At Nat Geo Travel, our staff is passionate about our work and passionate about our personal travel. Here on tumblr we’ll start sharing photographs and stories collected on the road.
Andy Coleman, Vice President of Digital Travel, is an avid photographer and recently took vacation time to travel with National Geographic Expeditions to Yellowstone National Park, a winter destination he’d always had high on his trip list.
Nat Geo Travel: Yellowstone National Park—in the winter? What inspired you to take this trip?
Andy Coleman: I have been to Yellowstone in the spring and summer—it is a magical place in any season—but I have always wanted to experience the park in winter, away from the crowds. Plus, I have seen pictures of the snowy landscapes and steamy geysers in the winter and wanted a chance to photograph the park wildlife in a different setting. The Winter Wildlife in Yellowstone trip fit the bill.
NGT: In order to get photographs of the wildlife you needed to travel throughout the park. How do you travel through the deep winter snow?
AC: The roads are closed in the interior of the park, so the only way to travel is by snowmobile or snow coach. Getting close to the wildlife takes expertise combined with good luck. Our National Geographic Expeditions leaders were experienced naturalists with an extensive knowledge of the park and the habits of the wildlife. They did a fantastic job of getting us to locations that maximized our opportunities for great sightings.
Some of the best encounters occurred while I was looking at something else, like a coyote that casually walked by while I had my camera on the tripod waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. The best part of the trip was the potential for something spectacular to happen at any moment.
NGT: Were the other travelers on the trip as passionate about wildlife and photography as you?
AC: One of the things I like about traveling with National Geographic is the diversity of people you meet on the trips. We had one woman who was a meteorologist and a retired U.S. commander of an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Two couples were from Australia—who did not know each other—one retired and one on their honeymoon, a schoolteacher from New Jersey, a business consultant from Miami, and an 88-year-old woman who inspired us all with her energy, passion and zest for life. We all shared a passion for wildlife, photography, and learning that helped the group become close in our six days together.
NGT: You photographed the geysers active under the night sky. What was that like?
AC: Night photography was a highlight I was looking forward to on the trip. While we were staying near Old Faithful, we were lucky to have one night that was perfectly clear. I headed out with another photographer at 10 p.m. and we pretty much had the entire Old Faithful area to ourselves for several hours. It was near 0 degrees, with no wind and a cloudless sky. Outside of the breathtaking sky, my favorite part of the night was being able to hear all of the geothermal activity around us. It was so dark and we were so focused on having our headlamps pointed at the ground ahead of us, so we wouldn’t walk into a geothermal area, that we almost didn’t see a 2,000-pound bison about five feet away from us on our way back to the lodge.
NGT: What was the most surprising experience of your trip?
AC: My primary focus on a wilderness destination is the wildlife, but the scenery in Yellowstone blew me away in the winter. There was a morning where I had Old Faithful all to myself. In the summer, that area would be several rows deep with people.
NGT: What photo gear were you using?
AC: My primary camera was a Nikon D3S. I carried a D7000 as a backup camera. For most of my wildlife photography, I used a Nikon 200-400mm, f/4 lens and switched to a 70-200mm, f/2.8 lens when things got a little too close. For landscapes, I used a Nikon 24-70mm, f/2.8 or a 14-24mm, f/2.8 lens.
NGT: Where to next?
AC: India, in search of tigers.
All photographs by Andy Coleman. Follow Andy on Instagram @awc007