Stephen Fischer Photography

Winter in Yellowstone

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A typical situation would involve driving fairly slowly with my camera with a supertelephoto lens at the ready (Canon EOS 7D mark II with an EF 500mm f/4 + 1.4x teleconverter) in the passenger seat, along with binoculars around my neck. If and when I would spy something of interest, I would try to find convenient location to pull-over to inspect the situation more closely. In some situations this may not be so practical given the limited number of pull-outs and snow in the shoulder of road. But given the limited vehicle traffic (especially at the edges of the day), it was often possible to temporarily stop or pull half-way off the road with the emergency flashers for a quick inspection without impeding anybody. It was also common for other photographers or wildlife viewers to be doing the same thing, resulting in stops where others looked like they also have spotted something of interest.


To support my relatively heavy camera setup, I used either a beanbag resting on doorframe or roof of the car, a monopod, or a heavier duty tripod with a gimbal head. The beanbag tended to be the first option as it is the quickest to deploy, as often wildlife opportunities tended to be more fleeting. The gimbal mounted setup is the most stable, but takes more time and space to deploy, also requiring a good location to park your car. Where the monopod tended to be useful in situations requiring you to temporarily jump out of your car, giving you more mobility in a pinch.


Despite being the end of February, temperatures in the morning tended to be extremely low, often times about 20-25 degrees lower in the Lamar Valley versus what you would observe at Mammoth Lodge. The lowest temperature I recorded was -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Standing outside with your camera in this situation ended up being extremely painful, while also difficult to manipulate the controls of the camera when using my thicker gloves. In the future I may need to either invest in a pair of electric gloves or keep some chemical heater packs handy for those early morning excursions.


Given the extreme colds and amount of snow in places, I noticed that the bison would often use the roads as their preferred means for travel.  As you traveled to and through the Lamar Valley from Mammoth, it was typical to have to slow or stop due to bison on the road.  Their proximity and complacent behavior enabled easy photography from the side of the road or even from the car.


On the first day I stopped at the visitor center in Mammoth and asked about any noteworthy wildlife sightings.  A ranger mentioned that a mountain lion had been sighted with an elk kill near the road a few miles west of the Tower Junction.  Staking out the area early the next morning yielded some quality close-ups of a pair of coyotes and a red fox.  One of the coyotes dominated the kill and would not allow the other to get close while it was eating (see images 30-33).   


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All content and images are property of Stephen Fischer Photography, copyright 2016.   Last updated: 4/19/2016