Landscapes with Animals
BearHead Photography has many images to showcase his expansive portfolio on places of North America, and he loves to travel and photograph the wild animals in their natural environment.
On only the coldest of mornings can hoar frost happen. Not only does it have to be cold, but their has to be moisture in the air as well. When the sun made it over the ridge, the trees began to shine because of the hoar frost. A buffalo was underneath this tree trying to stay warm and find some food as it was -40 degrees.
It is hard to understand just how vast Alaska is until you have been. Denali is over 6 million acres, and the majority of that land is all backcountry access only. Wildlife can truly live their lives and never be influenced by human activity. A large moose takes advantage of a nice evening to eat from a pond and to get away from the bugs.
It's not often you come across three bull moose hanging out together. I first only saw one moose, and it was only once I hiked up and over a hill did I see that there were three moose. After spending over three hours with them and only getting mediocre pictures, that all changed in a heartbeat. I couldn't believe my good fortune when they all left the pond and went up on the ridge and stood still for just a few moments. Being all along with these moose with this setting was a moment I will never forget.
There are moments when photographing when everything comes together, and it makes you forget all the other moments. Even though the other moments make up 95% of the time, it is that 5% that keeps me going. Ever since I came to Denali in 2008, I have been trying to get a bull moose in a pond with Denali in the background. I didn’t think it was going to happen on this night, but the clouds opened enough and all those years of waiting paid off!
A Grand Morning
The Grand Tetons are a spectacular mountain range. As I headed out this morning they were not in view due to the fog. All of a sudden they appeared and the morning light was just hitting them. I found a pronghorn and it ran on top of this hill to show the awesome grandeur of the Tetons.
Elk are very active in the morning during the rut trying to chase off other males and corral their females. After an exhausting morning, an elk takes a break and just reflects on the morning and looks over his harem.
The entire coast of Alaska is beautiful. Everywhere I have been on a boat in Alaska, it is just amazing to me how the mountains never stop as far as I can see. These waters create an amazing habitat for numerous marine mammals, and humpback whales come to Alaska in the summer to feed in this paradise.
Great grey owls are a majestic owl of the forest. They perch on tops of trees to have the best vantage point to hunt from. With this view, it looked as if it was watching over the Tetons.
Sunsets in Yellowstone are often not that colorful due to the amount of clouds in the sky, or due to no clouds at all. Seeing that a great sunset was about to happen, I began to look for an animal to put in the picture. Finding a bison herd on a ridge added great contrast to the setting sun.
It is not very often that you have a crystal clear view of Denali. On my last camping trip of the summer I was fortunate to come across this scene. In Wonder Lake was a mother and calf moose taking there time eating the grass of the bottom of the lake. I could not think of a better way to end my summer.
There are too many times to count when I had a great setting with wildlife, but no light. Having both come together perfectly on this morning was a dream. As I ran to the stream, hoping they would cross in the perfect morning light, I waited only briefly before they decided to cross. The morning light, reflection, and mountains made for a dramatic backcountry Alaskan scene.
Out of the Clouds
I’ve spent many years in the backcountry of Denali searching for and photographing moose. The ultimate goal was to find a bull moose and photograph it with Denali in the background. I’ve seen the mountain and moose, but never in a good opportunity for photos. When the mountain began to come out of the clouds, I prayed the moose would stay by the pond long enough to capture it with Denali in the background.
I knew this morning that the sunrise would be nice. When I heard an elk bugle, I began to search quickly for him. Seeing him stand their in front of the mountain as he called out was a great moment.
The fall in Denali is my favorite season of the year! The colors and activity of the animals always gets me up early in the morning. I hiked many miles to have an opportunity to photograph this moose. I had gotten good shots, but after he moved up the hill to scare another bull moose off, did I finally get a shot that showed just how endless the valleys of Denali are.
The winter in Glacier is not pleasant. It is often quite cold and snowy, and the wind will blow up to 90 mph at times. On this day, the wind was around 40-50 mph and making it hard to take a still shot. Fortunately, I was able to position myself in a place to capture the bighorn in front of the mountain when it walked on the ridge.
The waters of Alaska are a beautiful space for whales to live in during the summer. If I was a whale, Alaska would be on the top of my list to spend feeding all day long. This whale shows its tail before diving in front of a glacier.
There are so many beautiful places in nature. We usually one get one viewpoint of that beauty, but birds get so many different viewpoints. It looked as if this northern hawk owl was sitting on the top of this tree and watching the clouds roll over the mountains.
I love getting off the road and away from everyone and finding my own shot. There are many times I spend hiking through the tundra or woods and don't come up with anything. But those moments when you do find wildlife to yourself are the moments you never forget. When I found these three bull moose together I was ecstatic. I followed them for over three hours before this special moment occurred, and I was more than happy that I waited and followed to see what photographic opportunities they would present.
There are shots you dream of and say,”If only a moose would be right here".” I’ve lost count on how many times and in how many places I have said that for a shot I wanted. This was one of those moments when I had said this for a few years, and when I saw this large bull moose walking in the fall tundra in front of Denali I captured a shot I had been dreaming about.
Caribou can move miles and miles every day across the tundra. Tundra is not an easy terrain to travel, and they make it look easy. Caribou can be very skittish around people as well because they don't often see humans. This caribou did not mind me and continued eating the lichen around the lake as I photographed him with Wonder Lake and Denali in the background.
A Bear's Range
Black bears tend to spend the majority of their days in the woods. It's really difficult to find a scene with a black bear where there isn't mostly woods in the picture. It was a real treat watching this bear as it moved by the lake with the mountains surrounding the valley!
This is the largest bull elk I have ever seen! He was truly huge, and the way he carried himself showed how much he knew he was king of the area. Early one morning he was rounding up his females, and he went on this hill to look around. The recent snow on the mountains, and his beauty, created a perfect picture to start the day.
Grizzly bear cubs have it made in Alaska. They get to live in a great spot, and their mother watches out for them and feeds them. This mother caught wind of another bear, and stood to see if she could see it. The cubs just kept eating and had no idea they were potentially in danger.
After climbing up the mountain and searching for sheep, I finally found a few walking a ridge coming my direction. As this sheep paused to check me out, Mt. McKinley rose in the background.
Humpback whales flock to southeast Alaska during the summer to feed. The summer in Alaska is the only time they feed all year, and they can feed up to 23 hours a day. When the herring fish reaches the peak of the summer, humpback whales form groups to fish in and will bubble net feed. Less than 10% of all humpbacks know how to do this, and it only happens for two weeks or less in the summer. After circling the herring, the whales breach with their mouths open and inhale the herring.
Elk get to live in beautiful areas for the most part. They usually live in the mountains in the high country. During the rut they will follow the females and come down to the meadows. This large elk had control of a beautiful area and dominated any other bulls who challenged.
Large Winter Range
Big horn sheep love hanging out high in the mountains. They are extremely agile and can stand on cliffs that are very steep. In the Canadian Rockies these sheep get to live with an incredible view of mountains and glaciers high in the mountains.
In the winter, sheep will move down from the mountain tops to lower elevations to more easily find open grass. As this ram was walking an open hillside, the mountains it lives in during the summer were its backdrop.
Dall sheep are only found in the far north and high in the mountains. In the late evening as this sheep moved across this valley, the Alaskan Range was behind him and mountains he would rather be on.
Valley of the Wolves
Yellowstone is a very large park and it's landscapes are bigger than people realize. Finding wolves in this landscape is not easy. Once you see a wolf and how small they look, like rocks in the valley, it makes one appreciate them more. Seeing this pack scattered across the valley made for a great night.
In the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone bison are able to roam free just like in the past. Seeing a large herd of bison with the Tetons behind them takes me back and think about this is how it used to be all over America.
There are hundreds of ponds scattered in the backcountry of Denali. You would think that would mean that finding a moose in one is easy, but you would be wrong. There are so many that the moose can be wherever they want and not have to congregate at one pond. I spend days every year hoping to find a bull moose in a pond, and most years I leave disappointed. On this evening the rainbow was out and the moose was near the pond, but after waiting a while he came to the pond and got a drink in front of the rainbow.
While in Denali, I love being in the backcountry exploring on my own. It is so fun to be off the beaten path and find animals by myself. Once I found these moose, I did my best to track them across the endless tundra. When they walked the ridge above this pond, I knew all the tracking I had done had more than been worth, and I could reflect back on how great the state of Alaska is!
The combination of mountains, river, animals and great light is hard to beat. There is just something special about being in a place that looks like it could have been this way 100's of years ago. These elk slowly move across the river to their nightly grounds.
My favorite time of the year is fall in Denali. Just watching the landscape change and turn a bright red is incredible. Whenever I find a large bull moose in the tundra, it makes the colors look that much more vibrant.
Black bears stick mostly to the forests for their food. It is not often they are seen out in the open foraging for food. This bear was eating on the edge of the woods, and I had just enough of an opening to capture the mountains behind him.
Alaska has some of the best waters in the world to watch humpback whales. Humpback whales flock to Alaska to feed all summer, because they don’t feed at all during the winter. It never gets old seeing these huge tails with the backdrop of the Alaskan mountains.
In Alaska, June and July is when bears mate. They don't have a long time to mate, and therefore the fighting can be intense for the right to mate. This was a male and female arguing, and the female wasn't ready to mate. Shortly after this photo they took off in a big chase.
Pyramid Peak is one of the first mountains to receive light in the morning. I'm always hoping to find an elk near the river where the mountain is reflected in the morning. Finally, after days of waiting, I had my elk at first light and was able to capture both reflected in the river.
Denali is a park with over 6 million acres of protected land. There are only around 300 grizzly bears in the park, due to how hard it is to survive there. On a clear day, a grizzly bear roams the open tundra looking for berries in the fall.
Alaskan moose are the largest sub species of moose. At the shoulder they can be 6 foot, and when they are close they are huge. In this picture, they look as big as ants because of just how large the landscape is leading up to Denali.
There are places and views in Alaska that just can't be captured in other places. There are sea otters along most of the west coast, but only in a couple areas can you photograph a sea otter with a beautiful glacier behind it.
Winter in Yellowstone isn't easy for any animal. Bison will hang around in geyser areas because the warm ground will not collect snow in places. As Old Faithful erupts in the background, these bison are busy trying to eat.
Bison are amazing animals in that they can be somewhere one day and nowhere to be found the next. I was not expecting to see this herd as I was searching for the right place to photograph the Tetons. The bison help show how large the Tetons are even with clouds surrounding them.
In the open tundra of Denali, it is difficult to find a good angle to photograph a grizzly bear. Short of a close up shot, creating a dramatic photo is difficult. When I saw this bear going along this ridge, I hurried to get in position to capture it with the snow capped mountain behind him.
Capturing animals in their environment is one of my favorite ways to photograph animals. It is important to show where they live, so that we can conserve the land they need to survive on. These moose were eating willows in front of an incredible mountain scene one late evening in Denali.
The scenery along the Alaskan coast is beautiful. When a couple of bears are walking the beach with distant mountains behind them, it doesn't get much better.
The trademark of a humpback is its tail. Researchers can identify certain humpback whales by the markings on their tail. After being with this whale for a little while, it finally gave us a good dive in the direction we were hoping for with the mountains behind it.
he Denali landscape is full of undulating land and many valleys. When looking from above, you normally can't see all those dips in the landscape, but from this vantage point I could. I also managed to find three bull moose moving across the valley, only soon to disappear into one of those valleys. The Denali landscape is large and feels as if it is never ending.
Fall in Denali happens much earlier than in the lower 48. By the beginning of September it is sometimes over and winter has already moved in. A bull moose looks over the quickly changing landscape and knows winter will soon be upon him.
Denali National Park is a huge park. Every mountain valley looks small because the mountains are so large, but most valleys are miles across. Traveling from one mountain range to the next is risky for dall sheep. Their predators are in the valleys waiting on them. This herd wasted no time and ran most of the way across the open tundra.
The amount of time I search for animals in Denali, as compared to how much I find and get to photograph animals, is dramatically different. So when I find an animal in an amazing place, it is that much more exciting. Watching these three moose move together in the lake while the Alaskan range was out was 9 years of waiting. I've looked and looked for moose here, and I just knew one day they would be there. I didn't expect three, but getting to be there and capture them in the lake was incredible.
In a Vast Area
Many of the moose in Denali are very large. They just grow bigger up there. When looking at this picture, though, you hardly notice the moose because the area surrounded the moose is exceptionally big. Denali's open valleys seem to go forever.
In the summer in Alaska the sun rises very early. It is often hard to get out of bed at such an early time. Bears know they only have a few short months to feed, so they don't sleep for long periods of time, but rather naps. This bear was out on the tidal flats looking for clams as a beautiful sunrise happened over the ocean.
When this wolf decided to stand on the rock I got excited. There was no other rocks around in the meadow, and the wolf went and stood right on top of it. Not long after standing there it started to howl. I was very excited about this photographic opportunity.
Early Morning Beauty
Watching a mother and calf move slowly across Wonder Lake as the sun rose was inspiring. The reason they were in the lake was to eat the plants from the bottom of the lake. As the calf looks back it catches a glimpse of the awesome power of Denali.
Don't you wish you could live in a place like this? To be able to live in a place where the mountains and river valleys have so much natural curve, that it feels like it could go on forever.
Alaska is a beautiful state with amazing landscapes and animals. As we were leaving these mountain goats, I noticed how calming of a scene it was. Seeing the mountain goats resting on the cliff by the sea's edge with endless water behind the cliff created a very serene scene.
Moose are not seen very often in the winter in Yellowstone. They move off to different places in the winter. This young moose came out of the woods and walked right to a willow patch. When he was done eating he finished crossing the snow meadow and moved on.
Keeping together a herd of ladies is difficult for a male. The females will often split up and the male will have to follow them and chase them back to the herd. This males herd decided to cross the river and hang out on a small island to try and have some peace.