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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Yellowstone in Winter Sun

March 11th, 2012 · 4 Comments

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From the time that I took my first photo in Yellowstone National Park on the morning of March 1, I could see that the month was coming in like a lamb, in stark contrast to the blustery lion of February’s end. Snow had stopped falling and the sun was beginning to break through the cloud cover.

Sun Breaks Through the Clouds over Yellowstone's Firehole River

Sun Breaks Through the Clouds over Yellowstone's Firehole River

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Notice the steam rising from thermal activity in five or six places across the river. Even though the temperature was below zero, this thermal activity is what keeps the river unfrozen so it can continue to flow in Yellowstone’s cold winter. By the way, I shot this photo in color, believe it or not.

Later in the day we saw our first bison, the huge animals that people sometimes call American Buffalo. We saw them all around the park in such abundance that they were the stars of the Yellowstone winter show.

A Bison Cow in Classic Winter Snow

A Bison Cow in Classic Winter Snow

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I was visiting Yellowstone on my second Mountain Outin’ tour led by tour operator Rolland Graham. But we also had local guides. One of those guides explained the most apparent difference between bison bulls and cows.

“We are all adults here,” Liz began. “Girls have curves. And the horns of bison cows are curved.”

So this ferocious looking animal above must be one of those supposedly gentle females.

A Bison Closeup

A Bison Closeup

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The reason why the faces of these animals are covered in snow is because they have to dig through it to find anything to eat.

Three Amigos

Three Amigos

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The leader here looks like a bull, and the second one looks like it could be a cow bison. The gender of the third one isn’t apparent. I call this procession of bison “three amigos” in honor of the famous Thomas Mangelsen photo of three bison walking side by side. One of my tour companions, Ned Marsh, and I visited his gallery in Jackson. And the best hotel accommodations of the trip, at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, displayed many of his fantastic photos, including his “Three Amigos.”

Is this Bison Going to Charge? I Think She Would Just Like Us to Get Out of Her Way

Is this Bison Going to Charge? I Think She Would Just Like Us to Get Out of Her Way

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I also took some short film clips. Here is some bison activity. You might want to turn down the sound to avoid the wind noise:

Bison Butt Heads

We traveled in snow coaches and stopped often to look at geysers, rivers, and falls. This film clip of Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River was particularly beautiful in its mantle of winter snow:

The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River

Finally, we saw some real color.

The Midway Geyser Basin Flows into the Firehole River

The Midway Geyser Basin Flows into the Firehole River

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Since the geysers keep the rivers of Yellowstone ice-free, water birds stay year around. I was glad to get shots of two species:

A Goldeye on the Yellowstone River

A Goldeye on the Yellowstone River

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A Pair of Trumpeter Swans on the Firehole River

A Pair of Trumpeter Swans on the Firehole River

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In Yellowstone I particularly wanted to see these Trumpeter Swans. These are the heaviest native North American birds and the largest extant waterfowl species on Earth. I had never seen one before, making this sighting what birders call “a life bird.” While I don’t obsessively keep a count of all the species of birds that I have seen and photographed, I do seek out views of beautiful birds where I can find them. This sighting certainly qualifies.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gretchen // Mar 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I especially like that first pix, but they all make me wish I had a cup of hot cocoa.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Mar 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Dear Gretchen,

    Yes, that is one of my two favorite shots that I took in Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

    David

  • 3 winnie // Mar 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I like the picture of the swans. They look so regal.

  • 4 John Dorey // Apr 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    As always, beautiful pictures, David! The “Three Amigos” looks like a poster for a Pixar movie. You’ve inspired me to get out my Canon Rebel 500D and learn how to use it. All the best, John

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