Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Trip to Yellowstone National Park - Seeing The Sites

Welcome back!  If you've made it this far, you've gotten to the "meat and potatoes" of the series.  If you are interested in the park itself and the sites you'll see, then this is the post for you!

Not only will we explore Yellowstone National Park together, but we'll also have a view of some other sites of interest close to our locations.

As some of you may be aware, there are large forest fires blazing in Montana and Idaho. The way that the winds are blowing, it brings a lot of that smoke and haze into the region.   Clear visibility is only a few miles during our week long stay.  This did make getting some images of the landscapes difficult - while oddly at the same time provided some interesting images during sunrise and sunset.

Wildfires cannot generally be predicted and dry northern conditions coupled with lightning strikes can start a blaze fast, which is the situation here.   These fires are being over shadowed by the series of hurricanes hitting the southern United States, specifically Texas and Florida.

Yellowstone National Park
Heading into the park, we used the east entrance most.  If you'd like to see some images of the road leading into the park, check out the previous post Traveling To The Park.

Time of Day
We found that hitting the park early in the day and later in the evening to be optimal.  You have a better quality of light and the crowds do not seem to ramp up until after 10am and then thin out around 5-6pm

Weather and Environmental
This time of year, the temperature can fluctuate and sporadic rain can hit at any time.  We experienced a small "spit" of rain on one day, but it was pretty much clear to partly cloudy on most days.
The air is very dry.  Coming from Ohio this took a bit of adjustment.  Just make sure to have plenty of water and some snacks available to you.

Driving around the park, we realized that every turn made us feel like we were in a different place.  Just so much to see.

First thing we wanted to hit was Old Faithful.  Get probably one of the most iconic sites out of the way first.
In the Old Faithful visitor center, there is a sign on the next estimated eruption.  There is a 10 minute give or take from the time listed.  You can head out to the boardwalk and grab a seat or stand in the back.  There is a plenty of space.

Waiting in the sun for Old Faithful to erupt.
1/320, f/11, ISO 100 @ 140mm
1/640, f/8, ISO 100 @ 56mm
For some, a regular umbrella i not enough - this guy brought a patio umbrella!
1/250, f/8, ISO 160 @ 140mm
Staying around the Old Faithful area, there are a lot of geyser features to see.  You can even take a trail through the area to a section called Morning Glory Pool.  I highly recommend this hike.  We found it well worth it.

Sunset hike arriving at Morning Glory Pool
1/50, f/11, ISO 100 @ 12mm

We next went to the thermal area by the Artist's Paint Pots.  To be honest, we were not very impressed by the area.  It was a decent first hike, but it almost put us off seeing any of the other thermal features.   We were very incorrect as we enjoyed Mammoth Terraces and the Grand Prismatic Spring area.

At Mammoth, we parked in the lot at the far left of the site.  There was a connector to the boardwalk from there.  We started going up and to the left on the boardwalk, taking us to the upper area first.

Lower Mammoth Terrace
1/400, f/8, ISO 100 @ 32mm
Large Terrace Falls at Mammoth
1/320, f/8, ISO 100 @ 26mm
Mammoth Feature Details
1/160, f/8, ISO 100 @ 80mm

1/320, f/8, ISO 100 @ 45mm

1/250, f/8, ISO 200 @ 140mm

Along the way, buffalo rule the grassland as well as the roads.  It is reported that only 5% of the time do the buffalo roam through the areas that are not "trails".  Buffalo are actually very intelligent and conserve energy while moving, so they use established trails and roadways to get from one area to another.

Buffalo also can run up to 35mph for a duration of 20 minutes.  They also have a vertical jump of 6 ft!

1/160, f/8, ISO 1400 @ 90mm

1/250, f/5.6, ISO 900 @ 140mm
1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 360 @ 420mm

1/640, f/11, ISO 1000 @ 420mm
Yellowstone Lake
This large lake has many great overlooks to view from and part of the grand loop runs along it.  There are few beach pull off spots.  Take the time to check it out and see how clear the water is compared to other water features you may be used to.

Sunset over Yellowstone Lake
1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 52mm
1/320, f/11, ISO 100 @ 18mm
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone offers a fantastic view of a beautiful valley.  We went down by the top of the falls.  Walking down to the top viewing platform seemed relatively easy, however, walking back up the 600ft incline can be a bit challenging.  Make sure you are ready for that.  There are plenty of places to take breaks along the way.

1/100, f/11, ISO 100 @ 18mm

Hayden Valley treated us to a roadside spotting of Elk in the field.

1/640, f/5.6, ISO 1000 @ 420mm
Gardner and Boiling River is located toward the North Entrance.  We decided to visit, but not get into the area safe for wading.  The warm waters of the boiling river mix with the Gardner river to make for a warm area safe for people to wade in.

From the parking lot, we had this view on our 1 mile hike to the access area.

1/400, f/8, ISO 100 @ 42mm
Along the way, I spotted this Mormon Cricket possibly laying eggs into the soil.

Large katydid - I did not expect to see this kind of insect so close to the trails.
1/250, f/8, ISO 100 @ 140mm
Overlook of the Boiling River access area
1/125, f/10, ISO 100 @ 18mm
Grand Prismatic Springs
We loved this area.  The colorful pools and warm humid air that swept over us gave our senses a break from the dry, high desert air.

Walking into the Upper Geyser Basin before getting into the boardwalk that leads to the Grand Prismatic Spring
1/320, f/8, ISO 100 @ 112mm

Opal Pool on the way to Grand Prismatic
1/250, f/11, ISO 100 @ 11mm
details of a pool along the boardwalk
1/125, f/11, ISO 100 @ 16mm
low angle shot of he grand prismatic pool from boardwalk level
1/125, f/11, ISO 100 @ 16mm

The winds were strong and took some poor guys hat!
1/200, f/11, ISO 100 @ 16mm
Mount Washburn
Going up 10,240ft at the peak, the 3 mile uphill hike can be quite daunting.  The road you walk up on used to be in service for automobiles.  Model T Ford's used to go up that way backwards.  backwards?  Yes, it was a fuel pump issue.  The steep angle did not allow for the pump to work correctly!

Trail up to Mt Washburn
1/500, f/8, ISO 100 @ 18mm

From 9100ft.  The small box you see at the top of the peak is where the Mt Washburn trail ends.
1/640, f/8, ISO 100 @ 60mm

Stuff Beyond Yellowstone

Buffalo Bill Dam
Traveling west from Cody toward the East Entrance of Yellowstone, you'll pass right by the visitor center for the Buffalo Bill Dam.  This dam was used as a model for the famous Hoover dam.  There is a visitor center for you to get some history of the project.  Below are some images.
Driftwood on the reservoir side of the dam
1/250, f/11, ISO 2800 @ 140mm

dam wall
1/30, f/8, ISO 110 @ 18mm

a view of the river on the dam wall side
1/60, f/11, ISO 110 @ 35mm
South Fork Road
You will also see the fork in the road while heading westward from Cody on 14/16/20 road.  We found out about this from a Yellowstone ranger we friended.  She recommended this 40 mile drive as well as the Chief Joseph Highway to Yellowstones NorthEast entrance routes.

South Fork road takes you out through a lot of local ranches.  The roadways are clear with many beautiful sites of mountains, wild life and even the ranches themselves.  The road is paved most of the way, but does turn to a dirt and stone road toward the end.

a pronghorn grazes in a farmers field
1/400, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 140mm

A house sits at the foot of the mountain side
1/500, f/8, ISO 100 @ 100mm

I'm a sucker for lone tree shots like this
1/1250, f/4, ISO 100 @ 300mm

2 horses roam the side of a hill on a roadside ranch
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 420mm

Did I mention I was a sucker for this kind of shot!  lol
1/400, f/8, ISO 100 @ 140mm

roadside wildflowers
1/640, f/8, ISO 2500 @ 420mm

Castle Rock wide view sunset
1/125, f/11, ISO 100 @ 18mm
Heart Mountain Interpretive Center
Given the current climate, you may be asking yourself why I would include something like this in my post.  My answer is this - I am the kind of person that is not afraid of the past.  I do not fear what has happened.   What I do fear is a society that destroys those things that make them uncomfortable or may be unpleasant.    If you don't have examples to learn from, you as an individual, or we as a society will be doomed to repeat those very mistakes.  If we build upon the successes of our great minds, why not learn from the mistakes of others as well?

Wall of propaganda
1/30, f/3.5, ISO 1000 @ 20mm
Before visiting this site, I had already known about the Japanese internment camps from World War II.   I did not know until I arrived at the Yellowstone Airport that there was one just 15 minutes from our lodging in Powell, WY.  If you did not know about this part of American history, please do some research on it.  This Heart Mountain Interpretive Center link will help you get started.

One of the original housing units
1/250, f/8, ISO 100 @ 90mm

Perimeter guard tower for the camp
1/250, f/8, ISO 100 @ 140mm
My wife and I were profoundly moved by the stories of the internees that spent 3 years of their lives in a camp because of a society that feared them because of the color of their skin, the sound of their name.  The center contains images from the period from official government photographers as well as the internees themselves.   While I intended the vacation to be a week of fun - I thought it very important to take advantage of this opportunity to get a better grasp of what exactly happened here and why.  Knowledge is power.

Reflection Room tags - people leave their thoughts of the center for others to read.  The tags are replicas of what the internees had to place of their luggage.
1/60, f/4.5, ISO 220 @ 42mm

Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Actually 6 museums combined covering multiple acres of land.
You have the following:

  • Buffalo Bill museum
    • learn about the man that during his time was the most recognizable figure in the world
  • Whitney Western Art museum
    • A collection or western US art 
  • Draper Natural History museum
    • outlines the greater Yellowstone ecosystem
  • Plains Indian museum
    • learn the culture and history of the Indian tribes that inhabited the Plains area
  • Cody Firearms museum
    • the most comprehensive collection of American firearms.  30,000 artifacts, over 7,000 firearms.  They are elegantly laid out and well documented.
  • McCracken Research Library
    • research center to help with most things related to the west
While there, take advantage of the "free ice cream" scavenger hunt.  Download the app and if you find and can answer all of the questions correctly, you get a free cone from the cafe!

Cody Firearms Museum display
1/50, f/4.5, ISO 900 @ 30mm

Whitney Western Art Museum
1/20, f/4, ISO 640 @ 14mm

Buffalo Bill hologram
1/15, f/4, ISO 720 @ 11mm

Outdoor courtyard statue of Native Americans
1/60, f/8, ISO 100 @ 11mm

Cody Firearms Museum display
1/40, f/3.8, ISO 500 @ 26mm
Vintage Wincherster Arms calendar
1/15, f/2.8, ISO 500 @ 11mm
The Town of Cody

If you over do it or just need a bit of a break, there are a few things to do in Cody as well.  I love street photography so there is a lot to shoot within the town limits.

Buffalo Bill and Wyatt Earp put on a street shootout Monday through Saturday at 6:30pm.  The show is free, but you can get a reserved seat for just $2.  The money goes to charity as well as supporting the actors.

Wyatt Earp draws down and shoots at Johnny Ringo on 12th street
1/250, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 105mm

Buffalo Bill gives us an idea of what to expect
1/250, f/5.6, ISO 220 @ 140mm
1/320, f/4.5, ISO 100 @ 40mm

1/250, f/5.6, ISO 360 @ 140mm
Walking around Cody, there are some great street photography opportunities.

Vintage Truck
1/400, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 140mm

Dave Jones Wall Advertisement
1/125, f/8, ISO 100 @ 40mm

Yellowstone Gift Shop
1/60, f/4.2, ISO 800 @ 35mm

Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel and Restaurant
1/125, f/5.3, ISO 4500 @ 80mm

1/80, f/4.5, ISO 2000 @ 48mm


  1. Great job Andrew, thanks for taking the time to do this. I've never visited any of these places, but plan to soon. Your posts are a good guide.