I recently returned from leading 2 great photo tours to Yellowstone National Park. During the first tour we encountered some of the coldest temperatures I’ve ever encountered in the park. I had folks from warm climates like Florida, California and ever a woman from Melbourne Australia. They have never experienced these typo of conditions. During our stay at Old Faithful we had temperatures in the -30 degree F range. Seeing Old Faithful erupt at -33 F with clears skies and no wind is absolutely spectacular. In the photo below we caught the first eruption after sunrise. The rising sun was somewhat obscured by steam from thermal features to the southeast but we still had a spectacular photo opportunity. My hardy group waited in the bitter cold but they were rewarded with this scene. I would estimate the height of the eruption to be 350′ to 400′. The best thing about this is that we were the only people to see and photograph this eruption. No crowds at -33 degrees.. I’ve been dreaming of this particular image for years and was finally rewarded this year.
Some of my contacts in the park told me that temperatures in the Lamar Valley the day we took the image above was -55 degrees F….. That’s straight air temp not wind chill. My record low previously was -42 degrees in the Lamar Valley in 2010. Snow levels in the park seemed about average to me and during my 2 week stay it increased. The cold conditions lent itself to some great landscape photography with ghost trees and steam providing dramatic conditions for photography. The Norris Geyser Basin was just incredible and we enjoyed on remarkable morning there.
As usual bison were plentiful and provided us with may outstanding photo opportunities. We were able to find a number of them nearly completely covered with snow and or frost. Red fox were quite scarce this year and we didn’t see or photograph any. We heard of one near Tower Junction during tour 2 and spent quite a bit of time search for it but never did find the fox. We saw and photographed a number of wolves and had some great howling sessions with the wolves quite close. There didn’t seem to be as many coyotes as other years but again we had some good chances with them. The highlight of this years tours was without question the bobcats. Three separate bobcats were hunting waterfowl along the Madison River. Both of my tours had great sessions photographing a bobcat.
We spent hours photographing the bobcats. Most of the time they were on the opposite side of the Madison River required a long lens but in the above image this bobcat walked across the Seven Mile bridge right past all the photographers providing everyone with quite a thrill. On the first tour trumpeter swans were just everywhere along the Madison River, Firehole River and the Gibbon River, the most I’ve seen in a number of years. The Yellowstone was frozen so we didn’t see the number of swans there. As the temperatures warmed on tour 2 the swans seemed to have moved out of the park. On our last day along the Madison River we only saw a couple.
All in all it was another great year in Yellowstone. After 30 years of photographing and leading tours in Yellowstone the only thing you can really count on is that every year is different. If you would like to join me next year I would urge you to sign up now these popular trips usually sell out quickly.