There is a widespread notion that wildlife photographers must go traipsing through the brush and put themselves at risk to capture images of dangerous animals.
Admittedly I am only an amateur, but that has not been my experience.
There are 92 trailheads in Yellowstone National Park leading to 1,000 miles of pristine backcountry excursions. Hiking and exploring any one them can no doubt enlighten you with epiphanies galore.
As a landscape photographer, yes, you will stumble upon unimaginably splendid vistas, particularly if you catch the ‘golden moments’ at dawn and dusk – more so if you are willing to brave inclement weather. Angry skies add drama to an image.
But as to encountering bears and wolves – no. The chance of consistently getting close enough for an award-winning photo is slim-to-none.
Because these animals typically avoid the sight, sound, and smell of humans.
What’s the best strategy for a photographer, then?
As any Park Ranger or professional photographer will tell you, just climb in your car and drive. Critters use the roads, too; some will even try to hitch a ride. 🙂
In Yellowstone there are 466 miles of roads, 310 of them paved, covering 3472 square miles (larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined).
Vehicles are like a natural (albeit moving) blind, and most animals have learned to tolerate them.
Wolves are exceptions in that they are leery not only of people but cars and roads too; yearlings often sit and howl and stubbornly refuse to cross a road even when their elders have seemingly found a safe passage – but sometimes they have to bite the bullet to get back to their den or rendezvous site.
If you are a first-timer out prowling Yellowstone for pictures, look for traffic jams, gawkers holding up their cell phone cameras. If you are a bit more discriminating, look for those with binoculars and spotting scopes and monster cameras on tripods.
🙂 photographing a grizzly from a platform on the roof of a car 🙂
It should go without saying that the serious photographer needs to get out & about early, stay late, and carry plenty of fresh batteries.
Bears & Cars & People
So now you know the secret to photographing wild animals in YNP: play your cards right & they will come to you!
That’s not to say that it doesn’t take patience and dedication. And, of course, be sure to ‘airbrush’ the paved road out of the frame and let the world think you are an intrepid soul indeed!
That second black bear close to the road in the video above? You zoom in close and make eye contact and the world will never suspect how easy it was to capture an image of this ‘dangerous’ beast.
There is probably now a fatwa on my head for ‘whistleblowing’ sacred secrets of successful wildlife photography on the streets of Yellowstone.
🙂 SEEKING Asylum, Please! 🙂