Patience is a very important aspect of wildlife photography that cannot be underestimated. For some reason there is always a rush to keep going, to see what else is down the road, even if there is a good subject right in front of the photographer. Well this scenario happened to me this past weekend when I was in Yellowstone. It was past six o’clock and the light was getting to that beautiful golden color. I helped it along a little bit by switching over to cloudy white balance which raised the kelvin temperature. You can see the results from yesterdays post. All that was around me was Bison. Everyone kept driving by except one other truck who was also shooting. Suddenly the other shooter jumped, I looked over and saw this grey blob running around and I knew it was a wolf.
I was not expecting to see a wolf at this time of the day at this location going after Bison but in this case, one lone gray wolf was going after a Spring born Bison calf. It’s mother was being very protective and without the pack the wolf did not succeed but that didn’t stop it from trying. For over an hour the wolf and his companion entertained us.
The whole time I was shooting with the D4, 600 f/4 and I was shooting a lot in high speed crop. To make the evening better the wolf decided to circle the herd of Bison that were present looking for another way to go after the calf. He couldn’t find one but he did come a lot closer to us which was great! If you ever wonder if wildlife know you are around, the answer is yes. This wolf was listening and watching us quite a lot. The whole time I was sitting in my truck shooting out the window, one more reason I didn’t use a teleconverter, low light and unstable platform but that’s what you have to do in this scenario.
Now this was the interesting part. There was a coyote following and working with the wolf the whole time. They came up the ridge together, went after the calf together and the coyote also circled around the herd. Now the wolf was probably just tolerating the coyote because it was by itself but was very interesting behavior biology to watch.
All of this was because I didn’t keep going down the road. Ironically it was seconds before this happened that I was thinking about moving on. To say that luck played a role is accurate but if you aren’t out and aren’t patient then you are going to miss that opportunity and in this case the images scene here aren’t even the best, so it was a good opportunity.
For years I having been chasing the illusive image of the Grey Wolf. I have tried on countless times to get that awe inspiring image that captures the animals true beauty while telling their story. Apparently I have been looking in the wrong place. This made headlines last Friday but I kept forgetting to write a post about it because it is pretty darn cool how the world around us keeps changing. If you got two minutes today it’s worth the read. Wolves in California.
Yes folks that’s right, you’re seeing Wolves on my site again. It has been far too long since I have photographed these great critters but I was very fortunate a couple weeks ago to get to spend a couple of hours with this one group of 9 individuals, 8 black and one grey wolf. One thing I have learned from my time chasing these guys is that they are a rather rude species. They always show up at the worse time or the worse lighting. They did both. I was literally leaving the morning I was going to the Reno Air Races and was 50mins from my house when I saw them playing on the edge of Yellowstone Park going through the canyon route to West Yellowstone. I couldn’t believe it at first but sure enough I saw one and soon found a whole bunch more.
Just that night the temperature had dropped dramatically and it was below 32 degrees that morning so everything was covered in hoarfrost and that great steam was coming off of the rivers. This wouldn’t have been a problem except for one thing, I had packed for a warm weather trip to Reno and at the time was wearing shorts, sandals and a T-shirt. Needless to say I was cold. As I watched the Wolves do there thing, I’m of course standing behind my truck with the 600f4 on a tripod and a teleconverter on, I periodically kept grabbing cloths out of my suitcase to stay warm. It doesn’t help to be shaking when you’re trying to keep a lens steady with a black subject, no light and at 1/8th of a second. Despite the cold, It was great watching these guys again. It was interesting to watch their group behavior. The alpha male appeared to be a black wolf with a grey face and the alpha female was the lone grey wolf that would always disappear. The rest acted like kids and just played with one another.
Now I had assumed that the pack had brought down something earlier that morning and that’s what kept them in that area. With the amount of ravens around it made sense but the one drawback to the area is that there are a number of sloughs they can hide in and that’s exactly what they did. I spent 2 hours watching and shooting their behavior as they went back forth along the stream bed. Sometime they perked up and looked my way but mostly they just did their thing. Eventually, as the light began to light up their side of the mountain they retreated back into the forest until this one lone wolf wandered off to say hi. He kept creeping towards me and ended up in a great patch of light and hoarfrost. It was a great!
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 600f4, TC-17e, TC-20e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
This post will be a little out of order, since we didn’t see these guys until after we were at the platform for 3 hours. BUT i couldn’t wait any longer! These are Gray Wolves, a species that i half been chasing since i got to Montana and have yet to get a decent shot of them in that state. It was a real treat to see him. This a beautiful male and although he looks a little skinny he actually just doesn’t have his winter coat. This particular wolf has a unique history behind him. He has learned how to steal the salmon caught by fisherman as they are brought in. There are signs all over camp warning fisherman to be careful with their catch. Wolves are good scavengers and with fish scraps flowing down the river during the fish run, it’s understandable why they are there with the bears.
He showed up right before a younger bear, only 8 or 9, caught a fish in the really deep pool below the falls. The bear took his fish to the little island in the middle of the river and ate it with his back to us. Well the wolf walked along the bank on the opposite side of the river, and slowly crossed. We could tell that he knew the layout of the water because he went down to where the water level was low and he could easily get across. As they normally do, the wolf stalked along the back side of the island and moved around to where the bear was eating. He went a little too slowly because the bear finished before he got there. The bear walked away, back to fishing and the wolf slowly came toward us. He came right below us, walked under the platform and off into the forest to our right. That was the first and last time we saw him. Boy was it a great 10 minutes!
Images captures with D3, 600f4, TC-14E, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
One of the most sought after creatures in Yellowstone is the Gray Wolf. Although growing in number they are hard to see and even harder to get close enough to photograph. Normally they can only be seen with binoculars or a scope. I got lucky today in the park when I was out helping my parents with another job; found a pack of five wolves all from different packs that left and joined to form this one. The alpha female is the white one in the middle with the colar, beside her are two black wolves and a grey one, the fifth wolf is up higher on the hill. This definetely isn’t the million dollar shot but it is a start at capturing these marvelous creatures.