Yellowstone and the Tetons

After a flight to Jackson Hole, WY and a rental car ride, we arrived at Yellowstone:

It didn’t take long to encounter our first wildlife: a male elk. Elk were rutting at the time, so we kept our distance. As we were leaving this elk, some future Darwin Award winner walked up to about 5 feet from him and started taking his picture. There were a lot of future Darwin Award winners at Yellowstone.

Here is another male elk we saw a short time later. While taking his picture I saw a black bear walking in the trees behind him. The elk saw the bear too and gave him a warning bellow. We saw several black bears on the trip, but getting a photo of them proved very very difficult.


Pronghorn are pretty common in the park. The guy on the right is the male of the group and is herding his females together. One of the females tried to run away, and he chased after her and put her back into the pack.


Lots of bison in the park, of course.

One bison using another as a scratching post.

Yellowstone traffic jam. A somewhat common occurrence.

A very old bison brings up the rear.

There are a ton of elk in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. A large group hung out on the grass area around the lodge/hotel there. As I said before, it was rutting season, and the dominant male was being very aggressive and head butting cars. So the rangers were there to keep people a safe distance away (and to answer our questions). Elk shed their antlers every spring and then grow them back. These are all cows, though.

At the Mammoth Hot Springs.


This bit fell down from its original spot a few feet up and is now upside-down. It looks like a bottle cap to me.



The minerals and bacteria create interesting patterns and colors in the hot springs.


Liberty Cap cinder cone.

A black bear running along a ridge through the trees. Not a good picture, but black bears are hard to photograph.

Can you spot the three wolves in this photo? They were a LONG ways away. There was a dead bison not too far from here and many photographers spent all day for days camped out there waiting for the wolves to come by to feast on it. We didn’t have that kind of time to spare, but it would have been neat to see.

Fall colors. We were there at or near peak color for the aspen trees. Very pretty.

People watching the wolves with spotting scopes. They were too far away to get decent photos, but the spotting scopes worked well.

These are mountain goats. This time of year, their hair is short and darker. At other times (in the winter, I assume), it is thicker and white. These two were eating lichen or something off of the rock.

Baby mountain goat.

Some dumbass (and probably a future Darwin Award nominee) crashed a drone into the Prismatic Spring so now drones are not allowed in the park.


One of the geyser basins. Looks like an alien landscape.



Crystallized sap on a pine cone.

Boardwalks throughout the geyser areas keep you safe. Except for the Darwin Award winners who venture off of them…


Porkchop Geyser. It got clogged enough that it had a violent eruption and blew rock out of the top.

Vixen geyser. Very small. People were very excited that it erupted while we were there.



Bear claw mark?

Bubbling mud pools. Here, one of the bubbles is mid-pop.

An unlucky toad hopped into the wrong pool of water.


Another bison traffic jam.


A male elk chilling in a meadow. It was raining at the time.

Hail on the ground when we woke up the next morning.

Beautiful blue colors in some of the hot springs/geysers.


Small geyser right on the lake. In the old days, people used to like to pose with a fish on their hook dunking it into this geyser. So they could say “you can catch and cook your fish at the same time”.

One of many waterfalls. We spent most of our time looking for wildlife and checking out the geothermal features of the park.

Coyote is not amused.

Waiting for Old Faithful.

Not as impressive as we were expecting, to be honest. The lodge there is nice and the bathrooms are top-notch, though.


Bison rubbing on the ground.

Sapphire Pool.

Lots of tourists even at the end of the season. They mostly walk from point A to point B and do this. (Or walk where they aren’t supposed to or get too close to a wild animal and almost become a Darwin Award winner.)

Prismatic Spring.



Boardwalk around Prismatic Spring area. Can you spot Yuching and her mom?

More bison…


Another waterfall…

Someone made a peace sign out of wood at the base of the falls.

When tourists aren’t busy trying to get themselves killed or taking selfies, they pee in inappropriate places. Come on, man, there are bathrooms all over the park.

Woke up to a small herd of deer around our cabin.

Very cold this morning with frost everywhere.

Our last day at our lodge was the day that the lodge was closing for the season. That meant that breakfast was the last meal being served for the season. The person serving breakfast wanted to rebel against her manager, so was making huge breakfast burritos with everything at her disposal in them. In general, the people who work at the restaurants in the park were very nice, but the food was very expensive and pretty sub-par. This breakfast burrito was pretty darn good, though; the gravy inside was a huge bonus.

While leaving Yellowstone we saw this guy. A Great Grey Owl. When I first saw it, I thought it was one of those fake owls you buy to scare rodents away from your garden. But he was very real. Ironically, there is an owl box a mile or so from our house, but the damn owls there never come out. So I had to travel to Yellowstone to see my first owl in the wild.

Another elk for the road…



Burned trees from the Berry fire.

Approaching the Teton region.

More fall colors.

Oxbow Bend Turnout. Famous photo spot.


Moose. Yuching for scale.

Bison near Mormon Row. Certain birds ride on the backs of bison and eat insects that they find in the bison’s fur. The insects irritate the bison, so it’s a nice symbiotic relationship.

Bison with the Grand Teton behind him.

We went on an early morning wildlife expedition with Tetons Science Schools. They are an organization that teaches people about the park. They raise money by giving these tours. The guide was great and I have no complaints about the tour, but we saw more wildlife (and closer) on our own. It was good to go on the guided tour to learn about more spots we could visit on our own, though. Here is a moose we saw on the tour.

An elk that was soon scared off by a dumbass who got too close with his camera.

Our guide using a spotting scope to find some elk.

Elk “bugling” in the early morning. You can see the steam from his breath.

The three of us in front of the Tetons.

A plane approaching the Jackson Hole airport, which is located inside the park.

An osprey. We saw two of them flying around. One was probably trying to attract the other.

The other osprey had what we thought was a fish in its talons. Now I’m not so sure. Could be a fish, or maybe a turtle?

So we drove passed this sign. With “moose rossing” lingering in our head, we came up on… a moose! Just kidding. Someone had put a life size moose cutout at the side of the road (not shown). Did they do it to trick people? I don’t know, but it tricked me. Bastards.

Went to popular moose spot on our own that evening. We were told to get there between 5:30 and 6:30. (We went to the same spot the previous evening at the same time and had no luck with moose; we were told it was a bit of “hit or miss” and that a bull and 4 cows had been there that morning). When we arrived (at 5:25) there were ~50 or so photographers hanging out. I asked if they saw any moose and they told me there was a moose in the willows where he had been holed-up all day. Right on schedule, a moose got up and walked out of the willows at 5:30 (more on schedule than Old Faithful was).

When we were taking photos of beaver (see below), I was chatting with a photographer who said that a few of the moose had been given names by a popular wildlife photographer who lived and worked in the area. From his description, I think this is “Custer”, but can’t be sure.

Some of the dozens of photographers who were there to take photos of the moose (in the shade on the left). We were on the ridge above the moose and it was steep enough that we felt pretty safe from the moose. Only an idiot would go down to be on the same level as the moose to get better pictures…

Or a future Darwin Award winner! The phrase “I don’t have to be faster than the moose, I just have to be faster than you” was uttered several times (by me). Several middle aged, heavy-set guys encumbered with bigger lenses than mine were there, so I felt I wouldn’t be last up the ridge. Pretty sure anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰


As he got closer, I decided that since discretion was the better part of valor, then cowardice must be the better part of discretion. So I valiantly got the hell out of there to avoid becoming a Darwin Award winner myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

So Jackson is pretty expensive, but the food is pretty good. Bubba’s BBQ has large portions of comforting food for pretty reasonable prices. The guide from our tour recommended a few other places. This photo was taking at the Roadhouse (I think the name is technically “Q Roadhouse”) about 10 minutes outside of town. Beer selection is strangely limited in Jackson, but this place brews their own beer and has good food. They give you a bucket of peanuts and you dump the shells on the floor. And they had sports on the TVs. So a brew pub, but with better food than most brew pubs. We also went to a tapas/wine bar called “Bin 22” that was very good. I recommend all three places. (This isn’t a very good photo, I am just using it as an excuse to talk about the restaurants.)

Up early again for some classic shots. First up: the classic Mormon Row shot.

Slight variation that I like better with the little stream leading your eyes to the Tetons.

The other classic barn shot. Both barns are call the Moulton barn (owned by brothers). The previous one is the T.A. Moulton Barn. This is the John Moulton barn. They replaced the roof of this one with new shingles. I get it: they want to preserve the barn for years to come. But the new roof is a bit anachronistic to me; I wish they somehow were able to make the new shingles look aged.

And here is my definitive Mormon Row shot. The world’s best outhouse. (Except they put the door on the wrong side. It should be facing the Tetons.)

Here’s another picture postcard spot. Schwabacher Landing. It used to be a spot where you could launch your boats, but beavers put in a series of dams, so now it is an awesome spot to take photos of the Tetons and get awesome reflections in the water.

That is a beaver lodge on the far edge of the pond.

This was “the” spot to take photos here.


The two photographers sitting closest to the water were camped out taking photos and waiting for the perfect cloud to come by or something. They were not friendly and were not moving. The guys behind them were waiting for them to move. One thing I learned on this trip: female photographers tend to be very nice and you can chat/joke with them. Male photographers seem to think of photography as a competitive sport (and with flying elbows, sometimes a contact sport). I met several nice male photogs that I could joke with, but most men were kind of jerks.

We went back to the same spot in the evening to watch the beaver. They are not active in the morning, but they are very active in the evening.

They mostly just swim from their home to some distant place and then come back with a small branch or something.


This one hung out on the edge of the stream and ate a bunch of the grass. You can see his flat tail just above the water line on the right edge of the photo.

Beaver have orange teeth. Apparently it is from the iron in their food source.


We met a really nice guy taking photos (see, they are not all jerks) and he showed me a tree the beaver had been working on.

Late night moose. I think this one is missing her left eye?

They call this ridge the “Sleeping Indian”. He looks like he is on his back with arms folded on his chest and is wearing a headdress. (Ignore the right-most tree.)

We were up way early again to try to see more moose. No luck again, but I happened to see this bald eagle fly by. It was pre-dawn (very low light) and I wasn’t expecting it, so the quality is not good. But, hey, a bad photo of a bald eagle is better than no photo of a bald eagle.

First light on the Tetons on our last day.


Photo taken while boarding our plane home. Most photogenic airport? One of the stewardesses laughed and asked if I got a good shot of the fuel truck? “Um, yes. Yes I did.”

B Bryan Preserve

Yuching was desperately in need of a vacation and had learned about the B Bryan Preserve in Point Arena, California from a friend and wanted to go. So we went! We dropped the dog off for the weekend (dogs are allowed at the preserve, but not anywhere near the animals, so we decided to give him a vacation from us ;)), grabbed a sandwich from the Davey Jones Deli in Sausalito (yum!) and hit the road for a long weekend.

First stop: a beach in Bodega Bay to eat the sandwich. We saw lots of sea gulls and they made us nervous:


The Red-Tailed Hawk did not make us nervous:


Upon our arrival at the preserve, we were shown our cottage. On the way to the cottage, we got our first look at some of the animals. It was quite surreal to be driving along and see zebras and giraffes on the other side of a fence (or, occasionally, not on the other side of any fence!)





The Land Rover used for tours of the preserve. They have tours twice a day and are well worth it if you are in the area. You definitely don’t have to stay at the preserve to go on a tour, but if you stay at the preserve, you get a bit more access.


There were no chickens when we were there. But if you are there at the right time of year, fresh eggs are available for guests.






The next morning, I woke up and went out to take some pictures of the animals while Yuching showered. One of the owners saw me and let me into the giraffe barn to feed the giraffes. You know how you read about how tall NBA players are, but it doesn’t really sink in how REALLY tall they are unless you are standing next to one? Same deal with giraffes. They are huge but very gentle.


Then we headed out for a day of exploring the Point Arena area. First stop: the lighthouse.





We went for the short hike to the gazebo and saw some sea lions looking for breakfast.


Then headed out for a nice hike along the coast.



I named this “Cobra Rock”. I have no idea what its actual name is.


Then we headed to Bowling Ball beach. When we arrived it was high tide, so we couldn’t see the rocks. We were booked for the evening tour of the preserve and had dinner plans that night (at the really good Uneda Eat restaurant in Point Arena (Yuching said she likes it better than Ad Hoc; I wouldn’t go that far)), so couldn’t dilly dally too long. Fortunately the tide was going out and Yuching is patient with me and let me wait for the tide to go out enough to get these shots.




On the tour of the preserve now. The tour takes about 1.5 hours and is definately worthwhile if you are in the area.

This is Elvis. He’s the standard kind of zebra you see at most zoos.


These are Grevyโ€™s Zebras. You can tell them by their big, round ears. These guys were allowed to roam freely and we usually had to wait for them to get off the trail on the way to and from our cottage.



These are Hartmannโ€™s Mountain Zebras. You can tell them because they aren’t Grevy’s zebras ๐Ÿ˜‰


These are Sable antelope (and one of them needs to learn manners and chew with her mouth closed).



These are Kudu. They are very very shy. If you approach their area on foot, you might see them in the distance through the trees and bushes, but don’t count on it. Your best chance to see them is at feeding time during the tour.




This tour ends at the giraffe barn where you get to feed the giraffes. Definitely the highlight of the tour. You can feed them branches (hold tight, they are very strong) and apples. The barn is built so the humans can go up to the second floor and get eye level with the giraffes. I think they said these giraffes are up to 15 feet tall right now, but will probably grow to 18 feet or so.






The next day we walked around the preserve on our own until we met up with the morning tour. Here is Josephine and her daughter roaming between the enclosures.


And more antelope.



For the morning tour, they let the giraffes out of the barn and we fed them over a fence.



Here is one of the owners, Judy.



The giraffes are super rare. They showed a chart of rare and endangered species and they were like the second most rare (or something like that). They have 5 horns; can you count them all?




Giraffe kisses!



And lastly, here are a few shots of our cottage in the morning fog before our departure. Frank, the other owner, built the cottages himself using a lot of reclaimed wood, windows, staircases, etc. Very impressive. The boardwalk path that you see leads to our private hot tub!


Overlooking a pond.







One of the perks of being a photographer is that when your subject is being treated like a VIP, you get to be treated like a VIP right along with them. Today was just such a day. Cara’s family has had season tickets to the Giants for ~30 years. That’s a big deal. Even more impressive is the fact that Cara’s family lives near Fresno and has to drive ~2.5 hours to the games. These are hard-core fans! One of the perks of being such a dedicated fan is that they let you into the stadium on an off day to get your senior portraits done. How cool is that!?

After some shots in and around AT&T Park, we went to the Legion of Honor for more shots, including some awesome shots with the Golden Gate Bridge as the background.

Cara is a natural beauty with a contagious smile. Models like this make my job easy!

In the Dugout

On the Field

In Her Seat

Gorgeous Black and White

Outside AT&T Park

Bay Bridge Background

At the Legion of Honor

At the Legion of Honor

At the Legion of Honor

At the Legion of Honor

At the Legion of Honor

At the Legion of Honor

Golden Backdrop

Golden Backdrop


The Salmon Are Here!

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen decent numbers of salmon in the local creeks. We got a couple of big storms come through and now the salmon are back with a vengeance! We went to Leo Cronin today and saw at least 10 salmon. Rumor had it that there were also some otters around, but we didn’t see hide nor hair of them. We also checked out the Inkwells; you can often see the salmon jumping there. But the water was too high and too fast from yesterday’s storm, so no salmon were to be seen there today. As a long-time Marin resident, it was really cool to see the salmon coming back.

Here is a link for more info if you want to go yourself: Viewing Coho Salmon.

UPDATE 12/28/12: I went back and also visited the Devil’s Gulch area today. I added more pictures and more descriptive text.

The sign that marks the parking area:
Leo Cronin Sign
Nice wide (and flat) trail:
Fish Viewing Trail
How many salmon do you see? Look close; where you see one, there is likely a second nearby:
Spawning Salmon
Spawning Salmon
Fighting for a mate!
Fighting For A Mate
This guy looks serious!
Fighting For A Mate
The female turns sideways and makes a “nest” (called a “redd”) in the sandy creek bed with her tail while the male watches:
Making a Nest
An example of what salmon must jump to get to their spawning site:
What the Salmon Must Jump
The salmon’s flesh turns white as it decomposes:
Mated Pair
A strong male may mate with more than one female, but females generally only mate with one male.
Mated Pair

Mandy and MengLiang

Yuching and I recently traveled to Taiwan. It was a chance to visit Yuching’s Mom and family and one of her cousins was getting married, so that was a great excuse for the trip as well. So in addition to getting to ride a scooter, eat some pretty good food, and hang out with Yuching’s many awesome cousins, we got to shoot MengLiang’s wedding to the lovely and wonderful Mandy.

This was a pretty traditional Chinese ceremony. I have done my share of Chinese weddings in the United States so I’m familiar with the tea ceremony, the bride having multiple dress changes, etc., but the weddings here have always had a more traditional Western ceremony. This wedding was unlike any I have done before. In a way, I enjoy something different: it’s a nice change of pace from most weddings that I do. In another way, it was a bit terrifying: I understand about 2 words of Chinese, which meant that I had little idea of what to expect next or where best to capture the action. It was very hard to follow what was happening at the moment much less predict what was going to happen next. Fortunately my lovely wife was by my side to help me every step of the way.

The “ceremony” isn’t really a ceremony. It’s more a series of events. There is no one moment where the couple becomes “man and wife” as we experience it in the Western world. I’ll walk you through it as best I understood it:

The wedding starts at the groom’s parents’ house. This is where the couple will spend their first night together. One tradition is to have a young boy roll around in the couple’s bed to make it more likely that the couple will have a child soon (and preferably a male child). (I didn’t see this happen, so not sure if it was part of this wedding.)

The wedding started very early on a Sunday morning. Everything about a Chinese ceremony is about “luck”. So the date and timing of the wedding events were very important. First step, the groom has to go get his bride. Here he is ready to go pick up his bride.

MengLiang Ready to Get Mandy

The groom and groomsmen leave from the groom’s parents’ house to go get the bride. They take a caravan of cars; the number of cars needs to be divisible by 6 (6, 12, 18…) to be lucky.

Decoration On Car
Cars Ready to GoCaravan Detail

Firecrackers are lit to send the caravan on its way. They are very LOUD! If you are shooting a Chinese wedding, pay attention to those around you and stay at least as far back as the nearest person who knows what’s going to happen. I didn’t and almost lost my hearing and got hit with a piece of shrapnel ๐Ÿ˜›


A boy greets the groom at the bride’s parents’ house.

Boy Greets Groom

The Chinese symbol for “double happiness” is everywhere. The groom is ready for his bride…

Ready To Get Bride

…but first he has to get past these people. Each gives him a task that he must complete. The groomsmen are allowed to help (kinda like “phone a friend” ;)) Tasks include things like calling “I love you!” to Mandy in 5 different languages…


dancing Gangnam style…

Gangnam Style

and doing push-ups while singing “I Will Always Love You”.

Push-ups While Singing

At last MengLiang completes his challenges and is allowed to see the bride.

Bride Waits

Now MengLiang thanks the bride’s parents for raising such a wonderful daughter. They are off to start their new lives together. The bride’s father gives them a red envelop to wish them good luck in their life together. (There are a LOT of red envelopes handed out on wedding days.)

Taking Bride from Parents

When they depart, the bride drops a fan from the car window as a symbol of leaving her bad habits behind. Then more firecrackers. Did I mention that they are very loud and dangerous? Here the same boy that greeted the groom holds the fan as firecracker smoke envelopes him.

Boy with Fan

Back to the groom’s parents’ house where they are greeted by a plate with an orange and apple to welcome Mandy to the family.

Greeted with Oranges

The luckiest woman of the family (not sure how she gets that title? Very good record with scratchers?) shields the couple with an umbrella to protect them from bad luck. As they enter the house, they step over some fire on a roof tile. Not sure why, but I’m sure it is for more good luck ;).

Stepping Over Fire

Now the couple goes to an alter to pay tribute to their ancestors. Uncles light incense for this part of the ceremony.

Tribute to Ancestors
Uncles Light Inscense

Now we see the beautiful bride as the groom lifts her veil.

Beautiful Bride
Removing Veil
Ring Shot
Happy Couple
Heart Shot
Under the Veil

Now it’s off to the banquet!

 Bride Off to the Banquette

Yuching holding the Chinese symbol for “double happiness”.

Yuching With Fortune Character

Not a small banquet. About 800 guests in all!

Large Wedding

Yuching’s Mom and the “flower girl” Chloe:
Mom and Chloe

Me taking Gallon’s picture taking Yuching’s picture taking a picture of the food. The banquet consisted of 10 courses! No one left hungry ;).

Me Gallon Yuching

The wedding party gets introduced. Here come the “ring bearer” and “flower girl”.

Ring Bearer and Flower Girl

And now the couple led by a saxophone player…

Couple Introduction
Couple Introduction

The couple and their parents toast the guests. I’m told that the gentleman on the right is the person who introduced the couple.

Family Toast To Guests

Entrance for the second dress.

Second Dress

More “Gangnam Style”.

More Gangnam Style

As the guests depart, the couple hands candy out to everyone. Here we see Mandy’s third dress of the day.

Last Dress Candy

Agility Fun Match

My lovely wife volunteers quite a bit at the local humane society. Today she helped out at their “Agility Fun Match”. It is a non-judged event designed to allow agility dog owners the chance to have fun and experience a trials-like atmosphere with their dogs. I went along to check it out, and of course I brought along my camera. The next thing I knew, I was the unofficial event photographer! I will be selling photos from the event to help raise money for future agility fun matches, so it’s win-win.

Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match

Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match
Agility Fun Match


The space shuttle Endeavour made it’s last flight today: a tour of California before heading to its permanent home in a museum. I was fortunate enough to be able to see it as it did a fly by of the Golden Gate Bridge. Endeavour was the last of the space shuttles to be retired. The end of an era. It was a beautiful day and Endeavour didn’t disappoint.

Golden Gate Bridge
Space Shuttle EndeavourEndeavour Framed by the Golden Gate Bridge
Endeavour in Back and White
Endeavour Profile
Endeavour Framed by the Golden Gate Bridge
Farewell Eneavour

Antonette and Robert

Antonette and Robert met through an online social networking service. I dig it when people meet online, maybe because that’s how I met my wife ๐Ÿ˜‰ They were both members of AKA at the University of Michigan when they met. And despite a relationship that was geographically challenging at times, they made it work. I was honored to photograph their wedding. The ceremony concluded with the tradition of jumping the broom. Antonette and Robert are now off to Mexico for a nice long honeymoon!

Ceremony and reception at the Mira Vista Golf and Country Club in El Cerrito, California.

Tying Tie
Cuff Links and Watch
Children Getting Ready
Time for the Boutonniere
Here Comes the Bride
Here Comes the Bride
Here Comes the Bride
Seeing the Bride Come Down the Aisle
Lifting the Veil
Ceremony View
First Kiss as Man and Wife
Broom Jumping

Their ceremony included tasting four flavors to help prepare themselves for the different flavors of life. There was the sweet (honey), the sour (lemon), the bitter (vinegar), and the spicy (cayenne).

Vingear, Honey, Cayenne, and Lemon
Something Brewed
First Dance
First Dance
Mother Son Dance
Wedding Cake
Cake Cutting
Cake Cutting
Bouquet Toss
Bouquet Toss
Garter Toss
Garter Toss