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June 25,2024


Newsletter # 85


Black Bear

The Grand Tetons

Badlands National Park

Weathered Barn



“Looking Out My Back Door” & “On The Road Again”

Upcoming Tour Info for 2010





After cancelling my foreign photo tours for this year---for obvious reasons-- (newsletter #84), but unable to calm my ‘wanderlust-nature’, Tad & I headed out west with Big Sky, Montana the final destination. The plan was to take two weeks to drive only the back roads in the motor-home, towing my jeep, which we would use to explore and photograph along the way. Then we would store both vehicles, fly home for six weeks so we could go back to work to pay the ‘gi-normous’ gas bill accumulated by the 35 foot gas-guzzler (jeep was very good on gas :) )!! After six weeks home, on Sept. 10th we will fly back to Montana and head home to Florida continuing the adventure by going other routes and back roads so I can continue my “Recon Mission” for other US tour destinations.




I’ve spent the last twelve or so years leading photo tours to wonderful areas of this world…Africa, Madagascar, Ecuador, Brazil, Galapagos etc. etc. I’ve driven the entire East Coast & West Coast of the USA. After a three year ‘hitch’ in California, I drove home through Texas where the tumbleweed was bigger than my Volkswagen ‘Bug’ and ventured through all those Southern States including most all of Florida. Even after all that, I was still totally unprepared for what lay ahead as we drove toward and through the real Heartland of America. I was, and am, blown away by the vastness, and sheer beauty of this grand country of ours….and I haven’t even touched the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Early on in the trip it became obvious that Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the poem “ America the Beautiful” around 1895, knew what she was writing about. (It was a poem before it was a song—I looked it up). As we leisurely drove through thousands and thousands of acres of farmlands growing rice, wheat, corn, and soy beans the words, “oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain….” kept ringing in my head. How true!! As the prairie winds gently blow, the corn & wheat stalks sway & undulate just like ocean waves….it is mesmerizing and beautiful. (For Tad’s sake, at no time did I break out into song!!) I now know and appreciate more than ever before why we can, and should, and are, feeding the world, and why we & the rest of the world owe the farmers of this country our gratitude.




The roads are long and straight through the heartland of America, with views that go farther than the eye can possibly see. My mind & imagination kept reverting back to the pioneers of yesteryear who crossed this land in covered wagons with all kinds of unknown dangers, hardships, and inconveniences. It was awesome to be traveling their same path, but also very humbling as we traveled the same route in our air conditioned, metal covered wagon, with toilet, shower, stocked refrigerator, generator, television, stereo, and instead of six mules pulling us, we were pulling my V-8 jeep!! One can only imagine their determination and strength as they plodded along at a mules’ pace for weeks and even months. There were no paved roads….just rocks, sage, dirt and every other obstacle one can think of. Occasionally there would be a small hill or rise in the road breaking up the vast vistas and I’d become more alert waiting to see what lay on the other side of the hill. Heading west into So. Dakota, we crested this one hill and my breath was taken almost completely away as we viewed this wall of what looked like sand castles that ran for miles to the North and South of our road and rose who-knew how high into the air. Looming before us---miles & miles away---lay the Badlands National Park.







The Badlands are very aptly named as there is no way a covered wagon was going to ever be able to cross them! Imagine having spent weeks and weeks traveling in a covered wagon only to be stopped dead in your tracks by mountains of sand and erosion for as far as the eye can see or more!! Bet there was a profane word used here and there!! For me, the Badlands are a beautiful work of art, especially in the twilight hours. My analogy is that our creator and friends got together with a huge pail of sand and water (and maybe a keg of beer) and spent a good amount of time making fabulous ‘sand drippings’ that we did as kids at the beach! (Only we didn’t have the keg of beer!). My images in this newsletter don’t even begin to depict the magnitude and beauty of the Badlands. However, this is where “the buffalo roam and the deer and antelope (Pronghorn) play”, as well as fun prairie dog towns. You’ll never be grumpy, bored or sad while sitting in front of a prairie dog town! They are as comical as the Rockhopper Penguins of the Falkland Islands, or all the species of Boobies of the Galapagos Islands that I’ve written about.





Traveling back roads, avoiding major highways, expressways, gas stations or fast food stops, allows you to see the real America, the real backbone of this country, the real people who make up the solid foundation we often forget about, not to leave out scenics ordinarily missed. Often the road leads you onto another path not anticipated and new fun adventures. Keep in mind, though, that often there is no cell tower or communication, and not a gas station nearby or even far away!! However, one observation I have is the many little chapels & churches the dot the countryside along the way. A few peaked my curiosity and we would stop. Their doors were always open and the interior well maintained, usually with a guest registration book to sign. Coincidentally, at this one little chapel the person who signed the book just before me was named Joanne Williams from somewhere I’ve forgotten. Gives you goose bumps.




One would be most remiss to get to that part of the country and not visit the impressive Mt. Rushmore. Not only is it beautiful and ‘soul stirring’, it is an incredible feat of human ingenuity. Just think, it only took 6 ½ years of on and off work (remember the winters in So. Dakota), 90% of the 450,000 tons of granite removed was taken from the mountain with dynamite and not one of the 400 men it took to create this masterpiece was killed or even badly injured in the process! The visitors’ center is a wealth of information, statistics and wonderful memorabilia. The scenic drive through South Dakota is a fabulous opportunity for photography. Be careful of the challenges making U-turns on back roads and steep mountain curves to go back and shoot a vista you had just zoomed by, especially if you are in a 35 foot motor home towing another twelve or so feet of equipment!!






“On the road again” heading toward Wyoming and the Grand Tetons is awesome and to me quite spiritual. The views and experience will alter your inflated ego (if you have one) into the realization of how miniscule you are in the whole scheme of things! Vast, Big, Gigantic, Beautiful are adjectives that barely describe the Grand Tetons. The aromatic & pretty silvery grey-green of the sagebrush flats covers the valley’s floor providing food and shelter for many little critters. In the late 1800s, five Mormon families settled in the area. Wandering around photographing their abandoned barns, outhouse, tool sheds & fences etc. with the Grand Tetons as a backdrop was artistically inspiring. What struck me more than the crystal blue sky behind these gigantic jagged peaks of rock called The Cathedrals was the deafening silence. Only occasionally would the silence be broken by a scream from a hawk, common raven, American Magpie or American Kestral. The famous community of Jackson Hole is a summer playground and winter skiing resort. It is quaint, holding onto its history of the Wild West, and unique with such sites as the arches of antlers. We stayed at the famous old historic hotel, The Wort, as a break from our covered wagon. Jackson Hole is also a shoppers’ paradise, especially of unique artwork. The well-known nature photographer, Tom Mangelsen, has a beautiful gallery on the main drag (with beautiful prices for his beautiful works of art). The Western outfits are fabulous, as well as all the Indian jewelry etc. I must and will return!






After three days in Jackson Hole, it was time to head for Big Sky, Montana, our final destination and where I was to perform magic with my camera shooting the art of fly-fishing. Our host and hostess, Skip & Annie, are accomplished at fly-fishing, as well as every other outdoor activity! We arrived in Big Sky in plenty of time to put the motor home in storage for its six weeks stay, keeping the jeep for explorations around Big Sky. We had barely arrived at their beautiful, palatial log cabin home located on a mountain nestled in with fragrant pine trees when I hear someone urgently calling my name and telling me to grab my camera, which fortunately was all charged with a empty CF card and ready to go. I heard them saying there’s a black bear right nearby in the woods, which there was and well within shooting distance of my short lens. I was told it wasn’t a particularly big bear, but at 400 to 500 lbs of black fur, it was plenty large enough for me, especially being my first black bear ever!!




A handsome male moose in full velvet granted me an audience while he slurped & drank & drooled from a stream—another first! I added scenics of people rafting and more group fly-fishing for my agencies’ portfolios of my work, which was colorful & fun. Capturing images of fly-fishing isn’t easy, and I need to develop a better technique. I’ll have a second chance on my return. While there, I have arrangements made to meet with a couple of guides in order to do more “recon work” in that area thus expanding my locations of the world for future Joanne Williams Photo Tours.


Just a head’s up that plans are presently in the making for my two-week tours to Pantanal, Brazil in June, the Galapagos Islands for end of September/October (dates not secure as of this moment), Kenya, Africa and Namibia, Africa. Should any of these tours be of interest to you, please feel free to let me know and I’ll put you on the list (no deposits necessary at this time).

I would like to remind all of my readers, tour participants and friends that you do not need to be a photographer to join me on my tours—just have to be an avid nature & wildlife lover-- (amateur, professional, point & shooter or tinker-arounders are all welcome.)



Keep Your Aperture Your Priority & Happy Shooting!!


If you are interested in any of my tours, click on their corresponding link below:



Photo Researchers, Editors, and Publishers:

As stated in previous newsletters, at no obligation to you, send me a “want list” of images you are looking for that may coincide with a trip I’m about to take, or have recently taken, and I’ll do my very best to seek out that subject and shoot it with your request in mind. This may save you some expense, give me a specific mission and possibly a sale of that image. It’s a ‘win, win situation’!

A quick reminder that my library of 35mm original slides houses approximately 75,000 images, and my digital library presently holds over 100,000 (and growing-hourly)!

My website holds an in-depth Stock Shop for your quick review: www.joannewilliamsphoto.com



Photographic Accessories


Screen Shades for LCD panels on digital Cameras

At last! You can see the LCD panel on your digital camera even on sunny and glary days! Also protects the UV effects of the sun on the screen...$25. each. (add $1.00 for shipping and handling)


More Info




The Better Beamer Flash Extender

For telephoto lenses from 300mm on up only

$45.00 each

More Info


        Specifications & Functions

  • Reduces battery drain
  • Weighs 2 1/2 ounces
  • Easy to use
  • Fits in your shirt pocket
  • Flash reaches greater distances (about 500 ft.) w/smaller aperture
  • Fresnel lens stays in place with sturdy side-arms

"Keep Your Aperture Your Priority"

Red-Tailed Hawk


Buffalo Nursing

Road to the Grand Tetons

This newsletter is (c) 2005 Joanne Williams Photography.
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