Yellowstone: 35 Years Later

A quick trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons with my Uncle Tommy and Aunt Barb



It was my uncle Tommy McCreight who first put a real camera in my hands — back in the 1970s.  And by bringing me along on their family car trips to places like Yellowstone, it was Tommy and my aunt Barb who taught me to travel.  As someone who now spends fully half his time traveling the earth with cameras in his hands, it’s fair to say those two made a big impact.

Every August, Barb would load up their green Ford van with her own kids (Dede and Dana), my sister and me, some of her inlaws and usually another kid or two.  This fact should figure prominently in Barb’s application for sainthood.  Tommy would load an arsenal of cameras, and we’d all hit the highways.   Tommy took pride in the astounding distances we could cover, so the days started early.  I don’t think we ever had an advance reservation at a hotel or motel; we never knew where we’d wind up, but as often as not, it was Yellowstone.  Tommy says he’s been there 23 times.

My cousin Dede emailed me a week ago, inviting me to join them (Tommy, Barb, Dede, Dana, Dana’s three kids, and Dannon’s boyfriend, Garrett Ford) on their first trip to Yellowstone in at least a decade.  I hadn’t been since about 1978!  I’ll surely never be able to repay Tommy and Barb for the patience and generosity it took to invite my sister and me along back when we were kids, so instead I just got to tag along with them one more time, 35 years later.

We had a great time.  It had been a long time since I had the chance to spend more than a couple of hours at a time with Tommy, Barb and my McCreight girl-cousins.  Dede and Dana are now Dr. Dede (physician) and Dr. Dana (dentist).  We laughed about all the things that had changed in the last 35 years — and laughed even more about all the things that hadn’t really changed a bit.


I generally lack the both the know-how and the heavy-duty equipment for serious wildlife photography, but the McCreights are huge wildlife lovers, so I had to give it a try.  Results were mixed:  for some reason my pictures of relatively docile grazing animals are conspicuously better than my more-distant shots of flesh-eating predator species.  The coyote you see was eating a baby elk – nature at its goriest.  The curly-horned animals are bighorn sheep – not to be confused with Rocky Mountain goats.  We spotted that Moose out the window of a restaurant at lunch.   The waterfall you see in multiple shots is Lower Falls.  The steamiest pictures are at the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is an amazing sight that was almost entirely hidden by foggy steam on the cool day we were there.

Photo credit for the shot with me in it goes to my cousin and long-time fellow photographer, Dana (McCreight) Ellis.  I must have been standing uphill from Tommy and Barb because I’m not as tall as it looks there.  Dana was mostly successful in her scheme to avoid being photographed herself.  That’s Dede in the orange coat.  Creighton is in stripes.  Dannon and Taegen are the twins:  Dannon is in the tan coat, usually standing next to Garrett (who is often in camouflage).