From the Photographer: Don Tredinnick
This shot was taken in Yellowstone National Park in January. It was our first day in the park. When we left the hotel, the air temperature was -22 degrees, but little wind. As odd as it seems the conditions were actually pretty nice if you had the right gear. We made several stops along the Madison River before heading over to Biscuit Basin.
Once we arrived at Biscuit Basin, there were several dozen bison mostly around the geysers. There was a lone male in the river. He was by a large rock. He kept using his head to push snow from the rock and would then eat the grasses that were growing on top of it. While it was fun watching him move the snow around, I knew that it really didn’t make for much of a photo.
There is a bridge that connects the parking lot to the trail. I positioned myself on the bridge, and got as low as I could so that I was eye level with him. My hope was that at some point, he would back away from the rock, and I would have a nice snowy face to photograph. After about 30 minutes, he started to back away. I took several shots, but still didn’t have what I wanted. He turned completely away from the rock, and I thought he was going to start walking away.
All of a sudden, he turned his head towards me. This is what I was waiting for, a shot of that great snowy face, with a nice catch light in the eye. He then made it even better by starting to walk towards me (or so I thought). I managed to catch the front right leg right as it came out of the water. That is the shot you see here. Where was he really headed? He was just turning around and was headed back to the rock for some more snow pushing and grass eating. If you didn’t know that, you would think that I could be in some trouble here. There are some classic signs that it might be a good time to start moving away. The head is dipped, and it almost looks like he is pawing the ground to give a warning that he is getting ready to charge. I knew I was safe on the bridge, and outside the NPS guideline for proximity to bison.
How I exposed the shot:- I spot metered off the snow and set my exposure to be almost +2.5 stops over exposed. Why so far to the right? I knew I had a dark animal to work with, and I wanted detail in the shadows. I also know that with the Nikon D800, I don’t start to blow out until I get over +3. The only issue with that logic was that I was not shooting with my D800. Instead, I was using my D500, and I had only had the camera for about a month. If it behaved like the D800, I was confident I could save the detail in the snow in post processing. I also had the luxury of taking several test shots while this guy was busy eating.
Technical details: Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 lens, @ 260mm, which on the crop sensor body gives a reach of 390mm, f/6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 200 -Handheld using the bridge as a support.