On our first morning in Yellowstone, as we were driving back to our campsite, Claudia and I spotted a trumpeter swan along the Firehole River. Claudia pulled into a turnout, while I jumped out of the car, grabbed my camera and 100-400mm zoom, and walked back along the river toward the swan. Our friends Charlotte and Gary Gibb soon pulled into the turnout behind Claudia.
I wasn’t sure, at first, how skittish the swan might be, so I approached cautiously. But I needn’t have worried, as it soon became apparent that the swan was completely unafraid of people. It was feeding along the opposite bank of the river, with messy logs and branches behind it. Then it swam right toward me, stopped in the middle of the river (with a perfect dark background behind it), flapped its wings, and settled down to start preening. Claudia, Charlotte, and Gary witnessed this from the turnout and insisted that the swan was performing for me, but I think it was just random coincidence.
During the rest of our stay in Yellowstone we saw this same swan nearly every time we passed this stretch of river. In fact if we didn’t see it we felt that something was amiss. Never fear though, it was always there the next time. But we did wonder why it was all alone. Swans are almost always seen in pairs, or family groups. Had it lost its mate?
On our last evening in the park Claudia and I made a short hike, and found the swan along a more remote stretch of the river, far from the main road. It settled down in the middle of the river in a patch of shallow water, dozing on and off, while periodically opening an eye to check on its surroundings. Claudia and I sat on the bank nearby, just hanging out with the swan that we had watched and photographed so often during our visit to Yellowstone. It seemed like an appropriate way to say goodbye to this wonderful park.
— Michael Frye
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.