2018 Spring Wildlife Workshop In Yellowstone National Park


May 13-19, 2018


Join award-winning professional wildlife photographer Sam Parks on a week-long Spring wildlife photography workshop in Yellowstone National Park

To reserve your spot or request more information, contact Sam via email at sam@samparksphotography.com or by phone at (307) 640-3388

Workshop Overview

Spring in Yellowstone is a season of change, as the park undergoes a rapid transition from a barren winter desert to a lush and fertile paradise. Bears are emerging from their long winter slumber, birds are returning from far and wide to claim their nest sites, and new baby animals are popping up every day. As the park greens up and new life abounds, May is widely regarded as one of the absolute times to be a wildlife photographer in Yellowstone National Park.  

Our primary objective on this workshop will be the stunning diversity and quantity of wildlife to be found in Yellowstone during the Spring. This workshop is intentionally timed to take place prior to the mad rush of Summer tourists in Yellowstone that begins around Memorial Day and while Spring wildlife activity is at it's peak. Mid May is usually the best time of the year to see and photograph bears in Yellowstone, both black and grizzly, and some are emerging from their dens with new cubs. This period in May is also the absolute best time to photograph brand new baby bison calves, which are the first newborn herbivores to arrive on the scene. We will also be on the lookout for the first elk calves and bighorn sheep lambs of the year. Pronghorn, mule deer, and moose usually give birth a bit later in the Spring. Wolves, coyotes, and foxes are also especially active at this time of year as they need to work extra hard to keep their newborns fed. We will always be on the lookout smaller predators like badgers, river otters, long-tailed and short-tailed weasels, and martens. While the large mammals in the park get most of the attention, we won't forget about some of the smaller, but most charismatic critters in the park, such as Yellow-bellied marmot, pika, beaver, ground squirrels, and chipmunks. Nor will we forget about our feathered friends: Bird photography is at it's peak as the Spring migration is in full swing and bird's are especially active during this breeding and nesting season. Some of the species we will especially be on the lookout for are Harlequin Duck, Sandhill Crane, Osprey, Dusky and Ruffed Grouse (in mating display), Trumpeter Swan, Great Horned and Great Gray Owl, Various Woodpeckers and Sapsuckers, assorted waterbirds like ducks and shorebirds, and Mountain Bluebird, just to name a few. As for setting, we can expect anything from a lush green meadow with early season wildflowers to a lingering Spring snowbank, depending on the area of the park we're in, allowing us a nice diversity of images. While wildlife is our focus, we won't turn down good landscape opportunities when they're presented to us, which can include the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, and the spectacular vistas of Lamar and Hayden Valleys. Since wildlife is our prime focus however, we will concentrate our efforts on the wildlife-rich central and northern portions of the park and most likely will not venture down to the tourist-heavy Old Faithful area unless recent wildlife activity warrants it.   

This is an intensive workshop meant to maximize our time and photographic opportunities. Spring days in Yellowstone are very long, nearly 15 hours. We will concentrate our efforts during the prime early morning and evening hours when the light is best and the wildlife is most active. On bright days when the light is harsh and the wildlife is hunkered down in the shade, we will probably want to return our hotel for a mid-day snooze, before picking back up later in the afternoon. If wildlife activity is exceptional and we have soft overcast light, we may consider staying out for the full 15 hours on some days. However, we will always make sure everybody is reasonably well-rested for the prime morning and evening hours. This is primarily a road-based trip, although there may be opportunities for short hikes depending on recent wildlife activity and the wishes of the group. Although exceptional fitness levels are not required, you should be comfortable carrying your camera equipment for short distances (up to 1 mile). This workshop is suitable for photographer's of all skill levels. Sam will be alongside you to photograph at all times and offer any photographic instruction you may desire. Depending on your specific needs and desires, we will cover composition, exposure and focusing techniques, good long-lens technique, capturing compelling "animalscapes", as well as more basic wildlife techniques such as improving your understanding of light and anticipating animal movements. Sam shoots Nikon and is well-versed in their camera bodies. He also has more limited experience with some Canon cameras as well. Sam is a capable, but not exceptional, photo editor and he can go over his Lightroom processing techniques one night of the workshop, if desired. More importantly, we will strive to capture the image correctly in camera the first time, with minimal post-processing needed. In addition, Sam will share his insights into the amazing wildlife of the area, including tracking basics and species-specific habitat and behavior information. 


Workshop Itinerary

Day 1: Sam will pick you up at the airport or your lodging in Bozeman, Montana mid afternoon on the 13th and we will depart to Gardiner, Montana, which will be our home base for the duration of the workshop. After checking in to our hotel in Gardiner and getting settled, we will head out into the Park for our first evening of photography. Upon returning to Gardiner, we will go out for an introductory dinner as a group and get rested for an early morning departure. 

Days 2-6: We will enter the park each day through the North Entrance to explore the seemingly unlimited wildlife photo opportunities that Spring has to offer. We generally don't know which parts of the park we'll be exploring on any given day, because it is entirely dependent on how the Spring is shaping up and recent wildlife activity. We will undoubtedly spend a lot of time in the park's northern range, which features perhaps the greatest overall diversity of wildlife in the park, as well as ample time on the park's west and central portions, notable for frequent grizzly sightings, as well as the Yellowstone Lake and Hayden Valley areas. Depending on where we need to be at first light, wake-up calls could range as early as 4:00-5:00 AM. Depending on wildlife activity and lighting conditions, we will most likely return for a mid-day snooze on most days to make sure everybody is well rested for the prime morning and evening hours.  

Day 7: Weather and time permitting, we will take one last early morning wildlife drive on the Northern Range, before returning to Gardiner to check out of our hotel and head up to Bozeman. You will be dropped off in Bozeman by noon on the 19th. 

*Itinerary subject to change due to events out of Sam's control including, but not limited to, severe weather, road closures, etc.

Why Go With Sam?

Unlike the vast majority of wildlife photography workshops leaders in Yellowstone, Sam is local to the Greater Yellowstone area and spends over 250 full days in the field annually in search of the area's exceptional array of wildlife. Sam grew up in Wyoming and has been seriously photographing wildlife in the area for over a decade, and watching them long before that. There are very few workshop leaders or guides with the level of either wildlife knowledge or photography experience in the area as Sam. This unique insight will allow us to maximize our photographic opportunities during this week long workshop. Sam has received several national awards for his work in Yellowstone, including the Grand Prize of the 2014 Defenders of Wildlife photography competition, for his gray wolf image, and the top prize in the professional wildlife category of the 2016 Nature's Best/Yellowstone Forever competition, for his image of the pronghorn migration.  This workshop is limited to just four participants, allowing Sam to provide more attention to each participant and giving us more room in our vehicle than most other workshops. 

Workshop Details

Dates: May 13-19, 2018 (7 days, 6 nights)

Cost: $3795 (price based on double occupancy. Add $400 for single supplement.)

Deposit: 25% of the total cost is due immediately to hold your spot. See terms and conditions below. 

Limited to 4 Participants

Whats Included

  • All lodging during the workshop: 6 Nights in Gardiner, MT (Based on Double Occupancy. Add $400 for single supplement)
  • Pick-Up/Drop-Off in Bozeman, MT
  • Comfortable, Roomy Transportation during the workshop
  • Lunches, Breakfast at our Hotel or "on the go" and Snacks/Water each day
  • Introductory Dinner
  • Photographic Instruction (if desired)
  • All taxes on Services

What's Not Included

  • Airfare to/from Bozeman
  • Any lodging in Bozeman before or after the workshop
  • Dinner Tabs - except the Introductory Dinner on the 13th (we may decide to go out as a group for dinners on some nights, if desired, but each participant will be responsible for their own tab.)
  • Specific snacks/beverages you may decide to purchase during the workshop. (Sam will have some basic snacks and bottled water in the vehicle for you)

To reserve your spot or request more information, contact Sam via email at sam@samparksphotography.com or by phone at (307) 640-3388

Terms and Conditions

  • A 25% deposit is required to hold your reservation. Due to administrative costs incurred by Sam, this deposit is not refundable.
  • Due to costs incurred by Sam in securing lodging and vehicle reservations, your full balance for the total cost of the tour is due by April 15, 2018, with no exceptions. Failure to pay the balance in full will lead to us to invite the next person on the waiting list. After April 15, the total cost of the workshop is non-refundable, unless Sam can book your spot and the workshop is full. 
  • Payment can be made by check or a personal PayPal payment. I can also accept a credit card (Visa, Discover, MasterCard), however an extra 2% processing fee on the total cost is required for credit card payments. 
  • We reserve the right to cancel the workshop for any reason including, but not limited to, a lack of participants. In such an event, participants will be refunded in full. However, we are not responsible for any additional expenses you may incur.