Fall Day in Yellowstone

I had a rare day off last Friday so Brett and I spent the day exploring the park, and it was a pretty fun trip.  Not long after driving in we stopped and photographed a Bison swimming across a river, and a huge bull elk bugling in some tall golden grass.  Later in the day we stalked a coyote, hiked to Fairy Falls, and finally saw Great Fountain Geyser go off, which is somewhat unpredictable and I hadn’t yet been able to see it.

I’ve got just about 10 more days out here before I’ll be packing up for the long drive home to Virginia, but I’m going to try and squeeze in another trip to the park before I go.

 

buff_swim

 

Canon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens, 1/250 sec at f/4, ISO 400
 
Elk_bugle

 

Canon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens w/1.4X teleconverter, 1/200 sec at f/4, ISO 400
 
Coyote-Grass

 

Canon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens w/1.4X teleconverter, 1/2500 sec at f/4, ISO 500
 
Geyser_Sky

 

Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, 1/400 sec at f/7.1, ISO 100
 
Fall_Rivers

 

Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, 1/8 sec at f/22, ISO 50
 
FairyFalls

 

Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, .4 sec at f/22, ISO 100
 

Fire Season Begins

It’s hard to believe it’s my third year as a Smokejumper, time is just flying by.  I’m in Missoula right now for refresher training, and Erin and Josephine are arriving around midnight tonight.  I can’t wait to see them, and I swear Josephine looks so different than the baby I left a little over two weeks ago.  We’ve done three jumps so far, and they’ve all gone fairly well.  We were supposed to do five but the wind last week was pretty fierce and a couple were cancelled.

It’s been interesting seeing this years rookie class running around in their nomex looking pained and frightened, it’s hard to remember what that was like even though it was just two years ago.  One thing that amazed me about my rookie class was that we had no jump-related injuries, but i’ve seen a couple in this class being trained on the Ram-Air parachute, makes you wonder.

I’ve got a few photos to share today, some from back home before I left, and a couple from my few nights in Yellowstone this past weekend.  I didn’t get anything great, but I did have a wonderful time despite the throngs of stressed out humanity clogging the roads.  Maybe going there over Memorial Day weekend wasn’t the best idea.

 

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 Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 1/60 sec at f/11, ISO 400

This and the next couple images are from a beautiful sunset at Cape Charles beach just in front of our house.  A storm front had just passed but the wind was still blowing at 25 or 30 miles per hour and it was quite an experience being out in it.

 

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Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 1/200 sec at f/11, ISO 400

I like the texture in the water from the high winds.

 

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Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 1/250 sec at f/9, ISO 250

A more gloomy, slightly zoomed in image taken a little while before the one above.

 

6 Canon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens w/1.4X teleconverter, 1/400 sec at f/5.6, ISO 500

I’ve been thinking about this image for months, and as usual, it didn’t turn out as good as I thought it would.  I know planning images out works for some people, but I usually will get a better shot along the way that I didn’t plan at all.  I do like this image of the full moon rising over one of the shacks on the barrier islands, but I must say it was better in my mind’s eye.

 

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 Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 1/60 sec at f/11, ISO 400

A view of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the sides of which are stained beautiful colors by many hot springs and vents.

 

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Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 1/250 sec at f/11, ISO 400

I always enjoy seeing this creek that runs through the Lamar Valley, and I was even happier to see a large group of Bison grazing in the area.

 

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 Canon 5d Mark iii, 50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/30 sec at f/6.3, ISO 125

I was trying to photograph Cliff Swallows flying out from under a bridge in Yellowstone, and suddenly I looked down and a male Cinnamon Teal was swimming out from under the bridge.  We noticed each other at exactly the same moment, and it immediately started taking off while I tried frantically to get a couple shots.  My lens and settings weren’t what I would have chosen for the moment, but I’m still happy with how it turned out.  The bright streaks are water bubbles that showed as streaks during the exposure.

 

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 Canon 5d Mark iii, 50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/1000 sec at f/8, ISO 250

A group of swallows flies in front of the morning sun in Yellowstone.

 

 

Heavy Snowfall

Recently we had a really heavy snowfall for around here, and it wasn’t the only one this winter, and nothing bodes well for photography like unusual weather conditions so I headed out early in the morning to see what I could see.  The snow was about 8 inches deep and still coming down, and after considering heading up to Savage Neck Dune Preserve, a drive of about 15 miles on snow-covered roads, I decided to just drive the mile or so to the woods near Sea Glass Beach.

Shortly after I started walking around I came across a scene that I knew had potential, a group of several little Chipping Sparrows eating seeds from the few long grass heads that weren’t yet covered up by the snow.  They would jump on top of the grass and ride it to the ground, and then pluck a few seeds before jumping over to the next, and I swear they seemed to be having a lot of fun with it.

I laid down as close as they would let me get and spent an hour or so trying to capture a sharp close up portrait, and they were very high energy and quick and were not making it easy for me.  I stayed put until the snow melting on my exposed camera and lens somehow got between them and gave me a terrifying Error 1 message, but after heading home and drying both out, they work just fine.

 

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My favorite photo from the morning, a Sparrow glances at me momentarily with a seed in its beak.  Although it looks like it was holding still for me, it was probably looking at me for much less than one second, and I was just lucky enough to get the shot.

 

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The same bird as in the above photo I believe, I caught it mid-hop as it bounced around on the snow looking for food.

 

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Birds of a feather.  The sparse grass against the white snow made for an interesting backdrop for these photos, as in this one of two sparrows perched on a grass stalk together.

 

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This bird was actually in this position for an impossibly long 2 or 3 seconds, flapping it’s wings hard trying to reach the little seed, so I had time to get it in the frame.

 

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This was the view across the bay from the beach near our house the other day.  Normally the sun is bright until it dips below the horizon here, but I guess when there’s the right amount of clouds or haze obscuring it you get this effect.

 

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A bunch of seagulls flying somewhere to roost at sunset.

Peru Expedition: Part 3, Cicra

Leaving Lagarto for Cicra was mostly a relief as we’d finally be back on friendly ground, but it was a little bittersweet for me because I didn’t feel like I’d gotten enough good photos on our days slogging through the jungle.  As it turned out, Cicra would be my best opportunity for getting good shots, but we were only there for a day and a half.  The first evening we did part of the first transect, and the following day I stayed at Cicra to take photos while Luis and Jason finished the rest of what they needed.  With the transects all finished and a lot of work waiting for Jason back in Puerto Maldonado, we headed out a day earlier than expected.

My day in Cicra was pretty productive, and I wish I could have had more time there.  I set out early, and hiked a good portion of the nearby trails that day.  Some highlights were a gigantic Cane Toad I photographed on the trail, climbing their 250 foot tall tower over the forest canopy, and paddling around a little lagoon surrounded by palm trees filled with chattering monkeys.

 

Sharpened-version

 

I got many different shots of this big guy, but I prefer this intimate portrait where a tree trunk was obstructing the right side of the lens.

 

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The beautiful little lagoon at Cicra.  My metal water bottle will be at the bottom for the next 100,000 years!  I leaned over the bail some water out of the boat and it fell out and sunk like a stone, and even near shore I couldn’t find the bottom with a long pole.

 

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Other than my movement in the boat the lagoon was perfectly still, so I focused in on these dead palm fronds and their reflection in the dark water.

 

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Our boatman climbing the several hundred steps from the river to Cicra with his big personal bag on his back.  We had speculated about why it was so big, and towards the end we found out that he didn’t know whether we would be camping out or not and so brought a big sleeping pad.

 

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A 4 inch long caterpillar that will eventually become a Saturniid moth.  I chose to go with a more intimate view, for obvious reasons!

 

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When I saw this little butterfly land on a smooth palm trunk facing the ground, I decided to try and get a shot from below looking up.  Naturally, the butterfly took off as I approached, but luckily it kept landing back on the same tree, and I was eventually able to get this portrait with the lens flat against the tree trunk and facing up.

 

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Heading back to Cicra after the first partial transect, just ahead of a nasty looking storm.

 

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Climbing the tower in the early morning by headlamp.  Early on in my climb, I looked up and mine fell off my head and ricocheted all the way down to the ground, so I had to climb in the dark.  No big deal, I figured, until I saw an inch long bullet ant silhouetted against the faintly lit eastern sky where I was about to put my hand.  They’re called bullet ants because their stings are said to be that painful, and I had visions of getting stung and involuntarily letting go.  Instead, I just climbed around it.

 

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Jason and another researcher taking in the sunrise from above the canopy.  It was amazing to be up there, and one of the highlights was watching colorful jungle birds flying by beneath us.

 

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A view looking over the edge of the top platform, notice my rubber boots.

 

Sharpened-version

 

One of the best amazon river vistas i’ve seen, from a high bluff near Cicra.

 

Peru Expedition — Part 2

We spent one more day in the same general area with Pablo as our guide, a pretty rough one where we hiked at least 13 or 14 kilometers and got good and soaked a couple of times.  That evening we were all wiped out and blistered, and I took the photo below of Luis relaxing on the bow of the boat on the way back to Lagarto.

 

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That evening I heard Luis and Jason talking about the plan for the next few days, and pretty quickly I realized it was a conversation I wanted to be a part of.  The next region we wanted to explore was owned by natives who would have been hostile to the idea of us being there, which in my opinion meant we shouldn’t go there.  I’m not scared of jaguars, poisonous snakes or any other jungle critter… except people.  They scare me a lot, so the idea of knowingly going where a community of people don’t want us to go, and where, frankly, they could have hacked us to death with machetes and no one would have ever known what happened to us, was nuts.  But Jason had a mission to accomplish, and eventually I was satisfied that by starting downriver from the community and hiking straight into the jungle for several kilometers before turning north, we were very unlikely to run into anybody, and hey, we had machetes too!  Below are some peki pekis in Lagarto at sunrise.

 

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It’s funny the things you don’t see coming.  I knew hacking our way through the jungle would be kind of tough, but I like swinging a machete so I wasn’t worried about that.  The hardest part, as it turned out, was the bugs.   Hacking your way through the jungle with a machete is kind of slow, which is fine, except that the clouds of mosquitoes and biting flies don’t have a moving target to keep up with and can feast at their leisure.  For three days we were a mobile coca-chewing banquet, slowly making our way through the forest.  At times the going was easy, like when the trees were tall and the understory more open, at others it wasn’t.  Below is a photo of a fallen tree we came across just a few minutes after leaving the boat, so we thought massive forests were dead ahead.  As it turned out, the best forest was closest to the river.

 

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The main goal of this part of the trip was to get to Terra Firma, which was a plateau of sorts that rose 300 feet or so abruptly from the jungle floor, where the forest was supposed to be better and more open.  A few days later at Cicra, a research station upriver, we would learn that there was no terra firma in the direction we were heading, and we would have hiked to the foothills of the Andes before gaining any elevation.

But when you’re in it, you just know that it’s around the next corner, or in the next half kilometer, so we pressed on as the forest turned to palm swamp and bamboo thickets, and by the way, the bamboo in Peru has 2 inch thorns at the nodes.

 

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Jason with his favorite thing, a huge tree.

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We saw a lot of Tapir tracks, but never the animals themselves.

 

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Moving through some fairly open understory.

 

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The biggest snail i’ve ever seen.

 

 

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Most of the monkeys we saw during the three days were capuchins.

 

It was hard to give up on the idea of Terra Firma, but when we arrived at a shallow creek about 7 kilometers from the river, we decided to turn back.  I was ready to stop myself, and I think our guide wasn’t going another step.  We had left the bag of coca leaves at our previous stop, and as soon as that became known his attitude took a nose dive and there was only one direction he wanted to go.  A note about coca, it’s a pleasant leaf to chew, but really all it did for me was make my mouth go numb, which is interesting I suppose but I wasn’t about to get hooked.

 

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Jason in the river we finally stopped at.

 

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Luis in the terminal river.

 

We’d made it through most of the day without getting dumped on, but just before we got the boat that evening the skies opened up and we were soaked within a minute, and the below photo is of our boatman grabbing a wad of coca leaves in the pouring rain.

 

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Jason and Luis doing a little route finding on our “map”, a single printed page from Google Earth.

 

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The only nice dog around was there to greet us weary travelers when we got back to Lagarto.

 

 

Peru Expedition – Part 1

I recently got home from a two week expedition up the Madre de Dios River in southern Peru, in an area near the Andes mountains where the chocolate brown water still has thousands of miles to travel through the jungle before it gets to the Atlantic.  I’m not really at liberty to say why we were there and what the trip was for, but suffice it to say that everything we did was for a reason.

Our departure upriver was delayed for two days, the first when my backpack full of gear didn’t show up at the Lima airport, and the second when massive storms to the north flooded the river and made it impossible to launch.  Fortunately it passed quickly, and we were able to depart on the third day after driving as far upriver as we could.  Our boat driver looked fully native to me, about 5 foot 6 with huge gold and silver capped teeth and very dark skin, and his boat was a long, narrow canoe powered by an outboard motor with an 8 foot long shaft between the motor and the prop, locally called a peki peki.

 

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Our first stop was directly across the river at a little logging community where we got our first stares of the trip.  I wasn’t sure how to interpret them at first, but I quickly realized that they weren’t “Wow, look at those gringos,” stares, they were more like “What the hell are you doing here,” stares.  After buying a few snacks and some gasoline, we headed upriver.

 

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The top speed of our noble vessel was probably about 10 mph, but with the current going against us at about 5, we were moving pretty slowly upriver.  The motor was not exactly muffled, and I’m surprised our boatman’s hearing was as good as it was, sitting next to that thing all day.  The sound was sort of like a powerful lawnmower but with more pop, and when we were close to the bank, something about the way it bounced off the uneven vegetation made the forest sound like it was teeming with chattering birds.  Jason said he’d even had a half-hour long debate with someone about whether it was birds or the motor, a debate which ended abruptly when they got where they were going and all went quiet.

 

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After a brief stop at a small village where our boatman decided he wanted a higher salary, we motored upriver for several hours before arriving at Lagarto, a tiny town home to 9 families that was sort of the “big city” of the area.  On Sunday, the loggers and miners from miles around descended on Lagarto to play volleyball, dance, and listen to God-awful music until 4 in the morning (we later learned).  Although everyone had the “What the hell are you doing here stare”, we asked if there were any beds available as we’d need a home base for a few days.  They were suspicious, but not enough to tell us to get lost, and we would spend the next 6 nights in Lagarto.

 

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For our first foray into the jungle we stopped at a nearby logging camp and asked if someone would take us to a lake we pointed out on a map from Google Earth.  The best way, they said, was by heading up a small creek that joined the river just upstream from the logging camp, and one of them volunteered to be our guide.  Being in the camp was pretty uncomfortable, especially thanks to this little weasel of a guy with a plastic sack draped over his back like a cape and a big, crooked, homemade cross made of twigs dangling around his neck.  He mumbled at us basically the whole time we were there, most of which was unintelligible, and several of the other loggers later told us he was nuts.

The trip up the creek was definitely fun and eventually we made it, though it would have been hard to find a boat that was more unsuited to the task.  The 25 foot long, 5 foot wide  boat didn’t take sharp corners well, and this creek had a lot of them.  But with the help of our guide standing up front with a 15 foot pole and shoving the nose of the boat in the right direction every 5 seconds, we managed.  We almost got stopped within 50 feet of the lake by a thick floating forest of vegetation the the motor couldn’t push through, but with everyone kicking it out of the way and some fancy work by the boatman we made it to open water, where it wasn’t long before someone was down to their skivvies and in the piranha and caiman infested water.  I let him swim around a bit before I jumped in…

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We made the trip back down the creek with no mishaps other than a good-sized chunk of metal getting knocked off the prop, which gave the boat a pretty jarring vibration as it cut through the water.

 

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The next morning we met our guide at the logging camp, and told him our goal was to hike to and around the lake from the day before, and he set off into the forest.  Throughout the day we passed old mining pits and downed trees, mostly walking on trail but doing a fair bit of bushwhacking when the trail curved in the wrong direction.  As soon as we got to the lake we found an Amazon Wood Lizard, which is probably the most interesting critter I saw and photographed on my trip to Peru in 2010.  This one was much more colorful than the last, and it’s bright orange skin wasn’t very good camouflage against the gray tree trunk it was clinging to.

 

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We made it halfway around the lake before a wide canal blocked our path, so we headed back to camp.  By this point in the trip, I was somewhat amazed that I wasn’t sick yet.  Some conquered monarch or other always takes revenge on me when I’m in Latin America, regardless of how careful I am, and being careful just wasn’t an option on this trip.  Eventually I lost track of potential causes of the illness that I knew was bound to strike me at any minute.

Fire Season Begins…Slowly

Fire season has kicked off with a whimper this year, and we’ve only just moved from Preparedness Level 1 to 2, something that usually happens a month or two ago.  The Northern Rockies up here is pretty wet and green, but even the areas of the country that are abnormally dry haven’t gotten many fires yet.

Still, how much can I complain when I’m a 5 minute drive from Yellowstone?  We changed our days off last week so I ended up with a three-day weekend, and spent basically all of it in the park.  I wanted to do an overnight hike, and preferably one near the Lamar Valley, and ended up settling on the Bison Plateau hike, 14 miles round-trip over a vast open grass plateau, during which you climb over two thousand feet to trail’s end at a cabin.

 

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 Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 1 second at f/11, ISO 100, 4 images stitched together

There’s a big lake to the north of the base here called Hebgen, and a friend from the base here showed me a nice spot to watch the sunset from along the shore.  Last Friday it rained all day and was generally pretty miserable, but I thought I should head to the lake shore anyway just in case, as the sun often comes through the clouds at the horizon around here.  It didn’t disappoint, and after a vibrant sunset behind me, the sun came through the clouds and lit up the sky something gorgeous.  I was out in the water about knee deep for this one, and the four images stitched make it about a 180 degree field of view.

 

The hike wasn’t very fruitful as far as photography was concerned, but it was a really great walk.  The views were awesome and I saw a lot of wildlife, even for Yellowstone.  The wildflowers are in full bloom right now and I spent some time focusing on them as the sun dropped low, particularly the Sticky Geranium, pictured below, so called because they’re covered with hairs on the stems and leaves.

 

10Canon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens w/1.4X teleconverter, 1/100 sec at f/4, ISO 250, handheld

 

I took this shot just as the sun dipped below the horizon but there was still enough light to illuminate the flower.

I also did some more experimenting with moving the camera mid-exposure, and thought that these sunflowers against a dark background provided a good opportunity.

 

15Canon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens, 1/15 sec at f/25, ISO 100

This came out pretty well in my opinion, but I definitely think there’s far more potential for this technique, just gotta keep at it.

 

On the long climb up through the grassland I must have passed 15 elk sheds within 5 feet of the trail, so who knows how many there actually are up there.  The only bad thing about the hike was that the mosquitos have come out suddenly in full force around here, and I didn’t have any bug spray with me.  For most of the hike there was a strong wind blowing across the grass that kept them off of me, but the rest of the time I was hiking and swatting with my jacket.

The ranger had told me that a couple people did this hike weeks ago and saw a big grizzly, so I was a little wary while setting up camp.  When I hiked the PCT I always slept with my food bag in my tent, because if a bear got your food and you were halfway through a 100 mile section, you were in for a really rough time.  That’s probably a better idea when you’re dealing with black bears than grizzlies, but I had bear spray in my tent and I can’t imagine a bear persisting after it got a full dose to the face, so the food was in with me.  The morning was calm and cold, and shortly after starting out I ran into a group of 6 or 7 large grouse, and got this photo of one peeking around a tree at me.

 

grouse_peekingCanon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens w/1.4X teleconverter, 1/100 sec at f/4, ISO 400, handheld

When I got back to the trailhead I decided to hike a ways on the Slough Creek Trail in the Lamar Valley, as I’d heard good things and the campsite is almost always booked up.  The trail climbed up for a bit before leveling off and following Slough Creek, which was beautiful.  In a little mud puddle I saw my first Amphibian of the year, and got this shot of him peeking at me over the water.

 

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 Canon 5d Mark iii, 300mm f/2.8 lens w/1.4X teleconverter, 1/500 sec at f/4, ISO 100, handheld

As the evening progressed it became pretty clear that the light show at sunset was going to be amazing, and even before the sun was low in the sky the cloud formations were picking up different colors and textures, and i’ll just go ahead and post all the photos I took that evening.

 

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 Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 1/60 sec at f/11, ISO 250, handheld

A group of Bison graze under threatening skies in the Lamar Valley.

 

13Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 2 seconds at f/11, ISO 100, Gitzo Tripod, 4 photos stitched together

I rushed around for awhile trying to find a suitable foreground for this amazing sky, and ended up settling on this bend in Slough Creek.

 

8Canon 5d Mark iii, 70-200mm f/4 lens, 1/40 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, 2 image panorama

After I thought the sunset light was gone, it found a small gap near the horizon and lit up the sky and some sheets of rain falling over a few buffalo walking across the plains.

 

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Canon 5d Mark iii, 70-200mm f/4 lens, 1/40 sec at f/8, ISO 400

Some aspen trees lit by the last rays of light before the sun dipped below the horizon.

 

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Canon 5d Mark iii, 16-35mm lens, 2 seconds at f/11, ISO 100, Gitzo Tripod

Some snags from the 1988 fires that burned almost 40% of the park, in the last light of the day.

 

 

Great News!

The day before I left for Guatemala I got a job offer from the Grangeville Smokejumpers!  The five week rookie training program starts May 20th, so I’ll be spending most of the time between now and then getting ready.  It’s been over 5 years since I met a jumper on the Pacific Crest Trail and decided it was for me, so it feels great that it’s finally happening.  I haven’t made it yet though, and plenty of people wash during the training for a variety of reasons, but I think my chances are good.

Off to Guatemala

It’s been a long time since my last post and since I’ve been out with my camera, but a lot’s been happening.  Erin and I went home to Virginia for Christmas and then to Texas for New Year’s, and as soon as we got back I headed to Mt. Shasta, California for a month-long Wilderness-EMT intensive course.  It was tough, but I passed the national exam on Monday, and am leaving tomorrow for Guatemala, where Erin is doing a two-month stint teaching other midwives at a birth center in Antigua.  Meanwhile, I’ve been talking with several smokejumping bases I’m trying to get a job with, and a few are interested but no job offers yet.

As far as photography goes, I’ve actually had 3 photos place in competitions in the last month.  One is the striking Vine Snake photo from way back when that I entered into the National Wildlife Federation Photo Contest on a whim, and it was highly commended.  Another was the Receding Wave photo that made it to the finals in the Veolia competition.  It was highly commended in the Mountain and Nature in Abstract category of the Memorial Maria Luisa competition.  The last was a panorama I shot of Crater Lake last winter, which was commended in the Panorama category of the Sony World Photography Open, which got 55,000 entries.  Hopefully I can keep it going!

I’ll be back from Guatemala on Feb 25th, and will be training for the job I’ll hopefully have this summer.  Wish me luck.

 

The Storm

The promised storm is here, and its magnitude is just as the weathermen promised us.  Out my window right now I see the foothills of the Cascades powdered with snow in waning light, so I’ll be out there again tomorrow morning.  This morning I waited too long to get up there, about 9 in the morning, so when I did it was like being in heavy rain.  The sun had come out and the air was warm, and the snow in the trees above me was melting quickly.  I took a nice photo from a small bridge up in the mountains, but it was one of those funny times where everything around me is beautiful but I can’t find a picture to take.  That and my strange urge to go higher up in the mountains, always higher, until I get stuck or have to turn around, so that I end up spending more time digging my car out of the snow that taking pictures.  Still, all in all, a wonderful morning.

Canon 5d Mark ii, 16-35mm lens, polarizing filter, 2 sec at f/16, ISO 100, tripod

I stopped on the road and jumped out of the car to take a look over this bridge and instantly decided it was worth shooting.  I got my Oregon winter photography getup on (full wader, rubber boots, and a rain jacket), and took this shot from the bridge.  I took it at  the 20mm focal length on my lens because 16mm was too wide and included too much in the frame.

 
Canon 5d Mark ii, 100mm Macro Lens /w 25mm extension tube, 1/40 sec at f2.8, ISO 250, tripod

I found this tiny set of seeds in an open field yesterday, after one of the torrential rains we’ve been having.  With subjects this small, my 100mm macro is the lens of choice, and is able to sufficiently isolate the subject and blur the background.  The difficult aspects of every type of photograph are different, and i’m often struck by the contrast between the feelings I get while looking at a photograph and the feelings I remember having while taking it.  When I took this photo yesterday I was hungry, tired, wet, and my feet were numb.  Whenever I see wonderful photos taken by other people, I often wonder what they were feeling while taking the photo, and I know that many photos that make me feel warm and fuzzy were taken by people in all kinds of pain and discomfort.  Not that i’m complaining, I love testing myself and, well, I guess I even love suffering if it’s in pursuit of a goal.

 

McKenzie Pass

I drove up Highway 242 yesterday towards McKenzie Pass, the same road I took in 2005 when I rode my bicycle from the Oregon coast to my parent’s house in Austin, TX.  It was closed about 7 miles from the junction with Hwy 126, so I parked and started walking down a path I found, planning on getting to the magnificent waterfall that I had been to once before last winter.  It wasn’t until after I hopped back in my car and started heading home around nightfall that I remembered that I was supposed to walk a mile or so up the road from where it was blocked.  Oh well, I had a great time wandering aimlessly up a small creek that came down from the mountains.  It was actually better, because there’s nothing more exciting to me than the feeling of discovery, of discovering something amazing that you didn’t know was there.  I found a section of the creek about 150 feet long that resembled a washboard, where the hard rock underneath hadn’t eroded and the water was cascading down over it.  It reminded me of some of the waterfalls I’ve seen in Yosemite.  It was amazing, but not photogenic, a strange contradiction that i’ve encountered so often before.  I did, however, find some other subjects.

Canon 5d Mark ii, 16-35mm lens, 4 sec at f/11, ISO 100
Canon 5d Mark ii, 300mm f/4 lens, 1/60 sec at f/4, ISO 400, handheld

 

Higher Elevation

The snow level dropped down to a thousand feet or so yesterday, so in the evening I decided to head up to the snowy heights and try my luck up there.  After a long, bumpy ride I arrived again at Moon Falls where I went just a week or so ago.  I found the same composition i’d taken before the snow for a comparison shot, and i’m not sure which I like better.  The trees were full of snow but the temperature was above freezing, so it was basically like being in a light rain when there were trees above you.  On the way out I stopped at a small pond to shoot this plant coming up out of the water, too early in the year it seems to me.  It might be one of those big-leaved plants I used to always see at springs on the Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California and Oregon, the ones I heard people call corn plants.  And then finally there was a tree backlit by the sun with just a few leaves still clinging to the branches.  To get a close enough composition I had to attach a 1.4X teleconverter to my 300mm lens, which is a combination that my lightweight tripod head can just barely support.

 
Canon 5d Mark ii, 300mm lens with 1.4X teleconverter, 1/200 sec at f5.6, ISO 200
Canon 5d Mark ii, 300mm lens, 1/160 sec at f/4, ISO 400, handheld

 

 

Moon Falls

Moon Falls is one of my favorite waterfalls in the area, so I went up yesterday for a visit.  The area below the falls is interesting, in that there are many large trees surrounded by rushing water in the wide riverbed.  I got this shot from just behind one of them.

 

Canon 5d Mark ii, 16-35mm lens, 2 sec at f/11, ISO 100

 


 

End of Fire Season, Finally

Well, i’ve spent the last six months fighting wildfires and cutting trees and brush with my trusty Stihl 460 chainsaw, named Gilbert.  I’m happy to report there were no serious injuries this year, though i saw MANY close calls, and we all got on pretty well and had a good and prosperous year.  We went to Alaska twice for a month total, Colorado for three weeks, and all over Oregon.  One of our Alaska trips was to the Pat Creek Fire in the North Yukon Zone, not far from the Arctic Circle.  To get there we took a plane to Fairbanks, another, much smaller plane to a small village north of there, and then a helicopter to the fire.  Why the hell were we fighting a fire that far out in the middle of nowhere?  Supposedly to protect a couple of hunting cabins, but i doubt that they were worth the 10 million dollars that was spent fighting the fire.

My plans for the winter are to get a part-time job, do some traveling, and take some photos.  Erin gets February off and we’re planning on going somewhere warm and tropical, and i’m planning on taking a separate trip somewhere just for photography.  I’m not sure where yet, though i’m leaning towards Peru because a friend of mine was blown away by the wildlife in Manu National Park.  It sounds great, but you can’t enter a national park in Peru without a licensed guide, which i’ve never been interested in.  I like to do photography alone, and it would be expensive.  I didn’t win in any contests this year, but i did make it into the semi-finals in the Nature’s Best photo competition, which i’ve always liked because they put out a beautiful book each year.  Someone finally won the Eric Hosking Award this year, and to my unsurprised dismay it was Bence Mate again, for the THIRD time.  I was really hoping someone unknown would win it and get a kickstart to their young career, but for Bence it’s just another feather in his cap.  One of the photos from his Eric Hosking portfolio also won the overall competition.  It’s a great photo of leaf-cutter ants, but i’m surprised they chose it for overall winner because that usually goes to a photo with some species of megafauna as the subject.

I switched all my gear to Canon earlier this year, a painful decision, but i couldn’t stand how inaccurately the Sony A900 reproduced color.  I guess i have high color standards have used Velvia film for so long.  Switching systems costs a good bit of money, so i’ll try not to do it again.

As of today, the rain has begun up here in Oregon.  I’m looking out the window at a dreary downpour that is so familiar to me, and i’ve only lived here a year!  Erin and i are going to spend some time today in Eugene at a bookstore, going through Lonely Planet guides and escaping the fact that winter has begun.