OK its taken me a loooooong time for my review of my Yellowstone trip, but hopefully it will be worth the wait 🙂

If you a quick ‘Executive Summary’ and don’t want to read any further, it was a FANTASTIC trip with Natures Images and one I highly recommend.  Infact this was the second best trip I have ever been on, nothing can quite compare to being so near wild Bears at Silver Salmon Creek but this came a close second.  Mark Sisson and Danny Green, both professional photographers who run Natures Images, were our Yellowstone trip guides and excelled in their preparation, running and photography advise during the trip – thanks.

YELLOWSTONE

Yellowstone was the worlds first National Park and is known for its wildlife and geysers and also for being the largest active volcano in its continent.  It erupts every million years or so and the last one was 600,000 years ago, if it erupts again it could be the end of the world as we know it.  During the winter (I went in February) it can get -40 C but while I was there it wasn’t too cold, probably down to -20 on one day.  Needless to say that warm clothes are a MUST.

GETTING THERE

I travelled from Heathrow to Minneapolis and then on to Bozeman in Montana and it took the best part of 24 hours.  First night stayed in Bozeman and then went to Gardiner for a few nights in the Absaroka Lodge, just outside Yellowstone Park, while we hired a 4*4 and photographed wildlife up and down the only road open to normal vehicles during winter, between Mammoth and Cooke City, this included the famed Lamar Valley.  A few days later we travelled to our next venue, Old Faithful Snow Lodge, in the oldest tracked vehicle operating in Yellowstone , named Cygnet, which would carry us around Yellowstone for a few days until it was time to pick up the 4*4’s again at Mammoth for our journey back to Bozeman in readiness for a redeye flight back to Heathrow. Yellowstone is also at quite a high altitude (for me anyway) and I think almost everyone on this trip was surprised at how more strenuous things were because of the lack of oxygen at this altitude.

Me  showing the clothing necessary for the cold climate.

PHOTOGRAPHY

My GPS data (which wasn’t  on all the time) shows the main routes we took, remember that you can only go where vehicles can go and the immediate area around them…

Wildlife we photographed included Bison, Elk, Bison, Coyote, Bison, Pronghorn, American Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swans,  Raven, did I mention Bison 🙂   along with amazing Landscapes including Old Faithful Geysers , Norris Junction Geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs, Frozen Waterfalls (Artist Point) Snow covered ‘everthing’…

For the wildlife I mainly used a 500mm F4 lens with and without a 1.4 converter, also 100-400 f5.6 zoom.  For the Landscapes obviously a wideangle and its also useful to take a fairly ‘fast’ lens for dusk photography especially of Old Faithful.  The Geysers and Hot Springs also are very effective shot with slow shutter speeds to blur movement.  A tripod is obviously essential.

Wandering away from the roads can be daunting as the snow is very deep, I fell over and found it almost impossible to get back up because the snow was so deep that when I pushed down with my hands to lever myself up, my hands just went further down into the snow, I did manage it in the end by using my tripod to help me up.  The days in February are not that long and because of the snow there is quite a lot of light to work with.

Wildlife is unpredictable and you should definitely keep your distance from Bison, they didn’t seem really aggressive to me but you do not want to get too near as a defensive charge by a Bison could be life threatening to you.  We didn’t see wolves in the Lamar valley with was a little disappointing, I think this was mainly because 2011 saw a lot of snow and the wolves probably went elsewhere as trying to cover ground with that much snow must be very difficult for a smallish animal.  The other thing to be aware of is that with snow around, the roads are seen as cleared tracks by wildlife and they will use the roads to get around because it is so much easier than across country.

You need to like snow, this is one of the Snow Lodges at Old Faithful…

Our Tracked Vehicles, our Guide Brenda alongside Cygnet.

Read more about Cygnet HERE. Tracked vehicles are the only method of transport for Yellowstone south of Mammoth during winter.

View from Artist Point showing frozen waterfall.

Click HERE for more photographs from my Yellowstone trip.