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Photographer David Guttenfelder on Yellowstone

An award-winning photographer returns home to the U.S. to capture the beauty of Yellowstone.

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In Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley a classic car slows down to take in a classic scene: a bison resting in the sun by the side of the road. Large numbers of bison congregate in the area during the rut season in August.
David Guttenfelder is one of six photographers who contributed to  National Geographic magazine's special issue on Yellowstone. Learn about the other five at  natgeo.com/yellowstone

After college David Guttenfelder left his native Iowa and spent the next 20 years living, working, and winning photojournalism awards (including seven World Press Photo Awards) around the globe. In 2015, he says, “I moved back to America specifically to work on this important Yellowstone story.”

For his first year as a National Geographic Society photography fellow, Guttenfelder worked throughout the ecosystem. He regularly posted Instagram photos of his long, scenic commutes “to bring others along—and maybe rub it in that I got to drive through Yellowstone every morning."

“After exploring the world my whole adult life,” he says, a year in this iconic American park “was the perfect homecoming.”

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A Yellowstone bison held temporarily at Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch is retested for brucellosis. When two of the ranch’s own commercial bison recently tested positive— infected by wild elk grazing the same pastures—they were euthanized and then necropsied at a lab in Bozeman. 
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A bison raised on the Flying D ranch near Bozeman, Montana, is put down after showing possible signs of brucellosis, a serious disease transmissible to cattle. Whether Yellowstone’s wild bison pose a similar threat is a matter of heated controversy. 
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A fetus was removed from a bison that tested positive for brucellosis at Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch.

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Kids having fun with guns, just north of Yellowstone National Park, or a sign of the times? The Yellowstone region, like much of the West, is uneasily divided over a fundamental question: Who should manage the land and its wildlife, and how, and to what end?
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This band of 1,400 sheep spends the summer grazing season in the Gravelly Range of Montana. They’re tended by three ranchers along with a sheepherder and two Akbash guard dogs. Constant vigilance replaces bullets as a way of deterring predators.
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A state wildlife manager in Cody, Wyoming, checks on a problem grizzly that’s been tranquilized so it can be relocated away from people. Wyoming and other states around Yellowstone argue that grizzlies have recovered enough for trophy hunting to be allowed. 
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At a curio shop in Jackson, Wyoming, visitors pose with stuffed animals, including a brown bear—a Kodiak from Alaska, not a grizzly from Yellowstone. The desire to touch the wild, preferably without threat to life and limb, endures in many of us.

You can still catch a rodeo in the region around Yellowstone. Ranchers still gather at saloons to two-step on Saturday night. And the sight of a pickup with a dog and a rifle in the back may never go away. The economy and culture of the region, seen in the following set of images, are changing fast. 

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See more work from David Guttenfelder on Instagram and his website



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