Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yellowstone - The Ice and The Water

One of several parts of my recent Yellowstone trip.

So much of Yellowstone in the winter is about the water, snow, ice and steam.  The animals are cool, but you can see them year-round.  This is collection of photos range from huge waterfalls to tiny icicles.

One winter theme you find throughout Yellowstone is the rime ice.  The steam coming off the rivers and pools and most dramatically from the geysers, gets cold in the frigid night air and freezes almost instantly to any surface.  It can take something as simple as this pine tree limb and turn it into a piece of art.
Sometimes the ice gets so heavy it begins to be a real weight on the tree.  In the back you can see all the steam coming off Prismatic Pool. 
Sometimes it's just the simplest of things.  This little sapling was poking its head out of the snow.  Then the rime ice got it.  Its long, dark shadow is pretty common for winter shooting.
... and on to something completely different. In the summer, here is what Lower Yellowstone Falls looks like.  Pretty dramatic?
Here's a shot from this week.  We started at the Upper falls, but the snow was obscuring the pictures so much we gave up.  I took some but deleted 100% of them.  Then we headed around to lower falls.  Same thing.  Too much snow coming down to get a clear shot on something a half mile away.  So we sat down and had lunch.  That's when the small miracle occurred.  Things cleared up, but only for about 30 minutes or so.

The water is still falling, but by far the more interesting thing is the huge and intricate ice formations that run from top to bottom. Your looking at several hundred feet of vertical.
Another shot, zoomed in a bit more.  If you double click on the photo you can see all the detail.  The color in the ice is completely natural.  I didn't play with the saturation in post processing at all.
Another day, another water fall.  To the credit of Diane and Bob, our trip leaders, they got us to the falls just in time to catch this great highlighting of the rising mist.  Another group of people arrived just as the sun was off the falls.
This is a distant view of the complete falls.  It is only 50 to 75 feet high, much smaller than Yellowstone Falls, but the power of the water and the spectacular lighting made this my favorite.
And to carry the theme, another waterfall.  I liked the long icicles next to the crashing water.  Waterfalls are great places to learn about exposure settings.  Long exposures like this one give the water a soft, flowing look. This was at 1/8th of a second.
A similar scene, with icicles and flowing water, but this time the water was frozen with a 1/4000th of a second exposure.  Interestingly, settings around 1/100th of a second manage to look really crappy. 
I saw all kinds of frozen ice and snow, but this was the only time I found anything that looked like this.  It was sticking off the side of a tree.  It almost looks like what you would get if you cut lots of strands of yarn and put them together.
This is hard to imagine what it is.  Take a pool of hot steamy water.  Mix it with a very dark, very red clay.  Every thirty seconds or so, have a minor eruption.  Such is life in the geyser basins.  Nearby was a similar pool, but with a beige clay, and a much thicker mix.  It was fun to watch but damned if I could ever time a good spurt.
This is proof that there are a lot of different ways to shoot a pine branch.  This is just a branch with a bit of rime on it.  It wasn't particularly pretty from the top, so I shot it straight into the sun.  A cool look, but you have to be careful about going blind.
And my favorite ice comes last.  I sat in the snow for quite a while with my macro lens aimed at this icicle a few inches away.  The pisser is trying to keep it all in focus when your depth of field is about 1/4 of an inch. 
Even though Yellowstone offered us lots of dramatic things to shoot, this little icicle is my favorite photo from the trip.

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