When I think of Yellowstone National Park, I actually think of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A big part of that is the Beartooth Mountains and the Beartooth Pass. From June through October I start and end most all of my Yellowstone trips with a drive over the pass.
Sometimes the drive yields few photographs, while other times it is filled with beautiful sights. Even if the drive provides no photographs it is still “America’s most beautiful drive,” according to Terry Ward. One other positive is that somehow my car ends up getting better gas mileage when I drive over the 11,000-foot pass than when I drive the interstate to Gardiner, Mont.
The secret to photographing Yellowstone in July is to know where the action is, hike there shortly after sunrise and spend the entire day there. It really helps if the action is on the shores of a lake with plenty of shade.
Each year in July I make the hike to Trout Lake to try my luck, and often try my patience, too. This year the family of otters rewarded my patience by putting on a few great shows. I did have to spend two days waiting, but the company was pleasant and the setting pristine.
The final day of my trip would be considered a bust by most people’s standards. I made my way through the park with nothing to photograph. I hiked up to Trout Lake as the sun was rising, and found the lake void of humans and otters. I decided to take some time and meditate along the peaceful shores of the lake, remembering to check for otters occasionally.
Suddenly, I had the feeling that something was watching me, hand on bear spray I slowly turned to find a mule deer doe watching from above me. About that moment the sun poked through the trees over the hill. I spent the next 15 minutes with it feeding very near me. She was scared off by the first fisherman hiking up to the lake, but she was not the last of the lake’s visitors.
As soon as the fisherman walked off a new family of goldeneye came to visit, followed by a moth and countless dragon and damselflies. By midday the lake was collecting a crowd, so I took a few shots of the flowers and headed on.