P O W E L L, W y o. - Photographs of Yellowstone National Park that may become the last ever taken in winter via the east entrance will go on display Tuesday, April 8, in the SinClair Gallery at Northwest College.
The show is titled "Winter in Yellowstone National Park via the East Entrance: 2008 the Last Opportunity?" It opens with an artists' reception at 7:30 p.m.
The images were taken by NWC photography instructor J.L. "Woody" Wooden and 24 of his students who entered the park's east entrance via snow coaches on four trips taken in January, February and March.
"These excursions gave students the experience of working in extreme weather conditions," Wooden said. "You can't replicate that in a classroom. If they don't learn to overcome the adversity of working in cold and wet environments while they're here, they won't be prepared for that kind of assignment on the job."
Wooden said that while deep snow and pristine conditions make for great photographs, cold weather and moisture aren't really a photographer's best friends.
"When it gets so cold, the grease or lubricant in a camera lens can fail; it freezes and becomes dry," Wooden explained. "Batteries are another concern. They lose potency. Because electronic components don't always work properly in cold temperatures, photographers must be prepared for all the possibilities."
"Snow is another factor to contend with because it's dry while you're out capturing fantastic images that you can't get otherwise, but when you're back in the warmth of the snow coach, that dry snow turns to water. Cameras and water don't mix well. If the images are lost due to unforeseen moisture, the photographer has just cost his or her client a lot of money for nothing but a hard-knocks lesson."
Thanks to Wooden's instruction and the students' advance preparation, all of his photographers came back with images to include in the show - 60 were selected in all. Most of the trips went as planned, with one exception - the snow coach was stuck for a few hours on one trip until a snow cat could reach it to pull it out.
The four trips were made possible by a Perkins Grant that assists with the costs of vocational training. The images that resulted open a window to the area's exclusive winter sights - frost-topped animals, green foliage contrasting on white, and familiar vistas disguised by a blanket of snow.
Wooden said his students were all aware that they may be the last humans to take in the winter scenery, wildlife and rich photographic opportunities afforded via the east gate, depending on the park service's final decision about closing the east gate during winter.
Because of that, they've invited Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis and Assistant Superintendent Frank Walker to attend the opening reception.
"Winter in Yellowstone National Park via the East Entrance: 2008 the Last Opportunity?" will be displayed through Friday, April 18, in SinClair Gallery. Located in the Orendorff Building at NWC, the gallery is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Admission is free.