They say a picture is worth a thousand words. With West Yellowstone’s breathtaking mountain landscape and unique array of wildlife, we think it’s closer to a million words. We interviewed Carolyn Fox of FoxDen Images, a talented local photographer, to gain insight on the best practices for shooting in and around town (and showcase some of her gorgeous photos). Here are our top tips for taking professional-looking photographs of West Yellowstone that will stand out and capture cherished memories.
There are plenty of photo ops around West Yellowstone, but the best are off the beaten path. The airport at the west edge of town is a relatively unknown place to photograph stunning sunrises and sunsets. From an insider’s perspective, Carolyn suggests that most of West Yellowstone’s hidden gems “are found by traveling down some of the roads by the lakes in the area. So, if you want to see what the locals see, just find a dirt road and go exploring.”
If you’re looking to photograph areas beyond West Yellowstone’s walls, Big Spring and Mesa Falls are prime locations for spotting wildlife among impressive waterfalls. Virginia City and Nevada City are two nearby ghost towns rich with historical buildings that make for interesting photography subjects.
The biggest challenges of shooting in the greater Yellowstone area are the weather, making sure you stay safe and don’t disturb the wildlife, and beating the summer crowds. If you want to photograph wildlife, research them in advance. It helps to know what they eat, what time of the day they eat, and where they usually eat. Patience is key; you may need to wait for hours to get the picture you want. Remember to respect the animal. Stay back quietly to avoid making the animal nervous. When taking pictures of wildlife, Carolyn says it’s important to use a fast shutter speed so your picture will be in focus.
If your camera expertise is limited to your cell phone, you’re in luck— most phone cameras can take amazing landscape pictures! To combat any lighting issues (such as your subjects looking too dark), change your position so there’s more light on the subjects and try again.
For more experienced photographers traveling to the area, Caroline suggests visiting the waterfalls at Firehole Canyon Drive and using a neutral density filter to get a nice “soft” water effect. Take pictures of the textures at Midway Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs. Yellowstone is a wonderful place for photography because things are always changing; “You can go back to the same place again and again and it’s always different.”
Photography is all about preserving memories. True to her name, Carolyn Fox’s favorite memories relate to her wildlife shoots; she fondly recalls “watching grizzly bear cubs play, elk calves nursing, wolves playing, bison calves jumping, great gray owls flying, geysers erupting, and little kids seeing their first grizzly bear. There are simply too many special moments in West Yellowstone to name just one.”
Make your own memories last forever. Pack your camera bag, pick your path, and start planning your West Yellowstone photoshoots today.
A special thanks to Carolyn Fox for her insights and for sharing her photography.