Top 10 of 2015: 8
Yellowstone National Park
Counting down my favorite moments behind the lens in 2015 (in no particular order) brings #8 and my visit to Yellowstone National Park. I grew up in Montana and have visited Yellowstone numerous times, but never with the intention to photograph. Yellowstone NP draws people from around the world to see the bizarre geothermal features, the diverse wildlife and an unspoiled wilderness. As I became more interested in photography, the thought of returning to Yellowstone to photograph crossed my mind but in all honesty, I wasn’t interested in going there. I’m not exactly sure why but the thought of battling photographers along a road or clanking tripods along a boardwalk didn’t appeal to me. I had seen the geysers, seen plenty of wildlife and was somewhat bored by what it had to offer. At some point the past year or two, this changed though. I then couldn’t wait to go back and photograph this wild place that I think I took for granted in the past.
I remember going through Yellowstone NP as a kid, before the fires of 1988, and seeing endless forests and wilderness. I also remember visiting shortly after and seeing a scorched land just beginning to recover. And then more memories of forests reclaiming the land. Now, there are still visible reminders of that devastating fire but most of the land is forested and green once more. This process has taken roughly 30 years and is a blink of the eye in the grand scale of time in which Yellowstone evolves. The landscape of Yellowstone is constantly changing and visiting gives one a strong sense of Earth being alive. I was reminded of all of this on my visit and I feel there is so much more to discover there.
I was incredibly humbled visiting and photographing in Yellowstone because I had taken so much of the beauty there for granted. I didn’t realize how much this place captivates me until I returned with open eyes. I stopped by many of the major attractions and saw areas of the Park I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t have an agenda or places I had to visit, I just spent time in places that interested me. One such place was Porcelain Basin. It was late afternoon and many of the tourists were starting to leave so there was ample parking and the boardwalks were far from crowded. I grabbed by camera gear and started walking. I didn’t have to go far to quickly realize I was in an artist’s paradise. Vivid and strange colors unfolded in all directions, creating an otherworldly landscape that baffled my eyes. I wandered for hours in complete awe.
My favorite experience in Yellowstone though, was something unexpected. There was a full moon during my time there and I wanted to photograph a few places under the moonlight. Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful and other random scenes under the full moon were like being on another planet. All the people were gone, parking lots and boardwalks were empty and there were zero cars on the roads. It was as if I had Yellowstone all to myself under a bright full moon. It was incredibly strange to be in such a place that is normally so crowded and experience it in complete opposite conditions. My next visit to Yellowstone will be during a full moon and I plan to make many more images!
Lastly, Yellowstone is a very busy park with roughly 3 million annual visitors. Cars line up along the road whenever an animal is spotted, people visit the same places at the same times and traffic can be a nightmare. People travel from around the world to see this place then drive directly behind other cars only to stare at their bumper instead of the landscape. This all seems so strange to me when it is so easy to have a completely different experience, one of relaxing, one of taking time to soak in views, one of exploring trails and one of simply being there and slowing time down. There are so many great spots in Yellowstone to pull over to enjoy a picnic lunch, places to see new views and places to stop to look for wildlife. If you get the chance to visit Yellowstone, I’d strongly suggest seeking out such places and perhaps you’ll enjoy your time there much more than rushing in traffic and battling crowds at every turn. There is so much more to see than a bumper in front of you.
Thanks for reading,
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