Tag Archives: Wildlife

Having a Great Time on Our Rocky Mountain Photography Workshop!

We are having a great time in Colorado! The weather has been spectacular, with a light dusting of snow on the mountains happening a couple of days ago. High temperatures have been in the 70’s and lows in the 30’s. We just finished the workshop for Group A, and Group B arrives this evening for more great adventures in magnificent Rocky Mountain National Park.

We would LOVE to have you join us in 2022 for our Summer or Fall Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops! (Currently about 50% full!)

Here are a few photos from the past 4 days.


Landscape and Nature Photography Tips

I love landscape and nature photography! Beyond mastery of your camera settings such as exposure modes, aperture, depth of field, shutter speeds, ISO, focal lengths, etc. there are three primary factors that will impact your landscape and nature photographs:

  1. LocationSeek out locations that will potentially yield great results for nature and landscape photographs. Do your research! There are tons of resources online to give you good suggestions on locations, national and state parks, etc. for great photographs. Participating in a destination photography workshop is another great way to learn about the right locations to visit, at the right times of day.  Plus, if you are looking for wildlife, you really need to do research on the best places to find the wildlife. Ask the locals! Ask park rangers!
  2. TimingYour choice of time of year and time of day has a huge impact on your nature and landscape photographs. You can’t really modify the light on a mountain to make it look perfect. All you can do is plan to be at the right spot at the right time, with the greatest possibility of having great light.  That might mean showing up very early in the morning or late in the day, or that might mean coming back at a different time of the year. There is a great app for planning the timing for the best light in any location. It is called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It’s pretty cool. You can use their app to put a “pin” on a map and then have it show you exactly the sun and moon light angles and exact location of sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset and the timing for all that. You can use the app to precisely plan the best day and time and location for your perfect sunrise or sunset.
  3. LuckDespite all your planning, part of this boils down to just pure luck. You can choose the perfect location and the perfect time, but you can’t choose what the weather and atmospheric conditions will be at that time. And if you are looking for wildlife, you can’t be sure the wildlife will actually be there, even if the local people all say that is the perfect spot for viewing wildlife. You an get up early to photograph a sunrise, but you won’t really know for sure if the sunrise will be spectacular or covered up by a cloud bank. Ultimately there is a certain amount of luck involved in being at the right place at the right time. All you can do is try to place yourself in the optimal locations at the right times to increase your chances of success.

Here are a few photos along with some other tips:

Choose the right time of year for fall colors.  

Sometimes converting an image to black & white can make the scene even more dramatic. Try to have a foreground with leading lines that draw your eyes deeper into the photograph.

Try to place something in the foreground, to add more interest to the shot.

Use “framing” to have elements in the foreground naturally frame a key subject in a landscape.

Shoot upwards sometimes. Use wide angle lenses to take in a wider view of a scene. Shoot at a really high f/stop (like f/22 in this shot) to create that starburst effect.

Reflections create nice symmetry.

Sunrises are always a gamble.  Don’t let the prospects of a cloudy morning scare you away. You actually want clouds in the shot. A sunrise can turn out to be pretty boring if there isn’t a cloud in the sky.


If you want to capture soft flowing waterfalls, use a slower shutter speed.

Be ready to capture an unexpected moment with wildlife.

Ultra-wide angle lenses are always handy for some wide scenic vistas our mountain ranges. When shooting lakes, try to feature the reflections in the water.

Bad weather can be dangerous, but don’t put away your camera!

Early morning light on mountains provides such a beautiful enhancement to any mountain shot.

If the atmospheric conditions are creating beautiful clouds, make sure you feature the clouds in some of your photos.

Enjoy and Appreciate

One of the things I love the most about nature and landscape photography isn’t even the photography itself.  It is the fact that it is a wonderful excuse to just be out there in the midst of this beautiful and amazing world.

Happy Picture Taking!
Kevin Gourley


Wildlife Photography

Many of you know I love Rocky Mountain National Park, and I love photographing wildlife.  Here are a few important tips that help with wildlife photography:

  • Know where to find the wildlife
  • Know when to find the wildlife
  • Choose times where the light is better
  • Bring the right photographic gear

Whenever you travel to some new place, it helps to ask locals where the best spots are for photographing wildlife. Sometimes you have to look carefully.

For example, can you find the moose hiding behind these trees?  Look carefully.  It is there.


Ok, I was just kidding.  Maybe that’s a bit obvious. 😉 Even so, finding wildlife is a matter of watching carefully. Sometimes the wildlife might actually be right there in front of you and you might not see it unless you stop and just watch and look carefully, looking for any movement. The example above is totally obvious but sometimes it is not so obvious.

In this example below, I’d swear the elk was trying to hide behind a tree. That’s not REALLY what he was doing, but it looks that way. I thought the photo was funny because it looks like a hide-and-seek photo of an elk.  It is really just an elk rubbing his antlers against a tree. Still, it is possible to even miss wildlife standing behind a single tree at times!


The key is to learn where you are most likely to find wildlife, and then go to those places, and watch. Be persistent. You might have to check those places several times before you find wildlife there. Just because big horn sheep were not there an hour ago, does not mean they won’t be there later on.

big horn sheep


In this photo of a marmot, below. The marmot was in a place where I often have seen marmots in the past.  It was a rocky area with all sorts of little openings and holes where the marmots can seek shelter quickly. I knew if I went to that specific spot, and waited, I would eventually see the marmot pop up, and sure enough, it did!


Timing is also important, both in terms of the time of day and time of year. Wildlife will be in different places at different times of the day in the Summer vs. the Fall. You might find more success finding some wildlife in the cool early morning hours. As it gets sunnier, they may be more in the shade. On a bright sunny day, it is REALLY easy to miss a dark moose standing in the shady edge of a forest.

Also, make sure you take time to learn how the time of year affects the presence of wildlife. In the Summer, I am likely to see more elk up in the higher altitudes in Rocky Mountain National Park, giving me wonderful opportunities to photograph them against a backdrop of higher mountain scenic vistas.


In the Fall, during “the rut” (mating season), you’ll find herds of elk have moved down to lower altitudes into the meadow valleys, giving you great photo opportunities.  They are different photo opportunities because you will not be having as many shots up on the side of a mountain but still it is a great time to photograph them.

elk rut

You’ll also find wildlife around water. Just exercise caution when an adult moose is with its young (calf).  Keep a safe distance. They can be very protective of their young.




Another way to look for wildlife within a National Park is to use other people’s eyes to help you. When driving down a road, don’t just look for wildlife. Look for cars stopped along the side of a road. That can be an indicator that they have found wildlife!  You don’t necessarily have to be an expert in spotting wildlife.


In some areas, it is commonplace to encounter wildlife strolling into nearby towns and lodging areas. You could spend your day hunting for elk, only to find the elk standing there when you get back to your cabin!


Oh and just a note about timing and safety. Sometimes you might be up in the mountains looking for wildlife and the weather can change quickly. Be careful about that. It is unwise to put yourself in a situation where you get trapped in a sudden thunderstorm in the mountains. People have been killed by making poor choices about their hikes into the mountains with storms approaching.


Finally, one other aspect of wildlife photography is the light. Part of good wildlife photography is choosing to photograph during the times of day when the lighting is best.  For example, in this shot below, it was taken shortly after sunrise. But that meant I had to get up very early, and drive in darkness for 45 minutes to reach my location just after the sun had risen to get this nice early morning lighting in the higher altitudes of the mountains.  Early mornings and late evenings often provide beautiful lighting for wildlife photography.

It really helps to bring the right photographic gear. I recommend a camera that goes to a relatively high ISO that does well up to 12800 or more. You shouldn’t ever shoot at an ISO that is higher than is needed for a particular shot, but having the ability to use high ISO values allows you to shoot in lower light circumstances which are a definite possibility with wildlife photography.  Otherwise, you might encounter a great wildlife photo opportunity but you just can’t get the shot because there just isn’t enough light.

Also, use a lens that goes to a higher focal length like 300mm or more for a full frame sensor camera, or 200mm or more for a camera with an APS-C or other smaller sensor format. 400mm or 500mm is even better. The longer focal lengths will safely bring you closer to the wildlife.

Of course there is a lot more to wildlife photography than just what I have mentioned here.  You need to manage your exposure settings. The aperture affects depth of field which is an important consideration in nature photography. The shutter affects the freezing of motion, which is also quite important. The freezing of motion is more than just a consideration about capturing images of running wildlife. It is even more so important to ensure your shutter speed is fast enough to freeze any vibrations that could blur the shot when holding the camera.  Also, if your lens/camera has any form of image stabilization / vibration reduction, make sure you use it when hand-holding your camera (but not on a tripod)!

If you need help, preparing yourself to go on some great vacation this Summer, remember I offer private instruction on most any topic in photography.  I currently am teaching numerous people in my private teaching program.

I’m licensed to lead photography workshops in Rocky Mountain National Park in the Summer and Fall. We have a blast on these trips. It is truly an adventure!  We’re totally sold out for both Summer and Fall for 2017, but if you’d like to be added to a waiting list in case there is a cancellation, let me know! Also, if you are thinking about joining us in 2018, let me know now.  I’ll give you the first chance at registering.


Happy Wildlife Picture Taking!

Kevin Gourley

P.S. I leave you with one more parting shot of moose. (I just love moose. You might even call it an obsession. I know, I am a little weird about that.)


Rocky Mountain Summer Photography Workshop – FILLING UP!

Hi Photographers!

I just wanted to give everyone a “heads up” warning if you were contemplating joining us on our Rocky Mountain Photography Workshop this Summer!   Some options now have only ONE SPACE LEFT!

WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU JOIN US on this grand photographic adventure in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO and to register


PHOTOGRAPHERS: Make Plans Now to Join Us This Summer in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you love photography and you love the beauty of nature, then I urge you to seriously consider joining us on our adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park this Summer.   Our Rocky Mountain Photography Workshop will take you to beautiful mountain vistas, waterfalls, cascades, and rivers.  We’ll experience some sunrises from the side of a mountain as we watch the park awaken into a new day of adventure. We’ll photograph all sorts of wildlife including elk, moose, marmots, big horn sheep, and on occasion maybe even a bear.

It is hard to imagine the majesty of Rocky Mountain National Park.  It is a true national treasure.  You have to experience it for yourself.

You can register for our photographic adventure either as a 4 day or 9 day option.  Plus, we have two pre-trip meetings to prepare you for the trip.  This is your chance to experience this amazing place with fellow photographers. You’ll get your own great shots of mountains, waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife.

We stay in a wonderful lodge right on Fall River, just a couple of miles from the entrance to the park.  One evening, we host a cookout right on Fall River.  Unique to our workshops: You are welcome to bring a significant-other/family member (adult) along on the trip with you at no additional charge!

Student comments summarize the experience pretty well:

  • “The natural beauty of RMNP was enhanced by Kevin’s knowledge of the park and locations that were custom picked for great photographic shots. Kevin’s calm, patient and knowledgeable teaching style meant that everyone, at whatever level they were at, felt comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, learning from them and then getting immeasurably better pictures as a result. The improvement in my photography from Day 1 to Day 4 was unbelievable. I came thinking the auto settings on my camera really took better pictures than I did, and I left seeing and believing that the pictures I now understood how to take were vastly superior to anything the camera could capture in auto mode. It was a 5 star experience from beginning to end.
  • “This is a workshop you can’t afford to miss! I came to the workshop with a goal of never using Auto settings again… I achieved that and more. Kevin is such a great teacher and is able to work with photographers of all levels. He made everyone comfortable, I am from Virginia and did not know anyone in the group (as were several others) by the end of the work shop I had made a group of new friends! We were able to get so many landscape and wildlife pictures. The whole experience was amazing. I’m ready to sign up for the next workshop! Thank you Kevin” – Barb


If you are thinking about registering, please know our lodging options will go away pretty soon because Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular destination.  If you are “on the fence” or if you have any questions, please contact us NOW.  Let’s TALK before you miss out on such an amazing experience.

Want to learn more about the workshop or are you ready to register?  Click Here!

We truly want YOUR SMILING FACE in our next group picture
in Rocky Mountain National Park!


Free Event in Austin – Sharing Photos and Stories from our Adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hey Photographers in Austin TX and Surrounding Communities!
You are invited…

to an evening with Kevin & Gail Gourley, sharing photos and stories from their adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Tuesday January 17, 2017 7pm
Kevin Gourley Photography Studio, Austin, TX

We  have been leading photography workshops in Rocky Mountain National Park for several years. Please join us as we  share photographs and stories about our adventures in this magnificent park.

  • The event is FREE to attend! Plan to join us? You must sign up to attend. Click Here to learn more!
  • Space is limited!
  • Door Prize Drawing – Discount for future classes!
  • Enjoy photography of mountainsnaturewildlifewaterfalls, and stories about our adventures
  • If you have been thinking about signing up for one of these workshops, this is a great opportunity to learn more.  (But you must register for the workshop soon if you want to go in 2017!)
  • If you have been on one of our previous Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops, you are invited also!
  • Light snacks and beverages will be provided
  • Location: Kevin Gourley Photography Studio, 11740 Jollyville Rd, Suite 400, Austin, TX

Click Here to learn more and SIGN UP to attend!