Chris Crisman Photography

John Kerr – Yellowstone Park Ranger

When a magazine calls asking to send you to Yellowstone National Park, the first question that runs through your mind is how soon can we leave? Earlier this year, photo editor extraordinaire Caitlin Peters at AARP the Magazine contacted us with an assignment to photograph park ranger John Kerr.

After speaking to John on the phone and learning about the distinct challenges (unpredictable weather, unpredictable wildlife, nonexistent cell service) of working in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park, Chris and I knew that we would definitely be in for an adventure. Keep reading for more of our story and behind the scenes with John Kerr…

John had given us instructions to meet him at the “Tower Ranger Station” inside Yellowstone Nation Park. Typically we’d call our subjects when we arrive to photograph them, but in this case there was no cell service – so we waited.

While waiting at the ranger station, we got very well acquainted with some of the animals we could encounter during our stay in the park. I was ready at any moment to fend off a charging bear with a lightstand or octabank if necessary.

Since John Kerr is an active duty park ranger, Chris and I were quickly immersed in his world, following him around as he tended to the needs of Yellowstone and it’s visitors.

And of course we made time to squeeze in a few portraits in between earning our deputy park ranger badges.

It looks like John got a chance to take a few shots himself… I swear everyone’s a photographer these days.

Throughout the day and throughout John’s patrol, we often made unscheduled stops – sometimes to check out the local wildlife. In this instance we spotted a pack of wolves feeding on a carcass. Unfortunately we didn’t pack a 400mm lens to get some nature close up photos.

As our day drew to a close and the sun began to set, we experienced (up close and very personal) the bison migration across the Lamar valley. It was truly amazing and equally scary to watch as herds of these 1000+ lbs animals strolled across the highway, unfazed by the herds of tourists and visitors snapping their photos.

We are incredibly lucky to be able to witness and capture the natural beauty of a place like Yellowstone. Chris and I have been all over this great country and there are few places that compare to the inspiring landscapes that it holds. We are equally as lucky to have met park ranger John Kerr – a patient portrait subject and truly interesting person, we left Yellowstone wishing we had just a little bit more time to explore and learn.

10 comments
  1. Rick Lewis says: November 28, 20122:12 pm

    What a great adventure. I’ve been to Yellowstone and it truly is a national treasure. The “cover” portrait of John is, as usual, vintage Chris Chrisman. “Well done”, to you both.

  2. Robert Luessen says: November 28, 20122:16 pm

    As always, thank you for the kind words Rick!

  3. anise says: November 29, 20121:56 pm

    the portraits are absolutely stunning. Love your style. Hopefully you can do work for the NPS.

  4. Robert Luessen says: November 29, 20125:41 pm

    Thank you Anise! We hope so too…

  5. Leo Cavallini says: November 30, 20124:36 pm

    I could just expect patience and attention to what surround these guys that don’t live the rush we use to be into. If you stop to think, just being ‘offline’ can be considered a great change in a person’s routine. One more opportunity for you guys to disconnect a little from the city and step the land barefoot for some energy recycling ;)

  6. linda says: December 10, 20121:34 pm

    Ranger John is loved by many.

  7. Charleen says: December 11, 20128:12 pm

    I meet Ranger John in 2007. He has been “The Park Ranger at Tower”. He always welcomes me back each year. I love just seeing him talk to the visitors and kids about the bears. And he has lots of stories to tell. And he saved my butt from a bear coming out behind a tree, behind me. Ranger John was standing next to me and seen the bear come out so fast, Ranger John covered himself over me and yelled to run the bear off. Ranger John’s love for Yellowstone National Park, makes Yellowstone a remarkable place to be. Ranger John Kerr , Tower Ranger. He should have a book published he is that good.

  8. Don George says: December 12, 20128:15 pm

    Great guy. Have met John on many occasions over the years. Was really happy when he got his full time position. He has the patience of Job and is a great representative of the park.

  9. Lo Hartnett says: February 5, 20138:59 am

    After working with John for 20+ years in fund raising at WGBH, it is such a treat that he has found his true Eldorado. Can’t wait to visit you at Yellowstone JSK. Love ya, Lo

  10. Karen Johnson says: February 5, 20139:41 am

    Holy buffalo, Batman! What a cool life you’ve made for yourself…even better than working with me and Lo, possibly. Love, Karen

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