On January 30th, my first winter in Yellowstone photography workshop officially began when Robbie and I picked up our first client at 1:30 p.m.at the airport. She was from Germany, and then we went and picked up three people from Italy and one guy from Michigan. We each drove a vehicle to West Yellowstone to give us flexibility during the workshop and more space. That night we met for dinner and went over the final details and got everyone excited for the week, and particularly for the next day.
Everyone was ready to go in the morning, and at 6:45 a.m. our snowcoach pulled up, and my buddy Grahm was driving it. It was 15 degrees, and we were going to spend the day on the snowcoach looking for wildlife along the Madison River, but particularly hoping to find a bobcat. We found river otters swimming around in the morning, which was neat. I had never seen them on the Madison before. We also saw a lot of coyotes and a few red fox, but no bobcat. There were a few good photographic opportunities for our first day, so that was good! We will be on the snowcoach three more days, so we will have many more opportunities for the bobcat and other wildlife.
It was -25 degrees when we woke up on February 1st, so we decided to head toward old faithful and look for frosty covered bison. When it is that cold, and bison are hanging out in the thermal areas, there fur will become covered in frost. It was very foggy in the thermal areas, and that was great for us! We found a number of groups of frosty bison, but I finally saw a group I really liked. We walked out 100 yards to them and got great shots of them as they moved around! They moved on, and we photographed some of the beautiful landscape on the cold morning. We spent the entire morning with frosty bison and got great pictures! The afternoon was spent on the Madison again, but still the bobcat still eluded us. The morning was terrific though!
The next morning it was -29 degrees, but we decided to spend the morning on the Madison looking for wildlife. It’s very nice having the snowcoach when it is that cold. You can get out for a little to photograph, but also know there is a warm coach right their if you get to cold. It was a very quiet morning and we didn’t see anything. All the animals must have stayed in bed because it was so cold. We decided to go to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and check out the landscapes of winter. I love winter in the interior because there are so few people. We were actually at the canyon by ourselves, which is not possible in the summer. It was a beautiful day, and nice to see the canyon on a clear day! After we were done there we went back to the Madison for the late afternoon. We again saw many coyotes, and this time we got good pictures of them.
February 3rd was our last day on the snowcoach, and was much warmer than it had been. The morning started out slowly, but then Grahm spotted a wolf briefly crossing the river. This was exciting, and we spent time scoping places out and looking for it again. 30 minutes after we gave up we spotted it, but only for a couple of seconds again. We parked down the road thinking it would head that way, but it never came out. We were so close to getting shots of a pretty black wolf. There were a lot of red fox out in the valley, but they never came close for a great shot. The bobcat never did show itself either, but we gave it the best effort we had. It might not have shown, but we did get many other great shots and our time in the interior of the park was well spent. The frosty bison were the highlight for me, and for most of our clients!
On the morning of the 4th we loaded up and left at 7 am to drive to Gardiner, Mt, where we would base out of for the last three days of our workshop. Our hotel rooms were luckily ready at 10:30 am, and we unpacked and then put all the photo gear back in and headed for the park. We drove out to Lamar Valley, and a wolf pup was close to the road eating on an old bull elk carcass. That was a great way to start! We spent time there, and then went to a newer carcass hoping coyotes or wolves would move in. They never did, but bald eagles were flying around and eating on the carcass. We stayed there until dark and then headed in. Not a bad first afternoon on the northern range.
We got up and left at 6:15 the next morning to get out to Lamar Valley early. It paid off, and as we were going around a corner a wolf was right there. He unfortunately had mange, but was still a black wolf only 40 yards away. Everyone got images of him before he wandered further away across the valley. Another pack actually killed his pack mate not long before we showed up, and he was running from them. We saw some bighorns after that, and they were nice enough to get up from their sleep and wander over our way, and my clients got some real nice shots! The mid-day and afternoon were slow, but the morning was fantastic.
The 6th was our last day of the workshop, and we left at 6 in the morning. There wasn’t the morning activity like the day before, unfortunately. However, we made up for it in the mid morning when we were looking for wolves on a ridge, when all of a sudden a wolf came darting out of the woods chasing an elk. It happened so fast, and then the chase went behind a hill. The wolves did get the elk, but we couldn’t see it happen. It’s only the 3rd time I’d ever seen a wolf chase! We spent most of the rest of the day in that area, and saw wolves, but none came closer for us to photograph. But what a way to end the workshop with a wolf chase!
Most of the people flew out on the 7th, so we took them to the airport in the late morning. I went back to Gardiner to watch the Super Bowl and to relax after the airport drops. It was a long week, but a good week. I really enjoyed all the clients, and was glad I could put them on some good shoots. Yellowstone is such a large place, and even a week in Yellowstone doesn’t seem like much time because there is such a variety of wildlife and so much terrain. I’m glad the workshop was a success and look forward to doing more in the future!