September 27

or, why didn't the elk cross the road?

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The sound of roaring elk blended with the screaming baby in the campsite to the left and the rude neighbors in the campsite to the right. Nevertheless, I eventually fell asleep and while I was moderately cold, I woke up only once during the night. Next time I woke up was well past alarm time, or 20 minutes before sunrise. With major urgency I left the campground, leaving tent and morning hygiene behind. I headed to the West Thumb springs where I made really great morning photo experience back five years ago. Hastily I set up the tripod and waited for the morning show, which soon began. I relocated to a few different places around the main road and later went to the actual hot springs at West Thumb, where I ran into the elk photographers from last night. They may have the bigger telephoto lens, but I did have the superior wide angle equipment =)

Once the visitors started flooding the area, I left and headed south for a few miles, towards the Grand Tetons, where I was planning on shooting a small waterfall and some other scenery. From there I headed back to the campsite, to collect my tent and follow up with the morning rituals. It being Saturday, I was generous and even had a shower at the local facility - the last one until I get home, though, because the Grant Village shower was the last one active today, and is closing tomorrow. I do feel sorry for the person sitting next to me on the airplane already.

After the shower I drove east towards the East Entrance, where I could enjoy some remarkable fall colors. Later I crossed the Fishing Bridge (where fishing was prohibited) and headed eve a bit further east, where I saw a (standard) eagle land on a tree. I managed to bring out all the big gear, and soon I started a crowd. A participant in the crowd was Joe, who - after the eagle left - addressed me and asked whether I was the guy who took a picture of him while fishing yesterday evening. I said yes but apologized that the picture didn't turn out all that well. While we were talking, Joe's wife followed the eagle with her binoculars and described its new tree to me. So I headed in that general direction, this time alone, and shooting from the inside of the truck, thus not starting a new crowd.

After downloading the first 4GB of pictures, I headed back to the Fishing Bridge restaurant where I intended to eat. Unfortunately, as this was their last day of the season, they were not only out of chili, but pretty much everything else as well, except for some cheese toast or whatever. To those of you who know me well it will be no surprise that instead I bought some more cookies and left the premises, heading to the Grand Canyon. After the mandatory pictures of the Lower Falls I went to the Canyon Village to get some food - yet even here I was out of luck with my request for some chili. The menu was equally incomplete but I finally settled on a hamburger, which was OK given the circumstances.

After feeding the rental I headed towards the West Entrance, knowing that it's a very reliable place to spot some elk. And indeed. I could even afford to be picky with choosing which elk family I will stalk. I briefly joined one group of photographers with very varying equipment, ranging from puny to oh my god am I jealous. But soon this group of elk retired towards greener pastures, and I was off looking for another group. Instead of elk however I found a bald eagle, sitting happily on a burnt tree. Since it was quite far I sandwiched both the 1.4x and 2.0x TC onto the camera and started enjoying the retro feeling of manual focusing and lack of image stabilization. Well, of the 50+ pictures, one is bound to be in focus, right?

Strangely, the fact that I was aiming my monstrous setup at a tree didn't start a new crowd - the eagle was probably too small to be spotted from the moving car, or to be even photographed. Instead, the really big crowd magnet was another elk family, a much smaller one, just down the river. This family was trying to cross the road, but the tourists kept cutting them off, in an attempt to get yet even closer to the elk. The bull was clearly irritated by this, but eventually gave up and went the other direction across the river.

With the sun getting closer and closer to the horizon I decided to turn around and head to the Great Fountain Geyser again, this time hoping it would spew around sunset. Its schedule was posted as the same - somewhere between 5pm and 9:30pm an eruption was said to be likely. With the geyser quiet and asleep, I got talking with a couple from Oregon, who were happily sitting there eating dinner. Robin and David were passionate photographers as well, equipped with a large variety of goodies, ranging from a digital Leica to a 6x7 medium format camera. I was invited into their RV for a coffee and chocolate, and so we all waited for the geyser, which didn't awaken.

Once the light was gone, I left David and Robin and headed to the Fountain Paint Pot where I wanted to document the moonset, which I missed yesterday due to technical difficulties. Today, I was much more successful, and got some good shots. When I was finished it was 8:30, late enough for all food at Old Faithful (just 16 miles away) to be closed, so I headed straight to my campsite at Madison. Here it was much more full than yesterday at Grant Village, but at the same it was much more peaceful. I finished sorting of images and the travelogue just around 11pm, getting really, really cold, and so I retired into my cozy sleeping bag.

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