Reports from the Field

Winter in Yellowstone 2018

George Theodore, February 28, 2018

There’s just is not a better time to visit Yellowstone National Park than in winter. Yes – it’s cold! But for the nature photographer, the park becomes truly a winter wonderland full of great landscapes and abundant wildlife.

We began our tour on a perfect winter day in the Old Faithful area. With a clear blue sky above and temperatures below normal, the steam from the thermals created frost that stuck to everything. Frost laden trees against a blue sky gave our group endless opportunities for both the grand landscape and the small details. We spent the morning in the Upper and Lower Geyser Basin areas hitting the Madison River after lunch.

The next couple of days were a little overcast with some sun peeking out from time to time – perfect for photographing waterfalls and wildlife. Our wildlife catch included elk, bison, wolf, coyote, eagle and river otter. Our trip out to Yellowstone Canyon and to Haydn Valley was filled with some great moments especially when, with perfect timing, light blanketed the valley while photographing the tree.

After our stay in Yellowstone, we returned to the tour’s original stating point in Jackson WY. Behind the Elk Refuge we captured photos of Big Horn Sheep which hung around closer than we’ve seen them in eleven years of conducting this tour – great head shots and horn details.

A fun time with a great group. Here's a sampling of their images:


Death Valley 2018

George Theodore, February 5, 2018

Arriving at Death Valley, one of our most interesting National Parks, gave us pause as we were met with streaky clouds with very little tonal differences – sort of “yuk” for photographing. But, amazingly enough, “yuk” turned to “wow” at some of the best hours for shooting. A late afternoon – early evening shoot gave us fantastic pink reflections at Salt Flats as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. Our mornings at Zabriskie were equally as satisfying especially the last one on Sunday. While we had great pre-sunrise colors at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, we had very few and small windows of sun to capture the Dune’s textures.

Given our hit and miss conditions, our resourceful workshop participants brought in some great images as you can see below:

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Bosque del Apache & White Sands National Monument

George Theodore, December 3, 2017

Bosque del Apache seems to provide great shooting no matter what. And, the “what” for our workshop participants was weather. Cloudy in Late fall in New Mexico? Really? But, with patience for “the light”, for that break in the clouds, for that “moment” or just using the clouds to our advantage as a backdrop, we came away with such great images it was hard to narrow them down for this report. The cloud cover gave us pretty mild temperatures in those pre-dawn hours and the snow geese and sand hill cranes were right on time with their acts. A part of the north end of the reserve we’ve not seen open in ages, gave us a “new” area to shoot.

White Sands provided quite a contrast to the busy activity of Bosque. Again, we needed patience for light, which was scarce. The skies cleared on our last morning and the timing could not have been better as we were treated to an almost full super moon setting about an hour before sunrise. The contrast between the dark distant mountains and the moonlit dunes was stunning.

Here are samples of images captured by our participants:

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Fall in the Smokys

George Theodore, November 14, 2017

The Smokys. What a great place to spend a few fall days photographing. The first couple of days looked rather bleak, as colors were a little late. But, rains and a slight drop in temperature promised colors were not far behind. As the week progressed, colors got better and better. The rains fed rivers, streams and waterfalls and we enjoyed capturing reflected colors shooting sections of them at a time. We got a little snow too.

Driving through Cades Cove, we counted nine black bears. One sow with triplets, another with twins. They were on the ground and up in trees; and, of course, it really slowed traffic. On one entrance into the Cove, a sign warning was up telling us the traffic was so heavy, it might take two to three hours to make the eleven-mile drive. Well, it wasn’t that bad; we did it in an hour. Cades Cove’s Sparks Lane looked good in the sun and in fog.

All in all, it was a good week. Here are images from our workshop participants.

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Glacier National Park Fall Workshop 2017

George Theodore, October 9, 2017

What do you do when there’s smoke from forest fires on top of which you get rain and snow?  Why you get up, go out and shoot. This year’s Glacier National Park Fall workshop presented numerous challenges that forced us to think out of the box. For the most part, the winds cooperated by keeping smoke from Glacier’s west side fires away from us and, unable to go over to the west side, we were limited to east of Logan Pass. With few opportunities to photograph the “grand landscape”, our group excelled at making lemonade from lemons. Here’s a sampling of their work:

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Alaska Land & Sea Tour 2017

George Theodore, July 10, 2017

This year’s Alaska Land and Sea Tour was outstanding; mostly perfect weather, just enough sun but not too much so as to give us too much contrast. Starting in Anchorage, we made our way down the Kenai (pronounced keen’-eye) Peninsula to Seward stopping along the way at various point to photograph. The following day, we boarded our small boat at Resurrection Bay for our private cruise around Kenai Fjords National Park to Holgate Glacier and back; a delightful eight hours with Captain Tanya and First Mate Clay filled with great photo opportunities – whales, orcas, otters, puffins and, of course, the Holgate itself – one of Alaska’s smaller glaciers but still advancing and still awesome.

Two days later, we flew out of Anchorage over the Cook Inlet to the Lake Clark area staying at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. The following three days were full of grizzly bear photography. We were just a day or two too early for spring cubs (maybe next year) but had plenty of company with yearlings and adolescent cubs along with their moms. A couple of boars were spotted as well. The crew at the Lodge was terrific attending to our every need. We were out shooting at all hours – before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner; it was daylight practically 24 hours and we took advantage of every shooting opportunity. The final afternoon, we boarded a couple of charter boats and made our way around Tuxedni and Chinitna Bays photographing birds including puffins, murres, oystercatchers, eagles and a huge kittiwake rookery.

Sadly, all had to come to an end but not before our farewell party at Simon and Seaforts in Anchorage where we raised a toast to the wonderful experience that is Alaska Land and Sea.

Here are images captured by our ten participants. Enjoy!

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Yosemite 2017 Workshop

George Theodore, May 15, 2017

This was the most water we’ve ever seen at Yosemite. The falls were just awesome and the Merced River was running wild and fast. While we had to make our way around flooded areas that made parts of the park look like Bayou Country, those very conditions provided for some spectacular reflections. And, the dogwood was at peak. What a great week not to mention a great group.

We covered Cathedral Beach (temporarily Cathedral Pond), meadows, the falls, the river, Swinging Bridge, Valley View and other areas in the “low country”. The road to Glacier Point was still closed due to snow (first time we struck out on that).

We plan to return to Yosemite in late 2018. Here are some images from our Yosemite 2017 group:

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