Yellowstone In Winter
Déjà vu, all over again. That’s how it was in Yellowstone National Park this winter. Jane and I had been to Yellowstone in the winter of 2011and here we were again, in 2015, all bundled up and ready for the cold. We had come on a photography workshop with seven other hardy folks led by Charles Glatzer, a most energetic and enthusiastic photographer (www.shootthelight.com). As in 2011, we had a wonderful time exploring the winter wonderland of Yellowstone, although this time the weather was milder with less snow than we had hoped for (it's all about climate change).
Winter in Yellowstone is a big tourist draw and there were lots of people at the lodges we stayed. Some were cross-country skiers, others wildlife enthusiasts, and still others came for the wolves. And let me not forget to mention the myriad of snowmobilers plying the snow packed roads of the park. Of course, there was also the van with seven intrepid photographers holding up traffic as they scrutinized the landscape for photographic potential. Under the leadership of Charles and our Park Service certified guide/driver Wim, our small, congenial group concentrated on photographing the winter wildlife in Yellowstone.
Using the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel as our base, we started with two days of scouting and shooting in the Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley is known for its wolf packs, and although we did not see any wolves within photographic range, there were lots of folks with telescopes searching the far distant hills for the packs. We did spot a lot of coyotes, some elk, a moose (back-lit and not really photographable) and a bachelor herd of bighorn sheep. One unique and exceptional find was a recent wolf kill of an elk. We were not the first upon the scene but were able to find some spots to place our tripods in the congested pullout. From a ranger, we learned that the wolves had already gorged themselves and had wandered off out of sight. The carcass was some 200 yards off, but near enough for photography with a long telephoto lens. With the wolves gone, the carcass was left to Yellowstone’s scavengers. We first saw two coyotes feeding on the kill and later eagles swooped in from above, including a golden eagle. At one time there were four bald eagles, three adults and one immature, jostling for their share of the bounty.
After our journeys into the Lamar Valley, we traveled south to the Old Faithful geyser area. Using the Snow Lodge as a base, we traversed the interior of the park seeking out wildlife and scenic photographic opportunities. There, with the help of some strategic intelligence from one of Wim's guide buddies, we located a bobcat. Bobcats are not uncommon in Yellowstone but it is rather uncommon to find one within photographic range. We watched the small cat disappear into a forested area and after some sleuthing for an advantageous vantage point, we positioned our tripods where we anticipated the bobcat to emerge from the trees. Charles and Wim did a good job in choosing our location because we were rewarded with some amazing photography of an elusive animal (see the Winter In Yellowstone Gallery for images of the trip).
After eight fantastic days enjoying the beauty of Yellowstone National Park in winter, it was time to pack up the long-johns, fleece liners, warm gloves and socks and put away the photo gear and head home. We bade goodbye to our new made friends at the Bozeman airport, with some sadness, as we each headed to our respective abodes.