As one who has found a passion in landscape and wildlife photography, "passing through" the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks quickly became an exercise in frustration. Spending sufficient time in the park was in direct conflict with our desire to get home after our long cross-country journey. Despite having purchased some photography "Cliff's Notes" prior to our visit, not having the time to plan exactly when you would reach a particular location meant that you were at the mercy of whatever conditions you met when you arrived. Challenges that were further complicated by errors in judgement on my part and unfortunate road construction delays.
|"En Route" - Shot through the windshield along the Lower Geyser Basin on the way to someplace else|
Enjoy the Detours
After finally arriving in Jackson and driving around looking for ANY vacancy sign, we finally realized it was a lost cause and ended up driving 40 miles south back down the mountains in the dark to a really nice little lodge in the town of Alpine. While we were all happy to have a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, the 40 mile detour (through more construction I might add) ended up putting us off schedule for the remainder of the return trip.
Wait Until the Sun is HIGH in the Sky
|How NOT to meter a buffalo|
Embrace the Competition
At the risk of sounding like a photography snob, I was AMAZED by the number of people walking up with their point-and-shoot or camera phone asking "This scenery is so beautiful. Can you tell me how I can take a picture of it?" while they handed you their camera! My beautiful wife, bless her heart, took pity on many of the poor souls and tried to help, but all I could think is "How do you come to one of the most photographic places on the planet and not figure out before hand how to take a picture with your camera?"
On the extreme other end of the spectrum, I saw more high end camera gear in our short trip through the parks than I ever would have imagined. I thought the only place I'd ever see a $10,000 Nikon 600mm f/4 lens was on Moose Peterson's blog. I saw three of them in one day! There was also no shortage of photographers willing to offer us unsolicited advice. "If you want the best perspective walk up that hill over there and you'll get the whole river.", etc, etc. Of course, not all of the advice turned out to be good. For example, there was one gentleman who was none to shy about informing me and the rest of the onlookers that I was "wasting my time" taking shots of the lower falls in this light. "You can only shoot it in the morning". I'm not sure if he picked me out because I was the only one at this stop shooting from a tripod and remote release (I was bracketing everything) or because I was shooting with a Nikon and he wore a Canon around his neck.
Don't Learn from Prior Mistakes
The next stop after Lower Falls was Inspiration Point. While there were a fair number of people on the observation deck, I found a better perspective (a very familiar one if you've seen photos of Inspiration Point) at the top of the parking lot which we had all to ourselves! FINALLY we were getting some decent light and the time to capture some spectacular views. We shot and shot and shot until dusk finally descended upon us.
As we got back to the truck it was obvious that there was no way we were going to make our intended destination of Billings, MT that night. Better call around and find a place to stay (see prior "Don't" - "Don't Reserve a Room"). After exhausting all of the suggestions of our trusty GPS in both the north (our intended exit) and east exits and not finding any vacancy, I hit pay dirt with the next closest entry on the list. The Dude Motor Inn. After I'd provided my credit card information and secured the room, I punched the address into the GPS and discovered we'd be just outside the WEST entrance - exactly the opposite direction of home!
Between my wife expressing her dissatisfaction at my decision making and our two parrots questioning "Hurry?" from the darkness of the back seat, I was pretty sure I was the least popular person in the vehicle as we made our way out of the park.
A New Day
By morning, both my wife and the parrots had forgiven me as we loaded into the truck determined to still make it home in two days.With more than 1,200 miles between us and home there weren't many stops inside the park that day. My wife drove, as she had nearly the entire trip, so I continued to shoot out the windows as we went.
In the end, we did compile a nice collection of park images, built some funny memories along the way (maybe not so funny at the time) and were truly inspired by the beauty that can be found in the Teton and Yellowstone parks. Our next visit will NOT be simply "passing through".