Bull of the Mist – West Yellowstone

Update: Gavin has released this piece as a 30in limited canvas original. More details here.

I’m not a wildlife photographer. At least not in the sense of crouching down in wet weeds for six hours, to get that view that shows the hair in their ears. Having wildlife in a landscape on the other hand. That’s something that gets me exited. This one’s from back in West Yellowstone. I had gone out at Sunrise on the morning of the 6th. I had stopped to watch some elk out in the plain along the road. The scene was neat, but not amazing.

As I was leaving, someone pulling in said they had seen a big bull the next pullout. Off I went and when I got there this gentlemen was wading the river. Very gracefully I might add. Elk are not rare in Yellowstone, but getting a mood like this with surreal mists rising from the water into the cool morning air. That’s something I wont see every day.

The problem about wildlife in landscapes is they don’t usually stay there. With no time to get out and setup a tripod, I was stumbling to capture the moment. I leaned across to the passenger window and worked fast. Just as he emerged from the water, he looks up river for just a moment and I took it. There’s one frame of this pose, but it worked and I love it.

For photographers. How it was made… This was taken on my 70-200 2.8. It was 200mm at f4.0, ISO 3200, 1/125 sec. Things were happening fast and 4.0 could have been too shallow for a 200mm scene. In the rush I don’t remember how careful I was, but the focus was on and the composition was too so it all worked out.

On DOF. I think that fact that this is a wider scene, helped the DOF. The river is not that much distance relative from the bull because the focus was some distance from the lens either way. The back bank is indeed softer than the bull, but even though this is a landscape scene, I think that softness works with the fact that the bull is the main focus. The rest of the scene adds to him, but is not the subject.

I processed it with Super Simple from PW3, then used Old Emulsion from Color Fantasies presets. Then I did some burn and dodge and a bit of noise reduction in LR along with some localized and subtle develop adjustments to get it just right. I cropped wide, wanting to show the river landscape, but not wanting too much distraction. The width along with the left composition, also seems to fit the the lateral view view of the bull looking up river and wondering what he see’s there.

Finally, the fact that this was at ISO 3200 may not have been ideal, but it allowed me to get a clear image if this subtle light. the 5D MK2 handles noise really well, and while there is some grain in the scene it still scales well. I’ll probably print as a 36, or 4o inch, on canvas.

Viewer thoughts welcome… Gav

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2 Responses to Bull of the Mist – West Yellowstone

  1. I really like the fallen trees on the opposite bank behind the elk. I think they add something to the image by adding texture.

  2. Derek says:

    I love the mist on the far bank. There is something about it that draws my eye. Wonderful shot.

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