Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wolves in Lamar Valley

3 Shot HDR Panorama, Nikon D90, Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 @ 24mm ISO 200 f/13

When preparing for our Grand Teton / Yellowstone National Park trip Derek and I had some preconceived ideas about the wildlife we would be able to photograph. The only time the word wolf was mentioned was, That would be awesome to just see one, but at no point did we actually think we would be able to photograph them.

To our surprise we actually saw a wolf in Grand Tetons near the Antelope Flats area. We made a quick u-turn and tried to photograph it, but by the time we pulled over, it was gone. I think we both believed we were lucky to have the sighting, but thought it would probably be our last. Then Yellowstone happened.

We spent three nights in Yellowstone and saw unbelievable landscape and wildlife. We spent the last day in Lamar Valley. Since we started south in Grand Teton National Park and worked our way north, Lamar Valley was saved for last.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 500mm f/4 AFS + TC 14E II @ 700mm ISO 800 f/5.6 1/1000

We found an elk kill in the morning that was being picked over by coyotes. It was a really cool experience seeing the coyote, but it was nothing compared to what we saw that evening. We spent the day driving the valley. We made our way back to the elk kill for the evening when the light would be better. When we arrived at the kill there were three times as many cars parked in the area. Derek asked someone if it was coyotes they were watching and we couldn't believe their response, WOLVES!

This quickly became our best wildlife encounter ever. First, we got to share the experience with our wives who were with us. Second, wolves have long been one our favorite animals. For several hours we watched a fascinating interaction between a group of four coyotes and two wolves. The wolves spent most of the time lying in the distance napping. The coyotes kept a close eye on the wolves and approached slowly. The coyotes would howl and bark seemly to ask for permission to fed from the carcass. As an added bonus we got to watch a bald eagle circle the area and assess the situation. The habitat was perfect, an open area with a rock creek bed and small creek running through. There were grasslands, sparse trees and mountains in the background. The scene was so surreal I even mentioned to Derek that it seemed like a episode of PBS Nature was happening before our eyes. As the sun got low we got what we waiting for. The black wolf cautiously approached the elk (and the on lookers) and fed!

Nikon D90, Nikkor 500mm f/4 AFS @ 700mm ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/800

As I said, this was the most exciting wildlife experience ever and once it was over, it really sank in. I made a quick photograph of the area where this all took place. As we were packing up the bald eagle land on the top of a pine tree right in front of us. We quickly unpacked and were able to get some more amazing photos of this amazing place. Now we can't wait to go back to Lamar Valley!

Bald Eagle in Yellowstone National Park 
Nikon D90, Nikkor 500mm f/4 AFS @ 500mm ISO 800 f/5.6 1/80

This is the part of the video we put together for the trip. The full length video can be found HERE.

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