by Jeff Goulden
Mount Rainier National Park is much more than just a mountain. It’s a wonderland of sights, sounds and smells which shares a mystery and majesty with all who enter its domain.
The park represents four unique life zones in its 235,000 acres. In addition to the thousands of climbers who attempt the 14,410 foot summit each year; a similar number backpack the 97 mile Wonderland Trail. This popular trail encircles the mountain and takes in all four life zones gaining and losing 20,000 feet along the way.
The Transition and Canadian zones are below 4,500 feet elevation and are mainly forested. Here deer, elk and bear seek shelter in addition to many smaller mammals and birds. The babbling streams offer life to the flora and fauna of the woods.
The Hudsonian zone between 4500 and 6500 feet consists of smaller trees and the fragrant sub-alpine meadows. Here, in the short growing season, wildflowers carpet the earth with an abundant array of color.
The Arctic-Alpine zone above 6500 feet is unique with a harsh treeless characteristic. A short stretch of the Wonderland Trail passes through this zone. From here the hiker sees the overpowering glaciers extending their arms down the mountainside. This zone speaks of ancient history, eons of glacial carvings and massive rock slides.
The swirling clouds, the penetrating fog, the fragrance of the wildflower meadows, the birds and mammals, the glaciers, the towering firs are all part of the wonderland of sights, sounds and smells that makes up Mount Rainier National Park.
If you are interested in helping to protect and preserve the park, please consider joining Mount Rainier National Park Associates, a non-profit organization formed in 1985 to promote the values and resources of this national treasure.
More pictures of Mount Rainier National Park can be seen in my Mount Rainier Gallery. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
On the high desert plateau of central Oregon stands Smith Rock with its sheer cliffs of compressed volcanic ash. It may look out of place in the surrounding desert but it's also one of the most amazing places in a state known for its abundant natural beauty.
Smith Rock State Park is located less than 10 miles north of Redmond just east of the town of Terrebonne. The appropriately named Crooked River winds its way through the 651 acre state park.
The cliffs of Smith Rock are composed of welded tuff (compressed volcanic ash) reaching a height of up to 550 feet. The canyon rim and campground sit mostly on columnar basalt.
Although Smith Rock is known as a mecca for rock climbers, it's also a great place to hike, photograph or just enjoy nature. The best time of day to photograph Smith Rock is shortly after sunrise. Wait on the canyon rim and watch the sun bathe the rock faces in the early morning glow. Be sure and use the Crooked River in your shots to provide lines leading to the towering rock faces.
Several movies have been shot at Smith Rock, including the 1975 film Rooster Cogburn starring John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn.
More pictures of Smith Rock State Park can be seen in my Smith Rock Gallery at Istockphoto.com. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
In Western Washington State the chickadee is a year-round resident. When I go out in my backyard I am frequently greeted by their chick-a-dee-dee-dee call. There are two distinct chickadee varieties that live in my area. The most common is the Black-Capped Chickadee with its buff colored sides and black gray wings and tail. The Chestnut-Backed Chickadee is slightly smaller and sports a rich chestnut brown color on its back.
Both varieties have a voracious appetite at the bird feeder. They seem fairly cooperative and I haven't observed much fighting or squabbling among them. One interesting habit I have observed is chickadees will take a nut from the feeder and peck at it while holding it between their toes. Did they learn this behavior or is it instinctive? One can only speculate. I've researched this behavior and have yet to turn up any information.
The chickadee is bold, gregarious and not a bit shy of humans. On more than one occasion, a chickadee has landed on my head, perhaps looking for nesting material.
I try to keep my distance when photographing birds by using a 400mm lens. On several occasions I have been able to approach a chickadee close enough to use a 200mm lens.
More pictures of the cheerful chickadee can be seen in my Chickadee Gallery at Istockphoto.com. Other bird species can be seen in my Joy of Birds Gallery. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
Birds fill our lives with joy and wonder. Constantly entertained by their melodic song, we enjoy observing their vibrant colors, watching their antics and photographing their unique expressions.
As we go about our busy lives, birds may be the only wildlife we see. This is especially true for city dwellers. Even through our own windows, we can see birds at the feeder or going about their daily business. And these are just the common species. Outside our cities and towns, in parklands and preserves, wetlands and wildlands, a vast array of intriguing birds can be found. Each species, with its own lifestyle and habits, invites observation, study and photography.
Some birds are with us year round and some migrate from afar only to stay a few weeks of the year. A bird’s diet is determined by the shape of its beak. Some are vegetarians, others scavenge carcasses and some kill for their food. Each has its place in the circle of life. And most have, now or in the past, achieved something that humans have never been able to do without artificial means. As we are rooted to the ground by gravity, birds have the power and freedom to soar above us, often traveling great distances to follow their instincts.
In many ways, birds bring us so much joy. These feathered friends have certainly earned a special place in our lives.
Future blogs will feature some individual bird species, their characteristics and habitat. Other bird species can be seen in my Joy of Birds Gallery. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park is located near the town of Overton, 56 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The park is named for the fiery red sandstone formations found throughout its landscape. Established in 1935, Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs.
On May 20, 2012 there was an annular solar eclipse in which the sun forms a ring around the moon; a spectacular phenomenon to view. Since it had been advertised that Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park was an excellent place to see this event, I was extremely fortunate to be there in the late afternoon when the event occurred.
Viewing a solar eclipse without proper protection can be damaging to the eyes, so I concentrated on photographing the surrounding landscape. Several other photographers with welding goggles and other eye protection looked skyward to record the actual eclipse. However, the real action was on the ground. As the sun passed behind the moon, the land acquired an other-worldly glow, providing me the opportunity to capture some brightly colored and radiant scenes, including the two shown here.
Early morning and late afternoon/evening are the best times of day to photograph the Valley of Fire. The entire park with its red rock is quite colorful, but the multi-colored Rainbow Vista and White Domes areas are especially beautiful. More images of this picturesque state park can be seen in my Valley of Fire Gallery at Istockphoto.com. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
The American Pika (Ochotona princeps) is an herbivorous, smaller relative of rabbits and hares. These very cute rodents can be found in the mountains of western North America usually above the tree line in large boulder fields.
The Pika could well become the first mammal in the lower 48 United States to be listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a result of global climate change. According to the Center for Biological Diversity "rising temperatures caused by global warming shorten pikas' food-gathering period, change the types of plants available, shrink the alpine meadows where they feed, and reduce the insulating snowpack that protects them from winter cold snaps. Because pikas are specially adapted for cold climates, warming can even directly kill them through overheating."
One of the places I find Pikas is Sunrise Lake in Mount Rainier National Park. The trail passes a large boulder field on the left just before reaching the lake. Listen for the Pika's whistle while scanning the rocks for movement. I got most of my pictures with a medium telephoto lens (18-200) but a larger lens would help avoid getting too close and disturbing these shy creatures.
The Pika pictured above can be seen in the German edition of National Geographic. More pictures of this fascinating animal can be seen in my Pika Gallery at Istockphoto.com. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
Jeff's Photo Blog
In this Photo Blog I have combined my 50 year passion for photography and my love of the natural world, creating a portfolio that reveals nature in its pure and simple beauty. I am pleased to share my passion with you through this blog.