February 13, 2011

Yellowstone, February 11th & 12th

A lone tree battles high winds on a snow covered hillside in Yellowstone National Park. Created with a Canon 7D and a 500/4.0L IS set in aperture priority mode with an exposure bias of +2/3 to f/9, ISO 200, and 1/800th of a second. Shot from a beanbag.


A trip where if things could go wrong they did. I had planned a full 4 day trip to Yellowstone, and heading into Friday morning everything looked great. When I went to leave, in time to arrive at the park before sunrise, I noticed that neither my car's iPod connector not my old iPod charger would charge my new iPhone 4, so I went back to bed to wait for Best Buy to open at 10am, telling myself "it is no big deal, I have 4 full days, a half day lost is not a problem." I found a charger that worked and was off and started to record my journey in the form of a time-lapse with my iPhone. I arrived at the park before 1pm and even had time to stop, hike to, and dig out my favorite winter camping place. Unfortunately my previous stake holes has thawed, filled in, and re-frozen and the ground was too frozen to drive in new stakes at that time; but I had no worries I would enjoy a hotel tonight (I had plenty of work to do and power/high speed internet make it easier) with the plan that with my tent site cleared of snow, sunny and 40° temps forecasted would help me stake down tomorrow. (a note: snow anchors would typically be my solution; but the snow was very dry and not deep enough to trust anchors, also the high winds forecasted would have made me fearful to leave the tent set with only weak snow anchors for the next three days). After all of that it was time to make a full park lap to see what I could see. Not much was going on, I ran into Bill, Peggy, Rene, Helene, and Max checking on the otters; but no luck. I continued on and stopped only to check empty fields of snow for signs of life. On my return I was fortunate to have the sun/clouds work to present an oportunity for the image above. As I left I ran into Bill, Peggy, Rene, Helene, and Max again this time they were trying, without luck, to photograph some Bohemian Waxwings. We, as usual did some chatting and I was surprised that none of them had heard about Canon's forthcoming 200-400/4.0L IS with 1.4 Extender, a new lens of envy for all of us. The sun set with little splendor; though my iPhone and a panorama app were able to make something of it. Off to the Super 8 for some work and a good nights rest.

I awoke early, grabbed a quick shower as it would be my last for a few days, and was on my way to breakfast and an early checkout. I found myself out well before sunrise (and most others), just as planned, because I wanted to shoot a time-lapse of my drive during sunrise. The app I was using for time-lapses has some issues and it delayed the start of my shooting because I could not turn off the flash, the app is also severely limiting on its exporting options of the high resolution video files; but fixes are promised. A fairly common morning ensued; bison in the road, large snow drifts blocking half of the road, a respectable elk resting roadside in the Lamar Canyon, a red fox using the road as the path of least resistance near Buffalo Ranch, coyotes working their way through the snow in pairs, and a relatively dull sunrise. As this was my first morning with two more to follow, and the promise of better lunar phases with them, I did not have much urge to force shots "I am going to let it happen naturally" I told myself. I did shoot a few of the fox (while rolling), and later a few of an injured coyote near Roosevelt Junction; but that was about it, and I was in no hurry. I then stopped for a quick bathroom break and while kicking the snow and ice out of my wheel wells I heard what sounded to be air seeping, no I must be crazy... I got in and drove a bit further when my tire pressure warning came on, I stopped and started to inspect more carefully at this point, that is when I noticed two "somethings" in my driver side rear tire "gosh darn it." I had only lost about a pound of pressure, so I decided I should keep an eye on it; but drive out to Gardiner to really inspect the situation. I got to town and had not lost any more measurable pressure; but the seeping continued, so it was time to weight my options and make a decision. I could put on my spare, not a real snow tire. I could try to plug the tire; but the objects were broken off and presented no real opportunity to remove them to attempt a plug. I could slime the tire and keep at my trip; but LORD only knows how that would go. Lastly I could pump the tire up a bit past full, and drive home slowly with slime and a spare ready to go if the situation worsened. I am not a car guy; but I did know that the objects were in the meat of the tire and did not pose a threat to tearing the tire apart, I also knew that my warrantee on these less than 9 month old tiers would take care of "roadside hazards." I took my time driving to Livingstone, and upon arrival checked everything... no loss of pressure, relative to my other tires, and the objects had not moved. I took my time driving home, and felt a little silly getting passed by every single vehicle on the road, "eyes forward and ignore them" I kept reminding myself. I got back to Billings, as there is no Sam's Club in Bozeman, and upon inspection they decided that the near 20k miles I have put on the tires in the last 8 months required that I replace all 4 tires "crud" I said. Lucky for me the warrantee covered such situations, to some extent, and my $600 tires only cost me $250 to get all 4 replaced with the same "top of the line" tires (for my Subaru), I hope this set lasts me at least a year ;)

It was then Saturday at 4pm, I was home in Billings, my YNP trip was basically over, and I was not really in the mood to drive back down to the park, so I call the trip officially finished.

During the trip I shot time-lapse footage of my drive to the park and of Saturday morning's drive in during sunrise, this is that video with the addition of music from Alexander Blu (via CC):

I only captured 60-70 images in total, and only 10 ended up online, so I hope to make it back to the park this month for a "makeup" trip, if I do, I will camp and be able to give camping each month of 2011 in Yellowstone a college try.

Enjoy, and happy shooting.

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