Where the Wild Things Are

Image

I’m easily distracted by any photo op.

After riding the rails to Denver, Karen and I caught a cab to the Car Rental lot in Denver near the airport. As she inspected the car I caught a glimpse of a bunny face-off in the small patch of grass separating the lot exit from the street. I dropped my luggage and grabbed my camera – I no longer cared about what kind of car we would rent, or mileage, or color, or insurance, or anything else. My whole world revolved around capturing the images of those bunnies. The scuffle was short and I missed a chance to get the loser flipping backwards – but the victor hung out with me for a few shots.

Image

Image

Image

Karen apparently turned around to ask me a question and discovered I was no where near the car – I heard her mutter something like “Where’d she go?” and snapped back to the present. We hopped in the car and drove the two blocks to the hotel – as Karen carried her luggage to our room I stayed in the parking lot attempting to get great shots of sparrows. I spotted something large on the roof – click – I got it!! Our wildlife adventure had begun!

Image

Now I should clarify that this road trip was intended for us to visit as many National Parks and Monuments as possible – you see we belong to the ultra secret society of National Park Passport Stamp Collectors, we even have a secret handshake – more on that another time. Anyway, I was prepped and ready to go after those big captures, and Karen seemed eager to help me on my quest for amazing animal photos. My new ultra-fast focusing Olympus E-M5 had arrived 2 weeks before the trip. I had been practicing shooting crows with my long zoom in the back yard – I was loaded for bear – I mean really – I actually thought I might get to shoot a photo of a bear!

The next morning we headed north towards Scott’s Bluff in Nebraska. It’s along the path of the Oregon Trail. We had barely left Denver when Karen suddenly brought the car to a screeching halt – “Look!” she shouted ant pointed out my window. I grabbed my camera and caught this guy – nothing special and I never left the car – but he was actually wildlife living outside the city!

Image

As we entered Nebraska and left the interstate we had more and more “in-car” shooting opportunities. After all we were our where the Deer and the Antelope play -

Image

Image

We arrived in Scott’s Bluff at 5:01 – and convinced the Ranger to let us use the stamp. Amazing shots of actual historical sites were all around us. The famous bluff that settlers saw as they left the last outpost of civilization on their way to Oregon was right there in front of us – I snapped a few, but saw a bunny and a robin and was once again distracted.

Image

Image

The next morning we headed towards Mt Rushmore. Along the way we passed through Hot Springs, South Dakota. There was a lovely waterfall overlooking main street – I wish I could show you a photo – instead I took these shots:

Image

Image

Actually I took about 40 shots trying to get that bee in focus – totally worth missing the waterfall shot!

Soon we were entering Wind Cave National Park. I have heard that there is a Cave of some size there, I can’t vouch for that but I do know that there are buffalo there in abundance.

Image

I saw this one and had to jump out of the car to climb up a hill to get a better angle. He was just the tip of the iceberg. This guy was huge and right near the road – I never left the car for fear that he could trample me!

Image

He actually tried to get into the car when Karen flipped a U and offered to let me shoot out her window – She didn’t think he was all that close until he was coming into her window!

Image

We sped off and managed to get about 30 yards away from the beast when we discovered prairie dogs – I won’t bore you with the dozens of adorable photos I took while still only yards from the very large buffalo – here’s a single shot of one for perspective:

Image

And a few more wild things we saw at Wind Cave:

Image

Image

As we left Wind Cave headed for another park with a hole in the ground I managed to capture this meadowlark on the park’s sign post.

Image

We spent the next few hours touring caves and a huge carving of Crazy Horse – I was having withdrawal until we spotted this small herd of deer on the way out of Crazy Horse – BTW – that carving will be amazing once they get the horse done.

Image

That evening we made it to Mount Rushmore. We saw a bunch of cars pulled over as we got close to the park. We were sure they were shooting a bear or a mountain goat so we pulled over – turns out it was just George Washington’s face – bummer.

We went to Mount Rushmore and saw the flag ceremony that night and returned in the morning to shoot in the daylight. What a patriotic experience – I was filled with national pride…and I got this shot!

Image

We headed towards Wyoming and onto Devil’s Tower. Stunning! So many prairie dogs!

Image

Image

Image

This one attacked Karen – lunged towards her and screeched while she was photographing another dog – these guys were camera hogs!

Image

We jumped back over the Nebraska line to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. We walked for a couple of miles and never saw any agates or fossils, but there was a bird bonanza!

Image

Image

Image

Image

From there we went to Fort Laramie, Wyoming were I saw no animals at all – not even a pony for the Pony Express. So we turned south to head to Rocky Mountain National Park.

We hit the park just before 5 so we only got to get one stamp. We thought we might drive to another station but we saw antlers below the roadside – I asked Karen to pull over and we hiked back up the road to find this little fellow:

Image

Image

Image

Karen thought he wasn’t paying enough attention to us so she did some jumping jacks – this was his reaction:

Image

Image

We started back towards the next station when we saw this youngster on the roadside:

Image

Image

As I got close enough to see beyond the brush I found his pals.

Image

At this point I told Karen I would rather take pictures of these guys than get a stamp – we both shot about a hundred shots of these guys and drove back to the main part of town to find a hotel. We found a cool little place next to the golf course and guess what we saw almost outside our room – a young bull watching the goose races!

Image

If we were seeing this many animals outside the park I was sure that this park was going to be amazing, and it was. No historic buildings or markers. Just wildlife at every turn. So many elk we just quit stopping to shoot.

At the Ranger station we saw this guy – totally unafraid of us.

Image

At the first few stops we saw lots of birds and chipmunks

Image

Image

Image

When we climbed to Forest Park we got to see what a marmot looks like.

Image

Image

Image

Here Karen gets her shot at one after being thwarted by a rude Chinese tourist.Image

Image

As we approached the highest point on the loop around the park and the continental divide we saw no animals at all – lots of wind and snow, but apparently nothing hangs out any higher up than the marmots.

As we descended back to the meadows leading to the park exit we saw another grouping of elk. I thought it would be good to get them in their natural habitat instead of on a golf course – but as I got out of the car and started to cross the meadow I saw that these were no elk – holy cow! Moose!

Image

Image

I got to within about 40-50 feet and saw her head come up – I snapped about 5 shots and slowly backed away.

As we left the park I actually did get those last few shots of elk in their actual habitat -

Image

Image

Now I’m back home, back at work. I did hear a bird calling yesterday and ran outside with my camera – no dice. Something about being out on the road that gives me stealth. I guess it’s time to go back to still life.

285 thoughts on “Where the Wild Things Are

  1. Pingback: A Wider View | the eff stop

  2. Pingback: I’m Over the Moon | the eff stop

    • Thanks – this was only my second post ever and I was just being silly for my brother. In our family spotting an animal is a totally appropriate reason to put on the brakes and grab the camera:)

  3. Thanks for the post. I live in Omaha, which after living in California was pretty dull. Then I discovered western Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming and wish I could spend every moment roaming the wild places. Some great photos, mostly I just got moose and antelope, but spend a pleasant day outside Custer SD with the company of a marmot in my campsite. It’s good to know and even better to see some wild things.

    • My grandfather was from Nebraska, so as a child I had spent some time in the plains near Osceola visiting family. Just the drive across that flatness left me with a perception that all of Nebraska was flat and unchanging. TW was my first trip to the panhandle and I was stunned with it’s beauty. This trip really made me fall in love with that area along the loop. So rugged, so much beauty. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Another happy place!! :) You excell!
    I’ve got so many favourites here- the bunny with peach colour down its side, the bunny face-on, the moose’s profile with its tongue out, the moose fur (are they losing their winter coats here?), the bird with the vivid orange on its wing (what type of bird is that?), the black and white bird, the squirrel… and a marmot! :) WOW! These photos make me smile and make my heart full. :) Thank you. This is wonderful. I could look at your animal photos all day! Oh, that’s right, I do! hahaha!
    Love from Rach

      • I’ve never seen moose or elk winter coats before. How gorgeous! As for the bird- such a descriptive name! Hehehee It’s stunning. Maybe Delilah and I could do with a few of them in our garden too :)
        Rach.

  5. Hi there!

    I love your pictures, you have captured such great moments! I have recently started my blog and I would love to collect as many sky related pictures as possible, wonder if you could help me out!

    Crystal

  6. I love these pics! Especially the bumble bee and the squirrel eating in the nook of the tree branches… he’s like so oblivious to even getting his pic taken. Thanks for sharing and congrat’s on being FP’d!

  7. I like your focus on the animals instead of the “holes in the ground.” I am sure you enjoyed that too, but there are lots of photos out there of Scott’s Bluff but animals look different by the second. Every go to the Pine Ridge area of Nebraska by any chance? We are driving through this summer taking route 20 from Chicago.

  8. Your photography is a breath of sunshine. I nominate you for the Sunshine Award – brightening the bloggers’ world through your lens. Bless you for sharing!! I look forward to seeing more of your work and reading your insightful comments.

  9. I love the pics! One of favorite things to do is photograph wildlife, I find I’m better at that then photographing people.
    I especially love the Coyote pic, I’ve been trying to get a shot of them for a while now and no luck, I’ve been able to safely stop the car, get out and get my camera ready and then they run off!!

    • Thanks, I’m definitely more comfortable shooting animals instead of people too. The coyote was a lucky shot. I had to climb a small rise to get all of him in frame. The coyotes here don’t look like those, more dog than fox like.

  10. Wow! These are amazing. I’m going to check out the camera you purchased too. I have just a small little Olympus camera and have always loved it. Time for a new one that can capture this beauty. Want to hear more about the Park stamp thing.

    • Thanks! I used Olympus film cameras back in the day and had several Point and shoots. I work with Nikons at work, but loved the idea of a small DSLR that could adapt to my vintage lenses too. The Pen series is amazing – I have owned 3 models, the E-M5 is so fast to focus, I’m loving it. But I still use my E-P2. My sister Karen also shoots an Olympus E-PL1 so we can share lenses. I’m going to take some photos of the passport stamps – it’s a fun hobby. I hope to write about it in a few days.

  11. I graduated two weeks ago and one of the last classes I took was a digital photography class. I loved learning how to take beautiful pictures such as the ones you showcased. I was surprised with a graduation gift of a brand new Canon Rebel T3 with two lenses. I’ve been looking at different blog/photography sites to give me inspiration and ideas on different subjects to shoot.

    With that said, I’m so glad I found your blog. Your pictures are amazing and you have a gift for storytelling. I found myself smiling the whole time I was reading about your vacation. I am looking forward to following your blog!

    • Thanks! Congrats on your degree and your new DSLR! Enjoy it! I look at photography like playing the piano, I need to practice every day. I try to shoot at least 30 minutes no matter what. I love getting to dig into a new camera to learn all that it can do.

  12. Wow! what amazing nature! Great shots! You are so lucky to have seen it all with your own eyes not just through the bars of a zoo. Seeing all these wonderful creatures… I really wonder what are people thinking about hunting these days.I wonder if there still are people who hunt and then just through the dead animals away – hunting “for fun” or “for sports” as they call it…

    How does it feel to meet their eyes? I wouldn’t dare to shoot…
    Great post, thank you for sharing,

    http://www.dressupforme.wordpress.com

    • It’s amazing when you get a chance to look them in the eye. I only hunt with my camera. I know many hunters and understand the need for it too. Glad I don’t need to make that call. In Estes Park we went to a restaurant that offered Elk and Bison, I couldn’t bring myself to order it after a day of watching the elk in town.

  13. Pingback: Where the Wild … « darussalammkz1

Picture your comments here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s