How I Got This Shot – Herd on the Run

I often look at photos and wonder how the photographer got the shot. I was surprised and flattered to learn that some people think the same when they look at my work. It’s always lovely to have that level of interest in something you’ve created. And so, a new photography blog series has been born. I hope you enjoy it!

Motion in shots with wildlife always catch my eye. Portraits are striking and wonderful but the animals I watch are rarely still. I want to capture them in action and bring them to life for my audience.

We were in Yellowstone National Park in 2011. It was our final morning of ten days spent exploring this incredible place and as a photographer with a passion for large predator conservation, I had convinced my other half to spend yet another morning in Lamar Valley, one of the best places to see wolves in the park. As we were driving towards the point where wolves had last been spotted, we noticed a large herd of bison in the grassland below the road. Hundreds of them.

Suddenly they started to run. These humongous animals can weigh over two tonnes and run up to 40 MPH (granted females tend to be smaller and closer to the one tonne mark but still… they’re huge!).  Watching a herd of them run was pretty amazing and the animal behaviourist in me was instantly curious about the cause. What suddenly made these animals take off after seemingly quite happily grazing? Bison can be unpredictable and charge with little or no warning but something had appeared to startle the whole herd.

I scanned the brown beasts looking for a clue and then I spotted it. A smaller brown beast at the edge of the herd. One of these was not like the others. A young grizzly bear had lumbered his way into the herd and made a halfhearted attempt at a chase. He was no match for them and quickly lost interest before I could get a close enough shot of him.

The herd continued to run for a few more moments which gave me the chance to experiment with one of my favourite techniques: panning. With my other half driving to keep pace with the bison, I set the shutter speed to 1/25 and focused on one of the animals. The slow shutter speed combined with our movement resulted in the shot below:

Herd on the Run

Herd on the Run: Taken with a Canon EOS 7D & EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens. f/4.5, 1/25, ISO 100, focal length 105mm.

I also tried some more traditional panning shots where I tracked the bison as they ran from a stationary base (in this case, we’d stopped the car) and quickly found this was more effective for individual animals. You’ll need to keep an eye on the blog to see how those shots turned out!

Wonderland – Hot Springs and Geysers

Black and white photo of the famous geyser Old Faithful erupting with a large stream of steam.

Always Faithful

Yellowstone. It truly is a wonderland. I’ve spent a few weeks there now on a couple of occasions. I’ve just barely scratched the surface of this incredible place.  It frequently hits the headlines these days for the wildlife tourism with the large predators such as wolves and bears drawing audiences from all around the world. That’s exactly why I’ve gone each time, visiting once in summer and once in winter.

However, during my summer trip and first visit to the world’s first national park we spent some time exploring the famous hot springs and geysers.

Old Faithful, named so in 1870 because of it’s regular and frequent eruptions, erupts every 35 to 120 minutes. It is the most famous geyser of the park, the USA and quite possibly, the world.

Despite summer being high tourist season and the crowd for Old Faithful at least 4 people deep, I managed, with some clever composition, to get a shot without people in it. It’s an impressive size and the display can last from 1 minute to 5 minutes each time she blows.

For anyone looking to experience this wonder, I’d highly advise an off season trip or at least an early start. I was lucky to get this shot but it took a lot of holding my ground after waiting patiently. To truly experience the size of it, I’d recommend watching an eruption from the distance. It’s not until you compare it to the surrounding buildings of the visitor centre and inn that you get a true idea of the height it can reach. Being up close can be deceptive.

There are lots of other geysers of various shapes and sizes which also deserve your attention. They tend to be much quieter and it’s easier to get a front row seat.


An erupting geyser in Yellowstone with a big spray of water drops captured against a blue sky with white clouds

Perfect Timing

Morning Glory Pool

Thermal pools are not to be missed when you’re exploring Yellowstone’s wonderful features. The incredible rich colours are due to bacteria which live in the hot water.

The Morning Glory hot spring is one of the most well known thermal features in the park. It was named in 1880 after the Morning Glory Flower because it looked so similar in it’s colouring. However, because people are leaving rubbish behind and using the spring like a wishing well, it is starting to cool down. This changes the type of bacteria which can survive in the water and since the bacteria cause the amazing colours, the colours are changing. The orange and yellow which were once part of the edge of the pool has now spread across it, taking over the blues and greens in the middle.

If you’re heading this way I’d highly recommend stopping by the Beauty Pool. We had stunning day for our visit in summer but I’d love to go back and capture it in Winter!

Close up of the Beauty Pool sign - a small wooden sign with "beauty pool" engraved on it. The Beauty Pool and a hillside with trees are in the background.

Beauty Pool

An image of the hot spring in Yellowstone called "Beauty Pool".

Beauty Pool

And of course, you can’t miss The Grand Prismatic. It is breathtaking. The size and colours are incredible. We scrambled up the side of a small hill to try and get a better view of it so here you can see it a road level and from above.

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Gazing Across the Grand

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The Grand Prismatic

As I said, I’ve barely scratched the surface of Yellowstone. My second visit was in winter and while access is reduced, I found the park more peaceful and inviting. I plan on visiting in every season to capture the wonder of this place as often as I can.