It Don't Come Easy

May 11, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

That classic Ringo Starr song popped into my head last week while I was working in Yellowstone.

Obviously Ringo's lyrics have nothing to do with photography. As for that line, though: I can't think of a better way to describe the mechanics of making photographs inside YNP.

It don't come easy. NamesakeNamesakeFirst light of the morning enhances the color in the canyon walls.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone is filled with extraordinary subject matter. That's never an issue. It's the size and popularity of the park that present challenges. 

The place may be huge - larger than the combined size of Rhode Island and Delaware - but it doesn't feel roomy during peak tourist season because there are a lot of visitors (nearly five million last year) and, generally speaking, most are concentrated in only a small percentage of all that acreage (in the vicinity of the roadway system). 

Envision the inevitable congestion at the park's main features, not to mention the number of vehicles on the roads themselves. Then somebody spies a bison and all bets are off; people think nothing of stopping in the middle of the road to sit and watch. In both directions. Bison bottlenecks. 

This is why I rarely set foot inside Yellowstone from late-May until mid-September. It's not a fail-safe solution; even during the collar seasons it can be busy. But it helps. 

This self-imposed restriction makes sense (for me) - but there's no denying it costs a few months every year in terms of access.

The size issue is also a logistical challenge: in my experience, Yellowstone is more difficult to manage than Death Valley, in spite of the latter being even larger. Chasing weather conditions, for example, often isn't realistic due to distances between locations. I log exponentially more mileage in YNP than when I'm working next door in Grand Teton NP. There's typically a cap on what I'm able to achieve in a single day. C'est la vie. It don't come easy.

TentaclesTentaclesBacteria mat, Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Last week's shoot had been twice delayed due to road closures within the park (snow) and high winds (not the best look for the geysers). It's been a crazy spring; winter has been reluctant to bow to the inevitable. Memorial Day - my unofficial YNP cut-off - is fast approaching so these postponements created some angst. Last week's forecast calling for a short break from the chaotic weather was welcome. 

While I was there, overnight temperatures dipped into the mid-20s. Expecting fog, I rolled the dice one morning and set out for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone hoping to find some there as the sun came up. While not as dense as what I'd driven through on the way, fog was hanging over the Lower Falls; it lingered for a while. Quite beautiful. The fact that I was able to enjoy it in complete solitude was an added (and unexpected) bonus. 

But for that run to the Canyon, I spent the majority of this shoot working the geyser basins. 

With two weeks remaining before the holiday, there's time to head back. Which I plan to do. Make hay while the sun shines!

EffervescentEffervescentClepsydra Geyser

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Speaking of Yellowstone Roads:

The south entrance to the park opens for the season tomorrow - at which point all entrances with the exception of Beartooth will have reopened. That one is scheduled for the 27th. 

During the collar seasons it's a good idea to sign up with the park service to receive text updates regarding road closures. (My phone has been blowing up with notifications over the past two weeks due to all the recent snow.) They try to stay on top of plowing but it can get hazardous quickly. 


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