The Alien Landscape of Yellowstone

Alien Landscape Yellowstone

Many of the landscapes in Yellowstone National Park look like they are pulled straight out of science fiction

I recently blogged about the contrasts of Yellowstone National Park.  Today I want to take a slightly different look at Yellowstone and explore the alien landscape a bit.

One of the things that fascinates me about the place is how there are sections of the park that look like they could easily be used as an alien landscape in a science fiction movie, IMO, this area near Mammoth Hot Springs is just such a place.  For that matter, pretty much all of the Mammoth area would fit that bill.


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The Grays Harbor Light

Grays Harbor Lighthouse

The Grays Harbor Lighthouse lit to celebrate its 118th anniversary

This past week marked the 188th anniversary of the first lighting of the Grays Harbor Light. For those that don’t know, this lighthouse is in Westport, WA and IMO is one of the most fascinating lighthouses I have ever seen.

When most people think of a lighthouse, they picture it being right on the coast, very close to the water, and while the Grays Harbor Light started that way, it now sits just over 3000 feet from the high tide mark. The lighthouse wasn’t moved, but due to the addition of a levy to the north of the lighthouse, the beach in this area silted in and simply added more land between the lighthouse and the coast. You can learn a little more about it at this link.  As interesting as I find the geographic history of this lighthouse, that isn’t the reason for this post.

As I mentioned above, this past week marked the 118th anniversary of the first lighting of the 3rd order Fresnel lens. This lens, while not used after some upgrades to modernize this still working lighthouse, is the original lens.  It is something of a rarity these days for a lighthouse to have its original fresnel lens. When I found out that they were going to be lighting the light in celebration of the anniversary, I decided to make the trip out to Westport.

I met up with a handful of fellow Olympia Camera Club members and spent a couple hours shooting, but more importantly enjoying the evening and the significance of the event.

This image was one of the very last I captured, and while it does look like the light is streaming skyward, it is actually coming straight out from the lighthouse and I was shooting from under the beam, something of an optical illusion.  I hope you enjoy the image as much as I enjoyed capturing it.



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Castle Geyser Steam

Castle Geyser Steam

Steam being emitted from Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park

When most people thing about geysers in Yellowstone National Park the first geyser, and possibly the only geyser, they think of is Old Faithful.  It really does make sense, Old Faithful erupts on a very regular schedule, typically less than 90 minutes apart, and is one of the most developed areas in the entire park.  What a lot of people might not know is that not only are there other geysers in the same general area as Old Faithful, but there are also other geyser basins through out the park.  A great example of other geysers in the general area of Old Faithful would be Castle Geyser.

Castle Geyser is within easy walking distance from Old Faithful, and while it only erupts twice a day, I am told that it emits steam all the time which makes for a dramatic scene.

We spent the better park of a morning and early afternoon exploring all the thermal features in the vicinity of Old Faithful but my eyes kept drifting towards the billowing steam from Castle Geyser, I couldn’t seem to keep my eyes off of it.  By the time we reached Castle, a small group was starting to form and one of the people there told us that it was getting ready to erupt.  Needless to say we staked out some seats on nearby benches to wait for the show.

We waited, and waited, and waited a little longer.  Not all geysers are as predictable as Old Faithful, it has that name for a reason, and we were more than willing to be patient.  After a little while another park visitor walked along and said “you know that this geyser isn’t going to erupt any time soon don’t you?”  This statement lead to a little bit of a debate over the matter between the person who started telling everyone it was going to erupt at around 11:30am and the new arrival who contradicted that.  In the end, both were sort of right, Castle was expected to erupt at 11:30, just now 11:30am but 11:30pm.

Even though we didn’t get to see Castle Geyser erupt, I really did enjoy spending some time there, and I loved watching that billowing steam as I walked around the geyser basin.

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Land of Contrast – Yellowstone

Grand Prismatic Basin Monochrome

A monochrome image of tourists at the Grand Prismatic Basin in Yellowstone National Park

I recently returned from a week in Yellowstone National Park with my family.  Six couples and a handful of kids shared a rental house in West Yellowstone, MT. and we spent 5 full days in the first national park in the world.

I am not going to go into detail about the vacation aspects of this trip, I will more than likely document that over on my personal blog, MyBlueHeaven, but I will be sharing some images as well as thoughts about the park itself here on my photoblog.  I decided to start with this image as I think it really illustrates what I mean by “Land of Contrast” in the title of this post.

Yellowstone is a truly fascinating place.  There are contrasts everywhere you look.  You will easily find, as you will see from images I share later, forests and meadows that broken up with volcanic hot springs and geysers.  I can’t think of a more visually contrasting environment anywhere.  You have places like the West Thumb basin where there is boiling hot spring waters within inches of the cold water of Yellowstone Lake.  But none of this really illustrates what I find to be the biggest contrast in the entire park, and what I hope is shown in the above image.

One could argue that Yellowstone is the last remaining place in the United States, at least in the lower 48 states, that is truly wild and potentially dangerous.  Death and injury in the thermal areas are a very real thing, sadly a man died in a hot spring in the Norris Geyser Basin just a week or so before we got to the park.  Attacks by wild animals is also a very real possibility, and you can even buy or rent “bear spray” to carry while hiking.  Even with the park truly being a wild place, and danger is literally around every corner, the real contrast in my mind is the sheer number of people that visit the park, I am told just over 4 million this past year.  I can’t think of anywhere else that you can be in the wilderness but also around so many people at the same time.

This image, which I captured at the Grand Prismatic Basin on our first day in the park, hopefully illustrates that very contrast.  When I saw the people out on the boardwalk with the steam rising behind them, I knew that I had to grab a shot of it, and I am glad that I did, it might be one of my favorite images from the entire trip.

Stay tuned, over the next week or so I will be sharing more images from a wonderful week in Yellowstone.

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Sharing With Intent

Lower Lewis River Falls

A shot of the Lower Lewis River Falls taking during harsh afternoon sunlight

This past month my friend Jacob Lucas presented his work to the Olympia Camera Club under the title of “Shooting with intent.”  Jacob talked about thing like making an image your own and actually having a reason to press the shutter button.  This lead to a conversation with some fellow photographers about taking that a step further and in addition to shooting with intent, we explored the idea of sharing with intent.

What I really mean by this is finding a way to self edit and not just share images for the sake of sharing them, or to chase that little “like” or “fav” button on social media.  I am using this image as what I think is a perfect example of what I am trying to say.

Most people will look at this image and immediately think it is a great image.  I would argue that if you take just a little more time and really look into it, there are a number of things very wrong with this image.  There are actually enough things wrong with this image to keep it out of my galleries here on this site, but I will get back to that in a moment.

I made this image back on May 1st.  At the time I was really excited about getting this image onto my computer, processed and then shared with the world.  After I got it onto my computer I sort of got wrapped up with other things but always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to get this image “out there.”  I finally had the opportunity a couple days ago to sit down and really look at this image, and it immediately jumped out at me that there was a lot wrong with the shot, and that it might work perfectly for this blog post, which I had been wanting to write for awhile now.

I processed this image anyway, and about 24 hours before sitting down to write this post, I shared it to Flickr.  I was curious as to how this image, which I believe to be flawed enough to keep our of my galleries, would be received on a photo sharing network.  Most people would be thrilled to have over 1700 views, over 100 likes and invitations into 5 groups for one of their images, and that is exactly where I am at after 24 hours of this image being on Flickr.

I suspect that many of the people who have read this far wonder why I consider this image flawed, and why it isn’t in my Nature / Landscape gallery.  There are actually a number of reasons.  The biggest starts with the time of the day that I captured the image.  It was early afternoon, just after 2:00pm and to say that the sunlight coming up the Lewis River Canyon was harsh would be a major understatement.  This harsh light created nasty shadows both in the background and on the elements of the falls.  You don’t have to look to hard at this image to see those nasty shadows.  Secondly, my composition is really quite bad.  I should have brought more of the foreground into the scene, but that isn’t what “ruins” this image for me, it is that I cut off the downed trees on the left side and with them moving diagonally out of the frame, they take the viewers eye right out of the scene.  Simply put, if I were not using this image for this blog post, odds are that people would have never seen this shot.

So, what is the moral of this very long winded blog post.  Simply put, I think we all need a lesson from time to time about sharing with intent.  Share your best work, evaluate your own work with a critical eye, and maybe most importantly, don’t always take the feedback that you get online as a gauge of the quality of an image, more often than not, popular doesn’t equal good.


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