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I've been told, "Yellowstone is a Dangerous Place"

Updated: Feb 14, 2021




Last year I had the amazing opportunity to drive across country ... twice! The first time I was moving my boyfriend across country and we had a great trip planned with stops in eight different states in 11 days. We camped for the most part because... COVID... and it was one of the most memorable, exciting and exhausting trips of my life. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to brush the dust off of my Canon Rebel and get some photography practice in!


One of the places I was most excited to explore was Yellowstone National Park. I had never been before and we were able to book a campsite right in the park. When we first entered Yellowstone we were handed this piece of paper that said "Yellowstone is a Dangerous Place". It made me laugh at first but then I became concerned. With a shared laugh and then a quick serious glance both to and from my boyfriend, I assured myself and said out loud "families come here all the time, we will be totally fine!".

We had stayed a few other places already where we saw bear warnings, and had prepared well for the trip researching the best ways to avoid bears and protect yourself if for some reason you are ever confronted with one. We had purchased bear mace before we left for the trip and each had one handy at all times when we were in campsites within bear country.


For those of you who have never been to Yellowstone it is basically like a zoo where there are no fences/enclosures and people just pull over suddenly whenever they see any form of wildlife (or if they see others pulled over, even if they haven't seen anything yet). Though we weren't at all familiar and had no idea what to expect, we learned this almost immediately. Within 10 minutes the car ahead of us began to slow down and we saw people pulled over on the side of the road. Because of the sheer amount of cars pulled over we assumed someone somewhere saw an animal. We, however, we driving on the opposite side of the road and had literally just arrived, so we did not stop, but I pointed my camera in the general direction of the stopped cars, focused on the woods and snapped a few quick photos using continuous shooting. I did this many times while we were driving around even if I didn't see anything with the hopes that upon further examination of the photos later, I would get lucky and find random wildlife hidden throughout. I did this because in that moment, 10 minutes into our drive through Yellowstone, even though I couldn't see anything and had no idea what people saw, I caught this shot of (what I believe to be) a female elk.

This shot is completed unedited and I was in absolute awe that I was able to capture it without looking while we were driving at probably 15-20mph. Within the next 20 minutes we saw cars pulled over on the side of the road again and I was determined to get a closer look this time. As my boyfriend was warning me "we're not sure what's there", "don't get too close", "bring the bear mace!" I was already out the door and walking further into the brush, camera around my neck. I soon caught sight of a small deer off in the distance. I moved slowly to get closer without scaring it off and began to zoom in with my rebel when I passed a tree and noticed another deer much closer. Because this was the middle of the day (even though it was slightly overcast) I was using a polarizing filter to improve photo saturation and reduce glare. This is the shot I got.

As I slowly retraced my steps, trying to be quiet enough to not startle this cute little woodland creature I saw my boyfriend coming down the steep-ish hill I climbed down to get there. He had in hand the bear mace that I had left behind and reminded me not to go too far into the woods because I didn't know what other animals might be around (good point). These were solid reminders, however, as we continued walking along the road we soon passed another couple who told us they saw more deer up ahead - so off I went to get another photo! This time he followed, to make sure I stayed safe. What I found was a cluster of deer further off behind a line of trees. It was harder to get this shot because some of them were walking around, but I was determined to figure out a way to focus the shot through the tree branches. This was my initial shot:

With some patience, however, I was able to secure this one:

I loved how the branches framed the deer so perfectly, and I was able to freeze the moment of it so naturally and peacefully grazing without a care in the world. You would never know that I was at least 50 feet away, up a steep hill and next to a main road in Yellowstone.


Throughout our trip we had so many incredible experiences and collected many fun and exciting memories. I look forward to sharing more with you as well as adventures from the many other journeys I've taken over the years!


Stay safe & healthy friends,


XO Michelle

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