One of the attractions of Yellowstone NP, is the chance to be relatively close to wildlife that you don’t normally see around your neighborhood. For those of us that live in a metropolitan area such as the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex, this can include things as common as birds. But when you plan a trip to Yellowstone, you plan and dream for the big game. Sure, bison are great to look at and to photograph, but there are a couple thousand of them roaming around the park. Everyone has snapshots of them. Elk? Just head up to Mammoth and you will see that the elk have called that place home for some time now. But when you mention seeing a wolf or bear, a photographer’s mouth begins to water and they must know where!
On my last trip to YNP, I was fortunate enough to be close enough to photograph a momma grizzly and her two “cubs”. They are about 2 years old from what I have been told. They were in a field next to the main road in the Hayden Valley. Armed with my Canon 5DmII and my 600/f4 lens + 1.4tc, I was able to get a few pretty decent shots while remaining at the “legal” distance. Now mind you, I was not alone. There were probably about 50 other people pulled over also snapping away at the same scene.
The bears rooted around eating what they found for quite a while as the crowd remained calm at the side of the road. There was a Park Ranger present which I’m sure helped keep any who might think about approaching the bears to get a closer shot, and also providing a better meal for the bears, so everyone was good. Eventually the bears approached the road and the ranger spread the people to give the bears plenty of room to cross over. Then it was up and over a hill and they were gone.
One of the joys of being in a situation like this is the opportunity you get to share with others. While I was taking picture with the “big lens”, I had a few people approach me and ask if they could look through my camera to get a better look at the bears. I was happy to oblige. There was a lot of ohh-ing and awe-ing as each person got their first close-up view. I especially enjoyed the squeal of excitement from the group of young Japanese school girls who spoke little english but were clearly excited as they got their first up-close look at the “wild beasts” of Yellowstone.
So, the next time you get the chance, don’t forget to share your experience with others. Taking good photos is one thing, sharing the experience with others not only deepens the experience for all involved, it brings us all a little closer together through the sharing.