AlpenGlow Tours

Category: Wildlife

The Top Ten Photos of 2018 from Jackson Hole Photography Tours

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! After a busy December, I’ve had a chance to edit some photographs and reflect on the 2018 season. The following ten are some of my favorites from last year, and not necessarily for the technical aspects of the pictures, but rather the experiences and moments that led to the creation of the images.

I’d also like to thank all of you who joined AlpenGlow Tours last year, and I hope that 2019 brings you some outstanding photo opportunities! If you’re coming back to Jackson, contact me about a trip.

In chronological order, my favorites from last year!

1. Bison

Bison are amazing animals, and truly an icon of the American West. This large Bull was photographed during a -15 degree morning in Yellowstone, accentuating the steam and frost. The soft light certainly helped, adding just a touch of highlights to this portrait.

Jackson Hole Photography Tours

2. Fox

I spent a lot of time with a few different foxes last year, but this was a special encounter. I came upon this one hunting, and quite close. The fox didn’t seem to mind my presence, and I was able to set up my 600mm lens in time to capture the full pounce from start to finish. And yes, this leap was successful!

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Fox

3. Wolf

It’s always a special day to see wolves, and last year I was fortunate enough to find them seven days in a row! Usually they are too distant to make good photographs, but on this day this particular wolf posed within 120 yards, and the light was just perfect.

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Wolf

4. Schwabachers Landing

While I’ve visited this location hundreds of times, it’s rare that we get a combination of clouds and wind at sunrise during the spring. This image was from one of those days, and gave me a chance to experiment with a 10 stop neutral density filter to really increase exposure time. I do like the effect of smoothing the water and slightly blurring the clouds.

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Scenery

5. Bear Cub

My favorite encounter(s) of 2018! Usually a mother bear will have a litter of two or three cubs, but this image is of a sole cub. Having no litter mates to play with, this adorable black bear was the most inquisitive and playful cub I have ever photographed. Every tree needed climbing, every stick was a new toy, and every day a new experience. I was able to photograph this cub and its mother on five different occasions last year, and hope to see them again in ’19!

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Bear Cub

6. Raven

While Ravens are very, very common in the area, I’ve found them difficult to photograph. This bird was cawing incessantly while we were parked waiting for a Grizzly and cubs to appear, and I finally had enough of the squeaking and took a few frames. I think that the overcast light really helped to bring out the details, as well as converting the image to black and white.

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Raven BW

7. Oxbow

While shooting a different scenic location, I looked up at the clouds and saw what I thought might be a break developing. I took a gamble and drove the twenty minutes to this iconic location, and was rewarded with an exceedingly brief shaft of light on the vibrant Fall Aspens.

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Oxbow Bend Grand Teton

8.Owl

This owl may be one of my best finds ever! We were driving along looking for wildlife, and I just happened to notice this Great Gray perched 3 feet off the ground in a tangle of dead pine branches and extremely well camouflaged. After turning around, we cautiously approached the bird but another vehicle spooked it. Luckily, it only flew a short distance to a much cleaner and more photographable perch.

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Owl

9. Moose

Moose are very common in the Tetons come October, and this Bull had the most photogenic antlers of all the animals I observed. I do like shooting early in the morning for the softer light, and the shallow depth of field and high ISO help to frame his antlers.

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Grand Teton - Moose

10. Grizz

Another exceedingly cold day to end the year! This is a photograph of Grizzly 399 and one of her cubs, the matriarch of bears in Grand Teton National Park. I really like the frost on their fur, and the warm morning light. This image was taken just prior to hibernation, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them in the Spring of 2019!

Jackson Hole Photography Tours - Grizzly

Thanks again for the incredible memories and experiences in 2018, and I wish you a wonderful 2019!

Grand Teton Wildlife Tours – Grizzly Bears

Photographing Grizzly Bears

Spring is one of my favorite times to offer Grand Teton wildlife tours, for this season gives us the best opportunity to photograph Grizzly Bears. While we’ve had plenty of snow this winter in the Grand Teton area, the bears are now coming out of hibernation. The Grizzlies tend to remain in a smaller area to conserve energy while searching for food, and I expect them to be accessible until mid June.

In my opinion, the Grizzly is true symbol of the American West. There is nothing quite like seeing a wild bear in the beautiful surroundings of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

In addition to photographing bears, Spring is a wonderful time for other wildlife species. The Elk, Pronghorn and Bison are giving birth, and the Raptors have returned to the area. While a wildlife tour will concentrate primarily on the animals, we will also have the opportunity for some landscape photography. The Tetons look great this time of year, with a full covering of snow contrasted by the new vegetation.

Grand Teton Wildlife Tours

If you are interested in Grizzly Bears or the many other species of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, I hope you can join me on a tour.  You’ll be sure to have the best opportunity to get some amazing wildlife shots.  See a typical tour itinerary here.

Jackson Hole Wildlife Tours – Great Gray Owls

Photographing the Great Gray Owl

Of all the animals I encounter during my Jackson Hole wildlife tours, the Great Gray Owl has to be one of my favorites. Although they are not common, once located they can be very cooperative subjects. The Great Gray Owl is an ambush hunter, and will stay on their perches for extended periods of time while listening and looking for prey.

This behavior can give photographers more time than usual with birds to capture some nice portraits. Once I feel that I’ve captured some interesting images of a perched owl, I’ll increase the shutter speed in anticipation of the bird taking flight. The owls swoop down on their prey, and if unsuccessful will often stay in the same general area to perch again and continue the hunt.

Jackson Hole Wildlife Tours

If you are interested in Great Gray Owls or the many other species of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, I hope you can join me on a tour.  You’ll be sure to have the best opportunity to get some amazing wildlife shots.  See a typical wildlife tour itinerary here.

Winter wildlife tours in Jackson Hole

A favorite time of year, winter wildlife tours in Jackson Hole can offer some unique opportunities. To begin with, the animals are much easier to spot! With a heavy blanket of snow covering the valley and the trees being leafless, the wildlife “pops” off the landscape. The stark snowy backgrounds can also help to isolate the animals in the image by creating some nice negative space.  While we do have more overcast days during the winter months, this can provide for some nice, even light on the wildlife. It can also give some reflected light off the snow, keeping shutter speeds fast and lowering ISO numbers which can yield higher quality images. Another benefit to the winter wildlife photographer is the animals are less active. The animals are trying to conserve energy , and by keeping a distance that doesn’t disturb them I’m often able to photograph for a longer period than in summer.

Although some of the summer wildlife have migrated, there are plenty of animals about during winter wildlife tours in Jackson Hole. I seem to find more fox and coyote during the winter, and it’s really nice to have some Bighorn Sheep spend the winter here on the National Elk Refuge. Bison, Elk and Moose winter here, and there is always the possibility of a wolf sighting! 

If you need a break from our incredible skiing or are here to experience the Grand Tetons, I hope you can join me for a winter wildlife tour in Jackson Hole.

Photographing Grizzly Bears

Historically, April and May are the best months for Photographing Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. As the snow melts and the temperatures begin to climb, the bears emerge from a long hibernation. Although we have had some unseasonably warm weather and there have been confirmed sightings of Grizzlies already out in Yellowstone, I expect that the region will receive some more snow and that the majority of the bears will emerge in early April. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks offer some great locations where the Grizzlies have tended to concentrate in the spring;  just off the roads so I’ve been able to photograph them while having the safety of my SUV nearby. The bears tend to stay in these areas for a few weeks, grazing on exposed grasses and looking for carcasses of Elk and Bison.

I’m very fortunate to reside in an area that has such an abundance of wildlife, and photographing Grizzly bears is an absolute, singular thrill.  I hope that you can join me this Spring when the bears are most accessible, as there is nothing more exciting than observing these true symbols of the American wilderness.  

Yellowstone in the Winter

Yellowstone in the winter is simply an amazing experience. I’ve just returned from a six day tour of the park with two excellent photographers from England; the trip was everything that I’d hoped it would be. We started by taking a snowcoach from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful, following the Madison River. The coach stopped for every wildlife photo opportunity, which included three locations of Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, Elk and Bison. After two more stops at Fountain Paint Pot and Black Sand Basin for some landscape shots, we arrived at the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful.  Yellowstone in the winter is, in a word, peaceful. It was a completely different experience watching Old Faithful erupt in the company of six other people as opposed to the crowds of hundreds during the summer.

After travelling to the North Entrance of the park to our lodging in the historic Mammoth hotel, we began to explore the Lamar Valley. With the roads clear and absent of traffic, we were able to drive slowly to search for wildlife. Like many others who visit the park in the winter, wolves were what we wanted to see. Although we observed wolves everyday through the spotting scope, none came close enough for good photography. It was still a real thrill listening to their howls and calls across the open spaces of the valley.

Some of the parks other wildlife were much more cooperative. My clients were able to get some outstanding images of Coyotes every day, as well as Bighorn Sheep, Bull Elk, Bison and Bull Moose. The weather couldn’t have been better, sunny skies and great light with some rather mild temperatures. The stars are bright over Yellowstone, allowing for some fantastic night photography.

I have another tour scheduled for February with two clients from this past August. The excitement is already building to return to the incredible experience of Yellowstone in the winter.

A Great Week for Jackson Hole Photography Tours

I’ve had a great week with wonderful clients these past few days. The Yellowstone, Sunrise and Night Jackson Hole photography tours do take a certain level of commitment from my clients; mainly the desire to rise early and stay out late!  The reward for this effort is outstanding light conditions and better opportunities to observe wildlife; both of which we had in spades this week. The Grizzly Bears are still being found and the Elk are looking magnificent with their summer coats and antlers in velvet growing quickly. The Jackson Hole valley is incredibly green and lush right now with the wildflowers also making their spring appearance. One of the great benefits to the Jackson area is our weather: the typical forecast for the summer months is mostly sunny with a chance for afternoon showers. If it does happen to rain the storms tend to pass quickly and the clouds associated with these storms can add a dramatic element to the already majestic landscapes. Like all photographers I’m looking forward to another great week next!

Click for your own Jackson Hole Photography Tour here!

South Entrance to Yellowstone

With the south entrance  to Yellowstone now open, the drive to the park from Jackson Hole is now much quicker.  The Grizzly bears have emerged from their long hibernation and are concentrated in the snowless areas around the Lake and Hayden valley areas so I headed there first. I didn’t locate any bears on my first pass through the valley and as the light was getting higher I travelled a little farther north to photograph the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River before the colors washed out. I spent an hour and a half in this incredible area before going back to bear scouting. Entering Hayden valley I came across this Great Blue Heron fishing at the confluence of Alum creek and the Yellowstone rivers. A little farther down the road I came across my first Grizzly of the day. The bear was a good distance away but I was able to grab a few images. Just a half mile away luck was with me as the bear in this photograph was very near the road. The park ranger that was on the scene did an excellent job of managing the cars and people as the bear approached, probably to within 50 yards. In this instance he calmly strode a few steps and firmly said “Scoot bear” and the bear turned and wandered back up the hill. Very thrilling! I’ll be back to Yellowstone Saturday; new day, new opportunities.

Grizzly Bears

Knowing that the Grizzly bears  in Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks had started to emerge from their hibernations, I’ve been out trying to locate them. I came across this bear in the north end of Teton park; an exciting experience and my first sighting of the year. He emerged out of some willows right at twilight, heading to the river. A typical good news/bad news situation situation for a photographer. Good news is I had a great subject, bad news being the challenge of photographing in low light. I bumped the ISO up to 2000 to be able to set the shutter at 1/500 second. With the long lens this about the slowest shutter speed I can use and still achieve sharp images. Although the images I shot where underexposed, a little tweak in Lightroom for exposure and noise reduction cleaned them up.

The Return of Spring To Wyoming

The return of Spring to Wyoming is a time for transformation. The monochrome white landscapes of winter begin to green and wildlife become more active. The elk have started to migrate off the National Elk Refuge and the Grizzly’s are ending their long hibernation. Many species of birds have already returned this spring, including these Sandhill Cranes. As the snowpack retreats even further, new opportunities begin to unfold. The maintenance crews in both parks have been busy, clearing roads and making more areas accessible. The inner park road in Grand Teton is now open to non-motorized traffic and on April 18th the roads in Yellowstone from Mammoth to Old Faithful; Madison to the West Entrance; and Norris to Canyon are scheduled to open. It won’t be long now for spring to fully arrive; the long winter of 2014 finally seems to be over.