wildlife

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556)

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography My apologies for falling off the travel blog post wagon. Life has been a bit hectic the last few weeks since arriving home. Happily settling back into normalcy :)

Grand Teton National Park is an area I am happy to explore again and again. My third visit was spectacular, filled with stunning light, bears popping up everywhere, elk crossing the Snake River, dramatic clouds, cool temperatures and endless landscape goodness.

My top list of places to explore remains the same. Stop by my first blog post for more details.

Here are my recent favorite captures from this beautiful corner of Wyoming.

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556)

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) The Bridger-Teton National Forest, although considered separate national forests, will be shared together. They intertwine beautifully across 3.4 million acres of land.

I covered ground here after leaving Yellowstone National Park and driving along the beautiful John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Big Rocks Trail - two mile, moderate hike, through an old growth forest with large boulders waiting for you along the way to the top.
  2. Big Spring Scenic Backway - oh how I love a scenic road. This drive offers 68 miles of mountains, wildlife and valley goodness.
  3. Bridger Wilderness - located in the Wind River Mountains with more than 600 miles of trails. Loads of options for exploring!
  4. Gros Ventre Wilderness - a beautiful area called home to larger wildlife, including bison, elk, grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions.
  5. Teton Wilderness - located in the southern portion of Yellowstone National Park, be sure to stop in for a hike before heading south on the Parkway and into Grand Teton National Park.

What are your favorite hikes and places to explore in the Bridger-Teton National Forest?

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556)

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Visiting Yellowstone National Park is always a treat. My time exploring was low-key and familiar since this was visit number five. Highlights included bison everywhere (as usual), steamy and colorful geysers and beautiful rivers.

As in any national park unit, national forest, wilderness area and the like, be sure to read signs and follow regulations. For your safety as well as protection of wildlife and the surrounding ecosystem.

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Lamar Valley - always a great place to see wildlife. Bison, bears and bighorn sheep are always my favorites in this area.
  2. Madison River - while driving toward the West Entrance of the park, the meandering Madison River is always a beautiful and peaceful stop.
  3. Midway Geyser Basin - contains two of Yellowstone's largest hydrothermal features, including the Grand Prismatic Spring.
  4. Upper Terrace Drive - a beautiful drive around thermal features, near Mammoth Hot Springs.
  5. West Thumb Geyser Basin - the largest geyser basin located on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. I walk the boardwalks here during every visit!

What are some of your favorite hikes and places to explore in Yellowstone National Park?

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556)

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556) | Alaina Ann Photography The most striking part of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is the tombstones, placed where the soldier died during the battle. You will come across on single tombstone, small clusters and a large cemetery.

The Auto Tour is highly recommended to see the entire park. And the drive through the open horse range is stunning, briefly taking you away from the somberness.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Flower Bee | Photograph Story

Flower Bee | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography This photograph comes from one of my favorite places in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was visited monthly, if not more often, while calling Arizona home. Saying I'm excited to stop by in October is an understatement :)

During my final visit, just two weeks before moving to Maryland, I came across these pastel, delicate flowers, humming with bees. A lovely photograph opportunity, if you ask me.

Bees require a bit of patience. They are swift and rarely interested in being models. Instead of chasing bees around the flowers, I decided to lock in on this particular bunch of goodness and waited for a bee to briefly stop by. One appeased me, for a few seconds, and I captured this photograph.

This was long before my macro lens joined the gear bag. Instead, a telephoto lens was used showing a bit more of the flower scene.

I quickly retreated to enjoy the rest of my stroll in the desert, and celebrated another non-bee sting moment surrounded by flowers.

White Horse | Photograph Story

White Horse | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography While living in Arizona, most errand trips resulted in me pulled over on the side of the road capturing photographs.

Old Spanish Trail was always my preferred road choice when driving back to Vail, from Tucson. Less traffic, close mountain views, guaranteed wildlife sightings, saguaro cactus goodness and a few ranches filled with horses were just a few of the highlights :)

This white horse always stood out in the desert landscape. Most days, the horses were far from the road trotting through the field. A beautiful and distant sight.

While cruising home one evening I noticed the horses were only about ten feet from the fence. And I was EXCITED.

After making a few u-turns, I made my way back to their location and parked my car. The horses came right to the fence and indulged me while capturing their portraits. Friendly and beautiful.

When I return to Arizona this fall, a drive down Old Spanish Trail is a must. I'm looking forward to the familiar views and seeing if these beauties are still roaming.

Deck Squirrel | Photograph Story

Deck Squirrel | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography When I first moved back to Maryland, from Arizona, my heart was quite heavy. Arizona and the western side of the country was my happy place and I never planned to call my hometown home again.

Being close to family and the people who love me most in this great world trumped everything at the time. As I type this today, my heart and mind are in complete agreement, returning to Maryland for a few years was the best decision to make.

After moving in and setting up shop, the first noticeable difference on a daily basis was the view from my desk. There were no mountains. There were many more trees and the color green was vibrant. But I still missed the mountains.

And then one day this healthy squirrel came along. Playing on the deck, locking eyes with me from time to time, having a grand time in his simple play area. Another day rolled in and during the early afternoon my squirrel neighbor returned again. For months, he kept showing up providing a bit of entertainment each day.

It's been just over two years since moving to Maryland and my squirrel friend still stops by from time to time, placing a big smile on my face.

I still miss the mountains and definitely plan to return to the other side of the country. In the meantime, falling back in love with the first place I ever called home has been a lovely adventure.

Piping Plover | Photograph Story

Piping Plover | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography These little birds make me laugh out loud. I have seen piping plovers on Long Island, Assateague Island and Plum Island. This photograph comes from the latter.

Here's a normal viewing moment of piping plovers at the beach:

| To start, these little guys would fit in the palm of your hand, for the most part. And the babies are even smaller. Bask in that cuteness for a moment :)

| Piping plover spots me and slowly runs away or around me, weaving all over and nearly tripping over items on the beach.

| A few moments later, they remember the ocean is crashing in every few seconds. They run dangerously close to the crashing waves, stand patiently and then run away like maniacs after nearly being swept out to sea.

| Repeat over and over again, until I leave the beach.

They are hysterical and beautiful little birds. I honestly can not get enough of them and may be stopping at Plum Island again this weekend :)

American Bullfrog | Photograph Story

American Bullfrog | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Spring seems to be fading quickly as summer temperatures and sounds roll in.

Hearing toads, frogs and everything else calling at night reminds me of a fun childhood, mostly spent outside.

When I captured this photograph my mind wandered, bringing me back to evenings playing hide-and-seek, running to the ice cream truck, rolling down hills, chasing lightning bugs and catching toads and frogs as they hopped by.

When pressing the shutter button, I hoped my nephew would enjoy a closer look at what I found. He loved zooming in and out on the "big eye" :)

Macro Bee | Photograph Story

Macro Bee | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography This is one of my all time favorite captures.

A macro lens was on my gear list for quite some time. After receiving a gentle nudge from a photography friend, I finally made the purchase. And I am SO glad I did. The 105 mm lens is a new favorite and it travels with me everywhere.

As soon as the lens arrived, I gave it a quick look over to make sure all was right and immediately placed it on my camera, threw on some shoes and went to the flowerbed :)

Bees were everywhere. Timid, friendly little bees.

I sat in the dirt, tied my hair into a ponytail and stuck my face + camera into the purple flowers. This flower was about the size of a quarter and since I was so close, I had to manual focus the lens. After a few tries, I achieved the desired focus on the bee.

It's been a fun year experimenting with this lens. Spring is in full bloom and I am becoming a bit more covered in dirt and pollen :)

Blue Heron on the Potomac | Photograph Story

Blue Heron on the Potomac | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography The Potomac River has a way of becoming familiar. This river has been part of my life for many years, making it easy to overlook all the splendid goodness.

And so begins my attempt to fall in love with familiar surroundings, as a photographer :)

Walking along the river with my camera in tow was a nice little afternoon trip with a local photographer friend. We chatted about local spots we want to photograph and compared our Nikon vs. Canon choices.

Blue herons love visiting the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. To be honest, I can't think of a time I walked along each without seeing at least one. How lucky to have such close encounters with this amazing bird, almost anytime I wish.

Photographing this blue heron helped me fall in love with the familiar again. Looking at this image, I see the natural beauty of a river I cross on the ferry every other week, without taking a second look beyond my car windows.

No more! My eyes are wide open and I'm excited to SEE everything.

Cactus Wren | Photograph Story

Cactus Wren | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Bird watching is a fun and peaceful activity. Spring in Arizona is a lovely time to pop outside to see our feathered friends.

After a bit of rain, I made my way to a favorite spot in Tucson to see what might be waiting for me and my camera.

Flowers were beginning to bloom, trees had green buds, and the birds were zipping around. All beautiful signs of spring :)

While making my way down a new trail, I heard a low noise behind me. After turning around, I saw this cactus wren, with no sense of urgency to fly somewhere new.

I had a zoom lens on my camera and decided to take a few steps back, to give us both a bit of space. After capturing a few vertical and horizontal frames, I simply enjoyed the quiet moment.

Although my camera is almost always in a bag on my body when I step into nature, enjoying the experience is always more important than capturing a photograph. I loved having the opportunity to do both this day.

Black and White Bison | Photograph Story

Black and White Bison | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Yellowstone National Park is a magical place. Seeing bison herds travel through the valleys is one of my favorite moments from each trip.

Most of my sightings have been from my car, while a HUGE bison slowly crosses the road or spotting a large herd, basking in the sunlight from a distance.

While making my way out of the park, toward Montana, I noticed these guys walking through the valley, not far from the road.

Instead of pulling over immediately, as most people were, I decided to drive further down the road. I wanted to photograph the bison from above, as they leisurely walked by.

This was a beautiful, close encounter moment for me. I safely stood above and enjoyed watching these large, amazing animals make their way to their next stopping point.

Even though I captured several photographs with my DSLR, this iPhone 4s version gives a more raw view.

Intrigued Mountain Lion | Photograph Story

Intrigued Mountain Lion | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography How do you feel while looking at this photograph?

While standing in front of this mountain lion, I felt like lunch.

Quite an intrigued, LARGE cat, if you ask me.

Thankfully, for all parties involved, this beautiful animal was a safe distance away and I was protected from any consumption desires.

Mountain lions are absolutely beautiful animals. That said, every time I went for a hike in the Arizona mountains, the fear of bumping into one was always in the back of my mind.

The warning of their presence at the start of a trail adds a little extra fun and suspense to any hiking trip ;)

Fiddleneck Bee | Photograph Story

Fiddleneck Bee | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography This photograph is one of many preparing to retire from the Alaina Ann Photography gallery.

While on the hunt for wildflowers in Arizona, I came across a small area filled with fiddleneck. The bees LOVED this spot. And I, naturally, loved the little yellow flowers.

Carefully navigating my way through the blooms, I found a patch that missed out on the flower growth that spring. A perfect place for my little body to curl up and capture photographs :)

As the bees buzzed around, seeming to care very little that I was in the middle of the flowers, I snapped away. Hoping to capture a bee enjoying a tiny bloom, this little guy gave me what I was looking for.

I am pleased to say I survived the experience with no bee stings AND have a lovely memory of sitting in the flowers for a morning.