Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Yellowstone sucks … Yellowstone doesn’t suck ...

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017_Thursday, the 5th; Yellowstone National Park.

“Snow Showers over the Tetons”
(Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
Oil Study on Centurian Oil primed Panel
5” x 7”

I have addressed this subject before, about the differences between studies, sketches and paintings, and this is a good example of an Oil Study.  The intent of this work was to study the stormy cloudscape and snow showers sweeping over the Tetons in the afternoon light.  This I did.  I could have left out the foreground forest and sagebrush meadow, as the subject of the study was complete with the painting of the sky and mountains, and the middle distance trees and foreground sagebrush meadow were incidental to the main study.  Be that as it may, I quickly dabbed in the trees and sagebrush, and it could now be termed a sketch, but for me it remains a study, for studying the sky was the intent.

Some final shots in the Grand Tetons National Park.

Out of my way … no, you get out of my way!

OK Mate … let’s be off to the pub.

Reflections in a backwater of the Snake.

Evening light at the Oxbow.

Well … I finally made it out of the Big Tits Grand Tetons National Park, and wended my way north the few miles to Yellowstone National Park.  Just before you enter the Park through the south entrance the  Snake River is crossed, and here I stopped for a few photo-ops and was rewarded with the sighting of an Otter.  I got a few shots, but he/she being very aware of me kept his/her very wary distance. That was my last good luck of the day, which had started out cloudless & beautiful, but began to cloud over as I entered the Park.   Here at the south entrance, I asked if any of the campgrounds had closed yet, to which the ranger replied that most of them had and directed me to a large sign telling which ones were still open.  Of course if they were full up, I would have to leave the Park overnight, I was informed … Yellowstone sucks.

After working out the four open campgrounds and where they were I steamed along to my assignation with Old Faithful.  I had seen the geyser as a teenager and was looking forward to seeing it again.  Evidently the old bugger was spouting off as I was parking, and so had a roughly 90 minute wait, according to an old Aussie who had just missed it himself.  He was on a coach tour with his wife and had never to England … must have been the only Australian of his generation not to have done so!  While awaiting we also met a solo musician from Las Vegas who had just done a gig at Teton Mountain Lodge up on top of a mountain that I could see from my previous campsites.  Lucky swine had been in the two National Parks for two days and already seen two Black Birds Bears, while I had been in Grizzly country for almost seven weeks and seen neither Grizz nor Black Bears!  Meanwhile the partly cloudy skies deteriorated while we awaited the event.  We glanced to the north and saw a wall of snow swooping past west to east.  I was about to take photos when we were hit as well.  Almost losing my hat to the wind I and the expectant crowd retreated to the visitors center, where I stood outside beneath a side porch, and continued my vigil.  Well … I suppose Old Faithful blowing off in  blizzard is an interesting sight, but at my distance it was hard to really tell when it was spouting.  Photos were taken, but I could not risk my camera out in those elements, even if I were clad in rain gear, thus my vantage beneath the porch roof.  Yellowstone sucks.

After that it was driving off through the snow showers to the ‘Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,’ taking in Prismatic Pool on the way.  I was eager to see the Lower Falls, that I was familiar with through the paintings of various artists, but especially those of Thomas Moran.  Even with the overcast it is impressive, so much so that I returned the next afternoon, with a clear sky, to get even better shots. 

Lower Falls ...

... of ...
... The Yellowstone. 

On the way to the Canyon, I had checked out the Madison Campground.  It was awful … no space between campsites … a true campground suburbia!!!  I now headed for the primitive Slough Campground in the northeast sector of the Park.  It was full even though it was at the end of a five mile dirt road … Yellowstone sucks.

I drove back down the road and stopped in a lay-by half a mile from the highway to heat up my breakfast water, and heat up some soup for supper, and think about my options.  I was tired.  I had followed caravans of people to the various sites and at the various sites … and this is slow season!  Removing myself from the Park was not part of my petrol budget.   I shudder about the Summer here … Yellowstone sucks.  

While heating my water  I kept surveying the surrounding landscape with my headlamp on red ... I am in Grizzly country after all, and in the middle of heating my first kettle, sure enough there was a pair of eyes reflecting off in the dark!  I quickly turned my headlamp from red to white and then to full beam.  Now the eyes glowed silver, but we're too far away to see what  they belonged to.  I drew my bear spray, removing the safety.  The eyes were moving ... and coming towards my position, but at an angle.  Too low to the ground and too close together to be a bear, I reckoned.  Could be a Mountain Lion, but I figured it was too bouncy ... more likely a Coyote or a Wolf.  Wolves don't bother me ... I've camped with them nearby with my brother Doug up in the Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  If a Coyote, should be no problem either, unless rabid.  I finger ed the trigger og my cannister of spray.  They came on more straightforward, and the Coyote materialized on the edge of the lay-by 15 or 20 feet away.  It circled around the perimeter. Of the lay-by 180°, pausing occasionally trying to get a handle on what I was, but of course it was blinded by my bright beam of light.  I had been talking to it ever since I identified it as a Coyote, putting on my British Lobby's voice of authority,  "Move along now ... no nothing to see here ... there's a. Good laddie, now ... move along."  And so by and by Mr. Coyote did just that.  I noticed he was a bit scruffy, unlike the magnificent Coyotes out in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon, of three years ago ... those were all bushy and in top condition by the look of them.  After this Coyote had moved along,  I debated whether I should go ahead and heat up my chunky soup ... I decided to do so, without incident.  This really was the highlight of a suckie day.

After supper I headed down the highway, thinking I would pull into some layby and get a few hours dozing in the driver’s seat, but I found a side road with a place to pull into the trees about a quarter mile from the highway.  It was about 23:00 by this time so I decided to crawl into my sleeping bags.  I did not expect to see any Rangers out looking for errant sleepers, especially at this time of the year.  I was right, but I would not do this in the height of the season.  And so well rested I awoke to a new day and headed for the Mammoth Hot Springs, with a couple of stops on the way.  The hot springs are quite impressive, but you have to realize that only some of the various springs in the complex are active at any one time.  Those that are active are quite beautiful, but those that are no longer active can be quit drab as the travertine deposits crumble away, but even those are impressive memorials of their former selves.

On the Upper Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs

Angel Terrace
As the day progressed the overcast of morning became partially cloudy to clear during the afternoon, and by the time I retraced my steps to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, the lighting was magical in the Canyon.  Then on to the Artists Paint Pots and Gibbon Falls before egressing from the West Exit of Yellowstone; I also enjoyed seeing the steam rising out of an otherwise normal forest mountain landscape … a bit surreal.  That night I dispersed camped six miles west of Yellowstone.

On the Artists Paint Pots trail.

Gibbon Falls. 

Yellowstone sucks mainly because of its popularity, and so, as stated, you find yourself following small crowds (at this time of the year), from wonder to wonder.  I expected that although I had lived in hope, but the main problem is that it is difficult to experience this Park on an extreme budget as I must do.  This is partly because of the size of the Park so it is not conducive to leave it at night and disperse camp in the surrounding National Forests.  The larger campgrounds are a suburbia nightmare, and the one small out of the way CG filled too early.  I think if those smaller campgrounds that had closed were still able to be used as just non fee overnight stops, as many National Forest campgrounds seem to be, that would be a help.

Now that I have experienced the suckie things about Yellowstone, I can form a strategy for next time, should there be one.  Come early or late in the season, as now, disperse camp just outside and enter early in the morning, so as to make a day of it.  Choose your wonders to see in advance and go to them, but be open to serendipity as always.  Shoot through in a day or two, using the Park as a way to get somewhere else, such as the Grand Tetons National Park.  Of course if I was younger and fitter there is the whole back country for backpacking and camping.  Yellowstone does have a surfeit of wonders to experience, and rightly so, and thus in spite of feeling like you are at a ‘natural funfair’ & following the crowds hither & thither … Yellowstone sucks … and yet Yellowstone does not suck!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Autumn Willows & the Grand Tetons.

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Friday, September 15, 2017_Sunday, October 1, 2017; Into Jackson Hole and the Tetons Range.

“Autumn Willows & the Grand Tetons”
(Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
Oil Sketch on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
5” x 7”

As you know from a previous post, I finally trundled into Jackson Hole on Friday, September 15th and immediately had a dusting of snow on me that night.  I mean, one day it’s 80°F and a couple of days later it’s Winter with snow falling and below freezing temperatures at night.  I expected it all to pass over within a few days, but heavier snowfalls occurred a couple more times during the following week, one of which I wrote about.  I spent all of the following week in the library, catching up on photo processing & filing, blog-work, emails and assorted PC work.  I also dabbed about town checking out the  Galleries & Shops, even though it was mostly just window shopping; I managed to get an offcut of leather for free, to make a case for my fork, knife & spoon set, that I have had since I ‘were a wee lad,’ the case for which has finally been falling apart, and has been held together with duct tape for the past 18 months.  Could I find a case that i might adapt for the purpose?  Not in all these months.  Now I need to find some time to work on it.  

Even though the library took up so much time, I was able to get a certain amount of photo-recon accomplished, while to-ing & fro-ing from my campsites up above Curtiss Canyon & town, and also in the mornings around camp.  Curtiss Canyon is on the eastern side of Jackson Hole, and thus in the Gros Ventre Range (pronounced ‘Gro Vaunt’, in these parts), and with views of the Tetons across the valley.  Now that I’ve finally begun exploring the National  Park itself, with extensive photo-recon, and painting, I am even more impressed with the area.  The Teton Range is one of the finest series of peaks that I have seen, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps; only the High Peaks of the Wind River Range on the west side might compare, or perhaps the Sierra Nevada of California, which I’ve not yet seen.

And there is wildlife to be seen too(!): Bison, Elk (the same as Red Deer in Europe, although ours are larger … in Oregon, larger still), Pronghorn Antelope, and one cow Moose.  Oh, and wild people too who brake suddenly and swerve to the side of the road, without warning, leaping out of their vehicles, cameras in hand, to click away at the hard-pressed wildlife studiously ignoring the clickers.  I have clicked away myself, but have pretty much avoided the sudden braking and swerving … I have usually seen the hap-hazard parking along the roadsides well in advance for me to sedately slow down and calmly choose my parking spot for my clicking endeavors … many times without needing to leave my vehicle.  I have heard coyotes in Curtiss Canyon, but have yet to see them or the Wolves or Bears that make this area their home.  Oh, I did see a nonchalant Red Fox, lying on a rock not 15’ from the roadside, as I drove slowly drove through Jenny Lake Campground last Monday.  I managed four photos, two of which were rushed as he decided to move off after my two shots while he still lay on the boulder.  

As I write this I am camped at dispersed site #2 on Shadow Mountain, seven miles from the main Visitors Center at the south end of the Park, and with the rain just beginning to fall.  It will turn to snow sometime later in the night, and the temperature will only get a couple of degrees above freezing tomorrow.  I am going to attempt to post this blog entry from my phone, as I have intermittent 4G, but a weak signal.  Not many photos, I’m afraid.  

It is now two days later, Monday, and in the intervening time there have been intermittent snow showers (continuing throughout today), and I saw a young bull moose not a mile down the road as I was leaving camp.  I was going to try posting this last night, but I was not able to access the Internet.  

Mt. Moran from near Moosehead Ranch.

Storm over Mount Moran.

Stormlight on the Gros Ventre side of the valley.

Storm over the Tetons.

Afternoon … Grand Teton.

Of course the Tetons were named by the Mountain Men in the very early 1800s (think Leonardo di Capprio as Hugh Glass in “the Revenant,”), many of whom were French Canadians, and means ‘tits,’ and the biggest of them all, the Grand Teton … ‘Big Tit’ ... all I’ve got to say about that is pretty gnarly tits … those Mountain geezers were out there … perhaps a bit too long … one might think.

Well ... posting this from my phone is really trying, especially getting the photos into the mix ... luckily a flock of Juncos just flew in and are pecking around in the bare patches between clumps of melting snow, providing a calm in this storm of blog posting from this small device!!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Camping above Sagebrush Flat & distant view of the Tetons.

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Sunday, September 10, 2017 to Friday, September 15, 2017; to the Tetons ... sort of, Part 2.

“Evening Sage”
Oil Painting on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
6” x 8”

Note: the painting is not yet signed in the photo above, but will be soon.

1st Light on Grand Tetons, 23 miles distant, from my campsite.

Morning light on Mount Leidy.

Sage brush Flat is out of sight between me and Mount Leidy.

Sunday: the second smokeless day in a row!  Hope it keeps up.  Even though there was some cloud about, and a few droplets that developed into nothing, I was able to top up my AGM battery, with my suitcase solar array, from 78% to 91% capacity, by days end.  It seems to have still slowly charged even during a lengthy, cloudy spell; I will have to keep an eye on that to see if that truly is the case.  Got some photo processing done in the morning, which brought my battery down to 77% before I set up the solar.  I would have set it up earlier, but it really was a cloud cover at that time.  Then got started on a small Oil in the afternoon.  By sunset the cloud had dissipated, and the silhouette, of the Tetons against the twilight was absolutely lovely.  And now, the stars are out and I’m watching Scorpio slowly sinking into the southwest, as I earlier watched Jupiter disappear behind the South Teton.  Saturn is between Scorpio and Sagittarius, which is trailing the Scorpion.  M7, an open cluster off the tail of Scorpio, touched the summit of Mount Leidy, and then slid down its western slope, eventually disappearing behind the western spur.

The Aspens are beginning to turn.

Again those rays appearing opposite the Sun,
which is rising in this case.

Monday: an almost cloudless day … all day.  There was a slight haze before day’s end, which I believe was smoke, according to my throat.  Jupiter set dim and red for the last few minutes, during which time I used binoculars.  The stars are bright, but not quite as bright as last night, but wonderful nevertheless.  I spotted Jupiter when twilight was still quite bright, and as I was enjoying the afterglow a bright meteor fell into the still bright West … it would have been spectacular if it had fallen in the dark after twilight’s end.  I have never seen a meteor against that bright of a sky.  Another painting completed today, inspired by yesterday’s early morning cloud shrouding the tops of the Grand Teton and Mount Owen, but with a bright middle distance, full of sunlight and foreground in cloud shadow, throwing the bright area into relief against the shadowed Tetons.

Chipmunk stuffing its cheeks …
gather ye seed-heads while ye may, 

little guy, for we all know … “Winter is Coming.”

In the Aspen Grove.

A settled Camp.

My view for several days.

Wednesday: A dawn rain cleared the atmosphere, displaying the distant Tetons to at their best since arriving at this campsite.  The day was then clear enough to put out my solar array until about 15:00, when the showers that had been passing by to north and south finally headed my way; I got the solar put away just in time.  Almost finished the next painting of “Evening Sage,” but will finish it in the morning.  Showers are expected tomorrow as well.

After the Dawn Rain.

Tetons, fresh & clear.

Looks to be a nice day.

Light & shade on the Tetons.

Then showers pass by both north & south
and eventually on me.

Evening showers on Mount Leidy.

And an interesting end to an interesting day.


And then a new day.

The photo sequence in this post, shows how a few days in one place allows me to get a feel for a place, and all the variations in lighting and weather that I experience, and that may lead to further paintings.

Friday: Snow in the mountains forecast, so I’m heading for Jackson Hole and the Tetons.  But first I went to Lily Lake, a couple more miles into the mountains from my campsite, and took a few photos from inside my truck … an anti-rain tactic.  Then back out the nine miles to the highway, filled my water bottles at the campground there, and stopped into the Ranger Station a quarter mile up the road to pick up a vehicle use map of this National Forest … then on into Jackson 35 or so miles down the road.  The rain stopped on the way there.  I spent the afternoon in the library, after which I spent about half an hour getting a feel for the historic downtown area.  Superficially it reminded me of Aspen, but I never got to walk around downtown Aspen, since I never found a parking place.  I got the feeling, even from the confines of the driver’s seat, that Aspen was a bit ‘snooty’, as someone I met here in Jackson said … I agreed.  Jackson is a bit smaller, but has a lot of Galleries and interesting shops, and the people seem more laid back … not poseurs.  I may be doing Aspen a disservice, and perhaps I may someday get the chance to rectify my impressions.  But they are different places when all is said and done, and both do seem to have their own sense of community.

Somewhere out there lies Mount Leidy.

Lily Lake, on Flagstaff Road.

Autumn Aspen at Lily Lake.

Mountain mist on the other side of the road.

Sagebrush Flat from just below my recent campsite.

There will be a few days until my next post as I will be painting and photo-reconnaissance of the Tetons and Yellowstone, before I move on south.

The pigments used were:

Imprimatura: Rublev Ercolano Red;

Drawing: W&N Cobalt Blue;

Painting: W&N Venetian Red, Cobalt & Ultramarine Deep Blues, also a touch of Cerulean, Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale;

Rublev:Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Ercolano Red, Purple Ochre & Lead White #1.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

On to the Tetons ... sort of.

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Saturday, September 9, 2017 to Friday, September 15, 2017; to the Tetons ... sort of.

“Morning Light … Grand Teton Tops lost in Cloud”
Oil Painting on Centurian Oil Primed Linen Panel
4” x 6”


Saturday: After photo-recon near the boat landing, I finally left Brooks Lake, taking the road past the Brooks Lake Lodge, on what turned out to be a relatively desperate road about five or six miles to Wind River Lake and US Hwy 26/287.  I did not need 4-wheel drive, but a high clearance vehicle is a necessity, and in wet weather the mud to the west of Barbers Point, the highest point on the road, could be a killer, sending one sliding off into the valley below.  I found this out from a chap who works at the lodge, who had driven a couple of guests to fish at Wind River Lake.  I was surprised when arriving at the end of the road that there was no sign warning RVs and Winnebagos not to attempt it, as it is single track for much of the way.  Wind River Lake is a small lake, really a large pond, by Minnesota standards, and is considered by some to be the headwaters of the Wind River.  It is also just a few hundred yards from the crest of Togwotee Pass. 

View from Barbers Point back the way I came … that’s the good section.

Two Ocean Mountain in the distance … still on the desperate road to Wind River Lake.

High Mountain Meadow.

Could be Moose country.

Back side of Sublette Peak and Wind River Lake.

Sunbreak on Brooks Mountain.
There was a Bald Eagle at the lake, and I wondered whether it was the same one I’d seen at Brooks Lake, which was not at all far as the Crow Eagle flies.  There is a good view here of the far side of Sublette Peak from that which I’d been looking at for ten days; also of the south end of Brooks  Mountain.

On the desperate road I met Doug, a hiker, doing part of the Continental Divide Trail, but who was heading home to Idaho for a few days of rest and recuperation, as he had encountered some foot problems during the past few days on the trail.  I would like to have given him a ride towards Jackson Hole, but my truck is full to the brim … my bed area has a lot of stuff on it during the day, especially when driving, that gets moved at night.  The passenger seat has 7 gallons of water in strapped into it, and in the foot well I have my deep cycle AGM battery, as well as another 3 gallons of water in 9 stainless steel flasks, and on top of that is a small backpack with my essential painting and drawing kit.  Hope you got a lift all the way to Jackson, Doug.  As it was I was only going another 20 miles down the highway, before turning off onto Forest Road 30168 (also known as Flagstaff Road), ending up at a site above Sagebrush Flat, about seven miles in.  Here I have a view of the cluster of peaks around the Grand Teton, 23 miles distant; Mount Moran is out of sight to the right, blocked by the slope of the hill I am camped on.

Mountain Man Country.

The old Blackrock Ranger Station.


Mary’s Lake on the way to my next campsite
above Sagebrush Flat.

Mount Leidy from my campsite … Sagebrush Flat is below me
between here & there and out of view.  I’m about 7 miles south
of the Blackrock Ranger Station.

Sagebrush Blossoms.

First Evening

Aspens beginning to turn.

Tetons on my second Evening …
the Grand Teton is the tallest Peak seen.

For you tech-heads the pigments used were:

Imprimatura: W&N Venetian Red

Drawing: W&N Ultramarine Deep

Painting: W&N Venetian Red, Cobalt & Ultramarine Deep Blues, also a touch of Cerulean, Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale.

Rublev:Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Purple Ochre & Lead White #1.