Welcome to the Yellowstone diaries. On this blog i will update you from day to day about my Winter Photo trip to Yellowstone National Park. Feel free to email me with any comments you might have. I hope you will enjoy it.
Tuesday 8th of February
The final day of our tour. We got up at 06.00 hours. We decided that for the last morning, we would not wander to far into the park but instead would give the roads around Yellowstone a try.
It was snowing a bit when we hit the road but later on it became sunny.
We came across some nice herds of Elk, Buffalo and a number of Bighorn sheep on the gravel road along the park.. Inside the park on the road to Mammoth we came across a couple of Mule deer and a Coyote.
The coyote was a bit far out but still we took some nice images of the Coyote walking along the ridge with the snow capped mountains in the background.
Around noon we called it a day, packed our stuff, grabbed a sandwich at Subway and made our way back to Bozeman. We arrived back in the Comfort Inn around 13.30, visited the local Wallmart to buy some presents for the children and went back to the hotel.
And here i am writing the last few lines of this amazing trip. We had some extreme weather, took great images, missed out on the elusive wolf but the whole Yellowstone experience was fantastic. Something i will never forget. Photographing wildlife here is NOT easy....the last few years there was not enough snow, now there is too much. Most animals have escaped the park and took the predators with them. Still with patience and perseverance there is enough to encounter and to photograph, but quiet days will be part of the experience.
I hope you have all enjoyed my Yellowstone diary and thanks for tuning in!
Rene, Richard and Hans - image by Steven Berkowitz
Factsheet Yellowstone Phototour January-February 2011
Flight: We flew British Airways, London Heathrow to Denver with an onward connection to Bozeman with United Airlines. This is the quickest route from London. Cost per person approximately £650.
Hotel for overnight stay Bozeman: There is plenty of choice but we stayed in the Comfort Inn, 10 minutes from Gallatin airfield. Cost per person per night $60 including Breakfast and shuttle service to and from Gallatin airfield.
Hotel in Gardiner: during our stay in Yellowstone, we stayed at the Super8 Motel. Clean, comfortable rooms, Internet and a simple breakfast. Cost per night per person $50
Dining in Gardiner: there are just a few places where one can eat. The best restaurant is the Yellowstone mine. Excellent Sirloin steak. Prices vary from $15 to $30 for a meal.
Transport within the park: we used a GMC Suburban, 4 wheel drive. Absolutely necessary as the roads were covered with snow and ice.
Equipment used during trip: Nikon D3S, Nikon D7000, Nikon 4.0-600VR, Nikon 70-200VRII, Nikon 24-70, converters and tripod.
Tour operator: if you want to get the best out of Yellowstone, do what we did and arrange a tour with Robert Dale Franz. he lives near the park, knows whats going on and has been a superb host through out! Many thanks Dale!
We extended our tour which gave us 9 1/2 days in the park.
Rene de Heer - Image taken by Steven Berkowitz
Rene and Richard - image taken by Steven Berkowitz
Monday 7th of February
Woke up this morning to find it had snowed again. Not the 1 foot as promised by the weatherman but a decent amount of the white stuff had covered the only road in Gardiner.
Today was the last full day in the park. We headed again in the direction of the Lamar valley, scanning the roads and fields on anything that we could take pictures off.
Richard might be ill but it hasn't affected his great eyesight! He spotted a Great Grey owl near the Blacktail plateau. Unfortunately we couldn't take a picture as it flew off.
We did find some great looking Buffalo's with their heads caked with snow. We spent some considerable time with them offering us great photographic opportunities.
Lamar valley is pretty much dead. There is too much snow meaning less animals stay in the valley and on top of that the snowbanks are so high, you can't look over them.
We took some nice images of the 2 male bighorn sheep as they were fouraging much lower down the steep hill then usual.
Futher down by Pebble creek we met up with 2 more photographers, they told us that the Lamar valley wolf pack was around. We could clearly hear the howeling but didnt see them!
The best was to come: near the exit of the park we found a Coyote near the road in a blizzard. It was eating a weasel! We managed to take some nice images.
Our final diner was in the finest restaurant in Gardiner ( there are only 4 restaurants in Gardiner open)
Tomorrow one more half day in and around the park and then back to Bozeman. it has been a great trip but i am also looking forward seeing my children (Toby and Eleanor) and my lovely wife!
Pine Martin by Robert Dale Franz
Nuthatch by Richard Peters
Bighorn sheep by Hans Schouten
Sunday 6th of February
I am getting used to early starts! Today on the road by 06.15. Heading towards the eastern part of Yellowstone. Some light snow had fallen overnight and it turned out to be another fine day with muted sunlight and light snow showers.
The Lamar valley is more or less empty. In 7 years there hasn't been that much snow in the park. Snow levels are so high that the herds of buffalo and elk have moved outside the park, taking the coyotes and wolves with them.
Actually we haven't seen any wolves since we arrived in Yellowstone! And we have heard that close-up encounters have been very rare since October last year!
This day turned out to be fantastic. We spent most of the day photographing birds. We took many images of Clark's nutcracker, Stellars Jay, Mountain chickadee, Pine Grosbeak and Hairy Woodpecker.
The ultimate was an encounter with a couple of Pine martens, giving us ample photographic opportunities! Truly a very special encounter!
We were back late in the hotel. Dale didn't join us for diner as he was off watching the Superbowl.
1 1/2 day left! Time is flying when you are having fun. More then a foot of snow is expected overnight, so hopefully that will bring us some more great opportunities to photograph the Yellowstone scenery and wildlife!
Stellar's Jay - Image by Rene de Heer
Saturday 5th of February
A lot of snow has fallen during the night! All in all over 7 inches of the white stuff. We hit the road shortly after 07.00 hours and as usual we drive over the Blacktail plateau to the Lamar valley.
Yellowstone looks completely different today. All the fur trees are covered in snow and all the old animal tracks are covered by the fresh snow. The snow has turned Yellowstone in a magical place It is truly a wonderful place to be today!
We take many images of snow covered buffalo's, beautiful male elk and many landscapes as we make our way to the Lamar valley.
The Lamar valley is again rather quiet, no foxes and only distant coyotes .On the way back we stop along the way again to photograph the beautiful landscapes.
We are back in the hotel around 18.00 hours. Diner was at the local Pizza restaurant, where we meet Walt Anderson, the inventor of the Better beamer.
Tomorrow another day in the park. The weatherman has said that we can expect more snow!
Mule deer image is from Richard Petersand thepicture of yours truly is taken by Hans Schouten
Friday 4th of February
The first day with snow and clouds. We drove into the park and headed to the Blacktail plateau as a Great Grey owl was seen there. We searched but couldn't trace the bird. Richard still not feeling well.
This day would turn into the quietest day so far. There was very little excitement in the Lamar valley. We did spot several coyotes and managed to see a family of otters far away, but that is as good as it gets!
If some nature photographers give the impression that taking pictures in Yellowstone is easy then let me tell you it isn't! It is unpredictable and hard work. You might have as good day, followed by a day where you hardly see anything!
We decided to move out of the park and managed to find several Pronghorns, mule deer and many ravens in the Galatin National forest. giving us good photographic opportunities.
The 3 other photographers will leave tomorrow while we stay for another 3 1/2 day. We had a farewell diner in the local saloon annex casino. The steak was superb and i kind of liked the Jack Daniels.
More snow expected tomorrow when we are going into the Lamar valley again.
Thursday 3th of February
Another early start as we were going into the interior of Yellowstone again with the snow coach. Unfortunately Richard wasn't able to make it as he was feeling under the weather.
The weather was beautiful, rather cold but not as cold as it has been the last few days. This time our trip would take us from Mammoth, to Norris Junction and then onwards to the Hayden valley and Mud Vulcano.
Along the way we took beautiful scenic images of trees, fog and other landscapes. When we approached Hayden valley we spotted a fox in the far distance mousing along the road .
The fox didn't really move away and we were treated to a first class Red fox display. Shutters were clicking for a long time!
After that we moved to Mud Vulcano, where we saw two Coyotes and took nice images of Raven and the frost laden trees shrouded in fog.
On the way back we found another Red fox in the Hayden valley and again we were able to take many images. Instead of my 600mm, i used the 70-200mm. The fox was that close!
It turned out to be the best day of the trip so far. In total we saw 5 foxes and several coyotes and in the far distance we heard the elusive wolf!
I have received a few emails asking me how i protect myself against the extreme winter conditions. I have taken a picture of my daily outfit.
From top left to right:
Thermal underwear, thermal socks, merino woolen socks, thin fleece, normal fleece,arctic trousers, thin inner gloves, mittens, arctic jacket, arctic boots and a trapper hat!
Wednesday 2th of February
Another extremely cold day with temperatures again hitting minus 37 degrees celcius in the Lamar valley.
The drive early in the morning didn't produce a lot. We did come across a number of buffalo's near the Blacktail plateau with their faces covered in ice and snow. It made for some really nice images.
Further down the road we came across our daily wolf watchers. These people scan the valley for wolves from dusk till dawn, trailing their telescopes on the hills on the other side of the valley hoping to spot a wolf.
So far we havent seen any and chances are relatively low. A number of wolves have been killed either in fights with other wolves or through illness. It is estimated that there are around 35 wolves left in Yellowstone.
After lunch we headed back in the opposite direction, scanning for Coyote and Red fox. We came across a Coyote protecting its kill from two Golden eagles. It offered us some fantastic photographic opportunites. Sometimes you just get lucky!
Diner was in the local Wild west lounge and Casino . Tomorrow we will go on the Snow coach again into the interior of Yellowstone, hopefully this will produce more photo opportunities then the first trip!
Tuesday 1th of February
Today we kicked off at 06.30 hours. We were going to spend the day in and around the Lamar valley as this could be a good place for coyote, red fox, buffalo and an outside chance for wolves.
I am used to cold places and my record for the lowest temperature was 3 years ago in Finland, Kuusamo: minus 35 degrees celcius. That record has now been taken over by the Lamar valley with minus 38 degrees celcius!
The weather was absolutely wonderful but very cold. Clothing was freezing up and ice was forming on the LCD displays of the camea's. the batteries held out very well under these conditions.
We found several buffalo herds along the road with frost on their heads and bodies, which made for some lovely images.
We stopped at several places to take in the scenery and of course to take images of the mountains, forest and frozen meadows. We even saw a Pine marten but unfortunately we couldnt take any images, Still it was nice to see this elusive mammal.
After lunch in Cooke city we drove back and we were lucky to find a mousing red fox along the road. A bit further Richard saw a Coyote sitting on a rock, maybe a tiny bit out of reach but we were still able to take some nice images.
All in all the best day of our tour so far. It looks like another cold night is in stock. Lets hope tomorrow will be as good as today!
Monday 31th of January
An early start! Up around 05.00 hours and breakfast at 06.00 hours. Today we went into the interior of Yellowstone National park. This can only be accessed by snow coach. The snow coach a kind of minibus on caterpillars.
We first drove to Mammoth. There i was lucky to run into Chas Glatzer a rather well known American nature photographer, we had a little chat before we set off.
The snow coach took us into the interior of Yellowstone. We drove from Mammoth to Old Faithful and this trip would take all day. The idea was to stop along the way to photograph wildlife.
I can't say that i found it a great experience. The bus is actually too small to carry 6 photographers with all their gear and the ride is tiring to say the least.
It was very cold when we took off. Minus 25 degrees but other then that the weather was very nice for the whole day and the scenery and geysers were breathtaking.
From a photographic perpective it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. We encountered hardly anything worthwhile to take pictures off. it was one of those days i guess.
We returned to Mammoth around 17.30 and i was glad to get off the snow coach! We will give it another go on Thursday.
Tomorrow we will spend most of the day in the Lamar valley, an area good for all kind of mammals. It promises to be another very cold day, and while i am writing this the temperature has dropped to minus 27 degrees. Lets hope we will have more success.
Photo is by Richard Peters
Sunday 30th of January
Today we had our first full day in the park. After a quick 06.30 hours breakfast, we jumped in our Suburban and drove into Yellowstone.
We drove from Gardiner to Mammoth Hotsprings and from there we went over the Blacktail plateau into the famous Lamar Valley. The weather was pretty good and all along the road we saw many herds of Buffalo and Elk.
We stopped many times to take images of these beautiful mammals. Further down the Lamar valley we came across a beautiful red fox hunting for mice. It was just a bit too far away but we tried our luck with the 2X converters on our 600mm lenses. or improvement.The results were ok but there is room for improvement.
After lunch in Cooke City we drove back in the direction of Gardiner. Bad weather was coming in and it started to snow heavily, which gave us great opportunities to photography Buffalo and a lone coyote.
All in all it was a pretty good start of our Yellowstone trip. Tomorrow we will go into the heart of Yellowstone with a snowcoach.
Saturday 29th of January
Spent the morning in the hotel. Left at noon to the airport where we met up with Robert Franz, our guide for the next 10 days, and the 3 other participants.
We left at around 14.00 hours for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Gardiner. Gardiner is the gateway to Yellowstone National park. A small village with plenty of pubs and restaurants. You don't need to go far to see any kind of wildlife. When we parked the car at the Motel, we were greeted by white tail deer and buffalo roaming the main street of Gardiner.
We unpacked and went for a short game drive. We came across some Pronghorn, Buffalo and Elk. As it became increasingly overcast, we called it a day and went pack to the Super8 Motel. Tonight we have our welcome diner. Might try a nice juicy steak!
Friday 28th of January
After a reasonable night's sleep and breakfast, we decided to go for a stroll in downtown Bozeman . Not much in terms of shops but there was a very well stocked camera shop.
The weather was superb. More spring then winter. The forecast for the week is pretty good. Spent rest of the day relaxing. Richard was not feeling well so he stayed for most of the day in his room. Tomorrow we will be picked up around noon to make our way to Gardiner, on the edge of Yellowstone National park.
Thursday 27th of January
After an uneventful flight from London to Denver and then from Denver to Bozeman, we arrived 21.30 at our hotel. All three of us were pretty jet lagged. We will stay in Bozeman till Saturday morning when we will be picked up by Robert Franz to commence our photo tour to Yellowstone National Park. For the duration of the trip we will stay in Gardiner, on the edge of Yellowstone National park.