Dean M. Chriss
Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

(Click image to enlarge)

This photograph was captured very early on a cold mid-October morning before direct sunlight touched the scene and before the daily mob arrived. The atmosphere was magical that morning,

Early morning is an ideal time to photograph nearly everything in Yellowstone. It's also when most of the wildlife is active. Gibbon Falls is well inside the park so I nearly always stop for some other opportunity, making me too late to beat the sun and the mobs to Gibbon Falls, if I even planned to go that way. Frankly, I hadn't thought about photographing it for many years before taking this photograph.

Gibbon Falls is one of the countless places in Yellowstone that get extraordinarily crowded, and the fact it is practically on the main park road does not help. The noise of vehicles whizzing past, the smell of diesel, kids screaming, people talking and shouting, and being shoulder to shoulder with people you don't know diminish the experience or make it intollerable.

My only previous captures of Gibbon Falls are from the 1980s when Yellowstone was a much different and more peaceful place. All of those captures were made using Kodachrome 25 film, which combined with my lack of skill made them unsuccessful. This photograph, captured roughly thirty years later, is my first and only digital photograph of Gibbon Falls.

As with many places, the National Park Service has erected massive crowd control walls and fences that make taking pictures with anything more sophisticated than a phone nearly impossible and prevent oblivious selfie snappers from falling to their deaths. It seemed that we walked up and down the long walled walkway forever to find a good vantage point that involved using the wall in a way one should not. That's about when the first tour bus arrived. Shortly thereafter people began crowding themselves into our tiny and very awkward space, holding their phones as high as their arms would stretch.

They were obviously trying to take the same picture without even looking at what they are taking. They apparently think it must be good if I've gone to so much trouble to take it, and they'll do the same by standing there and pointing their phones around in the same general direction. This happens frequently in Yellowstone so I wasn't surprised, but I was irritated. I tried to concentrate on what I was doing, captured a few shots as quickly as I could, and left the place to the buzzing horde. Under different circumstancse I'd have lingered quietly just to soak up the scene.

Until the mob arrived it was a very nice experience. That, and how the place was decades ago, is what I try to remember when I look at this photograph.