I had the opportunity to travel to Island Park and West Yellowstone and photograph all its beauty (at least a part of it). The weather was all over the place, but it was mostly a pleasant day. It was my first attempt at wildlife photography and I spent a lot of time bracketing for landscape shots as well. It was quite an adventure to try out a new type of photography. First, I’ll share how wildlife photography went.


My first run-in with wildlife was a 10 minute drive from the West Yellowstone entrance. A bull elk was lazily grazing between the road and the river. I jumped out with a 70-200mm Tamron lens and snapped a few pictures. Like most of the animals, he didn’t seem to be bothered by human presence. I love all the elements in this image – the raised head; the river, rocks and timber in the background. It was a beautiful opening scene to Yellowstone National Park.



I took a drive up Firehole Canyon and saw three Trumpeter Swans lazily grazing in the river. This was only a mile up from the Firehole River waterfall. I haven’t seen a lot of swans in my time but they are truly elegant birds. I spent a lot of time getting some close-up shots with the zoom lens and worked hard to capture moments where the three were composed well together in one shot.



I spent some time editing this Trumpeter Swan in Lightroom. I played around with the hues to have blue shadows and orange highlights. I tried to keep that style of editing throughout different images within this blog post.



This massive American Bison, or buffalo, grazed by while I was visiting the White Dome Geyser. The bull was all alone, which I thought was interesting. Because it was cloudy, and I had a 150-600mm zoom lens with a 5.6 aperture, it was difficult to get enough light  without having motion blur. Eventually, I captured this one. I love the silhouette look he has among the grass.




Before entering West Yellowstone, I stopped at Island Park, Idaho, early in the morning to capture some shots near Henry’s Fork. The sun made for some beautiful morning shots. This shot was taken between the confluence of two rivers. I was with many other photographers at the time and wanted a different shot with a different angle. Using leading lines and alignment, I captured this image on my back at the bottom of these stars.


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This image was taken on the banks of the Buffalo River. In a similar situation, I wanted to capture something different. Again, I laid on my back to get a different perspective of the scenery. I discovered how dark it was close to the ground and how the peaked at the top of the trees. I positioned myself for an interesting flare and took the shot.



This image was captured just inside Yellowstone National Park. This is Mt. Haynes. AGAIN, I didn’t want to capture the same image that other photographers were getting. I stopped what I was doing and evaluated what I could do differently. I found a fallen tree still rooted to the ground. I made a window out of it, and using the bracketing technique, I captured this shot. Bracketing means taking three shots (one exposed correctly, one underexposed, and one overexposed) and bringing them together later in post-production for more depth.



This is the Firehole River waterfall located up Firehole Canyon. Many photographers like to use motion blur for waterfalls, but I don’t find it as appealing or satisfying as the reality of frozen motion. I spent time in Lightroom to make a more contrasted, sharp, and detailed image out of this.



Was this a sight! Capturing the Grand Prismatic Spring from above was definitely worth the climb. The colors were beautiful the landscape unforgettably scenic. I used the bracketing technique to get more variety in shadows and highlights within the pool and the rest of the park.



This was another frozen motion shot I took near a handful of geysers. The odor was terrible, but the shot was worth it of course. It is so crazy how much there is to see in Yellowstone!



This image was taken moments before the last two images. I was headed to the White Dome Geyser when a stunning sunset caught my attention in the geyser pols of the Great Fountain Geyser. At the same time, I could see the White Dome Geyser erupting at the exact same time – my world was exploding! I hurriedly pulled over and luckily had the sense to snap a shot of the erupting geyser with a 70-200mm lens from down the road. It actually turned out! I love the leading lines, even with the cars.



This was one of the many gorgeous photographs I took of the Great Fountain Geyser at sunset. The reflecting geyser pools were perfect for the sunset. Surrounded by photographers, I tried to get a different angle for a different shot. I like this image because the steam diffused the sun a bit and you can see actual rays from the sun. The leading lines of the pool reflection and the clouds above lead right to the focus of the image – the sunset.



This was one of the last shots I took this day and it is perhaps my favorite. Most of the photographers were facing the sunset while taking pictures of the Great Fountain Geyser. I decided to try a different viewpoint from the side and I’m glad I did. As you can see, there is a stark contrast in colors and mood – a warm, orange sunset on the left with a cold, blue, cloudy evening on the right. I love that the geyser steam is the direct middle of the two colors.


Check out this information to find some awesome locations and wildlife in West Yellowstone!

You can also find some great opportunities in West Yellowstone here!