Yellowstone in Winter (part 2)

This is part 2 of the Yellowstone in Winter post written by Randy Dykstra – you can check his website, Instagram and Facebook page (part 1 can be found here):

Later in the afternoon, the predators first appeared. Coyotes are the first to show, off in the distance, just one, but then there are two, maybe three.

We end up on a very windy slope near the Alum river where the sun was just exploding on the horizon as it slowly sinks in the west, marking the end of the day.

The next morning, with relatively clear skies, we decided to try to get some sunrise photos. The weather was a crisp 5 degrees F. It was partly cloudy yet small snow crystals float in the air. The trip started in the dark but slowly lightens as we climbed up Mt. Washburn. Arriving at the vista, my strategy then became a matter of finding the best composition location. Most landscapes always do better with a foreground feature, so I was in search of a foreground element.

Later on, the brilliance of the main beam of light from the sun, urged us to find other vistas, before the magic of light disappeared.

The weather had definitely changed, the sun was out, the snow sparkles and ‘diamond dust was in the air. (These are small little crystals of ice blown around by the wind.) The animals are up and about and more active. The bison are running and jumping and squaring off with each other. The little “Reds” were especially active and frolicking and making a nuisance of themselves.

Early that same morning we got our first sign of wolves, as tracks were spotted and a trail through the snow arrived at the road. The tracks followed the road for over 3 miles and then disappeared. A little ways further along we sighted a carcass with a variety of scavengers feasting on it. No wolves, but this was a bison carcass so it required something like a pack of wolves to take it down. But, all other meat eaters were taking turns cleaning up the remains, coyotes, bald eagles, ravens, etc.

Notice the Bald Eagle chasing away the ravens.

The day continued with various sightings of coyotes as they were really out in force.

Near the end of the day, we finally spot one of the animals I really wanted to see. A red fox. Unfortunately, she’s quite a distance away on a hilltop. I would estimate 500 yards, but thanks to the telephoto lens I was able to get a few reasonable shots. And this is where I get to see how well my 500PF performs. I tried combinations of my D850 with the 500PF and my Tamron 150-600 G2 lens mounted on my D7200, a crop sensor camera. (giving me FOV equivalent to 900mm). I have to say I absolutely love my 500PF. The size (or lack thereof) is incredible. I can handle it like I do a 70-200mm. Most of the shots (other than landscapes) were hand-held. And most were some distance away. I do not know of any other lens in which I could have accomplished this same work. The loss of a single stop of aperture has not affected me as of yet, but the small size and weight have been god-sends!

The sets of images below, the first image is from my D850/500PF and the second image is from my D7200/150-600G2. Both were cropped to approximate the same “real” size.





Another day wound down and the bison were still dominating the scene:

The final day, we drove back out to West Yellowstone. It provided some more landscape in Norris Geyser Basin:

Then more wildlife especially bald eagles and coyotes and finally a new species, which I had never seen live before.

A Muskrat is similar to a beaver but its tail is flattened vertically. The tail works like a rudder and helps the muskrat maneuver in the water.

Thanks Yellowstone for a wonderful experience!

Randy A. Dykstra is a professional photographer and tour leader who first started taking photographs over 40 years ago in high school. Back then, he learned all about film, including working in a darkroom. His love for the outdoors and nature led him to become an avid backpacker, which gave him plenty of opportunities for landscape photography. He also became a certified SCUBA diver while in High School which led him to later become a professional SCUBA diving instructor and opened completely new worlds of nature photography. His passion for the natural world, wildlife and photography have been always growing ever since.

A graduate from the University of California with an Electrical Engineering degree, Randy spent a career designing and integrating space vehicles, military aircraft, and surveillance equipment. His serious photography hobby continued, and he was always taking classes and going on trips and ever honing his photographic skills.

That lifelong hobby is now his vocation. As Randy quit his “day job” and now only concentrates on photography. He sells his images, teaches classes, leads group tours, writes articles and books, and also speaks to groups. Instead of the darkroom of his youth, he now spends days working with Lightroom and Photoshop. He uses his engineering discipline and knowledge to continually learn and adjust to the technical intricacies of photography but also strives to evolve as an artist.

Randy says “I’m fortunate enough to be able to follow my passions, and along the way I get the privilege to share some of my knowledge and experiences with you and others” He is actively involved in giving back to the community, and is the Vice-president of the North Austin Photographic Society, and has organized two large meetup groups (Austin Photography Group and San Diego Outdoor Photography group) and helps moderates a large Facebook group.

Now you too, can join him on his travels and experiences and enjoy the wonderful places that await to be photographed. Randy provides instruction, tips, and guidance for all levels of photographers. You can see more of Randy’s work and projects at or his Facebook page or Instagram.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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