Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Yellowstone is a very unique and diverse ecosystem … one where you never know what you’re going to be treated to … and the conditions and weather overall can change in a moments notice.  To me, that’s a large part of the beauty and mystique of Yellowstone NP.

On this particular morning, the fog was heavy and the clouds were low.  Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, often things present themselves in a fresh perspective.  This bull elk, already sporting some new antlers covered in soft velvet, was found out in the open grassland.   I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it looked, with those thick clouds in the background.  I knew at that point that it would be an exciting day._DSC0255Yep, it would be a day of varied wildlife for sure.  It wasn’t long before we spotted this lone black wolf in the distance on the open plains … in stalking mode.  No reinforcement from the pack was seen nearby and a solo sandhill crane effectively alerted all potential prey of its presence.  Needless to say, it gave up for the moment and traveled along its way.  OK, so I have to share an amusing moment with everyone … when we were photographing the wolf, a car pulled up and asked us if we had spotted a … horse!  Not really sure how this looked like a horse … especially with the group of long lens photographers who were setting up … for a horse?!  LOL_DSC9812Yellowstone always has its fair share of bison which I’m always fascinated with.  Not sure if it’s their size, their manner as they move about, or the fact that maybe my mind goes back to the bison heads that used to hang on the walls of “Country Bear Jamboree” show at Disney when I was growing up.  🙂_DSC0110Of course, in the spring, there are always lots of “red dogs” nursing off their moms … just the cutest things to watch until they ram their heads into the moms bellies.  Ouch!_DSC0192Can anyone out there resist this one with its “Milk Mustache”?_DSC0218Pronghorn antelope were also quite prevalent during the spring.  This male was chasing around the female, who was pregnant, relentlessly._DSC7470Quite honestly, I thought it was going to drop that baby right then and there!_DSC7455Red fox are favorites of mine.  We caught this one waking up from napping in the shade.  DSC_3811Of course, deer also are fun to spot and photograph, especially when you’re treated to a “two-fer” … two for one, that is._DSC0146Springtime is confirmed with the presence of bluebirds darting about.  _DSC0158Though it was well into May and the official spring season according to the calendar, but in Yellowstone calendar dates aren’t necessarily what determines the season … and snowfall in spring or even summer can happen at any time.fullsizerender-1Just to add a bit of excitement to our day and drive throughout Yellowstone, as we were traveling this tight section, with dropoffs to the right, we heard a noise and watched as an icy boulder came down the mountainside right in front of our car.  Thankfully Tom was able to stop in time and we got out to investigate.fullsizerender-3At first, we thought that we would simply pick it up and off the road by hand.  No way that was going to work, as this frozen boulder was HEAVY!  So while Jen and I blocked any oncoming road traffic, the guys used Tom’s truck to drag it off the road and harm’s way with a couple of heavy tow straps.  Great job Travis and Tom!fullsizerender-2Good deeds are usually rewarded I believe.  Kind of like karma.  Not more than a mile or two down the road, we spotted a bighorn sheep ram … then realized it was an entire herd of boys._DSC7066At first, I wasn’t sure that they were feeling too comfortable with us being there, so we stayed way back, encouraging them to possibly come out for some shots._DSC7184They did just that … and eventually jumped over the rail, onto the road briefly, then proceeded up the mountainside.  I just love the way that they stare with those big eyes. _DSC7330At some point, we pulled over to find some Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming in the still icy water.  This couple was trying to have a few moments of “alone time”, but another male had other plans._DSC7417Over and over, it would be chased off, only to give it another chance.  LOL.  It would swim directly over to the lovebirds and a scuffle would ensue._DSC7410Defending it’s female mate, the male Barrow’s goldeneye would charge after the intruder.  You could hear the action … calling out, running on the surface of the water, water splashing everywhere … so funny to watch and quite interesting as well._DSC7386Every so often, after a successful defense, the paired male would sit up and perform a well executed flappy series for us.DSC_3954The ground squirrels, always on the menu for many wildlife species in the park, alert each other as to the goings on of prey._DSC7473In this case, it was the badger on the prowl.  I was so excited … after all, it was my first!DSC_3839DSC_3846I had been looking for these guys every time I visit Yellowstone.  Finally!  Thankfully (for us anyways), we never saw it catch anything.  I’ve heard stories of how relentless it can be for young wildlife.DSC_3843So this year, the trip was already known in my mind for the wide variety of wildlife that we saw.  Sure, we hadn’t seen a wolverine yet … but I really wasn’t expecting that.  Though I can dream, right?fullsizerender-4Even a yellow-bellied marmot came out to greet us, as it basked in the warmth of the sun.DSC_4910OK, one last glimpse of these young great horned owls before we retreat back to our B&B for the evening … ready to do it all again in the early morning.DSC_4915Can’t every get enough of Yellowstone NP, that’s for sure!_DSC0316Next Up:  What species of wildlife scares me most?  At least on this trip … :-O  Tune in to find out.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

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The Glorious Tetons

Except for our very first afternoon in the Tetons, our winter visit to Grand Teton National Park had remarkable weather.  Actually, truth be told, I would have preferred a bit more clouds for the landscape images, but hey, I certainly wasn’t complaining.  To me, there’s nothing like the sight of the almighty Tetons … so rugged and iconic, easily recognized and distinguished from other mountain ranges._DSC4753We visited a favorite sunrise location, but we were several hours too late.  Still, the beauty of the snow, river, trees, mountains, and bluebird sky, along with the fresh cold air, made my heart go pitter-patter._DSC4785Speaking of my heart going pitter-patter, so it did also when we first sighted our friend, the red fox, as it sat down nicely right next to our vehicle and did its best to mesmerize us with its stare.  There’s something so very cool about fox … their stare, their expression, their movement on the landscape._DSC7240I guess all of its staring and our clicking away was boring him, as before long it gave a big yawn, showing off its pearly whites._DSC7295After taking a break next to us for some time, it decided to venture off.  We silently begged it to stay for its “unofficial photo shoot”, but it had places to go and things to see/do.  _DSC7670Or so we thought….

As I was trying to find out where the fox ventured, to my surprise, I caught a glimpse… right in my side mirror.  Sitting right behind us on the snowplowed road, it sat motionless, probably surveying its surroundings for someone else to grace with its presence.

Caution:  Objects in the mirror might be closer than they appear.  🙂_DSC4795Sure enough, up the snow bank it jumped, back to where we found it._DSC7993Gosh, I sure love them.  They seem to personify the sly, intelligent nature that they have been known for.  Seems like they’re always calculating its next move as well as moves by others (wildlife or humans) around it._DSC7308Yes, it lives in a place where I can only dream of living.  This winter playground for outdoor play and adventure, as well as being the home of so much beauty and wildlife, I don’t think that anyone could miss living in its grandeur._DSC4825As if this beautiful location wasn’t enough, it was even better to have met up with such good friends as well to enjoy it with.  Thanks to Jen, Amy, and Scott for sharing the magical Tetons with us.  Needless to say, the day was filled with lots of laughs.  🙂IMG_0621Of course, the nighttime dining in the nearby town of Jackson is always much anticipated for Tom and I.  I always take images for some strange reason of my food when I travel and this appetizer was a highlight … for those of you who LOVE brussel sprouts, these were AMAZING!!!  The same could be said for the wine and local craft beer.IMG_0596Though we love to photograph the larger wildlife, that doesn’t mean that I would pass up on some of the birds.  We came across some gorgeous mallards which were feeding on the aquatic vegetation nearby._DSC7816Every so often, one would take off and of course, I had to take a chance at capturing the action.  On this trip, I left my trusty Nikkon 300mm f/2.8 lens at home.  In its place, I had just acquired the new Nikon 200-500mm lens, so I put it to the test._DSC7834Though it focused in on the flying mallard much slower than my prime lens, I was quite pleased with its sharpness once it locked in.  How incredibly beautiful the colors of the adult male mallard was._DSC7837_DSC7841I loved how it flew low to the snowy landscape and I was able to capture its shadow as well._DSC7848The trumpeter swans made an appearance as well.  Love it when a duet passed nearby to where I was shooting from.  You have to appreciate their beauty and grace._DSC7870So we took one last drive by and glance at the iconic Oxbow Bend, as seen in the winter, before we ventured on our exit from the park.  Took a few moments to absorb it all again.  It will have to last me for several months … probably until the fall explosion of color._DSC4793As we drove on our way back to Salt Lake City for our departure back to south Florida, I couldn’t help but see this amazing sunset image in the distance.  Though I know that there are a few power lines present, and some would find that the wind-powered generators are ugly (though I personally do not), I still was taken by the beauty of the colors and clouds.  It was a fitting sight and image for the finale of our amazing winter trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons.  Can’t wait to get back out there in the spring.  🙂_DSC7893Hope that everyone enjoyed a recount of our memories.

Up next:  More sandhill cranes … parents and colts … so cute!

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Mountains, Wildlife, & Wilderness … Who Could Ask For More?

Back in February, after our visit at Yellowstone NP in its most beautiful season for visitors, we eventually made our way to Grand Teton NP.  We stayed in Jackson Hole, WY, which in the winter is primarily filled with snow skiers and snowboarders, but for us, we were armed with camera gear and snowshoes.  Travel within the Tetons is a bit more accessible than Yellowstone in the winter.  When we first arrived, it was quite beautiful, with no place offering a nicer view of the mountain range than from Oxbow Bend._DSC7187The roads were still being plowed from a recent snowfall, which was expected.IMG_0612What we didn’t expect was the strong winds blowing the snow all over the place, making driving interesting and photography quite a challenge.IMG_0605Before long, we spotted a lone coyote making its way across the deep snow drifts.  It was fun to photograph it, and its shadow, as it ran.  It paid us no attention._DSC7234Warnings were out in force to “Slow Down!  Wildlife on Road”.  Loved that sign, which actually reminded me of a previous trip when we would see “share the road” signs, with images of vehicles, bicycles, snowmobiles, and animals.  Yes, we’re no longer in the metropolis known as South Florida.  🙂IMG_0614Along side of the river, Tom spotted this huge moose, by lower 48 standards anyways._DSC4187We did a quick turnaround and found that there were actually 3 moose present foraging near the rivers edge … a male across the river, along with a cow and her young._DSC7313We watched them for quite some time and for the most part, they totally ignored us.  They never seemed to interact with the male, however, they always stayed in the same general area.  _DSC7338Oops, looks like we’ve been spotted.  Mama’s not so sure, but junior doesn’t seem to mind.  In no time, they settled in._DSC7377_DSC7394_DSC7408What a fun encounter that was with the moose family and they really made it even nicer being along that river.

Before too long we came across some footprints in the snow … which we followed through our binoculars until we came across the culprit … this adorable sleeping red fox.  I must admit that Tom is a pretty good spotter with those binoculars.  🙂_DSC4310Towards the later afternoon, we thought that we would try our luck again with the mountain goats that were hanging out not too far away.  We also met up with some friends that were going to be in the Tetons pretty much the same time as us.  Sure enough, the goats, this time without all of the “jewelry” were out and about.  _DSC4517This time they were cooperating nicely too … climbing up on the rocky outcroppings and posing for some nice photographs._DSC4477Look at this amazing close up!  I was so excited when it reached the top of the mountain and positioned itself against the blue of the sky above.  What a beautiful creature.  Can’t believe that after I was skunked out of seeing them on Mt. Evans (the road was closed when we visited last summer), I finally got to see them!_DSC4357The King of the Mountain shot … after which many photographers left.  This was the moment they were waiting for, for hours!  Glad that our wait time was much shorter.  As they say … timing is everything!_DSC7773No trip to the Tetons is every complete without a red fox sighting.  This winter’s visit didn’t disappoint._DSC7942There’s something so striking about finding a beautiful red fox in the midst of a snow covered landscape.  So isolated … so open … so focused on the task at hand.  That is, until they spot the camera.  Usually the interruption is brief and they carry on with the hunt momentarily.  _DSC8081Same is true of the coyotes, which are relatively easy to spot as they roam the vast wilderness of white._DSC7927As if the wildlife opportunities aren’t enough, how about some stunning landscapes featuring those iconic mountains?  When I think of mountain ranges, my mind definitely thinks of the Tetons.  Such a magnificent place any time of year and the winter season is no exception._DSC7199 Yes, it’s safe to say that we could get used to life in this neck of the woods.  Sunshine, blue sky, wilderness, wildlife opportunities, mountains, and just about everything else that you could ask for.  Yep, I’ll take it.  🙂IMG_0625

Next Up:  More from the Tetons …

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Silence & Beauty of A Yellowstone Winter

As I mentioned in the last blog post, sometimes the heat comes early to south Florida, and I have to get away to cool down.  Tom always goes out west with his buddies on an annual snowboard trip in January, so what better time to meet up with him on a side trip to Yellowstone NP.

From the first time, 2 years ago, when I visited Yellowstone NP in the dead of winter, I knew how incredibly special it was … the silence, the cold, the lack of visitors, the winter wildlife … all make for an experience that you won’t soon forget.  There’s something so beautiful about encountering the wildlife in the snow, such as this healthy coyote, with its thick winter coat._DSC6085Some areas of the park in early February were already starting to have sporadic snow cover, which allowed the bighorn sheep to be able to dig in the sparse snow cover and find lichens and new shoots of grasses to feed upon._DSC5227_DSC5304The rams seemed to be out in force too this year._DSC5719I’ve always been fascinated by bighorn sheep, especially their eyes, which are so hypnotic to me.  They are often locked on us, while they graze or simply chew on the hillside._DSC5324When photographing wildlife out in the wilderness, sometimes patience is required.  For this particular image, I remained in place and tried to stay calm and relaxed, hoping for him to climb higher to the crest of the hill, so that I could get that amazing blue sky as the backdrop to show him off.  Yes, patience can sometimes be rewarded.  🙂_DSC5154Bighorn sheep have horns, which I like to refer to as curls, which they keep lifelong.  Consequently, those horns carry the story of the life that the sheep has lived, including all of its battles.  I often stare at them and wish that I could be privy to the animals life history._DSC5344This year, we found a lot of fox roaming around.  Most were hunting near the roads or off on the trails, mousing in the deep snow, or resting along a log.  However, this red fox was spotted in the crack of high rocky landscape … an unusual sighting for us for sure.  _DSC5454Reportedly it was hanging out in the area for a bit, then disappeared for a few days after a coyote was found hunting nearby.  We were sure happy to see that it returned just in time for us to observe and photograph it._DSC5473It would give us so many expressions and poses, but one thing is for sure … it sure was quite comfy way up there._DSC5495The eyes of the red fox are also quite beautiful and I get so excited when our eyes meet as they travel past us.    _DSC5569On one of our days, we were having a wonderful sunny early morning … until it turned cloudy, windy, and cold … until it turned into blizzard-like conditions.  It was like someone would open and close the “wind tunnel door”.  It made me appreciate what these animals have to endure during the winter months and how difficult their survival was._DSC5721Massive in size, but slow in movement (unless perturbed) is the bison.  They were seemingly everywhere along the valley road and would often be spotted walking the road … otherwise known as the “path of least resistance”.  Otherwise, they could be spotted off in the distance in search of food and running water._DSC6152An image that I really wanted to capture this winter was that of the bison, with its face covered in the snow, so incredibly iconic of Yellowstone in the midst of winter.  I was amazed at how the snow would cake up on their fur … though it was caked up on the photographers who were braving the snow and blowing wind as well._DSC6188Bison are actually quite smart in that in their search for food, they swing their heads from side to side as they made their way through the snow, making a clearing for them to try to find some food to eat._DSC6208When they would lift their heads, that iced-over face image is the result.  I think that I accomplished my goal of the snowy faced bison.  🙂_DSC6231-2As we were leaving, a coyote appeared and seemed to be inquisitive as to why we were leaving so soon.  Don’t worry there Mr. Coyote … we’ll be back for several more days._DSC5391In the winter, the sunset comes early … and spectacularly.  The perfect ending to a perfect few days so far in the north end of Yellowstone NP in the winter … I think my favorite season.  With all of the “eye candy” I saw today, I know that I’ll have sweet dreams tonight._DSC4030Next Up:  More images and stories from Yellowstone NP … but from the West Yellowstone entrance.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Grand Teton Homecoming

Always a much anticipated visit is Grand Teton National Park and the community of Jackson Hole.  It has so much to offer … from landscapes to wildlife, it never disappoints.

This year we met up with an amazing photographer, Jen Hall, whom I met originally on Flickr.  It’s always such a pleasure to shoot with locals, so we met up in the early pre-sunrise hour and headed off to get some morning first light.  It was absolutely perfect!

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Unlike Yellowstone NP, the Tetons still had a fair share of snow covering the ground, which is always exciting for us.

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Having already photographed bison, moose, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyote, pronghorn, as well as a few other animals, I still felt the void of the red fox, as I didn’t get to photograph one in Yellowstone.  I REALLY wanted to have a fox encounter, so it was high on my list for the day.

We passed by other wildlife, in search of the sly fox, who was doing a good job in avoiding us.  I’ve always found that when you try so desperately to find a particular subject, it can sometimes elude you.  After hours of looking for a fox, we pretty much took a break, myself figuring that it wasn’t in the cards for that day.  There’s something to be said for staying put and allowing wildlife to come to you.

All of a sudden “eagle eyes” Tom became alert and noticed something emerging from the trees in the snow.  Sure enough, there it was … a magnificent-looking fox.

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After the scurry of reaching for the cameras, I don’t think anyone said one word, fearing it would alter its path, as it was headed right in our direction.  I personally don’t believe that I was even breathing as I clicked away.

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Gosh, it sure was stunning to see and it was quite cooperative with us, as it eventually sat down not far from us (as we were sat still inside our vehicle).  It didn’t seem to be in a rush to get anywhere … in fact, seemed quite sleepy and bored.  LOL  At one point, it gave us quite a yawn … couldn’t believe all of those teeth, which by the way, were quite clean-looking.  🙂

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At first,we thought it was a female (mama), but soon realized it was a male, as it seemed to mark anything and everything it could as it traveled in it path.

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At one point, it became quite interested in something … as it hunted … and ultimately came up with a tasty morsel, which it quickly consumed.

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Must have been good too, as it quickly licked its chops!  LOL

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Last year I photographed a red fox for a bit, as it moused in the snow.  It was quite fun, but also quite far.  This guy was a bit more “chill”, but he made up for it with his closeness to us and his cooperation as well.  Clearly someone had taught this guy a thing or two about camera angles.  🙂

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Once that red fox was checked off my list of wildlife to photograph, we were open for business for the other wildlife, such as the bighorn sheep.  We encountered a large herd of rams as they were slowly, but surely, making their way across the landscape.  Some young ones were in the group too … this one guy clearly had a bit too much energy too … as he jumped almost incessantly, head-butting his buddies.

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As they navigated to the mountainside, I was so impressed with the speed they possessed.  Yes, it was a great encounter as well.  Such magnificent creatures!

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So whether it’s wildlife or landscapes, it’s all beautiful and rewarding for the visitor taking it all in.

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More images and stories from Grand Teton NP will be featured in the next blog post, so stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography