“Just wait, is what he would tell you.” Wait for a bison to separate himself from the herd then track him with your lens. If he finds a good dirt pit, he’ll roll in it to remove parasites from his fur, kicking up a dust storm.
Tom Murphy of Livingston, Montana, who was our nature and photo guide for the day, spends 100 days a year in Yellowstone and knows every inch of the park. He has published a lot of coffee table books which prove that his knowledge of the behaviors and migration habits of America’s largest land mammal pays off.
While we’re fumbling with the camera and its firm count of shutter speeds and f/stops, we have a chance at the shot. My 300-millimeter lens is trained on a 2,000-pound beast, a bull with gleaming horns and a dark, shaggy neck rising up out of the dust against back country Yellowstone wild lands.
When you travel the in-roads and learn how to set your camera for the glint to bounce off one of the bison’s enormous eyes, you are going to get pretty hungry. By lunchtime, any food will do.
We sat like bumps on a log, the quintessentially scenic mountain views more than compensating for the plain old sandwiches we had purchased from a grocery store the night before. Everywhere around us in the grove there was silence. It was a moment only a really large cookie could break.
Tom’s wife Bonnie packed his day bag with Monster cookies, a fanciful title for a pretty basic recipe mixing oatmeal, peanut butter, and chocolate chips, but these were big and thick and chewy and impressive, and were a hungry cowboy to stop by and water his horse at the creek, it would not be a bad thing to offer.
They were a sweet indulgence that stoked my fantasies of being a wildlife photographer, and made me hunger for more, to devour a bigger world.
Somehow they made the resulting shots using a shallow depth of field to melt the distant lodgepole pines and fields into a giant fuzzy canvas all the more beautiful.
Made me think about returning in winter to photograph the wolves. I hear that Bonnie serves crisp hot wontons filled with elk meat along with a rich chowder studded with potato chunks and sweet red salmon that Tom catches in Alaska.