Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photographing Alligators in the Everglades

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to produce and host a TV show about outdoor photography entitled "Outdoor Photo Adventures" for the Outdoor Channel. The very first show that we did was based in the Everglades National Park. Wow! What a treat for a boy from Utah to go to the worlds most famous marsh to photograph wildlife. The bird photography was great and I will talk about that later. I wanted to start this series on the Everglades with a few photos of Alligators.


The American alligator is probably the iconic species of the Everglades. You see them everywhere you go and they behave like they own the place (I guess they pretty much do). We were there in late February which is the best time to visit the park. The water level is still low and the stormy season is over.


I was walking along the pathway at the Anhinga trail when I came across this large male alligator with his head held high out of the water.


I, of course, stopped and took a couple of photos (okay maybe I took several dozen) When he started to bellow. He would move up and down in the water and let out this low growling noise. I had seen enough David Attenborough specials to know that this was a mating display and was designed to drive the females crazy with passion. Within a few seconds the entire marsh came alive with the deep, rolling, sound of many love starved alligators just out of sight of the camera. Needless to say, I took many more photos but non of them do justice to the event. The video that was shot for the show adds a lot to the experience.


This experience illustrates the point that it is great to look at others photos but it is much better to get out and see the world for yourself.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mount McKinley, What a way to end the day.

One of the absolute highlights of my trip to Alaska was the opportunity that I had to photograph Mt. McKinley. We were very fortunate in that it was visible on the evening that we had set aside. It is typically only seen about 3 days in 10 so I was excited to see the clouds part. 

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Mt. McKinley is 20,320 feet tall and is located in the middle of Denali National Park. The 90 mile gravel road, to the park's interior, is mostly traveled by buses as only a few private vehicles are allowed to traverse it. We were fortunate enough to purchase a photographer's pass so that we had free run of the road on our own time schedule. Most visitors must ride the bus, which is really quite convenient as they run every 15 minutes or so and make frequent stops. If you wish to spend additional time in one area you simply get off of the bus and catch the next one when you are ready to move on. This works well unless you want to stay late and catch the sunset on the highest mountain in North America. We were there in August and the light hung on until well after midnight. 

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Reflection Lake is located near Wonder Lake at about the 84 mile mark along the way. This is a great vantage point from which to shoot the mountain but it takes a long while to get there and if you stay until the light is gone. You will end up camping somewhere near it. We had a 20 foot motor home so that made it quite convenient. 

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We arrived at about 8 pm and set up the cameras. By the time we had set up, the clouds had opened up and the mountain was glorious. I started snapping photos and was able to try many different compositions. I continued taking pictures for over 2 hours. 

At one point I turned around to see a bull caribou standing on the hill behind me. I had to stop long enough to photograph him as well. 

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About 9:30 pm I decided to try a panorama and shot 6 photos with the idea of stitching them together in Photoshop later. The panorama turned out to be one of my favorites and it hangs on my wall as a 17 x 70 inch print to this day. 

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Many of the photos that I took, even later than that, turned out beautifully as well. I especially like the alpen glow affect on some of the later photos.

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This is a moment that I will never forget. I will always be grateful for the chance to visit Alask

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The desert is great right now.

This has been a very good week. With the temperature hovering around 70 degrees in the daytime, this is the perfect time to get out and see some of the incredible reptiles that are found in the Mojave Desert.  I have taken 4 trips onto the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in Washington County and have seen 3 Desert Tortoises and several lizards.  I am still looking for snakes and will let you know what I find.  Here is a look at some of the species that I have seen so far.

Desert tortoise
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Zebra-tailed lizard

Side blotched lizard

Leopard lizard

In a couple of weeks it will get really hot and the reptiles will be spending less time above the ground.  Now is the time to get out and walk in our beautiful desert.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A great morning in the desert

I had a hankering to get out in the desert this morning and see what was up and moving.  One of my favorite things to do is get up early on a spring morning and go for a walk as the day begins to warm and the reptiles begin to wake up.  this morning I spent a little time on the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in Southern Utah.  I was richly rewarded by finding a desert tortoise feeding on the fresh fillery (storks bill) that grows here in the spring.  They love it and it is very valuable for them as they build food supplies to get them through the heat of the summer.  They only come out for a few short weeks in the spring to feed and mate and then again when it cools in the fall for more feeding.  This is the best time to see one if you never have.

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I also found the Quail out and feeding.  This Gamble Quail took off on the run when I stopped to take his picture so I whipped out my trusty ipod, went to my Audubon bird app, hit the Gamble quail call and he popped up on the top of this bush to check me out.

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Lastly, I ended up at a place that I frequented 44 years ago.

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Fools names and Fools faces.