- Ultimate Winter Wildlife
- Workshop Details
- Contact Us
- Demystifying Snow
- Trip Insurance
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 1:4 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.
Co-leader: Doug Gardner. Doug is a world renowned professional wildlife photographer with hundreds of thousands of publishing credits to his name. However, Doug is best known for his role as the host of the award winning PBS series Wild Photo Adventures
January 15 – 24, 2017
January 27 – Feb 5, 2017
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
- Stagecoach Inn. (Day 1-4)
- 209 Madison Ave, West Yellowstone, Mt 59758
- Phone #: (406) 646-7381
- Best Western Plus by Mammoth Hot Springs. (Day 5-10)
- 905 Scott St W, Gardiner, Mt 59030
- Phone #: (406) 848-7311
What To Expect
- Personalized 1 on 1 in the field instruction by two professional wildlife photographers
- Daily opportunities for personal Lightroom and Photoshop instruction
- Periodic image reviews through the duration of the workshop in order to assess your progress and specific needs
- Post Trip Notes. These are detailed PDF files that are an in depth compilation of skill sets discussed each day. 2 – 4 pages of information will typically be provided for each day of the workshop. Many photographers have commented that they learned just as much from the post trip notes as they do from the actual in the field workshop itself. Feel free to ask questions about this.
- A head first dive into hardcore wildlife photography and what it takes to get the job done
- The opportunity to work in a 1:4 ratio of instructor to participants. Most other workshops offer a far larger ratio
- And let’s not forget, one heck of a great time!
- Fly into Bozeman MT between 12-4pm if possible. We will provide shuttle service for everyone from Bozeman International Airport down to the Stagecoach Inn of West Yellowstone. From here we will check into our hotel rooms and then regroup for a meet and greet / dinner at a local restaurant. Over dinner we will discuss the logistics of the coming days.
Day 2 – 4:
- We will spend the next three days working the interior of Yellowstone in two private snow coaches. Hiring two coaches gives everyone 3 seats to pile gear up on, stretch out, and be comfortable. These three days will start with a pick-up out front of our hotel at 7:00 am. Each day will be spent entirely in the National Park, for which we will provide lunches during this portion of the workshop. This portion of the workshop gives us our best opportunity for bison covered in hoarfrost and some truly unique wildlife opportunities such as bobcats and red fox in the snow.
- We will transfer up to Gardiner Montana this day where we will check into the Best Western. This evening Doug and Jared will organize an in depth critique of participants photographs up to this point in the workshop. This mid-trip review will prove to be extremely useful for both participants and your workshop leaders. This not only gives us the opportunity to gage where everyone stands photographically, and therefore allows us to custom tailor the rest of the trip to each participant’s individual needs, but it also allows you the participant the opportunity to get real feedback that you can then build upon over the coming days.
- The following days will be spent working the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park. This will provide us with access to the absolute best place on Earth for photographing wolves. Wolves however are just one of the many different opportunities that we will have along the Northern Range. Every species of mammal in Yellowstone National Park, except for the bears, will be concentrated throughout this stretch of the park come this time of year.
- This will be the last morning of photography. We will head out into the park before dawn just as we have the previous days. In the evening, we will once again conduct an in depth and thorough critique of everyone’s works from the second half of the workshop. These critiques have proven to be a major highlight of each workshop for participants in the past and cover topics across the entire spectrum of photography from Photoshop / Lightroom to exposure and composition. Many participants find that they prefer to bring a notebook to these critiques because it is a no holds bar hardcore educational session. We will provide pizza as well as beer and wine for both critiques.
- We will provide shuttle service for everyone back to Bozeman International Airport from which we all depart our separate ways.
The workshops that we offer are kept small so as to make the experience completely personalized. As many realize, workshops with 10-20 people are very common. By limiting the size of the trips to 5 people (8 with a second instructor) we are able to offer opportunities that simply cannot be found in larger groups.
In the Field Instruction
While we are in the field, each day brings something new. Every time we set down our tripods, conditions, lighting, backgrounds, action, etc. . . will offer us new and unique challenges. From the right brain creative aspects of learning to see the possibilities of composition and light, to the left brain analysis of exposure, there is a lot to keep up with out there. But don’t worry, that’s what we are here for.
Small group sizes allow us to devote significant amounts of time working individually with participants while in the field. As conditions are ever changing, the realm of topics to be discussed while on location is endless.
Technical aspects of photography such as exposure modes, metering patterns, histograms, auto-focus modes, ISO, f/stop, and shutter speeds will all be discussed with nearly every shoot. Why we recommend the settings that we do, how it applies to this situation, and what are the pros and cons of these different technical decisions that we are forced to make in the field.
Moving well beyond to technical parts of photography, while we are in the field together we will spend much of our time also discussing the creative aspects of photography as well. Understanding light and how to exploit it creatively sits at the heart of photography and this will be a key undercurrent throughout the workshop. You will learn the different types of light and how to properly handle them. You will learn how to control perspective and the relationship that this has with your viewers psychology. You will learn how to start seeing like a professional in terms of quality or opportunities as well as compositions.
The technical parts of photography are the easy stuff to learn. Though it may seem daunting if you are still learning, this side of photography is made simple when taught how each of these components functions in relation to real world situations and repetition. On the flipside of this coin however is the creative part of photography. This is the subjective, the art, the intangible stuff that takes cliché and uninspired technical perfection that is a dime a dozen and catapults it to a true work of art with the ability to make a lasting impression on your viewer.
This is our lofty objective while we are in the field.
Review and Critique
There will be two scheduled reviews of your work while on this workshop. On the evening of Feb 1st, Doug and I will provide participants with a midweek review. This in turn will give participants the opportunity to know what they need to be working on, as well as let us know what we need to be working on with that individual.
On the last day of the workshop, we will spend the evening in an extensive blind critique of everyone’s best images. Blind critique means that there will be no names attached to the images and everyone will have an opportunity to weigh in on strengths and weaknesses as well as suggestions for improvement. From composition to lighting, post processing to exposure, this critique will run the gamut of all aspects of nature photography and becomes one of the most important parts of the workshop for the participant. We will provide both pizza and alcohol for this review.
Prior to this workshop, we will set up a private Facebook group for which participants will receive and invitation to join. From this platform, we can begin discussions relevant to upcoming workshops starting several months out.
Throughout the duration of the workshop, we are compiling notes based upon the days activities, concepts discussed in the field, obstacles, challenges, and successes. After the workshop, these notes are then compiled into a series of documents. The idea behind this is to take real world situations that you yourself were apart of to use as an instructional resource for you to refer back to after the workshop. Photographic concepts are outlined in detail, and specific examples are used with in depth descriptions of how exactly the photograph was made including the reasoning and artistic aspects that went into the composition as well as the technical side and how the two are used in conjunction with each other to express your creative vision.
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.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding this or any other workshop that we offer. To the left, you will find a simple contact form in place to make this process as simple as possible for you. We realize however that sometimes these sorts of onsite forms are difficult to work with when more lengthy questions and comments are necessary. Therefore, below you will also find the appropriate email, phone number, and even facebook account that you can contact us with if you would prefer.
Properly setting your exposure when photographing in snowy conditions, stands as one of the most challenging scenarios in photography for many beginners. In this freeBook, Demystifying Snow, you will learn how to dissect the entire process from start to finish and ensure you nail your exposures every time. From what you need to know about how your metering system reads the light from snow to the metering pattern you should use and even exactly where you should meter in your composition – Demystifying Snow, will help you understand and master everything thing there is to know about snow.
Fact: flights get canceled, airlines overbook, snow storms shut down airports, family members get sick, doctors occasionally deliver unexpected news. 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.
The recent loss of power to Delta’s systems that led to the grounding and cancellation of thousands of flights drives home this point. 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