This April, I was nearing the end of my PhD in North Carolina and I was to leave for Norway in a few weeks. I realized that this might be the last chance I get to visit the US Northwest. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks were always up there in my bucket list. Didn’t take long to make up my mind. And there we were, four of us, on a 7 day camping trip at both the parks.
Based on my research about these parks (courtesy: Google), they promised to be a photographer’s paradise. Undoubtedly, the Snake River photo by Ansel Adams was always at the back of my mind. The other worldly scenery and varied wildlife of Yellowstone and the wallpaper-like beauty of the Grand Tetons wouldn’t disappoint even the most cynical. And they lived up to all the expectations.
The first couple of days were dedicated to the geyser basins of Yellowstone in the Old Faithful area. The landscape dotted with varied kinds of geysers spitting out hot sulphur laden water, colorful pools teeming with bacteria and massive herds of bison. Old Faithful gave us an exclusive show early morning with the first daylight (avoided the usual crowd of tourists). The Morning Glory and Turquoise Pools stood out for their color. And of course there were gigantic bison wandering about 10 feet away, grazing and tending to the calves.Perhaps it’s not possible to take an uninteresting photograph here.
Our next destination was Grand Tetons. This was a true delight with snowy mountains, clear lakes and green meadows. A few highlights. The old barn at Mormon Row at both sunrise and sunset, reflections of the Teton range at Schwabacher Landing, calm waters at Oxbow Bend, the strenuous hike up to Cascade Canyon and the night sky over our tent. These encompass almost all kinds of landscape and terrain for a photographer to feast on.
We rounded off our trip with wildlife viewing at Lamar and Hayden valley in Yellowstone. These are the best places for viewing a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat. And if you are lucky, you could even see a live hunting session. Bears were wandering about in search of food within miles of our tent. Bison were literally next door neighbors. Joining the party were pronghorns, elks, coyotes and mountain goats.
Now, a little about the equipment and technique. My interest was more towards composing and capturing the essence and uniqueness of each place. So the photographs may not be technically sound. I always used the wide angle lenses with a CPL to capture the vivid colors and also the dramatic skies with clouds. For the animals, the telephoto lens was a huge help. As for post-processing, I did not need to do much other than cropping, straightening and other minor edits in Lightroom.
Siddhartha Mandal is currently a researcher in Oslo, Norway.
- Camera: Nikon D5100
- Lenses: Nikon18-55mm f 3.5-5.6, Nikon 35mm f1.8, Nikon 70-300mm.
- Filters: CPL, ND4.
- Location: Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, USA.
- Tripod: Mostly handheld or use of natural support such as rocks. Occasionally used a Ravelli aluminium tripod.
- WB/Flash: WB was usually always set as Cloudy. Never used flash.
- Post-processing: Lightroom 2, for putting borders, signature and b/w.