- Yellowstone In Winter
- Animals/Birds of the Badlands, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks 2016
- National Parks Landscapes 2016
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2014
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2014
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2012
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2012
- Animals of Yellowstone 2011
- Birds of Yellowstone 2011
- Yellowstone/Tetons Landscapes 2011
- Yellowstone Textures
- Custer State Park, SD
- Great Smoky Mountains NP
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Utah National Parks
- About Me
It was a peaceful morning in the pre-dawn hours for photographing an old windmill and the Milky Way with a long exposure to enhance the stars toward the center of the galaxy. Jupiter and Saturn can be seen in the lower left of the windmill. Of course, as always there is haze and light pollution on the horizon in North Iowa.
It's a new era as we try to stay safe from rogue viruses. I combine my social distancing with getting some fresh air. I photographed this local barn and the Milky Way at 4:30 AM this morning (with no people around). There was a lot of haze on the horizon and as always in North Iowa farm lights and nearby towns lit up the haze with the long exposure for the stars. There are very few places in North Iowa to find dark skies. The barn was lit by the headlights of a single passing car. Note the three bright stars on either side of the old windmill tower. The bright one to the right is Jupiter and the two between the barn and the tower are Saturn and Mars. The barn isn't really leaning. It is a bit distorted due to the wide angle lens. (This was a single exposure with processing in Lightroom.)
I was out for a drive this evening and stopped to enjoy a wonderful sunset from a rural North Iowa road.
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Here is a short video of wildlife, waterfalls, geysers and thermal features taken during our five-day trip to Yellowstone National Park in mid-January 2020 with the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) photo tour. (At the end of this, YouTube will probably take you to a page with a whole bunch of videos that aren't mine. Sorry. Just reload the page or click the back-button to get back here.) See also the Yellowstone in Winter photo gallery linked from the previous blog post.
We've been to Yellowstone National Park several times in the Summer and Fall, but being there in the Winter is a different experience. Just getting there can be a challenge. You could fly to Bozeman, MT and rent a car and then drive an hour and a half to Gardiner or West Yellowstone, MT, but we choose to drive from Iowa, and yes, we ran in to snowy roads both directions.
We stayed in Gardiner, MT, at the North entrance to the park for two nights. The first day in the park we drove the only road open to public traffic which is in the North part of the park from Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs through the Lamar Valley to Silver Gate and Cook City. Sometimes called the 'Serengeti of Yellowstone' the Lamar Valley is a great place to see wildlife year-round. We did see elk, bison, Bighorn Sheep, and three moose, but missed the coyote that several others reported and no wolves this time.
Then we drove to West Yellowstone, MT, where I participated in a three-day Winter photography tour sponsored by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). There were twenty one photographers and three guides in three snow coaches. The snow roads in the park are not plowed, but rather packed down by a groomer and used by specially designed snow coaches - a small bus with giant balloon tires or treads like a snowmobile. The snow roads are only open to guided tours or guided snowmobile groups, but the wildlife use the roads also. Orange and yellow stakes along the side mark the edge of the road. The snow coach drivers were great at helping to spot wildlife and finding a place to park to safely get out and take photos.
We had three great guides with many years experience of photography in the Yellowstone and Grand Tetons area - Michael Francis, Jeff Vanuga and Trent Sizemore. We went with a different guide each day and got a different photo experience with each. Cold, snowy and windy, we ventured out each day to the geyser basins, rivers and waterfalls, for scenic photos, and all along the way watching and stopping for any wildlife which was mostly Bison, Trumpeter Swans and ducks. We saw fresh tracks of a bobcat, but couldn't locate the cat, and watched a long-tail weasel running across the top of the deep snow about sixty miles per hour, but didn't get any photos. The highlight was a stampede of several hundred Bison right down the middle of the snow road past our snow coaches, and the many thermal features steaming in the fresh-fallen snow. It is a beautiful place in the Winter without the crowds of the rest of the year.
Our last day in the park Suzanne and I took another snow coach ride on a sunny day with a group that for the most part was on a sight-seeing, but not photography tour. It was a beautiful sunny day. We saw more of the thermal pools and geysers and got to see Old Faithful erupt (it happens about once every 90 minutes). In addition to more bison we saw three Coyotes that day. (but still no wolves, bobcats or foxes). Despite the misses it was a good trip and I'm anxious to go back again.
We took an afternoon drive up to Grandad Bluff in La Crosse, WI to look at the fall colors and weren't disjointed. Lots of bright colors in the leaves.
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One more try at a photo of the covered bridge at Wilkenson Pioneer Park in Rock Falls, IA, with lots of stars and the Milky Way this time on a clear night. Because of the Earth's revolving around the Sun the Milky Way is now a bit farther to the Southeast (to the right in this photo) than I would have liked for this photo. I'll be back a little earlier in the summer to try again next year.
Purple Coneflowers and the Milky Way at Winnebago Oxbow Wildlife Area in north Iowa. Clear skies at night have been rather rare for awhile with storms, high humidity and haze, but I did get a few pictures between passing clouds. When I first saw these coneflowers during the day I knew I had to go back and try this night photo. It took a couple of attempts and I still didn't get a really clear sky. Taken looking a little toward the southwest the glow on the horizon is the city lights of Garner. This image is multiple exposures taken from the exact same location a few seconds apart and blended on the computer. I also donated blood to some of the dozens of mosquitoes that were swarming around me in the midnight hours.
I spent part of a couple of days at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior last week. My intent was to get some photos of the lighthouse from this location where I had never been before. I have been to the lighthouse and the park many times, but not to this part of the lake shore. These views are facing northeast, where the sun rises at this time of year. A few of the photos are obviously in the mid-day. The sunrise photos were all taken on the same morning. As the light changed and I used different lenses and different positions the photos changed dramatically. [Click images to see larger]
The Milky Way from Voyageurs National Park, near International Falls, MN. There are hundreds of billions of stars but we see so relatively few of them. It is great to get to an area with a dark sky with very little light pollution from nearby towns or farm lights. The sky was lit up from the stars, but a long 20-25 second exposure helps to enhance the stars.
We spent three days in Death Valley National Park last week (January, 2019). While many of the areas were closed due to the shutdown of the federal government (grrrr), we did see some of the notable features including the salt flats of Badwater Basin 282 feet below sea level - the lowest place in the western hemisphere, sand dunes, mountains and valleys, desert, a 200 year-old volcano crater, and very little wildlife (see previous post about the coyote). It is a pretty hot dry place most of the year, but it was cool, cloudy and rainy for most of our visit with one good day of sunshine.
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We have driven by this tree many times in previous years but never taken the time to stop and enjoy it. The tree, a few miles south of Faribault, MN, has been decorated for several years by Jerry Lageson and has something like 45,000+ lights on it. Most people go whizzing by at 70+ MPH on Interstate 35 and get a fleeting glimpse. There is not an easy exit to get to the side road and requires a few miles south on I-35, then a few more miles back north on county roads, across the interstate, them back south again to get to the tree. This was a perfect early December night right after a new fallen snow. Here is a news feature (after the commercial) from KARE 11 TV.
I missed the full Moon rising last night (I should put these things on my calendar), so I got up early to see it setting this morning. The moon set at 6:03 AM, so I needed to be out to the spot where I wanted to take a photo of it setting behind a local windmill about an hour earlier. When I went out in the dim twilight there was a clear, cloudless sky, bright moon and I could see clearly where I need to be, but the moon was still too high in the sky to get the photo that I wanted. Then it happened. Out of nowhere a thick fog rolled in across the fields and I could no longer see the windmill, and the moon was hazy. Ugh! Well, I waited around to see what would happen and as the sun came up, the fog did dissipate a little. I got a few photos, but the moon was rapidly fading away as it sank in the the fog. Not the sharp, clear picture of the moon behind the windmill that I had hoped for.
The morning was not a total disappointment. In the road ditch where I was standing to take pictures of the moon there were many wild prairie flowers blooming, Monarch butterflies flitting from flower to flower, and I got a photo of a Dickcissel singing on a fence post. Click the photos below to see larger.
On our recent road trip to Utah national parks I was able to get out and photograph the Milky Way in a very dark sky in the Mojave Desert in Southern Utah. Only a few wispy clouds, no moon and almost no light pollution. Incredibly bright stars. I've never seen the Milky Way this bright and clear in Iowa because we have too much light pollution, humidity and haze in the air.
One more Milky Way photo, taken at Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, Utah. This was just after the moon set and just before sunrise one night last week. There is a bit of light on the horizon from the city of Moab, but otherwise a very dark and clear sky.
Some years the North Shore of Lake Superior is frozen over or has huge ice flows by now, but despite several days of below zero weather the lake was still open when I was there last weekend. I like how the water washing up on the shore freezes on the rocks, creating an icy shore-line environment. Watch your step.
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Just a few notes about my photos. See more on Facebook.