Yellowstone’s Closed Winter Interior – Private Snow Coach Tour

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I took a somewhat unexpected trip to Yellowstone National Park this winter.  I am so glad that I answered the Facebook post that asked if there was anyone interested in

going together on a private photography tour of Yellowstone from sunrise to sunset.  I didn’t realize it, but you can only see the interior of Yellowstone by going on a snow coach or snowmobile tour during the winter.  I follow Deby Dixon, Running Wolf Nature Photography, on Facebook because she has daily posts with amazing wildlife pictures.  One day I saw that she was considering taking a private tour just for photography into the interior and had spaces available.  After some messaging and money transfer, I had reserved my spot.  Deby reserved the whole coach for us because as photographers we have different priorities on a tour than normal people.  The tour was with Yellowstone Year Round Safaris of Gardiner, Montana.

After failing to get any great shots of the bald eagles during eagle week in Cour D’Alene for the second year, I decided I needed a better telephoto lens, and rented one from Borrowlenses.com.  I rented the Tamron A011S SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Super Telephoto Zoom Lens for Sony Alpha and Maxxum Cameras .  What a great lens!  I now want to buy one.  With it adapted to my Sony A7Rii , I was able to hand-hold this lens at 600mm and get awesome shots.  The eagle shots were 100 times better than any I have ever captured with my other lenses.

Bald Eagle

Hand-held at 600mm….crazy.

I have to back up a little here.  On the way over to Gardiner, I stopped at one of my favorite museums,  The Old Montana Prison and Auto Museum.  Click this link to read my blog about this awesome place!

The day of the tour, we met before sunrise and loaded our gear as we got acquainted.  For a group of strangers, some stranger than others, we got along very well.  All kidding aside, these were some great photographers.  I highly recommend that you check them out.

Here are their links:

Jayne Looper (still have to get her link) Really nice lady who answered Deby’s post like me.

Melissa Phillips, a college student that saw the Facebook post also.

John Duren, a cool guy staying at Yellowstone for the winter.  He must be strong from carrying that huge 600mm lens.

Jort, the global photographer, and unofficial group entertainer

Deby Dixon, wildlife lover, and group organizer.  Thank’s Deby!

As a gearhead, I was impressed with the van that we were taking.  It had tracks instead of tires.  I have seen these before on the internet and thought I wanted one, but they are really expensive.  And after seeing that our tour guide, Mark, had to fill the van up with gas 3 times during the day, I decided that the 2-3 miles per gallon might be a problem.  Here’s a picture of it later in the day.

Van on tracks.

Expensive to run, but very cool.

We woke up some bison who had decided to sleep on the closed road as we drove into the park.

bison in the road.

Rude awakening.

The day was amazing!

We saw so much wildlife that day.  It was incredible, and the weather was very pleasant considering the winter we have had this year.  The sun broke through the clouds here and there to create awesome shadow patterns on the landscape.  We saw several eagles, but the one we stopped for modeled for us for several minutes.  We saw bison,  eagles,  swans,  elk,  coyotes,  and a fox.  That 600mm reach was great to get close-in shots of the wildlife.  Even though the animals don’t seem to mind people that much, you have to stay a good distance away to be safe and not bother them.

A fox trotted down the road towards us and I kept zooming out until the lens wouldn’t go out anymore.  When I looked up, he was about 10 feet from me and then turned and went right between two of the other photographers on its way off the road.

I have a lot of great images from the day in my full gallery.  I will just share a few here, but please take a look at the gallery.  All of the images are available as prints and downloads right from the gallery.

bison

Bison

elk

Elk

madison river

Madison River long exposure with the Ice 10 stop nd filter.

coyote on the river bank

Wile E. Coyote

smiling fox

Sly Fox.

panorama of Yellowstone

Awesome panoramic view of the thermal activity and snow.

I drove around the side roads looking for foreground for this dramatic sunrise on the way home.

brilliant sunrise in montana

Colorful sunrise in Montana.

Thanks for reading about my adventure!  If you liked the story and pictures, please comment and share.  If you want to help me buy that Sigma 150-600mm lens, click on one of my Amazon links when you want to buy something there.  It doesn’t have to be the thing you click on.  Thanks again! See you next time.

 


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