Two weeks ago I took a workshop in Yellowstone National Park, a trip I've dreamed of doing for years, especially in winter. It was even more beautiful and interesting than I imagined it would be! I know there's an abundance of wildlife in Yellowstone, but to see as much as we did in the two days were out driving around was more than I hoped for. The interesting and various landscapes we encountered were also amazing - rivers, frozen lakes, geysers, snow-filled valleys and mountains.
We began our trip by shuttling into Mammoth Hot Springs to shoot there and spend the night. The travertine terraces that build up below the hot springs are quite colorful and have very interesting textures, and the steam rising from the hot water makes for an other-worldly scene.
Once we reached the lodge we spent the afternoon shooting in Geyser Basin. We were particularly interested in Old Faithful, and it didn't disappoint. It was an overcast, gray day so I decided to convert this to a B&W image.
The next day we also spent shooting in Geyser Basin and the sun was out, which helped bring out the colors in the thermal pools. There are about 4.5 miles of boardwalks that meander through all of the geysers and thermal pools, which are numerous and of all sizes.
The image below of a bacteria mat reminds me of an aerial photograph.
Below, I was shooting a thermal pool from the boardwalk when I heard rumbling, and then rushing water. When I looked to my left a small geyser was erupting right in front of me! It shot at least 30 ft. into the air and lasted about 5 minutes. I enjoyed watching it until the wind shifted and it started spraying me with water, which kind of freaked me out, so I moved away from it. It was very cool to be so close to an erupting geyser!
The next day we spent the whole day driving along the Firehole, Gibbons and Madison Rivers, shooting landscape and wildlife.
The Red Fox below was running along the tree line and exited the trees long enough to get a few shots. This was the first Red Fox I've seen, having only Gray Fox where I live in California.
We stopped for lunch at a pullout along the road, then started walking down a short road to a bridge over the river to shoot, when these two male Bison started walking down the road toward us, stopping to practice their sparring from time to time. They would joust a bit, then walk toward us, joust and walk toward us, so we gave up trying to get to the bridge and scurried back to the bus. Our driver/guide told us that Bison can run about 35 mph and can jump 6 feet!
A little later we were driving along this same road and saw this coyote on a snow bank eating a Trumpeter Swan and it's mate ran up to share in the meal. We watched them for at least 20-30 minutes, and it was astounding how quickly they devoured this swan!
We also saw this very interesting stand of Bobby Socks trees. The bases of the trees turn white from the minerals in the thermal water that soak into the tree, making them appear to be wearing Bobby Socks.
Our last full day in the park was again out and about in a snow coach, this time headed toward Yellowstone Lake and Hayden Valley. The lake was frozen, with about 2 feet of ice, which is amazing to me given the size of the lake.
When we got to Hayden Valley it was extremely windy with snow drifting over the road. We stopped to eat our lunch, and then noticed these snow covered hills with the light playing across them. The wind was so fierce that using a tripod was useless and I could barely hold my ground. This is one of my favorite shots of the trip.
We also stopped along this river, I can't remember which one, to shoot the river from a bridge, when we spotted this otter. It came out of the river, ran a bit upstream, then stopped in some snow and rolled around before slipping back into the water. Our driver/guide said they do this to aerate or fluff their fur, which helps keep them warm.
Our last stop was to shoot Lower Yellowstone Falls, which is mostly frozen this time of year. The frozen water makes for interesting patterns and colors.
While shooting the falls I turned to look down the canyon behind me and the sun was breaking through the clouds, illuminating part of the canyon.
I hope you can get a sense from these images just how amazing Yellowstone is. This was my first visit during the winter and I really enjoyed experiencing winter with the very cold temperatures (highs in the low 20's and in the teens overnight, though that was a warm spell) and the abundance of snow. There are also very few people in the park in the winter, which I find very enjoyable. Mostly I enjoyed the sheer magnitude of the park, the infinitely varied landscape and geology, and the abundance of wildlife. Here's hoping we can protect this park for generations to come so we can all get just a little taste of what it is to be wild.