Saturday, May 28, 2011

Horse-drawn plows

There are still people who cling to the old farming methods here in the Bear Lake Valley.  Today I was fortunate to photograph three teams of horses and one of mules working a field in the small town of Sharon.  As usual this spring, there was heavy overcast and light drizzle, but you can't put the camera away when an opportunity like this comes along.  This is not a set-up horse show, but a working farm.

The teams are hitched here before starting work.

Horses pull the plows to dig furrows in the heavy soil, then a harrow pulled by mules breaks up the plowed soil into smaller clods.

Monte Smith works hard to control a four horse hitch of beautiful draft horses.

Monte shows the hand positions needed on the reins that control the four big horses.

Daryl Woolstenhulme owns the ranch, and plows with a massive three horse hitch.  What a privilege to be able to witness a scene like this!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yellowstone in Storm Light

This is the year for nearly continuous storms in our part of the country.  When we visit Yellowstone, we prefer to take photos in great light, but we certainly aren't going to put the cameras away if the weather doesn't cooperate.  So, what can be done to get decent photos in storm light?

One option is to use the storm clouds as part of the composition.  Here at the Upper Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs I think the storm complements the steam.


Images with a more graphic composition may work better if the sky is excluded.  This tree at the Upper Terrace seems more dramatic with the subdued folds of black hills in the background.

Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are normally shown with gorgeous yellow color in the canyon walls.  But, we were there in light snow and bald skies which erased much of the dramatic color.  Without color, one approach is to try to capture the atmosperic conditions while retaining the sweep of the canyon walls and the falls.  To do this, one option is to minimize the uninteresting sky, showing just enough to retain the shape of the horizon.  That way, the light snow softens the mountain and trees in the background so the viewer can understand the stormy conditions.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bison Baby

Spring is the time to see baby animals in Yellowstone, so Linda and I packed the long lenses and headed north.  The first day we saw just one baby bison from a long distance.  The second morning we saw two more, also from far away.  Had the long, hard winter somehow delayed bison births?  We had a great time exploring the Park despite stormy weather, but resigned ourselves to the probability that we would not see any babies up close. Then, just before we were ready to leave, we got lucky!

We spotted a brand new bison near the road in a small herd near Midway Geyser Basin and tried to get photos in the heavy overcast.  These calfs have a distinctive orange color and are on their feet and active soon after birth.  We watched this one try to figure out how to get food for the first time.

The calf nursed from at least two cooperative bison.  Had one female, other than the mother, lost a baby so she was still able to feed a calf?  This little one should fatten up fast with all the attention it is getting, but it was not welcome everywhere.  It got a swift kick when it tried to nurse from yet another bison.  We wish we could be there when the baby elk show up in another week or two.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bear Lake in transition

Bear Lake is the centerpiece of our valley.  Half in Idaho and half in Utah, it is often called the Caribbean of the Rockies because of the gorgeous, variable blue color.  But, Bear Lake has been very low for many years.  This year's huge snowpack and abundant spring rain have already raised the water level to a point we haven't seen in a long time.

We drove around the lake with friends, Al and Sarah Starr, who were visiting from Scottsdale, Arizona.  It was the first really warm day of spring, and the Lake put on a beautiful face.

Reeds and other plants that have been high and dry for years now are in the water.  Clouds were reflected among the submerged plants at Bear Lake State Park on the east side of the lake in Idaho.

Further south, we crossed the state line into Utah where the rockier bottom at Cisco Beach was visible around small trees soon to be submerged in the rising water. We don't know how much Bear Lake will rise this year, but the transition is already providing photo opportunities.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Abandoned buildings near Chesterfield, Idaho

Chesterfield is a well-known restored agricultural ghost town in southeast, Idaho. Our photos of the town can be found here: I recently spent a day with photography friend Bruce Grayum exploring lesser known abandoned buildings in Gem Valley not far from Chesterfield.

The big surprise was this wonderful old school, "Hatch School 1915" according to the sign.  I thought I knew the area pretty well but had no idea this was here.  The schoolyard is used for farm equipment and hay storage now.

The snow is about gone so the fields surrounding this log homestead are being prepared for planting.

Many farms were abandoned because of the harsh winters, strong winds, and the shortage of water in dry years. Equipment like this disc harrow was sometimes left behind.

These windows were part of a much newer, shingled house that even had electricity and running water at one time.  The ruins of a nearby log cabin gave us a clue that this house was the second one on this site.

An old Diamond T truck lies abandoned near the shingled house.  The photo was converted to black and white using a filter function in my Pentax K20D camera. I'm sure there is more to be found and photographed in beautiful Gem Valley, Idaho.