Yellowstone, January 2015
My friend Sid and I made a fairly impromptu trip to Yellowstone this past January. As usual, the purpose of this blog is primarily to pass along useful information to other photographers who may visit places I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Here are a few tips:
* Bozeman: Bozeman has the largest airport and is about 1.5 hours from Gardiner, which is itself only about 20 minutes from the North entrance to Yellowstone
* Gardiner: The Super 8 on highway 89 is a nice place to stay. The price of the rooms is reasonable, the rooms nice for a Super 8, and the price of the room includes breakfast, starting at 6am, early enough to eat and still get to the park early (in the winter). There are several restaurants in Gardiner. I liked the Yellowstone Mine and Outlaws Pizza.
* The Roosevelt Arch marks the entrance to the park. However, if you turn right instead of going through the arch, past the high school, there is land where you will likely find lots of pronghorns and bighorn sheep.
* Driving: It was cold, very cold, when we were there. If snow is a possibility, put your windshield wipers in the up position so they won’t get in the way when you are clearing your windshield in the morning. Many signs suggest snow tires and so do I. Although the road was plowed, for two of our days it was covered in snow and ice and many vehicles went off the road and had to be towed. There are no shoulders and trucks pulling trailers for snowmobiles from Cook City sometimes take up more than their share of the road making it easy to get to far to the right and have a tire go off the pavement. It happened a couple of times to me but we were lucky enough to be able to get back on the road without getting stuck. Both times there was no oncoming traffic and I stayed off the brake and used the car’s momentum to carry me over up and over the edge of the road and back onto the pavement. If you’re not used to winter driving, better to arrange transportation. There are van services from Gardiner to Mammoth hot Springs, near the northwest corner of the park.
* There are no services other than “restrooms” (outhouses) between Mammoth and Cook City, so bring provisions if you intend to stay out all day.
* Lenses: the longer the better. You will likely get very close to bison and possibly elk, but if you’re lucky enough to experience wolves, you’ll probably want your longest lens. I’d suggest a wide lens for landscapes as well.
* Cold and your equipment: For those not used to shooting in the cold, the cold will shorten the endurance of your batteries. If your batteries don’t last long in less extreme conditions bring enough spares and keep them in a warm place. Before bringing your equipment inside, put it into a plastic bag so the condensation will form outside the bag and not on your equipment. I sometimes just zip into my camera bag and haven’t had problems, but a sealed plastic bag would be better.
* Snow: It’s possible to encounter snow in Yellowstone for a good part of the year. The snow was deep in January and I used gaiters over my boots which worked very well. I broke a trail once or twice in knee deep snow and next time will have snow shoes with me. At -22 I was a sweaty mess working through the snow. Next time I’ll have snow shoes as well as a hydration pack for my backpack.
* I haven’t solved my cold feet issues but just found a product that claims to be the warmest socks made, “Heat Holders” and ordered a couple pair for my next adventure. I’m also going to line the inside of my boots, under the footpad, with tin foil. if that doesn’t work, I’m going to wear stockings, which women tell me are quite warm. If you have tips, product suggestions or advice, I’d love to hear it.
A few pics: