Yellowstone in Winter 2015 - Lamar Valley Day 1 - Caron Steele

Day 1  - Lamar valley

Finally arrived in Yellowstone at about 10pm after 27 hours of travelling, and a swift stop at Bozeman Camera to pick up my new Canon 7D Mark II and a 500 mm lens that I'd rented. Blimey it was big and heavy. Stayed at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, one of the very few places to stay within the park. If you like a little bit of luxury this is not for you! We were lucky enough to have a room with a bathroom... a plastic shower and very low disability access loo, oh... and a resident mouse which I managed to catch on the second night! However the beds were comfortable and oh boy they beckoned.

Up at 5:45am next morning to get new camera equipment sorted and have breakfast before our guide collected us at 6:30 am. Heavily laden with camera equipment and lots of layers of clothing we set off into the Lamar valley. We drove through amazing scenery and first stop was a quick 'beardy' shot of the Gallatin mountain range with the sun just rising on it. Very beautiful.

Driving through the valley the snow was patchy and sporadic. Our guide MacNeil chatted to us about the area and geology and wildlife. We saw some bison by the road and watched as they breathed clouds of vapour in the cold morning air - about minus 5-10 degrees.

Gallatin Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, at Sunrise

Driving through the valley the snow was patchy and sporadic. Our guide MacNeil chatted to us about the area and geology and wildlife. We saw some bison by the road and watched as they breathed clouds of vapour in the cold morning air - about minus 5-10 degrees.

Bison in the Snow - Yellowstone National Park

Further on we saw some Elk on the mountain ridge and Bighorn Sheep. Amazing animals , some of the Elk had antlers that stood about a meter and a half high. Alas they were about 500m away so even with the cropped sensor of the 7d and the 500mm lens they only filled about 5% of the view finder. We sat and watched them for a while as they moved across the skyline.

In the distance coyote could be heard calling. Wildlife was relatively scarce and we drove through vast snow covered areas without spotting anything or seeing any tracks.

No bird life at all apart from the odd raven.

Distant Elk in the Lamar Valley

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)

The spot of the day came later on when we noticed a single coyote near the riverbank in the snow. Other cars had pulled up and there were a few keen photographers with their lens and tripods lined up on the roadside .

I took a few shots and then remembering some advice rom Andy Rouse, that it's often best to get at eye level I asked permission from our guide and then climbed down the bank off the road and lay on the ground at the rivers edge.

After a while a coyote came right down to the waters edge and eyeballed me curiously, it was an amazing moment!

I wasn't sure if I was scared or just excited and completely fogged up my viewfinder with my heavy breathing! I figured that with that many people only 20m away he was more scared than me - but I did hold my breath when one of the coyote crossed the river and walked past me as I lay on the ground about 5m away.

I didn't want to move to spook him so frustratingly I couldn't really grab any good photos as he ran up the bank and away from the photographers up the cliff on the opposite side of the road. I remembered to start to breath again and tried to move slowly slithering around on my belly in the dirt and got some great shots (for me) of the other coyotes.

Coyote in Yellowstone

Our guide and the other photographers looked on from the road about 3m above me in amazement as I rolled about on the ground.  Our guide commented to Mark, my husband that I looked like one of those plastic commando toy soldiers scrabbling about on the bank.

I think I amused all the other photographers with my slightly daft antics but what's the point of travelling half way round the world to take photos if your not prepared to try something new and look like a plonker?


Coyotes have a brief disagreement at the waters edge