August 10, 2011

Yellowstone July 30th & 31st

A trio of North American River Otters engage in some playful fighting along the shores of Trout Lake in Yellowstone National Park. Captured with a Canon 7D with 500/4.0L IS in manual mode at ISO800, f/4.5, and 1/400th of a second. The camera was mounted on a Gitzo 3540XLS and Induro GHB2 gimbal head.


All of you who follow along with my trips on Facebook and Twitter know how great of a trip I had in Yellowstone. For those who are not following along, and are the kind of person who would enjoy the play by play during my trips... well it is simple to follow me on one of those social networks, and Google+ too.

With delays on the college's website I had a free weekend to run down to the park. I left dark and early and was driving up the Beartooth Pass as the sun rose. I was treated to a Mule Deer doe with her two fawns as the sun was breaking over the peaks. As I reached the top of the pass (11,000 feet) the Marmots were waking up to the nice warm sun. It was 41 degrees, but things warmed up quickly and as I drove down the pass and into the park it was quickly getting "too hot." I drove through the Lamar Valley, over Dunraven Pass, through Hayden Valley and all the way down to the Nez Perce Picnic Area where things are still very flooded along the Yellowstone River. On the return drive I stopped atop Dunraven Pass to photograph the small fire that was burning to the North.

The temperature had risen to 84 degrees and that is far too hot for me, but regardless I decided that I should hike up to Trout Lake and see if I could have any luck with the Otters (I have had great luck with them in the past). As I got to the lake two of the Otters were resting on a log to the East while a third Otter was enjoying a meal of Cutthroat Trout in the inlet. That part of the afternoon was quickly over, as the three Otters swam back across the lake to their den where they proceeded to rest for the next three hours and thirty minutes. As being raised a bow hunter I tend to be on the patient side of things and I put in the time. I was very happy when the Otters came back out and put on a show. They gave each other a quick peck, swam back across the lake to the inlet where the Cutthroat Trout spawn where it was time to feast.

At this point in the show I was happy with the shots I had captured and noticed that one of the seven folks who were still up at the lake (to see the show) was shooting a Canon Rebel with only an 18-55 lens, so I offered to let him use my 500/4.0L IS. I think, at first, he thought I was just kidding with him, but I offered again and he took me up on the offer. I put his 18-55 on my 7D and snapped a photo of the scene to see what he was able to see, I was reminded how much I love telephoto lenses. After the Otters finished their fish we switched back, and he said; "after two years of working in the park, I think those will be the best photographs I have taken." The shooting was not that good, but I can understand how going from 55mm to 500mm could make all the difference in the world to someone photographing wildlife.

The Otters finished dinner and then it was time to play. The play moved from the water to a log in the inlet, but then it was back to the water again. As the last bit of light was leaving the sky the Otters made a brief stop on a log along the East shore of the lake, but then it was time to head back to the den for the night. I hiked back down to my car and headed to camp for the night.

Sunday morning I was up hours before sunrise, but I don't know why. Bears and Wolves were out, but far too far for me to photograph them, so I headed up to Trout Lake again. I arrived as the sun was breaking the horizon and there was no sign of Otters being out of the den yet. I decided to do a bit of Yoga with some meditation to follow as I waited and enjoyed some solitary time on the shore of the beautiful mountain lake, but a deer decided to distract me. A family of Common Goldeneye also came near to visit before other visitors made the hike up to the lake. Beyond that the morning was a bust, and by the time the temperatures got hot enough to make me uncomfortable folks were starting to join me on the shores of Trout Lake. I head back to my car afternoon to realize that it was 86 degrees, so I drove back up the Beartooth Pass to cool down, but a storm chased me down the other side and back to Billings.

It was a really nice trip for the end of July. I drove 494.3 miles with a trip average of 28.5mpg.

Make the jump to go through the online gallery, I ask that you leave comments/criticism or at least give your favorites a thumbs up... THANKS!

If you have questions, ask... I published the camera information with each image and have added full keywords to share just about anything you would want to know about the images.

Happy shooting

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