Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, provides an outstanding opportunity to learn about wildlife and digital photography in one of the most wildlife rich and scenic places in the continental United States. Travel time and costs are reasonable for the opportunity to spend time in such a unique and wildlife rich area.
Gary lives just outside Yellowstone for part of the year and knows the area well, along with the local photographers and guides. He takes care of all the details- all you have to do is enjoy yourself.
Gary is in his element when in Yellowstone
Pointing out wildlife on a ridge
Working with a newcomer to photography
In addition to Gary we hire local guides that have lived in Yellowstone since childhood. Our primary guide is Nathan Varley. His father worked as a park ranger in Yellowstone for his entire career, so Nathan knows a thing or two about Yellowstone.
Nathan scanning for bighorn sheep on the far ridge
When to Go
You can enjoy Yellowstone in any season. In April the snow is starting to melt, the bears are coming out of their dens, the wolves are still somewhat active, and the huge summer crowds have not appeared yet. Its a good time to see the transition of the long winter to the freshness of spring and the corresponding young animals. We will be there again towards the beginning of April.
In the background of this April shot you can see the Yellowstone arches- the main
entrance to the northern part of the park
This is the other side of the same sign in December
In the fall the elk are bugling and mating, the fall colors are peaking, and the wildlife are in prime condition in preparation for the winter. Bears will still be active until they hibernate in October. We plan on a September elk bugling/mating and fall color trip this year.
Don’t be afraid to go in the winter. Its a magical time, and you will have the park almost to yourself. We will send you a detailed list of clothes and equipment so you are well prepared. This is the best time of year to see the wolves because they are quite active, especially as they hunt elk. The bison are also active foraging in the snow and the elk congregate in herds. We plan on a November or December trip this year also.
As you can see from our vehicle’s thermometer you need your long underwear in the winter!
Weather in Yellowstone can change rapidly in any month. You can go from this…….
….. to this blue sky in a matter of minutes
Even though non-photographers can join us, and have as much fun as everyone, we go to Yellowstone to shoot. We shoot every chance we get, and from every vantage point. Even though we shoot from right inside the vehicle, we like to get out where the action is.
Gary with his 800mm bazooka
Cheryl sizing up the pronghorn
Dominic scratching the hood of our rental car while nailing a bull moose with the 500mm
CP wondering when those otters will appear
Les looking like he works for Nat Geo
And Marv just having fun!
If you get tired and need to nod out for a few minutes during the day thats OK, although we might bust you and put you on the web
A big reason to visit Yellowstone is to see the wolves. They are truly wild and tend
to stay away from people.
There are 100 wolves in Yellowstone proper. With such a big area it is quite a challenge to find them, so we enlist the help of the people in charge of the Yellowstone Wolf Project. If they can’t find them nobody will!
They use telemetry on the radio collared wolves to locate individuals they know by name
Once found the Wolf Project team keeps an eagle eye on them at all times. They
let us use their spotting scopes and know everything about the wolves in each pack.
Most of the time you will see wolves from a distance, so bring your binoculars for this trip. We tend to give them a wide birth because our presence can interfere with their normal behavior.
This is the alpha female from the Lamar Valley pack at an elk carcass killed just off the road the night
prior. It was taken with the Canon Mark III and 500 mm f/4 lens with the 1.4X TC from 150 yards away.
Sometimes the wolves will cross the road in front of you. When this happens the park service requests you
do not stop your vehicle to take photos like these people. The rest of the wolves in this pack might be
intimidated from feeding at the carcass because of this. This is the same alpha female as above, in the
process of joining the rest of her pack after feeding on the carcass for a short while.
We watched her from a distance as she walked up the hill, looking back at the carcass to see
which magpies or coyotes were feeding on her elk as she leaves to rejoin her pack. It is not
worth the energy expenditure to chase these scavengers away.
Wolves like it very cold, usually well below zero Fahrenheit. Here she is having a roll in the snow
to cool off because its a balmy 20 degrees.
This is the last we saw of her as she joined the rest of the Lamar Valley pack over the hill
There are many other predators besides wolves. The coyotes are large, so don’t mix them up
with the wolves.
They are used to people and will sometimes will walk right past us
Keep an eye on them when they are hunting. They use their keen hearing to find rodents under the snow. They pounce rapidly, so get ready to focus and hit that trigger finger in an instant.
The elk are beautiful in their winter coats (actually, it has mange if you look above its left shoulder. We will be visiting in September to see them during the rutting and mating season.
A perennial favorite are the bison as they move the snow around with their huge heads
When the wind whips up in the winter they become ghostlike
When they reappear they just keep on eating
Please give them wide berth because they are unpredictable, have four wheel
drive in the snow, can easily outrun you, and probably outweigh you by a few pounds
This young bull moose was just outside the park
At lunchtime we take a break and get a hot meal in Cook city
Its a quaint (and tiny) town with loads of hospitality and good food
After lunch we visit Dan Hartman at his cabin/studio to learn about his 30 years of experience shooting Yellowstone wildlife, see some of his phenomenal photos, and even shoot the birds and pine martens he attracts to his feeder.
He has a great setup for wildlife photography on the way to Cook city
We will be shooting from the comfort of his cabin at a feeder just a few yards away.
He gets lots of furred and feathered visitors to keep him company. Can you identify these birds?
Even though our emphasis is on wildlife it is impossible not to do landscape photography in such a majestic setting.
We will be staying at the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel inside the park. This is your chance to get some nice photos of this scenic area.
Winterscapes are everywhere
The light can be magical
For our workshops you must bring a digital SLR camera. We cater to all levels of photographers and customize to your needs. Beginners get more hands-on experience, intermediate photographers get advice and access to some of our professional equipment, and advanced photographers get to do their own thing once we get them to the appropriate area and widlife. If you are new to wildlife photography you will have a blast, no matter what level of photographer you are.
Bring or rent a wide angle lens, intermediate zoom, and telephoto. The telephoto should be at least 400mm in length, and will be the lens you use most of the time for wildlife.Typical lenses might include:
18-55mm, 24-70mm, or 24mm-105mm zoom for landscape and general use
50-250mm, 70mm-200mm or 70mm-300mm intermediate zoom for general use, landscape and some close wildlife
400mm or 500mm prime for most wildlife. In place of the intermediate and telephoto lenses you can use a 100mm-400mm zoom.
If wolves are your thing you need that 500mm, preferably with a 1.4X TC also.
If you are going primarily to see wolves, and even though we have seen them on every trip, we cannot guarantee you will see them. We make a tremendous effort to find them by working closely with the Yellowstone Wolf Project team. If they cannot find them nobody will. You can increase your odds of seeing and photographing wolves by going during the winter months.
You take care of your airline reservation if you are flying. Those of us from southern California fly from Long Beach, LAX, or Orange County airports on Delta (around $400), connecting in Salt Lake, and then continuing on to Bozeman. If you are flying you can make any reservation you want, but we request you meet us for the second leg in Salt Lake City so we all arrive in Bozeman together.
The Delta flights we routinely take leave in the later morning and eventually arrive in Bozeman in the late afternoon. We will meet you at the airport, take you to a nice dinner, then provide transportation for the 1 hour 20 minute ride to the park. We should get there by 8-9 PM at the latest so you can get a good nights rest for our early start the next day.
At the end of each day we will help you with editing if you bring a portable computer and use Lightroom. Rumor has it there is a photo contest with a prize.
Please be aware that the weather can change at any time, during any season, so you should bring warm clothes no matter what time of year. We will send you detailed information on what to wear and what to bring when you sign up.