Yellowstone Bison

A herd of bison in a valley in the northwestern region of Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming). I shot this iPhone snap while shooting video with Miles O'Brien and team—we're working on a story for the PBS NewsHour. We're in Montana today, driving out shortly to a cattle rancher's digs. Photo notes: I shot this in the "regular" (not HDR) iPhone photo setting, and did only very minor tweaks in Photoshop (levels, exposure, to bring some of those mid-range clouds into greater clarity). But this is not an HDR or faux-HDR photo, and I didn't use any filters or do much in Photoshop. This is pretty much how it looks right on the iPhone.


    1. We’re in Montana now. Saturday’s our last day in Wyoming/Montana. I believe we’re going to pass through Bozeman and Helena. We’re going to be on a ranch in Wyoming today.

      1. I hope you and Miles enjoy the trip.  If you were coming closer to the Lewistown area I could suggest a couple other ranchers with amenable managers.  And if you can find Hobson on a map, there is an open invitation to all science minded persons to visit my classroom.

  1. this is about the best time of year to be in Montana!  be sure to hit up one of the local burger+malt shops in just about every small town while you’re there…

  2. A few years ago, I was visiting a friend at his summer lodge in Northern Michigan. His little community of weekenders were on one side of a fire road, with a state/private mutually-managed game preserve on the other.
    We were leaving for the airport, and we stopped off at the ranger station to drop off the weekend’s trash, rather than stuff it into my friend’s plane and fly it back to Milwaukee. He went in to chat with the ranger, while I threw the garbage bags in the dumpster and stretched in the autumn sun.

    After a few minutes, I noticed a strong, pungent odor had come out of nowhere. I looked around, and behind my back was a full-grown male bison, about seven feet tall at the hump, calmly standing and eyeing me about ten feet away. On tarmac. Where he had come through the timber, over dry leaves and twigs, without making the slightest sound, and without his huge hooves clicking on the macadam. Just standing there.

    I knew enough not to make any sudden moves or freak out. I stood there, trying to figure out what to do, when the ranger and my host came around the corner, saw the bison, and the ranger laughed and said, “Oh, I see you’ve met Wilbur. He probably thinks you’re me. He’s waiting for a snack”, and he then went to a bin, drug out a bale of something, and set it gently down in front of Wilbur, who sniffed it and contentedly started munching it. That was the only sound I heard this brute make the entire time.

    It’s a weird feeling, to realize that a thousand-pound-plus animal the size of a Volkswagen bus can sneak up on you in broad daylight. I’ve always admired bison for their size and power, but after seeing and hearing so much footage of them thundering across a prairie, I’d never thought of them as wraith-like or deft. I do now.

  3. I loves me some buffalo . . . 
    This is outside the Yellowstone Lake Hotel last fall.

  4. @beforewepost:disqus, NW Yellowstone is near to Pindale in the same sense that Bakersfield is near San Francisco.  Easily a 5-6 hour drive from NW Yellowstone to Barlow’s neck of the woods.  I spent 10 years in Wyoming, it’s a big state.

  5. Lovely!  My mother and I used to drive out to look at a herd of bison on a ranch around here (Athens, Georgia), but they were gone the last time we looked.

  6. It is a good photo. I’ve never really understood why people seem to get such a sense of pride from doing as little as possible with their photography. Personally, I would rather have the best looking picture. I always leave my iPhone in HDR mode because a lot of time the photos it takes come out better with HDR turned on (and when they don’t, it also saves the non-HDR version and you can use that). I don’t view this as “cheating”, but as trying to take the best pictures possible.

  7. I’m off to Yellowstone myself next week, several cameras and a bunch of lenses in tow.  Going against the grain of this discussion, this year I’m going to try HDR, but in my defense, largely low-light HDR in the early early morning or late evening.  It IS possible to take a bad picture in Yellowstone – I’ve achieved this non-goal many times.  Autofocus is EPIC FAIL  on steam clouds, just for one example.  But I’ve also gotten some great ones, and that, in turn, has gotten me serious about photography.

  8. I will never forget the time I watched a bison charge a motorcyclist in
    Yellowstone, It was everything I had always hoped it would be.  

  9. Is this Lamar Valley? I spent three years, summer and winter, living at Old Faithful location. Yellowstone is one of my favorite beautiful places in the world. Winters are even more amazing than summers.

      1. You just caught the bison over on that side. Pretty soon they start migrating west toward the upper and lower geyser basins to brave out the winter months. If you ever have time, I recommend spending a month or so in the park. Talk to employees and backcountry rangers and find out about some of the hidden gems. There’s a lot that’s not too far off the beaten path, but most people never see it in the week or weekend they spend there. There’s too much to experience in such a short time.

  10. Just came back from a Yellowstone trip a week ago.
    This time I stayed near YNP’s grand canyon. 
    I’ve been caught in several “Bison Jams”
    It’s amazing how close people are willing to get to one of these animals.

    In one week we easily did 20 miles of day hikes on trails and various feature boardwalks.
    Active Geyser basins and spotting wildlife are highlights for sure. 
    Even on the busiest times in YNP You can still find actual solitude in nature.
    It’s all the secluded lakes, and rivers, viewpoints that are the real gems.
    Not every geyser is viewable from the boardwalks.

    More adventurous travelers can even get a permit and backpack out a few days along the trail.

    I’m more afraid of the people and the way they drive around the park than the wildlife. 

  11. Xeni, that’s a gorgeous photo. Interesting that you dropped the native HDR, I’ve given up on it as well, although I do use HDR Pro. The native version just looks flat. Your pic is stunning.

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