Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunsets at The Azure Gate

Although I essentially focus on wildlife, I won't pass up an opportunity to photograph a nice sunset, or moon, or other landscape. I must admit, however, I am not very good at landscapes. They overwhelm me and so I often can't get the composition right or the color right or the focus right. Nonetheless, here are three photos taken at The Azure Gate in the past week:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Javelinas are Back

Yesterday just before sunset, eight Javelinas came prancing through our property. Two of our guests saw them right away and came out with their camera. I saw them as they wandered over to a waterbowl for a drink. I immediately went and told guests (from Canada) after which they came out with their cameras. Javelinas are fascinating to watch, especially when they come in small "herds" like this. Javelinas present the photographer with a challenge. Their bristle-like hairs shimmer when nervous making focus more difficult. You might think you have one in focus, but turns out not to be so. In any case, a fun and exciting day at The Azure Gate B&B.

Friday, January 28, 2011

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mule Deer Stories-IX

The last of the Mule Deer stories (for now) will be another example of "stopping to smell the roses (sunflowers)." Again, I was in Yellowstone looking for wolves, grizzlies, and moose. While I was tempted to power through and keep searching, I decided that a few minutes photographing these Mule Deer bucks eating amongst the wildflowers would be a nice break and in reality wouldn't take up much time anyway. Note that there is still velvet on the antlers, so they (the antlers) are still growing -- I think this was July.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Animal babies are always fun to watch and photograph. I wonder sometimes whether I am the first human being they have ever seen -- especially when they seem curious about me. Wildflowers also give wonderful color to a photo as well as tell you something about the time of year and the terrain. Occasionally, you get both babies and wildflowers as in today's photos. The first is a young Mule Deer found atop Mount Elden near Flagstaff. I was actually looking for Black Bear without success, but ended up pleased with the young deer:

In an area like Yellowstone it is easy to pass up photos of deer --- even elk and bison, because I am really looking for Gray Wolves, Grizzlies, and Moose. I remember something DeWitt Jones, a photographer for National Geographic once said, "Every once in a while don't take your camera with you, just simply enjoy nature with the naked eye." While I do that from time to time, the message also is, "don't be so quick to run off looking for something else when you have a beautiful "scene" of nature right in front of you" -- i.e. "stop and smell the roses." Such was the case with these Mule Deer fawns trotting through the wildflowers trying to keep up with their mom: 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Whether it is Mule Deer or White Tailed Deer, they are so plentiful that photos have to be unique or otherwise special in some way. I have said before I will usually stop and look at deer, but won't photograph them unless the lighting, background, is different. Today's photos are from Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge in Central Oregon. The first photo was taken in the Springtime. I thought the bird on the deer's back was unique. Didn't realize until I got the film developed that the deer was also "pooping" at the time.

The next photo was taken during the hot summer. Notice the Mule Deer still has velvet covered antlers. The tall grass makes this a good photo.

Now, we are into winter for the last two photos. The first is a large buck with a doe. Notice the velvet  is gone from the antlers. In the last photo, the thistles and the coloring make the photograph.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mule Deer Stories-VI

Sticking with National Wildlife Refuges for a while, here are two photos. The first is a Mule Deer Buck at Julia Hansen Butler National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State. The second photo is of a Mule Deer Doe taken while she was crossing the Vegosa Creek at Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico (not Nevada).

Monday, January 24, 2011

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mule Deer Stories-V

Here is another wonderful photo from another of my favorite places: Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Southeastern Oregon. Hart Mountain is noted for its Pronghorn. Lots of stories there, but I will save them for another time. Wild animals in snow, like wild animals in water make for beautiful photos because of the contrast and because it tells the viewer more about the situation. Obviously cold, this doe didn't seem to mind. She didn't seem afraid of me, but never took her eyes off of me either.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mule Deer Stories-IV

Back 1998, our oldest son Matt married a sweet young girl from Bangkok in a private (City Hall) ceremony in Hawaii where they lived. A couple of months later they came to Seattle (where we were living) for a second celebration. Then for a wedding gift we took them to British Columbia and Alberta on a wildlife adventure, staying in a nice motel in Clearwater, BC while at Wells Gray Park; a cabin in Jasper, and the world famous Fairmont Chateau on Lake Louise. We got to see just about everything I had hoped for. One morning while the "kids" slept in, I got up and went looking for bear. I don't remember whether I saw bear that morning, but what I do remember was taking this wonderful Mule Deer photo. I love the colors of the trees, plants, and grasses:

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Finding large bucks in hunting areas is a challenge any time of the year but especially during hunting season. That is one of the reasons why I like the US National Wildlife Refuge System. This next photo was taken in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Southwestern Arizona. The refuge was established in 1939 (largely through the efforts of the Boys Scouts of America) to protect Desert Bighorn Sheep (now the symbol of the Boy Scouts). Cabeza Prieta is 860,000 acres which is 30 times larger than the National Bison Range and larger than the State of Rhode Island. It is the third largest Refuge in the lower 48 states. There is wonderful history there. The Refuge contains the "El Camino Del Diablo" Spanish Colonial Trail that was used by the Spanish, Mexicans, and Native Americans as far back as 1,000 years. It is a very (!) hostile climate. Temperatures above 120 degrees are common during the summer. To get on the Refuge you must obtain a permit and "call-in" your entry and exit dates/times. To get the permit you need to watch a 25 minute video on the hazards of the refuge, and then sign a two-page document verifying that you watched the video and that you take full responsibility for your own safety. They suggest a gallon of water per day per person and TWO (!) spare tires. I can testify to the need for at least one spare tire. But, back to Mule Deer.  I like this photo first, simply because I found this large buck on one of the few Refuges that allow "legal" hunting. And second, because it is sort of a hidden picture. Photographing animals in Yellowstone, for example, is quite different. In Yellowstone large animals (bear, moose, elk, deer) see people constantly and only look at them occasionally (probably for their amusement). In wilderness areas, especially where hunting is allowed, animals are extremely cautious, will often take cover, and rarely take their eyes off of you:

Friday, January 21, 2011

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mule Deer Stories-II

The National Bison Range National Wildlife Refuge is a marvelous area in Western Montana often overlooked -- even unknown -- because the major attraction in Western Montana is Glacier National Park. The refuge is about 25,000 acres of grasslands and mountains. Because hunting is not allowed, animals are not only plentiful but can live a long time and get quite large. In the first photo look at the size of this buck. It's still a little earlier in the year (probably May) so his antlers aren't fully grown yet, but look at his girth. This is probably a 300-400 pound deer.

The next photo taken during the early summer shows that the bucks at NBRNWF will sometimes herd together. Because they are protected they don't  always run away, although they clearly knew I was there and kept an eye on me. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mule Deer Stories

The first Mule Deer story is about the first Mule Deer I ever photographed (or remember photographing). I was fly fishing at Ernst Lake in British Columbia. I was still an avid fly fisherman. I spent 15-30 days a year fishing in Canada. I can't remember exactly, but it was around 1989 - 90. I had a cheap camera -- don't even remember what it was. It was long before I had any idea that someday I might want to know what camera it was. Ernst Lake was one of my favorites: a Trophy Lake with the smallest fish ever caught being at least 22 inches. This Mule Deer had made a nice little bed for himself and just lay there -- for well over two hours. I was fishing back and forth along a 15 foot shelf in the lake. Every time I got close to him I would take his picture. He never seemed to mind.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pardon the Interruption

I'll get back to Hoofed Mammals tomorrow (probably). But, for today it is Bobcats again. Yesterday, around 5:00 I took my camera and walked around the property for about 20 minutes hoping to find a Bobcat. Late afternoon is the best time of day to find them. Now, I realize that is similar to a father walking to his 14 year old son's bedroom and finding it perfectly neat, bed made, nothing on the floor etc. (and/or doing his homework). And so it was, no Bobcats.  But, as chance would have it, luck comes to you in a split second. As I was putting my camera into my camera case I noticed a male Bobcat walking by the side of my office. This wasn't more than 30 seconds after I had returned from my search. So, camera in hand out the front door I went. 

My first photo was him walking away from the office (and me).

He stopped and looked to the right -- but, not at me.  (As it turns out this was my best photo).

Then he looked at the wall. (Love the stripe on his ears):

Then he turned left and wall along the inside of the wall:

He now seemed to be looking for the best place to jump over the wall:

And, then in a split second he was over the wall -- and, exactly when I wasn't in a good position for the jump.  Then across the street and into our neighbors property:

What I thought interesting was the Bobcat never looked directly at me the entire time. For sure, he knew I was there, but he just wasn't nearly as interested in me as I was of him.

Monday, January 17, 2011


This will be my last Elk Story, for now anyway. The fall rut is quite a fascinating event. I have shown you Elk bugling, and jousting from my recent trip to Colorado. Here though, are a couple older photos from just outside Jasper National Park in Alberta. These two Elk had locked antlers when they noticed me. So they turn to look. I guess they could see that I wasn't a threat to them so, they simply went back to what they were doing. They didn't seem to be aggressive toward each other. It was almost like a "hand shake." The first one is one of my favorites. (I know I say that a lot, but it is true.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Today it is "Elk in Numbers." The first photo is from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area on the East side of the Cascade Mountains near Naches. Each winter Washington State Fish and Wildlife put out food for Bighorn Sheep near Clemens Mountain, and for Elk in Oak Creek Canyon on the way to White Pass. I have already covered the Bighorns, so today it is Elk.  The Elk arrive early afternoon -- I think feeding is around 1:30. They get as many as 1500 Elk, so it can be quite a spectacle. I had some close ups but can't seem to find them. The one photo I have is from about 1993 and I recall is when the Elk began heading back up the mountain.

The last two photo were taken around Kendrick Park in the San Francisco Peaks of Northern Arizona (obviously at different times of the year). You can see from the first photo the Elk were very cautious of me. 

In this last photo the Elk started running as soon as they saw me. I have mentioned this before, there is a lot of hunting in Arizona, so the Elk are very difficult to approach here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Elk, which are also called Wapiti, are the largest species of deer in the world. Moose which are in their own family are larger. (Moose, by the way are called "elk" in Europe). Elk typically live in forest and forest-edge habitats feeding on grasses, plants, tree leaves, and tree bark. There are four subspecies of Elk still in existence in North America (Roosevelt, Rocky Mountain, Tule (California), and Manitoban (Canada). Typically, Elk migrate toward higher elevations in the Spring, lower elevations in the fall. This first photo was a Rocky Mountain Elk taken on the tundra at 12,000 in September 2009:

But, Roosevelt Elk found in the Olympic Mountains of Washington and along the Oregon Coast, tend not to migrate because of the more moderate climate (i.e. availability of food). This next series of photos is of Roosevelt Elk found at sea level near the mouth of the Lewis River. You can just see the Pacific Ocean in the background of the first two photos:

The Roosevelt Elk are the largest of the North American species -- although, these don't seem particularly large to me. (They look a little thin). As I found them they started walking toward me. I carefully moved backward until they got to a point where they lay down. Once lying down a got a few more photos:

Friday, January 14, 2011


Snow usually makes for a nice contrast as well as point out the setting in which the photo was taken. And so they often make for an interesting photo. Here are three "Elk in Snow" photos; all from Jasper National Park in Alberta. The first is on the way to Pyramid Lake. This big guy was just laying in the snow so peacefully. Never got up, never really moved. I also like the Aspen trees in the photo.  

The second is on Medicine Lake. The way it turned out was a pleasant surprise. It was back in the film days so I didn't really know what I had until the film was developed. Happens to be one of my favorites and one of my most requested:

The last one was taken near the train tracks on the way out of Jasper toward Hinton. I had forgotten about this photo, but Christine saw it while scanning my photos and said she liked it. So, ...

Thursday, January 13, 2011


As you have probably guessed I like wildlife "portraits"; i.e. photographs where a animal is looking directly at you, and especially where you can see the iris/pupil. In most of those cases I like to have the background "out of focus" or blurred so the animal stands out more. However, that doesn't mean I will pass up an opportunity when the background itself is interesting. For instance, I showed you Moose swimming a week or so ago. Here are some "Elk in Water" photos. The first is Elk crossing the Yellowstone River just past the North Entrance from Gardiner, Montana:

This next photo was taken somewhere in Central Oregon on my way to Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge.

This last one was an Elk swimming across a lake in British Columbia. It was much like the Moose swimming photo. I saw the Elk on the other side of the lake. She then jumped in the water and started swimming. I can't remember which lake though. Again, it was a lake I was passing by.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Bull Elk tend to be solitary creatures -- except during the rut. So occasionally, when I am driving or wandering around I come across one. Over the years I have collected a large number of Elk (and Deer) photos, so while I might slow down to take a look, I usually don't stop and take a photo unless there is something unique about the background, the lighting, size of a Bull's antlers, or a cow with her calf. (This is not true of Elk in Arizona. I am still trying to get some good close-ups of Arizona Elk). I'll show you two in particular that caught my attention while in Canada. The first one was a large Bull who I shared a moment with:

This next one, is one of Christine's favorites. It was very early morning, probably May judging from the Bull's antlers. Mist coming off the lake. Idyllic!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


You can easily guess the approximate time of year by looking at Elk's antlers. These photos are likely late May or early June at the latest. The antlers are still growing and not fully formed. My recollection is that Elk antlers grow about one inch every three days or so depending on age, genetics, and stress. Elk shed their antlers in early Spring and new growth begins in early April. This Elk's antlers appear to be about 18-20 inches so late May early June seems like a reasonable assumption. The velvety antlers are full of blood vessels, so Elk are very careful with them during the growing season.  I was able to get a little closer for that reason.Once the rut starts in September its another story. I keep much further away. If I recall correctly, I came across this lone Bull on a dirt road spur out to the Moab Lake trailhead in Jasper National Park. You can see in the close-up that the antlers almost look like sponge.