Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Park bus, Yellowstone National Park, July 2016

ON THE WAY TO THE NORTHEAST ENTRANCE TO YELLOWSTONE PARK we pass a lone bull bison ambling slowly down the two-lane road toward Silver Gate. He seems wholly uninterested in us as we snap away with our cameras, first from just behind the open doors of our car, then through the safety of an open window as he passes by  - slooowly - a few feet from us.

We take the road through the park's northern edge, parallel to the Montana/Wyoming border, through wide fields full of bison. After the thrill of that first sighting we get used to seeing them, wallowing in the dust and standing down near the trout streams on the meadows of the Lamar Valley, the bulls snorting and rumbling.

Yellowstone National Park, July 2016

We drive for most of the day, though we only see a tiny fraction of the park, never getting near Old Faithful or Inspiration Point, well north of the Yellowstone caldera and its hot springs and mud baths. There are mountains on either side of us at all times, and there's never a point where you aren't between at least two spectacular views, and by noon I think that something like landscape fatigue has started to kick in, and it takes a real doozy of a panorama to make you take notice.

There are three other photographers on the trip, and even if we all pull out our cameras at the same stops, we're all drawn to different slivers of the scene in front of us, wandering away from each other looking to find some scene forming in our heads. Greg Vaughn, who specializes in nature and travel, tells me that he tends to longer lenses when he shoots, while I'm usually at the widest focal length.

At the beginning and the end of the day Greg, Donnie and Callum are always heading out to find a sunrise or sunset, while I'm happy to get an extra hour of sleep or enjoy the bathtub in my hotel room. The difference, I suppose, is that I'm a city photographer shooting the country here, and when I'm not gawping at some view, I'm looking for places where our fingerprints are all over nature. By the time we hit the hot spots at Tower Fall and Mammoth Hot Springs I'm shooting the tourists instead of the scenery.

Yellowstone National Park, July 2016

In Mammoth the elk wander the streets, napping under trees and walking through backyards while park rangers chaperone them from a distance, putting out signs and asking tourists to keep their distance. I don't have to be asked; big animals naturally scare the shit out of me.

Finally we exit through the big arch at Gardiner and head back up into Montana to Livingston, stopping at a ranch on the way where I get the distilled Montana photo I joked about getting with friends before the trip. I have had a fantastic time, and leave wondering about setting up a portrait studio in Cooke City.

On the way from Yellowstone to Livingston, Montana, July 2016

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