Let’s over think this!

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I kept looking for a shot to encapsulate a few elements of Yellowstone. When I saw mountains, snow, foothills, sagebrush in a valley, turbulent weather in the distance, peaceful bison and a newborn calf, I thot it was a good start.

Apparently there are questions that have implied answers. I am learning this … slowly. My wife is quite helpful with advice.

These questions might include easy ones like:

  • How are you?
  • Are you keeping busy?
  • How do you like my hair?

Acceptable answers are good, oh yes and … this could be awkward, but I seem to have forgotten the answer to the last one.

Since we just came back from spending two weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, I am getting another question that might have an implied answer, “So how was the holiday?”

I have this sneaking suspicion that some people could miss every flight they booked, be bored spitless before contracting malaria on the third day and still look you straight in the eye and say it was a great holiday (vacation if you’re American).

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A nothern flicker watches me take photos of a pronghorn antelope. It was a gorgeous wind-free evening.

Our memories of time periods are usually selective so we can often take one event and use that as a proxy for the whole time. That’s fine. But the truth is often more complicated. And like the ends of two magnets with the same polarity, I am instinctively pushed away from the superficial.

We did had a dream day on our trip that included stopping numerous times along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to see spectacular sights, spending 45 minutes watching a Grizzly about 60 yards away, watching a fox hunt in the snow for an hour, eating lunch roadside while a coyote sauntered within a few feet and stopping to photograph a heron on the way home. Could it get any better than that? Teaser alert – the photos will show up in the coming weeks on this blog.

We saw many other good things and I photographed a lot of wildlife that are now clogging my computer. But there’s a but …

My primary objective and all my research and planning for this holiday was focused one thing – bears. By the end of the trip we had only a few sightings, limited photo opportunities in good light and no great photos.

We got pretty tired of driving up and down the Lamar Valley (a place they call the Serengeti of North America because of all the wildlife) and never saw a single bear in that prime location, let alone a wolf. We stood on the very spots where others had seen bears, heard reports of bears and wolves and arrived shortly after they had left on several occasions. On this trip my luck was just bad.

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I was not surprised to see bison on Yellowstone roads, but I was surprised at how well drivers and bison shared the road. Guess who had the right of way!

I know that life is not fair (and wrote about it here) and wildlife movement is notoriously unpredictable but I just don’t handle dashed expectations well. I have to admit there were some frustrating days on this holiday. To those of you who roll easily with disappointments, I am envious … and confused.

Why bother explaining this? Maybe it’s just my analytical side trying to process life that turns out so different than I meticulously planned. Maybe it’s an inside glimpse of what happens when wildlife photographers get mixed results. Perhaps it sets the context for some photos that I am excited to share in the coming weeks. Maybe it’s all of them … but I think I feel better now. Oddly, the trip seems better with every passing day.

Then again, it’s entirely possible that the better answer would be that we had some great times on the trip … and that would be true.

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Oxbow bend in Grand Teton National Park ended up being a favourite spot to meet wild animals and interesting people. The sunset was a bonus.

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Latest Comments

  1. choppy123 says:

    Love the Bison convoy, not what you expect on a road…. or maybe it is in Yellowstone, perhaps it is a common occurence!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      It was an unusual occurrence for me which is why I took the photo. There are so many bison in Yellowstone that finding them on the road was common but they usually just crossed the road.

      Like

  2. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    Two weeks in the Yellowstone/Tetons area is very retro of you. That harkens back to a time before cars when people would spend two weeks at a park or a city.

    I can only imagine that you saw a lot of impressive things there and I look forward to the upcoming posts. The top photo is epic, the photo of the bison on the road is comical.

    Like

  3. doraiswamyganesh says:

    Dear Lyle, Lovely pictures, only that I could not see the new born clear enough.Guess my eye sight is loosing its grip.Best wishes, Ganesh.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thank you again. No it’s not your eyesight, the calf was just tiny in the whole photo since I wanted to show the landscape. I can promise you will see much closer photos of calves in the coming weeks.

      Like

  4. Stefano says:

    I love the opening shot of the bison: powerful image that screams Yellowstone.

    Like

  5. melodylowes says:

    You certainly got some stunners, Lyle! I often have to tell myself, on those times I don’t get a good shot, or when I forgot my camera, that the participation in catching with my eyes and spirit counts just as much as the capture on ‘film’. (And some days, I actually believe it!)

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I appreciate that.

      I can immerse myself in the experience and enjoy it to the full. However, I think I’ve lost all ability to convince myself that is some substitute or equal to getting what I came for. That has given me pause to think.

      Like

  6. Rejoice For The Day says:

    Beautiful! I have high hopes to make a trip out that way one day. I would love to see so much wildlife in one place. I am looking forward to what else you will be posting.

    Like

  7. artsifrtsy says:

    I just got back from a holiday as well, 5 national parks. I went expecting to get tons of wildlife shots, but apart from a few new birds, I didn’t get many shots. I did get to see some amazing places though, I think it pushed me as a photographer – we’ll see. I love the bison on the highway 🙂

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Sorry to hear about that. I think I understand the part about pushing myself as a photographer – I tried to make good shots with what I had, like taking shots of bison even though they were everywhere.

      Like

  8. FeyGirl says:

    What a stunning place…. Love those bison! How perfect.

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  9. Pam says:

    So gorgeous! I love this part of the country!

    Like

  10. Deb W. Trotter says:

    Beautiful photos. The contrasts in the first one are spectacular. Just a gorgeous moment in time, now stopped forever in your shot! Sorry your bear expectations were not met. We are visiting Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks this late July and early August (the only time we can go), and I want to see wildflowers, but am preparing to be disappointed because of the weird weather we’ve had on the west coast this year… I know there will be other good things in the Parks to make up for it, though.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. I hope you get the wildflowers you’re hoping for! The attitude you’ve taken is what I’m striving for on our next trip – hoping to find rocks in the mountains. It should work.

      Like

  11. pary880 says:

    beautiful captures as always… The opening and closing shots are truly amazing 🙂

    Like

  12. caleephotography says:

    Lyle, these photos are absolutely beautiful! Maybe you didn’t get the shots you had planned to get, but sometimes you get something even better.. like a bison lane!! How cool is that 🙂

    Like

  13. Phil Lanoue says:

    That first photo with the bison and the calves with the entire scene layed out like that is perfect in my view. Very well done.
    As far as the bears go…perhaps a sternly worded email to park management is in order to inform them of your disappointment over the behavior of their bears not being visitor and photographer friendly. They ought to know exactly what kind of snooty wildlife they have roaming around there. Something should be done! 😉 😀

    Like

  14. ehkstream says:

    Oh, and I was on Soda Butte Creek in the Lamar Valley… the evening hatch was coming on, 20 inch cutthroats were boiling the pool and I smelled like fish. That’s when the grizzly slunk down into the river bottom willows about 200 yards away. The truck was about a mile away…. don’t run, but walk very very fast. No “one more cast then I’ll go”…
    And there’s a very large and grumpy bison who won’t move away from one of the best pools…

    Like

  15. ehkstream says:

    I’m with Gunta on this, have a plan and an intent but be ready to drop them when something else presents itself. I often head for the ocean with a particular subject in mind and usually come home with something new and completely different.

    Like

  16. Gunta says:

    My secret (if you want to know) is to head out without expectations. The recent harbor seal pups I shot were a totally pleasant surprise. Yes, I knew the seals did a haul-out at that spot, but I pretty much forgot about it. I was headed over there to see if I could find the Puffins on the cliffs. No Puffins, but maybe a dozen newborn seal pups. Made my day!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s a good secret that probably gets you the best photos in the best state of mind. The seal pups were great. I usually do a better job of expectation levels so I’m resetting it all for next trip.

      Like

  17. Daniel Yap SL says:

    Gotta love those bisons on the road!

    Like

  18. Mike Powell says:

    If you had gotten only the photos in this posting, your trip would have been an unqualified success for those of us who are lucky enough to see the photos. The first image is an iconic image; the bison photo is whimsical; and the final image is simply beautiful. You put some awfully high expectations on yourself and your photography and seem to be very goal-oriented. It’s my guess that is the reason that your memories of the trip are tinged with regret for the bear that you did not get. I really like what you said about selective memory, though, especially as time passes. My personal experience is utterly consistent with what you said. I’m hoping your memories will eventually shift to your final sentence and you will not feel compelled to overthink the experience. So, when is your next bear-hunting photo expedition?

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s certainly high praise for those images.

      Guilty as charged on the high expectations and goal orientation! I try to temper the expectations but obviously didn’t do it enough. It is interesting how the memories of the entire trip seem to be getting better every day, especially as I go through my photos. We’re heading to Banff area in early June for … rocks. And if the odd bear ambles by, that’s OK. How’s that for tempered expectations!

      Like

  19. Victor Rakmil says:

    How did you get the Bison to line up? Nice touch!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      It took a lot of practice but they finally got it:) You should have seen me stumbling out of the truck, furtively making adjustments and trying to compose something reasonable before they all passed. Thankfully it was a long line.

      Like

  20. Seenorway says:

    Astounding pictures, Lyle! And I don’t think I would have risked driving down that road before every bison had passed 🙂

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. Yes the bison pretty much own the road but they are fairly slow and methodical so you don’t have to guess where they are going. I was really surprised how well it worked to mix vehicles and bison all over the place.

      Like

  21. mflahertyphoto says:

    Great pictures Lyle, and as usual love the direct honesty. I’ve never had any luck with bears in Yellowstone. For griz it’s been AK and only AK. Love the line of bison, and love the calves. The light and Mt. Moran are superb in that last one.

    Like

  22. vanbraman says:

    A beautiful sunset to end the post ;-). I really like the Bison lane on the highway.

    Like

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