YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years


Photography- 75 Years 

Article by Mina Thevenin

Photography Credits are given to: Ansel Adams (c. 1940); N Ary (1963); Frank Balthis (1977 & 1978); W J Barmore (1965 & 1967); Lawrence Boe, E Bovy (1976); John Brandow (1973); S Canter (1966 & 1971); JR Douglass (Cover Photo/1968 thru 1971); William W Dunmire (1969 & 1972); Jeff Footte (1983); John Good (1964); Bob Greenburg (2005); Brian Harry (1964); Jeff Henry (1988); F Hirschman (1978); R G Johnson (1963 & 1966); Herb Jones/Ed Austin (1986); Chris Judson (1975); S Keller (1978); Harlan Kredit (1974 & 1988); Richard Lake (1966 & 1967); Rosalie LaRue (1976); Bob Lindstrom (1996); Mark Marschall (1979); R Allen Mebane (1975); Miller (1963); Jim Peaco (1987 thru 2006); Nelin Reisman (2015); R Robinson (1988); J Schmidt (1977); Ron Shade (1979); J W Stocker (1972); J A Tyers (1977); Wagner (1966); Frank Walker (1978); Robert Wilson (2013 & 2015)

Part I of II, Photography World looks at YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years of Yellowstone Wild…

© Artist Point, Yellowstone. Nelin Reisman Photography. 2015
Artist Point's Lower Falls. The Yellowstone's Grand Canyon. NPS Photographer F Hirschman. 1978
Artist Point’s Lower Falls in Winter (same location as image above). The Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. NPS Photographer F Hirschman. 1978


Photography- 75 Years, Part I of II, rediscovers the wild of North America’s first National Park, so named in 1872. The Yellowstone National Park System (NPS) connects Americans with cultural heritage and civic pride.

75 Years of  YELLOWSTONE wildlife photography encompasses the time span of 1940 through 2015. Over 8,000 archival and current images were considered for this photographic adventure. Photography World believes it has included the Yellowstone National Park’s “best of show” of submitted and cataloged NPS photographs, including two National Archive treasures of Ansel Adams. Wildlife images of coyotes (cover), bison, elk, pronghorn, rams, grizzlies, wolves, raptors and Yellowstone birds come to life in these top images! Canyons, waterfalls, meadows, lakes, timbers, and mountains- Yellowstone landscapes with attention to light, detail, and, of course, images that punctuate the natural wonder and beauty of our national treasure made the cut.

As with all Photography World articles and galleries, please scroll mouse over image for additional photograph details. Click on any image to view images in a gallery slideshow.

Vast   expanse encompasses 3,500 sq miles/8,987 square km- which includes the states of Wyoming (96%), Montana (3%) and Idaho (1%).(1)  Named after the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park is an active real-time natural laboratory for volcanologic research because it contains 50% of the Earth’s geothermal (volcanic) features with more than 10,000 examples of geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pots, fumaroles (openings in the ground that emit hot, sulfurous gasses), and caldera. The Yellowstone caldera formed from a volcanic eruption over 640,000 years ago (2). Yellowstone features The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River (lead image by New York Photographer Nelin Reisman, 2015), and hundreds of waterfalls. Unique flora progresses through natural succession and to keep it wild, there is no direct management being practiced of the Yellowstone flora. A plethora of wildlife include mammals, non mammals, as well as marine and aquatic systems comprise the biodiversity of this unique North American ecosystem and national treasure. 

UNESCO World Heritage.  By meeting the criteria in the categories: Geological formation, Volcanic / thermal Natural landscape, Forest Wildlife habitat, FaunaYellowstone National Park was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage in 1978. Yellowstone National Park officially changed its name in 2006 from Yellowstone to Yellowstone National Park.

A complete ecosystem within itself, Yellowstone National Park is nonetheless not an island of biodiversity. 

79-AAT-25 Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park," taken at dusk dawn from various angles during eruption. [Electronic Record]. Photograph by Ansel Adams. Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives. PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD Article: YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years
“Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park,” [Electronic Record]. Photograph by Ansel Adams. c. 1940

Geysers. “Bubbling upward,” according to the NPS description of Geysers, “the steam expands as it nears the top of the water column. At a critical point, the confined bubbles actually lift the water above, causing the geyser to splash or overflow. This decreases pressure on the system, and violent boiling results. Tremendous amounts of steam force water out of the vent, and an eruption begins. Water is expelled faster than it can enter the geyser’s plumbing system, and the heat and pressure gradually decrease. The eruption stops when the water reservoir is depleted or when the system cools.” (3). There are more than 300 geysers within the Yellowstone plateau. This is two-thirds of our planet’s geysers! “Old Faithful” is the most famous geyser among visitors and students. Though it does not erupt on the hour every hour, and it is not the largest, it does erupt more frequently than the other large geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin, usually erupting about seventeen times a day.

Afraid?..With geysers blowing, mud pots gurgling and fumaroles gassing, do we need to be concerned that the next big one is going to blow any time soon? No. According to seismologists, universities, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with the Department of the Interior who have been studying the Yellowstone thermal plateau since the 1970’s, in spite of scary news headlines and media hype from time to time, there are more myths than truths about the next big one. Yellowstone volcano last erupted 70,000 years ago and as of May 2015, there is no indication it is preparing to do so anytime soon. There is no evidence that the magma chamber is growing and Yellowstone is not rising rapidly. According to the USGS, “Previous Yellowstone super eruptions did not cause extinctions, and ash fallout on the other side of the continent was minimal…most past eruptions at Yellowstone were not highly explosive. Of the past 50 or so eruptions, almost all were simple lava flows. If they occurred tomorrow, or next year, they would have minimal direct effect outside Yellowstone National Park. This is the most likely volcanic scenario at Yellowstone.”(4)

79-AAT-18"Fountain Geyser Pool, Yellowstone National Park," similar to #17, different texture in water. [Electronic Record] Photograph by Ansel Adams. Courtesy of the National Archives. PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD article: YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years.
“Fountain Geyser Pool, Yellowstone National Park,” [Electronic Record] Photograph by Ansel Adams. c. 1940
Grand Prismatic Spring - Silica Terraces. Hot Springs, Midway & Lower Geyser Basin. Photo credit Bob Lindstrom. May 1996

More than simply seasons are colorful at Yellowstone National Park. 

Yellowstone’s hydrothermal basins, like the Grand Prismatic Spring (image above & below), contain bright colors from “thermophiles“. Thermophiles are microorganisms that live in hot temperatures. When grouped together, these microorganisms (trillions) are visible in vivid color. No post-processing of photographic images needed! According to the National Park service, “Different types of thermophiles live at different temperatures within a hot spring and cannot tolerate much cooler or warmer conditions. Yellowstone’s hot water systems often show distinct gradations of living, vibrant colors where the temperature limit of one group of microbes is reached, only to be replaced by a different set of thermophiles.” (5)

Aerial of Excelsior Geyser Crater & Grand Prismatic Spring. Photograph by Jim Peaco. July 2001. PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD article, YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years @
Yellowstone’s Excelsior Geyser Crater and Grand Prismatic Spring. Aerial View. NPS Photographer Jim Peaco. July 2001. A boardwalk engages the area and if you look closely, you can see people walking on it!

Hot Spring and Geyser trees. Three photos for article Yellowstone- Photography 75 Years. By Mina Thevenin @

MOSAIC BURN called fire…

Because of the benefits of naturally occurring fires, “Yellowstone and other parks established fire management plans that allowed nature to take its course.”(6) Lightning strikes. It was decided in the 1970’s that lightning-caused wildland fires were allowed to burn because of their positive natural influence on wildland ecosystems.” The mosaic burn pattern in small patches offers flora of different ages with varying degrees of decay and new growth, which ecologists call “serial diversity”. The Yellowstone ecosystem is very healthy when plants are growing at different stages in its two million acres of the park. Without mosaic burns and its resulting growth patches of different stages, dead leaf and plant materials decay at a slower rate and do not allow for the exchange of returning nutrients to the soil quickly enough. Nutrients and various stages of plant growth (including trees) are important also to the health of the wildlife. A 1989-1992 Yellowstone study revealed that “bears were found grazing more frequently at burned than unburned sites, especially on clover and fireweed.”(7)

Nighttime glow of ground fire in lodgepole forest near Firehole; Jeff Henry; 1988

unks of lodgpole pine engulfed in the flame near northeast entranceThese images were taken of the 1988 Yellowstone fires by Jeff Henry. Fires that affected nearly one million or 40% of total park acreage. More than half of the Yellowstone fires of that year began outside of the park. That particular fire season of Yellowstone was made worse by a preceding drought entering into a dry July (July usually brings rain), low humidity at night, and extremely windy conditions. 

According to an NPR 2008 series on the 1988 Yellowstone Fires, Park Superintendent Bob Barbee stated that in addition to the dry and windy weather conditions, “They were started by lightning, by outfitters, by woodcutters — we were a perfect setup to burn.” (8)

Usual Yellowstone fire season occurs from the months of mid-June to the end of September. For hundreds of thousands of years Yellowstone’s ecosystem and the shape of its land has been affected by naturally occurring fires. Lightning strikes account for the majority of these burns, averaging 1 to 78 lightning strikes and mosaic burns in any given year since 1988.

YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years 

Some of its large mammals are highlighted in publication I of II, the 75 years of photography. The Yellowstone National Park is a national treasure—an ecosystem of land and animals. Recovery from the early American settlers destruction of the 1800’s is not happening easily. Today and for the past several decades, determination and awareness of accountability has helped to improve the number count of Yellowstone’s wildlife and in turn, an improved environmental health. Both of animals and environment make up the park’s ecosystem.


In the mid 1990’s the reintroduction of the wolf—just one species—has had an unbelievable impact on the wellness of the entire park’s ecosystem! The informative video by Sustainable Human speaks to the impact of how an ecosystem is profoundly affected by a species: in the positive. 

Aerial of the Crystal Creek wolf pack. Photographer unknown. 1999
Aerial of the Crystal Creek wolf pack. Photographer unknown. 1999
Wolf near Blacktail Pond. Photograph by Jim Peaco, February 16, 2006
Wolf laying on glacial erratic at Little America Flats. Photo credit Jim Peaco; February 2, 2004
Male wolf #302 & uncollared female howling near Lamar River bridge. Photo by Jim Peaco, January 30, 2004


Bison fighting. Photo credit Harlan Kredit, 1974
Bison & Elk herds in winter in Lamar Valley; Jim Peaco; January 1996
Bison hazing (count of 223) at Undine Falls. Photo credit Jim Peaco, February 27, 2003
Bison in snowstorm. Photo credit J. Schmidt. 1977
Close up of bull bison in Lamar Canyon; Jim Peaco; February 2004
Close up of bull bison in Lamar Canyon. Photo credit Jim Peaco, February 2004

Buffalo in Color Yellowstone

Coyote & Bison near Soda Butte Creek; Jim Peaco; March 2005
Bison wallowing, Little America Flats; Jim Peaco; March 2005
Bison wallowing, Little America Flats; Jim Peaco; March 2005
Bison in snow in Hayden Valley; Richard Lake; 1967
Buffalo Bull
Bison detail with classic head shape. Photo credit Robert Wilson

American Bison are commonly called buffalo, but they are different by head shape and shoulder hump. 

American Bison text PW

Many Americans know about the slaughter to near extinction of the bison by early American settlers, hunters and trappers in the 1800’s and early to mid 1900’s. Yellowstone National Park plays an important role in wild bison conservation. In 2014 the number of Yellowstone bison was approximately 4,500 wild animals. The ongoing challenge is to bridge the political and social differences of the three surrounding states with the wild of Yellowstone when it leaves the land boundaries. It is an ongoing process. Bison are free to leave the Yellowstone boundaries, at which time they compete with human communities, neighborhoods, towns, and ranches—for space. Some of the wild bison are also infected with a reproductive bacterial disease called Brucellosis. This is not a problem necessarily to the wild bison, as they are reproducing at good rates, but it can affect domestic cattle on ranches if the two are exposed during an active period of the Brucellosis.

According to Yellowstone Frequently Asked Questions: Bison Management:

  • To date, the central and northern bison herds have not reached the estimated food-limited carrying capacity of approximately 5,500 to 7,500 bison inside the park. Also, several assessments of conditions by scientists and land managers have indicated the park is not overgrazed.

  • National Park Service biologists have recommended maintaining a bison population that fluctuates between 2,500 and 4,500 to preserve ecological processes that meet conservation needs and to mitigate social and political conflicts in Montana.



Two bull moose sparring; Jeff Foott; 1983
Two bull moose sparring. Photograph credit Jeff Foott,1983
Baby Moose
Calf Moose running in Yellowstone. Photo credit Robert Wilson.
Elk on Opal Terrace; Jim Peaco; September 1997
Male Bull Elk & Female Cow Elk on Opal Terrace. Photo credit Jim Peaco, September 1997
Bull elk in morning mist; J Schmidt; 1977
Bull elk in morning mist. Photo credit J Schmidt, 1977
Bull elk on Parade Grounds; Chris Judson; January 1975
Bull Elk on Parade Grounds. Photo credit Chris Judson, January 1975

Male Moose Male Elk in Field

Mother & nursing elk Yellowstone
Elk cow & calf nursing. Photo credit Robert Wilson
Four bull elk near Lava Creek; Jim Peaco; November 1990
Four bull elk near Lava Creek. Photo credit Jim Peaco, November 1990


PronhornNeither deer nor antelope, the pronghorn is the fastest land mammal in North America, reaching speeds of up to 60 mph and is only second in the world to the cheetah! Pronghorns have a gallbladder (unlike deer). In the wild they can live to be ten years old, with adults reaching 3 feet in height, and weighing 90-150 pounds (females weigh less).(9)

According to the National Wildlife Federation, “The most noticeable characteristic of pronghorns is also the source of their common name.  Both males and females have a pair of short horns on the top of the head. The female’s horns are small, usually only a bump.  In contrast, the males’ horns are around 10-12 inches long.  They also have a unique shape, because unlike other ungulates, a pronghorn’s horns point backwards. The horns extend straight up and then curve towards the rump.  At the front of the horn is a small notch or prong that points forward. Hence the name, pronghorn!”

Pronghorn on Mount Everts; Miller; 1963
Pronghorn on Mount Everts. Photo credit Miller, 1963


Coyote in Lamar Valley in winter; Jim Peaco; December 1997


Like all animals, coyotes are also a keystone species in Yellowstone National ParkThey are smaller than wolves and larger than fox. Though their numbers decreased after the wolves were reintroduced in 1995, the coyote population has since begun to increase. Their pack behavior has also returned to an older version of pack: a current pack consists of parents and pups verses the pre-wolf years with family packs of up to seven coyotes. (10) Photo credit Jim Peaco, 1997.

Coyote walking in snowy meadow; JR Douglass; 1968
Coyote walking in snowy meadow. Photo credit JR Douglass. 1968 
Coyote mousing; J Schmidt; 1977
Coyote mousing. Photo credit J. Schimdt, 1977

Wolves and coyotes howl, bark and yip. Contrary to folklore, they don’t howl at the moon, but they do use their vocalizations to communicate—to their own packs and other packs. They even communicate with each other, particularly at sunrise and sunset. Below are two sound bytes.(11) Can you tell which one is wolves and which one is coyotes?

Coyotes howling three images for Photography World article, YELLOWSTONE- 75 Years of Photography

Coyote in snow; William S Keller; 1978
Yellowstone Coyote in snow. Photo credit William S Keller; 1978
Coyote pack in snow at Floating Island Lake; Jim Peaco; March 1999
Coyote pack in snow at Floating Island Lake. Photo credit Jim Peaco; March 1999

It is not, of course, just the large mammals that are the keystone animals of YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years. Part II of our series will explore several other large mammals in addition to the birds of Yellowstone, its water ways and its vast expanse of mountains, valleys and vistas. As the seasons change in the park, so does the light and the colors. Photography—with digital advances, slide, or 35 mm—celebrates North America’s first National Park, a treasure now and for our future. 

* * * *

Humans are a vital part of the earth’s ecosystems. The Oh Ranger website of Yellowstone National Park recommends the following, in part, of what people can do to be more responsible for their foot print in the ecosystem of our oldest national park.

What You Can Do

You can do more than you suspect to help preserve and protect America’s first national park. One of the most important things is also one of the most basic: Treat the park—its forests, wildlife, hydrothermal and geologic features—with respect. Whether you visit Yellowstone for a day or for a week, using the park responsibly will go a long way toward ensuring its survival.

• Don’t feed the animals. Minor though it may seem, simply not feeding the animals greatly protects their welfare. When wild animals cease to find their own food, they are no longer a part of the balance of nature. They may become unable to forage for themselves, a potentially fatal situation when the free handouts end at the close of the summer season. Animals also lose their fear of cars and humans, and are more likely to be injured or killed as they linger near roadsides. Also, feeding any animal—including birds—is illegal.

• Take care of Yellowstone’s thermal features. Don’t deface, remove or throw objects into thermal features or you will destroy features that have taken a millennia to form. Help preserve these wonders for future generations to enjoy.

Stay on trails and boardwalks. There are over 1,100 miles (1,770 km) of trails and many boardwalks, and they go almost anywhere an adventurer would want to travel. Taking shortcuts from the trail increases erosion, and it may take a generation for fragile vegetation to recover. For your own safety, stay on boardwalks in thermal areas and check at a visitor center for current trail conditions/closures.

• Pack out your trash and recycle. Pack a small litter sack with you when you hike, and pack out more litter than you bring in. No one expects you to shoulder the burden of keeping the park clean, but there is a real satisfaction in knowing that you left an area in better shape than you found it. Recycle aluminum cans and glass bottles in receptacles located throughout the park. Inquire at park hotels for more information.

• Get involved. Organizations such as the Yellowstone Association and the Yellowstone Park Foundation are involved in park preservation and educational programs. Check at a visitor center for details about contacting these organizations, or see “Who’s Who at the Park” on pages 15—17. On a larger scale, corporate assistance is welcome; in 1997, Olympic Stain donated the stain for the refinishing of Old Faithful Inn. Programs such as

Take Pride in America, coordinate volunteer programs, such as trail maintenance, that improve hiking trails where erosion and overuse have taken a toll, and vegetative maintenance, which entails the removal of exotic plants that encroach on native species. Contact the park’s VIP (Volunteers in Parks) coordinator at Park Headquarters for more information.

Each year Yellowstone National Park welcomes a number of full-time volunteers from the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a national non-profit organization. These volunteers, who may be high school or college students or other adults, assist with a range of vital activities from trail maintenance or bear management to backcountry patrol or assisting park visitors. In return, the volunteers receive valuable training and experience, have most expenses paid, and are able to live and work in one of America’s premier national parks. In addition to Yellowstone, SCA places volunteers at hundreds of other national and state parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and other natural and historical sites nationwide.

The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer employment program for young men and women ages 15 through 18. Through work projects done in the park, this program provides enrollees with a better understanding of their environment and management of our natural resources. This residential program begins on June 16th and continues through August 11th. YCC is based out of Mammoth Hot Springs and gives participants opportunities to explore Yellowstone’s wilderness. Crews will focus their efforts on projects dealing with rehabilitation of trails and backcountry areas, bridge reconstruction, and a wide variety of resource management, maintenance, and research projects. A wide spectrum of environmental education programs will be offered as part of this year’s program, as well as an extensive recreation program.

(1) Yellowstone Interactive Map, An Official Web Feature of Yellowstone National Park.Website

(2) Yellowstone Caldera. Yellowstone Geology @ Website

(3) “Geysers”. Yellowstone National Park Service. Website

(4) Volcano Hazards Program: “Five Things Most People Get Wrong About the Yellowstone Volcano”. Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, USGA. Website

(5) “Hot Springs,” Yellowstone National Park Service. Website

(6) “All About the Yellowstone Fires”. Greater Yellowstone Resource Guide. Website

(7) “Ecological Consequences of Fire.” NPS. Yellowstone. Website

(8) Remembering the 1988 Yellowstone Fires. NPR Yellowstone. Evolution of a National Treasure. Website.

(9) Pronghorn. National Wildlife Federation. Website

(10) Coyote Information. National Park Service. Website

(11) Soundbite Credits: Wolf Sounds @ and Sound Coyote Call Sound

Coyote by NPS Photographer JR Douglass. Yellowstone 1968. Title Cover for PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD article, YELLOWSTONE Photography- 50 Years
Coyote by NPS Photographer JR Douglass. Yellowstone 1968. Title Cover for PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD feature article, YELLOWSTONE Photography- 75 Years