TBT- On Thursday mornings I’ll be giving you a look at art I’ve created over the past twenty years. Today…”A Grand Morning” oil from 2007. A different part of the Grand Tetons in the fall. It’s currently hanging on the wall in our dining area.
In June of 2005, I spent some time in Yellowstone National Park, doing what most visitors do….driving around wildlife spotting. On this day I’d gotten going fairly early in the morning so when I pulled into the parking area at Sheepeater’s Cliff, I had it all to myself, at least as far as other humans.
I got out of the car with my camera and had started to walk towards the basalt cliff formation when I saw movement. A yellow-bellied marmot! I hadn’t seen one in the park before, much less been able to get good photos. And not just one, but three! A mother with her kits. All I had to do was slowly sit down and watch the show. Here are some of my favorite shots from that special morning.
The youngsters started to play and they were a riot! I was in plain sight but they just carried on as if I wasn’t there.
They heard something and ran back up to mom.
But almost immediately started up again.
Back to the ground for a wrestling match.
Back up onto the rocks and a little tidying up.
This is when you mentally say “Thank you” to your model.
Back down to the ground and time for some King of the Rock.
Then I heard a car pull in behind me. Fair enough. Heard a door close and footsteps. And some guy walks straight past me towards the marmots with a dinky point and shoot camera. And in an instant they were all gone into the rocks, leaving the guy standing there apparently too dumb or uninformed to realize what he’d done. Needless to say I was pretty irritated at him for interrupting and scaring them off because he couldn’t keep his distance and didn’t take a cue from what I was doing. But at least I’d already gotten a bunch of great photos.
The rule of thumb in watching any wild animal is that if you do anything to alter its behavior you’re too close. Period. Non-negotiable. We can come and go as we please. The places where people see wildlife are the only homes they have and it and they need to be respected. I understand the temptation to want to get close, but anyone who has done any amount of animal watching knows about “the one step too many”. Please don’t take it.
The reward for patience and stillness…
Not all good tales come from exotic locales. You don’t have to have a passport to get to somewhere worthwhile. And good adventures don’t all have to be exciting, much less life-threatening. Just getting out into nature wherever you live or travel to can yield fun, amusing and interesting stories. I’m known for my adventures in Mongolia, but I love to get out in nature and animal watch wherever I am. For instance, last March I spent over a week exploring southern Georgia and also some of the northern Florida barrier islands like Amelia Island and the town of Fernandina Beach, Florida, which turns out to have a wonderful and clearly much-loved community amenity, Egan’s Creek Greenway, a park braided with trails that run right through the town. Kudos to the townspeople who had the will and vision to set aside this natural area. You can read more about my March 2016 trip here and here.
We live in a rural coastal county in northern California, where the biggest reptile one is likely to encounter are large but harmless gopher snakes or a watch-your-fingers-cause-they-bite Pacific giant salamander. So it was a bit of stopper to see this sign upon entering what is essentially a town park…
It was late afternoon and the light was getting better minute by minute.
The trail split. I followed the one to the left, saving the one along the stream for the way back.
It was March but a few wildflowers were already blooming.
I really liked the three different textures of the grass, water plant, and trees.
I saw a movement around twenty yards ahead. I had my long lens so was able to get some good photos of what I believe are marsh rabbits (Silvilagus palustris). I noticed that they stayed in the shade, which makes sense for a prey animal. They are similar in appearance and size to the brush rabbits we have here in Humboldt County.
Turtles! This was a big deal for me since I’d never seen any in the wild before other than sea turtles in Hawaii. They are yellow belly sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta).
These were to the right of the ones in the first photo, all catching some last rays before sundown.
I had learned about this trail while chatting with my Airbnb host and this was my only chance to check it out. I couldn’t have come at a better time since the light was great and there was almost no one else around.
I came upon a great egret in soft cool light.
It took off and I got a good shot of it in flight.
After that sign at the trailhead, this log stopped me for an instant.
I came to another open area adjacent to a deep water-filled depression where the trails went off in different directions, I was getting pretty close to being back to where I’d started. I happened to look down into the pond…
And what do you know? An alligator! At least six feet long, also catching the last of the day’s sun.
Can you spot the gator?
I walked on and a short time later came upon another grazing bunny who quickly hopped into the brush. I caught up to where I thought he’d gone and there he was, holding very still.
A few minutes later I spotted this male cardinal. We don’t have these where I live so I always get a kick out of seeing them even though I know they’re quite common.
A short distance more and I was out of the greenway into the open and here was a big pond with not only a great blue heron (we do have them here on the west coast, too), but more turtles!
As I photographed the heron and turtles, I spotted something in the sky. It was a red-tailed hawk circling around. I took a lot of photos and finally got a few of the bird as it turned and caught the light.
What a day. But there was one more treat in store.
As I walked back to the parking area I spotted a small bird hopping around in the chain link fence and managed to get this one photo. It’s a palm warbler, a new species for me.
The whole walk was at most three hours. I had nothing in mind, just to explore a new area and see what was there. What places are there where you live that you’ve never gotten around to exploring? We tend to take where we live for granted, but nature is ever-changing and no walk or hike will ever be exactly the same. If you’ve discovered a local gem where you live tell me about it in the comments!
I got back home at midnight last Saturday from two days in Grand Tetons National Park and five days at the 15th Annual Susan K. Black Foundation workshop. Both were a resounding success. You can read about my time in the park here. This post is about the workshop, which I’ve attended four times in the past and plan to go to next year.
All the previous instructors had been invited and almost all of them where there, including nationally known artists like James Gurney, John and Suzie Seerey-Lester, Greg Beecham, Mort Solberg, David Rankin, Jeanne Mackenzie, Andrew Denman, Guy Combes, Ann Trusty Hulsey and John Hulsey, all of whom I know personally or have studied with or both.
One of the main events is the Quick Draw, a traditional name but almost every artist at this workshop did paintings. Here’s some photos of the event in action. It’s followed by sketches and watercolors that I did in the Grand Tetons and EA Ranch.
The weather was partly cloudy while I drove around Grand Tetons NP, which meant interesting light that could change very quickly. The aspens and cottonwoods were turning to their fall colors, too. All in all a perfect time to be there.
Both of the first ones were painted over the course of a couple of hours along the Moose Wilson Road.
I flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming last Wednesday and spent a few days cruising the art galleries, the annual auction art and a stop at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Also had time to do some wildlife watching and location sketching and painting. I drove east to Dubois yesterday afternoon and had dinner with an artist friend and colleague who lives on a ranch.
I’m going to try to post something every day of the workshop, which begins this afternoon and runs through next Saturday morning. There are instructors and artists here from all over the country, including James Gurney of Dinotopia fame. He was the featured artist the year before last, when I also attended.
Here’s some photos from the wildlife watching in Grand Tetons National Park:
I’m currently on a road trip in southern Georgia. I flew to New York on March 10 (which is why there was no blog post last week) to attend the Explorers Club Annual Dinner (ECAD) and had a terrific time. The opening of the group exhibition “Wildlife Art: Field to Studio” is the evening of March 31 at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. What to do in between? It didn’t really make sense to fly home to California for two weeks and then fly back, so I decided to see what there would be to do on the east coast where it was warmer and in the same time zone. After considering a number of possibilities, some more ambitious than others, including flying to Paris for a week or going to somewhere like Belize or Costa Rica, I took another look at the map, Florida being too expensive and everything pretty much booked, and saw….the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, somewhere I’d wanted to go since I was a kid. Plus there’s the barrier islands of the Georgia coast. Sold! I flew down on Monday to Savannah, picked up a rental car and drove to my first of three Airbnb lodgings, this one near Brunswick. The next day I did quite a long drive over to the western entrance to the swamp. Here’s some of what I saw:
The next day I met up with artist and fellow Explorers Club member Alan Campbell, who took me around Harris Neck NWR.
We twice drove the route through the refuge so went a couple of times to a dike bordering the big pond where the storks since things are always changing. The second time we saw this turtle!
It was a great day! I’m on the road again with trips to the other entrances to the Okefenokee and explorations of the barrier islands.
We just spent a couple of days in Berkeley, staying at the Berkeley Marina Doubletree. Our room was on the first floor overlooking the marina, so all I had to do was open the sliding glass door and walk ten feet to see and photograph the various birds that were hanging about, including this black-crowned night heron. As you can see, it was late afternoon and the light was really nice. I’d taken three shots when…
a great blue heron flew into the frame from stage left. I just stood there and kept shooting. The smaller heron sprang into the air.
And got out of the way as fast as it could.
Not only was this a great little slice of life sequence, but…wow….the light.
It was all over in less than 30 seconds.
The night heron, having moved not really any farther than it had to, continued on about its evening routine.
All is peaceful again.
I’m back home now from my two week trip to Wyoming, where I spent three great days in Yellowstone National Park, a day and a half in Jackson Hole and five days at the Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop (SKB).
I painted and sketched along the way and at the workshop, trying out a variety of combinations of paper and water media. Here’s an album of some of my pieces, all done on location:
Since I don’t really paint North American wildlife anymore, I found it liberating to not worry about getting “the shot”, although I ended up with lots of great photos, but instead to focus on sketching the live bison.
The third day I was in Yellowstone it snowed in the morning. I drove out to the Lamar Valley and set up my watercolors on the passenger seat of our VW Eurovan camper, then just looked out the windows to do these three studies.
There’s a huge mountainous cliff on the east side of the park that is known as a place to spot mountain goats. And, sure enough, I spotted this nanny and kid with my binoculars. I got out my spotting scope (a Leica Televid) and managed these two quick pen sketches before she and the youngster got up and moved off out of sight. Then it was back to bison.
One of the locations at the SKB workshop was a ranch that has been in the same family for over 100 years. Hope to be able to go there again next year.
Next week I’ll share photos and stories from the workshop.
I’m now in Dubois, Wyoming at the Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop and having a inspiring time, chatting, networking and painting with old and new friends and colleagues. I’ll be posting more about that next week, but this time I’d thought I’d share some of the photos I took at Yellowstone National Park last week, starting with the big guy at the top. I never get tired of seeing these huge bulls.