At Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

This photo was taken at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. My subject wasn’t the spring itself, like in my earlier post OUT WEST #17, but the surrounding area with its beautiful patterns and subtle tones. When I made the shot I had actually a black and white version in mind for the final image but now, back home in front of the screen, the color version appeals to me as well. I may post the B&W version at a later time. I still think about the final outcome…


White-breasted Nuthatch, Little Maquoketa River Valley, Iowa

Oh, you see some white aside from the bird’s body and between the trees in the background of this photo? You got it! We had our first snow a couple days ago and it took until today to melt it. With the snow came a bunch of Dark-eyed Juncos from the north, who will spend the winter here, and their arrival is always the best indicator that autumn is almost over. It was a gray weekend again and the best I can come up with is this photo of a White-breasted Nuthatch in its typical position on a tree trunk.


Moose, Gros Ventre, Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

We are not big fans of large campgrounds but there were a couple reasons we chose Gros Ventre at the Gros Ventre River for our stay in Grand Tetons National Park. First its location, with easy access to many good viewpoints, and second, it is known for the presence of moose nearby.

And yes, we watched four moose every morning. They were easy to find, we just looked for other people with big tripods, cameras, and long lenses…😉

There was a lot communication between the big animals going on, vocal and as well by body language, in particular the ears. At 8:30AM the show is almost over, they disappear and lay down in the grass between the sage brush and willow thicket and rest.


Oxbow Bend, Grand Tetons, 2007, Nikon D200, Sigma 18-50, f/2.8, @35mm (equiv. to 52mm FX)

Ok, I’m cheating a little bit today and show you first a photo that I made already in October 2007. The fall colors were at their peak and the Grand Tetons had the first layer of fresh snow. Not so much the second picture from September 2018. Some leaves just started turning their colors and only the summits of the Tetons had some snow and that was probably from the last winter season. There was also a certain haziness in the air because wildfires were burning east of the mountains. With all that in mind, and again no clouds within reach, I was looking for a foreground that would add some scale and interest to the photo. When we saw these horses along the road I knew I had my picture.

It was interesting to pull out one of my old RAW files from Oxbow Bend, which I never had processed previously, and apply the tools of my current post processing workflow. Comparing results I still believe the NIKON D200 was a great camera but I can also tell that the lens, a Sigma 18-50 / f2.8, was not as sharp as the lenses I own today. However, for me it’s another proof that there is more than just the gear to make a good photo.

Grand Tetons, 2018, Nikon D750, Nikkor 70-200, f/4. @110mm


To say it mildly, the weather has been lousy, with a lot of rain lately. Consequently having a little bit of hazy sunlight yesterday morning felt very pleasant. Early morning has been the best time to see migrating birds recently, or at least birds that are not around our house all the time. There are still two Red-breasted Nuthatches present and during last weekend I saw a White-crowned Sparrow. Two Carolina Wrens were picking up spiders on our porch yesterday morning and when one of them posed nicely in the mild sun, I got this photo right from the bedroom window.


Upper terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

You certainly have not seen a lot of “dead sticks” in my landscape photos but there is always an exception from the rule. I will always include them at Mammoth Hot Springs and some other locations in Yellowstone National Park. How the travertine terraces have taken over the landscape during the years is part of the storytelling. It is a very fragile environment with an unsurpassed beauty, where even a dead tree has its function in the picture.

Lower terraces area, Mammoth Hot Springs


Trumpeter Swan, Firehole River, Yellowstone NP

It was in Yellowstone where we photographed Trumpeter Swans for the first time, long before I documented the recovery of these swans in Iowa here in the blog. I had two blurry birds in the frame but was nevertheless very proud of my picture. During this year’s visit in the National Park, more than ten years later, we saw them again in the Hayden Valley, almost at the same spot. The last morning, while on the way out of the park to our next destination, we stopped along the Firehole River and found this beautiful Trumpeter Swan foraging in the shallow water. It took me a while, but in this shot it came all together, killer light quality, gesture, sharpness, and background.

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, @ 600 mm, 1/1000 s, f/6.3, ISO100


Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

One of the most photographed spots in Yellowstone is the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Sometimes I ask myself at some of these popular places in the National Parks, do I really want to add another photo to the millions that have been already created by other visitors? But I can’t help, the magnificence of these locations makes me press the shutter button as anybody else. Now back home, I googled for pictures of Lower Falls, where the Yellowstone River enters the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and I see very many different ways how photographers have shot the scene. So, here is my favorite picture from this visit. If it makes you want to go there, the photo has its right to exist…😉

Nikon D750, Nikkor 70-200mm / f4, Induro GIT 404XL tripod, KIRK BH-3 ball head,  @135 mm, 1/200 s, f/8, ISO400


Osprey, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

It is always exciting to see a nest with a raptor on it, like this Osprey, especially if we can be on eye level with the bird. The nest site was across a narrow part of the valley, not far from the road and a pull out parking lot. Other people stopped and took pictures but the bird seemed not be bothered by it. The Osprey was eating but liftet its head from time to time. The problem here in the Lamar Valley was the distance. I had the camera in DX mode, which narrows the angle of view for the 600 mm lens to the equivalent of a 900 mm lens but at the end still cropped the photo to make it work. The details and sharpness suffer but I still like the environmental, story telling aspect of the picture.


Bucking Mule Canyon and Waterfall, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

It doesn’t happen very often that you can look from the sky at a waterfall that drops down 550 feet (167m). The hike to Bucking Mule Falls in the Bighorn Mountains was worth the effort. Arriving at the overlook at the end of the trail it became clear that the waterfall wouldn’t be the best or only subject for a photo. We were there in the early afternoon and a moody color shot wasn’t within reach either. My brain switched into “black & white mode” and this photo with Bucking Mule Canyon as the subject was what I came up with.


Moonrise, Mississippi River, Mud Lake, Iowa

Yesterday we had a full moon and finally I found the time and weather conditions that allowed to photograph the moonrise over the bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. Sunset was about half an hour before moonrise, not enough to have a red glow on the bluffs but still good to have a little bit of ambient light. When I planned the shooting I actually had a composite in mind. First a shot that was exposed for the ambient light and second a shot that would be exposed just for the moon with some details on the surface. Both would be merged in Photoshop to make a picture that shows close to what the eye really sees. The contrast is too high to have it both with just one click. I did all this and then, last night at the computer, I didn’t like the outcome. Instead of, I present you a photo that was shot right when the moon showed up on top of the bluffs, still during the civil twilight period that can produce some amazing blues. No, it doesn’t show the details of the moon for said reason, but they were not really visible anyway because of that hazy cloud around the moon. Love the role of the clouds in this image, it makes all the difference to some of my other trials.

I set up the tripod at Mud Lake, right at the entrance to the little marina. When the daylight faded away the buoys that mark the access to the marina started blinking, a fact I totally forgot and first wasn’t too happy about. But looking at the results on the camera screen I saw that it had some potential to be part of the story telling.

So how did I know exactly where the moon would appear over the bluffs on the other side of the river? I’m using THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S EPHEMERIS®, an app on my phone that shows exactly, for example, where the sun goes down or the moon comes up, with times and a lot of other helpful data for landscape photographers. Highly recommended! There is also a free web version that can be used in your computer browser, which I think is good for planning a photo shoot at home. Here is the link to the website: https://www.photoephemeris.com .


Canary Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

Looking again at my photos about Yellowstone National Park from 2005 and 2007 it became clear, little did I know about photography and what makes a good image. Not that I think my photos are great today, but seeing some improvement that is not just due to better gear is motivation to continue.

The travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs have always intrigued us and even if they are photographed probably several million times a year by visitors, you don’t want to leave your camera in the car. The Canary Spring is one of the most beautiful geological features in this area. Canary owes its name and brilliance in reference to the yellow filamentous algae growing along the edge of the spring. These terraces change fast, they emerge quickly but can dry up fast as well.


Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, @ 200 mm

Yeah, we were back in Yellowstone National Park! It hasn’t lost anything of its magnificence since our last visits in 2005 and 2007. Our plan was to revisit places that we liked in particular, take it easy, and stay away from the big crowds whenever possible.

However, there was no way we would skip the Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin, the world’s largest hot spring. The question was again the same as during previous visits, how to photograph this beautiful feature in the park? Before our trip to Yellowstone I looked at my old images from 2007 and tried to find out what I would like to do different. Going with a wide angle lens and including the elements of the touristic infrastructure, like boardwalk, road, etc., or a more intimate view without any manmade elements in the frame? At 16 mm focal length you can get the great memory shot you always wanted, especially if you have nice clouds in the sky. When the sun hit the right spot all the colors created by the bacteria in the hot water came to life, and at 200 mm focal length I got some shots I never made before and they became my new favorites.

Grand Prismatic Spring, @ 16 mm


Little Paint Creek, Yellow River State Forest, Allamakee County, Iowa

It was maybe the last chance for a camping weekend during this season for us. We pitched our tent in northeast Iowa at Yellow River State Forest, only 90 minutes away from home. 8,900 acres of forestland and over 41 miles of hiking trails make it a great area for an autumn hiking trip. We had some good conversation with other hikers on the trail and friendly camp neighbors shared their dinner with us (Thank you again Pam and Phil!). At this time of the year, when the wind blows and the temperatures drop below freezing at night, the camp sites are usually not so full and often you find like minded people that enjoy the quiet side of tent camping as we do.

To be honest, I had high hopes to find still an abundance of leaves with fall colors, but if you look at the image below, most leaves were already on the ground. The rain and wind during the last few weeks is probably to blame for. No leaves means more light on the ground and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The challenge was to find the places where the light was not just a dappled mess. Little Paint Creek flows through the campsite and right before the sun disappeared behind the bluffs, the moss and lichen covered rock wall and the shadows from the trees behind me “painted” the surface of the water with warm colors and a pattern that worked for me…

Paint Creek, Yellow River State Forest, Allamakee County, Iowa