( As always, just click on any image for a larger, sharper version. I do apologize for these shots being a little flat, but there was very little light to work with at 7 AM this morning. )
Out by 7 AM , went through town and scouted for Elk a few miles west of town. Found one large harem being closely bunched and guarded by a large bull, but unfortunately they were just a little too far off for photos. On my way back home I encountered two bulls sparing, I don’t think they were real serious about their little battle, since there were no cows around to fight over, though the jousting did intensify the longer they went at it, so maybe it was a turf war? Either way, it looks like things are starting to heat up around here, but I may have to speak to the fight promoter and have him schedule these bouts about an hour later when there is a little better light.
This guy has a very distinctive profile, according to one of the rangers, he broke his nose last year butting cars, a habit more than a few of these guys have. After watching these bulls for a a week or so, I find it amazing that more people aren’t injured by them here in Mammoth.
There are a lot of people, some doing some pretty stupid things, sharing the sidewalks and roads with these guys, and they are aggressive and move really fast! Plus what I have witnessed so far is before their hormones kick into high gear since the rut is barely starting, no mating has occurred yet.
Out early before 7 even though there really is not enough light at this hour to actually get any good elk shots. Drove through town ( Mammoth ) and found a large group of cows and calves, probably 20 or more, grazing around the employee housing and workshop area, that looks promising, it seems there are more elk moving around every day now.
Figured I would drive south towards Norris a ways to look for some bulls, but caught sight of a single bull right on the edge of town with a cow and her calf, very near the hot springs area. I decided to park and wait with them as the the sun slowly rose over the hot springs area. As you can see from some of these images, this time my patience paid off.
With the rut starting any time now, the park service has at least two trucks out, with two rangers in each, to monitor Bull elk locations around town and help keep elk/human conflicts in check. I really enjoyed spending about an hour or more talking with one pair of these guys this morning while taking photos of the elk around the hot springs. It was early and we were in an area where it was difficult to see that I was taking shots of the elk, so there were almost no other people around, and the rangers tend to stay with any bull they come across close to or in town, so we got to spend time talking about their experiences with elk and tourists, very interesting, a couple of nice, helpful, friendly guys.
I must admit that am not really that much into the hot springs themselves, or all the other geothermal attractions in the park, just not my thing, but in the early morning light, I must admit the hot springs in Mammoth are much more photogenic than I had realized. Just may have to spend a little more time around them the next few mornings, I hadn’t realized just how much color there is here. The image of the springs with the elk on the ridge in the background is one of my favorites so far here in Yellowstone.
Back to the motorhome around 11 AM to process images and finally finish up my 2012 taxes ( about time, right? ). Rain moved in around 2 PM, so no evening photo shoots today, but I guess now I won’t have to miss any of the Patriots/Jets game.
As promised yesterday, this morning I decided to concentrate on the colorful hot springs in the early morning light. I drove around the upper spring loop and got out and did the boardwalks, but didn’t get much in way of good shots.
However, it was a different story when doing the lower springs, closest to the town. The colors and textures, with the dead trees thrown in, do make for some interesting shots. I have been driving by here everyday for more than a week at 7 AM and see almost no one out on the hot springs boardwalks as I go by. By 10 or 11 AM, the parking lots fill up and there are hundreds of people on the boardwalks. I wonder if any of them realize how beautiful the colors are early in the morning as opposed to latter in the day?
Monday morning, I took a trip west through the Norris geyser area and on to the west entrance to the park and the town of West Yellowstone. Went through town and then north on 191 to Baker’s Hole Campground to check this place out as another place to stay closer to the meadows on the park road east of West Yellowstone. I was surprised to see that some of the sites in the campground have utilities and, all in all, though a bit tight and set in a wooded area with no great atmosphere, it would do, except that it is, of course, full, and apparently usually is so.
Saw no elk in the meadows east of West Yellowstone where, in the past, these meadows have usually had several groups of elk, must still be too early.
Sun and clouds in and out with rain showers off and on today. It was a long day on the road with no elk sitings during the 200 mile drive, so guess what is blocking traffic as I waited to turn into my campground?
This rainbow appeared just as soon as I got back home tonight.
Up at dawn on Tuesday and finally got my first really nice elk shots just east of town on the park loop. A very handsome, and as it turned out, aggressive bull was feeding along the top of a hill with a cow and her calf, just east of town. As I was taking these shots a ranger came upon the scene and, as we talked, the bull finally descended the hill, crossed the road and made us take cover behind his truck. This bull then spotted people coming down the road, stopping their cars in the road to get out and take some photos. But this bull would have no part of that and chased one couple back to their car and, for good measure, gored the car. Not as much damage done to the car as I would have expected from those antlers, but still left the vehicle needing some body repair work.