Photographing the Dusty Trail at the Diamond P Ranch! (Tips & Techniques)

Photographing the Dusty Trail at the Diamond P Ranch! (Tips & Techniques)

Horses on the dusty trail at the Diamond P Ranch in West Yellowstone.
Horses on the dusty trail at the Diamond P Ranch in West Yellowstone, MT.

So you booked a horseback ride at the best outfit in the whole greater Yellowstone area! Good for you! Now you don’t want to miss a thing and most of you will want to have some sort of camera with you. Here are some tips & techniques for you on what to bring, how to deal with photographing from the back of a horse and what you might see along the way!

Equipment on the trail:

Let’s start with the basics, If you are using a smart phone, no problem. You can put the phone in your jacket or in one of the saddle/horn bags the Diamond P ranch loans out for free. This is a small bag that goes over the horn of your saddle so your small camera or phone and a water bottle is easily stowed and accessed while riding. A small camera is ideal so you can stow it easy if a summer shower suddenly starts pouring, or you just get tired of holding it.

If you are a little more serious about photography and you are bringing a DSLR with additional lenses you will need to know that backpacks are not allowed on the ride. They get hung up on branches and can be a hazard. Be prepared to wear your DSLR around your neck or you can bring a small shoulder bag. If bringing a large DSLR, I highly recommend you choose one medium zoom lens and just leave that on for the duration of the ride. Changing lenses from horseback can be precarious! Something like a 28-120mm is a nice range. Plenty wide to do some of the beautiful vistas your guides will lead you to and still a little zoom for the big smiles beaming from your kids.

Keep in mind, no matter what camera you bring; you should never let go of the reins, especially while moving!!! When you let go of the reins, you risk your horse making the decisions on where to go next, and it may not be where the group is going! Other useful things to put in your horn bag, a bottle of water for each family member, sunscreen and a good mosquito repellent are equally important things to carry on your trip! Even if it’s warm out, a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt is good when you get into the woods. It can be tied on the back of your saddle. Be very gentle and subtle when you are moving around in the saddle and avoid sudden movements. Again, ask a wrangler when you want to put your jacket on or off.

In and around the ranch:

There will be a short riding demo and you can say hello to the horses in the rustic 60+ year old corral. Each horse has his or her personality. It’s fun to watch them interacting in the corral. The Diamond P ranch is a historical ranch and an old stage coach road ran right through it years ago! You can see it behind the barn and also look out to the early 1900’s school house remains just north of the ranch. Often in the open range behind the ranch, you can see small herds of Antelope grazing in the distance, with snow capped peaks beyond.

Riding the Dusty trail:

When you get into the wilderness, you never know what you may see! There are elk, deer, coyote, fox, wolves, black bear and Grizzly in the area, to name of few of the mega fauna that live here. Most likely when you see an animal it will be far off. Animals tend to hide or avoid groups of laughing chattering tourists having fun on horseback. You may also see hawks, eagles, owls etc so keep your eyes open! Your wonderful guides will try and point out anything really cool for you to see. As wonderful as it is to get great close ups with your zoom lens of wildlife, the back of a horse is not the best place to do it. Save those shots for inside the park. You can learn more about photographing wildlife in the Yellowstone Region here: On the trail you can get some great scenery and a few fun candid family shots from your noble steed.

It’s difficult to take photos with one hand (the other will be holding the reins at all times!). Try to brace your arm holding the camera against your body (point & shoot & smaller DSLR). The closer your camera is to your body, the less chance of camera shake. If you have a DSLR, defiantly use a lens shade- the sun is bright up here in mountain country! With the shade you will have better color and clarity. Be careful not to shoot directly into the sun or you will have glare, underexposure and bad color! A polarizing filter is good for open fields and mountain shots, but will be difficult to use in the woods. You may have a lot of under-exposed images if you have it set wrong.

There are many beautiful scenes, and you will enjoy the different aspects of the ride. Try to take some nice shots but not spend your whole ride in your camera. You will miss meeting others, chatting with your super cool Montana guides and meeting other travelers! Our awesome resident photographer “Flash” will also capture you in the beautiful meadow, riding your humble steed! If you see him, or possibly me out there, put your iphone, point & shoot or DSLR down for a few minutes and smile for the camera! The best possible images of you and your family riding are going to be from a pro on the ground, and without your camera pressed to your face! When you get back from your ride, thank your wrangler & your horse! They are the hardest working beings on the ranch! Come on over and see us in the big barn, next to the awesome gift shop and we will have your photos ready for you to view! With prices you won’t believe, you gotta come check it out!

The Diamond P ranch really is a magical place! You will enjoy your visit for sure! We look forward to meeting you soon! Happy trails till then!


River & Flash

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