Without a doubt, one of the crowning jewels of both the national park system and the entire world is Yosemite. Over the eons, millions (billions?) of tons of metamorphic granite have been shaped and sculpted, largely by glaciers, into countless harmonious and visually riveting forms.
After decades of being photographed by the renowned Ansel Adams and the many who came after him, creating original images here is a real challenge — but it is not impossible. There is an absolutely endless variety of compositions in Yosemite even though so many natural features are pretty much a monochromatic gray. John Muir called the Sierra Nevada — home to Yosemite — “the range of light.”
Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.” — John Muir from The Yosemite (1912)
To enjoy a productive photo trip to Yosemite, we should first get organized by breaking the park into four distinct regions. These include Yosemite Valley, the High Country, the Glacier Point Road and the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoia trees. There are many other subjects in-between, but these are the primary areas of this thousand square mile wonder. Continue reading →
Life in the African bush is hard for prey animals and apex predators (those at the top of the food chain) alike. Ungulates (hooved animals) such as zebras, gazelles and wildebeest are constantly wary and keeping watch to ensure they don’t fall victim as food for one of the countless predators that share their territory. Predators fight among themselves over that same territory. Lions will fight to take control of existing prides. They will also fight to drive off other predators, like cheetahs, sharing the same space. Very often these battles have grim results for the victims.
During my recent trip to Ndutu in northern Tanzania (eastern Africa) we saw many cheetah families living in the Makao plains. Among them were two bachelor brothers that we had hoped to encounter during our journeys. With a top speed approaching 70 miles per hour, cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world. They can maintain this speed for approximately 500 yards. As a singular animal a cheetah is capable of chasing down and capturing smaller prey, a favorite being a Thomson’s gazelle. Adult male cheetahs often form coalitions with siblings. When teamed up they are capable of bringing down much larger prey, like wildebeest. We wanted to see this two-male coalition in action.
On January 31, during our morning game drive we happened upon a lone cheetah that had climbed onto a fallen tree. It started calling and before we identified the gender we suspected a female calling for her young. As we looked more closely we realized it was a male and that it was injured. His mouth was wounded and his elbows rubbed raw. This was one of the brothers, only his sibling was nowhere in sight. Our best guess was that the two cheetahs had been victims of a lion attack during the night. Either the second male had been killed or severely injured, or he escaped and ran in another direction.
Injured cheetah searching for his brother.
A closer look at his mouth injury.
The wounded cheetah wandered from tree to tree, sniffing for signs of his brother and then sending a stream of his own urine toward the tree. Like all cats, cheetahs have a keen sense of smell and can identify an individual by its unique scent. During this time he called continuously with a forlorn cry, presumably with the hope of vocally contacting his sibling. Occasionally he would leap onto a fallen tree to search and call from a higher vantage point. Allowing enough distance to avoid interference we followed the lone male for over an hour. During that time his pace was constant, his conviction never faltered. Continue reading →
Do you want to knock your birding and photography socks off without busting your bank account? And—in the process—get to witness a prime example of sustainable water management for wildlife habitat enhancement and climate-change control?
If so, just grab your binoculars and camera gear and head to the Brevard County Wastewater Treatment Plant located in the east-central Florida town of Viera, Florida—just 2.5 miles west of I-95. There you’ll find 200 acres of constructed wetlands that are supported and nourished by advanced treatment outflow from the treatment plant. You’ll also find some of the best and easiest wild birdwatching and photography you’ve ever experienced. It’s called the Viera Wetlands.
Typical view of habitat provided by Viera’s sewage-treatment wetlands.
Establishment of the Viera Wetlands has been a phenomenal success. These created aquatic habitats now provide living spaces for more than 160 species of birds, but—perhaps best of all—the birding and photography access is as easy as pie. A network of 2.4 miles of one-way, 10 mph gravel roads—perched atop the earthen berms—allows superb opportunities for virtually every square foot of the sanctuary. Continue reading →
2017 High School Program Participant Hannah Mirando photographs a damselfly during this week’s program. Photo by Andrew Snyder.
You made it happen! The 2017 NANPA High School Scholarship Program concludes today in the Smoky Mountains thanks to your gift to the NANPA Foundation supporting the program. Ten high school students had an intensive week learning about nature, nature photography and the natural history of the Smoky Mountains at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Tremont, Tennessee. The students’ best work from the week will be shown at a reception today. Instructors Kika Tuff, Morgan Heim, Andrew Snyder and Don Carter led discussions and presentations on topics for the student participants on topics including:
As I start my term as NANPA president, I would like to thank Clay Bolt for his leadership and guidance over this past year. NANPA has become a better organization with Clay at the helm, and I hope to continue the work that he and all past presidents have accomplished.
I had the pleasure of being one of the leaders during the Yellowstone Regional Event this past May. A wonderful group of members attended, and Yellowstone provided many opportunities for us to make great photographs, especially those of both grizzlies and black bears.
Since that event, one thought keeps circulating in my mind about bear “jams” that occur whenever bears are seen (or, for that matter, when any wildlife is spotted). Our NANPA group got caught up in one of those jams. Continue reading →
A featureless white sky is the bane of nature photography. It can take a carefully crafted photograph and reduce it to what looks like a hastily grabbed snapshot destined for the trash heap. Of course, the lighting provided by white skies is highly sought after for capturing rich-toned, evenly lit images. But, aside from a few artistic purposes, white skies themselves are something most photographers try to avoid.
Unfortunately, this is a lot easier said than done. The best way to avoid white skies is to simply exclude them from your shot. If that’s not possible, a graduated neutral density filter might help. But, what if you don’t have a “clean” horizon? Any trees or buildings that jut up into the sky are going to be unnaturally darkened by the filter, thus ruining the effect.
You could try burning the sky in, but that may not work if it’s completely overcast and devoid of any cloud detail. Any attempts to burn in details that don’t actually exist will only result in a series of ugly, dark gray “burn marks.” Continue reading →
For nature photographers, how exhilarating it is to capture that defining moment as a great blue heron strikes the water? Even better is photographing a full sequence of a great egret stalking its prey and then plunging its bill and neck into the water to seize the prize.
Wading birds come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, and each species use specific hunting strategies to gather a bite to eat; ornithologists have even described 35 types of feeding behaviors wading birds use (see a list in a sidebar to this article).
Understanding how each species of wading bird feeds helps the nature photographer to photograph those amazing moments. Combine this knowledge with time in the field, and the photographer will become more and more successful at recording that special “striking” moment.