The last time I visited yellowstone, it was the summer of 1988. I don’t remember if I had a camera or not, mostly because I had just turned 7 years old. As we left the park, I remember seeing smoke coming from the distant hills. That was the start of the massive fire that would sweep through the park, completely changing the scenery of Yellowstone for decades to come.
Now that photography is a passion of mine, I decided to plan a return trip to Yellowstone, some 21 years later. I didn’t remember much about the park, but I was amazed by the beauty of the location. My girlfriend and I spent a week and a half there, based out of the Canyon Village Campground. We spent the first week touring the park.
I wanted to get familiar with the layout of the park, and scout out some locations for a photo or two. I brought along a small point and shoot digital, and my 35mm body for scouting shots. It was only when I found what I believed to be the best thermal area that I decided to bring my large format equipment into the field.
This photo was taken along the shore of Yellowstone Lake, at the West Thumb Geyser basin. We visited the basin in the morning to check the conditions, then planned to return when the lighting would be most ideal. However, during that morning visit we had a very interesting encounter with a male elk.
While heading back to our car along the boardwalk, a male elk was grazing 20 to 30 yards away. However, it decided to come closer to us, much to close for comfort. It must have seen us as a threat, so it decided to pin us between it’s splendid set of antlers, and a boiling thermal pool known as “the abyss.” It lowered its antlers at me several times, less than 2 feet from my face. Talk about a hair raising situation. I told my girlfriend not to look at the animal, and to pretend that we were trees…. harmless, non-threatening trees. After a couple minutes, it decided to move on.
Later in the day, we returned to the scene of the incident, but this time the boardwalk was filled with tourists of all shapes and sizes. The elk were no longer an issue. However, it is quite difficult to shoot a large format camera in these situations. My tripod was perched on the railing of the boardwalk to get the view I wanted. I had to deal with a near constant cloud of hot steam that would fog up the lens, people walking past that would shake the camera, and ever changing lighting as clouds would race past the sun. That being said, I was quite happy to get the shot I had previsualized before the long 17 hour drive to Yellowstone.
We will be returning next year.
(Fuji Velvia 50 4×5 | Toyo 45AII | Nikkor 210mm)