I recently went on a photography workshop trip to Yellowstone National Park with Hudson Henry (hudsonhenry.com). It was five great days in an amazing place with a fantastic group of photographers. Hudson knows the park almost as well as the rangers and we packed five full days of photography and site seeing. Yellowstone is a unique place that must be seen in person to fully appreciate. I decided to post a series of photos to tell the story around trying to capture them and with the hopes of inspiring you to go and see the park for yourself. This page is all about the wildlife that calls the park home.
Early evening on the first day... longhorn sheep.
On the way into the park in the late afternoon we were headed into the park to get the lay of the land and decide where we would go to try and find wildlife to photograph. Not far into the park we were surprised to find 3 long horn sheep grazing in a small valley below the road. There was enough room to park our vehicles, so we jumped out and made our way back to where they were. We weren't the only ones to see them, and I was sure they would be scared off before I could get a chance. Fortunately, when they decided it was time to vacate, they quickly circled the crowd and came back up across the road and up on to the hillside above me where they stopped and look back at us as if to say take the picture fool, I am not standing here all evening.
This was a pleasant surprise because mornings are typically considered the best time for wildlife photography and after surveying the northern part of the park it was decided that Lamar Valley would likely offer the best opportunity.
Come Saturday Morning...
As luck would have it we did not see much wildlife on this morning, just some bison too far away to for a good photograph so we started back to the hotel. Just before we reached the end of the valley on the way back we came across on some Pronghorns, often called American antelope, and again there was an opportunity to park and get some images. They aren't really antelope but they look like and can run like them. Fortunately, unafraid they hung around while we brazenly inched closer. With 12-15 people moving towards them it didn’t take long before the male started to gather the small herd and try to move them out of possible danger.
Pre-dawn Sunday we headed back to Lamar Valley and about halfway into the valley we came across a herd of people on the hill above the road, all looking in the same direction across the valley. This was a hopeful sign that there was something to see and photograph. The people there swore there was a pack of wolves in the distance. All I saw was some large birds taking off every once in a while. Apparently the wolves were below a ridge and were protecting their breakfast from some scavenger birds, likely ravens, and every once in a while they could be spotted when they gave the birds the chase. Unfortunately, they were to far away for all but the longest lens and mostly stayed hidden, so we moved on. After about 3 hours of searching we decided to head back to the hotel and lunch. Not very long after we got out of the valley and crested a small ridge we came across a heard of bison grazing not far from the other side of the road. We parked the van but before we got out Hudson told everyone to stay close to the van and on our side of the road we were that close.
Big Horn Sheep
Monday morning we opted to visit Mammoth hot springs because the morning light would make that place more amazing than any other time of the day so there was no expectation of wildlife on this day. Our plan for the rest of the day was to visit Grand Prismatic Springs and another hot spring area called Paint Pots for sunset. However, this time on the way into the park that afternoon we spotted some big horn sheep that had come off the mountain to drink in the stream and graze its shores. It turned out to be another unexpected & awesome opportunity to get photos at fairly close range of animals that usually you only see high on the hill.
Tuesday, the final morning...
On Tuesday morning, our last day of the workshop, we headed back into the valley but took a side road hoping for better luck and perhaps a chance to photograph some of the wildlife we hadn't seen yet. Once again it seemed like the word had gotten out and the wildlife were all in hiding. We had taken a side road this time to another part of the valley and it was time to get out for a stretch and perhaps so landscape images as there was a stand of white birch and quaking aspen with bright yellow leaves shining in the morning light. After a bit I walked up a nearby hill to survey the valley. That was when I noticed this lone bison trudging up the valley below. He slowly walked up the valley towards where the group our was, so I looped around and let them know he was on his way. Soon it was time to head back along the road only this time on the way back someone spotted a lone black bear. He was working his way up the hill along the road heading away from us. We stopped and I ran down the road along a row of pine trees that hid me from his view. Some of our group followed, we were in no danger as he was well back from the road but I was able to get to a spot where I could take pictures under the pines, thinking any picture would do as it was our last day. It wasn't long before he was too far away and we got back in the van headed back to the hotel again, but not for long. A few miles down the road we got another opportunity. This time it was a mama bear with two cubs in tow. They were across a small valley a good distance away but I hoped to get a nice image because I had my longest lens on the camera.
This was turning out to be quite a morning. The only typical Yellowstone animals we hadn't seen were elk. Actually we saw a number of them because they like to hang out around the buildings at Yellowstone Center but that's not the kind of picture we were looking for. The heard seems to be led by this one rather large bull elk. He is so immune to the presence of people that they station 1 or 2 rangers wherever he is to keep people from getting to close or trying foolishly to feed him. Today when we went thru the center he wasn't there. But by now you know where this is going, yep, we got about a mile down the road and spotted 4 or 5 female elk standing on a ridge. We rounded the hill looking for parking on the narrow road which we were able to find. When we got out, looked up, and there he was. Apparently, the ladies needed to be herded back to the center and he was there to gather them up. He walked to the top of the hill in all his glory and stood there posing and braying at us, and them, to move along.
It was the perfect ending for the last morning in the park and it allowed us to check all the remaining boxes, a lone bison, a brown bear with cubs, a black bear, and a bull elk and his herd on a mountain top. Yellowstone.
To see more of my Yellowstone images, click here:
Yellowstone - Hot Springs Yellowstone - Sunrises, Sunsets and in Between Yellowstone - The Grand Tetons