Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yellowstone - The Landscapes

One of several parts of my recent Yellowstone trip.

The scenery in Yellowstone is incredible with rivers, hills, fields, geysers, a mix of vegetation.... , but one of the huge challenges in photographing during the winter is the steam.  There is a vast amount of hot water rising to the surface and when it mixes with the cold air, you get steam. Lots and lots of steam.  Even when it looks like you have a nice clear view of something, you get back and look at your pictures to find they are soft.  Where did all that sharpness go?  To the slight amount of steam between you and your subject.
After a day or two of this, you get better at two things.  The first is sitting still, watching your subject for the brief moments when the breeze clears the steam.  The second is trying to find places where the steam actually adds to the photo.  I like how this trail disappears off into the mist around the lone tree.
When we went into the Canyons area, it was even worse.  We wanted to shoot the upper and lower falls, but it was cloudy and snowing lightly.  Add that to the normal steam and you have little to work with.
There are quite a few trees that have died from the dissolved silica in the groundwater.  They turn white at the base and then tend to stay upright for a long time.  They add some interesting contrast to the white snow and the inevitable steam.
But somedays you get lucky and there are some clear shots, especially if you aren't close to any of the geyser basins.  This was the sunrise that occurred right after I shot my fox photos (next blog post).  Because it hadn't snowed for a while, there were animal tracks in almost every photo.
This was taken right above the falls on the Fire Hole River.  It looks like I was shooting with a polarizer, but this is just how everything looked.  When we got out of our snow coach, there was a mix of emotions.  You wanted to start shooting such an incredible scene, but you had to just stand there for a few minutes and absorb it.
Same area, but I liked the sunlit cross on the snow.
On one of the big boulders out in the river is a scraggly looking pine tree.  Apparently they decorate it for Christmas every year.  I chose this shot to start playing with starbursts from the sun.  If you haven't ever done this before, all you need to do is set your camera to its highest f-stop.  For my lens it was f/22. Then align the photo so just a tiny sliver of sun pokes out from behind your subject.  Instant starburst!
I never could figure out how to compose a great photo from this scene, but it was so beautiful I had to include it.  Reflections in the water.  Pillowy snow along the bank.
A good painter could have a blast in Yellowstone, but it would take some real skill to match all the subtle, soft lighting that comes from the steam.
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