As part of my portraiture class, we get to go on field trips, which is exciting as being an exchange student, I am keen to see as much of the local area and the state of Montana as I can. Our first trip was to Butte back in January and our second (and last) trip was to Yellowstone National Park, probably the most famous national park in the USA for its geysers, natural hot springs, wildlife viewing opportunities and natural wonders. Ever since I learnt about it in high school geography, I have wanted to visit it and experience its glory with my own eyes. So, it was very lucky to get to go there as part of one of my classes. After a 5am wake up and a cycle up to campus in the dark which was a little creepy seeing as Bozeman is lacking in street lamps, I met up with the rest of the photography contingency in the VCB (visual communications building – i.e. film + photo building), everyone was excited, yet in need of a bit more sleep and caffeine. We began the drive into the darkness, hoping to see the sunrise but as it got lighter a thin layer of fog was revealed, becoming more pronounced as we neared Yellowstone, mixing with the steam from the hot springs and the boiling river. As it was only Natalie, Sam and I in the car, we were able to catch up on each other’s spring breaks, news, and I was given a visual tour of the landscapes and a history of the cult that we passed. There was no real plan for the day, more of a stop at pretty places to take pictures, and end the day with a dip in the river of warmth. We started with lots of scenic viewpoints, with a stop for coffee and muffins (it is America after all – one muffin between three due to the massive size!) in the little town just outside of the park, full of tourist traps that were all closed for the season, lots of American wild west style saloons and gift shops with views of mountains all around. The fog made the driving really atmospheric and exciting to see what it would uncover next, Natalie and Sam were seasoned experts at the park so had no hesitation answering all my questions and joining in on my thrill of finally being in Yellowstone. We also saw lots of Elk and Bison on the drive which was so cool to see such majestic animals up close. Soon after entering the park, we got a glimpse of the steamy boiling river before passing the border in Wyoming (4th State this trip!) and continuing on towards Mammoth Hot Springs. As it is still winter here in the northwest, and therefore considered the off season, many of the park’s roads were closed due to heavy build up of snow, so we could only go so far. We started at Mammoth Hot Springs, an amalgamation of hues of yellows and oranges, moulded together through thousands of years of growth and deposition. The thing that amazed me the most about the springs was the steam lifting off the features, framed by rocky cliffs, and dotted with tiny delicate birds, paddling in the patches of boiling water with dead trees sticking up, locked in the same position for thousands of decades with no chance of escape from the earth that had pulled them in so many years ago. As we photographed, the snow started to fall, which prompted Sam, Natalie, Emily and I to head off on our own little adventure away from the rest of the group, exploring the backcountry trails which are left un-groomed (unlike the rest of the park) with a risk of bears (is it bad that I was more excited than scared?) – we found snow covered trees, a frozen stream and beautiful views of the fog and the yellows of the springs from where we were, it was really cool to explore and see a bit more than just the well trodden trails of the park. Then, it was time to regroup and see a few more of the hot springs, sadly the road to Old Faithful was closed, but I am returning to Yellowstone in a few weeks for a camping trip so hopefully might get the chance then. The one thing that I found a little odd, as a photographer, with a group of photographers, was how to be authentic, to create images that were different in a place that had been captured so many times before by so many other people. This was emphasised by the presence of cameras all around me from my classmates, but I feel I had my own take on the matter as displayed in the image below… One of the things I had been most excited for was the Boiling River, a naturally heated part of the Yellowstone river which has billows of steam rising out of it and is safe enough that anyone can go in for a bit of a swim and a relax which sounded very appealing after the chilly day we had been having. Although the thought of stripping down to a swimsuit in temperatures of minus 6 was a little amusing considering we were all shivering in our 5+ layers. The rest of the class wimped out but Natalie, Sam and I were keen and brave/stupid so off we went, driving down to the spot in which you hike to the river from. We were greeted with an Elk in the car park and then began the short 1/2 walk to the area of the spring. We waded in, ankle deep, and it was a cross between ice cold and scalding stinging burning hot, there seemed to be a line separating the two temperatures with no medium in between until we had waded far enough down the creek to reach it. Then, it became a heavenly natural hot warm relaxation river with steam wafting off the surface. We stayed in there as long as we could, there are currents of freezing cold water which hit you when you least expect it so it was a little chilly at time, but so nice as well, by the time we got out, we were feeling very chilled, warm and rejuvenated with our fingers curled up like prunes. It was blissful.We then began the drive home as we all had other arrangements to meet that evening, though not before stopping for a classic tourist shot by the sign.I am excited to try and see a little more of Yellowstone when I am back there in April, and live out some more of those childhood fantasies of seeing Geysers and magical mystical colourful springs. Yellowstone in the wintry fog was a little like wandering through a fantasy novel, not knowing what will be around the corner or hiding in the trees, waiting to be found. It is definitely worth a visit, and if like us, you visit in the off season, there is a likely chance that you will have the place to yourself – free of tourists and bears.