Yellowstone Bison Jam
Landscapes,  National Parks,  Nature,  Travel

Photographing Yellowstone – Travel and Lodging

July 2012 Update

For our June 2012 trip to Yellowstone, we flew into Bozeman, MT.  Mainly small planes fly into Bozeman.  The two types of planes we flew on for this trip were the Embraer RJ145 and the Airbus A320.  I shipped my Canon 500mm f4 directly to West Yellowstone via FedEx.  It wasn’t cheap but the lens arrived there and home safely.  If you go through a 3rd party shipping agent, they may want to repack your box and verify the contents for insurance purposes.  Their pricing software may also be different than FedEx. For the return shipment, they charged by the price of the box vs. the weight.  So it is best to verify these details ahead of time.  I am going to investigate shipping to Bozeman for my next trip to Yellowstone.

I also carried multiple camera bodies and additional lenses to Yellowstone in a ThinkTank Airport Antidote V2.0 backpack.  See my review on this blog for more information.

It was less than a two hour drive from Bozeman to West Yellowstone.  

Yellowstone is one of the premier destinations for nature and wildlife photographers. This is part 3 of a multi-part blog focused photographing Yellowstone.   My goal is to pass along the lessons that I learned and tips for photographing these wonderful parks. This blog post will focus on how to get to Yellowstone and where to stay. Future posts will cover equipment, navigating the park, and geothermal activity. Also, take a look at prior blog posts on wildlife and landscape photography in the parks.

Black Bear Cub

How to get there?

We flew into Jackson Hole airport, which is located right next to the Grand Teton National Park. It is about a 1.5 hour drive north to the south entrance of Yellowstone. Small planes fly into the airports around Yellowstone. The risk of flying on these smaller planes is that you may be required to check your photo gear. Be sure to check the size limitations for carry on luggage with the airline. On several of the flights, attendants sought out larger bags in the waiting area and required them to be checked. They stated that there was limited room in the overhead compartments on these smaller planes.  I carried an ActivPak photography backpack with all our cameras and lenses. This backpack has the following dimensions – 19 X 14.5 X 8. This backpack was able to fit in the overhead of the small planes such as the CJR700.  While this is a large backpack, it didn’t get flagged as a candidate for checked luggage. This large photo backpack was also extremely useful as a central home for all our equipment and to carry the equipment back and forth to the hotel room.

Our friend, who photographs wildlife with a Canon 500mm f4 prime lens, opted to fly into Salt Lake City to avoid the risk of checking his expensive, long lens. A smart move considering the possible consequences. The downside is the 6 hour drive to Yellowstone.


Where To Stay

Our group stayed in West Yellowstone, which is right outside the west gate. The town has several motels. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone. The rooms were nice with quick access to the park. The motel was about a mile outside the gate. The town had quite a few restaurants including a McDonalds that was great for a quick breakfast on the go. The McDonalds in West Yellowstone didn’t open until 6am. Make sure you eat early or in the park, as most restaurants seem to close at 9pm.

West Yellowstone is a long distance from the prime wildlife areas in the northern part of the park. Also during our visit in June 2010, there was construction between Norris and Madison. The road is closed from 10pm – 8am. During the day, there is only one lane open on the road. The construction is scheduled to continue until November 2010. One morning, we left at 5am to get to Lamar Valley in the North. Since the road was closed to Norris at that time, we traveled around the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake and up past the Fishing Bridge to get to the northern areas of the park. This took about 2 hours. Another morning, we left at 7:30am to get to the construction when it opened at 8:00am. Since a herd of Bison decided to join the line of traffic through the construction zone, it took us an hour and 45 minutes to get through the construction. Since most of the prime wildlife activity was in the north of the park, staying in the park or in the town of Gardiner, MT may be better options for wildlife photographers.

Written by Martin Belan

Related Blog Posts
Top Yellowstone Landscape Photography Ideas – Part 1
Top Yellowstone Landscape Photography Ideas – Part 2
Photographing Geothermal Activity at Yellowstone

Visit my photo destinations page for more great photography locations

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