Live wild, live free
Bears galore and the park’s southeast corne
The wet, cool weather of the past week has kept the bears close to the roads around Tower as they work the grass in the lower elevations. On one day, we got really lucky and saw nine black bears before 10 a.m. One sow with triplets was in view for about an hour just before the Tower Junction. Over the course of that hour, a traffic jam of gigantic proportions developed before the rangers arrived and cleared it up.
There was also a cinnamon colored black bear sow with twin cubs just off the road at the base of Dunraven Pass on June 22. She lingered for most of an hour as well. I often end this column with the sign off phrase “I hope you get that shot of a lifetime” and this encounter resulted in exactly that. After the cubs had played for a bit, it was obvious they wanted to nurse and eventually the sow laid back and fed the cubs breakfast to the delight of all the humans present. It was the best nursing shot I have ever seen after most of a lifetime chasing good photographs.
After the cubs were satiated, the sow shooed them up a tree and they napped while she draped herself over a log at the base of the nursery tree and took a nap. This resulted in great photos as well. I like these photos because of the intimate view of nature at its best and the surrounding greens and spring colors you get this time of year.
While I was standing along the roads chatting with the tourists, several of them mentioned how lucky they felt having such great photo ops. Indeed, luck is a part of wildlife photography, but as I have written in the past, luck is nothing more than the intersection of preparation and opportunity.
When you go into Yellowstone to shoot, always keep in mind that around the next corner you may have the shot of a lifetime appear and always be prepared with your equipment and technique to capture that magic photo. If you prepare correctly and practice with your cameras and go into the park enough, eventually Lady Luck will
end of the southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake. The marina at Bridge Bay has a shuttle available to transport you to the “no motor” line at the south end of the lake. For a reasonable fee, they will deposit you at that location and pick you up at the end of the day or days later, whatever your schedule allows. You can do a day hike or backpack into the many campsites that can be reserved along the lake. They also will haul your canoe or kayak into this area and you can then paddle out to Sedge Bay on the north end of the lake or back to the Bridge Bay Marina.
The southeast corner of Yellowstone is one of the most remote areas in the lower 48 and you can go days without seeing other humans. The campsites are well marked and equipped with bear poles to hang your food from and have obvious fire rings or pits. It is big griz country so be bear aware and follow the rules. Permits for this trip can be obtained at the backcountry offices scattered around the park. Yellowstone Lake is big, deep and cold and subject to sudden storms, so use good open water paddling techniques when crossing the long stretches.
Photo tip of the week: When faced with tricky light conditions, use the bracketing feature of your camera. This allows you to take a burst of photos (usually three-nine) with different exposure settings, which automatically change as you hold down the shutter button. Most DSLR cameras have this feature and it can be found in your owner’s manual. Learn how to quickly set the bracketing feature without stumbling around so if you roll up on a good photo op with tricky light you can quickly adjust your camera and fire away. Often by bracketing, you will get at least one shot with perfect exposure even in tricky conditions.