NATIONAL PARKS: Zion National Park Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

The first rays of sunrise strike enormous West Temple in Zion Canyon

West Temple Reflection

In the southwest corner of Utah lies one of our most scenic, accessible and popular national parks, Zion. In my view, Zion is a superlative gem of scenery and fun.

The red rock landforms towering over the canyon of the Virgin River will fill your images with great drama and brilliant color. This deeply eroded high desert plateau is studded with cliffs and buttes, many bearing the Biblical names bestowed upon them by nineteenth-century Mormon settlers.

Zion National Park has three entrances, all leading to different topography and unique compositions. Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: Buddy, Carson & Me, a Journey of Discovery by Jim Clark

© Carson Clark

Beaver adult and yearling at Dry Fork River, June 2010. © Carson Clark

In 2007 my wife suggested that our son and I do a book together. I had already published a few, and although Carson was only eight years old, he had already won national and international awards for his nature photography. What better co-author, photographer and partner could I have asked for? It was a perfect combination.

So, during the winter of 2008, Carson and I decided to do a children’s book about a family of beavers at a local nature preserve. To give Carson the full experience of a nature writer and photographer, I had him do a bit of homework. The more he understood nature, the better he would become at photographing it. Read the rest of this entry »

Photography Close to Home: Backyard Birds Story and photographs by Bob and Jorja Feldman

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House Finches © Bob Feldman

Backyard bird photography can be undertaken on the spur of the moment, no travel time or travel expenses required, no clothing and gear need to be packed and, if Mother Nature rains on your parade, you can easily resume when the rain stops.

Backyard photography is a way to keep photography skills fresh and up to date. The backyard can serve as a test bed for a new lens, camera body, flash or other equipment. Not only new equipment, but the old can also be checked out in advance of a major photo tour. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Let’s Be Careful Out There Story and photographs by F. M. Kearney

A shutterbug is washed out to sea by a sudden wave, while precariously perched on a precipice during a storm. Another is mauled by a grizzly after snapping a closeup of its cub. We’ve all heard stories like these of photographers putting themselves in harm’s way just to get a shot. I, however, choose not to go out like that—opting instead to place my equipment in the line of fire. Of course, I don’t want to lose that either, but it is better than the alternative. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: The Seaside Sparrow, Story and photography by Jim Clark

Seaside Sparrow 05312015 Fishing Bay WMA MD (c) Jim Clark_7

Male seaside sparrow—Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, Maryland. © Jim Clark

One facet of nature photography that has always fascinated me is the natural history of what I’m photographing. Maybe it comes from my love for nature or maybe just because I’m a curious guy. I’d like to think it is in my DNA. Regardless of its origin or catalyst, the natural world has always been a critical component of my fabric of life.

So on occasion I will offer tidbits of natural history of select creatures I have photographed. Some may be high-profile, charismatic megafauna, but more often than not, I will offer insights on lesser known but equally fascinating creatures and landscapes. To start off, here’s a little natural history about one of my favorite marsh critters: the seaside sparrow. Read the rest of this entry »

Photography Helps Puma Conservation by Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

Images and Article by Jeff Parker

A large male puma makes his way down the hill to the kill we’ve spent the last hour watching. For the next 45 minutes, we have the privilege of observing the interactions between this adult male, a female, and two 1-year-old siblings as the pumas work at consuming a guanaco killed the day before.

The biologist with us at the photo shoot—a big cat specialist—had never seen such behavior before. Most research has been conducted on pumas in North America, where adult males such as this one—likely the mate of the female and the father of the two cubs—don’t hang out with, and especially don’t dine with, others. This behavior in South America may be because the ecological fitness of the habitat minimizes the sort of competitive forces we see in more northern areas.

Of course, there is a lot of wild puma behavior that has not been observed. Many people live their whole lives in cougar country without ever seeing one at all. And, when they are spotted, it’s typically a fleeting glimpse. Researchers generally depend on tracking collared animals or camera traps. The secretive nature of these cats is legendary.

At any other time and on any other trip this would have been the pinnacle experience. However, on this trip, it’s just the latest of many such experiences. Over the past few days we have observed and photographed four other pumas including a pair of 6-7 month old kittens. We viewed a variety of behavior including kittens playing and an adult stalking. These are wild, free-ranging pumas going about their daily lives – not photographed in captivity. A year ago I would not have believed this was possible. At this location it’s not only possible, but virtually guaranteed.

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

So, how were we able to witness so much activity? A new conservation program in southern Chile, which focuses on compensating land owners for access to their property made this achievable.

Most of our puma prowling took place on a 17,000-acre private ranch adjacent to Torres del Paine National Park. Due to a recent rule change, the park no longer allows off-trail hiking in pursuit of pumas. Thankfully, our local contact already had an agreement in place, which allowed us access to the ranch where we can roam as we wish. This is not only good for us – it is also good for the pumas. By collecting a fee for access, the landowner has an incentive to allow pumas to remain on his property without persecution.

One main reason for puma persecution is that the land is used primarily for sheep ranching. While pumas mainly prey on guanacos, they will also eat sheep. Unfortunately, they often don’t stop at a single ewe; biologists aren’t quite sure why, but the cats often kill many more sheep than they intend to eat.

But wildlife viewing and photography tours, like my Pumas & Peaks in Patagonia Photo Tour, include ranch access fees, which go directly to the landowner and provide tangible proof of the value of pumas. Some ranches bordering the national park have even agreed to remove all sheep from the land for a trial period in order to give photo tourism a try.

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

Puma concolor is the scientific name of the most widespread native mammal in the Americas. The cats likely also wear the highest number of common names, including: Mountain lion, cougar, panther, catamount, painter, puma, leon. But, whatever you call them, pumas are targeted for destruction virtually throughout their range.

California, where pumas are completely protected, and my home state of Texas, where the felines can be killed at any time, exhibit the extremes. Other states tend to the middle with several offering a mountain lion hunting season. Elsewhere in the Americas, such as Brazil or Chile, it may be illegal to kill a puma, but enforcement is minimal. Consequently, the cats remain elusive, and they are often killed if humans spot them. And, even in those places where cougars are protected, the habitat and terrain provide such fleeting glances of the animals that photographic opportunities are virtually nil.

Now, thanks to landowner cooperation, lack of eradication, and the open terrain of the Torres del Paine region, the pumas have grown accustomed to observation (as long as it remains a respectful distance away). The result? While the hike to the den overlook site can prove challenging (typically a hilly 1-2 miles each way, bearing photo equipment and braving Patagonian winds), once in place the photography—and the “awe” factor—comes easy.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be deleting images of mountain lions because they are just not quite sharp enough – I would have been thrilled just to see one at all.

 

To see more of Jeff’s images and to learn more about his photo workshops, including workshops in Patagonia, please visit http://jeffparkerimages.com or Like his Facebook page.

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

 

NATIONAL PARKS: Petrified Forest National Park Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Rainbow near sunset over the Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Painted Desert. © Jerry Ginsberg

After searching for new and fresh images on federal lands for more than two decades, I can say that there seems to be two types of national parks: those that are heavily visited and those that are too often overlooked in favor of the big names, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone.

One of the less well-known precious gems is Petrified Forest National Park on the eastern edge of Arizona. Weighing in at about 300 square miles, one can easily drive the single road in this compact national treasure from end-to-end in less than half a day. Ah, but then you would be missing all the fun! Read the rest of this entry »

VOLUNTEER: John Nuhn

Nuhn forVolunteer8-15

© Jill Stanley Leach

John Nuhn is the former photography director of National Wildlife magazine, the flagship award-winning publication of the National Wildlife Federation. He also served as photo editor of NW’s sister publication, International Wildlife, until its demise in 2002. The two magazines earned 35 photography awards during John’s tenure. John left NWF in 2013 to pursue personal projects. Early in his career, he was assistant editor, associate editor and later managing editor of a small Wisconsin book publishing company. A self-taught photographer and former U.S. Navy officer, John holds a degree in journalism from Marquette University. He is a founder of NANPA and served as its president. He also served as president of the NANPA Foundation and continues on that board as a trustee. John is a charter affiliate member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and a past national board member and chapter president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He has been a speaker, panelist and judge at numerous forums, including many NANPA Summits and the NANPA Showcase competition, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s conference on nature photography, Maine Photo Workshops, Valley Land Fund competitions, Photography at the Summit, Guilfoyle Report Photo Awards, International Wildlife Film Festival, Images for Conservation Fund’s Pro-Tour competition, FotoWeekDC, the Lucie Awards, Photo District News competitions and Outdoor Writers Association conferences. Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: Teaching Teens under Holiday Lights, Story and photographs by Lynda Richardson

richardson_lynda_holidaylights_4559

Students pose for me before we start shooting in the garden.

Teaching teenagers is both challenging and incredibly fulfilling.  Challenging because you are competing against their unformed brains, their increased awareness, and the distraction of the opposite sex as well as today’s “must have” electronic devices. If teens aren’t fully engaged in what you are teaching, you can forget about it. I had worked with only adults for the past 30-plus years, so when I started working with teenagers four years ago, I had a lot to learn about teaching. (More on the fulfilling part later.) Read the rest of this entry »

A SURPRISE PARTNERSHIP: COYOTE AND BADGER by Kathy Lichtendahl

Badger and Coyote in sagebrush

February 2013

I live in Wyoming. Anyone who has visited the state knows it has a lot of open space. What many people don’t realize is that the area in which I live – the northwest part of Wyoming – is almost always drier and more temperate than that to the south. So when I finished several days of meetings in Casper a couple years ago, I was anxious to make the 5-hour drive home to my own bed despite the dire warnings of an incoming snow storm. I knew that if I could make it the hundred miles across the sagebrush plains and then north through Wind River Canyon, I would probably leave the worst of the winter weather behind me. Before leaving the city, I consciously packed my camera gear in the back of the car, not wanting the temptation to stop along the way.

I was about 40 miles west of Casper when the blowing snow began to arrive in force, timed to the arrival of dusk. I hadn’t seen another vehicle since leaving the city limit, but I slowed anyway, knowing that going off the road in such conditions would carry serious consequences. Just as I settled into my reduced speed, I saw a large animal cross the highway in front of me at the limit of my vision. It looked like a coyote and I was feeling relieved it had made it to the side of the road when it did something unexpected – it sat down on the shoulder and looked back the way it had come. I immediately slowed further, suspecting it was traveling with another coyote. Instead what I saw, crossing behind the patient canine, was a large brown animal with very short legs and a large, fluffy tail. I couldn’t see the creature’s face but it clearly was not a coyote and my first thought was “raccoon!” I didn’t dare pull off the highway at that point and so as I passed the pair I watched as the smaller animal pulled up next to the coyote who put his head down, appearing to touch noses with his companion, before they both headed off into the sage in the midst of blowing snow.

I was totally awestruck. The 30 second experience stayed with me for the rest of the drive home and for many days after. It felt as though I had experienced something truly magical and I was having a hard time processing it. But when I told my worried husband what I had seen, his uncharacteristic skepticism was a pretty good forewarning of the reaction I would get from others and so it didn’t take long until I decided to keep the story to myself.

Coyote in sagebrush

Early May 2015

I was leading a sold out, one-day photo workshop in Yellowstone. One of the participants was an amateur photographer/biologist from Casper. As we sat down for a picnic lunch I couldn’t resist asking if he had ever seen coyotes and raccoons hanging out together on the plains. To my surprise, instead of immediately breaking into laughter, he appeared to consider the question and then asked if my “raccoon” could possibly have been a badger. He explained that there is significant data that shows coyotes and badgers hunt together quite regularly. Thinking back on that night I realized the second animal could very well have been a badger. The only reason my mind went immediately to raccoon was because I have seen so many more of them in my life. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my husband of my newfound knowledge – a thought that immediately left my head as the workshop continued throughout the day.

Badger

Late May 2015

My husband and I decided to take a four-day mini photo vacation into Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks before the inevitable onslaught of summer tourists. After three days of hiking an average of ten miles a day with heavy backpacks loaded down with photo gear, we decided to do a slightly shorter hike across Blacktail Plateau on our way home and to lighten the load by taking a minimum amount of equipment. I limited myself to my Canon 5D III equipped with a 100mm – 400mm lens, leaving the 600mm and my heavy tripod in the vehicle. After turning at the halfway point and heading back to the car I suddenly remembered what the biologist had said and was recounting the information to my husband when he looked up and spotted a coyote on the ridge across from our position. As I focused on the animal I realized he was not alone in my field of view. Incredibly, the dog was traveling with a badger companion! For the next fifteen minutes we watched in total amazement as the two worked the hillside, never straying far from each other. Both animals seemed aware of our presence but comfortable with the distance between us. I was wishing desperately that I had taken the longer lens but feeling, once again, blessed to be witnessing this marvel of inter-species cooperation!

Badger and Coyote among sagebrush

I have since done a little more research on this subject. When I tell people of the experience they almost always comment on how the coyote must be taking advantage of the slower badger but neither the research nor my admittedly limited observation seem to support that theory. In both cases that I observed, the coyote would patiently wait for the badger who very clearly was striving to catch up to his companion. I think if it was a one-sided deal, the badger would try to elude the coyote rather than make an effort to join him. Whether the animals stay together for any amount of time or whether it is simply a short interaction in an effort to hunt their common prey more efficiently, I don’t know. I do know that I have now had one more opportunity to witness a little magic in the natural world and I am so thankful that this time I was able to capture it with the camera!

Badger

 


 

Kathy Lichtendahl is the owner of Light in the Valley, LLC, based in Clark, Wyoming. Her work can be found at Open Range Images Gallery in Cody and on the web at www.kathylichtendahl.com. In addition to selling prints, Kathy leads photography workshops in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

© 2013 - North American Nature Photography Association
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