My second day at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit began with cold and clouds. I didn’t get any rain, which I was thankful for because of the muddy trail conditions. I looked out my tent and saw a lot of cloud cover, which I didn’t want, but I got up anyway and went to look around. I stopped at a pull-out and wandered up the hillside, dodging muddy parts, to see if I could get something interesting with the distant cliffs opposite the river provided that the sun could find a way through the clouds. Eventually some light did make it through and a mule deer was kind enough to pose for me in front of the sunlit cliffs.
Unfortunately, the deer was in the shade, but he was looking at me so I like the photo. You can see that just a few rays of sunlight were getting through here and there, but I waited till the light got to the cliffside and started shooting.
I drove farther up the road toward the park entrance and found a lone bison standing in front of the river, so I pulled over again and tried to get a good image of him with the river leading to the cliffs in the distance. The bison is standing right next to a wooden trail marker that I think it was rubbing on, and didn’t seem to want to move. I think the bison looks good against the river background.
There was a problem with this picture that I had to fix in Photoshop. I worked on this quite a while using content aware fill trying to get it to look decent. It seems obvious to me, but tell me what you think. I also find that the image looks a little green, but I dialed back the green quite a bit. It was just a very green scene.
I went to a truck stop down the road for some coffee, but the truck stop was in the Mountain Time Zone and I had to wait for about half an hour before it opened. Apparently that river in the picture above is the dividing line and I was standing on the Central Time Zone side.
When I got back, I went to the Caprock Coulee Trail intent on hiking it mud or not. I met another person at the parking lot that was there to do the same thing and I took off toward the river and she headed off starting with the nature trail. I met her again about halfway around near the River Bend Overlook and we shared notes.
For me, the trail started out with a very muddy and slippery climb, but I kept my footing and eventually made the ascent. There were parts of the trail that were washed out down the cliff, which was unnerving, but I found a safe route around. Along the top, I found what looked like a petrified tree that I thought was neat.
That gray ground may look dry, but it was wet, squishy, and slick. I had to be very careful up there.
When I met the other hiker where the trail crosses the road past the overlook, she said that the climb up on her side was very muddy as well. I decided I would hike as far as the descent, and then come back and walk the road back down. Just before the trail went down the muddy slope, I stopped and shot a few photos and I like the way this one turned out. The little green shrub seems to me to form an arrow pointing across the valley. I logged this as a good place to be at sunrise if it looked good in the morning. In case you’re wondering, I did desaturate the color in this photo, though it may not look that way. It was a very colorful scene, especially the bright orange soil in the foreground.
After this, I hiked back to the road and walked back down to the parking lot. I decided that I would walk back up the road before sunset and see what I could do from the overlook.
In the meantime, I went back up the Buckhorn Trail from the other direction where it crosses the road toward the Visitor Center. This was a very muddy hike through a valley that was quite filled with bison. In a few places I had to make a detour through the trees and hills to avoid some large bison standing in the trail, like the one in the picture below standing next to a trail marker. He just stared at me as I came up the trail and as he outweighs me about 8 or 9 times over, I went around.
Bison are very dark and editing a photo to show some detail on the bison without over-exposing the landscape can be a bit of a challenge, but there is a Lightroom technique that can help. I can select only the bison using some automated functions in Lightroom that work pretty well. Below is my process.
First I put a radial mask around just the bison as shown below. The red mask overlay is turned on so you can see where the mask is. When this mask is selected, anything in the red shaded area will be edited and the rest of the image will be left alone. But you can see that the parts of the image around the bison are selected as well, so this isn’t quite good enough.
Next, with the mask menu you can select subtract and choose select subject. Lightroom should detect that the bison is the subject within the radial mask and subtract the bison from the mask. See the screen capture below. So, now I can edit anything but the bison, so that isn’t what I want yet.
I then have the option of inverting the mask, and when I do this I have only the bison selected as shown in the screen capture below. And now I can work on the bringing up the light on the bison and getting some detail. The red mask overlay goes away when you start editing.
The Lightroom subject select is pretty good if you limit its options a little by starting with another mask on a constrained part of the image. These mask features are a relatively new addition to Lightroom and I have really gotten a lot of use out of them.
I continued up this valley, saw a lot more bison, and then headed back to the car to give myself plenty of time before sunset. Not sure if the below photo is good enough to put on this blog, but I liked the scene, waited a long time for sunlight for this image, and so here it is.
Sunset was at about 9:36PM Central Time, so I had plenty of time to walk back up the road to the River Bend Overlook. I actually planned to hike past the overlook and see what else was up there, but just past the overlook there was a large herd of bison in and around the road and I didn’t see an easy way around them. I wasn’t brave enough to walk through a bison herd, so I went back to the overlook and ate an apple instead.
As the sun got lower, the last of the light was shining right on the old CCC overlook building. I thought that it made a beautiful picture with the river in the valley behind it. So I found a vantage point up the path and started shooting. The stair step path leads from the lower right corner around to the brightly lit overlook and the river beyond that curves back around toward the setting sun.
The overlook building is very contrasted with sidelight, but I left it that way. On my monitor, this is a warmer picture than on my laptop screen, so I am not sure exactly how it will appear to you. One of my favorite photos of the entire week. What do you think?
The sunset was less than spectacular, but I was there so I took some photos. And since I bothered to tell you all of this, I’ll show you the photo. The white spots on the distant cliff are the last bits of snow.
The bison heard had been in that area on the distant cliff in the photo above, but when I was done they had moved back down the road to block my path back to the car and it was getting dark. I had no choice but to move along slowly and as I did, the bison moved away from me onto a hill and I was able to walk down the road to their confused stares. Perhaps my headlamp confused them. Anyway, I safely ended my second day at the north unit. Thanks for reading.