arrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upchevron-upchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upclosecomment-newemail-newgallerygridheadphones-newheart-filledheart-openmap-geolocatormap-pushpinArtboard 1Artboard 1Artboard 1minusng-borderpauseplayplusreplayscreenArtboard 1sharefacebookgithubArtboard 1Artboard 1linkedinlinkedin_inpinterestpinterest_psnapchatsnapchat_2tumblrtwittervimeovinewhatsappspeakerstar-filledstar-openzoom-in-newzoom-out-new

Photographer Charlie Hamilton James on Yellowstone

An award-winning wildlife photographer goes to perilous lengths.

View Images

A grizzly fends off ravens from a bison carcass in Grand Teton National Park. Find out how Charlie Hamilton James got this shot

Charlie Hamilton James 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.

Since photographing otters with his first camera, Charlie Hamilton James admits, he’s been an “otter nut.” One day during the year he spent in the Yellowstone area, Hamilton James got a call from a friend with a pond on his property: “Get here now. The otters are here.” He grabbed his dry suit, his underwater camera, and the weight belt he’d last used in the ocean.

At the site, “I jumped in the pond and sank straight to the bottom,” says the award-winning wildlife photographer. He had too much weight on the belt—but chances to photograph wild otters underwater are scarce, and he was determined. So he struggled to the surface, gulped air, and then sank again, repeatedly.

“Every time I got to the bottom, the otters swam down to hang out with me,” Hamilton James says. “As an encounter, it’s incredibly rare.” But, he admits, “it was ruined by the fact that I was trying not to drown.”

View Images
North American river otters, Snake River, Wyoming
View Images
North American river otters, Ely Springs, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
View Images

Bison and elk share winter ranges in Greater Yellowstone—these are in the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyoming. 

View Images

A cougar, photographed by a camera trap along a busy game trail above the Buffalo Fork River near Grand Teton National Park

View Images

After being nearly eradicated by trappers in the mid-1800s, beavers are making a comeback in the West, including in Grand Teton National Park. 

View Images

The interior of a beaver lodge in Grand Teton National Park

View Images

Cutthroat trout, seen here spawning in the Gros Ventre River, are highly prized by anglers. 

View Images

A lone member of the Phantom Springs wolf pack stands tall in Grand Teton National Park. 

View Images
A male elk surveys his winter domain, the 24,700-acre National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyoming. 
View Images

A chairlift carries skiers up Snow King Mountain in Jackson, Wyoming. 

View Images
Glaciers in Grand Teton National Park are shrinking, as they are around the planet. Meanwhile tourism is growing: In 2015 record numbers visited both Grand Teton and Yellowstone, its neighbor to the north. The parks attract an increasingly diverse array of international travelers.
View Images

A moose fords Buffalo Fork River near Grand Teton. 

See more from Charlie Hamilton James on Instagram and his website

Comment on This Story



Events

Hear live stories from explorers and photographers around the country.

See Locations Near You

Exhibits

Enjoy a variety of exhibitions that reflect the richness and diversity of our world.

Buy Tickets

Follow Us