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Know the West

A new look at Yellowstone

  "Wholly an unattractive country. There is nothing whatever in it, no object of interest to the tourist, and there is not one out of twenty who visits for purposes of observation this remote section." So declared one congressman in the late 1800s, dismissing the valleys of Yellowstone.

What a difference a century can make: Today, 3 million people visit Yellowstone National Park each year. Still more visit Grand Teton National Park and the seven national forests that surround both parks. Together, these lands comprise the region known as Greater Yellowstone. It is an area challenging to any photographer, because rather than offering "no object of interest," it offers so many. We’ve all seen outstanding photos of this part of the Rockies; our standards are high, and it takes a true artist to show us something new.

Incredible Vision: The Wildlands of Greater Yellowstone lives up to its name. Pete and Alice Bengeyfield pursue nature photography as a hobby, but the vision, patience and skill that captured these images reflect a calling.

The book succeeds as a coffee-table book, but the fine writing takes it well beyond mere furniture. Pete Bengeyfield’s prose is readable yet comprehensive, and he begins with the geologic forces that formed the area and ends with some of the contentious issues — logging, oil and gas exploration, wildlife management, development — that rivet High Country News readers today. In between, he covers water, plants and wildlife, along with humans, and some of their varied perspectives since the first trappers headed west.

The text should appeal to anyone who lives in or cares about the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem; the photos will appeal to anyone with open eyes.