Thursday, June 30, 2011

Utah Wild Horses Shoot

I loved this shoot sooo much. Can't wait to do it again! Big thanks to my good friend, Preston, for taking me out there and showing me how it's done. (And for use of his amazing lens again.)
I really loved this white horse. It was the first one I saw, and it's just very wild and primitive looking, with it's long, stringy white mane.
I didn't notice anything amiss while we were shooting. It wasn't until I downloaded the photos to my hard drive that I noticed something surprising about this palomino. Can you see it?
This gray stallion was the boss. He was stirring the others up and sort of herding them around. A very tough looking horse.
Wild horses being....wild. I was so glad to see the landscape out there so colorful. I've been out there a half dozen times and it's always very brown and dead looking. With the long Winter and very mild Spring, there's lots of greens on the ground, making these pics all the more sweet.
This guy was sort of a buckskin, I guess. A very powerful looking horse. He was impressive in every way, from his long, stringy mane and tail, to his wildly colored coat, to his very muscular appearance.
We were hoping for a lot more action from these horses than we got; perhaps the heat made them a bit more docile than usual. It was 91 degrees at 5 o'clock. Every once in awhile, though, a couple of them would pick at each other until one of them would explode a bit; nothing long-lasting; just a very wild-sounding winnie, and a kick or two.
There is something very freeing, being out in the desert, and seeing horses, living in very wild, often harsh conditions. I was raised with horses and my family has always had 4 or 5 around. But being out there last night, I have a sense that this is the life meant for the toughest, hardiest of beasts. And for them, they'd prefer it no other way than to be free of reins, free of saddle and rider, free of any fence or gate. I can't wait to get back out there. I will dream about it until then.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Mormons

This is a brief overview of the 2012 presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, Jr. I'm curious to know--and I still don't--why Utah Mormons favor Mitt Romney over Huntsman so overwhelmingly. Sort of gives me secondary embarrassment. (By the way, I make no secret that I'm supporting Huntsman in 2012.)

Jon Huntsman, Jr.

"One of the Governor's first priorities after taking office was to meet with Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman to discuss the removal of the radioactive mill tailings. The tailings pose a leaching threat to the Colorado River, and possible contamination to water users downstream."


Climate change: Huntsman backed a program by Western states to limit greenhouse gases considered responsible for climate change through a cap-and-trade plan. While he is a progressive on environmental issues, he opposes the Cap and Trade Bill, based on the premise that the economy can't take it. (USA Today)

Civil unions: Huntsman backs civil unions for gay couples, calling it a fairness issue...Huntsman told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that he believed in "traditional marriage" but that supporting civil unions was a "fairness issue." (USA Today)

Wilderness Issues: On wilderness issues, such as the roadless rule, he seems to walk right down the middle, where he wants wilderness preserved, but wants all potential stakeholders involved in the process. (On this, I'm likely to disagree, since often the only stakeholders that matter are the ones who have the most money.) But I give him credit for taking a moderate approach, rather than a pro-energy approach above all. (Just today, the UT legislature met with the BLM to talk about future approaches to land management and wilderness designation; unfortunately, I think it's headed for WAY less federal input and more immediate local input. On many issues, I think the decisions should be left up to the most local government. But, The Grand Staircase, for instance, is not just Southern Utah's land; it belongs to everyone.) Mostly, my bias be exposed, I'm worried for the few beautiful places left; that they're all too often eyed by the all-mighty dollar and the all-mighty oil/gas industry. Come on, Huntsman! Be a champion on this issue!

Crossing political lines: Well, most obviously, Huntsman, Jr. accepted the position as Ambassador to China, under Pres. Obama...that's enough proof for me that he puts service above party. Also, of late, he's made several public slams about the Republicans in Washington. Prove me wrong if I am but, I haven't heard Romney do the same, ever.

Abortion: Huntsman, Jr. is pro-life and signed into a law a parental consent requirement for pregnant teens to obtain an abortion. He also answered in an ABC interview that he would support a Right to Life Amendment, meaning, making abortion illegal, except in the cases of rape or incest, or to protect the life of the mother. He and his wife have both biological and adopted children. I'm respectful of a pro-life stance, as long as it doesn't entirely take away a woman's ultimate right to choose.

Immigration: He focused a lot on immigration, due to pressure from Utahns. He pressured the Western Governors' Association to work on immigration reforms. As far as I can tell, he was for a pathway to citizenship for all who wanted it, meaning a green card as a right to work, a work visa as a pathway toward citizenship. As with nearly everything, he approaches the issues with sensibility; he's very cerebral about things, always wanting to ignore emotion and rhetoric...and party.

Gun ownership: Recently said in an ABC interview that he would NOT veto an assault weapons ban. (Actually, this was a gaffe; he called the interviewer back soon and said he'd misunderstood the way the question was phrased and said he WOULD veto an assault weapons ban and pointed to his record on 2nd Amendment rights in Utah). Utah has THE most lax rules and laws as it pertains to gun ownership and gun rights.

Personal: Married, father of at least 6 kids (2006 bio), Member of the LDS Church though maybe not what Utah Mormons would consider "orthodox." Grandfather was a Mormon apostle, father is a Seventy. Dropped out of high school, later to obtain his GED. Served Mormon Mission in Taiwan. Graduated from U of Penn in Business.

Mitt Romney

The former Massachusetts governor has stood on each side of the cap-and-trade issue; he has gone from staunch advocate for taking on global warming to a climate change skeptic. He does think humans do contribute to climate change, to some unknown extent, but he seems always to fall to the side of let's not legislate anything based on it, especially if it might slow the economy. (I'm no fan of total deregulation; I believe Romney will undo any and all regulation of oil/gas drilling, as well as the banks.) He once claimed he was a lifelong hunter, then said anyone who called him a hunter had “mischaracterized” him. He supports clean energy, just not in the form of wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod. (Eco-Nomics)

Gay Marriage/Civil Unions: First and foremost, he's still willing, if pushed by his party, to repeal the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, which kills him on this issue, in my opinion. Welcome to 2011 America, Mitt. (

Mitt Romney's gay rights flip-flop: When running for senate in 1994, Mitt Romney wrote a letter promising a gay Republican group he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Kennedy. Romney was trying to get an endorsement from the Log Cabin Republicans. The letter said, " we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent." Romney has recently made it clear that he opposes gay marriage and he is trying to position himself as the most conservative candidate for U.S. president, opposing most rights for gays and lesbians.

Abortion Rights:

In October 2002, campaigning for governorship of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney said he would “preserve and protect” a woman’s right to choose. He now describes himself as opposing abortion. His political positions as governor were pro-choice, although he vetoed different legislation that would have "expanded abortion rights." He's since said if a bill came across his desk as president, to ban all abortions, he'd gladly sign it.
Again, I have respect for the pro-life position, except when it attempts to infringe upon the woman's ultimate freedom to choose. (And tough to tell, really, where Romney stands; seems always to depend on who his audience is.)

Immigration: He had been somewhat compassionate on immigration, not wanting to keep illegal children from receiving aid, such as in-state tuition. He then, in 2007, took a hard-line approach and said no aid, no amnesty, no work for illegals. They'll all have to go home at some point. As well, he authorized MA's police force to arrest illegal immigrants. ( Again, sort of depends on his audience.

Guns: Said during his governor campaign that he " NOT inline with the NRA." In 2006, while still governor, he joined the NRA.

Taxes: Raised over $500M in taxes and fees; fees on marriage licenses and impact fees for building homes, and raised taxes on businesses.

Health care: Created universal healthcare, including a health insurance mandate in MA, after which Obamacare has greatly been modeled. Now, he's really, REALLY against Obamacare.

Personal: 5 kids, married, graduate of BYU and Harvard Biz and Law Schools. Mormon missionary in France. Helped make the '02 SLC Olympics financially successful.

During the most recent Republican debate 2011, Romney's big campaign platform seemed to be " Obama sucks." Nothing really offered from the man himself.

So, what is it, Utah Mormons? What is up with the love affair of Mitt Romney, especially to the point of overwhelming preference over Gov. Huntsman? I don't get it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2 million acres of AMAZING

OK; yes, I'm aware that this train has NOTHING to do with Yellowstone, but we did see it on our trip home. As we made our way toward Echo, UT from Evanston, WY, we passed this train. Brynn had to shoot the pic from our moving car so we couldn't capture the whole thing. But this train was a mile long and each and every flat bed (the whole train) had these tanks on them. It was so crazy to see a mile of these tanks just going down the train tracks. I have no idea where they were going but, ARE WE PLANNING ANOTHER WAR?!?!
OK, this was also on the way home, through Randolph, UT. A few trees at the tiny post office were full of maybe 20 vultures. I've taken pictures of these birds before, in other places, but I couldn't resist. Pretty cool creatures, if you ask me. Nature's garbage disposals for any and every carcass.
This is Lewis Lake, and is actually in Grand Teton National Park, south of Yellowstone; the two are connected. I was actually surprised that the entire lake was still covered with ice in mid-June. But it made me happy; I'm not nearly ready for the Summer heat. This lake is at 8000 feet above sea level, so I guess it's not all that unusual for it to be frozen.
These were the last animals I shot in YNP. They're sandhill cranes. I have seen them and shot them before, here in Utah, but I had never seen a sandhill chick. Come to think of it, I haven't seen the babies of very many birds at all, especially the wild ones. This is an excellent time of year to visit YNP if you're into babies. Most of the animals have them now.
Just a landscape. I am sort of sad that I didn't take more time to shoot landscapes, as there are many, many incredible opportunities for them in Yellowstone. I need a second camera so I can keep one set up for super telephotos of wildlife, and the other for landscapes. This shot is OK, but I passed up some amazing shots out of pure laziness and sort of a one-track mind for wildlife. But I think you still get the idea that YNP is a very special, very beautiful place. 2 million acres of intact ecosystem. I wish places like this were more valuable to people. Instead, the special places are usually considered "waste land" and prime locations for drilling rigs or coal mines and the like.
This momma badger is out hunting for ground squirrels. I watched her leave her den and disappear down a squirrels den for about 5 minutes. She came up with nothing, unfortunately, but went on hunting. I thought I'd hang out by her den to see if she'd return with food for her babies, but I was pressed for time and had to leave before that happened.
Here's momma with her two babies. Aren't they cute? They were really fun to see and to watch as they played with each other, practice fighting like a lot of other baby animals. We used to see a lot of them around here, but it's been over ten years since I've seen any. The farmers have killed them off; guess they didn't like them threatening their chickens. Even I killed one once, in order to keep it from killing a small puppy chained up in someone's yard. I wish I hadn't have now. But I'm pretty sure that puppy would have been badger food if I hadn't.
This is one of three grizzlies I saw while in YNP this time. The first one was too far out to bother with the camera. The second one, which was in this same area, was still pretty far out; I have pictures that aren't worth posting. This guy was awesome and ended up walking right by me and another photographer. He passed by us at about 20 yards and then went into the river, swam across, and this is him getting out the other side.
This is him again; doesn't he have a cute butt?
Here he gave us a little smile for the camera before going on. I was ecstatic to get pictures like these. I've definitely had less successful trips than this one before. Thanks for showing up, Mr. Bear!
These are river otters. I was lucky enough to shoot some two Winters ago in YNP. At that time, the river they were in was mostly frozen. But they'd go in what little open water there was and come up with fish after every dive, it seemed. There were 3 this time, though I only managed to get two in the shot. When I saw them, I was too close for the lens I had on. I waited just long enough to get this shot, which isn't great. Then, they dove in and went upstream to fish, only poking their heads up a couple of times. Wish I could have done better with them. Oh well, I'm so driven to get back up there. In another life, I'll be a wildlife photographer ;)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I could love it here...

Well, we made it to Yellowstone yesterday afternoon. Brynn suggested the trip about a week ago, to my surprise. I LOVE Yellowstone and would like to make it a bi or tri-annual trip. But, with our busy schedules, once a year is better than nothing. I fell in love with Montana way back in high school, when me and four friends moved up to the town of Red Lodge, after our junior year of high school. We were only there for that Summer, but it was long enough to bond with the place. There's a feeling of freedom and wildness here, not unlike the feeling I get in Alaska. I think, once I'm done with school, we'll be looking for work in Alaska and Montana and I'll be in Heaven in either place. This first photo is a coyote. She was hunting by herself along a little pond.
These mountains are very "Montana" to me. I love the mountains in this place and in Wyoming, which are tall and often look like huge grassy meadows reaching to the sky. I took this photo along the trail to Hellroaring Creek.
I've seen more bison here than ever before. They're everywhere; doing very well, I'd say. This was along the NE Entrance Road, just a bit east of Lamar Valley.
The bison calves are so cute, and they're everywhere. I'm sure some will fall prey to wolves and bears. For the most part though, elk seem to be the main course for predators. I watched 2 wolves, early this morning, run right through a group of bison calves. That I could see, they left them alone. Unfortunately, the wolves were an easy 1/2 to 3/4 mile or so from me; no chance for a photo, even with an nice 400mm lens. There's still hope, as we're here until tomorrow. I plan on checking out the Slough Creek area for the pack of wolves there. Rumor has it, one member has been seen at fairly close range.
Mid-June looks pretty great in Yellowstone Nat'l Park.