the settings for white balance. On my D4 and D810, I can even add an audio note, such as the name of the athlete or something about the subject. On some cameras, you can include the GPS location of the shot. The stored data can be a valuable tool if people care to evaluate their own shots. If you see a little motion blur, it is easy to establish the correlation between shutter speed and blurred or frozen motion. You can establish your “pain threshold” for high ISO noise on various subjects. It can take some time to know how to use the information, but it is there. Think of your photography experience as a “journey”, not a “destination”.

Grizzly Family

Fly fishermen remember “the ones that got away” more vividly than they remember the big ones they actually landed. Sometimes, the lost fish was a result of not playing it carefully enough. Sometimes, the fish wraps around a branch and gets away at no fault of the fisherman. Photographers remember the shots “they didn’t get” in much the same manner. Those shots can haunt us for a long time. However, the lost fish and the missed photos can make us more prepared…”Next time, I will make sure I am at 1/800th second or faster”, or “Next time, I will be ready if the grizzly stands up”. When back on the computer, we can review all of our photos in Lightroom and learn again. “I took some shots with a polarizing filter, but I wish I had rotated it on a few to eliminate the effect”. Or, “I had some glare on the water. I wish I had thought to pull out my polarizing filter for a few shots”. How about, “It looks like I shot everything from a comfortable height of about 5′, but I wish I had kneeled down or laid on my stomach for a few shots”. Even…”Man, there were some beautiful clouds that day, but it looks like I was in too much of a hurry to leave for greener pastures and didn’t wait for light to hit the peaks. I can’t imagine that where I went was going to be any better”.


Luckily, there can be second chances to visit our favorite places, like Jackson Hole or Sanibel Island. Better yet, the improvements we make as a result of a mistake at one shoot can be applied to many other locations. The barns along Mormon Row are not drastically different than photographing covered bridges in Vermont and New Hampshire. Sunsets in Maui are quite similar to sunsets in Florida. Occasionally, we get sunrise and sunset events that rival them. The sin, at least to my perspective, would be to continue making the same mistakes after you know you made them originally. I might initially try something as an improvement, but need two or three more tries before actually seeing the positive results. Each mistake and each attempt builds on our overall experience.

Moose at Dornans

Jackson Hole Awaits You!

If you are coming here, bring your camera, lenses, tripod, and tools to download and view your photos. Bring clothing and gloves to keep you warm for the early mornings, then remove layers as the day warms. Dedicate more than a day or two in the valley to really give yourself a chance to experience the region. In four or five days would be even better, and you’ll usually get at least one great sunrise. That means, of course, you have to get up very early each morning to get the shots you see in travel magazines. Have breakfast AFTER the sunrise and AFTER the big game animals have bedded down for the morning.  If you stop for breakfast first, you’ll likely miss the best of both.

If you would like to book a customized one-on-one photo tour with me, I’d love to take you. Click Teton Photo Excursions for lots more information!

“Must Read” Feature Posts at Best of the Tetons!

There are lots of posts on this blog now…maybe too many? Some of my favorite and most informative posts were written within the first month of creating this blog site. If you are short of time, I’d still suggest reading this group:

Cheers! Mike Jackson







Tamron 150-600mm Lens at Sanibel Island, FL

Shots taken with my versatile, lightweight lens on a Nikon D4 camera.

Morning Beachcombers

Morning Beachcombers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 125

Page Intro and Comments

I think of this page as a follow-up to the post I made right after buying my lens back in February. Here’s that page: Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:

  • If you are considering purchasing a Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:, this page of photos and text should help you decide.
  • If you already purchased this lens and are having trouble getting sharp photos, there tips here that should help.
  • If you just want to see a bunch of pretty pictures from beautiful Florida, you will probably enjoy this page.

You could call this page a review, but I think of it more of hands-on report with photos and comments. Engineers spend hours taking shots of charts in controlled conditions. I typically get more out of seeing real life images than a page of charts and graphs with circles and arrows. That’s what this page is all about!

It has been almost three months since UPS dropped off my package. Here in the Tetons, I’ve taken a lot of photos with it on both my Nikon D4 and Nikon D800. Images on this page were all taken with a Nikon D4 and the Tamron 150-600 mm lens over a period of five days on Sanibel Island on the Gulf side of southern Florida.

The top section of the page will contain some necessary comments about the lens and the bottom section will simply contain images with a short note about the subject. For the people capable of gleaning important information contained in the shooting data, I will include it with each photo. I present these images the same as I might have done if I had taken them with my Nikon 200-400mm lens. All were taken in raw format, so all of them received the normal Lightroom adjustments for contrast, hue and saturation, sharpness and so forth. Most of the edits on these images were completed in a couple of minutes each. Over the period of almost two years of posting to this blog, I have become a big fan of a 1:2 crop ratio. I initially cropped to that ratio to help save bandwidth and load times, but now I am beginning to “see” shots in that aspect ratio as I take them.

Reddish Herons

Reddish Egrets: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 220

Too Many Photos on a Blog Post?

It would be way too easy to pick half a dozen photos from the 13,000 images I took at Sanibel and post them in a text heavy blog post. “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”. Right? I could simply get lucky six times out of 13,000, or possibly only show six images that dovetail with the lens’ best attributes. Instead, I loaded this page with around 40 images taken at all times of the day, of a variety of subjects, and at a variety of distances. I only kept 1400 out of the 13,000. Many of the ones I deleted were sharp and well captured, but were boring or less interesting when placed beside an image with action or showing behavior. Why keep them? Check out: The Secret to Becoming a Good Photographer:

The Sanibel Trip

Many people come to Jackson Hole in the summer to breath the cool mountain air, visit the two National Parks, and experience the many activities found here. Many people flock to Florida in the winter to escape the brutal winters up north and to walk the warm beaches.  Sanibel is a renowned destination for “birding” photographers. The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a centerpiece for the activity—along with the many miles of public beaches on the island.

White Ibis in the Surf

White Ibis in the Surf: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/1000 at f/9, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 720

My wife and I took our kids to Sanibel Island around 20 years ago. I had different priorities back then—namely kids! This time, I took the camera gear since I didn’t need a stroller. We stayed in a friend’s beach side condo and we rented a car for the week. I could set the alarm and be on the beach well before sunrise. Just like here, some of the best photography happens in the first hour of light. Colors are rich, saturated and vibrant! My wife was content to sleep later and make her way to the beach and pool. She really likes the sun and heat if she is not on the mountain with her snowboard.

Reddish Heron Fishing

Reddish Egret Fishing: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/640 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 1250

The Gear

For this trip, I took three lenses and one body—along with a travel tripod and a strobe. I chose the D4 over the D800 in anticipation of opportunities for “birds in flight”. The tripod was the one I purchased in Hawaii back in October. (Here Today, Gone to Maui!). Here’s a link to MeFoto GlobeTrotter Tripod.  I couldn’t get my Gitzo in the suitcase or I would have taken it. I also took one of my Wimberley “Sidekicks” to help with birds in flight. I mounted it on the Arca-Swiss Z1 ball head, which is a little bigger and heavier than the ball head that came with the MeFoto Tripod. The Tamron 150-600mm lens fit inside my smaller back pack, along with the strobe and Nikon 28-300mm lens (which I never used). I carried my Nikon D4 and 24-70mm lens on the plane as my carry-on item. The back pack went into the plane’s overhead storage compartment. The point here is the Tamron is small enough and light enough to fit in the small back pack.

Great Egret Landing

Great Egret Landing: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 450 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 110

Many of the 13,000 captures were of birds in flight—or birds doing something on the beach. That takes more clicks than if I were only there for the landscape shots. At 600mm, it is much more difficult to keep the bird in the center of the viewfinder. The bigger, slower birds were easier, but it is still easy to crop off wings or legs. If I did my part and let the lens focus on a bird before shooting, the camera’s predictive auto focus system and the lens’ speed did a great job.

Fort Meyers Beach

Fort Meyers Beach: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/200 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,   ISO 100

While I found the lens very capable for the birds in flight and the other animals of the island, I also had fun with it on landscapes and people shots. Telephoto lenses can compress a scene, if desired, or it can allow you to blur objects behind the main subject. With a telephoto lens, most people on the beaches never knew I was taking photos with them in it. Even when they do know, I’ve always found them to be more relaxed and natural when I am not right in their face with a lens.

First Light on the Beachcombers

First Light on the Beachcombers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1250

Brown Pelican Diving

Brown Pelican Diving: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 160

Some of the locals at Sanibel probably have better shots of some of the subjects than I managed to take on my short trip. If I were there for a month or two, I’d feel good about improving on some of what I did manage to capture. The diving Brown Pelican is an example. I’d like to be 50% closer for that shot, and if I were there longer, I think I’d get them.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 800

Lighthouse and Moon

Moon and Lighthouse: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/30 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

My comments (mainly for people considering buying this lens):

I could  just let the photos speak for themselves, but I’m probably obligated to talk some about the lens. After using it for two and a half months, I simply must say I am impressed! And, I can say that without regard for the fact the lens costs under $1100!

Before making my purchase, I read a lot of reviews and comments about this lens. To be honest, most of the reviews did me absolutely no good! Many of the people had posted photos they had taken with the lens they thought were “tack sharp”, but wouldn’t have made it through the first cut if I had been culling through my images. They were far from sharp! Still, mixed in with the blurry images, I kept seeing a few that were incredibly sharp. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde? After a while, it became apparent the lens was extremely capable in the hands of someone with the appropriate skills. While still on the fence, I ran across a Flicker page by Kristofer Rowe. The page is LOADED with birds in flight.  His page, along with the many positive comments put me over the top:

Remember to check out my earlier post: Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:

In a nutshell, I am confident in saying this lens can, and should take sharp photos. You could look at it from the other perspective, too. IF, you take 25 shots and one of them is sharp, that probably means the lens and body “can” take sharp shots and “something else” caused the other 24 to not be sharp. And of course, “sharp” is a relative term for the pixel peepers. Many people consider the essence of action or emotion more important than the sharpness or crispness of an image.  I like to think I’ve done all I can to allow myself to get a sharp image “when I need it” and then be able to let the creative side take over when the situation calls for it. And remember, at 600mm any sloppiness in technique will be much more apparent or amplified than when shooting with a shorter lens! The list below contains a few suggestions and observations about this lens.

  • In the reviews I read, a few people commented “the lens is not great for early or late day photography”. I think this comment needs to be paired up with the blurry shots shown as examples of tack sharp by some of the reviewers. I am not sure of their skill level? Additionally, people need to be at least somewhat realistic! A $10,000 F/4 prime 600mm lens is not going to be much better at freezing a flying eagle at daybreak than this lens. The Nikon F/4 600mm is 1.3 stops faster than this lens at F6.3 when zoomed to 600mm, but at 6:30 in the morning, neither are going to stop a lot of action.
  • The “one over focal length” rule: That’s an old rule of thumb for establishing the minimum shutter speed for hand holding a lens. Establish the focal length for a lens and turn it into a fraction by putting a one over it. For example, a 400mm lens would be 1/400th second. A 600mm would be 1/600th second. Vibration reduction can help by a stop or so. Leaning against a tree or vehicle can help, vs standing and holding the lens. Some people are more “rock solid” when hand holding than others. I prefer a tripod. I like to have the lens in front of my face at all times instead of having to raise and hold it if I anticipate action. There are trade offs of course.
  • Shutter Speed for stopping action: When I can, I like to shoot this lens at 1/1250th second. That stops most action (assuming you want stopped action) and it helps with getting sharp shots with still objects. I’ve still been able to get sharp images when on a tripod at 1/80th second, but the success rate is considerably less. A few months ago, I started using Auto ISO when shooting with either my D4 or D800. I set the camera to Manual Mode. I set the Shutter Speed to roughly 1/1250th second, then set the Aperture to F/8 or so. With Auto ISO turned on, the other two variables are set and the ISO bounces around as needed. I watch the ISO results and am willing to drop the shutter speed to 1/640th second and can open up to F/5.6 to F/6.3. With a good camera, high ISO is much less of an issue than it might have been three or four years ago.
  • Stopped Down or Wide Open?: In my earlier post, I mentioned feeling better about the lens when it is “stopped down” some. I think the lens is sharper wide open than I initially gave it credit. Still, I feel good stopping down to F/8 to F/11 if I have enough light and especially at long distances. All lenses have a “sweet spot”. I think F/8 or F/9 is good on this lens. Stopping down for birds in flight can help keep more of the bird in focus, but shutter speed and ISO must be worked into the equation.
  • Vibration Reduction: When using my Nikon 200-400mm, I typically turn off the VR when on a tripod. I followed the same logic with this Tamron lens initially. Interestingly, I saw some of my hand held images that seemed to be sharper than similar shots taken on the tripod. Tamron’s vibration reduction (VC) appears to be very good, and it doesn’t appear to be negatively affected if on a tripod. I am sure people have tested this extensively using charts and graphs. When in Florida, I was shooting with a lightweight tripod. I’d hate to call it “flimsy” but it is nothing like the two I use daily here in the Tetons. I had the vibration reduction turned ON for all images on this page. If nothing else, I figured this light tripod is still superior to a monopod. When back at home in Jackson Hole, I’ve been very impressed with images taken out the window at 600mm with the lens resting over a bean bag. BUT, it is also important to keep the shutter speed up, and it is VERY IMPORTANT to turn the engine OFF.
  • Birds in Flight: I also read comments by people suggesting this lens is not fast enough to keep up with flying birds. Again, I question the background and skills of the person making the comments. All you have to do is click on Kristofer Rowe’s Flickr page to debunk those comments. I had plenty of chances to photograph birds in flight while in Florida and found it more than capable. I’ve had other people tell me the Group Focus feature in a Nikon D810 makes this lens even better. I don’t own that body, so I can’t comment on the statement.
  • Clear or UV Filter: When I ordered my lens, Perfect Light was out of clear protective filters. As soon as the lens arrived, I took it out for some test shots. I ordered an inexpensive filter from B&H and it came in three or four days later. I didn’t really notice it at the time, but after adding the filter, some shots had either vertical or horizontal bands—mainly in images with a lot of clutter and activity in the backgrounds. Once I took the clear filter off, all of the problems went away. Some of the other images looked generally sharper without the filter, too.  I’d suggest either not using an add-on filter, or at least buy a good one.
  • AF Fine Tune: I spent some time initially adjusting the AF Fine Tune settings with the Tamron 150-600mm lens on both of my bodies using a Lens-Align tool. I do that will all of my lenses and find each of them need just a little (sometimes a lot) of adjustment. Some people suggest that is not necessary, but you’ll never convince me that’s the case. Maybe they just got lucky and received lenses and bodies that didn’t need it? Zoom lenses are not necessarily easy to fine tune. On some lenses the optimum AF Fine tune settings might be one number at the short end and another number at the other end of the zoom. At least on my 150-600mm lens, the difference at either end is not enough to worry about. I optimized it for the 400-600mm range because I figured that would be when I grabbed this lens over my 200-400, but I am finding it amazingly sharp when shooting close subjects and at the shorter end of the range.
  • Exposure Value: I mentioned this in the earlier page, but this lens consistently needs more negative EV than similar shots I take with my Nikon 200-400 or Nikon 70-200 lenses. That’s actually a GOOD THING! It gives me “back” some of the loss of going from an F/4 to a F/5.6-F/6.3 lens. For example, on my 200-400, I might often shoot at -2/3 EV, but on a similar shot with this lens, I might need to set it at -1 1/3 EV. In the Manual Mode with Auto ISO, the final ISO is influenced by the EV settings.
  • Pilot Error: I had a LOT of failures in the 13,000 images. Again, you might enjoy this old post: The Secret to Becoming a Good Photographer: If you only saw the 1400 keepers or the 140 that might make up the 1% group, you might think I have photography “nailed”.  The question for this page is what happened on the other 11,600 images? Some were terribly blurry. I didn’t get the bird in the focus group initially. Sometimes, I shook the camera or didn’t let the camera get settled properly before beginning to press the shutter. I cropped off wings or legs in a lot of them. It happens! Birds in flight, just like running horses or walking moose, have perfectly “natural” positions the camera can capture that aren’t particularly appealing. I delete them right off. There were distractions in some…like a power line or merged birds stacked on top of each other. Many were sharp and well captured, but were “boring”.  Keep the good ones and throw away the bad ones! I don’t blame the lens or camera for the bad ones.
  • Lens Goes Brain Dead: I’ve read reports of people saying the lens refuses to focus—requiring the person to have to pull the battery and reinsert it to reboot the camera’s operating system. Yes, I have experienced this issue on several occasions. It did it to me twice yesterday while photographing Clark’s Nutcrackers in the back yard. At the time, my battery was getting low, so I attributed the problem to the charge of the battery. I’ve had occasions where my 200-400mm lens acted up with a low battery charge. I changed out the battery yesterday and still had it happen one more time. So, I guess this lens will need to go back to Tamron at some point. I’ve spoken with a couple of other people that sent theirs in for this issue and they said it didn’t happen again after the fix. As I write this post, I don’t recall having a single problem like this on any of the 13,000 images in Sanibel. I hate to be without the lens now, so I will keep an eye on it for a while.

Beach Dwellers

Beach Dwellers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 190 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 640

Additional Photos and Info

River Otter

River Otter: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/800 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 2200

We have River Otters here in Jackson Hole. This one was sunning along the road at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge early one morning.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseatte Spoonbill in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 380 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV (Auto ISO)

These birds were popular with all the photographers each morning. At low tide, they stood in the shallows until mid-morning and then flew off to some other area of the Refuge.

Sanibel Alligator

Sanibel Alligator: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 560

I kept hoping to see an Alligator. This one was in an open pool as I was driving out of Ding Darling Refuge on my last day. It was about 7 foot long. This is a shot that might have benefited by the use of a polarizing filter. There may be a polarizing filter large enough for the 95mm rings on the Tamron, but I have a feeling it would be an extremely expensive gadget—especially if buying from one of the top of the line manufacturers. Polarizing filters can also “cost” up to two stops of light.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/1250 at f/13, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1600

The Brown Pelicans found old pier posts to preen and dry their wings. My inexpensive travel tripod has a center post—which I seldom use. In this case, I needed to extend it to eliminate some distracting sky above the trees. While I shot all of my Sanibel images with the Vibration Reduction (VC) turned on, this is one case where I think it came in extra handy. Looking at the settings right now, I could have dropped the shutter speed to 1/640th second and dropped the aperture to F/7.1 or F/8 to help reduce the ISO. That’s “Monday morning quarterbacking” and it can be a good thing. Still, while standing there that morning, I was also allowing for the possibility the Pelican might take off from the post. It didn’t, but at least I was ready!

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

I was set up hoping the Roseate Spoonbills would fly towards me as they left the area, but without notice, the entire area spooked. Ospreys flew over fairly often without spooking the birds, but they are apparently leery of a much larger eagle.

Eagle with Fish

Eagle with Fish: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV (Auto ISO)

The Eagle fed on this fish for a while, then left the area, but the rest of the birds stayed away.

Palm Trees

Palm Trees and Rising Sun: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 460 mm, 1/1000 at f/13, Manual Mode, -5 EV,  (Auto) ISO 100

This shot would not be the same with a normal landscape lens. I am always careful when composing sunrise and sunset shots so I don’t look at the sun itself through the lens.

Beach Flowers

Beach Flowers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 10000

Check out the ISO on this image. There was a very slight wind, so I needed the fast shutter speed.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/250 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 360

I saw my first Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the first morning. Another photographer was taking photos of one in a tree. He told me it was unusual to see one in the daytime, so I felt extremely lucky to get a few shots. As it turned out, I found them each morning feeding on crabs at the edge of the water. I shot thousands of images of them with quite a few settings.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Great Blue Heron: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

There were Great Blue Herons and Little Blue Herons at Ding Darling. I took quite a few images of both. I don’t think there were as many Tricolored Herons, but I could be wrong.

Moving Birds

Moving Birds: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 320 mm, 1/8 at f/5.6, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 100

This is more of an “artsy” image. It was taken very early in the morning. The small birds ran out to feed, then ran back up as the next wave approached. They looked like little fleas on the beach. At 1/8th second, the small birds blurred beautifully.


Netter: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

This guy was set up with a couple of fishing rods, a lawn chair, umbrella and all the necessary tools of the local fishing trade. He was using a throw net to catch bait for his endeavors. Snowy Egrets were attracted to the nets and fishermen and were looking for a few handouts.

Snow Heron

Snowy Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 450

Some of the Egrets, especially the ones frequenting the beaches, were amazingly tame. I shot at least a thousand images of this particular Egret. Sanibel is a renowned area for collecting sea shells. Even though the bottom is a little “busy”, I chose this one to include here to document the shells and also show how beautifully the background can go out of focus with a telephoto lens.


Fishermen: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 240 mm, 1/800 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 2500

This was a popular location each afternoon. I didn’t witness a lot of people catching fish, but that didn’t stop them from trying.

The Girls

The Girls: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 450 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 8000

On the short end, 150mm offers some nice flexibility. My wife (the one in the sunglasses) met one of our neighbors, her daughter and friend in Sanibel. I took this shot from the pier looking back to the trees. The Tamron 150-600mm lens focuses as close as about 8′. Even stopped down, the background blurred out nicely. As I look at my settings above, I could have easily dropped to 1/800th second and F/11 to help reduce the ISO, but the image was still fine for most purposes at ISO 8000. I took most of our “family” shots with my Nikon 24-70mm lens, however many photographers like a lens in the 105mm length for portraits (70-200mm or prime 105mm). At 150mm, this Tamron lens might be an overlooked asset.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/1250 at f/13, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

This was taken at the same location as the other Brown Pelican shown earlier. This one was on a post with clouds in the distance. The basic settings were the same, but this one dropped the ISO automatically from 1600 to 720.

Shore Birds

Shore Birds: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 360

These birds were gathered on a sand bar until an Osprey flew over. Most of my “birds in flight” shots were taken in continuous focus mode with 9 points active. These shots probably qualify as “spray and pray”. I just aimed at the flock and pressed the shutter button. Some worked better than others. I believe these are Willets.

Shore Bird in Ocean Foam

Willet: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 640

I bought a small bird guide while in Florida. Willets are described as “Sanibel’s largest common winter shorebird”.

Morning Spoonbill

Morning Spoonbill: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1250

This Roseate Spoonbill was taken at 7:24 am at 600mm, wide open at F/6.3.

Resting Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

These interesting birds are common in Florida. They catch their fish with a hooked bill while swimming under water.

Sunning Cormorant

Sunning Cormorant: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 220

After fishing, Cormorants are often seen drying their wings in the sun.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 190 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

In most cases, the camera can do a pretty good job of adjusting for varying exposures. The white birds were a bit more of a challenge for me—knowing they might be flying against light blue skies and white clouds in part of a sequence and then fly into darker waters only a few seconds later. The bigger, slower birds were easier to track than some of the speedy ducks and other waterfowl.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 200

This shot gives a better idea of the size of a Great Egret. The booklet says it is 39″ tall compared to the White Ibis at 25″.

White Ibis

Young White Ibis: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

White Ibis start out brown before turning white. Little Blue Herons, on the other hand, start out white and turn blue.

White Ibis in Flight

White Ibis in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 250

Adult White Ibis. There were additional White Ibis in the Gulf’s surf near the top of the page. I took lots of similar images of the various species of birds at Sanibel. The first day I was there gave me a feel of what the birds might do. Other photographers also helped with identifying the birds. Over a period of a couple of days, I started seeing patterns to their feeding. For example, the Ibis and some of the Herons would stay on the sandbar for the first half hour of light, then fly towards the edge of the water in front of me. By the third day, I was set up in the right place to get them flying right to my feet. Some of the images I had to delete were caused by the birds flying into my frame, then filling it and sometimes inside my minimum focus zone. Too much fun! I also learned, by watching out the balcony window, the Brown Pelicans gathered and fed near the shore at around 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm. A few more days there, and I would have probably seen more patterns and have been more successful. Animals in Grand Teton National Park often have patterns—not immediately apparent to a visitor or photographer.

Reddish Heron

Reddish Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 450

Reddish Egrets were my favorite birds in Sanibel. In fact, I shot a lot of them and I kept more of their images than any other subject. They were the most animated and active. Reddish Egretss spot fish and then run to the location, dancing sometimes to get there, and then spread their wings to influence the direction of the small fish below.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 380 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

Another shot of an approaching Spoonbill.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 12800

I shot quite a few of this Egret as it slowly waded against the mangroves. In context of “shoot a lot, keep the good ones, and delete the bad ones”, I would have deleted the ones where the bird’s head was in front of the cluttered trees and roots. The “keeper” was the one with his head isolated against the less cluttered portion of the background. There’s always a chance the bird will fly off, so I tend to go ahead and shoot some of the less desirable images, just in case it does before it gets to an optimal spot. I could have still toned down the bright branches in post production. In this case, I didn’t have to do much work at all.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

This bird was not in the pamphlet. A Ding Darling volunteer identified it for me, saying they occasionally walk across one of the main roads and cause a huge traffic jam.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

This was taken with evening light at close range.

Sunset over Sanibel

Sunset over Sanibel:

Each evening, tourists and locals make their way to the beach to witness the setting sun. On clear evenings, the sun kisses the water just before touching it.

A Few Final Comments

I got five days of photography in Florida. That was plenty! I had to buy an extra external hard drive to hold all the images. I’ve always wanted to get shots of Cardinals and Pileated Woodpeckers, found on the islands, but I only managed to “see” them on this trip. Still, I had ample opportunities to photograph birds I had never seen, and I got a chance to fine tune some of my “birds in flight” skills. A few days after I made it home, I found myself itching from being bitten by the “no-see-ums” that attack tourists in the mornings and evenings when the wind is low. We were in Florida towards the tail end of their Winter season—yet is was already getting “hot” by Jackson Hole standards. We flew home, passing over the rugged snow covered Wind River Mountains just before a winter storm entered our valley. Getting back to the emphasis of this post, the Tamron 150-600 performed beautifully for me. It has an amazing vibration feature which lets people hand hold it far past what I ever considered. I am positive I will be carrying it around with me in the fall when I photograph Moose, Deer and Elk.

At $1069, this lens gives me some extra range I never had, and it will give some of my One-On-One Photography Excursion clients a chance to try out a longer lens while on their trip.

If you want to see even more photos taken with this lens, check out my Daily Updates and Photos page for April. It has a LOT of images taken here in Jackson Hole during the month. April 2015 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH:

Okay…I lied. A couple of people asked to see an image at 100%. Yesterday, I took a shot at around 150 yards of a guy climbing a shear face here in the Tetons. If you click the link, it will take you to a full-sized hi-resolution image captured with a Nikon D800 and a Tamron 150-600mm. . If the guy had a t-shirt with lettering, I am sure we’d be able to read it! If you want to view this in your browser, use your zoom commands : Control + to zoom in or Control – to zoom out. Or, feel free to download this particular image to your hard drive and view it in Photoshop. I left the shooting data in the file. This is a Raw capture, converted to a JPG in Photomechanic with no additional adjustments.

If you like this page, please help me out by sharing the page link on the social media pages like Facebook and post links on your favorite photography forums. MJ

Here Today, Gone to Maui!

A Jackson Hole resident magically morphs into a Maui tourist.


I had to put the “shoe on the other foot” and become a tourist for about 10 days. I’m not used to it! When heading out in the mornings in Jackson Hole, I usually live up to my old Eagle Scout motto: “Be Prepared”! I take everything I think I might need—and sometimes two of everything. Here in the Tetons, I get the luxury of going to a spot over and over until the light and the clouds cooperate. I have all year. Tourists come and go here like the waves on the beach there. I get to pick the best times of the day and the best times of the year. Like I said, it’s a luxury.


I have enough camera gear to fill a van. When I packed my gear to go to Maui, I probably had to make similar decisions people have to make if they get on a plane to fly to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. Some people coming here have their prime lenses shipped to a trusted friend in the valley. I didn’t have that option, however. In reality, packing was probably easier for me because I was only going there for “vacation” time and vacation photos. I doubt I’ll ever sell one, nor use the images for anything much more than a blog post. Some people coming to the northwest corner of Wyoming probably need and want the very best images they can capture, so they need their pro gear.

Fiery Sunset

The day before we headed out, I grabbed my small camera bag. Naturally, I have two, but I didn’t think the bigger one would fit in the overhead compartment. There was no way I wanted to check the photo gear. By the time I zipped it up, the poor thing was stuffed. It did fit in the overhead compartment—and it made the trip with no problems!


I would have loved to have taken the 200-400mm lens and the 70-200 mm lens, not to mention the regular 24-70 mm workhorse lens and my wide angle 14-24mm lens. I would have loved to have taken my Gitzo tripod, ball head, and Wimberley Sidekick. I chose to take my Nikon D4 body and the all around Nikon 28-300 mm zoom lens. It’s not quite as sharp as my other pro lenses, but it’s lightweight and does a very good job. The tripod was another issue. Before I left for Hawaii, I took my Arca-Swiss ball head off my tripod and found a corner for it in the bag…just in case.

Fiery Sunset

My wife, Darla, and I went light. I had one small suitcase and one camera bag. She had a handbag and purse to carry on the plane and one mid-sized suitcase. Our friends met us at the airport and saw our “load” and said, “That’s it?” Of course, they had three or four big bags each, some of which contained computers, snorkel gear, and other “essentials” for a trip to Maui.

Palm Trees

So, I went to Maui without a tripod. Oh, that hurts to think about it—especially knowing I hardly ever take a shot without one! I got up before sunrise the first morning and took photos hand held, then knew I’d be buying “some kind of tripod”. That turned out to be a good call, and I know I’ll use it some other day. Now, I have three tripods instead of just one and a backup.

Hana Sunrise

The tripod I purchased came with a lightweight ball head. I pulled my Arca-Swiss Z1 ball head out of the bag and replaced the small one. The D4 seemed to be happier on the heavier ball head. I used the tripod for my morning and evening landscapes, long exposures on the waterfalls, a few remote controlled family shots, and several night images.

Giant Sea Turtle

Maui doesn’t have a lot of wildlife—above water anyway. But then, it does have killer sunrises and sunsets. Stunning, in fact! If I could have squeezed it in, I would have loved to taken my 35 megapixel D800 body and my pro model 24-70mm lens for the morning and evening shots. And, there were a few times, I longed for the reach of 400mm on my 200-400mm zoom lens. Those occasions would have probably been limited to the shooting at the ocean of the surfers and later with some of the birds.

Giant Turtle

The 28-300mm VR lens worked fine, however, and it focuses amazingly close!

Night Bonfire

This was my first trip to Hawaii. I suspect I went through much of the same experiences people have when they come to Jackson Hole for the first time. If you do your homework by going through some of the pages on this blog, you’d be far ahead of the others that don’t! Let’s say I went to Maui in the latter shoes. I didn’t have a clue about any of it—other than I knew there’s an ocean, sand, waves, and some lush forests. I picked up some of the many travel brochures and trip guides and studied them…just like people do here. I certainly felt like a tourist, made worse by my snow white legs and chest when on the beach. Oh well.

Night in the Bay

I was out before daylight on most mornings after scouting out locations during the afternoon hours the day before. Darla and the rest of the group were just waking up and finishing their coffee when I’d drag in from the early morning shooting.

Underwater Sea Turtle

Above the water, I can’t say too many things were that different as they relate to photography.  Underwater photography…well that’s a different proposition entirely! A friend let me use an underwater camera for one of the dives. It wasn’t easy for me because I was having to learn to breath through a snorkel and take photos with a foreign camera at the same time.


Just like visitors to the Tetons on a four or five day trip, I had to accept the conditions of the morning, day or evening. It seems the mornings and evenings are usually spectacular there, especially knowing you can look another direction if it isn’t great in the other one. Still, if it was raining when we went to a specific waterfall, that’s just the way it was going to be. There was usually no going back for another chance. Sometimes, people come here for four or five days and never see the Teton Range. I suspect some people never see the top of the Haleakala Crater either.


Before it was all over, we made the drive around the entire island and we spent a lot of time along the ocean. We got to snorkel in two places. We saw the giant sea turtles, both on the beach and under water. We saw surfers, boarders, wind surfers, and kite sailors.

Poinsettia and Bee

We spent money like tourists, had a great time at the Halloween event, and ate some wonderful food. I had at least a hint of a tan when I made it off the plane.


I saw things in Maui I’ve never see here. It was a feast for the eyes! But then, someone from Hawaii might be equally impressed by our wildlife and snow.

Textured Leaf

Just about anywhere you turn, there’s some sort of potential subject! My D4 ended up with around 6000 actuations added to it, virtually filling every CF card I took with me.

Sunset in Maui

I hope to get to go back someday!


After returning home, Darla wanted me to make a book to document our vacation. I spent a few days creating it and then published it through Blurb. If you’d like to view the book, click the thumbnail cover image and flip through the pages. (Hit the four way arrow in the lower right corner to make it fill your entire screen and then hit the ESC button to go back to regular view)  There are a lot more images in the book!

Return to JHIf you are planning a trip to Jackson Hole, bring as much of your gear as you can! It’s a great place for landscapes, nightscapes, wildlife, and close-up photography—and that’s not counting all of the possibilities for outdoor sports and activities! I’d suggest bringing lots of memory cards and a tripod! Of course, spend some time going through the posts at Best of the Tetons for a huge head start. If you’d like to go with me on a one-on-one photo excursion here in the Tetons, click the link for more info! No matter how you get here and how much gear you bring, I hope you have an equally rewarding experience.

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January 2015 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH:

A monthly journal of wildlife reports, scenic opportunities, and tidbits for both photographers and Teton visitors!

Daily Updates Archives: ~
2018: Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2017: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2016: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan: 
2015: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013: Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:


Where’s the January Overview information?

Starting this month, you can click on this new page: Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP to get a quick overview of each of the 12 months side by side. Check it out!


January 31, 2015

Cow Moose

Cow Moose: At lunchtime, I did a quick trip to the area near Flat Creek on North Cache. A cow moose and calf were putting on a show on the north side of the Visitor’s Center.

Barrow's Golden Eye

Barrow’s Golden Eye: This pair was on Flat Creek.

Barrow's Golden Eye

Barrow’s Golden Eye: Springtime already?

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch: This one was in my back yard late in the day.

Tomorrow I will be uploading a new February 2015 Daily Updates page.

February One-On-One Photo Excursions: I have several openings available for February.  Click Here to see last year’s February Daily Updates to get an idea of what you might see here. You can also book for March and other months. I have a new Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens on order. Anyone with a current Nikon DSLR taking one of my Excursions will be able to use the lens on the trip. (should be here soon) The lens has been getting a lot of positive press. I am purchasing mine from Perfect Light Camera and Supply in Idaho Falls after hearing his positive reviews following their recent Africa trip.


January 30, 2015


Wedding Trees: “Up the Gros Ventre” taken before first light this morning. There’s a map to the Wedding Trees on this page: “Up The Gros Ventre” — Unexpected Treasures


Grand to Moran: A wide shot taken from the hillside next to the Wedding Tree.

Shane Cabin

Gros Ventre River Basin: Taken from the roadway.


Shane Cabin: I waded out into the deep snow for this one. I wanted to include the cabin, Grand and the snowmobile tracks. It will take several good snowfalls to cover them up.

International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race:

Sled Dog Race

Sled Dog Race: Taken on the Town Square tonight.

Race Spectators

Race Spectators:

Sled Dog Mushers

Sled Dog Mushers: I went downtown to the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race: Tonight was a ceremonial beginning of a multi-day race. I took a Nikon D4 with a 70-200mm lens and an off-camera SB-910 strobe. I was in manual exposure with ISO 5000, 1250th Second, F/5 or F/6.3. The camera was set to High-Speed Sync for the strobe action. Ideally, I would have had someone holding the strobe a bit to the side to eliminate the “blue eye” in some of the dogs….but I went by myself and just held the strobe over my head with my left hand.

Be sure to check out the new post: Focus Stacking: Increased Depth of Field by Combining Multiple Images


January 29, 2015

Lots of News Today!

Luther Tayler Homestead

Park finds, fixes graffiti on “Shane” cabin : Story in the JH News & Guide. There’s a photo of the graffiti in the daily along with the story. The news story also says the Luther Taylor site is in line for some historical designation within the park.  “After completion of a park Historic Properties Management Plan — which faces public review this spring — it’s expected to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Skaggs said.” You can read more about the site in these Feature Posts: “SHANE” — The Epic Western Movie Filmed in Jackson Hole and The Shane Cabins: Authentic Homestead in Grand Teton National Park

US Copyright Office: Last night, I uploaded a couple of copyright submission groups to the US Copyright Office. While most of the steps are the same, they streamlined the actual upload step. We can now select an entire group of zip files at a time. Earlier we had to add them one at a time and then add the file name manually in another field. A few months ago, they raised the cost from $35 for a submission group to $55.

Three Bighorn Rams

Three Bighorn Rams: Taken on the National Elk Refuge around lunch time. I also saw three eagles on a carcass along the highway and north of Wilcox Gallery. Swans were fairly active on Flat Creek.

Focus Stacking: After making the Copyright submission, I added an extra section to yesterdays comments. If you checked in early, you might want to scroll down to see the late night additions!

‘King of Snow King’ dies at 71: Here’s a story by the Wyoming Business Report about the passing of Manuel Lopez. A torchlight parade down Snow King, planned as part of the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race:, will be conducted in his honor.

Featured Event from An Upcoming Year of Wishes

Name of Event: Utah Bald Eagle Day, Farmington Bay WMA
Location: W. of Centerville, Utah; Farmington Bay Waterfowl Mgt Area; Located on the west side of Farmington at 1325 W. Glover Lane (925 South). Take exit 325 off I-15. Turn left on Park Lane and travel west to Clark Lane at the first traffic light and turn right. Travel west to 1525 West, and turn South to Glover Lane, and turn right to 1700 West.
Sponsor: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Schedule: Saturday, February 14, 2015; 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Description: Observe Bald Eagles and chat with DWR biologists.
Web Site:
Telephone: 801-209-5326


January 28, 2015

Focus Stack

Click to view a larger image.

Focus Stacking: A few weeks ago, I did a few test shots of objects in the kitchen. I tried out a feature built into a CamRanger called Focus Stacking. For this shot, I focused on the closest part of the orange, then set the CamRanger to do a total of 10 shots. It automatically stepped the focus deeper into the scene without touching the camera again. The 10 shots have been sitting in my Lightroom catalog since taking them. Today, I let Photoshop Auto-Align & Auto-Blend five of the images into a single image following steps I found on this page: How to Focus-Stack Macro Images using Photoshop

Focus Stack Flattened

A test shot like this gives me ideas for shots in the wild…like frosted berries, flowers, or insects.

Upcoming Events

International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race: If you are in town Friday evening, check out this big event downtown.

WinterFest – Jackson Hole: February 13-22. Click the link for more information and schedules.

Out in the Park: At lunch time, I did a quick sweep through the National Elk Refuge. Lots of animals down. There was a bald eagle on one of the carcasses. The previously frozen water on Flat Creek is fully open. I did a quick run out to Kelly where I saw two moose in the Gros Ventre. I found some mule deer around Kelly, but not in good locations for photography. I watched a nervous coyote for a few minutes. A couple of cars stopped and it moved away from the road. Yesterday, I saw a Great Blue Heron fly by while I was at the pond at Boyle’s Hill. I didn’t think they hung around in the winter.

Focus Stack

Focus Stacking in Use: I took this image using a Nikon 200-400mm lens at a long distance from the subjects. I could tell it would be difficult to keep both the distant barns and closer fences sharp—so I took two separate images while locked down on the tripod. The easiest way I found to do this was to place the focus point on the close fence, then hold down the AF Lock (or hold the shutter button down half way) and recompose with the focus point now on the distant barns. I pressed the shutter once which took the shot with the fence sharp, then let up on the shutter button and pressed it again. The camera refocused on the barns for the second shot. Back in Lightroom and Photoshop, I exported the two images into two layers, used (Edit>)Auto-Align Layers and then (Edit>)Auto-Blend while in Photoshop. Check out the How to Focus-Stack Macro Images using Photoshop if you want to go into much more detail on the topic. I did this shot with only two images, but it would be possible to Focus Stack half a dozen captures. If I were to try more than a couple of images, I’d probably set up my CamRanger. Doing multiple shots manually means having to either move focus points on the back of the camera or manually focusing, either of which can jiggle the camera on the tripod ever so slightly. Auto-Align does a pretty good job, however.

Box L Ranch

Box L Ranch: Results of the two blended layers. We are almost at the end of January. I’ll probably go ahead and turn this subject into a Feature Post to make it easier to find in the future. Sign up to follow this blog if you’d like to get a notice by email!


January 27, 2015

Abandoned Ford

Abandoned Ford: We had hoar frost overnight. I took a ladder and some strobes back to the old Ford on High School Road.

8 Foot Step Ladder

This is a setup I’ve used quite a few times. The tripod straddles the top of the ladder, strapped down with a dog leash. I added some extra text and photos on this recent post: Problem Solving “On-the-Fly” or With a Plan:

Frosty Roadway

Frosty Roadway: Taken on the South Park Loop.

Ely Springs Barn

Ely Springs Barn:

South Park Barn

South Park Barn: Also taken on the South Park Loop Road.


Pronghorn: On the National Elk Refuge this afternoon.


January 26, 2015

In-Town MooseMonday—closer to home: I spent a lot of time and gasoline driving all over the valley yesterday. Today, I slept longer, then shot right here in the neighborhood. That was an easy call when a nice bull moose was standing in the neighbor’s yard when I opened the front door! This bull was standing in front of street signs, power boxes, cars and houses at various times. All I had to do was wait until the distractions were not in the scene. Unless I told you, you’d probably never know the following images were “in-town” shots.

Bull Moose Feeding on Willows

Bull Moose Feeding on Willows: We’ve had a Cow moose and two yearlings in the neighborhood off and on all winter. Last week, I saw one of the young ones wandering on its own. I don’t know if the cow kicked them off to fend for themselves or if they got separated. Bulls are less common in my neighborhood.


Bull Moose on Flat Creek

Bull Moose on Flat Creek: Traffic picked up in the neighborhood, so the bull moved through a gate into my next door neighbor’s yard.

Moose Head

Moose Head: I stayed with this moose for an hour or so, getting nice head shots and feeding shots. My dog was barking next door and it caught the attention of the bull.

Bull Moose Entering Flat Creek

Bull Moose Entering Flat Creek: Flat Creek runs through the National Elk Refuge, then through town and eventually into the Snake River. It runs behind my house here in town. For this shot, I was standing on my neighbor’s footbridge over Flat Creek.

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker: One of four visiting my back yard today.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie: I don’t find these birds easy to photograph. There were at least three in the yard today.

Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee: From the back yard.

Moose in Afternoon Light

Moose in Afternoon Light: I found the bull moose again this afternoon.

Incoming Swans

Incoming Swans: Taken this afternoon at Boyle’s Hill pond.


January 25, 2015

Sunday in the Park: I was up early today, but clouds were too thick for landscapes. Instead, I drove out early to the National Elk Refuge and made a quick lap. There were lots of elk, sheep, and pronghorns south of Miller Butte. I was hoping to see some wolves chasing elk or bighorns. There have been at least four elk kills visible from the roadway.

Red Fox Watching

Red Fox Watching: I headed on North, checking out Flat Creek on the way. Quite a bit of Flat Creek is open now with a few Swans and Ducks swimming around. I found this male and stayed with him until he curled up for a nap. He spent a considerable amount of time hiking his back leg to mark objects, much like neighborhood dogs.

Red Fox Yawning

Red Fox Yawning: This male slept on this mound for about an hour. I took quite a few images then moved on.


Poser: Most of my shots today were taken from the window of my vehicle. I used a bean bag with VR turned on.

Resting Fox

Resting Fox: I am pretty sure this is a vixen.

Fox Meeting

Fox Meeting: The female seemed more interested in the male than the other way around.

Fox and Fisherman

Fox and Fisherman: The fox went out onto the ice to visit the ice fishermen. The fisherman did a great job of shooing him away and never fed the fox. The fox sat down and patiently waited—but after seeing no fish coming out of the hole, moved on.

Grand Tipi

Grand Tipi: The sky had a nice lavender hue on the way home. I stopped a Dornan’s for this shot and something to drink.

Food & Drink “In the Park”: If you are heading into GTNP, go prepared! Dornan’s store at Moose Junction is open this time of the year, including the pizza parlor / restaurant. The Deli inside the store is not open, however. I drove out the highway from Moran Junction, figuring the campground store would be open in Buffalo Valley. It was closed.  I went on out to the Hatchet Motel at the base of Togwotee and it was also closed. Their gas price signs still say $4.39 / gallon, so I have to assume they have been closed for a while. The only store open inside the park is at Flagg Ranch, catering to the snowmobilers and snow cat riders heading into Yellowstone. Public restrooms are also very limited inside the park during the winter!


January 24, 2015


Saturday in JH: I got up early, looked out at the thick clouds, then decided to finish the new Feature Post: The National Elk Refuge & Miller Butte: Within only a few minutes, the post already has 14 shares and quite a few likes on Facebook. Birds are coming to my back yard feeders. Tempting to stay with them!  I see a little blue in the sky. I may head over to the refuge. (see the new post) or I may head down the canyon to look at the Mountain Goats if they are out. I probably won’t make that decision until I have to turn either left or right at the intersection!

Afternoon Outing: I did a quick loop out to the Elk Refuge, then headed south to Alpine Junction. No goats! The lady at the gas station on the corner said they had been down a couple of days earlier and mentioned one had recently been hit by a vehicle. I drove back to Jackson where I found the mousing Coyote on Spring Gulch Road.

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: On the National Elk Refuge.

Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle: Taken at the entrance to Rafter J Subdivision just south of town.

Mousing Coyote

Mousing Coyote: This coyote was a little out of my normal shooting range, but I took the series anyway. This was a lethal little hunter. I saw it catch at least six voles or mice in just a short period.


January 23, 2015

The day started out cloudy and cold. I stayed home until lunch time then made a quick drive out to the National Elk Refuge and over to Flat Creek. There were lots of animals out at the refuge, but I didn’t take any photos. Flat Creek is mostly frozen over after several nights in a row of very cold temperatures.

Buck Mule Deer

Afternoon Outing: Late in the day, I made a trip up Spring Gulch Road in hopes of seeing owls, moose, foxes, coyotes,, elk, deer, ermine or ANY other critter. All of them are possible, but I didn’t have much success. I ended up driving up the Gros Ventre. I heard of a kill along the river, but didn’t see any ravens or eagles to mark the spot. Eventually, I ended up near Kelly where I spent the rest of the evening looking for Mule Deer.

Two Mule Deer Bucks

Two Mule Deer Bucks: I believe the front deer is the same buck I photographed a few days ago. It had a broken tine on his antler, too. The smaller buck is missing one antler now.

Sparring Mule Deer

Sparring Mule Deer: I couldn’t move to a better angle, so I had to take what I could get with these two sparring Mule Deer.

White-tailed Doe and Mule Deer Yearlings

White-tailed Doe and Mule Deer Yearlings: The doe on the left is a White-tailed Deer. She was milling around with the Mule Deer.

White-tailed Buck

White-tailed Buck: To be honest, at the time I took this shot, I didn’t realize it was a White-tailed Deer. Besides the smaller ears, their antlers project forward more than a Mule Deer. I believe this is the first time I’ve photographed a White-tailed Buck in Wyoming. I’ve seen a few along the Gros Ventre River, but never got shots. I’ve seen them down in the river bottom near Schwabacher Landing and a few much farther north near the Buffalo Fork River. A friend just sent me this page about Hybrid Mule Deer / White-tailed Deer, occasionally found in Wyoming. At least for now, I will assume it is a White-tailed Deer! The does in the same area definitely have the distinctive white tail I would expect to see.

Buck and Yearling

Buck and Yearling Mule Deer:


January 22, 2015

River Otters

River Otters: I took this shot in early December along Flat Creek. I haven’t seen them lately, but I am always scanning the edges of the water for them. Occasionally, the family goes to the little pond north of the Visitor’s Center. Another group of River Otters hangs around the Oxbow and I’ve seen a family working the Gros Ventre River. When I saw this family last, there were five in the group. Worth watching for them!

It is clear and cold here again today. I am still going through photos, culling, adding keywords, and organizing them so I can get them all copyrighted. MJ


January 21, 2015

Teton Range and Elk Herd

Teton Range and Elk Herd: Skies are clear today and it’s cold. Flat Creek froze over again except for a few small open spots. Swans were sleeping on the ice when I went by at lunch time. At 2:15 pm, the temperature is 10°f.

Mass of Elk

Mass of Elk: These two shots show the snow pack in the lower valley. This shot was taken just south of the Miller House on the National Elk Refuge.

Winter Half Over? We are now 21 days into January. There was a comment in Bert Raynes’ article in the newspaper with someone suggesting Winter might be half over now. Maybe? Each year is different. We can be on the back side of the big storms, yet we might still get hammered with some big one. It was plenty cold today. I am still dealing with paperwork and documents for GTNP for this year’s photography tour permits. I just finished the end of the year bookkeeping for 2014 and am working on my copyright submissions for December. I put food out for my back yard birds today but never got outside to photograph them. From inside, I saw the red squirrel preoccupied with trying to keep the Clark’s Nutcrackers and Magpies from getting to the peanuts and safflower seeds. It’s fun to watch even if I don’t get out. As I write this late night follow-up, it is -8°F outside. There was a very nice crescent moon tonight, lit beautifully from below.


January 20, 2015

Rob Cole's Custom MetadataCustom (and Private) Metadata for Lightroom: I am not exactly sure where to put this information. I have several third party plug-ins I use regularly. Maybe I could do a single Feature Post showing all of them. For now, here’s one of them. Once this plug-in is installed (using Lightroom’s Plugins Manager), it adds an extra set of fields at the bottom of the Metadata tab. This allows you to add some private information about an image that doesn’t get exported or saved with an exported file. For this example, maybe I want to store the name and phone number of the owner of a special old barn with the image, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to broadcast it to the world. Information inside the Private section might include GPS coordinates to a nest or den. Well, you get the idea! The link will take you to the download site to the free plug-in.  (He takes donations)

Afternoon Outing: I didn’t head out until well after lunch today, then stayed out until the last of the evening light. I started at the Elk Refuge, then Flat Creek, and out to Kelly before heading home down Spring Gulch.

Elk and Pronghorns

Elk and Pronghorns: Elk were all over the place on the National Elk Refuge, including a few sharing space with the wintering Pronghorns. I saw a dozen or so Bighorn Sheep, too. Flat Creek is open. I stopped for a few minutes but decided to go on north for something different.

Winter Hillside

Winter Hillside: Late evening light on Blacktail Butte.

Sheep Herder's Wagons

Sheep Herder’s Wagons: Taken in the small town of Kelly.


Wagon Wheels

Wagon Wheels: Also in Kelly, WY

Curious Mule Deer

Curious Mule Deer: I found a few mule deer milling around in Kelly.

Mule Deer Portrait

Mule Deer Portrait: Also in Kelly.

Mt. Jackson

Mt. Jackson: Evening light and clouds over Mt. Jackson. Taken along Spring Gulch Road.

Red Barn

Red Barn: Also along Spring Gulch Road. The ski slope runs are visible in the background. Light was especially nice late in the day.

Double Gates

Double Gates: During most of the day, clouds covered the mountain range. Just before sunset, they cleared for a few shots.

Wolves! I don’t see wolves very often here in the Tetons. The newspaper mentioned two packs being on the National Elk Refuge. Today, as I was driving around north of Kelly, I got to see four of them on the hillside east of the Kelly Warm Springs. At least three of them were black. The other one was also dark. I saw a few Moose along the Gros Ventre today, too.


January 19, 2015

Monday: Martin Luther King Day

Bull Elk

Bull Elk: Taken on Miller Butte at the National Elk Refuge.

Elk Cows

Cow Elk: Also on the National Elk Refuge. Yesterday, we had light rain and drizzle all day. It melted off a lot of valley snow. I don’t know if the elk I saw today were just moving into the exposed grass or they were being prodded to move to that area by the area wolves. At any rate, there were lots of elk on the south end of the refuge today. I didn’t see the pronghorns today. A few bull elk were along the top of the butte.

Flat Creek is now open: I didn’t stop to photograph anything, but the entire waterway is open in front of the observation platform just north of the Visitor’s Center. There were a few swans and other waterfowl.

Bull Moose with Antlers: I took a couple out for a One-on-One Photo Excursion last week. He made an amazing improvement in his photography in one day. I showed them some of my favorite places to look for moose and other animals. A day or two later, he sent an email with a nice shot of a bull moose complete with antlers. Apparently there are still a few around—even if I am not seeing them!

Yesterday, I tried making a post but my login password did not work. Turns out I filled my hard drive space allotment for the hosting package. I upgraded it and am back in business for a while. If you tried to subscribe to follow the blog or tried to make a comment yesterday, the software probably prohibited the action. If so, try again today! MJ


January 17, 2015

Teton Sunrise

Teton Sunrise: Taken at the entrance to the parking area at Snake River Overlook. Plows hadn’t cleared the area, so I had to walk in.

Light on the Grand at SRO

Light on the Grand at SRO:

First Light

First Light:

Buck Rail Fence

Buck Rail Fence: Taken along the highway near Triangle X Ranch.

Triangle X Gates

Triangle X Gates: I shot this one from the road. I like the way the buck rail fence snake through the scene.

Swan Against Snow Covered Bushes:

Swan Against Snow Covered Bushes: I took this one at Boyle’s Hill Swan Pond just after lunch. I have lots of images from there, but this one has a unique natural texture.

Ram on Rocky Terrain

Ram on Rocky Terrain: Many people like to zoom in on animals to fill their normal frame. Whenever possible, I try to pull back and get a lot more of the scene, especially when it helps highlight their terrain.


Alert Pronghorn: The newspaper reports a pack of wolves now on and around Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. It also says they had made two kills. Animals seemed to be on more of an alert today.


January 16, 2015

Elk On Ridge Line

Elk On Ridge Line: The weather forecast was for snow starting in the morning, but I had a little light busting through before it started. I kept hoping for a big bull to enter the scene.

Cow Moose In Snow

Cow Moose In Snow: Taken along the Gros Ventre River. There were two more upstream about half a mile.

Mountain Goat Kid

Mountain Goat Kid: The drive down to Alpine Junction yielded only a few tough shots. I was told they were down lower a little while before I got there.

Parade of Does

Parade of Does taken through a wall of snow.

Miller House and Elk

Miller House and Elk:

Stalled Bison

Stalled Bison: Taken at the end of the public road on the National Elk Refuge.

Wintering Pronghorns

Wintering Pronghorns: Also on the National Elk Refuge.

Winter Outing: Falling snow changes every scene. It takes a little more effort to be out in it, but it is usually worth it.


January 15, 2015

Common Merganser

Common Merganser: This group of bird images were still in my camera from late in the day on Wednesday. I just downloaded them. All were taken from the observation platform along Flat Creek on north Cache.


Ravens and Crows are fairly common in Jackson Hole all year. This one flew right over the platform.

Golden Eye Taking Off

Golden Eye Taking Off: Normally, I go to Flat Creek hoping to capture active Trumpeter Swans, whether taking off, landing, or fighting. Many other species of waterfowl also share the waterway. The area is usually fairly active with a variety of birds passing by, sometimes at very fast speeds. It is a great place to hone your “birds in flight” skills.

Golden Eye Over Snow

Golden Eye Over Snow: Mornings at Flat Creek can be good. The sun lifts over the Cache Creek valley at roughly 8:30 am. Many of the sleeping birds begin to wake up and stretch. Fog and steam can make for moody morning images. I also like to go back at about 2:45 pm. Activity often picks up. At 3:30 pm or so, the sun goes behind Saddle Butte. Afternoon light is often golden and casts long, interesting shadows. Snow texture is also more detailed.

Clear and Cold! I am sitting in front of my computer this morning with the heater blowing warm air on my feet. It is -9°F outside even at 10:00 am. Flat Creek my be frozen over today.

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: Two or three rams were near the road at the bend at lunch time.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle: I wouldn’t call this a sharp image…but worth the effort. The winter kill is 150 yards off the road. I added a 1.4TC onto my 200-400mm lens and stopped down to F/20. I never thought the TC worked that well on my battery of zoom lenses. This was taken on Miller Butte. Yesterday, a biologist from the National Elk Refuge was at the observation platform. She said a few wolves had been spotted chasing elk at the top of Miller Butte.

Grouped Swans

Grouped Swans: The open area of water at Boyles Hill is getting smaller each week. It is pushing the swans closer together.

Swan on Snow

Swan on Snow: Some walk. Some fly to the food bins. The wild birds have full wing feathers as seen in this Swan.


January 14, 2015

Rockefeller Parkway Sign

Rockefeller Parkway Sign: For a change, I headed to the far north end of the park this morning. After a couple of hours, I began making my way back to town.

Winter Trail

Winter Trail: The snow is deep near Flagg Ranch. Workers have paths like this one to travel to and from the lodge and their cabins.

Frosted Trees

Frosted Trees: When the fog lifted, I headed on south. Many of the trees had a layer of frost.


GTNP Sign: I like to capture park signs on a regular basis. I never know when someone will need one for a winter brochure or article, and they work great in personal “coffee table” books. This one is on the Rockefeller Parkway as you reenter the Park. The park map calls this Steamboat Mountain.

Leaning Tree

Leaning Tree: Fog and low clouds were lifting as I passed Jackson Lake.

Buck Rail Fences

Buck Rail Fences: The Park Service replaced much of the old buck rail fencing along the highway, but there are still a few sections of it.

Snake River Overlook

Snake River Overlook: Clouds were thick this morning as I drove North, but were lifting nicely as I came back through.

Teton View Overlook

Teton View Overlook: The window to capture these kinds of shots is often quite short. Once the sun starts hitting the fog bank, it can disappear quickly.

Snow King Chair Lift

Snow King Chair Lift: A change of pace from the normal wildlife and landscape shots.

Snow King Mountain

Snow King Mountain: The sun was just clearing the peak over the Snow King Lift. They recently added new snow making equipment, new lights and a new terrain park. Skiing is free from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Friday if you want to see the improvements for yourself. I’d have to double check, but I believe you can still purchase a scenic pass to the top of the hill so you can take photos, then ride the lift back down.


January 13, 2015

Mid-day Comments: We had low clouds and fog here this morning. By noon, it started clearing, so I made a quick trip to the National Elk Refuge.  Bighorns were down in places. I took a few shots of them. Just down the road were around 45 wintering Pronghorns, but they were a little out of my range. Bison were well out of range.

Miller House with Fog Bank

Miller House with Cloud Bank: The shot I have in my “mind’s eye” for the Miller House is similar to this one. I’d like to get the fog just behind the house, then a band of morning light hitting the ridge of the house, and of course, some colorful clouds over the Tetons. Not too much to ask?

Prancing Ewe

Prancing Ewe: Normally, I spend most of my time photographing Rams, but I like the way this Ewe was prancing by.Ewe Portrait

Ewe Portrait: Taken at the National Elk Refuge near Miller Butte.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck: This is a tight crop of a female Ruddy Duck captured at the observation platform on Flat Creek. In the summer, the males have a baby blue beak.

Mallard Hen Stretching

Mallard Hen Stretching: Mallards are much more tolerant of humans than most of the other ducks on Flat Creek.

Barrows Golden Eye

Barrows Golden Eye: In flight over Flat Creek. I also saw a few Common Mergansers, but no Hooded Mergansers today.

National Elk Refuge

National Elk Refuge: Almost all of the specks you see in the distance are elk wintering on the refuge.

Parade of Elk

Parade of Elk: These were walking along Flat Creek.

Tidbits: Gasoline prices finally dropped to $1.98 per gallon here. I can’t remember seeing it that low here in a long, long time (or maybe ever).

One-on-One Photography Excursions: If you are going to be in the area and are interested in a One-on-One Photography Excursion, check out the link. I have a couple of openings left in January and several for February.

Check back for additional photos from today. I plan on checking out the trumpeter swans on Flat Creek after making this post. MJ


January 12, 2015

Buck Rail Fence

First Light: Taken along the Gros Ventre River just outside the park boundary.

Eagle Sculpture

Eagle Sculpture: Taken at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

Young Ram

Young Ram: Taken on the National Elk Refuge near Miller Butte.

Bison Herd and Distant Elk

Bison Herd and Distant Elk: Taken east of Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge.

Landing Swans

Landing Swans: Taken on Flat Creek just north of the Visitors Center


Squabble: Also on Flat Creek.

Mallard Duck

Mallard Duck: Taken from the observation platform along Flat Creek.

Hood Mergansers

Hood Mergansers: I don’t see these too often, but this pair of Hood Mergansers were mixed in with Mallard Ducks, Barrows Golden Eyes, and Trumpeter Swans on Flat Creek.

Swan Coming Out of a Good Sleep

Swan Coming Out of a Good Sleep:


January 11, 2015

Trumpeter Swans Flying In:

Trumpeter Swans Flying In: Between football games, I drove over to Flat Creek and Miller Butte. Flat Creek is open again, attracting Trumpeter Swans, Mallard Ducks, and Barrow’s Golden Eyes.

Swan Taking Off

Swan Taking Off:

Wintering Trumpeter Swans

Wintering Trumpeters:

Mallard On Ice

Mallard On Ice

Sleeping Swans

Sleeping Swans:

Afternoon on the Refuge: I made a drive out the Refuge Road. There were several Bighorns scattered around, but off the road. Elk were up the hillside plus there were around 40 Pronghorns milling around. Bison were towards the south end, but not close to the road today. A Bald Eagle was circling an area at the end of Miller Butte. I set up to try to capture him, but he never came close enough for a decent shot. There was a lot of potential today, but I didn’t stay around long enough. I headed back to the observation platform on Flat Creek.


January 10, 2015

6:27 AM: Teton Pass

Teton Pass Web Cam

Morning in JH: Cloudy and foggy here in town, but it appears to be clear at the top of the pass.

Around the Block: We have a few friends who are bicycle fanatics. They do a trip on bikes they call “around the block”. The leave Jackson and over Teton Pass, through Victor, then over Pine Creek Pass to Alpine Junction. From there, they pedal up the canyon to Jackson. Hard core! I’ve even heard of them doing it twice in one day. I will probably go “around the block” today, but I will be pushing the pedal on the vehicle and pressing the brakes once in a while. I’d still like to get the sunrise shot at the pass and hopefully capture some of the hoar frost shots I missed yesterday. I’ll check for Mountain Goats on my way back home. Well, that’s the plan. Check back!

Teton Pass

Teton Pass: This morning, we had the layer of low clouds, but also a layer of clouds overhead. The sunrise event was not what I had hoped when I got up at 6:00 am.

Pass Skiers and Boarders

Pass Skier and Boarder: By the time I left, the parking lot was filling with people heading up for some free skiing.


Clouds: I pulled out the 200-400mm lens and zoomed in on some details.

Crossing Tracks

Crossing Tracks:

Snow Cover Trees

Snow Covered Trees: Also on Teton Pass

Pine Grosbeaks

Pine Grosbeaks: In the Snake River Canyon near Alpine.

Three Mountain Goats on Steep Slope

Three Mountain Goats on Steep Slope: Taken at the mouth of the Snake River Canyon near Alpine Junction.

Jump Sequence

Mountain Goat Sequence: I include this set here to shot the acrobatic skills. I was shooting at the time with a 10 FPS Nikon D4. (click the image to see it larger)

Goats on the Road

Mountain Goats on the Road: On some days, the goats go onto the road licking salt from the sand trucks. When I saw a semi heading up the canyon at high speed, I spooked this group off the road. That’s not something I like to do, but the truckers do not like slowing down. Within about an hour, they were back down next to the road again.

My Comments: IF you go down there, you might be well advised to park in one of the pullouts when you can. People stop in the middle of the road and half way on the road often, causing jams and plenty of safety issues.

Stacked Goats

Nanny and Billy:

Morning Comments: I had planned on going over the Pass this morning, then through Swan Valley to Alpine Junction. I talked to someone at the top of the pass that told me they didn’t get frost in Victor. I decided to head down the pass towards Jackson and then on down to the goats.


January 9, 2015

Milky Way Over the Tetons

Milky Way Over the Tetons

Silent Hunter

Silent Hunter

Grand Trail Home

Grand Trail Home

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

If you get a chance, pick up the new issue of Cowboys & Indians Magazine. It contains their annual photography contest. I sent these four in this year. Only the night scene was chosen. I had hoped it might make the cover so I formatted it to fit and allowed plenty of room for their masthead and copy. The still life was a bit of a gamble to put in the “work” category. Everything in that category ended up being action shots of wranglers, riders, and so forth.

My Day: My wife and I needed to make a day trip to Idaho Falls. I had an appointment with an optometrist. I had hoped to take morning photos at the top of the pass, but clouds were still blocking most of the view. Without the appointment, I could have waited it out. The drive to Idaho Falls was beautiful. They had hoar frost on almost everything and the fog was just clearing. Again…an appointment kept me from stopping. I had also thought we might have a chance to drive up the Snake River Canyon on the way back, but that was way too optimistic. It was almost dark when we left Idaho Falls. I came home with two new pairs of glasses, one of which has a prescription designed for working on my computer. Much better!

LadderUpdates and Comments: A couple of days ago, I made this new Feature Post: Problem Solving “On-the-Fly” or With a Plan:

I included a link to CamRanger’s site where they show examples using their controller and hub, sometimes mounted on a pole. The owners of CamRanger live in Pinedale, WY and were at our local Teton Photography Group meeting a while back. They brought one of the poles along with their products. Wireless Control With the CamRanger PT Hub, MP-360, and Pole  A friend wrote a note after viewing their site, saying she couldn’t find information on the pole. I believe this is it: Wonderpole. The MP-360 can handle up to 6 pounds, rotating a full 360° and tilting up or down up to 15°. My camera and 200-400mm I used for this shot weigh considerably more than that. A D810 (no grip) and a 70-200mm lens weighs just over 5.5 lbs not counting an L-Bracket and I am not sure if the battery is figured in the weight. I would be right at the limit. Another option might be a D800/D810  or a D4/D4s with a Nikon 28-300mm lens. I think the weight with any of those combinations would be well under the maximum. I am not quite as happy with the sharpness using my D800 with the lens as I am with my D4.  I used that combination on most of my shots in  Maui. With the Wonderpole, PT Hub, MP-360, and CamRanger setup, I could have easily strapped the post to one of the wooden fence posts, then raised it to any height (up to about 20 feet) and controlled the shooting from the ground. The height might be limited somewhat by the maximum 15° tilt. Wind could also be an issue. On some shoots, a second person might be needed to hold the post while another person controlled the camera and shooting. Currently, I only have the CamRanger unit and not all of the other gadgets.


January 8, 2015

1:00 PM Teton Pass Web Cam

It has been overcast here in town all morning—same as yesterday! But…if you can get ABOVE the clouds, it is clear and relatively warm. On the right navigation bar (computers) or at the bottom of the page there is a link to the area web cams. This could be a valuable resource! I’ve completed a little of my morning business and may drive to the top of the pass to shoot across the clouds as seen in the lower right image. Yesterday, it was clear in the Canyon past Elbow, allowing me to get crispy shots of the Mountain Goats. Web cams down there at this time of the day (1:00 PM) show fog and clouds in the valley down there, too.

Tetpn Pass

Teton Pass: Based on the web cam shots, I headed up Teton Pass and found clear blue skies above the blanket of clouds.

Teton Pass

Teton Pass: These two shots were taken from the top of the pass. The top of the clouds were at the hairpin turn near the Phillips Canyon trail head.

Misc. Notes: A few weeks ago, there was a big explosion and fire at AmerGas on High School Road. Last week, the was a big fire in Dubois, taking out several historic buildings and quite a few small businesses. I drove by the AmerGas site a few days ago. It looked like a war zone with burned vehicles and partial walls. ~  I received a report of a Porcupine in the “S” curves when going to the Shane Cabin near the Kelly Warm Springs. I saw two moose on my way through Wilson this afternoon on my way to the Pass. One was near the Snake River and one was just outside Wilson. Coyotes, foxes, owls and otters have been effectively eluding me this year.



New Feature Post!  Problem Solving “On-the-Fly” or With a Plan:  This post goes through some of the issues and solutions I tried or considered for this tough little shoot.

January 7, 2015

Last night, I checked the weather reports, then checked the status of the phase of the moon. With partly cloudy skies predicted and with the nearly full moon setting about 3o minutes after sunrise, I set the alarm for 5:45 am. I did my part, but instead of having openings in the sky, we had low, thick clouds. I made it to the GTNP entry sign just north of the National Fish Hatchery before I did a U-turn and headed back home. I worked on this new Feature Post instead.

At lunch time, I drove to the observation platform at Flat Creek, hoping to see some open water and swans. It was still frozen over, but much of it looks soft and gray. It might open up soon. I drove to Miller Butte when I saw a few snow flakes, but didn’t see a single Bighorn. Lastly, I drove over to Boyles Hill and found plenty of Swans but they were either sleeping or not doing much. I took a few foggy, moody photos of a barn, then I headed on home. I finished this new Feature Post, then published it.

I include these notes once in a while to document the fact some days are better and more cooperative than others. But, you already know that!

Evening Vehicle

Afternoon in the Snake River Canyon: I received a text letting me know about the Goats near the road. The note also said the sky was clear and blue. I drove down and had a pretty good afternoon.

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat along the Snake River at Alpine Junction.

Edge of the Grass

Mountain Goat amongst tall grass.

Evening Light on Two Mountain Goats

Evening Light on Two Mountain Goats: I hung around until the sun went down at 4:30 pm. There were roughly 30 Mountain Goats visible today in the last 1/2 miles of the Canyon.


Sunset in Maui

New Feature Post: Here Today, Gone to Maui!

Here’s a mid-Winter “knuckle ball” for you. In the midst of heavy snow, road closures, and weather advisories here in the Northern Rockies, I just added a new Feature Post about my trip to Maui. It’s not “just a bunch of vacation photos”. I wrote it from a perspective of becoming a tourist in an unfamiliar location—not that unlike tourists coming here. Hope you enjoy the photos and the text!

January 6, 2015

Overnight, we had warmer weather. That’s melting off some of the snow on the streets and making for sloppy driving. The road closure between Moose Junction and Moran Junction stayed in effect until late in the day. The newspaper said there was a much as three feet of snow in the mountains from this storm. At lunch time, I drove over to the National Elk Refuge. I saw only one Ram and one Ewe near Miller Butte. Bison were well north of the road and there were a few scattered Elk on the butte on the south side. Driving back through town, I didn’t see any of the Pine Grosbeaks.

Cabin Fever: One of my favorite “cabin fever” Winter cures is a quick trip over to Boyle’s Hill to check out the Swans. I am almost always guaranteed a few shots of swans and geese. On a good day, it is easy to come home with a thousand images. From my house, it is only about three miles. The other two spots close to town are the observation platform along Flat Creek and the road back to Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge looking mainly for Bighorns. Readers at this blog might get somewhat bored seeing similar shots I take at these locations. I don’t get bored taking them, however.


More importantly, I keep going back to these kinds of places because of the “unknown” opportunities. I simply never know if today is the day a pack of wolves chase a small herd of elk across the road or up the butte in front of me. A Mountain Lion showed up on Miller Butte a few years back. Is today going to be the day one appears again? I was driving up the road a few days ago and a frisky Coyote was walking down the road. I stopped to watch her for a while, but it was too dark to get any worthwhile shots. The coyote image above was taken in 2009. It walked right in front of me with a chunk of black fur. I felt at the time the coyote was showing it off to me. Richard Pontius, a friend from Ogden, UT was on the road a few weeks ago when a very large herd of elk ran straight at him. They crossed right by his car and then up Crystal Butte behind him. A couple of hunters spooked the elk from Miller Butte. Apparently he was the “lesser of two evils” to the elk that day. I would have loved to have been there to get shots similar to his! It takes a fair amount of luck, but it also simply takes a lot of time out in the field to appear lucky when it finally happens!

Afternoon at Boyle’s Hill:

Tandem Flappers

Tandem Flappers: There were at least 50 Trumpeter Swans at Boyle’s Hill today.

Parade of Seven

Parade of Seven: Families of Trumpeter Swans going back and forth to the feeders.

Single Walker

Single Walker: This one’s mate was probably just out of frame to the right. I liked the simplicity.

Just After Take Off:

Just After Take Off: Only two swans took off while I was there today. I might have arrived there late. On most days, once one pair leaves, others follow.

Swan in Flight

Swan in Flight: This is one of the two seen in the previous photo.


Grand: I’ve never taken a photo from this spot at Indian Springs subdivision.


January 5, 2015

Snow PlowWeather was the big story today. We had quite a bit of snow overnight, augmented by heavy winds. The highway was closed from Moose Junction to Moran Junction this morning.  There are many additional travel advisories.  Keep an eye on the WY Road Report link in the right navigation bar (computer) at the bottom on a smartphone.

Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture: Yesterday, I checked my Lightroom program for updates and saw there’s a new version 5.7. I was still using version 5.5. In the list of fixes and additions, I noticed a feature which is supposed to let people using Aperture import their existing catalogs.  “Apple Kills Aperture, Says New ‘Photos’ App Will Replace It” Maybe this will be a reasonable solution for Aperture users.

Mid-day Outing: I did a quick run to the National Elk Refuge today. Wind was stiff, blowing snow across the Refuge road. They had plowed the few pullouts earlier, so it was possible to find a place to get off the extremely slick road.

Bison Herd

Bison Herd: This was taken at the “end of the road” on the National Elk Refuge. Bison have been in the news lately after a couple of them gored a horse or two in the Kelly area. Around the same time, this herd had moved to the Refuge Road and was causing hikers, bikers, and problems. Rangers hazed them off the road and farther north. They were at least 100 yards out today.

Elk on Crystal Butte

Elk on Crystal Butte: While I was getting my permit to take people out on One-on-One Photo Excursions, I asked about the name of the mountain south of Miller Butte. I was told this is Crystal Butte. I’d estimate a thousand elk lounging on the hillside, just below timberline. The bison herd shot and this one are what I call “record shots”.  The give readers a glimpse of the valley.

Elk Herd by the Warm Springs

Elk Herd by the Warm Springs: There are a couple of warm springs near the Miller House. Elk were near them today.

Bighorn Ram Walking Across the Snow

Bighorn Ram Walking Across the Snow: There were around 40-50 Bighorn Sheep along the valley floor at lunch time. This one spotted some ewes on the other side of the road but couldn’t cross the very slick road. He tried at least a dozen times and eventually gave up.

Greener Pastures

Greener Pastures: In this case, whiter pastures and ewes! I took this shot from the window. He was standing next to the road and trying to figure out how to cross the road. Wind was howling!

One-on-One Photo Excursion. I still have a couple of openings in the last half of January for anyone interested. There are numerous openings in February and March if you’d like to pick your date!


January 4, 2015

Yesterday, I was out taking photos most of the day, so I didn’t get to make a post until late. I had a very good, long day of shooting and didn’t get them processed and posted until well into the night. Besides the images I included, there were LOTS more, including some Clark’s Nutcrackers, Red Squirrels, and Chickadees I photographed in the back yard. I also took quite a few snow covered barns around the valley.

Some days are simply better than others…same as fly fishing! The only way to cash in on the good days you must be out on a few days when things just aren’t happening. Even on days when I don’t take a single shot, just being out is reward enough!


Saturday Swans: Cygnets are still partially gray.


Hoback Wagon: I took the gamble today and headed down the canyon towards Alpline Junction. I took this photo at Hoback Junction.

Eagle in Spruce Tree

Eagle in Spruce Tree: I didn’t see a single Mountain Goat today, nor did I see any tracks.  I found a road kill and spent my time working on shots of the interested birds.

Two for One

Two for One: Needless to say, I had a variety of weather conditions today. This shot has both a Bald Eagle and a Black-billed Magpie.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie: I got a few keepers of the Magipes, but most will get deleted.

Winter's Grip

Winter’s Grip: I found these in the small town of Alpine Junction.


January 3, 2015

Bull Elk

Bull Elk: Taken on East Gros Ventre Butte before first light.

Elk Refuge Sleighs

Elk Refuge Sleighs: Incoming sleighs and passing Elk on the National Elk Refuge.

Lone Bull

Lone Bull: Single elk along Flat Creek on the National Elk Refuge.

Buck Mule Deer

Buck Mule Deer: Taken at the edge of Kelly.


Bucks: Taken near Kelly. I received a report of a bull Moose with big antlers near the Shane Cabins. I didn’t find him, but it’s nice to know he’s around.

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: Taken on the National Elk Refuge. Bighorns

Ram Portrait

Ram Portrait: Taken with a Nikon D800 and a 200-400mm lens.

Landing Swan

Landing Trumpeter Swan: Afternoon at Boyle’s Hill.

Flying Swans

Flying Trumpeter Swans: Also taken at Boyle’s Hill Swan Pond.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan: Adult Trumpeter leaving the pond with distant mountains.

Snow Bound Sedan

Snow Bound Sedan: One artsy image from today.

Saturday in Jackson Hole: I originally set my alarm for 6:00 am. After seeing thick clouds, I stayed in bed and waited a couple of hours. Clouds thinned, so I headed out. Clouds were still covering the Teton Range, so I began searching for wildlife and other opportunities. Since it was Saturday, I didn’t feel like I needed to hurry back to the house. That gave me ample time to drive around and find a variety of animals. At one time, I had considered going down to Alpine Junction, but it felt like I was finding plenty of subject matter around town.


January 2, 2015

Happy New Year

This is a timely postcard printed in 1919.  The back side had a 1¢ cancelled postage stamp on it! I ran across this card while working on an upcoming Feature Post about “ephemera”. Ephemera is a term for paper items, such as posters, broadsides, and tickets that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectible. Over the years, I have been buying and collecting postcards, maps, travel guides and booklets about Jackson Hole and the Tetons. This first post will be an introduction to local ephemera with some examples and tips on where to find these types of collectibles.

Town Postcards

Throughout the year, I plan on featuring specific topics showcasing some of my collection. For example, I have quite a few old postcards (small group shot above) showing downtown Jackson documenting its progress as a fledgling destination tourist hot spot. That Feature Post might be titled “A Nostalgic Look at Downtown Jackson”. I am positive readers here will enjoy seeing them! Sign up to follow this blog to be one of the first to see the new Feature Posts!

Today in JH: Still cold, but instead of -22° mornings, we were closer to only -10°F. Instead of only 8°F highs, we may hit 23°F. It is clear early, but clouds are supposed to roll in for the weekend. At lunch time, I drove through town looking for Pine Grosbeaks and Cedar Waxwings on my way to the National Elk Refuge. The clear skies of morning were being replaced with clouds. I found several groups of Bighorns, but they were just feeding and were well off the road. A few Elk were farther up the hill on Crystal Butte to the south. The bison I saw yesterday were not around today. Flat Creek is still frozen solid.

South Park Barn

South Park Barn: I realize we are in the dead of winter, but I thought I’d post a photo from late summer. I worked on it some last week and then added a few more effects today. Click the image to see it quite a bit larger. Images ©Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved.

Other than the quick lunch loop, I hung around the house much of the day today. We are getting a dusting of snow now and I hope to spend most of the day out tomorrow. >>MJ


January 1, 2015

New Years Fireworks

Torch ParadeNew Years Fireworks: Last night, I drove out to Teton Village to photograph the torch light parade and fireworks. Since I’ve never been to this spot on New Years, I wasn’t sure where the skier would come down, and was not sure if they’d shoot the fireworks off at the same spot as they did on the 4th of July. It was around -14°F when I parked the van along the highway.

At the Teton Village torch light parade, the riders are already at the top of the mountain on Apre Vous peak. At 6:00 PM, on New Year’s Eve, the stream of skiers carrying torches begin to snake down the mountain. If I get to go back next year, I’d start with a 70-200mm to zoom in slightly.

Last summer, I was able to move close to the barbed wire fence and shoot from “under” a power line that runs along the highway. Last night, I found a large berm of snow piled up in that spot, eliminating that option for the night. I ended up shooting from the road. The spot was actually a good one, but there’s a couple of power lines in the images if you look closely. There might be a better spot. Maybe I’ll go out earlier next year and spend some time looking for it.

Skiers worked their way to the bottom as you can see in the small photo above. After the last skier reached the bottom, the fireworks began.

Teton Village

The fireworks display lasted a quite a while with plenty of explosions going off regularly. Still, the entire event was overall quick and efficient—which is good knowing it was so cold.

Snow King Fireworks

Snow King Fireworks: After leaving the JH Mountain Resort, I headed on home, but when I made it back to town, I noticed a few skiers still going up the lift. At Snow King, all of the skiers started at the bottom. After lighting their flares, chair after chair carried skiers up the mountain. At the base of the mountain, hundreds of spectators lined up to watch the event. I don’t know the actual number, but it appeared there were 150 skiers, maybe more. Eventually, all of them make it to the top and they begin their descent. The skiers split up and snaked down a couple of different runs before gathering at the base. Fireworks followed.

The image above is a composite of five or six shots. Four or five fireworks blasts are layered over the base layer with the spectators and string of skiers.

Single Capture

Snow King Fireworks Diplay: This is a single capture: Aperture Priority: 2.5 seconds, ISO 500, F/11, 28mm with a 24-70mm lens on a Nikon D4.

Teton Range January 1

Teton Range January 1: Taken from the Elk Refuge Road near the Miller House.

Sleeping Indian and Rising Moon

Sleeping Indian and Rising Moon: Taken from the Elk Refuge Road. If you checked out yesterday’s Daily Update (Dec: 2014), I mentioned going to the National Elk Refuge and not seeing a single Bighorn. At about the same time of the day today, I went to the same place and found four or more groups of around 10-12 Bighorns scattered along the road.

Boyle's Hill Swan Pond

Boyle’s Hill Swan Pond: Flat Creek is frozen, so quite a few Trumpeter Swans are at Boyle’s Hill for some free food and open water.


Happy 2015!  I’d like to take a second and say THANKS to all the people coming here daily or weekly, along with the readers that make comments here! And SPECIAL THANKS to all that have signed up to follow the blog. I hope to continue to add a variety of  “content” for all of 2015. Even if you aren’t planning an immediate trip to the Tetons, hopefully I can include information that can help you back at your home town. Lastly, if you like what you’ve been seeing, I’d appreciate it if you help me spread the word about the site!


Maybe they don’t have the “mass” of the large game animals and predators, but they are equally fun and equally challenging to photograph!

This page contains photos of some of the smaller mammals found in the Jackson Hole valley and Grand Teton National Park. With few exceptions, I don’t go out looking for the critters. Instead, I am usually out taking photos of something else when I catch a glimpse of something moving nearby.

Short-tailed Weasel or Ermine

I’ve only see a few Weasels or Ermine while out in the valley. They are elusive and seem to always be on the move. This page contains lots of facts about them. Weasel (Short Tailed) or (Ermine) . There are possibly some Long-tailed Weasels in the valley.


Weasel: I photographed this Weasel along the Gros Ventre while searching for moose. I’ve seen photos others took inside the Gros Ventre campground. Other photographers have been known to capture images of them along the road on the National Elk Refuge, though I haven’t been so lucky.


Ermine: Needless to say, seeing a small white mammal in an ocean of white snow is not an easy task! This one happened to run across the top of the snow along the Snake River south of Hoback Junction. I’ve seen them on numerous occasions along Spring Gulch Road, but I have never been able to capture one in my camera. A few years ago, I caught a glimpse of one running across my back yard. I’d love to get thousands more photos of them!

Great Gray and Ermine

Great Gray Owl and Ermine: I’ll take that back. I captured this shot of a Short-tailed Weasel (Ermine in winter) along Spring Gulch Road, but only after the Great Gray captured it first.


You might find a coyote about anywhere in the valley at any time of the year. They are leery of humans as they are shot as pests outside the park.


Coyote: Occasionally, a coyote will stop long enough to get a few shots. I photographed quite a few of them in the National Elk Refuge, along Mormon Row, and at Elk Flats.

Coyote Pups

Coyote Pups: During the past couple of years, coyote raised a litter of pups under one of the buildings along Mormon Row. These two were close to the Moose Visitor’s Center.


Despite the fact there are numerous packs of wolves in Grand Teton National Park, I seldom see them and almost never get to photograph them.


Wolf and Coyote: Knowing wolves are near the top of the food chain, I was hesitant to include them on this page, but I thought this photo merited the inclusion. This large black wolf was milling around on the east side of the park. The Coyotes were amazingly brave around him—possibly trying to lure him away from their den. Watch for Wolves along the Snake River, around Willow Flats and Oxbow Bend, and near Uhl Hill on the east side of the park. Some are seen in the Buffalo Fork river bottom and housing areas.


A lot of farmers kills porcupines on sight. They strip the bark and kill trees and can cause a lot of damage. Inside the Park, they are protected.


Porcupine: I photographed this Porcupine along the East Boundary Road a few years back. It seemed out of place with no trees anywhere near.


Porcupine: This Porcupine had been killing a valley resident’s trees next to his house on West Gros Ventre Butte. A friend of the homeowner trapped the animal. I went with the trapper to release it along the base of the mountain north of Wilson. We had expected it to move slowly out of the trap and get into the closest clump of trees, but instead, it took off like a thoroughbred racehorse coming out of the gate.


Watch for badgers anywhere there are Uinta Ground Squirrels and soft dirt. A few dig holes around the Gros Ventre Campground and around the Mormon Row barns.


Badgers: I photographed these along Mormon Row a few years back. I also seen them in the pastures near Elk Flats and near the Kelly Warm Springs.

Red Squirrels

Most of my shots of Red Squirrels were taken in my back yard. One has been building nests and stashing food there for years. However, they are commonly seen in almost all wooded parts of the valley. At certain times of the year, Red Squirrels harvest cones from the various Spruce and Pine trees.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel. This mother was moving her six babies from one hole to another.

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel: A few weeks later, the youngsters came out and explored their surroundings before being run off by the mother.

Jumping Red Squirrel

Jumping Red Squirrel: One of the advantages of having a resident Squirrel is being able to get shots like this. I put peanuts in a tree trunk for her. She’d go back and forth getting the peanut and returning to her nesting cavities. I set up with a couple of strobes for some high speed-sync action. She’s an athlete, but she doesn’t wear Nike shoes!

River Otters

River Otters can be found in about any of the valley’s waterways. But, that’s easier to say than it is to actually find them and photograph them. They are constantly on the move and can travel large distances in search of fresh food sources…fish!

Otter Family

Otter Family: I photographed this family a few years ago along Flat Creek. Another group is often photographed on the snow near Oxbow Bend and around the Jackson Lake Dam. I’ve photographed them along the Gros Ventre River and along Pacific Creek.

River Otters with Catch

River Otters with their catch:


These critters are quite a bit smaller than otters, but are often found in the same areas.


Muskrat: I photographed this Muskrat from the observation platform along Flat Creek.


This might be a “least Chipmunk”, but actually, I believe there are at least three species of Chipmunks in the area. They are common in almost all parts of the valley. Watch for them in the tops of the sagebrush and scavenging for food and seeds around campgrounds and pullouts.


Chipmunk: I photographed this one along the Gros Ventre river as it heads out of the Park and into the Slide Lake area. Again, they are common everywhere.


Chipmunk: I took this photo along the Moose-Wilson road a few years ago. Black Hawthorne berries attract a variety of animals including Black Bears and Grizzly Bears, along with many species of birds.

Yellow-bellied Marmots

Marmots are fairly common in the Jackson Hole valley. Watch for them in rock piles along the road.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: They spend much of their day sunning on the rocks. They are quick to hide if a hawk or predator is in the area. A good place to find them is in the rocks at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. They hibernate in the winter.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: Occasionally, you’ll find a Marmot in a large tree trunk. This one was near Pilgrim Creek in GTNP. Obviously, they are difficult to spot.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: As far as I know, this is still a Yellow-bellied Marmot. I’ve seen a few pockets of the dark ones in the valley. This one was photographed at White Grass Ranch a few years ago. I went back to photograph them again, only to be told the Park Service trapped them out and moved them to another undisclosed location in the park. They were interfering with preservation efforts. Another group  of dark Marmots can sometimes be seen at the base of the mountain near the Cascade Canyon and Hidden Falls boat ramp.

Red Foxes

These sly little critters inhabit much of the valley, but are not always easy to find or photograph.

Red Fox

Red Fox: A few years ago, Red Foxes were plentiful in the Wilson area. This one is “mousing”.

Red Fox

Red Fox: They can be very agile while chasing their prey. I’ve watched them capture a mouse or vole, then bury it, mark their spot, and continue hunting. On the way back to the den, especially when they have kits, they gather them up and carry a large mouthful of food to their young.


Red Fox: I prefer Winter for photographing Foxes while their fur is long and full. I photographed this one in the north end of the Park. Lots of people photographed a Red Fox in Karns Meadows a few years back. Some can be seen along the fence lines around Kelly. Check out this earlier Feature Post showing more of this Fox. Red Fox: A Spring Vixen

Red Fox

Red Fox: By late spring, Foxes begin to shed some of their winter coats. While this one might look like a black fox or a silver fox, they are still Red Foxes and will have a white tip on their tail. I photographed this in the pastures in Wilson.

Uinta Ground Squirrels:

Uinta Ground Squirrels are plentiful throughout the sage flats of Jackson Hole. Hawks, owls and other raptors feed on them, along with Badgers, Foxes, and Coyotes. Interestingly, they spend roughly eight months of the year underground or hibernating.

Uinta Ground Squirrels

Baby Uinta Ground Squirrels:  You can see them on almost any summer day around the Mormon Row barns.


Pikas are usually found in the higher elevations. Watch for them in rock piles gathering clumps of grass and vegetation.


Pika: I photographed this little Pika on my way up to Cascade Canyon: One of the Teton’s Many Gems


The American Fur Traders came to Jackson Hole to trap beavers during the time span of 1825-1840. They could have effectively trapped the entire population in a year or two. Populations of beavers are now well recovered. Watch for beavers in the river bottoms and see more images on this Feature Post: Beavers of Schwabacher Landing


Beaver:  I photographed this beaver at Schwabacher Landing. They can also be seen along the Gros Ventre river and Pacific Creek.

Ground Squirrels

There are a few different species of Ground Squirrels in Jackson Hole. At slightly higher elevations watch for Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels.

Ground Squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel: These are larger than the Chimpmonks found in the valley. I photographed this one near Inspiration Point on my Cascade Canyon: One of the Teton’s Many Gems hike.


Raccoons are mostly nocturnal feeders. They are not native to the region, but have moved in and are thriving.  While fly fishing, I saw a family of Raccoons working their way along the bank of the Snake River.


Raccoon: I photographed this Raccoon in my back yard one night after our dog ran it up a tree. They come around looking for leftover bird feed.

Pine Marten

I have so little experience with Pine Martens…here’s a link with more info: Pine Martin | Wilderness Classroom

Pine Marten

Pine Marten: I took this photo of an elusive little Pine Marten while waiting for a mother Moose and Calf to stand up near Taggart Lake Trailhead. I’ve seen them on the road going into the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, but didn’t get shots. For a while, a Pine Marten was hanging around the parking area a the Pacific Creek boat launch near Moran Junction.


Oh yes! There are lots of others! This guide will give you a much longer list of animals in GTNP: Mammal-Finding Guide via the Grand Teton National Park web site. There are mice, voles, shrews, bats, rabbits, wolverines, ferrets, woodrats, gophers, and the list goes on! As I have the opportunity, I spin my camera around and try to capture them.

If you like this post, please take a minute and SHARE the page by clicking on any of the Social Media Icons below. If you haven’t signed up to follow Best of the Tetons, now’s a great time! MJ

December 2014 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH:

A monthly journal of wildlife reports, scenic opportunities, and tidbits for both photographers and Teton visitors!

Daily Updates Archives: ~
2018: Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2017: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2016: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan: 
2015: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013: Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:


December Examples

December Overview:

Swan PlatformWinter is here to stay! I can almost sum up the month in three concepts: Cold days and nights—short daylight hours—limited access. That’s not all necessarily bad, but it is a far cry from the norms of summer. The cold brings heavy snow and that creates numerous winter activities like snowmobiling, skiing, shoe shoeing, and so forth. Some animals are hibernating, while others are more available to us than ever, such as Bighorn Sheep and possibly Mountain Goats. Some of the winter sunrises can be spectacular and you seldom need a graduated neutral density filter!  The sun goes behind the mountains by 4:30 pm, so it’s easy to be back for dinner. The sun is low in the sky, allowing you to take photos almost all day long with limited high contrast issues. Many roads are closed during the Winter months, however other opportunities seem to fill the void. Consider a sleigh ride on at the National Elk Refuge. The Bighorns on Miller Butte are always good in December, including the opportunity to witness their annual rut. Swans move into the valley for the Winter, with good access spots along Flat Creek and Boyle’s Hill. Check out a guided snowmobile trip to Granite Hot Springs and see Granite Falls along the way. Holiday lights wrap about every tree and all four of the Elk Antler Arches downtown. At the end of the month, plan on going to one of the torch light parades to say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015. Fun photography!

In many ways, the months of December, January, and February are almost carbon copies of each other. Check out each of last year’s Daily Updates to get an idea of the opportunities! Nov: 2013  | Dec: 2013Jan: 2014 . Bull moose drop their antlers during the month of December and early January, so prime moose opportunities become more limited in January and February.

Important Winter Links


Oldie But Goodie Post of the Day

HandicapImageAccessible Viewing & Photography for Visitors with Disabilities in Grand Teton. At this time of the year, many shots are taken within a few feet of the vehicle. I take a lot from my window while pulled over along the side of the road. This post might give you a few ideas. Some of the areas are closed now, however. I am brainstorming a possible Feature Post called: The Dead of Winter: The (Cold) Realities and (Exciting) Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP.


December 31, 2014

Teton Village

There will be two torchlight parades and fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve. The event at Teton Village starts at 6:00pm on Wednesday and fireworks follow. The event at SnowKing starts at 6:15pm on Wednesday. Here’s their link: New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks . (The image above was  taken at Teton Village.) Check out this earlier Feature Post: Fireworks 2014  Additional Fireworks photos from tonight will be posted in the January Daily Updates page for 2015.

Elk Refuge _Dec 31

Today in JH: Ouch! My computer is reading -26°F this morning. I was out in the cold yesterday, then took the van over for some service today. Seems like a good morning to stay home and cull images from the past month. The image above was taken just after lunch time at the National Elk Refuge. A herd of bison was along the southern edge with elk seen in the distance.

Resting Ram

Resting Bighorn Ram: This shot was on the card from a quick run to the Refuge yesterday afternoon. I didn’t see a single Bighorn near the road today.

I’ll also be working on a few new images for the new January 2015 Daily Updates page.

Settled into Winter:

Most of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes: Nov: 2013  | Dec: 2013Jan: 2014 . Also check out: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP.

Suggested “Opportunities”: Right now, here are my top spots to check out.  December 24: So far, I believe these areas are still offering opportunities. Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

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December 30, 2014

Alpenglow at SRO

Alpenglow at SRO: Taken early this morning at Snake River Overlook. It was somewhere between -22° and -25°F there this morning.

The Grand and Mt. Moran

First Light on the Teton Range: Almost the same shot, but maybe 15 minutes later.

Triangle X Fence Line

Triangle X Fence Line: I added a couple of textures into this image taken a few miles North of Snake River Overlook.

Gates at Triangle X

Gates at Triangle X: The long shadows caught my eye on this one.

North Breeze

North Breeze: Taken at the South Entrance station at Moose Junction. I added some textures to this image.

Aspen Stand

Aspen Stand: Taken along the Moose-Wilson Road. I stylized this image with some overall textures and a bit of an edge treatment.

Spring Gulch Creek

Spring Gulch Creek: A warm springs runs down Spring Gulch, so despite the cold temperatures, this water remains open most of the year.


December 29, 2014

Street Crossing

New Feature Post:  Winter Night Life in Downtown Jackson Hole: Christmas is behind us, but in downtown Jackson, you wouldn’t know it. This page might give you a glimpse of the night in Jackson and maybe a few ideas for taking night shots in your home town.


December 28, 2014

Updates on Previewing and Culling

Last March, I made this Feature Post: My Photographic Workflow: A Real World Workflow from Capture Through Final Backups. It took a lot of time and effort, but a few people had asked how I keep up with all of the images. After 9 months, the workflow is essentially the same. For many years, I did a DVD backup of the keeper RAW files, but have since opted to just rely on hard drives.

Previewing and Culling Issues: Lightroom is very slow in creating preview images. That’s a snag in the workflow that causes other myself and others to look for alternatives. Photo Mechanic is a popular one. Recently, a new player entered the market called FastRawViewer. The idea is to be able to quickly go through large chunks of images and remove or delete the blurry, poorly composed, or defective images. I suspect the team at Adobe will someday tackle the issue and essentially eliminate the competition’s current toe hold in the market.

A friend sent me me a link to a review by Thom Hogan. I bought the software and posted this comment on December 5th: Workflow: FastRawViewer | by Thom Hogan  I will probably try this viewer out soon. It could replace Photo Mechanic in my workflow? My Photographic Workflow: A Real World Workflow from Capture Through Final Backups.

Recently, I found this review on PhotographyLife: FastRawViewer Review: Best RAW Viewer for Your Workflow. This writer did a good job of going through the software and comparing it to some of the other options. He was much more impressed with the software than me. Currently, FastRawViewer does not have a grid view mode, so you have to rely on your system’s file preview, and that’s only if Windows or Mac has the most updated preview software installed. FastRawViewer is only around $15 vs $150 or so for Photo Mechanicc or Lightroom, so it might still be a cost effective option for some.

Before or After?: Some people use Photo Mechanic up front. They do all of their sorting and culling there, then import the keepers into Lightroom. I import them first, giving them converted file names. I sort them into smaller folders containing similar subjects. Then, I go to Photo Mechanic to cull them. That saves me a lot of time. Afterwards, I let Lightroom sync the original folder. It finds all of the images I deleted while in Photo Mechanic and deletes them from the LR catalog. This step is still very quick, so all in all, I’d say it’s a wash either way and not worth me switching up at this point. Check out the review at PhotographyLife using the link above. His review might shed additional light on the various issues and options.

Buck Rail Fence

Buck Rail Fence at the Shane Cabin (yesterday)

Loose Ends

It’s snowing lightly here today and is 16°F at 10:00 am. I hope to get out later and if I do, I’ll add a few photos. Gasoline is holding at $2.47 per gallon for self-serv regular. The town is fairly crowded with holiday season visitors. Jackson Hole is reported to have some of the best snow this year. I’ll be working on the new January Daily Updates page soon. I have a new Feature Post finished called “Here Today, Gone to Maui!” While it contains quite a few photos of my recent trip to Maui, I wrote the article about having to make decisions on what gear I needed to take along and why. It probably follows along with decisions other people have to make when they get on a plane to come to the Tetons. Sign up now to be one of the first to read it.

Today’s Outing

Mountain Goat in Storm

Mountain Goat in Storm: This image was taken through a wall of snow flakes. For a change of pace, I headed down the Snake River Canyon to Alpine Junction. I found about 20 at the mouth of the canyon feeding in the heavy vegetation. One nanny crossed the rocks to get to the others. She posed for quite a few variants of essentially the same image.

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: On the way back home, I checked out the area near Camp Creek Inn. I saw a few bighorns but didn’t take any shots. This Ram was grazing along the highway across from Rafter J Subdivision. I’ve never seen one there. I pulled over and took some shots from the fence. Before long, quite a few people were pulling over and a Highway Patrol Officer came in with his lights flashing. He asked me if I would please move on.

Boyles Hill Swan Pond

Boyles Hill Swan Pond: Currently, the open water at Boyles Hill is around 100 feet in diameter with lots of ducks, swans and geese sharing the water. Flat Creek is frozen over at the moment, pushing more into these areas. See: Trumpeter Swans of Boyle’s Hill:

Barn along Boyles Hill Road

Barn along Boyles Hill Road: I added some textures to make this one more moody. I love capturing these old barns in the winter, especially after a fresh snow. For people taking a One-On-One Photo Excursion with me, a loop around the valley to photograph them is an option. Most of the barns inside GTNP are closed to vehicle travel this time of the year. (click this image to see it quite a bit bigger)


December 27, 2014

Sleigh Ride

Each morning, the crews bring the horses and sleighs across the valley floor for the daily National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides. It is usually cold and frosty with a fair amount of back light from the early morning sunrise.

Last night, I published a new Feature Post called: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP. The purpose of this Feature Post is to concentrate on the span of time from mid-December to early April. If you are a regular reader here, you probably already understand some of the issues. In several of the earlier Winter posts, I had to deal with gradual closures starting early in November and continuing until around December 15th when large areas of the valley are closed to human entry.

Gold Sunrise

Gold Sunrise: I headed out early this morning, only to find low clouds covering the Tetons. I headed east at the Gros Ventre Junction and spent most of the morning around Kelly. Today more or less echoed topics I covered in last night’s feature post: The Dead of Winter:  This was a good morning to be out!

Wagon Wheels

First Glow on the Wagon Wheels: Shallow depth of field using a 70-200mm lens.

Shane Cabin

Shane Cabin near Kelly. It was -4° when I was at this historic old Luther Taylor cabin used in the Shane movie.

Mule Deer Buck

Mule Deer Buck taken at the edge of Kelly.

Bison Portrait

Bison Portrait also taken at the edge of Kelly. Bison are still being hunted on the National Elk Refuge. The smart ones are staying out of the shooting zones and finding refuge around the edges of Kelly and in the south edges of GTNP.

The Gros Ventre River

The Gros Ventre River: Frosted over this morning.


Gros Ventre Riffle: Ice and frost on stones along the stream

Frosted Branch

Frosted Branch along the Gros Ventre

Sagebrush Tips

Sagebrush Tips: On any morning, there are zillions of similar opportunities.

Box L Ranch

Box L Ranch along Spring Gulch Road.

Fence Line

Fence Line along Spring Gulch Road.

Hansen Barn

Hansen Barn along Spring Gulch Road.

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December 26, 2014

Most of the clouds cleared this morning, but temps were around 0°. I did a quick loop going up Spring Gulch Road and then back to town along the main highway. I checked out Miller Butte and headed on home, watching for Cedar Waxwings along the way. I caught a glimpse of round 60 in a flock flying above town, but couldn’t find them later. There was a coyote on the road on the Elk Refuge today, but I didn’t really have enough light to do much with him. The rut is still in progress on Miller Butte. I saw a couple of moose as I was driving along the Gros Ventre. Flat Creek is more frozen in than open now. It looks more typical for this time of the year. A family of Trumpeter Swans were hunkered down near one of the open areas, but I was there way too early for any action. I am also always watching for the possibility of seeing a family of River Otters.

Textured Hansen Barns

Spring Gulch: I added some artistic textures on this shot from this morning.

Miller House

Miller House on the National Elk Refuge: Normally, I don’t head over to the bighorns until around 10:15 or so because that part of the valley is still in shadows. I was in East Jackson today, so I drove out early when I saw light hitting the Tetons. Check out the similar shot taken on the 24th (below). Many scenes look completely different with only a little bit of time between them. The shot I still “have in my head” is similar. I’d like to catch a band of light across the trees and house with a low fog bank behind them, but still be able to see the peaks of the Teton Range above it.


Christmas Day

Season's Greetings

Dreaming of a White Christmas: We woke up to about 6-7″ of fresh white powder today. Skiers and merchants should be very happy! Our kids are home, so we’ll go out this afternoon and do some sledding before a big dinner.

New Feature Post: Christmas Lights on the Moulton Barn

Sledding and Tubing: After lunch, two families met at Mosquito Creek for some sledding and tubing.

Christmas Day Sledder

Christmas Day Sledder





Christmas Day Group

Christmas Day Group


December 24, 2014

Christmas in the Tetons

Best Wishes from all of us in Jackson Hole!


I originally planned on posting only the single image above for today and maybe something similar for tomorrow. At some point yesterday, I needed to go to KMart and to Alpertsons. Both parking lots were jammed with cars, making me realize there are a lot of people in town right now. I decided to go ahead and add a few extra photos, some of which might benefit the new wave of holiday travelers!

Miller House December 23

Miller House December 23: I took this image in the afternoon yesterday, but didn’t process it until this morning. The Miller House is on the National Elk Refuge.

Bighorn Ram December 23

Bighorn Ram December 23: Also on the National Elk Refuge. Check out Bighorns of Miller Butte.

Foggy Tree Line

Foggy Tree Line: I took this image this morning along the East boundary road. With Antelope Flats Road closed, I made the call this morning to drive towards Kelly, mainly looking for animals. I saw a few Moose along the Gros Ventre River, a few Mule Deer in Kelly, and a few Grouse in Ditch Creek. The snow is deep enough now in the pastures and sagebrush north of Kelly to force the big game animals back to the river bottoms. I didn’t see any Moose out there this morning. Flat Creek is now starting to freeze, but not fully. Swan activity could be good there.


December 23, 2014

Morning in the Tetons: I did a quick drive north this morning. It was 6°F in town and -6°F in the park. Since the last time I was there, the Park Service locked the gates at each end of Antelope Flats Road. The road into the Chapel of the Transfiguration is plowed in, too.

Band of Low Clouds

Band of Low Clouds: Taken from the road going into Dornan’s.


Cabin: Taken near the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area.


Tracks: Taken along the Moose-Wilson Road.


Mounds: Taken along the Moose-Wilson Road.

The Grand

The Grand: Taken along the Moose-Wilson Road.

New Feature Post!

BadgersCritters: Maybe they don’t have the “mass” of the large game animals and predators, but they are equally fun and equally challenging to photograph!

This page contains a lot of photos of many of the smaller mammals you might find in Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding areas.

Last Minute Christmas Wish List!

These might come in handy for most readers. It’s probably too late to get items shipped in time for Christmas, but that’s only a technicality! News: Adorama sent an email saying they will ship overnight for FREE!


Apps: You CAN get these before Christmas!


December 22, 2014

Elvis, Washakie & Slim Jim: August 28, 2012

Last night, I switched out a photo of Elvis taken in 2012. After a bad eye infection in 2011, he showed up in 2012 with clear eyes as seen in this photo. It appeared he would make it through the big scare of the prior year. This shot was taken on July 28th, 2012 along the Gros Ventre. Behind him is Washakie and another bull I called Slim Jim. I also added one more shot from 2011 showing the oozing eye infection. Here’s that previous Feature Post: Elvis—King of the Gros Ventre:

New Years 2009I’ll mention it a couple more times before it happens, but there will be a Torchlight Parade and Fireworks on December 31st at both Snow King Resort and at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at Teton Village. Check out: Photographing Fireworks : Tips and Suggestions. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for myself, 2014 is whizzing by at an amazing speed!

Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee: Taken at F/7.1, 1/500th Second, ISO400 at close range.

Mountain Chickadee Taking Off

Mountain Chickadee Taking Off: Taken at F/7.1, 1/400th Second, ISO400 at close range. Wow! There’s a lot of movement within 1/400th second.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch: Both Chickadees and Nuthatches are jittery and seldom stop for very long.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel: The sun broke through the clouds for a few minutes, rim lighting this little squirrel just before she jumped to another tree. Taken at F/7.1, 1/400th Second, ISO400 at 310mm on a 200-400mm lens.

Bighorns: When the light broke through the clouds, I loaded up and drove over to the National Elk Refuge. There were several rams paying attention to a couple of ewes, but not in a great spot for photography. It would probably have been good if I felt like waiting them out, but after all of them bedded down, I headed on home.


December 21, 2014

The Winter Solstice: Shortest Day of the Year! Sunrise is at 7:52 am and Sunset is at 4:50 pm. The best part of winter is knowing you can take photos all day long with the sun so low in the sky. I’ll be out some, probably with the Bighorns on Miller Butte. They were active on Saturday.

Corey on the Railing

Corey Jackson on the Railing: Last night, I followed my youngest son over to one of the Resorts to take a few photos of him “urban skiing”. He had built a small jump to get onto the rails, slid down them, then off onto the snow below. Crazy! All I can think about is whether we have good enough insurance! Corey is a Freeride ski coach now for the Park City ski team. I had a couple of off camera strobes set up and triggered them with a Nikon SU800 and a couple of Radio Poppers.

Corey Jackson

Corey Jackson: I set up a strobe behind him to light up the falling snow. Another strobe lit him up from the side and the street light lit the falling snow during a 1 second exposure. I used “rear curtain sync” on this one. Shots like tonight’s captures challenge me. Each time, I get a little better handle on it. Corey is in town for a few days for Christmas, so I’ll probably get another couple of tries at different spots and under different conditions. He gets some sponsorship help from Fat-ypus, so he likes to make sure their logos are clearly visible. Nice to see it snowing again!

Corey on the Rails

Corey on the Rails: Earlier in today’s post, I mentioned you can shoot all day in the Winter. I guess I could say….”and you can shoot all night if you have a few strobes!” This one was taken with a D800 on a tripod with a Nikon 14-24 mm wide angle lens. There’s one SB910 strobe on the far left, aimed at him and with a tight zoom. Three more strobes are on the far side of the parking lot lighting up the wide scene. He slid down the rails to the next section, then dropped off onto the snow bank he piled up. He wanted me to show the little ramp, full rail, and some of the snow bank. (You can click on any of these three ski shots to view them much larger).

Today in Jackson Hole: I made a quick trip to Miller Butte at mid-morning. The valley floor temperature hovered in the mid to upper 30s today, so what should have been fresh snow was actually drizzle. I made a quick trip to Wilson to check it out—hoping it would be snowing there. After a while, I thought I could do more good at home writing the Critter post and processing the images.


December 20, 2014

Elvis at the Dumpster

Another old shot of Elvis—on the left. Elvis—King of the Gros Ventre

Loose Ends: We are now into the shortest three days of the year! Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and days will begin to get a minute or two longer each day. Gasoline is now $2.55 per gallon at a few stations. We have a 50% chance of snow through most of the day and close to 100% overnight. The valley is getting busier with incoming skiers and seasonal winter visitors.

Trouble Leaving a Comment? A couple of people tried to leave comments with yesterday’s new Feature post about Elvis, but reported problems. I logged out and tried making a post and got a message saying my passwords didn’t match. I did it again and it worked. Suggestions: Use copy and paste (select the password, Control-C to copy and then click in the confirmation box and hit Control-V to paste the code). One more  tip….just before hitting the submit button, go ahead and select and copy your original message. If it doesn’t submit properly, you can paste it back in and try again without needing to retype your message. Lastly, you might try a different browser like Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or Explorer. I installed the newest version of WordPress last night, so if there was a bug, maybe they fixed it.

Comments: I read every comment and respond to as many as I can. Please make comments on the posts if you have time. And, please take a second and SHARE a post if you think others in your “friend” list would enjoy it.

Feature Post Suggestions: I can’t image running out of subject matter for this blog, but if you have suggestions for an upcoming Feature Post, or even a new direction for the blog, please click the Email link in the header bar and drop me a line.

The Chase

The Miller Butte Rut: I did a quick trip to Miller Butte just before lunch. Two or three of the ewes were being chased by around 15 rams. In case you missed the post, check out Bighorns of Miller Butte. It has information, maps, and suggestions for going there.  Flat Creek is still open (not frozen) and there are lots of Trumpeter Swans, Mallard Ducks, a few Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, Barrow’s Golden Eyes, and Coots milling around.

Miller Butte Rut

The Chase: Bighorn Sheep at Miller Butte. East Gros Ventre Butte is seen in the background.

Bighorn Lamb

Bighorn Lamb: For the number of ewes at Miller Butte, there are surprisingly few lambs this year.

Bighorn Lamb

Bighorn Lamb: The ewes and lambs were grazing close to the road this afternoon. The big chase group of rams was on up the hill.


December 19, 2014

Elvis 2010

Elvis—King of the Gros Ventre: Check out the new Feature Post!

Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee:


December 18, 2014

Resting Ram

Resting Ram: The Bighorns have returned to the roadside at Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Recent snows and colder temps have made the area fresh and bright again.

Downey Woodpecker

Downey Woodpecker: This is a female Downey Woodpecker. Downey’s are about a third smaller than a Hairy Woodpecker and have a smaller beak, proportionally speaking.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker: Males have a patch of red. The birds from today were captured in my back yard. Needless to say, taking photos of these creatures is mesmerizing and captivating. It’s difficult to come back inside knowing there’s a steady flow of birds showing up each day.

You might also be interested in checking out the Teton Photography Group. They have regular meetings once a month at the Art Center, along with blogs, feature photographers, and so forth. My blog, Best of the Tetons, is now syndicated with their site. Currently, they have over 700 members and are affiliated with other regional photography groups.

Tom Mangelsen’s new book: If you are in town on the 20th, you might want to go to Tom’s gallery to pick up a book and h