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Archive for March, 2009

A Day with the Bighorns

I hiked the footbridge that crosses the Gardiner River just over the Yellowstone Park – Montana border. A nice blue sky with swirling cirrus clouds made it one of those special early summer days. It was still early and I could smell a slight sulphur scent in the crisp cool air coming from the hot springs just a quarter mile upstream.

I headed up Mc Minn Bench and was going to traverse Mt. Everts to find and photograph Bighorn sheep. Bighorn lambs are born usually in May or June and bands of ewes with their lambs browse the warm grassy hillsides in this rugged high country.

big-horns

Bighorn rams

 
It didn’t take long and I spotted several sheep. Being below them I was sure I was seen way before I saw them. So I worked my way around them, up a drainage system and alongside low standing cedars and sage. Coming up on them from both behind and upwind I had a much better change to get some good images.
Once I popped over a steep ridge there they were. I counted twenty-three ewes and lambs. A few male rams were scattered on the far parameter. Majestic and regal with full curls they lay in the grass watching over their herd, oblivious to me. 
bighorn-lamb1

Bighorn lamb

I slowly worked my way into the middle of the herd. It took more than another hour’s hike to approach them where I could compose with the lenses I was carrying. I got so close I was sure they could hear my heart pounding 
Each time ewes or lambs got up and moved I would stoop and do the same, always moving in a few feet closer. Lambs would lie down then I would. They grazed and I moved in and lay down again. 
 
Suddenly they moved in on me. I could hear them chewing the sweet grass. Grinding teeth, soft bleats and heavy breathing, I couldn’t believe it. Now they came to me. One ewe at the back of my feet even hit my shoe nibbling the grass.  My camera clicking away, I could see beads of sweat on the little lambs’ noses, their faces filling the viewfinder. 

I was in awe. I was invisible. A lamb stepped over my leg and hopped off to play tag with a sibling, all energy and full of new life. We spent about thirty minutes together. Surrounded I was so excited I could hardly hold my camera steady.

 

bighorn-sheep

Grunting noises from one of those large rams a hundred yards away called the herd to action and they were up in seconds moving further up Mt. Evert. Then I was just a spot on the mountainside. High from my experience and speechless, hiking down the ridge I looked over my shoulder, the herd was just at Evert’s peak, their tan hides glowing in the lowering soft sunlight.   

The wild and the peaceful at home in Montana.

All images used in this entry are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. 2009, All Rights Reserved. They may not be copied or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of Wayne Scherr., Range of Vision Photos. For lease or reproduction rights contact: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Kirurumu Tented Lodge

 

 

 

Perched high on the edge of Gregory Rift Escarpment overlooking forested plains and Lake Manyara is the tented lodge called Kirurumu.  In the distance you can see Mount Losimongori and its volcanic mass. www.kirurumu.com, the setting is striking. The surroundings are very peaceful.

Long ago when Ngorongoro was an active volcano a lava flow edged out along the highlands. Once, Ngorongoro was larger than Kilimanjaro. Today weathered and eroded Kirurumu rests on the end of the rift. Kirurumu is a Bantu word that describes the sound of rushing waters. It was the name of a nearby river that cut through a gorge that flows out into the valley.

Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania doesn’t have the fame of Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater Highlands World Heritage biosphere. Even though it is less intense there are still many animals to be seen and perhaps photographed.  Waterfowl and other birdlife dominate the scene but there are elephants, lions, hippos and giraffe that can be observed throughout the 205 square miles of the Park. Email: manyarapark@africaonline.co.tz

 

Nine Giraffes at Lake Manyara National Park

Nine Giraffes at Lake Manyara National Park

 

There are only 20 tent lodge sites here surrounded by natural vegetation and built of local materials. Because they did not introduce any exotic species of plants and encouraged the rejuvenation of native plants the results presented are a great display of local flora and fauna.

 

Flamingos are famous here. Tens of thousands of the pink-hued birds are always on their continuous migration up and down the great rift of Africa. From a distance they appear to turn the 125 square mile lake a shade of pink.

It is here above the thick vegetation and brackish waters of the lake that this serene tent lodge is nestled. Driving several miles down a rut ridden dusty, dirt road, vegetation thickened and though the landscape did not have tall trees the greenery was deep.  As the Land Cruiser pulled under a shaded vine awning I was welcomed by a young Massai man dressed in traditional red suka and beaded arm band.“Jambo”, was the greeting.  “Karibu”. Welcome.

He presented me with a glass of fresh fruit juice, whisked my bag away and escorted me to the lobby desk to sign in.I was struck by the quiet. A slight breeze and chirping of song birds filled the air. This is the goal at Kirurumu – to be at one with the natural surroundings and provide a rustic comfort to their guests. Tent Lodge secluded in trees 

 

While being taken to my shelter I noticed that many of the plants and trees were signed like at an arboretum, with names like Acacia, Aloes, Lannea and Terminalia. The Lodge offers Ethno-botanical walks throughout their facilities where with a Massai guide you can you can discover the fascinating   stories and uses of these plants.

 

Rustic comfort safari style

Rustic comfort safari style

 

 

The birds are what you notice the most. More than 320 different species have been identified in the surrounding area. The feeling is that of being removed from the outside world especially after exploring the vastness of Ngorongoro’s savannah or the Serengeti plains.

My canvas wall tent was raised on a platform and recessed into the greenery. You could not see another site from my porch. Seclusion is very real here. Paths to each tented lodge are lit by low intensity lamps that give off a nice atmosphere without being harsh. The dim lighting does not interfere with the night flying Palearctic birds and their annual migration route, that channels’ through the region.

Kirurumu has their own water purification system set up. When they planned the site they understood that fresh drinking water is the key to survival. They also provide fresh water to the local village. Not having to boil water is less of a drain on firewood which is limited here. It showed excellent forethought.

That night I made my way down to the deck and bar that overlooks the valley and lake beyond. There wasn’t a light out there, just darkness, the stars and a few candles burning at the bar. There was nothing but miles and miles of empty space. It was when I noticed that I had not seen nor heard an airplane for a few days either.
My thoughts were at a loss of words in trying to describe the starry skies floating in the heavens above. A couple of guests from Australia drank and chatted incessantly. I don’t think they ever noticed the brilliant stars, nor the sweet earthy scented evening air.   

I sipped on a glass of South African white wine engulfed in the darkness, drifting in thought from the day’s adventure.

 

Related Posts:
https://myphotovisions.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/tree-climbing-lions
 

https://myphotovisions.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/tracking-lions 

https://myphotovisions.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/elephant-brothers 

 

 

 

 All Photos used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos. Contact: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

 

 

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High Rise in Montana

 

It is lush. It is barren. It is volcanic and it is granite. With more than 700 miles of fantastic hiking trails available the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness is a backpackers’ paradise.

A Native American name from the Crow Indians the Absaroka mountain range is characterized by heavily forested valleys and sharp rugged peaks that occupy the western portion of this wilderness.

Distinctly different is the Beartooth range with its high granite plateaus, alpine lakes and deep glaciated valleys that make up the eastern portion of these wild lands. This mountain range was named after a distinctive peak that resembles a bears’ tooth.

The tooth sticks out from the rocky escarpment above Hellroaring Canyon that can be seen from the Beartooth Highway, US 212, that crosses this scenic range from Red Lodge to Cooke City. The highway itself is known as the most beautiful Scenic Byway in America.

The Beartooth Mountains are the highest range in Montana. Several of its peaks are above 12,000 feet in elevation. Coming in from the north you face a massive headwall. From the south it is a gradual rise that ends on the Beartooth Plateau at 10,000 feet above sea level.

becker-lake

Becker Lake

Granite Peak is the highest point in Montana with an elevation of 12,799 feet. The rugged panoramic views are impressive present a challenging climb that attracts hikers from all over the world.

This high country also attracts weather. Winter brings as much as 30 feet of snow making recreational access across the range mainly in the summer months, (June through August). Even then it can snow in August. Storms can gather all along the range and then blow out onto the plains below. The highway usually stays open until the snow begins to pile up in October.

dewey-lake

Dewey Lake

There are over 940,000 acres in this pristine wilderness that covers parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming. Hundreds of alpine and subalpine lakes dot the landscape providing challenging fishing and hiking opportunities for all levels of outdoor experience.

Lakes tucked away in high basins and glacial cirques offer scenic surprises for hikers, each having their own unique setting that adds to your wilderness experience.

A major contributor to the Yellowstone River system the Absorka-Beartoorh Wilderness has nine major water drainages that wind their way out of the mountains.

Accessible campgrounds are available on both sides of the plateau with Island Lake very near the top of the Highway itself. Both Cooke City and Red Lodge can serve as a base to the wilderness if camping is not your style. Cooke City is just four miles from Yellowstone National Park’s northeast entrance.

The Absaroka Range is much younger than the Beartooth and is dominated by a volcanic geology. Forested valleys and sharp rugged ridges were formed by retreating glaciers and carved out by its rivers and streams.

the-needles

The Needles

Unlike the Beartooth Range, the Absarokas are lower in elevation with Mount Cowan coming in at 11,206 feet. Except for the very highest points vegetation of some sort covers the landscape.

Even above timberline wildflowers are abundant, though low in profile. Glacier Lilies, Shooting Stars, Indian Paintbrush and Sagebrush Buttercups blanket the open spaces all the way up to the arctic tundra of the high plateaus.

twin-lakes

Twin Lakes

At lower elevations you can find yourself in a meadow knee deep in wildflowers as they fill the air with their sweet floral scent. Their growing season is short but spectacular with excellent opportunities for close up photography and an appreciation of nature’s beauty.

Although you can find mountain goats up on the plateau most wildlife are in the lower elevations. If you are lucky you may see a Grizzly Bear or lone Wolf crossing the higher sections of the range. Deer, Elk and Moose can be seen in the Absarokas more readily. 

Having explored many of the high plateaus and drainage systems throughout the Beartooth Range I will share some of these experiences with further entries to my blog. Please subscribe to this blog and I will notify you as they are posted.

All photographs used in this blog are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos. Reproduction of any kind is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos. Contact: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

 

 

Related Post:

https://myphotovisions.wordpress.com/2009/02/28/lee-metcalf-wilderness

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Tarangire, Touching Spirits

 

The first thing that struck me about Tarangire, in Tanzania, was that the landscape was studded with Baobab trees. They were very unmistakable in identity. Large thick trunks and branches that appeared to be uprooted from the ground, turned upside down and stuck back into the soil. To me they were an image of Africa.

I had just read The Tree Where Man Was Born, by Peter Matthiessen. It was a fascinating story of his travels in East Africa in the 1970’s. He painted vivid word pictures about the Rift Valley, its people, wildlife and cultures.  Now I found myself looking up into the foliage of one of these massive specimens.

baobab-tree

Baobab Tree

They seemed so ancient. What stories they could tell of what has passed under their reach. Warriors, leopards, elephants and lions, they were all about life and death on the plains of Africa.

Greg, my safari guide and driver on this trip, was anxious to find lions for me to photograph. He put the Land Cruiser into gear and we moved on down the winding dirt roadway deeper into the National Park.

giraffes-in-tarangire-river

Giraffes in Tarangire River bed

Rounding a thicket of Blackwood we coasted down toward the Tarangire River and its flood plain. There stood three Giraffes, long necked, taller than the trees on the bank.  After starring for several moments they awkwardly danced through the mud up the bank and into the forest. I managed several exposures as the warm angled light of morning lit up their patchwork hides. I could hardly believe where I was, such a long way from the Rocky Mountains of Montana, half a world away.

river-elephant

Elephant at waters edge

Crossing the shallow waters of the Tarangire a small elephant was pulling wet grasses up with its trunk slinging the water up along its back then chomping on the greenery. At one point he playfully slung water at the Cruiser. I finished that roll of film in seconds.

Up and over the muddy riverbank back into the tree-line we drove slowly always on the lookout for animals. Within moments there stood a family of lions, parents and a young cub. They ignored us completely. Greg turned off the engine and we sat there watching, amazed.  It must have been a teaching thing, a schooling event for the young one.

lioness

Lioness in tree

Silently the adults slinked through the tall grass and in two seconds they scrambled up into a nearby tree out onto a broken limb. The cub squatted down at the base of the tree camouflaged by the grass. We heard nothing. Not a sound of claws grabbing at the bark, only the wind through the leaves and birds singing.

The adults were on alert, ears pealed toward the forest. Something else was out there that we could not see but they knew and zeroed in on whatever faint sounds they heard. The cub glanced at us but tried hard to concentrate on the lesson. He shifted its weight and settled in again deeper into the grass.

Slinking further out on the limb the adults also settled quietly but still watched for movement beyond the trees. Both Greg and I strained but no sight, no sound. It was a false alarm lesson.

lions-in-tree

Tree climbing lions

The lions lay across the tree-limb, their legs dangling over the sides. It was the first time they seemed to notice us thirty feet away. With shaky hands my camera clicked away. Greg was grinning. I stood in the open topped Cruiser amazed at the awesome site before me. What a scene to remember, tree climbing lions. I spoke softly, thanking the posing pride, admiring their beauty. I was so grateful to have shared these few minutes in their lives, touching spirits.

Photographs used in this entry are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos.  Contact: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

Related Posts:

https://myphotovisions.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/tracking-lions

https://myphotovisions.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/elephant-brothers

https://myphotovisions.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/safari-road

 

 

 

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You never know where photo
assignments will take you.

Another photo mission only this time it was underground. Lewis and Clark Caverns are located just 19 miles west, from Three Forks, Montana on MT Highway 2. It is Montana’s first state park and is one of the largest limestone caverns in the Northwest.

The assignment was to photograph the Paradise Room which is the highlight of this cave system for a regional travel guide. The Park is open year round but cave tours are conducted only from May through the end of September. We made arrangements with the Park Superintendent and got a private guided tour during an off time.

Weighted down with equipment my partner and I were escorted down, down through narrow passages and steep stairways.  The normal tour takes about two hours but we moved quickly to have as much time as possible to get the images we needed.

caverns

Paradise Room Lewis and Clark Caverns

The Paradise Room is this caverns’ finest example of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and helictites.  It is a very delicately balanced ecosystem down here. Water percolates through the limestone and dissolves fragments of calcite which then seeps through tiny fissures in the rock creating the cave formations. Other underground specimens were pointed out to us on the descent. With names like dripstones, erratic and flowstones it was interesting and informative but our thoughts were on how to light this huge vault of darkness.

Of course there were no electrical plug-in down there, so high powered strobe were out of the question. We decided upon a timed exposure and while the shutter was open we would fire off hand held small flashes and try to capture the drama and texture of the formations.  For thirty seconds we scramble around and behind the limestone structures in the dim light of the cavern trying to be sure we were not seen by the camera.

A series of exposures taken and suddenly we felt exhausted. We were permitted only two hours for set up, shooting and to exit before the first tour of the day was to begin. By the time we hit daylight the adrenalin surge you get when starting a photo shoot was gone. We improvised, were hopeful and felt successful.  It was another ¾ of a mile hike back down to the parking lot overloaded with tripods and photo gear. Dirty hot and sweaty we drove into Bozeman to get our film processed as fast as possible, anxious to see the results.

Although we did not have any experience in cave photography we got what we needed and the editor was pleased. Another task accomplished.

The photograph used in this entry is copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos. Reproduction without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos is prohibited. Contact: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com 

 

 

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