It’s now day three in Yellowstone. We’ve all been saying that this place is like Jurassic Park. This place has so many features and changes in landscapes that you can’t believe it’s all going on here in this same location. When we’re driving I feel like any minute I’m going to pop around a corner and see an ancient creature mauling a van full of tourists.
Yesterday we went through tall mountains covered in pines, tall jagged rocks, flat plains, treeless plateaus, rocky desert areas and then into the are where we spent the night in a cabin, Mammoth Springs. The volcanic activity here will blow your mind. It doesn’t seem possible for all this to be going on in one place. The more I see the more it all seems fake, and too good to be true. I’m starting to feel like I’m in a theme park.
I didn’t post yesterday because the only place there is wireless is outside of the park in Montana. This is where we’ll be headed in a few hours after Ed and Elliott wake up and we pack the car.
The past few days have been amazing. I love photojournalism and know that’s what I want to do, but being able to make beautiful pictures like we’ve done the past two nights has really rejuvenated my spirits and made me fall in love with photography all over again. In nature there is no battle to represent anything evenly or fairly. It’s up to you and how you see it, and its fun to get to make pictures of what I appreciate about this place.
But sometimes it’s easy to get lost in what is going on and forget about watching out for number one. We’ve all made some dumb decisions here in the park while shooting because you just get so wrapped up in making a good picture that you put everything behind getting your frame just right. With the engaging reminder that nature is an awe-inspiring subject I also got a counteractive memento, and possibly a little keepsake.
We’ve been dying to see bears and moose. Yesterday we were driving down this curvy road, all watching for bear too and I saw one up in the woods. We pulled over immediately and ran to the spot (first dumb move: running in the general direction of a wild bear). We were about 50 yards from the black bear sat on a log across a ravine and up the mountain.
Everyone starts working the scene and moving to different angles. Within three or four minutes there were at least 7 cars parking into the hill and in the road, people were lobbing themselves into traffic to see something they hadn’t even identified yet. The bear is looking pretty upset with us and started moving away. I lost my shot and knew where I first started shooting him would be a better position. I turned and quickly stepped in that direction, not realizing that the ground I was walking on wasn’t the side of the road but small broken pieces of pavement. The old road was busted up on the edge and when my right foot hit down into the unfixed rock I slid.
I tried to catch myself but it was no use. I had to hold my camera up to keep it from being hit, which failed. My lens hood got a very small chip. My elbow is scraped a little but my knee is pretty bad. The sharp pavement cut my knee deep in seven places, one big enough to fit my pinky finger down into.
I looked up to see a tour bus, a park ranger’s truck and an additional 3-4 cars, all of which knew I had just bit it pretty hard. I was waiting to feel embarrassed but it never came. After a guy in a truck asked me if I was OK, I turned and shot about 4 more photos before walking to the car. Once I started cleaning myself off I realized I had made a big whoops. My leg is missing a good size piece below my knee. Thanks to the homemade survival kit my mother made me (thanks mom) and the shop towels I brought just to have, I was able to do some immediate work on it, but not too much.
I was going to go to a clinic just to get it cleaned but they told me I had to see a doctor, and I didn’t want to wait over an hour when I could dump peroxide on it myself and eventually get all the dirt out. If it starts to look bad I plan to go back, but for now I’m just going to keep cleaning it a few times a day and keeping it wrapped up. If it scars it will make for a nice souvenir of the first time I saw a wild black bear and a reminder to think a little beyond the camera lens next time.
We’ve been driving around at night because it’s the best time to see animals graze. Just in Yellowstone we’ve seen bull elk, bull deer, pronghorns, buffalo (these guys are everywhere…I could do a whole blog about our experience with them), coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles, black bear, grizzly bear and its cub, pelicans, the biggest crows you have ever seen, and pikas (they’re like squirrels minus the big tail). The only thing I really want to see now is a bull moose.
We had planned on getting up at 5 and driving out for sunrise today and yesterday. But it’s so nice to have a bed we end up sleeping through the alarm for an hour or three. I’m sure we’ll do that when we camp though. There’s no alarm like a biting 27 degrees on your face. We’ll be camping here for the next two or three nights and then we’re off to Oregon. We’re going to drive through and then start our way down the coast. The camping trip is halfway over. It was a week ago that we left Lexington.
Last night when we were driving through the woods coming back to our cabin, I was thinking about the scene we had just shot and got a weird feeling. We watched the sun go down behind a mountain which rested against a plain where a herd of 75 -100 buffalo were preparing to bed down. After seeing something like that it’s hard to think about any other place. About halfway back I told Ed and Elliott I felt like I was never going to see Kentucky again. I’m not trying to take away from Kentucky’s pretty landscapes with the horses and rolling mountains. It’s just we’ve seen so much in the past week that it all feels surreal and like it’s not going to stop.
I’m sure it will stop and that’s the part that makes me appreciate all of this. Right now I’m off to shower for the last time for a few days and then who knows. It’s all day to day, but I may see the last one creeping up faster than I would like.
A few more photos:
Snappers by Ed Matthews
Snappers by Elliott Hess and a random hostess