(Apology up front for the novel) --- It's been nearly 13 years since our last trip to YNP and I'm trying to use past experiences to guide some of my choices for our upcoming trip this August. We aren't too big on tours, but last trip, we did a picture perfect photography tour and got some really nice photos that we had enlarged, matted and framed. I know our guide last time had a lot of little tidbits of info that made it a much more interesting and educational experience, so I think at least one may be beneficial. We're staying at Canyon this time, so driving to OFI or Lake in the pre-dawn hours for a photography tour isn't something I want to do. We'll also have our kids with us this time around (ages 9 and 11), and while they're used to me being in picture mode, I think they'd appreciate something that focuses more on wildlife.
That being said, I'm torn between the morning wake up tour and the evening one. The evening one is a bit cheaper, so that is appealing. Still, I know early morning tends to be a good time for wildlife spotting. Our tour 13 years ago was out of Mammoth and our guide's first focus was getting the hot springs in that sweet light just as the sun is rising, so that tour really gave me no perspective on morning vs evening for wildlife. While we got an early start most days last trip, I don't recall many days being crack of dawn early either...i.e. so it's not helping with my decision. We're also well aware that there are no guarantees. The kids even experienced this first hand a couple of years ago when we went whale watching for a few hours and saw no whales. So, we're already in that "appreciate whatever you do see...even if it's just the general beauty of nature" frame of mind.
So, any thoughts on if the morning tour is worth the extra $75? There are lighting benefits at both times of day and I don't need it to be a photography tour to take pics, so I will probably get some nice photos either way. Or would you skip both? Also wondering how far out we should book (hoping it's not too late!)? Last time, we booked the day before, but it was also later in the season, so that probably helped.