Jeff Vanuga’s Photography Guide for Yellowstone Park
Capturing the essence of Yellowstone on film is both easy and challenging. There’s beautiful subject matter almost everywhere you turn, but taking the perfect photo isn’t always a snap. Jeff Vanuga — a professional photographer based in Dubois, WY — has been photographing Yellowstone since 1980 and has a few tips of the trade.
Quick Tips for Better Yellowstone Photos
1. Best Time to Shoot in Yellowstone Park
Pre-dawn, mid-morning and late evening until after dark, in any season, is the premier time to take photographs. Yellowstone animals tend to be more active during these times and the lighting is best.
2. Best Composition
Remember the rule of thirds. Have your subject occupy one third of your frame.
3. Taking Photos of Yellowstone Animals
You don’t need the big lens. 300 mm and below are enough unless you’re shooting dangerous animals.
4. Taking Landscape Photos
Use a focal length setting of 10mm up to 300mm on your wideangle, telephoto or all-in-one zoom lens and put a subject in the landscape to capture the sense of place with the animal or subject in its environment.
5. Optimal Summer Photo Conditions
In June and July, optimal photography conditions in Yellowstone are a blue sky with clouds. If you’re out early, dawn often creates a magenta sky with red and orange clouds.
6. Be Patient
When shooting photos in the outdoors and in a natural wonderland like Yellowstone Park, patience is a must. It’s definitely a waiting game.
7. Don’t Shoot With the Sun Behind You
Contrary to popular belief, don’t shoot with the sun directly at your back. Doing so will make the light on the subject flat. Move so the light is at an angle and you’ll get more texturing and shadows — and a much more interesting photo. Most great photos are either side-lit or have the light coming in from a different angle.
8. Night Photography
When shooting photos at night in Yellowstone Park, “paint” the area with a flashlight to experiment with lighting up otherwise dark scenes.
9. Don’t Be Too Rigid in Your Goals
Take advantage of the opportunities that come up. You might go by the same place 50 times and one morning it looks different. Take advantage of the opportunities that arise. Try not to be too goal-oriented, and look for what is there at the present. Be flexible and opportunistic.
10. Test the Waters
Make photography a passion before you choose to make it a career. You have to shoot a lot of photos to really learn how to take great photos. It’s an art form.
Great Tamron gear for great Yellowstone photos!
Tamron’s ultra compact 18-270 VC PZD all-in-one zoom lens features VC anti-shake for blur-free pictures and new PZD (Piezo Drive) for fast and quiet AF. Its 15X range is perfect for shooting every moment—celebrations, sports, vacations, everyday snapshots…without switching lenses! Winner of the prestigious EISA Best Product Award 2011-2012: Zoom Lens. Perfect your Nikon, Canon or Sony smaller sensor DSLR camera. (And now model B011 18-200mm Di III VC for your Sony mirrorless camera).
Tamron’s SP 70-300mm Di VC USD ultra tele zoom lens delivers class-leading sharpness, brilliant color and striking contrast. Featuring Tamron’s USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) auto-focus drive for fast and quiet AF and VC (Vibration Compensation) image stabilization for steady hand-held shots. Winner of the prestigious EISA Best Product Award 2010-2011: Zoom Lens. Designed for your Canon, Nikon or Sony DSLR camera.
Landscapes, streetscapes, architecture and confining interiors come to life beautifully with the true, striking wide-angle perspective provided with this ultra wideangle zoom. Images exhibit negligible distortion in normal use, but—if the photographer chooses—spectacular effects can be introduced by disregarding the camera’s relationship to level. Professional Photographer Hot One Winner 2009. Designed for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony smaller sensor DSLR cameras.
YellowstonePark.com: Is there any one photo in the Yellowstone or Grand Teton region that’s your favorite?
Jeff Vanuga: It’s more about the experiences. For example, Yellowstone in winter: it’s magical and unreal. The ice formations, ghost trees, ice plates coming out of the ground, snowfall, mist, etc. They’re incredible.
P.O. Box 1450
63 Leseberg Ave.
Dubois, WY 82513 USA(307) 455-2194
See Jeff’s photos at: