For Michael Nichols, National Geographic’s longtime staff photographer and photo editor at large, committing to shoot the Yellowstone project meant living full-time in the park, accompanied by his wife, Reba Peck. From spring 2014 until summer 2015, Nichols barely stepped away from the assignment—with one notable exception. Late October found him in London, in a tuxedo, at a Natural History Museum awards ceremony where the Duchess of Cambridge presented him with an award: 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Nichols won the prestigious award for his photo of a lion pride that he’d tracked through the Serengeti for six months. Returning from London, he resumed his coverage of Yellowstone and the paradox of its purpose: “Is it for the benefit of the people? Or is it to protect the animals and the wonderland?” If telling Yellowstone’s story encourages its stewards and visitors to find a balance between those two missions, he says, “then maybe we can help all of our parks solve that conundrum.”