Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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My first picture of the day was of a handful of deer, but since there wasn't any direct light the colours weren't great. I headed on to th Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. By then, it was already late enough for the sunlight to reach all the way down to the Yellowstone River. I only took several shots of the Lower Falls from the canyon rim, and then headed on.

In Hayden Valley, South of Canyon Village, I stopped for some geese (I think) in one of the tributary rivers that float into Yellowstone River, but then chanced upon a Blue Heron who didn't seem perturbed by my presence; and thanks to the 500mm reach of my Sigma I managed to get several full-frame shots before it took off.

I continued South and came upon a large mass of parked cars. Curious, I parked as well and soon found out that there was an American Eagle sitting on top of a dead tree. The tree was standing at a lower elevation than the road, which meant the eagle was more or less at eye level; but still quite distant. Even with the 500mm Sigma I didn't manage to get anything close to a full-frame shot. Most of the people around me had cheap point&shoot cameras with very weak zooms, so I doubt the eagle was even recognizable in a print later on; but that didn't stop them from shooting away.

There were buffalo visible all through Hayden Valley as well, but much further away still. I drove on, and soon came up on Sulphur Caldron, an evil-smelling area and allegedly one of the most acidic springs in Yellowstone. Just around the corner was Mud Volcano, where I hiked the short and well-visited 2/3 mile trail around Mud Caldron, Churning Caldron and other geysers and springs. Once more, I failed to see the appeal when the landscapes and wildlife of the area seemed so much more interesting.

I drove on, soon reaching Yellowstone Lake and following its North shore to West Thumb. Here, there's a Geyser Basin just next to the lake; and its springs and water holes were more interesting to photograph because of the huge rain clouds that had begun piling up in the sky, because even though the springs were most likely boiling hot they didn't offer a very dramatic appearance. The cloudscapes in the background did.

I continued east towards Old Faithful, and with the clouds coming in from the South and threatening large amounts of rain, I headed North. Somewhere along Firehole River, I came upon two or three bull elk lying in the underbrush on the other side of the river. One of them was most visible just next to the river bank, and he seemed undisturbed by the large amount of passing tourists, many of which stopped, got out to maybe snap a photo and then disappeared again expressing their dismay that it was "only an elk". I guess everyone who saw the large amount of cars hoped for a bear.

At one point, a buffalo crossed the meadow between the river and the road, which caused most people to disperse. I set off a little later as well, but only to drive to the next campground and reserve a spot; and then decided to drive back to see if I could get a better shot of the bull elk still. I did, and was able to get more shots as the elk got up and crossed the river just downstream. Almost at the same moment, I witnessed a moment of stupidity as a middle-aged tourist with a cheap point&shoot waded across the same stream to get a closer shot at one of the other elk.

With the sun fading and the sky being increasingly covered in clouds threatening rain, I decided it was time to head back to my campsite. Along the way, I came upon another heron; but this one flew away before I was able to get a decent shot.

Miles driven: 145mi (233km)

Campground Accommodation: Norris Campground (Yellowstone National Park): $14

Written sometime in June 2008 in Luxembourg