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!

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Flowers in the Landscape

July 21, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

 

A few days ago I posted an article about wildflowers, featuring some recent images of wildflower blossoms photographed with a macro lens.  Close up images of flower blossoms can make beautiful abstract images, showing details that are often overlooked by the human eye.  In that article, I mentioned a second way to photograph wildflowers, a very common and popular way to photograph flowers, and that's to include them as part of the grand landscape.  The image above, of Taylor Mountain in Montana's Centennial Valley, was taken at sunrise with a field of lupine and other wildflowers blooming in the foreground.  A wide angle lens was used in order to capture this scene.

Back in Yellowstone, I visited a favorite scene of mine, a hot spring known as the Chocolate Pot and the Gibbon River.  I prefer this scene when there is a light mist as it helps to soften the light as well as some of the clutter in the background.  On a recent visit, a plethora of wildflowers were in bloom along the riverbank and I used some of these to frame the scene.  Again, a wide angle lens was used to photograph the image and a long shutterspeed was used to create the motion blur of the water.  Fortunately, with no breeze, the flowers didn't move during the exposure.

These final two images were taken on Gneiss Creek Trail, accessed from US 191 just north of West Yellowstone, Montana.  This trail, when conditions are right, has an amazing abundance of wildflowers.  The image above, taken just a short distance into the hike, features lupine and wild geranium blooming among an aspen stand.  The image below, taken further into the trail, was taken at sunset, shows a huge, beautiful field of wildflowers.  Both of these images were taken with a wide angle lens with the camera mounted on a tripod.  Again, fortunately there was little wind, otherwise the flowers might have been blurry since a long shutterspeed was required.  My hike along the Gneiss Creek trail will be featured in one of next blog articles coming soon, showing some more of the backcountry scenery in Yellowstone National Park.


Flowers of Summer

July 16, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

When it comes to wildflowers in the Rockies, no other month compares to July.  With the warm temperatures driving wildlife into night time feeding patterns, I've focused a lot on hiking and photographing wildflowers over the past several weeks.  One of my favorite wildflowers are calypso orchids, also known as fairy slippers.  When I found a large area of them blooming several weeks ago, I was thrilled and spent some time lying in the dirt with my macro lens.

Not all wildflowers are only photogenic while in bloom though.  Prairie Smoke is perhaps more attractive after it blooms and the ends become cotton like and wispy!  It also photographs well back lit, but these three plants caught my attention in some soft light.

The first photo of the orchids was photographed during a light rain, the second image, under soft clouds, but this image was taken as close to sunrise as the mountains would allow.  I was actually photographing the field of flowers with mountains in the background, but the light on this beautiful yellow sunflower with the lupine in the background caught my attention in a big way, so I spent some time photographing it as well.

Finally, while on a hike in Gallatin National Forest, I came across many blue flax blooms.  It was midday and the light was harsh, so in order to create the light I needed to photograph this bloom, I placed myself between the sun and the flower.  My shadow created a soft light in which to create this portrait of a flower.  Eventually, I'll post some photos showing the flowers in a grander setting, rather than just macro shots, but for now, I wanted to share some close ups of the beautiful little flowers painting the summer landscape.  With August right around the corner, brown, gold, and tan will become the color of the Rockies, so I'm trying to enjoy the color while I can!


This week in Yellowstone

June 27, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This week in Yellowstone has been one of truly mixed weather.  As I sit here and write this, the rain is coming down harder than I can remember, since moving to Montana!  The week started with snow and rain on Saturday, a clear day Sunday, and the last two days have been downpours that aren't common for Montana in June.  Even though June can be a wet month, some of these rain storms are insane!  Last Sunday, I had a few hours in the morning, so I headed into the park and made it as far as Norris Junction.  A herd of cow bison, many with calves, were in the fog at Gibbon Meadow, so I decided to park in a pullout and photograph these amazing creatures.  The calf above, last week's Photo of the Week on my website, moved through the grass as well as a large number of shooting stars (wildflower), pausing to take a look around.

I spent some time on Monday and Tuesday, the two sunny days we had, locating and photographing some baby pronghorn in the northern section of Yellowstone.  Three young pronghorn, along with 6 does, moved up onto a small ridge, with snow covered peaks behind them.  I hoped they would stop and look back, but only this youngster cooperated, looking at it's mother as she came up the ridge.  These animals were close enough to the road that I stayed in my car and photographed out the window, so as to not disturb or stress them.

The rain started back up yesterday, Thursday, so I headed into the mountains and forest to photograph some streams and waterfalls.  Water levels are still very high, much higher than I expected at this popular waterfall.  The trail here is very easy, with picnic tables along the one mile trek to the falls.  In fact, there is a picnic table about twenty feet behind me when I took this photo!  The color in the water is due to the runoff coming from the melting snow and rains up high.  The lush greens betray the setting in the Montana mountains and look more like something from the Pacific Northwest!  I went back out this morning and explored some more areas of Gallatin National Forest, just outside Yellowstone, but failed to come up with anything interesting.


Then and Now: A Few of Yellowstone's Bears

June 09, 2014  •  5 Comments

One of the great things about spending a lot time in Yellowstone over the past decade is learning to recognize different grizzlies and watching them grow up over the years.  So I thought I'd share some photos of a few of the bears I've been watching this spring.  The photo above shows three of the most seen grizzlies back in May of this year, the Hayden sow and her two surviving cubs.  She initially had three cubs in 2010 but one of them didn't make it, though the two seen above did and are now on their own and occasionally seen in Hayden Valley.  The above photo was taken in Hayden Valley in the spring of 2012 early one morning.  They sat on a hill top where they were grazing when along came a coyote which began "mousing" below them, catching their attention.

This year, the bear referred to simply as the Hayden sow, a 22 year old female grizzly, was seen quite often between her home area of Hayden Valley down to Fishing Bridge.  She fed at the carcass near LeHardy Rapids and was seen mating with a few different male grizzlies.  Hopefully this means she'll have cubs again next spring, but she is getting up in years for a wild grizzly, so one never knows.

The lighter colored of her two surviving offspring was seen a lot around Mud Volcano and then up into Hayden Valley.  All three of the bears in this family have been caught and tagged by bear researchers and they list both of these offspring as males.  Young bears on their own for the first time are very nervous.  I once saw a young grizzly during it's first summer alone grazing along side the road when something over the hill caught it's attention.  Suddenly, it rose on it's hind legs, then dropped to the ground and took off running.  I expected to see another grizzly emerge but what did emerge surprised me.  Two innocent looking mule deer appeared on the top of the hill.  Needless to say, it doesn't take much to spook a young grizzly.  This bear, above, took off running when it's sibling appeared suddenly across the meadow.  Even though it was another young bear, a grizzly can't take chances as a much larger grizzly might attack it, inflicting injury or even death.

The darker of the two cubs stayed in the same areas as it's sibling, though they didn't travel together.  This bear also frequented the Mud Volcano area in May before finally moving north into Hayden Valley.  Even though grizzly cubs can have the same mother, due to the way female grizzlies fertilize their eggs, it's possible for siblings to have different fathers.  Given that these two cubs look very different, it's possible that they were fathered by different males, even though they have the same mother.

In 2011, this young cub received a lot of attention when it's mother brought it out near Fishing Bridge.  You've all seen this cub in my images, "Peekaboo Cub", and "Baby on Board", as well as in the works of other photographers.  But this image captures the first appearance of mother and cub that year, as they moved across a meadow near Fishing Bridge.

In 2014, the little cub seen above is now a subadult grizzly trying to survive in a changing environment.  Many of the food sources grizzlies have depended on within the Yellowstone ecosystem are disappearing.  Whitebark Pine nuts are a crucial food source in the autumn, but pine beetles have decimated whitebark pines, a tree which can take many decades to mature, given the short growing season in the high elevations where they grow.  Cutthroat trout have been decimated by Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake, another important food source for bears.  For this bear to survive, as with all bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem, they need to stay protected until it can be seen what the future holds for them in the natural world.

This little cub, on the left, is the whole reason for this article.  A friend of mine asked me to post an image of this bear, now referred to "Raspberry", when she was a cub.  In 2007, she was one of three cubs born to her mother.  Again, all three cubs looked distinctly different.  Survival rates for cubs is only 50% and of the three cubs, Raspberry is the only one to have survived to adulthood.  Her sibling, seen here standing, died shortly after this photo was taken while the other sibling was euthanized after it approached hikers on a trail and the hikers dropped their backpack with food in it, allowing the bear to associate humans with a food source.

Here's a photo of "Raspberry" taken a few weeks ago.  She's probably one of the prettiest bears in Yellowstone.  And she's probably one of the most photographed grizzlies in Yellowstone over the last few years, even though other bears might be more well known.  Grizzlies reach sexual maturity at around 5 or 6 years of age.  Many hoped this bear would have cubs this spring, but unfortunately she didn't.  She does have a few partners again this summer, and hopefully, now that she'll be seven, she'll have her first cubs next year.  But even then, in order for a female grizzly to reproduce, she has to actually go into hibernation with enough body fat to not only support her own survival but those of any cubs.  The female grizzly has an amazing reproductive system.  As already mentioned, she can give birth to cubs of different fathers but she also won't fertilize her eggs if she doesn't have sufficient body fat.  The fatter the bear, the more cubs she's likely to have during the winter.  So for this to reproduce, she not only needs to be old enough, find a mate or two, but she also needs to find sufficient food.    Seeing a grizzly in the wild is an amazing opportunity but it's always important to keep at a safe distance, for both you and the bear.  I hope the opportunity to see and know these bears exists for a long time!  Thanks for reading!


Yellowstone this May

May 17, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I've met a few people this week who told me they follow this blog and then my wife told me she refers people to my blog, not my facebook page, where I post a lot more updates, so I felt guilty that I haven't been as active with writing here more often.  So, since I am at home this morning, I decided I'd write an update with what's happening in Yellowstone and what I've been seeing and where.  Of course, since it's still only mid May, my focus has been to photograph bears, mostly grizzlies, before they disappear into the high country for the summer.  This year, with snow still 2 feet deep in places, it may be a little longer before they move up high.  There have been many bears frequenting the lower valleys this year and bear viewing can be good anywhere right now.  I spend most of my time from Hayden Valley down to Fishing Bridge and out along the East Entrance road.  If you are lucky enough to spot a bear, please keep your distance and let the bear behave naturally.  Don't follow it away from the road or into the woods and don't enter areas marked off as closed.  This bear is referred to as the "Hayden sow" since she's been seen often the past few summers with her cubs in Hayden Valley.  She is recognized by her yellowish face and a red tag in each ear.  I've seen her often over the past two weeks and I'll post an article about her soon.

While elk are readily seen along the Madison River or up in Yellowstone's Northern Range (from Mammoth to Lamar), they are still a few weeks away from calving.  The elk are shedding their winter coats, so they look rough right now, but once their winter coats are gone and they have little elk calves following them around, they will be fun photo subjects.  Bison are still calving, as they have been for almost a month.  Little orange bison calves are very visible along the Northern Range but in other parts of the park, they're not as common yet.  However, in the past week along the Madison River, I've seen new calves almost daily.  For about two weeks, starting April 18, only one little calf was around, but since last week, there are now at least five bison calves along the Madison River, following their mothers and playing with each other.  This number will increase quite a lot over the next two weeks.  Bison calves are so fun to watch as they must be Yellowstone's most playful youngsters!

This time of year is also a good time to bird watch in Yellowstone.  Admittedly, I'm not much of a birder, but when I have a chance to photograph something interesting, I'll take it.  Two white faced ibis were in Alum Creek recently.  I hadn't seen one before, so I stopped and photographed them for a short time.  Ironically, driving to Idaho Falls shortly after, my wife and I saw a flock of about 20 of them on the side of the road.  They are one of many species of birds that migrate through Yellowstone on the way to summer nesting grounds.  Trumpeter swans aren't real common in Yellowstone in the summer, though three have been on the Yellowstone River near Canyon recently.  They are more commonly seen in Idaho at Harriman State Park, where they nest.  Sandhill Cranes are nesting in the area now too.  Many migrate through Yellowstone but some do stay and nest.  Bald eagles are common in Yellowstone and their nests are visible in a few places.  One nest is along the Madison River coming in from West Yellowstone.  We were excited to see eagles on it back in April, but they have since abandoned the nest and now two Canada Geese have taken up residence.

Yellowstone's smaller critters often are over looked, but they are fun to see and watch too.  Marmots are especially fun to watch and they're natural posers for photos.  I photographed this marmot while waiting for a bear to move within photo range.  People flock to Yellowstone to see wolves, but so far this spring, they haven't been seen often.  Coyotes appear here and there and fox have been rarely seen.  As always, remember to give all wildlife space and don't crowd them or push them.  Like people, animals have a comfort zone and they don't want to be pushed.  After all, we don't like it when someone comes too close to us, as humans, or if a bunch of people started pointing cameras at us and followed us around.  So enjoy watching Yellowstone's wild residents, but respect them and give them space to live their lives safely!  And as always, thanks for reading!