Archive for the ‘Travelogues’ Category

Another Photo Adventure Begins

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014


We are reprising our photo tour of Yellowstone National Park. Three repeat “offenders”, Doug Roane (, Brian Hartz (, and me ( plus two newcomers, Lori Diemer ( and Sherry Malotte ( arrived in West Yellowstone today with a planned departure for tomorrow morning on a Yellowstone Alpen Guide snowcoach to Old Faithful and the Snow Lodge.

We’ll spend four and a half days in the the Park based out of the Snow Lodge, then shuttle up to Gardiner and meet up with another member of our troupe, Beau Johnston (, for a couple more days in the northern reaches of the Park: Mammoth and the Lamar Valley.

The weather is quite different from our 2011 trip when the skies were clear, the wind was calm, and the temps were well below zero. Our drive today from Bozeman was snowy and windy and the temps were in the twenties above zero. A different trip and a different year, but with great old and new friends. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

January 29, 2014 9:30 PM

YNP Photo Tour – Day Seven – Our Last Hurrah

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

A day of changing weather: light snow, scattered sunny patches, snow squalls, partly cloudy, cloudy and blizzard, all in one day.

Our shoot took us to Mammoth Hot Springs’ Upper Terrace. We went around the broad walk in the light snow and mist of the hot springs.

To the loop road in bright sun.

There we found the Orange Mound Spring.

The rest of the day looked pretty hopeless for good light so at 3 pm we took a drive to the Lamar Valley and back. We encountered a few animals, but I think most were hiding from the storm.

YN Photo Tour – Day Six – The Lamar Valley

Monday, February 7th, 2011

We got a very early start this morning to make sure we could get to the eastern section of the Lamar/Soda Butte valley before sunrise. It was -8 deg F. when we arrived at a spot on the Soda Butte Creek just west of the Pebble Creek trailhead.

The colors in the sky were muted, but it was still fun to try to get a different composition in this location.

We headed farther along the road toward Silver Gate and turned back around after the Baronette trailhead. We searched for Ice Box Canyon and really didn’t think there was a good way to reach the canyon from the road. At least, it didn’t look that way. I will have to check it out when there’s not so much snow.

We stopped along the Soda Butte Creek in a spot where I shot last year. The snow was so much deeper and the snow piles on the rocks in the creek were much bigger.

We found a flock of photographers at the Lamar Stock Trailhead near the confluence of the Soda Butte Creek and Lamar River. It could only be bighorn sheep.

The expanse of the Lamar Valley from there to the Lamar Canyon was almost devoid of wildlife. We theorized that was due to deep snow in the valley. We stopped at a pullout in the canyon for some very interesting shots of the river and snow covered boulders in the river.

We drove by a larger number of elk all along the road through the Blacktail Deer Plateau and the drive was accented by the sighting of three bull elks just east of the Blacktail Lakes. They showed little fear and one elk actually walked towards us as he browsed for food. I’m not sure I really needed a telephoto lens at the last.

We lunched back in Gardiner and said farewell to Doug as he had to return home to Billings. Claron joined us for a trip down the gravel road that leads south on the western side of the Yellowstone River. The light was very flat and the terrain was not very photogenic, so we return to the motel and took a nap.

The evening light was not much better, but we have been surprised before, so we headed up the road to Jardine. There were a lot of elk and mule deer along the way and two carcasses. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any predators.

The light did improve a bit, so we stopped and tried to capture the feeling.

YNP Photo Tour – Day Five – Transit Day

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

A Winter Weather Advisory greeted us as well as 4-6” of new snow when we woke at West Yellowstone. We took our time getting ready for a leisurely, slow drive to Bozeman and a stop at f11 photo ( and lunch. The drive was pretty when the sun shown through, but the road was fairly snowy and icy. Once we reached Bozeman the roads were much better.

The drive to Gardiner was very easy with some dramatic lighting as the sun and snow clouds played with the landscape.

We checked in to the Absaroka Lodge and dropped off our luggage before heading off to the Park. We encountered a lot of wildlife. Mostly elk and bison, but one lone bighorn sheep.

The sky continued to be very volatile, but we found a few spots that looked good to shoot. There wasn’t a lot of good foreground elements, however, just lots of snow. We found a herd of bison that we used as an interesting foreground element.

We continued west toward the Lamar Valley, looking for a good spot for a sunset. We finally chose the entrance to Slough Creek to stop, but the light didn’t look like it would cooperate with us. Still, we headed off down the trail with our snowshoes to find that perfect setting.

I went about a half a mile down the trail then turned to the west to find a suitable foreground subject. I took a few shots there, but the color of the sky was quite boring. I picked up my equipment, and, disappointedly started back to the truck. On my way back there was a fairly long climb and with my head down and my breathing labored, I said to myself, “The color of the snow is quite nice.” I then looked to the west and the sky had lit up with a beautiful magenta hue.

I was in a terrible spot as the incline was in a shallow draw that obscured the horizon and the valley. I picked up the pace and made it to the top and found a spot to shoot, but the color was fading quickly. I did get a fairly good shot, though.

We headed back to Gardiner in the twilight and dark meeting several more bison and elk on the road, but without any strikes.

YNP Photo Tour – Day Four – Old Faithful and the Road to West

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

As Claron says photographers and fisherman have to be eternal optimists.  W e got up early again hoping for a beautiful sunrise. We drove down to Biscuit Basin in a fairly overcast sky.  Oh, well…

The light remained very flat for most of the morning as we slowly hiked the trail from Biscuit Basin back to Old Faithful and the Snow Lodge. The soft, low contrast light made it a little difficult for me since (as you have obviously noticed) I like high contrast scenes. I really had to use my imagination.

After we checked out of the Snow Lodge, our goal was to head towards Gibbon Falls and see if we could find the vantage point where I had captured my favorite photo in the Park:

Along the way we found a couple of interesting scenes at Midway Geyser Basin,

and Tangled Creek.

Once we reached Gibbon Falls, we stopped at the lower pullout and found a very similar spot, but it still seems a little different. The “original” seems to be at a lower angle than this place.

Sunset was not going to be an option, so we decided to head directly back to West Yellowstone (stopping for any thing interesting, of course).

We did see one of the most unusual things (sorry no photos) along the Madison River: a coyote fishing!!! I’ve never heard of that before.

We also saw the big elk buck again along the far shore of the Madison and we tried to snowshoe into the river. It was tough going. The extremely cold and dry weather had sublimated the snow and turned it very granular. It would not support our weight well, even with snowshoes, especially near trees.

I eventually made it to the treeline, but spooked the buck soon after wards. I did try a couple of hand held shots.

We bid farewell to Jake at the hotel. He did a great job for us and we hope to come back to have him take us again.

YNP Photo Tour – Day Three – A Wild Adventure

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Our day started hectically as we tried to get to West Geyser Basin before sunrise.  Since we were also planning on staying the whole day outside the Old Faithful area, we wanted breakfast and lunch, but the box lunches we order the night before were late, but we did get a good buffet breakfast to go.  And, fortunately, the temp was only about -20 deg F.

As we came around the the curve on the descent to West Thumb, we could see very few clouds in the sky.  However, the micro-climate hanging over and around the geyser basin was impressive.  There were clouds of steam everywhere.  We ended up staying at the basin for almost 3 hours as the subject material was infinite, especially as the light changed with the rising sun.

Our journey continued along the road to the Fishing Bridge and then north to the Hayden Valley.  We saw a section of the Yellowstone River at the Lehardy Rapids that looked very interesting, so we snowshoed from the road down to the river’s edge.  The perspective to see the rapid well was not as good as we like, but I did find a few interesting shots.

On our way back to the snowcoach we happened upon a couple of feeding otters.

Our encounters with wildlife continued as we continued north on the road through the valley.  First, a pair of coyotes.

Then, a hunting red fox.

A flock of feeding Trumpeter swans.

At the lookout pullout on the road to Dunraven Pass was a beautiful panorama of the Absaroka Range, Red Mountain, and the Tetons.

We stopped at the Crittenden Bridge for a look at the rapids and the ice formations.

Finally, a stop at Alum Creek for sunset.

YNP Photo Tour – Day Two – The Deeper Freeze

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Well, shall we just call it arctic. Minus 44 deg F at dawn. Needless to say I wasn’t going out before sunrise to find that perfect shot. We did, however, get an earlier start in the snowcoach and hit Riverside Drive again. The temp was -37 at the west entrance as we went through. The steam rising off the Madison River created a beautiful setting for our first extremely frigid shoot.

We stopped briefly at the warming hut at Madison Junction before making our way through the Firehole Canyon and a long, cold shoot at the main falls. The road was entirely shaded and offered no warming from the sun.

We continued on the road to Old Faithful stopping once along the Firehole River below the confluence with the Nez Perce Creek. As we were shooting pictures of the river and the frosted trees lining the shore, a cow elk began browsing behind us.

We stopped again along the Firehole just above the Midway Geyser Basin for some good shots of bison in the landscape and the river.

We headed past Old Faithful and stopped at Kepler Cascades. I don’t think it is as photogenic in winter as it is in the fall.

A quick trip up to the Continental Divide to see if it would be worth hiking up the Divide Trail later in the trip, but it looked too difficult with an uncertain benefit as far as taking good photographs.

Back down to Old Faithful and the Snow Lodge to check in and store our gear before leaving for Fountain Paint Pots and the sunset over Nez Perce Creek.

YNP Photo Tour – Day One – The Deep Freeze

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

We woke up to a frigid, clear morning.  Minus 29 degrees F.  I just couldn’t imagine trying to go out for a sunrise shoot.  It didn’t stop Pete and Doug.  They headed to the Madison River bridge on US 191 just north of town.  Leave it to Doug to capture a stunning shot:

(c) Doug Roane Photography

Jake met us at 9 o’clock at the motel and we loaded up the coach for our first drive into the park.  Unfortunately, Claron was not feeling well and decided to stay in the motel for the day.  The rest of us piled into the coach and headed into the park.

We stopped at couple of spots along the Madison River.  First, to try to capture some of the landscapes and waterscapes.  Then, to photograph a herd of frost covered bison.

(c) M. Brian Hartz

We made a mad dash to Norris Geyser Basin to have lunch and get ready for our main shoot of the day.  The basin is the hottest and most acidic area of the park with two separate and distinct parts:  Porcelain and Back Basin.

Porcelain is a wide open treeless area with multiple fumeroles, springs, and pools.  The East Fork of Tantalas Creek flows though it.  Several of the little streams from the thermal features that feed into the creek have a bright green color from the thermo/acido-philic bacteria that live in the water.

(c) Peter Arneson

The Back Basin is home to Steamboat Geyser which is the largest geyser in the park.  It erupts massive (300-400 feet), but infrequently (last eruption was in May, 2005). The basin has many more tree. both living and dead.

The steam in the basins created the opportunities for many unique shots.

Our timing was not good.  We left Norris in hopes of finding a good spot for sunset, but in retrospect we probably should have stayed at Norris.  It was a cloudless sky, so we probably didn’t miss too much.

The evening was spent rehashing the day at the bar and then off to work on photos and a sharing/critique session.

The forecast for tomorrow:  minus 44 deg F!!!  Even colder than today.  Fortunately, the high is supposed to be in the upper teens.

We’re On Our Way

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Our day of departure started with great news: the temperature tomorrow morning in West Yellowstone could be as low as -30 deg F!!! Oh well! We may be able to get great “sun dogs” from all the ice crystals in the air. It will just be great to be in the Park again.

Snowy roads welcomed us when we all left for the airport. Claron’s shuttle ride from Rochester was slow, but uneventful. There was one accident on I-494 near the Minnesota River bridge, but fortunately in the west bound lane. Still, the ambulance heading to the scene caused a lot of slowing.

gear, Gear, GEAR!!! Do I have enough gear? I think I got everything I could possibly need, but boy did I have to do some creative packing. Fortunately, we are flying in the Embraer 175 that has reasonably sized overhead bins unlike the Canadair RJ. Still, I had to check 2 bags. I hope we can fit all our gear in the SUV when we get to Bozeman!!!

Well, we got to Bozeman and all our baggage arrived with us!!! We stopped at the REI store at picked up our snowshoes and some hand warmers. When we got out of our truck at the store there was Doug!!! What timing.

We headed straight to West Yellowstone via US 191 through the Gallatin River Valley and saw quite a bit of wild life. Three moose, several elk, and one bighorn sheep. No good place to stop for photos unfortunately.

Forecast is for extreme cold overnight with lows -28 deg F. Ouch.

Glacier National Park: Two Medicine, July 2010 — Day Three

Monday, August 30th, 2010

A warm night!!! I don’t know if it was because the temperature never got as low as the night before or if it was due to the blanket, but I stayed much warmer. I was up early for a busy day. My plan was to pack up my gear and head over to Running Eagle Falls before the light got too intense and then catch the boat tour to the head of Two Medicine Lake and begin my hike to Dawson Pass. Since I wanted to head back to Whitefish that afternoon, I thought using the boat was a great way to shorten the approach to the “real” hike up to the pass.

I didn’t get up early enough!!! The light at Running Eagle Falls, although much, much better than two years ago, was still intense. I think I’ll need to be there before dawn and catch more twilight. And, to top it off, I lost my polarized sunglasses somewhere on the hike out from the falls.

The camp store to the rescue again!!! I quickly grabbed some sunglasses, a couple more sodas, and headed to the boat for a very uneventful, but beautiful trip to the head of the lake.

The hike is quite gentle as you leave the shore and follow the creek. It turns to the right from the spur that leads to Upper Two Medicine Lake. After the trail meets the north shore trail, it starts to climb and the grade seemed to steadily increase albeit broken by several short downhill sections at creek crossings.

After the trail passes the spur to No Name Lake, it really starts to climb and soon I was nearing timberline and large snowfields. Without crampons and a snowaxe I was feeling pretty nervous on a couple of the fields. If I slipped, my trekking poles were no substitute for an axe to try to self-arrest a fall. I was quite cautious and let a party pass me before I even tried to cross the first field.

All was well after the third field. A more southerly exposure had melted any other patches and the trail was well used and stable. The thought did cross my mind that I was going to have to cross those fields again on my way down.

I ran across a hoary marmot (I think), but my camera wasn’t setup properly to try to catch wildlife (still setup up for waterfalls). Nothing but blurry pictures.

Upon reaching the summit of Dawson Pass, my heart stopped. What an incredible view back towards Two Medicine Lake! But, what a more incredible view to the west and down into the valley.

The party that I had let pass me before were just finishing their lunch break and offered to take my picture at the summit:

They encouraged me to continue the loop trail to Pitamakin overlook and back down the other valley past Oldman Lake to the Two Medicine campground. The distance seemed much too far to me. Again, I estimated 20 miles for the whole trip. In hindsight, it might have been closer to 16 miles since I had taken the boat.

They were headed for the summit of Rising Wolf Mountain. Just an extreme hike to them. But it looked much more difficult than I would ever try without climbing gear!!!

After taking a lot of pictures at the pass, I knew I better get moving if I was going to catch the boat back to the parking lot. Especially since I still had to cross those snowfields again. Without an axe I didn’t try glissading down the fields, but it sure looked like it would be fun to have tried.

When I arrived at the boat landing I was dehydrated and hot. A cool dip in the lake helped, but still I was out of filtered water and the boat was late. I groggily waited for the boat and misplaced my ticket. I thought I threw it in the garbage. Couldn’t find it. Fortunately, the captain remembered me from the morning ride and let me board. I found it later in my pocket!!! Dehydration is an amazing thing.

Once I was better hydrated I left the park for Whitefish and thinking I’ll have to come back for a backcountry adventure in Two Medicine.