How I Got That Shot: A picture-perfect sunset at Swan Lake in Yellowstone

Lucky timing and a little hustle yielded an otherworldly landscape shot at Swan Lake in Yellowstone National Park. (©Meg Sommers - click to enlarge)

Lucky timing and a little hustle yielded an otherworldly landscape shot at Swan Lake in Yellowstone National Park. (©Meg Sommers – click to enlarge)

By Meg Sommers

Sometimes, a day in Yellowstone can yield nothing in the way of wildlife sightings. It happens to everyone who spends a great deal of time there. Some days are just like that.

Mind you, I am typically not looking for photos of just the large animals, but also birds of all sorts, mice, pica, beaver—really anything that moves.

But sometimes you are just consistently at the wrong place at the right time. I like to call them “Duesdays,” as I am a firm believer that you should have to pay a certain amount of “dues” in order to be rewarded with some of the spectacular things Yellowstone can provide.

I expect a Duesday in July and August when it is hot and the fur-bearing animals are either up high, deep in the shade or both. But I don’t expect them as readily in early spring.

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Swan Lake Sunset was shot with a Canon EOS 5D using a 35-135 mm wide-angle lens at f/25 and a shutter speed of 1/15 second and at ISO 1600.

In the springtime, the weather is cooler and the young being born invariably have the predators on the move. This day in early May, though, was turning out to be a Duesday. I had seen virtually nothing to photograph all day.

I was headed back to camp at Mammoth when the sky started to color. I picked up the pace as I realized it would be a very fleeting moment when the color peaked. I wanted to be in spot where I had a chance at finding some modicum of composition. Swan Lake was nearby.

Turned out it wasn’t a Duesday after all. Was it too much to ask that there be a swan on Swan Lake in the sunset? Well, there’s always next time.

Meg Sommers is a wildlife and nature photographer who also works as a Yellowstone Park tour guide based in Cody, Wyo. She teaches a wildlife photography course in Yellowstone Park for the Yellowstone Association Institute.

How I Got That Shot takes you behind the scenes to learn how a top Yellowstone or Grand Teton photographer captured a terrific image. If you have a great shot you’d like to share, please send it to [email protected]

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