Yellowstone and Grand Teton Scouting Trip
After a very successful fall photo workshop at Grand Teton, I wanted to take the next step and scout for winter photo workshops at both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
I decided to spend three days in Grand Teton and three days in Yellowstone with an emphasis on wildlife photography. As soon as I arrived, I noticed there were hardly any visitors in the park. Visiting the week before Christmas seemed to be a perfect time.
My first day at Grand Teton started off very promising with zero-degree temperatures and plenty of snow and frost-covered bison roaming through the fields. The next day, I saw more bison but also photographed elk and deer amid the beautiful, snow-filled landscapes. On the third day, I came upon a herd of moose just as the sun was rising. With the temperature at -15 degrees, I could see their breath as they grazed along the Snake River.
At the end of the day, I made the 2.5-hour drive to West Yellowstone. The following morning, I decided to take a guided snowmobile tour of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The only way to venture into these areas in the winter is by guided tour. To my surprise, I was the only photographer on the tour. Along the way, the tour stopped and allowed us to view a large herd of bison, river otters, an eagle, a coyote, and a pack of wolves from a distance. We also stopped to view several hot springs amid the beautiful scenery.
After four hours of traveling and sightseeing, we made it to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I was able to hike around the canyon and photograph it from several different viewpoints. While on the 2-hour ride back, we encountered more bison along the road. The entire snowmobile tour experience was a blast and I would like to incorporate it into a future workshop.
I was supposed to spend two more days in Yellowstone, but the weather forecast was predicting 12-18 inches of snow, so I had to change my flight. This is the same storm that dropped 5-plus feet of snow in Buffalo, NY, so I'm really glad I made the decision to leave early or I probably would have missed Christmas. With only one more day left to spend in the park, I had to make the most of it.
I started in Gardiner, Montana, and drove out on the North Yellowstone Rd. at dawn. Right as the sun was rising, I came across a herd of bison grazing along the road. Throughout the morning, I drove back and forth along the north road looking for wildlife. Eventually, I came across a bison carcass that a group of coyotes was eating. I decided to hike out through three-foot-deep snow to get closer to the location but the coyotes had moved on by the time I got there. Instead of giving up, I constructed a blind in the snow and built up an additional two-foot wall. After waiting 2.5 hours, a coyote finally returned and I got the photos I wanted. The coyote spent the next 30 minutes eating the carcass. I not only got some incredible photos but it was great to see the wildlife in their natural habitat.
This trip turned out to be more than just a scouting trip, I felt like I really connected with the outdoors and all it has to offer. It was an incredible experience to be out in Yellowstone and Grand Teton in the winter and I look forward to going again.