A Photographer’s Guide to Cody Yellowstone
When you think of Cody Yellowstone, you think wild, and for good reason! We’re world-famous for our incredible wildlife, vast wilderness, and wild family-friendly fun. There’s no better way to take some of that wild home with you than by bringing along a camera and capturing unforgettable memories.
Shoot digital or film. Go for landscapes or track down animals. Focus on the full spectrum of colors or explore the beauty of black and white. After all, as celebrated American nature photographer Ansel Adams proved, Yellowstone also looks pretty darn good in black and white!
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your experience when taking a photography trip to Cody Yellowstone.
Gear Up Before You Go
Charging bison, galloping elk, roving wolfpacks. Heart-pounding rodeo action and live gunfights. Cody Yellowstone is home to some seriously impressive action. As a photographer, you’ll be tempted to try to capture it all. And you should! But there are a few technical considerations to keep in mind.
You’ll need to adjust your shutter speed to catch all the fast-paced fun. Whether you’re bringing along a point-and-shoot camera or an SLR (single-lens reflex camera), shooting digital or analog film, you’ll want to make sure you’re familiar with all your camera’s settings and modes to prepare for your photography adventure. Different levels of action require different settings, so study up on your shutter speeds, camera modes, and lens sizes! Gear up and geek out to ensure you get that perfect shot of that bucking bronco or gushing geyser.
Bring along a few options if you’re using a camera with interchangeable lenses. Telephoto lenses are a great way to take wildlife photos at a distance to ensure your safety and the safety of your subject. It’s never worth risking your health to get a photo. Consider also packing a wide-angle lens or two to capture the full scope of nature’s beauty. It’s hard to do justice to the experience of seeing this vast landscape in person, but several lens options will give you the best shot at it.
While you’re gearing up, make sure your photography equipment is protected with proper cases and waterproofing. Weather in Yellowstone isn’t always predictable, and nothing ruins a fun photography excursion like worrying about damaging your prized cameras and gear. Pack it up safely so you can focus on capturing those amazing moments stress-free!
Where to Go to Photograph Animals
Yellowstone has a proud history of rehabilitating animal populations that were hunted to near extinction, which means this is one of the best places on earth to photograph animals. Visit our Wildlife page to read about recommended viewing routes.
Keep in mind that wild animals are…well, wild! They can be hard to predict because they operate on their own schedules and can’t be guaranteed to show up for their big moment in the spotlight. As a completely protected wilderness area, it’s mostly free from significant human intervention. Just about anywhere in Yellowstone has the potential to be a fantastic place to get a photo, so keep your eyes open and your cameras ready.
One of the best places to go is Lamar Valley, sometimes called “America’s Serengeti” for its large populations of roaming creatures, including packs of gray wolves and herds of our famous bison. Lamar Valley features lots of places to pull over and take the perfect shot, so it’s a very popular place for nature and wildlife photographers.
Remember to always practice safety when attempting to photograph the critters of Yellowstone. Read our Do’s and Don’ts of Animal Encounters before you go!
When Should You Visit to Photograph Wildlife?
Summer is the most popular time to visit Cody Yellowstone for photographers and non-photographers alike. But photography here can be a year-round pursuit, and there are animals to see and photograph at any time of year, including the white winter months. While the bears have settled down for their hibernation, plenty of critters thrive in the snow and cold. When you visit in the winter, you may have a chance to photograph bison, deer, elk, and bighorn sheep on land, while the skies feature eagles, falcons, and other birds of prey.
Fall is also an excellent time to visit Cody Yellowstone to photograph animals. Many members of the parks’ wild population are busy preparing to pack in extra calorie-rich snacks in anticipation of the less fruitful winter months, meaning they tend to be out searching for food. As a result, fall is a great time to spot hungry bears preparing to hibernate and the courtship rituals of elk preparing to mate. Just be sure to exercise common sense and the right amount of caution to keep your photography excursion safe and fun. You certainly don’t want to get in the way of an amorous elk!
If you’ve got your heart set on photographing cute baby animals, springtime is the right time to visit Cody Yellowstone. From black bear cubs and wolf pups to elk calves and eagle hatchlings, spring features some seriously adorable additions to Cody Yellowstone’s cast of wild characters. Your best bet is to visit between April and June to see these cuties while they’re fresh and before they begin their rapid growth to adulthood. Always remember that mother animals are particularly protective of their offspring, so you must exercise special caution not to interfere and risk putting yourself or the babies in danger.
Wildlife Photo Tip: Get Up Early
Roosters are known for crowing at the crack of dawn to wake up all their neighbors — animal and human alike! But roosters aren’t the only creatures that take advantage of early start times. Most of Cody Yellowstone’s animals are active in the morning, so it’s a good idea to get up and at it if you want to bring home a memorable photograph. There are other advantages to getting up early, of course. Perhaps you’ll capture unforgettable photos of a vibrant sunrise while you’re at it.
If your heart is set on capturing wildlife photos, be prepared to be still and wait for a while if needed. Animals can sometimes be tough to spot in the vast landscape, and patience can often reward photographers with a fantastic shot. Bring a travel mug full of coffee and enjoy the fresh air as you wait for that perfect moment.
Capture Legendary Landscapes
The beauty of Cody Yellowstone goes way beyond our world-famous wildlife. There’s an endless list of incredible landscapes and attractions you’ll want to capture. There’s Old Faithful, a renowned natural wonder and marquee attraction in the world’s very first national park. This geyser erupts every 35 to 120 minutes, and the maximum height of its eruption can reach almost 200 feet! The eruption times can last up to five minutes, so you’ll have plenty of time to snap the perfect shot.
Travel six miles north of Old Faithful to visit the Grand Prismatic Spring. Red, orange, yellow, green, and blue — count the vibrant colors and see how many you can get in your photos! The colors are so vivid and otherworldly that you may find yourself trying to convince your friends and family that your images haven’t been retouched. At close to 400 feet in diameter, the full scope of the Grand Prismatic Spring may be challenging to capture in one photo without getting yourself elevated on a nearby hill. Take the short hike to an overlook on the Fairy Falls Trail just south of the basin for the best view. And take lots of photos! You’ll find yourself amazed by this natural work of art.
At the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, you’ll feel spoiled with all the incredible angles and compositions possible when photographing this natural wonder. The canyon is 24 miles long and features many amazing look-offs where you can set up to take your photos. Artist Point is one of the most popular vantage points, and it provides your viewfinder with an awe-inspiring view of the Lower Yellowstone Falls and the Yellowstone River.
Set off on one of our Scenic Byways to hit several of this natural playground’s most captivating photo locations. Or consider taking a tour to get to all the best photography spots guided by knowledgeable professionals who are experts in the area.
Ready to Plan Your Cody Yellowstone Photography Excursion?
With a practically endless list of incredibly photogenic locations, experiences, and animals, your camera roll or contact sheet will be jam-packed with once-in-a-lifetime images. Start planning your getaway today.