Rocky Mountain National Park Bull Moose

About the Photo

Just before sunset on our first day in Rocky Mountain National Park, we headed to Kawuneeche Valley to see if we could spot any moose, elk, or bears. Moose and bears are two of my favorite animals, so they were the primary objective. Along the way, we saw a few scattered elk, but we didn’t stop to photograph them, as time was of the essence. Since it was the only chance I’d have to photograph the sunset in Rocky Mountain National Park, I wanted to make it from Kawuneeche Valley all the way up to Rock Cut (map), which is the highest elevation in the park unless you do the insane hike to Longs Peak. I was fully prepared to do this hike (and to wrestle three grizzly bears along the way), but luckily Sarah has better judgment than me.

The drive between the Valley and Rock Cut is about 30 minutes, and that assumes you’re not driving slowly because you’re terrified of driving on the winding road overlooking plenty of cliffs. Not that I am terrified of cliffs; I just drove slowly for…safety. With about 40 minutes until sunset, began heading back to Rock Cut, when we saw a cow moose. It was the first moose I had ever seen in the wild, so of course I stopped and fired off dozens of frames. By the time I got back in the car, I knew we’d be pushing it to make it to Rock Cut in time for the sunset. Then, about a half mile later, I saw this bull moose. I had to stop! We didn’t end up making it to Rock Cut before the sunset, but we caught the sunset from another excellent spot.

Best Bison Burger IN THE WORLD?!

It was 9:30 pm when we finally left Rocky Mountain National Park for the day (after arriving at 4:30 am), and we were absolutely starved. We stopped at Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, where we enjoyed dinner. It was an all-natural, free range bison burger, and it was both lean and flavorful. The menu called it a buffalo burger, but I’m fairly confident it was actually bison, since there aren’t free range buffalo in America. It was easily the best bison burger I’ve ever had, but the only other time I’ve had a bison burger was in Wyoming decades ago, and that actually might have been a “beefalo” burger. Not that difficult to be the best (and worst!) in a category when you’re the only entry in that category. Still, it was a delicious burger! Too bad we don’t have more bison and fewer cows in Indiana! The place is somewhat pricey for a tavern and I think they nickel and dime you on cheese and toppings, but I still recommend it because the food was simply that good…especially after a long day in the Park!

Technical

I shot this with my Nikon D700 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I think close-up wildlife photos are a dime a dozen, so after photographing some tight shots of this moose, I zoomed out to capture it with the setting sun in the frame to give the shot more of a landscape flare with the moose as “icing.” I processed this photo to embrace the warmth of the sun–warm white balance, more magenta than green on the tint, and accentuated oranges. Finished it off with a “glossy” curves adjustment to make it pop. I’m not sure how well this look works for a wildlife photo, but at least it’s something different.

Your Thoughts…

Do you think this photo works? To you, is it a landscape or a wildlife photo? Do you think that through usage ‘buffalo’ has become synonymous with ‘bison’? Share your thoughts on this highly critical issues…or on anything else…in the comments! One lucky commenter might be the next contestant on the Price is Right!

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