Camera Shy – a Greater Sage-grouse male displays on the wrong side of my camera. Sublette County, WY
A lighter side outtake from my Sage Spirit project: In 2010, I set up a DSLR camera with a Pocket Wizard remote trigger and wrapped the whole thing in sagebrush and camo on a lek (mating ground) south of Pinedale, Wyoming. The Sage-grouse were very active that morning and this particular male didn’t mind the camera, he was just on the wrong side. The idea here was to make a wide angle view of grouse on a lek, and although it didn’t work out…yet, there will be another try with a different setup next season. Greater Sage-grouse are a candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act, with a listing decision scheduled for September 30, 2015. With all the misinformation and ill-informed media attempts to divide, it would be easy to overlook great collaborative work happening in the West – folks from all sides are coming together to conserve habitat for Greater Sage-grouse and the suite of species who rely on unbroken sagebrush landscapes to thrive. It’s a central part of our story. In partnership with Audubon Rockies, The Wilderness Society, and The Sierra Club,Sage Spirit, The American West At A Crossroads will be published by Braided River in July of this year.
A frosty western meadowlark on a February morning at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO
This year’s backyard bird count has begun and is the inspiration for this meadowlark image pulled from the vault and dusted off. In my first winter of photographing at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, I was surprised to see small flocks of western meadowlarks picking for seeds in a world covered with hoar frost. It was about -10F when I made this image, which doesn’t phase meadowlarks – as long as they can forage. Lately, the number of wintering bald eagles has dropped as they’ve begun their northern migration, their void filled by sweet melodies of meadowlarks. It’s been an unusually warm winter (who knows what spring has in store?) but meadowlarks would be returning to Colorado’s shortgrass prairie anyway – they’re on schedule. Back then I was shooting with a Nikon F5 and absolutely in love with that film camera. You could pound nails with one of those things and I even told Marla that I thought I was all set for gear – who could’ve predicted the digital revolution of the last decade?
Prairie merlin hunting from a brush perch on a chilly winter morning. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO
These small falcons look like tiny missiles while hunting. Preying mostly on small birds, the powerful merlin is fast and muscular; able to turn at very high speed in mid-air. The prairie (Richardson’s) merlin is 10″ tall and weighs about 6 ounces.
Autumn Bull Moose, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Not smiling, just a glimpse of flehmen behavior during the fall rut.
The moose kind of looks like he has something to say, so I’ve posted him to announce that the Sage Spirit book is now on the Braided River Publishing website. The book and campaign are coming in early summer of 2015, well before the Greater Sage-grouse ESA listing decision in September, 2015. I’ve been working closely with the amazing Braided River staff all of this year, pulling the book together. We have several top author contributors, and have established partnerships with leading conservation groups. It’s a team effort to tell this western conservation story with one of the top publishers in the land. We have ambitious plans for the book and campaign and I’m really fortunate to be a Braided River photographer and author. Coming soon…
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.
A little digging led me to this panorama of the high Sangre De Cristo Range. I’m not sure what took me so long, it’s what my friend Todd Caudle calls a “hard drive treasure hunt.” The cool thing for me is the memory of climbing Humboldt, a pretty “easy” 14er, with friends in the dark, then watching a gold sunrise followed by an amazing cloud show. It was of our most memorable days in the mountains, anywhere. The Sangre De Cristos hold a special attraction, blocks of stone that you can see from many viewpoints in the valley far below, but you have to earn each summit. It feels special and rare to stand on one of these majestic peaks. When you click on the image, be sure to click on the larger view option below the photo to see it bigger. With mountains, bigger is better. Continue reading “Sangre Skyline”→
Lately I’ve been writing for Sage Spirit and getting caught up in reflecting back on ephemeral moments, small details along a six year journey. A running theme is dark and quiet – wild places actually become dark and quiet at night and it’s a wonderful way to gauge wildness. There are fewer of these places all the time. While photographing an assignment in the Upper Hoback for Trust For Public Land last summer, I watched the sky turn blue-black and the Milky Way emerge as absolute darkness took late lingering summer light. Planning to get some sleep, this night sky would have none of that, captivating me for a few images, then a few more. There was no moon to interfere with the brilliance of stars or the Milky Way, just a line of pine trees silhouetted across the bottom of the frame. We’ve seen what happens to places like this when drilling comes – this special place escaped the drill and will remain blissfully dark and quiet, wild. Let bears, wolves, and mountain lions own the night.
“Pursue Ewe” A pair of bighorn sheep rams chase a ewe through sagebrush flats in the North Fork of The Shoshone River Valley. Shoshone National Forest, WY.
What appears to be a larger bighorn ram chasing a smaller one is a bit of an illusion – there is a ewe behind the lead ram and they’re both chasing her. The chase during autumn rut lasted for several minutes at high speed in open country. Imagine my surprise when I edited these shots awhile after returning from the trip and saw two butts on the lead ram. However amusing, these creatures are amzingly athletic, even while running full-tilt through sagebrush. The peak of rut (mating season) for bighorn sheep in Greater Yellowstone is in the first two weeks of December.
My Halloween contribution – Trickster God in Native American mythology, goddess Morigghan in Celtic myth, and harbinger of death Mabinogion in Welsch myth, the raven is simply smarter than all the other creatures – and probably many people. If you see one this Halloween, jsut say hello – he may answer with a deep-throated croak.