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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Yellowstone's Backcountry- Gneiss Creek Trail

August 27, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Yellowstone National Park has over 900 miles of hiking trails yet most park visitors only visit the roadside attractions, never stepping foot into the park's vast backcountry.  This article is number three in the series and features the Gneiss Creek Trail.  There's a good reason many don't walk Yellowstone's trails, the road system was designed to take visitors directly to the park's most famous features, including Old Faithful and Lower Falls.  In fact, in modern times, the roads have been re-routed, moving them a little further away from roadside attractions.  The paved trail from the Old Faithful Inn to Morning Glory Pool was once the main park road.  If you've ever walked this path, imagine the impact today if this remained the main park road!  Many trails are long and/or difficult to access.  While this trail isn't particularly difficult, it is located along US 191 in a section of Yellowstone National Park that few people visit, though many travel through it from Big Sky or Bozeman on the way to West Yellowstone.

There are actually two access points to the Gneiss Creek trail, one from US 191 north of West Yellowstone and the other is inside Yellowstone National Park, along the West Entrance road, near a bridge over the Madison River.  This trail is closed to hiking until July 1st as it traverses a bear management area and the closure is to keep hikers and bears away from each other.  Other times of year, it's unlikely to encounter a  bear here, though it is always recommended to carry bear spray.  This hike has very little elevation change over it's 14 or so miles, and features some stunning scenery.  In July, once the restriction has been lifted, wildflowers bloom in abundance in the meadows, making this trail one of the best in the park to see wildflowers.

Most people will do this hike as an out and back hike, starting at either end and then hiking back to where they started.  Doing this, I actually prefer to start outside the park on US 191.  At about the middle of the hike, the trail can be flooded early in the season, in this case, early July, though it will be mostly dry the rest of the summer.  In fact, since much of this hike is out in the open, it can be pretty warm during the hot days of summer, so bring sunscreen, bug spray, and plenty of water.  If you do choose to give this trail a try, the scenery is wonderful and you should have lots of solitude, despite the ease of access in finding the trail.


Yellowstone's Backcountry- Fairy Falls Trail

August 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Yellowstone National Park has over 900 miles of hiking trails yet most park visitors only visit the roadside attractions, never stepping foot into the park's vast backcountry.   This article is number two in the series and features the Fairy Falls Trail. There's a good reason many don't walk Yellowstone's trails, the road system was designed to take visitors directly to the park's most famous features, including Old Faithful and Lower Falls.  In fact, in modern times, the roads have been re-routed, moving them a little further away from roadside attractions.  The paved trail from the Old Faithful Inn to Morning Glory Pool was once the main park road.  If you've ever walked this path, imagine the impact today if this remained the main park road!  Many trails are long and/or difficult to access.  The trail to Fairy Falls is neither!  Accessed from a large, usually full, parking lot near Midway Geyser Basin, this is one of the most popular trails in Yellowstone.  While I want to feature places seldom seen in this series of articles, I decided to include Fairy Falls as an alternative to the longer, more difficult hike to Union Falls.

The trail to Fairy Falls follows an old road that traverses the back side of Grand Prismatic Hot Springs.  Stay on the trail and don't venture towards the thermal area as the ground is unstable and potentially dangerous.  Eventually, the trail veers off to the left.  Continuing straight on the old road leads to Fountain Flats and Ojo Caliente, yet another of Yellowstone's many hot springs.  Once on the single track trail, you'll hike through an area that was burned and you have a chance to see the lodgepole pines growing back.   Fairy Falls is about 197 tall as Fairy Creek makes a near vertical drop over the cliff wall.  In spring, wildflowers can be seen in the area, though getting a clean photo can be tough with all the burned trees, many of which have been blown over by the wind.  This is one of many hazards of hiking in Yellowstone.  Lodgepole pines have very shallow root systems, so strong winds can blow them over easily.  Burned trees snap even easier in the wind, so if a storm comes in with high winds, it's best to get off the trail.

It's difficult to find solitude on a hike to Fairy Falls.  But the sight of this beautiful waterfall makes up for it.  At a round trip of only about five miles, it's easy enough for most healthy people.  There's also little elevation change, making this a relatively easy hike.


Yellowstone's Backcountry- Union Falls Trail

August 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Yellowstone National Park has over 900 miles of hiking trails yet most park visitors only visit the roadside attractions, never stepping foot into the park's vast backcountry.  This article is the first in the series and features the Union Falls Trail.  There's a good reason many don't walk Yellowstone's trails, the road system was designed to take visitors directly to the park's most famous features, including Old Faithful and Lower Falls.  In fact, in modern times, the roads have been re-routed, moving them a little further away from roadside attractions.  The paved trail from the Old Faithful Inn to Morning Glory Pool was once the main park road.  If you've ever walked this path, imagine the impact today if this remained the main park road!  Many trails are long and/or difficult to access.  The trail to Union Falls is both.  To visit Union Falls, one must first drive down a dirt road that can be rough in places, depending when the last time any maintenance was done to it.  Even so, most cars, if driven carefully, can handle it.

Once at the trailhead, the adventure begins with a 16 mile round trip hike.  One steep descent going to the falls becomes a steep climb on the way out, which can be tough after a long day of hiking.  A ford of the Falls River also must be negotiated.  Because of this, the hike is best done in August when the river flows much lower and slower.  Earlier in the season, this crossing can be dangerous.  Of course, in August the huckleberries ripen, so the potential of bears in the area increases.  But one should always carry bear spray when hiking in Yellowstone and always be alert for their presence.

Union Falls is considered one of the highest waterfall in Yellowstone, at 265 feet.  Of course, there are much taller seasonal waterfalls or waterfalls on smaller streams, but regardless, the sight of Union Falls is very impressive.  At the falls, two creeks merge together, hence the name.  Mountain Ash Creek is the larger of the two but a second, unnamed creek flows in on the left in the image above, and the two creeks join together as they flow over Union Falls.  While you may have the hike to yourself most of the day, once reaching the falls, there may be other hikers around since it's easy to want to linger here and enjoy this amazing place.  In any event, if choosing to try this trek, be prepared.  Proper gear, plenty of snacks and water, rain gear, and bear spray are all musts.  If hiking 16 miles over one day seems too much, then it's probably best to skip this one and choose a shorter hike to one of Yellowstone's other backcountry waterfalls.  But if you're up to it, Union Falls is a sight to behold and one you won't forget!


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!