Our Last Denali Day


So on our final day in Denali NP for 2014, what did we wake up to?  You guessed it … another bluebird day.  :-)  After a restful morning (the only one on our entire trip – LOL), we set out to “troll” again for wildlife and try our luck at Savage River.  As you can see the fall colors were already beginning to pass, though still evident and colorful, their vibrant peak of explosive color was already a thing of the past.


Savage River is a wonderful place for taking a leisurely hike around the Savage Loop Trail along the river, as it meanders its way.  The cold fresh air, the sounds of the water rushing by and the birds calling out overhead, and those clear beautiful skies made for the perfect day to end with in our week long stay at Denali.


It’s just so picturesque.  Knowing that this would be more of a landscape walk-about, I carried my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens mounted on my D800 camera body.  Tom outfitted himself with his 70-200mm f/2.8 lens onto his D7000 … just in case we encountered wildlife.  See, in years past, we’ve gotten amazing shots of the marmot sunning themselves on the rocks along the trail.  So, we were really scouting hard to find some.  Unfortunately, we never did find any and admittedly, I felt a bit dejected.  :-(  But I reminded myself that we had an amazing stay in Denali already and certainly in Alaska as well.


At some point, I saw a photographer shooting something on the hillside.  Of course, I had to know what it was.  Armed with a pair of binoculars, Tom was still unable to ascertain what it was.  Perhaps he was just shooting the landscape, but he had a longer lens.  Curiosity got the best of me and I inquired with another person who had spotted him as well.  To my surprise, he said that there was … wait for it … a LYNX!  I surge of excitement ran through my body as I set off uphill with my … wait for it … 24-70mm lens.  Sweet!  Quickly I realized that I had like… no chance … so I commandeered Tom’s 70-200mm and pursued that lynx.  :-)


OK, now I’ll admit that this are not the stellar shots that I was hoping for, but I’ll take them!


This lynx was intent on observing something … perhaps even more intent than we were on observing the lynx.  LOL  We photographed it for quite some time … just 3 of us … and I was thrilled beyond belief.


Finally, the lynx got up and began to retreat from us, but not before giving us that “vogue” look.  It reminded me of the first lynx that I ever tried to photograph … only that time I missed for 2 reasons:  1. Our shuttle windows were frozen shut and therefore we couldn’t get the windows down.  2.  Once our windows finally were successfully lowered and the lynx gave me that same “vogue” look over the shoulder, I clicked and my shutter, only to realize that I had the shutter speed set to “bulb” from trying to photograph the aurora the night before.  Ugh … don’t you just hate when you’re not prepared?


I vowed to never make that mistake again … you know, heading out without a wildlife lens … just in case!  After encountering and photographing this lynx though, I felt on top of the world again.  See, the lynx was seldom seen in Denali in 2014, since the snowshoe hare have declined in numbers lately, as they run in 7 year cycles in their plentiful numbers – just as the lynx do.  Nature at work again.


So short of the marmot, our wildlife sightings this year were amazing and plentiful.  As we headed to return to the RV, we’re once again treated to this expansive sight.


The colors have finally arrived towards the lower elevations of the park … aka the first few miles within the park boundaries.

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Before we leave Denali NP, we opt to take one last hike in the Riley Creek area.  The trees are showing off beautifully against the skies covered in patchy clouds.


No trip to Alaska, or just about anywhere away from home, is ever complete without our trademark cairn building and an image of our creation.  Built out of river rocks along the Riley Creek waters, Tom and build our cairn … one rock at a time … each representing a year that we’ve been together … united by our love for each other and for nature and the outdoors.  17 rocks in all … & counting  <3

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© 2014  TNWA Photography


It Just Keeps Getting Better (Denali NP-Part 3)


Well, it’s another day in paradise for sure … as we’re greeted to an amazing bluebird day!  Nothing like viewing Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from such a distance away and seeing it without being shrouded in the clouds.


Of course that was the telephoto view, while the below image was the “eye’s view” taken with a traditional landscape lens near the Mountain Vista Trailhead parking lot.  Either way, the beauty is apparent.


New to us in 2014 was the Savage Alpine Trail, which was conveniently located adjacent to the Mountain Vista Trailhead parking lot, near the Savage River Campground.  We decided to give it a shot.  I was immediately pleased when I came across a sign warning of bear activity in the area.  I remember thinking that this was going to be a great hike!


Designated trails in Denali NP are a rare sight to see, as most of this vast wilderness makes only for its own DIY (Do It Yourself) trails.  In the past, one could hike here, but being that it ventured close to the moose rut closure in the fall, it wasn’t generally accessed frequently.  In the beginning of the trail, some boards were used to designate the trail and keep it in good condition.  It was so beautiful as we made our way about 1/4 up the mountain.


About 1/3 of the way up, we were treated to views like this.  Oh yeah!


Before long, the views behind us, actually all around us were increasingly spectacular with our climbing elevation.


Upon reaching near the summit of the climb, Tom took in the view from all around.


It was one of the most breathtaking views … I’m talking 360 degrees … I’ve ever witnessed.  Didn’t matter which way you looked.  I didn’t ever want to leave as I tried desperately to soak it all in … essentially trying to imprint it into my soul … to draw upon in future days when I would once again long for this solitude and immense beauty.


But alas, we eventually had to descend … happily the beauty remained all around us.


And when the mountain views had eluded us, we still had running creek waters to call upon our senses, as the water made its way down the mountain.


In the finale, we were treated to a beautiful gravel path back down to the park road and our RV waiting for us.


We never see those bears that were “frequenting the area” :-(, but we were treated some wildlife sightings, mainly birds, such as this lovely grouse seen almost immediately as it scurried off the path in front of us as we explored.  :-)


Every day and night, we would “troll” those first 15 miles of accessible park road for any wildlife that might be in the area.  Usually it was a moose on the loose, but many have  seen wolf, lynx, bear, porcupine, a variety of squirrels, and other sightings.


On this evening we made our way back to Savage River to try our chance at finding a bear, lynx, dall sheep, wolf, or whatever might be passing through the area, but only moose were found.  Hard to beat the scene though as the sun began to set on the landscape.

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Then when we turned around to leave for the night, I saw this amazing moon beginning to rise on the landscape.  Being that it was still low, it looked amazingly big … and definitely beautiful.  “Pull the RV over right now”, which was a request usually reserved for wildlife sightings – LOL.


After a few shots, Tom thought that I was done, but no … for I knew that the light would be changing again and that the image might become more interesting and beautiful.  As we were waiting for the moon to continue to rise and the colors to emerge, we were entertained by this cute little guy … flying into our RV grill … in search of bugs!  We watched as he repeatedly fly in and out.  It was quite interesting and most definitely entertaining to watch.


Sure enough, the colors began to pop and all I could think was that this was the perfect ending to a perfect day!


We did however have another day waiting for us to explore the wonders of Denali.  I did a mental checklist of the Big 5 … all sightings were accomplished of the moose, bear, caribou, dall sheep, and the wolf.  Denali in its full glory was also accomplished (30% club inductees once again – even better since we viewed it without a hint of a cloud).  Lots of bird sightings … variety of smaller animals … But I was missing a lynx  ;-).  I was still pleased with my luck so far, as lynx sightings in 2014 were scarce due to the decline of the snowshoe hares in the park … a favorite food of the lynx.


Stay tuned for the remaining stories and images from Denali NP.

© 2014 TNWA Photography

Another Day … Another Experience


What a difference a day makes!  Even though it has barely been 24 hours, most of the snowfall from 36 hrs ago has melted on the lower elevations and you could almost watch as it began to disappear from the landscape.  Luckily, those magnificent clouds and fall landscape colors remained.  :-)


When I say that the landscape was bright, I mean it.  It seems as though I almost needed sunglasses to effectively mute some of the colors erupting.  The reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and even tones of blues … all unmistakeable and truly god’s work of beauty.  We felt quite honored to be a part of witnessing this display, as it quickly arrives and just as quickly fades into the muted shades of winter’s landscape.


Once again, the cow moose were plentiful and roaming amongst the willows, as they dined freely.

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As much variety of wildlife that we were treated to the first day, we seemed to hit a bit of a dry spell the next.  Except of course, for the wolf pup sightings!  My friend, Rebecca, told us of her various frequent sightings of the pups, but we hadn’t seen any yet and were quite bummed to say the least.  However, on this day, it was alas, our chance.


Not the most amazing images I’ve even taken, but the experience was quite rich indeed.  This little one paced the road in front of us for quite some time to the delight of everyone on our shuttle.  Once in a while, it did turn around and give us a “vogue shot”, but for the most part we were treated to its backside.  LOL


The grizzly bears of course were out and about as always, though I think that I had heard that earlier in the year, the bear sightings were harder to come by.  Funny how timing is everything, as they say.


Berries are “what’s for dinner?” for these guys at this time of year.  They ingest incredible amounts of berries to provide them the much needed last minute gorging that will serve them well through their early winter and hibernation period.  Having the proper nutrition is mandatory for those sows who will bear cubs during their hibernation.  In fact, if they don’t have the proper nutritional (fat) stores when they den, they may not even produce their young!


If you ever get the chance to travel and visit Denali NP, don’t miss out on a visit to the Eielson Visitor Center, some 70 miles or so into the park.  From there, many amazing vistas await you, as well as several wonderful hikes (of varying endurance levels), which are quite rewarding.  Of course, in 2014, the hikes were either closed due to the high winds or the presence of bears, who also use the trails.  Guess they appreciate the views as well.  LOL.  In the image below, note the hikers below and appreciate the scale of vastness of this incredible landscape.  Also, note that there are very few trails designated in the park … it’s mostly a “DIY” system … that is, Do It Yourself!  :-)


This sow and her cub cruise the hillside, finding berries where they can.  It’s fascinating to me how quickly these cubs learn from their moms about survival, even though the sow will continue to nurse the cub while they’re still cared for by her.


Just look at that CUTENESS!!!


Yes, we were treated to lots of bears in Denali this year and many of them were quite photo-worthy … and not a major stretch for the lens.  ;-)

_DSC5770 Of course, there’s more to Denali than the 88-mile stretch of park road.  Lots of opportunities abound to get out and explore on your own and of course, we did just that.  More to come, so check back often and stay tuned!

© 2014 TNWA Photography


I Didn’t Forget About Denali NP (Who Could?)


How do you know when you’re going to have a great time in Denali National Park?  Of course … when your first image goes something like this … how can you miss!  Denali is always an amazing place, but when you combine the beauty of the Denali wildlife & wilderness with the arrival of the fall colors and add a dash of sensing the beginning of the moose rut, this is what you get.


Of course, on our first day in Denali NP, we were also greeted by the feeling of the arrival of winter as well!


Now some visitors might have been quite bummed to have this greeting waiting for them, but when you reside in the heat and humidity, you tend to be quite excited!  SNOW! … and lots of it!  (Thanks to Rebecca Tifft for snapping this image of Tom & I for us)


Denali NP is unique in that one can only explore the first 15 miles in their own vehicle.  After reaching Savage River, one can only travel to the interior of the park on a bus … whether it be an interpretive one or simply a shuttle bus.  But that doesn’t mean that awesome views and wildlife can’t be found in those first 15 miles.  The clouds in the skies provided for amazing landscapes.

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Shortly after Savage River, one starts to look for caribou, amongst other wildlife.  In the late summer/early fall, the bulls may still have their velvet covered antlers or the velvet may have already been shed, leaving their antlers to be quite bloody looking.


Bears are also quite often seen right outside your shuttle window.  This particular one was walking along the braided river and eventually entered the river to cross it.  Funny … if you look closely, it seems as those this one has white nails.  Apparently, they can have a variety of claw colors, though I found this one quite unusual.  LOL


Sometimes, they are quite far away.  However, the sight of observing this sow and her 2 cubs, as they travelled across the snow covered landscape was pleasing to me.  Gives the viewer a sense of the vastness of the land … as well as the harshness of the winter-like conditions that they and the other wildlife endure.


It wasn’t our first snowfall experienced in Denali, in fact once we had snowfall in July!  You just can’t predict the weather in Alaska … especially in Denali.  What you can predict is that you’ll be treated to some of the best wildlife viewing in the US.  When you get to see the animals in the midst of the snow-covered landscape, you’ll also know that you hit the jackpot!


The landscape itself looks so dramatically different in the snow too, whether dusted with a thin cover of snow or dumped upon, it’s all quite breathtaking.


The iconic view from Stony Hill Overlook is quite different in the snow, but still remarkable.  Now that I think about though … it’s always different no matter what time you visit.  Sometimes you get full mountain (Mt McKinley, aka Denali), which we did on several days while we were there, sometimes you get no view at all, and sometimes you get this partial view.


And the viewing of Denali constantly changes throughout the day, so you can never give up on trying your luck (except of course when it’s dumping snow relentlessly, as it was on our first evening in the park).  :-)


Unique images of the wildlife, desperate to continue to get their fill of nutrition before this unanticipated snow storm becomes an expected daily event, make for amazing photo opportunities.

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Photo ops … it’s not just for the bears … as this adorable red fox entertains us with its own “vogue” looks as well.


In the early evening, the snow cover from the night before had already began to melt, thanks to the clear skies which usually follow the snow’s nasty skies.  More bull caribou are encountered dining on the autumn-kissed tundra.  Below is actually a great example of how the bulls might have their velvet (on left), or may have previously shed their velvet already (on right).  Like most things in nature, everything progresses at its own pace.  The females which are pregnant later in the season will keep her antlers, while the other females as well as the bulls, will eventually shed them after the mating season.


The moose rut usually takes place later in September or early October, so lots of bull moose begin to arrive near the front of the park (i.e. those first 15 miles) about this time and begin to jockey for superiority and the sweetest females.  :-)


Often at this time the females will hang out with other females.  Sometimes they are followed closely by a bull that might be in pursuit.  The bulls are quite patient and wait until the time is right.

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Of course, the sunsets of Denali NP are also a sought after image, though I find myself torn between pursuing wildlife images OR the landscapes … Decisions, Decisions, Decisions … and a nice “problem” to have.  Wouldn’t you agree?


Stay tuned:  More to come from Denali NP and its grandeur.  I promise, I won’t make anyone wait that long either.  :-)

© 2014  TNWA Photography


“Sail Away” With Me


In the last blog post, “Who’s Afraid of the Denali Highway?”, I shared our experience crossing the Denali Highway for the first time.  It was quite exciting, but before we crossed we arrived in Paxson and drove to the first pull off to get our bearings and grab a quick bite in the RV.  It was the evening of our 6th wedding anniversary and I began to think about 7 years ago when we witnessed the aurora for the first time.  The “highway” was going to be quite secluded from any city lights.  I ran outside to assess whether or not we had a chance to repeat our luck.  The sky was beautiful, but heavily scattered with wispy clouds.  Normally, I would be tickled pink, but I was hoping for clear skies.  We proceeded to fix dinner and got to sleep a bit earlier than normal … setting the alarm for 11:30 pm.


When the alarm rang, I got dressed for the cold and the wind, which I could hear howling outside.  Is everything ready?  Camera with proper night shooting settings? Tripod set up? Remote shutter connected?  Fresh memory card?  Fresh battery?  Proper wide angle lens attached?  All systems seemed like … GO.  The stars were brightly lit and that’s when I realized that the skies had indeed cleared.  Yippee!


In & out of the RV I went, trying to get warm from that wicked wind.  On one particular run outside, we saw it … the aurora, also referred to as the northern lights.  It was stretched out on the vast landscape before us.  At this point it was relatively stagnant … just fabulous light which would intensify and then retreat.


Composition … I searched my surroundings for something that I incorporate into the frame to make the shot more interesting.  OK, secret be told, this is actually a really nice outhouse in the lot that we were parked in.  LOL.  I know, quite romantic, but who cares, it was a structure and served the purpose I was looking for.  Now the light was beginning to include a hint of purple hue as well.

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It was then that the lights began to float across the night’s dark sky.  I distinctly remember hearing the wind, feeling it against my face, and I became quite thrilled.  Yes, my senses went back to that first night on August 30th, 2007 … Chena Hot Springs – Tom & I snuggled up under multiple blankets, freezing, as we laid down on top of a picnic table and watched the northern lights as they danced across the sky.  Of course, I would run over to my tripod on occasion to try to capture the experience.


As the aurora intensified and other colors appeared, I no longer felt the cold.  All I felt was the sensory overload that I was experiencing and the endorphins or whatever flowing through my body … touching my soul like only the aurora can.


In some cultures, witnessing the aurora is considered to be one of the most prized events in their lifetime.  Some say that the experience bestows good relationships and fortune on its lucky observers.  We never expected to see it the first time we did, so it was quite the pleasant surprise.  It totally moved us spiritually, as the lights fell like curtains dancing in the wind.


At this point, I thought it was dwindling and I figured that I would be satisfied with what I had already witnessed.  I retreated into the RV and put my PJs on for the night.  Before I got under the covers, I took one my shot at the night skies.  This is what I saw … and all bets were off … in my bare feet and PJs (I’m talking single layered), I ran out with my tripod in hand and began shooting in awe again.  In actuality, it was even colder than before, but it didn’t matter.


Point is, I didn’t even feel it.  Tom stayed inside for a bit, then finally joined me, with proper clothing on, of course.  Oh, and he offered me my jacket.  Always the sherpa.  <3


On August 30, 2008, we got married in Chena Hot Springs in honor of our 1st aurora experience.  Seemed appropriate that we would once again see them on August 30th, some 6 years later.  Sort of like renewing our vows.  :-)  Each year, on our anniversary, we go out into nature and present each other with a gift from nature.  I don’t think we could have asked for a better one.


Reminds me of the David Gray song “Sail Away”.

Lyrics:                                                                                                                                           “Crazy skies all wild above me now
Winter howling at my face
And everything I held so dear
Disappeared without a trace”

I’m sure that wasn’t the actual meaning of the lyrics, but it was to us.  I couldn’t say anything better to describe the experience.  You totally get lost in the experience.  I still get all emotional when I hear that song … ask Tom.  LOL

Coming Up:  A Week in Denali National Park.  Stay tuned.  :-)

© 2014 TNWA Photography






Who’s Afraid of the Denali Highway?


Each year that we travel to Alaska, we always make sure that we experience something NEW … something that we hadn’t tried before … somewhere that we hadn’t been before … or something that we haven’t photographed before.  In 2014, one of our NEWs was traveling across the Denali Highway – from Paxson to Cantwell … all 135 miles of it!


Though this was already our 8th trip to Alaska, it was of course, our 1st across this infamous stretch of lonely road.  Why?, you might wonder.  A few responses come to mind, such as “the more travelled Glenn Highway is wonderful as well”, “the road is too slow for our pace”, “what if we got a flat(s) along the way?”, and being a relatively un-maintained road, “how bad is the road really?”.  The road had a reputation of being primarily washboard like and extremely dusty.  Caution went to the wind and onward we drove.  Well we began on our journey early one morning and we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by almost 24 miles of paved road right off the bat!  The scenery along the way, on this mostly clear day, was unmatched as well.  Like the Glenn Highway, it was breathtaking views, but it all felt so much closer on the Denali, as it climbed steeply up the foothills of the central Alaskan Range.

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OK, maybe not that close … but you get the idea.  :-)

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Everywhere you looked, there were jaw-dropping views.  We found ourselves experiencing “shock & awe”  Awed by all of the beauty and quite honestly shocked that we had never traveled this way before.  Of particular beauty was the area around Triple Lakes … gosh how I wished I could own that cabin!  LOL


At precisely MM 21.3, was where the paved road ended and the gravel road began.  We both paused for a moment – yes, to take the image, but also to vow to each other that no matter what happened, we were in it together and wouldn’t place any blame on each other.  LOL.  We were going full steam ahead in our rented 28′ RV (which wasn’t restricted from the “highway”, but rather not encouraged, with warnings to proceed with caution).  Heck, we figured it couldn’t be worse than the year that we drove a slightly larger RV over Hatcher Pass … not a good idea for anyone wondering about that trip.


Various lakes and kettle ponds dotted the road and the views continued to wow us.


We even got to shoot some hawks along the way.  The wildlife however was otherwise non-existent … but who could blame them for hiding, since it was an active hunting season.  Sort of bummed about that.


Views of Mt. Deborah, Mt. Hayes, Mt. Hess, as well as the overall Wrangell Mountains, Chugach Mountains, and the Alaskan Range were offered up along the way.  At the Mcclaren Summit, the road reaches a height of 4086′, which earns it the 2nd highest road in AK.  The area also serves as a drainage for the Cooper River, Tanana/Yukon River, and the Susitna River.


In the distance, you can see the Maclaren Glacier and the Maclaren River, with the mountains looming even further in the distance.


We found it really difficult to make our way across the highway on our adventure, as we couldn’t have pictured it nicer and so far, pretty uneventful as far as the road was concerned.


All that we were missing was the wildlife, but as I mentioned earlier, I was glad that they were all in hiding.  Though there were numerous hunters camped out, we didn’t see any of their successful conquests … thankfully.


As we neared the 2/3 marker of the highway, the weather began to get dreary and our visibility began to diminish, so we made more of an effort to simply get it done.  Gone were the promised views of Denali, but hey, it was an amazing run while it lasted.


Would we do it again?  There’s a 3-word response to that question … In A Heartbeat! It just goes to prove the point … “sometimes the road less traveled is the most amazing one”.  On a side, for those with good recall and might have been wondering, Yes, we were still talking when our tires once again hit the pavement for the final 2-3 miles.  In fact, I believe that we were closer than ever … very tired, but exhilarated at the same time.

Stay tuned for our unexpected surprise along the Denali Highway … you don’t want to miss it, I promise.  :-)

© 2015  TNWA Photography



Yes, 2014 Was A Very Good Year!


I think one of my favorite times of the year is the New Year.  For some, it’s about making BIG party plans and ringing in the new year with champagne toasts, dancing, and fireworks.  For me, it’s a much more reflective time … a time to take stock in the year’s adventures, personal achievements, challenges conquered along the way perhaps … and especially a time to look forward … to 2015!

I made a promise at the beginning of 2014 – to take the time needed to travel at least quarterly.  I wanted to experience new places, new adventures, new friends, and of course, new challenges.  I had some personal goals related to even this blog and I’m happy to say that I think that I accomplished most of them.  As usual, travel and photography went hand in hand and played a large role in my life for 2014.  I’ll try to re-cap some of it – very briefly – here.

I travel so much with Tom, aka my husband and “sherpa”, and I began to wonder if I could make it into the wilderness shooting without him.  LOL.  So, while he went off to snowboard for weeks on end, I decided to head out to Yellowstone NP in the dead of the winter (Jan) without him.  I wanted to see “what I was made of” … and to my surprise, I realized that when I needed to get it done myself, I actually could!  In addition, I made a bunch of wonderful friends as well on Daniel Cox’s Natural Exposure Invitational Photo Tour.

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For 4 months (Jan thru Apr), I had the pleasure of discovering that a pair of eastern screech owls had taken up residence in our owl boxes, but they graced us with raising 3 baby owlets as well.  I have to admit that it was a challenge, but the experience was incredible!  I’ll never forget my astonishment and joy when we peeked in, via a small “Go Pro-like” camera and saw 3 tiny furry owls, all bopping and circling their heads as owls do.  My heart melted and my love for owls immediately soared!

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In Feb we joined my daughter and her husband for some snowboarding/skiing in UT and a bit of photography as well.  I spent a few days at Antelope Island SP capturing bison, deer,  pronghorn, eagle, coyote, porcupine, and other images.  Loved it!

_DSC7954 _DSC8107 Of course, Everglades NP is always just around the corner for us, so several trips to photograph the migratory and resident birds were part of our year.

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Orlando Wetlands Park was a new location for me Jess was gracious enough to show it to me one day.


We also made it up to Vero Beach and Blue Cypress Lake for some osprey photography with Jess and Michael … always a pleasure.


In April, we flew out to Denver and made the circuit between Denver, Colorado Springs (Garden of the Gods), Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Monument Valley, Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Dead Horse Point SP, and eventually Rocky Mountain NP.  For part of the trip, we met up with Rodney Lange for some landscape shooting, including some night photography.  We had such a great time!

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From May to June, the early mornings and early evenings were filled with burrowing owl photography, as we’re blessed with having many burrows within 30 minutes of our home.  To spend hours with the parents and their young and literally watch them grow up before our eyes is always a thrill and an honor.





Another endearing time was had in June when I almost got to witness the hatching of a newborn sandhill crane colt.  I say almost because my friends and I witnessed the cracking of the egg, the hole in the egg enlarging, but the threatening skies kept us from the “whole enchilada” as they say.  The next morning we were thrilled to photograph the newborn colt as it already toured around the wetlands with both of its parents.  Yes, I’m also a craniac for sure!  (Shout out to Monique!)



A quick trip to the Palouse was also made, since I was already in San Diego for work.  The rolling hills of the farmlands and the shadows cast during sunrise and sunset provide for variations on the landscape … always beautiful.


“The mountains are calling, so I must go” … for me that was the message I received from the Canadian Rockies.  In late June and early July, we traveled within Alberta and British Columbia to Yoho NP, Jasper NP, Banff NP, Lake Louise, Waterton Lakes NP, as well as Glacier NP in Montana.  Landscapes to die for were around every corner and amazing wildlife, as well as the company of good friends … I didn’t want to leave.

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Our last “big trip” was to Alaska, on our 8th trip.  It was as good as any of the others … and in some ways, even better.  From photographing the brown bears of the Russian River area, to flying out for a few days of Katmai NP bears (my personal favorites) – in the company of fellow photographer and friend Tom Blandford, to touring Valdez and kayaking the ice caves, to crossing for the first time the Denali Highway on our way to Denali NP and being treated to incredible scenery along the way during the day and the mystique of the northern lights in the darkness of the night, and finally varied conditions while staying at Denali NP, including a winter snowstorm … it was all a blast.  All that while catching up with our Alaskan friends.  :-)


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It seemed fitting that on Dec. 20th, I returned to the Deering Estate to photograph the winter equinox and it’s sunrise … OK, I know that was one day early, but who cares, it was fabulous either way.


So, as you can see, 2014 was an amazing year for us and one that will be hard to beat.  Of course, we’ll give it our best to do so.  As I reflect on my goals for this new year, I can assure you that 2015 will have some exciting adventures and big events as well, so stay tuned for more.


Wishing everyone a wonderful and healthy 2015, with lots of photographic opportunities either in solitude or in the presence of friends (both good), but always one with nature.  :-)


Debbie & Tom Tubridy (TNWA Photography)

Ice Caves Anyone?


Valdez, AK has a lot to offer for the outdoors enthusiast and we ventured there this year with a particular item on our “To Do” list.  While we’ve gone sea kayaking in Alaska on a few of our trips, and also ventured out on glaciers for hiking and ice climbing, there was still something related to both of those activities that we had yet to do…. ice cave exploration on kayaks.  So while we were in Valdez, we did just that.


We set out for the Valdez Glacier, aptly named as it is located near the town of Valdez.  Just a quick drive to our launch site, where before long, we were on our way on the icy waters filled with icebergs.


For this trip, I was well equipped with my gear … 2 cameras, landscape lens, telephoto lens, and trusty iPhone.  I quickly informed Tom that though we were sharing a 2-man kayak, that he should be prepared to do the lion’s share of the paddling, as I would be shooting stills and video.  :-)


We would let the others get ahead of us, so that we could stop as we needed, always being sure to keep them in sight.


As we meandered through the beautiful iceberg formations, I could help but feel myself at total peace with this place and I couldn’t wait to get to the ice caves, not really being sure of how it would be.  We passed an area where the icebergs had trapped a pool of water within it and I desperately wanted to portage into its center, though I knew that it wasn’t possible.


See, the glacial and iceberg formations are constantly changing from year to year, season to season, month to month, week to week, and even day to day.  Not to even mention what they say about the “tip of the iceberg” … and what lurks below.  It was so beautiful to even hear the ice crystal in the glacial features popping, the water dripping, the wind blowing.


When we reached our first preliminary ice cave, I was taken back by the beautiful blue ice at its center.


We were to paddle up to the formation, turn around, pose for a snapshot, and paddle out, but Tom had specific orders to pause for as long as we could so that I could take it all in.


As we approached the terminus of the glacier, I could feel my excitement mounting and I was thinking about how fortunate we were to have such beautiful weather.


Ice caves of different stages of development were seemingly everywhere.  Take a look at the amazing blue ice shining so brightly.  It was stunning to be in the midst of it all.


Below is an image of the Valdez Glacier terminus and all of those “rocks and dirt” in the foreground are actually part of the moraine of the glacier and under it all is the actual glacial ice … on top is the earth which had been deposited on it as it made it way in its advancement stage.  Of course, very few glaciers are advancing today.  It always amazes me how this type of glacier almost appears to be a big driveway into parts unknown.


We grounded our kayaks, secured them, and began our exploration of the actual glacier and some of its features found in this limited portion (think a speck on an elephant) of the Valdez Glacier.  Glacial pools were numerous, as were crevasses and moulins.  It was all so amazing.


In an attempt to provide some perspective, I chose to take an image with some of the others in it.  This is one place you don’t want to lose concentration on, as it could turn dangerous, if not deadly, real quick.


Not sure why I opted to keep my life vest on … possibly too cold … probably too lazy.  Haha!


Of course, this guy decided to forego the glacier hike part of this tour and chose to catch some zzz’s instead.  I guess he didn’t want to take chances either, as he kept his life vest on as well … possibly for comfort … probably too lazy as well.  Guess the paddling was too strenuous for him.  I wouldn’t know, as Tom became “paddler Tom” for me.  :-).  OK, I admit, I’m a bit spoiled.


After lunch and hiking, we returned to kayaking and were really treated to an amazing ice cave.  As we lined up to enter individually, I readied the gear.  After hearing the feedback from the kayaks ahead of us, I decided to take video on the way in and still images on the way out.  For the purpose of this blog, I changed the order of the images.


As we entered the cave, we first had an obstacle of melting ice water falling all around us to go through.  All I can say was C-O-L-D!  Immediately I forgot the cold and my sense took a visual turn and all that I could say was …”OMG!” … I’m talking repeatedly!  Each turn inside the cave was followed by that OMG statement and since I was sitting in the front of the kayak, I always had that momentary sneak preview before Tom could catch his glimpse.


Turn after turn, it just kept getting better.


Do I look forward, to the left, to the right, behind, or overhead?  I had sensory overload and a touch of attention deficit going on at the same time.


Natural water fountains flowed and others used it to fill up their water bottles but my hands and my mouth were way too busy to think of that while in there.


The glacial blues were all around us, along with your standard icy looking surfaces.  I didn’t want to leave.  “Keep going” I kept telling Tom.

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At one point, Tom drove my head into the ice and I started to duck and I became aware that I didn’t want to tip this kayak too much … water was way too cold, of course ice was our only surrounding, and my gear couldn’t be jeopardized, as we still had another 11 days to our trip.


Though I didn’t want to leave, I knew that we had to, so we carefully back out the way we came.  I wished I knew how far that cave went, but suffice it to say, it was a good distance.  Never once did I fear for my safety inside it, though clearly this was a precarious place to be should anything disastrous happen.


All in all, it was a wonderful day doing that “something new” on what was actually our 6th wedding anniversary.  Very appropriate for the day.  :-)


Can’t help but wonder where we’ll be on our 7th … I’m a lucky girl!

In the meanwhile, stay tuned for the next post:  The Denali Highway Adventure.

© TNWA Photography




A Season to Give Thanks


As we approach the Thanksgiving holidays, I can’t help but take a moment to pause and reflect on the things in life that I’m most thankful for.


Overlook at Dead Horse State Park in Utah – taken by Rodney Lange… Thanks!

First and foremost is Tom.  I know that I joke about him being my sherpa, but he’s a whole lot more.


“Sherpa” Tom out to find some bears – Katmai NP & Preserve

Tom is my husband (6+ years now), my best friend, and my partner in travel and adventure.


Taken by Kelli Williams somewhere in Utah …Thanks sunshine!

I know that it’s a bit cliche to say, but he “completes me” … more importantly, he gets me … and embraces it.


Thanks for the shot Dave! (www.goseebears.com)

There isn’t a person in the world that I would rather share my life with.


Selfie @ Dahmen Barn, Uniontown, WA

He shares my spirit of adventure and my love of nature.


Glacial hiking at Valdez Glacier

Sherpa Tom

Sherpa Tom is also a fine photographer – Yellowstone NP

He encourages me to spread my wings, always encouraging me to follow my heart and my dreams.


Snowy egrets – Orlando Wetlands

Debbie ready for action. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Thanks for the image Dan Cox of Natural Exposures!

Always willing to try or go somewhere new, life never gets boring.  :-)


Tom looks out at the Dead Horse SP landscape


Powder Mountain chairlift selfie in Utah

Then there’s my family… starting first with my daughter, Kelli.  I don’t think that it’s possible to be more proud of her than I.


~~~ Kelli, my “sunshine” & apparently my “unicorn” as well~~~ :-)

She really follows her dreams and stays true to herself.  Currently 1/2 way through her first year of PA school, she continues to amaze me with her dedication and drive to excel.


NSU Jax Physician Assistant Class of 2016 Inauguration


Kelli & her husband Mitchell … both amazing!

With all of the studying that she endures, she still finds the time to have fun with her husband, Mitchell, and their dogs … or should I say “poodles”.


Snowbunnies – Utah


Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico

I’m grateful also to my mom and her husband, who live nearby and always a part of my week.  Growing up my mom always set a great example of integrity for me, combined with a love for life.  Though they think that Tom & I have a severe case of “wanderlust”, truth be told, so do they, only their travel is usually on the seas.


My wonderful mom


My mom & her husband in Jackson Hole, WY

Family reunion

Family trip to Yellowstone NP


Holiday celebration with the family, Florida

I’m grateful that Tom & I have always had good and rewarding careers, which have allowed us the resources to do some of the things that we love.


Landing @ Katmai NP & Preserve

Out on the Russian River

Taken on the Russian River by Todd Stein … Thanks!

Of course, it goes without saying that our close friends and neighbors are also something that we’re grateful for as well.  Whether it be for a social gathering over dinner and drinks or lending an ear to help each other through this journey of life, it’s always a needed ingredient to a happy life.


Denali NP snowstorm in August. Taken by Tom; edited by Rebecca Tifft.

Last, but not least, I’m thankful for the opportunities that have presented me, whether it be travel, wildlife encounters, photographic adventures, or just the ability to clear my mind in the great outdoors.

Not a cloud in the sky - viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Not a cloud in the sky – viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Yes, life is good, and my thirst for travel and experiences that I have yet to have will surely continue … those who know me, know that it doesn’t take a lot to make me happy … just give me a few bears, owls, (and other wildlife is welcome as well) and a great view!  Remember … “life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.  That’s my motto … and I’m sticking with it … THANKFULLY!


Coastal brown bear @ Katmai NP & Preserve


Great gray owl looking down at us in Ottawa.

Two Jack Lake, Banff NP, Alberta, Canada

Two Jack Lake, Banff NP, Alberta, Canada

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  May you spend time surrounded by those whom are important to you and get the chance to reflect upon what you’re thankful for and celebrate life.


Upstate NY winery … Cheers to all :-)

Next up:  Kayaking the Valdez Glacier ice caves!

© 2014  TNWA Photography





Our Return to Valdez


Yes, the Kenai Peninsula can be a drizzly place, but so can the Glenn Highway on your way to Valdez.  This was my view for pretty much the entire 6 or so hour drive.  On the bright side, I didn’t make Tom pull over incessantly.


As we reached the Richardson Highway and made our way over the Thompson Pass, a 2,805′ gap in the the Chugach Mountains, it was totally fogged over with limited visibility.  The pass is considered to be the “snowiest place in AK”, averaging 551.5″ of the white stuff annually.  In the winter of 1952-1953, a record 974.1″ was recorded.  The single day record was also achieved in 1955 with 62″ within a 24-hr period!


On our way into town, we stopped off just outside at the salmon hatchery and were treated to views like this one.


Here the Solomon Gulch Hatchery Fish Weir, seen below, is designed to harness the adult pink and coho salmon as they return to their spawning site and then die, completing their circle of life.  Here the salmon artificially spawn and the eggs are harvested with a goal of 230 million for just the pink salmon.  Each female salmon produces on average 1700 eggs and the harvesting yields 10-15 million per day (as their goal).  It’s really quite amazing to see.


Part of the process is the fish ladders that the salmon must navigate on the way.  We would watch them and cheer them on as they put forth much effort to successfully reach their destination.


All of this fish activity, of course, brings the birds …


… the bald eagles also find their way there to get their share …


… the seals also come to check it out …


… and of course, the bears frequent the area for their easy meal.


While we didn’t see bears at the hatchery this year, we were able to have a black bear come out to greet us.  Funny, we could see movement, but no bear.  Then all of a sudden I guess that it smelled us.  It got up from feeding on the grasses to check us out.


To better ascertain as to what we were and what our intentions were the black bear began noticeably catch our scent.  See, bears have eyesight somewhat the same as a human, but their sense of smell are light years superior to ours.


There were obviously a family of magpies living in the bushes and they made it quite known that they didn’t want that bear hanging around their home, as they officially escorted the bear out of the area.  LOL.  The bear looked so indignant as it moved on its way.

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We don’t get the opportunity to photograph many black bears, so it’s always a thrill for us when we do.

_DSC3942 The Duck Flats area along the Richardson Highway, just outside of Valdez, yields views such as this as you look towards Port Valdez.  The Trans-Alaska Pipeline terminus is directly on the other side.


A few days later, when we were leaving Valdez, the skies started clearing up and the landscape which was earlier under the cloak of clouds emerged.


One of the highlights when in the Valdez area is the Worthington Glacier, nicely viewed from the only road into town and accessible by foot, or I guess I should say crampons.  Viewing the glacier reminded me of a few years back when we took my daughter and now son-in-law to Valdez and enjoyed a day of glacial hiking, ice climbing, and whitewater rafting.


Rainbows almost always abound in Alaska, so they’re usually part of everyone’s memories.


Earlier this year, during the winter of 2013-2014, there was an epic avalanche through the canyon … called the “biggest avalanche ever seen” … which essentially took out the only road into Valdez and left its residents at risk for obtaining supplies and the subsequent flooding.  Most traces of that avalanche are now gone, but the wildlife seems to be less this year.


Before we leave the area, I noticed the clouds were quite varied and interesting and I couldn’t help but snap a shot or two.


Well, that’s it for now.  Our reason for travel to Valdez was also to explore the Valdez Glacier and its infamous ice caves via kayak, so we’re off to do that, but not before having a little bit of fun in town…  :-)

IMG_1994Stay tuned for the Valdez Glacier and our day touring the ice caves … Very cool!

© 2014 TNWA Photography


Visiting the Kenai Peninsula


Whenever we venture over to Katmai NP, we always do so via the quaint town of Homer, which is on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.  About a 4-5 hr drive from Anchorage, the drive itself has a lot to offer … wildlife and views … and it’s one that we always enjoy.  This year though, much of it was done in the rain, well drizzle, and low lying clouds.  That always makes the “views” part of the drive a bit muted.

The stretch of roadway is almost a certain for spotting moose along the way.


When we arrived into Homer, we’re immediately awed by the views … Kachemak Bay and the Cook Inlet, mountains galore, and glaciers, which were difficult to see clearly due to the fog layer.  Homer is probably my favorite town in all of Alaska, at least of the places that we have been.  It’s been proclaimed the “Halibut fishing capital of the world”.  They describe it as “a drinking town with a fishing problem”.  It’s a combination of seaside, artsy, eclectic, and definitely outdoorsy.  I’m sure that in the height of the season, it can be also quite touristy, but we’re not usually visiting at that time.  Adventures are there for the taking and wildlife is also ever-present.


Bald eagles are probably the most known residents and can be found just about anywhere.  Such a thrill to roam about town and hear them calling out consistently in the distance.  This eagle is on the job watching for signs of tsunami activity.  LOL


When I looked towards the lake where we take off from to go to Katmai, this is what I saw.  I didn’t hold much hope for a flight out in the morning, but as you know, we got off without a hitch.


Gulls and black-footed kittiwake often live in their own version of “public housing” as they make their nests in the pilings of the underside of the dock on the bay.  It’s really quite the impressive colony!


Yes, it’s quite peaceful to sit at the end of the “spit” and look across the bay and see those layers of mountains, with lakes and glaciers adorning them.


The fog also hanging in the air and giving quite the mysterious impression of what lies on the other side.


Yes, the sea is quite revered in Homer, as its fishing industry is a predominant one, so they pay homage to mermaid … however by the looks of things, I don’t think that the eagles and the gulls respect her as much.  :-)


Near the fishing hole on the bay side of the “spit”, you can almost always count on spotting bald eagles as they wait for the changing tide and the fish that come with it.


This year, while walking around the town, we came across this sight and so, you know I had to check it out.  Turns out to be an art gallery with a very fitting display, sure to attract attention.


I especially loved these tiles placed together giving the illusion of the fireweed, which was still a bit in bloom when we were there.  Like I said, it’s an artsy town.


On our way to the Beluga Slough, I spotted this sign on the road, which I found quite humorous and appropriate for the town as well.


Last year, while driving past the roadside of the slough, I was treated to the “dance of the sandhill cranes” and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Not so this year, but we were treated to sighting of the pair and their colt foraging out in the slough.  Such a precious sight.  Sandhill cranes are also a bird that you can hear and see in the distance at almost any moment.  Love it.

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We stayed on a campsite on the beach and woke up to views like this each morning.


Nearby is a town of Anchor Point, where we visited to spot some wildlife … moose and bald eagles mainly, but another thing we found quite beautiful while there were the beaches.



Tern Lake, though absent of terns in late August, is a place that we stop every year, always with different views and impressions.  This year, it was quite overcast, the fireweed had already past its bloom stage, and there were very few birds occupying the lake … just a few loons and a solo trumpeter swan.  As much as I prayed for a moose to emerge into the landscape, it didn’t happen.  Maybe that’s for next year.  :-)


Now we’re ready to go across the Glenn Highway and onward to another seaside town … Valdez, where we hope to get out and do some kayaking and wildlife watching.  Be sure to stop by and check it out on Thursday.  We’ll be watching!  LOL


© 2014 TNWA Photography

It Just Keeps Getting Better! (Part 3: Katmai NP)


Continuing on with Part 3 from our recent trips to Katmai NP & Preserve….

We last spent time with this amazing sow and her young solo cub, where the cub had one thing in mind … nursing on mom, while we were in awe of the purring sounds coming out of the cub while doing so.


However, soon mom had something else on her mind also … salmon … and soon leaves her cub briefly to enter the river in search of something to eat.


Doesn’t take too long before she has found herself a nice catch.


Consuming the salmon is short work for these skilled bears.


Meanwhile, the cub awakens and becomes curious as to where mom went.  Standing on its hind legs is generally reserved for danger, simple curiosity, or getting a better view of its surroundings, as in this case.


Once it spots its mom, off it goes to join her.  After some tugging and growling with the mom over the salmon catch, the cub finally wins that battle … as it learns how to take care of itself.


And so she goes … back for another meal.


We observed numerous bears over the course of the day.  This particular bear has caught itself a fine specimen.


Not just any salmon, but a female, as evidenced by some of the roe flying about as it is chomped on.


As it emerges from the river, often shaking off the excess water is one of the first things that they do.


We noticed that this bear headed straight towards us with its catch. Awesome cooperation buddy!


Then we happened to see it glancing to its right.  That’s when we realized what was going on ….


This even bigger bear had set its sights on it, and its salmon, as it came charging in, then halted.


Right about then, this bear walked right past us, stared at us as if to test our intentions, then planted himself strategically on the other side of us, basically putting us between it and the other bear.


From there it began to devour its salmon.  See, this was a smart bear, for it came by us and sat near to us, knowing that the other bear didn’t want to be near us.  Sows do the same thing often enough with their cubs.  Though not this year, but in years past, we’ve had them essentially drop them off with us for unofficial babysitting duties.  LOL


Meanwhile the cub from earlier was up on the hillside, along with it entourage of gulls, which were just waiting for any leftover scraps from the cub’s salmon.


As we began to leave (myself most unwillingly), I noticed the cub, its belly full of salmon and its mom’s milk, settled down and lounged back – it’s “buddha belly” all swollen and peered down at us.  It was one of the cutest things I had ever seen!


So, was our time in Katmai National Park & Preserve!  Of course, our guide Dave was gracious enough to capture our farewell shot – Tom B, me, and my husband, Tom.  Yes, I believe there were smiles all around … even on Dave!


If anyone is interested in bear viewing – day or overnight adventures – in Katmai, I highly recommend AK Adventures (www.goseebears.com).  Dave Bachrach is our guide, who came to us highly recommended by our other guides from years past.  We’ve ventured out with Dave for 3 years now and have enjoyed our trips with him immensely.  Of course, for flying out to Katmai, we also highly recommend Wes and Angela of Beluga Air in Homer (www.belugaair.com).  Flying in the bush can be a concern for many, but we always feel in good hands.

Until next year … I hope that the bears have a successful winter’s hibernation and remain free and safe in 2015.

Oh, and of course, watching all of those brown bears catching and eating all of that salmon made us hungry for our own sushi … Yummy!


Up next in the blog … Homer, AK … my favorite town in Alaska!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

Another Day … Another Adventure! (Part 2 Katmai NP)


Ready for some more bears from Katmai NP?  I know that I was … so off we went again on an adventure in search of coastal brown bears.


From the get-go, I knew that this would be an excellent adventure … the skies were less threatening and we had an amazing flight over the Cook Inlet and across the vast landscape of Katmai, looking for the perfect place to land.  Translation … where the bears are congregating in numbers.  :-)


As we approach our initial location for the day, one thing to keep in mind is that the float plane must land in a lake large enough to support a landing, but also a take-off.  The bears generally aren’t in those lakes, but in the ribbons of waterways that connect the landscape, as you can see in the this image.  Each winding turn in those creeks, can yield a bear … often unknowingly until they are right there.


Once landed, it’s time to pull up our boots, de-plane (us and all of our gear … ugh … always a pivotal moment … please no butterfingers when transferring camera gear), and secure our anchor.  Once safely on land, the real anticipation for the day to come begins.


The day always begins with a nice brisk hike in search of the bears.  About at this point, I realize how grateful I am that I have my “sherpa” with me (aka my husband .  Our deal is … he carries the camera gear, I carry the food, fluids, clothes, and other supplies.  I think I make out the best … his pack easily goes 60+ pounds.


On this day, we returned to Funnel Creek, where we had photographed this same sow and her cub yesterday.  We tried to cross the river, but the river was still quite swollen and the water level was too high to do so.  We spent some time with several of the bears from yesterday, a family of yellowlegs, and a very curious red fox.  I was quite thrilled with the fox, but not able to get great shots, because it got so close, that we could have touched it.  Not sure who was more surprised … me or the fox.  LOL


After some time, our guide Dave and Wes decided to load up and try another location that looked pretty good as they initially flew over.

When we arrived at the river, we could immediately see several bears going about their fishing.  Every bear using a different technique … some chase relentlessly … some sit on the side of the river and simply wait … many navigate the waters with their heads underwater in a behavior known as “snorkeling”.


As we visually navigated the landscape for the bears, we spotted this one bear … an enormous bear literally in the river with its head resting on the bank while sleeping, we believed.  It’s hard to tell in this image, but it was so big and its name must have been Jim… you know, as in Jim Croce’s “you don’t mess around with Jim”.  LOL


Before long, the bears were seemingly emerging from all different directions.  Over the horizon, through the vegetation, down the river, across the river, and sometimes even behind us.


Each made its way down to the river in search of salmon.  All were respectful of each other and especially of “Big Jim”.


They didn’t seem to mind that we were in the travel zone or photographing them.  They simply would observe us, and deviate from their course just a tad, and carry on.  Of course, we and our lenses, keep close tabs on their whereabouts.


Directly across the river from us was a sow and her single cub.  They rested in the sunshine and cool air.  Then it happened … the cub climbed up on its mom and started to nurse.


Before long, we could hear the purring from the cub, as it nursed and we all knew that our day was complete.  If you have experienced this for yourself, you know what I mean, but the sound of cubs purring while nursing will make even the most hardened heart melt!  I still get emotional just remembering that moment.

This image reminds me of just how vulnerable a moment that this is for mom and cub.  As you can see, mom tries her best to stay aware of her surroundings and any impending threats.


After 3-4 minutes, the nursing was over and they both sat up.  If you look closely, you’ll see the “milk mustache” on the young cub.  Sows will nurse their cubs for the entire span of time that the cubs remain with the mom.  Such good mommies they are.


Before long, onto their sides they both go, as they roll around and scratch their bellies and bottoms.  Such is the life of a bear!


Mom awakens first, probably because she’s now hungry, as they cub remains on its back in bliss.  When we watched these two, I couldn’t help but notice that the cub constantly had to keep itself touching its mom the entire time … whether it be it’s head, back, or in this case, feet … and I can’t help but relate to how human children do the same.


Want to see more images from Katmai? … stay tuned for Thursday night, when Part 3 of Katmai gets posted!

© 2014  TNWA Photography


Katmai … Here We Come!


Rain, rain, rain … combined with fog, wind, and completely overcast skies.  That’s how it was the night before we were to fly over to Katmai NP.  When we woke up, it wasn’t raining, but the fog, wind, and heavy skies were still ominously present.  I told Tom that I wasn’t in a panic as I packed my gear, fluids, and nutrition … I was pretty sure that we weren’t flying out.  Thank goodness I was proved wrong!  Somehow, the fog on the lake lifted just enough and the trip was given a green light.

With us this year, we had the pleasure of spending a few days in Katmai with Tom Blandford, a friend of mine whom I met through the world of photography.  In addition, we had 2 lovely ladies who had been shut out by bad weather for several days already.  As the plane lifted off from the surface of Beluga Lake, I began the anticipation of what was to come… like a child the night before Christmas.  :-)

Because the weather had been very rainy, the rivers were a bit more swollen than usual, so we landed at “Just Enough” lake … that is, just enough room to land and take off safely.  LOL.  We unloaded and began our trek through the wilderness of Katmai NP & Preserve in search of coastal brown bears and lots of salmon.  See, they go hand in hand.

While we got to peek at a few bears from a distance, it wasn’t until we came across one not too far off that we began to get anxious with our gear.  Anticipating a bear’s next move is always challenging, but we seemed to get it right and before long we were greeted by a fabulous specimen coming around a corner, catching us a bit by surprise.


Or guide, Dave, made sure that we were respectful to the bears personal space.  Our goal is also always to observe the bears in their natural behavior, rather than having them adjust to our presence, we would adjust to theirs.


That plan always works perfectly … this bear accepted us being there without any reservations and before long, began chasing salmon swimming in the creek.


We remained patiently observing this bear and let it pass us by.  It’s always quite the thrill for me when our eyes meet for the first time … OK, actually every time … to me, it’s the validation that we’re connected at that moment … in each other’s world, if you will.  Always amazing as well how they pass us so peacefully, not like how many would be led to believe.  For bears are actually very peaceful and predictable … honestly!


Often people want to know how close we get to these magnificent creatures.  My answer varies with each situation, location, bear, etc … but you can see in this image that it’s not very far away at all.

Thanks to Dave of Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Thanks to Dave of Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Generally, the bears pass by and get on with their day at hand which mostly revolves around chasing down and eating salmon.  They are quite skilled at it too!


Sometimes lens choice is an issue and your full image view becomes simply a head shot due to their proximity to us.  It’s a GOOD problem.


Not all of the bears are chasing salmon, some are simply catching a siesta in the wilderness landscape.


Of course, before long, they’re up and repeating the cycle … find salmon … chase salmon … catch salmon… eat salmon… and so their day goes on.


Somebody looks as though they got caught raiding the cookie jar … or should I say the salmon pool.  LOL


One of my favorite sightings of the day came with a sow and her young cub, probably a yearling.  We watched them as they made their way down the creek towards us.  The sow was a beauty too … a real blondie!


Her cub followed her dutifully, not too far behind, and it was already checking things out for themselves along the way.


As mom went on the hunt for salmon ….


… her cub did the same.  It was amazing to me to see how it already had quite big paws and claws!


When the young one would get a fish from mom, it would climb up on the shore to consume it, as mom continued to fish.


Now on this trip, it wasn’t only bears of course.  There were a few birds … yellowlegs, juvenile harlequin ducks, ptarmigan, and of course, gulls.  The ptarmigan were so much fun to watch as they congregated in a group of perhaps a dozen and all took flight, with their beautiful markings showing the signs of the upcoming seasonal changes.


Yes, it was a fun filled day so far and I for one, didn’t want it to end.  Looks like my new little friend didn’t want us to leave either!  LOL


We pulled up our waders and made our way across the treacherous creek.  OK, maybe treacherous is a bit of an exaggeration, but the current was moving quite quickly and the water level was a bit higher than our boots!  The river rocks were also quite slippery and the water quite cold.  As I made it mostly across the creek safely, I quietly thanked goodness that Tom (aka my sherpa) had my gear safe and sound, and most importantly, dry.  What would I do without him?  I did however have a hole in my waders so I drained them out on the other side… woo hoo, it was quite refreshing!


Heading back to the plane is always the worse part of the day, but we still had more time to spend in Katmai, so it was a bit easier to swallow.  Here’s a shot of Tom B. (aka not my sherpa Tom) and our pilot Wes of Beluga Air.


That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more adventures from Katmai NP and my beloved coastal brown bears!

Thanks to Dave @ Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Thanks to Dave @ Go See Bears for capturing this image!


My Birthday Present :-)


Continuing on with images from our 4-day stay on the Russian River, our 2nd day (which was perfectly timed for my birthday) was filled with lots of brown bear activity as well.  This time we saw a total of 6 different brown bears and I really couldn’t believe that we had been so lucky.

Almost immediately when we got down to the river we were greeted by the 2 cubs from yesterday.  They were already out fishing in the river and succeeding in making the fishermen scatter…. and the wildlife watchers spring into action.  Early in the morning, most days it’s usually just the “hard core” photographers who are on the river banks, since the mornings are cold, damp, foggy, and strangely, a bit eerie and isolated.DSC_1404

When waiting for the bears, it’s weird because sometimes you have no idea where they might be coming from.  I remember one year a black bear was eating a salmon under an elevated section of the boardwalk as people walked by looking for them.  Of course, to keep the hysteria limited, we pretended to not know where it was either.  LOL.

As the bears entered the river from the opposite river bank, we set up for a day full of activity.  Of course, they didn’t disappoint us.


Before long they were chasing down the salmon and thrashing them about, ultimately leaving the river for the nearby bank and off into the wilderness, while they ate their prized catch.


DSC_8017 This day, even mama bear came down to visit us … I think she was telling me “Happy Birthday”… LOL.  She was a big sow too and a bit grumpy at times.  No one on the river wanted to mess with her that’s for sure.


She joined 2 of her cubs on the river for some fishing.  Eventually her 3rd cub came down to join the party, but didn’t stay very long.  As they made their way down the river, we scurried along as well.  For as much as I utilize the services of “my sherpa” Tom, when the bears are on the move…. I can manage by myself just fine.  :-)


Both cubs began to fish out of the same hole and I sensed that something was about to happen.  Look at how cute this cub is as it glanced over to see its sibling with a nice salmon.


Up onto its hind legs it went, as it struggled with that poor salmon.  I was so excited as it stood there, giving some different takes on their day of fun.


I kept observing them and noticed that they approached each other again near that fishing hole.  I said to everyone in my immediate vicinity … they’re going to play fight … and sure enough they did!


They were exchanging punches to the head, shoulders, and face … with the mouths open and growling.  I was so excited, I was hardly able to continue shooting.  You know, you get to that point when you question – should I shoot or should I simply watch.  Of course, my shutter finger won out, as it usually does.  LOL

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After 2-3 minutes of playing, they quickly gave themselves a time out.  Funny, it was pretty unanimous too.  Like boxers retreating to their corners, the action stopped and I feared that it was over.


Then the bell rang again for Round 2!


Eventually they tired of all of that playing around and they went on to fishing in the river.  Play time though is essential to their learning process and survival later in life.  Bears live in a dominance and hierarchy-based structure and even at this young age, you can tell who is already the dominant bear.


Another sow and her solo cub were in the area and the cub came down to greet us also.


It wanted so badly to enter and fish in the river, but mom was having nothing to do with allowing that!  So it sat down right in front of us …


… and began to scratch itself and seemingly have a chat with us.  :-)  OK, I know that I’ve used a bit of imagination there, but it was quite the thrill for me and I believe that my heart melted with our encounter.


Then the “Party Police”, aka the 1st mama bear, showed up on the scene again and I think she had lost sight of her 2 renegade cubs.  She was clearly upset and began huffing, stamping, and slobbering with a frothy saliva.  She eventually realized that they had gone quite a bit down the river, as young cubs love to test their boundaries.  Funny, how parents and their young, whether human or any wildlife, tend to be the same in that respect.


I think that this guy, when he was spotted by the sow, knew it was it trouble.  LOL


Of course, the more dominant cub hid behind a boulder in the river.  Not really, but it did seem to be engaging in a peek-a-boo behavior, doesn’t it?


Eventually they returned to the area where they originally accessed the river earlier.


Now that other sow, with the solo cub, came down to the river and though it wouldn’t let the cub, it didn’t hesitate to do a quick “dine & dash”.

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Though we saw the bears again very briefly the next morning, their appearances were limited and usually in the darker hours.  As sad as I was to depart the Russian River without a formal good-bye, I was so thankful of the present they shared with me … especially on my birthday.  I will always remember that joy I experienced that day.

Stay tuned for more bears … Katmai NP!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

8’s a Charm!


Yes, 8’s a charm … our 8th trip to Alaska for our photographic journey into the wilderness and all of the fabulous wildlife, landscapes, and adventures that it holds.  Each year, we try something different … perhaps a new geography, a new drive, a new activity … whatever it may be.  Almost immediately we realized that we left our camera-carrying backpack at home, so first of all, there was a trip to Stewart’s in Anchorage to remedy that.  On our way back to the RV, I spotted a totem pole, which sported 3 definite sightings that were high on my wildlife list … a good omen, I reasoned.


After getting some necessities at the local Fred-Meyer, off we started on our journey, headed to the Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula for 4 days of bears, we hoped.  As we checked in at the campground, the attendant told me that for the first time in seemingly weeks, there were bears sighted on the river that morning.  EXCITED didn’t even begin to summarize how I felt.  In less than 30 minutes, we were on the boardwalk in search of bears.


Before long we encountered fishermen telling us the whereabouts of the bears … a sow and her three 2nd year cubs.  The anticipation was mounting.  Once we reached the gravel bar area, we caught our first glimpse of one of the cubs.


The action on the river was varied … whether they were simply traveling along the gravel bar checking out their surroundings …


… or they were emerging from the hillside and entering the river …


… or chasing down salmon …


… and leaping into the air and pouncing onto the schools of salmon, as they were swimming upstream for the spawning, many of which had already reached that red & green, spawned out salmon look.


Though spawned out salmon are beautiful to look at, being all colorful and impressive looking, they are not fit for human consumption.  The bears, however, seem not to mind.  Once they grab the salmon they then prepare to consume it, or in some occasions, simply seem to “play” with it, seemingly tormenting the poor thing.

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Of course, it’s also fun to see them moving about the shoreline and across the fallen logs that they encounter along the way.  I’m always impressed with the way that they can maneuver the landscape so gracefully.  This is the bigger of the three young ones … quite big in my book!



The 3rd and larger cub tended to stay more with its mama.  The other two cubs tended to hang out together quite a bit, fishing together along the banks of the shore, reaching into the fishing holes and under the ledge shelves of the banks.


Sometimes they would play for fun along the way.


Sometimes it was more personal and the encounter would be a bit more testy, if you will.  See, the smaller cub was the better fisherman as far as I could tell, or at least the most determined to go out and catch the salmon.  Problem was that the other cub would know when it caught one and would venture on over and assert it’s dominance over the other one and ultimately would end up with its salmon.  You can see it doing so in the next image.


To me, there’s something about a bear’s eyes.  When you’re able to see them and capture the catchlight in their eyes, it’s an amazing moment.  You feel “connected”, or at least, we do.


Funny thing about the river, bears, and salmon … there are always gulls around ready to pick up the scraps left behind.  Most times they loiter in the background, though sometimes, they get in the way, especially for the photographer.  So many times, I found that my images captured were photo-bombed by the gulls.  Even the bear seems to agree.  LOL


It really gets exciting though when you’re sitting on the bottom of the river access stairs, photographing the bears, and one turns and heads directly at you.  Now some might be a bit nervous about that, but by now we know and are pretty confident that the bears aren’t interested in us with so many salmon around…. but it still makes your adrenaline peak and your heart race, as well as the endorphins release secondary to the joy of sharing this adventure with the bears.


We absolutely love “visiting” with them, in their natural environment, as they go about their day.  Most visitors to the river feel the same, whether there for photography or fishing, though once in awhile you get that person who doesn’t feel the same.  I’d like to think that they would feel differently if they saw bears the way that we do.  It’s all about being educated about their behaviors, reading their signs, and giving them the respect that they deserve.


Until the next blog post …. this will be the end!  :-)


Stay tuned to more bears on the Russian River!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

Hot Dog !!!


One of the days, as we were traveling along in the Canadian Rockies, we came across a grizzly bear in the not too far distance.  “Stop the truck!” I said to Tom.  It was after all our first grizzly of our trip … see most of the bears we encountered were black bears.  So Tom, being a good sherpa, pulled over so I could observe and photograph the bear.  It sure was a beauty too.


This bear was wandering around on the rocky landscape, in a location that I will never disclose.  I’m not being secretive about wildlife sightings, but it will make sense by the end of this post.  Promise  :-)

This healthy looking grizzly laid down on the gravel and began to roll around.  Oh, how cute, I thought … it’s scratching its side on the rough surface of the rocks.   I was ecstatic with the angle because I just LOVE bear paws and claws!


It rolled over … kind of like a dog in the grass …


… and it continued to roll around … over and over.  I was happily snapping off images and couldn’t believe what an awesome sighting this was.

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Every so often, it would glance over its shoulder to get a glance at the crowd that was quickly forming.  Most people were out of their cars.  Many tried to get closer to this bear, which made me very annoyed.  I mean, come on!  Here we had this gorgeous bear … acting like a bear!!!


Hot dog!!!, I thought.  We sure did hit the mother lode opportunity.  This bear was giving us quite the show!!!  Didn’t think that it could get better.



Well, you know when things seem too good to be true?  After not too much longer, I checked my screen and saw something that haunts me still to this day.  Something that was so inexcusable and disturbing.

That’s when I noticed that the grizzly bear was rolling around, like a dog when it rolls in something dead does.  But this was not your typical road kill.  This bear had been thrown hot dogs … not just one, not two, but 5 hot dogs!!!  Many of the images above were worked on to eliminate what was the reality, as seen in those below.


Good Lord, who does that???  I’ve seen all kinds of things over the years, but I think that this is the thing that bothers me most.  Spending a lot of time in various locations photographing brown bears (grizzlies), I sure hope that whatever IDIOT person was responsible for giving this bear HOT DOGS! or any other kind of human food, will be caught and fined.  I mean, come on!!!


This is clearly not the case of a bear who raided a BBQ grill, took the hot dogs to his own little picnic area, to sniff and roll around in.  This was deliberate!  I can’t even imagine why anyone would do this.  The reason that I will not disclose this location, and put this post out of order of our travels, is that this is not the fault of this bear.  Happy to report that he didn’t even eat them.


When a wild bear is TAUGHT things that aren’t natural for them – like eating hot dogs provided by a human (no, make that spectator(s) standing within close vicinity – closer than regulations mandate), it can only lead to bad things for this poor bear.


As I mentioned, this grizzly bear didn’t eat the hot dogs and eventually got annoyed with the onlookers, who were slowly, but surely, invaded its personal space, so it left the area and went off into the brush.  After we hadn’t seen the bear for about 5 minutes, Tom & I took a plastic bag and picked them up.  I didn’t want this bear – or another – to come back for it.


Please remember that a FED BEAR is a DEAD BEAR !!!

After I wrote this post, I thought to myself, I could call this shot of the bear … Dead Bear Walking!  I know that this is not the norm for human behaviors and that especially anyone who is reading this post, would never do something like this, but I felt that I had to share this with everyone.  Let’s all get a dose of COMMON SENSE out there PLEASE!!!

More from our trip to come … so stay tuned!

© 2014 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography


Winding Down


Beginning to wind down from our trip to the Canadian Rockies and Glacier NP, we stayed overnight in the town of Hungry Horse, MT, not far from the western entrance of Glacier NP.  I just love the little touches that this hotel/RV campground had.  It was the perfect way for us to begin our last day in the park.

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As I said, this place had an RV park, but it also had several other accommodation options … that being soft sided tents (complete with queen bed, table, lamp, chair) or the very appropriate for the area teepee (also very nice on the inside).

photo 3On my first trip to this area, when my daughter was much younger, we opted for one of those teepee units (of course, in another city).  It was so much fun for her, but could have been a problem for my mom, as she began to change into her PJs at night…. let’s just say that you should check them to be sure they’re not “see through” at night with a light on.  LOL.  So much for the reminiscing.

Hungry Horse, MT was named for a moment in history when 2 horses, that had wandered away from their sleigh during the harsh winter of 1900-1901, were found about a month later, severely weak and suffering from starvation.  They were able to be cared for and eventually recovered their health and so a town and other things were named after that occurrence, including a dam.  Of course, as most men do, Tom wanted to explore the dam, so off we went.  The Hungry Horse Dam Project was for the production of hydroelectric power and also flood control.  Its concrete dam stands at 564 feet, which at the time made it the 2nd largest dam in the US, though it now stands as the 10th highest.


(Sorry for the harsh lighting)

As all dams do, to provide flood control, there’s some sort of relief for the water and this dam uses a bell-mouth spillway.  It’s known as a glory hole and this one is actually the highest one in the world!


It really was quite impressive to see in person and imagine how it must be to see the water entering the spillway from its perimeter as the needs demand.  A nice Visitor Center was open during our visit which was like pulling teeth to get Tom to leave … he’s so into that kind of stuff.  :-)  Then on top of it, I asked how often they call upon that glory hole and she said that it should be happening in “not too long”.  I would imagine she meant several days, so “NO, Tom, we’re not waiting for it!”  LOL

What we didn’t realize was that the dam was just the beginning of the offerings of the area.  It was part of the Hungry Horse Reservoir Recreation Area – a 31-mile long road, surrounded by over 25 mountain peaks, encompassed 23,800 acres, including 170 miles of shoreline.  Fishing, boating, waterskiing, and swimming were just some of the area activities which it provided for.


Of course, for me, it offered amazing views of the south fork of the Flathead River, birding, wildlife photography, etc.


We both wished we had more time to explore all 31 miles, but as I said, vacation time was winding down and I had a plane to catch in the morning.  :-(


Our final destination for the evening was Helena, MT, where I would board an early morning flight.  But not before 2 more important stops along the way.  The first was to explore a now lesser traveled area of Glacier NP, known as Two Medicine.


Before the Going to the Sun Road opened in 1932, Two Medicine was once most popular for the visitors arriving by train.  The area, one which I had never visited, offers the guest amazing vista, adventurous trails to hike, waterfalls, and of course, lakes.


The native Blackfeet Indians consider Chief Mountain and Medicine Mountain to be the two most sacred places with Glacier NP boundaries.  Other cool things to note are that the Two Medicine Store there is designated a National Historic Landmark.  For those dinosaur history fans, they’ve also found fossils there of Late Cretaceous Dinosaurs and their eggs.  Pretty cool in my book.


Eventually, we had to leave the beauty of not just Two Medicine area behind, but also of Glacier NP.

Onward we drove through some pretty beautiful landscapes of rural Montana, on our way towards Great Falls, MT.  Synchronizing our schedules to perfection, we met up with our friends again, Donna & Buck, for some dinner.  To our surprise, they showed up on Buck’s brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle.  Though I kept calling it beautiful, I was quickly notified that you don’t call it “beautiful”, but rather you say it’s “sick!”.  Haha.  Don’t they just look awesome on it?  The question remains as to where in the world he would fit their camera gear!


After dinner, it was time to say our goodbyes and head on down for some final packing and rest (if that’s what you call 3-4 hrs) before the flight home…. always the worst part of vacation for me.  :-)

We hope that you have enjoyed our journey through the Canadian Rockies and Glacier NP with us.  By the time that you read this, we’ll be already home from our 2014 trip to Alaska, so stay tuned for more about that!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Back In The USA


Finally, our time spent in Canada was coming to a close.  We woke up on this, another gorgeous day, and began our drive back into the U.S.A.  We were headed to Glacier NP in Montana … the other half (and bigger half) of the Wateron-Glacier International Peace Park,  shared between Canada and the US.


Once we successfully crossed the border back in to the US, of course, the gorgeous landscapes just kept coming.  Northern Montana is such an amazing place to visit.


We had a special day of fun planned for today, for we were meeting up with some long-time friends that we hadn’t seen in well … too long!  More on that in just a few.  :-)

We were a bit nervous about how the weekend would turn out, since we still didn’t have a place to stay and the rooms around Glacier NP had been booked for quite some time.  The road itself – The Going To The Sun Road – hadn’t even opened up for travel due to the heavy recent snowfalls and local avalanches, until the day before we arrived.  But as they say, things have a way of working themselves out.


We drove on up to the summit of Logan Pass (on the Going to the Sun Road) and it was quite apparent why the road had just opened up … there was quite a bit of snow up there.


You know … you think that you’re prepared for anything, then nature throws this at you.  Haha.  Where did you pack the snowshoes, snowboards, and skis Tom?  What?  You didn’t think that we would need them?  Think again baby!

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It was such a glorious day to spend in the great outdoors.  Views of mountains, blue skies, wispy clouds, and green forested landscapes were pretty much everywhere!  We even saw some bighorn sheep walking the mountain ledges and some mountain goats on the landscape covered with snow – all TOO far away for a quality shot.  I’m talking “micro dots” even through the binoculars!


It’s OK about the distant wildlife sightings.  We were enjoying another sighting, which we appreciated even more!  Our friends, Buck and Donna Shreck drove on up from Great Falls, MT to spend some time with us.  As many of you might know, we’ve known them for many years and photographed with them in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming … it was wonderful to catch up with Buck (he’s looking great and feeling awesome) and Donna (just as sweet as always), as well as finally meet their dog, Abby, who was a bundle of energy and fun!  What a fun day reminiscing about the past and a bit of planning for the future.  Let’s not take so long next time.  :-)

DSC_6918We even got to photograph a moose together as we spotted it making its way through the brush.  Of course, there was that magnificent looking bald eagle too that decided a fly-by was all that we were going to get.  :-)

Tom and I stayed at Glacier for another day and just focused on having fun and exploring the area.  Found these circa 1930’s Glacier NP Red Bus collection, which features a canvas roll-down top that can be pulled back to allow visitors to see the beauty of Glacier, from just about every angle!  Didn’t venture into one, but I thought it was fun looking.


Our second day in the park was beautiful as well.  Whether it be the mountain peaks against the landscape, sky, and clouds or one of the many waterfalls who call Glacier NP home, it was all so magnificent.

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At Glacier NP, they have strict guidelines as to who can safely travel on the park roads … and as you can see below, it’s for good reason.  The roads are quite narrow, have no excess shoulder in areas, and have a low clearance as well.  We made it through safely in Tom’s truck.


Once again, at the summit of Logan Pass, I was a bit drooling about not having our snowshoes with us.  Yes, we’re from Florida but have snowshoes … actually an anniversary gift to each other one year, if I recall correctly!  :-)


We did venture up the Hidden Lake Trail, which on this day, had a “hidden trail” as well.  Eventually, we turned around when we realized that though it was cool enough temperature outside, we failed to bring any food or water with us, nor sunscreen.  Mental note to self … don’t do that again!


Gorgeous views continued on the eastern side of Logan Pass as well.


We also spotted some interesting landscape features along the way.  It always amazes me what you find when you just take a few moments to relax and take it all in.

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We settled in for a quick and delicious bite at the restaurant at the Lake McDonald Lodge, which had some amazing views as well, like the one shown above.  The area itself was a bit crowded for my taste, but who could blame it … look at this amazing day!

More to come on the next blog … more Glacier NP and also the Hungry Horse recreation area and dam!  Check it out!


© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Did I Ever Tell You That I Liked Bears?


My very favorite interactions with the wildlife happened one early evening.  We had just finished an early dinner in Waterton Lakes and I was feeling a bit tired.  “Let’s just take a drive through to see if anything’s out” Tom suggested.  I didn’t want to feel like the party pooper, so I agreed, but didn’t expect anything too exciting.  Thank goodness Tom suggested our drive because we came across a “wildlife jam” on the two-lane road.

Not knowing what was up ahead and realizing that it was still quite a bit up the road, we pulled over in a designated pullout.  We debated what to do … do we wait patiently for our turn, which undoubtedly means when the wildlife is gone … or do we get out, but not knowing what it was, I didn’t want to be “that person”.  Within a couple of minutes, we could see people leaving the scene and heading back to their vehicles.  Dang it, we missed it, I thought, but at least I wanted to know what it was.  When I questioned one of the spectators, he said it was a cub up a tree – close to the road.  I asked the stupid question … was it gone already?  To my surprise, he said no.  I figured that the park ranger must have been up there and made everyone move on, I mean they were impeding traffic for sure.

Finally, when it was clear, we made our way closer and sure enough, it was a dark black bear cub up a tree … the cutest thing ever!


As I snapped away a few shots, I wondered where mom was.  A few others had joined us and no one knew.  I thought that perhaps it was abandoned and had genuine concern for its well-being.  Before long, I could see another cinnamon cub even higher up, but trying to shimmy down.  Also, the most adorable thing … and still no momma bear in sight.


It was amazing to see them skillfully make their way down that tree.  We had a parks vehicle pull over next to us and I thought that we were going to be told to leave, but they actually thanked us for doing the right thing by pulling over – right side of the vehicle on the grass, with the left still on the road.  I asked about momma bear … they didn’t know.  My maternal instincts kicked in and I became the designated momma until it could be found.  :-)

There she was, waiting for them to come on down.  She must have ordered them up – probably due to the onlookers getting to close.  :-/


As they reunited with their momma, these little cubs couldn’t have been any cuter!  They were frolicking and running amongst those beautiful wildflowers from the last post.  Yes, this was precisely the same place that Tom & I had earlier hiked.

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Every so often, momma bear would stop and wait for them to catch up.


They would promptly oblige her and race each other to join her.


I secretly prayed for them to stand up … dang, my wish was their command.  First, the cinnamon cub stood up for me….


… followed promptly thereafter by the black cub joining in.  I couldn’t believe how wonderful of a sighting it was and I blessed I felt.


As they ran around a bit, every so often they would stand up again to investigate their surroundings.  I was beaming with delight!!  No joke.


Mom would periodically venture on back to them, just to be sure that they were behaving and that all was well.   She would then continue on with her grazing.


We were all in our cars and no bears felt threatened.  It’s so wonderful to watch bears … well, just being bears.  :-)


It’s funny how you could literally see this black cub using its nose to sniff out details about its surrounding coming to it via the wind.


Is this the poster child for bears or what?  Love it!


“Momma, there’s people watching us … I can see it and smell it!”



Several times park personnel stopped by us and asked us something quite interesting… they wanted to know if we saw the person in the 1st “wildlife jam” (the cubs up the tree) that was nasty to the onlookers and impersonated a park ranger and ordered everyone to leave!  They were quite serious about finding the person, as they had gotten several complaints about the rudeness of the individual.  Again, they thanked us for our time and said that if we learned anything about that encounter, to let them know.  So that explains why everyone was leaving when the wildlife was still around.  Probably explains the cubs being up the tree as well.

Eventually we realized that we had enough of the amazing encounter, though honestly I could have photographed them forever.  Tom finally got me to agree to let them be … but not before another shot of momma bear and each of the cubs!  Heehee.

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We drove back to our lodging with a HUGE smile on my face … kind of like when I’m flying back to Homer from Katmai NP.  Now, and only now, can I leave Canada!

Next blog post will feature Waterton Lakes NP’s sister park in the US … Glacier National Park.  Stay tuned!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com


Waterton Lakes NP – Here We Come!


Well, Good Morning!  What better way to start a fresh new day than this amazing breakfast!  Rocky Ridge Mountain Lodge is a wonderful B&B in Mountain View, Alberta, not far from Waterton Lakes NP.  The accommodations are wonderful, the people are very friendly, but the FOOD is beyond description!  Yum, Yum!  Makes me want to stay all week!

photo 1 Even as we walk out the doors, photographic opportunities abound, as this magnificent barn is right outside.


But onward we go to Waterton Lakes NP.  A bit about the park itself … it has been described as “where the mountains meet the prairie” and one of the narrowest places in the Rocky Mountains.  It was designated in 1895 as Canada’s 4th national park and is the smallest NP in the Canadian Rockies.  It shares a border with Glacier National Park in Montana, US.  In 1932, both parks united in their purpose and they together were named an International Peace Park, a symbol of peace and good will between the United States & Canada.  In 1979, it received the designation as a Biosphere Reserve.  In 1995, UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park a World Heritage Site.  Quite cool!

We first ventured out to Cameron Lake, a lovely lake nestled between the mountain peaks of the Akamina Ridge.  Outdoor activities in the area include hiking, but also water activities such as kayaking and canoeing.


The hike at Cameron Lake is an easy one, yet affords the guest a wonderful experience and views.  If one is lucky, you might even find some grizzly bears feeding on the mountainside.  We didn’t … but we did find LOTS of hungry mosquitos!


Towards the southern end of the lake, the 49th parallel north actually runs through and into the United States – Glacier County, MT.  So these paddlers, if they keep going will actually paddle from Canada to the US.  How cool is that?  What a great icebreaker statement to make in a group setting – I once paddled from Canada to the US – LOL – I can hear it now.


Rivers and creek abound seemingly everywhere in this gorgeous park.


Wildflowers were just beginning to present themselves and they were so beautiful.  No matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t capture their beauty and do it justice.


Over 1/2 of Alberta plant species can be found in Waterton Lakes NP.  Now that’s quite impressive!  Tom & I hiked amongst them for a while, of course, looking for wildlife.  Nothing much seen during the day.


We visited the area again in the evening and found a quite different situation … this place was crawling with bears!  More on that in the next blog post, but I did want to show this cinnamon black bear (yes, black bears don’t have to be black … they can be blonde or often, cinnamon, as in this case).  Well, the cool thing about this very cropped image below is that this bear was about 150 yards away when I first saw it and snapped an image.  At that point, this bear started running towards us (yes, I was I was in my car).


I snapped off a quick series of images as it came closer to the road and crossed quickly right in front of us.


I continued to shoot him/her until it was about another 100 yards on the other side of the road in the adjacent field.  I remember being impressed with just how quickly it traveled.  As I posting this image, I got the idea to check the time lapsed from the first shot to the last that I took.  How long do you think it took for it to travel approximately 250 yards?


It was precisely less than 8 seconds!!!  Now I know that some of us think we’re fast … but come on, there’s no way you could outrun this bear!  Keep that in mind the next time you’re hanging out with bears … :-)

As we were heading back to our lodging, we came across these two sub-adult bears.  One was black, the other was more blonde … both were black bears and were probably just evicted from the mom.  They wandered the hillside together and seemed to enjoy each other’s company as they figured out how to survive on their own.  See, mama bears don’t raise cubs that suffer from “failure to launch” syndrome, like some humans do.  LOL.  Maybe some humans could learn a thing or two from bears.  Actually, I know that we all could.  :-)

_DSC0908More bears in the next blog, as we continue to explore Waterton Lakes NP!  Stay tuned for more.

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.comWat



Driving Through the Countryside


All set for our travels out of the Lake Louise/Banff area and on to our next destination … Waterton Lakes National Park, but first I had always heard of the Cascade Ponds, had never been there, and wanted to experience it for myself.  Our day turned out to be a blah one and I was totally unimpressed with the bright orange plastic fencing, etc in the background.  But I had to just take one anyway.  :-/


So far during our trip, we encountered lots of black bears, a few grizzly bears, lots of elk, some mule deer, and bighorn sheep.  We hadn’t seen a moose yet, but our luck was changed when we found this moose taking a swim in a small pond.


It’s funny, because after spending lots of time in Alaska, I tend to come across ponds near forested areas and I always say how it would be prime moose territory.  Well, that’s kind of how this afternoon went as well.  I had to laugh at how it casually swam around for a bit, eating the vegetation, and checking out the onlookers.  I couldn’t help but notice all of the flies that were surrounding the poor guy.  I’m sure the water provided a welcome relief from them … everywhere except for his head!


Eventually the moose decided that he had enough of the pond and slowly, but surely made his way first towards us, then laterally out of the pond.  We watched as he disappeared into the forest.  I remember thinking how fortunate we were to spot him enjoying the water and quietly wondered how many other ponds had we passed where the moose had just exited the scene.  :-)


A little fun along the road towards Waterton Lakes … when we came across a barb wire fence with wooden posts … but each post was adorned with a hat.  I would imagine that those driving by would see it and make their own donation.  It wasn’t just a few either …


… as the fence went on and on!  I wished at that point I had a spare hat to “donate” and make my mark, but I needed the one that I had, as the sun was out strong.


OK, so one of the most beautiful sights I remember seeing in the Palouse area of Washington state was the fields of canola crops along the way.  I thought that I had left it all behind, but alas, here were more.


It reminded me of a golden carpet … all woven and full of texture.  Tom denied me the right to run through them, probably for good reason.  LOL


Tom doesn’t like this shot due to the power lines, but hey, I love it anyway for showing the contrast between the golden canola fields and the irrigation trench that ran through it.  Oh, did I mention those magnificent building clouds?


Along the way I had a flashback to my early college years, where I started out pursuing agriculture and I began to wonder why I changed from that to nutrition science.  Funny how things turn out, though I guess they are somewhat related.  I believe that this drive was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken.  OK, back to the present!


Once we arrived at Waterton Lakes National Park, the first sight most visitors see, and drool and marvel at, is the Prince of Wales Hotel.  It sits perched high and overlooks the Upper Waterton Lakes.  It was built by an American, versus a Canadian, railway company (still the only one in Canada) and opened in 1927.  It was built to lure American tourists across the border during prohibition.  In 1995, it was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.  It’s simply a site for sore eyes!


We didn’t stay there though I’m sure it’s lovely.  We stayed just a bit away in a town called Mountain View at a lovely B&B.  Gorgeous countryside, gorgeous views, and an incredible sunset.


More on Waterton Lakes National Park on the next blog.  Stay tuned.

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Wildlife & Landscapes of Banff NP


Another adventure in Banff National Park started out early in the morning with a sighting of a collared grizzly bear (hence no photo taken) and her two spring cubs.  They were busy sticking close to mom while she was grazing on the grasses.


Not sure if they totally understood what they were doing or why, but they were certainly giving “grass grazing” a fair shake of their own.  They were so incredibly adorable!


On our adventure drive, we came across a herd of bighorn sheep ewes and several lamb as well.  One of the momma ewes stopped and gave me a discerning glance, as if to determine if I was friend or foe.  The others went about their activities, but she remained perfectly still and steadfast in her heavy stare.


I hadn’t noticed but she had a lamb right beside her laying down in the grasses.  All of a sudden, it stood up.


Then they began to run and I thought to myself … what did I do to frighten them?  But I knew it was sudden and purposeful … and they were running towards me for most of the run, then continued on past me.


It simply warmed my heart to see this little one prancing right along side of its mama.  Love how it would get airborne with all 4 feet off the ground at once.  :-)


As I was trying to figure it all out, I turned around and this is what I saw ….


So, they weren’t running from me, but from this beautiful red fox off in the distance nestled in the woods.  That was incredible to me that they knew it was there.  I hadn’t heard it or seen it, but somehow they knew.  That’s one good mama!

We left the area when they ran, but then returned about 30 minutes later and tried to find them again.  Sure enough, we did.  But this time they were down the embankment a bit and on a cliff edge, so I didn’t pursue them any further.  Mama checked us out, then the lamb peeked its head up.  My heart melted  <3.


I knew that the lighting was very harsh from this angle, but it didn’t matter to me.  I mean, how cute is this little lamb?  In a weird way, I could sense that they were comfortable with us being there.  In the wild, sometimes animals with young ones feel comfortable enough with “proven humans” that they feel more protected in their presence.  I had a feeling that it might be the case right now.


Not too much further we found this ram laying down somewhat near the edge of the road.  It seemed to tolerate us quite well too, as I hung outside my window snapping images of him and his amazing curl.


After some time, it got quite interested in us and approached us – slowly, but surely.  Before long, a few other cars saw it, stopped and pursued it, and I had to bite my tongue to not say anything.  Though the one guy who was out of his car and remained there as it approached him probably needed a change of his drawers when the ram brushed up against him, as he pinned against his car.  I believe I heard him mumble “don’t gore me” at that precise moment.  LOL.  I couldn’t help but think that he at least learned his lesson, as the ram passed him safely.


We arrived at Two Jack picnic area much later than we anticipated due to the wildlife sightings, but that was well worth it.  Luckily, the wind was still at a standstill and I was so impressed by the view!


I couldn’t decide if I liked the first one better (closer up) or the second one (further away) with that amazing reflection as well, but with the added clarity of the rocks through the clear water.  I think probably the second … how about you?


The wildflowers everywhere were an added bonus of delight and beauty.


We then ventured into the town of Banff and as we did, for some strange reason, I thought I saw a moose!  I jumped out and totally abandoned Tom in the traffic.  LOL.  Of course, it wasn’t a moose, but a really nice looking bull elk … nice rack, eh?  This is the view of him as these two hikers turned a corner without seeing him and were probably 4-5 feet from him.  They were quite pleased that I warned them and may have needed a “fresh pair” as well when they saw what was directly behind them.  LOL


Any wildlife photographer knows all too well my next statement … you never have the right lens with you when you need it … yes, I was trying to shoot this bull elk, from close range, with my 300mm prime lens.  So, I quickly had to change my plans and shoot its antlers only.


Banff, the day after Canada Day, was quite crowded, so we didn’t stay long.  Just wanted to capture this shot of Bow River.


The Vermilion Lakes Drive had been closed due to aggressive bears in the area, but had just re-opened on this day.  It’s always a special spot to spend some time.  There were numerous kayakers out that day and I remember telling Tom that we had to bring ours next time.


Mount Rundle looming in the background, with the complimentary wispy clouds … so beautiful!


It was quite a warm afternoon that day, so we took off our hiking shoes and dipped out feet and legs into the cool water of the lake.  We laid down on the dock for a bit, soaking up the sunshine, the sights and sounds of the area, and the fresh air.  Yes, this is the life and I could easily get used to it.  :-)


Who wants to venture off now to Waterton Lakes National Park???  I do, I did, and so will you on the next blog post!  Stay tuned ….


© 2014 Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com


Bow Valley Parkway


One evening, we timed our adventure to the best time that we could, considering the restrictions … see more below.  So, as we left our “home”, we could hear a Columbian Ground Squirrel calling out loudly, essentially begging for his image to be taken.  Of course, for good luck, we obliged.


No trip to the Canadian Rockies and Banff NP would ever be complete without a trip down the infamous Bow Valley Parkway … especially for the wildlife enthusiast.


See The Bow Valley Parkway, aka Alberta Highway 1A, is about a 48-km scenic secondary highway which parallels the Trans-Canadian Highway between the town of Banff and the Village of Lake Louise.  It offers beautiful views along the way, but it’s best known for its wildlife habitat.

DSC_6585It provides critical habitat for the larger carnivores, such as the wolves, cougars, and bears, just to name a few.  During March 1st through June 25th, there’s a time restriction placed on travel on a 17-km section between the Trans-Canadian Highway/Bow Valley interchange and Johnston Canyon Campground, with no travel allowed from 8pm to 8am.  To maximize our chances of seeing wildlife, yet still allowing us to do other things in the morning, we decided to head out at around 6:30pm.

It wasn’t long before we came across our first and only wildlife on the drive …



This bear seemed completely oblivious to us as it went about its feeding ritual.  I loved how the bear was in the process of shedding it’s winter fur as evidence on its rump.


We also had to laugh quite a bit as this one sat down near us and scratched away on its apparent itchy spot!

_DSC9023 We’ve driven this drive before and been skunked on that visit, so at least this time we saw this bear.  But it made the trip worth it all anyways, by the amazing views along the way, such as these.



That and the fact that it was virtually empty of traffic and tourists.  Yes, we were pleasantly surprised!  I couldn’t help but wonder how it would be at 8am … or how it would be on June 26th, when the restrictions were lifted.  Either way, I’m impressed that they actually try to protect the animals and support their existence and the ban on traffic allows the predators to use the roadways as they travel in pursuit of dinner, etc.


Would I visit there again?  Absolutely!!!


Next up:  More from Banff National Park … fox, bighorn sheep, elk, and … you guessed it, more bears!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Heaven on Earth


By far, I think that one of the most beautiful places in the world is the Village of Lake Louise, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies.  It has so much to offer … landscapes with mountains, glaciers, streams & lakes … wildlife sightings of bear, mule deer, and perhaps elk … solitude, yes, solitude in a touristy town, now that’s quite the feat!

When you visit the Canadian Rockies in the very early summer and you want to take some “just prior to sunrise shots”, you’ve got to be prepared to get up very early!  LOL.  We stayed in the northern end of Lake Louise and had about a 30-minute drive to our first destination, so it was early!

Moraine Lake is a glacially-fed lake within Banff National Park, just outside the boundaries of the Village of Lake Louise.  When the snow melt reaches it peak, in about mid to late June, the lake turns a magnificent blue … due to the refraction of light on the rock flour suspended in the lake, much like at Peyto Lake in the earlier blog.  If this view looks vaguely familiar … it should for it is hailed as one of the diamonds of Canada.  In the backdrop of the actual itself is what’s called The Valley of the Ten Peaks (the mountain peaks that is).  This view has been honored to be on their $20 bills in the past.  It’s absolutely breathtaking!


There are several trails from the area offering different views of the beauty.  The one below is from the Rockpile Trail – a short hike with a climb up onto literally a pile of rocks which offers the viewer some elevation.


There’s also another trail off to the left called the Consolation Lakes Trail.  It’s much longer and a higher elevation climb and offers incredible views as well.  We’ve done it in the past, but not this year.  See, Moraine Lake is known for its concentration of bears and Banff NP takes bears quite seriously.  Often trails are closed due to higher bear activity.  Even more often precautions are in place, which include restrictions to hiking in the area.  Hikers may only venture out in parties of at least four, carry bear sprays, and be no more than something like 3 feet from each other.  They say … Prepare (bear spray & education) … Be Aware (watch for signs of bear activity) … Let Bears Know That You’re There (make noise to avoid a surprise).  Funny, the bears are one of the reasons I’m there!  LOL    So we didn’t take it this year, but we did make our way around the lakeshore trail a bit.  Can you imagine canoeing anywhere else???  Beauty beyond any belief!


Now in the Village of Lake Louise, there’s actually a Lake Louise.  That’s where the famous hotel is located.  It’s very beautiful as well, but to me, I much prefer Moraine Lake.


Just outside of that area is probably my favorite place of all … Herbert Lake.  It’s incredibly beautiful, much less crowded, and a little slice of heaven on earth to me.  Every, and I do mean every, time that we drove by the area, I absolutely make Tom stop there, so I could absorb in all of that beauty.


It’s not just the mountain reflections that are beautiful there … even the trees all lined up on the shore offer beauty and awe.

DSC_6494I literally could just stay here all day and get variations of the magnificent place.  Speaking of wildlife, we saw lots of traces of bear activity there, though never ran into “Yogi” or “BooBoo”.  Good thing … we were just two and had no spray … which is something we personally never carry anyway.  Seriously, I don’t think that this area was part of the restriction anyway.  I wouldn’t go breaking their rules anyway … I have a feeling that they’re pretty serious about it.


Not too far along the Icefields Parkway is another cool place … Crowfoot Glacier.  I’m pretty sure that it’s a bit smaller than 3 years ago when I was last here.  Kind of sad.


Bow Lake is also an amazing place to see.  It also offers amazing reflection opportunities early in the morning or when the wind is absent.



Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is a resort nestled on the shore of Bow Lake.  Quite an interesting place which offers fabulous views right outside your door.  As you can see, it’s also quite isolated, which to us is a major plus!


Tom loves to play around with his macro lens and shoot some of the wildflowers we find along the way.  These are a few that we saw on a hike in the wilderness, right after lunch one day.



Before we headed back to our “home away from home”, we decided to check out Peyto Lake again.  Big mistake … it was so crowded with hoards of tourists all trying to get that selfie shot with the lake and mountains in the background.  Ugh!  Once I found my opportunity, I took my landscape shot and made a run for it.  LOL.  It may have been crowded, but it sure was beautiful either way.


Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I had to stop one last time at Herbert Lake … breathe, exhale, breathe, exhale, breathe, exhale … and onward back to our lodge for dinner…. and a glass of wine.  :-)


Next on tap … The Bow Valley Parkway in Banff NP.  Stay tuned!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com



Bears, Bears, & More Bears


On the day before the celebration known as Canada Day, we were in Jasper NP.  We left our accommodations very early that morning and decided to explore more of the area.  The first on our list was to travel the Maligne Road, on our way to Maligne Lake.

Before we even got out of the Jasper township, we spotted a few dozen elk, including males and females, as well as some young ones.  Of course, though we had seen more than our fair share of elk already, I just had to stop.


Noticing that one calf was actively nursing on its mom, and not wanted to spoil that moment for them, I had to settle for not the most clear shot of the action.  What I had never noticed before was that this calf would nurse for a bit, then lower its head a bit, then ram it back into the moms chest, as to get the milk better.  It was the weirdest thing ever to me and I wondered what the mom thought about that!


As soon as we began the Maligne Road drive, we almost immediately realized that we were on “bear highway”, as we encountered LOTS of black bears along our way.



Some were alone, while others had cubs with them.  What a face this innocent little one gave us, as I began clicking away with my camera.



I remember thinking what a good mom this sow was, as on-lookers were starting to infringe on her space, but she remained close to her cub, as she did her best to be tolerant of the audience.


Before long, we realized that there were actually two cubs!  Of course, with that change in events, it seemed to double the excitement of the crowd as well.


It was all that I could do to keep quiet and not reprimand the spectators that just had to get closer … I mean, it was a black bear and two spring cubs and these people were clearly not far enough away, but anyone’s standards.  To make it worse, when one person would get closer, someone else had to get even closer!  I started trying to explain to people that they were endangering themselves and everyone else, but most didn’t seem to care.  My only “friend” out there, echoing my sentiments, was a guy from Australia.  Somehow, being a man, a few additional people listened to him, but even he was challenged by the crowd.


Of course, the crowd’s over zealous need for closeness, made the bear retreat and ended up ruining it for everyone.  I just don’t understand people!


I had to smile at how these two little cubs promptly followed their mama deeper into the woods.  Funny how these bears had more sense than most humans.  :-)


Of course, we witness other wildlife sightings along the way, like a herd of elk sunning themselves along the creek.  This particular elk had just gotten up and headed towards the water and readied to cross it to the other side.  Why? you ask … well because tourists walked down the embankment and wanted to get close to it – for a snapshot, of course.  Wonder if these people would do the same in Africa?  I shudder to ponder that question too long for fear of the answer.  ;-0


The skies were dark and dreary and were threatening rain or were actively raining most of the day, so though we took some traditional images of the Maligne Lake, etc, I wasn’t pleased with them, so I elected to not include them in the blog.  However, I did want to show off an image, one of many, of the amazing glacier views we were treated to during the day.


One more black bear sighting to share with everyone … this one for a particular reason.  See, after getting tired of crowds gathering when we would sight wildlife, we decided to try to keep this a bit to ourselves.


Now mind you, we did spot it not far off the roadside grazing on the grasses, but it was around a bend in the road.  So, if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t most likely see it.  When a car would approach, we would pull in the lens and grab a map … you know, like we were simply getting oriented to where we were.


Our plan worked for a while, but eventually this black bear got bored with the right side of the road and decided to cross the road.


Problem was that no one could see it until it could have been too late.  I was torn with how to handle the situation, so I began to flail my lens, arms, and whatever else I could grab, out the window to try to alert oncoming traffic.  Thankfully, traffic was light, our planned work, and the bear eventually made it across the road safely.  I did learn a lesson … for the safety of the wildlife around, when you pull over, flashers on please!


More to come from the Lake Louise area in the next blog post … stay tuned!

© Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography         http://www.tnwaphotography.com


The Icefields Parkway


In the US, we celebrate the 4th of July as our National holiday, but in Canada, it’s called Canada Day and it’s on July 1st.  I knew from the last time that I was in Canada during that time, that there were several places I didn’t want to be, so off we went towards a favorite of mine … Jasper NP.  Since we had spent the night in Golden, it was pretty much a full day’s drive, especially since there are so many wonderful sights to see along the way.

So on to the Icefields Parkway we went.  One of the first places I wanted to visit was the infamous Peyto Lake.  You have to get there early if you don’t want to be crawling in the middle of tons of tourists, who emerge by the busloads.  When we reached the parking lot, we were greeted by several beautiful gray jays.  They were hopping around in the area and seemingly posing for the camera from time to time.


At Bow Summit, Peyto Lake can be seen below where it sits at an elevation of 6,168 feet. It’s quite an amazing sight too, as it spans 1.75 mi long and 2,625 feet wide.  Though the most distinctive and striking attribute it possesses is its color – a bright turquoise color achieved by the glacial rock flour which remains suspended in its water during the summer months.  This is not photoshop-enhanced … it’s truly this beautiful.


Once back out on the Icefields Parkway again, it doesn’t take long before we encounter our first bear, a black bear feeding on the green grasses not too far from the road.  It was drizzling a bit just prior to this shot, so this bear had fur full of detail._DSC7531

It never ceases to amaze me what people do when they spot wildlife … and it’s no different in Canada than in the US.  Sometimes common sense goes right out the window … or should I say the door … as they drop everything to try to get the best shot of the wildlife, sometimes endangering themselves and everyone else around them.  This bear was tolerating them, but I distinctly heard it huffing once or twice.

_DSC7572 At that point I told Tom that we should move on down the road, not wanting to watch any mayhem unfold.  :-)

Again, it wasn’t too long before we came upon another black bear, but by the time we got there safely, it had already begun to retreat into the brush a bit.  Probably a good thing.


After entering Jasper NP, but still out of the township of Jasper, we came across Medicine Lake, which is quite the interesting place.  See, during the summer, the glacial melt fills up this lake, as seen below.


But in the fall and winter seasons, the lake essentially disappears!  What’s more, at that time, there are no visible channels indicating the path of the drainage.  What happens is that the Maligne River pours into the lake and Medicine Lake drains out through sinkholes in the bottom of the lake.  The water then streams through an underground cave system and it surfaces again in Maligne Canyon.  This makes it one of the largest sinking rivers in the western hemispheres and possibly the largest inaccessible cave system in the world!  Now that’s impressive!


Another impressive place to stop and visit along the way is the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, on the edge of Bow Lake.  Though we didn’t lodge there, we did take in the views from their parking lot.DSC_6355


Yes, the approach to Jasper, Alberta and the heart of Jasper NP is a fascinating one!  There is “eye candy” from almost every angle, almost the entire way into town.


One word of advice to all whom might venture there … don’t just fly by the seat of your pants like Tom & I did.  We arrived into Jasper, with no prior reservation – on the wave of Canada Day weekend – and almost had to turn around and head back to other areas.  Thankfully we did manage to find a last minute accommodation, but it was close!

Next blog will delve into Jasper NP and the wildlife that we encountered along the way.  Stay tuned!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography (www.tnwaphotography.com)


Rocky Mountains … Canada-Style


It had been over 2-1/2 years since we had visited the Canadian Rockies and this year, I wanted to visit in the early summer versus the fall, to try to get a varied feel for the area in the change of seasons.  I had been once at this same time of year, but it was about 15 years ago.  So while Tom was still away on his cross-country trip (color me green LOL), I planned a trip back out again and boarded a plane to Calgary, where Tom promptly picked me up and off we went.  I arrived late at night, so I couldn’t see the Canadian landscape well at all, as we drove west to Canmore for the night.


The next morning we awoke and made quick time heading back out on the road.  We continued west through Banff and drove straight through to British Columbia and the town of Golden.  Along the way, we passed many miles of interesting landscapes, towns, and neighborhoods.  One of my favorites for uniqueness was a home found off the beaten path near Mount 7.  I called it “the original underground living” and I hoped that no one minded me sneaking a shot of it.


There were also country scenes complete with grassy fields, wooden fences, and of course, horses.


Mount 7 holds particular interest to Tom and so we drove up the dirt road to investigate what it had to offer.  See, on our last visit, we watched paragliders soar overhead for what seemed like a MUCH longer flight than Tom’s flight in Alaska near Alyeska Resort in Girdwood.  Though we never made it to the top, we still found cool stuff to photograph.


After spending the night in Golden and catching up on some much needed sleep, we woke early and drove to Emerald Lake within Yoho National Park.  When we first arrived, it was thick with fog and I was a bit disappointed.  Before long (literally within say 15 minutes) the tour buses started arriving and busloads of tourists were emerging, like ants out of a disturbed ant hill.  LOL


Trying to escape the crowds and make the best of the dreary day, we decided to head off quickly on a hike around the lake’s shoreline.  It was pretty wet and mucky, but the thick canopied trees sheltered us a bit from the rain, which varied in intensity as we encircled the lake.  Periodically, there were boardwalks over what must have been the more swampy areas of the hike.  At first, I was excited to see them, but soon I realized that they were quite slick and therefore, slippery.  Didn’t want to slip and fall with my gear!


At times, the skies appeared to show a glimpse of blue sky patches here and there and the rain would stop, but it mainly stayed a bit drizzly.  However, that being said, it really made the views quite spectacular, especially since the winds did seem to die down and the reflections were gorgeous!



Each angle at the lake offered something different … and each view was quite unique and pleasing.  Couldn’t even figure out where it looked the nicest.  All that I knew was that this wasn’t the same “Emerald Lake” that I had visited before and though I didn’t think it was possible, I think that it was even more beautiful.



I have to laugh when I recall how I pursued a pair of loons for quite some time.  They’re pesky little things whose moves aren’t easily predictable… well, except to predict wherever I thought they would emerge from their underwater swim, it would be somewhere else!  LOL.  Unfortunately, that is not a joke.


Probably one of the most entertaining things that I remember most though was the very active goings-on of the swallows.  See, we ate at the lovely restaurant at the resort and on our way out, Tom noticed a nest that the swallows were building – inside the restaurant mind you… well, at least inside that first entry door.


We watched as the swallows would make a beeline into the restaurant door when a patron would enter or exit.  Swosh!  Right over the head of the unsuspecting visitor.  We laughed, though the restaurant supervisors weren’t as entertained, and they took down the nest.  Outside, we watched the action repeat itself over and over … swallow flies out to grab some twigs …


swallow then goes and dabs the twigs in the mud …

_DSC0144-2 swallow then returns to “nest in construction” with its next round of building materials.  It might seem silly, but I had never witnessed that before.



Emerald Lake is full of beauty, outdoor activities, wildlife, and landscapes galore!  If you go to the Canadian Rockies, be sure to add it to your list!


Stay tuned for more!


© Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

On a side note, this marks my 50th Blog post!  How exciting!  Thanks for your interest!

The Palouse Mystique


In mid-June, I flew from the sunny beaches and cool breezes of the Coronado region of  San Diego, CA to the rolling hills and rich fertile farmlands of eastern Washington … specifically the Palouse region.  I had been there a year ago – loved it – and vowed to return at that time.  The time was now.  :-)




Probably the most popular and photographed area of the Palouse is from the summit of Steptoe Butte.  From there, you can see miles and miles (and then more miles) of the rolling hills and farmlands that make the Palouse region such a favorite with photographers … and not just landscape photographers either.  :-)


I mean, who could resist playing with the light, which dances all over the landscape, depending on the weather, clouds, and time of day.  It’s so hard to concentrate on one thing … your eyes catch the beauty from every angle.



This particular visit to the butte, we hit very different weather than last year.  Rain, heavy clouds, and varying winds were present, which was causing a challenge for me.  I fluctuated between getting broad landscape shots one minute, then more focused to a particular feature observed in the landscape.




At some points, an even tighter, almost cropped view, was used.  In the Palouse, it really doesn’t matter … it’s all beautiful in my opinion.


While hanging out on Steptoe, there were even wildlife opportunities, as the marmots seemed to be just about everywhere!  Of course, then I became even more confused as to what to shoot!  LOL




On one of the days that we were visiting, we drove over to Uniontown and visited the Dahmen Barn and the artists’ workshops as well.  It was there that we got a lesson in the importance of all of this rain we were experiencing.  See, though for me (at least at the moment) the rain was an unwelcome guest, we learned about the importance of the rain to the farmers in the area … see these farms have no man-made irrigation systems and desperately depend on nature’s rain.  “Liquid gold” is what they call it.  I guess I can live with it, in fact embrace it, now.  It’s all about perspective and mine was “adjusted”.


The perimeter of the Dahmen Barn is a work of art in itself … a fence encompasses it entirely – made up of wheels only … a virtual trip down memory lane and a way of life for the years gone by.  I can’t help but think the stories that could be told by each wheel or cog.  Mind boggling, I say.


To my delight, the farm land immediately next to the barn was covered in newly bloomed canola fields, ironically courtesy of the recent rainfall.  It was amazing to see and in my opinion, impossible to capture the beauty through the lens … but of course, I had to try.



As if it wasn’t already exciting enough, we happened to notice a nest nearby.  After careful inspection, we noticed it was occupied by 2 red-tailed hawk young ones.  Older than babies, but not yet ready to do much else but test their wings.  At least one of the parents flew over the nest periodically.


Also a must to visit are the area small towns that dot the outskirts of the farmlands.  Such history in the area … it was hard to get Tom to leave and head back to the rolling hills again.



If you ever find yourself in the area, please do yourself a favor and stop for a day or two.  You’ll be glad that you did!


Stay tuned for more blogs shortly … Canadian Rockies and Montana!!


© 2014  Debbie Tubridy @ http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Canyonlands NP & Dead Horse Point SP


One can’t visit Moab, UT and Arches National Park, without at least a quick visit to the nearby Canyonlands National Park & Dead Horse Point State Park.  So before we left the area to head back into Colorado (on our way to Rocky Mountain NP), we did just that.  Of course, we  got up super early and planned to get to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands for the early morning light … the sunrise … the start of another new day.  Yes, that was our plan…. ours and that of many other photographers as well.  So, what else is new?


So though we were the first at the location, before the “golden moment” arrived, we were one of many – all jockeying for perfect spot.  LOL.


When we were done shooting Mesa Arch, we headed back to our vehicles.  I found it amazing how so much of the landscape I had earlier walked through I never saw … perhaps due to the headlamps and darkness on our way out.


After Canyonlands, I wanted to be sure to visit Dead Horse Point State Park.  So off we ventured.  I sure was glad that we did!


Wow!  What an amazing place it was!  There were many viewpoints and vistas, but at Dead Horse Point, it’s actually one of the most photographed vistas in the world … and with good reason.  Situated about 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, as it meanders through the landscape of vertical cliffs and canyons.

DSC_4430 I found it to be as impressive as the Grand Canyon as far as the view went … on and on for miles with such varied terrain and colors running throughout it.




Everywhere you looked the view just got better.



One of my favorite views was that of Shafer Canyon Overlook.  I mean, look at this drop off!  Thankfully we were running short of time or else I feared that Tom would want to drive down into the canyon on all of those switchbacks.  The only thing that seemed more frightening to me was when Tom said that he wanted to come back and descend into the canyon on his mountain bike.  Better him than me.


Having an extreme fear of heights, I was able to shuffle myself to the edge so that we could take a shot … you know, with our feet in the view.


Friends asked me if I was afraid to sit on the edge … what do you think?  Truth be told I was foolishly hanging on, with my fingers mind you, to Tom’s pants.  Right?  As if that was going to save me if I slipped or toppled over.  LOL


Yes, it was a fascinating place and certainly deserved much more time than the few hours we had available to spend.  When I posted this image below on photography sites, someone described it as apocalyptic … I think that pretty much sums it up.  Though in truth, it was undeniably beautiful and quite unique.


If you haven’t made it to Dead Horse Point SP, be sure that you do.  You won’t regret it!

From here, we ventured on to Rocky Mountain NP, which has already been covered in 2 previous blog posts.  If you missed them, they can be found at:

https://tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/rocky-mountain-high-in-colorado/ https://tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/owls-here-there/

Cruising Potash Road


Whenever Tom travels in the country, he always holds a fascination of learning the history of an area.  So when we were staying in Moab, he decided that one afternoon, in lieu of getting some afternoon rest, we would head out on Potash Road, just outside of Moab.

The road itself is in a gorge which follows the Colorado River.  It is a mecca for rock climbers and at any given time, they can be found in their helmets and harnesses along the shoulders of the road.



Also along the way, the area is known for the ancient rock art and petroglyph panels which can be seen roadside.  I found them quite fascinating.  When you would stop to observe the obvious ones, after some time, your eye would find more details, more panels, more pictures.  One could say even more stories from an era gone by.



Of course, there was one that was supposed to be a bear, so I couldn’t rest until I found that one … LOL.  Thanks to the guide on the roadside that gave me more direction as to where it could be found.


Though we didn’t investigate this fully, there are also dinosaur tracks found along the way, for those so inclined to locate them.

Wildflowers were plentiful along the way, which complicated the red rock formations present, which contrasted so beautifully with the flowing waters of the Colorado River and the lush green landscape on its shores.





We even came across some type of lizard which scrambled near my feet and all but gave me a heart attack … wasn’t expecting that.  :-)


Arches aren’t confined to Arches NP and one can access several different arches off of Potash Road.  One of the more accessible ones, visible from the road, is Jug Handle Arch.  Gee, I wonder where it got its name from?

DSC_4056 If one continued to take the more primitive road past the potash fertilizer plant, it would lead into Canyonlands National Park and all of its beauty that the area offers.  Yes, it was truly a wonderful and relaxed drive.  Though my body was craving my pillow, blanket, and mattress … I was glad that Tom shamed me into the afternoon exploration.


On to Canyonlands NP and Dead Horse Point SP next … be sure to stay tuned.


The “Red Rocks Wonderland” of Arches NP


After spending a few days in the vicinity of Monument Valley, we made our way towards Moab, UT.  It would be our home for the next 3-4 days, as we explored the “Red Rocks Wonderland” of Arches National Park.

On our way into Moab, we first got a chance to stop and photograph Wilson’s Arch … you know … to get our photography started.  :-)  Well, that and give Tom a chance to run around the arch landscape and provide us with some perspective as to the size of Wilson Arch, which is approximately 91 feet in width and 46 feet in height.


Arches NP contains more than 2,000 natural stone arches, pinnacles, fins, and balanced rocks.  It’s also a landscape photographer’s dream … sunrise, early morning, early evening, and of course, late night … it really doesn’t matter, it’s always more than willing to please the viewer.  Upon arrival into the park boundaries, we immediately reached the iconic Balanced Rock landscape.


It was amazing to see how it transformed as the evening prompted the disappearing light. Along with the loss of light, we were also met with a drop in temperature as well.


Another area where we spent substantial time was at the Windows section … which provides views of the North Window and the South Window.


Nearby the Windows, one can climb the sandstone stairs to nearby Turret Arch.  I found it to be quite beautiful in the daytime, but also beautiful in the evening.



If you climbed up onto the North Window arch, and positioned yourself just right, you could frame Turret Arch through the North Window arch.  Pretty cool … thanks to Tom for testing out the waters of safety for us.  :-)



On tap for photography in Arches, was the inclusion of some night photography, preferably with the Milky Way looming in the distant night skies.


What we didn’t plan for was the rise of a substantial moon come around 1AM in the morning!  Once the moon made its appearance, the stars faded into the night’s sky.


What fun we had photographing at night … between setting up the angle of the shots, coordinating everyone’s remotes and exposure needs, and executing the “props”, it was a blast!  I was even impressed that we didn’t get hurt running here and there in the darkness … LOL.


Of course, there were opportunities for some wildlife shooting as well.  By this time, I was a bit “wildlife-deprived” and I believe that I was shooting just about everything that ran or flew by us.  Out came the long lens for some captures of this wonderful mountain bluebird … absolutely gorgeous.  There were also several ground squirrels running to and fro which were also fair game to my lens.



Park Avenue was another area that I found quite interesting.  It seemed like a corridor of sandstone formations with an alley between them.  In this shot I like the way the hikers are included, which to me allows for perspective of the area.


Double Arch is also quite the popular sight to photograph, though it was a bit of a challenge to shoot during the day.  It did make for some interesting composition for shooting the night’s sky, especially with the help of some props, thanks to Rodney!



I have to admit that my internal time clock was a bit messed up.  It seemed that we were either coming in at 3 in the morning … or leaving to go out at 3 in the morning.  Most afternoons were spent trying to catch up on some much needed sleep … or at least rest.


Moab is an outdoor adventurist’s playground … hiking galore and I believe that Tom was drooling being out there without his much adored mountain bike.  He made up for it though when he recently drove out to Oregon, by way of Moab, to make up for lost time and opportunity.  :-)


Yes, we had a great time in Arches NP … yet, there was still much more to do.  We barely scratched the surface of the area.  Note to self … return with a few extra weeks to spend.  I have a feeling though … it never seems like enough time.


Stay tuned for more from the Moab area … including the Potash Road drive.





The Wild, Wild West Adventure


When we left the Gunnison area, off we went to Medicine Hat, Utah, which would become our home away from home while in the Monument Valley area.  There, we planned to meet up with fellow photographer and friend, Rodney Lange (In case you don’t know Rodney, he has amazing landscape photography and he can be found on flickr and 500px).  It was a long drive and the landscape changed quite a bit along the way.  The greens of the mountains of Colorado went by the wayside and soon we were in the desert, with its bare landscape colored in various tones of the southwest. DSC_3081 DSC_3434 Our first order of business was a trip into Monument Valley, which is probably very familiar landscape to most of you, as this area has been made famous through the various films and commercials which have been produced there over the years.  Yes, welcome to the wild, wild west!  Located 13-miles from the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is probably one of the most iconic shots.  We took turns guarding the road from on-coming traffic as we got low on the road for better perspective.  :-) _DSC9323 Trying to make the best of the light and the clear skies, which by the way are never guaranteed, we stopped to grab some shots along the way. _DSC9204 _DSC4265 The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, part of the Colorado Plateau in the Four Corners area, contains sandstone buttes and spires, some as high as 1,000 ft high, is actually on Navajo Nation land.  Since we were visiting the area towards the end of the day, we had to wait for the sunset to begin.  In the meanwhile, we were treated to a rainstorm off in the distance, which threatened our evening, but provided some dramatic moments to our photography.



Thankfully the storm rained itself out before it reached us and the light began to cast a gorgeous warm light of several of the iconic formations within the park.  I’m talking about the “mittens” …. _DSC9246 _DSC9241 … and Merrick Butte _DSC9242 Put them all together, season them with the varying landscape tones with the fading light, sprinkle in some moody clouds, and this is what you get … DSC_3189Absolutely GORGEOUS landscape!  In the image you’ll see a dirt road which you can drive yourself or take a guided tour to get more up close and personal with the formations within the park.  We didn’t partake in the drive as we were more interested in trying to document the scene at night, with the stars overhead.  Unfortunately, we visited in almost a full moon cycle, so the stars and milky way were quite a bit of a challenge, but we did manage to get a shot or two.  :-) DSC_3260 After some time, we decided to head back towards our lodging, but of course stopped along the way to experiment some more with night photography.  Tom, my husband and sherpa-extraordinaire, was also quite the model for us.  Thanks baby! DSC_3306 Once the moon started to rise, the stars seemed to retreat rapidly, but the moonrise was itself beautiful as well. DSC_3318 The next day, before we left the area, we visited again to get some more images of the beautiful landscape.  Of course, there was more than buttes and spires, there were also flowers … which when you think about how hard it must be for them to grow and survive in the conditions encountered, is quite impressive. _DSC9333 _DSC9329 Dining in the area was a bit scarce, but we did manage to grab a quick bite near the San Juan River, where we observed this park ranger paddling down the river … oh yes, it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it.  :-) DSC_3432 Not to be outdone in the area, Mexican Hat is also home to the Valley of the Gods, which is sort of a miniature Monument Valley, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management.  We ventured out on the gravel and sometimes severely potholed road which meanders through the area and found it to be quite beautiful and interesting as well. DSC_3487   DSC_3494Oh, and did I mention how deserted it was?  So nice to avoid the crowds of Monument Valley. DSC_3464Yes, it was the “Three Amigos” … and it was time to make our way on to our next base camp of Moab, UT … for more adventures in Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and Dead Horse Point SP.  Stay tuned to the blog for more images. DSC_3378

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP


In April, when Tom & I were touring Colorado and Utah, we visited a park that I have tried to get to in the past, but had always run out of time.  Actually, we didn’t have “time” this year either, but I refused to simply drive on by.  :-)  So on that heavily overcast early morning, we set off to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, nearby the towns of Gunnison and Montrose, CO.


In 1999, this area was officially designated a US National Park and it consists of some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rocks, and jagged spires in North America.  Its age takes it back  over 2 million years as the Gunnison River carved its way through the landscape and created this vertical wilderness area.


The canyon itself has a length of about 48 miles, though only 14 miles are included within the perimeter of the park.  At its deepest point, seen from Warner Point, it descends 2,722 feet, through various ecosystems along the way.  This is about 2.5 times the depth of the Royal Gorge outside of Colorado Springs, which is quite impressive on its own.


Along the south rim of the park, the road extends for 7 miles and provides for 12 overlooks where the visitor can get different vantage points to the area and its features.




There are a variety of wildlife that can be found within its boundaries, such as the mountain lion, bear, coyote, to name a few, though we didn’t see any.  Birds are also common visitors or residents in the area, including many predator birds, such as the peregrine falcon, which can reach speeds of 200 mph in a full descent.  We also saw some blue grouse along the roadside, which was quite fun for me.  Now the lighting was poor due to the early morning hours, coupled with the overcast flat light, but I did get to snap off a few images …. first of the female …


… then of the male, who showed off for me (OK, probably not for me, but for the grouse ladies that were in the area), which was quite fascinating to watch them puff up and show off their mating plumage …


Now why did the grouse cross the road?


Well, of course, it was to get to the ladies … it was of course, mating season.   :-)

I would love to return to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP another time in the future, as our time was limited … we were on our way to Monument Valley, which will be the feature for the next blog post.  :-)


Third Time’s A Charm – Yellowstone NP


NOTE:  This blog was written in conjunction with my winter Yellowstone NP trip.  It was Part 3 of 4 total blog posts.  Recently, I happened to notice that it never was actually published.  Since I’m currently in the middle of an important work week, I thought it would be a good time to share it.  Hope that you enjoy.  :-)


As we entered our 3rd day in Yellowstone NP, we were treated to lots of steamy landscapes and a light magical dusting of snow, all with full bluebird skies.



Whether it was the backlit trumpeter swans floating on the river or the sparkling bokeh serving as the perfect background for icicle-laden pine needles, it was absolutely amazing.



On this morning, we not only photographed mature mated pairs of trumpeter swans, but also were fortunate enough to get shots of sub-adult swans as well.  It was quite interesting to see how their appearance transforms as they mature.




On our way south in the park, we stopped at Norris Geyser Basin to take in some of the sights.  I must say that this area was absolutely stunning in the winter time, as the thermal grounds combined with the cold air made for some fascinating atmosphere.




Again, it was amazing weather … which made for stunning images and an enhanced experience for the observer.



We were treated to an awesome, though fairly distant, sighting of a red fox.  At first we thought it was a coyote, but I was pleasantly surprised.  We photographed it as it hunted on the open expanse of snow.  OK, I do believe that I might have squealed with delight with its antics … sit …leap straight up … dive head first … whip the hind legs over its head … land its hind legs … and pull out its head from the snow, hopefully with a tasty morsel.  A bit different than your typical coyote mousing scenario and probably more entertaining.






Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Snow and ice covered bison were also seen, as they traveled the bare landscape in search of food.


Finally we arrived to the Yellowstone iconic location … Old Faithful Geyser Basin … home to Old Faithful.  Now I’ve been here numerous times before, including once in the winter, but I have never seen it so peaceful and believe it or not, uncrowded.  It was such a pleasure to observe the eruption, not just once, but twice.  Since we got to see it twice, we did the traditional viewing (nearest the lodge) and then from the vantage point of the opposite side of the geyser.  Both offered different views, though both were remarkable.


The winds were really still, which was wonderful because often it’s not so still and the steam from the geyser hitting the cold air then drifts in the wind and makes viewing difficult.

Of course, hiking around in the basin was also a must-do and it was quite fulfilling as well. The landscape was crisp and refreshing and the bison were out in force, dotting the snowy landscape, as they sought the thermal grounds for warmth.




On our way home from Old Faithful, we ran into another red fox.  This one was a bit closer, but nowhere near as active.  Gosh, they couldn’t have been cuter.  It made me wonder … “what DOES the fox say?”  LOL


A day in Yellowstone wouldn’t feel complete without a bald eagle sighting…. and this one was sure a beauty.


Ultimately our 3rd day was coming to an end.  Thankfully we stopped for a sunset shot, which I took advantage of.  See, sunsets are always a nemesis for me.  I really liked how this one turned out though.


A perfect end to our day!  Only one day left … and I didn’t want it to arrive.

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Experience Heaven on Earth – Garden of the Gods


Tom and I were able to get away in April, so we decided that we wanted to return to Colorado, southeastern Utah, and northeastern Arizona.  The first order of business once we landed in Denver was a quick escape to Colorado Springs.  Of course, a favorite place of mine when there is the Garden of the Gods.


For those of you might be unfamiliar with it, think rock formations … red rocks, white rocks, rocks that take the shape of camels kissing, etc.  Also, Garden of the Gods is well known in Colorado for its rock climbing opportunities.


On this particular visit, we arrived in the late afternoon.  I was armed with my landscape gear, since that was my purpose of being there.  We set off on one of the trails that weaves through the park and almost immediately we run into a rather large group of mule deer.


I’m not sure who was more alarmed by whom …. the deer seeing us or us seeing the deer (probably the latter).  Yes, nothing like taken wildlife shots with a 24-70mm landscape lens! After making the best of the situation, I was able to get some landscape shots as well.  There’s something so special about the light, the rocks with their colors and textures, and the varied landscapes within “the garden”.




The next morning we got up early to be able to get the sunrise, but we didn’t quite make it there on time.  Nonetheless, the scenery was beautiful.






We were greeted by several birds who were calling nearby and then dodging in and out of view to check us out further.


We then made our way back and set off on a walk again, but this time from the northern end of the park.  Again, we ran into a family of mule deer, but these were much more at ease with our presence.



In addition we saw numerous bunny rabbits hopping around off of the trails … so cute.  No coyotes this year, like we had seen on numerous occasions the last time we visited.  But we did see many more birds, like the swallows, western scrub jays, and prairie falcons.



On of the bird sightings that left me a bit surprised was the Canadian Goose, for they would come calling overhead quite loud and eventually land on the tiptop of some of the rock formations within the park.  For some reason, I found this unusual … probably because I usually see them on the ground or in the water, not flying, and landing high.




Everywhere you ventured was another breath-taking shot.  If I lived in this area, I think I would wake up every morning and visit there to take in all of the beautiful landscape and occasional wildlife.  I find it so wonderful that this park belongs to the City of Colorado Springs on land that was donated to the city for preservation of its unique features, with the promise that it never implement a charge to the public.  I know that Tom & I sure appreciate that.





The Cadet Chapel


I’ve visited Colorado Springs several times in the past, but this year when Tom & I visited, we decided to make the best of the mid-day lighting by visiting probably one of the most iconic sights in Colorado Springs … the Cadet Chapel at the US Air Force Academy.


The Cadet Chapel hosts between 500,000 and 1,000,000 visitors annually.  I’m sure glad that we put it on our “to see” list for 2014.  The building is fascinating, constructed of aluminum, glass & steel, it stands 150′ high and possesses 17 spires (no specific reason for 17).


It cost $3.5 million dollars to construct, which began in 1959 and was completed in 1962. In 1959, air force military bases across the world gave an offering for funding its completion.


There are several chapels within the building, the biggest being the Protestant chapel.






It seats 1,200 attendees in pews made of walnut and mahogany.  Each pew end is capped with an ornament that is said to resemble a World War 1 airplane propeller.  The pew backs are capped by an aluminum strip which resembles the leading edge of a fighter aircraft wing.


Underneath the Protestant chapel lies 3 additional chapels – Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist.  In addition, there are 2 non-denominational rooms present.




In 2004, the Cadet Chapel was designated a US Historic Landmark.  It was quite fascinating to see … can’t believe that it took me so long.  It truly left an impression on both of us.



Palouse Region 2013


As I mentioned in the last post, there was a trip that I took in 2013 that I never fully gave it the attention that it deserved.  Being that it was almost one year ago exactly, I thought that I would go down memory lane and share some of the sights and stories behind my experience.

Before we would visit Oregon, I insisted that I would visit the place that I had dreamed about ever since several of my photography friends posted images from there.  I was so excited as we arrived into Spokane for a few days of the Palouse.

We drove to the infamous Steptoe Butte for our first glimpse of the rolling farmlands of the region.  I was pretty much speechless (a difficult to accomplish state for me) as I looked out.  I hurried to set up my gear and my tripod … you know, because the light was just perfect._DSC0569





What I didn’t realize is that the light does move around with the day, but it always seems to give such a lovely glow on the landscape.  The shadows actually helped to make it more interesting, varied, and beautiful.  I felt that I could stay there all day, night, and through the morning.  Of course, we didn’t but I sure took my share of images!




The actual Palouse region, which is highlighted by the Palouse Scenic Byway, covers quite the massive area … 208 miles of the most incredible beauty.  I wanted to see each and every mile along the way!



One of the more interesting areas within the region that we had a chance to visit was Uniontown, WA.  In particular, there was a place known as Artists at Dahman Barn, which was photographically interesting on the outside and fun for shopping on the inside – all while supporting the work of the local artists.


Eventually, we traveled over to Palouse Falls State Park, home to one of the most spectacular and beautiful waterfalls in the state of Washington.  The falls seems to come out of nowhere … and drop ~ 200′.  I wished we had been there at a better time of the day, but our schedules were hectic and we did the best that we could.  In addition, the skies were threatening with a nasty storm that appeared to be heading our way.


One of the more entertaining residents of the park were the yellow-bellied marmots, which seemed to be just about everywhere once your eyes became adjusted to their presence.



I knew that we needed to make our way out of Washington state and into Oregon, but I vowed to Tom that I would return to the Palouse again.  I think (fingers crossed) that will be in 2014.  :-)


Reminiscing About Oregon 2013


How many of you can relate to having a shortage of time?  How about getting busy with the everyday necessities in life that you forget to reflect fully on something that you just experienced?  I hate to admit it, but lately I’ve had those kind of days … weeks … even months.


So it’s fitting that today I take a moment to reflect on a trip out west that I took last year, almost a full year ago.  See Tom goes out on an annual trip to the west coast.  Specifically Oregon is his destination.  He meets up with some of his south Florida and Pacific Northwest friends for their annual meeting in Oregon for a week of male bonding over RC glider flying.  Not wanting to interfere with the testosterone flow out there, I decided to fly out a week early and spend the time in Oregon with Tom, but with a twist to the arrangement … I had to also visit the Palouse region of eastern Washington.  Agreed!

I’ll start with Oregon first, though in reality it was the other way around.  :-)


I guess you know what they say about Oregon … “lots of drizzly weather” and I can attest to that fact.  Of course, Tom said that as soon as I headed home, he never saw the rain again.  Though it’s probably true (he wouldn’t lie to me, would he?), funny how that works.

While Oregon has many wonderfully beautiful places to venture, I personally only had about 4 days, so we decided to do a bit of coastal, then work our way back to Hood River, which would be Tom’s home base for the following week.

I arrived in Portland, and we drove to Cannon Beach, OR on the Pacific coast.  What a beautiful place that was too.  We stayed directly across the street from the ocean and the haystacks, which are so infamous with the area.  Most of the time that we were there, the skies were overcast or threatening, but that didn’t diminish the beauty of the jagged coastline, so different to my own home base of the southern Atlantic Ocean coast.


The town was quiet, which I was thrilled with, and we visited numerous sites in the area, including Ecola State Park, where we were thrilled to be greeted by several bald eagles – adults and juveniles.  What a show they put on for us – between the rain storms that is.  I truly was in heaven observing and listening to their calling out.






We also visited Fort Stevens State Park, on the coast also, but at the mouth of the Columbia River.  It was gorgeous there as well, the views to die for, and numerous terns and bald eagles, among other birds entertaining us with their antics.



As we made our way towards Hood River, we had to stop (of course, in the rain) at Multnomah Falls.  While the area was quite quaint and beautiful, and it was fairly non-populated with tourists when we were there, I still found myself challenged with getting that “great shot” of the falls that I had longed for.


I had to settle for this …


However, I did have a grand time with the hummingbirds darting in and out of view at the nearby feeders.  :-)  It was really one the first times that I had photographed them (except in controlled circumstances), so it was fun for me.  Probably not as much fun as it was for the “falls” tourists who were so puzzled by my obsession with the hummingbirds … sort of like I had never seen one before … and HELLO … the falls were behind you!  LOL.  Just goes to show that one man’s trash in another man’s treasure…. right?




Eventually, we made our way to Hood River.  Tom took me up to the top of the area where he flies his RC gliders, as he surely got excited with what was to come.  For me, yes, it was beautiful … but where are the wild animals???  Haha.

Hood River

Oh, and we did spot this creature in the woods along the way … he does exist … we have proof!  ;-)


Oh, that’s right, we did have birds and squirrels, not to mention this fine view out of our lodge room.


In the next blog post, I’ll share my images and thoughts on the Palouse.  Stay tuned for more.  :-)





Owls Here & There


A few years ago, Tom & I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, where we photographed a  great horned owl nest.  I remember it like it was yesterday … the owl was snuggly situated into the nest, which was swaying in the breeze.  I delighted in seeing it … though it pretty much remained motionless.  So when we returned to RMNP, Tom’s first comments to me were “We should go find that owls nest”, to which I thought he was crazy that we could ever remember exactly where it was.


However, after just a few moments, he did just do that!  (How in the world do guys do that?!)


Sure enough, the female great horned owl was situated in the nest, but this time (several weeks later than the last time we visited), she was sitting high.  I wondered if she might have some eggs or even better, some babies under there.  Trying to do everything possible to not attract a circus of on-lookers, I set up my tripod a bit out of the way from the local traffic.


Before long, I could see that she had at least one baby owlet in the nest with her.  It was real young too, as evidenced by its fuzzy white appearance.


It would snuggle up to her every now and then and almost seem to get up on its tippytoes to peer over the confines of the nest.  I was in heaven!

Over the course of the several days that we watched her and what turned out to be at least 2 babies, we never did see the male, though we did one night observe her leaving the nest.


I feared for the worse … could it be that something happened to the male?  If so, how would she feed herself and her young?  Other photographers and observers in the area said that they hadn’t seen the dad either.  Yet I saw a smorgasbord of nutritious offerings  within the nest … the remnants of a northern flicker, a somewhat intact bunny rabbit – perhaps even two of them.  Something must be helping this poor mom out.


Sensing my concern and knowing that he was going to have to deal with my distress about where the dad is, Tom went off into the woods looking for “signs” of the dad’s presence.  See, we recently had a lot of experienced tracking owls in our mango tree at home, as we were graced with a pair of eastern screech owls and their 3 young owlets (more on that in a later post).  He was gone for quite some time, but surprised me with his findings when he returned.  The first thing that he asked was whether the female had just left the nest within the last few minutes.  When I replied that it hadn’t, he assured me that he had then indeed just witnessed the male flying from a nearby tree when he approached it.  At that same site, he found numerous poops and pellets on the ground.  Of course, being the curious soul that he is, he discovered partial bones and fur from a recent meal, along with an entire intact skull of an unfortunate victim, which served as “dinner”.  Yes, all was deemed good, knowing that the owl kingdom was intact itself!  I sure was relieved.  :-)

In addition to that particular nest, we also found another one in town, but this one wasn’t nesting in a tree, but in a rocky ledge of a “natural wall” inside town.


Now this one was much more difficult for me to photograph, especially since Tom didn’t want me setting up my tripod and camera/lens at the site, trying also not to attract a crowd.  So there I was … in our rental car, all crammed up with my camera, 500 mm lens, and teleconverter … in all sorts of positions, trying to get the shot.


This particular one was almost impossible to determine if it had a baby owlet already or not, as the cavity was toward the wall and we were unsure of how far it went back.  We never did see any young … yet, though we did witness it dining on a local delicacy of some poor unfortunate grayish bird, as evidenced nicely in its beak.


For those of you who know me personally … know that I absolutely adore ALL owls … barred, barn, great gray, screech, burrowing, snowy, and of course, the great horned owls as well.  So it’s safe to say that I ended my trip with a huge smile on my face.


Future blogs will feature some of the other wonderful places that we visited on this most recent trip.  Keep your eye on the lookout for the next post.


© 2014  TNWA Photography

The Wetlands … Orlando-style


Several months ago, I spent a day with a good friend of mine, Jess Yarnell.  We set out to photograph some young sandhill crane colts, but we couldn’t locate them when I arrived at our destination, some 3 hours from my home base.  I know that Jess was disappointed and felt bad about my drive up, but we both vowed to make the best of the day … and we sure did.


We drove to Orlando Wetlands Park, which is located on the east end of town, near Orlando.  It was my first visit there and as soon as we drove in and started our walking tour through the wetlands, we could hear a chorus of black-bellied whistling ducks in the distance.  We were already laughing … let the day begin!


There was no shortage of black-bellied whistling ducks present … in the air, on logs, in the wetlands, just about everywhere.  I honestly don’t think that I’ve ever seen so many congregated in the same place before!


Of course, it wasn’t just the BBWDs that kept us entertained … there were tri-colored herons feeding in the reeds …


… a couple of handsome looking grebes in their breeding plumage …


… a great blue heron busy with some feeding of its own …


… black-necked stilts, blue-winged teals, and even a bald eagle made a low-profile fly-by, which surprised us both.


A gathering of roseate spoonbills were mostly sleeping when we arrived, but by the later morning, one by one, they began to get active … preening themselves, stretching, walking about, interacting with each other and my personal favorite was them talking a bath in the water.




Now I had never seen them quite like this before, as they trashed about abruptly and methodically slapped their wings on the surface of the water – over and over.  All the while, they possessed the most silly face, as if to ask us “what are you guys looking at?”.


Then it was the snowy egrets turn to entertain us.  They were pretty much getting ready for the spring season, which can only mean one thing … showing off for the ladies!  We watched as they displayed their plumage, chased after one another, and danced about in mid-air.  It was such a fun thing to witness.








After some time, we decided that it was time to retreat from the harsh sun for a bit, but not before we had one last encounter.  This time though, it wasn’t of an avian kind, but rather a turtle kind.  A snapping turtle made an appearance before us, to be specific.  I was amazed at just how big it was …


… and how prehistoric it appeared … long nails, spiny-looking protrusions, that thick looking neck and strong jawline.



Yes, it was quite the fun, yet totally unexpected, morning.  Just goes to show that sometimes things don’t always go as planned, but if you kept your mind open to other possibilities, it still can be a lot of FUN!

© Debbie / TNWA Photography





Rocky Mountain High … in Colorado


Where does the time go???

Just a short 5 weeks ago, Tom & I took a quick trip out to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.  We had so many places that we wanted to go … so many things that we wanted to see … and so much that we wanted to experience.  It truly was the syndrome that we’re all so painfully aware of – “not enough time in the day” … or in this trip’s case, not enough time in the night as well.

This blog post will cover many of the sightings and experiences that we encountered within Rocky Mountain National Park, which was actually, the last place that we visited on the trip.  After spending time with a variety of landscape locations, I found myself chasing “MLB”s  (aka Miscellaneous Little Birds) and even lizards … anything to get in touch with wildlife again.  :-)

When we arrived into the Estes Park area and immediately noticed evidence of last years flood, which so devastated it, as well as many of the surrounding roads and communities. Out of respect to those affected, no images will be shared of the destruction.  Much work has been done, though it continues to evolve.  All in all, the communities truly seemed to bond over their misfortune.


Try as we might, we failed to find the usual bighorn sheep that normally call the Big Thompson Canyon area their home.  We did however, encounter several groups of bighorns in Estes Park itself.  Sometimes they were out grazing the landscape …




… other times they were simply resting and digesting.



Since we were there in the “slow season”, many of the area accommodations were either closed or had limited business, so often the sheep made their hang-out in normally human-populated areas.  Just loved this shot, where the local magpies shared the grooming duties.


Iconic to RMNP itself are the elk who live there.  I remember clearly how excited I was when I first caught a glimpse of my first elk in the wild, many years ago (not saying how many to protect my dignity – LOL), within the boundaries of RMNP.  Though the bulls had already dropped their antlers, they had already begun to sport their new nubs and before long, they will be displaying their racks again.




In addition, we saw numerous packs of mule deer, but according to the locals, they have been declining in numbers in the area.  Even saw a bear! … well, sort of.  :-)

photo 2

There was also a variety of bird sightings … a sampling of hawks were spotted over the vast landscape – some returning methodically to nearby nests, though we couldn’t document the status of any babies in the nests.


One of my favorite local birds for RMNP is the Steller’s Jay.  Got to love a bird with all of that beautiful blue and black colors, trademark markings, and that spunk of a hairdo!  LOL.




One evening, as we were driving along the park road, which was obviously closed for the winter still for a direct route through the park, we encountered this turkey just wandering the road.  It was quite humorous as we kept catching up with it, but tried to give it the “right of way”.  Over the course of the next few days, we ran into numerous flocks (if you call it that) of turkeys and could hear them calling out relentlessly.


Of course, there were plenty of geese to go around also.


We probably spent the most time with the great horned owls, and their young, and that will be the focus of the next blog post.  Watch for it!

In the meanwhile, I leave you with “some advice from an elk” (as seen on a local poster):

photo 1



© 2014  TNWA Photography




Florida … Naturally … at Blue Cypress Lake


Where do I like to go within Florida … you know, to just get away from it all … and experience Florida, the way it used to be … the way that it should be?  I can think of several places further north in the state where “natural Florida” exists.  However, closer to home, I tend to think of a place where I can get away from it all … spend time in the great outdoors, with natural wildlife around, and see very little commercialization of the area.  That’s a rare find Florida, but I feel that way about Blue Cypress Lake.

Just off of SR60, in between I-95 and the Florida Turnpike, in the middle of nowhere (especially when you arrive well before sunrise) you’ll find Blue Cypress Lake, where hundreds of osprey call their home, at least during the spring season.  About a month ago,  Tom and I met up with Jess and Michael there for a morning of photography.


What make Blue Cypress Lake so special?  Well, one doesn’t have to look too far.  It begins with tranquility and the amazing sunrise.


The natural cypress trees provide the perfect backdrop for a wonderful sunrise landscape, as well as habitat for the ospreys which call the area home.


Early in the morning we found some of the ospreys simply sitting near or upon their nests – no babies in sight yet.



Many of them were flying around …



_DSC2996-2 … but eventually would head back to the nest, which offered up some wonderful opportunities for great landing shots.  Got to love the ospreys and their beauty, grace, strength, and most of all, their talons.




Yes, they are quite the fishermen!


There was also quite a bit of showing off for the ladies, as they continued to reinforce and “remodel” their nests for their impending new arrivals.


We could see signs that babies weren’t that far off on the calendar, since the nest was almost always guarded and sometimes we were able to witness the “changing of the guard” regarding nesting duties.  :-)


Then it happened … we spotted our first baby!  This guy sure was a young one, as it barely even had any feathers yet!  So cute!


Yes, the activity at Blue Cypress Lake was definitely picking up.  Lots of babies expected in the weeks, or even days to come.  Sure wished I lived closer to be able to check them out more often.

As we were heading back in to the docks, we found a great nest with two babies.  They were older than the last one.  Mom was in the nest and very attentive to their needs, as she feed them one at a time, of course grabbing a few morsels of the “fresh catch” for herself.


Just LOVE those babies and always find it so amazing how their eyes, so orange at the present time, will eventually change into the standard yellowish color known of the adults.


Hopefully we’ll find time to get out there again before the young ultimately grow up and fledge, as all babies do.  Which brings me to another thought … HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all of you out there that are mothers (whether to humans or pets)!


Until my next visit to this tucked away Florida paradise, I leave you with a parting osprey shot ….



© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography





Come To The Island … Antelope Island State Park


We’re getting ready to head back to Utah soon where we will explore Arches NP and Canyonlands NP, as well as Monument Valley, for our fill of landscape images and hopefully, some night photography as well.  To get my wildlife “fix”, we’re also planning on spending some time in Rocky Mountain NP.

But as I was thinking about Utah, I started to think about the time we spent in Utah in February.  For my family, it was a snowboard trip, but for me it was a photography trip, with a side helping of skiing.   :-)

Not far from Salt Lake City is Antelope Island State Park.  We spent several days visiting the island, which is accessed via a causeway into the Great Salt Lake, connecting the island to the Wasatch Front Range.  It comprises 28,000 acres, stretched over a length of 15 mi and 5 mi across.  Interestingly enough, the island is home to over 40 freshwater springs which produce over 30 million gallons of water per year … all while being surrounded by the Great Salt Lake!



It was first explored in 1845 by John C. Fremont and Kit Carson who also named it Antelope Island, after the population of pronghorn antelope that grazed there.


It’s quite the fascinating place to visit … each season brings a different perspective to the island.  In the winter, I found it much easier to spot the wildlife, as they made their way across the snowy and icy landscape.

In fact, on this trip, we saw more coyote than I think that I ever have there!  They seemed to be just about everywhere …


… on the ice …


… on the road …


… hiding in the brush of the tundra.


Of course, there were more wildlife sightings than just the coyotes.  Mule deer were sighted as well.


The coyotes saw the mule deer as well, which signaled the “dinner time” bell in them, so off they went to try to stalk one down.


The poor deer, though quick making their way over the brush, were on high alert!


There were so many deer on the island and apparently the Utah state parks have had issues with the lack of deer in other areas, so were stumbled across the Department of Natural Resources conducting a catch of some of female mule deer, for ultimate re-introduction into another park, which had decreased numbers of deer recently.  It was quite interesting the assembly that they had going on.  I know this is a horrible shot, but check out the multi-level carrier netting system they used to transfer the deer to their station for inspection and then transportation.


In 1848, the Fielding Garr Ranch was erected, which was the first permanent residence on the island.  In 1981, the island and the ranch were bought by the State of Utah and thus turned into the state park of today.

We also had sightings and interactions with other wildlife, such as the great horned owls, as they tried desperately to camouflage themselves from being spotted.  OK, I’m well aware that this is less than stellar of a shot … LOL


We also spotted several different porcupines in our travels.  One was feasting high up in a tree.  The other was on the ground munching on leaves, twigs, and downed branches from the nearby trees.  This particular one got out in the open and let me crawl around with them.  Contrary to popular belief, porcupines don’t throw their quills, so I was actually quite safe.


There’s quite a large bison herd on the island as well.  They’re quite interesting to watch as they move slowly across the landscape and you become slowed down by them as they approach the roadway.  Makes me want to belt out with a round of “Oh give me a home…”.


As we were leaving, we noticed the skies becoming quite beautiful in the rear view of the car.  I made Tom stop and my intention was to capture the moment.  I never did shoot it, but I think I got something better.


There was a coyote pair hanging out right where we stopped!  Serendipity, I say!  One of them was actively hunting for food (I presume it was the female), while the other (I presume it was the male) followed along like it was stalking the other and just waiting for the right moment for something …. hmmm …. it was quite interesting.



Either way, they were in gorgeous light as they made their way, all while the sunset was happening.


On our drive back to SLC, the alpenglow on the Wasatch Range was amazing … such tones of blue, pink, and purple … gorgeous.  Sorry for ending with the moving shot from the iPhone camera, but it truly was gorgeous, so I had to share.


Hope that you enjoyed Antelope Island SP!  I highly recommend a side trip to visit, if you’re ever in the SLC area.  Will be back to Florida sights and shots for the next blog post.



All’s Clear for Everglades National Park


During the winter months, Everglades National Park becomes a mecca for bird watching and photography.  Not only that, but the weather is simply gorgeous … sunny skies, cooler temperatures, spectacular sunrises, and most importantly … a noticeable decrease in the number of mosquitoes.  So, each winter, we begin our own migration of photography trips to the Everglades.

This particular year, the water levels remained so elevated and because of that, many of the usual birding spots were affected and we saw much less activity and nesting going on.  In fact, on one trip through the Anhinga Trail boardwalk, we saw only a few great blue herons, purple gallinules, tri-colored herons, cormorants, and anhingas.  Oh, but there never was a shortage of vultures.

Great blue heron almost had the place to himself at the Anhinga Trail.

Great blue heron almost had the place to himself at the Anhinga Trail.


It was a good winter for red shouldered hawks as well.  Often, in the early morning hours, they seemed to be everywhere along the park road.  Sometimes they would even pose for the camera …


… and sometimes they were looking quite tropical themselves.


This year at Eco Pond, we were treated to a reddish egret … aka “the entertainer”.  I just love to watch and photograph them as they glide over the surface of the water so gracefully and preen themselves when they take a break from their fishing endeavors.



As they run around like drunken sailors, I just find myself laughing to myself and sometimes to photography complete strangers.  LOL.  When they fish, they canopy feed to shade the surface of the water for easier pickings.  They’re quite quick too!



After they’ve had enough, or if they get chased off, they elevate from the water’s surface and take flight … usually to simply return without being gone too long.



The roseate spoonbills were also present in numbers, especially in the early light, but don’t stay too long.  No worries, they’ll be back later.  Of course, the black necked stilts provide endless entertainment as well.


This year, there was a pair of avocets that hung out with them as well.


Osprey are present in big numbers, especially in the Flamingo area.  Why not?  The canals and the bay are ready sources of food for them and they are quite efficient and skilled fishermen.  There are many nests in the area too.  Most nests are higher in trees, but there’s one nest by the marina where you can literally almost look into the nest!


We watched this pair of osprey parents over February and March raise their two young ospreys.  It’s amazing how fast they grow up.  This particular mama osprey is quite demanding of her mate and she seems to always be calling for something … food, nesting material, a break …. whatever.





Often, when he goes out to catch dinner, he’ll come back to the nest with it, but then will almost instantaneously depart – with the dinner!   He’ll take it to a nearby tree, post, or stump and eat about 1/3 to 1/2 of it, then return to the nest with it.  Mama will then take the remnants and tear into it and feed her babies – one at a time.  Many baby birds in a nest will fight violently for their fair share of the food, but not these osprey.  So patient, so peaceful, and yes, so adorable!



Another big star of Flamingo are the American Crocodiles.  The Everglades are one of only a few places that they can be found in the U.S.  My favorite thing to watch is the tourists that go out in rented canoes and kayaks when they arrive back at the marina docks, only to find several crocodiles in the water right next to them.  It’s quite intimidating to them and the look on their faces can be priceless.

"My what beautiful teeth you have!"

“My what beautiful teeth you have!”

Perhaps my favorite sighting each winter and early spring is the arrival of the swallowtail kites, which to me is about as iconic of a symbol of the Everglades as there can be … well maybe except for the alligators.  Oh, that and the mandatory stop at “Roberts is Here” fruit stand for an amazing key lime (or many other flavors) milkshake.  Tom won’t let a trip go by without one.  Yum Yum!


Hope that you enjoyed the Everglades sights as much as I did photographing them.  :-)



The Final Curtain Call – Yellowstone


Our last day in Yellowstone NP finally arrived.  I remember in the beginning, it seemed like four days would be plenty … I would have my fill of the cold … the snow coach … the photography.  What was I thinking?  Nothing could have been farther from the truth.


Our day started with a group of elk in the middle of a side road near the river.  Before this, we had only seen small gatherings of elk.  This group seemed to have a dominant elk, which seemed to keep its eye on us.  They seemed quite inquisitive …


… and quite entertaining …


Before too long they bolted into the nearby brush – one at a time – as they leaped over smaller shrubs and trees.  They have a tough life ahead of them, especially in the winter and I hope that they remain safe.

Another wonderful bald eagle sighting was encountered, right on the roadside.  This mature eagle sat in the nearby tree and offered us some awesome shots.


It too, got a bit bored with us, or tempted by something in its immediate surroundings and off it went, but not before clipping its wing on a branch, allowing a drift of snow to fall down around it as it took off to its next destination.



Roadblocks seemed to be the theme today as we traveled throughout the park.  This time it was a herd of bison – all seemingly sunning themselves in the middle of the road.  They didn’t seem to be in a rush to get anywhere fast, so we became delayed by them.


Of course, what do you do when you’re being held up by wildlife in Yellowstone?  You get out and begin to capture it.

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

It took some time, but eventually they got up, one by one, and began to move on down the road.  We took the opportunity to bypass them.


Late in the day, we began to make our last drive from Madison Junction to West Yellowstone.  Along the river, in awesome light, we came across another group of elk, but this time they were bulls.


We were totally enjoying our time shooting them, when all of a sudden, I heard Dan say … “someone said that there’s a bobcat down the road”.  Well, that was all that I needed to hear.  While the bull elk were gorgeous … I mean, a bobcat … AGAIN!  Off I ran, along with several of my fellow photographers.

Sure enough, it was our bobcat from our first day in Yellowstone.  Only this time, it was on the move!  I ran into the snow and began to shoot it, but found it hard to keep up.


As I struggled making my way through the snow, I was not so gently reminded by my body and cardiovascular system, that I was from the flatlands of Florida, which was also warm and humid.  This environment was cold and dry and the altitude was obviously higher that what I was normally used to.  I was also not accustomed to trekking through the deep snow.  After some time, I made my way to the road, which afforded me the ability to keep up the pace of the bobcat.


Several times this cat stopped in its tracks, as it was stalking a duck floating in the water.  I feared that we would witness carnage, but thankfully for me, that never happened.


I couldn’t believe the beauty of this creature and the grace it possessed as it made its way down the river … to the exact location that we saw earlier in the week.  I truly felt blessed to have shared in its day.

I couldn’t imagine a better ending to our time spent in Yellowstone!  As we drove back to our lodging, I believe that collectively we all arrived with big smiles on our faces.  :-)  I know that I did.



Honestly, I didn’t know what I expected from this photo tour.  What I found was obviously amazing photo opportunities (both wildlife and landscape), but even more pleasantly surprised was the amazing people that I shared this trip with.  I’m quite sure that many of them I will see again at some amazing place or another.  I also learned a lot about myself – most of which I won’t bore you with – but I encourage everyone to challenge themselves throughout life.  It’s always good to see what you’re made of.  :-)

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Thanks so much to Dan & Tanya Cox of Natural Exposures!  Your hospitality was truly wonderful – from start to finish!  Oh, I can’t also forget to thank Colter, tour assistant-extraordinaire!  You’re amazing!

Next blog post will most likely be something more local, so stay tuned.  Until then …..

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Another Day in Paradise … a.k.a. YNP Day #2


Waking up in the morning, I couldn’t help but wonder … what kind of things will present themselves today?  I mean, after yesterday, how could we possibly ever top all of that?  Will the weather remain as cooperative as it was yesterday?  So many questions yet to be answered.  Again, our carriage awaits … in the form of the Yellowstone snow coach, of course.  It really was nice … nicely heated for our comfort, especially on those early and cold mornings … roomy as well, as we each had 2 seats to work with, which was handy to keep all of our gear ready to spring into action … spacious yes, but intimate enough to engage in conversations and form friendships with fellow photographers.


Birds once again were the first order of business.  The trumpeter swans were out in force and began strutting their stuff in the early morning hours.


I was fascinated to see numbers of common goldeneye ducks – male and females – sharing the waters as well.


Of course, bald eagles were not to be outdone.  It wasn’t long before we spotted and even more exciting, heard our first eagle of the morning.  It was truly lovely to see, as it was relatively an eye level shot and the calling of the eagle and then subsequent flight was a sight to see, enhanced by the snowy backdrop.  The sound of eagle calling out in the wilderness left me breathless.

The call of the wild

The call of the wild


Of course, it wasn’t too long before we started seeing bigger wildlife, such as the female elk.  Several of them were together and feeding on whatever vegetation they could find underneath the snowy landscape.  It was so beautiful as they would look up with the traces of their efforts on their faces.


Some young males were found sitting nervously in the sunlight, relaxing, but always on alert for an unwanted “visitor”.  Just love their snowy noses.  :-)


Of course, there were more coyote sightings.  Seemed like everywhere we went we ran into coyotes.  Fun for us, yes, but that must mean a different story for the status of the wolves, which we never did see over the course of the week.

One of the coyotes we watched from afar, but before long it was nearer to us and just looked glorious in the midst of the sea of white that blanketed the immediate area.  It came to the rivers edge, looking for food.


Each day, we stopped at the Madison rest stop and on this day we ran into my favorite dusky grouse.  Again, the park rangers were not pleased with her presence.  Eventually they trapped her and were preparing to introduce her, miles away, to an area where she would not be exposed to people.  Seems a bit unfair to me.  I’ll just leave it at that.

On this trip, there was never a shortage of food or drinks.  We were treated to magnificent lunches that I still think about, our hot beverages of choice, and a daily scrumptious yummy … guaranteed to keep your energy high and your blood sugar zipping … as if I needed something extra to keep me hyper!

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

More elk were encountered seemingly most of the day.  We enjoyed their natural grazing as they made their way up the river.



Today was going to be more than wildlife we knew, since Yellowstone NP is also a landscape photographers dream.  So off to the geyser basins we went and actually we were treated to an active geyser erupting which usually only goes off 1-2 times daily.  Perfect timing in Biscuit Basin!


The paint pots are always a fun place to visit as well, especially in the winter.

DSC_1106The winter landscape is perfect for creating that special mood and atmosphere.

_DSC5503One of my favorite drives in Yellowstone, no matter the season, is Firehole Drive.  It is home to the Firehole Falls … a winter’s landscape dream.

_DSC5650Once again, we stop at the Madison rest stop for a needed “bio break” and it’s confirmed that we no longer have a grouse visitor in the immediate area.  So sad.  :-(  But we did have a parade of bison marching through and also a coyote, which apparently understands the road signage … LOL.


A quick trip on one of the Madison area turn-outs also yielded yet another coyote sighting, as this poor coyote was deep in the snow as it ran up the hillside.

_DSC5709OK, so I have to admit … at first I thought … what are we going to do with 4 entire full days in Yellowstone in the winter?  I mean, we had seen so much the first day.  Now that our 2nd day was winding down, it happened … I began to be sad that my experience was 1/2 way over.  So, as a celebration to my trip so far, I toasted our trip so far with Moose Drool draft over dinner!

photoHere’s to the next 2 days!  Stay tuned for more blog posts on Yellowstone in the winter!

Rainy Day In Talkeetna


Sure we were treated in 2013 to our fair share of drizzly weather in Alaska, but first of all, that’s pretty much normal for this time of year and second, it was drizzly, not a torrential downpour ever, and third, we were in Alaska – who cares!


So as we left the Kenai Peninsula and headed on our way to Denali NP, we decided that we were going to check out the Hurricane Turn Train out of Talkeetna.  We had heard about it the year before when Tom met Mary & Clyde Lovel, Alaskan homesteaders from in early 1960’s, with 4 kids in tow.  They settled in a small area they call Sherman, AK.  More on that later.

In Alaska, not all communities are accessible by paved road, or even dirt road for that matter.  Many communities are accessible only via bush planes, while others are accessible via what’s known as the Hurricane Turn Train, which goes out into the communities served by it – once a day, just a few days a week.  It is one of the only “whistle stop” trains in the USA.  Residents which wish to ride the train into the town of Talkeetna, simply walk out to the train track … anywhere along the way … and flag the train down.  How cool is that?


Now normally you would imagine that a train that pretty much follows the path of the Susitna River into the wilderness would have lots of wildlife along the way.  Most times of the year that might possibly be true, but on today’s adventure, the only wildlife that we saw were faraway bald eagles and several pairs of trumpeter swans.


“Hey honey, I think that we’ve been spotted”


“Stop staring at us! Go away”


“I don’t think that they’re leaving anytime soon”


“Well, let’s just take this show somewhere else”

There were wonderful views outside the train as it traveled down the trains towards the Hurrican Gulch Bridge, which in itself is a fascinating sight to see roadside, but probably even more fascinating to witness as the train stops directly on the bridge and the gorge looms below.


Of course, all along the way, Tom & I were having fun running around between the mostly empty train cars.  What a way to visit history, stay dry, experience something new!


For Tom, I think the highlight of the day is when we stopped at the “Sherman City Hall”.  Well, OK it’s not really a city hall, but it is the self-proclaimed city hall of Sherman and the home of the Mary & Clyde Lovel.  Not only that, but they whistled the train down and boarded the train and rode it into town.  Once we arrived in Talkeetna, Tom was able to chat with Mary again, which he really enjoyed.  :-)


We also noticed a structure on the tracks, which turned out to be a train track snow blower, which I’m sure gets plenty of use most of the year, other than the summer.


After our time spent in Talkeetna and the other tiny towns along the way, we realized that we STILL hadn’t celebrated even our first moose sighting of the trip yet!  Until that moment … there it was … right in front of our eyes ….


Oh well, I guess the hunt is still on.  Glad that we’re on our way to Denali NP!

A Magical Place … Lake Clark NP


Every time we venture over to Alaska, we always try to do something different (sea kayaking, paragliding, whitewater rafting) or go somewhere different … and this year was not an exception.  OK, so it’s no surprise that we LOVE the brown bears.  We always fly over to Katmai or visit the Russian River to spend time with them, but we had never gone to the other area national parks, which are also renowned for their bears.  So, off we went to Lake Clark National Park for a new adventure.


It was a short flight from Soldotna to Lake Clark and it was also an outstanding one – once we got off the ground.  The views were incredible!  That being said, for a few hours, I thought for sure that we would not be going, as the fog layer was quite thick in Soldotna.  That’s pretty much a way of life in Alaska … flight delays  :-(  … and to make it worse, the weather was reportedly beautiful on the other side of the inlet.


But we finally made it there.  We usually fly over in a floatplane to Katmai, so it was quite a treat to experience a beach landing!  Pretty nice arrival, I must say.


We had plans to stay at the Alaska Homestead Lodge, hosted by James & Shelia Isaak, on the shores of the Cook Inlet, with Mt. Iliamna looming in the backdrop.  What a fabulous place with great views, great food, great lodging, great guests and great “neighbors”.

The first “neighbor” to greet us was a brown bear nicknamed “Trouble”.  How excited I was as I rushed to grab my gear to document the welcoming party.  It came strolling down the “road” … I say “road” because the dirt road in front of the property was also the “runway” for James’ personal airplanes.


Trouble didn’t get that nickname for nothing, as he immediately found the barrel out in the garden and began to try to roll it around and mess it up.  To us, it was fun to watch though and quite comical.

What an innocent looking young bear!   ... Not!

What an innocent looking young bear! … Not!

Meet Trouble ... doing what he did best  :-)

Meet Trouble … doing what he did best :-)

Eventually, with a bear just being a bear, it found the cover to the septic tank and began to gnaw on it.  Well, that didn’t sit well with the owners and he got yelled at and as it ran off, it tried to take the cover with him!  LOL


After a quick orientation to the property, we were off to find the bears.  There were signs of them along the way, as we ventured out to the shores of the inlet.

Now that's a big one!

Now that’s a big one!

Before long, we came across our first brown bear … coming in from the water it was coming right towards us … and continued past us.  Trouble was also present and we thought that we might have an interaction between the two, but Trouble was quite the submissive one around other bears.



Most of the time, we found this bear doing one of two things ….  sitting and looking around


…. or resting on a pile of warm sand, probably with its fresh catch buried under the mound.


But you couldn’t beat the view!


The bears weren’t the only ones fishing off the coast, as one morning we were treated to a bald eagle flying in, hitting the waters surface, grabbing a fish, and flying off with the prize.




Again, the bears wouldn’t be outdone by the eagles, so they would catch their own, carry it off, bury it, and of course, take a nap!



During our stay, the bears were less plentiful than even just a few days ahead, but none of that mattered to us.  We were just so happy that we could spend our wedding anniversary in the most magnificent place around.  Our “30th” … maybe, but probably more like our 5th.  See, our hosts had a 30th celebration for us, which made us laugh, but we took that as a good omen to come.  Thanks to all at the Homestead that helped to make it special for us.  :-)


Until next time …. we leave you with the serenity of Lake Clark NP


Next up for the Blog …. All aboard in Talkeetna!!

A Wing & A Prayer


One last blog post from Homer, AK … where we always seem to spend some time on each and every trip to Alaska.  They say that Homer is “A Drinking Town, With A Fishing Problem” … LOL … see, everyone knows that Homer is quite a laid back type community.  That being said, it is also well known that Homer is the place to be for fishing … for it’s the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World” and it ain’t too bad for many other types of fishing as well.  Fishermen come from all over the world to fish in the waters off Homer, Kachemak Bay, and the Cook Inlet.  I’m not just talking about the human kind.  :-)

One morning, after our “must stop” at Two Sisters Bakery for some drinks and a few baked goods or even their amazing sandwiches, we took off on a long hike along the shoreline north of Bishop’s Beach.  Being from south Florida, I feel very familiar walking along the sand, knowing that you never know what you’ll find.


As we hiked along, we could hear all of the familiar sounds … the crashing of the waves, the whistling of the wind, and the seabirds calling out along the shore.  What we didn’t expect was the tsunami sirens going off loudly and alerting everyone to what to do if this had been “an actual emergency” and a tsunami was imminent.  Of course, seeing the tall cliffs around us that we would have to somehow scale … I knew we, or I should say I, would probably be screwed!  Yikes.

Tsunami Warning Sirens all along the beach and town

Tsunami Warning Sirens all along the beach and town

Before long, we could hear the unmistakable calling out of bald eagles.  So shrill, yet so beautiful.  Our ears tried to determine their exact location.  It was like a game of “Marco … Polo”.  Soon, we saw where it was … that being not far in front of us, perched on one of the  beach rocks on the sand.  At that time, Tom had the long lens … I had the landscape lens. We were quite a bit apart and I knew that Tom had to act quickly to ensure that at least one of us got the shot.  From here on in through this post, these images were taken by Tom alone.


I told him to approach carefully, with respectful, yet not too quick of pace, being ready to push the shutter at any moment.  I sat down where I was, so as not to disturb his shooting. It was admittedly, one of the hardest things I could do … just sit.  I mean this juvenile bald eagle was perched so beautifully, calling out to what I would imagine where his nearby parents or siblings.

After some time, I guess that one of the gulls wasn’t too happy with his location and it began to harass him.  It dove at him, screaming all the time, coming from the right …



… then from the left, as the eagle turned around to defend itself.  Funny how even the feared bald eagles get the “Rodney Dangerfield” treatment, i.e. “no respect”, every now and again.   LOL.



I was hoping and praying that Tom was taking advantage of the gift of this sighting and having the right gear, at the right place, and the right time.  It was however, the equivalent of the perfect storm … the trifecta, if you will.

Finally, the juvenile prepped for its take-off.  “Be sure to get it Tom” I shouted.  I REALLY wanted my wildlife lens right about that point.  I could hear Tom clicking away on the shutter in a very purposeful manner … not your “spray & pray” fashion.



Off went the eagle, flying low to the sand, over the landscape towards Tom and eventually past him.  We watched where he landed and headed in the general direction.  This young eagle didn’t even mind when we got pretty close to his perched position, as he continued to call out.




We eventually decided that it had gotten as good as it was going to get, so we continued on our walk back to the RV.  It wasn’t until later that I saw what Tom had captured and I have to admit, I was quite impressed!  What do you think?  Yes, grasshopper learned very well.  :-)


Next:  All Aboard in Talkeetna!