After a long and tiring flight I made it home, looking back on a wonderful trip I was co-leading with Danny. It wasn’t my first time in Yellowstone but it was my first time during the fall. It turned out to be hard work compared to the winter trip because the animals are less visible without the enormous snow covered fields and forest. Luckily it was the rutting season for the elk and also the moose were still active although the rut was nearly over. During the rutting season the female and male elk and come together in groups to mate. Moose typically avoid other moose during winter, spring and summer and they are not social animals that live in groups like elk or mountain goats. But during autumn, moose become social and their lives become hectic for about a month. Luckily for us the active parts of the rut take place in open areas so we can witness the event and get better opportunity’s to take some pictures. We also received some tips from a fellow photographer who told us where to go. Now, this is more than welcome being in an enormous place like Yellowstone and the Tetons.
Sitting at my desk, scrolling through my images I come to the conclusion that we did rather well altogether. During the first few days of the trip we were kind of struggling when it came to finding the animals in decent light. Of course there were always elk and bison to be seen but we’re kind of spoiled and always want the best position and light.
We did everything we could and went into the park before sunrise and witnessed some amazing mornings with a beautiful sunrise and mist. Every morning we first went to the best places and hoping to catch some animals at the right spots. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for us but I guess you can’t win them all.
Here are two examples of a landscape that are screaming to become an animalscape but as I said…you can’t win ‘em all.
An experienced nature photographer is not only looking for an animal but is also looking for the right light and most of all anticipating and analysing the situation. What will the animals do next and which way are they going… When you ask yourself what the situation will be next, you can go there and wait for just the right moment. People are often staying with their subject when they are really close and in a way it is understandable but looking ahead of the situation will sometimes give you very different images of the same animals but smaller in the frame in beautiful light. I consider myself as an experienced nature photographer and try to think forward. After shooting some nice elk I thought it was as good as over and said “Come on, let’s go to the bridge” Earlier that day we had seen some elk at the bridge, crossing the river but the light was poor so we moved on. I thought that maybe the elk were still there but now in much better light. As we turned around to walk to the vans, two male elk decided to play fight in some stunning backlight. Immediately a voice from behind said, “Let’s go to the bridge he said, it will be great he said” I immediately recognized the voice as the of our house comedian Danny Green. Of course these words were repeated several times that day and we’ll probably still laugh about it when are old.
Looking far ahead is not always the key to success but it did give some great opportunities in the past. Below are some images we almost missed when we would have gone to the bridge.
We did a lot of driving this trip and enjoyed a lot of places. Now I’m not a landscape photographer but I did enjoy taking some shots of old oak trees in some backlight against a nice mountain backdrop. You can’t beat autumn colours.
Although distinct species the elk are very similar to our European red deer with some visible differences like the antlers and their roar that sounds more like nails on a blackboard. But they are stunning as well and great subjects to be around with. We spent a lot of time near these animals and enjoyed every second of it. They are much wilder then our red deer but nonetheless they walk past us without making eye contact, giving me the feeling they are ignoring us because somehow we don’t belong in their territory. The animals and especially the big mammals decide where we are allowed to stand, not the other way around. If an elk or a bison wants to cross a road you will make way, not the animal. A lot of visitors have learned the hard way. Check Youtube for a few hours of ignorant visitors being punished. The elk rut was still going on and we all enjoyed the animals roaming the large rutting grounds.
Another species is the pronghorn. The pronghorn's closest living relatives are the giraffes and it is the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere, being built for maximum predator evasion through running. According to Wikipedia the top speed is very hard to measure accurately and varies between individuals; it can run 35 mph for 4 miles (56 km/h for 6 km), 42 mph for 1 mile (67 km/h for 1.6 km), and 55 mph for 0.5 mile (88.5 km/h for 0.8 km). The only mammal that will outrun the pronghorn is the cheetah.
What came as a bit of a surprise to me was capturing the beaver building a new dam. Seeing beavers swimming by, dragging large branches of birch was stunning. We did spend a late afternoon with them and enjoyed every second. The area itself is beautiful. Below is the beaver site and the beavers at work.
The trip got better and better when days were passing by. The rutting elk and beavers were stunning to witness and capture but the animal that I enjoyed most was the moose. I did see some moose (European elk) in Norway but they are small compared to the moose here in the US and Canada. A fully-grown male during the rutting season can grow up to 1600 lbs!! Not an animal to mess with and we had to leave the scene more than once to give them the space they claimed. Watching each other’s back was very important as the moose will not move for us. Not stepping aside could lead to serious injury or worse. What a cracking animal and what a setting with those autumn colours.
Another very successful trip has come to an end and I want to thank Danny and all the guest for a memorable 10 days in this wild part of the earth where the animals are in charge and that’s just how it should be.