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Best of the Tetons

Another Day at the Office!

Cowboys and Wranglers in Grand Teton National Park.

Three Cowboys and Mt. Moran

Each year, Pinto Ranch moves a herd of cattle to one of the leased pastures north of Elk Ranch Flats. In preparation of tomorrow’s cattle drive down the highway, three cowboys saddled up near the historic old cabins and dude ranch.

Another Day at the Office 1

I managed to get to the cowboys at about the time they were ready to ride West. I asked if I could take some photos. “Yep, no problem. We are headed that direction”.  I did my best to line up either the Grand or Mt. Moran, moving to my right at a pretty quick pace. From what I understand, their job for the morning was to move bison out of their pasture and then patch up the fences. Jon Holland, broke away from the other two cowboys and then all hell broke loose!

Another Day At The Office 2

I have no idea what spooked Jon’s horse, but it began to buck. The rest of the sequence of this page should speak for themselves.

Another Day At The Office 3

Another Day At The Office 4

Another Day At The Office 5

Another Day At The Office 6

Another Day At The Office 7

Another Day At The Office 8

Another Day At The Office 9

Another Day At The Office 10

Another Day At The Office 11

Another Day At The Office 12

Another Day At The Office 13

Another Day At The Office 14

Another Day At The Office 15

Cowboys are tough! I went over to them to see if he was okay. There were no broken bones or blood that I could see. He said, “I’m fine…just another day at the office”. A few minutes later, Jon was back in the saddle, on the trail, and back to their job of moving the bison.

Dan Martin and Morth Yokem were the other two Pinto Ranch cowboys in these shots.

Note: This happened fast! From the first sequence shot until the last one was 15 seconds. The bucking portion lasted less than four seconds!


Shooting Information: I am fairly certain Jon didn’t expect to take a tumble, and I am positive I didn’t expect it! For this “shoot”, I grabbed my Nikon D810 and a Nikon 70-200mm lens, treating the passing cowboys and Teton vistas as a landscape opportunity. The mid-range lens would allow me to include the distant mountains with the cowboys as unique foreground subjects. In full frame mode, a D810 has a maximum frame rate of 5 frames per second, which worked out fine, but if I had known what was about to happen, I would have grabbed my D5 (12 FPS) and my Tamron 150-600mm to be able to zoom in on the action. Who knew?

The Shutter Speed was set at 1/1000th second and the Aperture was set at F/9, in Manual Mode. ISO was set to Auto ISO =  ISO 200. EV as at -1 and the histogram looked pretty good. I would have also been fine at -.7 EV.


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Beating the Summer Crowds in Grand Teton National Park:

Tips and Strategies to Help Make Your GTNP Visit More Enjoyable!

GTNPVisitation at Grand Teton National Park has been on the incline for several years—each one breaking the previous year’s totals. We are likely on a similar pace this year, and that’s not taking into consideration the extra visitors in August for the Solar Eclipse! Air travel is getting more and more difficult—and less fun. It is probably going to get worse with new restrictions on computers and eventually photo gear. Gasoline prices have remained relatively low and there is a renewed interest in the Parks in general.

That’s great for our regional market. It’s great for the tour operators, merchants, galleries, restaurants, dude ranches, and activities! If you are stuck behind a bear jam or waiting to get through the entrance station, it’s not so great!

This page is intended to help readers miss at least some of the congestion and frustration you might encounter at peak times in Grand Teton National Park.

Bull Elk In Velvet

Be out early!  That’s my #1 tip! Early—as in 5:30 am in the summer. I know that for a large family, that could be a brutal and even novel idea! On many of our vacations and Spring Breaks, I’d get up and run around, taking photos, for a couple of hours, then go back to the room to find the family just beginning to mill around. This strategy always worked for me, but if you can’t leave the family, get them all up and get out. Grab a snack, then plan on having breakfast with the family at one of the restaurants in the Park as the line of travelers fill the roadways. The light and clouds are beautiful at that time of the morning. Wildlife will be moving from their early morning feeding zones to their daytime dark shadows. And, of course, there won’t be a lot of crowds to deal with at that time of the day!

Entrance Station

If you wait until mid-morning to head into the Park, expect long lines! It’s even worse early in the year when people are having to buy their Park Passes.

Noon Time at GTNP

At the Moran Junction entrance station, I’ve seen traffic backed up in two lanes all the way to the highway and spilling out onto the highway! Remember my #1 Rule: Be out early!

Approaching Storm

Grand Teton National Park is usually relatively quiet until Memorial Day. The traffic really kicks in around the 7th of June. Coincidentally, that’s the date of this post! It will be busy until Labor Day with the parents and kids. After Labor Day, another batch of tourists flock to the region for its spectacular Fall Foliage show! The crowds thin out considerably on October 1st.

That’s the “big picture”. On a daily basis in the summer, the bulk of the tourists have breakfast in town, then join the masses heading out of town and into the Parks. Many are passing through the Tetons to get to Yellowstone. In the afternoon, the flow is in the opposite direction. From 5:00 pm to around 6:30 pm, traffic can begin to become congested entering the Town of Jackson and can come to a virtual standstill through town as locals and commuters try to get out of town. Throw in a occasional accident or road construction projects in town and the situation can go from bad to terrible! As you can see in the mid-summer shot above, the Park can appear quiet at certain times of the day, even in the Summer!

Sunset

Suggestion #2: In the evening, stay out longer! If you have reservations for a motel in town, call ahead and let them know you will be arriving late and then sit back and enjoy the park an extra hour or two. That’s a bit like my doctor telling me I need to drink a glass of wine each day! Okay…I can do that! The roads will clear, animals may appear, and stress levels can go down! You can even consider having a pizza at Dornans or even Leek’s Marina. You will likely need to eat “somewhere”, even if you go to town, so find a great spot in the park and miss the crowds! Sunsets can also offer some memorable photo opportunities. Check out this page: Teton Sunsets:

On a similar note, when a big summer storm passes through the valley in the summer, many tourists leave the Parks and go into town. Unlike the 5:00 to 6:30 pm daily crowd, they filter into town and fill the shops and restaurants.

Moose Crossing

Rule #3: Don’t be in a hurry! Expect the unexpected and give yourself some extra time to enjoy the Park. Some of these tourists were probably too close, but I am sure they were pleased to get to see a Moose and yearling calf. Wildlife “jams” can cause stress if you believe you are on a tight schedule. Much of Grand Teton National Park and all of Yellowstone has a speed limit of only 45 mph. At night, even the 55mph portion of the highway has a maximum speed limit of 45 miles per hour. Roads are narrow, sometimes winding, and often have deer, moose, elk, and bison grazing and crossing them. Check out this post: The 100 Yard Rule(s)

Crowded Location

Rule #4: Go where they aren’t! On any particular morning in the summer and Fall expect to find a large group of people at any of the “Big Four”: Mormon Row Barns, Schwabacher Landing, Snake River Overlook and Oxbow Bend. Occasionally, as seen in the photo above, there will be numerous photo workshops and tours. I typically pass by this kind of scene and come back later in the morning. In most cases, tours come and go, so just wait them out. Patience is a virtue! Abracadabra: Now You See Them—Now You Don’t!  This page explains how to relieve stress by not worrying if a person is in your shot.

In recent years, tourists and photographers have been able to spread out more at Schwabacher Landing. Beavers had built a bunch of dams, creating additional reflection pools along the side channel of the Snake River that passes by the parking areas. In 2017, high water runoff has washed their dams away, leaving only one reflection pool on the Spring Creek side. Expect that spot to be even more crowded this year.

399 and Cub

Sometimes, you simply can’t go where “they” (tourists and photographers) are not! In most cases, to get Grizzly photos, you simply have to be there and be part of the crowd.

Blondie Watchers

If so, Rangers and Wildlife Brigade Volunteers tell people where they can stand, park, and view the bears. Personally, I can only take this kind of photography is small doses! As the season progresses, Rangers and Volunteers become less tolerant. I was in a bear jam recently that lasted a hour or longer. As I drove off, I could see people had parked as far as a half mile away to walk to the area.

399 and Cubs

This shot was taken only a few seconds before they crossed in front of the Rangers two shots up. I was using a Nikon D500 with a 200-500mm lens, giving me an “effective” reach of 750mm. You’ll need something similar if rules require people to be 100 yards from the bears and wolves. Check out this post: The 100 Yard Rule(s)

Take a Hike

Hidden FallsI don’t know where to look for the statistic, but I’ve heard that less than 10% of the visitors to Grand Teton National Park ever walk more than 100 feet from their vehicle. Some never get out of their vehicle at all! If so, all you have to do is hike a short distance off the parking areas and pull-outs and you can be virtually free from the crowds! Before leaving town, pick up a few “boxed lunches”. Find a cool, shaded stream, then sit back, relax and have a picnic!

Bridger-Teton National Forest butts up against Grand Teton National Park in many areas, offering even more opportunities to get away from the crowds. Even though some trails are fairly popular, hikes to Phelps Lake, Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake offer experiences inside GTNP with far fewer people. Also consider a hike to Goodwin Lake and Toppings Lake on the east side of the valley.

Best of the Teton’s site is filled with content skewed towards photography. If you would like more information about area hiking, try this link: Teton Hiking Trails. They can cover the topic much better than me! Again, most trails have few people on them.

If you would like a hybrid outing, get up early and take the ferry ride from Jenny Lake to Cascade Canyon, then hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The first boat of the day is even cheaper! The Park Service is working on the parking areas at Jenny Lake again in 2017, so getting there early makes double sense. Beat the crowds and find a close parking spot. Check out this post: Cascade Canyon: One of the Teton’s Many Gems

Try Something Different!

This page is historically popular on Best of the Tetons: Outside the Park: Alternative Places to Visit, Hike, Fish, and Photograph. I wrote that page when the US Government shut down for a few weeks, displacing thousands of visitors still in the valley but unable to enter the Parks. It is loaded with photos and maps to areas fewer people see. A drive up the Gros Ventre Canyon, for example, can take you to red hills, mountains, rivers, lakes and vistas.

Additional Info:

The previous link might be considered a generic introduction to some of the alternative places. Check out these more details pages:

FREE in Jackson Hole ~ Areas & Activities:

This page contains numerous ideas that are mostly free. Some are free simply because you get up earlier than the Park Station attendants. Others are 100% FREE!

Not FREE, but these excursions will get you away from the crowds

Consider one of the many options that whisk you away from the crowds and into the wilds!

Horseback Rides: There are many companies that offer rides, including some inside the park. Check out the stables at the top of Spring Creek Ranch. The rides give you views from East Gros Ventre Butte over the National Elk Refuge and across to GTNP and the Grand. Triangle X offers trips into the wilderness and Park.

Scenic Float Trips: Some of these operations offer trips through some of the more remote areas of GTNP on the Snake River.

Scenic Chair Lifts: Check out the lifts at Snow King Resort. At the top, you can hike the ridge and get views only skier see.

Tram Ride: At the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, you can ride the tram to the top of Rendezvous Peak with unparalleled views of the valley below. Even in the summer, it can be chilly or crisp.

Hot Air Balloon Ride: How about another unique view of the valley. These rides start early!

Come Back in the Winter!

If you’ve only been here in the Summer, consider coming back in the Winter. Here are a few of the Winter pages on Best of the Tetons. You’ll find the area magically transformed by snow.

 

 


Teton Photo Excursions

If you are considering a trip in September, I’d definitely recommend booking it NOW. Some of those slots are filling fast. June is filling, but there are still openings. For inquiries, send an email to info@tetonimages.com.

 

Newborn Moose!

Baby Moose

Newborns are exciting harbingers of the Spring and Summer seasons.  I’ve seen a few baby Canada Geese, a few baby Bison, and I’ve heard of several Fox dens with Kits making their first appearances. Soon, we might be seeing baby Owls, Eagles, Deer, and Elk.

Click HERE to watch my wife’s video on Facebook:

Today, my wife called me to let me know of a Moose giving birth to a single calf. When she called, the calf was still slimy and the cow was in the process of cleaning it. By the time I arrived, the Mother Moose had cleaned the beautiful little calf. The proud Mother looked exhausted. The calf was trying to stand up but would fall over when she licked it. The photo above was the calf’s first attempts to nurse.

Baby Moose

This cow chose a spot between the main house and the guest house in a private sub-division near Teton Village. Call it a symbiotic relationship! The owners gets a few of their willow trees trimmed for free and the Moose gets some protection against wolves, bears, and coyotes. The cow has been a regular visitor to the residence for several years and is comfortable with humans milling around. My presence caused her no apparent stress.

The Window

We were able to open on of the windows of the main house, giving me access to the pair at eight to ten feet! The cow acknowledged the window opening, but was never alarmed.

Baby Moose

The calf could best be described as “wobbly”. It didn’t stay up very long at any one time, and would often fall or crash on its own accord.

Baby Moose

The calf spent a lot of time sleeping and the cow spent a lot of time licking its fur.

Baby Moose

The window gave me unprecedented access to the event! Besides being illegal to be this close in the Park, it would also be very dangerous.

Baby Moose

I was also able to shoot from the yard at a distance of about 20 yards. I was prepared to move back to the house if she looked agitated, but she never did.

Baby Moose

I’ve read that baby Pronghorns are ready to run soon after birth. My experience today tells me it takes baby moose much longer.

Baby Moose

The calf would be up for a few minutes at a time, then back down.

Baby Moose

The calf was never more than a few feet from the cow. Amazing moments!

Baby Moose

I have been using a D500 for the past couple of weeks while my Nikon D5 and Tamron lens are being fine tuned. For these shots, I used either a Nikon 70-200mm or 24-70mm lens on the 1.5 crop factor body. I was shooting in Manual Mode with Auto ISO.

Baby Moose

She had her head up and her ears perked, but the cow dozed like this quite a few times.

Baby Moose

Each time the baby got up, it seemed to get a little stronger and more stable—but it was far from ready to run.

Baby Moose

It appears that most Mother Moose keep them in their secluded birthing spots for several days. Most of the calves I’ve seen over the years have been mobile and active. Check out this page: Baby Moose of the Tetons

Baby Moose

This is one of the last photos I took today. Off and on during the day, the cow stood up and then bedded down in another nearby spot—possibly for some fresh grass to eat. I was standing in the back yard on this capture. It appeared the cow was pushing the calf to the deck and in my direction. There was a pond behind me so I thought she might be ready to head to water. Just as before, she bedded down in a new patch of green grass.

Day 2

1 Day Old Moose

Darla and I did a quick trip back to the Moose family. The little one was much more mobile and was able to work its way through thickets of willows.

Nursing Calf

The calf is now able to nurse while standing.

Young Calf

Clumsy and cute!

Young Calf

The challenge on this shoot is to isolate the subjects from the buildings, deck, roads, and posts.

High-steppin' Calf

With the Mother watching, the little one is working on its high stepping moves.

Resting Cow and Calf

After feeding for a while, both dropped to the ground in deep, green grass. I’d love to be there when the pair head to the nearby pond for a drink.

Day 3

Baby Moose Day 3

The little one is spending more time on its feet and getting braver. I went by in the morning and the pair were tucked deep into the trees. By afternoon, there was some activity.

Baby Moose Day 3

Baby Moose Day 3: The Mother was about 12 feet away, but keeping an eye on the baby and me.

Nursing Moose

You might call this a “rear entry” option for nursing. I’m not a biologist, but this shot might indicate this is a female baby moose.

Romper Room

Romper Room: At one point, the baby did circles around the Mother. She finally stood up and made some sort of signal that dropped the little moose in its tracks. She then bedded down again and I headed on home.

Day 4

I found the Moose, but they were bedded down in a tough spot. I didn’t even try to take photos of them.

Day 5

Mother Moose and Calf

The lawn workers had to mow and trim the yard during the morning and part of the afternoon. This activity spooked the Mother Moose and Calf to a stand of willows across the street. They were there all day. I stopped in a second time later in the afternoon. She led the little Calf back to the birthing yard.

Five Day Old Calf

The five day old Calf is now quite mobile.

Five Day Old Calf

She’s beautiful!

Five Day Old Calf

She?

Mother Moose and Calf

I had hoped to be there when the Cow went to the pond for a drink of water. I got lucky!

Five Day Old Calf

I came home with around 2500 images from the afternoon. Shots from today were taken with a Nikon D5 and a Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.

Splashing Calf

I tend to shoot a lot when they are near the water. You may only have a minute or two. Today, the two drank from the water’s edge and then the mother started feeding on nearby willows. That left the youngster to romp around and play along the edge of the pond.

Five Day Old Calf

The family named the baby moose “Lucky P”.


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Red Foxes of Jackson Hole

Red Foxes, with their distinctive white pointed tails, roam most areas of the Jackson Hole valley.

Red Fox in Winter

The bulk of the visitors to Grand Teton National Park come here in the late Spring, Summer, and Fall, seasons. Foxes are around, of course, but aren’t seen that often by the average tourist. I believe there are several factors. Foxes are usually hunting very early and very late—and that’s not the same time of day the average tourist is roaming the valley. Much of the year, single Foxes only need to catch enough food for their own needs that day, then can rest and sleep the day away until they are hungry again.

Foxes

When the Vixen is in the den with her new Kits, she seldom leaves for long periods. In reality, half of the Fox population is out of sight altogether for a month and a half or so. As the Kits grow and begin appearing near the den’s entrance, news typically spreads quickly. The Park Service puts up “Do Not Enter” yellow tape around the den area. Adults come and go, hunting often to feed the youngsters. That’s probably the best time for Summer visitors to see scruffy adult Foxes and cute little Kits. Winter visitors probably have a better chance of seeing Foxes with their stunningly beautiful coats!

The Seasons

Sleeping Fox

Winter Foxes have beautiful, flowing coats. Days are much shorter, so odds go up that you might see them hunting and moving about. Sometimes, they find a sunny spot and curl up for long periods— hiding in plain sight!

Alert Red Fox

Winter visitors also have an advantage of shooting almost eye level with Foxes. Snow banks can be four to five feet high in some areas. With less tourists around, they seem more relaxed and less likely to flee into the forests.

Summer Foxes are typically scruffy as they shed Winter fur and replace it with short, sleek fur. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t see them too often other times of the year. They are forced to hunt more during daylight hours when trying to feed 4-6 Kits. By the time the kits are weaned, they seem to disappear again.

Foxes: In General

Fox on a Fence

Foxes are canines, but display some cat like qualities. For example, I’ve never seen a Coyote or Wolf willingly walk down a buck rail fence, but I’ve seen lots of Foxes do it.

Red Fox

At least to my eyes, Foxes eyes remind me more of a cat than a Coyote, Wolf, or dog. While they occasionally bark to notify their mate they are in the area, they are typically much more quiet.

I wrote this page to highlight my experiences and observations. I’m “just a photographer”—and not a biologist! You can read more about Foxes by doing Internet searches and through the numerous books in the local bookstores. Check out this page: Red FoxNational Wildlife Federation

Morning Fox

From what I’ve read, all of our Foxes are “Red Foxes”—regardless of whether they are mostly blonde, red, gray, cross, or black. They all feature a white tipped tail. Gray Foxes may also have color variations, but have black tipped tails. You might relate the color variances in Foxes to Black Bears that can be blonde, cinnamon, brown, or black.

RedFoxLazyOnSnow_Mar22

Habitat

In most cases, Coyotes and Wolves shy away from humans. Outside the Park, Coyotes can be shot as a pest without a license. Wolves that stray into area cattle ranches can be shot, too. Coyotes and Wolves can kill Foxes, so they tend to fill voids left by the two larger canines. Wolves often kill game animals, feed for a day or two, then move on. Coyotes and Foxes move in on the carcass, but Foxes move out of the zone when Coyotes are present.  That’s when Foxes are in “scavenger mode”. Otherwise, Coyotes and Foxes hunt mice, pocket gophers, voles, and ground squirrels. Last year, I watched a Cross Fox that specialized in catching ducks. In other areas, Foxes can become adept at stalking and catching upland game birds.

Cross Fox Hunting

I mentioned earlier that Foxes fill in voids left by human fearing Coyotes and Wolves. That’s another way of suggesting that Foxes are often found around humans and human activity. In short, they are usually safer around humans than their wild canine counterparts. They are plenty adept at scavenging a carcass and capturing small prey, but they are also smart enough to recognize a free meal when it’s offered. Foxes are also smart enough to recognize human habits and patterns—showing up a the right time for handouts. (More on that issue later in the page)

Morning Fox

Foxes can show up near campgrounds, visitor’s centers, gas stations, employee housing zones, and in towns. Dens can be found in culverts, under porches, under the corner of a barn, or in holes in back yard settings. Within Grand Teton National Park, populations of Foxes have been seen regularly at Flagg Ranch, Colter Bay, Signal Mountain, and the Teton Science School. Around the valley, they are fairly common in the towns of Wilson, Jackson, and Kelly. I am sure some are regulars on the Buffalo Valley Road, and around Slide Lake.

Karnes Meadow Foxes

Prior to 2008, I had only random chances to photograph them, but in 2008, a Vixen set up shop in Karnes Meadows, not far from the Snow King Avenue. The den was only about 30 feet from the sidewalk! For several weeks, dozens of photographers lined up for their chance to watch a family of Red Foxes.

If I remember correctly, the Karnes Meadow Fox raised five Kits that year. I don’t recall ever seeing the adult male helping her raise the Karnes Meadow Kits.

Kits

Initially, the Kits stayed inside the den while she was away, but they became braver as they got older. One day, we came back to the spot and they were gone. Since then, I’ve seen quite a few other dens, but none as close, nor as photogenic as that group. As you might expect, I took thousands of photos of the family and it kindled a desire to continue looking for them.

The Area Foxes

Fox with Mallard Duck

In 2016, a “Cross Fox” showed up along the Moose-Wilson Road. That fox was comfortable with people around, but never appeared to be expecting a hand out. She (some people suggested it was a male) hunted for voles, as most Foxes do, but she also developed the necessary skills to capture ducks that winter in the small spring creeks along the roadway.

Cross Fox Resting

I always thought a Cross Fox was a cross between a Red Fox and a Black Fox, but a Best of the Tetons reader (thanks Michael), let me know the name reverences a cross pattern across the Fox’s back. In March of last year, I made a Feature Post called The Cross Fox of GTNP. That post has more photos of this fox, plus a lot more information about Cross Foxes.

Cross Fox

The 2016 Cross Fox had a lot of personality, along with a couple of missing teeth, a large scar on its muzzle, and a cut in it’s right ear.

Cross Fox Approaching

Late in the year, there were reports of this Fox showing up at one of the residences near Teton Village. Unfortunately, it had a broken leg. We heard of attempts to capture it, but I never heard of any positive results. It hasn’t been seen since.

Photographing Foxes

Posed and Watching:

Photographing Foxes isn’t much different than photographing other animals. We still face issues of stopping action with shutter speed, depth of field with aperture settings, and dealing with resulting high ISO and digital grain. Unless people are accustomed to photographing subjects in snow, Winter can require a bit of adjusting within the camera. Many Winter images will need up to a full stop of EV compensation, otherwise images with a high percentage of white will be underexposed. Yes, you can still adjust the Exposure slider in your favorite RAW converter, but I much prefer getting it right in the camera to avoid excessive noise in the dark areas.

Goals

Fox Cover Image

If you can find cooperative Foxes (or any animal for that matter), you will likely fill a card with numerous “good, but average” photos of them standing, sitting, sleeping, or casually walking from spot to spot. Everybody eventually collects lots of them—but they are “just Fox photos”.

Yawner

While we still take the basic shots, I have four or five “catch words” loaded into the back of my brain, just waiting for the right opportunity. I am watching for “action and interaction”, along with “personality and behavior”. Lastly, I know that not all images need to be up close and personal. Wide shots that include more of the animal’s surroundings or the weather conditions many tell a bigger story. These kinds of events happen on a daily basis, but not always with photographers there to capture the moment.

Lounging Fox

A Fox can sleep for hours! Even in their most lazy modes, they can be photogenic.

Stretching Red Fox

Once a Fox wakes up from a long nap, they almost always stretch. It’s not fast action, but it’s action!

On the Move

Foxes are usually quick to react to another fox or a dog in the area. They can go from a stretch to a run in seconds.

Watching Fox

Foxes spend a lot of time moving from spot to spot in search of food. On bright days, Foxes tend to squint A LOT! It takes at least some skill and a lot of luck to capture that split second while their eyes are open. Since I have a lot of images in which their eyes are open now, I usually delete the ones with squinted eyes.

Flying Fox

A shot like this can catch most people off guard. I’ve missed a lot of them, too! They seem docile and sluggish and then can burst into a dead sprint. Luckily, winter shots allow me to keep the shutter speeds fast. (1/1250 second or faster)

Pouncing Fox

Occasionally, you will find a Fox “mousing”. This kind of action is much more predictable. They will likely be in “mousing” mode for a while, so you just have to be ready when they stop, and prepare to pounce. I composited this shot from a burst of images, taken at a long distance near Kelly Warm Springs. In reality, a Fox jumps high into the air, and then into the snow to capture a mouse or vole only a couples of yards out.

The Meeting

Interaction can be between two animals of the same species, or by more than one species.

Skunk In Snow

Occasionally, a third party can enter the scene.

Skunk and Fox

It would be difficult to predict how two different species will react. On this day, the Skunk stood its ground and even chased the fox. Still, the Fox appeared to be more curious than scared of the smaller critter.

Zoom lenses are great for such encounters. It is easy to pull back on the zoom to include two animals. Surprisingly, the Skunk charged the Fox, catching it off guard.

Face To Face

Up close and personal! This was a fun day, probably not to be repeated anytime soon. I happened to be the only photographer around that day, so I came home with unique behavioral and action shots. We all wait and hope for similar experiences. In the end, no fur flew, though there was a pungent odor lingering in the air for hours.

Fox with Flakes

I tend to like these kinds of shots the best, but it takes a lot of discipline to get them. With a 150-600mm lens, I often have choices if I tell myself to take advantage of the situation.

Little Prancer

These kinds of shots are harder to get, but are typically more memorable and tell of a much larger story.

This would be a nice shot of just a fox, but the addition of the Mallard Duck feathers makes it special, at least to me.

Dens

I mentioned earlier that news of a Fox den travels quickly through the valley. Inside the Park, expect the area to be cordoned off to give the parents and kids room to move around and play. A Vixen can give birth to a litter of kits with a variety of color variations.

Red Fox Kits

The Kits are usually active and extremely fun to watch, but are quick to return to their underground den at any hint of danger.

I’ve seen a dozen or two dens over the years. Most are dug in a hole in the ground, while some take advantage of a porch or corner of a barn. Interestingly, I’ve never seen them use the same den twice. It probably does happen somewhere? I’ve heard of Coyotes moving their babies to a new den if the first one becomes flea infested, but I am not sure about this behavior in Foxes.

Kit Foxes

When the parents allow them to play, Kits can be rambunctious. To get 10 minutes of action, plan on spending hours waiting and hoping!

Curious Kit

Unlike their shaggy parents, the Kits are always clean, sleek and “cuddly”, much like a baby kitten!

Great Light

Morning Fox

It’s probably worth mentioning that great light can turn “just another Fox photo” into a memorable one.

Red Fox in Motion

Early mornings and late evenings create long shadows and beautiful light. The sun is usually very low in the sky during the mid-Winter months and snow bounces light back to the subjects, so it usually possible to shoot all day.

As I mentioned earlier, I like the idea of taking a lot of images, including ones where the Foxes are just sitting around or standing, but my goal is to capture shots that are harder to get and unique in some form or another.

The Changing Fox Populations

Outside the National Parks, Foxes and Coyotes are not protected from hunters and trappers. Hunters and trappers don’t even need a license or permit. Town regulations prohibit firing a rifle inside town limits. Hunters and trappers need permission to be on private land. They can’t hunt and trap in closure areas, but that’s about the limit on the controls.

The open season on Foxes and Coyotes probably explains why some of them are leery of humans. In 2008, there were numerous Foxes in and around the town of Wilson, but they aren’t seen too often now. Perhaps they were killed or trapped out once news of their numbers got out. Possibly, it is cyclical, based on the amount of voles and mice in the area, or they move to areas where food is more plentiful? All I know is you can’t count on similar numbers from year to year in any one area.

Dumpster Fox

Inside the National Parks, Foxes may face unforeseen dangers. They are protected from hunting and trapping, but dangers still exist. A few of the Foxes around Colter Bay and Flagg Ranch had apparently been fed over the years.

Fish Heads

Foxes were quick to learn the sound of a vehicle slowing down and the sounds of a potato chip bag being opened. They could be seen waiting for food as snowmobilers and fishermen returned from their day trips. Eventually, several populations of Foxes became what the Park Service calls “habituated” to humans.

Free Food

CUA permit holders (licensed guides) received emails announcing a 2017 program to tag and collar “habituated” Foxes around the valley.

Full Reach

Prior to the 2017 Study Program, the Park Service put up portable signs in many areas frequented by Foxes, letting people it was illegal to feed them. One of the senior Park Rangers in the Colter Bay area recently told me the signs, along with the tagging and collaring of the Foxes has slowed their begging and roadside behavior. Since the program began, Foxes in the targeted zones seem to have essentially disappeared. Few of the tagged and collared Foxes have been reported or seen. Other photographers and tour operators are reporting similar observations.

Red Fox with Snow On Her Nose

I have no first hand knowledge of the Park Service “removing” any of the habituated Red Foxes. If they removed a few of them, the Ranger I spoke with didn’t know about it.

Hunting Red Fox

If you are in the Jackson Hole area, you can help all of us, and the Foxes, if you read the signs and “Don’t Feed the Foxes”. You’ve probably heard the saying, “A fed Bear is a dead Bear”. I’d hate to think a “A fed Fox is a dead Fox” in Grand Teton National Park. Foxes are fully equipped to find their own food, but they are also opportunistic feeders. Potato chips and cookies may seem like harmless offerings, but they could cause their demise if one becomes overly aggressive or bites a tourist.

Unlike Bears and Wolves (100 yards), other animals like Foxes have a minimum viewing distance of 25 yards. The rules are on this page: The 100 Yard Rule(s). For photographers with 400mm to 600mm telephoto lenses, that’s normally not an issue. People with shorter lenses and cell phones, tend to want to be much closer.  In the past year or two, the Park Service has become more strict about the minimum distance rule with the Foxes, just like they did with the Bears. Occasionally, a Fox will walk right by a group of photographers standing alongside the road, like the one above. The rules state people are to stay back 25 yards, and some officers may enforce it.

Loose Ends

The photos below were queued up to be inserted within this post, but weren’t needed. Hope you enjoy them!

Resting Fox

Downhill

Black Cross Fox

Curious Lazy Fox

You simply have to love the Red Foxes!


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Harbingers of Spring

Warmer and longer days are obvious indicators that Spring might be around the corner, but Spring in the Tetons is a rather slow and unpredictable process. Snow melts in the southern end of the valley long before it disappears in the northern section—and it melts even later in the high country. Around town you might see high snow banks dissolvling and roads seeming to get wider. You tell yourself, hopefully, you won’t need that heavy Winter coat again until late November! Spring is coming!

American Robin

Besides the changes to the landscape, we start hearing familiar chirps, screeches, and calls. Robins are some of the first of the returning birds that signal the promise of Spring.

Oregon Junco

For much of the Winter, I see essentially the same species of birds, including Woodpeckers, Ravens, Crows, Clark’s Nutcrackers, Magpies, and Chickadees. Other than the red on the head of a Downey or Hairy Woodpecker, most of them are mostly gray, black, and white. Sometime around the first few days of March, I usually see the first Dark-eyed and Oregon Juncos in my back yard. They are also mostly gray, black, and white also, but they seem to signal that other songbirds will be close behind.

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebirds are the most colorful of the early birds—usually appearing around the middle of March. Some of the earliest sightings are around the Kelly Warm Springs, but once the big waves arrive, they can be seen about anywhere with open sage.

Meadowlark

Meadowlarks often appear, at least in small numbers, at about the same time as the first Mountain Bluebirds. The first Meadowlarks I typically see are north of Kelly and around the Kelly Warm Springs.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbirds are usually heard long before they are seen. Their distinctive call seems to announce the coming of spring. I typically see them around Wilson and along the cattails north of the Visitor’s Center. Yellow-headed Blackbirds are usually weeks behind.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawks may be around the valley all year, but I have a feeling they follow the other migrating songbirds into the valley. This one had just killed an early season Robin. Other Raptors, like Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Prairie Falcons and Peregrine Falcons also re-enter the valley, pushing out winter’s Rough-legged Hawks.

Eagle and Osprey

Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles winter in Jackson Hole. They are often seen around the National Elk Refuge, feeding on winter kills of Elk, Pronghorns, and Mule Deer. Osprey typically start showing up around the first week of April.

Yellow-bellied Marmots

Yellow-bellied Marmots are among the many species of small critters that hibernate through the Winter months. This year, I saw my first Marmots near the Gros Ventre River on St. Patrick’s day. Other small hibernating critters such as Uinta Ground Squirrels (Chislers) and Chipmonks should be close behind in the southern end of the valley. Beavers, if you can get close to the river bottoms, will also be active.

Grizzly

Grizzlies can appear about anytime after a long period of warm days. I don’t think much about them until mid-April, but there have been reports of Grizzly tracks in mid-March and actual sightings in Yellowstone. The southern end of the the Jackson Hole valley may actually look and feel like Spring, while the Grizzlies might still be moving around on snow covered hills and river banks.

Badgers

Many species of mammals do not hibernate in the Winter, such as Foxes, Badgers, Ermine, Weasels, Pine Martens, Porcupines, Skunks, Raccoons, Coyotes, River Otters, and Wolves. My mid-March, many of them begin pairing up and denning for Spring.

Elk Migration

Elk, Moose, Deer and Bison can often be seen moving from their Winter zones starting in mid-March and continuing through April. Typically, we don’t see the Bison herd during the Winter months, but they begin moving North of the Gros Ventre by the end of March. A scene like the one above signals a major change on the National Elk Refuge as the 2017 herd of over 8,000 Elk leave the area.

Wood Duck

Overhead, flocks of Canada Geese return to the valley. Other migratory birds sneak through the valley, like this Wood Duck. White-faced Ibis may be in the Jackson area for only a day or two. Spring is also a time for returning Pelicans, Sandhill Cranes, and Great Blue Herons. Wintering Swans magically disappear, leaving the area’s breeding pairs to the summer water.

Bullock's Oriole

Back at home, I look forward to the Spring parade of migrating songbirds. The drab rust and brown backdrop gradually changes to vivid green as the first of the colorful Bullock’s Oriole’s appear. Western Tanagers, Cedar Waxwings, and Lazuli Buntings will likely be close behind. At some point, I’ll hear my first Hummingbird buzzing around the yard in search of sugar water.

Old Patriarch

Each year is different! To close this page, I’ll include two images to show how different it can be here in the Northern Rockies. This photo was taken on May 2nd, 2011. Elk, Bison, Moose, and even birds would have still been “penned up” in the southern portion of the valley.

Old Patriarch

This photo was taken at the Old Patriarch Tree on May 5th, 2015. In 2015, Elk, Bison, Moose, and Deer, could have already migrated to their summer zones. Spring came much earlier that year!


For this page, I dug through some of the images I’ve taken in the Jackson Hole region over the past 10 years or so. They were all captured with Nikon bodies, including D200, D300, D4, D800, D810, and D5. Lenses include Nikon 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 200-400mm, 200-500mm, and a Tamron 150-600mm.

Throughout the year, I offer One-On-One licensed photo tours here in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Visit Teton Photo Excursions for more information!

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Snowfall and Wildlife

“Bad weather” photography can be challenging—yet can be very rewarding. I’m usually okay with winter bad weather photography as long as I can still feel my fingers and toes! Other photographer’s definition of bad weather may vary.

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/640 Second at f/7.1, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV,  Auto ISO 4500

I’m guessing if you asked 30 photographers how to take successful photos in heavy snow, you would get roughly 30 different answers—and each one would be certain their way is the best. This page as a series of “starting points” I can offer if you venture out during a winter storm.

With few exceptions, a winter storm means the sky will be cloudy—and I’ll be dealing with only limited light. As always, I am left with having to balance shutter speed, aperture, and ISO values, but during a winter storm, it seems that all three are compromised. Critical sharpness is also compromised, but the success of the photos are often much more about the emotion of the shots than sharpness. I usually find that I can “live with” a little more high ISO grain for the same reason.

There are a lot of variables to consider on a snow day, but the two that jump to the top of the list are “distance to subject” and “intensity of the storm”. If the subject is 25 yards out, there could be a few hundred thousand flakes between you and the subject. Double the distance, and there could be twice as many flakes. If the flakes are large, you can be shooting through a wall of flakes that can completely obscure the subject and the distant landscape.

Tree Top Owl

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/800 Second at f/10, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV,  Auto ISO 10000

During a relatively heavy snow squall, I think of three zones. First, there will be a wall of snow between the camera and the subject, an “in focus” zone along the focal plane, and another zone behind the subject. With a shallow depth of field, controlled mostly by the Aperture settings, much of the snow in front of and behind the subject will be out of focus. “Stopping down” will likely make more of the snow in front of, and behind the subject in focus. During the heavy snow periods, the overall picture will likely be lighter—even when staged against a dark background.

An Owl can sit on the same perch for a few minutes or even a few hours. They make good experimental subjects—allowing me to try out various settings.

Alternate Processing

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/800 Second at f/10, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV,  Auto ISO 10000

There are a lot of options and settings available to a photographer at the time of capture. If the image was captured in a RAW format, there is an almost endless set of options for post processing it. You might notice the image above is the same as the one above it—just processed differently. For the most part, it’s simply a matter of adjusting a few sliders in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw or any of the other software designed for adjusting RAW files.

I prefer to shoot while on a tripod when I can. (Remember, I mentioned 30 photographers = 30 answers). Using a tripod for winter storm photography gives me a lot more options, and it allows me to be ready when the action begins. It is difficult to hand hold a telephoto lens on a subject for more than a minute or so at a time. The tripod helps me to be on a subject like an owl as it takes off, vs trying to find it in the scene if the camera is down. A tripod offers the ability to slow the shutter speed to settings well below what is normally possible when hand holding. Yes, it is possible to miss a shot while setting up a tripod, but on balance, I think I get more shots I like.

Watching GGO

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/30 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV, Auto ISO 280

This is a good example of why I like a tripod! It was captured at 1/30th of a second, F/6.3 and the resulting Auto ISO was only 280. At 600mm, it would be almost impossible to hand hold a body and lens and hope to end up with acceptable results at 1/30th of a second. The failure rate is still fairly high while on a tripod! At 600mm, my Tamron 150-500mm lens is wide open at F/6.3. The focal plane is fairly shallow, allowing flakes in front of and behind the face to blur out, while flakes in the focal plane are in relative focus. I tend to go with a shallow depth of field on most perched shots.

Shoot a Lot

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/50 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV, Auto ISO 400

On snow shots, I typically do a LOT of short bursts of three or four images at a time. A Nikon D5 can shoot at 12 frames per second, so it is easy to come home with a lot of images. It takes up disk space and fill cards quickly, but shooting lots of short bursts seems to give me a better chance of getting a good one. This image is a good example. If I only took a couple of shots, the odds are fairly high that a flake will be crossing the Owl’s eyes or beak. In a three shot burst, one of them might be a clean one. Similarly, when the snow flakes are large, the camera’s auto focus often grabs a flake in front of the bird’s face and not the bird or subject. I shoot a lot and keep the best ones. I won’t post it here, but the next shot in this sequence was the better one.

1/20th second

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/20 Second at f/10, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, Auto ISO 180

At 1/20th of a second, I was pushing the limits of the camera, lens, and ambient conditions. It is difficult to hold the equipment still, and in this case, wind was blowing the snow, but it was also blowing the bird on the top of the tree. Owls can stay perfectly still for a long time, but that doesn’t do me much good if the entire tree is moving. Large mammals seldom sway in the wind, nor do many of them move fast on snowy days, so it might be possible to pull off a keeper with an extremely slow shutter speed.

1/500th second

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/500 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, Auto ISO 1800

This is essentially the same shot, but this time at 1/500th second. I didn’t mention it earlier, but even on a tripod, wind can shake a photographer and their gear. Hand holding at slow speeds with heavy winds might not be impossible, but the success ratio plummets considerably. In those cases, a faster shutter speed can help!

Head Spinning

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/40 Second at f/10, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, Auto ISO 360

At slow shutter speeds, I always expect oddball shots like this one. Any movement at 1/40th second will cause motion blur. Even if I had been shooting at a very fast speed, the odds are very low that the shot would have been a keeper. They typically blink their eyes when turning their head like this.

In Flight

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 600 mm, 1/60 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, Auto ISO 220

Okay…here’s a hazard of shooting at slow speeds! I was doing a few streaking snow shots, as seen in the images above, when the Owl spotted, or heard, a vole and flew from the tree top. I didn’t have time to spin the shutter speed dial from 1/60th second to 1/640th second or faster.  I’d prefer to be at 1/1250th second or above for flight shots.  Often, they will “lighten the load” (crap) just before flying, and if I am paying attention, I can dial the shutter speed up quickly—but not this time.

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm F5-6.3 VC USD A011N at 600 mm, 1/80 Second at f/10, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, Auto ISO 720

At 1/80th second, I know I can usually get a photo with a recognizable amount of wind blown snow, yet have a reasonable chance of holding my gear still if I am using a tripod. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from trying a bunch of other settings, but 1/80th second is still a good “go to” setting. Admittedly, you won’t always have the luxury of so many experimental shots as I did with this owl.

Great Gray Owl

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 550 mm, 1/1250 Second at f/9, Manual Mode, 0 EV, Auto ISO 500

If helps to put a dark background behind a subject when trying to capture snowfall. I chose this photo to help illustrate the issue. If the sky had been white, like the upper left corner, you might never know it was snowing when I took the photo.

Owl in Flight

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON 150-600mm at 320 mm, 1/800 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, 1 1/3 EV, Auto ISO 2500

If this capture had been against a darker background, many more flakes would have been visible. While the Owl was against the white sky, I adjusted the EV to +1.3. I typically do a test shot while it is perched, then check the image and the histogram to make sure the image is neither terribly underexposed or overexposed. For the flight shots, I change the shutter speed to 1/1000 to 1/1250 second and switch to Continuous Focus mode. This happens to be a good scenario for “Back Button Focus”.

Other Wildlife

Moose October 2010

Shooting Data: NIKON D300, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 140 mm, 1/40 Second at f/7.1, Aperture priority Mode, 1 EV,  ISO 400

Photographing other wildlife isn’t much different than the Owls I used in the previous examples. For the long exposures, it helps if the animal doesn’t move.

Red Fox

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, Nikon 200.0-400.0 mm f/4.0 at 400 mm, 1/1250 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV, Auto ISO 360

If the animal is on the move, a faster shutter speed helps freeze its movements, but of course you can also go for artistic motion blur shots.

Mountain Goat

Shooting Data: NIKON D810, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/160 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV, Auto ISO 720

It’s not always easy to find a Mountain Goat on a ridge like this, but when it happens with snow falling, the image can be memorable. Typically, they standy still for long periods, allowing you to try different shutter speeds and settings.

Beaver

Shooting Data: NIKON D810, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 460 mm, 1/320 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  Auto ISO 2500

Fair weather photographers seldom get shots like the ones on this page. When it’s snowing, I like to be out looking for opportunities many people miss. March is usually a good month as the days are usually warm enough, there’s usually a fair amount of snow still around, and storms pass through quickly. The image above was taken in early November as the Beaver families gather food for the upcoming Winter. I included all wildlife on this page, but actually the landscape photos work the same way. Better yet, landscape subjects stay still!

December Bighorns

Shooting Data: NIKON D810, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/800 Second at f/7.1, Manual Mode, 0 EV,  Auto ISO 360

Equipment and Other Considerations

These images were all captured with a Nikon DSLR and a telephoto lens.  I prefer my Nikon D5 for the snow shots (I used a D4 in earlier years) because handles high ISO much better than either my Nikon D500 and Nikon D810. When using Auto ISO on a D5, I don’t think much about the ISO jumping well above ISO 1250. The other two bodies do fairly well, however. The D5 can capture images up to 12/14 frames per second, too! Inside Grand Teton National Park, regulations require at least 25 yards of space between a photographer and any sort of wildlife, and 100 yards for Bears and Wolves. For most wildlife captures, a fairly long telephoto lens is required. Luckily, options for the telephotos are much easier on the pocketbook over the last few years. Check out Sigma’s and Tamron’s 150-600mm lens lineup, along with Nikon’s 200-500mm lens.

All three of my bodies including D5, D500, and D810 include a Group Focus mode. (My earlier D4, D800, and D300 bodies didn’t have Group Focus). While I still like to use Single Servo / Single Point for many of my static subjects, I switch quickly to Continuous Focus if it appears there will be action, and occasionally use Back Button Focus. I’ve found that Group Focus works very well on snow days, but your choices and results my vary. Group Focus seems to more often stay on the subject without locking onto snow flakes in front of it. Group Focus is worth trying if you have it! I still use 9 point Dynamic Focus when not in Group Focus on my D5 (this requires a firmware update).

I recently, made a post about my Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens. Feedback from the post suggests using Vibration Reduction (VR/VC/IS) only when shooting at speeds below 1/500th second, and to get the most out of Vibration Reduction, shutter speeds should be much slower. Additional sources (including lens manuals) say to turn Vibration Reduction OFF when shooting from a tripod.

During periods of snow, I have to constantly remind myself to check the front of the lens. I always use my Lens Hood, which helps, but on windy days, flakes can find their way to the lens. On cold winter days, the last thing I want to do is try to blow the snow off with my breath. It will fog the glass in an instant and it takes a long time to disappear. I usually have a dry lens cloth in my coat pocket. The rule of thumb for winter photography is, “You can go from warm to cold with no problems, but not the other way around”. Glass and sensors will fog up if you have been in the cold for a long time and then return to a warm vehicle or building.

If you study the Shooting Data on the photos, you might notice that almost all of them were taken with a Nikon camera in Manual Mode, but with Auto ISO. This works great on Nikon cameras, allowing the user to adjust EV values as they might in other modes. From what I understand, only a few of Canon’s top end bodies work the same way.

Teton Photo Excursions

If you are planning a trip to Jackson Hole and would be interested in a One-On-One Photography trip into the Tetons, check out Teton Photo Excursions.

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Baby Moose of the Tetons

Sometime during the last few days of May and first couple of days in June, mother Moose give birth to one or two remarkably small babies. Adult Shiras Bull Moose may grow to 1000 pounds or more, but they begin their life on long, wobbly legs. I’ve never been privileged to witness the actual birth, but have seen them soon afterwards on a few occasions.

Newborn Calf

Mothers are usually very close to the newborns, and though I’ve never witnessed it, can be aggressively protective of their young. Initially, flight is not much of an option. (June, 3, 2012)

Resting Mother and Calves

Newborn Bison are sometimes called “Red Dogs”, due to their orangish red colored fur. Baby Moose share the color initially. (June 7, 2012)

Two Calves and their Mom

A few years ago, I received a phone call from an area biologist doing a paper on the Grand Teton Moose. He was interested in photos of Cows with twins—suggesting it is a relatively uncommon occurrence in most other areas. That information was a bit of a surprise to me, since I’ve seen twins regularly over my 10-11 years of photographing Moose. The biologist was trying to determine if the phenomenon is a hereditary trait in this region, of maybe just the result of abundant Spring food. I sent him quite a few photos. (July 15, 2013)

Young Calf

This Mother Moose spent a week or so near the Taggart Lake Trail Head parking area, along with another Cow and Calf. She stayed back from the ridge and allowed fast flowing Cottonwood Creek form a natural barrier on the back side. Tourists viewed safely from the ridge above. Other Mother Moose have spent time in campgrounds and near zones with heavy tourist activity. I’ve always assumed this was not by accident. In GTNP, Wolves typically stay away from humans. Possibly the Moose tolerate a little human interaction to protect their babies? Farther North, another Mother Moose regularly used the small pond near the Jackson Lake Lodge entrance in the same way.  I was informed a Grizzly killed her calf. In the northern areas of the park, where Grizzlies and Wolves are more common, I believe the Moose population has declined significantly. Before their introduction, tourists commonly saw Bull Moose in the  Oxbow Bend and Willow Flats areas. (June 5, 2012)

Scruffy Mom

In early June, almost all adult Moose look scruffy. Last year’s long winter fur will soon be replaced with a fresh, sleek coat. At about this time, some of the adult Bulls will begin showing “light bulb” sized velvet antlers. (June 6, 2008)

Two Calves

In June of 2012, I was fairly sure there were two Cows with twins along the Gros Ventre River. I also believe there was another set of twins hanging around Schwabacher Landing. Last year, I am fairly sure there were two sets of calves and another Cow with a single calf hanging around Schwabacher Landing. (June 7, 2013)

Running Calf

Young Calves seem to enjoy “checking out their new set of wheels”—and almost always within close proximity of its mother. (June 6, 2008)

August Calf

By August, the red fur is being replaced by darker fur. Their legs are longer and they tend to range a little farther from the mother. By this age, a mother Moose and calf will be more likely to flee from danger than stand and fight. (August 8, 2016)

Young Calf

The little Calves are so darned cute! It seems that if the mother Moose is not concerned about danger, the Calves are inquisitive. (June 6, 2008)

May 23, 2007

This isn’t a great shot of a pair of baby Moose, but I included it on this page for two reasons. First, it was taken on May 23, 2007. As far as I know, I don’t have digital photos of baby Moose born before May 23.  Second, these little critters are not always easy to spot. When I do see them, the odds are fairly good they’ll be in the same general region for several days. At that time of the year, the rivers are usually swollen, so they will typically stay on the side of the river they were originally spotted. (May 23, 2007)

Moose Crossing

This set of twins was photographed within roughly 50 feet of where I had seen the pair earlier. I kept going back and it eventually paid off as they crossed a small side channel of the Gros Ventre. (June 9, 2007)

Baby Moose

During the rut, Cow Moose can be quite vocal when around a Bull. There can be a lot of moans and groans on their part. After the Calves are born, they seldom make sounds, but somehow the babies understand what she wants them to do. Whatever it is,the signal is subtle. (July 15, 2015)

Two Calves

This photo was taken at Schwabacher Landing in late August of last year. The Cow was feeding on leaves and aquatic vegetation on the East side of the Beaver Ponds. She looked to the West, then make some sort of snort and these two calves rushed to her from the far side of the ponds. (August 30, 2016)

Nursing Calves

The Cow met the two calves in the deep grass where they nursed for a few minutes. Afterwards, the Cow moved into the Beaver Pond and the two semi-independent calves wandered as much as a hundred yards downstream. (August 30, 2016)

Schwabacher Landing

Late August is a time of “personal conflict”. If I’m lucky, I’ve found a quiet, beautifully lit scene like this. Yet, I know one or two of the Bulls will be starting to scrape their velvet. (August 26, 2016)

Washakie

This Bull Moose, one I call Washakie, stripped his velvet on September 1st. I was there, but I could have easily been standing next to the side of a river with young moose feeding on fall grasses! (September 1, 2016)

River Crossing

Typically, I love capturing a mature Bull Moose crossing a river, while I am slightly less motivated when a single Cow Moose crosses. But, throw in a young Moose with the Cow and I am ready to snap away! (July 15, 2016)

High Stepper

As the babies mature, they begin showing some additional personality and independence. (September 18, 2012)

Foggy Morning

These two Moose were aware of me on the other side of the foggy pond, but never looked too concerned about it. A snap of a branch definitely caught their attention, and they quickly moved away from the sound. (August 20, 2016)

Swimming Calf

The Cow walked through the shallow pond with no problems, but the baby had to swim. I think they can swim on day one if necessary. I spotted this pair one morning while on a tour. We got a few shots, of course, but I went back the next day for first light. I returned the next day but they had moved on. (August 20, 2016)

Cow and Calf

Of course, we all take photos of a Moose or a Bison standing in the sagebrush or grassy fields, but the ones I really watch for are either “action or interaction”. (June 16, 2016)

Romance

I followed this Bull for close to a mile as it searched for this Cow. Occasionally, it would stop and sniff the air, then continue a bee line towards the cow. The calf was probably born in early June of 2008, so the Cow would not be “back in season” that year. Maybe next year, when the cow kicks the youngster off on its own. The bull stayed with the pair for a while, then moved on. (October 10, 2008)

Cow and Calf in Side Channel

The young Moose follows it mother as it learns the various food sources. Most of the summer, they feed on willow leaves along the river bottom and aquatic vegetation in the side channels and ponds. By Fall, they learn to feed on the Bitter Brush found alongside the Sagebrush. (August 21, 2013)

Summer Twins

Last year, I kept seeing a young bull and cow together consistently. They appeared to be the same size and age and seldom strayed far from each other. While I wouldn’t have any evidence, I always assumed they were siblings that stayed together after being weaned from their Mother a year earlier. Very few of the Teton Moose are collared or tagged. (June 23, 2012)

Cow and Calf

I spotting these two coming out of the Buffalo Fork River bottom near Moran Junction. They crossed the road and continued North. I could have driven by a minute earlier and missed them, or a few minutes later and missed them once they moved into the forest. Even though I might have worked hard to get a few of the shots on this page, there’s always a fair amount of luck involved. Also, most tourists have breakfast and eventually make their way into the park around 9:00 am in the summer. For them, that’s early! By 9:00, most Moose will be bedded down in the shade, so their odds of seeing any moose goes way down. For best results, plan on eating a quick snack at the motel or condo, and be out for sunrise. Have your full breakfast after 9:00!  (June 13, 2011)

Calf In Water

If you are hoping to see the tiny Moose, plan your trip for the first week in June. Some will have already been born in late May, so you could have a variety of chances! (June 5, 2012)

I should also mention the viewing distance rules in Grand Teton National Park. The 100 Yard Rule(s) The law requires you to be AT LEAST 25 YARDS from wildlife (100 yards from Bears and Wolves). Even with the rules in place, many people want to get closer. With Moose, I try to stay back at least 40 yards, and with a Mother Moose, I think the distance should be even farther. For the past several years, I have been using a Tamron 150-600mm lens, so I simply don’t have to be close for a large mammal.

Teton Photo Excursions

Please, if you are coming here for wildlife photography, invest in a good telephoto lens (the Tamron lenses are in the $1000-$1400 range, and Sigma and Nikon have similar versions and prices. Prime lenses can cost between $7000 and $12,000). Don’t expect to get images like the ones on this page with an iPhone! If you are interested in a (licensed) Private One-On-One Photo Tour with me, and if you have a Nikon DSLR, you even borrow one of my Tamrons for the tour.

Two Fall Calves

By late Fall, “calves of the year” will be strong, nimble and more independent. They will be able to “high step” through the sagebrush and upcoming winter snow. They will stay with their mother until at least the rut of the following year when the young bulls will split off from their mother. Yearling cow calves often hang close for most of the next year. (October 23, 2016)

Get Up!

If this bull gets his way, there will be another baby Moose or two along the Gros Ventre next Spring. This cow probably won’t be ready this year, however. (October 6, 2016)

Equipment Used on These Images: Some of these images date back to 2007 and continue through the summer of 2016. During that time, I’ve changed and added bodies and lenses on numerous occasions. Many of the original images were taken with a Nikon D300 (1.5 crop factor DX body) and a Nikon 70-200mm lens. Other times, I would have used a Nikon 200-400mm lens with that body, but the mid-range lens worked fine. When I purchased a Nikon D4, (full frame FX body), I often used the Nikon 200-400mm lens. By the time I purchased the D5 and D810 full frame bodies, I had added a Tamron 150-600mm lens, which has more range and is lighter than my Nikon 200-400m. Recently, I updated to a Tamron 150-600mm lens, but haven’t been totally satisfied with it. Mixed in, I also used a Nikon 200-500mm lens on either a D5, D810, and D500. On some days, I trek into the river bottoms on reconnaissance missions, just hoping to see something. A few of the shots on this page were taken with a Nikon D4 and a Nikon 28-300mm lens. I use a D5 and that lens now when I know I will be covering a lot of ground and don’t want to bang my back with a heavy tripod and body/telephoto lens.

Additional Moose Feature Posts:


Please, if you like this post, SHARE it with your friends! > MJ

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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.

Lizard
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.

Kingfisher
Kingfisher

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

Iguana
Iguana

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

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

Squirrel: Hacienda Baru Preserve near Dominical

Great Blue Heron

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

Cocadile

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

Crocodiles

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.
 

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December 2016 Daily Journal for GTNP & JH

“December: Birth of a Winter Wonderland” 

Daily Updates Archives:
2017: 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:

Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP .

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If you found this page and are looking for Winter info, click these popular pages:

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December 31, 2016 – New Years Eve

Teton Village Fireworks

Teton Village Fireworks: Happy New Year from Best of the Tetons!

Teton Village Fireworks

Teton Village Fireworks: I used a Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-300 mm lens for these two shots tonight…on a tripod!

Watch for a new January 2017 Daily Journal tomorrow! Thanks to all the readers in 2016 and for your support throughout the year. MJ

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December 30, 2016 – Friday

Elk Refuge Herd

Elk Refuge Herd: This afternoon, I drove to the National Elk Refuge where I found a few thousand elk close the the roadway in the southern portion of the range. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Elk Refuge Herd

Elk Refuge Herd: Something seemed to have spooked a large number of them from the northern section. Yesterday, a few people reported sightings of wolves chasing Bighorns and maybe even the Pronghorns. Of course, some similar sightings are actually coyotes and not wolves. Who knows? When I drove through the rest of the Refuge Road, all of the Bighorns were high on the ridges — none near the roads. This is often an indicator of wolf activity in the area.  Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Remember the Torch Light Parades at Snow King and Teton Village tomorrow night!

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December 29, 2016 – Thursday

Predawn Teton Range

Teton Range: I took this shot at 7:37 am and official sunrise happened at 7:55. I love the sky color at this time of the day and it works beautifully against the snow covered Tetons. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.

Snow Mounds

Snow Mounds: Taken along the Moose-Wilson Road before sunrise. The area is a Winter Wonderland. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.

Teton Range

Teton Range: This shot was taken at 8:13 am as the morning’s amber light hit the range. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.

Teton Range

Teton Range: This shot was taken along Gros Ventre Road, across Blacktail Butte. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.

Bison

Bison: Taken along Gros Ventre Road, backlit with morning steam. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

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December 28, 2016 – Wednesday

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat: With overnight snow and blue skies in the weather reports, I waited until 11:00 am and headed down the Snake River Canyon. This time of the year, it is always a gamble. Yesterday, my youngest son passed through the same area at 11:45 am or so and saw 35 of Mountain Goats next to the highway. But, that was before the storm. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat: Instead of coming down to the lower sections, they seven or eight I saw stayed well up the mountain. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat: When snow is this deep, they tend to stay higher. It takes a lot of energy to make it through the powder. I hope for Mountain goats in the fresh white snow and relatively close to the road. Better yet if they are standing on the rocky cliffs. It only takes one Goat to make the trip worth it, but again, the trip is still a gamble. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Evening Ridge

Evening Ridge: The lesser gamble right now is the National Elk Refuge. Bighorns are usually visible close to the road, if not on the road. If I am lucky, they are on the rocks close to the road. I spent the late afternoon at on the National Elk Refuge and took a lot of nice photos of the Miller House. Today it was bathed in beautiful golden light on the south face. This shot was taken towards the west from the Miller House parking area. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Buck Rail Fence

Buck Rail Fence: This is a tight crop of the fence in front of the Miller House, using the very last of the evening light. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

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December 27, 2016 – Tuesday

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie: Magpies and Chickadees are regular visitors to my back yard during the Winter. I’ve never found either of these birds to be easy to photograph. Magpies like the peanuts and suet, while Chickadees like sunflower seeds, suet and peanut butter. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

My neighbor mentioned seeing a Long-tailed Weasel or an Ermine coming out of my yard a couple of days ago. I’ve seen a few randomly, but they are always on the move and deeper in the brush than I would prefer. I put some food out for it today and will hope for some positive results soon.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

JH Wildlife: The Elk Hunt is over in Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Hunters are still harvesting bison on the north edge of the Refuge, but the Elk seem to be relaxing some. They can sometimes be seen grazing along the sides of Crystal Butte and Miller Butte—mostly cows. Others have been grazing closer to the Miller House than in recent weeks. I would expect to see a wolf or two hunting them in the area now. A small herd of Pronghorns were at Miller Butte today. Bighorns were scattered along the roadway and along the Butte. A couple of Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles, plus a few Hawks and Ravens can often be seen above Miller Butte. A couple of Rough-legged Hawks are seen regularly along the Highway going north out of town. Scattered around the valley, people are seeing Foxes, Weasels, Ermine, Pine Martens, & Badgers.

JH Events: There will be torch light parades and fireworks at Snow King Resort and JH Mountain Resort on New Year’s Eve. Many of the outdoor skating rinks are opening around town. Most are free to the public. The rink in the Town Square was being prepared on Christmas Eve. It should be open soon. Many of the cross country trails are now open. Check out details and schedules on this site: Teton County & Jackson Parks and Recreation. You might also check out: Ranger-Led Snowshoe Hikes Began December 26. The National Elk Refuge is again partnering with the  Teton Raptor Center to present a series of “Feathered Fridays” visits during the 2016/2017 winter season. The programs, offered each Friday from 12:00-2:00 pm, will run weekly from December 23, 2016 through March 31, 2017. Lots more info about the National Elk Refuge can be found on their site.

JH Weather Alert: A new storm is approaching Jackson Hole and the region. High winds and blowing snow is in the forecast for the rest of today and much of tomorrow.

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December 26, 2016 – Monday

Neighborhood Moose

Neighborhood Moose: Yesterday, we headed out for our Christmas Day sledding. These two bulls were walking down one of the roads as we left our neighborhood. They’ll probably spend the rest of the winter along Flat Creek in town. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Pronghorns

Pronghorns: These are two of six Pronghorns I spotted on Miller Butte this afternoon. Miller Butte is part of the National Elk Refuge at the Northeast corner of Jackson. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Bighorns

Bighorns: The rut is still underway at the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

The Miller House

The Miller House: On some days, you  can see the Tetons behind the buttes, but the mountains were covered by clouds today. I stopped to take this photo on the National Elk Refuge, attracted by the glowing hillsides. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

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Teton Photo Excursions.

I offer LICENSED One-On-One Photography Excursions in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge—with emphasis on helping clients with their camera and gear.

Openings for 6 hour trips are available this week, and early and late January. Just ask!Mike

Each trip is customized based on client needs and requests. (Note: It says One-On-One, but I take two people on a trip for the same price). We find some of the best locations for scenic photography, and look for wildlife in the process.  Check out some of the Client Comments. (Teton Photo Excursions is an Authorized Permittee of the National Park Service and the National Elk Refuge)

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December 25, 2016 – Sunday ~ Christmas Day

Motion Texter

Yesterday, I made two trips to downtown Jackson Hole for a few photos. It was beautiful…fresh new snow everywhere and new snow falling straight down. Last night, I processed a pile of the photos and created this new Feature Post: Christmas Eve in Jackson Hole, WY.  If you are already a subscriber to Best of the Tetons, you would have received an email version of the page. This morning, I went through it again and modified some of the text, so it might be worth a second look.

Christmas Morning in Jackson Hole: This morning, we woke up to more snow, but winds are brisk and variable in direction.

Ely Springs Barn

Ely Springs Barn: I made a quick run to the National Elk Refuge, where I found a few Bighorns. They were feeding and not too active, so I did a quick South Park loop looking for critters, swans, and anything else to go with the fresh snow. I ended up photographing a few barns. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Stream Side Barn

Stream Side Barn: This barn sits beside Flat Creek. The specks in the “sky” are actually shrubs and sagebrush on a distant hill. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens.

U Lazy U Barn

U Lazy U Barn: Another of the South Park barns. The fresh snow helped with this barn today. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Staggered Fence

Staggered Fence: This shows the top of a fence along South Park Loop Road. It’s interesting on any day, but the caps of snow accents the staggered tops. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

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December 24, 2016 – Saturday ~ Christmas Eve

Hartland Nativity Set

Merry Christmas from the Jackson Family and Best of the Tetons!

About this image: This shot comes slightly from “left field”, but maybe appropriate for the season. Hartland Plastics (Hartland, WI) created a variety of plastic toys and religious statues beginning in the late 1940’s through the early 1960’s. For quite a few years, my parents gave myself and my brother one of the western sets they produced, such as the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Matt Dillon, and Cheyenne. They were some of my favorite toys from my childhood and I later became an aggressive collector. This is one of the Nativity Sets produced by Hartland Plastics. Each of the standing figures are roughly 6″ tall and are quite detailed. The sets are sought after and quite collectible 60 years later. I photographed this set in 2009 with either a Nikon D200 or Nikon D300. I applied a palladium film effect using OnOne2017 software.

Around the Valley on Christmas Eve: It has been snowing all night here in Jackson Hole. It is still snowing as I write this note at 8:15 am. Hopefully, I will get out some today and can post a few photos later. The town is busy right now, with shoppers bustling around loaded with bags of gifts and goodies. Shops and businesses have done a great job of making the town look festive for tourists experiencing a “White Christmas”. The three area ski resorts got off to a good start with plenty of snow.

Bighorn

Bighorn: I captured this image on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

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December 23, 2016 – Friday

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk: Watch for at least two Rough-legged Hawks along the highway next to the National Elk Refuge.  Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld.

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk and Sleeping Indian: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld.

Mule Deer

Mule Deer: Mule Deer, like this one, are often seen on the west side of the highway along the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld.

Backlit Horse

Backlit Horse: Taken on Game Creek Road, south of town. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens. Handheld

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December 22, 2016 – Thursday

Snake River Overlook

Snake River Overlook: This monochromatic image was taken about 30 minutes before first light. As it turns out, there wasn’t much light on the peaks until late in the morning. I had hoped to see pinks and magenta in the morning sky, but clouds in the east thwarted my efforts. It was -18 degrees for a while! I checked out the Kelly area, but didn’t see moose. Bison were well off the road, so I didn’t take any photos there. I made two trips to the National Elk Refuge today, but had essentially the same results. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm

Swan in Flight

Swan in Flight: At this time of the year, Flat Creek is often frozen solid. That pushes the Trumpeter Swans to other open water. This shot was taken at Boyle’s Hill on the West side of Jackson. There are 14 breeding Trumpeters there at all times, plus 10 to 50 wild Swans at about any give time. Wild Swans go there for the free food and open water. The location is usually good for a few hundred to a few thousand clicks on the camera, depending of how many Swans are flying in or out. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

This page should give you more info, more photos, and a map to the area: Trumpeter Swans of Boyle’s Hill:

This page has more information about photography along Flat Creek during the Winter months: Wintering Trumpeter Swans Along Flat Creek:

Boyle's Hill Swans

Boyle’s Hill Swans: The Wetlands Society heads up the Trumpeter Swan recovery program, but there are also a few Canada Geese under study at Boyle’s Hill. Mallard Ducks are also commonly seen there. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

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December 21, 2016 – Winter Solstice

Miller Butte Bighorns

Miller Butte Bighorns: This is the shortest day of the year—the Winter Solstice! With the sun low in the sky, we can take photos all day! I went to Miller Butte this morning, after striking out looking for the Great Horned Owl. I had hoped to get a few shots of it against today’s “Bluebird” sky. Still, it’s a beautiful day and not one I plan on spending in my office. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Bluebird Sky:

Bluebird Sky: Taken at Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorn Chase

Bighorn Chase: You can usually take a few photos of Bighorns on the Refuge, though it might take a couple of trips to time it correctly. Most of the time, they are just grazing on either side of the road. Occasionally we get lucky and have the opportunity to experience action sequences. Typically, one or two Ewes are in season, with one dominant Ram near her. If she slips off, other Rams rush in for their short lived opportunity to mate with her. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorn Chase

Bighorn Chase: Most of the shots today were captured at 1/1250th second. That’s usually fast enough to free the action at Miller Butte distances. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorn Chase

Bighorn Chase: Snow also makes a good reflector, bouncing light into the shadows. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Evening Ram

Evening Ram: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Evening Ram

Evening Ram: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

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December 20, 2016 – Tuesday

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl: I haven’t had a lot of chances to photograph Owls this year. Fortunately, I was able to photograph this one, tucked deep in a Spruce tree south of town. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Tidbits: This morning started out dark, relatively warm, and very windy. It was a good day to stay home and work on the computer, but I succumbed to a quick cabin fever loop through South Park. Snow is predicted for later in the day, so I might get out again. Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice…the shortest day of the year. And, Christmas is approaching at a blazing pace! Regionally, groomers are beginning to smooth cross country ski trails over the new snow. Cheers! MJ

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: Captured on the National Elk Refuge. There were only a few sheep down while I was there. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

Horse and Red Barn

Horse and Red Barn: One of the South Park barns. Nikon D810 and Nikon70-200 Zoom Micro lens.

Afternoon Great Horned Owl

Afternoon Great Horned Owl: The owl was still in the same tree, but was a bit more alert this afternoon. I captured quite a few shots with more snow falling, but the flakes were often too large. Some covered the bird’s face or eyes. This one had a cleaner look. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

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December 19, 2016 – Monday

Cow On Ridge

Cow On Ridge: This Moose was searching for exposed bitter brush on the ridge above Gros Ventre Road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Red Dog

Red Dog: This is a very young bison calf for this late in the year. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Line of Bison

Line of Bison: Typically, by this time of the year, bison born earlier in the year resemble the size and color of the third bison from the left. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 18, 2016 – Sunday

Cow and Calf

Cow and Calf: I am fairly confident in saying that many of the area Moose are moving from the sagebrush and bitter brush zones and back to the river bottoms. Some even move close to town to feed on branches and twigs. Many of the side roads are plowed in or snowed in, so it is more difficult to get to the remaining moose in the flats. These two were along the Gros Ventre, along with an anterless bull. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Approaching Bull Bison

Approaching Bull Bison: Taken just north of Kelly as a herd crossed the roadway. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Red Rocks and Snow

Red Rocks and Snow: I haven’t been “up the Gros Ventre” in a while, so I did that drive this morning. I am always on the lookout for a Mountain Lion, Mule Deer, Elk, Moose, and Bighorns. There can also be other smaller critters like Red Foxes, Pine Martens, Ermine, and Badgers, evident by the tracks in the snow. I only saw a few stray Elk today. Travel past the Atherton Creek Campground is limited to Snowmobiles, hikers, snow shoes, and cross-country skis. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Buck Mule Deer

Buck Mule Deer: I saw two nice bucks near Kelly today. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Moose and Bison

Moose and Bison: Another cow Moose making her way to the Gros Ventre, passing a few Bison. They are patiently waiting for the end of the hunt on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Moose in Motion

Moose in Motion: This cow had her eyes on the target—the Gros Ventre River bottom. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Sleigh Ride

Winter ~ Area Tidbits: The Winter tourist season is in full swing now. Snow King is open, including the Tube Park. The Sleigh Rides on the National Elk Refuge are in operation again. I see trailers taking tourists out on snowmobile tours. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Ski Resort are experiencing great early season snow. Downtown is festive with all of the holiday garland and lighting. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Sleeping Indian

Sleeping Indian covered in fresh snow: Taken from the Elk Refuge Road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk: I should get better shots of this bird. I missed getting good light on it by only a few minutes. I spotted two on the fence posts along the highway next to the National Elk Refuge.  Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 17, 2016 – Saturday

Alpenglow at Snake River Overlook

Alpenglow at Snake River Overlook: This was the first morning I have been able to see the Teton Range in a long time. I got up early and made it to Snake River Overlook just in time for a few early, cold shots. It was still -19 degrees when I made it back to the truck and I saw -21 on the truck’s thermometer as I was driving south. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm lens.

SRO Pano

SRO Panorama: Click this image to see it much larger. After hanging around for the entire sunrise sequence, my fingers and toes were darned cold. Sometimes, that’s the price you have to pay! This is a four shot capture, stitched in Lightroom. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm lens.

Winter Morning

Winter Morning: The newspaper mentioned two feet of new snow in the mountains. I pulled over in one of the highway pullouts to take this shot before the last of the low clouds disappeared. Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm lens.

Cow Moose

Cow Moose: Taken just north of Antelope Flats Road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Mormon Row

Mormon Row: A long distance shot of the historic Mormon Row line of buildings at the John Moulton Homestead. Antelope Flats Road is now closed for the season. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Cow and Calf Moose

Cow and Calf Moose: These two moose saw a distant bull and began making their way through the deep snow towards him. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Bull Moose in Cottonwoods

Bull Moose in Cottonwoods: This is a tight crop of a long distance shot. I include it in today’s group of photos to show that some of the bulls still sport their antlers, but I don’t expect to see them much longer. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Cygnet in Kelly Warm Springs

Cygnet in Kelly Warm Springs: Captured “through the steam” at the Warm Springs. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Ghostly Swans

Ghostly Swans: Also at the Kelly Warm Springs. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Winter Red Dog

Winter Red Dog: Most Moose calves are born in June. They are copper red for the first month or two before turning dark brown or black. This little calf is unusually small and red for this late in the year. I’ve been trying to get a shot of it for a few days. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Bison Herd

Bison Herd: When I went out on Gros Ventre Road, I saw a lot of tracks, but no Bison. On my way back through, a large herd of Bison were returning from the Gros Ventre River. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Winter Bison

Winter Bison: Most of the bison had a white beard of frozen water from their morning drink in the Gros Ventre. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Frosted Face

Frosted Face: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Red Fox with Frozen Carcass

Red Fox with Frozen Carcass: I spent part of yesterday cruising around looking for a Red Fox, or even tracks, but didn’t find either. This morning, I drove to the small town of Wilson. This Fox was trying to pull fur off a frozen carcass in Fish Creek. Most of the property along Fish Creek is privately owned, but you can occasionally find openings. The area is also good for Moose, Kingfishers, and Owls. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 16, 2016 – Friday

Moose Junction

Moose Junction: Since I call this a Daily Journal, I thought I’d add a occasional weather photo and a few comments. It was warm in town yesterday, so precipitation was in the form of rain and drizzle. Same for this morning, however when I drove north past the airport, precipitation was in the form of heavy snow. Flat Creek has been frozen hard enough recently that Elk could cross it safely, but it looks mushy and open spots again. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.

Moose Sculpture

Moose Sculpture: If I had wanted to climb through thigh deep snow, I could have changed the angle and eliminated the building in this shot. Maybe some other day. There is a lot of snow at the base of the mountain at Moose. The road to the Chapel of the Transfiguration is now blocked, much like Antelope Flats Road, so access to those areas would require show shoes or cross-country skis. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.

Young Cow Moose

Young Cow Moose: Most of the large game animals have left the Moose-Wilson Road area, but this young cow is hanging around. I don’t believe they particularly prefer pine boughs, but this one ate most of them from the small tree. The Moose-Wilson Road is only open to the Death Canyon turnoff road. While I was there, the road was passable but narrow. That road seems to be at a low priority for the snowplows.   Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Handheld with VC On.

GTNP Christmas Tree

GTNP Christmas Tree: Someone decorated a tree along the Moose-Wilson Road. I stopped and snapped a few photos from my tripod to be able to slow the shutter to keep a little streaking in the snow. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC Off.

bighorns

Bighorns: This is a test image taken from the National Elk Refuge. I wanted to test the Wi-Fi option on the new Ram truck. I was able to download the image to my Mac laptop, process it in Lightroom, and then upload it to the blog via the built-in Wi-Fi hot spot in the truck. I have a week of free data, so I thought it would be a good time to try it out. The daily data plan is $9.99, the weekly plan is $19.99 and a monthly plan is $49.99. All in all, it worked, but I am faster at home on my desktop computer!

Two Rams

Two Rams: I uploaded this shot from home…the normal way! There were half a dozen rams in one area at Miller Butte and even some occasional head bashing today. A lot of the snow has melted over the recent warm spell, but Refuge roads are still glazed and slick.

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December 15, 2016 – Thursday

Winter

Winter Storm: This image was captured at 1/100th second, allowing the snow to streak across the Bison’s dark fur. Several hundred Bison are congregating north of Kelly. Moose were either already bedded down, or out of sight in the creek and river bottoms. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Snowy Bison Protrait

Snowy Bison Protrait: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Blowing Snow

Blowing Snow: Captured at 1/40th second. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Bison Head

Bison Head: Captured at 1/320th second. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Antelope Flats Road definitely appears to be closed for the season, as seen in the photo from yesterday. Today, there’s a three foot high bank of snow pushed to the gate by one of the snow plows. For the rest of the Winter season, we must travel on essentially “dead end” roads, then backtrack to head up another branch. Except for a few days of heavy winds and snow build up, forcing a temporary closure, the highway between Jackson and Dubois remains open all year.

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December 14, 2016 – Wednesday

Road Closure

Road Closure: As of early this morning, it appears Antelope Flats Road is closed for the season.  Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

Excited Bison

Excited Bison: One of many bison crossing the East Boundary Road north of Kelly. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Young Sparring Moose

Young Sparring Moose: Taken along Ditch Creek Road. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Young Bull Moose

Young Bull Moose: Taken along Ditch Creek Road. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Moose Cow and Calf

Moose Cow and Calf: Taken in the Spring next to Gros Ventre River. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

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December 13, 2016 – Tuesday

Bison

Bison: Just one of many Bison foraging for food north of Kelly. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Steamy Swans

Steamy Swans: This pair was hanging around in the Kelly Warm Springs. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Shane Fence

Shane Fence: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Rams on Miller Butte

Rams on Miller Butte: Look closely. There’s a Ewe bedded down near the left edge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Stand Off

Stand Off: Many of the Rams have established the pecking order. In this case a simple “stare down” was enough to keep these two at bay. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

The “GTNP Elk Reduction Program” (Elk Hunt) is over. I saw a Park Ranger removing one of the orange “Hunt Area” signs along the Gros Ventre Road. He told me the hunt ended Sunday. I had been told the Hunt ended around the 15th. Bison and Elk are still being hunted on the north end of the National Elk Refuge, but generally out of view and range of tourists and photographers.

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December 12, 2016 – Monday

Ram in Winter

Ram in Winter: Bighorns were sprinkled in small groups along the National Elk Refuge road this morning. None were fighting, but a few nice Rams like this one, were traveling from group to group to check on the Ewes.  Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Ram in Winter

Ram in Winter: We are getting more snow today. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

150 Ram EmblemI spent much of the morning dealing with insurance policies and CUA permit updates on the new Ram Truck. The truck is getting a bed cover today and hopefully a pair of steps soon. Seems almost poetic to be posting photos of a Bighorn Ram!

Teton Photo Excursions

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December 11, 2016 – Sunday

Bull Missing Antlers

Bull Missing Antlers: Better hurry if you are still wanting to see and photograph bull Moose with their antlers. Some are dropping theirs now! Taken along the East Boundary Road just after sunrise. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Moulton Barn

Moulton Barn: You also better hurry if you want to drive to the Mormon Row barns along Antelope Flats Road. The Elk Hunt ends on the 15th and they close the road to vehicles soon afterward. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Mormon Row

Mormon Row: Someone tried driving up Mormon Row this morning, but apparently had second thoughts. Expect a barricade there soon. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .  Handheld with VC On.

Bison

Bison: As I was going through today’s images, I realized I was able to photograph about all of the large game animals today. The species I missed was Elk, and I could have easily taken photos of a bunch of them on the National Elk Refuge. These two Bison were crossing the East Boundary road. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat: Taken near the mouth of the Snake River Canyon near Alpine Junction. This was the only Mountain Goat I found this morning. She had an ear tag, but I cloned it out. She also had a collar, but it wasn’t visible from this angle. A half dozen Mountain Goats have been seen with some degree of regularity lately, but the trip there is still a gamble of time and gas. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

RamLast Friday, I drove home in a new Ram 1500 Crew Cab truck to be used for my Teton Photo Excursions. I tested it out Saturday and Sunday! It should make a great touring vehicle—complete with heated seats and lots of room. I’ll be adding a bed cover and bed slide this week. The Toyota Sienna worked great for a couple of years, but this should make the tours even better.

Ram on Ridge

Ram on Ridge: Speaking of a Ram, I found a few on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Ram Chase

Ram Chase: A new storm was moving through the valley as I was at the Refuge. There was pretty good action for anyone willing to brave the elements (wind, cold, snow). Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Pronghorns

Pronghorns: A recent newspaper story reported over 160 Pronghorns wintering on the National Elk Refuge this year. They don’t appear to be equipped for our deep snow and predators, but each year, more are staying in the valley. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

JH News & Guide:  Forgoing migration, pronghorn take refuge December 6, 2016> “Nearly half the pronghorn that typically venture out of Jackson Hole for the winter have failed to embark on their migration and will face tough odds at living to see spring.”

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December 10, 2016 – Saturday

Wheels

Wheels: I did a quick Kelly loop this morning. Bison were in the fields north of Kelly. Moose were way out in the sagebrush. The snow is getting deep enough now to make a hike out into the sagebrush a difficult trip for a human. Moose can move through it with no problem. I looked for Mule Deer near Kelly, where I stopped to snap this shot to show the new snow depths. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens handheld with VC ON.

Snowy Hillside

Snowy Hillside: The Teton are covered up by the clouds right now. This is a long distance shot across the sagebrush to the hillsides south of the Gros Ventre River. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens handheld with VC ON.

Four Bull Moose

Four Bull Moose: The bulls are congregating on the National Elk Refuge.  Most are along the highway and safely out danger from the hunters. The large herd of elk behind them are mostly cows and calves. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens handheld with VC ON.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee: I spent a good portion of the morning in the Snake River Canyon, hoping again to see Mountain Goats in their full winter fur against white fields of snow and flakes in the sky. The few that appeared stayed above the power lines, and well out of good photography. While I was there, the temperatures were just high enough to turn the precipitation into a rain and snow mix. I headed home and took a few shots of the birds in my back yard. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens . Tripod with VC OFF.

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December 9, 2016 – Friday

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: It snowed enough overnight that I had to run the snow blower. After lunch, it began so snow heavily and I ended up running it again! More than likely, I’ll have to run it tomorrow morning. Snowing now! This image was taken at the National Elk Refuge at roughly 10:30 am. A few of the rams were down, but didn’t appear to be bashing heads. I got a report that people had seen Moose this morning, but were not close to the roads. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

Bighorn Lamb

Bighorn Lamb: Quite honestly, we can take a thousand closeup shots on most days. I like the ones with a little expression. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

I’ve heard reports of the Mountain Goats being along the roadways in the Snake River Canyon lately. With the fresh snow, I may try it tomorrow. With the heavy new snow, I’ve started putting out food for the wintering birds. They seem appreciative! Lately, I’ve been seeing Chickadees, Flickers, Woodpeckers, and Magpies. The blind is set up again, so I should have a few shots of them soon, too!

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MikeMost openings are available in December. Just ask!

Teton Photo Excursions. I offer LICENSED One-On-One Photography Excursions in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge, with emphasis on helping clients with their camera and gear. Each trip is customized based on client needs and requests. (Note: It says One-On-One, but I take two people on a trip for the same price). We find some of the best locations for scenic photography, and look for wildlife in the process.  Check out some of the Client Comments. (Teton Photo Excursions is an Authorized Permittee of the National Park Service and the National Elk Refuge)

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December 8, 2016 – Thursday

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron: I stayed in the warm house this morning. My wife was seeing -25 degree Facebook posts by some of her local friends. I am sure there were at least a few photographers out there, but I wasn’t one of them out early today. It was only -1 degrees at 1:00pm…probably the high for the day. Another storm is on the doorsteps. Mother Nature seems to be playing catch up after a few weeks of unseasonably warm temps. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Landing Swan

Landing Swan: I checked the National Elk Refuge this afternoon. A few Bighorns were down, but they didn’t seem too active. I checked Flat Creek, where I saw the Heron, then headed to the Swan pond on Boyles Hill Road. Flat Creek is frozen solid, so some of the Swans are flying in and out of the pond. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 7, 2016 – Wednesday

Resting Ram

Resting Ram: It was cold again today, so I didn’t head out until after lunch. There were a few Bighorns down from the top of Miller Butte. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

Rams Bashing

Rams Bashing: A few of the rams were bashing heads, but not as often as anyone would like. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

Running Lamb

Running Lamb: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

Lamb on Rocks

Lamb on Rocks: It’s fairly easy to get shots of the Bighorns standing around or feeding in open. Rock formations add to the shots! Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

Elk Herd

Elk Herd: This herd of elk were making a break from the hunters just to the north. They were heading up Crystal Butte.  Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

Portrait

Portrait: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens .

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December 6, 2016 – Tuesday:

Minus 21 DegreesThe overnight temperatures dropped last night! I snapped this shot with my iPhone while driving towards Kelly. I saw a few Mule Deer and roughly 21 moose this morning. None were in great spots, and definitely none of them warranted hiking out to them in this kind of cold.

Antelope Flats road is open again after being closed on Monday. Heavy snow and strong winds drifted it in Sunday afternoon. Flat Creek is frozen solid.

Trumpeter Swans are now in open waters of the Snake and in a few of the spring creeks. An aerator keeps the Ely Springs pond open during the cold months. That will probably a productive location until Flat Creek thaws some.

Mormon Row

Mormon Row: I wouldn’t expect Mormon Row to be open much longer. The Park Service seldom plow it during the winter months, and close it once travel is risky. Antelope Flats should be open until after the Elk Hunt, which ends sometime around the middle of December. These kinds of photos highlight how tough the early Mormon settlers must have been. I was cold sitting in my heated van, wearing several shirts and a goose down lined parka jacket. It was close to -20 with a brisk wind this morning. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

Fence and Sage

Fence, Sage  and Drifting Snow: Taken along Mormon Row. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

Elk on the National Elk Refuge

Elk on the National Elk Refuge: Almost overnight, thousands of elk appeared on the Refuge. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 5, 2016 – Monday:

Icicles

Icicles: The Winter storm passed through over the weekend. I had to run the snow blower to allow me to get out of the driveway, so like everyone else in the valley, I am running late. This is a shot I took this morning of the icicles that formed under one of the warehouse lamps in front of our house. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

broken Nose

Broken Nose: This old Ram has spent the winters on Miller Butte for quite a few years. He has a noticeable scab on his muzzle and is usually quite swollen. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Ram on a Ridge

Ram on a Ridge: I spent the afternoon at Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Light was much better! Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Side Attack

Side Attack: Action was better, too! Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Mating Disruption

Mating Disruption: As the rut progresses, a Ram establishes his dominance in that area. He finds a Ewe “in season” and stays with her, mating as often as possible. Occasionally, another Ram requires his attention and leaves his Ewe unattended. Nearby Rams attempt to capitalize on the situation and mate with the Ewe. Such activity is not looked upon favorably by the dominant Ram, and forces the intruder away.  In this case, the dominant Ram rammed the smaller Ram from the back side, knocking the Ewe forward.  Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

A Jump

A Jump: Sheep are amazingly acrobatic. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Steep Traverse

Steep Traverse:… and, they are deft at finding the most tiny of edges for footing. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Ram in Tall Grasses

Ram in Tall Grasses: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 4, 2016 –  Sunday: Winter Storm Advisories in Effect!

Alpine Wagon

Alpine Wagon: I had hoped to find Mountain Goats near the roadway in the Snake River Canyon, but I never saw a single one. I had also hoped to be there with snow falling, but that wasn’t happening either. More than likely, the Goats will come down at some point, but I felt I could do better in Jackson. This wagon shot was taken in front of the Flying Saddle Hotel, only a mile or so from where I look for the Mountain Goats. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

Hoback Ram

Hoback Ram: My fishing buddy, Dave, told me he had seen Bighorn Sheep along the roadway near Camp Creek Inn. I did the little side trip on my way back up the Snake River Canyon and found a small herd on the highway. This is the biggest ram I saw. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens VC Off, Group Area Focus.

Hoback Wagon

Hoback Wagon: This wagon is at the Hoback Store at Hoback Junction. I converted it to Black and White using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 in Photoshop. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

Wagon Wheel Hub

Wagon Wheel Hub: One of the snow covered wheel hubs at Hoback Junction. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

MinkBack at in Jackson, I did a quick loop out to the National Elk Refuge. There were a few Bighorns just north of the Miller House, but the wind was howling and blowing snow into almost white-out conditions. I checked Flat Creek and saw a few hunkered down Swans. I saw a mink there late yesterday, so it was worth looking again. No mink. About then, my warm upstairs office, warm lunch, and a cold beer sounded darned good. I can hear my wind chimes clanging away. Bad conditions can occasionally be good conditions, but maybe not today!

Circuit Board

Circuit Board: Oh yes, last night I set up a copy stand and photographed a bunch of old bill heads, letterheads, and other objects. No telling when I will work something like this into a composition. The right side of the image was converted to B&W in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron: If you scroll down to yesterday’s post, you’ll see a shot of this GBH on a fence rail. I spent a few minutes in Photoshop, testing some techniques and some of my plug-in filters. There’s a lot of “Artistic License” at play here—especially in the vivid blues of a stylized Great BLUE Heron.

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December 3, 2016 –  Saturday

Bull Moose

Bull Moose: I haven’t been out searching for moose in a while, so I gave it a shot this morning. There were around a dozen visible in the sage flats north of Kelly. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Bull Moose

Bull Moose: I am not aware a of name for this bull. He has distinctive antlers — drooping out and down from his skull on both sides. He also has a distinctive, long dewlap and a couple of cuts in his right ear. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Swans in Flight

Swans in Flight: Taken from the observation platform along Flat Creek. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Swans on Ice

Swans on Ice: With the recent cold weather, Flat Creek is mostly frozen over. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Swans in Flight

Swans in Flight: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron: This nice looking bird was along the Flat Creek Wetlands north of the Visitor’s Center. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 2, 2016 –  Friday

A Few December Notes: As of December 1st, several roads and zones are closed for the Winter season. Most of them are south of the Gros Ventre River. I believe the road into Two Ocean Lake is closed, along with roads into Curtis Canyon. I should know about Schwabacher Landing tomorrow.

Miller House and Frosted Tetons

Miller House and Frosted Tetons: This is the time of the year the Bighorn Sheep begin to get active during their rut. Despite all of the other attractions in the valley, I keep going out hoping to find Rams squaring off. I went out early this morning, but they hadn’t come off Miller Butte. I pulled over to snap this shot to show the snow covered Teton Range, plus I liked the first light on East Gros Ventre Butte and the fog behind the historic Miller House. Nikon D810 and Nikon 70-180mm Zoom Micro lens.

Cygnets

Cygnets: At one point, I saw 6 degrees F on my van’s thermometer this morning. Steam was coming off Flat Creek as I captured this photo of two Cygnets. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Elk on the Run

Elk on the Run: Taken at the Gros Ventre Junction. A mid sized herd of elk were trying to cross the highway towards the Snake River. Heavy traffic on Highway 89/191 stopped them. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Elk on the Run

Elk on the Run: Instead, they headed north on the east side of the highway. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Bashing Rams

Bashing Rams: Action the National Elk Refuge this morning. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Bashing Rams

Bashing Rams: Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Bashing Rams

Bashing Rams: These were all captured at 1/1250th second at roughly F/11. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

Bashing Rams

Bashing Rams: For what it’s worth, I am still shooting in Manual Mode with Auto ISO. At 1/1600 second and F/11, ISO is still only at ISO 400 on a bright day like today. On a more cloudy day, I might drop back to 1/1000 second and F/8 or so to keep the ISO at a tolerable value on a D500. At least for my purposes, a D5 can handle much higher ISO and still look great.  Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

swantakeoff2_dec2

Tundra Swan Cygnet: There have been a couple of swans hanging around Flat Creek that keep to themselves and have an entirely different sound. While I could easily be wrong, I believe the two are Tundra Swan cygnets. Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens.

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December 1, 2016 –  Thursday