Tag Archives: geology

Photography In The National Parks: Getting Great Smartphone Shots – Part 2

It’s #TriviaTuesday folks! If you visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, you’ll have the opportunity to see all four types of volcano: plug dome (aka lava dome), cinder cone, shield, and strato (aka composite). And you can hike up to each of these, too. Lassen Peak is one of the world’s largest plug domes, Prospect Peak is a shield volcano, Brokeoff Mountain is an eroded part of stratovolcano Mount Tehama, and, well, Cinder Cone is a cinder cone. You can even hike up to and then down into Cinder Cone, pictured here.

This shot was captured with my iPhone. And speaking of iPhones, and smartphones in general, my latest photo column has been published in the National Parks Traveler: Getting Great Smartphone Shots – Part 2.

To read the article, click on the image above

I’m an SLR gal, but I readily admit the smartphone camera is an amazing piece of technology and smartphone cameras can get some pretty cool shots. I used mine when I neglected to bring along a particular wide-angle lens for my other camera during my own hike up to Cinder Cone. And I wanted to prove, not only to myself, but to you also, that you can get some very nice images with your smartphone.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Trivia Tuesday 11-15-2022

It’s Trivia Tuesday folks!

Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park is indeed a glory to behold, no matter what the season. But, if you’ve seen (and photographed) this hot spring in different seasons, under different lighting conditions, you’ll notice that the colors don’t look quite the same – in the cooler months, they tend to be a little less bright and a little more murky.

When this pool was first discovered it was a brilliant blue, hence the name after a beautiful morning glory flower. People throwing trash, coins, rocks and logs into this pool over the years have caused a change in the water temperature (cooling it because all that trash has piled up around the vent and reduced hot water circulation) which in turn has caused the colors to change, allowing orange- and yellow-colored bacteria to thrive within the water. Add to that the subfreezing temps of the winter season (when this photo was captured), which in turn cool the surface water of the hot spring, and you get a murky look like you see here. It’s still a beautiful little spring, but the change in colors is mainly due to the extreme short-sightednes of humans. Sigh.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, National Parks, Trivia Tuesday, Yellowstone National Park

Photography And Trivia Tuesday

It’s #TriviaTuesday *and* my latest photo column has been published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler!

How many of you have ever heard of, or seen, columnar jointing? It’s a pretty cool geological formation that usually occurs with basaltic lava (as opposed to other lavas, although it’s happened with other mixes before). When lava begins to cool, it contracts, and when it contracts, it causes fracturing. This fracturing begins at the top and bottom and moves inward toward the center. Turns out (long story short) that the hexagonal pattern is the most efficient way for heat to be released when cooling. Columnar jointing occurs perpendicular to the original lava flow.

You can see really cool columnar jointing (aka columnar basalts) at places like Devils Postpile and Devils Tower national monuments. You can also see all sorts of columnar jointing along the Columbia River and in other parts of eastern Washington State, like at Drumheller Channels National Natural Landmark along the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. And that’s what today’s photo column is all about: photography and exploration at Drumheller Channels.

Click on either the image above or the image below to read more and see more pics.

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Photography In The National Parks: An Exploration Of The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail – Part 2

A view of Echo Basin from the South Alcove of Frenchman Coulee, Channeled Scablands, Eastern Washington

September is a two-for-one month regarding photo columns published in the National Parks Traveler. The first article was about smartphone photography. This article is about a photographic visit to Frenchman Coulee in Eastern Washington, a feature of the Channeled Scablands along the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.

To read this article, click on the image above.

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Filed under Channeled Scablands, Geology, Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, Photography, Photography In The National Parks

Fun Fact Friday, August 5, 2022: Exfoliation

It’s #FunFactFriday

Ok, be honest. What comes to mind when I write the word “exfoliation?” To me, a picture of dry, flaky skin first comes to mind. However, exfoliation has a geological context to it, too. It’s a weathering process and one of the best places to see this process is along Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park.

As you drive that road, take a look at the granite hills and domes all around you. Notice that interesting sort of “onion peel” effect on the rock layers? That’s exfoliation! It’s a type of weathering and is common in granites.

You see, granite formed beneath the earth’s surface, under immense pressure. So, when the surface sediments and rocks – collectively termed as overburden – covering that granite are eroded or removed and that granite is exposed, the pressure beneath which the granite lay is gone and the granite begins to expand, forming all sorts of fractures (joints). Weathering (like frost heaving) causes plates, or flakes of rock to strip away the surface rock much like onion skin peels away from the onion.

And now you know.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Fun Fact Friday, Geology, National Parks, Photography, Yosemite National Park

One Heck Of A Pothole!

It’s Trivia Tuesday! So, what are you looking at in this image, you may be asking yourself. You see a teeny white SUV to the upper left of this image, some golden grass and scrubby sagebrush. You see a large hole in the center and center-left of the image. Well, that’s a pothole you are looking at. Yes, a pothole – like the ones your vehicle drives over and it doesn’t get fixed until some member of the city council or their relative damages their car driving over it and they demand it gets fixed. Only this pothole was created by something entirely different, and is out in the middle of Drumheller Channels National Natural Landmark, a part of the Channeled Scablands landscape seen along the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail in Eastern Washington state.

Ever heard of a “kolk”? Tens of thousands of years ago, colossal floodwaters surged through the area, higher than that white SUV, higher than any of the buttes you see in the image. Those waters were so strong and fast that they created corkscrew vortices called kolks (whirlpools) within the water. Those kolks drilled down into the ground and eroded and carried away boulders and soils to other destinations, leaving scraped and scoured landscape with these large potholes. And they are large. If you were to hike within the landscape of Drumheller Channels (much of which is located within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge), you’d see dry potholes and water-filled potholes.

I’m writing a series of photo columns about the Channeled Scablands for the National Parks Traveler. Part 1 has already been published. Parts 2 and 3 are going to be published in later months.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Channeled Scablands, Drumheller Channels National Natural Landmark, Eastern Washington, Geology, Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, National Parks, Travel, Trivia Tuesday, Washington State

Science In Yellowstone National Park

Colloidal Pool in Porcelain Basin was one of the hydrothermal features studied in the YVO 2021 annual report, Yellowstone National Park / photo by Rebecca Latson

Photography articles are not the only things about which I write for the National Parks Traveler. I also pen quizzes, park checklists, and itineraries, to name a few other pieces I contribute. Last week, you might have read a piece I wrote synopsizing a technical article about how scientists are running simulation scenarios for lahars (volcanic mudflows) that might occur due to an avalanche on Mount Rainier.

Today, the National Parks Traveler has published another article I’ve written: a synopsis of the 2021 annual report produced by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) of scientific research conducted over 2021 in Yellowstone National Park and some conclusions reached. It was a cool annual report to read and fun to condense into an article for the Traveler.

If you are interested in finding out what went on in Yellowstone National Park in 2021, and want to download the full 2021 YVO annual report, click on the image above.

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Lahars (Mudflows) Can’t Be Predicted, But They Can Be Simulated

A View Of Mount Rainier From Seattle’s Elliott Bay

Lahars (mudflows) can’t be predicted but they can be simulated using a special computer application. My latest contribution to the National Parks Traveler is all about this subject, so check out the article by clicking on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler

Red Spouter Is A Great Example Of Cool Geology

Red Spouter fumerole at Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park during summer 2018
A close-up view of Red Spouter as a fumerole during summer 2018
Red Spouter as a hot spring (or really wet mud pot – take your pick) in the winter (February) of 2022

Geology is such a cool science. I have degrees in geology (which meant, at the time, diddly squat in terms of getting a job, but it was a cool branch of science to study, anyway). Yellowstone National Park is a great place to see geology, past and present. Take Red Spouter, for example.

Before August 1959, Red Spouter did not even exist. In its place was a small grassy hill in the Fountain Paint Pots area. Then, on August 17, 1959, the Hebgen Lake earthquake occurred about 25 miles northwest of Fountain Paint Pots with a magnitude of 7.3. It was quite a shaker and “rippled through Yellowstone,” creating Red Spouter.

The interesting thing about Red Spouter is, depending upon the season, it can be a hot spring, a mudpot, or a fumerole. Back in the summer of 2018, as I was moving from TX to central WA, I stopped for a brief visit to Yellowstone. At the time I explored the Fountain Paint Pots area, Red Spouter was a fumerole (steam vent). During my recent February 2022 visit, I toured the same area while on a snowcoach trip, and Red Spouter was a splashing, muddy red, hot spring (well, maybe you’d call it a mud pot, although it seemed really watery to me).

Why is this? Well, it all depends upon the water table just beneath the surface. If the water table is high, like when snow melts and in the spring, then it’s either a splashing hot spring or a bubbling mudpot. If the water table is low, which it can be during the height of a dry summer (and it’s pretty dry out in Yellowstone, anyway), then Red Spouter is a steam vent.

Geology is cool, and it’s even cooler when you can get nicely-composed photos of that geology, right?

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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It’s Trivia Tuesday 3-29-2022!

Old Faithful erupting at Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park
Heart Spring in the foreground and the Lion Group of geysers in the background at Upper Geyser Basin
The scalloped edges of Doublet Pool at Upper Geyser Basin
A bright bacterial mat leading toward a hot spring at Biscuit Basin.
Geyser Beads

It’s #TriviaTuesday Folks! So, how many of you have ever visited one of the geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park, marveling at the colorful hot springs and the energetic geysers? Do you know how to tell if what you are looking at is a geyser or hot spring (if there is no sign to identify it)? Especially if a geyser, when not erupting, looks like a hot spring?

According to a cool little video on the NPS site for Yellowstone, you should look at the edges of a thermal feature. “Hot springs often have ledges or walls of sinter (silica deposits) around them, because as the water level fluctuates, it leaves behind silica deposits. The edges may even be scalloped or lacy, such as what you see when looking at Doublet Pool in Upper Geyser Basin.

“Beadwork,” or pebbly-looking sinter indicates a geyser. “As the water splashes with each eruption, it deposits silica, creating a bumpy appearance.” At some geysers that look like hot springs, you’ll notice rounded, riverstone-like pebbles beneath the water. These rounded stones are called “geyser eggs” and are formed by silica deposition and water movement.

Colorful orange and yellow bacterial mats are also good indicators of hot springs, since that means the water is warm enough for thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria to thrive, but not hot enough to be a geyser.

The thing is, the landscape beneath and above Yellowstone is always changing. Excelsior Crater Geyser used to be a geyser, and is now a hot spring – well, it’s a hot spring right now that hasn’t erupted in several decades, but it could become a geyser again if the conditions change.

And now, you are that much smarter for the day. 🙂

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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