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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Florida and Beyond part 2 of 2

April 04, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I'll close out my posting of photos from our trip to Florida and the Bahamas with some photos of one of my most favorite animals, our dolphin encounter!  One thing about the islands, whether it's the Hawaiian Islands or the islands of the Caribbean, is that the water off shore is incredibly clear, unlike the coastal waters of the mainland.  My wife loves the warmth and beaches, so we've been fortunate to visit various island locations over the years, but on this trip, the waters were so incredibly clear in the Bahamas, that it was breathtaking.  When we found these dolphins, we were still able to see them quite clearly even when they were under water!

Of course, if seeing dolphins wasn't exciting enough, when this youngster appeared with it's mother and surfaced for a breathe of air, it was priceless!  To be able to watch these mammals was an incredible experience and to see the level of intelligence they possess really gives one reason to think.  Even from a short encounter, to see them interact, it is easy to recognize their high level of intelligence.  In ancient cultures, perhaps one could forgive slaughtering such a creature, but in modern society, one would hope that we would have a greater sensitivity and countries such as Japan would stop their dolphin slaughters.  Fortunately, dolphins in US waters as well as those of the Caribbean have much greater protection.  With our time in the Bahamas coming to a close, we headed back to Florida in search of more birds in breeding plumage, as well as some of the native alligators that are always in interesting to watch.

The incredible weather of the Bahamas didn't follow us back to Florida, so we photographed in overcast light.  The temperatures for a couple of Montanans was wonderful, though the local Floridians complained it was too cool!  We headed back out to photograph birds and weren't disappointed.  One of my favorite birds to photograph are the cattle egrets.  While not possessing a colorful name, these birds, usually all white, display a sherbet color in their breeding plumage, making them great photo subjects.  Many species of wading birds will nest over marsh and swamp areas inhabited by alligators.  The alligators keep predators away such as raccoons, keeping the eggs and chicks safe, unless they fall out of the nest into the water!  As our trip came to a close, we left the warmth of Florida to return to the snow in Montana.  But as I write this, roads in Yellowstone open in less than two weeks, and I can't wait for what we might find once we can get back into the park again!


Florida and Beyond part 1 of 2

March 31, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

My wife and I just returned from ten days in Florida and the Bahamas, for warm weather, rest, and, of course, some photography.  We started our trip with a visit with friend and fellow photographer David Douglas, http://www.ddouglasphotos.com/, to central Florida to photograph whatever birds we could see and weren't disappointed.  In a local wildlife reserve, we came across alligators, sandhill cranes, and other birds, including the great blue heron seen above, as it took flight across a beautiful green colored pond.  Of course, after four months of snow white in Montana, any color looks good!

These white pelicans made an interesting scene as they rested on a stone retaining wall near a lake.  The dark background would really set them off and I framed these birds several different ways.  There were actually three pelicans, but I preferred this shot with just two of them, since the pelican in the background here was in a slight shadow and also slightly out of focus.  While we have both great blue herons and white pelicans in Montana and, more specifically, Yellowstone, where most of my summer photography is done, having the chance to photograph them in Florida, where they are more numerous, results in more varied and challenging photo opportunities.

But the next part of our adventure took us somewhere different and my goal was to photograph a couple of species of marine life I hadn't photographed before.  We took a trip down to the Bahamas where we had booked an excursion to photograph the southern stingray.  Stingrays tend to instill fear into humans, partly due to their odd shape, but mostly due to their main source of defense, a bony bard about one third down the length of their tail.  Some rays are more dangerous than others and perhaps deserve the reputation, but southern stingrays are relatively safe, and apparently quite common, as we saw them on several occasions.  During our photo shoot, we had several swimming around us, often brushing up against our legs as we swam.  Photography was difficult as I was using a new underwater setup which I hope in the long term will yield more successful underwater images.  I'll be back tomorrow with part two of this blog entry with more from Florida and the Bahamas!


Something Different

March 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

While my true passion is nature photography, with a focus on wildlife, that still leaves me with a broad interest in many photographic subjects.  I'm not really interested in modern architecture, but older structures seem to hold strong interest for me.  Recently, as I've gone out looking for wildlife to photograph, I've passed the time aiming my lens to some of the many old buildings that dot the Montana countryside.  The old cabin above caught my attention immediately.  The textures, shapes, and patterns caught my eye and the scene overall screamed for black and white.  I prefer to photograph these buildings on overcast days, since the textures seem to show up better.

This second building is one I drive past all the time, on my out to photograph bighorn sheep.  I finally stopped one day to photograph it.  It sits on private property, so I used a long telephoto lens from the side of the road to take the shot.  Using a zoom lens also allowed me to frame the house in several different ways.  The house, set against the deep snow depicts the isolation one faces during a winter in Montana, especially back when this house would have been occupied.

This image, shot at a wider angle of view than the previous one, shows the same house.  The photo above provides a more abstract image of the setting while this view provides more of a sense of where the homestead was located.  The distant forested ridgeline sits behind house which is surrounded by grazing pastures, buried in deep snow.  Willows and fence posts poke up out of the three to four feet of snow pack, providing some detail in the otherwise featureless snowpack.  I'm not sure if anyone who follows my work has much interest in viewing these types of shots, since they're a departure from my wildlife work, but as a photographer, they're a nice diversion and help me to view the world and the subjects I photograph differently.  Thanks as always for viewing!


Happy Birthday, Yellowstone!

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!


Spring Brings Cubs

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!