Living in Yellowstone for a season gave me a heightened awareness of tourists and their quirks, questions, and anything but quiet. They arrived in throngs with an incessant need for bear soap, huckleberry products and anything proclaiming a visit to the grand old park. They stepped off crowded cross-country busses, road-weary motor homes and overpacked sport utilities, looking for bathrooms, burgers and bars. Employees within the park call them (perhaps affectionately, because without them, none of us would be there) "tourons." I became one again last month.
Before hitting the road, I decided to try conquering my great fear of -- 1. talking to people and 2. shooting people -- and I decided that Yellowstone would be a good place to give it a whirl because if I made a fool of myself, I'd never have to see any of these people again. I loaded my Diana with NPH 400 and armed myself with a notepad and pen and then did the most respectable thing any shy photographer would do: I asked my husband to approach people, break the ice and then get out of the way so I could take a picture. After about the third photo-op, I got more comfortable and asked a few couples myself. Everyone I asked obliged, and some even shared their stories. It was amazing to me how people would just open up to a complete stranger. I think it had a little to do with the simple blue and black toy in my hand, rather than some fancy spectacle of a camera, and a lot to do with Yellowstone. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's a magical place. Life is different there.
Two of these images are my favorites for the simple fact that they have accompanying narratives. This first photo of Mel and Marlene is very important to me and I'm pretty sure I'll remember this couple for a very long time. We met at the lower observation deck of Steamboat Geyser in the Back Basin at Norris. They said that they'd been on the road for a couple of months (all the way from Pennsylvania) and in another couple of months, their trip would be complete when they reached Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Mel said he'd just retired from a lifelong career as a commercial pilot, a job he absolutely adored and missed tremendously. He told us about the various companies he'd worked for, the people, the travel, and then told us a little about their trip. He finished his story with a heartfelt smile, a wink and a moral as he walked down the boardwalk: "You kids find jobs you love."
The second image I like is of Jon and Paul, who we met at Artist Point at Canyon. You can see the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River between them in the shot. These two said they'd gone to elementary school together in New York and had been buddies ever since. Like Mel and Marlene, Jon and Paul were on a cross-country road trip, seeing America. They were eager to talk and so friendly and interested in my work. I promised to send Jon a link when I posted the photos. I hope you guys had a great trip!
I think I'd like to continue this project someday, still in Yellowstone, because the park attracts so many different people. I thought about doing a little in Zion a couple weeks ago, but I never saw anyone who looked as approachable as these people. Maybe I'm just partial to Yellowstone, being the not-quite-"touron" that I am.
Mel and Marlene, PA