Yellowstone and Jackson Hole National Parks have long since attracted all types of people ranging from Native Americans , European Fur Trappers , Conservationists , Nature lovers and Photographers alike. They are right there on top of the list of National parks which provide great photo ops.
After they had been on my bucket list for a couple of years I finally decided to make the trip with a photographer friend from Boston.
Getting There and Getting Around
We flew to Jackson Hole from Boston via Denver. As we had decided to travel in late spring the tourist season had not officially begun as we wanted the park to ourselves and avoid the summer crowds. Other option is to fly to Salt Lake, Utah and drive from there.
The views as you prepare for landing are just amazing. We were on a smaller commuter Jet from Denver to Jackson Hole which doesn’t allow for even have enough storage for a 26 L backpack and I ended up having to check it in at Gate.
I did manage to take my camera bodies and a couple of lenses in my hand and stowed them under the seat. Something to keep in mind while packing your gear for a trip to Yellowstone specially if you are flying on on the smaller jets.
At Jackson Hole Airport we picked up our rental car for the week a nice compact SUV which would be our ride for the duration of the trip.
Where to Stay at Jackson,WY
We stayed at the Rustic Inn Creekside during the first leg of our trip which was a 3 day stay at Jackson Hole. The inn had all the creature comforts one would need on such a trip. The rooms were spacious. The layout allows for easy access to the car park without too much walking from the rooms which were split level chalets. The lobby had hot coffee ready to take out early in the morning which is typically when photographers and adventure lovers like to head out to take in the best scenery . The Buffet breakfast was ample and was the perfect way to charge ourselves after a nice early morning shoot in the still chill Spring Air.
Jackson Hole has a wide selection of accommodations to choose from specially once the tourist season begins. During the shoulder season the options would be significantly lower.
Here are a few more options to choose from
Jackson Hole and Grand Tetons Scenic Locations
While choosing which locations you want to visit within the park you have to decide on what your interest is. The choices would vary depending what you want to do be it back country camping or spotting wildlife or shooting scenery . Here i focus on my interest which is Landscape photography. Some of these locations would also be good for spotting buffalo , moose, and the occasional Coyote .
The first afternoon were there we did a bit of exploring by driving around the area between Jackson and the airport. We had our first sighting of a Bull Buffalo just as we were turing in a bend in the road to Mormon Row. What was that? When you get up close to American Buffalo for the first time it hits you hard just how big and dangerous these animals are.
These are wild animals and you must maintain a minimum distance from them when you are observing them or trying to photograph them. To ignore that advice is putting yourself at peril as many over enthusiastic tourists have found out the hard way.
For our first full day of photography at Grand Tetons we had lined up the services of a local guide as we wanted to get quickly acquainted to the lay of the land in as short a time as possible. Our guide promptly picked us up before sunrise and took us to some of the spots mentioned here.
Not only did he take us to the best spots but also times that to coincide with when the light was optimum. We managed to get a few pics but planned to get back to the same locations again for shooting at dusk for a different mood.
The Location from where Ansel Adams shot his iconic image of Snake River with the Tetons in the background is a look out point but the car park is further back now meaning one can’t really take the same image without the help of a drone.
We had a half day to explore and shoot in and around Jackson before heading off to West Yellowstone in Montana for access to Yellowstone National Park through the west Entrance. The road from Grand Tetons to Yellowstone is closed till further in May . So we had to access Yellowstone via the west entrance .
We were able to capture scenes in the back roads around Jackson and also enroute to West Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park
On day 3 after a morning photo outing at the Tetons we checked out of the hotel and started driving towards West Yellowstone through the rolling meadows of Idaho with a ceiling of puffy white clouds against a backdrop of big blue sky we reached our Hotel in the evening and rested for the night.
Where to Stay at West Yellowstone
We stayed at the Kelly Inn West Yellowstone a nice premium inn just a short distance from the West Entrance to Yellowstone Park and also 5 minute walk from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
Other Stay Options
Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone
WorldMark West Yellowstone
Moose Creek Inn
We had a surprise snowfall our first morning in West Yellowstone. The Landscape had changed overnight. There was a nice blanket of snow covering everything which made our first drive into Yellowstone magical. We had gotten a taste of winter when we were not expecting it.
Yellowstone National photo Locations
On our first day we decided to explore the valleys and wildlife and waterfalls of Yellowstone.
This wide, expansive valley is home to bison, elk, coyote, grizzly and wolf, and is must visit area for serious wildlife watchers. Bison and elk are readily visible, and coyotes can oftentimes be spotted.
Visitors who are willing to rise early in the morning or wait up until dusk also may have the opportunity to see bears and wolves. In fact, Lamar Valley is the no 1 destination for viewing wolves. There are also abundant fishing opportunities in the Lamar Valley.
How to Get There
The Lower Falls area is located just to the east of Canyon Village. A one-way loop drive takes you to the brink of the Grand Canyon and offers four views, with the last stop at the trail that leads to the top of the Falls.
Lower Falls, the biggest waterfall in Yellowstone, is the most famous in the Park, hands down. In fact, the 308-foot tall waterfall it is most likely the second most photographed spot in Yellowstone, with Old Faithful Geyser being the first. There are numerous views of the Falls from both the east (Inspiration Point, Grandview Point and Lookout Point) and west (Artists Point) sides of the Grand Canyon, most of which require only a short walk or virtually no walk to see. The trail to the top of the Falls (3/4 of a mile roundtrip, but steep with many switchbacks) is a must, as the experience of standing atop the Falls is one of the most breath-taking experiences in the entire Park.
Inspiration Point is a promontory cliff on the north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone east of Yellowstone Falls on the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. The point was originally named Promontory Point in 1878 by W. H. Holmes but later given the name of Inspiration Point by G.L. Henderson, a park concessionaire in 1887. The point is a natural observation point over the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The Geothermal Attractions of Yellowstone
On day 2 we decided to cover the more photogenic Geysers. Yellowstone National Park’s thermal features can be seen as the product of millions of years of geology at work. Much of Yellowstone sits inside an ancient volcanic caldera (the exploded crater of a volcano).
The last major caldera forming eruption occurred 600,000 years ago. For hundreds of thousands of years following that, subsequent lava flows slowly filled in most of the caldera. Even now, in some places, nearly molten rock resides as little as 2-5 miles below the surface. Heat from the volcanic activity makes its presence known by heating ground water and creating the thermal features we now see.
The four basic types of thermal features present in the Park are geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots. Many of these are concentrated in Yellowstone’s major geyser basins: Upper, Midway, Lower, Norris, West Thumb, Shoshone and Heart Lake.
Geysers are hot springs that erupt periodically. The eruptions is the result of super-heated water below-ground becoming trapped in channels leading to the surface. The hottest temperatures are at the bottom of these channels (nearer the hot rock that heats the water) but the deep water cannot vaporize because of the weight of the water above. Instead, steam is sent upwards in bubbles, collecting in the channel’s tight spots until they essentially become clogged, leading to a point where the confined bubbles actually lift the water above, causing the geyser to overflow.
This causes the pressure to decrease until suddenly violent boiling occurs throughout much the length of the column, producing a tremendous volume of steam which forces the water out of the vent in a superheated mass. This is an eruption. As the eruption continues, the heat and pressure gradually decrease, and the eruption stops when the water reservoir is depleted or the steam runs out. The two types of geysers are fountain geysers (which shoot water out in various directions through a pool) and cone geysers (which shoot water out in a fairly narrow jet, usually from a cone-like formation).
Hot Springs are similar to geysers, but their underground channels are large enough to allow rapid circulation of water. Rising hot water releases heat energy by evaporation or hot water runoff, while convection currents return the cooler water to the underground system, thus maintaining equilibrium.
The microorganisms which live in and around the hot springs often make the pools very colorful.
Fumaroles are holes or vents from which steam rushes into the air. It is like a hot spring, but lacks liquid water. Either there isn’t enough water or the underground rock is too hot and boils off all of the water so a pool can’t form. The small amount of water that does seep into the area is converted to steam and expelled from the vent, oftentimes creating a hissing noise.
Mudpots are thermal areas where water-saturated sediment (similar to clay) is affected by super-heated steam below. Rising steam forces its way upwards through the mud and ground water, bursting upwards sending showers of mud into the air, as if in a small explosion.
Steam Vents are cracks in the surface of the ground through which pressurized steam from below escapes to the surface, oftentimes with a hissing sound.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs are a surficial expression of the deep volcanic forces at work in Yellowstone. Although these springs lie outside the caldera boundary, scientists surmise that the heat from the hot springs comes from the same magmatic system that fuels other Yellowstone thermal areas.
A large fault system runs between Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth, which may allow thermal water to flow between the two. Also, multiple basalt eruptions have occurred in this area. Thus, basalt may be a heat source for the Mammoth area.
Thermal activity here is extensive both over time and distance. Terrace Mountain, northwest of Golden Gate, has a thick cap of travertine. The Mammoth Terraces extend all the way from the hillside where we see them today, across the Parade Ground, and down to Boiling River.
After 6 days of break taking views and enjoyable photography it was time to head back to Jackson and catch a flight home.
Tips for Travel to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks
What was in my Camera Bag and what did I end up using
My tripod was moderately used specially for the Landscapes near Jackson and Grand Tetons and the Views of Yellowstone Falls and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. For the rest I choose to remain fluid and agile and shoot at higher shutter speeds to counter shake.
Clothing for Spring Weather
Pack Layers and a good lightweight and waterproof jacket. Definitely carry a good pair of photography gloves. The temperatures can dip low making it difficult to handle the camera and tripod without gloves.
If you plan to hike carry a good comfortable pair of hiking boots.
Both parks are Bear Country and it advisable to carry Bear Spray with you. This can be purchased in gas stations and convenience stores at Jackson or West Yellowstone. Handle with care.
These are large parks and mobile phone coverage is weak or not available except in some areas.
Travel with a friend or as a group but if you have to travel alone let people know where you will be.
I had a great time photographing at these locations and definitely plan to head back there sometime. Possibly in Winter to experience and capture a different perspective.
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