Some of the best winter landscape and wildlife photographs are found in Yellowstone National Park due to Yellowstone’s magical winter light, geyser steam and snow-covered bison. Returning to lead this year’s tour are two accomplished photographers who know this park well – Jeff Vanuga (a BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year) and Mark Gocke.
The event will be based in the town of West Yellowstone, and our group will have exclusive access to two 13-passenger snowcoaches with local guide/drivers provided by Yellowstone Vacations. Attendees will travel into the park by snowcoach for 3 full days allowing for photography of landscapes and wildlife that are not accessible without a snowcoach.
The size of our group will be limited to 12 participants to allow ample room for attendees and their photography equipment on the snowcoaches, as well as more individual interaction with the tour leaders. This is one of our post popular regional events and typically sells out quickly, so it is advisable to register early to secure one of the coveted spots.
NANPA is an authorized permittee of the National Park Service
Early-Bird Rate: $2955 (members) / $3155 (non-members) until November 17
After November 17: $3155 (members) / $3355 (non-members)
Last Date to Register: December 17, 2023
Maximum number of attendees: 12
Jeff is based in Dubois, Wyoming, and specializes in both advertising and editorial media. His work has been published worldwide in magazines and major advertising campaigns.
Jeff leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, First Light Workshops and the Moab Photography Symposium. His work is represented by the Nature Picture Library stock agency. Some notable career highlights include:
· First place in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the National Wildlife Photographic Competition
· His book entitled “Fodor’s Compass Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks” took a silver medal in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication from a field of 1,161 entries.
· Photo District News featured Jeff as one of their top 50 States Photographers and he has hosted TV shows on nature photography for the Outdoor Life Channel and Nature’s Best Magazine.
Jeff was a NANPA Yellowstone Snowcoach Tour Leader in 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023.
Mark has lived and photographed in the Greater Yellowstone area for 26 years and has come to know and love Yellowstone for its unique and outstanding natural features and of course the amazing photographic opportunities it presents. He makes countless trips into the park each year and is quite familiar with its many photographic hotspots, whether it be thermal features, wildlife or landscapes.
Additionally, he has spent over 30 years working for wildlife conservation with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Starting as a Habitat Biologist in 1991 he then found his calling as a Public Information Specialist, which he’s done for the past 26 years based in Jackson Hole, WY. His job allows him to share his excitement for the wildlife and wild places of this area while also conveying the threats and challenges in conserving these resources. A regular part of his job is to document and convey the many field activities of the Game and Fish Department through both video and still photography, activities including a variety of wildlife captures, aerial surveys, prescribed fires, etc.
He especially enjoys teaching what he’s most passionate about, wildlife and nature photography. He’s led many photographic tours of this area on his own, as well as through the Game & Fish Department teaching wildlife photography at their annual conservation camps for both youth and educators and also our Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops.
Mark was a NANPA Yellowstone Snowcoach Tour Leader in 2019, 2022 and 2023.
Gray Wolf Inn & Suites
250 S Canyon St
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Phone: (877) 600-4308
Check in time 3 pm, Check out time 11 am.
This is the hotel where we’ll be meeting and getting picked up /dropped off by the snowcoaches.
A block of 2 queen bed, non-smoking rooms (rates $119 plus tax and fees) is being held for event participants for the nights of January 21, 22, 23 and 24.
To hold a room in the NANPA block for the nights of January 21, 22, 23 and 24, do not contact the hotel directly, instead please email NANPA’s Regional Events Coordinator, Mary Louise Ravese firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the NANPA rooming list. You will pay for your room at hotel check in.
Cut-off date for hotel reservations in the NANPA block is December 19, 2023. Any reservations after this date will be sold at the hotel’s best available rate.
Snowcoaches will be provided by Yellowstone Vacation Tours. Although they are 13-passenger snowcoaches, we will allow just one driver/guide, one tour leader, and 6 attendees per snowcoach—to allow plenty of room for people and photography equipment and to comply with National Park Service requirements. Participants generally have a seat next to them or adjacent to their seating location for gear which includes clothes and camera gear.
Snowcoaches will pick us up at the hotel each morning and return us to the hotel at the end of the day. Coaches are comfortable for the way we are dressed. Participants can return to the coach at any time to warm up should they become chilled or tired.
RIDE SHARING: We will be based in West Yellowstone. Note that NANPA does not have insurance for carpooling arrangements and assumes no liability for them. Carpooling, ride sharing or anything similar to/from or around West Yellowstone is strictly a private arrangement among the participants. Participants assume the risks associated with this travel.
Airports and Ground Transportation
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)
850 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
Transportation to and from the hotel—except for the daily snowcoach excursions—is not included and is attendees’ responsibility
Box lunches for January 22, 23 and 24 are included in your registration fee and will be provided on the snowcoach.
Breakfasts, dinners, and snacks are not provided and are attendees’ responsibility. Restaurants, grocery, and convenience stores are located within walking distance of the hotel.
PARK PASS: Anyone entering the National Park will be required to have a park pass. Please purchase a park pass in advance and have it with you when traveling on the snowcoach and anytime you enter the park.
Sunday, January 21, 2024
Arrival and check into hotel. Registration, Meet & Greet and orientation at 6:00 pm, at the hotel breakfast room. Other topics and questions will be answered at the Meet & Greet.
January 22 – 24, 2024
Participants will take daily snowcoaches from West Yellowstone, Montana to the interior of the park in winter. The snowcoaches provide transportation that takes us into the interior of Yellowstone and into the heart of winter to view the park’s magical light, geysers, waterfalls and winter wildlife. In recent years the coaches have moved from tracked to wheeled vehicles which are more efficient, faster and most importantly quieter. As conditions allow, we will visit the regional geyser basins with one day planned for the east side of the park around Hayden Valley. Schedules are fluid due to weather conditions, wind and other variables. We’ll be in the field on snowcoaches January 22, 23 and 24. The event wraps up late in the afternoon on January 24.
RESTROOM BREAKS: There will be restroom breaks in Yellowstone National Park during the day while you’re on the snowcoaches.
Our photography locations have been chosen to explore the amazing diversity and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park. Some of the locations that we will most likely photograph include:
Leaders are familiar with the areas that you’ll be visiting, and locations will be based on what’s most photogenic at the time, wildlife activity, weather conditions, etc.
Note, we will not be going to Lamar Valley. Snowcoaches do not go to Lamar Valley in the winter. The road through the Lamar Valley is the only road that is open to regular vehicular traffic in the winter. Year round it is open weather permitting from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City, MT, so it is not an option from where we are based in West Yellowstone. If you are interested in visiting the Lamar Valley, you should make arrangements to drive there on your own.
Health and fitness
Yellowstone National Park is located on the Yellowstone Plateau and has an average elevation of 8,000 ft (2400 M). We will be predominantly traveling at this elevation up to near 10,000 ft. Altitude is a concern for some people traveling from lower to higher elevations in a short amount of time. If you suffer from heart, lung or other disorders or you think you may be impacted in a way that may affect your health you should consult your doctor prior to departure. One should be in decent physical health and prepared for higher altitude and extreme weather conditions. Precautions are to walk slower than usual, watch your breathing and drink plenty of water. Water is an important factor at this altitude and hydration is a key component in the west and at higher altitudes. DRINK WATER! If you think you are having issues after arrival, please inform one of the leaders.
Add sunscreen to your list as the UV can be very intense on bright sunny days and reflective snow.
This event is designed for nature photographers at all levels of experience. For the best experience, please know your camera before you arrive, and bring your manual in case we need to look up something.
Assistance will be available in the field for those who wish to improve their photographic skills. If you already have plenty of photography experience, Jeff and Mark will ensure you get to the best locations at the best times to capture those perfect shots.
Please keep in mind this NANPA Regional Event is a designed to be a photo tour, not a photo workshop. In other words, there are no formal instruction sessions planned, there are no assignments, you will not be receiving any handouts or the like. That being said, your leaders Jeff and Mark have experience as photography workshop leaders and are available to answer questions and give you guidance. If you need help, please advocate for yourself and speak up and ask for help – Jeff and Mark are happy to help. Be aware that many of your fellow participants may also be accomplished photographers in their own right and may be able to help you too. Part of the regional event experience is the camaraderie that comes from sharing experiences and lessons learned among participants. If you notice someone with the same or similar camera, perhaps they can help you with an issue you’ve been wondering about, and maybe you can return the favor.
RESOURCES: Yellowstone National Park Link https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm
Temperatures range from zero to 20° F (-20° C to 5° C) during the day and sub-zero temperatures at night. In general, it can be anywhere from 30° F to -40° F depending on weather conditions. As a suggestion prior to your departure, watch the weather forecasts to get a general idea of what temperatures and weather conditions are for the week. https://www.weather.gov.
If you are going through Bozeman, they have countless outdoor stores and shops for winter gear. Snowmobile gear can also be rented at Yellowstone Vacations Tours. This includes snowmobile suit and boots. They are open until 7:00pm but check for times before your arrival.
Your best bet is purchase before you arrive or allow extra time for shopping. West Yellowstone is mostly closed in the winter with limited stores open, availability and hours that don’t work well with us being out all day. So, like they say, come prepared.
Please come prepared for extreme weather conditions including snow and blizzard, but wear layers in case of warmer temps. Even though the snowcoaches are heated, our leaders usually recommend keeping the heat turned off so you don’t need to take clothing on and off at each stop and to reduce fogging up inside the coach. Layering is a means of adjusting the body temperature by taking layers on and off to maintain a comfort level that keeps energy retention and prevents sweating. Therefore, the best way of keeping warm in extreme temperatures is using this philosophy.
Outer Layer: A good shell protects you from rain, moisture and wind. A waterproof shell made of Gortex or equivalent will suit your needs. Our leaders recommend one size larger than you normally wear to accommodate under layers, vest and maybe a place to keep your camera out of the elements. Gortex or equivalent products are also recommended for an outer layer. Ski shells work great. Gaiters (not needed if you have the insulated pants)
Middle Layer: A down, artificial waterproof down or synthetic material coat that will keep you warm and fit under an outer layer. One can combine this with a vest as well under all coats. Both mid layer and outer layer coats benefit from built in hoods.
Base Layers: Anything but cotton works. Cotton wicks moisture and keeps the body cool to cold. Wool undergarments like Smartwool Underwear, silk or fleece work well. Another option is to wear a bulkier fleece pant that can even accommodate a pair of thermals underneath. Yes, it can be that cold. You can take off layers that you have on but can’t add layers you don’t have so our leaders recommend heavy fleece with a light pair of Smartwool base layer bottoms underneath.
Jeff Vanuga has tried every glove imaginable from the Arctic to Antarctic and in the coldest winters of Wyoming and Yellowstone. In his experience, the Heat 3 System of gloves by The Heat Company are the best on the market. Another of his favorites are the Marmot Randonnee Gloves. The heat gloves are modular allowing you to shoot with a shooting glove underneath a mitten and the Marmots are just good all-around gloves and soft enough leather to work the shutter button. The heat system also allows for heat packs on both the inside shooting glove and well as the mitten backs. Great gloves! Anyway, if you have your own system and style (e.g. Polypropylene glove liners and wind stopping gloves) bring it as long as it handles cold temps. Handwarmers are also recommended and are available from the Heat Company.
The one your grandma made for you or a silk scarf work wonders and is almost like adding another layer to your winter wardrobe. Something like a Solid Silk Cowboy Western Wild Rag Bandana works great. Cowboys don’t wear them for looks! Otherwise use a face mask (balaclava) with nose protector.
A good wool or fleece hat is a must and hoods work well as supplements to just a regular hat. Ski hats work well. A hat with ear coverings is important.
WINTER BOOTS AND SOCKS
Any good insulated boot or pac boot rated to at least -20F or below is recommended. There are many on the market like Sorrel Pac Boots, Muckboots or Schnee’s Pac Boots which are located in Bozeman, Montana are terrific boots. If you have extra time in Bozeman if you are coming from that direction they have a retail store in town, Jeff’s personal preference is Schnee’s for extreme cold weather and Oboz Bridger 10” Insulated Waterproof boots if it is around -10F and above. They are also located in Bozeman, MT.
For socks, liner socks plus heavy wool socks or something like Smartwool heavyweight wool socks. Again, stay away from cotton.
You will also want comfortable shoes for wearing in the hotel.
Boardwalks around the thermal features are icy and at times extremely slick. A good insurance policy to combat slipping is to place ICE CLEATS (e.g. Yak Trax (get the ones with Velcro straps!) over your winter boots when you plan to hike on boardwalks in geyser basins and near waterfalls. These are highly recommended to help prevent falls, especially if you plan on walking the boardwalks around thermal areas.
During the Yellowstone Regional Event there will be diverse opportunities for wildlife and scenic photography. This could take a chapter but bring a tripod, extra camera batteries, and lenses for your particular specialty in photography. Just remember that tripods go in the back and you are limited in the amount of gear you can bring on the coach. So, there is no room for large Pelican cases and super large items. As an example, Jeff brings a back pack with a 14-30mm lens, 20mm 1.8, 24mm 1.8, 24-70mm f/4, a 70-300mm and a compact 500mm PF. There is something for everyone on this trip whether it is landscapes, wildlife or macro. Yellowstone is a winter wonderland.
Depending on camera brand and battery type, always have extra batteries with you and keep a couple in your coat to keep them warm. If necessary, switch them out if they are going dead and rotate them through the camera. With the newer batteries and cameras, our leaders have little to no problems with batteries shooting in winter but always carry several extra as a precaution. There is no way to charge batteries once we are on the coach so re-charge nightly.
Bring enough cards or storage to cover your day. If you are a 20fps shooter, bring many. If you are more conservative, just bring enough to fill a card or two for each camera during the day. If you have more, then bring them!
If you use a ball head, gimbal or something similar it is a good idea to spray them down with Silicon spray (choose one with no additives like Teflon.) Jeff bathes his RRS ballhead with Silicon which prevents freezing and sticking in cold temps. Other fluids and grease may freeze at colder temps unless specifically made for these conditions.
Drones are not legal in Yellowstone National Park so do not bring them. In summary, suggested gear includes:
ADDITIONAL ITEMS: Laptop and chargers for everything. Anti-fog cloth, chemical warmers for hands and feet, binoculars, sunglasses, chapstick, sunscreen, motion sickness medication, absorbent towel in case your lens hits the snow, and sunglasses.
MISCELLANEOUS: Easy to carry snacks and water are highly recommended. Staying well hydrated at altitude is critical. There is a grocery store and convenience stores in West Yellowstone where you can purchase items.
NANPA will not offer any refunds for registrations for this event regardless of when the cancellation is made or the reason for the cancellation. NANPA reserves the right to cancel any event or activity due to insufficient registration or any unforeseen circumstances. NANPA will offer refunds if NANPA has to cancel the event. It also has the right to substitute presenters if those originally scheduled cannot attend. Registrants may purchase event insurance as part of the registration process through NANPA’s partner, Allianz. More information on this option will be shown during the checkout process for the event registration.
NOTE: If you do not purchase event insurance at the time that you pay for your registration, you will NOT be able to go back and purchase it with Allianz later.
If you choose to purchase travel insurance separately, you can do so with your own insurance carrier, or NANPA members can receive a special travel insurance rate through USI Affinity/Travel Insurance Services.