Yellowstone and Upcoming Summer

            In late January I headed to Yellowstone. I spent a few days in the northern range of the park scouting before my workshop began. I didn’t come across too much on those days, but I did see a number of animals, just not in good photo range. The best opportunity I had was with moose.

            On the afternoon of January 27th I picked up my photo workshop clients and we headed to West Yellowstone. The next morning we went in early looking for a wolf pack we had heard was around, and after a couple hours of searching we found them sleeping. Not exactly what we wanted, but we could see a number of the pack on the hillside asleep. We left and went to a geyser area close by and shot some beautiful trees that were heavily covered in hoar frost. The trees looked like a ghost forest. We went back to the wolves, but unfortunately they stayed asleep until we had to go.

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             The next morning we searched and searched for the wolves, and we found tracks, but no wolves. After looking for the wolves we went to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Hayden Valley. Our coach got stuck in the middle of the road because of a snowdrift in Hayden Valley, so we had to turn around and headed back to the canyon. After waiting and looking for otters, we were finally rewarded and one put on a show for us for a long time!    

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             On our last morning of the snow coach, we headed to Old Faithful to shoot geysers and hot springs. It’s always neat showing people the thermal areas for their first time. It’s just like nothing they have ever seen before. We also got to photograph bison and coyotes. In the afternoon we tried one more time for the wolves, but the weather was so bad and windy that we had to turn around.

            For the next four days we were on the northern range. There is a lot of wildlife on the northern range and good opportunities. The wolf pack we had been tracking made its way to the northern range. One morning we found tons of tracks on the side of the road and lots of bird activity, but no wolves. We were getting closer, but still hadn’t gotten any wolves close enough to photograph.

           Over the course of the four days we had great photo opportunities with river otters a few times, moose, bald eagles, big horn sheep, red fox, coyote, bison and elk. We were really seeing lots of wildlife. The wolf was eluding us though. On the last morning, in a different area of the park than the pack we had been tracking, we heard wolves howling back and forth, so we knew they were close. We went to different areas to try and see which area the howling was the loudest from, and hoped for our opportunity. On one of our drives to listen, a black wolf crossed the road not far in front of us and into an open meadow. Everyone got out and got their wolf photo! It felt great to finally get a wolf!

          On the morning of February 3rd I dropped everyone off at the airport, and then I flew to Arizona. I met Twila there for a week trip, and then we went back to Yellowstone together. We spent around a week in Yellowstone photographing and visiting friends. In the park one of our favorite encounters was with a red fox. We waited and waited as the fox sat patiently in the snow, and then it jumped and dove into the snow! I was happy Twila got to see and photograph a fox doing that behavior. We then proceeded to follow it as it walked in the snow close to the road for a long time. It was fun walking along side it as it hunted. We saw lots of wildlife, but the red fox was our favorite.

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         After seeing a number of friends around Yellowstone we headed up to Canada. Over the next number of weeks Twila was busy getting ready for a couple of her shows, and I was busy helping her and preparing for the gallery this coming summer. In early May we headed to Alaska and set up the gallery for my third summer with the gallery!

 

Epic Last Day in Lake Clark!

             It’s amazing how with a group, the more you see the more they expect.  I understand, it’s just hard to keep meeting their expectations when what they are asking for seems ridiculous.  But my group was great and they knew we had had an amazing trip, but why not ask for more.  On our last full day one guy came up to me and said he knew we had gotten some great pictures, but he wanted something epic.  That’s quite the statement, and he knew when he was asking it was ridiculous, but we had seen so much I held out hope that it would happen.

            Before breakfast we had some great light and the mom and three-year-old cubs, but nothing came together.  The cubs lightly played, but it was always quick and then they would separate.  It was going to be a bright sunny day, so we had a quick breakfast and then headed back out.  We saw three bears together on the tidal flats, and if something epic was going to happen it was going to be with them.  Challenge accepted, and lets go get some amazing shots!

            I could write for a really long time what we got over the next few hours, but I will let my pictures do the talking.  The bears ran, played, fought, rolled around, were in front of a volcano, fought in backlight and in front of a mountain, ran through rivers, and gave us one incredible shoot to remember! And then at the end one bear gave us a real nice shot as a parting gift it seemed. If he wanted epic, that was epic!

            In the afternoon we walked out to Johnson River Valley again, and a saw a few bears this time.  One was real curious and came and checked us out.  We even got to see a wolf, which was my first time seeing a wolf in Lake Clark!  After dinner we were on the mom with three cubs, and we got some nice shots of the cubs jumping a little slough.  We even got her nursing all the cubs in real good light! What a day!

Amazing Afternoon in Lake Clark on Day 3

           We went out at 6 a.m. again on the 22nd, but there was nothing out this time.  It just doesn’t seem like the bears in Lake Clark are early risers.  After breakfast we found a decent size male and spent some time with him, and we were able to get some reflection pictures wit him from a small pond of water.  We saw some other bears and a couple went to clam, but it was a slower morning for the most part.  However, it was not slow after lunch.

            When we went back out after lunch we found the mom and three-year-old cubs right beside a slough.  It was a real pretty spot for pictures, and we were able to be close to them and get some nice shots! They crossed back and forth across the slough and were calm.  Another group came, so we left them so we could look for other bears further down the sedge flats.  As we were riding, the mom and spring cubs came out! Exactly what we were looking for!

            It was nice to see them in the grass, and we slowly approached so as not to scare them.  The mom was calm, and so were the cubs.  They were in fairly tall grass, so it was hard to get good shots of the cubs.  There were a number of bears out, so we didn’t think they would stay long.  We were right, unfortunately, and another bear came closer and the mom took off.  She stood a couple of times to look at the other bear, and those made for nice shots! She really is a good momma bear.

            We then went for a hike out to the Johnson River Valley.  It really is so pretty out there, and a very different view.  The bears out there are a little more skittish, but I’ve gotten good shots out there before.  It’s a little over a mile out there, but it’s flat and a nice walk.  The first bear took off when it saw us.  We didn’t see any others for a while, but on our way back we found another.  It was calm and just slowly moved and ate.  We spent a long time with it, and it gave us some nice opportunities with the valley behind it.

A grizzly bear moves through the Johnson River Valley.

A grizzly bear moves through the Johnson River Valley.

            When we got back to the trailer, it didn’t take us long to find the spring cubs again, and they were in a much better place this time for photos too.  We got to spend some real quality time with them this time, and it was amazing! When the cubs are this young and new to seeing people, they are so curious and stand a lot to try and figure us out.  The mom was very calm, so the cubs were as well.  They played, and stood and really gave us an incredible shoot!

            After dinner we went back out, and didn’t find the spring cubs, but found the mom and three cubs.  They somehow didn’t notice a large male coming their way, and it got close before they took off running.  They headed for the beach, and we followed.  We also had good light in the evening for the first time, and with them being out on the tidal flats it made for really great shots! With the reflections and the perfect light it really made for a great evening! 

            After they headed in back to the sedge grass, a smaller bear was nearby.  Momma bear was tired of other bears around and gave chase.  She didn’t just stop after a short run, but decided to really run this bear off.  All of a sudden they came bursting back onto the beach and were running full speed right by us! It was quite exciting and crazy!  Our first three days have been absolutely incredible!  I was afraid of a letdown over the next couple of days because of how much we had seen already, but Lake Clark in the spring rarely lets me down.  There was more to come and I knew it!

Mother bear runs full out after another bear.

Mother bear runs full out after another bear.

Lake Clark Day 2 and Spring Cubs!

           On June 21st we left the lodge at 6 a.m. and went out looking for bears.  There were a couple of bears out on the tidal flats that we walked out to.  Not long after we got to them, another bear came running along and chased them back off the tidal flats, so we went in for breakfast.  When we went back out after breakfast, the mom and three cubs were on the tidal flats and we went to them.  We got a few shots before they started to head back in, and the cubs got playful as they headed in.  A couple of the cubs gave us some nice standing and playing shots, while also being reflected.

Two cubs stand and play on the tidal flats.

Two cubs stand and play on the tidal flats.

            It became a sunny day and we were having some trouble finding bears in the heat.  Going along the trail I saw what looked like bears sleeping across the sedge flats, and maybe even on a log, so we walked to where they were.  Sure enough, the mother and three cubs were sleeping on a log, with two of the cubs right beside the mom.  Two days in a row of bear families sleeping on a log! These photos were really great since we could get a few of them in the same picture! It’s so neat to see them using old driftwood as a large pillow. Once the cubs woke up, they had some energy and wrestled and played not far from us for a long time!

            While we were at dinner one of my clients saw from the window what he thought were new spring cubs.  I popped up to look through a scope before they disappeared, and sure enough it was spring cubs! I was very impressed with how fast everyone ate as much food as they could in one minute, especially since we had just started dinner.  But it was the first spring cubs of the year, and we didn’t want to miss them!  We all hustled and got out to the beach to see them out on the tidal flats.  It’s always so exciting seeing new spring cubs for the first time!

            We waited patiently for them to pick a spot to get clams, and then we walked out to them.  It was the cubs very first time seeing humans, likely, so we went cautiously and didn’t want to scare them.  The mom was a very good mom and kept watch and ate at the same time.  I was impressed that we were able to get in photo range and not make the cubs nervous.  We didn’t get a real long time with them before she saw another bear and went the other way, but it was great experience and photo opportunities in the time we had!  Finishing the second day off with spring cubs was amazing!

First Day in Lake Clark with Workshop Group

           After being at the gallery most of the summer so far, I was ready to get out and lead my photography workshop to Lake Clark National Park.  I left the gallery on the afternoon of the 18th and drove seven hours into the Yukon and slept in my car on the side of the road.  It was nice to finally have some time and be able to think and look back on how things have gone so far this summer.  I finished the drive to Anchorage on the 19th, and met me group for dinner that night.  It’s always neat seeing everyone for the first time and getting a feel for how the group will be and seeing their excitement for the week ahead!

            On the morning of the 20th everyone was on time at 7:30 a.m., and we met at the bush plane airport to take off to Lake Clark.  It was raining in Anchorage, but not long after we took off it cleared up and we had a beautiful flight down to Lake Clark.  Once we landed, everyone was eager to get out and shoot.  It was warm and windy, not a good combination for seeing bears, but we finally found a mom with two, three-year-old cubs.  Normally by now the mom would kick them out and make them be on their own, but these were still with her.  It was neat; because it was a set of cubs we had during my workshop last year.  Not long after being with them they began standing and playing and our first shoot got the trip off to a great start!

Two three-year-old siblings stand and play fight.

Two three-year-old siblings stand and play fight.

            After lunch we headed back out and found two, four year olds that were still hanging together.  We didn’t get many photos from them, but when we went back around we found the mom and three-year-old-cubs again.  Last year we got them sleeping as a family on a log, and they were near this log, so we waited and waited hoping that lightning might strike twice and we would get them sleeping on that log again.  Our patience paid off, and they actually slept on that same log!  I couldn’t believe it! They didn’t sleep together, but they were still on the same log and we got some nice pictures of them sleeping, even though it was raining. 

A large cub gets cozy on a log.

A large cub gets cozy on a log.

            That night after dinner we went to a different area of sedge flats and found a mom and three second-year cubs.  Not long after we were with them they went to the beach, and the fun began.  Those cubs had so much fun running, playing, fighting, chasing, playing king of the log, and just being wild cubs.  What was also amazing was that we were able to walk behind them enjoying this experience and not interfering with them being wild! It was one of my most enjoyable shoots ever, because the cubs were having so much fun and we got to walk and be a part of nature for over a half mile!  They had so much energy and really gave us a show. What a first day!

Successful Winter Yellowstone Workshop

            Through the 2016 holidays, it was nice to see family and catch up on many much-needed projects.  The Christmas season is a busy selling time, as well, but I was still able to see everyone I wanted to see back home and many extended family members.  Once the New Year came, I headed back to Canada for a few weeks to be with me fiancé in Canmore.  I was excited to be back with her and scout out the Canadian Rockies for wildlife.  It was cold and snowy while I was in Canmore, but I didn’t have a whole lot of luck in locating much wildlife other than elk. 

            I always enjoy going to Yellowstone in the winter and searching for the wolves, and other animals.  I left Canmore on the 24th to scout for my upcoming workshop that started on the 28th.  I did manage to see some wolves in those three-days and figure out where they were hanging out, but they were very far away when I did see them.  There has been a good amount of snow this year, which was nice because there weren’t any brown spots showing like there has been in years past.  The animals didn’t cooperate for me in those three days to get many shots, but I felt confident I could find them when we come back to the north on my workshop.

            On the night of the 27th I went and stayed with some friends in Livingston, MT, and then on the morning of the 28th I went to Bozeman to get my group.  I was excited for the workshop to start and help them find and photograph the wonders of the Yellowstone Winter.  We headed to West Yellowstone after I had gotten everyone, and that night we went out to shoot the sunset.  The next morning would be our first in the park, and we would go in from West on a snow coach.

This was the very first sunrise of our workshop! So great!

This was the very first sunrise of our workshop! So great!

            Everyone was excited and ready on the 29th, and at 7 a.m. we headed into the park, and my good friend Justin Parsons was our driver guide as well.  It was forecasted to be the coldest morning of our time in West, so we headed toward Old Faithful first thing to try and get frosty bison.  The sunrise that morning was absolutely incredible, and a great way to start the workshop! I wish it had been colder than 5 degrees, but we were still able to find some bison that were covered in frost in the thermal areas.  We spent a long time with the bison and headed back toward the Madison River.  We got there after lunch, and as we were looking for a bobcat, another coach had already spotted one and everyone rushed out.  It is always such a treat to see a wild bobcat!  We were fortunate to watch it across the river for a few hours that afternoon as it stalked ducks and waited for an opportunity to pounce.  It never did jump, but we got great shots of the bobcat! It was a great first day of the workshop!

A bobcat laying patiently waiting for a duck to swim by.

A bobcat laying patiently waiting for a duck to swim by.

            On the 30th we headed to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Hayden Valley in the morning.  It was so nice being the only group at the canyon in the morning, because in the summer that never happens.  It was a nice day, so we headed into Hayden Valley while the light was still good.  We photographed a famous tree there, and then further down the road found a red fox.  It was a very cooperative red fox, and we got to watch it hunt as it moved along the endless snow ridges.  It even decided to come our way and walked right up to us and onto the road! Once it crossed we kept photographing it, and it went on a ridge with the beautiful dark clouds behind it!

A red fox beautifully set against a dark sky.

A red fox beautifully set against a dark sky.

            We had heard otters were near the canyon, and we had great timing because the other groups had come to look for the fox we had and we went to the otters, where 50 people had been.  When we got there we were the only ones there, and the otter pups were so playful.  They played and played and played and ran around and were so fun to watch! A bald eagle flew in after a while and landed on a tree close to the road! It was one of the best otter experiences I had ever had! We went to Artist Point to photograph the canyon, and when we left we found the otters again and had to stop.  A different bald eagle was in a tree nearby this time too.  The otters weren’t as playful this time, but were still active.  One otter went running and sliding our direction down the frozen river, and it was great to photograph!  If he did it again I thought I would take a video of it because it was so neat.  Some time later it did it again, and I videoed it running and sliding on its belly numerous times! I never thought this video would go viral, but nature and wildlife sure can capture people’s hearts!  We even managed to catch a glimpse of a bobcat that evening.  What an incredible first couple of days!

A family of river otters wrestle on the edge of the ice.

A family of river otters wrestle on the edge of the ice.

One of my best bald eagle shots in Yellowstone ever!

One of my best bald eagle shots in Yellowstone ever!

            The 31st was our last day on the snow coach, and we headed to Old Faithful again in the morning.  We followed wolf tracks for a long time, but never saw the wolves.  It was a very windy day, which wasn’t a good sign for trying to find wildlife.  Animals don’t like wind, and will hunker down in the trees and wait for the wind to die down.  We shot some thermal features, but it was hard to photograph in the blowing snow.  On the Madison River we found more coyotes, and even got to watch one try and fish in the river.  Later that day a bobcat was spotted, so we got to see a bobcat again! I can’t believe we got to photograph the bobcat every day of our trip in from West!

            Our time in West went better than I could have hoped, then on the morning of February 1st I drove the group to the Northern Range of Yellowstone.  It was not a fun drive because of the snow and wind from last night that iced up the road.  We made it safely, and then that afternoon went in to the park and checked out the northern range.  We found some big horn sheep and coyotes on our afternoon run, but it was just good to see that part of the park and refigure out where the wildlife were in the north.

            On the 2nd we left Gardiner at 6:30 a.m. and it was snowing hard when we left.   It didn’t let up, but when we got to Roosevelt Junction, a mother and calf moose were right off the road.  It was still a little dark, but they were right by the road.  We were able to stay with them for a little while as they moved near the road.  It snowed so hard when we were with them, but it made for a dramatic scene.  A great start to the day!  We continued on to Lamar Valley, but it was snowing so hard you couldn’t see anything.  A large bison was on the road, and we were able to get ahead of him and pull into a pullout and let him walk by.  He was beautiful and fully covered in snow.  It had been a very long time since I had seen it snow that hard in Lamar.  The roads were getting dangerous because of how much it was snowing, so we headed to Mammoth hoping it wasn’t snowing as hard.  It was snowing just as hard, but we photographed the terraces anyway, and it made for a neat scene.  We called it a day a little early because it wouldn’t stop snowing and the visibility was so bad.

A moose moves through a meadow during a heavy snow storm.

A moose moves through a meadow during a heavy snow storm.

            We left at 6:45 again on the 3rd and headed into the park.  It was a quiet morning, but when we got back to Pebble Creek we found a small bull moose bedded.  We waited for him to get up, and it was a beautiful scene when he did with the trees fully covered in snow.  It snowed off and on throughout the day, but nothing like yesterday.  My group really wanted to see wolves, as did I, but it is never an easy task.  Most days, if you see them, they are really far away and you have to pray you are in the right spot if they do come close enough.  Around lunch I was able to show them a pack of eight wolves through a scope, but they were over a mile away.  This is what wolf watching is like over 95% of the time in Yellowstone.  Wolves are, in my opinion, the hardest of the large mammals to photograph because they are skittish and hate people.  We saw some wildlife that afternoon, but didn’t have many opportunities other than with moose.

A young bull moose stands in front of heavily snow covered trees.

A young bull moose stands in front of heavily snow covered trees.

            Our last full day was the 4th, and when we went in that morning the wind was absolutely howling.  On the Blacktail Plateau the snowplow hadn’t been up there yet, and I was plowing through 3-4 foot drifts! It was absolutely crazy! I only did it because I knew the road, and was surprised I didn’t get stuck honestly.  It was super windy across the whole park, which almost never happens.  Nothing was out because of the wind, but we did find one large bison fully covered in snow.  The wind blowing created a dramatic scene at times, and we stayed with him a long time because I knew there was nothing else out.  The roads were very dangerous and we had to wait on snowplows a couple of times to clear the road of snow.  We went back to Mammoth because of how dangerous it was, and that nothing was out.  A wolf pack was on a ridge above Mammoth, but again way to far for pictures.  We photographed the terraces in the sunlight and then went in.  There was no way I was driving back out with how dangerous the roads were.

The wind blows snow around this snow covered bison.

The wind blows snow around this snow covered bison.

            On the 5th we put everyone’s luggage in one room and then headed in at 7:30 into the park.  I am dropping them off today, but no one’s flight is until the evening, so we went in the park in the morning.  It was again very windy and very little wildlife was out.  Four large bison were near the road and in a nice scenic spot.  A couple of times the wind kicked up and made for a very nice cold windy scene! A little further down the road we found a moose, and he came close to the road.  Then he turned around and crossed the river! It was a great way to close out the workshop!  We drove to Bozeman and I dropped everyone off by 4 p.m.  A great way to relax after a long, but great, workshop was to watch the super bowl with friends!

A very windy day makes for a dramatic scene in Lamar Valley.

A very windy day makes for a dramatic scene in Lamar Valley.

A moose walks across an open river during the winter.

A moose walks across an open river during the winter.

            Overall I was very excited for how the workshop went! We saw so many different species of animals, and all of those species gave us an opportunity to get good pictures except the wolves.  I know wolves were on the top of everyone’s list, but I can’t define a workshop by wolves only.  They would have been great, but we were able to get great shots on many species, including the elusive bobcat.  Twila flew in the night of the super bowl and I can’t wait to get to show her Yellowstone for her first time!

 

If you haven’t seen my video of the otter sliding on it’s belly that went viral, click on the video below this blog! It got over 70 million views on facebook!

Lake Clark Workshops

            Leaving the gallery for a couple of weeks was scary to think about, but I was looking forward to getting to photograph bears in Lake Clark, and knew I had a good friend I could trust in my gallery.  It is a very long drive from Skagway to Anchorage, 15 hours, so I drove 7 hours after work on the 13th and slept in my car in a pull off, and then finished the drive on the 14th.  I had to do a few things in the big city before meeting with my clients for dinner that night, since Skagway doesn’t have much.  It was exciting meeting them and knowing that tomorrow we would fly out to Lake Clark!

            It was a super clear day on the 15th when we left at 8 a.m., and I saw Denali from the air for the first time.  Denali is over 150 miles from Anchorage, and it was awesome seeing it from the air and the rest of the mountains as we flew down the coast to Lake Clark.  It was by far the clearest sightseeing flight I had ever been on to Lake Clark.  We even got to see a mom and cubs as we landed, and that got the group excited!  We quickly went to the lodge and got settled before heading out for a quick trip before lunch.  It was already starting to get hot, and we did see a river otter, but the bears were already in the woods escaping the heat.  It stayed clear and hot the rest of the day, and we didn’t see much, but I knew better times were to come.

            The next morning it was still clear, and we left at 5 a.m. by foot to catch the first light of the day.  That was a great decision, as the mom and two yearling cubs were out, and as we got to them they crossed a little stream and we had them reflected in the water with the most perfect light on them!  Nothing like walking out and immediately getting incredible shots!  It was the kind of light you only dream of getting on animals!  We stayed with them for a little while and got more shots, but nothing could top the first encounter of the day.  We tried off and on throughout the mid-day looking for bears, but it was again too hot for them to be out.

The incredible natural light we had for our first shoot!

The incredible natural light we had for our first shoot!

            As the day began to cool off we were out near the beach when we spotted a mom with three spring cubs! We all got very excited and went their direction.  It was possibly the first time these cubs had seen people, and they were leery of us.  We kept out distance and let them move around where they wanted.  It was a beautiful evening, though, and the mountains 55 miles across the water were very clear and created a great backdrop.  Watching them walk the tidal flats and play was great!  What an incredible day we had!

A mother and her 3 cubs move across the tidal flats on a perfect evening.

A mother and her 3 cubs move across the tidal flats on a perfect evening.

            On the morning of the 17th we got up real early again, but nothing was out early.  After searching a long time we finally found the mom and three cubs again.  They were out clamming, but the tide was starting to come in.  Mom waited too long to come in, and got surrounded by water.  The cubs were anxious and nervous, and as mom left they all tried to cling to her.  She didn’t like that at first, but then relented and let them on.  We were a long ways off and the light was bad, but seeing a mother bear with three cubs on her back was a sight to be seen.  It was a little scary because the cubs were terrified, but such a neat experience to witness.  We had some good encounters throughout the day, but seeing the cubs on the back was something few people ever get to see.

The 3 cubs clinging for life to their mother's back.

The 3 cubs clinging for life to their mother's back.

            Lake Clark is great because you never know what you will get to see, and the bears are very photogenic there.  The 18th was a nasty, wet, dreary day, but my group was willing to wait in it and see what would come out.  We were rewarded when the mom and three came out of the trees near us and went out to dig for clams.  It was very grey out, and we were all cold, but we followed.  The cubs were playful and gave us a lot of different pictures, and didn’t mind we were there.  After a while of being out there they wanted milk, and mom laid down close to us and let them feed.  The cubs had the memory of yesterday on their mind when they were done feeding and didn’t want to walk back, because the tide was coming in.  Two cubs clung to mom as she got up, and she didn’t like that at all.  She even stood and shook to get the cubs off, and that was an awesome shot to see the cub hanging on for dear life!  This family really has shown us some behavior most people never get to see!

Mother bear tries to fling one of her cubs off her back.

Mother bear tries to fling one of her cubs off her back.

            We went in and warmed up and dried off after they left.  We were really soaked and cold, but excited with what we had captured!  In the late afternoon we were watching from the lodge when we spotted a mom and two spring cubs! Spring cubs always gets people excited, and we sprung up and got all our rain gear on and went to photograph them.  These cubs were not as playful, but still spring cubs.  We were about to leave after being with them a while, when the mom and two yearling cubs came out of the woods.  This made the little spring cubs nervous, and they ran.  Mom even stood up beside them to look at the other bears to assess the danger.  After waiting so long and getting nothing, we all of a sudden had great images! You just never know what you will get to witness.

            Some days are slow, like the 19th, but that is why you spend a number of days in places.  For many days it might not be happening, and you have to wait a day or two for the action to pick back up again.  We saw some bears, but didn’t get any great action.  The weather was nice again on the 20th, and we went out early.  The mom and 2 yearling cubs were out, but they were a non-active set of cubs.  But then a male was following a female close by and they took off and stood to check the situation out.  They continued to run and stand in the great light, and gave us a show!  I had more clients coming in later that morning, and I told the group that was already with me to not tell them of all the great viewings we had already had.  I really hoped we had more to come, but I didn’t want the new group hearing about what we had gotten already.  Every week is different and exciting, and I wanted them to be excited about what we saw for their week.

A mother and her cub stand to look at a male bear nearby.

A mother and her cub stand to look at a male bear nearby.

            We got off to a great start with the new group when we found the mom and two spring cubs on a beach further down.  A few of the people in the new group were with me last year, and we didn’t get spring cubs, so being able to show them spring cubs on our first trip out was fantastic!  They moved around and dug for clams and gave us some nice shots with the close mountains behind them.  The rest of the day we had bears, but no special behavior happened.

            On the 21st we got up at 5 a.m. and didn’t find anything until we came back to the lodge, and a younger bear was playing with moose antlers.  It just goes to show you never know where the bears will be.  The day for the most part was a dud because it was so hot and no bears were out.  As the day got later, I really hoped we would find a bear in the good light.  The mom and two spring cubs were on the other side of the river, and then a male and female came running and scared them.  I thought our chance of seeing them again was gone, but they ran to the beach.  After we made our way out there and found them, we had an incredible evening.  They played on the beach, and then went in the water and played around in the perfect light.  We even got them nursing in the perfect light.  It’s not often you get the wildlife and the good light both at the same time.  We couldn’t have asked for a better evening!

Mother and her her spring cubs playing in the ocean late in the evening.

Mother and her her spring cubs playing in the ocean late in the evening.

            The 22nd was another hot, clear day, and we had the mom and two yearling cubs early, but it was slow after that.  The mom and two spring cubs did come out, but only two people went to photograph them as the others stayed in and didn’t care to shoot in the bright light.  We found the mom and two spring cubs in the evening, but a male bear scared them and they never came out of the woods.

Mother bear stands to make sure there is no threat to her cubs.

Mother bear stands to make sure there is no threat to her cubs.

            My group really wanted to photograph the spring cubs in the grass, and I was fearful it might not happen.  They would just run to a tree if in the grass near the woods.  Our luck changed on the 23rd, as they were further out in the grass and not near the woods.  We slowly approached, and they were calm and just continued to eat.  I was so glad to finally get my clients pictures of them in the grass.  We had a nice long shoot before they left.  After lunch we found them again, and they were napping out on the tidal flats.  As we approached they didn’t wake, and they were very cute all cuddled up to one another.  As they changed positions and moved around we got some great shots of them together!  Cubs can be so cute!  I was already pleased with the day when we found the mom and two yearling cubs.  As we got to them they decided to sleep on a log.  The mom put her head over the log, and the cubs laid on it!  I couldn’t have set it up any better myself.  It was like they were posing for us!  We were all clicking away and just enjoying the moment.  This was the cherry on top, and we still had one full day left.

A mother and her cubs begin to wake from their nap and are very cuddly.

A mother and her cubs begin to wake from their nap and are very cuddly.

A mother and her cubs sleep together peacefully on a log.

A mother and her cubs sleep together peacefully on a log.

            The next day, the 24th, we found the mom and two spring cubs in the grass again!  It is nice to get them in a more natural setting than on the beach.  The cubs have gotten calmer since we’ve been here and don’t mind us being around.  They eventually went to the beach, and we left to go find other bears.  We found the mom that had three cubs, but now she only had two.  Nature is tough on bear cubs, and less than 50% make it sadly.  The two cubs were still just as playful as before, and really gave us a good show.  That evening the two yearling cubs really gave us a special showing though.  They had been very non-active cubs, but that changed tonight.  They were running everywhere and standing and play fighting like crazy.  It’s like they finally had some sugar and were ready to play.  They could really move across the sedge flats and cover some ground in a hurry.  It was hard for us to keep up with them because they were moving so much!  What an incredible last full day!  I didn’t know how I was going to be able to keep finding better photographic opportunities for my group, but they continued to come.

Two yearling cubs go after one another.

Two yearling cubs go after one another.

            Before we left on the 25th a few of us went out and were able to get the two yearling cubs playing some more.  I’m glad those cubs were finally coming to life.  After 10 days of going hard, I was exhausted.  I got some absolutely incredible photos, and was so glad to be able to put my clients in some great situations!  Even though I was exhausted, I didn’t have any time and had to get back to Skagway.  I did my best to not think about the gallery while in Skagway, but it still was on my mind.  We were off the grid, so I couldn’t check, which was nice in a way.  After taking a nap in Anchorage I got on the road and drove half way, slept in my car, and then finished the drive the next day.  Summers are busy in Alaska and there is no time to rest.  I was happy to hear how the gallery went while I was gone and that my friend had made some sales while I was gone.

I’m so glad Lake Clark was an absolutely fantastic trip, and was looking forward to going through all the great shots I took while there.

            

Yellowstone Workshop

           On January 30th, my first winter in Yellowstone photography workshop officially began when Robbie and I picked up our first client at 1:30 p.m.at the airport.  She was from Germany, and then we went and picked up three people from Italy and one guy from Michigan.  We each drove a vehicle to West Yellowstone to give us flexibility during the workshop and more space.  That night we met for dinner and went over the final details and got everyone excited for the week, and particularly for the next day.

           Everyone was ready to go in the morning, and at 6:45 a.m. our snowcoach pulled up, and my buddy Grahm was driving it.  It was 15 degrees, and we were going to spend the day on the snowcoach looking for wildlife along the Madison River, but particularly hoping to find a bobcat.  We found river otters swimming around in the morning, which was neat.  I had never seen them on the Madison before.  We also saw a lot of coyotes and a few red fox, but no bobcat.  There were a few good photographic opportunities for our first day, so that was good!  We will be on the snowcoach three more days, so we will have many more opportunities for the bobcat and other wildlife.

           It was -25 degrees when we woke up on February 1st, so we decided to head toward old faithful and look for frosty covered bison.  When it is that cold, and bison are hanging out in the thermal areas, there fur will become covered in frost.  It was very foggy in the thermal areas, and that was great for us!  We found a number of groups of frosty bison, but I finally saw a group I really liked.  We walked out 100 yards to them and got great shots of them as they moved around!  They moved on, and we photographed some of the beautiful landscape on the cold morning.  We spent the entire morning with frosty bison and got great pictures!  The afternoon was spent on the Madison again, but still the bobcat still eluded us.  The morning was terrific though!

A bison heavily covered in frost moves my way on a -25 degree morning.

A bison heavily covered in frost moves my way on a -25 degree morning.

           The next morning it was -29 degrees, but we decided to spend the morning on the Madison looking for wildlife.  It’s very nice having the snowcoach when it is that cold.  You can get out for a little to photograph, but also know there is a warm coach right their if you get to cold.  It was a very quiet morning and we didn’t see anything.  All the animals must have stayed in bed because it was so cold.  We decided to go to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and check out the landscapes of winter.  I love winter in the interior because there are so few people.  We were actually at the canyon by ourselves, which is not possible in the summer.  It was a beautiful day, and nice to see the canyon on a clear day! After we were done there we went back to the Madison for the late afternoon.  We again saw many coyotes, and this time we got good pictures of them. 

Catching the sun for the 20 seconds it was out between the clouds cast this gorgeous light on the little geyser runoff stream.

Catching the sun for the 20 seconds it was out between the clouds cast this gorgeous light on the little geyser runoff stream.

           February 3rd was our last day on the snowcoach, and was much warmer than it had been.  The morning started out slowly, but then Grahm spotted a wolf briefly crossing the river.  This was exciting, and we spent time scoping places out and looking for it again.  30 minutes after we gave up we spotted it, but only for a couple of seconds again.  We parked down the road thinking it would head that way, but it never came out.  We were so close to getting shots of a pretty black wolf.  There were a lot of red fox out in the valley, but they never came close for a great shot.  The bobcat never did show itself either, but we gave it the best effort we had.  It might not have shown, but we did get many other great shots and our time in the interior of the park was well spent.  The frosty bison were the highlight for me, and for most of our clients!

           On the morning of the 4th we loaded up and left at 7 am to drive to Gardiner, Mt, where we would base out of for the last three days of our workshop.  Our hotel rooms were luckily ready at 10:30 am, and we unpacked and then put all the photo gear back in and headed for the park.  We drove out to Lamar Valley, and a wolf pup was close to the road eating on an old bull elk carcass.  That was a great way to start!  We spent time there, and then went to a newer carcass hoping coyotes or wolves would move in.  They never did, but bald eagles were flying around and eating on the carcass.  We stayed there until dark and then headed in.  Not a bad first afternoon on the northern range.

A black mangy wolf crosses a river in the winter.

A black mangy wolf crosses a river in the winter.

           We got up and left at 6:15 the next morning to get out to Lamar Valley early.  It paid off, and as we were going around a corner a wolf was right there.  He unfortunately had mange, but was still a black wolf only 40 yards away.  Everyone got images of him before he wandered further away across the valley.  Another pack actually killed his pack mate not long before we showed up, and he was running from them.  We saw some bighorns after that, and they were nice enough to get up from their sleep and wander over our way, and my clients got some real nice shots!  The mid-day and afternoon were slow, but the morning was fantastic. 

Some of my clients shoot the bighorn rams headed our way.

Some of my clients shoot the bighorn rams headed our way.

           The 6th was our last day of the workshop, and we left at 6 in the morning.  There wasn’t the morning activity like the day before, unfortunately.  However, we made up for it in the mid morning when we were looking for wolves on a ridge, when all of a sudden a wolf came darting out of the woods chasing an elk.  It happened so fast, and then the chase went behind a hill.  The wolves did get the elk, but we couldn’t see it happen.  It’s only the 3rd time I’d ever seen a wolf chase!  We spent most of the rest of the day in that area, and saw wolves, but none came closer for us to photograph.  But what a way to end the workshop with a wolf chase! 

           Most of the people flew out on the 7th, so we took them to the airport in the late morning.  I went back to Gardiner to watch the Super Bowl and to relax after the airport drops.  It was a long week, but a good week.  I really enjoyed all the clients, and was glad I could put them on some good shoots.  Yellowstone is such a large place, and even a week in Yellowstone doesn’t seem like much time because there is such a variety of wildlife and so much terrain.  I’m glad the workshop was a success and look forward to doing more in the future!