The American West is an unending display of the extreme beauty of mother nature and her creations. In my mind, there is no better example of this than Yellowstone National Park and its resident American bison.
The park is situated atop the largest super volcano on Earth with more thermal activity than anywhere else in the world. Upon looking at the geysers and surreal cool blue pools bubbling at their edges, I couldn’t help but think what it meant for life to live above such thermal activity; a harmony must be established along with an unparalleled will to survive. Bison thrive in this space, embodying fortitude, strength, and a mighty will of survival. When I set my sights on photographing them, the image in my mind displayed their enduring grit against the background of Yellowstone’s wonder. To me, this meant capturing bison in a way that could only be possible in the Park, with a halo of snow and ice against the surreal reality of Yellowstone’s topography.
The steam from the thermal activity ices in the below-freezing morning temperatures so I knew that my best chances of creating the image I desired were just as the sun was coming up before it could melt away the bison’s halo of snow and ice. Meanwhile, the steam rising from the nearby Firehole River obscured the forest in a hazy embrace, making it appear as if the bison walking towards me was coming out of another universe. From my low vantage point, hidden behind a snowbank and trees, I marveled at this otherworldly display of life.
My fascination with our natural world has just as much to do with the beauty of animals as it does their unique stories. Bison feel like time forgot about them, something I’ve found in only a few other animals on this Earth such as elephants or rhinos.
An ephemeral capture of a truly enduring animal, “Gatekeeper” is an ode to the American bison.