Winterkeeper, Yellowstone National Park
Canyon Village, WY
We sat at our campsite in Yellowstone National Park, as darkness gripped the forest. A weathered, quiet man walked into our chair circle with three carousel trays, a screen and a slide projector. Steve Fuller was about to show us his life’s work as a photographer in Yellowstone. Steve began his work in Yellowstone as a winter keeper at Canyon Village in 1973, and every frigid winter cleared snow from the roofs of over 100 buildings. Steve got this process down to a science after a short time.
When he wasn’t knocking monstrous blocks of snow off of the Park’s buildings, Steve explored the landscape with his Kodachrome film camera in hand—often at 40 degrees below zero. One of the only people in the Park during Yellowstone’s wild winters, he was able to capture splendid visual stories that are seldom seen in person. His photos reflect the artist within him, and each seems to be the product of endless competition between composition and quality; they are simply inspirational. Steve isn’t a photographer, but a storyteller, and his vivid anecdotes of the park’s dramatic change of season almost make the photos unnecessary.
Within Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, over 4 million people visit a handful of places in the park each year - most of them taking the same photo as everyone else. It’s very difficult to capture scenes that are beautifully composed in a place visited by so many people, but Steve’s seclusion and talented eye allow him to capture the changing of the seasons in images - photos that have helped me to do the same in my own compositions.
Steve’s eyes lit up at the idea of being in grand isolation in the dead of winter; taking photos that no one else can when his canvas is Yellowstone’s vast landscape is an exceptional pleasure for him. The playground of Yellowstone is packed with an endless number of nooks yet to be explored, if you just know where—and when—to look.
Still living in the Park, Steve is set to retire this year, but carries his Nikon DSLR around his neck everywhere he goes, searching for the next shot. I don’t think anyone doubts that he’ll get exactly the one he wants.
By Ethan Thomas