JHP Newsletter - 2006, No. 4, 23 June
I've recently returned from about two weeks of wildlife shooting. The trip was scheduled to accommodate two different wildlife models shoots (in Montana and Minnesota), and included stops in Yellowstone National Park and Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Equipment: Epson P-4000
I decided to keep the Epson P-4000, and it was great to have for my recent trip. The P-4000 is a handheld unit for downloading and viewing image data in the field. It was great for the two models shoots because I was able to cycle through four 2 GB CF cards during the morning and afternoon shooting sessions by downloading images to the P-4000 in the field to capture what would have taken nine cards for one of the sessions. Then back at the hotel, I was able to download the image data from the P-4000 to my laptop in one step rather than inserting a new CF card every few minutes. I didn't use the P-4000 as a backup hard drive, and instead used a regular 2.5-in external drive which was faster.
The P-4000 was also nice to have as I was camping in Yellowstone National Park and then Custer State Park because I could download image data at the end of the day w/o having to power-up my laptop. However, I ran into a big snag with this system. I didn't clear all of the images from the P-4000 after the second models shoot, and ran out of storage space while shooting in Custer State Park. Unfortunately, I didn't discover this until I returned home, because the P-4000 appeared to act the same way with no space left. Fortunately, I only lost data from one CF card because I hadn't been reformatting the cards until right before I re-used them.
The first stop on my recent trip was a three-day New Kids on the Block wildlife models shoot offered by Animals of Montana at their facility just outside Bozeman, Montana. They have a wonderful site with abundant wildflowers and interesting rock outcroppings to use as settings. While we shot babies almost exclusively (fisher, porcupines, raccoons, and a Siberian lynx), we also shot some mothers with babies (gray wolf, mink, and red fox). We also shot something completely different, a Barbary lion. These lions, formerly from northern Africa, were "imported" by the Romans for their games, and are now extinct in the wild. Their manes extend behind their shoulders and down their bellies.
Among Arrowleaf Balsam Root
Next stop was three days in Yellowstone National Park. While I traveled around the entire park while I was there, I concentrated on the "newly discovered" Lamar Valley and the area around Tower. I had a great time hanging out with a beaver that makes its home near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek. The first night it was in a small pond, and I watched and shot with several other folks. The next morning, I spotted it along side the rather fast-moving Lamar River, and had a wonderful time shooting it by myself in great light as it made its way upstream to Soda Butte Creek, stopped briefly at its lodge, and then continued up Soda Butte Creek. Just west of Madison, I spotted a badger late in the afternoon — only the second time I've seen one in the wild. It's burrow was really close to the road, and it disappeared into the hole by the time I stopped and parked. I waited for about two hours on two different occasions, but never saw it again. :( The highlight of my stay was watching a mother black bear with two spring cubs near Tower. I knew something was up because of the bear jam on the road. The bears were in some open woods by the side of the road, and then crossed the road. The cubs climbed high into a pine tree and took a nap while the mother continued foraging and got a drink from the stream. After maybe an hour, the cubs came down to the mother who was resting at the base of the nap tree, and then nursed right by the side of the road!! It was fantastic!!
The other anchor of the trip was a four-day wildlife models shoot at Minnesota Wildlife Connection coordinated by Van Os Photo Safaris. I had shot there in the spring and fall of 2004, and wanted to return again in the spring to get better shots than I obtained before. I got much better shots this time than last time because of my additional experience, and also because the digital capture produces more accurate color than the overly saturated color I got when I used E100-VS slide film. We shot baby fisher, grizzly bear, raccoons, river otter, and whitetail deer; young black bears and cougar; mother and baby bobcat, gray wolf, mink, opossum, and red fox; and adult Canadian lynx and cougar. While we shot in some of the same settings as before, we spent one morning in a large field filled with oxeye daisies which was a spectacular setting.
Take Time to Eat the Flowers
On the way home, I stopped at Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota for the first time, and spent three days there. As I entered the park, I saw the following cautionary road sign: "Wildlife at Large." Fortunately, I wasn't attacked by any rogue animals that had escaped from a maximum security detention facility. The park is known for the second largest herd of bison in the US, but they aren't particularly photogenic because they're branded on their right hip. The park also had lots of pronghorn, and I was able to get some of my first good shots of that species. Wild turkeys and whitetail and mule deer were also common. There are a few small prairie dog towns, and I spotted some elk and coyotes too. Probably the most interesting encounter was a group of wild burros right on the road. They are descendants of burros that took tourists to the top of nearby Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota at 7242 ft (2207m), which were released after the operator shut down. The burros have discovered that people like to feed them, so they casually walked along the road sticking their noses in car windows looking for handouts. I didn't feed them, but did pet some on the nose. :) The park is mostly open grassland on rolling hills surrounded by forested steeper hills. It's a wonderful setting, but I found it hard to capture on film [sic]. The lone pine on a "ridge" might give you an idea of the landscape.
Take care, and happy shooting.
James Hager Photography :: www.jameshagerphoto.com