Mt. Haynes Overlook Timelapse Video

One of my favorite spots in Yellowstone is the Mt. Haynes Overlook about six miles in from the west gate.

It’s great to photograph it after a fresh snow because of the contrast that gets added. Most of the snow was gone last week when I visited there, but the skies were blue and the clouds were quickly moving by – a great opportunity for a timelapse video.

Doing this shot was fairly easy. I pulled over in the parking lot, put the tripod just outside the window, and attached the camera to a laptop. Canon has software in which you can enter how frequently to take a picture, plus how many you want. For this one, I had the camera take 400 pictures, each five seconds apart.

I was using my Canon Digital Rebel (link to Amazon) and Canon’s 10-22 wide angle lens.

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Yellowstone Dreams

Did Judy of Yellowstone Dreaming fame really come to work the summer in the Yellowstone area? I drove out to Old Faithful Inn today to find out for myself … and there she was!



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Grizzly Bar and Grill

Grizzly Bar and Grill

Interior of Grizzly Bar and Grill

Grizzly Bar and Grill

Grizzly Bar and Grill

There’s a great place to eat just outside of West Yellowstone that has excellent food, very friendly service and is a beautiful drive that will enhance your trip to Yellowstone National Park.

It’s called the Grizzly Bar and Grill and is located in Cameron, Montana. They opened yesterday and it is the only restaurant located on the world-famous Madison River, and yes, it’s possible to get a seat with a view of the river.

I had the Grizzly hamburger topped with blue cheese. The burger was perfectly cooked to my specifications (medium rare), was juicy and had a very good flavor. I especially liked the shoestring french fries because of how the chef adds a special seasoning to them – these aren’t your ordinary fries. The menu includes hamburgers, steaks, and chicken.

Beer and flowers at the Grizzly Bar and Grill

Beer and flowers at the Grizzly Bar and Grill

The wood-filled interior is what I call “Montana rustic” and gives a touch of pleasant western authenticity to your visit.

After a visit to Yellowstone National Park, this would make an excellent mini-roadtrip. There is also, to say the least, some excellent fly-fishing in the area.

There are two ways to get there from West Yellowstone, which are shown on the map below.

I suggest going there via Highway 191, which takes you by Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake.

On the way back, take the route using Highways 87 and 20 so you can go through Idaho and see more of this scenic area.

Address: 1409 Us Highway 287 N, Cameron, MT 59720

Phone number: (406) 682-7118

Hamburger with Blue Cheese

Hamburger with Blue Cheese at Grizzly Bar and Grill.

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The Unofficial “West Gate” to Yellowstone National Park

What’s the best gate into Yellowstone National Park? I like the north one at Gardiner, and the quote on it from Teddy Roosevelt is inspiring, but my favorite is an unofficial natural one.

Drive into the park from West Yellowstone and continue on the road for about eight miles. It’s mostly flat, but then you’ll come around a corner and see these two mountains ahead of you. The roads winds around the bend and as you enter these mountains, with your pulse quickening, you gain entry to explore and view geysers, hot pools, bison, wolves and elk, in an area unlike any other in the world.

This is how it looked yesterday evening – you can use your mouse to zoom in and out on this panorama or scroll back and forth, and the bottom right button launches it in full-screen mode.

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New business venture

I ran into my regular car mechanic a couple of weeks ago at Wild West Pizzeria and told him about my then-secret expansion plans.

He said, “I always look forward to summer to see the crazy things people come up with.”

But I don’t think he was talking about me.

The big announcement is that I’ll be running a hot dog cart next to my store (which of course will also be open). These will be the finest hot dogs in the area, and if you mention the blog I’ll even give you a discount.

I’ve gotten some snide comments about this, and last night one of the town council members voted to keep me out of business, but 3-1 is still a victory, so I’ll be setting up in late May or early June.

Of course I’m biased, but I truly believe a hot dog stand can provide a really good meal. I studied at Hot Dog University and am trained in the Chicago-style method.

Is this low-class? Is it something that enlightened societies should ban?

Here’s what famous chef/author and street-food conneiseur Anthony Bourdain says:

Sneer at hot dogs all you want. A well-made wiener is a thing of beauty.

My plans are to live up to this standard and provide a valuable, tasty, and memorable meal during your visit to Yellowstone National Park.

P.S. I’m still working out the exact menu, but when talking it over with my Hot Dog U professor he advised, in a defeated tone, “you’ll probably have to offer ketchup.”

He was more realistic than Bourdain, who on this controversial topic warns his readers: “if you put ketchup on your dog I will [expletive] kill you.”

Posted in Life in West Yellowstone 3 Comments

Peeking Between the Trees in Yellowstone

There are plenty of trees in Yellowstone and while sometimes they can get in the way, other times you can use them to help frame your pictures.

Here are a few shots from yesterday afternoon in the park about seven miles from the West Yellowstone entrance.

First, here’s how not to incorporate a tree! I liked the way the buffalo formed a v-shape pointing toward me, but the tree was in the way. I moved to the side and down a little bit to get this better view.

Buffalo in Yellowstone

Buffalo in Yellowstone, but the tree is in the way. Click for bigger image.

Buffalo in Yellowstone

Here's the same shot, except with the tree off to the left. Click for bigger image.

Here are two more pictures in the same area, this time incorporating trees on both sides of the picture. I like the effect because it helps frame the subject, and makes you feel like you are peeking in on the scene.

Mountain reflection in Madison River, Yellowstone National Park.

In addition to framing this shot with the trees, I was also able to catch the mountain's reflection in the Madison River, which yesterday was extremely still. Click for bigger image.

Grazing at Yellowstone National Park

Grazing along the river at Yellowstone National Park. Madison River is in the background. Click for bigger image.

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Making Wolf Print Casts

The afternoon started with straightforward plans: that evening my neighbor and I and others would be listening to a couple of area folk singers at Wild West Pizzeria, but in Yellowstone the changing conditions mean you have to be flexible.

My cell phone rang and it was my neighbor: “Can you be ready a half hour earlier? Wolf prints a few miles outside of town.”

No problem at all, and soon three of us were heading west of West Yellowstone to take a look. From what we could piece together, two adult wolves and two younger ones had walked down the muddy road the day before.

Wolf print

Wolf print next to dollar bill for sizing

We followed the prints until they veered off into a field, and then retraced our steps to find the best ones, eventually spotting two that were next to each other.

The light was declining quickly, no one had bear spray, and the band was getting ready to play, but there was still time for my neighbor to make a mold.

The first step was to clean the print of tiny pebbles by blowing it with compressed air. Then we mixed the Plaster of Paris with water and poured it into the prints, gently smoothing it over the entire area.

At that point there was nothing to do but wait for the plaster to set, so we headed into town to listen to music for a couple of hours.

Even though the moon was only one day short of being full, it was still dark because of the cloud cover as we made our way back (no street lights for miles in this part of the country). Bear spray in hand we walked down the road, found the cast and gently lifted it from the ground. Mud and rocks were still attached, but otherwise it looked good and just needed to be cleaned.

The cast made it much easier to see the details of the wolf print, and it looked bigger than what we saw in the mud. It gives you a new perspective.

Cleaning the wolf print

Cleaning the wolf print with compressed air

Mixing the Plaster of Paris

Mixing the Plaster of Paris

Creating the mold

Pouring the plaster into the wolf print

Lifting the cast

Lifting the dried cast

The wolf print

The finished wolf print. Just needs to be cleaned off.

I’m not sure if this can be done inside of Yellowstone National Park – the best thing would be to talk to a ranger first. But otherwise, it’s easy to get the material from the local hardware store and then keep your eyes open for animal tracks so you can bring home a unique memento. And also remember to keep your schedule flexible.

Posted in Life in West Yellowstone 1 Comment

Bread and wine in your Yellowstone photographs

Last week at West Yellowstone’s delightful public library I picked up a copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s Stranger in Paris novel and came across one of the best descriptions I’ve read of what art can be.

Maugham’s characters vividly illustrate how art can go beyond a technically well-crafted and pretty picture, and deliver meaning, though the viewer’s openness and cultural background are just as important.

The scene starts with Charley, on a Christmas holiday in Paris from his sheltered and wealthy English family, visiting the Louvre with Russian emigrant Lydia. They were looking at La Brioche, a still-life by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin.

Charley said, “Yes, I’ve seen that before” and described it as “well-painted”.

Lydia: “But have you ever looked at it?” and then she talked about what it meant to her.

It’s not only a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine; it’s the bread of life and the blood of Christ, but not held back from those who starve and thirst for them and doled out by priests on stated occasions; it’s the daily fare of suffering men and women. It’s so humble, so natural, so friendly; it’s the bread and wine of the poor who ask no more than that they should be left in peace, allowed to work and eat their simple food in freedom. It’s the cry of the despised and rejected. It tells you that whatever their sins men at heart are good. That loaf of bread and that flagon of wine are symbols of the joys and sorrows of the meek and lowly. They ask for your mercy and your affection; they tell you that they’re of the same flesh and blood as you. They tell you that life is short and hard and the grave is cold and lonely. It’s not only a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine; it’s the mystery of man’s lot on earth, his craving for a little friendship and a little love, the humility of his resignation when he sees that even they must be denied him.

Charley thought to himself, “who would have thought a picture could affect anyone like that?”

The book, and even this scene, weren’t about art, they were about Charley learning new ways of looking at life itself, but it applies to photography and your trip to Yellowstone.

When visiting the park, keep in mind Lydia’s emotional reaction to the iconic images and seek to trigger something similar in your photos. Think about the cultural tradition of the American West, the cycle of life so much on display in Yellowstone, the tremendous power of the Earth’s thermal energy, and represent those elements in your pictures.

Those are the ones that will become your favorites from your visit.

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Montana Horse Pictures

Black and White Photography magazine recently included some amazing photos of horses that showed a huge emotional range and regal nature of these animals. Since Montana has its fair share of them, I’ve been keeping an eye out.

While driving between Great Falls and Bozeman a few weeks ago I saw this horse out grazing, pulled over, and used the Canon 300 mm lens to capture this picture.

Montana Horse, between Great Falls and Bozeman

Montana Horse, between Great Falls and Bozeman. Click for larger image.

This next shot was taken yesterday in Paradise Valley, which is north of Yellowstone National Park and between Gardiner and Livingston. I had been taking a series of pictures when my store landlord called at the same moment the horse walked up to me, so this picture was taken with a cell phone cradled against my ear while talking about plans for the summer.

Montana horse in Paradise Valley

Montana horse in Paradise Valley. Click for larger image.

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“Face” Peering Out Of Orange Spring Mound (Video)

When driving by Orange Spring Mound a couple of days ago I noticed what looks like a face peering out of it. Do you see it in the video?

It was a little bit spooky to drive by this unexpected feature in a surreal setting at dusk, with the wolves howling in the distance. Orange Spring Mound [link to Park Service description] is located in the northwest part of the park and, now with road open near Gibbon Falls, is easy to get to from West Yellowstone compared to last summer when there were construction detours.

I did the video with my Canon T1i Digital Rebel [Amazon link] and the Canon 10-22 wide angle lens [Amazon link]. I rolled down my window, set the camera on the edge, and slowly rolled the car forwards and backwards until I got the shot. You can still see some camera shake it, but I’m finding a key to getting the best video is to stabilize as much as possible.

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