September 5, 2011

Yellowstone, August 30th & 31st

A summer thunderstorm rolls into the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. Captured with a Canon 5DII with 70-200/2.8L IS II in aperture priority mode with an exposure bias of -2/3 at ISO400, f/7.1, and 1/1600th of a second. The camera was resting on a beanbag.


All of you who follow along with my trips on Facebook and Twitter know how great of a trip I had in Yellowstone. For those who are not following along, and are the kind of person who would enjoy the play by play during my trips... well it is simple to follow me on one of those social networks, and Google+ too.

Thursday after I finished teaching I carried my camera gear to my car and headed out of town for Yellowstone, via the Beartooth Pass. I love the summer time because after about a one hour drive I am in a stunningly beautiful place, that also happens to be 20° - 50° cooler. As I started to head down the Wyoming side of the pass I noticed a trio of Red-tailed hawks soaring on the high winds that generally roar atop the pass. I continued on and took a few quick little hikes, along some of my favorite trails. As I was nearing Yellowstone's Northeast entrance I spotted a pair of yearling red fox playing in the afternoon sun. I continued into the park, scouted out a few places, and continued into the Lamar Valley and then off toward Little America where I decided to wait until sunset to see if I could photograph the bison herds at sunset, but some clouds sprung up on the horizon and destroyed those hopes.

Off to set up camp and enjoy a great nights sleep under a star filled sky. My alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. and it is a good thing it did, as a thunderstorm broke over the surrounding mountains with an impressive lightning storm at 5:05 a.m. by 5:15 a.m. I was packed up and on the move. I drove to Tower Junction debating if I should head toward the Lamar or Hayden Valley, I chose to head south over Dunraven Pass to the Hayden Valley, but that proved to be a bust. The storm looked to be working towards Lamar, so I headed north to shoot some time lapse sequences and see what was going on in the North Valley. I arrived to a calm scene, but the storm was moving in, so I positioned myself for a shot, and I guess it worked out as I got a very faint rainbow at my first scene. When the rainbow disappeared I moved onto a favorite winter scene to photograph, that also provided a nice, be it simple, composition. A lone bison then caught my attention as he walked along the top of a hill with the storm behind. I moved on to my next scene and set up a camera to capture a time lapse sequence as the storm rolled in (that will take me some time to edit), but while I waited I spotted members of the Lamar Canyon Wolf Pack making their way through the valley. I was alone for quite some time before "wolfers" filled the pullout to see the distant wolves. By this time I was back to resting and reading a book, something often do while capturing time lapse sequences. The influx of visitors were not overly appreciating of the fact that my camera kept going "click" every 4 seconds and when I did not offer to stop my camera they gave me dirty looks and moved their cars to the next (much larger) pullout. None of them asked my to stop the clicking, they all just loudly complained about it, and gave me "looks;" sorry... I did not like the noise/exhaust of your cars nor the emphatic talking/shouting about each move of the wolves, but we all have the same right to the park, so...

The crowds left, I finished the chapter I was reading, lightning stuck, rain began to fall and my time lapse sequence was complete, so it was time to move on. I decided that A relaxing afternoon on the Beartooth Pass was just what I needed, so I was off. The storm was following me East, so I drove past a few of my usual stops to make it up past Top of the World before the storms did. I set up a time lapse sequence and went back to resting and reading. All of the sudden the temperature dropped about 15° and the wind kicked up, and within minutes snow/sleet filled the sky. I stood over my camera and tripod allowing it to record as the storm worked its way through the sky, but when the wind died down temperatures rose and the snow/sleet turned to rain I decided it was best to return to the shelter of my care with camera in hand. I enjoy rain, so I read from the shelter of my car with the back "hatch" open. Finishing another chapter I drove further up the pass to see if I could find any breaks in the storm to spend some time taking photographs. I arrived at a favorite stream that still had some flowers, so I decided to wait out the storm. As a break in the storm presented itself I was off like a child bounding through the hillside with my camera and tripod. The scene was filled with some late summer flowers, colorful boulders, and a stream that still ran high thanks to our very wet February - July. I attached a four stop neutral density filter, set the camera to f/22 and AEB of +-1, attached my cable release and went about my mission to find a few pleasing compositions between waves of the storm. I think I might have succeed in my aforementioned mission just before the next wave of sleet/hail came racing in. I returned to my car and drove to the top of the pass where I took a few minutes to stretch in the extremely high winds (even by Beartooth Pass standards) before descending into Red Lodge, then taking my time to drive home to Billings.

All in all the trip was just over 24 hours, but after the insane hours I worked through August it felt as if I had been one a three day vacation. I took remarkably few images on the trip, but I am pleased with some of the "keepers," so it all worked out. I drove 531.2 miles with a trip average of 27.1mpg.

Make the jump to go through the online gallery, I ask that you leave comments/criticism or at least give your favorites a thumbs up... THANKS!

If you have questions, ask... I published the camera information with each image and have added full keywords to share just about anything you would want to know about the images.

Happy shooting

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