The best photography advice I was ever given is to note where the photographers are and go somewhere else. I repeated that line to myself as I took up a position on a crowded Yellowstone boardwalk. Lying prone with a Sigma macro lens pointed at a colorful pool of thermal water next to bubbling, blended mud, I pulled focus on a patch of thermophilic bacteria.
Then a tiny organism hopped into view: click, click, click…and WOW.
All the other photographers on that boardwalk I’m sure heard my delight—it was quite the macro moment and what shooting with a macro lens is all about. A week earlier, I’d asked my editor what to do with it at Yellowstone. His reply: Leafs, patterns, geothermal pools, flowers, close up, maybe a goat. Hot springs, get up close to the pool, even stuff near the lodge would be great.
He was right.
It was great.
That’s because the thing about Yellowstone or any other well-traveled national wonder is you’ll likely never take a better photo than those taken before you by super talented, award-winning photographers. So if you take a macro, less-traveled approach, moments like that microscopic bug in a caldera pool can get captured.
What also fascinated me visually about Yellowstone are the snags of bone-dry trees. Snapping pics of those, I could hear the opening bars of the theme song to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Like the cowboy partnerships in that legendary spaghetti western, I was uneasy about standing on the crust of an active volcano.
Seeing firsthand and up close how the shifting water can nourish and destroy trees was a reminder that we’re just a blip on the Earth’s timeline and millions of visitors look at these pools a year. We didn’t see any wildlife, and didn’t expect to around the most thermal area of the park, and stopped at the Grand Prismatic.
What you need to know about the lens I shot with is it’s the first prime macro lens to be included in the Sigma Art Line. As expected, it delivered stunning resolution, precise focusing and incredible clarity, along with smooth autofocus performance. I didn’t know what I’d find in that pool I pointed the lens at, but it focused just in time. While feeling solidly built, it’s lightweight. The precise focus I experienced on the bug is from the coreless DC motor. The focus limiter aided that shot too.
The $569 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO Art will now travel with me on locations y and after seeing what I saw; there’s a whole other world to photograph with a macro lens. And, not just close up either, the lens features an extending, floating, two-group focus mechanism for optimal results at every shooting distance.
That means you can get landscapes with it, too, and with minimal aberration at all focal lengths. In fields of wildflowers, that was the only lens I carried, alternating between extreme close-ups and wider shots. It fit well into a small hydration backpack.
The best part of the lens, besides the $569 price, is it now ships in an E Mount for Sony shooters.
I took photos with the a7r III.
How to Get Your Shot at Yellowstone
My trip to Yellowstone started at the West Gate and I arrived just after 5 p.m., traveling towards Grand Teton National Park. Most tourists were leaving at that time in the other direction and I was able to shoot in the golden hour (didn’t matter because of wildfire smoke). Unless you enjoy spending a ton of time in post clone stamping people out of your photo, it takes patience and there are many other geysers to visit instead of Old Faithful. For the reasons I stated above, I didn’t try to take the best-ever photo of the Grand Prismatic, but it was a sight to see.
The other thing I learned about Yellowstone was just how massive it is. To properly shoot it as a location will take multiple trips. I was lucky to get that bug shot and the lens made it possible. It could’ve just been algae. The other recommendation shared with me by the locals is to Yellowstone in the fall when the animals are migrating.
That was great advice, and I hope to return—maybe this fall.