Animals of Yellowstone

Nature photography has always intrigued me. There is something liberating about being alone with your camera outdoors, capturing birds and animals in their natural habitat. When capturing wild animals however, it is best to keep your distance – both for your safety and theirs. It is therefore not surprising that pro photographers specializing in this type of photography, choose to carry long telephoto lenses that look nothing short of giant bazookas.

Purchasing a 500mm+ lens is fairly low on my Amazon wish list, as a fast F2.8 one usually retails upwards of €3000. Renting one for my road trip was also not a convenient option, so I decided to take along my workhorse lens – the Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 OS. Paired with the crop sensor on my Canon 60D, I effectively had a 320mm lens in my hands. Not the fastest of all lenses but with luck on my side, my aim was to capture a decent picture of a wild animal while touring Yellowstone Park.

Luck was indeed on my side, as while we were driving around the park on our second day there, a wild Bull Elk decided to cross the road. Swarms of tourists decided to abandon their cars for a chance to take a snapshot of this beautiful animal. The only one crazy enough however to chase it deep into the forest was yours truly! Yep, I completely defied the little voice in me that kept screaming “You Are Crazy” and decided to follow the Elk into the bushes, keeping a safe distance so as not to scare it away. At some point the Elk must have noticed me and looked back to see who was following him. Luckily I was there, finger on the trigger and quickly managed to capture the shot below. An exhilarating experience, one that I definitely will not forget!

Bull Elk - 1920c

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OS lens, at ISO 800, F7.1 at 1/500 sec.

Advertisements

Yellowstone Park

Growing up as a kid, one of my favorite cartoon characters was Yogi Bear and his picnic basket stealing escapades at Jellystone Park. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that Jellystone is an actual take-off on Yellowstone National Park, a park that spans almost 9,000 sq Km in the state of Wyoming. After researching what this place was all about, I was quickly convinced that it had to be added to my bucket list. It was therefore no coincidence that when we started planning for our road trip, no matter how we planned to cross the continental US, all routes led us through Yellowstone.

One cannot fathom how large this park is until you start driving through it. It took us about 2 hours to cross it the first day we got there, and subsequently 2 full days of driving just to visit some of the major sights. What you bear witness to however is truly remarkable, as the park has a plethora of lakes, canyons and rivers, home to hundreds of species of mammals, fish and reptiles, some of which are considered endangered. The park also sits on an active volcano, so there is an abundance of hot springs and geysers. I’ve managed to take a few pictures of the landscape, animals and other sights and will dedicate the next few blog posts to share these with everyone.

Starting off though, this is the picture of the Lower Yellowstone Falls, one of the highlight features of the park, standing at 94m tall – nearly twice the height of the Niagara Falls.

Yellowstone Falls2 - 1920c

Taken with my tripod-mounted Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens, at ISO 100, F8.0 and 15 sec exposure (using my B+W ND 3.0 solid filter).

The road less travelled

Photography can be a very expensive hobby, but only if you let it become one. When I started out as an amateur photographer, I remember spending what was then a considerable amount of money for my first DSLR camera body along with its kit lens. What then followed was nothing short of madness, as I kept researching and purchasing new lenses to fit every type of photography – macro, landscapes, portraits, astro-photography, you name it.  I am now the not-so proud owner of 6 lenses, half of which I rarely use. If I had the chance to think this through all over again, I would have definitely kept it down to 2-3 quality lenses max.

Getting caught in this madness seems inevitable. Friends of mine sought my advice numerous times in the past on what is the best gear for particular types of situations. It was not until recently that it occurred to me that the best gear always happens to be the camera you have in hand at that particular moment. Surely, if you could carry all your equipment in your backpack, then there is one lens and one camera body that may be the most suitable, but sometimes even your camera phone will suffice.

A testament to this is the picture below. On my recent US road trip, we drove from Denver through the flat lands of Wyoming on our way to Yellowstone park. This was by far the most uninteresting part of our entire road trip – no change in scenery, endless fields of wheat and barely any cars on the road. In an effort to entertain myself a bit as most of my fellow co-travelers were falling asleep in the back, I simply took out my Nexus 5, switched its setting to HDR mode  and quickly snapped this picture. Doubt you would have challenged me had I told you instead that this was shot with a pro camera!

Wyoming Road - 1920cShot with my LG Nexus 5. Yep, just that.

Breathtaking Bend

Just south of the small town of Page, Arizona, a small inconspicuous sign on the US-89 freeway reads “Overlook – Horseshoe Bend”. What awaits is a spectacle like nothing I had ever witnessed in my life.

If I was to use one word to describe the theme of this road trip, that word would be “nature”. One would surely say however that nature is abundant when you decide to cross any part of the continental US. Our route however was carefully planned, to visit as many national parks as possible and other natural landscapes. That route took us through Sedona, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Zion National Park, Arches National Park and of course the famous Yellowstone.

The Horseshoe Bend however, truly stole the show. It was hands down the highlight of the trip. Maybe it was my low expectations or the fact that prior to researching our trip route, I for one had never heard of this place. Once  you stand however at the overlook and stare 300m down towards this sight, this wonder of nature truly takes your breath away.

Horseshoe Bend - 1920c
 Shot on my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F22, 1/15 sec and bracketed at -2/0/+2.