By RUFFIN PREVOST
LIVINGSTON, MONT. — A Livingston photographer has worked for years shooting images across Montana, but hopes to break into the exclusive world of elite Yellowstone photographers by spending more time in the park and adding more video work to his portfolio.
Christopher Cauble, 28, grew up in Helena, and his nature and wildlife photographs have appeared in several publications, including books from his family’s Riverbend Publishing, a regional press with several Montana, Yellowstone and outdoors titles.
“I grew up around publishing, so I always had photography books in front of me, and I was always fascinated by photography,” said Cauble, who for the past couple of years has made a full-time living as a photographer.
Both of his parents are accomplished photographers who coached him, and he took a photography class in high school that further sparked his interest, Cauble said.
“I’ve been doing Montana photography for a long time, but I’m trying to get my foot in the door for Yellowstone,” he said. Though Cauble has a growing portfolio of work shot in Yellowstone National Park, he is careful to point out that he is relatively new to shooting the park, and doesn’t yet consider himself in the same league as some of the longtime shooters who prowl the park.
“I’m only on my second year now of seriously shooting Yellowstone. I’ve followed a lot of photographers that are doing work out of there for 30 or 40 years,” he said. “So I don’t consider myself ‘in’ yet — I’m still learning the ropes, and I learn something new every day.”
Video is one new element Cauble has added to his bag of photographic tricks over the past few years, with a focus on time-lapse images that reveal the natural and manmade rhythms of Yellowstone.
“Wonderland” is a jaunty and engaging five-minute look at Yellowstone’s animals, weather, waters, geysers and even its human visitors. The images are set to a jangly instrumental beat that highlights moments of zen simplicity amidst a symphony of natural happenings that play out like a visual pulse running through the entire park.
Cauble’s film serves as a kind of time machine — speeding up the movements of bison or clouds, people or geysers — to show an almost mechanical, yet natural, precision and harmony to Yellowstone
“I feel it’s a very cyclical place. Geysers go off at certain intervals, there’s certain wildlife behavior that happens every year at certain times,” he said. “Some people say the crowds are as predictable as some geysers.”
Cauble said it can take hours of shooting raw footage of a waterfall or a cloud-dappled sky, for instance, to capture just the right few seconds of time-lapse imagery.
“Sometimes I’m in a spot with crowds and I get a lot of people coming up to ask me what I’m shooting,” he said. “They walk off disappointed that it’s not a bear.”
Cauble works with two camera bodies and will often set one up to capture video while he prowls for still images with the other.
“If I’m in the backcountry, I don’t need to worry about anyone stealing my camera. So I’ll set it up and let that roll while I wander a few miles away and then come back and get it,” he said.
Cauble said he has been working with video more over the last couple of years as new cameras have become cheaper and better at capturing high-definition video, while also maintaining compatibility with existing high-end still photography lenses.
He tries to spend at least two full days each week in Yellowstone, allowing him to average about 100 days each year in the park.
Cauble’s images are often composed with zen-like simplicity, free of clutter and focused on a single feature.
“I like simplicity in photos. Something about simplicity adds to the elegance, so I’m always looking for something that’s simple and not cluttered,” he said.
Among Cauble’s favorite places in Yellowstone to shoot are the Lamar Valley for wildlife and the Upper Geyser Basin for thermal features. An overlooked spot for wildlife is the area between the North Gate at Gardiner, Mont. and Mammoth Hot Springs, he said.
Where you set up your camera is not necessarily as important as how much time you spend there and how carefully you watch for opportunities, he said.
“Just kind of slow down and enjoy it,” he said. “I see a lot of people rush through and jump from spot to spot, but they don’t get to take it all in. I think some people are amazed at how big the park is. To get from one attraction to another, there’s a lot of driving time. So staying in one area of the park is a great idea. There’s so much to see in just a corner of the park, you should stay and wander.”
For those who can’t stay and wander long enough, Cauble’s images offer a reminder of why they love the park, and have garnered enthusiastic praise online.
“When you put all that work into something and you actually share it and people enjoy it, it’s really satisfying just to know there are people out there that enjoy what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s another level of motivation to try to capture these moments.”
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected]
‘Wonderland’ By Christopher Cauble