NGE Yellowstone Winter Wildlife (Photography)

February 7-12, 2016

 Bighorn sheep ram with limber pine in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

Bighorn sheep ram with limber pine in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

I just completed my second of three photography tours of Yellowstone National Park for National Geographic Expeditions this season and what a fantastic tour it was. The weather was mostly clear and way too warm while most wildlife was cooperative even to the point of being in our way at times (read bison jam). Coyotes, red fox, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, elk and bison were plentiful while bobcat and river otter remained hidden during this trip. We did manage to see one black wolf this trip, at a distance perfect for spotting scope viewing but too far for any but the very longest photographic lenses. Still, it was interesting watching the wolf interact with a coyote (meaning the coyote kept a good distance) while a mature bald eagle stood on a nearby rock watching the drama. There must have been a wolf kill nearby but we couldn’t see it from our location.

 Mark Thiessen advising the group on how to photograph  sunset over the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.

Mark Thiessen advising the group on how to photograph  sunset over the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.

Here’s a special shout to National Geographic staff photographer Mark Thiessen who served as tour Expert this trip. Though Mark’s knowledge of Yellowstone was limited, his photographic expertise and ability to teach are outstanding. Expedition Experts are required to make three presentations during these tours. Mark’s first offered several helpful photography tips in an entertaining way without being overwhelmingly technical. His second was about his experiences as a National Geographic photographer and his third was an exceedingly helpful critique of participant images. More than his presentations it was Mark’s ability to step off a snowcoach, take in a scene and begin offering advice on how to shoot it that really stood out. We all came away better photographers for Mark’s efforts.

I was recently asked if a DSLR was required equipment for these tours. The answer is … no. A good smartphone is enough to play with composition skills and begin understanding dynamics of light and color. A small point & shoot camera with a manual setting is enough to creatively experiment with exposures and light balance. While a DSLR offers the most potential in your learning experience it is far from essential. All the photos on this blog entry were taken with either my iPhone 5s or a Fujifilm F900 EXR for example.

The calendar is set for 2016/2017 Yellowstone Winter Wildlife National Geographic Expeditions but guide assignments still have to be made. I've been assured it won't be too much longer until I know which, if any, of these tours I'll be taking out in the season a year from now. Will keep you posted. Until then - Travel safe

Kurt