All the Shades of Brown

A close-up of the face and shoulder of a male American bison, showing the many shades of brown in his fur, taken near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

As I sat beside the road, playing around with close-ups of the mothers and their young, the old bulls eventually ambled into view. These would be my favorite shots from this trip in the fall of 2011, what I love most about this one is that even though I often think of them as being one shade of brown, I am reminded, bison contain multitudes. As was often the case in Wyoming, many of my favorite encounters would be on the trails but many of my favorite pictures would be near the road. I hope you had a good life, not-so-little one.

Baby Pictures

A close-up view of the face and tiny horn of an American bison calf as it looks at me near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

An American bison calf gives me a quick look with mom as a backdrop. I had my big lens with me on that trip and was shooting the herd from the road so everyone was relaxed. Taken in the fall of 2011, it’s hard to believe that was my last trip to Wyoming but later trips were canceled due to government shutdowns and the occasional early storm. I doubt I’ll visit again for a long while as there are too many places closer to here I want to explore during my limited time off, until then my many fond memories will have to tide me over.

A close-up view of the face and tiny horn of an American bison calf near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011


A close-up view of the side of a face of a male American bison near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

After falling in love in Yellowstone with the colors and patterns of Mammoth Hot Springs, later the moss of the rain forests of the Olympics, then the bark of the ancient redwoods of California, I finally merged my love of small details in a larger landscape with another and greater love, the wildlife I had been shooting for years.

I dreamt of taking this picture for many months before my trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone, thinking I might get a shot at it in Yellowstone, but instead I found a bison herd near the road on my last morning in the Tetons and was able to photograph from the safety of the car. Afterwards I was so nervous I could barely bring myself to review the pictures on the camera to see if I had gotten the picture I so hoped for. When I came to this picture of one of the bulls, I stopped worrying and left for Yellowstone full of joy.

Pronghorn to the Rescue

A male pronghorn in a meadow along Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park

My plans for this fall’s trip to Wyoming were literally made at the last minute. I had planned to take the week off but wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. It had been a while since I had been to Yellowstone & the Tetons and I was itching to get back, but I was also worn out and not sure I was up to the drive. Then I checked the weather and it was supposed to be unusually sunny and hot, which if you’ve followed along here you know is not my favorite photography weather.

I decided to sleep on it and in the morning made my reservations for Wyoming, starting off in the Tetons and finishing up in Yellowstone, then headed out the door. And it was unusually sunny and hot during the day, despite being cold at night, so I had to deal with 40 or 50 degree temperature changes from when I started hiking in the morning to the heat of the day. While the sunny skies did provide good viewing of the Teton range at sunrise, the park staff had been doing controlled burns and a smoky haze hung around in the valley — not thick enough to be interesting, but enough to ruin the clarity of the pictures. The fall colors seemed to be late in arriving and while some of the aspens had turned, many were still green. And my chronic stomach problems flared up several times on the trip, though fortunately never on the trails despite one close call.

But the worst of it was, I wasn’t seeing much wildlife, and so while I was grateful for the chance to visit this wonderful part of the world, the trip wasn’t ranking very highly compared to some of my other visits. But then on my last night in the Tetons I discovered this male pronghorn in the evening light and things started looking up. The next morning I found the bison herd and my mood got even better.

Yellowstone was hit or miss the first few days too, but the last day turned out to be one of my favorite days in the park, ever.

A long way of saying, I’m glad I went.