She’s Back! And She’s Brought The Kids – Again

She’s back and she’s brought the kids, again! This is Edith Halfway Jones one of our resident Black bears here at *The Institute and if you are a long time reader of the blog you know that she is a regular here. It was exactly one year ago on May 12 that Edith showed up late for work and in danger of not only getting her pay docked but losing her position on the elite bear patrol that guards the inner perimeter of The Institute. Her excuse was three little bear cubs, obviously hers, that she had as a single mother over the winter.

Edith usually a demure, quiet non-partier had let her hair down or at least her fur, got hammered on a mixture of EverClear infused with pine needles, spent some time with a bear she had just met and the result was the triplets, Solenoid, Nodule and little Fleabert. For additional information about her return last year see this post.

We  thought she had left for good last Fall taking the cubs and heading into the far reaches of the back country outside the borders of The Institute and we wouldn’t see her again. So it was with no little surprise when she showed up this evening, back in the saddle again, with the triplets stuffing their faces with as much of this new green grass as they could choke down. She looks good. She’s sleek and shapely. The cubs look good too. They’re fat for just being out of the den. Edith seems a little more calm and adjusted to being a mom. Last year she micro-managed the cubs a lot with a fair amount of growling and some biting but this year she’s not concerned at all with their chasing around and heading off into the brush alone. A little chirp from her and they’re right back where she can lay a paw on them if she needs to. Motherhood seems to suit her.

As was mentioned earlier she has checked in on the 12th of April this year, almost a month early. Last year she came back on the 12th of May. It’s been warmer this winter and the kids probably got up early and after their playing squealing Climb on Mom games with their sharp little claws and head bumping for milk, she couldn’t stand to hear them yell “Let’s go out. I’m hungry.” one more time she gave up and came out early. Luckily the grass is ready and there’s lots of ground squirrels and voles around to eat too. The cubs are twice the size they were last fall.

There you have it. We got Spring. We got bears. There’s even a pair of Bluebirds catching bugs by flying softly into the window glass with a bump and grabbing a mouthful and nesting under the deck again. What more could you want.

Spring iz Sprung.

The Grass is Riz.

I wonder where the Flowers iz.

Hope  your place is on schedule and your bears are back. Happy Spring to you all.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Ghost Along The Yellowstone


If you’re lucky enough to be up along the Yellowstone river as it flows through the Hayden valley right now you’ll see the last remnants of the snow pack slowly melting away. It’s been nearly hip deep for months and now it’s about gone. This is where Otter creek joins into the Yellowstone and in the past it has been a place where the Hayden valley wolf pack has had a den.

At this time of year unless the weather is bright sunshine this long sweeping bend in the river is shaded by large pine trees and with an overcast day like today it can look pretty forbidding. It’s perfect for wolves however. They come and go silently, moving from one shadow to another like ghosts. The den is very likely tucked in under a boulder or dug into the side of a low-lying hill where the pups can come out and play on the loose dirt in front of the den, yet skittle back in if a low flying eagle happens by.

Being placed back in the ravine means that whatever would approach the den site would first have to swim the Yellowstone which at this time of year means a very cold crossing and they would still have to deal with the pack once they got to the den. It was a good choice to have it there.

This is one of the adult members of the pack returning from visiting an elk carcass the pack brought down several days ago. She stops and watches the watchers before disappearing into the gloom of the ravine. That den is inactive now. The wolves have moved onto another place equally remote and hidden to raise another litter. Fortunately there are lots of places like that in Yellowstone. Hidden, remote, distant, just right for the young ones to grow up into young adults. If we’re lucky we’ll get a chance to see them too, maybe even see their offspring but we’ll have to be extra lucky for that.

Favorite Son



There is no disputing that a mother loves all her children equally. She will feed them, watch over them, defend them to her death. But occasionally there appears a young one that is first among equals. One that creates a special bond that is just outside the perimeter of her all encompassing love for each of the young she has.

This one fits that bill. There are eight siblings in this family of coyotes. The others are back at the den which is about 30′ away, where mom told them to stay while she takes a much needed nap. Coyote pups tend to mind their mothers and although they may test the limits some, they usually do what they’re told. But then there is this one. He has been the one from the very beginning that she frets over the most. He doesn’t do what he’s told. He goes off without the slightest regard for safety or his well being, he takes on the world as if it is his by some right no one else was aware of.

She disciplines him but it doesn’t seem to take. Where the other pups are reluctant to approach mom when she says it’s quiet time. “Leave me alone.” This pup will approach her fearlessly and say “Getup! Play with me. Give me something to eat. I found a dead ground squirrel, come see. Hey, come on!” She may snap and growl and even nip him but he is unfazed, and she loves him for it.

It’s hard to define what this special bond is. But it’s there. It will be there for as long as they’re together. And maybe longer if coyotes have memories. She will never admit it but this is her favorite son.


Breakin’ The Rules

BreakingTheRules7545Click to Enlarge

Breaking the rules. Breaking all of them. Photographically that is. That’s what I do anyway. Break ’em, worry about them later. This image breaks almost every rule of photography there is, yet it is one of my most favorite images that I have ever taken. I say almost every rule only because I know there’s a rule somewhere I’ve forgotten but I know I broke it anyway. This was not a premeditated decision on my part. I didn’t decide to fly in the face of convention just to be a rebel it was more along the lines of, I want this picture and I’m going to get it even if it means breaking the rules.

If you Google ‘Photography Rules’ you will come up with about 105,000,000 hits for rules. That’s a lot of damn rules. Granted not all 105,000,000 hits are different but even so, Geezum Plutz that’s a lot of rules. That’s one thing we do pretty good as a species, making rules. Here are just a few examples of collections of rules.

10 Top Photography Composition Rules

5 Easy Composition Guidelines

18 Composition Rules For Photos

The 10 Rules of Photo Composition (and why they work)

9 Top Photography Composition Rules You Need To Know

And there are folks out there that will tell you “Don’t you go breaking any of those rules.” if you want to be a photographer. You can’t be in our photo show if you don’t follow these rules. “Hey Bozo, I saw your work. You need to follow the rules, man.” Seems like everyone is an expert when it comes to rules, especially the guys that make them.

There are real photographers out there looking at this image right now that are gnashing their teeth and raining curses down on my head for deliberately showing this bollixed up, rule breaking image as if I had a right to. Which I do by the way. I’m one of those artist types that believe once an image is completed it exists. It doesn’t matter how it was made, or what was done to it afterwards, or whether it was Photoshopped or not, an image is an image and it stands on its own for better or worse. You can shoot it holding the camera behind your back and jumping up and down, or put little red hearts all over it, or draw, paint or step on it with muddy boots then sign your name. It doesn’t matter, an image once it’s finalized and put on display is there and it’s up to the viewer to figure out whether they like it or not. Or even consider whether it is art or not.

Look in the back of any photography magazine on the newsstand and you will find dozens of highly trained, apparently successful photographers willing to take you on workshops and teach you how to make beautiful pictures by sticking to all the many rules in force that will make you a successful photographer too. Unfortunately I’ve always had a certain degree of difficulty in following rules. Some of them anyway, but especially those that say you need to create in a certain way. I guess it’s because that I, like Mick Jagger, don’t keep regular hours, so my outlook is different from most.

So getting back to the picture, “What’s wrong with it?” you ask. It’s an image of a wolf swimming across the Yellowstone river late in the evening in mid-may back in 2006. The sky was overcast, it had been raining just moments ago and this wolf was one of the dominant members of a pack in the Hayden valley. They had killed an elk on a small tributary called Alum creek which feeds into the Yellowstone and were gorging themselves until they could barely move. She, this was a female, was the first to leave because being the alpha she had fed first and was ready to return to the den which was located on the other side of the river. The problem and the first of many rules that were broken to get this image, was that she was way too far away for this to be any kind of decent shot. The rule says you have to be close and fill the frame with as much wolf as will fit in it to make this any kind of acceptable picture. The wolf of course didn’t know she was breaking the rule and I couldn’t get any closer before she jumped in the river and began her swim across it. I said the hell with it and took the picture anyway.

My equipment then was somewhat limited. The camera was a 6mp Nikon D70, a woefully under-powered camera by todays standards, and my lens was an inexpensive telephoto which was all I could afford at that time. There’s another rule shot to hell so to speak. Good photographers always use the best most expensive equipment available.  NO exceptions. The limits of the equipment I had, because of its measly megapixel count, meant that when it was time to print this image it wouldn’t be adequate to be enlarged so that you could see the wolf in all it’s perfectly focused clarity. They are absolutely right, those rule makers. It is kind of blurry and out of focus looking because I did stretch the limits of the image and now it has a kind of painterly pastel looking feel to it, not at all what a good photo should be, but I like it. Maybe you do too, or not.

 I remember exactly how things were the day I took this image. How cold it was, how the air smelled like damp grass, the sounds of the river flowing by and the huffing of the wolf as she swam across the widest part of the river she could have chosen to take. However there is a characteristic that rule makers leave out and that is that intangible feeling one gets when you see an image that you like regardless of whether or not it fits into the Follow the rules category. There have been an awful lot of pretty good painters that didn’t follow the rules, and people tend  to think very highly of them, myself being one of them.That’s what makes breaking the rules work for me. Had I followed them I wouldn’t have taken this picture and I wouldn’t have this image to remember the experience or to share with you, my friends. If you ask me I’m going to tell you to break the rules, break ’em all. It’s worth it.

So as far as rules go I’ll probably continue to break them, as the image is more important to me than various opinions. In case you’re wondering I do take technically good images where many of the rules are followed but I am never one to shy away from gathering what I see and putting it into a viewfinder regardless of what the rules say, after all art and the image are what I most care about.

Just for grins I’m posting the original image below, as it was taken straight out of the camera, to show you how and where the image above came from.