Nothing Like Springtime In Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, is mainly situated in Wyoming, but also extends minimally into Montana and Idaho.  While I’ve visited Yellowstone many times in the winter, summer, or fall … I had never been there during the spring season.  Earlier this year, with the company of our good friends Jen and Travis, we decided to do just that.  I have always said that I feel Yellowstone is one of the most diverse of the national parks of the US.  I’ve often referred to it as the “Disneyland” of parks … with lakes, canyons, thermal grounds, hot springs, geysers, valleys, and of course, many species of wildlife.

In the spring, there are less crowds, milder temperatures, emerging grasslands, and wildlife, including the US National Mammal … the American Bison._DSC9334-2

During my winter visit to Yellowstone, I had almost no chance of finding a bear, for they were hibernating in their dens at that time.  So, being the bear fanatic that I am, they were high on my list to find and photograph.  It wasn’t long before we found them too.  However, these were mostly black bears for us on this trip.  This big one seemed to be enjoying its lunch of greens.  🙂DSC_2556Whether black bears or brown bears, the sighting and photograph is always so much more special when eye contact is made.DSC_2534Visiting in the springtime does have its unique advantages including getting to see the spring babies.  Believe it or not, but this was the first time that I had photographed the young “red dogs”.  They were just too cute!DSC_2671They would take advantage every time that they could find their mama standing still to nurse on them, all the while keeping its eye on us.  Have you ever seen a baby bison nurse?  Well, it may look all peaceful in this image, but it’s quite an ordeal.  The newbie nursing peacefully for a short time, then rams its head into its moms underside in order for the milk to come out better.  Tom would give a few sympathy pain expressions for the mom every time that the young ones punched.  LOLDSC_2618-2They call them red dogs due to the coloration they possess when they’re newborn.  Clearly not the traditional bison color._DSC9510-2It was adorable how closely they stayed to moms side most of the time.  The protection of the herd is critical for their survival._DSC9532-2Once in a while they would meet up with another young one in the herd and appear to greet each other … often followed up with some running around together and a few head wrestling moments._DSC9570-2When there are bison around, there are almost always some birds hitchhiking a ride or using their backs as a landing strip.  LOL.  Never did it seem to even phase the bison._DSC9601-2Though bison are the most abundant large mammal in the park, there are also many more species, including the pronghorn antelope.DSC_2588-2I don’t think that I need to tell you how much we squealed with delight when we spotted our first baby pronghorn of the day, which coincidentally, was our first and only.  It was a bit too early for the babies and we were so ecstatic that this momma had hers a bit earlier.  It was by far just the cutest thing ever … such a sweet adorable face, wobbly legs, and it could race around impressingly fast.DSC_2714The bighorn sheep ewes were also spotted on our first day.  OK, so they weren’t the most photogenic subjects I’ve ever shot, with their scruffy spring coat, but hey, we found them grazing on the hillside and they were posing, so why not?  DSC_2695-2OK, so back to some more black bears … this momma sow was spotted near the base of a tree, not far from us.  We wondered what was going on because she seemed so alert to her surroundings.DSC_2794Then we spotted her cub … way up at the top of a very tall tree.  I wish I took an image to show just how high up it was.  To me, it looked like one of those “witches broom” deformities in the tree, but alas, it was this adorable cub.DSC_2910The story went that there was a boar (or two) cruising around the area where the sow and her cub were grazing, so she sent her cub up.  At one point, we could see the boar in two different places, but couldn’t be sure if it was the same one.  I couldn’t believe the patience of the sow and cub and how skilled it was to remain there safely.  That’s about when it climbed up to literally the tip top….DSC_2968We readied our gear, knowing that it went up of course to come down.  Nope, that cub curled itself over the point of the tree top and remained for quite some more time.  This was all during some rainfall and windy conditions.  I was nervous for the little one, yet couldn’t look away.  After mom gave it the “all’s clear” call, it began its descent.DSC_2995It skillfully hung on to the tree circumference as it went down … slow and steady.DSC_3065Along the way, it would savor some insects for some extra nourishment, maybe even lick a few raindrops perhaps.DSC_3071Every so often a break was taken on a convenient branch.  The sow below was getting quite impatient and as it got within her “standing on her hind legs” grapse, she tugged on it and made the arrival on the ground and by her side a quicker one.  Such an adorable experience to witness.  Those bears have amazing instincts for survival.  A boar in the area would most likely try to mate with her and kill the cub in the process.  They were both safe and it was a great morning for sure.DSC_3084When we were visiting Yellowstone earlier this winter, we had so many coyote sightings (including one with them mating).  I was quite surprised that we didn’t see as many on this spring visit.  We did however have one at a very close range that was rolling around … and around … and around paying absolutely no attention to us as we photographed.
_DSC9436-2As I said, this coyote knew that we were there, but was preoccupied in what it was doing.  When it left the area, we walked over to figure out what it was rolling in and saw nothing.  Must have been simply marking its territory.  Such a cool experience._DSC9403Remember, I’m no expert birder, so when I saw this guy, I took images and asked for identification later.  We knew that it was a woodpecker by its behavior of incessant pecking, but didn’t know the species.  It turned out to be, as many of you might already know, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker.  They lack the inner hind toe on each foot and breed further north than any other American woodpecker.  How fun to see._DSC9606-2While photographing the woodpecker who visited with us, we stumbled upon another visitor.  A gorgeous bull elk arrived and grazed on the hillside right next to us.  He already started growing its antlers, which were all covered in velvet.  He still was in the process of shedding his winter coat as well, so he looked a bit scruffy too._DSC9697-2_DSC9668-2Just before we exited the park on that day, we came across our first elk babies of the trip.  they were a bit higher than us on the hillside, so a great shot would have to wait for another day, but it was adorable to see them kiss nose to nose in a tender moment.  Got to love those spots too.  🙂DSC_3446

So our trip to Yellowstone NP in the spring was off to a great start.  Before I end this post, I wanted to share with everyone what I didn’t expect in May in Yellowstone … the weather that we were treated to.  We had weather that wasn’t that much different than our winter visit … rain, hail, sleet, clouds, and snow!  Hayden Valley couldn’t be accessed on several days because Dunraven Pass was closed due to snow and icy conditions.  (Note:  Please pardon these through the windshield images, but I wanted to share the wather shots)IMG_1085Of course, all we had to do was turn a corner and we had sunshine and blue skies as well.  Got to love the variety of weather conditions that we had.  🙂IMG_1086

Next up:  More from Yellowstone NP

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Always Expect the Unexpected

Yellowstone NP in the winter is a fabulous place … so vast, so snowy, so quiet.  The freshly fallen snow makes wildlife spotting easier and tracks in the snow provides clues as to what might be where.  Bring in the sun, patchy white clouds, and blue sky, and it all seems so perfect.IMG_0571 2As we leave the wintery roads of Lamar Valley, the scenery beckons me and makes it hard to drive away.  We are off to the West Yellowstone entrance of Yellowstone NP, which is closed to most traffic during the winter, except for the organized snowmobile and snow coach tours.  Numerous years ago, Tom & I engaged in one of the snowmobile tours, but quickly realized that they are not the preferred route for photographers.  Two years ago, I experienced a Yellowstone in Winter photography tour, with Daniel Cox of Natural Exposures.  It was amazing and I highly recommend it for anyone that might be interested.IMG_0572 2This year however, I had arranged a small snow coach to take Tom and I, as well as some friends into the park … in search of the notorious bobcat(s) that had been spotted regularly for about a month, but not for the last week or two before we got there.IMG_0604 2Though Yellowstone, for me, is primarily about the wildlife … it also has some gorgeous landscape views._DSC4063_DSC4055Before long, a lone coyote was spotted along one of the rivers.  We jumped out and began to photograph it as it made its way quickly, stopping to check us out along the way._DSC6287At one point it stopped at something that was somewhat buried in the snow.  After closer observation, we noticed that it was an elk carcass, specifically the head and antlers.  It was a very strange sighting, especially with what appeared to be wires wrapped in its tines.  To this day I wonder what the story was behind that sighting, though it did seem a bit eerie._DSC6382On the lighter side of our sightings, the trumpeter swans were out in force … some in mated pairs, some with juveniles still with them, and some were solo.  All were beautiful.  🙂_DSC6170As were the falls, with the crashing of the waters as it made its way along._DSC4086We had some bald eagle sightings as well, including this one towards the end of our day.  It was finishing off a meal of fresh fish as we caught up with it.  We watched patiently as it devoured it … one piece at a time._DSC6397Suddenly it lifted up and flew off, but not too far.  It was then that I noticed that this bald eagle had been banded.  I researched the internet and found that many years ago, researchers had banded bald eagles in that area, and perhaps this was one of them.  If anyone out there knows more on this, please reach out and/or comment, so that I can learn more.  Thanks!_DSC6405It finally landed in the river, but in a location which was even better for us to photograph it.  I thought that was pretty nice of it to do that for us, don’t you?_DSC6434Well, in case you’re wondering, we never did find that bobcat, though there was reportedly a possible sighting that day.  Of course when we heard the call, off we went to the exact location where it was spotted.  Nada!  Perhaps it was an erroneous report … or it wandered off.  Dang!

What we encountered though was quite remarkable and could never have been expected … never have I seen this before.  We came across an area where we had earlier seen a coyote (one of many sightings that day).  So we slowed down just a bit to check out if we could find it again.

Well, all of a sudden we see not one, but two coyotes together … and close.  It was odd in that they just stood there and didn’t try to run.  That’s when Jen realized and called out “they’re mating … they’re tied”.  Of course, now it made sense … they couldn’t run.  Poor things just stood there, taking turns on who was going to have to look our way.  Once and awhile, they both looked our way.  Such indignant looks too.  LOL.  I know that it doesn’t look like anything, but these two lovebirds were in fact … tied._DSC6495After several minutes and hundreds of collective clicks of the camera later, they “untied” and parted.  The female walked away, followed by the male who sniffed her for a bit, then they had an affectionate moment of nose to nose action and a bit of rubbing.  It was after all, Valentine’s Day.  No joke!_DSC6526Being that we didn’t have any moose sightings, I had to find one on my own.  OK, maybe this was just a moose carving in town.IMG_0606 2When we left West Yellowstone … on our way towards Grand Teton NP … we came across more bighorn sheep rams.  Not before we got our AWD car stuck in an unplowed pull-off (yes, I just had to have that landscape shot … which ironically I never got since we were stuck and all)._DSC6486No matter how many of these guys we come across, I can’t help but stop for more images._DSC6490Finally we had a group of trumpeter swans bid us adieu as we made our way into Idaho._DSC6761So all in all, I learned that when in Yellowstone during the winter … Always EXPECT the UNEXPECTED!

Thanks Jen, Travis, Debby, and Jessica for sharing in our snow coach day in Yellowstone.  We had a blast and were quite entertained.  😉  Good times.

Next Up:  Back to some springtime action in Florida … Sandhill crane-style.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

It’s Not Just Red Rocks

While the Garden of the Gods exists primarily for the red rock formations that it features, there are other things that the visitor might visit the area for … such as flowers in the summer, the vast array of wildlife, and the outdoor activities that one might partake in, while in the midst of the beauty that surrounds and defines the park.

Wildflowers are something that I have always been fascinated with, though I rarely shoot.  Of course, as I was waiting for Tom to get ready for his mountain bike ride (remember this was Tom’s mountain bike adventure trip), I had to indulge.DSC_5754 DSC_5756 After shooting several of the wildflower collections, I heard Tom talking.  I found that he had made a new friend … a beautiful magpie that apparently wasn’t buying anything of what Tom was offering.  LOLDSC_5680 Off Tom went on his mountain bike ride, so I hiked around looking for more photo ops.  Didn’t take long before I saw this couple going by on their horses right next to me.  Hey, I want to do that!DSC_5681 Such a beautiful place to go for a morning ride, wouldn’t you agree?DSC_5707 Of course, the clouds were so cooperative this morning and fit in nicely in my landscape compositions.DSC_5716 DSC_5725 Of course, I had to shoot my favorite flower … the columbine … so very beautiful.DSC_5753 DSC_5756-2 OK, so it wasn’t just flowers.  There were great opportunities to shoot some wildlife as well.DSC_5739 We had the sweetest interaction with this bunny rabbit too.  It was feeding on the vegetation off the trails, but stopped and ran up the improvised trail.  Right in front of us it stopped, stared at us, then ….DSC_5657

….. immediately drop down onto its belly as it continued to stare at us.  We laughed so hard, as I had never seen a bunny do anything like that.  Usually, they run away as quickly as they can.

DSC_5666 DSC_5726 Again, the flowers were the big hit and provided added beauty to this already beautiful place.  We will always return when we’re in the area.DSC_5711

Next Up:  One word … BOURBON!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Guanella Pass … It’s All About Improvising :-)

Though this road trip was more about Tom and his cycling, there was one thing I wanted to do which was non-negotiable … I wanted to make a side trip to Mt. Evans for some mountain goat photography.  As promised, when we departed Grand Junction, CO, we began our way to Idaho Springs, CO.  We were excited too, as we were meeting up with an old friend of ours, Rick Louie.

The scenery along the way was simply spectacular!
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We were set to meet up at Echo Lake Lodge, a wonderful place that is located near the entrance to the Mt. Evans highway.  However, things changed along the way (more on that  in the next blog), so after we met at the lodge … we improvised.  🙂

Rick suggested that we drive to Georgetown, CO, then head up towards Guanella Pass, which is part of the Front Range west of Denver.  As we began our climb along the road, we found some bighorn sheep ewes and some young ones as well.  I don’t think that I’ve ever seen summer bighorns, as they were molting and appeared to be quite shabby looking.  Still, being the wildlife nut that I am, I began shooting them … right from the car window.  🙂

20150715-DSC_5085 We arrived at the parking lot up near the top and the skies showed signs of an impending storm brewing.  Nonetheless, the scenery couldn’t be beat and it was fabulous being up there.  In the distance, Mt. Bierstadt (14,060 ft) loomed.20150715-DSC_5462 It didn’t matter which orientation you faced in … beautiful all the way around.20150715-DSC_5465 Every so often, the sun poked through and cast it’s warm light upon the mountain range.20150715-DSC_5472 As we began to hike a bit, we couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous wildflowers that were still in bloom on the landscape.20150715-DSC_5478 As the wind blew around us, we also were serenaded by a bird singing somewhere near us.  Every so often, we could see something darting in and out of the brush, but it remained elusive for a bit.  Finally, we located it … a white-crowned sparrow … this time perched on top of the brush.  It was quite cooperative for the camera as well.20150715-DSC_5479 20150715-DSC_5482 We noticed a small lake in the middle of a nearby field and decided to check it out closer.  Come on, you’ve got to admit that the pathway towards the lake was quite inviting.  Glad that there was the boardwalk as well, as the earth was quite saturated in spots there.20150715-DSC_5484 20150715-DSC_5486 Again, the scenery and the wildflowers were beautiful and the setting was quite serene.  I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the sunlight or early morning.20150715-DSC_5087 20150715-DSC_5102 20150715-DSC_5507Thanks Rick for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet up with us.  Totally enjoyed shooting with you, whether it’s in the Canadian Rockies or up on Guanella Pass.  20150715-DSC_5483After, we went for a late bite to eat in Idaho Springs … and of course, continued to catch up.  Oh, we obviously got a bit silly in a mostly empty saloon too.  LOL

20150715-IMG_2795For anyone that might be interested, Rick also provide photography workshops in Colorado and surrounding areas, as well as portrait and wedding photography.  Check out his website at http://www.ricklouiephotography.com.

Next:  Our Mt. Evans adventure … and I do mean, adventure!

© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

 

The Early Bird Gets the Worm (& the sunrise, too)

What better way to start a new day than with a sunrise from Colorado National Monument!  After the amazing day I had yesterday, Amy was kind enough to agree to meeting up, very early, to situate ourselves up on the monument to capture the sunrise.  The clouds showed up as well, which only adds to the atmosphere of the shot.20150714-DSC_5272-HDROK, so there was a very light sprinkle along the way, but that only added a beautiful rainbow (stop looking … it’s not in this blog).  It was behind us and though I shot it, I was still so amazed at those deep colors emerging in the early morning’s light and subsequent sunrise.
20150714-DSC_5285-HDR Often, when the sun rises, the sunrise shooting is over, as the sun’s light gets too bright and harsh.  However, when the light get shrouded behind a cloud or mountain peak in the distance, it can be fabulous.  Love the sun burst on the horizon.20150714-DSC_5346-HDR 20150714-DSC_5351-HDR I was having so much fun just watching the changing colors in the sky, that I would find myself forgetting to click my shutter!  LOL20150714-DSC_5315-HDR 20150714-DSC_5436-HDR More rays of light shiny down on the city of Grand Junction.20150714-DSC_5381-HDR Of course, Colorado National Monument itself is quite fascinating in its varied terrain, red rock formations, green brush cover, and prominent textures.  We looked, but didn’t see the bighorn sheep that Tom & I ran into the night before.20150714-DSC_5448 We did however, see a whole colony of chukkars scurrying around on the rocky landscape.  It was fun to see them somewhere new … as I had first seen them earlier in the winter at Antelope Island SP in Utah for my first time.  They have the most interesting colors and features.20150714-DSC_4887We also toured a few areas near GJ, including an Audubon Nature Preserve (I hope I got that right Amy).  There I got to photograph several Western Kingbirds, perched and also flying around, on the area bushes.  I think it was a first sighting for me.
20150714-DSC_5013 Now, when speaking of amazing and interesting features, we also spotted a Gambel’s Quail perched nearby the road.  What a fancy looking thing too!  It simply sat there, observing us, as we photographed away.  Not one to do much flying, it did finally take a quick and short flight to the landscape below after some time.  Again, it was another first for me.  20150714-DSC_4980 One last bird for my “new” list, was this immature blue grosbeak.  I know that this is far from a stellar shot, but hey, it was a new one.  I have never taken the time to create my “life list” of birds seen, but after this trip and with lots more travel planned in my retirement from my “day job”, I might just start one now.  🙂20150714-DSC_5044The last 2 days of touring Grand Junction, with the “insider’s advantage” was made possible by my friend, Amy (“Happy Photographer” on Flickr – easy to see where she got that user name).  Thanks so much!  Can’t wait to come back!20150714-IMG_2777 No town visit is ever complete without a visit to their local sushi restaurant for a celebratory dinner, which didn’t disappoint either.  Yummy!20150714-IMG_2779Next up:  Idaho Springs, CO and another meet up with an old friend and photographer for some mountain goats and landscapes!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

 

Friends In High Places

Photography offers so much … from beautiful scenery to wonderful wildlife interaction to travel opportunities to understanding and appreciating one’s surroundings.  The sharing of those images offers those who can’t be there to experience just a slice of the adventure at hand.  It may also provide the viewer an opportunity to “check a place out” to visit or plan for a future visit.  However, there’s a huge opportunity that many seize, though still some overlook … that is, the friendships that are made along the photo-sharing path.

Enter Grand Junction, CO….

Of course, this was Tom’s cycling road trip and I was along for the ride, trying to experience it fully for myself through the photographic sights along the way.  Another mecca for both mountain and road cycling is the Grand Junction & Fruita area, so I knew that it would be on our agenda.  Of course, now when I think of Grand Junction, I think also of the amazing photography work of Amy Hudechek and her mom Bev Zuerlein, friends I have made over the years while sharing images on Flickr.

Amy & I made plans to meet up and she graciously agreed to show me some of what Grand Junction had to offer.  So off we went to Grand Mesa for some prime time lighting landscape shots.
20150713-DSC_5128 Yes, the wildflowers were out in force, with these yellow blooms being one of my favorites. Reminded me a bit of the yellow blanket of canola fields in the Palouse of Washington state from 2014.20150713-DSC_5136

Situated at 10,000 ft elevation, when you arrive at the “end of the road”, it’s an amazing view – both for landscapes and the various critters and birds milling around.  Seeming like they wanted their photo taken, I was only too happy to oblige.  🙂20150713-DSC_4692 20150713-DSC_4703 Several large ravens were nearby, as well as this beautiful Clark’s Nutcracker.20150713-DSC_4646 As we were making our way back down, we came  across some wonderful columbines, one of my favorite flowers.20150713-DSC_4715 Making a quick stop at Island Lake, which was so very beautiful as well.20150713-DSC_5153

Amy suggested that we stop and have lunch at the True Grit Cafe in Ridgeway, CO.  What a great place, though it was a bit crowded on our visit, due to an event in nearby Telluride. However, you absolutely couldn’t beat the views of the San Juan Mountains from the outside deck.  So very charming.20150713-IMG_2762Just about when we finished eating, I got a text from Tom saying how he wished he was touring the area with us.  So while walking back to the car, I spotted this Fire Dept building and captured this iPhone image and sent it to him.  Yes, see, I was thinking about him.  🙂
20150713-IMG_2763 Amy took me to so many fabulous places along the way.  A favorite of mine was this old IH (International Harvester) truck.  Set in the middle of a field of yellow bloom, it was perfect with its rusty surface.  Love it!20150713-DSC_5173 Amy knew of a horse corral with amazing backdrop views as well and we spent some time there as well.  Though the corral was empty when we were there, how could any horse mind calling that place home!20150713-DSC_5184 While we didn’t see the horses, we did see some cattle, who were hanging out close by to where Amy parked the car for our visit.  Loved the way this one gave us the total stink eye as we loaded up in the car again.  LOL20150713-DSC_5197 Yes, the area surrounding Grand Junction has everything and then some for the outdoor nature photographer.  I was very happy to have been able to get out and see some of it.  Thanks Amy!20150713-DSC_5195 When I got back to our rental condo, I told Tom that I wanted to try to photograph the sunset from the nearby Colorado National Monument.  It was my first visit there, though Tom had been cycling up there earlier, and I think that the bighorn sheep “got the memo” and came to check me out as well.  🙂20150713-DSC_4748Looking west from the monument, the sunset proved to be quite beautiful, as expected.
20150713-DSC_5210-HDR It never ceases to amaze me how the light changes so quickly and the colors get so varied, even when the sun had set.20150713-DSC_5244-HDRIt was the perfect ending, to the perfect day.  But there’s more …

Next up:  After the sunset, there’s always another sunrise the next day.  Stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

High Hopes For Arches NP

So the cross country cycling road trip begins … at least for me, since the guys had already driven from Fairfax, VA to Park City, UT, including a stop for some mountain biking near Laramie, WY.  As was mentioned in the last blog post, the skies had cleared up upon our leaving Park City and remained that way during the 4 hour drive into Moab.

While Moab is a mountain biker’s dream location, for me, there was also Arches National Park just down the street from our lodging.  My new friend, Rachel (also a photographer) and I gladly allowed the guys to head up to the Slickrock Trail for some evening warmup riding.  We, on the other hand, headed up to Arches NP to catch the last bit of light and the accompanying sunset.  She had never been there and I had such amazing memories from the last time Tom & I met up with another good friend, Rodney, and got some wonderful shots, including some night photography as well.20150710-DSC_4874

The clouds were wonderful in creating a nice texture to the sky backdrop.  While there were some visitors milling around, we did our best to try to eliminate from our images.

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A quick check on the setting sun and those wonderful clouds made us excited for the eventual sunset.

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When the sun eventually set on the horizon, there was still a wonderful bask of warm gorgeous light on the red rock formations, so iconic of Arches NP.

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At one point I noticed that there was a rain storm brewing, but it was off in the distance.  We did wonder how the guys were fairing with the storm, but for us, we remained dry and determined.

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Then the colors started to emerge ….

20150710-DSC_4924…. and it was gorgeous!  Just about that same time, we could hear thunder and see lighting bolts coming down around us, though still off in the distance.  We also noticed that there were now 3 different rain downpours off in varying directions from us.
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The sky turned very dark quickly and we began to try to capture the lightning strikes around us.  OK, maybe not too successfully, but we gave it a good effort.  Then we decided that there would be no light painting on the arches for us tonight and departed.  In case you’re wondering, yes, the guys got some of the rain as well.  Tomorrow’s a new day.

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After dropping the guys off at the trailhead for the “Whole Enchillada” the next morning, we headed off back to Arches NP for some hiking and photography.

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But as you can see, the skies were once again not cooperating.  About 30 minutes into shooting, we got poured on, as we ran through the rain, thunder, and lightning, trying to keep our gear safe and dry.  Before we did, we were able to grab a few shots.

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There’s something not compatible with lightning and barren exposures like the terrain at Arches NP.  While I had hoped to get some rest and venture out again in the middle of the night for night photography, the clouds made that an aborted effort.  I guess the rain had followed us and that I wasn’t meant to get much out of this side trip to Arches.  I wondered why … and hoped that I would find an answer somewhere along this road trip.  🙂

More to come from Moab, UT … stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

 

#FindYourPark … Everglades-style

In 2016, the National Park Service will be celebrating its centennial birthday!  Leading up to that event, they have launched a “Find Your Park” campaign, where visitors tell stories about “their” park.  Recently I launched a 9-day series of #FindYourPark images and stories on my flickr page (if you haven’t seen it yet and are interested, click on the flickr link, scan down several weeks of images, and give it a look).  I found it difficult to designate “my park” … should it be the one I visit most often, the one my soul calls to the most, the one I find most beautiful, or perhaps the one geographically closest?

Geographically, “my park” would then be Everglades National Park.  🙂  Now the Everglades NP is an amazing place to visit, has so much beauty to explore, and holds such an environmental significance to Florida and worldwide as well.  So, let’s visit there virtually together in this blog post.  Ready?

Now this is what I’m talking about … pure iconic Everglades … an early morning sunrise often is accompanied by mist and low profile fog … so very beautiful.  Water levels change drastically depending on the season and recent rainfall in the Everglades.  The Everglades represents such change that you can only be guaranteed that each day will have a look all its own – very different than the day before or even the day after.  It’s totally amazing!

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Having grown up in South Florida and visiting the Everglades more that I can easily count, on one recent very foggy morning, I was treated to a new phenomenon for me … a fog bow.  Similar to a rainbow, but it lacks color, due to the small size of the water droplets, it was fabulous to see.  Immediately I pulled off the road to try to document what I saw.  Have to say that it was a fairly close rendition of the moment.  🙂

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Being that these images were from February, much of the wildlife encountered revolved around the birds.  See, the Everglades are an important part of many species of birds and their migratory paths.  I joke too because once the warmer weather comes, as well as the skeeters, even the birds don’t want to hang around (OK, they probably leave for other reasons ;-), and good thing because you’ve got to really want to hang out in the heat and humidity and get totally bit up to come in the height of the summer).

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Roseate spoonbills arrive to various ponds and waters to do some feeding and begin looking for their mate.  About this time, they begin to get those fabulous breeding colors that make them irresistible to all who catch a glimpse of them.  So bizarre looking for sure, but gorgeous!

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The pileated woodpeckers are just one of the birds which call the area their local hangout.

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Most times they’re quite cooperative, but eventually they launch for destinations unknown.

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Of course, the Flamingo area of the Everglades most dominant resident bird is the osprey. In the winter they build their nests, mate, sit on their eggs, and eventually raise their young.  It’s always fascinating to watch dad bring in a fresh catch for mom as she tends to the nest.  Yum!

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Black necked stilts, as in the image below, as well as avocets and yellowlegs, etc, also join in on the fun at Eco Pond.

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Red shouldered hawks are seemingly plentiful as well.  Sometimes you see them … sometimes you don’t … until off they fly with a quick launch.  So very beautiful.  American kestrels and northern harriers often make themselves visible as well.

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Probably one of the most animated of all birds to visit is the reddish egret.  They always make a grand entrance as they fly low just above the waters surface, allowing their reflection to be seen.  They fly with such grace and beauty … such sophistication.  But don’t let that fool you, for they look more like drunken sailors as they run around doing silly antics as they fish for food.  I dare you to watch them for more than 5 minutes without getting a huge grin on your face, or if you’re like me … busting out in laughter.

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While the Everglades always has its fair share of brown pelicans, they also get white pelicans too.  Again, they also have quite the splashdown landing, which commands your attention when they fly in.

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I’m continually amazed at how they go about catching their food.  They seemingly eye it with their heads on a sideways angle, then slam their head and beak into the water and go for it!  You know that they’ve hit pay dirt when they then sit up and swallow.  So fascinating to watch.

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Probably one of my favorite wading birds are the lovely and delicate-looking black-necked stilts.  So very beautiful and skilled at catching the tiniest of minnows, they get quite beautiful this time of year with those bright legs and big red eye.  Soon they will begin their courtship and mating.

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Before long the osprey babies get big enough to make their presence known.  Not only do they offer the photographer a nice glimpse at their big orange eyes, but they also sure learn quick how to scream at dad to bring them some dinner.  🙂

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Yes, the landscapes of the Everglades are iconic and second to none.  Case in point it this view of what’s affectionately known as the “Z” tree.  Nature is quite amazing, don’t you agree?

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Now no trip to the Everglades is ever complete, at least not for Tom & I, without a stop at the famous “Robert’s” on your way out.  The best key lime milkshakes in town (as well as many other exotic flavors) and much more for the tourists.  For me, I always appreciate it when they grow the sunflowers along the roadside … which is Florida-unique when coupled with the palm trees in the background!

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Hope that gave you an idea about Everglades NP.  That being said, take a moment to ponder and ask yourself … where is your park? … then participate in the #FindYourPark movement in celebration of the NPS.

Stay tuned for more …

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / 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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.  🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.  🙂

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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!  🙂

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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.

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Just look at that CUTENESS!!!

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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

http://www.tnwaphotography.com