Yellowstone winter panorama

Exhibition

Click for larger view

During my last expedition across Yellowstone National Park in 2012, I had the chance to photograph this stunning sunrise over Duck Lake, on the way to Old Faithful, after leaving West Thumb early in the morning.

Tall enough to leave markings where I did the same

Tall enough to leave markings where I did the same

As I was taking the shots to create the panorama, wolves began serenading me. At least that’s what I told myself as I made my way up the pass. There were at first a few mournful howls as the sun warmed up the horizon, then they all broke into a symphony for what seemed minutes, then went dead silent as the echo faded across the valley.

Wolf tracks following me

Wolf tracks following me

One of my more memorable experiences of crossing Yellowstone, the sound of wolves stayed with me for the rest of the trip. I even had one following me over to Old Faithful later that night. There were a few snow coaches that passed and photographed it, then later saw me along the same road. Many of the passengers demanded the driver go back and warn me that a wolf was following me.

None of the drivers turned around because they were all not worried, as they know the wolves are very spooky in the park. I didn’t learn about this until some time later when a ranger related the story to me. I got a good laugh, as I did see the markings and paw prints in the snow from the huge prehistoric dog. He (or she) certainly had followed me and got close enough that I expected to see eyes with the howls. It really wanted to know what I was, the stranger walking through its land in the night. As so few rarely travel through Yellowstone in this fashion, I was a curiosity.

Wolf food (no, I NEVER feed wolves)

Wolf food (no, I NEVER feed wolves)

It was frightening and all at once exhilarating to have something that weighs nearly as much as I with speed and teeth following me. For all the times I’ve been through Yellowstone in the summer and winter, I’ve never actually seen a wolf. They’ve walked by my tent, left tracks inspecting me, and even stalked me. Yet they’ve never approached me, somehow knowing what I was.

Perhaps he/she was following me because I had shortbread cookies.

The post Yellowstone winter panorama appeared first on Aaron Linsdau.

Yellowstone winter panorama

Exhibition

Click for larger view

During my last expedition across Yellowstone National Park in 2012, I had the chance to photograph this stunning sunrise over Duck Lake, on the way to Old Faithful, after leaving West Thumb early in the morning.

Tall enough to leave markings where I did the same

Tall enough to leave markings where I did the same

As I was taking the shots to create the panorama, wolves began serenading me. At least that’s what I told myself as I made my way up the pass. There were at first a few mournful howls as the sun warmed up the horizon, then they all broke into a symphony for what seemed minutes, then went dead silent as the echo faded across the valley.

Wolf tracks following me

Wolf tracks following me

One of my more memorable experiences of crossing Yellowstone, the sound of wolves stayed with me for the rest of the trip. I even had one following me over to Old Faithful later that night. There were a few snow coaches that passed and photographed it, then later saw me along the same road. Many of the passengers demanded the driver go back and warn me that a wolf was following me.

None of the drivers turned around because they were all not worried, as they know the wolves are very spooky in the park. I didn’t learn about this until some time later when a ranger related the story to me. I got a good laugh, as I did see the markings and paw prints in the snow from the huge prehistoric dog. He (or she) certainly had followed me and got close enough that I expected to see eyes with the howls. It really wanted to know what I was, the stranger walking through its land in the night. As so few rarely travel through Yellowstone in this fashion, I was a curiosity.

Wolf food (no, I NEVER feed wolves)

Wolf food (no, I NEVER feed wolves)

It was frightening and all at once exhilarating to have something that weighs nearly as much as I with speed and teeth following me. For all the times I’ve been through Yellowstone in the summer and winter, I’ve never actually seen a wolf. They’ve walked by my tent, left tracks inspecting me, and even stalked me. Yet they’ve never approached me, somehow knowing what I was.

Perhaps he/she was following me because I had shortbread cookies.

Back Yard Birding in Jackson Hole:

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It just takes a little food, a few perches and a lot of patience.

Each year, a winged group of visitors make their way to the Jackson Hole valley—some passing through and some making it their summer home. Birds of many species, sizes, and colors show up in my back yard and I feel almost obligated to try to capture images of them with my camera. This page contains images of many of them, taken in 2013 and 2014.

Cornell Labs All About Birds I’m not a trained ornithologist, so I created links to All About Birds for each bird. If you are interested, you can read more about the characteristics, color phases, weight, size, range,  and songs. For most of the birds below, I chose the male since they are usually more colorful. If there is a noticeable difference, you can see the female of each by clicking on the links I added.

You might also enjoy reading:
Why Do Birds Migrate? – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker’s are some of my most dependable year around birds. They are very good problem solvers and usually clean out peanut feeders as a team. They leave my yard for a few weeks when the White Bark Pine cones need harvesting, but otherwise come to the feeders anytime I put out peanuts for them. All About Birds : Clark’s Nutcracker

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadees can be found in my yard year around. They are difficult to photograph because of their jittery nature. The Native Americans called them the bird of seven songs. All About Birds : Black-capped Chickadee

Mountain Chicadee

Mountain Chickadees are equally difficult to photograph. They are a bit smaller than Black-capped Chickadees. All About Birds : Mountain Chickadee

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatches spend some winters in my back yard. Red-breasted Nuthatches are a little smaller and will occasionally feed in my yard. They typically walk “down” tree trunks. I’ve seen them go into cavities of other birds or squirrels to rob them of their stash of seeds. Both species leave about the time other migrating birds begin showing up. All About Birds : White-breasted Nuthatch & Red-breasted Nuthatch

Cassins Finch

Cassins Finches are some of the first “birds of color” to arrive each year. They arrive in waves, feeding mainly on sunflower seeds, before heading on north. I can sometimes have a few hundred of them in the yard at one time. All About Birds : Cassin’s Finch

Pine Sisken

Pine Siskins leave the valley during the coldest periods, then return in early March. They are smaller than most sparrows and prefer Nyjer seeds (thistle). All About Birds : Pine Siskin

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker’s often spend the winter in the valley and visit my feeders for suet and peanut butter. The males have a patch of red on the back of their head. All About Birds : Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers resemble the larger Hairy Woodpeckers but have shorter beaks. Both species are amazingly tolerant of me taking their photos. All About Birds : Downey Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers also visit the tree trunks and feeders, mostly in the winter and early spring,  in search of suet and peanut butter. All About Birds : Northern Flicker

Red-naped Sapsusker

Red-naped Sapsuckers occasionally pass through my yard, but never seem to stay long. All About Birds : Red-naped Sapsucker

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpies are also year around valley residents. They pick up peanuts dropped by the Clark’s Nutcrackers and are equally attracted to suet.  All About Birds : Black-billed Magpie

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos are also some of the earliest birds to return in the late winter or early spring. The bird above is sometimes identified as “Slate-colored”.  Oregon Juncos look much the same, but have a darker cape and lighter chest. All About Birds : Dark-eyed Junco

Blue Jay

Blue Jays are not typically found in the Jackson Hole valley. This one spent the 2013/2014 winter here. I watched it follow a red squirrel to see where it stashed peanuts, then go there to take them after the squirrel left. All About Birds : Black-billed Magpie

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Orioles usually start showing up during the first week or two of May, adding a very bright splash of color. They can hang around until the first week of June, but will leave sooner if I forget to keep sugar water in the feeders or stop feeding orange slices. They are good at pulling the yellow “baskets” off Hummingbird feeders to get to the sugar water. All About Birds : Bullock’s Oriole

American Robin

American Robins are typically considered harbingers of spring. A large population spends their summers in Jackson Hole. Some can spend the winter in the north country, but I don’t see the them often in the Winter. All About Birds : American Robin

House Finch

House Finches resemble Cassin’s Finches in some ways, but usually have more red in their chest and lack some of the stripes found on the chest of the Cassin’s Finches. All About Birds : House Finch

Western Tanager

Western Tanagers are probably the highlight of the birding season for me. Males are extremely colorful and almost look out of place here. Check out this earlier Feature Page containing lots of photos of Western Tanagers:

All About Birds : Western Tanagers

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinches are among the wave of brightly colored birds that show up near the end of May. The earliest males often still have patches of brown, but change within a few days. All About Birds : American Goldfinch

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeaks are beautiful birds. I typically only see half a dozen pairs and they never stay around as long as I would wish. They focus on sunflower seeds. All About Birds : Evening Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeaks have quite a bit of color and are welcome in my yard anytime. Some nest in town, but I’ve never seen one nest in my yard. All About Birds : Black-headed Grosbeak

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers hang around in the willows on the other side of the creek that flows behind my house. They seldom come to my yard to feed. Yellow-rumped Warblers also visit my yard in early summer, but never stay long. All About Birds : Yellow Warbler

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbirds have been coming to my feeders for the past four or five years. They are sleek and sly. You can hear them approaching by their catlike meow call. I like to try to capture them in an image showing the rusty orange underside of their tail. It is not an easy assignment. All About Birds : Gray Catbird

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Buntings are one of my favorite birds of summer. The males are brown for most of the year, but change to the bright blue during the breeding season. All About Birds : Lazuli Bunting

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbirds are fairly common in the valley. A group of them hang around my yard all summer, but most can be seen later in the sage flats and sometimes sitting on the back of a bison. All About Birds : Brown-headed Cowbird

Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbirds show up about the same time as the Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Grackles and European Starlings. All About Birds : Brewer’s Blackbird

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrows spend a lot of the time on the ground and less time on perches, making them difficult to photograph. All About Birds : Chipping Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows are also ground feeders and do a great job of making my photography life difficult. There are probably at least half a dozen different other kinds of Sparrows here in the summer. All About Birds : White-crowned Sparrow

Cecar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwings usually follow the Tanagers into the valley. I look forward to their return in both summer and mid-winter. This year, for whatever reason, I only had a handful of them in the summer. If the prior few years, I had dozens at a time on the feeders. They are mainly interested in fruit and suet. Bohemian Waxwings often spend a month or so in Jackson Hole during the winter months, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one in my yard. By that time, Robins and other birds have cleaned off all of my berry bushes.  All About Birds : Cedar Waxwing

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves have been moving into the Jackson Hole valley for the past half a dozen years. They are fairly plentiful now, but are quite skittish when I am in the back yard. All About Birds : Eurasian Collared-Dove

http://www.bestofthetetons.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/HummingbirdFemale4_Aug6.jpg

Hummingbirds nest in the Jackson Hole valley. This earlier Feature Post shows several different species and includes some information about trying to photograph the:  The Teton’s Tiny Winged Visitors

All About Birds : Calliope Hummingbird  |  Rufous Hummingbird  |  Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Each year, there seems to be a “standard” set of species—yet it is never the same. Waxwings and Evening Grosbeaks were almost non-existent in 2013. Seems strange, knowing they had been regulars for several years prior. Occasionally, I have a Stellar’s Jay. One year was great for Red Crossbills and White-winged Crossbills, while Gray-crowned Rosy Finches were at feeders another year. Tree Swallows have been common in some years but not others. Right now, a Spotted Towhee is in the yard, but it stays just out of good shooting range. A Sharp-shinned Hawk patrols the area and occasionally kills an unsuspecting bird.  I spend a lot of time photographing the birds from a blind in the back yard as the songbird migration moves through. It saves gasoline! Of course there are lots of other bird species that visit Jackson Hole. This page features some of the birds that actually come into my yard. Overhead, Osprey, Swans, Eagles, and a wide variety of waterfowl fly by. A pair of Mallard ducks waddle into the yard regularly, so I probably should include them.

Summer Blind 2012Click this link for some additional photos and information about my back yard setup.  Attracting and Photographing Wintering Back Yard Birds:

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Peterson App

Peterson Field Guides to Birds and birdwatching for iPhone …

You might consider loading one of these apps on your phone or pad.

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Stormy animal day

Hills of Gros Ventre and Blacktail Butte south

Hills of Gros Ventre and Blacktail Butte south

It was a stormy day in the Jackson Hole area, so we decided to go out looking for animals. There were moose reported out past Kelly and that’s what I was hoping to capture. As luck would have it, those moose were as far away as possible. That’s the way animal photography works most of the time.

The first shot on the right ended up being my favorite because of the interplay between light, shadows, shapes, and branches.

As luck would have it, there were several nice images that rendered well in black and white. One even surprised me that I thought it would look good in b&w but actually looked better in color because the green standing out against the plain brown and slate gray of everything else is what caught my eye.

DSC_D8_9777DSC_D8_9752< Posing, making some interesting triangles with his face and horns.

Walking in the landscape as a small animal, this young one has to keep a sharp eye out for trouble. As bighorn sheep seem to have very acute vision, this didn’t seem to be a problem for him. >

DSC_D8_9747DSC_D8_9740< I was quite excited to actually get an “okay” shot of two bighorn sheep head butting. I heard the crack several times but every time I looked, they were just standing around like nothing had happened.

Some of these sheep will come right up to your vehicle on the refuge road. Of course you have to be very careful when you drive around and it’s best not to get out of the vehicle. They like the chemicals and salts falling off vehicles, so they’ll actually come up and lick car tires. I did my boy scout duty today and towed a guy in a Nissan Altima out of the ditch on the side of the road. He tried to be proper and pull off to the side, only to immediately sink into 2 feet of snow, swamping his car. A little tow strap action got him on his way.

DSC_D8_9738DSC_D8_9727These young bighorn sheep look rather cuddly, though I’d not like to have one around once he gets older. He might give me a huge headache.

Kelly was able to get some video of this young ram munching on the refuge road twigs. He was so loud her iPhone actually captured the crunching. That was the funniest thing of the day.

DSC_D8_9723DSC_D8_9716Even though the animals were fun to photograph, I found some arguably more interesting scenes to capture. A few of them turned out fairly well. I haven’t decided what the power line and the crepuscular rays say, so you’ll have to make your own interpretation.

The sastrugi raking off the sage sticking out of the snow reminded me of Antarctica. Of course continent 7 doesn’t have any plants, but the windswept shapes of snow reminded me of Antarctic Tears.

DSC_D8_9711-Edit-2

At first I thought this shot would look great in black and white but it was the green against the brown gray of everything that actually caught my eye. Once I toned the image, it had not excitement. So the color version actually ended up working better. Finding shots where there’s a single item that’s out of place with the rest always makes for an interesting shot.

DSC_D8_9703DSC_D8_9684The moose was way out there, sitting, down, and facing away. He was no doubt tired from the photography and video he enjoyed having done on him the past couple days. I was hoping for something more exciting. But I’d be resting, too, if I had to run around all day in winter munching on twigs. The wind cooperated and make a blasting bison shot. I was hoping for some worse wind but this worked okay.

DSC_D8_9671DSC_D8_9669Hunters were along the refuge road looking for their prize elk all day. There have been some big disputes about the hunting here but I’ll leave that to other forums to discuss.

The hunters had to slog through knee deep snow to go after the animals they were looking for, so they had to work for their food.

DSC_D8_9663

Flat creek is the perfect place to catch swans, cygnets (baby swans) and mallards One doesn’t even have to drive barely past town to capture these magnificent animals.

Bad weather days are actually very nice to photograph in because there are far fewer people, the light is more interesting, and the drama can be much higher. A plain bison standing in sage in the middle of the summer – boring. A bison laboring to find something to eat while being blasted by 20 knot wind-driven snow – interesting.

Click on any of these photos to see a larger version.

Note – As always, all of these images are copyright and are not in the public domain. Please contact me if you’d like to use them. For most uses, I’ll happily oblige.

Happy shooting as we head into Thanksgiving!

The post Stormy animal day appeared first on Aaron Linsdau.

Stormy animal day

Hills of Gros Ventre and Blacktail Butte south

Hills of Gros Ventre and Blacktail Butte south

It was a stormy day in the Jackson Hole area, so we decided to go out looking for animals. There were moose reported out past Kelly and that’s what I was hoping to capture. As luck would have it, those moose were as far away as possible. That’s the way animal photography works most of the time.

The first shot on the right ended up being my favorite because of the interplay between light, shadows, shapes, and branches.

As luck would have it, there were several nice images that rendered well in black and white. One even surprised me that I thought it would look good in b&w but actually looked better in color because the green standing out against the plain brown and slate gray of everything else is what caught my eye.

DSC_D8_9777DSC_D8_9752< Posing, making some interesting triangles with his face and horns.

Walking in the landscape as a small animal, this young one has to keep a sharp eye out for trouble. As bighorn sheep seem to have very acute vision, this didn’t seem to be a problem for him. >

DSC_D8_9747DSC_D8_9740< I was quite excited to actually get an “okay” shot of two bighorn sheep head butting. I heard the crack several times but every time I looked, they were just standing around like nothing had happened.

Some of these sheep will come right up to your vehicle on the refuge road. Of course you have to be very careful when you drive around and it’s best not to get out of the vehicle. They like the chemicals and salts falling off vehicles, so they’ll actually come up and lick car tires. I did my boy scout duty today and towed a guy in a Nissan Altima out of the ditch on the side of the road. He tried to be proper and pull off to the side, only to immediately sink into 2 feet of snow, swamping his car. A little tow strap action got him on his way.

DSC_D8_9738DSC_D8_9727These young bighorn sheep look rather cuddly, though I’d not like to have one around once he gets older. He might give me a huge headache.

Kelly was able to get some video of this young ram munching on the refuge road twigs. He was so loud her iPhone actually captured the crunching. That was the funniest thing of the day.

DSC_D8_9723DSC_D8_9716Even though the animals were fun to photograph, I found some arguably more interesting scenes to capture. A few of them turned out fairly well. I haven’t decided what the power line and the crepuscular rays say, so you’ll have to make your own interpretation.

The sastrugi raking off the sage sticking out of the snow reminded me of Antarctica. Of course continent 7 doesn’t have any plants, but the windswept shapes of snow reminded me of Antarctic Tears.

DSC_D8_9711-Edit-2

At first I thought this shot would look great in black and white but it was the green against the brown gray of everything that actually caught my eye. Once I toned the image, it had not excitement. So the color version actually ended up working better. Finding shots where there’s a single item that’s out of place with the rest always makes for an interesting shot.

DSC_D8_9703DSC_D8_9684The moose was way out there, sitting, down, and facing away. He was no doubt tired from the photography and video he enjoyed having done on him the past couple days. I was hoping for something more exciting. But I’d be resting, too, if I had to run around all day in winter munching on twigs. The wind cooperated and make a blasting bison shot. I was hoping for some worse wind but this worked okay.

DSC_D8_9671DSC_D8_9669Hunters were along the refuge road looking for their prize elk all day. There have been some big disputes about the hunting here but I’ll leave that to other forums to discuss.

The hunters had to slog through knee deep snow to go after the animals they were looking for, so they had to work for their food.

DSC_D8_9663

Flat creek is the perfect place to catch swans, cygnets (baby swans) and mallards One doesn’t even have to drive barely past town to capture these magnificent animals.

Bad weather days are actually very nice to photograph in because there are far fewer people, the light is more interesting, and the drama can be much higher. A plain bison standing in sage in the middle of the summer – boring. A bison laboring to find something to eat while being blasted by 20 knot wind-driven snow – interesting.

Click on any of these photos to see a larger version.

Note – As always, all of these images are copyright and are not in the public domain. Please contact me if you’d like to use them. For most uses, I’ll happily oblige.

Happy shooting as we head into Thanksgiving!

Bighorns of Miller Butte

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A reliable place to see wintering Bighorns—close to town on the National Elk Refuge.

Ridgeline Watcher

Each November, a herd of around 70 Bighorn Sheep move to Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Exactly when they move in seems to be related to the area snow pack and severity of the early Winter. In 2013 and 2014, the first Bighorns appeared around the middle of the month. In light snowfall years, the first few show up around Thanksgiving.

Bighorn Pair

Besides simply finding a home to spend the Winter, the Bighorns use the area for their seasonal rut. Tourists and photographers are allowed to watch from the refuge road.

Wyoming Car Wash

We moved to Wyoming in 1986 after growing up in the flat prairie of Oklahoma. I always assumed you’d have to hike miles into the back country wilderness to find either Bighorns or Mountain Goats. I was surprised to find out they come to the roads at certain times of the year. In the photo above, my truck was parked at one of the pull outs on the Elk Refuge Road. The sides of my truck were treated with a “Wyoming Car Wash”. They are attracted to the residual salt and chemicals from the road crews.

ImpactWatchers (1 of 1)

Prior to the actual mating, rams gather to determine dominance or a pecking order by bashing their heads together. The distinctive sound echoes across the valley floor.

Impact (1 of 1)

Capturing the head bashing isn’t exactly easy, but if they go at it long enough, you can usually get a few.

Down Hill Chase

While the largest rams do most of the actual mating, young rams chase ewes across the sage and rocks.

Ram in Charge

The largest ram in the immediate area spends part of his time running other smaller rams away from his ewe.

Group Chase

Once in a while a ram gets a prime ewe to run, causing rams from all around to follow in the chase. The most dominant ram is usually immediately behind the ewe, but he will occasionally turn to bash the next closest ram. Doing so lets the rest of the herd get close to the ewe and some of the smaller rams get their chance to mate until the bigger ram catches up again.

Popular Gal

This ewe attracted a large crowd of interested rams.

TiredEwe (1 of 1)

At times, you have to feel sorry for the ewe. A herd of 10 or more rams can chase her to the point of exhaustion for an hour or longer.

Jumpers

Both ewes and rams are adept at high speed chases across rocky terrain.

Cliff Jumpers

“The Show” is free! Best deal in town if you catch it on a good day.

Rock Face Up

When love is in the air, a Bighorn can climb almost vertical rock walls.

Down

Down a shear rock wall is no problem either.

Rocky Chase

The ewe covers large areas of the refuge trying to get away from the relentless rams.

High Ground

Occasionally, a ewe finds a spot that seems to perplex the rams. This one found a small ledge and stood on it for an hour or longer as rams tried to knock her off.

Resting

Action is usually limited to ten or fifteen minutes at a time, followed by longer periods of resting.

White Out

Winter storms can pound the region. Stiff winds and sheets of snow can make photography challenging, but still worth it if you are dressed and ready for the cold and wind.

Portrait

Bighorns often feed near the road, allowing for some wonderful opportunities for close-up images. I’ve never seen one charge a person and the Refuge rangers don’t seem to worry about people being close. Of course, I have telephoto lenses, so even though I can capture images like this one, I am still a reasonable distance. I always worry about a point and shoot photographer pushing the limits that could result in rigid and restrictive viewing distances.

Flehmen Response

Bighorns, like Moose, Mountain Goats, and wild Mustangs will often display a Flehmen Response following smelling the urine of a ewe. Glands in their upper lips help them determine if a female is ready for mating. Some people also call this a “lip curl”. A couple of the rams at Miller Butte are “respectable” in size, but I haven’t seen any really large ones in a long time. Maybe we’ll get one or two this year. Biologists can usually age a ram by distinctive divisions in his horns. As with most “horned” mammals, they keep them all of their life. Antlered animals, like Moose, Deer, and Elk shed their antlers yearly and begin grown new ones. Many of the largest Rams will “broom” the tips of their horns once they grow to a full curl.

Mating

Actual mating can be observed regularly during the rut.

The Chase Crew

Rut activity can begin after Thanksgiving and can continue into early January.

Lamb and Ewe

Ewes with lambs of the year watch as other ewes are chased during the rut.

LambWatching (1 of 1)

Lambs usually stay somewhere near their mother, but still have plenty of freedom to explore and practice their climbing skills.

Lamp On Ledge

Lambs seem to be gifted at birth.

Digging

By mid-Winter, most lambs forage for themselves. I seldom see them nursing.

The approach

Rams move from ewe to ewe and approach each one in this classic position.

Lone Ram

Bighorns are reported to have incredible eyesight. They are aware of all movement.

Snow Faces

After a heavy snow, Bighorns are forced to dig through the deep, white powder to get to clumps of grass. Sometimes it sticks to their face and horns.

March Rams

Bighorns remain on the National Elk Refuge into March. By that time, their winter coats are bleached out and beginning to thin. The snow on the south facing rock faces is usually melted. By March, I have usually taken plenty of photos and am out looking for new subjects.

Photographing Bighorn Head Bashes

I am sure everyone has their own way of photographing the bashing rams, but I’ll attempt to explain how I’ve been doing it for the past few years. First, let me explain the problem. At the point of impact, the heads of  the two rams are typically somewhere near dead center in the frame. That’s the plan anyway. However, if you set your focus point in the center and let the rams move to it, the camera will be attempting to focus between the two rams and usually somewhere in the distant sagebrush.

Focus Point

Normally, when two rams are facing off, one of them will rear up onto it’s hind legs. Actually, both of them rear up at about the same following some signal only they seem to recognize. I try to focus on a spot just above center of the frame. Depending on the specific circumstanced, it could be on the neck or head of one of the two rams, as seen in red circle in the image above. This image was shot at ISO 320, F/8, and a shutter speed of 1/2000th second. Luckily, between the late November days and snow, I can get shutters speeds in this range. To keep the shutter speed up, I don’t have a problem pushing the ISO up to 800 or even 1250 if the action calls for it on. I also like to use a camera with a fast frame rate, like my Nikon D4. The last sequence in this post will illustrate why!

PreImpact

This is the same ram a split second later. I panned to the right, keeping the focus point on his shoulder or head. The second ram moves into my frame.

Actual Impact

Impact! The second ram will usually meet the head of my subject at approximately where I placed my focus point in the scene originally. (scroll back up to see the location of the red circle)

Impact

I miss some of course, but I manage to capture a lot of them. It takes a little practice, and a lot of patience!

Snow Bash

It’s hard to beat Bighorns bashing in the snow!

Locked up

You never know when something like this will happen. It took them a while to unhook their horns.

Too Many Rame

One of the most difficult aspects of capturing bashing rams is getting a clean shot of the event without distracting additional rams.

A Full Sequence

While this might seem a little redundant, I am including a sequence with this ram from beginning to its unique climax.

Shot 1

shot 2

Shot 3

Shot 4

Shot 5

Shot 6

Shot 7

While I included seven images in this sequence, I actually captured 14 images. That’s the beauty of the D4. It can capture up to around 90 raw images at 10 FPS before beginning to hit a memory buffer. If my buffer had filled after 11 or 12 images, I would have missed the last few important frames. With 14 captures, I had plenty of frames in between and was able to capture the most import shots.

Miller Butte Satellite Map

Click this image to see it much larger

If you head out to the National Elk Refuge, you might want to know a few ground rules. First, the area is a “refuge” and not a “park”. The animals get first priority—not tourists! Currently, pull-outs are very limited along the Refuge Road (shown in red above). If you plan on stopping to photograph the wildlife, you MUST use one of the pullouts. I don’t know if they will be passing out tickets, but refuge rangers regularly pull over with lights flashing and run illegally parked vehicles on down the road.  There is a 65′ county easement for the road running through the Refuge. The Refuge Rangers prefer that people stand off the actual county road when possible, but only a few yards off the road bed.  Posts with signs mark the boundaries fairly well. Hikers and joggers use the road, along with refuge trucks, FedEx trucks, UPS trucks and snow plows. It can feel quite congested and even a little dangerous at times with impatient drivers and slick, snow covered roads. I added Big Rock, Amphitheater, and Saddle to the map. Those are my terms for a few of the spots…not official. A few of us use the same terms. If someone says the herd was coming off the “saddle”, we know about where they are talking about. Miller Butte on Photographer’s Ephemeris.

This page might help with more specific rules and regulationsRefuge winter travel restrictions announced – National Elk Refuge – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Other Bighorn Opportunities

Camp CreekMiller Butte is a very short drive from my home in Jackson. I can go there a couple of times a day. There are a few other places to capture images of Bighorns in the area. Occasionally, a few Bighorns hang around the red rock cliffs at the Slide Lake campground. A herd can also be found around Red Rock Ranch farther up the Gros Ventre, however that road is locked after December 1st. Another herd can sometimes be found near Camp Creek Inn, a few miles “up the Hoback” from Hoback Junction. I’ve seen bighorns farther up the canyon, near “stinking springs” pullout. Regionally, there are several herds in the Dubois area and quite a few on the North Fork of the Shoshone River outside Cody. That’s a long drive from here in the winter. Likewise, several herds of Bighorns winter around Gardiner on the north side of Yellowstone.

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Panasonic Lumix DMZ-FZ1000 review

panasonic-lumix-dmz-fx1000It shoots very nice UHD (not truly 4k) video. There is some noise in the image but that’s to be expected for this price point.

For the body size and handling, it’s really a nice camera for the right person. I can’t use it for my general shooting for several reasons but if I want a stealthy UHD camera, this one just might fit the bill. At a price below $900, I was stunned just how good it actually was.

Image quality

Photo courtesy of Sava Malachowski

Photo courtesy of Sava Malachowski, © Sava Malachowski

The IQ (image quality) of the camera for a still is pretty good, though it’s not a higher end Nikon or Canon. Don’t be fooled. In dark areas at low ISO it’s easy to see the noise. A huge zoom lens just won’t have the resolution for stills. For most, they’ll be amazed. But if you’re discerning, you’ll be only “okay” with the shadow performance.

If you click on the image on the right, you can see a small sized sample of the full image. The red box shows the 1:1 sample area of the image on the moose hide. For as good as the image looks in full screen, when you get down to the nitty gritty, you’ll see it’s “okay”. I didn’t have time to do a MTR test or anything, but those don’t translate well into “what does it actually look like” terms.

1:1 quality of moose hide, you can see noise in the image, 1/160, f/5, ISO 125, 63mm

1:1 quality of moose hide, you can see noise in the image, 1/160, f/5, ISO 125, 63mm

But for video quality you get a very nice image. I was pretty amazed to see it on an iMac display, even though the image was interpolated. It was just clearer than I’ve seen HD. Really, it looked like HD played on a 120Hz TV display. That was the look. The video samples were shot at 60FPS, so perhaps that helped. It really looked like the real thing. I didn’t expect it to be that much better than HD. But if you stack up a 3-chip HD camera with better dynamic range against a limited range, small sensor like this, you might be pressed to tell the difference. Again in the shadows there will be noise. The again, what do you expect for a small form factor single chip camera?

Lens

The aperture goes from about f/3 to ONLY f/8. That’s really miserable for photography. Nature of small sensor cameras. Even though the specs claim f/2.8 to f/11, in the shooting I was testing it with, it only really gave me f/3 to f/8 to work with. That’s a tough one, especially in full daylight shooting.

That zoom and optical stabilizer is awesome. I’d love to have something that goes from 25mm to 400mm and does a real good job on my D800. If I did, I could dump a bunch of other lenses. But I’d need it to be f/2.8 and have it go to f/22. Oh well, I can dream.

Dynamic Range

We had a snow shot with moose and it worked pretty well. But the snow on the mountains was blown out in the video with zebras set to 95%. Again, it’s not a D800 but it’ll blow away your little basic point and shoot. But I think my Sony RX-100 probably still beats it for dynamic range.

View finder

The electronic viewfinder – not bad for a video camera, okay for landscape shooting but poor for sports/action/moving things. When you pan/tilt, you get an image jitter. The swim is very small but the smearing in the image will irritate you if you shoot an optical DSLR. EVF (electronic view finders) aren’t there yet. I worked at a digital night vision company where we went to great efforts to have zero swim, jitter or anything else and this isn’t even close. Then again, those systems were $60,000 and this is $900. You get what you pay for.

The info in the viewfinder for a video camera is very nice. It fits the bill of shooting things where a video camera would get you into trouble. For the price, the image quality is pretty amazing. Is there better dynamic range and such out there? Yes, The GH4 and upwards. But for what this is going for, it really makes UHD accessible.

Controls

The switch to go from zoom to MF – not a fan. 2 rings are more expensive, though. There’s the zoom rocker on the shutter release. Eh, it’s under a finger, so it feels like a little point and shoot zoom for the video camera it’s designed for.

The fully manual video camera mode – thank goodness! Not allowing me to control Auto-ISO ruins other camcorders/DSLRs. Locking down exposure is critical if you want professional-looking images.

The different programmable function buttons are nice for getting what you want. Some of the switch modes like focus control are appreciated. They’re not in ergonomic places like my D800 at all. There are buttons which are appreciated on a video camera but the layout leaves lots to be desired. Like all things, it’s something you get used to.

Autofocus

The autofocus – amazingly fast. I’m not sure what they put in there but it must be a hybrid phase/contrast focus system because it matches my Nikon D800 focus speed quite easily. However, when you need to control focus points, that’s where it falls apart.

Storage

You’ll need lots more storage to use UHD on this camera. Your puny little 320GB drive will be gone in no time shooting with this. Think 2TB drives minimum. Why do I say this? I’m editing my film, Antarctic Tears, which is a feature length film. And it eats up 228GB of my SSD drive. And that’s shot in HD. This camera has almost 4x the resolution. Even a 500GB SSD won’t even come close to supporting a feature length film. 4k/UHD video is what HD was to our computers 10 years ago. Be ready to spend a LOT of money if you want to really work with this.

Other items

Major video shooting issue: This thing has no earphone out. That is one major failing. Why in the world they left this out is beyond me. Perhaps Panasonic is trying to push you into a higher end camera. You might be able to use the AV out and cobble something together. Who knows w/o that cable.

If you don’t have ears on your video camera, you’ll realize only after the shot is over what went wrong. I can pipe audio through my ZoomH4n and listen there, as I can use that as my XLR input, but still. No, this doesn’t have XLR. Of course not.

ND filters for video – buy one. You’ll need one. Or two. For a 3-stop ND, I use this Hoya filter.

The batteries seem to konk out pretty quick, but we were shooting at 10 degrees F with wind chill. Buy more batteries.

You’ll need an UHS-1 SD card for it. UHD video eats up a LOT of card space. I hope you bought a spare hard disk or three. Editing this video – get Rocketstore Thunderbolt enclosure with a SSD drive with a fast computer.

Buy your Panasonic Lumix DMZ-FX1000 here at B&H Photo.

Thank you to Sava Malachowski of Sava Film and Open Range Films for the sample images and video. He had excellent footage to sample and work with in tough conditions, shooting in a Wyoming winter with dark animals and bright snow. There’s not much tougher.

The post Panasonic Lumix DMZ-FZ1000 review appeared first on Aaron Linsdau.

Panasonic Lumix DMZ-FZ1000 review

panasonic-lumix-dmz-fx1000It shoots very nice UHD (not truly 4k) video. There is some noise in the image but that’s to be expected for this price point.

For the body size and handling, it’s really a nice camera for the right person. I can’t use it for my general shooting for several reasons but if I want a stealthy UHD camera, this one just might fit the bill. At a price below $900, I was stunned just how good it actually was.

Image quality

Photo courtesy of Sava Malachowski

Photo courtesy of Sava Malachowski, © Sava Malachowski

The IQ (image quality) of the camera for a still is pretty good, though it’s not a higher end Nikon or Canon. Don’t be fooled. In dark areas at low ISO it’s easy to see the noise. A huge zoom lens just won’t have the resolution for stills. For most, they’ll be amazed. But if you’re discerning, you’ll be only “okay” with the shadow performance.

If you click on the image on the right, you can see a small sized sample of the full image. The red box shows the 1:1 sample area of the image on the moose hide. For as good as the image looks in full screen, when you get down to the nitty gritty, you’ll see it’s “okay”. I didn’t have time to do a MTR test or anything, but those don’t translate well into “what does it actually look like” terms.

1:1 quality of moose hide, you can see noise in the image, 1/160, f/5, ISO 125, 63mm

1:1 quality of moose hide, you can see noise in the image, 1/160, f/5, ISO 125, 63mm

But for video quality you get a very nice image. I was pretty amazed to see it on an iMac display, even though the image was interpolated. It was just clearer than I’ve seen HD. Really, it looked like HD played on a 120Hz TV display. That was the look. The video samples were shot at 60FPS, so perhaps that helped. It really looked like the real thing. I didn’t expect it to be that much better than HD. But if you stack up a 3-chip HD camera with better dynamic range against a limited range, small sensor like this, you might be pressed to tell the difference. Again in the shadows there will be noise. The again, what do you expect for a small form factor single chip camera?

Lens

The aperture goes from about f/3 to ONLY f/8. That’s really miserable for photography. Nature of small sensor cameras. Even though the specs claim f/2.8 to f/11, in the shooting I was testing it with, it only really gave me f/3 to f/8 to work with. That’s a tough one, especially in full daylight shooting.

That zoom and optical stabilizer is awesome. I’d love to have something that goes from 25mm to 400mm and does a real good job on my D800. If I did, I could dump a bunch of other lenses. But I’d need it to be f/2.8 and have it go to f/22. Oh well, I can dream.

Dynamic Range

We had a snow shot with moose and it worked pretty well. But the snow on the mountains was blown out in the video with zebras set to 95%. Again, it’s not a D800 but it’ll blow away your little basic point and shoot. But I think my Sony RX-100 probably still beats it for dynamic range.

View finder

The electronic viewfinder – not bad for a video camera, okay for landscape shooting but poor for sports/action/moving things. When you pan/tilt, you get an image jitter. The swim is very small but the smearing in the image will irritate you if you shoot an optical DSLR. EVF (electronic view finders) aren’t there yet. I worked at a digital night vision company where we went to great efforts to have zero swim, jitter or anything else and this isn’t even close. Then again, those systems were $60,000 and this is $900. You get what you pay for.

The info in the viewfinder for a video camera is very nice. It fits the bill of shooting things where a video camera would get you into trouble. For the price, the image quality is pretty amazing. Is there better dynamic range and such out there? Yes, The GH4 and upwards. But for what this is going for, it really makes UHD accessible.

Controls

The switch to go from zoom to MF – not a fan. 2 rings are more expensive, though. There’s the zoom rocker on the shutter release. Eh, it’s under a finger, so it feels like a little point and shoot zoom for the video camera it’s designed for.

The fully manual video camera mode – thank goodness! Not allowing me to control Auto-ISO ruins other camcorders/DSLRs. Locking down exposure is critical if you want professional-looking images.

The different programmable function buttons are nice for getting what you want. Some of the switch modes like focus control are appreciated. They’re not in ergonomic places like my D800 at all. There are buttons which are appreciated on a video camera but the layout leaves lots to be desired. Like all things, it’s something you get used to.

Autofocus

The autofocus – amazingly fast. I’m not sure what they put in there but it must be a hybrid phase/contrast focus system because it matches my Nikon D800 focus speed quite easily. However, when you need to control focus points, that’s where it falls apart.

Storage

You’ll need lots more storage to use UHD on this camera. Your puny little 320GB drive will be gone in no time shooting with this. Think 2TB drives minimum. Why do I say this? I’m editing my film, Antarctic Tears, which is a feature length film. And it eats up 228GB of my SSD drive. And that’s shot in HD. This camera has almost 4x the resolution. Even a 500GB SSD won’t even come close to supporting a feature length film. 4k/UHD video is what HD was to our computers 10 years ago. Be ready to spend a LOT of money if you want to really work with this.

Other items

Major video shooting issue: This thing has no earphone out. That is one major failing. Why in the world they left this out is beyond me. Perhaps Panasonic is trying to push you into a higher end camera. You might be able to use the AV out and cobble something together. Who knows w/o that cable.

If you don’t have ears on your video camera, you’ll realize only after the shot is over what went wrong. I can pipe audio through my ZoomH4n and listen there, as I can use that as my XLR input, but still. No, this doesn’t have XLR. Of course not.

ND filters for video – buy one. You’ll need one. Or two. For a 3-stop ND, I use this Hoya filter.

The batteries seem to konk out pretty quick, but we were shooting at 10 degrees F with wind chill. Buy more batteries.

You’ll need an UHS-1 SD card for it. UHD video eats up a LOT of card space. I hope you bought a spare hard disk or three. Editing this video – get Rocketstore Thunderbolt enclosure with a SSD drive with a fast computer.

Buy your Panasonic Lumix DMZ-FX1000 here at B&H Photo.

Thank you to Sava Malachowski of Sava Film and Open Range Films for the sample images and video. He had excellent footage to sample and work with in tough conditions, shooting in a Wyoming winter with dark animals and bright snow. There’s not much tougher.

Gas explosion in Jackson, WY

There was a large propane gas explosion in Jackson Hole, WY today. Here are some pictures showing the huge smoke plume in from Amerigas on Gregory Lane and High School Road. All businesses around the area have been evacuated, including Bell Fitness and Smith Food King.

Please email me if you want to use the full resolution images in your news article. These are only cropped down samples.

DSC_D8-9660 IMG_0428 DSC_D8-9659 IMG_0427

All of these photos are © 2014 Aaron Linsdau.