Photographer opens new Breckenridge gallery featuring photos taken exclusively in Summit County
Seeing tracks in the snow near Ute Pass, Mark Yeager followed the paw prints in search of the mountain lion he’d sought for five years.
He found her perched up a pine tree, and he climbed a nearby hillside to meet the cat at eye level. Apparently, the cougar didn’t like that because, after seeing Yeager, she bolted down the tree and raced over to another one about 100 yards away.
Yeager pursued the cat, but short of climbing the second tree, which he said he wasn’t about to do, there was no way to meet her eye-to-eye again.
“We were having a conversation about the whole thing,” he recalled of the encounter. “She was telling me in no uncertain terms, ‘Get out of here. I hate you. I never want to see you again.’ And I was telling her, ‘Shut up and look at the camera.’”
By the time Yeager staggered out of the woods his legs were cramped, but he had more than 500 images, which turned out 10 keepers suitable for prints.
That next morning, Yeager said, he felt like a zombie setting up for a Christmas market at the Silverthorne Pavilion, but he sold about a half-dozen prints of the mountain lion alone.
“It was worth it,” he said.
Yeager is a former professional racecar photographer who found his place capturing Summit County’s wildlife with a camera.
After stalking the aloof mountain lion, courting playful fox fits, climbing with mountain goats, witnessing a crow take on a red-tailed hawk and more, Yeager has an inventory of images large enough for his own gallery, which he officially opened earlier this month inside the La Cima Mall on Main Street Breckenridge.
Inside The Wild Wild West, Colorado Mountain Wildlife and Landscape Photography gallery, he enjoys telling the stories of how he got the pictures of local wildlife adorning the walls.
Yeager’s weapon of choice is a 100-400mm lens. Occasionally, he’ll use an extender, but the vast majority of his wildlife shots were taken from no more than 30-40 feet away, he said.
All of the photographs in the gallery can be reproduced on prints up to 5 feet long or wide, and they were all taken exclusively in Summit County.
“Every one of them,” Yeager said. “This really is a cool, little place that we live.”
After shooting professional racecar circuits, Yeager moved to Summit County, where his foray into wildlife photography “just happened,” he said.
Yeager said he doesn’t ever really fear the animals he shoots, though he’s found it pays to be careful, especially when he’s photographing a mother moose with her young.
“I don’t ever, ever walk straight up to an animal,” Yeager said. “That’s a challenge.”
Instead, he watches them for a while as he tries to establish a rapport and let them get comfortable with his presence before moving in for the close-ups.
One trick, Yeager said, is to try to determine which way the animal might be grazing and get out ahead of it, thus letting his subjects come to him.
“Then you’re not invading their space,” he said.
Birds are the most difficult, Yeager said, adding that he never knows which way they’ll go next and only shoots them in flight.
“It just seemed natural,” Yeager said, explaining that he wants to see the colors and power in their wings more than anything else.
His shots show amazing detail, and most people assume he must have waited hours to catch each one. But Yeager said that patience has little to do with it, and his success, more than anything else, is a result of “grim determination.”
Yeager celebrated the grand opening of his new gallery on Dec. 9, which after years of shooting local wildlife and landscapes seemed like the natural progression after selling his work at festivals and special events.
But simply getting the shot, that might be his greatest passion.
“It’s incredibly fun,” he said of capturing wildlife. “There’s no other feeling to describe it — it’s exciting.”
For more, go to MarkYeagerPhoto.com or call The Wild Wild West gallery at 970-485-9023.
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