When I moved to San Francisco, I drove across the United States from D.C. and saw everything I could. One of my favorite stops was Yellowstone. Yellowstone is an expansive, awe-inspiring, uncompromising and dramatic national park filled to the brim with iconic locations, subjects and wildlife. Venturing to Yellowstone, you’ll need a strong sense of adventure and sturdy walking shoes, for sure, but you’ll also need the right gear. Yellowstone is unforgiving and won’t make getting your shots easy, but armed with these tips below, you’ll be able to capture its majestic beauty.
Prep for Time Lapses
Yellowstone is alive. The ground is moving beneath your feet, and an impressive selection of geysers are there to remind you of it. You’d be remiss if you didn’t have your gear ready to capture the breathing, spewing earth in motion. With that said, make sure to bring a timer and a tripod. You’ll return home with incredible videos (or GIFs) to wow your friends and family with.
Make Sure Your Gear Is Rugged
Yellowstone is no joke, so make sure your gear can handle its rough terrain. While there’s no shortage of level fields, the best spots to shoot from are often the most unforgiving. Your tripod needs to be able to stand up to mud, rocks and unexpected heat, while being light enough to hike with at the same time. The best option would be carbon fiber, but there are some light and tough aluminum tripods available as well if money is a concern. Beyond just your tripod, make sure that your camera bag is tough enough to protect a tumble or two, and that your camera is water and dirt resistant.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
Because of Yellowstone’s expansive wilderness, you’re not going to be able to get as close to everything as you want. Specifically, not every hike gives you the best views of the most impressive waterfalls, and you’re unable to get up close and personal to most of the geysers (for obvious reasons). A telephoto lens is a definite requirement for any serious Yellowstone photographer. This is one of the rare times when I’d recommend sacrificing extra gear just to fit your 70-300m, something like the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L. If you’re into shooting wildlife, you already know how important that telephoto is. Insider tip: keep your distance from the bison – they’re not very friendly.
Apply a Filter
To get shots like Ansel Adams, you’re going to either need to spend hours in a dark room developing your film, or you can bring some filters with you. Filters and landscape photography go together like two peas in a pod. A enables you to capture silky smooth photos of water by reducing the amount of light that enters your lens and allowing for longer shutter speeds. Graduated filters will help you get a perfect sunset shot. A yellow filter will darken the blue sky while making the white clouds pop for stunning black and white images.
Follow these tips and you’ll be more than prepared for your Yellowstone excursion. Just make sure that, while you get all your photo gear together, you don’t forget your water bottle or hiking boots!