There are very few places in North America that offer up the diversity of wildlife opportunities as Yellowstone National Park in the winter. As the icy fingers of Old Man Winter begin to grip the region, and the snows return to this land, wildlife responds by pushing down into lower elevations and concentrating in certain key areas throughout the park. Animals that once ranged over several million acres in the warmer months can now be found is dense numbers as they begin the arduous task of simply staying alive through the legendary winters of the Yellowstone.
As the depth of winter closes in on the numerous prey species such as moose, elk, and bison, the hardships of this season and the trials of life for some in turn offer up the great feasts of winter for others. Winter is the season of the wolf. Gracefully floating upon the many feet of snow that bogs down and slows the larger mammals, wolves reach the top of their game in this world of white.
Winter in Yellowstone is the ultimate destination on the North American continent for wildlife photographers. This snow capped Serengeti is unrivaled by any other place in the hemisphere. Bison stand crusted in hoarfrost, wolves trot across the empty expanses of white, bobcats prowl the banks of rivers, elk concentrate in impossible numbers at times, coyotes and red fox leap through the air plunging face first into the snow after deeply hidden rodents, and bald eagles flock to the edge of the rivers in droves to take advantage easy picking along the banks of the geothermal heated waters flowing out of Yellowstone. This is wildlife photography at its best.
This workshop is quite different from others being offered to the area. First and foremost, our emphasis is on small group experiences with a 1:3 ratio of instructor to participants. This gives you unsurpassed personal attention while in the field and during midday discussions. You simply will not find this sort of experience anywhere else.
This year, I am teaming up with professional wildlife photographer and conservation photojournalist, Annalise Kaylor, to co-lead this workshop. Annalise has a decade of experience as a working photographer, and her credentials are world class, having traveled to 39 countries on assignment for magazines, news agencies, and NGOs over the course of her career.
In light of the recent catastrophic flooding that has occurred across the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park, and the fact that services and roads will likely not be open in that part of the park this winter, we have made significant changes to our itinerary.
For over a decade we have started our winter workshop in West Yellowstone, MT, and then finished the second half of the trip based out of Gardiner, MT where we could take advantage of the Northern Range and Lamar Valley. This year, we will still be traveling to West Yellowstone to spend several days on snow coaches in the interior of the park, however, we will begin this workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jackson Hole, and Grand Teton National Park which the valley also encompasses, is an incredible winter wildlife photography destination. Here, we will have many opportunities that we do not in Yellowstone. Jackson Hole is one of the best places outside of Alaska for photographing moose, for instance. We will also have the opportunity to photograph mountain goats, which would not be an option in Yellowstone, as well as bull elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, 6 different packs of wolves, the endangered Rocky Mountain trumpeter swan, and let’s not forget the jaw dropping beauty of the Tetons themselves.
This change in itinerary does mean that participants will need to fly into Jackson, Wyoming, and out of Bozeman, Montana.
Authorized Permittee of Yellowstone National Park
Optional Single Supplement: $1,000
Co-Leader: Annalise Kaylor
January 1-10th, 2023
January 15-24th, 2023
- All lodging
- All local transportation
- All lunches
- Park Passes
- Snow Coaches
- Guide Fees
Lodging: All lodging is included with the price of this workshop. Price is based upon double occupancy (shared room).
Skill Level: beginner to advanced
Physical Difficulty: moderate
Arrival – Jackson, Wyoming (JAC)
Departure – Bozeman, MT (BZN).
Arrival Time: Schedule your flight to arrive by 3pm on the first posted date of the workshop.
Departure Time: Schedule your flight to leave no earlier than noon on the last posted date of the workshop.
- TBA. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
- Holliday Inn. West Yellowstone, MT
Education: In addition to a 1 : 3 ratio of workshop leader to participant in order to ensure maximum one on one opportunities in the field, this workshop also has a built in classroom day at the start of the workshop. During this classroom session, we will discuss all of the critically important skills needed for you to get the most out of this workshop with its unique situations and wildlife. While these classroom sessions used to be an optional add on, we have found that participants who joined these sessions were always much better prepared and significantly ahead of the rest of the workshop while in the field. Therefore, to ensure that workshop participants are able to get the most out of their time in the field with us, this classroom session is now built into itinerary.
What will the temperatures be like in Yellowstone?
Temperatures in Yellowstone during the depth of winter can swing widely. In one single workshop we have experienced close to a 100 degree difference from the beginning of the trip to the end. During high pressure systems when skies are completely clear, the lows can plummet to minus 40 and below. When low pressure systems come sweeping in out of the northwest bringing snow to the area, temperatures are typically above 20 degrees.
What kind of clothing will I need for this workshop?
Last year we set down and put together an extremely detailed gear guide for this workshop in order to address this very question. Boots, pants, jackets, gloves, hats, and face masks . . . its all there! Upon registering for this workshop you will be provided with a suggested clothing list and gear guide upon conformation of your spot on the trip. We want to get this into your hands as soon as possible so that you can take advantage of any potential sales going – especially during the warmer months – as you prepare for this workshop.
Will the cold damage my equipment?
We will take every precaution necessary to protect our equipment in these extremes. With that said, the cold does do a number on electronics. Will your camera break? No. However, in extreme cold you will find that things like your LCD display and the sensor points inside of your view finder are a bit sluggish to move.
Tripods often act up when temperatures get down to zero and below. The screws that are used to hold the legs to the base plates can contract in the cold making the legs loose and floppy. We will have the appropriate tools on hand to fix this as needed.
How do I protect my gear from condensation?
Most days, condensation is not so much of a problem for us. Since we are prepared for extreme cold, nobody usually wants the heat turned up high inside of the snow coaches or suburbans that we will be traveling in. On those days were the temps are brutally cold, we will use dry bags to protect our gear.
The way that a dry bag works in these conditions is to create a cold air barrier around your lens. Before climbing back inside of the vehicle, you can slip your camera and lens combo into the dry bag and seal it shut. As long as you do not open it up again while inside the heated vehicle, you will maintain that cold air barrier. Once outside the vehicle again, you can unroll the dry bag, pull your camera out, and there will be no condensation.
One very handy accessory to keep with you on this trip is a cotton washcloth in addition to your lens cloth. If condensation does occur, the washcloth will have enough absorption power to sop up the water building up on the end of the lens and allow you to quickly return back to photographing. This would not be possible with a lens cloth which is designed only for cleaning the glass, not removing water.
For the most part condensation is not as big of a problem for us as you might think. Once again, when you are dressed for being outdoors in extremely cold temperatures, the last thing you will want is the snow coach driver cranking up the heat while you are decked out from head to toe with extreme winter gear.
What are snow coaches?
Snow coaches are modified vehicles that are equipped with what amounts to be tank tracks for navigating the deep powder of the Yellowstone interior. These and snowmobiles are the only legal means of motorized travel into the majority of Yellowstone during the winter.
For our workshop, we rent two large snow coaches so that everyone has more than enough room to stretch out, store camera gear at the ready, and pile up extra layers of clothing (just in case). Though it costs us a whole lot more, the extra room that it provides for you makes this a worthy expense.
What size telephoto lens will I need for this workshop?
This workshop is all about the wildlife. So for that reason, you will want the longest possible lens that you feel comfortable working with. We highly recommend that you have the capabilities of at least 400mm for this workshop.
Now in order to reach this 400mm requirement, you do not necessarily need a 400 f/2.8. Both Nikon and Canon make several zoom lenses such as the 200-400 that will be perfect for this workshop.
If you do not own a longer lens like this, do not worry – you can always rent one! There is absolutely no reason to feel like you must purchase a supertelephoto lens for this workshop. Companies such as www.lensrentals.com specialize in renting high end equipment to photographers by the day, week, or month. If you are interested in renting a lens, let us know as we can help you with discounted prices.
Will I need a tripod for this workshop?
Yes you will! Tripods are crucially important in wildlife photography and on this workshop you will need one. Though there may be times that we hand hold our lenses, in most instances we will want to properly stabilize our equipment.
For wildlife photographers, as a general rule of thumb, you want a tripod with a load capacity that is twice the amount of weight that you will put on it. So, you were to estimate that the tripod head weights 5lbs, your camera body weighs 5lbs, you biggest lens weighs 12 lbs, this is 22 lbs total. And therefore, we recommend you have a tripod that can hold a minimum of 44lbs. Most likely you will need to round up to 50lbs for this.
Another rule of thumb for wildlife photographers is to work with a tripod that DOES NOT come with a center column. There are thousands of reasons you will want to get lower with your gear. But, there is rarely any reason you want to get taller. Thus, a tripod without a center column will allow you to get your camera all the way down to the ground – which is critically important in many situations.
For more information about Jared’s suggestion for tripods, click this link: TRIPOD PRIMER
For more information about Jared’s suggestion for heads, click this link: TRIPOD HEAD PRIMER
Are meals provided on this workshop
For most of this workshop, meals will not be provided. However, during the days were are on snow coaches in the interior of the the national park, we do provide bagged lunches from one of the local restaurants in West Yellowstone.
What airport should I fly into?
You will want to fly into airport code BZN for Bozeman, MT.
What time do I need to arrive and leave the workshops
The first and last posted dates of each workshop are reserved strictly for travel. There will be no photography on these dates unless otherwise specified. With the winter workshop in Yellowstone, you will want to arrive before 2pm on the first day, and plan your departure for after noon.
Fact: flights get canceled, airlines overbook, snow storms shut down airports, family members get sick, doctors occasionally deliver unexpected news. Pandemics happen. Life is what happens as we are busy making plans. John Lennon said that, and it’s about as true of a statement that can be made when it comes to travel.
With so many variables and possibilities out there that cannot be foreseen or planned for, we highly recommend purchasing trip insurance for this workshop.
The costs are surprisingly low and well worth the small expense. Trip insurance gives you peace of mind and allows you to know that if one of those little inevitabilities in life happens to pop up, you will not lose your money spent on your workshop and flights.
CSA and Travel Guard are the two big ones out there. But you can get instant comparative quotes through www.insuremytrip.com
We are committed to conservation. This the driving force behind Jared Lloyd’s work as a wildlife photographer. As with all of our workshops, a percentage of our profits from each trip goes directly to conservation organizations working on the ground in those areas where we conduct workshops. From the profits of our Ultimate Winter Wildlife of Yellowstone workshop, we donate money to an organization called the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. This organization has worked tirelessly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for 35 years with an emphasis on protecting grizzlies, wolves, bison, and pronghorn outside of the park boundaries. Though Yellowstone National Park’s 2.2 million acres of protected lands sit at the heart of this ecosystem, the GYE encompasses some 22 million acres in all – standing as the largest intact ecosystem left in the Northern Hemisphere. And it is here, in the other 20 million acres of this ecosystem that is not protected by the national park that is integral for the longterm survival of wildlife both inside and outside of the park boundaries.
You can find out more about the Greater Yellowstone Coalition on their website.