Yellowstone Safari Day 6 The Final Hurrah

With a fresh blanket of snow covering the ground we were anxious to head out to Lamar Valley and see what opportunities presented themselves to us however, it was not to be. The night before it had been blizzard conditions and the road was closed while they plowed it. After waiting for a half an hour the ranger told us that the snow plow was pushing 12-18 inches of snow and it was going to be awhile. Not wanting to waste any time we headed towards Gardiner in search of wildlife. To say we were not disappointed would be an understatement. Our first encounter was with a good sized herd of bighorn sheep that had come down from high ground to graze. With the snow covered ground it was a photographer’s dream come true. A nice RAM paused to look at us…

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A pretty Ewe paused to give us a shot…

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And the lambs were busy frolicking in the snow…

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After photographing the Bighorns for about an hour we moved on. We didn’t have to go far before we found our next subject…some Pronghorn returning from the river where they had gone to drink. A doe cooperated for us nicely coming into frame filling distance.

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She then meandered up the hill where she paused once more for a final shot before dropping over the other side.

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We figured the road to Lamar Valley should be open by now and off we went to see what else we could find. A herd of Bison were blocking the road so we took the opportunity to stop and photograph them. I particularly liked this big bull with a snow covered face.

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With a great day under our belt we headed back to the hotel but didn’t make it far when we encountered four bull elk. They were at a distance to begin with but, we set up anyway and sure enough, within no time they moved closer.

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And closer still as the last golden light fell upon them.

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As the light fell behind the mountain we packed up and headed home with our hearts filled with a warmth that overshadowed the cold in our fingers and toes. I’ve photographed more wildlife in one week than any other winter visit to Yellowstone. This is the reason I keep returning. What an amazing week spent photographing the wonders of Yellowstone with a really great group of folks.

Images captures with Nikon D3, AF-S 600mm, TC-17E on Lexar Digital Media

Yellowstone Safari Day 5

Not more than a ten minute snow coach ride from Old Faithful we encountered these frost covered trees. All the time I was working the subject I had B&W in mind. I took the image into Photoshop and using NIK B&W Infrared made this dramatic image.

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Our next stop was at Gibbon Falls where I still had B&W on the brain. Of course the blustery weather and flat light made it easy to be thinking in monochrome. I loved the contrast of the snow and ice with the softly flowing water.

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We stopped to photograph the snow covered grasses against the stark background of dead trees. the bright colors in the foreground and nearly monochromatic trees made a nice contrast.

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Father down the road we encountered a small group of five really big bull bison. Suddenly, they all took off running through the snow, crossed the road and immediately settled down and began grazing again. I guess they thought the grass was greener on the other side.

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While we were stopped, a herd of bison came down the road towards us. What a sight to behold with nearly 150 bison coming straight at us.

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It was a crazy weather day with blowing wind and snow one minute followed by breaks in the clouds with patches of blue that lasted mere minutes before the snow and wind began to blow again. The bison seemed to take it in stride hunkering down to take a nap while the storm raged on.

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Images Captured with Nikon D3X, AF-S 24-70 & 70-300mm VR (Landscape Images). Nikon D3, AF-S 600mm VR (Bison Herd Cropped to Pano Orientation) On Lexar Digital Media

Yellowstone Safari Day 4

We exited Old Faithful and turned left towards West Thumb, one of my favorite thermal areas in the park. And while the weather was spitting at us with gray skies and snow flurries, there was still some great photography to be had. The colors deep down in the water really pop with a little caressing in Photoshop. In order to get the whole pool in I had to use my trusty 16mm fisheye lens.

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We wandered through Hayden Valley and the only Bison to be seen were off in the distance. Crossing the bridge heading towards Artist Paint Pots we stopped to see if there were any otters. There were tracks but none of the little guys showed themselves. However, there was a spot where the ice had all melted and the water was flowing over the rocks making a nice set of rapids. Those of you who know me, also know that i have a hard time passing up a good water shot.

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Moving on to Artist Point we stopped to photograph Lower Yellowstone Falls with the giant ice cone at it’s base. While it was overcast, I knew I could put my new technique (to learn more come to my class at Photoshop World) to bring the flat light to life.

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The weather turned dark and gloomy and it was getting late so we began to make our way towards Old Faithful. Just as the last bit of light was fading, something crossed the road in front of use and headed up the hill. Darned if it wasn’t a Bobcat. It climbed up on a log and began to clean itself…not the least bothered by our presence. While it was very dark, I knew it was still possible to capture some excellent images with the low noise of the D3 and some finishing touches in Photoshop.

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It turned it’s back, gave us one last look over it’s shoulder and moved on up the hill as the light faded to night. What a great ending to another amazing day in Yellowstone’s winter wonderland.

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Images Captured With Nikon D3X, AF 16mm Fisheye (Thermal Pool), AF-S 70-300mm VR (Rapids and Yellowstone Falls), D3, AF-S 600mm VR (Bobcat) on Lexar Digital Media

Yellowstone Safari Day 3

Here’s one more from yesterday… We were driving along the Yellowstone River and came across several Trumpeter Swans. I saw one preening and knowing that it would do a wing flap at some point, I focused my lens on it…

We awoke to several inches of new snow with more falling from the sky and a pretty brisk wind on Day 3 but, that did not stop us from heading out into the thermal area around Old Faithful. With the nasty weather we worked on abstracts along the pools.

Using a telephoto lens enabled us to eliminate the storm that was swirling all around us and concentrate on isolating small areas within the scene.

Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 600mm with TC-17E (Swan), D3X AF-S 70-300mm VR on Lexar Media.