Welcome to the blog for Steve Hinch Photography.
On this page you'll find photographic information on the places I've photographed recently as well as some technical information on the photographs themselves. I'll also post updates on what I've seen and experienced in Yellowstone and abroad, current wildlife sightings, and anything else of interest. Check back often for updates!
May 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Two days after the road through Hayden Valley opened, in Yellowstone National Park, I came across Canyon Pack wolf 712M sleeping not far from the road. At first, I thought he may have been injured, sleeping so close to the road. When the sun came up and warmed the landscape, 712M woke up also, and looked around. There weren't many photographers there, or anyone really, due to the early morning hour.
Once the sun had warmed him, he rolled around in the snow. He seemed to enjoy the warmth of the sun, as did I, given the cold temperatures that morning.
Then he stood up, gave us a long glance, and trotted off, appearing uninjured and healthy. 712M is an old wolf, roughly 8 to 10 years old. Wolves, like humans, turn gray as they age. The photo below shows 712M before he was collared, during the winter, when he was all black. I was fortunate enough to see him and the Canyon Pack in 2009 from a snowcoach as the pack travelled on the snow covered road. Seen below, he paused with indecision for a split second as he decided which side of the coach to pass.
May 08, 2013 • Leave a Comment
I thought I would write up a quick update on wildlife sightings in Yellowstone as of late, so here goes. Let me start by saying, for me at least, things have been either really amazing or absolutely quiet. Usually, in my previous experiences, there is more consistency in sightings this time of year. So far this year, through late April and early May, sightings have been hit or miss, usually miss. Typically, one can count on seeing bears around Roaring Mountain, along the East Entrance Road, or, less reliably, in Hayden Valley. So far I've seen four individual bears total, and only one close enough to photograph. This is quite different from my usual experience this time of year. Ok, so enough about the bad luck, on to what I've seen and where. I did see the grizzly sow and cub from my "Peekaboo Cub" image earlier this week, at Steamboat Point. The cub is grown up now and, within the month, will most likely be weaned and on its own. I also saw a large boar grizzly at Mud Volcano on two different days, both times within range of my longest lens, seen above. The only other bear I've seen was in Lamar Valley, at least one mile from the road. From what I've heard from other photographers and park visitors, sightings for them haven't been exceptionally good either and, as of today, there's not been one area where bears are reliably being seen, as they have been in the past. Perhaps as things "green up" over the next couple of weeks, that will change.
I'll talk about bison in a moment but first I'll talk about other critters that I've seen. If you follow my blog or facebook site, then you'll know I had a great time photographing a great grey owl a week or so ago along the road to Tower Junction. I heard of another great grey that was seen in another section of the park, but it too must have moved on. Sandhill cranes are pretty common right now as some migrate through and others stay to nest. I did see a marten on the road near Willow Park, but it played hide and seek with me and I wasn't able to photograph it. I've also seen several snowshoe hares, most near Roaring Mountain. I was also fortunate enough to see two moose in Lamar Valley but again, they were on the move and I wasn't able to photograph them. Probably the best small mammal photography session I've had, besides the marmots in Sedge Bay, was with three otters in Hayden Valley, that put on a nice show for 20 minutes or so on Sunday. I'll post some of those photos later.
It's too early in the season for elk calves, which start to appear at the end of May, and deer fawns, which don't start showing up until late June, but baby bison are becoming more and more abundant. But still, the most reliable place to see them currently is on the northern range, from Mammoth Hot Springs to Lamar Valley. I've seen just a couple along the Madison, none on Fountain Flats, and bison haven't moved back into Hayden Valley yet. My most exciting sighting on the season to date happened early Sunday morning when the alpha male of the Canyon Pack, 712M, was seen napping just off the road in Hayden Valley. a great subject with some great early morning light, yielded some nice photos, which I'll post Sunday as a photo of the week. Unfortunately, another Canyon Pack member was shot the next day near Gardiner MT. I'll post more later...
April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Earlier this week, Yellowstone National Park lost another member of it's iconic wildlife. #10 was a bull elk who became famous for attacking cars at Mammoth Hot Springs during the September elk ruts a few years ago. Bull elk become strung out on testosterone during the breeding season and they can take out their aggression on anything or anyone. So #10 chose the many cars, both moving and parked, at Mammoth. Because of this behavior, the park service eventually tranquilized him, removed his antlers, and gave him a yellow ear tag with the number 10 printed on it. Since then, he has famously been known as "#10".
The park service estimates he was some where between 16 and 18 years old at the time of his death last week. For bull elk, this is an eternity. Cow elk can live up to 20 years but bull elk usually only live half that long, since they spend the last few months of the summer in a frenzy of mating, fighting, and using a lot of energy, at a time when conserving energy and putting on fat is critical to surviving the winter. #10 "retired" from the Mammoth rut scene several years ago. Instead, I usually found him in September in the hills south of Mammoth where he would feed and rest. He would then migrate to the Blacktail Creek area where he and several bulls would spend the winter. Most of my photos of #10, including the three here, are during winter in the Blacktail Creek area.
I've been reluctant to post a tribute to this amazing animal since the facts surrounding his death are still unclear. Several local news agencies have reported that he was taken by wolves but I've also heard from other sources inside the park service that he was hit by a truck and later fed on by wolves. Either scenario is is plausible and neither would have been a pleasant way to go, if there is such a thing for an elk. Many park animals are killed by vehicles unfortunately. In any case, #10 provided many park visitors wonderful, if not exciting experiences and I am sure he will not be forgotten any time soon. Seeing this majestic elk will always be one of favorite memories from my time in Yellowstone.
April 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment
On Saturday, my wife and I arrived home from visiting her family in Europe but already on Sunday morning, Yellowstone was calling me and the allure of spring in the park was too great, so I headed out early to see what I might find. The early morning drive to the park yielded some nice wildlife sightings, including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, elk, deer, and bison. Once in the park, I hoped to find my first bear for the year, so decided to head south to Norris and then Old Faithful. I also hoped to see some baby bison and saw my first one near the hot springs at Mammoth. I turned my car around to try to find a good angle to photograph the baby bison and was surprised to see a fox on the opposite side of the road walking towards me. I quickly pulled over and photographed the small canine as it moved around the bison and then up along the boardwalk that traverses the hot spring terraces. The rest of the trip down to Old Faithful was uneventful for photography though I did see more cranes, another eagle, an osprey, and a coyote. I had hoped at least for some baby bison around Fountain Flats, but there were none, so I decided to head back north. That was when I had my second fox encounter of the day! This one, photographed above, was seen just north of Roaring Mountain. It also posed for a few photos before the noise of a large truck driving by scared it into the woods. After being shut out all winter on fox sightings, I was pretty excited to not only see but photograph two fox on my first day back. A friend drove up and noticed a snowshoe hare (photograph below). We ended up seeing two of them but the photo below was the only image taken.
Still no bears along Obsidian Creek, so I found myself back in Mammoth Hot Springs and decided to head east. Again, not too much happening, except a lot of bison and several calves. Since I wanted to snap a few images of the little orange babies, I found some near a pullout and parked my car, rolled down the window, and looked for anything that might interest my lens. Conditions in the park varied greatly. The northern range is mostly devoid of snow but hasn't started turning green yet, except in a few areas. The interior had more snow that I expected, as seen below in this image of a snowshoe hare. Some areas in the interior had a foot or more snow alongside the road where other areas were bare. Roads were dry and in good condition, except for the usual potholes. But, thanks to the state of Wyoming and the local communities of Cody and Jackson, roads were plowed and in good shape. While day one (day one for me, but the road has been opened for three now) didn't result in any bear sightings for me, two fox photographed, along with several baby bison and a couple of snowshoe hares, and then all the wildlife seen and not photographed, I consider it a great start to the summer season 2013!
April 09, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Successfully photographing wild animals can be a tricky task. It requires the proper equipment, good light, and a cooperative subject. Having all of these things at the same time isn't easy. In this entry, I'll go over equipment options, as that is usually the first question I am asked in regards to wildlife photography. As with many wildlife photographers, I am an advocate of using the longest telephoto lens in any given situation. This typically means a telephoto lens in the 500mm to 600mm range. This can vary with the subject, however. Some large mammals, in a national park setting, can be photographed with lenses in the 200mm to 400mm range. I've photographed mountain goats in Glacier National Park at 300mm and elk and bison in Yellowstone National Park at 300mm. But for other wildlife such as bears, wolves, coyotes, etc, I use a 500mm lens, often with a 1.4 converter with an end result of 700mm. So why use long lenses? First, these are wild animals and potentially unpredictable, even for so called "experts". So for my own safety, it's best to keep a respectable distance from any wild animal. For this reason I also shoot from my vehicle, either supporting my lens on the window frame, or through the sunroof opening. In a national park, wildlife are often used to seeing cars and won't be disturbed by a parked car whereas a human moving near that car could be viewed as a disturbance or a threat. I can't recall how many times I've watched wildlife closely from my car only to have a second vehicle stop and the occupants pile out, scaring off the animal. There are some photographers who take wildlife images with wide angle lenses. I do not support this behavior in most instances. This is done to give a "different perspective" which is the unspoken holy grail of photography at times. Everyone wants to create something unique. But shooting with a wide angle lens often requires one of two things; the photographer has to approach the animal extremely close, putting him or herself at risk as well as disturbing or habituating the animal, or some sort of bait is placed to draw the animal into a certain place near to where the photographer is set up. Wide opportunities may present themselves from a vehicle, when the animal is not disturbed and the photographer is out of harms way. So in short, long telephoto lenses are best for wildlife photography as they keep a safe distance between photographer and subject and also keep us far enough back so as not to disturb the subject from it's natural behavior.
Having a telephoto lens doesn't mean taking out a second mortgage to purchase a top of line pro Canon or Nikon 500 or 600mm lens. Most people are surprised to learn that my back up lens is a Sigma 50-500 (though it's quite worn now and probably needs to be retired!). I've found this lens to be acceptably sharp through most of its range at f8, the range is very useful for framing, and it's perfect for hand holding, given the right light. It is soft at 500mm, but up to about 450mm it's been quite useful. There are many lenses that reach to 300 or 400mm, though I typically recommend at least 400mm to someone one budget but wants to take wildlife photos. And while I mentioned hand holding in a pinch, supporting a long lens on a tripod is essential. If you do use a 500 or 600mm lens, as I do, then I've found a Wimberly style head, to attach the lens to the tripod, to be a must. I've tried other options but nothing holds a heavy lens/camera set up better, with the flexibility provided by the Wimberly style head. For smaller lenses, such as Canon 100-400 or a Sigma 50-500, a good ball head will do, as long as it is rated to handle the weight of the lens/camera combination. Speaking of weight, while I don't recommend any tripod in particular, make sure it is also rated to handle the weight of the lens/camera and also the tripod head. And just because you're shooting with long lenses doesn't mean you can't create images with different perspectives. Both images shown here have been published, both were taken with telephoto lenses, yet they both provide uniquely different perspectives on the wild subjects shown.
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Recent Posts712M Now and Then So Far This May... Remembering #10 Yellowstone Opening Day Plus Two Photographing Wildlife Peekaboo Cub headed to the Smithsonian! "Must See Yellowstone"- Spring is on the Way Yellowstone Winter Wrap Up Happy birthday, Yellowstone! Plight of the Bison (graphic image included)