The Winter That “Wasn’t” :-)

This week, the blog post will be short & sweet … just like our first winter in Colorado was.  LOL.  I’m serious … if you blinked your eye, you might just have missed it!  At first I thought it was just me, but even seasoned locals said that this was the mildest winter they had ever experienced.  For the girl from south Florida, who craved some winter snow and chill, well, it just figured.

What I found so weird though was how erratic the snow pattern was, even when it did snow.  See, one day we were up on the Monument and I looked down on the valley … east and west.  I could see all of this “white” cover to the extreme west.  It looked like snow, but we have minerals out here in the soil which sometimes look like snow.  We decided to check it out.

As we appraoched Loma, just west of Fruita, we could see that it was in fact snowfall … and a beautiful snow cover it was.  Making it even more fun was our viewing of these amazing sheep which were running through the snowy landscape.

DSC_9507DSC_9516We arrived at Highline Lake State Park in Loma, CO and found not just the bare trees of winter, but the landscape was covered in probably 4 or so inches of snow as well.  This was th winter scene that I expected._DSC3928-EditThe bluffs covered in snow was beautifully mirrored on the surface of the lake as well._DSC3934-Edit-EditThe Book Cliff mountains off in the distance were crisp and clear. _DSC3938The views almost reminded me of Florida … if the snowy landscape had just been sand on the beach or around a lake.  It was so beautiful with the glistening of the snow and icicles all around.  For a few hours, I didn’t feel “cheated” of my winter.  After all, I knew that in the high desert landscape I now call home, wouldn’t afford tons of snow … but I never expected what I got._DSC3947-EditEven as we drove home from the park, we noticed that the snowfall stopped about a mile or two from our home.  Dang … looks like we’re going have to move a few miles west.  LOL.  I’m not sure why any of this surprised me.  See in Florida, it can be raining in your front yard and not in your back yard … so snowfall would be no different.

Soon, we were greeted by the songbirds in the bare trees, like this wonderful western meadowlark.  Both beautiful … but gosh, I sure hope I get some more snow next year.  🙂

DSC_9596Next Up:  Maybe there will be more snow out in Lake Tahoe … we’ll see.

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Sheep, Deer, & Views … Western CO

So, I think that this blog was going to be about the San Juan Mountains and surrounding areas, but oh well, I changed my mind.  LOL.  I thought that instead I would share more images of the area landscapes and wildlife in my more immediate area.  Are we good with that?  🙂

From our windows, we have amazing views of the Colorado National Monument.  The wonderful red rock formations are stunning, especially after a rainfall or when the sunlight is hitting it just right and illuminating the rocks.  So many colors, like painted rocks or striations in the layers.  Just really peaceful and beautiful.

DSC_8052-EditFor me, the desert bighorn sheep are always the highlight of my visit and it’s always a dreat day when I do.  On this day, we ran across a gathering of the ladies.  I’m always so impressed with how naturally they act when we encounter them.DSC_7677-EditNo different than other wildlife, they’re eyes engage me and their thoughts are a mystery to me that I always try, though never will, to figure out.  🙂DSC_7693-EditDSC_7605-Edit-EditWhile the close up views of their faces are always fascinating, so are the more natural ones where the sheep may not even know I’m watching.  DSC_7657-Edit-EditLots of mule deer are always present and I really enjoy photographing them as well.  This handsome buck posed nicely for me … in the midst of the wilderness.  Often they fear onlookers, and perhaps with good reason, but if you remain still, they almost seem to enjoy an impromptu photo session.  LOLDSC_7876Fun to see the younger generation being mentored by their elders.DSC_7752Speaking of “being schooled” … how about this sequence of this beautiful buck showing how to properly jump the fence.  DSC_7739DSC_7741DSC_7742We watched the entire group make the jump successfully.  So fun to observe and photograph.  Then we came across this really handsome buck … staring us down.  There goes that eye contact again.  After some time, he went on with his foraging on the landscape, which really pleased us.DSC_7979Back on the Monument, we came across a whole herd of desert bighorn sheep.  They are a subspecies of the bighorn sheep usually associated with the mountainous areas, but as one would expect, living in a desert primarily, they are a bit smaller in size.  However, I’m sure that everyone would agree that they’re equally as cute.DSC_8358-Edit-EditThis particular male was in charge of this group of lovely ladies.  Aren’t their eyes so amazing?  They have excellent eyesight, capable of viewing a predator over a mile away, and their eyes also help in guiding them on the rocky cliffs from which they live.DSC_8223Here’s a shot of just a few of them within the herd.  The adult male in the forefront center is keenly watching us.DSC_8155Of all of the desert bighorn sheep ewes up there, this particular one is always easy to identify and fun to photograph.  She’s missing one of her horns, which unfortunately don’t grow back.  But you can’t tell me that she doesn’t look quite happy!  🙂DSC_8435Sometimes, try as you may, you don’t find them.  Sometimes you can spot them through your binoculars or hear them in the distance.  Then sometimes, you just can’t seem to get away them … or pass them … like when they’re causing a “bighorn jam” in the middle of the narrow winded round.  It’s OK, I could watch them forever it seems.DSC_8313Yes, the beauty of the Colorado National Monument red rock formations is a sight to see, whether you take it in up close and personal like this … or when you wake up and see it out of your bedroom window … it’s all beautiful and all good.  🙂DSC_8057-EditHope that you enjoyed the blog and have gained an appreciation of the beauty of western Colorado … just minutes from Utah.

Next Up:  More around town sightings … you just never know what you’ll see

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Can You Ever Tire Of The Tetons?

One of the many reasons why we wanted to move out west, was to be closer to the wilderness areas of the west that we love so much.  After we got a bit “settled in” (which incidentally is still a work in progresss), we decided it was time to head out west and north a bit.  We made the 7 hr drive to Jackson … and Grand Teton National Park in WY.

Of course, the ride out when you’re traveling out somewhere is always part of the journey.  Since we had never driven from Fruita to Jackson, it was all fresh and new to us.  One of the most interesting and quite beautiful places that we traveled through was Flaming Gorge Reservoir and recreation areas.  It connects to the Flaming Gorge Dam and is the largest reservoir in Wyoming.  Even on this very overcast day in the early fall, it was spectacular.

_DSC2985-Edit_DSC2997-EditEn route to Pinedale, WY, which was our stopping point for the night, we encountered lots of wildlife nearby.  A herd of pronghorn antelope ladies were spotted just off in the distance … and as you can see they spotted us too.DSC_2732Of course, their male counterpart was nearby and overseeing his harem, which I’m sure he worked hard to gather.  To me, pronghorn are such interesting looking creatures, with their fancy horns and all … like crowns on their heads.  LOLDSC_2760Of course, deer were numerous and looking to establish harems of ladies of their own.DSC_2831To my surprise, we also encountered wild horses.  We only spotted two in the near vicinity, but they sure were majestic looking.  Is it just me, or is there something super special about them?DSC_2884The next morning we ventured into Grand Teton NP, met up my good friend Jen, and first made our way to the Jenny Lake area, including some of the outlying places as well.  It was such a fabulous, sunny day, and the perfect temperature as well._DSC9884About that time, we met up with some friends, Phil & Rodney, who were unexpectedly in Yellowstone NP and bummed that they didn’t get good views of the Tetons when they were there just a few days earlier.  Nothing that a quick phone call couldn’t fix … and soon we were meeting up with them at the iconic Oxbow Bend.  I mean, views like this were well worth the drive back, don’t you think?  _DSC0013-Edit-Edit_DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditAfter spending some time there, drooling about the views, we all decided to go try to find  some bears.  After all, I had been in a bit of a “bear drought” lately and eager to find some.  We encountered a grizzly boar grazing in the brush and had him to ourselves for a few minutes before others spotted the action.  While it was exciting to find and photograph him … as it kept grazing with its head DOWN, not UP.  LOLDSC_3385Then it was time to find some other gems on this gorgeous autumn day.  Before long, the clouds started forming low and the results were amazing._DSC0042-EditThe next day, we came across lots of wildlife … including the distant but quite beautiful view of a bull elk walking away from us.  It was OK with me because, I mean, how beautiful was this view, with the fog and moody sky in the distance?  I was thrilled.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, a highlight for us, was finding this feisty red fox … pretty much almost to ourselves!  This fox worked the sage brush so hard, digging away at it roots, as it hunted for little squirrels and such.  It never stopped even … like the Everyready Bunny it was.  So entertaining.  I did have one problem … too much lens!  Good problem, I know!DSC_3500-Edit-2Oh, they say the eyes have it and that was never so true as this guy (or gal).  They had me in a trance!  LOLDSC_3502-Edit-EditWell, whatever it found and munched just before this shot, must have been good, as it licked its chops.DSC_3574Bison are always a welcomed sighting when in the Tetons.  I think we caught this group during Siesta Time.  LOL_DSC3184-Edit At one point though, we found ourselves in our car quite close to a few that were quite ready to engage in some fighting.  I was amazed at how powerful they were and amused at how when two dominant bison were sparring, there was usually another (the “ref”?) nearby observing them._DSC3156Of course, no bison photo op is never complete without the shot of the tongue sticking out … whether up its nose or not.  DSC_3668Lots of pronghorn antelope were present and gathered up in harems, which the male protected at all costs.DSC_3706We watched as several times the male chased away other males trying to get a few recruits within his harem.  This guy would have none of that!DSC_3730The mule deer bucks were gathered up together in the wet field, as the weather changed quite a bit between day one and two.DSC_4712DSC_4050DSC_4415More bull elk were coming out, but it was weird because we heard very little bugling, which I was a bit disappointed about.  Still, to witness these big guys roaming in the wilderness was exciting.DSC_3456On the third day, it began to snow a little, then quite a lot … those big giant snowflakes … and it gave the area a whole new look.  Gorgeous!_DSC0143-EditWhile I was quite thrilled with the unexpected snowfall, I don’t think this belted kingfisher was as pleased.  Poor thing was spotted on a ramp to the water and looked quite cold.DSC_5296Snow falling adds so much to an image in the Tetons, I think.  We encountered several bull moose and a female with a juvenile with her, as they made some fast time crossing the landscape and off into the mass of autumn-kissed trees they went.DSC_5408-EditWell, until next time when we return in early spring, I’ll leave everyone with that last look that I got from the active red fox … so cute … I can never resist an image of an animal walking away.  DSC_3619Hope that you enjoyed sharing our autumn trip to the Tetons with us.  It should be noted that in 2017, the fall colors never really arrived, and most of it was unseasonably late.  You just never know.  🙂  Thanks so much to Jen, Phil, and Rodney for sharing our fun with us.  It’s always better with friends!

Next up:  The Colorado Verson of Autumn

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Reflecting 2017

Oh no … say it isn’t so … how in the world can it be 2018 already?DSC_59992017 was a year that just flew by in my opinion.  It was a year of life-changing events, full of excitement and uncertainty … but being the adventurous souls that we are, both Tom & I were up for the challenge.  Allow me to take a few moments to look back at some of our memories of 2017.IMG_3589The birds in Florida start the new year off already “in the mood” … with lots of nest building, courtship, and mating going on early on.  There’s something so very beautiful and endearing about the great blue herons at this time._DSC8566Before long, no matter the species, the new years hatchlings begin to emerge.  Nothing to me is cuter that the sandhill crane colts when only days old, especially when they climb aboard the backs of their parents for the ultimate featherbed slumber.  🙂_DSC9356-EditBlack-necked stilt babies are amost equally adorable and ready to forage on their own within hours of hatching.  That doesn’t mean that the parents can rest … far from it … their job is endless in keeping predators away from these little cuties as the begin to roam within the sandy shores and reeds of the wetlands.DSC_1923However, for me, the real stars for months of entertainment pleasure are the burrowing owls, especially when they first emerge from their burrows … all bright eyed, innocent, and exceptionally curious … they just don’t come any cuter.DSC_6282Though I tend to photograph them almost daily, they still grow up quite quickly and begin to fly about to nearby trees.DSC_0449Of course, no burrowing owl season is complete without captures of the “head tilt” that they are famous for.  LOL.DSC_6413During our time in Florida, we were fortunate to have our daughter and son-in-law, as well as our two granddoggies come visit us.  IMG_4224During 2016 and early 2017, Tom and I traveled out west to Colorado often looking for a home … perhaps a second home or not … where we could relocate to.  While south Florida is a fabulous place to be and affords much like the beaches and warm weather, Tom and I have always enjoyed the mountains, colder weather, and we were looking for less crowds and a sense of community._DSC2044-EditSo, at the end of July, Tom and several of his friends (thanks guys) loaded up the truck and off they went … go west, young man, as they say … all of the way to Colorado.IMG_4281On July 31st, my mom, her husband, my cat Buffy, and I all boarded our flight to Grand Junction airport and let’s just say that I was a ton nervous.  Safely arriving in GJT, we were picked up by Tom and driven to our new home in Fruita, CO.  IMG_4863In between unpacking what seemed like endless boxes (and truth be told they’re not all unloaded yet – yikes), I found the time to photograph different bird species in my own backyard.DSC_9576DSC_9590My mom was totally infatuated with the hummingbirds … OK, so was I … as they provided endless hours of entertainment as they flew in, and fought occasionally, at our feeders.DSC_9846Tom and I would also spend hours up on the Colorado National Monument looking for birds and wildlife, but also enjoying the spectacular views.  Being that the Monument is only 4 miles from our home, we still venture over there regularly._DSC2201-EditNow, I had always wanted to visit Mt. Evans for the mountain goats and in 2017, I finally got to realize my dream to visit there, actually get up to the top, and see them frolicking around.  See, on two previous trips, I was unable to even try due to road closures.  They are simply amazing to photograph there … in that thin, cold air too I might add._DSC2541In late September/early October, we met up with some friends and visited Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  This year, the leaves didn’t follow the calendar precisely, but when the views are this spectacular … who cares!  The Tetons are one of those places that you could just sit and get lost in your senses, sights, thoughts, you name it.  _DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, the Tetons are also synonymous with wildlife sightings … sometimes your sightings capture the essence of the environment and habitat as well.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditThe fall colors did finally arrive in mid-October, so off we went to one of my favorite places so far, the San Juan Mountains.  The colors and views, as seen from Owl Creek Ridge, were simply breathtaking.  _DSC0217-Edit-EditNearby to Fruita is Highline Lake State Park, which also cooperated nicely with the fall transitional colors._DSC3321-EditHighline Lake SP also offers mountain biking trails, so when my daughter and her hubby came out to see us, they were shown the ropes on the trails by Tom, who totally enjoys the cycling (mountain and road) out here.IMG_5167Kelli has quite the adventurous spirit, so she took off on random dirt trails and enjoyed the view with her dog, Ridley, looking down upon the Colorado River.IMG_5371They came back and spent Thanksgiving holidays with us and knew exactly where they wanted to visit.  Yep, you guessed it, the San Juan Mountains and the town of Ouray.  We took the 4-wheel drive trails and found vast wilderness areas where the dogs could run free and play in snow patches._DSC3358It really is so beautiful out in these mountains.IMG_6689During late November through February or so, the nearby town of Delta hosts thousands of sandhill cranes.  It reminded me our days in Fairbanks watching them in huge flocks by Creamers Field.  When they fly in, overhead, or when they take off, there’s no mistaking the calls of the sandhill cranes.  It’s an instantaneous smile generator for me.  🙂DSC_7074Of course, that’s not all that congregates in the masses near Delta.  Snow geese also arrive, as well as more Canadian geese than you can imagine!DSC_8500-Edit-EditDriving around in the backcountry, you can also find many species of wildlife, such as the mule deer, elk, moose, desert bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote, bobcat, and if you’re really lucky, the elusive mountain lion.  Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in 2018.DSC_7979In December, we met up with our good friend and headed to Moab, UT, which is just less than 90 minutes away.  He showed us phenomenal landscapes, accessed by high clearance 4WD vehicles.  The beauty of this area just simply can’t be ignored … and the view go on and on.  I know that we will be seeing a lot of Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and the La Sal Mountains.  🙂_DSC3385-Edit_DSC3445-EditGo about 75 miles in the other direction and you land in Rifle, CO, which is where this triple waterfall can be found.
_DSC3732-EditThen one day, it finally happened, we got SNOW.  OK, so it wasn’t the 3-6 inches that we were expecting, but it was SNOW.  Later we found out that just a mile or so to the west of us, they got much more than we did.  Hopefully, we’ll get it next time.  Remember, I’m a Florida girl that loves the snow and cold.  I know, let’s see what I think next year.  LOLIMG_5837The winter views at Highline Lake SP were simply breathtaking to me._DSC3934-Edit-EditFinally Christmas arrived … and I was a bit sad … for it was my first Christmas ever without spending it with my daughter.  She was tied up being short staffed at work and couldn’t break away.  That’s OK, we’re planning on a Tahoe break with her and her hubby in January.IMG_5716On a side note, I was quite thrilled when one of my images won 2nd Place in the Defenders of Wildlife Photo Contest (Wild Lands Division) …IMG_4239… and I found out that one of my other images was honored with being the cover image for the 2017-2018 16-month calendar for Defenders of Wildlife also.  They do some amazing work, so I was quite pleased.IMG_4241Well, that pretty much does it for 2017.  That being said, I bid adieu to 2017.  It was a rollercoaster year for sure, but one that blazes the trail for an exciting ride ahead.  Remember, with each new year, is a new chapter to be written by you … make it a good one!  From all of us to you, HAPPY NEW YEAR!IMG_5455Next Up:  Close to home

© 2018  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 Winter Road Much Traveled

When visiting Yellowstone National Park in the winter, most of the roads are closed to vehicular traffic.  Therefore, to transition between Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP, we drove a familiar route through portions of Idaho.  It’s always full of adventure and photographic opportunities.

Trumpeter swans seemed to be just about everywhere.  Always appearing so elegant as they foraged in the waters, sometimes as a couple … sometimes solo._DSC6719In the midst of the silence of the winter, a Barrow’s Goldeneye flies by overhead._DSC6642Some of the wildlife subjects were happy to cooperate with my photo shoots, but not all, as evidenced by this young mule deer.  LOL_DSC6816Driving along the highway at about 75 mph (OK, I hope that we weren’t speeding), I happened to spot this great horned owl in a leafless tree along the road.  I had Tom double back and to my surprise, it was still there and cooperated for an image or two._DSC6819As fun as it was to see the great horned owl, we have those in Florida.  It had always been my dream to get a saw whet owl, so we went off in search of one, with the help of a great friend.  We searched for quite some time and I thought it wasn’t going to happen.  All of a sudden, I got word that she had found it.  There it was … just the cutest thing ever … well, it would have been without that darn branch in front of it.  No worries, it was my first and I’ll take it._DSC6945Look at those adorable eyes … so mesmerizing and captivating.  I could have stayed in its presence forever, but alas, we had to get on our way.  As I said, it was my first, but I certainly hope not my last._DSC6977-2The next morning, we tried to venture out to have more bird encounters, but Mother Nature had other ideas.  When we arrived to the wildlife refuge, we could see signs of wildlife being present ….IMG_0561… but in reality, we really couldn’t see ANYTHING around us.  I’m talking total whiteout situation, wind blowing and all.  Oh well, I guess it wasn’t mean to be.  Before Tom would risk driving off the dirt road berms, I thought it best to save the drive for another time.IMG_0559Now, for those of you who read the blog from Mt. Evans last summer, you might remember how bummed I was when we arrived and found the summit road to Mt. Evans closed for repairs.  Tom heroically rode his mountain bike up to the top and got some shots of the mountain goats for me … but I wanted MY OWN!!!

Well, my turn came when we spotted some on the mountainside, in the snow, a bit outside of the Tetons.  I was thrilled to see them, though they were adorned with collars and tags (i.e. ear jewelry).  Again, I was simply excited to see and photograph them, so I just blocked out those annoying features on them._DSC7105_DSC7170The young ones of course didn’t have the tagging on them, so they were fun to catch images of, as they made their way in the snow while following their moms._DSC7159_DSC6986Though they were a bit shaggy, they were still fabulous.  I hoped at this time that we would see them again on our way back out over the pass.  Fingers crossed anyways.  🙂_DSC7063Yes, we had a great time, not only photographing the wildlife of the area.  We also found a great new sushi restaurant … YUM!!!
IMG_0579

Next Up:  Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Adding A Dash of Snow

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 6-1/2 months since I visited with the polar bears of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s hard to believe that Kaktovik,in the fall season, was about 70+ degrees (farenheit) colder than I find it in the spring of south Florida.  Especially hard to believe that we actually had the most amazing of weather while I was there … from sunny clear days to misty/foggy days to snowy days … but the notorious arctic winds were never strong enough for us to be grounded in the 5 days.  Quite lucky for us … adding to the unbelievable experience that I had there.

On this morning, it was lightly snowing … just enough to make it pretty for the composition, but not too much to cause problems with the actual photography experience.     I have to admit that it was probably my favorite morning for capturing the “mood” and environment they lived in … see, polar bears should be in the snow.  At least that’s what I had always thought while growing up.  🙂

_DSC7514I love to imagine what it was like for the polar bears to roam around on the arctic landscape each and every time I took their image.  While the one above seemed to be enjoying the snowfall, I wondered if it sensed that the period of waiting for that ice to freeze was shortening and it knew that soon it would be off on its hunt across the frozen landscape.  Or was it simply enjoying the snowfall and trying to catch a snowflake?  LOL  Didn’t matter to me … either scenario was intriguing to me.
_DSC9603One by one they made their way down the shore of Barter Island and as they did, I struggled with how exactly I wanted to capture them.  So I opted for a variety of near and faraway images to better tell their story of struggle, survival, and love for their young.  I wanted to hang onto every ounce of emotion that I was feeling as I possibly could._DSC9545 Sometimes they would encounter others along the way … while other times they would simply pass by them, while other times, they would stop to interact with a sniff, a swim in the water together, a submissive move away from the dominant bear, or engage in a bit of a pushing match … which I’m sure was also a lesson in learning one’s hierarchy status.  I couldn’t help but notice the differences in their coats – a range of creamy white to quite “dirty” looking … probably a consequence of dining on whale blubber._DSC8367 The most tender moments, that would instantaneously melt my heart (and serve to keep me warm out in the cold) were the moments and images captured of moms and their cubs.  Of course, the cuddle moments were highlights on that list._DSC9869 When they snuggled, whether playing or napping, they were absolutely endearing to photograph.  These cubs were generally “cubs of the year” and therefore about 10-11 months old.  Interestingly, only pregnant female polar bears den during the winter, where they give birth somewhere between Novemeber and December.  Females then emerge from the den when the cubs are old enough to safely do so, usually in March or April.  _DSC9817 One afternoon, I probably hit my “squeal quota” observing the antics being performed by this young cub, in its attempt to entertain itself while its mom was resting nearby._DSC9580 This cub had THE BEST TIME with this stick, that it managed to find on the snowy landscape, as it wielded it around and around, and falling clumsily over and over, all around it.  I remember how it played with it for probably 45 minutes while we watched._DSC0066 _DSC0014 During that time, it seemed that time stood still for me.  I don’t remember breathing (though I’m sure that I did), I don’t remember feeling my heart beat or my chest expand and sink with my respirations.  I simply remember hearing the clicking of my shutter … endlessly … and feeling a huge smile spread across my face.  My heart was melting.  I found another true “happy place”._DSC0013 _DSC0209 _DSC0143 Finally I guess the thrill of playing with that stick was gone because the cub eventually abandoned it and returned to its sleeping mom.  I sensed that the cub was a bit uncertain if it should wake up its mom, but it cautiously and gently tried to approach her._DSC0477 To my surprise, the mom responded by sitting up and rolling over, patting her cub on its head.  _DSC0393Nursing of the cub soon followed and just in case I had any heart space that hadn’t been touched yet, that moment sure sealed the deal.
_DSC0019 I’ve said previously how impressed that I was with how wonderful these polar bear moms were … patient, nurturing, loving, and kind … though still in charge when necessary._DSC0216I noticed also that they moms appeared that they would take turns watching over each others cubs, enabling a sleepy mom some much needed rest, especially those who still had several cubs in tow._DSC0453 The moms were never far from their cubs though, which was refreshing to see.  Speaking of refreshing … look who’s playing a game of “Tag” and “Hide & Seek”?  These two cubs were so entertaining as they swam around and under this iceberg, climbing up it a bit to get a better vantage point to check on it playmate.  It was so heartwarming to see them playing as such, reminding me of our own young children … having fun, learning new things, interacting with others, all while being supervised by their mom.  Well, maybe they do that more than some humans do, but that’s a whole other story.  LOL.
_DSC0087 Yes, these polar bears were such interesting subjects and by day 3, I think that we had learned so much about them and their behaviors.  Good thing too, for that’s when wildlife photography really can kick in, being able to anticipate their behaviors and next moves.  It also allows you to open yourself to enjoy the experience more._DSC0886 As I write about my experiences, emotions that I dealt with, and share these images, one thing that I know for sure is that I will return to see and photograph these amazing polar bears again one day.  How could I not?   _DSC0603There will be more polar bear images and stories later this summer, but for now I’ll return to more birding action from Florida … UP NEXT.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2012 Review: Part 4 – Denali National Park & Other AK Areas

Off to Denali we went for another week or so – actually we loved it so much that we returned to Denali for another 4 day stint when Kelli & Mitchell flew out to join us in Anchorage.  Hoping to see the moose rut, it seems that we were still a bit too early to see the real jostling that goes on, but we did see some early “practice sessions”.  We did see many sightings of grizzly bears this year – many times they were sows and their cubs.  As they frolicked in the amazing autumn-kissed tundra or sometimes even in the snow covered landscape, they thrilled me to no end, as I clicked off images to my heart’s content.  Wolf sightings were achieved, as well as coyotes, caribou, golden eagles, harriers, dall sheep, just to name a few.  Conspicuously absent for us in 2012 was the lynx, though I tried really hard… new found friends of ours were successful in seeing one, so I lived vicariously through their sighting.

When we first arrived, we were treated to a vast array of autumn’s best colors.

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Cow moose feeding

Cow moose feeding

Then the weather began to change, as the fog and rain rolled in
Where's the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Where’s the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Then it happened ….. SNOW  (remember, we’re quite excited – being from FL and all)
The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The next day, it was beautiful!  The snow had stopped, the skies were clear, the weather was cold, but plenty of sunshine to help warm us up.  Even the wildlife seemed to enjoy it.
Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

What a fabulous day!

What a fabulous day!

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

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

Having some fun along the way!

Having some fun along the way!

A mother-daughter moment of happiness  :-)

A mother-daughter moment of happiness 🙂

We also traveled to other areas of Alaska, of course, as we always do.  There’s never a shortage of experiences or sights/animals to see and photograph.  I encourage everyone out there that has never visited AK to do so … you won’t be disappointed.

Hatcher Pass vista

Hatcher Pass vista

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point - yes, we did see the belugas!

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point – yes, we did see the belugas!

And our most favorite of all sights, though very different viewing in 2012, is the spectacular aurora borealis.  First experienced by us in 2007 in Chena Hot Springs, outside of Fairbanks, it continues to be sought after by us when we visit AK in the later summer.  This year, the aurora didn’t “dance” across the sky like a blowing curtain, but rather made it’s presence know with an almost glow in the sky.  Not much movement at all, though still very beautiful.

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

What a wonderful place … ever-changing, awe-inspiring …. warms the heart and soul  🙂

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 5