Color Season

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Oxbow Predawn, Mount Moran Reflected in the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, WY

Like all good things that don’t last long enough, the peak of autumn seemed to sneak up fast this year. I have a twisted fascination with Oxbow Bend in fall, typically a cluster of photographers packed in the sage lining the Snake River Bank. Tripods crossed, chattering away, tour buses parked, and million dollars in gear lining the river; I found myself in the photo mosh pit for two mornings – just trying to make my own image of this classic scene. The above photo captures purply predawn light and aspen below Mount Moran. I used a 3-stop neutral density filter to slow the shutter speed and smooth out ripples in the water. Continue reading “Color Season”

Ramparts

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Ramparts Of The Wyoming Range, Sublette County, Wyoming. LightHawk Aerial Support

My first LightHawk mission in 2009 was planned to make images of areas in the Wyoming Range threatened by planned natural gas development. Back then, I was nauseous the entire time in flight and clueless about the speed and willingness to fail necessary to make good aerial images. Pilot Chris Boyer could hear my shutter clicks in the headphones and cajoled me to shoot more, shoot fast. That trip was a first step to many more LightHawk missions, each one with a specific conservation target. “The unique perspective of flight” is important in story-telling photography, the scale and sense of how all the pieces fit together can’t be shown any other way. It doesn’t replace traditional, on the ground image-making, but it’s a key part of conservation “documentary photography”. I had the privilege of flying with Chris again in February and look forward to many more opportunities with LightHawk, a great organization. What happened with the Wyoming Range? The Upper Hoback is protected and a 44,720 acre area known as The 44 is still in dispute – it’s all wild today.

San Luis Valley, A Different World

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“Dune Patterns” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

We had our fourth annual Sandhill Crane Photo Workshop at Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley last week with a great group of photographers from all over the country. The one constant is Zapata Ranch hospitality, but it’s remarkably different in the valley year over year. Michael Forsberg, naturalist John Rawinski and I try to mix things up and keep a flexible schedule. Thousands of mostly Greater sandhill cranes were there, but not in the usual spots, the wind didn’t blow, and the high Sangre De Cristo Peaks lit up every morning as sunrise grazed their 14,000 foot summits. We made two trips to nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park, where towering dunes pile up against the flanks of the Sangres. Dune fields sprawl out 50 miles square and literally look different every day, shaped by wind. Besides making many excellent crane images, our group explored the dunescapes and made many fine images in the eco-zone where Medano Creek divides the dunes and rabbitbrush/ponderosa, which transitions to piñon-juniper forest below the peaks. It’s a landscape rich in biodiversity. This image is a simplification of just dune ripples leading to higher dunes in the last hour of daylight.

The 2015 Sandhill Crane Workshop at Zapata Ranch will be in early March. Let us know if you’re interested!

2013 Rearview

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“New Year’s Dawn January 1, 2013, Flatirons” Boulder, CO

How fast was 2013? Four seasons, that’s it, that’s what we get. We plan our adventures for each season and I approach my story-telling photography by nature’s rhythms. Something amazing happens every day and the timing is set – we just have to be there to see it unfold. The Sage Spirit project continues to be my main conservation focus and we found time to walk in the Maroon Bells, Peru’s Huayhuash Mountains and elsewhere. Looking back on long walks, a few epic trips, and ongoing conservation work for the Sage Spirit project, 2013 was a good year. The images that follow aren’t a best of – just a quick glance back before looking ahead to a great Oh-14 Continue reading “2013 Rearview”

Parks Shutdown – a Look Back

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Bison and Teton Range : Prints Available

American Bison graze on Antelope Flats in Grand Teton National Park. The iconic Grand Teton backdrop is partially obscured in layers of morning clouds that are typical in Jackson Hole. 

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Before I start this philisophical post, I’d like to thank the settlers of Kelly, Wyoming for locating the town in a corner of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) in the 1890’s. Back then the town was named Grovont, eventually chaged to Kelly to avoid confusion with another town in the area. For visitors in Jackson Hole during the government shutdown, the road to Kelly provided acccess to the edges of GTNP along Antelope Flats, and a route through the park to the Gros Ventre Valley while GTNP and YNP were officially closed. I’m still pissed at those that caused the whole shutdown debacle – we all know who they are, so there’s no need to mention them here. The common theme among photographers during that week was to focus on a much smaller area with gratitude for the few opportunities we had. It was a sort of Thoreauvian mindset of checking on the bison herd, the three moose along the Gros Ventre River, the pronghorn herd – still in rut and not migrating because of mild weather in Jackson Hole – and the Great gray owls on the edge of town. All of that and the lingering fall color seemed to keep everybody busy, and focused. The image on this post happened only because I wasn’t somewhere else at the time – there’s something to the concept of persistence and working the same area. But, these are our lands and we should never be denied access. There are a couple of lessons beyond beyond the obvious “make the best of your situation”: First, national parks have imaginary borders that wildlife don’t recognize; so explore the edges. Second, never miss a chance to be inspired or to inspire others. And finally, to those who would shut the gates and deny access to our national parks, our legacy, and the opportunity to inspire others, may your actions be repudiated harshly. May you rot in hell. A lot of folks were hurt across the country – that’s a damn shame that we won’t soon forget.

NatGeo Newswatch with LightHawk

Spotlight on the Roan Cliffs

My friends at LightHawk just published a nice “Behind The Lens Above The Ground” Waypoint article on their site and on National Geographic Newswatch. The theme is the aerial perspective is essential to telling a conservation photography story. I’ve flown a number of LightHawk missions for the Sage Spirit project and the Absaroka ILCP expedition, each for specific goals. The thing they have in common is the West is getting smaller with energy development exploding in the sagebrush ecosystem. LightHawk’s mission is to champion environmental protection through the unique perspective of flight. LightHawk is an ILCP partner and flies ILCP photographers for a wide range of conservation projects. I’m proud to work with Shannon Rochelle and their dynamic staff and fly with such a great team of volunter pilots who generously donate their airplanes, fuel, time, expertise, and enthusiasm to fly for conservation. Thanks LightHawk!

New “Aspen Color” Photo Workshop!

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Exciting news! We’re ready to launch a new photo workshop in the heart of the Rockies – Aspen, Colorado. Let’s see, why is it named Aspen? It could be because of the amazing aspen forests in the White River National Forest all around the city – which makes for a remarkable fall color display. We’re teaming up with Aspen Meadows Resort, a wonderful full-service venue that’s perfectly situated for our field excursions around Aspen. The workshop dates are September 26-29 and the cost is $695 with a 10% discount if you book by May 15. Please contact me at (720) 351-0386 or email: dave@daveshowalter.com if you’re interested.

Zapata Ranch Sandhill Crane Workshop

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Searching for owls – pygmy, Western screech, saw-whet, and great horned with naturalist John Rawinski as our guide. Zapata Ranch in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

Michael Forsberg and I led our third annual Sandhill Crane Photo Workshop at Zapata Ranch from March 11-15. The class was full with 12 photographers, and featured John Rawinski returning as naturalist guide, 15,000 or so sandhill cranes stopping on their migration route to Yellowstone, amazing Zapata hospitality (one of the Top 50 Ranches In The World), close-up views of bison, the historic Medano Ranch homestead, no wind, Great Sand Dunes National Park, night photography of one of America’s best night skies, great food – even appetizers in the field, and fun photographers from all over the country who made many wonderful images. Continue reading “Zapata Ranch Sandhill Crane Workshop”

Audubon Rockies BIG Window

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That’s me standing in front of the big acrylic window at Audubon Rockies’ Office in Fort Collins, CO.

Last year, Brian Rutledge of Audubon challenged me to come up with a design to fill the huge front window space at the Audubon Rockies office. After a good bit of consternation, I came up with an idea for an acrylic piece that would have no back, just images printed on plexi, with light shining through like stained glass. I sent a sketch to Tim Emerson at Duraplaq and explained my idea, to which Tim said “we can do it.” The piece is 6′ x 9′ and had to be printed in two pieces, each framed by a thick wood frame. Tim came up with a custom creative hanging system and framed it on both sides, so it looks great from the street too. There are more than fifty images and it’s quite birdy, with some wildlife and human diversity as well. This custom piece challenged me and Duraplaq, and Audubon is happy with their one-of-a-kind art piece in the big window. Thanks to Audubon for entrusting me with this project, and to Tim and the great folks at Duraplaq for taking on such a big challenge. The service and workmanship at Duraplaq is second to none! Continue reading “Audubon Rockies BIG Window”

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