2017 Summer Games Yellowstone National Park

Billy Lightpaw Middle weight contender for the Broad-jump – Summer Games Yellowstone National Park.


As long time readers of the BigShotsNow blog you know that every 4 years Yellowstone National Park holds the Summer Games in preparation for the Wildlife Olympics with entrants from around the globe. This year the games are being held in Yellowstone once again with venues at Gibbons Meadows, the Madison river, Hayden Valley, the LeHardy Rapids, the Lamar valley and the Blacktail Flats area.

This is always an incredible experience with visitors attending from all over the world. As usual most of the events are standing room only as tickets have been sold out for many of the big events for the last two years. However most events have roadside observation areas set up to accommodate the overflow crowds. Be prepared for Bear Jams, Wolf Jams, Buffalo Jams, Otter Jams and every other jam you can think of as the various animal contestants make their way to the different events, while those humans attending Yellowstone for the first time slam on their brakes, throw open all four of the cars doors where  applicable, and race out to greet and get their first up-close view of the different contestants, leaving their vehicles unattended and blocking the roadway. This impacts traffic bringing it to a standstill for hours. As this also usually results in the arrival of the First Responders stationed throughout the park to take care of the maimed and wounded that occur from way too close encounters with animals that are wild and have never heard of Disney, it takes awhile before the visitors cars can be impounded and hauled off to be shredded. Prepare for long waits depending on the popularity of the contestant being viewed.

This years games are truly spectacular with many new participants such as one of the real contenders in the light heavy-weight broad jump, Mr. Billy Lightpaw, a fantastic looking black bear here shown settling into his patented “Squat and Jump” starting position. Mr. Lightpaw also known as Billy the Bumper to his friends, currently holds the amateur broad jumping record of 32′ 8″ set last fall at the pre-hibernation games outside of Ottawa and is considered to be a gold medal frontrunner. Notice the coiled spring like action of tucking his head in and rolling back on his powerful haunches prior to his launch. Simply incredible. This is why he’s a crowd favorite. This event has plenty of accessibility due to the wide open Hayden valley floor. Binoculars are highly recommended.

The Madison river will have a new event this year, in fact it’s the first time this event has been offered in the summer games and it is likely to be a huge crowd pleaser. It is the “Calf Drop” and it’s a doozy. There are no front-runners in this event due to the fact that only first time Buffalo mothers can enter. Those due to drop their calves during  the week of August 11th through August 22nd are automatically entered. As mentioned before there are no front-runners yet but the likelihood of twins and even in the rarest of circumstances triggering an automatic Gold medal, triplets, might be expected. There is a lot of interest in this event by the press and Mothers for Public Breastfeeding or the MBP as it’s known, around the world.

Another fun event for the whole family is being held at LeHardy Rapids this year. It’s the “Otter Fish Off'” and this event is one that ESPN has scheduled for prime time coverage. As you know from previous games this one is fast paced and exciting. Upstream at the top of the rapids, barrels of trout averaging 26″ to 41″ inches long and weighing up to 96 lbs. each are released to streak down the rapids where the contestants wait at the bottom. The Otter that gets the biggest fish with the least amount of personal  injury is scored on tenacity, conviviality, ferocity and good manners. This is a high interest event for the entire family and you may want to arrive a few days early to get a good seat.

The “Wolf Run” or “Elk Calf Take Down” is an event that is best watched on TV or the various Jumbo-trons set up along the highway as much of the action is out of sight due to the rugged terrain through the ponds and small streams in the heavily brushed area that is Blacktail Flats. This year we’ll have extra coverage as the various networks are employing their new “Wolf Drone” cameras which are able to follow the wolves as they run down the elk calves and drag them out of the buck brush where they like to hide. Odds on favorite this year is of course the Blacktail Flats Pack for their intimate knowledge of the area.

Gibbon meadows will again be the site of the contestants housing area, media outlets, Torch lighting, and the entrance and closing parades. A Special “I Paid A Lot Because I’m Special” Pass is needed to access this area. If you don’t already have one you might as well forget about it. There’s none left. Sorry. Seems like everybody is Special.

The Lamar valley is again host to one of the all time favorite events, “Buffalo Herding”. This event has been a staple of the Summer Games for as long as I have been making them up. It is not someone herding the Buffalo but instead the Buffalo proudly showing off their skill at being a herd member, their ability to ‘herd’ as it  were. There are synchronized marching exhibitions, where the different herds show off their ability to walk together with all four legs synchronized, which if you’ve never seen it before is mesmerizing. There is a herd bull “Bellowing” event where the different herd bulls get on opposite sides of the valley and bellow at each other until one runs away in shame. There is a new event this year where the herds travel along the valley floor with the newborns running alongside ( the little orange ones ) to see how long they can run with their tongues out. And last but not least the contest that pits the different herds against each other to show who can make the trip up the Gibbons Narrows to the meadows above the slowest. The resulting length of the traffic tie up from the buffalo jam decides the winner. Last years numbers to beat are eleven and a half miles of stalled traffic and five hours to make the six-mile trek up from the bottom of the falls to the summer grazing. Everyone travels at Buffalo speed for this one.

These are just the highlights of the summer games, there’s plenty more so start packing and head on up to Yellowstone for another amazing year of the Summer Games at Yellowstone National Park. We’ll look for you there.

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.

Note From Yellowstone


For Immediate Release: Subject: The Rut : Special Interest: MMA fans : General Public

This just in from Yellowstone National Park. The Rut is still in full swing. The annual Battle of the Antlers can still be seen and heard throughout the park. There’s bellowing along the Madison, grunting and heaving in the Hayden valley, total chaos up at Mammoth as these big boys show their stuff.

This is no holds barred cage fighting without the cage. Shown here is Evvie Stepper, Evvie is short for Everett, a contestant from the upper Lamar valley Steppers, a herd well-known for producing big mean bulls. Here he is making a splash as he comes down to challenge any comers. Don’t call him Everett and don’t laugh when you say Evvie unless you’re wearing Kevlar.

So if you’ve been staying home because you thought things were over, think again. Jump in the car and come on up for a front row seat at any of the venues. Entrance fee good for all fights.

Close: For Total Distribution: TV and Cable: Good for Still Release : Subject Tie In: Elk; River; Nature; Good for all ratings

First Arabesque


As all of our ballet fans know the winter season of famous ballet performances is nearly here. Yellowstone National Park, long known for its support of the arts has hosted the most famous of all the ballerina schools the, L’école du cygne de l’excellence.

And as if things couldn’t get any better they have managed to bring in perhaps the most famous Swan performer dancing today, the Diva herself, Olga Vasiliyevna Lepeshinskaya.! What a coup! There was celebration long into the night when the park rangers in charge of this seasons performances found out the news. The Supervisor himself after learning the Diva had accepted the position leapt to his feet, did a few pirouettes and a show stopping impromptu stutter step on pointe and threw his champagne glass into the fireplace. There was some excitement at the lodge that night, I can tell you.

Our Siberian princess, who flew in directly from the innermost reaches of the Siberian tundra took the name of Olga Vasiliyevna Lepeshinskaya as a tribute to her favorite Russian dancer. Of course it wasn’t Russia when Ms. Lepeshinskaya was dancing, it was the U.S.S.R. and that rascal and all around bad boy, Stalin himself was in charge. Things were tough for our ballerina because unless you were an exceptional dancer Stalin would normally just kill you. But as adversity makes you stronger we are glad Ms.  Lepeshinskaya survived and that her talent lives on in our star performer today.

Of course given the talent assembled for this seasons performances what other program could they perform but Coppélia with its primary character Swanhilda. We won’t give the story away other than to say it is a comic opera and well worth the admission fee. And as always it will be performed at the Yellowstone river bend at the North end of the Hayden valley. There will be bleacher seats available and for you opera diehards that hold season tickets the lawn chair area will be provided with security and a roped off area to commingle during the intermissions.

We part today with an image of the diva rehearsing. Here she is shown in the middle of the First Arabesque and preparing to Pirouette, then advance into a Grand Jete and of course this leads to her famous awe-inspiring Tour en l’air which won her namesake the Order Of The Red Banner Of Labor not once but twice. Our current Diva has been awarded the Prima Ballerina Assoluta one of the highest and rarest awards given. This is only the second of these awards given in the last forty-five years. We are so honored to have her here for this incredible season of song and dance in Yellowstone National Park. Get your tickets now and see you there.

Note:  Please remember nothing but North Face or higher quality down jackets allowed into the lawn chair area. Thank you for your support and join us for Coppélia and a night to remember.






Quiet River

2015-09-26Mist1209click to enlarge

Early in the morning when only you and the river are up, before the day gets going and the noise and activity starts, there is a quiet time that Mother Natures creates just for those that get up and seek it out. It varies with each viewing. Sometimes you get the full sun glinting off the river’s surface. Every rock, stem, ripple in perfect focus. A notice that the day is going to be blindingly beautiful.

Sometimes you get this. A gentle mist flowing down the river, hiding this, revealing that, letting you know that today could be a day for reflection. One that you can proceed through at a more leisurely pace. A time for seeing and thinking and figuring out just where you belong in the over all scheme of things. One that makes you slow down until your heartbeat matches the rivers flow.

This is a forgotten bend in the Yellowstone river as it finds its way through the Hayden valley. In a few moments or maybe a few minutes depending on its flow it will start to accelerate and rush towards the precipice of Yellowstone Falls a few miles downstream. There it will rush headlong over the brink to tumble and splash its way as it careens down the tumultuous channel of the Yellowstone gorge. It will be a different river then. But for right now that is something for the future. This is the time to stand still, immersed in the wonderful stillness, letting the calmness flow over you as the river flows through its banks. Today is a good day to be here.

Now Are The Foxes

Red Fox TryptychClick to enlarge

We are continuing with our semi-annual inspection report that The Institute conducts in Yellowstone National park whether anyone wants it or not. As has been described before this is a very comprehensive inspection of all aspects of the parks operation. We leave no stone unturned, no question unanswered, no oddity unexplained, no lunch counter stool unoccupied.

One of the major checkpoints on our report is whether the performing animals are, well, performing. This is a major area of concern for park management as many of the tourist dollars spent here are dependent on how good a show the park provides. The travelling public, especially those from out-of-town, are demanding to see the various tricks, capering’s, sleight of paw trickery, mimicking, scampering cutely, impressions, demonstrations of unique abilities, ability to sing, dance, and perform acrobatic stunts that television has conditioned them to believe is realistic animal behavior.

Consequently nearly all of the parks inhabitants have their own repertoire of acts carefully selected for their particular personalities and physical attributes. Grizzly bears lumber along in a wallowing gait that makes them an amusing sight when viewed from the rear, even if there is a freshly killed elk calf dangling from its jaws you can’t help but laugh at its distinctive big butt roll, Eagles, both Bald and Golden soar and dive providing an incredible airshow for the gaping wide-eyed tourist. You can’t miss the sound of cell phone cameras clicking away to capture them in all their splendid glory seven or eight hundred feet in the air. The many hooved ungulates such as the buffalo, antelope, elk, mule deer, Bighorn sheep and Black-horned rhinoceros, put on a grazing display second to none, ok, that list was just a test to see if you were really paying attention, there are actually no buffalo in the park.

Using the beautiful four-color brochure that the park hands out to each and every paying entrant into the park that shows the time, location and activity to be performed by the various animal performers we headed to the Hayden valley our first stop, to view the amazing acrobatic maneuvers of Americas favorite small hairy predator, the Red Fox. We got there a few minutes early so we could set up our gear and get good seats as the spaces fill up rapidly once the show gets under way.

Soon, just as advertised, the Red Fox appeared and began to tease the crowd by scampering over logs, peering out from behind bushes and other shrubbery, posing and posturing out in the open for the many folks wanting photo ops, and generally setting the stage for its climatic last act, the Incredible Leaping Headstand with Bushy Tail Salute. It was an amazing performance. As soon as it was over and our performer retreated into the forest behind it, the crowd immediately dispersed, stopping only to take selfies of themselves and their companions with their cell phones and consulting the brochure for the next performance. Some were even seen photographing their brochures, the  ground they were standing on, the road, their car door handles, each other again, the now empty area where the performance took place. Every thing of interest in Yellowstone that might amaze their friends and neighbors back home must be digitally documented before the next amazing sight comes into view.

We were satisfied with the Red Fox’s performance and gave it four and a half stars out of five and went on to the next performance, a yellow-bellied marmot spitting the shells of seeds over the edge of a rock. We were in for a long day, Yellowstone has a lot of things to see and we hadn’t even gotten to the Buffalo shedding exhibit yet.

Note : To those of you tuning in late the following posts will catch you up on preceding events. There is no extra charge for this service we just want  you to be fully informed.







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.