2019 FAF - Thomas D. Mangelsen

Legendary grizzly bear 399 feeds on an elk carcass with her two cubs early this spring near Shadow Mountain. Photographer Thomas Mangelsen has been shooting grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for four decades. His favorite, he said, is 399.

After over four decades of photographing the world’s most majestic wildlife, Tom Mangelsen shows no signs of slowing down.

Just take this past year: One month he was aboard a small boat tour to shoot penguins in Antarctica, the next he was following sandhill cranes on their annual migration through Nebraska, and sometime soon after that he was off to photograph endangered wildlife in Africa.

Award ceremonies were sprinkled between. In the past 12 months Mangelsen has been recognized by the National Parks and Conservation Association and the Sierra Club, and he was the Aldo Leopold Day keynote speaker at Viterbi University in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

Such is life for a renowned wildlife photographer, but this past year Mangelsen added a traveling exhibit of his Legacy Reserve Collection to his already packed itinerary. Debuting in the fall in Omaha, Nebraska, the Legacy Reserve Collection is made up of rare early prints of 40 of Mangelsen’s most iconic images over his career. After Omaha the show moved to the National Museum of Wildlife Art, and in all it will travel to 15 venues through 2022.

Even with a retrospective under his belt, Mangelsen is hardly wrapping up his career. During the Fall Arts Festival his gallery, Mangelsen Images of Nature, will showcase photographs he has taken in the past year. From 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, he will share the stories behind the newest images during a free artist’s reception. No registration is required.

Mangelsen has called the Tetons his home base since the 1970s, living in one of the most lively and accessible wildlife habitats within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for over 40 years. Here he has developed a lifelong relationship with 399, the world’s most famous grizzly bear mother, and her peers.

“This year has been a banner year for bears,” Mangelsen said.

He noted that 399 had two new cubs, while Blondie, another grizzly mama bear, is still raising her 3-year-old cubs, and a third mama, 610, was spotted again after not being seen for a year and a half.

All this bear talk makes for trigger-happy photographers in the Tetons, Mangelsen included. He conceded his favorite piece from the show is “Frosty Morning Sage,” which shows 399 and her two cubs covered in frost near Shadow Mountain just north of Jackson.

“The three of them were just sitting all together in the sage feeding on the carcass that a hunter had left,” he said. “They fed on this elk carcass for four days, and I spent most of those days with all three of them. It’s my personal favorite, partially because I’m biased towards 399 and her story.”

His Fall Arts Festival show is heavy on the grizzlies, Mangelsen said, but will also include prints from his trips to Antarctica, Africa and elsewhere in the United States.

Even with his globe-trotting agenda, Mangelsen said he loves making it home for the Fall Arts Festival.

“It’s always great to see old friends and new,” he said.

The hardest part? Sifting through months of unedited works to choose what to share.

“There’s going to be some major editing here in the next few weeks,” he said earlier this summer. 

Contact Julie Kukral at fallarts@jhnewsandguide.com.

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