INFO: Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 8,980 km2 or 3,468 square miles, comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone. Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been documented, including several that are either endangered or threatened.
[Not a valid template]STORY: Our adventure started from Big Sky in Montana. Our plan was to enter the north part of Yellowstone, and so we had to drive in the north-east direction from our previous location. After around two hours drive we reached a little place called Gardiner. This little town was located on the border of the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park, and was perfect as a temporary base. It was in the middle of the season, and therefore we where surprised to find that all the hotels where occupied. This unexpected information pressed us to leave this area, and so we had to continue to the south-west park area, recommended by the local park tourist center.
The first interesting area which we came across was a part of the park called Mammoth Hot Springs volcanic area, it had several hot springs and colorful small lakes. It was heaps of tourists walking around on the small tree construction positioned slightly above ground, due to the uncertainty whether the ground was strong enough for walking on or not. There where also small amounts of hot water trickeling over the surface, so this kind of protection was really necessary. I made plenty of images and wanted to stay a little bit longer, but considering that we hadn’t a place to stay yet, we had to continue our trip. The north park area was really interesting and we made a few more short stops to stretch our legs and take a few more shots.
We reached West Yellowstone almost in the end of the day, and became more and more worried after having driven around without finding any place to stay. Most of the hotels had signs out saying ” No vacancy” which made us fear that we had to spend our first night in the car. As with most stories, also this one had a happy end, since we managed to get the last room at one of the hotels. It was rather small and didn’t have air conditioning, but we where so happy that we got to spend the night in a bed instead of a car seat. So this was the end of day one.
Day Two[Not a valid template]
We did our best to wake up early, eat breakfast and quickly pack my camera equipment in the jeep and take direction back to the park. A funny thing was that West Yellowstone was located in Montana and the park area which we visited every day was in Wyoming, that’s why I have this post in the Wyoming category. We really enjoyed the first part of the road trip, we followed a river and looked for wildlife. It is a really interesting phenomenon about park visitors driving around, most of them are driving really fast as being in a hurry to get somewhere. Usually they are irritated when someone drives a little bit slower searching for wildlife, but they are most willing to stop if someone has found something interesting to photograph.
I had both my cameras ready at all time in case that we would see something interesting, such as an animal, a bird or a beautiful landscape scenery. Knowing that Bison’s are really big animals, usually spotted really close to the road, having prime 400 mm lens wasn’t always a good idea, since sometimes I couldn’t fit the whole animal into the frame. Sometimes I couldn’t even get outside the car and set my tripod, in these situations I had to open the window and use the door as a support. Canon 1D Mark IV and EF 400 L IS USM F/2.8 are a really heavy combination, and you need support if you can’t use a tripod. Sometimes, even if you are outside the car you basically don’t have enough time nor space to set up the equipment, therefore you have to shoot handheld. If you have a 70-200 lens then you can have more use of it in these situations, but on the open areas it is not enough. For birds and small animals you need between 400 – 600 mm and higher. I usually use 400 mm with 1.4 or 2x extender to reach out to 800 mm, or in extreme situations both of them at the same time or, 112o mm F/8 and still have AF working.[Not a valid template]
After following Madison river driving along the Firehole Canyon Road, we changed direction to the south on the Grand Loop road with a plan to visit all the hot springs areas, and then take a lunch break by Old Faithful. We made many stops during this stretch, documenting all interesting places with all the colorful hot springs and their boiling water and mud. As you probably know, thermal areas produce gases which can smell a little bit strange, so be prepare for this kind of experience. Sometimes it was a little bit windy and it helped to clear the air from all the bad smell and vapour. Weather was good, not so much heat and perfect for walking, but it was comfortable to wear a hat and sunglasses.
[Not a valid template]The parking area by Old Faithful was crowded with cars and finding a free space to park wasn’t an easy task. We went to some of the buildings to get some food and take a short rest before it was time for Old One to erupt. Average intervals between Old Faithful’s eruptions variate, and we had to wait around 90 min. Five minutes before eruption, hundreds of people gathered around the geyser waiting with anticipation.
With 5D Mark II and attached EF 16-35 Mark II + circular polarizing filter in my hand, I was there too waiting with exitement. This wasn’t my first experience of geyser eruptions, I have seen this kind of natural phenomenon in Iceland a few times. The eruption lasted around 10 minutes giving me enough time to document this hot event.
It was time to leave this place and to continue south-east in order to complete our Grand Loop road trip adventure before sunset. By driving in the south direction we planned to see the Yellowstone lakes, and later continue north to the canyon area, and afterwards return to our base in West Yellowstone. It was in the middle of the day therefore we didn’t seen so much wildlife around the lakes, and considering that we had several hours of drive ahead of us, we decided to continue driving without further stops. We knew that approximately 10 km north from here, wast numbers of bison’s where grazing in a huge valley. There where several cars which had parked on both sides of the road, causing a bit of turbulence in the traffic, so quite a lot of rangers had arrived to the site trying to direct the traffic. It was many bison’s crossing the road and grazing just a few meters from us and other visitors. It was a really nice experience to see such a big animal up close, and in such huge numbers. Besides from photographing the actual animal, I composed a few landscape shots including the bison’s in an attempt to try and show them in their natural habitat.
We arrived late at our hotel, feeling very pleased after so much experience. We had one more day to continue our adventure and lots of hope to see even more wildlife.
[Not a valid template]Knowing that the park area was really huge and that we didn’t have so much time to explore the whole Yellowstone area, we made a decision to return to almost the same area as yesterday, since it had proven to be so fruitful. We visited the old and faitful one yet again, enjoyed a wonderful lunch in one of the restaurants and very much appreciated the view of the area. It was a really nice day with blue sky, forming a nice background for photographing the geyser again. The day before was a little bit cloudy, which made it a bit problematic to photograph the eruption against the grey coloured sky. Today the conditions was perfect and I was so happy to get additional photos of this unique place. On the way back we parked our jeep in the little parking area close to the river and enjoyed watching a small team of Uinta ground squirrels feeding, and helping each other by watching for predators. The good weather wont last forever so those little guys must prepare for a long and cold winter.
Next time we will return and explore this unique national park even further, which in fact is the first of it’s kind ever created in the world.
YEAR: Summer 2010
• Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV
• Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
• Lens: Canon EF 400mm F/2.8 L IS USM in combination with 1.4 and 2.0 extenders.
• Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm F/2.8 L USM Mark II + circular polarizing filter
• Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm F/4 IS L USM + circular polarizing filter