It's a photographers paradise, no doubt, but how do you photograph Yellowstone National Park if you're new to DSLR or mirrorless cameras. There's more to getting great travel photos than just taking a point-and-shoot approach.
As you'll see in this gallery of Yellowstone photos, I was a beginning DSLR shooter in 2004 when I took my first photo excursion, this one to Yellowstone National Park.
All of these photos were taken with my first interchangeable lens digital camera, a Canon 10D. Nowadays a 6 megapixel camera sounds dreadfully inadequate. The images were very lackluster in color and saturation, and many were over-exposed and unusable.
Every photo in this post on the photography opportunities at Yellowstone
was taken with that beginners DSLR back in 2004. Fortunately, thanks to Adobe
Lightroom and Photoshop, I was able to edit enough of them into better images
almost 20 years later.Fortunately, I was able to do the same thing when I photographed Badlands National Park.
Using a recently released camera will give you the best image quality because of the advanced technology in exposure control, focusing ability, detail and color reproduction, and image processing built into your camera.
Here are the 5 steps to take to get great photos of Yellowstone.
I know it can be intimidating to dive into the sophisticated settings that cameras have, but you really don't want to get to Yellowstone and not know how to use your camera. There are 3 things you can do to familiarize yourself with your specific camera BEFORE you travel.
It takes time to learn good composition technique. It's always a good idea to try a few different compositions, changing your vantage point, zoom setting, and angle of each subject you photograph.
I've been shooting photos for over 50 years and am still learning. See the composition tips on my general photography tips website.
In this photo of the boardwalk at Minerva Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, I included people in the composition to add interest.
I chose a vertical orientation because it fit the scene in front of me better.
I picked a camera location that gave me an arrangement that included objects up close and distant to give the image depth.
I zoomed out to a moderate wide angle focal length to include the right amount of background, including the sky in the top of the frame.
How you use the focal length setting on your lens will have a huge impact on how your photos come out. It's not just about getting wide scenic views with a wide angle setting or getting close-up shots with your telephoto focal length.
Using different focal lengths changes the relationship between objects within your camera frame. Learn the how wide angle focal lengths dramatize perspective and how telephoto focal lengths flatten the perspective. Here's a helpful chapter on perspective from my Digital Photography Tips eBook.
Your camera is very adept at getting the right exposure, but tricky lighting situations and unique subjects can fool your camera's exposure. Modern cameras come with an "Exposure Compensation" setting that lets you add or subtract exposure to what the camera originally determined to be the right settings.
Quite a few of my Yellowstone photos were over-exposed so badly that I couldn't fix them with software. That's because I didn't understand why shooting in RAW mode is so much better and it was before I learned how to use exposure compensation .Additionally, learning how to look at a histogram has been the most useful tool I've learned to use with all of my photography.
You've heard the expression, "Timing is Everything". Well, I'd have to agree that timing is very important with landscape and wildlife photography. It can be the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph. Generally speaking, dawn and dusk are the best time to photograph the wildlife at Yellowstone because they are more active at the beginning of the day and the end of the day.
Fro landscape photos the best time can vary more based on the subject. In the photo above the direction of the light was good for revealing the shapes and textures of the eroding rock at Minerva Terraces.
Yellowstone lighting can be the most dramatic, especially for landscape photography, just before and after both sunrise and sunset. It's an opportunity I had to miss because of my packed schedule during the fast, whirlwind tour of the Dakotas, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona.
Yellowstone is a photographer's paradise. It's one of the largest volcanoes on earth with over 300 active geysers and thousands of hydrothermal features. With several mountain ranges, the headwaters of 3 western river systems, and abundant wildlife, with a little luck you can come home with some amazing Yellowstone photos.
Despite the amazing scenes you'll see and want to photograph, there are some challenges to getting great photos of Yellowstone that you should know about.
Yellowstone is a huge park, covering 3,472 square miles with just a few roads available to drive on. The terrain includes rivers, mountains, and forests that you must navigate in order to get unique vantage points for shooting photos. Hiking the trails has a unique set of challenges and dangers as well.
The weather in Yellowstone can change in an instant and can be quite harsh. Sometimes it's those changing weather conditions that give you the most dramatic landscape photos. With outdoor photography, you're at the whim of Mother Nature. Not only must you protect yourself, but you need to be able to protect your camera gear from the elements as well.
Yellowstone is a National Park. That means it's a very popular destination for thousands of visitors. Yellowstone has averaged around 4,000,000 visitors each year over the last 4 years. That makes the park very crowded especially during the peak season.
Photography can be challenging because you are limited with finding a good angle to shoot and avoid having people in your way. Try visiting early on or later in the season when the crowds at Yellowstone are reduced.
The diverse wildlife species found in Yellowstone have different behavior patterns and can be unpredictable. It can be extremely dangerous to get too close to wildlife in order to take photos. Wildlife don't follow the same paths and roads that people do and they have certain times when they're most active and can be seen.
Choose your camera and lens carefully, pay attention to lighting and composition, and shoot for variety. If you're heading to Yellowstone, you should also add Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands in South Dakota, and Zion National Park in Arizona to your list of locations to photograph.