Never has a place so entirely wrapped itself around my soul than Yellowstone. I can’t exactly put a finger on it, but my trip to Wyoming last month was nothing short of extreme, spectacular and bewildering. This blog entry will focus on wild life and everything that went into shooting it. My next entry will focus on the landscape portions (day and night.)
One of the most important things I learned is that you need a really great telephoto lens if you’re going to shoot anything other than bison. Eagles, coyote, martens, prong horns, owls, otters, elk and especially wolves will never be close enough for you to capture well with anything under a 500mm. For wolves specifically, unless you get lucky and a pack crosses the road near you, (I’m told) they’ll likely be half a mile off the road and only seen with a spotting scope. For everything else, fortunately we had a 200-500mm Nikon and two cameras (a d800 and a D3s) that could do well in low-light situations.
Personally I found the 200-500mm frustratingly slow, but the benefit is that it gives you Nikon lens quality at a decent price without being $10,000. We rented one and it paid off the morning we saw a Great Grey Owl perched atop a crag:
Low light was an issue for a lot of animals we shot due to the fact that it was often pre-sunrise or dusk when we were finding the best shots/animals – like this image of a bison grazing in front of Old Faithful:
We also learned that during the winter, most of the wolves and elk make their way to the Lamar Valley area of the park (north/north east area.) This is due to the fact that Lamar is warmer with less snow vs. Old Faithful, where we battled temperatures in the -20 range on the regular. Thankfully I had a series of amazing guides in the park who knew where to go and what would be there for our trips out of Old Faithful though. And, as it turned out, I’m not a bad spotter myself.
I’ve wanted to get a shot of a big horn sheep for as long as I’ve had my camera. Fortunately for me, we came across an entire herd of them just off the road outside the park:
Michele and I have very different shooting styles when it comes to camera settings. Nikon has a “Shutter” setting, allowing you to set the shutter at whatever speed you want and it will adjust the aperture for you. She tends to shoot in Aperture mode, which allows you to set the depth of field you’d like and the camera adjusts to the highest shutter speed it can give you while in that mode.
For me, when shooting wildlife, I don’t necessarily care what the depth of field looks like, since I’m always focused on the individual animal I want to capture. I guess it’s personal preference but it was interesting to me to shoot that way for a while on this trip.
The full gallery is below.