Five Favorite Images from 2021

It’s been a few years since I’ve done a “best of” post for the year. In past years, I’ve typically picked an image from each month that I enjoyed the most. In recent years though, my productivity in photography has dwindled, not even affording me that kind of selection anymore. This was due to a number of factors that held me back, but I’ve made the effort to reverse this trend beginning in the fall, which is why the five favorites I chose from this past year all from within the last two months.… Keep reading…

The post Five Favorite Images from 2021 appeared first on Free Roaming Photography.

Stretching Trumpeter Swans

On about any Winter day, you can usually find between 20 and 40 Trumpeter Swans at the north end of Jackson, WY.  Flat Creek winds its way through the National Elk Refuge on its way to the Snake River south of Jackson. After a cold night or cold spell, Flat Creek freezes. Swans hunker down on the ice during the coldest hours, but become active as the morning sun warms the area. It’s during this “waking up” period that you will have a great chance to see and photograph Trumpeter Swans stretching their wings. This page features a full sequence of photos of a beautiful Swan stretching while standing on the frozen creek.

You have to be ready!  A typical “stretch” lasts only three or four seconds.

Swan Stretching 1

When ready, the Trumpeters thrust their chest, then begin a stretching sequence. 

Swan Stretching 2

If your camera can capture 30 frames per second, and if a stretch lasts three or four seconds, it’s possible to end up with 75 to 125 photos from a single stretch. That’s of course, if your camera’s buffer can handle that many shots in a burst before it hits the camera’s buffer! A camera that can capture 12 frames per second can still get great shots.

Swan Stretching 3

For this page, I pulled out around 25 images from roughly 80 I captured. I am showing roughly one out of three in the sequence.

Swan Stretching 4

While I often photograph Swans by handholding my camera and lens, a tripod can come in handy if you are waiting for one to start flapping. It’s easy to get tired hand holding the gear in the ready position for extended periods.

Swan Stretching 5

Typically, a Trumpeter will do at least two cycles of the wing positions, and each of those seem to get more pronounced. From my experience, three cycles is most common.

Swan Stretching 6

Swans often stretch just after waking up from their overnight sleep. They usually stretch after a period of preening. Anytime I see one “porpoising”, I can almost always expect to see one of the wing flap events. When they porpoise, they dive to just under the water and back up. They can do this 10 to 20 times before stretching. I think of it as their bath time and the wing flaps as a way to shake off the water and realign all of their feathers.

Swan Stretching 7

A camera capturing frames at a relatively high speed reveals a wide variety of wing positions. Obviously, I like some of the wing positions more than others.

Swan Stretching 8

This Swan was just getting “warmed up”.

Swan Stretching 9

As they begin their second cycle, their wing strokes become a bit more pronounced.

Swan Stretching 10

Swan Stretching 11

Swan Stretching 12

Swan Stretching 13

During the second cycle, the wing reach is more pronounced. If your camera has a limited buffer, you might consider waiting to start shooting until the Swan is about half way through its stretch.

Swan Stretching 14

Swan Stretching 15

Swan Stretching 16

Swan Stretching 17

Swan Stretching 18

Swan Stretching 19

By this cycle, the wing tips can almost touch in the front and its head is usually higher.

Swan Stretching 20

Swan Stretching 21

Swan Stretching 23

At about this stage in the third cycle, the Swan will begin to relax its wings as they drop to their folded positions.

Swan Stretching 24

Swan Stretching 25

When it’s all over, the Trumpeter folds its wings over its back again. At this point, scan the area for other Swans porpoising or preening. Often you can get four or five stretching Swans in a relatively short period of time. Of the group, some will be facing the wrong direction or another Swan will be in the way. One or two good sets would be considered a good morning.

The previous set of images was taken at 9:30 in the morning with a Sony A1 camera and a Sony 200-600mm lens. All were taken at 1/3200 second at f/7.1, Manual Mode, ‒ 1 EV, Auto ISO 500, Tripod. The Sony autofocus method was: Continuous High+, Bird Eye Tracking, Expanded Spot in Compressed Raw format.

Bath Time

If you are not familiar with their behavior, watch for any Swan that looks like it is taking a bath. It’s almost always an indication that a wing flap is imminent!

Conflict

Trumpeter Swans can be quite territorial. Often, after a skirmish, one or both will flap in a form of victory celebration.

Trumpeter Swan

The sequence group on this page were taken straight-on, but they look great from either side or at a diagonal.

Trumpeter Swans

The primary place to photograph Trumpeters is along Flat Creek at the north edge of town, though they can be seen scattered along the Snake River. Once Oxbow freezes over, most of them move south to the Flat Creek area. While I personally prefer flight shots, fight shots, or stretching, it is also possible to capture some wonderful swimming photos if the light is right! For years, we were able to get reliable photos at the Boyle’s Hill Pond, but the Wetlands Society managers added a fence that keeps the wild Trumpeters from getting to the food they put out for the captive breeding Swans.

Additional Trumpeter Swan Feature Posts

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Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park and Winter tours in the National Elk Refuge.  Book now! Click the image for additional information.

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The post Stretching Trumpeter Swans first appeared on Best of the Tetons, Area Info & Photography.

November 2021 Daily Journal For GTNP & JH

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Welcome to November!

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Covid-19 Mask Update: The Teton County Commissioners extended the Mask Mandate until the end of 2021. Masks must be worn inside buildings, on public transportation, taxis, and tours.

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New Month : New Week : New Moon : New Daily Journal : New Park — November 1st

Well, it’s a new month and a new week. In a couple of days, there will be a new moon. Yep…you are looking at the first entry for the new November Daily Journal.

Road ClosedThe “New Park” item in the list above takes a bit of artistic or editorial license. Let me explain: Yesterday, we could drive the Moose-Wilson Road along with the middle section of the Teton Park Road. Yesterday, fishermen were still fishing on the National Elk Refuge and hikers and bikers were still using the pathway along it. Yesterday, you could stop at Dornan’s to pick up some snacks or fill the coffee thermos, but the stores and restaurant are closed for the month of November. Only a few days ago, we could drive up and down Mormon Row and we could drive down to Schwabacher Landing. But, all of those areas are now padlocked. In a few days, there will be hunters, outfitted in orange, driving up and down roads hoping to nail an elk. Those are only a few of the recent and upcoming changes in Grand Teton National Park.

Break in the Clouds

Of course, not all of the news is bad news!

The big summer crowds are gone! The Park has a much more relaxed and “open” feel, even if some zones have no vehicular access. At least until December 15th, people can still hike into areas of the Snake such as Schwabacher Landing. For the hikers making the 1.25 mile walk, they’ll likely the the area entirely to themselves. This morning, I drove from the Moose Visitor’s Center area to the end of the road at Death Canyon on the Moose-Wilson Road and passed only two vehicles—one coming at me and one that passed me while I was taking photos of a moose cow in the water. I was able to park in a regular spot and walk down the road without the scorn, whistle, or screams of a Wildlife Brigade volunteer. Those volunteers are almost all gone now. A bear or moose sighting can still create a bit of a jam, but jams will not been as large or develop as fast as in the summer and fall.

Days are shorter and cooler, but usually not bitter cold. Wildlife typically hangs out longer, and generally speaking, the light quality is better. Soon, Daylight Savings Time switches back, so I end up at home and in front of my computer more. That’s good for my ever swelling Lightroom catalog. It is bursting at the seams and needing some severe culling! I took roughly 5000 images just today! The photos you see in this initial post were all taken today!

Trumpeter Swans

Photographic Opportunities in November

Landscapes: September and October were transitional months, changing from summer, to fall, and eventually into pre-winter. November, much like the previous two months, is also a transitional month. The high country already has snow, but early snow falling in earlier months melt on the valley floor. By mid-November, temperatures drop to the point all new snow will become part of the winter scenery. In other words, we are in for a change to the landscape.

Wildlife: When I think of November, I think of great moose viewing and photography. Swans also move into the valley for the winter. Bighorns will be migrating to Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge, just in time for the annual head bashing rut. November can also be a good month for grizzlies, badgers, foxes, otters, and owls. I’ve had several reports of wolves being seen this year, too. Bison are currently split into two groups, one in the Kelly area and a smaller group in the Elk Ranch area.

Plan Ahead!

Remember, there are no facilities open inside Grand Teton National Park. While you can fill your gas tank at one of the “pay at the pump” locations, there are no stores or shops for snacks or lunch. Rest rooms can be found at the Kelly Warm Springs, Moose Visitors Center, just inside the Moran entrance, at the Taggart Lake trail head, and at the gas station at Jackson Lake Lodge. The restrooms around the Jackson Lake dam are still open but will be plowed in soon. Restrooms at Flagg Ranch are usually open.

The gas station and convenience store along the highway in the Buffalo Valley are traditionally open. I understand the small cafe on the Buffalo Valley Road is open through much of the winter.

Freemont

Moose feast on fresh willow leaves in the river bottoms all summer. By November, the leaves are gone and moose switch to bitter brush, found in the sage flats. While there might still be remnant evidence of the fall rut, most of it is over. The bulls are beginning to gather in small groups following “the season”. Instead of moving back to the river bottoms at first light, more of them stay out in the sage all day. This big bull, Fremont, just showed up today…right on queue.

Slim Jim

November can be a great month to see moose! I mentioned that already but it’s worth repeating. Today, for example, I saw at least 21 moose, and most of those were seen in the first 30 minutes!

Moose Cow in Moose Pond

Along with the bitter brush, some moose modify their diet to include aquatic vegetation. I caught this cow dining along the Moose-Wilson Road this morning.

Moose Cow in Pond

I would have preferred to find Fremont, Shoshone, or Hoback in the pond, but any moose in the pond is a welcome change.

Mule Deer Buck

Elk are mule deer are also coming off their rut season. Yesterday, I hiked out to the Old Patriarch Tree. As I came over the last ridge, I saw two large elk herds scamper off when they saw me. Apparently, their rut is still ongoing. I’ve seen a lot of Pronghorns in the Elk Ranch area, but they will soon begin migrating out of the valley. Over the past few years, a few Pronghorns have wintered on the National Elk Refuge.

Berries and Leaves

While November can feel like a gray month, there are still opportunities to find bright colors. Rainy days make subjects more interesting and the colors can be much more saturated. Of course, upcoming snow days offer great times in the field.

Rain Drops

“Bad weather” for some people can be “good weather” for others looking for unique shots.

Mallards in Flight

The observation platform along Flat Creek can be a hopping place in November as Trumpeter Swans and a wide variety of waterfowl move through the valley. You might also catch a few river otters on some days. The edges of the creek will likely freeze creating additional opportunities.

Ravan in Flight

Lastly, I like to “practice” on what some people call mundane or common subjects. The plan is to work out all of the “kinks” to be ready for the more exotic subjects like eagles, owls, herons, and other raptors.

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I renewed my permit to do tours in the National Elk Refuge for the 2021/2022 season. The use of the permit officially begins November 1st. Bighorns are start showing up and are usually in good numbers by Thanksgiving.

Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park and Winter tours in the National Elk Refuge.  Book now! Click the image for additional information.

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Additional Related Links and Pages

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The post November 2021 Daily Journal For GTNP & JH first appeared on Best of the Tetons, Area Info & Photography.

April 2020 Daily Journal For GTNP & JH

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April 1st, 2020 – Wednesday

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Steller's Jay

Steller’s Jay: Taken in my back yard this morning. At least two of them are in the area right now. They spend most of their time in the conifer forests, so it is a real treat to see some here in town. Nikon D850 and Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens, Tripod.


April 1st: The world is in an altered reality now!

Closed Park

I’ll get the worst news over quickly: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are closed to all visitors. The Town of Jackson has a “shelter-in-place” order. Teton County and the Travel Bureaus are telling people that aren’t already here, “Don’t come here”. If people from this area leave and then come back, they are required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Most non-essential businesses are closed, along with motels, hotels, and hostels. Visitor Centers are closed. All events are cancelled. All dine-in restaurants are closed, but take out and delivery is still available at some establishments. After the initial run on food and toilet paper, most grocery stores have reasonable supplies and groceries. This area is probably not unlike most other places in the country.

Useful Resources

CDC website
CDC Informational Videos
CDC Factsheets and Print Materials
World Health Organization (WHO)
U.S. State Department

As of the first of the month, town residents can still walk their dogs and do some kinds of recreational activities as long as they maintain six feet distances. Police say they are not enforcing the “shelter-in-place” advisory (yet) so it is possible to move around for a few photos. I expect the Governor to issue a similar statewide shelter-in-place order before too long.

If looking for a silver lining, gasoline is still available, along with electricity, Internet, and water. Darla, myself, and Corey are doing a good job of staying away from people. I don’t believe any of us has had the virus, but there are numerous cases of it in Teton County now.

Mountain Goat

And yet, the world spins!

I watch enough news to know how bad it is already in some areas and I am seeing it spread to new hot spots. Around here, I see the snow melting in preparation for our Spring season. Migrating birds are returning  to the valley. Hibernating mammals, like chipmunks, ground squirrels, and marmots are showing up again. A few bears have been spotted. Some of the big game animals are beginning to look shaggy as they start losing their Winter fur. More than likely, a couple of the Grizzly sows will appear with two or three new cubs, without the throngs of people. The grass will start turning green and wildflowers will begin popping up.

As I write this initial entry for April, there are still areas people can go to get outside for a while. The Snake River Canyon is one option, along with most of Star Valley to the South. The National Elk Refuge is still open. The park area north of the Visitor’s Center can be good for songbirds, geese, and swans. County roads are still open. Don’t expect to find any restrooms open in the forest facilities.

Bird Blind

If you are going to be stuck at home over the next few months, consider photographing birds in your back yard. All they need is food, water, and cover. For some species, food alone will do the job. Sunflower seeds are a big draw, along with suet. Most grocery stores sell both, so you can grab a bag while buying other household essentials. Spend some time reading up on birds in your area and find out what kind of food they prefer. You’ll be surprised how quickly they find your feeders. This year, I am seeing several Blue Jays and Steller’s Jays. They are definitely getting my attention since they are not common in my yard.

Blue Jay

As April progresses, I expect to see a lot more species move into the area.

Best of the Tetons

Over the past five years, I’ve been posting daily photos and comments. With only a few exceptions, the content is mostly of subjects around this area. No doubt, my access to the great outdoors will be much more limited over the next few month. I’ll try to post local subjects when I can. My Photo Tours are essentially shut down until the park opens again. Even though I can’t spend time in the Park, you can always look over the April and May Daily Journals from the past years. Click any of the links below.

Daily Updates Archives:
2020: Apr:Mar: |  Feb:Jan:
2019: Dec:Nov: | Oct:Sept:Aug:July:June:May:Apr: | Mar:Feb:Jan:
2018: Dec: | Nov: Oct.Sept: | Aug: | July:June: | May:Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2017: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2016: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan: 
2015: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013: Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:

Your source for amazing tips about park photography in Jackson, WY

If you’ve never checked this page, you should! It contains an almost endless supply of Features Posts on a wide variety of subjects. If you can’t visit the area in person, or if you have more time to kill, this page of links might keep you entertained. Click the image!

Zoom-Lightroom

One-On-One Lightroom/Photoshop Online Training

I am looking into the possibility of offering one-on-one training through Zoom Conferencing. Conceptually, I would create a Zoom session for you and a Dropbox folder for you. I could quickly demonstrate how I zip through my image processing in Lightroom and how I pass them on to Photoshop for final adjustments You could see “presets” and “actions” work in real time. I can also create a DropBox folder for you to upload your photos so I can work on them during the session. You would be viewing my screen and hearing my voice as I run Lightroom. If interested, let me know!

Lastly, please visit Best of the Tetons regularly. I hope to add some new feature posts that might help you fill some idle time.