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Wildlife Photo Tour with Local Professional Wildlife Photographer
Spend the day immersed in photographing Yellowstone’s wildlife-rich Lamar Valley area, revered as the gem of North American wildlife photography. Yellowstone boasts the largest intact ecosystem in the northern temperate zone, and scientists believe the park is now as rich, diverse and healthy as it has ever been. Capturing images of bison in the morning light with thermals in the background or a mother grizzly bear with cubs in a sea of silver-green sage is on any photographer’s dream list and would be a signature Yellowstone image to add to any portfolio. On our photo tours this dream can become a reality.
Join award-winning wildlife photographer and filmmaker Brad Orsted as he guides you through his backyard, Yellowstone National Park. Brad lives in Gardiner, Montana, at the north entrance to the park and spends most of his day in Yellowstone, photographing and filming its apex predators and scenery for National Geographic, The BBC, PBS, Nature, and ARTE. His photography has appeared in publications and on billboards across the West, as well as the AP, including The Washington Post. His Cougar Pose image was named in the top ten images for the decade by Mountain Outlaw.
Exploring Yellowstone’s Northern Range, our focus will likely be on the predators and their prey, who are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. We will spend our time in the best places to find these icons of American wilderness, while discussing the ecology and natural history driving their behavior. Understanding the ecology and behavior of your subjects will help you tell their story through your photographs and will help you read and predict their movements to best position yourself to capture outstanding images.
On these excursions, we will likely encounter wolves, grizzly and black bears, bison, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, otters, and numerous other species, large and small. Depending on the season, we may focus additional time on any one of many different aspects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It might be the bugling elk during their breeding season in September/October or the bashing heads of the bighorn rams during their breeding season in November/December. It might be the birthing bison on the emerald green bottomlands of the Lamar Valley in May or the spawning cutthroat trout in June. Late May through early June is the best time to find a mother grizzly with her tiny cubs foraging along a mountain stream and across a sage-covered slope.
There is something totally magical happening everyday somewhere in Yellowstone; it’s just a matter of finding it. Every day in Yellowstone is different and unpredictable, and therefore, we like to leave room for adapting to situations as they arise to fully maximize each opportunity as it presents itself. Whether it’s a grizzly bear crossing the road, a lightning storm over Electric Peak, or the array of autumn colors of aspen, cottonwood, and willows along the Lamar River, we aim to take full advantage of every bit of magic that Yellowstone presents to us.
Photograph the magic of Yellowstone’s abundant wildlife and iconic beauty
Full-day (~8 hours) private guided photo tour
One-on-one instruction while shooting with one of Yellowstone’s most well-known local photographers
Vast wide-open landscapes and abundant wildlife
Small private group – no more than 6 guests
All skill levels welcome
Breakfast and lunch – picnic style – catered by the region’s best boutique eco-lodge, the Wonderland Café and Lodge
Interpretation of wildlife activity and behavior through observation and dynamic, engaging discussions
Informed and accurate information on the biology, geology, and conservation issues surrounding the wildlife and landscapes you will experience on our tours
Note from Brad:
Hi everyone, and welcome!
Thank you for taking the time to look into a photography tour together. Here are my goals for you during our time together:
Through a full immersion into the Yellowstone ecosystem, you will learn not only the functionality of how to capture iconic images, but a deeper understanding of our subjects by sharing in their world. We will learn how, why, and where different animals move at different times, and how to use our instincts and animal allies in the field to help us locate our subjects. Through a respectful and more meaningful re-connection to the landscape we become not only better observers, but more accomplished storytellers – with our cameras.
I look forward to sharing what I have learned over the past decade photographing in Yellowstone with you. Yellowstone is a land sacred to me, with many stories to be revealed to those with the skills, patience and cunning to seek them out. During our time together, it’s my personal goal to not only help you become a better photographer, but for you to be at home in the wild; to open your eyes, ears, and imagination to the wonders of the world’s first National Park, my home, Yellowstone.
What is included and what you need to bring:
- Full-day (8 hour) private guided tour with photography instruction
- Transportation in our fully equipped touring vehicle (we drive, you enjoy the scenery)
- Plenty of space for your photography gear and extra clothing
- Fresh-baked breakfast pastries
- Hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot cocoa)
- Healthy and hearty snacks (various bars and trail mix, etc.)
- Healthy fruit juice, soft drinks, and water
- Full picnic lunch spread (GF and vegetarian/vegan and kosher options available)
Gratuity is NOT included in the price of the tour. Tipping your guide is a common practice in North America, and tips are an important part of their income.
While we are happy to accept all levels of photographers, there’s a few things you should know about gear, as you make your plans.
Wildlife in Yellowstone seems to either be right next to the road, or a mile away from it. While you don’t need professional photography equipment in Yellowstone to get an award-winning image, at least one telephoto lens reaching 400mm is encouraged. The best lens is the one you have ready. I like to keep something on my lap, like my Sigma 60-600, so I can cover a wide focal distance.
Brad’s Gear Bag:
Batteries/Charger – Enough battery power to shoot the entire day. I keep 3 batteries per camera body ready to go.
Media – Enough memory to shoot the entire day. I like to have 512mb split between (2) cards per camera body.
Cleaning – Lens cloths, air blower, lens solution
Filters – Clear UV, Polarizer
Tools: Allen wrenches or Leatherman type tool
Small First Aid Kit
Canon 800mm f/5.6 I IS
Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3
Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6
Canon 24-105 f/4
Renting lenses is also an option at the following sites:
Yellowstone possesses some of the most extreme changes in temperature and weather conditions anywhere. During spring, summer, and fall, temperatures can range from above 70°F (21°C) to below freezing. Temperatures on a winter tour could range from -40°F to +40°F (-40°C to +10°C). We therefore recommend plenty of warm clothes that can be layered and easily removed; therefore, allowing you to adjust and stay comfortable throughout your tour.
For summer tours, comfortable layered clothing is a must. Bring a warm hat, gloves, and jacket for cold early-morning hours, and include a water-proof, wind-proof outer shell for summer thunderstorms or all-day spring and fall rains. Consider waterproof footwear, and don’t forget the sun protection (all seasons) and bug protection (summer).
For winter tours, here is what our guides wear:
Long underwear. Starting with your base layers, synthetic or wool long underwear tops and bottoms are critical to your comfort (we can find places to shed this layer later in the day if necessary). Please stay away from cotton, which can hold moisture and drastically chill the body, whereas wool and synthetics wick moisture and can even insulate while wet.
Sweater or fleece. Ideally more than one layer of insulating layers like fleece or wool sweaters will allow for effective layering and allows you to easily shed layers as the day warms up.
Fleece or down vest. Vests are great as a layering item that can really hold in core body temperature, yet also allow for maximum comfort and mobility.
A windproof and water repellent insulated jacket is your most important protection from the biting Wyoming winds. Gore-Tex or something similar is highly advised as the best moisture/wind barrier and goose down insulation is the best insulation.
Snow pants/ski pants – Insulated pants with moisture/wind barrier. You should have long underwear thermal layers in addition.
Heavy gloves or mittens with windproof barrier.
Warm hat that covers your ears. We lose tremendous body heat from our heads. Protect your ears from the chilly wind with a wool or fleece hat.
Warm wool or synthetic socks are key to keeping those toes from hampering your good time. Be sure you have plenty of wiggle room inside your boots. If your socks are too thick and fit too tightly in your boots, you will actually reduce blood flow to your feet, resulting in cold toes, regardless of how warm your socks are.
Insulated winter boots (roomy boots are better as you do not want to restrict circulation in your feet/toes)
There are several ways you can go for winter boots: the insulated rubber “muck” boots that farmers and ranchers like. These are slip on boots that come in varying levels of insulation (up to -50 degrees). They are fine for short walks, but you would not want them for full-day hikes. For the purpose of this trip, they would be fine. Good brands there are Muck and LaCrosse.
THESE are probably the best bang for your buck.
The other option is a lace up insulated boot. There are lots of them on the market and you could spend a lot for a boot that you may never use again.
Here is a link with discussion about boots recommended for Antarctica tours.
If you need to order boots, you could have them shipped here, and we will have them on hand for you when you arrive, not a problem at all. Just let us know.
Hand and toe/foot warmers. These are lifesavers! We advise everyone to place a full-sized foot warmer inside your boots every morning before the tour. This keeps the edge off and keeps you comfortable to be able to enjoy yourself to the fullest during those hard-earned wildlife encounters! Toe and hand warmers can be used as needed
With high elevation sun, many of us burn easily, especially when we are distracted by something like watching wolves for extended periods of time.
A day pack is very handy for personal items: hand and toe warmers, water bottle, sunglasses, camera, and of course for all the extra layers you will want.
Please let us know if you have additional questions about gear.
Yellowstone National Park is a very large place divided by mountain ranges, deep valleys and a massive lake. The weather within the 2.2 million acres can vary widely, so checking the weather in the park can be a difficult task. We recommend checking several different NOAA weather stations around the park, and working an average of those if you’re planning to travel around the entirety of the park.
Tower Junction, WY
Cooke City, WY
It is important to remember that the wild animals we seek to observe and photograph are exactly that, WILD free-ranging animals that can roam across all of Yellowstone’s vast and rugged 2.2 million acres. The probability of locating and observing them is greatly elevated due to your guide’s intimate personal familiarity with the landscape and the animals themselves. We do not guarantee any wildlife sightings on our tours; however, we will guarantee that your guide will use their knowledge, skills, and network of other guides, wildlife watchers and photographers to do everything we can to find and photograph the animals you’d like to see. We are in the park nearly every day searching for and watching wildlife, and that consistent experience pays off in finding the animals you’ve traveled to see.
We Adhere to the Yellowstone Wild Code of Ethics.
As a licensed Commercial Use Permit holder with Yellowstone National Park, we must follow all park rules and regulations. Additionally, as life-long proponents of wildlife and wild places, we will also follow our own ethical wildlife viewing and photography practices.
We will take this opportunity to teach you about how we can have the very best viewing and photography opportunities possible without having negative impacts on wildlife by respecting the animals’ space and movements as they go about their lives.
While on tour with Yellowstone Wild LLC, we will observe the following park rules (subject to law enforcement):
Keep at least 25 yards from all wildlife, except:
Keep at least 100 yards from wolves and bears
Avoid remaining near or approaching wildlife, including birds, at any distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.
It is our ethical responsibility as visitors to the park to make sure that our actions do not inflict undue stress or hardship upon the animals that we are observing. Wild animals in a natural setting do not have easy lives, and the last thing we want to do is make their lives any more difficult. Your guide is an expert at reading animal behavior, and the moment that our presence is bothering an animal, we MUST back off until we are no longer disturbing its natural behavior. Failure to promptly respond to your guide’s instructions to back away from wildlife may result in the termination of your tour, subject to the discretion of your guide.