Day 32 – Lamar Valley Wildlife And Sunset

Day 32 – Lamar Valley Wildlife And Sunset

Another wonderful day at Yellowstone.  Lamar Valley, to be more specific, the best spot to photograph wildlife in Yellowstone.

We saw dozens of elks just off Mammoth Hot Sprint campground, a few minutes drive after entering the north park entrance.  They seemed to be very used to tourists and were bothered by the number of vehicles that stopped for them in the far background.  We made an extra effort to drive into the campground where I could photograph them less than 10 feet away.  The male elk gave a long bugle – not sure he was threatening us, or felt threatened by us being so close to his female concubines.

Although we have seen bison multiple of times in this trip, today’s encounter was the most dramatic.  The large mammal lined up with discipline and migrated to their new food source in the afternoon.  Another group fearlessly crossed the street regardless of the passing vehicles.  As we learned later, bison ruled the road in the park.

I was out of my car when they were still far.  Just as I chucked at their larger presence in my camera viewfinder, I realized they were approaching too close.  Can you imagine we fell into a siege by the bisons?  Yikes, we almost missed the sunset shot.


Tip of the Day

To capture great images of wild animals, you might want to do some homework first.  I typically do the following three before I head out.

  1. Get inspired.  Go to visitor centers and check out the bookstore.  Flip through the photography books that have the images that inspire you.  You can also do so online.  A few of my favorite photo resources are Pinterest, 500px, Flickr.  Or simply google the topic and see what images you’ll find.
  2. Understand the right time and location to photograph wild animals.  Ask the staff at the visitor center where in Yellowstone exactly you can spot wild animals, and what is the best time.  Yellowstone (and many other national parks) is huge, you can spend a whole week driving inside the park.  But you won’t see animals everywhere.  Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley are what we learned the best spots to photograph wildlife.  However, with a bit study, you might find that Hayden Valley is not car accessible.  If you really plan to go there, make sure to budget the time to hike into it before the “right hours”
  3. Optional to sign up a ranger tour.  Although we are very lucky to see many wild animals ourselves, if you want to maximize the number and type of animals you see due to limited time, do a ranger tour.  The caveat is that most rangers will restrict you to keep a big distance from the animals for security reason, this means if you don’t have a powerful telescope lens, your animals will appear small in your image.  You can certainly use the ranger tour as a starting point, and do the “deep dive” later yourself, if you have more than one day in the park.

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