Recently, Jayne and I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for an off-season getaway to photograph the Spring wildlife migrations in Grand Teton National Park. While there, we contracted the services of local photographer, Daryl Hunter, to take us around to see the wide variety of wildlife in the park. Daryl is a very knowledgeable and capable photographer who has appeared on the covers of several outdoor magazine covers. He is currently writing a field guide book about the park. Please visit his site here.
While with him in the field, he taught me the basics of what constitutes a good wildlife photo. For me, shooting wildlife is something I do not normally get the chance to do, so I was definitely out of my comfort zone. One tip he gave me was using the power of silhouette to outline the figure of an animal. By shooting toward the sun, the animal takes on a glow or a halo effect. Below is my attempt.
But the highlight of the half-day tour was getting to photograph the grizzles in the wild. Late morning we drove to the Oxbow Bend area of the park. While driving by one of the hills there, I spotted movement on the distant downslope. By pure luck, it turned out to actually be a grizzly! We quickly stopped the car and got our equipment out. At the time, I had my Canon 1D Mark 3 setup with a 1.4 coupler on a 100-400mm IS USM in aperture priority set at f11. Handheld, I was able to photograph the approach. As it turned out, it was a mother and three cubs! Also, Daryl was able to identify this mother by the name “610” which refers to the official tag number of this bear. He and many other local followers have tracked this bear for years, watching her cubs grow.
As several more cars stopped along the road, other photographers began to assemble their equipment and begin shooting as well. What a privilege it was to see these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat! Here are a couple of shots of their approach.
I was so excited and now in a zone, so much so that I did not hear the calls of caution others were shouting as the bear family got even closer. One of the problems with shooting with a long lens is the false sense of security it gives you. The thought is that there would be plenty of time to back away before the bears get too close. Afterall, a long lens compresses the distance, right? Needless to say I caught on and slowly backed away. Here was the last picture I caught before I started to back off.
One week prior to this trip I finally retired from my years of insurance programming service. I thought at that moment that my retirement was going to be a brief one. Luckily, 610 had more important ground to cover. She and her cubs proceeded to cross the road and disappeared into the woods.
This was a true adventure for me and Jayne, and one that might not have had a happy ending for this greenhorn photographer! And, yes, I had to check my pants, later!
You can view the remaining picture of our trip here.