Home Features Yellowstone in January: Why? Why? Why?

Yellowstone in January: Why? Why? Why?

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Highway 191 south of Bozeman, Montana

Why indeed? Without a snowmobile, you cannot go anywhere and the weather is cloudy and very cold and the shops are closed and…

When the opportunity for a quick, four-day business trip from Salem, my home, to Seattle, to Spokane to Coeur d’ Alene to Seattle to Bozeman to West Yellowstone (and back) came up I jumped at the choice. Because this was a business outing, my photo kit was going to be small and shooting hours were going to be catch as catch can.

Selecting the gear

After hours with a scale, lightening the load, and loving the “Kodachrome look” of the M9 CCD sensor, I settled for a pair of trusty M9s, TT Artisans’ superb 35mm f/1.4, an ancient but delightful, Canadian Leica 90mm f/2.8 Tele-Elmar (which I almost never used), two spare batteries and two extra cards, all which fit the front pockets of my ancient Domke Reporter’s Laptop Satchel.

My normal Yellowstone kit would include a couple of film Ms, a Visoflex III with the 400/560 heads, the 11mm TT/a the CV15, the 7AA 28, the 7A 50f/1.1 and the Leica 135 f/2.8M with goggles. But this was a fast business trip, as I had to keep remembering.

I had a couple of hours before my first meeting in Spokane Valley and, on Craigslist, I found a person offering up a Koni-Omega medium format rangefinder for $50, including five rolls of 2019 vintage Ilford Delta. Off I went into Spokane Heights and the Palouse to find a delightful gentleman whose father had been a leading wedding shooter in the area.

Naturally, I burdened my bag with the Koni-Omega kit, straightened my tie and went on to my meetings…but not before I did my best to capture a bit of the winter beauty of the Palouse. I have seen hundreds of images of the rolling hills in the spring and summer but very few in winter. I wish I had had more than a few minutes to explore the area and it is on my list for my next trip to Spokane. By the way, there are some lovely homes on High Street!

3.45 pm: Meetings over for today…

I had let a friend who owns a camera store, Camera Corral, in Idaho, know I was going to be in the area for a quick business trip. She texted me and said she had an old Nikon F with a DW1 waist-level finder for the princely sum of $35. Now, $35 is an excellent price for a Nikon F without a finder. Eschewing lunch I headed east on I-90. Fourteen minutes later, I walked out of the store with the Nikon F body and headed back to my hotel for a five am flight with a much heavier bag.

There aren’t many flights to Bozeman. So when the alarms rang, I quickly showered and headed off to GEG. Skywest apparently runs the flights for Alaska and the cabin crew were an absolute delight keeping us amused for the short flight to Seattle. Then, from Seattle, the tailwinds whisked me to Bozeman where a huge Chevy Tahoe waited to carry me to West Yellowstone. I had a few minutes to capture images on the way to more meetings.

I’ve been up since three, how the heck do I load a Koni?

Ah, the joys of the internet brought me to a manual scanned from a camera store in Cedar Rapids: So that’s what that unlabelled tiny button is for! Nuked a cup of Earl Grey and loaded away to await the new day. The weather-guessers had been promising snow so I prepared for a long drive on 191 back to Bozeman for a 1 pm flight to Seattle and then Portland, giving me two hours of drive time and one hour to shoot and eat. Breakfast was tea and an Apple Turnover from Mountain Mama’s, highly recommended!

The Tahoe was perfect for the snow and ice and the Montana and Wyoming road crews were out in force. The sun broke through and I knew what I had to do — break out the Leicas and the Koni-Omega and grab the beauty that surrounded me to share with others.

Gas and a thrift store what more?

Look, I can fill up the rental and still have ten minutes to hit the thrift store next door. Bozeman has gone upscale and the “thrift store” was filled with tasteful barn wood signs, high-end toys and women’s apparel — not a book in sight — but, those who know me realise that such things don’t stop me from asking, “do you have any old cameras or typewriters around?”. And, what to my wondering eyes should appear? No elf, no reindeer, but rather two camera bags, one with a lovely Pentax Spotmatic with a 55mm f1.8 normal lens and the other with three, yes three, Contax 137MD camera bodies and a Vivitar 28-85 zoom. All for $20. Sold, I said, as I headed to the Tahoe sled and to catch my flight, I fled.

It’s a bird, it’s not a plane… a rush in vain.

Weather happens and the plane was late, giving me more time to photograph around the gate. If you have not been to Bozeman, it is a nice, fairly new airport with only eight gates. You can wander without worry. The flights home (eventually) went off without a hitch and the open seats meant I was able to have a row to myself and to capture the following images…

About Mark Kronquist, Photographer, LHSA Member TT/A and 7/A Lens Reviewer .mak@teleport.com

7 COMMENTS

  1. Is it I, or is it the “TT Artisans’ superb 35mm f/1.4” which is out of focus in the snowy shots?

    Sharp at the edges, but somehow indistinct in the centre ..or do I just need a new appointment at the optician’s? My eyes keep straining to see sharper detail, but only “Highway 191 south of Bozeman, Montana”, and its trees, seems sharp.

    Or maybe I should be looking at the content, and not the clarity. (I’m using a MacBook Air 13″ laptop, and a twenty-something-inch Apple Cinema Display.)

  2. A nice story Mark, thanks. A part of the world I’ve never been to but your photos have whetted my appetite. Next trip I’ll carry your bags!

  3. Great article Mark which I very much enjoyed. I used to visit Seattle every other month, in fact so frequently that I left a car over there with a solar panel in the windscreen to charge the battery when I wasn’t using it.
    Anyway one winter we drove to Yellowstone and it was absolutely magnificent with so few people around. The only negative was having to go into the Park by snow coach. We’ve done the trip many times since and really love the area.
    Thanks for posting.

  4. I really enjoyed this, it was like a whistle stop tour of some unique and very photogenic places, while purchasing unique cameras at cost effective prices.

    I liked the images you chose for this one, and I personally would love to see more of your images. You are lucky to own more than one M in the collection – however you look at it. I would like just a single one with a single lens. lol.

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