Trip Reports: April 2010 - Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming

I just returned from an amazing trip to Yellowstone National Park. Two of my friends, Paul and Ian, drove in from Seattle and met me there. They are two of my best friends so it's always a great time when we get together and shoot. I left late at night, planning on doing the entire drive all at once and making it to the park in the early afternoon. Paul and Ian met me the next morning for sunrise. 

After about seven hours on the the road I found my self passing through Salt Lake City at sunrise. The daylight always gives...

After about seven hours on the the road I found my self passing through Salt Lake City at sunrise. The daylight always gives me a much needed second wind on long drives. 

Three states down two to go.

Three states down two to go.

Finally made it to West Yellowstone, Montana. Feels good to be done with the drive!

Finally made it to West Yellowstone, Montana. Feels good to be done with the drive!

I drove around the park a little bit the first afternoon, but the lack of sleep made the hotel bed too irresistible. Time for...

I drove around the park a little bit the first afternoon, but the lack of sleep made the hotel bed too irresistible. Time for a good nights sleep.

Paul and Ian arrived before sunrise the next morning. We packed up the car and headed out.

Paul and Ian arrived before sunrise the next morning. We packed up the car and headed out.

" For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"  This is the quote that is inscribed above the Roosevelt Arch leading...

" For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"  This is the quote that is inscribed above the Roosevelt Arch leading you through the entrance to Yellowstone, Americas first national park.. The cornerstone of the arch was laid down by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. 

Our first sighting of the day was this beautiful black bear.

Our first sighting of the day was this beautiful black bear.

We observed this bear for about an hour as it worked the tree line looking for grubs. 

We observed this bear for about an hour as it worked the tree line looking for grubs. 

Ian with the bear paparazzi. 

Ian with the bear paparazzi. 

I've always had better luck with grizzlies in Yellowstone so I was delighted at the opportunity to observe this amazing black...

I've always had better luck with grizzlies in Yellowstone so I was delighted at the opportunity to observe this amazing black bear. 

This black bear is searching the trees for grubs and any other morsels it can find. 

This black bear is searching the trees for grubs and any other morsels it can find. 

After we left the bear we made our way north. When we got to the Swan Lake Flats area we had our first wolf sighting of the trip...

After we left the bear we made our way north. When we got to the Swan Lake Flats area we had our first wolf sighting of the trip. This beautiful black wolf was working on a bison carcass in a river nearby. We arrived just as he was leaving. Paul decided to walk in front of my camera. This was an exciting find, because we knew there would be a lot of action throughout the week on the carcass. 

After the brief wolf sighting we headed on towards the Lamar Valley and were lucky enough to find 3 river otters outside of their...

After the brief wolf sighting we headed on towards the Lamar Valley and were lucky enough to find 3 river otters outside of their den. They were weary of us at first, but their curiosity soon got the best of them and before we knew it they were posing for us. This was probably the highlight of my trip because while I've seen otters before, I've never had a decent opportunity to photograph them. Lots of fun. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

The otters were slipping in and out of the water and moving very quickly, as otters tend to do. They are great fun to watch.&...

The otters were slipping in and out of the water and moving very quickly, as otters tend to do. They are great fun to watch. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

This is my favorite photo from our trip. This was when we first spotted the 3 otters. At first they were very weary about us...

This is my favorite photo from our trip. This was when we first spotted the 3 otters. At first they were very weary about us, but also quite curious. They peeked out at us from underneath the riverbank grasses. I love all the character in this image. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

 More posing from these hilarious little creatures.  * This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print...

 More posing from these hilarious little creatures. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

Otter pile up. 

Otter pile up. 

They seemed to be as entertained with us as we were with them. 

They seemed to be as entertained with us as we were with them. 

We headed back towards the west end of the park and had to stop by Grand Prismatic. It's one of those special places that makes...

We headed back towards the west end of the park and had to stop by Grand Prismatic. It's one of those special places that makes Yellowstone so unique and other-worldly.  Photo courtesy of Paul Raymaker.

Ian and myself checking out the spring.  Photo courtesy of Paul Raymaker.

Ian and myself checking out the spring.  Photo courtesy of Paul Raymaker.

It's nice walking through the thermal fog on cold days. Photo courtesy of Paul Raymaker.

It's nice walking through the thermal fog on cold days. Photo courtesy of Paul Raymaker.

After grand prismatic a quick but heavy snow moved through the park leaving a beautiful layer of new snow around the Firehole...

After grand prismatic a quick but heavy snow moved through the park leaving a beautiful layer of new snow around the Firehole river. This is Ian photographing an osprey we spotted across the river with a fish. 

Paul and Ian photographing the osprey. 

Paul and Ian photographing the osprey. 

The osprey... We watched this guy for a while. It held the trout in its talons, half eaten for a long time, eventually eating...

The osprey... We watched this guy for a while. It held the trout in its talons, half eaten for a long time, eventually eating the rest of it. 

A great blue heron stands on a large boulder in the Madison River. 

A great blue heron stands on a large boulder in the Madison River. 

The next morning we made sure to get to the bison kill way before sunrise hoping to see wolves. As is pretty typical, coyotes...

The next morning we made sure to get to the bison kill way before sunrise hoping to see wolves. As is pretty typical, coyotes were on the scene first. Coyotes are always very nervous while picking at kills. They know they don't have much time before much larger predators will be on the scene. The whole time the coyotes were on the kill there were wolves howling back and forth to each other from the nearby woods. The coyotes definitely were taking notice. 

 Paul and Ian waiting on the wolves. They had stopped howling about an hour earlier but we were still optimistic that they...

 Paul and Ian waiting on the wolves. They had stopped howling about an hour earlier but we were still optimistic that they would show up. 

Finally after a few hours of waiting we spotted the pack behind us. This beautiful grey was the first to appear at the crest...

Finally after a few hours of waiting we spotted the pack behind us. This beautiful grey was the first to appear at the crest of a hill. 

Then a gorgeous white wolf appeared out of the shadows. 

Then a gorgeous white wolf appeared out of the shadows. 

Another small grey came out of the woods below the hill where the others were. After this brief sighting the pack disappeared...

Another small grey came out of the woods below the hill where the others were. After this brief sighting the pack disappeared back into the woods. Luckily about 5 minutes later they popped out into the valley and the two alphas started to walk towards us. 

The beautiful large grey, who I believe is the alpha female pauses in the sagebrush. She seemed curious and came closer to us...

The beautiful large grey, who I believe is the alpha female pauses in the sagebrush. She seemed curious and came closer to us than any of the other wolves. 

It doesn't matter how many times you've seen wolves in the wild. It's always a very special thing. They are hauntingly beautiful...

It doesn't matter how many times you've seen wolves in the wild. It's always a very special thing. They are hauntingly beautiful. 

The same grey wolf deep in sage. 

The same grey wolf deep in sage. 

This is the large alpha male that we had seen a day earlier crossing the road. An unbelievably beautiful black and reddish wolf...

This is the large alpha male that we had seen a day earlier crossing the road. An unbelievably beautiful black and reddish wolf. 

Wolves and ravens... at it again, as they have been forever. 

Wolves and ravens... at it again, as they have been forever. 

You normally see wolves deep in brush when their legs are hidden. When you finally spot one on flat ground you really start to...

You normally see wolves deep in brush when their legs are hidden. When you finally spot one on flat ground you really start to get an idea of how large these creatures really are. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

This is why I love doing what i do. 

This is why I love doing what i do. 

It's amazing how perfectly this wolf blended in with its environment. Without the help of a telephoto lens to separate her from...

It's amazing how perfectly this wolf blended in with its environment. Without the help of a telephoto lens to separate her from the background it was hard to even tell she was there. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

Hitchhiker. 

Hitchhiker. 

A magpie perches on top of a female bison as her newborn calf lays in the sage below. 

A magpie perches on top of a female bison as her newborn calf lays in the sage below. 

Baby bisons. Always a delight to see in the spring. 

Baby bisons. Always a delight to see in the spring. 

So tiny. 

So tiny. 

After taking a break for lunch we returned to the spot of the bison kill hoping to see some wolves. We arrived around 3pm and...

After taking a break for lunch we returned to the spot of the bison kill hoping to see some wolves. We arrived around 3pm and were expecting to wait a few hours before seeing anything. Before we even had our tripods set up these three wolves came running down from Bunsen Peak. I believe these three wolves are part of the same pack we saw earlier in the morning. There was a grey, a black and another gorgeous white wolf. The light was horrible for taking photos, mostly due to the heat waves rising up from the ground, but its never a bad day when you're watching wolves. 

The white wolf. From this angle it looks like someone let their dog loose in the park. 

The white wolf. From this angle it looks like someone let their dog loose in the park. 

The three wolves wasted no time. They started to feed immediately. Of course they would take breaks every now and again to chase...

The three wolves wasted no time. They started to feed immediately. Of course they would take breaks every now and again to chase off the pesky ravens. 

The black wolf seemed to be the most annoyed with the boldness of the ravens. 

The black wolf seemed to be the most annoyed with the boldness of the ravens. 

More chasing. 

More chasing. 

Eventually the black and white wolf moved off away from the kill, apparently with their appetites filled. 

Eventually the black and white wolf moved off away from the kill, apparently with their appetites filled. 

Yum.

Yum.

The white wolf went off and laid in a patch of snow. I wish this had happened closer. Such a beautiful scene. 

The white wolf went off and laid in a patch of snow. I wish this had happened closer. Such a beautiful scene. 

Ready to go the next morning. 

Ready to go the next morning. 

Wildlife photography requires a lot of seat time in the car.  Photo courtesy of Paul Raymaker.

Wildlife photography requires a lot of seat time in the car.  Photo courtesy of Paul Raymaker.

Pronghorn.

Pronghorn.

A nice sized bighorn sheep ram modeled for us for a bit in the evening. 

A nice sized bighorn sheep ram modeled for us for a bit in the evening. 

A nice pronghorn walking through sagebrush.  * This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

A nice pronghorn walking through sagebrush. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

 Collared coyote on the prowl. 

 Collared coyote on the prowl. 

Another shot of the same ram with some nice late evening light.

Another shot of the same ram with some nice late evening light.

A close up of the mighty ram

A close up of the mighty ram

We came across another black bear.... horrible shooting conditions but still great to see!

We came across another black bear.... horrible shooting conditions but still great to see!

A bald eagle soars above us on a nice blue sky day. 

A bald eagle soars above us on a nice blue sky day. 

Bison profile.  * This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

A  lone coyote walks up a hill in Yellowstone. 

A  lone coyote walks up a hill in Yellowstone. 

We only saw one grizzly on our trip. It was in the middle of the day with horrible light, but grizzlies are one of my favorite...

We only saw one grizzly on our trip. It was in the middle of the day with horrible light, but grizzlies are one of my favorite animals so I was happy. 

A group of bighorn sheep move through a valley with a bison. 

A group of bighorn sheep move through a valley with a bison. 

Lamar Valley bison. 

Lamar Valley bison. 

The last morning of our trip we headed back to Swan Lake Flats hoping to see wolves again. The wolves never showed but we were...

The last morning of our trip we headed back to Swan Lake Flats hoping to see wolves again. The wolves never showed but we were greeted with an unbelievable sunrise. It was a beautiful morning with the amazing light and fresh dusting of snow. 

* This photos is available as a limited edition fine art print *

Skies on fire over bunsen peak. Everywhere we looked there were amazing skies. 

Skies on fire over bunsen peak. Everywhere we looked there were amazing skies. 

Bunsen peak sunrise again. 

Bunsen peak sunrise again. 

Yellowstone... a truly amazing one of a kind place. 

Yellowstone... a truly amazing one of a kind place. 

By late morning we gave up on the wolves. Paul and Ian had to get back home anyways, so we headed back towards West Yellowstone...

By late morning we gave up on the wolves. Paul and Ian had to get back home anyways, so we headed back towards West Yellowstone. On our way out we saw a bull moose running along a ridge. A very pretty scene. 

The same bull moose a few moments later. It took a detour from the mountain and came out of the woods right in front of us.&nbsp...

The same bull moose a few moments later. It took a detour from the mountain and came out of the woods right in front of us. 

Paul and Ian headed back to seattle and I started on my way back to Colorado.... Mountain roads are tough on windshields.

Paul and Ian headed back to seattle and I started on my way back to Colorado.... Mountain roads are tough on windshields.

Sunset in the mirror in Utah. 

Sunset in the mirror in Utah. 

Last light over the Wasatch Mountains. Life is good. 

Last light over the Wasatch Mountains. Life is good. 

Desert sunrise outside of Moab. Almost home.  

Desert sunrise outside of Moab. Almost home.  

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

I made it back to summit county and no surprising to me, there was about a foot of fresh snow blanketing the mountains. Gotta...

I made it back to summit county and no surprising to me, there was about a foot of fresh snow blanketing the mountains. Gotta love spring here. 

All in all it was a great trip. It's always fun to get a chance to shoot with my friends. Can't wait to go back!