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

Pleasant Dreams

A gray wolf with black fur watches me from a atop a ridge as dusk falls at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

It had been a fun day in Yellowstone in the fall of 2006, after a long hike during the day in which I saw little wildlife I spent the evening near the road with a crowd watching black bears, later on my own watching a coyote near Mount Washburn. On the long drive back to the hotel, the light fading and night approaching, a dark form moved across the road and disappeared from view. I stopped the car and readied the camera, just in case, and was dumbstruck when the curious creature popped up atop the ridge and watched me for the briefest of seconds. My one and only wolf sighting.

Perhaps because I recently edited that picture to bring an old blog post back online, Friday night I’d finally see them again, if only in a dream, as I hiked in the mountains and saw them at a distance. They came down closer but as they played in the snowy landscape I realized I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me. But I soon forgot about not just cameras but even wolves when I looked to my right and saw Ellie bounding towards me. “How are you walking?” I asked, skipping right past the more obvious question. I didn’t wait for an answer and was thankful for one more romp in the snow with the pup. I wouldn’t have so much trouble sleeping if all my dreams were so sweet!

Just Out of Reach

A black bear gazes longingly at pine cones just out of reach high in a tree on a rainy evening at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

A black bear gazes longingly at pine cones just out of reach high in a tree on a rainy fall evening at Yellowstone in 2006. I felt for her, trying to fatten up as much as she could for the long Wyoming winter but not wanting to risk injury and condemning not just herself but also her two young cubs. She and the cubs all made it down safely after eating the seeds in the cones, one cub in particular eating its fill.

Time to Leave

A bull elk calls out while looking directly at me on a rainy afternoon in the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

I started the morning of the last day of my fall hiking trip in 2006 with snow in the higher elevations of Yellowstone. I didn’t stay long as I’m not used to driving in snow and spent the rest of the day in the lower elevations, finishing the trip watching an elk herd in the Madison area while a steady rain fell. It was October so the rut was winding down and the scene was rather tranquil, this bull nuzzled one of the nearby cows as the rest of the herd lingered nearby. Although it ignored me and the others who watched from near the road, the bull did glance in my direction once while calling out.

A bull elk turns his head to the side, showing six points on one antler and seven on the other, on a rainy afternoon in the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

It looked like this bull had six points on one antler and seven on the other. There was a ranger there who said the elk in this drainage weren’t living as long as the others, based on analysis of wolf kills they suspected minerals in the Madison River were making their bones brittle. Fortunately I was ready for the picture up top as within a minute the bull laid down to rest. Ten minutes after taking the picture below, I had to say my goodbyes as it was time to start the long drive back to Oregon.

A bull elk lays down on a rainy afternoon in the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

Not So Close

A male bighorn sheep stands on a boulder and grazes from a bush beside a river in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in July 2004

This is a wider shot of the bighorn sheep I posted a while ago, the telephoto shot made it look like I was rather close but not only was I a ways away beside the road, there was a river between us. He came down the cliff behind him to graze at the river’s edge then went back up the cliff. From my trip to Yellowstone in 2004.

The Forest Was Dead, the Land Was Not

A moose cow walks through a dead forest at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in July 2004

A moose cow walks through a dead forest at Yellowstone National Park. I find that pictures don’t properly convey just how large these creatures are. In this case I was standing at my car beside the road but in the Tetons I sometimes met them on the trails, I never had any close calls but the big bulls during the fall rut certainly demand your attention. I’m thankful for each time we met, it was always a special treat.

Unexpected Delight

A close-up of the orange and green colors in Mammoth Hot Springs in diffuse light beside the Beaver Ponds Nature Trail in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

On my first trips to Yellowstone I knew I’d love the animals but I was surprised by how much I came to love the hot springs. It was this little part of Mammoth Hot Springs, taken from the Beaver Ponds Trail, that not only spurred on a desire to photograph the springs but to look for what I call little landscapes but are more commonly called intimate landscapes, small scenes inside of larger ones. Thankfully on my first visit I photographed it both in the evening light and in the soft diffuse light after the sun dropped behind the hills (shown here), as when I went back in later years the mineral deposits had changed and this spot lost its color.

Yellowstone was a long drive from Portland so I only went every handful of years, it’s further away now and there’s so much of the Southwest I want to explore that I’m not sure when I’ll go back, but I’ll always treasure each of my visits there, I’ve never been anyplace like it. I used to tease myself that I should visit once and only bring a macro lens and take nothing but close-ups of all the things I could never see at home but of course with so much wildlife on display I never did it.

Kneeling, Standing

A yellow-bellied marmot stands near Yellowstone Lake, mostly obscured by the tall grasses of a meadow on the Storm Point Trail, taken in July 2004 in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Fifteen years ago on a trip to Yellowstone, I found a colony of yellow-bellied marmots in rock formations on the Storm Point Trail. This marmot was standing to get a better look at its surroundings so I kneeled down to show the meadow between us with Yellowstone Lake beyond. I was a little nervous editing this picture for fear of a relapse, I have only just trained my brain to stop looking for non-existent marmots and pikas in the rock formations here in the Phoenix area!