I led a workshop in the Tetons in September, and was given a photo book by one of the participants at the close. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I had a chance to sit down and really go through it. When I did, I was treated to a nice collection of some beautiful pictures. What was surprising was how they were shot – all from the window of a car.
Diane Simpson is the photographer and author of the book. She has progressive neuropathy, which makes walking on uneven surfaces, or moving quickly, difficult. First visiting Yellowstone in 1999 with her husband and grandson, they fell in love with the park. Before that, she says, she’d been “the typical mom taking family pictures. I made that trip with throw-away cameras!!! Can you imagine? We had no idea about the
expanse, the size nor the closeness of the wild animals we could see there. Jim and I were hooked and have returned to Yellowstone every year but one since then. We have gone twice a year for the last few years.” With her husband driving, Diane shoots everything from the window of their car. And as you look through the book, you’d never guess that. The other surprise is that all the photos come from one two-year period.
“I decided to do the book because I have a creative nature and was encouraged by many people to take on the challenge. My hope was it would encourage others who may have physical limitations to explore photography as a creative release. The book idea sounded exciting and interesting so I moved forward.” Diane
proves that a good part of photography is being at the right place at the right time, and then knowing what to do with your equipment. She started small, with a Nikon D70, and has since progressed to a pair of D300 cameras and uses a Nikkor 80-400mm lens for her long shots.
The trips have given them many special moments, but Diane recalls one with particular fondness. “ It was in Hayden Valley on opening day 3 years ago. Jim and I were the only people there. I was watching several pelicans at Alum Creek when Jim said he thought a couple of coyotes had crossed the road behind us. We backed up to get a better view of them and discovered they were wolves. Two of the most beautiful wolves we have ever seen.
Pictures of them are on Page 4 and page 9 (full page with the “Yellowstone is Calling” poem). These 2 wolves provided 20 minutes or more of time playing just outside our car window. They were never more than 20 yards from us. They would look at us and go back to playing. Rolling in the snow, stretching, and posing. I was able to get about 80 good shots with the D70 I had at the time. I was shaking because I knew we were being given a rare and wonderful opportunity. They were incredibly beautiful but soon, they trotted off. No one else saw them but us.” One of those photos is on permanent display in the Yellowstone Association’s headquarters in Gardiner, MT, along with another image of Diane’s, of a pair of pelicans.
What I find most inspiring about Diane’s book is how she shows she won’t let her photography be limited by limited mobility. With a good eye, good technique and patience, she can capture beautiful and moving images from the passenger seat of a car. That the only limit in photography is how creative you choose to be. In addition to the photos, the book has some of Diane’s poems, as well as a nice two-page how-to for photographing in the park.
Looking to the future, Diane plans to keep shooting. “If I do pick up the gauntlet and try another book, it would include pictures I took last spring of a young grizzly and a coyote playing in the snow. Another rare look into the wildlife world. Always fascinating with a few one-in-a-lifetime moments thrown in. Wonderful—simply wonderful.” And that sums up what photography is all about – those special moments you’ll treasure forever.
(If you’re interested in the book, it can be purchased from the Yellowstone Association, or directly from Diane at ConsultDiane@aol.com)