Archive for January, 2010

Beyond Foundation Workshop: Yellowstone in Winter (Day 1)

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Yellowstone in Winter

This evening we met David Marx and George Wuerthner and introduced ourselves to the rest of the workshop participants. I’ve take workshops from both Dave and George. George co-led the first workshop I attended here in Yellowstone in September 2006. Dave led the first workshop I had on Photoshop in Missoula in the “Blue Lab” at RMSP.

It is a large group. Sixteen participants plus our instructors. There are several participants that I know from previous workshops plus Brian from back in Minnesota.

George outlined the time table for the workshop as well as the ground rules for our conduct while in the park and workshop.

Dave capped off the evening with a slide show of his expedition down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon last March. It was a great illustration of his view of the art of photography and composition, as well as a fun record of the adventure.

The North Entrance

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Thursday, 28 January

After sleeping in and having a simple breakfast at the motel’s restaurant, I made my way to Blue Ribbon Flies to pick up some flies and fly tying material for Claron. After reconnecting with Bucky, one of our favorite guides at the shop, I started my trip to Gardiner.

It was a clear and cold overnight and the same weather continued during the morning drive to Bozeman. The sun was very bright and made taking any photographs in the Gallatin River valley pretty much pointless, so I pressed on to Bozeman.

After a few errands and lunch at the MacKenzie River Pizza Company, I continued my trip to the North Entrance of the park. I took the East River Road rather than staying on US 89 through the Paradise Valley of the Yellowstone River. Even though it was a bit longer, the rolling and curving road was much more pleasant than the hustle of 89. It ran very close to the river at several points and that’s always enjoyed.

I quickly checked into my room at the Absaroka Lodge and headed into the park. I ended up at the upper terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs just as the nearly full moon was rising and the sun was setting. The heat and acidic steam must be hard on the deadwood on the terrace. Several of the dead trees that I had photographed in 2006 were either gone or unrecognizably altered.

The moon held most of my attention and the sunset was lacking the spectacular colors of yesterday. I spent all my time trying to capture a memorable moonrise over the terrace.

When I returned to the motel, I found out that I couldn’t connect to the internet from my room. This is proving to be quite an inconvenience. It might be possible to connect in the office. They are blaming it on my Mac. I don’t think so.

Friday, 29 January

I arose very early. Too early to really head to the park, so I worked on some photographs for this blog. I packed up the car and started to the entrance just as the moon was setting behind the mountains.

I had no particular plans, but just headed toward the Northeast Entrance. It was quite peaceful at each pullout and my journey was only interrupted by a lone coyote on the Blacktail section of the road.

I stopped and took quite a few photos just east of the confluence of Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River. I tried a 360 degree panorama both in single exposure and HDR. I built the HDR images and stitched together 10 images to create this panorama:

I pulled over again along Soda Butte Creek, just a few hundred meters downstream of the spot I took several photographs back in 2006.

I didn’t even realize how close I was until I got back in the car and continued down the road to Pebble Creek.

I had lunch in the Pebble Creek parking area and the effects of the early rise and the work of hiking and climbing through the knee deep snow caught up with me. I dozed a little and then decided to head back to Gardiner while scouting out possible locations for shooting tomorrow.

Saturday, 30 January

Early to rise…

I headed into the park earlier than yesterday because the skies had cleared and the full moon was still above the elevated horizon. Photographing the moon is not one of my strong points, but with some trial and error, I’m beginning to…

slowly improve (maybe).

My morning drive to find a vantage point for the sunrise was rudely interrupted by an elk!!! I never found out what damage I did to the elk, but my car’s a mess.

After collecting pieces of my side view mirror and roof rack, I started looking for the presumed carcass. All I found was some hair stuck to my car. No blood. Nothing. There were several elk up on a ridge above the road, but none looked injured. I hope it’s not wolf bait.

After prying some sheet metal around, I was able to open the driver’s door and open the hood. I completed the amputation of the mirror. Other than multiple dents, I found no significant mechanical problems and I was able to drive to the Tower ranger station. I reported the accident and Ranger Nelson filed an accident report for me.

I reached the bridge over the Yellowstone River on the northeast entrance road and snowshoed down to the river. I found several nice locations to shoot and several thermal vents. Pew!!! Lots of sulfides floating around.

There were relatively recent wolf tracks in the mud by the river and in the snow. No live sightings, though.

The climb back to the car was a challenge, but definitely easier with the snowshoes. Back towards Gardiner…elk were gone from the ridge…lunch at the Wraith Falls pullout. I hiked up to the falls, but was a bit disappointed. The highest vantage point was quite a distance away from the falls and the low flow made for less than spectacular images.

Back at the motel…importing images off of memory cards…formatting for this blog.

My workshop starts at 7 tonight!!!

Yellowstone Snowcoach Tour

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

As is often the case, my itinerary changed… Instead of skiing I decided to make a tour of my favorite fly fishing guides. I had already seen Chris McAdams in Missoula while I was attending the PHOTOFocus workshop. On Tuesday, rather than heading to Bozeman, I went to Dillon and saw Leon Sagaloff at Frontier Anglers. Of course, what’s a visit to Dillon without a stop at the Patagonia Outlet Store on Idaho Street.

I headed on to West Yellowstone for a visit with Jake Chutz, our guide last fall on the Henry’s Fork. Jake is working the off-season as a guide and snowcoach driver for Yellowstone Alpen Guides in West.

Jake picked me up at my motel and his other guests at their motel and we were off to Canyon inside Yellowstone National Park. Throughout the tour Jake gave us general and in-depth information on the natural history of the park. On our drive in from the west entrance we stopped at the area of the 1988 fire and discussed the natural cycle of forest growth and how wildfires are an integral part of that cycle.

We stopped near the well-known eagles’ nest on the south side of the road, but no eagles there. However, just up the road, there were two perched high in a dead lodgepole pine on the opposite bank of the Madison River.

As we continued down the road toward the Madison Junction, Jake had high hopes of seeing an elk carcass that he and his clients had seen the day before. He was also hoping that we would be able to catch a glimpse of the wolves that they had seen there, too. Unfortunately, when we arrived the carcass was gone! You could see where it had lain on the opposite bank of the Madison, but no carcass or wolves were found.

Less than a mile down the road we found a small herd of elk grazing on an island and the banks of the river. They did not seem to be the least bit affected by the presence of the kill just down the road.

Two coyotes were the center of attention of a photography group as we came up the road towards Norris. They were posing for the group as they were interrupted in their search for rodents near Terrace Springs.

The one thing that I really noticed as we drove through the park was the peacefulness of the winter scene. Last summer as we drove the road from Norris to Madison, the road construction caused massive delays and long lines of cars and trucks. There are no cars or trucks in this part of the park in the winter. There are only 78 snowcoaches and 316 snowmobiles permitted in the entire park on a given day in the winter. This was fantastic, along with the fact that our coach had a realistic top speed of 35 mph and a nice causal cruising speed of about 20 mph.

We stopped at Gibbon Falls and then stopped again by the hot springs and fumeroles on the way to Norris. We then proceeded up to the central plateau and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

There were a trio of bison lounging by the side of the road from Canyon to Lake.

The North Rim Drive was deserted except for a couple of “packs” of snowmobilers. The winter landscape at Lookout Point is so strikingly different than the summer/fall.

A quick visit to Artist Point on the South Rim again showed how the snowscape is so different than that of the summer landscape. Also, the lack of people was so nice. The parking area that was full to overflowing last July was completely vacant when we arrived.

Our return to West included a detour north at Norris to view a small bison herd between the road and the Gibbon River. They were very casual for the most part, but suddenly a few began to walk along the road scattering a group of photographers.

A beautiful scene in the Gibbon Meadows greeted us as the sun broke through the clouds lighting up the meadows and the few bison resting there.

Just before we exited the park and after a drive along the Madison River on Riverside Drive there was an unexpectedly beautiful sunset to cap an extraordinary winter day in the Park.

Back in Montana

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I just arrived in Kalispell yesterday afternoon to start my next RMSP adventure. It hasn’t started out as well as I’d like since one of my bags didn’t arrive in Kalispell. Many photo accessories and my Gitzo graphite tripod were in that bag, so hopefully it’s just delayed.

Got to the storage place and the Outback started without a problem. I then sorted through all the things I thought I’d need for this trip. Hopefully, I’ll get to ski, too, while I’m here in the mountains. I’ll have to get some ski clothes, if they can’t find my bag.

So, here’s my tentative schedule for this tour of NW and SW Montana:

Thurs January 21        Skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Fri      January 22        Sunrise at Lake MacDonald in Glacier Park.  Skiing again.
Sat     January 23        Up early for the drive down to Missoula. Lightroom Workshop at RMSP
Sun    January 24        Lightroom Workshop at RMSP
Mon   January 25        Exploring Missoula
Tues   January 26        Drive to Bozeman
Wed    January 27       Skiing at Bridger Bowl
Thurs January 28        Skiing at Bridger Bowl. Drive to Gardiner
Fri       January 29        Sunrise in Yellowstone!!!
Sat      January 30        Workshop starts at 7pm at the Best Western
Sun     January 31        Workshop based out of Gardiner
Mon    February 1
Tues    February 2        Snow coach ride to the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful via ???
Wed    February 3        Workshop based out of Old Faithful
Thurs February 4        Snow coach ride back to Gardiner via ???
Fri       February 5        Workshop ends at noon.
Sat       February 6        Maybe some skiing in Whitefish.
Sun      February 7        Put the car back in storage and catch the plane back to reality.

I’m sitting in Mike and Marie Shaw’s lovely home in Whitefish. I’ve just purchased onOne Software’s FocalPoint 2 since they are offering $40 off the retail price of $159. It’s supposed to provide selective focus when you forget to open up your apeture. I’ll have to check out how it works.

I’m also going to check out a few other hardware and software products on this trip:

Wacom Cintiq 12wx pen tablet
Diamond BVU195 HD USB Display Adapter
Samsung – 20″ Widescreen Flat-Panel LCD Monitor
Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 EX DG HSM Autofocus Lens for Nikon AF-D with 1.4x teleconverter

Autodesk Stitcher Unlimited
Helicon Focus
Nik Software Viveza 2

Hope my bag is found soon…

Yellowstone is Coming!!!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I’m starting to prepare for RMSP’s Photo Workshop: Yellowstone in Winter with David Marx and George Wuerthner. I’m very excited since my first RMSP workshop was during the fall of 2006 in Yellowstone with George and Neil Chaput. This should be quite special with the winter setting, but probably much more demanding due to the probability of extreme weather conditions.

I’m starting to prepare my kit for the workshop:

I just updated the Kirk Photo BH-1 ball head with a new (but blemished) quick release plate. I had picked up the ball head at The Dark Room in Missoula a couple summers ago, but it had the original plate without the spirit level, safety stops, and the updated knob. I also attached the Snap Collar with a 3mm accessory cord, so I hopefully not lose it like I’ve done with my BH-3 head.

Keeping batteries warm will be an interesting task. I’m curious how long they will last in the cold.

I’m also worried about cold –> warm temperature transitions and condensation. I’ve never had much problems with this in the past when I’ve been out skiing with my cameras. I’ve always been very careful to let them warm up before I’ve opened any access panels or removed lenses. I’m thinking of using some big zip lock bags, but I’ll have to see.

Just got a new Tele-Zoom lens, a Sigma 50-500mm f4.5-6.3, and its matching 1.4x tele-converter. Quite excited about using it. Will there be any wolves?