Risking Life and Limb for a Photograph
Too much heat? Chill out with this wintertime tale!
In 1887, photographer and explorer guide Frank Jay Haynes and eleven other men embarked on a 29-day expedition into Yellowstone in the dead of winter. Even though the Yellowstone had been established as a National Park fifteen years earlier, wintertime exploration of the region was relatively rare and extended forays into the park in the wintertime were unheard of. In fact, a few days into the expedition, many of the men gave up on the voyage due to the extreme winter weather and high altitudes; only Haynes and three men opted to continue. Determined, these men endured trekking in freezing temperatures to do what had not been done before – photograph the beauty of Yellowstone during the winter.
Haynes and his companions traveled on sleds, skis, and snowshoes for 200 miles across the unforgiving Yellowstone terrain in temperatures ranging from -10 to -52 degrees. At one point they were stranded on a mountainside for three days in a blizzard with little food, which nearly cost them their lives. The extreme temperatures, the difficult terrain, and unpredictable weather all seemed to conspire against the goal of creating photographs, particularly since the photography process was time consuming and the materials volatile. However, by the end of the excursion, Haynes had created 42 rare wintertime photographs of Yellowstone National Park.
Haynes was the official Yellowstone Photographer, being given the post in 1884, three years before the wintertime photography expedition. He opened the first “picture shop” in Yellowstone in 1884 and specialized in hand-tinted postcards, which he sold for a penny. His son later took over the shop, which was open until 1968.
Frank Jay Haynes documented the beauty of one of our nation’s most beloved parks over the course of decades. But it is the 42 wintertime photos taken during the dangerous excursion in 1887 that introduced the world to the pristine beauty of a Yellowstone in winter and solidified Haynes’s place in history as Yellowstone’s official photographer.
See a few of Haynes’s photographs of Yellowstone, including one of the 42 rare photographs from his winter excursion, in the current exhibition Capturing the Canyons: Artists in the National Park, open at the BYU Museum of Art through August 20, 2016!
Top image: Frank J. Haynes during 1887 Winter expedition, Yellowstone National Park, Photo courtesy of NPS.