I might really be into Marmots

October 07, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

One of the things I love about photographing wildlife for The Outsider Photos is I learn so much about the natural world and, in turn, I genuinely enjoy sharing that learning with you. Recently, I was stumped by something remarkably unique about the appearance of a specific Yellow Bellied Marmot. I'd never seen anything like it in any of the Marmots I've observed or photographed since 2012 when I moved to Colorado!! I was super excited about what I found, but needed to know more! Where could I turn for help understanding what I was seeing?

This isn't the Marmot that stumped me. Just a cute one. Where can I find the answer? This isn't the Marmot that stumped me. Just a cute one.

Google? Nope, that was too general for this situation. 

What about a photography buddy? The one who is, well, really into Marmots? Maybe a little obsessed, even? I call this guy the Marmot Whisperer, by the way. He's spent so much time with them, I think the whistle pigs (a.k.a. Marmots) got together and made him an honorary Marmot. But, I digress. Marmot Whisperer was immediately on the case, scouring the whole of his Marmot photography catalogue, yet he returned nothing matching, or even close to, what I showed him. So, while Marmot Whisperer was exceedingly willing to help me find an answer right away, even his special Marmot Whisperer superpowers were unable to help. 

After the trip to the Marmot Whisperer's burrow, I realized I needed an even deeper subject matter expert who had scads of field time with many different Marmots. I needed SCIENCE!!!!! I needed a Marmot researcher!!! My quest led me to Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor at UCLA, but also Board President and Research Scientist at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), home base for the RMBL Long Term Marmot Study! This study was started in 1962 (!!!!) by University of Kansas Professor Ken Armitage and is now run by Dr. Blumstein. 

I emailed Dr. Blumstein late on a Friday afternoon. I had no expectation I would get a response right away, because who works that hard late on a Friday? Like the Marmot Whisperer, it turns out Dr. Blumstein is, also, really into Marmots. 

Come back for my next post to learn why the heck I needed an actual scientist to help me with my question! 

Until my next post, be sure to check out the RMBL Long Term Marmot Study's account on Instagram. I got deep into their insta posts, wishing I could cuddle all those adorable baby (and grown) Marmots. I easily lost a couple of hours looking at grown Marmots, Marmot pups, Marmot bellies, flat Marmots, fat Marmots, Marmot parties, Marmots earning their whistle pig nickname, Marmot hitchikers, Marmots that sit like peopleMarmot researcher humor, whole danged Marmot families (!!!), and Marmot antics and that's when I realized I might be really into Marmots. 

Photo recipe: 

Canon 5D Mark IV + 600 mm lens
ISO 1000
F 6.3
SS: 1/3200

P.S., I'll show you the magical mystical Marmot in my next post, but for now, "SCIENCE!" 




Mad Marmot Makes Mighty, uh, Scamper???

October 06, 2020  •  Leave a Comment


I tried to come up with a word starting with "m" that suitably described the movement of this Marmot as it hastened across the talus field in my direction. His attitude said, "I'm your worst nightmare," but his gait said, "ugh, I ate too many donuts." 

Continuing with yesterday's story, then; I was sitting on a rock in a talus field photographing my subject 100' distant. He became agitated and trundled menacingly toward me, seemingly hell-bent on my destruction. Just look at this face!


Have a closer look. Tell me that's not vengeance in his eye. 

Extreme close-up of eye of Yellow Bellied Marmot, in which you can see a burning desire for vengeance.Seething Marmot VengeanceBraveheart-grade Marmot vengeance.

You know that scene in Braveheart when William Wallace rallies the troops? This Marmot was manifesting Braveheart-grade vengeance. ;)

He was less than 15' from me, scampering hard toward me, but at the last second, my life was spared as he veered into a very discreet, and heretofore unknown to me, burrow entrance just 10' from my rock! Not only was my life spared, but I then realized why he looked so angrily at me! He didn't want to end me, he wanted me to go away. Well, he may have wanted to end me, but he couldn't, so he took evasive action instead.

I work hard at leaving as little impact on my animal subject as possible, so I felt badly that I didn't recognize the entrance of his burrow and leave appropriate space between me and the burrow, but I learned a good lesson on how to spot one. 

Photo recipe: 

Canon 5D Mark IV + 600 mm lens
ISO 1000
F 4.5
SS: 1/3200




It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marmot!

October 05, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Marmot Madness on my Instagram and other social media accounts this week, so I'm sharing a mad Marmot! 😡

If you've seen a few of my pics, you know I use ethical wildlife photography practices in order to minimize stress on my subjects. One such measure is to distance myself from them, hence why I almost always photograph wildlife with the 600 mm lens. On this occasion, I quietly and slowly made my way to a comfortable rock in the talus field (is there such a thing as a comfortable rock? 🤔) to observe and photograph this (likely male) Marmot, about 100' away. While there, other people walked near where I was shooting, talking loudly to each other, perhaps not realizing I was there, let alone this Marmot.

The Marmot was clearly distressed by the loud passers-by and started moving in my direction. He would advance, stop, look toward the voices, look at and observe me, look to the voices, look at me, seemed to gather up his courage, then advance more. He repeated this process until he had crossed perhaps 60' of talus, when he began giving more obvious non-verbal clues to me, such as this one, when he raised his bushy tail, flicking it a bit and looking at me with what I can only describe as Marmot dagger eyes. 🗡👀😠 I knew he was agitated, but thought it was only due to the disturbance of the voices. After covering another 20' of talus and when he was only 20' away, he gave me one last look and dashed headlong toward me. I thought, "am I in for a Marmot attack??!!!" 😲😧

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of this Mad Marmot Tale!

Photo recipe: 

Canon 5D Mark IV + 600 mm lens
ISO 1000
F 7.1
SS 1/3200

Everyone: "How do you find wildlife?"

October 04, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Me:  Mostly by looking. ;) 

A fellow photographer was lamenting to me about missing a particular shot. She said "I waited for hours and when it finally happened the deer ran right over my head. I knew then why National Geographic Photographers are paid a lot to sit and wait for the perfect photo." 

As she said this, I thought to myself, wildlife photography is about 25% knowing where to be when, 50% waiting and/or tenacity to go back to the same location over and over, 15% photography skills, 5% photography equipment, and 5% luck.

She did everything right:  

  • Learned about her subject's habitat and habits; she knew where to be and when.
  • She patiently waited. 
  • She had the skill to capture the image.
  • She had the photography equipment. 
  • If you're keeping score, you probably realize the luck category is where things didn't go in her favor. :(

I feel her pain. 

Wildlife photography is particularly challenging because subjects seem to be hard to come by. As wildlife photographers, we must learn a lot about our intended subjects. Using Elk as an example, I created a one minute video on how I find them in the field (link).

I was richly rewarded for my work: 


To get to a particular wildlife subject, spend time learning about your subject's habitat and habits. Go to the location, setup your gear, and wait. You may have to visit that location many times to get the photo you want. Even if you don't get the photo you want on the first, third, or fifteenth visit, it is time well spent learning:  the location, the movement of the wildlife within its habitat, the best times of day, the right position yourself, signs of their presence, and so on. 

Photo recipe: 

Canon 5D Mark IV + 600 mm lens
ISO 1000
F 7.1
SS 1/3200

Alpine farmers?

September 21, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Continuing with the American Pika theme this week!!!

Our busy friend is collecting Alpine vegetation from in between the talus. An especially fascinating detail about Pika behavior is they place their hay in the sun to dry before storing in their dens, thus preventing the harvest from spoiling. The drying process is exactly the same humans use when harvesting hay; the crop is mown, left lying in the sun in the field to dry, then it's baled.

How amazing is it the little Alpine farmer known as the American Pika does that, too? 

Photo recipe: 

Canon 5D Mark IV + 600 mm lens
ISO 1000
F 5.6
SS: 1/2500

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