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!
March 01, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Yellowstone National Park was established as the world's first national park on this date, March 1st, in 1872, 142 years ago! At the time Yellowstone was created, wildlife was still abundant in many places, so while many visitors today come to see the diverse array of wildlife that call the Yellowstone ecosystem home, in 1872, the primary reason Yellowstone was set aside for protection was because of the large number of thermal features found here. Yellowstone still holds the largest area of geothermal activity in the world. Today, over three million visitors a year come to Yellowstone National Park not only to see the geysers and hot springs, but also grizzly bears, bison, elk, and wolves, among others. Thanks to the vision of men like Ferdinand Hayden, William Henry Jackson, and Ulysses Grant, Yellowstone became the first of many incredible and beautiful national parks around the world!
February 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment
I recently decided to go back through some older photos and see if there's anything old that I wanted to add to my website. I often add and remove different images from the galleries and it's also fun to go back and take a fresh look at an older image. Some times photos just get missed because I may have a "better" one that gets my attention at the time, and I forget about some of the other images. That was the case with the photo above, "Walk Like an Egyptian". I liked this little cub as he took a few steps on his/her hind legs, but at the time, didn't like the cluttered background, so never really did anything with it and it just sat on a hard drive. I came back to it this week and decided the cluttered background wasn't so bad and the bear cub's activity carried the shot anyway, so I thought I'd share it and see how well people like it. The photo was taken with a 500mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter on crop sensor camera. The image is also cropped from the original file. Of course I wasn't this close to a bear cub and there were even a few rangers on the side of the road with us to ensure no one got too close!
Grizzly bears mate in June but the egg isn't fertilized until the fall after the female has gained enough weight to survive winter's hibernation. If she hasn't gained enough weight, the egg may not fertilize at all. If she's gained a lot of weight, two, three, or even four eggs may be fertilized. Each egg may even be fertilized by a different male, depending on how many males she mated with during the summer. Grizzly cubs are born in the winter den and emerge with the sow in the spring, usually around late April or early May. As long as the cubs stay alive, they will stay with their mother for two full summers, finally leaving on their own at the start of the third summer. Because of this, grizzlies have one of the lowest reproduction rates in the animal kingdom. Add to that, only about 50% of grizzly cubs survive to adulthood, despite having one of the most protective mother's in the animal kingdom! When bear cubs nurse, they often make a buzzing sound. This grizzly sow nursed her two cubs on Dunraven Pass as a multitude of onlookers witnessed this event in this image titled "Joy of Motherhood".
Bear cubs are often some of the most playful of baby animals in the wild. if only a single cub is born, the mother will often be the playmate for the cub but if two or more cubs are born together, expect to see a lot of rough housing! The cubs learn many skills needed for survival through this play and it also strengthens muscles and develops coordination, essential for survival in the wild. Even at that, as I mentioned, only half of all grizzly cubs make it to adult hood. There are many perils that lay ahead for bear cubs, including threat from other bears. The above two photos show a grizzly sow and her two cubs on the slopes of Mount Washburn. Over the years, there have been a couple of different sows with cubs located in this area. As with the first photo, these images were taken with a long telephoto lens, with a teleconverter on a crop sensor camera, and the final images were cropped. There were also rangers present keeping bears and humans at a safe distance from each other. I can't stress enough the importance of keeping a safe distance from any bear, black or grizzly. These are very powerful animals and they're also fast. I once watched a grizzly chase down an elk calf. The pursuit lasted for about half a mile and the grizzly never gave up, finally running down the young elk. The speed, strength, and endurance exhibited by the bear was impressive. I've also seen both grizzly and black bears flip heavy rocks and logs with ease. I remember watching a grizzly take down an elk calf near the side of the road. Once the bear left, the rangers wanted to move the carcass farther away from the road, to protect the bear and any people. They asked me to help. The bear had flipped that carcass around as if it was weightless yet it took two park rangers to carry it back to their truck! All of this is to stress that one should never get close to a bear, not for a photograph or any other reason. These images, as with all my bear images were taken with long lenses, often with teleconverters attached, and either from inside my vehicle or with a group of people on the side of the road where rangers keep bears and humans safely apart. These same bears, if approached the same way on a trail or away from the road, would react much differently. They are used to seeing humans near the road but in the backcountry, where they don't expect to see humans, they may become aggressive. When hiking, always carry bear spray, always be alert, and don't approach a bear for a photo, just move away. The first bears of spring will be coming out of hibernation in a few weeks, usually around mid March. With the emergence of the first bears, it also means winter is on it's way out and soon spring will be here! I can't wait!
February 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest free ranging bison herd in the world. Bison once numbered somewhere between 30 to 60 million in North America, ranging from Mexico to Canada only 200 years ago. Today, there are only 15,000 to 20,000 free ranging bison. But yet again, the National Park Service, under pressure from the state of Montana, will cull the Yellowstone bison herd in order to take the herd from an estimate 4,600 animals down to the required 3,500. That number represents an arbitrary estimate and Yellowstone's bison are the only park animal with an artificial population cap placed on it. This is primarily due to the fear of bison spreading a disease called brucellosis to cattle. In cattle, the disease can cause cows to abort their calves and maintaining a brucellosis free status is of paramount importance to the livestock industry. Yet there are no document cases of wild bison transmitting the disease to cattle. Elk also are carriers of the disease, yet there are no artificial population caps on the regions elk herds and elk roam freely throughout Montana. In 2008, then Governor Brian Schweitzer halted the slaughter of bison after 1,600 were killed that winter. That agreement has expired and now pressure is being placed on the current governor to also stop the slaughter. Defenders of Wildlife has a website here, to contact the Montana governor; Defenders of Wildlife.
Bison are hardy survivors and I'm often impressed with their ability to endure extreme weather conditions. Of course, they have no choice, they have to survive or die. But while most wildlife migrate off the Yellowstone Plateau, bison endure. Again, they don't really have a choice, bison that move out of Yellowstone National Park are subject to capture and extermination. Living in the mountain region of Yellowstone National Park, they must endure winter temperatures that can reach minus 50 degrees farenheit, winds of 50 miles per hour or more, and snow that can reach over five feet deep. While many succumb to these conditions, often slowly starving during the long winter months, most survive and begin gaining weight and fattening up once the green grass arrives in May. Summer park visitors see the large beasts grazing and lounging in the summer sun and often incorrectly state that "it must a nice life".
A healthy bull bison has few natural enemies, besides humans. Wolves will look for easier prey and while they do take down calves and cows, a healthy bull is too dangerous. There have been a few bears known to take down cow bison, extremely rare would it be for even a large grizzly to take down a healthy bull. A bull's worst enemy is injury or disease. Once weakened, only then does a bull bison become vulnerable to predators. During the rut, or breeding season, in late summer, bulls will battle each other, with the risk of injury high. Every breeding season, a few bulls will sustain injuries that will result in death, typically as a result of infection of the wound. These fallen bulls provide a huge amount of food for scavengers and NPS researchers have counted upwards of 20 grizzlies waiting for a chance to feed on one of these carcasses.
Baby bison, or calves, unlike their dark brown parents, are a rusty orange color. They are born starting in mid to late April but the peak of calving season occurs in May. Given the weather in the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, bison calves are introduced into a harsh world. Weather in April and May can still be snowy and cold, but by being born early in the season, they have a bit more time to grow before the cold of winter returns. Bison are very protective of their young. I once watched a nursery herd in Gibbon Meadows as they grazed near the river. A black bear ran out of the forest, only attempting to cross the meadow quickly, not knowing the bison herd was ahead. The bison noticed the bear first, and ten or so of the largest herd members charged forward, creating a line that any NFL team would be happy to emulate. The bear suddenly saw this formidable line up, stood to it's feet to get a better look, then dropped back to all four feet and took off running the other direction! Yet, despite the protective nature of the nursery herd, bison calves have a hard few weeks of existence. If not snow and cold, then they are also hunted by all the park's predators. Yet bison calves are also some of the most fun animals to watch. While their lives may be short and definitely dangerous, they are also some of the most playful and carefree (in appearance) of all the park's youngsters.
The plains Indians of the American West were dependent on the great bison herds and were often nomadic in order to follow these herds. They were reputed to use every part of the bison. Today, Native Americans are still allowed to hunt bison and the state of Montana also issues permits to others as well during the late winter hunting season. Many huge gut piles can be seen lined up along the boundary road just outside Yellowstone National Park, near Gardiner, Montana. I'm not against hunting, but leaving these gut piles out along the side of the road seems to be in bad taste, in my opinion. Bison are able to endure many great hardships and, for many, are the symbol of strength and endurance. The state of Wyoming has bison on it's flag and many states have the bison on their state quarters. A final thought, perhaps it's symbolic that the state of Montana has a bison skull on it's state quarter.
February 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Visiting Yellowstone this summer? If you are and you stay at the Holiday Inn in West Yellowstone, Montana, you just might be looking at one of my photos! The Holiday Inn is under a remodel this winter and in each of the guest rooms, you'll see one of twelve different images decorating the room. Here are three of the twelve. The above image was one of the most specular sunsets I've witnessed and I was smart enough to go to Great Fountain geyser, since it reflects the sky so well.
The above image was taken at Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. This is one of those images where the camera sees what the eye can't. This image was taken at dawn, before the sun was lighting this area. The water reflected the cool color of the sky. While to the eye, it also looked cool, the photograph gives a much better interpretation of the cool color. While I could have adjusted it and brought back some of the warmer tones, I left it as is, since that's the result I intended.
And finally, one of my favorite shots. Technically, while this looks like a winter shot, it was taken in early May after a very snowy winter. This tree has been photographed many times but I loved the light here as well as the textures, so used a longer lens and focused just on these details. I'm very excited to be able to provide the art work for the remodel at the Holiday Inn and if you stay there, I hope you'll enjoy my work. Thanks, as always!
January 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Last month I received an email stating that three of my images had won "highly commended" status in the Denver Audubon's Sharing the View International Photography Competition. I forgot to mention it at the time so thought I'd share the recognized images here now. Above, "Morning on the Madison" depicts a bison crossing a small channel of the Madison River as the fog backlights the scene through the fog. If you've followed my facebook page over the last year, then you're familiar with this image and I also chose it as my Photo of the Week for June 16.
The image above, "Prismatic Aurora" depicts an aurora borealis over Grand Prismatic Hot Spring and was the second aurora I've seen and photographed, this one in July 2013. I actually chose "Alien Planet" as the Photo of the Week, which was taken at the same spot on the same night. In the above image, I prefer the strong oranges in the foreground, something Grand Prismatic is known for, but I prefer the stronger aurora in "Alien Planet" and even now I still can't decide which I prefer. I still remember the night I took these images. With no moon at the time, it was so dark walking the boardwalk around one of the largest pools of boiling water in the world. To the west, lighting crashed in the distance, occasionally lighting the night sky. The milky way and an occasional shooting star could be seen in the sky above. And of course, the brilliance of the northern lights held my attention to the north.
Lastly, "Alien Skies" was also honored. I know, "Alien Planet" and "Alien Skies", I take a lot of photos and creating original names isn't always easy! But hey, I think the names fit though! This image was taken during my first aurora viewing. This one, which occurred at the end of June, was stronger than the one I photographed over Grand Prismatic, but it was predominantly green whereas the second aurora had more colors and banding. Again, I chose "Hunting the Aurora" for Photo of the Week on June 30, over this image. Several other aurora events have took place in 2013, but I missed the others due to either weather that didn't allow for the sky to be visible or travel plans that had me too far south. But I was very excited to witness the two I did see and hope to enjoy the northern lights again one day.
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Recent PostsHappy Birthday, Yellowstone! Spring Brings Cubs Yellowstone's Bison (graphic image included) Visiting Yellowstone this Summer? Three Photos "Highly Commended" by the Denver Audubon Society Ten from '13 2013 Year in Review Part Four- Autumn 2013 Year in Review Part Three- Summer 2013 Year in Review Part Two- Spring 2013 Year in Review Part One- Winter