What to Expect in Yellowstone

I had never been to Yellowstone National Park before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were going to see the thermal zone — geysers including Old Faithful and some boiling mud. I had seen geysers and boiling mud before in New Zealand and Iceland, so I was prepared to be “underwhelmed.” I was wrong. We were in for feelings of excitement and lots of “wow” moments.

Our day began at “West Thumb,” a thermal zone and large lake with boiling mud and geysers. I was captivated. As the geysers steamed and bubbled, I composed my photos of the simple yet other-worldly beauty.

Steam rises from the boiling geysers at the edge of West Thumb in Yellowstone National Park.
Shapes of the land, water and sky make a nearly abstract scene at West Thumb in Yellowstone.

Jackson Lake in the Mist

Jackson Lake water levels are at record lows this Fall (in 2021) after a very dry summer. From this location on the dry lake bed, we could see mist rising on a cold Fall morning and snow covered Mount Moran in the background.

Misty Jackson Lake on a chilly Fall morning with fresh snow on Mount Moran.

Brilliant Fall Foliage

Are you still waiting for the green foliage to change to its seasonal fall colors? The main factor that triggers the color change is the increasing length of the night, which causes chlorophyll production in the leaf to stop. We found some brilliant fall color in Grand Teton National Park in late September.

This location in Grand Teton National Park included the green, yellow and red foliage against a bright blue September sky.

I was curious about what types of trees turn yellow and what types turn red, so I turned to the Forest Service of the USDA for some answers.

Oaks: red, brown, or russet

– Hickories: golden bronze

– Aspen and yellow-poplar: golden yellow

– Dogwood: purplish red

– Beech: light tan

– Sourwood and black tupelo: crimson

The color of maples leaves differ species by species:

– Red maple: brilliant scarlet

– Sugar maple: orange-red

– Black maple: glowing yellow

Not the Same Old Moulton Barn

Returning to Grand Teton National Park for the second time in the Fall, I was hoping to return to several of my favorite locations, but NOT take the same photos all over again. What fun would that be?

Mother Nature helped me out. On the night before I went out to Mormon Row to photograph the one of the old barns in the foreground of the majestic Teton mountain range, it snowed on the peaks. Adding to the drama were the clouds.

Fresh snow on the Tetons made a dramatic backdrop to the Moulton Barn on Monday morning.

Would you like to see how different this scene looked in 2018? Here is a link to my photo of a nearby barn on Mormon Row. Which image do you prefer?

The Best Part of Wildlife Photography

I think the most exciting aspect of Wildlife Photography is the chance to observe wild animals in their habitat, doing what they like to do. You can learn a lot from watching their behavior, and in doing that, I feel like a privileged secret observer. While we always keep a respectful distance in order not to distract or interfere with the animal, we whisper to each other, and our excitement is palpable.

Early one morning in Grand Teton National Park, we spotted a bull elk in the field, and his silhouette in the bright morning sun was striking.

Bull elk in Grand Teton National Park with morning light and fall colors.
A photograph of this bull elk in his habitat tells the story of his life in the wild. Grand Teton National Park, September 2021.
Bull elk running after his “girl,” an elk cow, during mating season in Grand Teton National Park.

At one point, we observed the interaction of the bull, the cow and the calf elk, and then they ran out of our line of sight. While close-up photographs are satisfying and show us exactly what the animal looks like, these experiences are exciting, and the photographs share a story. Autumn is a busy time in Grand Teton National Park for the elk, as well as the moose and bears.