On Sunday, July 21st, I joined my friends Holden and Alexa on a long-awaited journey down to Jackson Hole––with Holden flying us over Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. This was easily one of my top adventures, with views of Jackson Lake, the Teton Range, Yellowstone Lake, and of course, Grand Prismatic Spring.
Along the way, I took photos from one of my favorite perspectives: in a small airplane filled with close friends. Something about this atmosphere puts me in an ideal mindset to capture everything that I’m seeing and taking in. On the way home, I decided to shoot aerial footage of the Tetons, and the magnitude of the mountain range really shows from almost 12,000ft up.
When you’re in an airplane and the landscape gets smaller and smaller the higher you get, it’s funny how big the world becomes.
At 2:00 PM on Saturday I arrived at Arlin’s Aircraft Service near the Bozeman International Airport. My friend Holden had flown in from Helena to do an aerial tour of Yellowstone Park. He had been to Yellowstone before, but never seen Grand Prismatic Spring, so we decided to make that our first stop. In order to capture the view, I brought along my camera for my first opportunity to do aerial photography.
We took off from the Bozeman airport going south toward Hyalite Canyon and slowly flew over the mountains. I had flown in planes before, but never had an opportunity to fly low enough to see everything so well. The view of Mount Blackmore, Hyalite Dam, and Hyalite Peak was incredible as we headed to our destination, Grand Prismatic Spring, and the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.
As we passed over the Gallatin Range, we could see the Gallatin River winding through the canyon, all the way up to Big Sky. I remember seeing the river from a hike up Storm Castle Peak, but the view in the plane was an entirely different experience. Seeing the mass of water flowing for such a distance really showed the true power of nature. Once we got closer, we had an incredible view of Lone Peak, and further to the right, the Madison Range, including Beacon Point and Gallatin Peak.
After passing Big Sky, we headed toward West Yellowstone, and then turned East to our first destination, Grand Prismatic Spring. Being that it was Holden’s first time, it made it exceptionally stunning to see from above. On arrival, it was easily one of the best views that I’ll ever have the chance to see. With the breeze down below, the steam was swirling in cloud-like formations above the water, which glowed in all colors of the spectrum. On the pathway below, you could see visitors admiring the view from ground level. Being able to “people watch” from this vantage point was really interesting, allowing us to observe everyone’s interaction with nature from an outside perspective. Holden and I decided to take our time and took three passes around Grand Prismatic, because the view was simply unbeatable.
Next we headed east toward Yellowstone Lake, and north to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. As we flew over, mist was flying up into the air throughout the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. As we looped back around, we had one of the best perspectives I could imagine for viewing the Lower Falls. With the water rushing off of the 308 foot drop, the magnitude of the waterfall really began to sink in. Through my camera I could see people watching the water rush over the edge from the lookout deck. I’ve photographed Lower Falls before, but from the air was incredible.
After seeing several amazing sights in Yellowstone, we started heading north, this time going up through Paradise Valley to get back home to Bozeman. As we flew up the valley we could see the Absaroka Mountains to the east, with the Beartooth Mountains in the distance. The elevation of the mountain range looked incredible from up above. Being able to look down at Pine Creek and know that I was once standing there on the ground was a really crazy feeling.
After flying northeast past Livingston, we headed back home to Bozeman. With a flight of three hours, we were able to see many remarkable views that displayed the best features of Montana and Wyoming’s wilderness. Photographing natural environments from this perspective is new for me, and it’s definitely going to have to continue. Seeing everything from above gave me an even deeper appreciation for nature. Thanks to Holden Nielson for guiding me on this amazing adventure and allowing me to capture these amazing sights in a whole new way! I can’t wait for the adventures ahead!