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Photography Question 
Matthew Cannedy

Photographing Yellowstone-Tell me your failures...

I'm going to Yellowstone National Park for vacation in a week, and am trying to semi-plan my photographic activities. I have read plenty of info on the net about opportunities that exist at the park, as well as how to photograph certain spots, etc.... It also seems to be the most over-photographed place on the planet!!--Note to self: think out of the box and be unique. Anyways, I'm trying to find info about what does NOT work at the Park. Can any experienced pros tell me what DOESN'T work. ie. an approach that they regret, a failed attempt on metering a tricky type of landscape, an expectation about access they didn't count on, a ruined group of pictures cause they used a polarizer when they shouldn't have.....I need to hear not success stories, but FAILURES. Knowing the wrong approach is sometimes important for learning the correct approach. I'm not a pro, rather a technically minded ameture that uses good stuff, making his once in a lifetime trip to Yellowstone. Any help is appreciated. Kudos to your success stories but I need to know what didn't work for you. Either specific or in general. Thanks in advance. By the way, I will be using a D200, D1X, 70-200 2.8 VR,1.4X TCII, 28-70 2.8 AF IF,17-55 2.8 DX, 85 1.4D, 28-105, polar/graduated/ND filters, and tent camping.

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9/12/2006 4:00:40 PM

KV Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/25/2005
  Like always, photograph during the magic time just before sun up and sun down. This time of year, you get alot of clouds and storms coming in so harsh lighting shouldn't be too bad. I got my best shots during a cold front coming in, clouds lay low. You can check out my gallery for my most recent shots of Yellowstone.

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9/12/2006 4:09:51 PM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
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  Matt, except for when you want to cut back on reflections in the thermal pools you shouldn't need a polarizing filter. Skies are pretty blue in states with higher altitudes and I've experienced skies way too dark when using one.

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9/12/2006 6:52:24 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Ahh Matt, you are a intelligent thinker.
Gotta' be locked and loaded before the trip..a good way to think.
Wandering around in Yellowstone is fine for the tourist, but not for a photographer. A plan IS the way to go.

There are many "tips" to shooting in Yellowstone from a technical standpoint.

I'll offer just three; hopefully you will get more.

1) Bring a ton of memory storage! Last time I went I had 6GB spread over 12 cards..and I wished I had more for that particular trip!

2) To go along with #1; don't shoot everything on one memory card..If the card crashes, your S.O.L

3) Exposure for Geysers:

The steam is VERY white, so it's almost impossible to maintain detail in the Geyser AND the colored pools of water AND the rock formations.
Shoot at least two shots, one on the money for the terrain, and one spot metered off the Geyser itself..sandwich when you get home. I didn't do it for every shot, but several beg for this.

All the best,


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9/12/2006 7:01:56 PM

Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  1. Although school is back in session, try going in the middle of the week to cut down on tourists.

2. Drive slow, pull off the road at every wide spot.

3. and have fun.

4. If possible for the places that have been photographed to death, look for that angle or perspective that is slightly different.

5. I went last month and am going again within the next few weeks. A lot of my recent galler pics were in Yellowstone in August.

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9/12/2006 7:26:33 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  You said you wanted failures so that you could learn from other’s mistakes: well, I’ve made far too many to list, but here are a few things I learned the hard way:

Keep your camera with you and ready to shoot at all times – keep the lens cap off and to protect your lens use a lens hood. I have missed all too many wildlife moments fiddling with my lens. I also would suggest having your longest lens attached – you can always take time to switch lenses if you are doing a scenic, but if an animal is on the road or nearby, you will need that zoom!

Take more film/memory cards than you can possible think you will use!

On your first day stop at one of the stores in the park and pick up a copy of the maps that show some of the off-road, but still accessible areas where you can either walk or drive and see things that many people never see. My favorite guides are the Falcon guides because they show areas that many of the other guides do not cover

The elk will be in rut – be prepared, they are amazing! But, we aware that they are also really dangerous! You will see some idiots who walk really close, camera ready and suddenly the elk turn on them! I am always amazed at just how idiotic some people are! The elk seem more active and thus better subjects for your camera, in early morning or late afternoon. Again, be prepared to shoot at any moment – see first item mentioning how many great shots I’ve missed by not being ready!

I hope you have an amazing trip – Yellowstone is one of my favorite places.


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9/13/2006 7:44:28 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  I was there this past June:

*Avoid the East Entrance like the plague!
(Unless you like traffic jams and watching a road being built.)

*Don't waste time shooting the first distant herds of bison or elk you encounter. (Around the next bend, you will likely find some so close you can smell their breath.)

*Visit the geyser basins on a clear day with a blue sky...and keep your lens cap on until you are ready to shoot. (Geyser "gook" can be real tough to clean off.)

*Watch out for what I call "bear jams". These are groups of cars and motor homes stopped suddenly along the road and lots of folks with big lenses pointed into the distance. This usually means that someone has spotted a bear and everyone is pulling over to get in on the fun.

*Visit the real touristy spots like Old Faithful early or late...on a weekday.

*DEFINATELY go south and hit Grand Teton while you are there. (The rising sun is better for those impressive mountain scenics than a setting sun.)


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9/13/2006 9:05:03 AM

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