I have to admit that when the alarm went off at 5:15am on our second day in Yellowstone, I almost balked. I thought for sure Marie would sleep in – I, at least, could use the possibility of getting good photos to drag myself out of the warm sleeping bag into the dark, cold morning – but what motivation did she have? As it turns out the thought of being alone during a pre-dawn bear attack was equally as compelling as the possibility of getting some good photos. So the two of us bundled up, downed some caffeine and made the short trip from the Canyon Village campground to Artist’s Point for what is probably the most popular sunrise view of Lower Yellowstone Falls.
Just north of Yellowstone Falls we stopped to take photos of some cool clouds over a stream.
Then we had our first – and only – grizzly bear sighting: a mom with two cubs foraging along a hillside, about 100 yards away. We spent an hour watching them, hoping they’d make their way down the hill, but they seemed perfectly happy to keep their distance from the ever-growing mob of tourists. I did my best to catch at least one of the cubs looking up at the same time as their mom, but they were all foraging with noses to the ground and almost never raised their heads.
Later that morning we drove over to Yellowstone’s east entrance and stumbled across a family of Pronghorn antelope – a mom, a dad, and three fawns. I ran out to photograph them and was surprised when they seemed to ignore me. Turns out they were more worried about a coyote that had its eye on the kids. Very cool to watch it all play out… I don’t think the coyote ever had a chance. The dad was all business and wasn’t about to let the coyote anywhere near the young’uns.
That evening before sunset we went to Mammoth Springs, hoping for some interesting light and color in the sky. It was mostly cloudy but some of the last light of the day did break through to create conditions Marie described (approvingly) as “kind of creepy.”
The next morning Marie finally broke her impressive streak of consecutive pre-dawn photo expeditions and let me head out solo to try to get some interesting sunrise light and color at Mammoth Springs. Not much color to speak of, but good clouds and light.
Then later in the morning Marie and I explored the rest of Mammoth Springs.
Before reluctantly leaving Yellowstone to drive back to Salt Lake City, we walked around the thermal areas of Norris Geyser Basin.
Our final wildlife checklist at Yellowstone went something like this: one grizzly bear mom with two cubs, one cinnamon-colored black bear, a family of Pronghorn antelope, lots of bison and elk, some deer, a couple of blue herons, a coyote, chipmunks, squirrels, some rabbits and some marmots. No luck with wolves, moose, or bald eagles. All in all a great time – tough to leave the park.
That afternoon we started driving towards Salt Lake City so we could be at the airport in time for Marie’s flight back home the next day. As the sun set that evening the entire sky lit up with great color, but we were stuck winding through a canyon with terrible views until the best light had passed. Once we cleared the canyon, just outside of Montpelier, Idaho, I did manage to find an interesting foreground and fire off a shot before the color faded completely.