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Thursday, July 28, 2011

A beautiful mountain stream.

I found myself on the Tushar Mountains east of Beaver, Utah. I couldn't help myself.

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Griffith Creek is a small stream that that runs year round and is always so inviting to look at. Something about it seems to say "Come photograph me". Well, today I did.

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The flowers were gorgeous and so lush. I took all of these photos within about 1/2 mile from were I parked my truck. Overcast skys added to the light and allowed me to use a slow shutter speed (1/2 second or longer). I love the effect on the water.

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Obviously you have to use a tripod at those shutter speeds. I like to use the "live view" feature to frame the photos and the self-timer set at 2 seconds delay to add sharpness to the photo. All photos were taken with a 24 - 105 mm lens set at f/22.

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I always feel like I have accomplished something when I get out of my car and go make some pictures.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mountain Wildflowers

I have never considered myself a flower photographer.

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Indeed I have always been disappointed in my efforts to produce floral photos that I wanted o take a second look at.

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This has been a unique year for moisture on the mountain. As a result, the wild flower bloom has been exceptional.

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I decided to take advantage of the situation and give it one more try. This time, I committed to be patient and spend the time that was needed to create some images. (I usually get antsy and go try to find some kind of wildlife.)

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Cedar Breaks National Monument offers a great selection of flowers and is close to my home. The month of July and Early August is prime time for flowers there.

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This year is truly exceptional. If you haven't been there yet be sure you get out and go.

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I satisfied myself on this trip. I proved to myself that with patience and persistence, you can produce images that are worth taking a second and even a third look at.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Photographing Alligators in the Everglades

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to produce and host a TV show about outdoor photography entitled "Outdoor Photo Adventures" for the Outdoor Channel. The very first show that we did was based in the Everglades National Park. Wow! What a treat for a boy from Utah to go to the worlds most famous marsh to photograph wildlife. The bird photography was great and I will talk about that later. I wanted to start this series on the Everglades with a few photos of Alligators.


The American alligator is probably the iconic species of the Everglades. You see them everywhere you go and they behave like they own the place (I guess they pretty much do). We were there in late February which is the best time to visit the park. The water level is still low and the stormy season is over.


I was walking along the pathway at the Anhinga trail when I came across this large male alligator with his head held high out of the water.


I, of course, stopped and took a couple of photos (okay maybe I took several dozen) When he started to bellow. He would move up and down in the water and let out this low growling noise. I had seen enough David Attenborough specials to know that this was a mating display and was designed to drive the females crazy with passion. Within a few seconds the entire marsh came alive with the deep, rolling, sound of many love starved alligators just out of sight of the camera. Needless to say, I took many more photos but non of them do justice to the event. The video that was shot for the show adds a lot to the experience.


This experience illustrates the point that it is great to look at others photos but it is much better to get out and see the world for yourself.

The California Condor: A very Personal experience with one of the worlds most endangered animals

As a wildlife photographer, I am always looking for an opportunity to get close to wild animals. Several years ago, when rumors started to fly about California Condors frequenting the Kolob area near Zion National park, I decided to investigate and see for myself.

The first time I saw them, I found five, birds near a mountain cabin at the present viewing site. They were perched in the top of a tree and on the nearby rocks.

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I took several photos and was just admiring them when I heard the rushing of the wind coming from close behind me. I instinctively ducked, slightly as a giant pair of wings passed no more than two feet over my head.

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I can still remember feeling the air pressure change which caused me to lurch forward slightly as the condor passed by. It was a mature bird with a wingspan of over 9 feet and it landed on the fence not more than 30 feet in front of me.

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I got several close photos and the experience left me with a feeling of awe for this very special bird.

Since that time I have viewed and photographed condors many times. I have watched them as they perform aerial ballets for the crowds that gather to see them on “The Day of the Condor” and since this is not a scientific writing, I can tell you that I am convinced that they enjoy putting on a show for people. I think that that bird was intentionally messing with me when it flew so close over my head.

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Because of that first experience, I feel a tie with condors and I love to share these birds with others that may come away from the experience feeling a little stronger link with wildlife.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mount McKinley, What a way to end the day.

One of the absolute highlights of my trip to Alaska was the opportunity that I had to photograph Mt. McKinley. We were very fortunate in that it was visible on the evening that we had set aside. It is typically only seen about 3 days in 10 so I was excited to see the clouds part. 

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Mt. McKinley is 20,320 feet tall and is located in the middle of Denali National Park. The 90 mile gravel road, to the park's interior, is mostly traveled by buses as only a few private vehicles are allowed to traverse it. We were fortunate enough to purchase a photographer's pass so that we had free run of the road on our own time schedule. Most visitors must ride the bus, which is really quite convenient as they run every 15 minutes or so and make frequent stops. If you wish to spend additional time in one area you simply get off of the bus and catch the next one when you are ready to move on. This works well unless you want to stay late and catch the sunset on the highest mountain in North America. We were there in August and the light hung on until well after midnight. 

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Reflection Lake is located near Wonder Lake at about the 84 mile mark along the way. This is a great vantage point from which to shoot the mountain but it takes a long while to get there and if you stay until the light is gone. You will end up camping somewhere near it. We had a 20 foot motor home so that made it quite convenient. 

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We arrived at about 8 pm and set up the cameras. By the time we had set up, the clouds had opened up and the mountain was glorious. I started snapping photos and was able to try many different compositions. I continued taking pictures for over 2 hours. 

At one point I turned around to see a bull caribou standing on the hill behind me. I had to stop long enough to photograph him as well. 

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About 9:30 pm I decided to try a panorama and shot 6 photos with the idea of stitching them together in Photoshop later. The panorama turned out to be one of my favorites and it hangs on my wall as a 17 x 70 inch print to this day. 

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Many of the photos that I took, even later than that, turned out beautifully as well. I especially like the alpen glow affect on some of the later photos.

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This is a moment that I will never forget. I will always be grateful for the chance to visit Alask

Panorama video how to

Bald eagle

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Driving through Zion National Park today I saw this Bald eagle on an old dead ponderosa pine tree. I was able to take this photo right out of the truck window with my trusty Canon 100 - 400 mm IS L zoom. My Canon 7D with 18+ megapixels allowed me to crop just a litte bit to further help the image.

By the way, there are three deer carcasses in the area and the eagles are eating well. California condors have also been seen on the dead deer. It is located just 200 yards to the east of the east entrance station but still inside of the park.

Mountain lion

Mountain lions are large, powerful, predators that deserve our respect and protection. A large male may weigh as much as 200 pounds and be over 8 feet long from nose to tail.
There have been recent attacks by lions but mainly in places were they are not hunted. When they are hunted, they tend to maintain a healthy distance from humans.
They are seldom seen in the wild because they are so aware of their surroundings and will usually do what they need to do to stray away from people. These photos were taken of a captive animal courtesy of Triple-D Game Farms from Montana. They will be bringing their beautiful animals to Southern Utah in April. Contact me if you are interested in photographing them.

Bighorn Sheep

There is a resident herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep in Zion National Park.
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They were put there in the late 1960's and were thought to be lost until recently.
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Now they are considered one of the largest sheep herds in Utah.
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They fooled everyone and managed to thrive. "Life finds a way"

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sage grouse

Early, every spring, sage grouse begin their mating dance that is played out on the prairie floor with great energy and persistence. In mid march and early April the male grouse begin gathering at breeding grounds called leks.

Many leks have been in use for longer than records have been kept. The males return year after year to continue the dance and attract females for breeding. They arrive in the middle of the night and reserve a favorite spot to display. Just before dawn, the females fly in from the surrounding sage and the party begins. Females stroll by, seemingly ignoring the strutting males. Then for some reason undetectable to this observer she will select a male and mate.

It is a process that has gone on for hundreds of years in the same place. Recently efforts have been undertaken to catalog and study these leks in an effort to sustain this species and better understand them.

In order to photograph these fascinating birds you first have to locate a suitable lek. Then be prepared to arrive well before daylight, set up your blind, and stay until the birds leave, well after sunrise.


A pika is a small, furry creature that lives in rocky slopes at high altitudes in the mountains of the western U.S and Canada. They are actually the smallest member of the Rabbit family and look a little like a cross between a rabbit and a mouse.

Pika thrive in one of the most inhospitable habitats to be found anywhere. They endure sub-alpine winters where the snow depth can be in excess of 30 feet and the temperature regularly reaches -30 F. in the winter. This is particularly interesting since, as rabbits, they do not hibernate.

Pika have adapted a very interesting lifestyle in order to deal with the harshness of their environment. They develop family communes in the rocks and work together to fill their needs. During the short alpine summer, they scurry about gathering grasses and sedges that surround the rocks and pile them up in stone pockets that are found under the surface of the talus slope. When the snow flies and the wind blows in the winter, the pika in the colony retreat to the depths of the rock pile and eat the fruits of their labors all winter long. The temperature under the surface stays warmer as they are insulated by the snow cover and in this way they are able to survive the cold.

Pika can be found on almost any mountain top over 9,000 feet. Locate them by walking through the rocks and listening for the "chee chee" sound that they emit when they are alarmed. To photograph them just find a comfortable place to sit and soon you will see them scurrying about gathering their years supply.

Mule deer

We are just coming into the best time of year to photograph wild Mule deer. The month of November is the mating season for muleys and the bucks are at their prime.

Referred to as the RUT, the mating season lasts for about 4 weeks and the competition is high for the does. Mature bucks will gather harems of females and defend them against all other bucks that may try to steal one or two. This is one of the few times that bucks and does spend any time together.

Two of my favorite places to photograph mule deer are almost in my back yard. Zion National Park receives little visitation from humans in November but I'll be there with my telephoto lens. Look for deer up Zion canyon near the Zion Lodge. Some nice bucks move into the park for the winter and they are quite approachable.

California Condor

The California Condor is one of the rarest birds in the world. There are less than 325 of them flying in the wild. The last remaining wild birds were taken from the mountains of South Central California and put into a captive breeding program in 1983. They were later reintroduced in California, Baja and Northern Arizona. More than 60 of these magnificent birds frequent the Kolob reservoir area in Southern Utah near Zion National Park. There is no better place to see and photograph them. The largest flying birds in North America, condors have a wingspan that approaches 10 feet. They can sail for hours on thermals and frequently travel for miles without stopping. They feed exclusively on carrion and locate food by using their keen eyesight and believe it or not, by following turkey vultures and ravens.

The Yellow-bellied Marmot is not just another rodent.

Yellow-bellied marmots are one of my favorite photographic subjects.

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I know they just look like overgrown rats with short fluffy tails to most but to me they have several redeeming factors that boost them up the scale from the other lowly rodents.

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For one thing, they inhabit the upper elevations above 7000 feet and are, to me, a symbol of the high country. They often live in the same rock pile with one of my other favorites, the Pika.


They live in family units and warn each other when they spot something that might be dangerous.

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They have beautiful coloration especially when the sun hits them just right.

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They are easy to sneak up on for close photographs and they pose so nicely for the camera. (Notice the defiant look and the articulated limbs.)

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For these reasons, I find Marmots almost impossible to pass up when I see them in the wild. I have actually sold several marmot photos including one or two cover shots for Varmint Hunter magazine.

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Marmots are easy to find. Just look in almost any rock pile above 7500 feet and you will quickly notice them basking in the morning sun or scurrying about feeding on nearby grasses and other plants. Look for them the next time you are photographing in the high country. Get to know them a little better and I think you will appreciate them just like I do.

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