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Winter Photography & A Stand for Public Lands

On December 28, 2015, Kay and I ventured outdoors on the tail of a winter storm. We hoped to find wildlife photography opportunities up the Middle Fork of the John Day River in Grant County, Oregon. We spotted two coyotes on the hillside that seemed to be interested in a group of mule deer. The first coyote that stopped in the open to look us over was so heavily furred that it looked obese.

A heavily furred coyote almost appears obese, it's not.
A heavily furred coyote almost appears obese, it’s not.

The one image I took of him didn’t impress me, so I went to look for the other coyote.

The deer had moved up through the rim rock, stopped and looked for the coyotes that were trailing them. 

The deer were driven to the ridge top by the coyotes. They kept a cautious lookout for them, though never panicked or ran.
The deer were driven to the ridge top by the coyotes. They kept a cautious lookout for them, though never panicked or ran.

I took one shot of the deer and realized that the area just below them was truly a beautiful iced landscape of rim rock and colorful lichen.

When the second coyote started to move into this area, I couldn’t believe our good fortune to have this beautiful animal in such an amazing backdrop. I took several images of him moving, but fortunately, he stopped very briefly in a fantastic setting.

A nicely posed coyote paused in a wintry landscape with fresh snow atop ice flows and colorful rocks, moss and lichen.
A nicely posed coyote paused in a wintry landscape with fresh snow atop ice flows and colorful rocks, moss and lichen.

This was followed up with a longer pause in nearly as nice a setting. 

A second chance in a good setting as he paused again.
A second chance in a good setting as he paused again.
As he climbed higher towards the ridge top, once more the coyote paused to keep an eye out for us.
A tighter crop that shifts him to the right for another perspective.

The clarity of the second pose was good enough that we were able to crop it into several variations with satisfying results.

Cropping an image to this degree allowed me to isolate the coyote in a wonderful pose.
Cropping an image to this degree allowed me to isolate the coyote in a wonderful pose.

Kay and I both ended up with pretty good opportunities for winter photographs of Bald Eagles that snowy day.

Shot down the Middle Fork of the John Day River after a light snowfall.
Shot down the Middle Fork of the John Day River after a light snowfall.

Kay has joined me behind the lens. With both of us able to shoot images, we have doubled the opportunity to capture subjects on either side of the vehicle. 

Kay's first capture of an adult bald eagle in the snow along the Middle Fork of the John Day River.
Kay’s first capture of an adult bald eagle in the snow along the Middle Fork of the John Day River.

What a wonderful day.

—Terry

PART II: A Protest in Burns, Oregon – as nature photographers, we stand for wildlife and public lands.

Terry just spoke of one of our best ever winter photography days in eastern Oregon. A few days later, January 2, 2016, our winter photography shoots were driven right off the tracks by the Armed Occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This is where we spend considerable time pursuing nature photography. In fact, I had spent five weeks living at the Malheur Headquarters doing photography for the Refuge only six months before it was taken over by armed anti-government sovereign constitutionalists. (I refuse to call them patriots.) Their goal? To boot out all federal agencies and ‘return’ our public lands to private interests. As one of our protest signs explained, ‘we’ already own public lands, agencies manage them.

Public Lands belong to everyone, agencies just manage them.
Public Lands belong to everyone, agencies just manage them.

Terry and I felt we had no option but to stand up for Public Lands and the wildlife that depend on refuges for survival. We joined the community of Harney County to confront the militiamen (and women) who marched upon the county courthouse to make their demands.

We arrived in Burns to counter-demonstrate against the militia groups who were staging to protest Lavoy Finicum’s death. They demanded the arrest of the police who shot Finicum and demanded that the FBI leave Harney County.  We, in support of the community, demanded the militia groups go home and let the refuge employees continue with their jobs. As both sides began to gather in front of the courthouse, Terry took his position in the front line (note the arrow pointing to him).

As we began to assemble in front of the gathering militia protesters, Terry took his stance in the center-front line.
As we began to assemble in front of the gathering militia protesters, Terry took his stance in the center-front line.

terry-burns-protest-img_1977-crop-signs

Before long the crowd ballooned to about 400 people, not counting the law enforcement present to keep a lid on things. Approximately 250 community members stood up to nearly 150 militia members from the Pacific ‘Patriots’ Network Militia and the 3% Militia groups. As Terry later mentioned, it was one of the most interesting experiences of a lifetime. It was loud, confrontational (a few tempers flaring), intimidating but in the end, non-violent – in spite of a significant number of militia folks displaying weapons. (Heavily armed law enforcement officers stood nearby.)  

The disruption the sovereign citizen seditionists have brought to our area has been a very sad happening in our lives. Needless to say, winter trips to do photography on Malheur Refuge never happened last winter. Recently, we were considering to go photograph the mule deer that are active on the refuge during the rut. That was until we noticed that some of the freed occupiers were making a pilgrimage to the headquarters on a victory tour. We decided to stick to our own neighborhood for the time being. 

 

 

One comment

  1. Kay Walters says:

    I always love your pictures. I’m blessed with several which are proudly displayed in our home. We proudly point out all of them to new visitors who come into our home.
    Keep doing your magic with your cameras.
    Keep vigilant against corruption in your county .

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