As a Photographer, and as one who regularly teaches photography, can you imagine the excitement I would feel about going to Yellowstone National Park, USA? Well, my family and I went together this last week, and weekend to see this magnificent park.

There are several things about the park that make it unique. First of all, many people go to this park to see the wildlife:

This massive bull Elk and a few of his female family were there together. This spectacle was the very first thing we saw as we entered the park, probably within the first 10 minutes of entering the park. The bull elk is a real unique specimen with that huge set of antlers on his head. People usually don’t get to see an Elk with a rack like that. There were many photographers lined up to catch the photo of the day of this magnificent animal.

My son borrowed my camera for a second while I was doing something else and caught this photo of that bull elk, scratching his rear end with his antlers. He has certainly learned to use that rack to his advantage.

Another big animal you will see while driving around the park is the buffalo. These huge animals have been roaming this area long before this park even existed. This animal has caused some injury to people this year who got too close to them. They look so docile, yet, they are still wild animals and you should not get close to them. I had my 75-300mm lens to get this shot, so I wouldn’t have to get close to these big animals.

This buffalo has to eat a lot to take care of itself. They weigh about 1500 to 1800 pounds.

Everyone is hoping to see bears or wolves while they visit Yellowstone, but I think the park Rangers are hoping they don’t come close to the people. On our trip, we did not see any of those animals. Our animal sightings was limited to elk and buffalo.

Of course the other thing that people come to see in Yellowstone is the geysers and hot pots and bubbling pools. That is certainly a fascinating thing in the park. To think that these hot spots, and fountains come from the middle of the earth, and that mother earth has decided to release it’s steam, and pressure in this beautiful park. Of course, I did take a few pictures of these as well.

Old Faithful geyser, making it’s appearance faithfully. Several hundred people are there to get the same spot as I was. As a photographer, I have often talked about finding different angles and different things to take pictures of around the geyser. But, as I was looking around to find different places to go, and different things to take pictures of, that would be away from the crowd, I quickly realize that if I get off the beaten path, I may have the park rangers come and haul me off to some place I don’t want to be.

A once active geyser, now in a dormant stage, they still keep you away from this just in case. But, it is still interesting to see what the minerals from deep in the earth will create.

Some of these hot spots will just form hot pools. They are just steaming and form very beautiful pools. If you were to jump in them, you would be burned badly.

I was interested to see that these mineral pools and streams will totally kill off the trees they come in contact with. What once was a beautiful forest, is now nothing but dead wood.

One of the most famous of formations made in the park is the Mammoth Hot Springs. It has created, literally, a beautiful new mountain of it’s own. And it changes from year to year, from it’s own mineral hot springs that it spews out. You can see by the trees in the foreground just how massive this formation is. And this is only a part of what there actually is.

It was nice to go and see all these amazing natural wonders that exist in Yellowstone Park. That is not the real reason I like to go there. The real reason I went there is because, as the early explorers found, that it was one of the most beautiful places in the world they had ever seen. The large lake (Yellowstone lake) and the many different waterfalls, made this corner of Wyoming, an amazingly beautiful place. In fact, the early explorer Ferdinand V. Hayden, an early Geologist, passing through Yellowstone area, thought that it was so beautiful convinced the U.S. Congress to make this area a National Park. And Yellowstone National Park became the first National Park in 1872.

My timing of going to the park was to capture the autumn leaves changing color, and to make the landscape photos that I took, even more beautiful. But, as I found, this park is about 99.97% pine trees, and there were very little other trees that even turn color during the fall. We were very surprised to find this thick forest almost everywhere we went:

The usual lodgepole pines here are tall and thick. As you can see, the tall pines have new young smaller pines underneath them to fill in to make the future of the forest even more thick.

The other thing that would certainly add to the beauty of the landscape photos I wanted to take was the rivers, and the waterfalls that grace this scenery in Yellowstone:

Not one of the more famous falls of Yellowstone, but certainly a beautiful waterfall.

Another waterfall, not a big one, but, I found some autumn color around this waterfall that I could include in the scenery. Not many photographers have this photo!! Yay, I have what I came for!

This is Tower Falls. And if I am not mistaken, is the tallest falls in the Yellowstone park. Although, it doesn’t put out as much water as the upper or lower falls that come from the bigger river, it is taller, but, the only photo you can get of it, you can’t see it all. But, it still is a pretty falls.

I was looking for some of the rivers to give me one of the most beautiful scenery photos I could get, and, of the many different rivers, the Madison River, I think, seemed to be the most beautiful for scenery. And though, I had very small amounts of autumn leaves up on the mountains, the river, the grasslands around it, and the clouds we had came to a perfect opportunity for the perfect photos:

This photo of the Madison river is a photographers dream. If you go with the rule of thirds in composition, those rocks in the river were placed perfectly for me. The sky, with the clouds was perfect that day, and river flowing was perfect as well. If you could blow it up a bit, you can see some ducks in the water just by the further rock in the water. What more could I ask for.

The last day of our trip a major cold storm was in Yellowstone. This is still the Madison River, but a different part. You can see the steam coming off the river now because the water is warmer than the air around it. The sky is now all cloudy.

And as we were exiting the park, the snow had fallen. It was cold. But, yes, that even made for another type of beauty in the park. The snow on the pine trees was beautiful. I think you could go anytime in the park and find something just beautiful about this amazing park.

My impressions of this park are: If you go to see the geysers and the animals of the park, and that’s what your are hoping to see, then you are totally missing what this park is all about. You can drive all around the whole park and see so much totally different types of landscape. When you drive through the park and you find a whole bunch of cars pulled over, you will find that people are out taking pictures of the wildlife. But, pull over to take pictures of the scenery and you will find very few people who stop and see the real beauty of the park. As a photographer, I was grateful that the crowd didn’t get it. I don’t need a crowd to pull over and get in my photos, but, in another way, I thought: that these people don’t get it. This park is just one of the most beautiful scenic places in the whole world.

Yellowstone, with it’s amazing scenery, can only provide the photographer with amazing photo opportunities, that will thrill them for a long time. And you can go almost anytime of year.

As a photographer, trying to perfect your talent, make sure you take your tripod, your circular polarizing filter, a couple of good lenses, and you will have the things you need. And you will probably find other photographers there as well doing the same thing. Most photographers I saw there, were still taking photos of geysers and animals, and missing out on the real beauty of what there is there. If I was to go again to Yellowstone, I wouldn’t go to the geysers, I would drive along the roads and take more scenery photos, and if by chance an animal happens to be in the photo, so be it.

Article written by : Lanny Cottrell

All Photos taken by: Lanny Cottrell (Copyright protected)

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