Essays / s /

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Not surprisingly, it went too far out on the thin ice and went through. Not being able to get back up there was no other option but to cross the river. The situation was not different there and he went back. We were wondering if he would make it or drown. Finally the current tok him downstream and to more shallow waters and he managed to get ashore on our side. Next question was, what would the rest of the crowd do?I visited Yellowstone National Park together with a group of photographers arranged by Natures-Images from UK in the beginning of Feb 2015. We flew in to Bozeman and picked up two vans that were used the first three days of the trip. We stayed in a small town named Gardiner just outside the North Gate of the park. The plan was fairly simple, drive up and down the Lamar valley, between Roosevelt and Cooke City, and simply keep an eye open for any wildlife that was within shooting range of our large lenses.

Not surprisingly, every time we drove up and down the valley different animals and situations were spotted. It is worth mentioning that at this time of the year the park rangers are not that strict preventing parking outside assigned locations and walking along the road. During the first afternoon drive we, as expected, saw a lot of bisons, a few elks and bighorn sheep. Nothing special but we got our cameras going, which is important as everyone had great expectations for this vacation. The second and third days were dedicated to coyote and fox. Both were observed in the open landscape but they had a tendency to drift away from where we were positioned on the road. However, we were in luck and managed during the course of these two days to get both within camera range and we even got shots while they were jumping for mice or bison rats. In spite of the fact that this was a photo tour with focus on wildlife, you have to take the opportunity to take some landscape photos too and consequently we could not avoid spending some hours in Mammot Hot Springs.

On day four we were picked up by two wiesels, capable of driving on snow covered roads in the park. The process were the same as the first days but his time we had two local guides who knew the wildlife within the park well. This knowledge made it possible to for us to look for certain animals at dedicated spots.

First afternoon we had a stop at Norris Geyser Basin and then to look for bobcat, which we found relatively quickly at its usual hunting location on the river bank of Madison river. A couple of hours we spent on the opposite riverbank while the bobcat was hunting at the opposite river bank. Second day inside the park we drove the full circle, from Old Faithful, where we stayed, to Norris, Canyon Village, along Yellowstone lake and back again to Old Faithful. The day started with heavy snow and in that weather we got some nice shots of bison and coyote. Then it was a 45 mile drive to Yellowstone river where there are some good spots for whooper swans and otter. The swans were at the expected location and we had a long photo session with them. On the opposite river bank there was a herd of bison having their afternoon rest. We did not pay much attention to them, but when one of them got up and went out on the thin river ice the situation changed. Not surprisingly, it went too far out on the thin ice and went through. Not being able to get back up there was no other option but to cross the river. The situation was not different there and he went back. We were wondering if he would make it or drown. Finally the current tok him downstream and to more shallow waters and he managed to get ashore on our side. Next question was, what would the rest of the crowd do?

After some hesitation they all jumped in and got into the same problem as the leader. Luckily they all made it and we had witnessed something few have done. Next stop were the fishing spot of the otters.

As expected it did not take long before we spotted three of them running along the river bank or swimming in the water. For them this was not a hunt but time to play and have fun as they are known for. Another couple of hours with these guys and it was time to head back to camp. According to park regulations you are not allowed to drive around after dark. Do not ask me why. The following morning it was time to pay Old Faithful a visit as the sky was blue and the sun was shining. The problem was that the initial outburst was just a small one. Not much to take home as a memory . This was disappointing but fortunately by coincidence we got to witness the second outburst and that was much better, but even that was just half of what it can be. Next time I have to hope for better luck. The rest of that day was nothing special. We just had too bright and no special sighting. Not all days can be equally spectacular and packed with events. The time had come to an end and we had just one morning left for photo and then head back to Gardiner and then Bozeman. On our way we observed a fox far out on the plains hunting. He was zigzaging back and forth looking for food. To our surprise he changed direction and was heading straight for us. All lay still and did not move or say anything, the only sound was the cameras clicking. Is was closer that 10 m from us before it drifted across the road and disappeared into the woods. A fine last session on a memorable photo tour.  

Mølen, The Great Glacier´s rock collection

Mølen is a part of one of the world´s largest natural monuments from the last Ice Age!

The melting and retreat of the huge glacier covering Scandinavia by the end of the last glaciation was discontinuous. In the periods when melting was low, the ice margin became fixed to certain positions. the glacier transported continuously sand, pebbles and cobbles to the ice margin where gravel ridge were formed and where the position of the glacier was fixed for a period of time.

Between 12.650 and 12.350 years before present, i.e. for a period of 300 years, the the ice margin was fixed to a single position. Then a gigantic ridge of gravel formed at the ice margin all around Scandinavia. In Southeastern Norway, this ridge is called the "Ra" and Mølen is a part of this huge ridge.

At Mølen, and and elsewhere in the "Ra"; there are rocks from various places and of different ages and geological origin. Among the cobbles at Mølen, you may find at least 100 different types of rocks. We can identify many of these, and then we can find out from where the glacier picked these up. Some characteristic rock types are: Quartzites from Telemark, Gneisses from Kongsberg and Meheia, Limestone from Grenland, Sandstone from Ringerike, Granite from Drammen and Rhomb porphyry from Vestfold. The most common rock types among the cobbles are larvikites and various syenites. This is no surprise since these rocks are found in the hills just north of Mølen. The most exotic rock found is flint. The flint possibly arrived as stowaway cobbles frozen into ice bergs drifting from Denmark.

Masai Mara and Amboselli National Parks, Kenya

The Porini Lion Camp is situated along the banks of the Ntiakatiak River, a seasonal river with some permanent hippo pools near the camp or just outside the well known Masai Mara National Park. In this camp I stayed in for a short week, The game drive started before 0500 every morning and we were not back in the camp until after dark, around 1900. Not much time to enjoy the luxury guest tents in the camp. The tents are very spacious and have private verandahs along the length of the tent, providing a secluded and private 'space' to relax in and enjoy the beauty of the African wilderness. Each tent had en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers. Food was excellent.

Duiring our stay it was the time for the crossing of the wildebeests with several thousand of them getting into the area. In other words plenty of food for the cats, lions, leopards and cheetahs  in the area. The Masai guide had always first hand knowledge of what went on and the opportunities to take unique photos happened every day.

In all other parks I visited, Amboselli, Lake Naiwasha, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementeita it was not possible to enter until after sunrise and I had to accept the hard light of the day.

Polar bears in Mohnbukte, Svalbard

We took the plane to Longyearbyen on Friday morning for a few days of snowmobiling around the city before going on a longer trip to the east coast. In the mornings and evenings we went to Bjørndalen or Adventdalen to photograph arctic fox , ptarmigan and reindeer. After a few days it was time get our little expedition going, a five-day trip to the east coast . Pictures of polar bears was the main objective of the trip. The ride across the mountains went smoothly and we got down to the ice edge in Agardbukta , as first stop. No sign of any polar bear but we met a couple of guys who had seen them. During the night a bear had overturned one snowmobile and eaten the seat of the other. It was bears in the area, it was just to find them. The next day we broke camp and continued our trip, first to Dunerbukta and then Mohnbukta .There we selected a camp site on the glacier at a fair distance from the ice edge . After setting camp we started to look for the polar bears. It did not take long until the first one was spotted far out on the ice edge Now it was just to follow and position ourselves correctly. This was a bit of a cat and mouse type of game, get close but not too close. During the next days we managed to get close to at least six . We got what we came for. The last day we went over to van Neidenfjorden to get some pictures of seals on the ice with their new born white puppies  During this period they are nursed on the ice but cannot dive in as their lungs are not sufficiently developed. Artic fox and glaucous gull had a feast. The chance of survival is fairly slim. We found just one puppy but next morning he was taken. No nice picture this year but I have pictues from last year. Last stop was the glacier front of Paula Breen in evening light before returning to Longyerbyen.

Red-crowned crane, Hokkaido

The red-crowned crane, also called the Japanese crane is a large east Asian crane and among the rarest cranes in the world. In some parts of its range, it is known as a symbol of luck, longevity and fidelity.

To take a good photo of these birds dancing is a challenge, white birds, white snow and a bright sky with the sun too high. Irrespective of these problems we had to try.

I managed after a lot of hassle to get a taxi to take me to the feeding place.  It was a  linguistic challenge, but I managed in one way or another. During my stay the conditions was not very good but I had to give it a try. The birds came in from different directions, some came in low over the fields while others came in high above, took a round and then landed. After some feeding it was time for a bit of dance  but to get a clean shot against a blurred background was just wishfull thinking.

Snow Monkeys, Japan

Jigokudani Monkey Park is in Yamanouchi, Shimotakai District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. About 4 hours drive by bus from Narita aiorport. It is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park and is located in the valley of the Yokoyu-River, in the northern part of the prefecture. The name Jigokudani, meaning "Hell's Valley", is due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests. The area of the park has heavy snowfalls every winter, and is only accessible via a narrow two kilometre footpath through the forest. This keeps the park uncrowded despite being relatively well-known. It is famous for its large population of wild Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata), more commonly referred to as Snow Monkeys, that go to the valley during the winter. The monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen (hotsprings), and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

We spent three days in Volcanoes National Park  in Rwanda, and each day we went to different gorilla family groups. The hike started on the outskirts of the agricultural area and went uphill. It took us between one and three hours to reach each group of mountain gorillas. When getting close to them, we had to leave all our gear except the cameras we could carry along. Definitely NO FOOD. We were given one hour with the family group before the trackers told us that we had to pack up and leave. It always felt like just a short while, but being so close to those gorillas time did just fly. Some handsome tipping and you could get a quarter extra.