David Brickner: Blog https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog en-us (C) David Brickner (David Brickner) Wed, 18 Aug 2021 01:48:00 GMT Wed, 18 Aug 2021 01:48:00 GMT https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u85928385-o208941375-50.jpg David Brickner: Blog https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog 120 80 Return to Yellowstone https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog/2021/8/return-to-yellowstone Is it considered excessive to visit the same place seven times, with the intention of returning again? If so, then I am guilty of excessively visiting the Yellowstone region. This summer I had the opportunity to return to the place that inspired a love of wilderness that has only grown over the past decade. The last time I visited the park for an extended period of time was in 2015. I spent a week by myself exploring Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. After that trip, life gained various layers of complexity, photography diminished, and my focus turned elsewhere. However, as mentioned in a previous blog post, I have had somewhat of a reawakening as it pertains to photography and it felt fitting to return to the region that started this passion nearly a decade ago.

DSC00865DSC00865 This trip would prove to be unlike any other I have had out west, or anywhere else for that matter. Plagued by the most unforeseen car issues, my 2012 Subaru Outback limped into the gates of East Yellowstone on a flat tire. This would be far from the end of our troubles as broken lug nuts on the trip home left us stranded in Rapid City, South Dakota for three days. Car issues aside, this trip was by far the best I have ever had in terms of photography. The primary goal of any visit out west is grizzly bears. I have been mesmerized by grizzly bears ever since I watched a mother and her cub forage along the shores of Lake Yellowstone in 2011. However, getting a quality photograph of a grizzly bear is a challenge for many reasons. In my first six trips to Yellowstone I had walked away with one photograph of a grizzly that I was remotely proud of. It was a photograph of Grizzly 610, famous sow of the Teton region, standing in the middle of a field. Aside from that, I felt as though my grizzly archives were lacking and therefore I wanted the focus of this trip to be on bears. DSC09037DSC09037

We scheduled this trip for late May. It’s a unique time to visit as winter is still lingering in parts of the park. It can be in the 70’s during the day and drop into the 20’s at night. One morning we were greeted with a fresh blanket of snow on our tent and treacherous road conditions. By midday it had melted and felt like fine spring weather again. This is also a season where grizzlies have recently emerged from their dens. Boars are busy searching for mates. Sows with cubs are doing their best to find food to keep their family strong. This is also a season where more bears can be found at lower elevations, thus providing more opportunities for sightings. Our expectations were high and the trip did not disappoint, beginning with a young male grizzly greeting us just outside of the east entrance to Yellowstone. He was far away on a hillside and I only managed a shot of his backside as he lumbered into the trees, but it was an encouraging start to the trip. 

DSC00085DSC00085Grizzly bear just outside of Yellowstone's east entrance DSC01211DSC01211 Many of the grizzlies in the Yellowstone region are known by numbers from research tags or nicknames given them by local photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. We were privileged to view a handful of these "celebrity bears," including Grizzly 791, arguably the largest bear in Yellowstone National Park. Last fall, a lucky photographer captured video of 791 drowning a bull elk in the Yellowstone River. It sat on the carcass for several days, drawing photographers from all over the country. We happened upon 791 while driving back to our campsite late one night. He was with another bear, a sow known as the Beryl Spring Sow, indicating the area of the park which she tends to frequent. The two had partnered up for mating season and were spending time along the roadside, drawing large crowds of viewers. The crowds that show up for these bears can be problematic for everyone involved. Rangers have the task of keeping both bears and people safe, yet bears are what draw many people to the park in the first place, so the excitement to see one often overrides common sense. There is a constant struggle in the Yellowstone/Teton region to provide people with opportunities to see and photograph these incredible animals while ensuring the safety of all involved. 

DSC08991DSC08991 That struggle was on full display on our visit, not only in Yellowstone, but in Grand Teton National Park as well. Many of our grizzly viewing opportunities were accompanied by crowds, sometimes consisting of hundreds of people. For the most part, people acted with care and kindness both toward the bears, the rangers, and one another. For some, the crowds diminish their experience in seeing these bears, and while I'd love to have these opportunities all to myself, I do relish the opportunity to meet other photographers and connect with people who live all over the country. We share stories of past visits, show pictures from our websites of the moments we’ve had with these incredible animals. Not only did I walk away with the best photos of grizzly bears I have ever taken, I met some wonderful people whose paths intersected with mine at numerous points throughout the trip.

Returning to the bears we saw, we were treated to views not only of 791 and the Beryl sow, but thirteen other grizzlies, making for a grand total of fifteen grizzlies seen on this trip. For the most part, I walked away with photos of most of these bears that I am proud of. Each sighting was different. There was the breathtaking encounter of a sow and her two cubs just after sunset in front of the Tetons, the ambient light reflecting on her fur as she foraged for food. Then there was a young male grizzly who had partnered up with a slightly older sow. The two spent several days together, foraging and engaging in other related adult bear activities. These two in particular gave us our first really good looks and photographs of the trip, and it was a memorable morning watching them forage in a field in front of a throng of photographers with little to no care of our presence. Then there was the famous bear called “Snow” who we watched nap in a patch of snow for over an hour along Yellowstone Lake. What was particularly special was that I had photographed Snow's mother when she was just a cub back in 2011. Each encounter was unique and each bear seemed to have its own story. 

While the bears are what draw me westward, there are many other aspects to this region that only enhance the experience. The dramatic mountains, winding rivers, and hot springs create a majestic landscape at very turn. DSC08125DSC08125Marmot near Storm Point, Yellowstone National Park
DSC00334DSC00334Bison near Slough Creek, Yellowstone National Park

Bison roam freely throughout the area, often within feet of cars that make their way through the vast valleys they call home. The mysterious presence of wolves, though not always visible, add to the anticipation of what one might see on their visit. There are also the little experiences that may not seem special when retold, but in the moment are meaningful and unique. Such as sitting in the midst of a marmot colony, while over ten different marmots wander around, checking me out and ducking in and out of their network of tunnels. Bluebirds along Yellowstone Lake, providing entertainment while I waited for any grizzlies to make an appearance. Wandering through hot springs, admiring their unique color and grasping the concept that I am basically standing in a volcano at that moment. In short, there is so much to appreciate about that region that it would take pages upon pages to share.
DSC00254DSC00254Mountain bluebird near Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park DSC07635DSC07635Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park It is all of these reasons that have continued to draw me back time and again. And at the forefront of these reasons are the bears, some of which have stories that go back over twenty years. There is just something special about a wilderness that still has grizzly bears as its apex predator and as long as they continue to roam the wilds of the Yellowstone ecosystem, I will continue to visit at a rate that some may consider excessive. 


(David Brickner) adventure animals bears bison bluebirds explore grand Tetons grizzly marmots mountains nature road trip Tetons travel wilderness wildlife wildlife photography wolves Wyoming Yellowstone https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog/2021/8/return-to-yellowstone Wed, 18 Aug 2021 15:30:00 GMT
Rediscovering nature photography https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog/2021/1/rediscovering-nature-photography I got started on wildlife photography by visiting places such as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier National Park. Sweeping valleys offered opportunity after opportunity for spotting bison, bears, and on the rare occasion, wolves. I was somewhat spoiled by the abundance of wildlife. While many of my photos from these places reflect my inexperience as a photographer, I developed a deep passion for wildlife photography, particularly photographing the large mammals of North America. I can’t fully describe what it was that clicked inside of me on these early trips, but I have found few things in life that bring the same rush of excitement and purpose as finding and photographing animals such as moose, bears, and wolves. There’s something deeply meaningful when a moose allows you approach and sit with it while it grazes at sunset. Or when a wolf looks up and makes eye contact with you, it’s yellow eyes meeting yours and staring right through you. These were a lot of my early experiences with wildlife photography and they shaped my photography more than anything else. IMG_4860IMG_4860Bald ealge in flight. Location: Covill Park, Red Wing, Minnesota. Date: February 15, 2016.

Living in Minnesota, finding and photographing wildlife looked very different. I would make occasional trips along the Mississippi River to photograph eagles. Every now and then I would trek up to a well known area to photograph owls. But much of the time my photography was limited to local state parks which primarily meant deer and birds. For the most part I felt somewhat lost in my own state when it came to photographing wildlife. I knew the opportunities were out there, but I didn’t know where to start. 

There came a season where I moved away from wildlife photography and focused on other pursuits. Along the way I had upgraded my camera gear and in the process hadn’t replaced the lens necessary to capture images of wild animals. I wasn’t sure if wildlife photography would have a place in my life going forward and in general I wasn’t sure how photography fit in.

T hen Covid happened. Many activities that I enjoyed were no longer available and I felt overwhelmed at the idea of sitting in my apartment for the next several months. So I started browsing Ebay for used lenses suitable for photographing wildlife. Within about a day I had purchased one and over the next few weeks I spent countless evenings wandering off-trail through the forests along the Minnesota River Valley photographing owls, sunsets, and anything else that caught my eye. 

Over the course of these few weeks I experienced a reawakening for wildlife photography. This time I started to feel a call to turn my attention to northern Minnesota, whose forests are home to bears, moose and wolves. I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life and had never encountered any of these animals in my home state. In Yellowstone you are almost guaranteed to see these animals. Its sweeping valleys provide incredible opportunities. But the dense forests of northern Minnesota provide a unique challenge. 

DSC08908DSC08908Great Horned Owl, Fort Snelling State Park, Minnesota
Northern Minnesota has always been a very intimidating place for me when it comes to wildlife photography and I didn’t really know where to begin. Inspired by other local photographers, I started doing research on where I might encounter bears, moose, or wolves. Then my wife and I made our first trip up the Gunflint Trail. Our plan was to camp, canoe, and spend time hiking and exploring the area with the hope of seeing wildlife along the way.  On our first morning we encountered a moose. It was late morning  and in an unlikely spot. But there it was. The next day a pair of black  bears ran in front of the car. Then we came across two more moose later that night. On top of that we saw several foxes, loons, and had a great time canoeing, hiking, and exploring. I was completely hooked and throughout the rest of 2020 we made countless trips up north exploring back roads, canoeing, and hiking. 

All that being said, and as difficult as 2020 was, the pandemic led me to step back into nature with a long lens and the goal of photographing Minnesota’s wildlife. The experience of spending  time with wildlife is powerful and I hope that the images I capture and share inspire others to value nature and step into it with the goal of experiencing it in whatever way is meaningful to them. 

I have a lot of photography goals for 2021. First is to capture more and better photos of moose. Minnesota’s moose population has seen a significant decline in the past 15 years and to see and photograph these animals is truly special. I also hope to capture some quality images of black bears. These animals are numerous throughout the state but often difficult to find. But I have hope that this year might be the year I get a decent photo. 

Thank you to those that follow along on this journey whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, or through my website. I am excited for this year and whatever it may bring!

DSC03034DSC03034A moose walking along the backroads near the Gunflint Trail

(David Brickner) animals bears eagles explore forest minnesota moose owls trees wilderness https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog/2021/1/rediscovering-nature-photography Fri, 22 Jan 2021 14:00:00 GMT
The search for moose in Minnesota https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog/2020/12/searching-for-moose DSC02340DSC02340A bull moose at a small pond near West Bearskin Lake along the Gunflint Trail This summer I set out with the goal of exploring the forests of Northern Minnesota with the hope of photographing some of Minnesota’s most elusive and most impressive animals; namely bears, moose, and wolves. I have had the opportunity to see and photograph those animals in places like Wyoming and Montana, but I had never had the opportunity to do so in my home state. Northern Minnesota has always been a very intimidating place for me when it comes to wildlife photography. Its dense forests make it difficult to see wildlife from afar and I really didn’t know where to begin. I started doing research on where I would have the best chance of encountering these animals. All signs pointed north. Way north. Deeper into the forests of my home state than I had ever traveled before. It’s intimidating heading out to a new place hoping to find wildlife that rarely makes itself visible to people. Fortunately, my wife loves northern Minnesota almost as much as I do, so we planned a weekend of canoeing and hiking with the promise of searching for wildlife thrown into the mix. Even if we didn’t see anything at least we still had a weekend of adventure ahead of us. 

DSC03034DSC03034A moose walking along the backroads near the Gunflint Trail On our first morning, driving to a canoe outfitters, we came around a corner and there was a bull moose at the edge of a pond. I didn’t even have my camera ready as we hadn’t anticipated seeing anything at 9am. But there it was. My first moose sighting in Minnesota. The rest of the trip didn’t disappoint. The following day a pair of black bears ran across the road in front of our car. Then that evening we set out to explore some back roads deep in the forest where we came across two more moose, one of which was casually walking down the road toward us. When he saw our car he gave me the classic over-the-shoulder look before heading into the trees. I was able to snap a few photos of each of these encounters, and while none of the photos were particularly amazing, I was completely hooked. 

Six days later I made a second trip up the north shore and back along the Gunflint Trail. I combed Minnesota’s forests DSC03430DSC03430A cow moose and her calf feeding in a small pond along the Gunflint Trail for hours, driving hundreds of miles and search along any drivable back road I could find. Eventually it paid off when I came upon a cow moose and her calf feeding in a small pond just before sunset. The cow plunge her head into the pond to feed and every time she brought it up water would cascade from her head. Meanwhile, her calf swam back and forth across the pond, passing occasionally to interact with its mother. It was such a beautiful encounter and I couldn’t believe that I had found moose two weekends in a row. 

2020_bullmoose_sawbilltrail_bringtoLR2020_bullmoose_sawbilltrail_bringtoLRA bull moose pauses to look back as before is disappears into the forests of northern Minnesota. Several weeks later I was back on the North Shore for a climbing trip with my wife. I have a way of working in wildlife photography into many of our trips, and on our first morning I rolled out of bed around 5am to search a new section the Superior National Forest. After only about 15 minutes of searching, I noticed a large dark shape moving through the trees. Sure enough, it was a bull moose and by far the largest I had seen this summer. He gave me only a few minutes of his time. The rising sun caused the trees behind him to glow and I kept hoping he’d step into the light. The best he could do for me was give me a parting glance over the shoulder as he disappeared into the trees, morning sunlight hitting the edge of his giant antlers. 

All that being said, this summer has opened a new chapter for me for wildlife photography. While it’s possible I’ve just been really lucky this summer, I feel confident that I will continue to have opportunities to photograph the impressive animals of Minnesota’s northern forests. It’s incredible to live in a state that is home to wildlife such as moose. In the past I would have waited for trips out west to places like Glacier and Yellowstone to see wildlife like this. I no longer feel like I need to wait. The opportunities are before me and I look forward to future endeavors into the wilderness of Minnesota.


(David Brickner) animals explore forest minnesota moose trees wilderness wildlife woods https://www.davidbricknerphotography.com/blog/2020/12/searching-for-moose Tue, 29 Dec 2020 18:30:00 GMT