To conclude my trip report I’d like to give some advice to travelers, particularly photographers, who want to visit Yellowstone or any other national park:
Lodging: It is imperative to make room reservations, even in the shoulder season. Some lodges in the park close on Labor Day, ours closed on September 25. Visiting the park after the lodges close means driving long distances to and from gateway towns such as West Yellowstone. I overheard a couple who had driven six hours across the entire park because they did not have reservations.
Weather: Dress in layers and bring along a rain coat. Mornings are cold, so bring a heavy jacket and gloves. The park is huge and if it rains in one area it doesn’t mean that it is raining elsewhere.
Photography: Which camera you take along depends on the objects you want to photograph. If your goal is to take vacation photos, then a good point-and-shoot or bridge camera will do. Many tourists take pictures with their phones or tablets. My bridge camera, for example, does not take awesome landscapes, but is good at close-ups and its 1200 mm lens enabled me to zoom in on wildlife I would have never captured otherwise.
If, however, your goal is to take professional-looking images, by all means take along your big gear and a tripod or car window mount. Just be sure to stay away from areas where throngs of tourists converge or visit in the off-season.
Photography ethics: Park administration advises travelers to keep a safe distance from wildlife, and for good reason. That means keeping a distance of at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and 25 yards from all other animals. Yet, on our very first day in the park we observed some disturbing behavior (by tourists, not the wildlife). A herd of bison was by the roadside and some people got out of their cars to take close-up images of them. A pick-up truck was surrounded by bison on all sides. Rangers had to come in and control the crowds.
Another time we pulled over when we spotted an elk cow among a small woodland. Several cars had pulled over already, but most people photographed the cow from the roadside, as did I. One photographer, however, walked into the woods to get a closer shot of it. Such behavior not only endangers the photographer, but also the wildlife. Just like we don’t want intruders into our home, the wildlife does not appreciate it if we intrude into their space.
Respect other photographers: I was standing by Yellowstone Lake to take a photo when a tourist stepped right in front of me to take a picture. Please don’t be that person. We all want to enjoy the wildlife and scenery in our national parks.