Whoa, slow down

If you felt the earth tremble this morning, it was because Ross & Ryan turned 27!

It was five years ago that we did an extended vacation with them in our van…going from hotel to hotel…to visit this area and Glacier National Park. They were so cooperative, so settled, seemed so comfortable doing all that traveling…that we got the idea they might actually enjoy traveling all the time!

So they gave us the idea…and then they gave us the reason…to travel all the time: they were about to graduate from high school, and no longer would they be occupied five days a week outside of our home. They were about to spend fulltime with us!

We sold our house and furniture, bought the coach, and never looked back on those decisions.

It’s sure been a lot of fun exploring Yellowstone during their birthday month! We took pictures from just one day to show you all the stuff they get into, over, and beside.DSC_4507DSC_4515DSC_4619DSC_4669DSC_4626

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The beautiful people of Yellowstone

Some of the wildlife here in Yellowstone behaves like, well, animals.

I mean, they eat each other and all….

But some rise above it all and sit around looking beautiful.DSC_4104

It’s true, this one catches fish and eats them raw….

True love shows itself in so many ways. Bison males just pick out a female and follow her around all day, or as we saw this one do: just stay right at her shoulder and nudge her in the direction you want her to go. You can see how pointless it would be for her to dissent…those neck muscles, those horns, and the fact he outweighs her by 100 percent.DSC_2741

This small herd was close to the road, and had created a mile-long traffic jam for those who wanted the latest in selfies. The light color on the lead bull’s coat is the result of his rolling in a dust bath filled with some yellow stone powder.DSC_4323

Finally, the truly beautiful people of this park are the moose. Very scarce during our time here (two months today!). This mother and her calf…and ducks…were in a channel right beside the road!DSC_1202

Once in a lifetime

It wasn’t enough that this lunar eclipse would occur with a Super Moon….for us, it would occur with Old Faithful, too!

We planned for days.

Went over to Old Faithful the night before to test views, lenses, and exposures. Lovely 95% moon….DSC_4389

Almost all the plans went out the window last night, however, because of crowds (you’d thought the Pope was visiting!), wind, clouds….and the moon during eclipse is a much different exposure than any other moon!

It arrived already in the midst of eclipse.DSC_4713

And Old Faithful blew its top very near the full eclipse! You’ll notice the stars are slightly oblong….streaked because the exposure of 8 seconds was too long for the lens I was using. Everything’s a compromise….DSC_4749

And then, it was fully eclipsed….DSC_4766

The artifacts with the stars are a puzzlement to me. The exposure was 1 second…fast enough to keep the close moon sharp with this lens, so shouldn’t affect the distant stars.

Ahhhhh, but the real surprise for the evening was the magical change to the sky when this bright Super Moon briefly went dim.

Milky Way! Old Faithful Inn!DSC_4779

In a rut

Yellowstone is in the midst of the annual “rut”.

That’s a polite term for fighting and sex.

The bison and the elk spend about a month or so each fall with this great distraction. The males get all pumped on testosterone and bump & crash into each other to determine who is the toughest and therefore has the right to breed with his choice of females. The females don’t seem to have a vote.

Elk males bugle to announce their status, and although I’ve been hearing this distinctive bellow for a couple weeks, I’ve not been able to catch a shot of one in the act. Still working on it.DSC_3527DSC_2606

Notice in that last photo the little rider-on-the-rump….

They also will scrape their antlers on the turf in order to snag grass and weeds…apparently to make them look even more imposing!DSC_3640

We noticed two females waaay out in a field one evening that were unaccompanied…very rare during the rut. But then we realized there were two males in the woods on the other side of the road trying to cross in heavy traffic. They were right beside us, but moving fast. I apologize for this photo, because it was nearly dark and you can see the elk is running…but I wanted to show you the snow on his rack and how wet his coat was!DSC_3737

To stay with the antler theme, I thought this sunset across Lake Yellowstone would be appropriate.DSC_3454

Pools, not puddles

Yellowstone National Park contains one-third of the world’s geysers and one-half of the world’s thermal springs.

The park makes great effort to enable you to walk up to them as close as is sensible, and in most cases that means you can feel the steam and hear the bubbling.

I’ve gathered just a few of the more interesting pools that we’ve passed.

Some, like the Black Hole, are thermal springs that are quite hot.DSC_1175

Others seem very complacent and simply produce cool colors. This one is very large but very calm and relatively cool.DSC_2522

I couldn’t resist the contrast of this lovely clear blue spring with its white edging and the dark threatening skies!DSC_3709

I’ve already shown you a ground-level picture of Grand Prismatic Spring, at 370 feet diameter and 121 feet deep, the largest thermal spring in the US, and third-largest in the world. Its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.

I was naughty and risked life, limb, and liberty to climb a small hill near it to get a clearer picture of this remarkable formation. And yes, that’s snow on the distant mountains!DSC_4126

Come a little bit closer

Our quest in Yellowstone has been to get photos of the most unusual animals found here.

That would be mountain goats, grizzlies, and wolves.

The grizzlies are everywhere…and nowhere. They pop out of the woods and cross the trail ahead of you. They prowl across a field heading toward a lodge. They lumber along the edge of the woods at the far side of a valley.

Oh, we found one…maybe half a mile away. Never came closer while he scouted a couple elk. Ended up heading into the woods. We could see his tracking collar.DSC_0812

Still looking for one a little bit closer.

The mountain goats hang out on the sides of a valley at the farthest part of the park from our coach. A 2-hour run out the northeast entrance to the park, so it’s not on the way to anything for us.

Ah, but we caught several on a sunny day! The closest was probably half a mile….

Notice the tiny white bundle on the ledge to the left of the parent!DSC_1330

Still looking for some a little bit closer!

The predictably unpredictable ones are the wolves. They live in packs…10 packs is the last count we’ve heard…that hang out in specific areas.

The largest hangs in Lamar Valley, and is seen most often around sunup or sundown and the two hours of daylight near those times.

Right…over near the NE entrance road and mountain goats…half a day’s journey to get there…hang until after sunset…half a night’s journey to get home.

We did it. Several times. Got lucky once…heard the howling…and got one shot.

This photo was with my 300mm 2.8, which weighs about 6 pounds. I was walking toward a group that had been watching all evening, when one said “There he is!”. I swung the camera around, aimed, and pulled the trigger. For you techies: ISO 3200, 1/80th at 2.8.

Gotta love that lens. Couldn’t really see the wolf, but the camera could. See him howling?DSC_1846

Not sure what he was howling about….DSC_1845

Around the clock

Mother Nature never sleeps.

I wanted to catch the Milky Way in the background of an image with Old Faithful.

We needed the darkest skies because there’s so much light from buildings near the geyser. We also needed clear skies, which was going to be a problem on this night, but we thought it would get clear.

The question that couldn’t be answered ahead of time was: when will Old Faithful blow?

It goes about every 90 minutes, and there’s one chalkboard in a lodge there that announces the last eruption…but you can’t call to ask anyone.

So we showed up at 10:30pm….pretty well had the place to ourselves.

Yeah, that’s because it had blown just 6 minutes before…..

It sure was nice and dark, and the clouds were nearly all gone. Just gotta wait until midnight.

Hmmmm, by midnight there was a bit of a haze, and some lower clouds. Not much for the Milky Way, but Old Faithful still did her stuff under the stars!DSC_1133