June Week 1 – Yellowstone

I spent six days at Yellowstone National Park. It’s our first national park and this was my first visit. It’s an amazing place with beautiful geysers, hot springs and pools, animals and mountains, snow and sunshine, rivers and raptors.

The one photographic tool that I used the most here was my polarizing filter. Although, now I have to replace it, because all the mist and spray from the geysers can quickly spot and pit your filter or lens. So having the filter on the lens was good protection. But also it made for wonderful deepened blue skies and rich colors when the sun was at its low angles in the morning and the evening.

Although it was June, most days started out at 30 degrees and some snow. Stormy weather often gives you wonderful clouds – so don’t stay in bed.  To prepare for this tip I used a book I highly recommend:  “Photographing Yellowstone National Park” by Gustav W. Verderber.  This was a solo journey for me which I highly value although miss conversation and community reflection.  The advantage is that you have total control over your movement and time frame.  But it is harder to get out at 4:30 AM to find your sunrise location.  (To witness I have no sunrise shots.)

Early morning journeying in the park is essential if you want to capture some of the wildlife at their most active times.  But he bison will roam on the road at almost any time of the day.

Yellowstone is one huge volcano and has more geysers than any place in the world.  The caldera itself is some 30 by 45 miles.   The colors in the geothermal areas vary from grays, oranges, blues, yellow and every other color.  Many of the colors are caused by bacteria which grow in the hot waters.  This post gives you three of my favorite shots and the next post the next three.  Yellowstone National Park was a 6 day stop for me as I am driving from San Francisco to Schenectady, New York and back.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Some of my favorite bubbling caldrons and exploding fountains of hot water were foun on the Firehole Lake Drive just north of Old Faithful (which is worth seeing but not the most photogenic).  On Firehole Drive I stood at the White Dome geyser, pictured above, for about 30 minutes and then was engaged by its towering thin spray which lasted a couple of minutes reaching probably 50 feet.  The clouds and the mound colors help make this image. Geysers and pools can be easily photographed from 10 AM – 4:00 PM when the direct sun brings out the water in the pools.  The bluer the pool the deeper it is I understand.

An easy everyone-gets-shot is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  And at 9:45 AM a luminous mist turning to rainbow appears on the lower falls, visible from Artist Point which is a short walk from the parking lot.  In this image lower falls is at the top and upper falls is not viewable.

I found that there was nice light in the canyon also in the afternoon.  There are plenty of people around but they come and go and even in these crowded areas if you hang around there are moments when you have the views all to yourself. One of the greatest gifts to yourself in a place like this is “unrushed-time.”

In addition to the geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots one obviously goes to Yellowstone for the wildlife.  I did not see any bear or wolf but rejoiced in all the bison and their calves that filled my frame.  At this time of year the little ones are still auburn orange and at day-one they are jumping and running and keeping up with the heard.  Already they are head-butting one another between feeding times.  Using a 100 – 400 mm telephoto lens brought me in tight enough at times to see the sparkle in their eyes!

Why we humans try to control and thus corrupt the earth remains a sad mystery to me.  Standing in the grandeur of Yellowstone is a great reminder that we are but one small member of the Mother Earth and the beautiful web of life she has spun!

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