My favorite place in the world to photograph is Alaska. When I die, I want to be buried there.
The first time I visited was in 1994. The beauty of the place captured me. It was immense and unforgettable. Once I was back home, I couldn't rest until I could return and take more of Alaska's splendor home with me. I planned another excursion a year later; this time by car, and one I expected to last about five months. It was to begin in the Spring of 1997 in hopes of getting images of newborn animal babies, the blooming of the season's wildflowers, and the Spring water runoff, which lends to magnificent waterfall shots.
I left my home in May of that year; my truck jam-packed with all the gear I would need for my journey. My first stop was South Dakota where I photographed the scenic Badlands and the Black Hills. South Dakota is probably the most under-rated state in our nation when it comes to exquisite natural beauty. The whole area is loaded with images that beg to be taken. Rolling hills and breathtaking landscapes draw a photographer in, as if the place itself was casting a spell. My surreal shot "Trees in Fog" was taken during this trip and it's one of my most intriguing nature images.
I then went to Custer State Park to photograph bison and pronghorn antelope and, while there, I was fortunate to witness the actual birth of a pronghorn antelope, and to later come across many newborn bison.
My most memorable moment occurred while driving on one of the park service roads. I literally got caught in the middle of a buffalo stampede. Incredible! Two herds of about one hundred and fifty bison came together; running across the South Dakota Plains with a great rumbling as their feet pounded and shook the earth. It felt like I was in a different time period. I could imagine what it must have been like for our early pioneers, those men and women of the old west, to have been on their horses in the middle of all that animal energy. It was a true, and very unexpected, wilderness experience.
From Custer State Park, I went to the Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming. I'm fascinated with this unique structure. It seems to rise out of nowhere. The images I took cause people to exclaim: "Hey, that's from Close Encounters!" Yes, it's the very same structure used in the movie 'Close Encounters of The Third Kind', except when I was there, there were no aliens landing on it. The park surrounding Devil's Tower also has wildlife to photograph, but the beauty of this strange earth sculpture is all I needed to experience. It is massive and awe-inspiring. The best rock climbers can make it to it's top in about one hour. Unbelievable!!! (Click here to see images!)
Leaving Devils Tower, I headed into the Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks to concentrate on photographing landscapes, nature, and more newborn baby animals. These parks are named differently, but they are connected. It's an entire wilderness region and it is magnificent.
Yellowstone National Park is probably the most unique and diversified National Park in the world. It is overwhelmingly beautiful. There is so much to photograph that one trip doesn't scratch the surface of its abundant beauty, and every season brings you something different to see. Wildlife, scenery, it is all there for the taking. Drink it in. Photograph it. Paint it. Appreciate it. It's pure splendor.
While in Yellowstone, I was fortunate to see a gray wolf cross the Lamar River, and later; a black bear mother and her cub feeding on a recent kill. I also had the opportunity to photograph many newborn elk and antelope, and was able to photograph several grizzly bears. It is just breathtaking to see wild animals freely roaming before you. Our national parks are cherished, sacred places.
If you plan to see Yellowstone for yourself, I would recommend getting there in either the early summer or late Fall when most of the tourists have gone. It can get very crowded in a hurry during tourist season, and this takes away from the true wilderness experience that Yellowstone National Park gladly gives its off-season visitors. I was one of only a few people in the park at the time I visited. The snow had recently melted and the park gates had just opened. The only other people in the park were biologists and other photographers. After about two weeks, the schools let out and busloads of tourists started coming in. As soon as I saw the buses, I left and headed north to Glacier National Park where it would not be crowded.