Little Rock Creek, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Our last destination in the mountains of western Wyoming was the Wind River Range, an approximately 100 miles long part of the Rocky Mountains. We pitched the tent for three nights in Sink Canyon State Park, west of Lander, WY. These mountains are not so well known by the public as for example the Tetons or Yellowstone, but there is no lack of interesting geology and beautiful nature. We went on hikes and traveled off the beaten path by car, but time was too short to explore more than a small area of the range.

Wildfire smoke, Louis Lake Road, Wind River Range, Wyoming

One reason why I didn’t shoot a lot of wide landscape views was the fact that the impact of wildfires created a certain haziness, even if the fires were far away. The photo gives you an idea…

Mule Deer, Red Canyon, Wyoming

Finding wildlife is not very difficult in the Wind River Range, there was always a Pronghorn or Mule Deer somewhere, but when we saw this doe with her two fawns on a rock ledge in the Red Canyon near Lander, WY we had to stop and make the click. Mountains Lions are not uncommon and are a great danger for the young Mule Deer and this spot was obviously a good place to have control over the terrain for the mother.

Least Chipmunk, Popo Agie Falls, Wyoming

The Least Chipmunk is smaller than the Eastern Chipmunk that lives in our woods here in eastern Iowa. In areas that are more frequented by people, like along the hiking trail that leads to the Popo Agie Falls, the chipmunks have not much fear and can be easily photographed within the range of a 200 mm lens.


T.A. Moulton Barn, Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park

Before the year ends I like to finish my little series about our trip to the mountains and grasslands out west in September. It was the third time Joan and I visited the Grand Tetons together and it was totally different than during our last visit eleven years ago. In 2007 we were lucky to have the first fresh snow of the season while the trees still had their fall colors. This made for some great photo opportunities. This time the leaves just started changing and we were too early for new snow.

I’m almost sure every photo enthusiast pays a visit to Mormon Row for a classic shot with the T.A. Moulton Barn in the foreground and the Teton Range in the back. This did not work very well this time. There was a smoky haze all the time in front of the mountains, due to some wildfires in Bridger-Teton National Forest to the east. At all close-up shots of the barn the mountains were hardly visible. But I thought the smoky clouds were part of the story this time and went for a focal length of 24 mm. I took more of Antelope Flats into the frame, showing how the smoke impact the whole scene. The image is cropped quite a bit on the bottom, leaving the illusion that this was shot as a true panorama. The foreground was shady from a tree behind me and not that interesting. Well, even a midsize print would reveal the truth but I’m not unhappy with the photo, even without snow and fall colors…😉


First snow in the Green Island Wetlands

I had a nice audience last night for my presentation about storytelling in wildlife photography, with some great questions afterwards and the emails and messages I received today tell me that people received some inspiration for their own photography. This made my day!

I introduced some of my favorite shooting locations, and the avid reader of my blog knows already, the Green Island Wetlands along the Mississippi River play certainly an important role in my endeavors. Actually Joan, our dog Cooper, and I went there for a little hike last Sunday. We had some fresh snow on the ground and most water bodies were covered with a thin layer of ice. I’m sure the duck hunters were not so happy about that because we didn’t see any.

Bald Eagle

So what can we find at this time of the year under winter conditions in Green Island? We saw several hawks, a few Song Sparrows, and for the first time ever a coyote on top of a levee. Unfortunately he had seen us earlier and during the two or three seconds we watched him I was not able to make a sharp image. Ten minutes earlier this Bald Eagle posed nicely against the blue sky and later we saw the bird with its mate sitting in another tree further away.

Beside all that, the lakes and backwaters had some nice blue color and the cracks in the ice and the snow painted some surreal patterns. As mentioned in my presentation, it’s difficult to come back from the wetlands with an empty memory card…


Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

A year ago I joined the Dubuque Camera Club. The exchange of thoughts, ideas, and photography knowledge between members is priceless, and beside the educational aspect, it is a great group of people to socialize with and share the fun photography has to offer. We meet twice a month (first and third Monday each month between September and June) and for the 2018 /19 season we offer some member presentations about different aspects of photography. The meetings of the camera club are open to the public anyway, but these special events are advertised in local and social media.

Mobile phones made almost everybody a photographer these days and photography is as popular as never before, so we like to share our presentations with a broader audience. Maybe you guessed it, I volunteered to be the first presenter…

It’s a wrong assumption that good wildlife photos can only be made with expensive equipment. Sharing the story of your wildlife encounter, even through a technically not so perfect image, is more important for the future of our natural heritage than seeing the last detail in a critter’s eye. I will give you my thoughts on this and other aspects of wildlife photography.

If you live in or around the Tri-state area of Dubuque, Iowa, please join us for our first presentation this season next Monday. Here are the facts about this event:

Monday, November 19, 2018, at 6:30 PM


E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center, 

Mines of Spain Recreation Area

8991 Bellevue Heights 

Dubuque, IA

My presentation will touch the questions below, and hey, we can discuss your ideas and thoughts as well after what I try to cramp into 60 minutes.

  • How to start with wildlife photography, even with a small camera and lens?

  • What are good locations for wildlife shooting in and around the Mississippi Valley?

  • How to become better storytellers with our photos?

  • How about safety and ethics?

The program is free and I would be happy to see you next Monday at 6:30 PM in the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center at the Mines of Spain 😉


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…


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


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


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


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.


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


Beartooth Highway, Shoshone National Forest, Montana

It has been a while since we visited Yellowstone National Park. This time we wanted to make a different approach and entered the park trough the northeast entrance. In order to get there we drove north into Montana and followed the Beartooth Highway all the way to Cooke City. All three images were shot during stops along this spectacular highway that winds from Red Lodge, MT through Shoshone National Forest and over the Beartooth Pass.

Overlook at Beartooth Pass (3,347 m / 10,947 ft)

Beartooth Lake with Beartooth Butte, a fossil repository that was pushed upwards during the last 75 million years.


North Tongue River, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

Although the Bighorn Mountains may not be always as pristine as parts of some national parks, because the land is quite often national forest and the same degree of protection does not apply to it, but we fell in love with this landscape immediately. Part is that you wouldn’t find mass tourism, as it becomes more of a problem lately for some of the big national parks. In addition there is no lack of beauty or stories that can be told, despite the fact there is no “iconic” view (a term that drives me crazy, which just seems to mean, everybody needs to take a picture where someone else has taken a picture before).

Not only early morning or evening, as when this photo was made, you share the light and wildlife observations on location with only few people or even nobody at all…

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm / f4, @ 35 mm, 2.5s, f/20, ISO50, Induro GIT 404XL tripod, KIRK BH-3 ball head, VELLO wired remote switch