A large bull bison crosses a stream in Yellowstone National Park. High school photographer Kinley Bollinger won first place in the “wildlife” category of the Nature Conservancy of Wyoming’s student photo contest for this image. (Kinley Bollinger/Nature Conservancy of Wyoming)

When Kinley Bollinger traveled with her family to Yellowstone National Park in October 2019, the young photographer planned to shoot some thermal features. 

But when the family happened across a herd of bison and stopped, Bollinger trained her camera instead on the animals. As the bison began to cross a river, Bollinger told WyoFile, she noticed a massive bull. 

“Inspired by his sheer power, I knew he was the one I needed to photograph,” she wrote in an email. “With just enough time to spare, I was able to safely stand behind a tree on the other side of the river and capture a moment I will never forget.”

Kinley’s photo of the hulking animal crossing won first place in the “wildlife” category of The Nature Conservancy of Wyoming’s 2020 “I Believe in Conservation” photography contest. It’s the second time the photographer, 17, has won. 

Bollinger, who shot the image on a Nikon D7500, wrote that her favorite thing about wildlife photography is carefully observing animals. 

“Sometimes this means waiting for three hours for a moose or bison to stand up, and other times a split second encounter has to suffice,” she wrote. “Both of these situations allow you to learn about, watch, and ultimately learn from the wildlife. It’s absolutely incredible.”

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After spending hours in the wilderness witnessing nature, she said, “it’s nearly impossible to not overflow with love for our planet.” She hopes viewers of her images experience similar revelations. 

The Nature Conservancy of Wyoming’s student photo contest is open to photographers between the ages of 14-19 who attend high school in Wyoming. Students are urged to submit striking images that convey their connection to conservation of Wyoming’s land, water and wildlife. In a special Photo Friday series, WyoFile is publishing the 2020 contest’s first-place winners. 

Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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