Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Couple of Black Hills Raptors!

It was so beautiful out this afternoon, I had to get out of the house and go for a short drive!  Every morning, my husband is seeing at least 10-15 ferruginous hawks near St. Onge and Whitewood, so I headed that direction to see if I could get some good pictures.  I had only gone a couple miles when I found my first hawk, but he didn't stick around long as soon as I started to slow down!

Just around the corner, there was a kestrel having some lunch!
I got some great photos of him enjoying his lunch, and then headed towards Whitewood to see what else I could find.  Although I saw at least 10 more hawks, they were all busy hunting and most of them were too far from the road for photos.  That's okay though...it was a wonderful afternoon to get out of the house and go for a short drive!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Visit from a Flock of Bohemian Waxwings

Every year, I get a visit from some of my favorite birds, a huge flock of Bohemian waxwings!  Although everything I read says they are rare in the Black Hills, they are a yearly visitor to my crabapple tree...usually stripping it bare within about 15-20 minutes and then traveling on.  But during their brief visit yesterday, I was fortunate to be at my desk with my camera ready, and I was able to take more pictures of waxwings than I will ever need!

These birds are so much fun to watch as they frantically eat every berry in sight, taking flight as every car drives by, then flying back in as a flock minutes later.  They had my tree stripped in no time and then were gone...leaving me with a memory card full of the antics of these colorful, entertaining birds!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Basketball Season is Upon Us!

Winter is here, and that means BASKETBALL season!!!  I started out the season with an 8th grade girl's game Thursday night at Spearfish Middle School between the Spearfish Spartans and the Douglas Patriots.  Some game highlights are below, but all of the images can be viewed and purchased on my website at Thompson Photography.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Third Day in the Park

Today was terrific!  Full of bears, otters, swans, elk, and more bears!  I started off before daylight heading to the West Entrance, hoping to possibly catch some bull elk in the morning light in the Madison River or on Gibbon Flats.  I did find some big boys, but they weren't doing much; evidently they had been up most the night and were already down for the day.  The hot days were really messing things up for us photographers, with most of the wildlife not becoming active until after the sun was going down, and bedding down earlier in the morning than usual.  They were already sporting their winter coats, and they were not enjoying the 80-degree days!  I did luck out and find one beautiful park inhabitant that wasn't affected by the heat...a trumpeter swan out for a morning swim!

Trumpeter swan in the Madison River

After getting a few shots of the swan, I headed back towards the center of the park.  I hadn't gone far when I saw quite a few cars stopped by the river, so I pulled over to see what they were watching.  River otters!  However, it appeared the show was over, as everyone but two guys were heading back to their cars.  I went ahead and grabbed my camera and headed over to where they were, and they said the otters had headed into the grass on the other side of the river.  Well, I sat down with them, and it wasn't a couple minutes later and the otters were back, quite a ways downstream.  We grabbed our cameras and the chase was on!  The three of us proceeded to photograph the two little clowns for about 20 minutes, probably packing our big lens about half a mile downstream, but it was worth it to watch their antics! 

Pair of river otters in the Madison River

After hiking back to my truck, I heard on my scanner that there was a grizzly on a kill in Hayden Valley, so I headed that direction, hoping to get some good grizzly shots.  However, once I got there, even my 600mm lens with an extender wasn't enough for a good shot, as she was still just a brown lump in the picture.  Oh well...there were a lot of spotting scopes set up and it was still cool to watch her! While there, the park ranger said there was another grizzly on a kill that he had just taken from some wolves at Indian Pond, and he was a lot closer, so I loaded up and headed off once again! I only made it to the edge of Hayden Valley when I noticed a little coyote hunting right on the side of the road, so I had to stop and watch him for a while.  He was so pretty in his winter coat!

Who has the beer and pizza?

Now this was more like it!  He was still pretty far away, and when I first got there, he was lying in the shade, so the light was terrible, but I set up camp with all of the other bear watchers, and we waited for the show to begin!  As the time passed, so did the sun, and the light moved onto the bear...eventually warming him up, and waking him up! 

After moving into the shade a couple of times, standing and watching us, as we were watching him, he finally decided to go for a swim to cool off.  He played in the water for about 20 minutes, splashing, diving, and swimming!

He finally got out of the water, headed around the pond, crossed the road, and wandered off through the trees.

 It was getting late, and since I was almost to the east entrance and had to go all the way back to Mammoth, I decided it was time to call it a day and head back to camp.  With over 600 pictures on my camera from the day, I figured I had made up for barely taking any yesterday!  As I drove back to Mammoth, I passed a bear jam at Petrified Tree, but seeing it was the scruffy little yearling, I just drove on by, figuring I would get more of him the next day! As I pulled into Mammoth, I stopped before heading down into the campground to call Tom, as the signal is stronger, but I had to talk over the bugling elk to be heard! I finally gave up and headed to camp!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 2 in Yellowstone Park

After fighting the crowds in the park on Saturday, I decided to head out of the park and take a drive to Cooke City and up to Beartooth Pass.  I was fairly tired from my last few days, and I figured a day of relaxing and just taking a beautiful drive (and not packing around my 600mm lens!) would get me rested up for a few days in the park! I think this was the day I took the fewest pictures, as I was just enjoying the day, relaxing, and taking in all of the sights of the breathtaking drive on the Beartooth Highway.  This is one drive that I never tire of, no matter how many times I make it!

 After spending some time in Cooke City, I stopped at a beautiful little pond near Colter Pass for a short hike, some lunch, and a nap.  In spite of the signs warning of grizzly bears, with myself and my cooler safely in the cab of my truck, I fell asleep rather quickly!  

 Fall colors on Beartooth Highway
 I took a short hike to Chain Lakes

Crazy Creek Cascades

I turned around at Beartooth Pass and headed back to camp, happy and well-rested after spending a day just relaxing and wandering around aimlessly! 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Black Lab, Toma

Anyone who knows me knows that my absolute passion is animals, especially furry, slobbery, tail-wagging ones! So I was thrilled to spend some time this Sunday morning shooting some portraits of 12 1/2-year-old Toma! She is such a sweetheart!
 A layer of dense fog made an interesting backdrop!
Sitting by the creek where she spent her summers playing with her family!
 Such a beautiful girl!

Toma's pal ~ I had to be quick to get a shot of her!

What better Christmas gift than a portrait of a loved one's cherished pet?  Pet sitting fees are only $35.00, so call 641-2335 or email jmthompson@spe.midco.net to book an appointment!

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Day in Yellowstone!

I have been so busy lately, I haven't had time to edit many of the pictures from my trip; however, I decided to take a little while this morning and at least get a few from my first day in the park finished!

I had hoped to get up early and be in the park by sunup, but sleeping in my truck in the Cody Wal-Mart parking lot proved to be a lot more comfortable than I thought, and it was almost 7:00 when I woke up...whoops! But I quickly got on my way and headed along the beautiful Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway to the East Gate of Yellowstone.  As I was driving, I realized that it was probably the first time I have ever made that drive in the daylight, as I have always tried to be in the park right at dawn, so I just took my time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery!
Full Moon over the North Fork of the Shoshone River

I was thrilled to come across a pair of moose having some breakfast just outside the gate of the park...

Then a grizzly bear out for a stroll at Mary Bay...

As I was putting my lens away, a coyote paused during his morning travels...

I had decided to camp at Mammoth Campground for at least a couple of days, so I figured I better head that direction first thing and get my campsite, as I knew the campgrounds would fill up quick, so I headed north towards Tower and Mammoth.  I got to Mammoth Campground just in time, as they only had two sites remaining! I got checked in, set up my tent, and headed towards Lamar Valley hoping to spot some wolves or another grizzly.  I was almost to Tower Junction when I came across a young black bear, who I would return to photograph almost every day during my visit.
 He was pretty scruffy, but he sure was fun to watch!

After spending about an hour with this bear, I headed to Lamar Valley, but with no luck.  Tired, but happy with the results of the day, I headed back to camp, ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Friday, October 1, 2010

McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Range

Morning light over the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Range

Well, I was hoping to be up in time to catch the sunrise, but I don't think I have slept so good in months!  I woke up to the morning sun beating down on me, and, much to my delight, a couple of curious colts staring at me!

I got my coffee going and had a bowl of cereal, as I took pictures of the herd grazing around me.  I think I would have been happy just spending the entire day right there!  But I wanted to see more of the range and other herds, so I packed up and headed out!

"Hey, I'll have some Raisin Bran Crunch!", but the stallion decided she was getting a little too close and drove her back!

After spending the entire day in the range, I found two other small bands, covered a lot of beautiful, rugged country, and had a fantastic day!  I had spent over 24 hours in this area and had not even seen another vehicle!

One of two wells installed by Friends of a Legacy (FOAL) volunteers and BLM

As I was working my out of the range, I saw a big band of approximately 15-20 horses grazing a few miles away.  It took about an hour to work my way to them, but I finally found them near a small pond.

Curious mares coming to visit...until something else catches their eye...
A herd of about 30 mustangs on the run to the water hole about a mile away...
The band I was watching wanted NOTHING TO DO with the larger band coming in.  
The stallion wasted no time rounding the mares up and heading out!
And these are the reason why...two very large and healthy bachelor studs trailing along with the two separate herds that came in...

And so began my best couple hours of the day! I was too late getting to the water hole to see the horses lying down in it, rolling in it, and drinking, as I had been photographing the other band and it took me a while to hike back to the waterhole, but just watching their interaction as they rolled, soaking wet, in the dirt, and then spent the evening socializing and grazing, was so much fun!

The family unit!

Sharing the waterhole!

Typical guy...loves to get dirty!

At least he stayed clean on one side!

I contemplated spending another night in the wild horse range, but I wanted to get an early start into Yellowstone the next morning (and I also wanted a shower!), so I headed into Cody.  I stopped at the KOA Campground on my way by, where you can get a terrific shower, clean with lots of water pressure, for only $3.00, and then headed to the Buffalo Bill Reservoir to catch an incredible sunset to end my day!

Sunset at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir...a beautiful close to a terrific day!