Photographing Yellowstone Landscapes in Winter

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Last week I blogged about my surprise & delight in photographing Yellowstone wildlife in the winter. But initially I thought I’d be photographing Yellowstone landscapes!  Silly me not to be thinking of the animals, yet I was not disappointed in the landscape department either. Composing Yellowstone landscapes in the winter lend themselves to a minimalist viewpoint, just by virtue of the snow swept vistas.

Minimalism

A photographer named George Lepp made this tree famous with his version of  Yellowstone landscapes in winter. This is my version:

Famous Yellowstone Tree

I realized on this trip that I probably couldn’t afford to be a wildlife photographer, with the required lenses costing upwards of $10,000. Yikes!! I also discovered that I prefer photographing wild animals within the context of their larger environment, allowing the image to tell more of their real story. So, yes I CAN be a wildlife photographer, sort of.

Buffalo Roaming Range

A spectacular feature of  Yellowstone landscapes in winter is water. Yes, Water! Frozen, right? Well, yes:

Frozen Falls

But speaking of falls, check this out: Yellowstone Falls is too big to freeze completely, so it’s huge formations where the water spray freezes are quite fantastic!

Yellowstone Falls in Winter

Then there’s the water that never freezes. Geothermal activity is a huge part of  Yellowstone landscapes. While visiting in the fall, I visited this same area, and it was not nearly as interesting.  The heat in the soil had created a mostly dead, gray scene. In winter it was lovely:

Steaming Landscape

And speaking of steam, photographing Old Faithful in winter was a blast (pun intended!). The only way to get there in winter is by snow coach (a heated cab on rolling tracks for snow travel), so I was surprised to see quite a few people there. We lucked out with blue skies; usually a photographer’s bane, but the perfect background for shooting geysers and rainbows:

Old Faithful Strutting its Stuff

I had my fill of beautiful landscapes. Photographing Yellowstone in winter would be a tough place to just show up without prior knowledge. Hiring a guide who knew the ropes was key to our success, and worth every penny. If I remember right, it was about $1200 for four days, not including lodging or meals.

Would you like to come with me next fall and a small group of photographers to see many of the same spots I wrote about here? Every October for the last three years, I’ve traveled the park, and enjoyed my visits. We follow a spectacular loop; starting from the sparkling shores of Payette Lake in McCall Idaho, through hidden gems along the way to Teton National Park. Once there, we move through Yellowstone, and finally back to the Main Salmon River and home to McCall. I realize what I’ve discovered could be considered the “Grand Slam” of a photographer’s adventure dreams. If you’re a photographer who’s always wanted to see this part of the world with ease and guidance, this trip is built for you. It’s OK if you are a beginner or a pro, all are welcome. You can check out more details here. Then you too could have images like these for memories that will last a lifetime. Check it out!


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