Once a month, we’ll feature a landscape photography hotspot. We want to aid you with getting ‘the shot’ in order to help rekindle your love for nature, to enable you to become inspired by nature and to equip you to become an advocate for a wilder world at home.
This month’s focus:
Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley is one of those areas that is often referred to as North America’s Serengetti. Home to bison, grizzlies, wolves and elk, it’s an animal lovers paradise.
But it is also a landscape photographers paradise.
Located on the park’s Grand Loop Road, the valley is anchored by the Yellowstone River and stretches from south of Mud Volcano to Otter Creek in the north, where the water spills into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Throughout the seven mile expanse, the views never quit.
From Grizzly Overlook (midway through the valley), one of Yellowstone’s most iconic vistas can be had of the river extending below, with Mount Washburn rising up in the distance.
Near Elk Antler Creek (southern end of the valley) you can watch storms roll-in and out, and position yourself for cloudscapes that can rarely be matched.
And throughout the valley, animals frequently provide opportunities for classic wildlife-in-the-landscape images.
But of all the spots to stop for landscape photography in Hayden Valley, the one must visit is the area around Alum Creek, near the north end.
Here Alum spills into the Yellowstone River and a small out cropping of trees extends from the forest to the river’s confluence on the eastern side of the road.
It’s not just a beautiful scene, it also the best place to photograph sunrise shrouded in the valley’s famous fog.
In the summer, almost everyday gives birth to a layer of fog that blankets Hayden. From Alum Creek, you can watch the sunrise and burn the fog away.
It seems each day offers new light, news fog formations and new ways of capturing the line of trees reaching the river’s shore.
Mix in the fact that the melting snow changes the water levels for both the Yellowstone and Alum and the opportunities to dramatically change the scene for the camera, year over year, is endless.
Early July is usually the best time to capture Hayden in all its glory and be sure to arrive by 5am in order to scout locations. Sometimes the fog will be gone by a few minutes after sunrise and some days it will linger, so plan to shoot this location over a few mornings.
Enjoying this landscape hotspot, also means you can kill two birds with one stone.
While setting up your shot, you might catch this…
…or this. All of which were taken before, during or immediately after the landscape images posted in this column.
So when you visit Hayden Valley to look for animals, don’t forget your wide angle lens.
Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Accessibility: Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road, between Canyon and Fishing Bridge
Best Time: Mornings before 8am