Tag Archives: Yellowstone National Park

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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Filed under Geology, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Yellowstone National Park

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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The Yin And Yang Of Castle Geyser In Yellowstone National Park

Back in 2021, I wrote an article for the National Parks Traveler about finding the yin and yang of an image.

To read that article, click on the image above.

In such images, you’ll see a sort of half-and-half of color, or light, or texture, or something else that engenders the thought of yin/yang: “two complimentary forces making up all aspects and phenomena of life.”

To be honest, I don’t always look for that. It just sort of comes up accidentally, so that when I edit the image on my computer, I only then notice those “two complimentary forces.” Seems that when I look for yin/yang, I don’t find it, but it pops up when I am least expecting it. Sort of like everything else in life, I suppose.

Anyway, it was a cold, very steamy winter morning walking along the snow-and-ice-covered boardwalk looking toward Castle Geyser. I was trying to suss out whether it had already erupted (possible), was in its eruptive stage (no), or was simply steaming heavily due to the frigid temp of the morning (most likely). It was past 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time. The sun had moved over to the right side of the image, out of the composition, shining a yellowish light onto the right side of the image, while the left side was still sort of in a blue shadow stage.

Moral of the story is that you can look and look for something – like yin/yang – and not find it until it pops up on its own, after the fact – like after you’ve pushed down on the shutter button.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Alien Crash Site? Or Just A Little Hot Spring At Upper Geyser Basin?

This is just a close shot of a very small hot spring (maybe 3 feet in diameter, including the melted ground around it) I saw while walking on the boardwalks at Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park one freezing February morning. It was a pretty thing, all bright and distinct against the white snow, and it reminded me of a favorite old 1950’s sci fi movie I watch all the time on my iPad when traveling (I listen to movies while editing photos). Anybody ever seen “The Thing From Another World?” Not the one with Kurt Russell, but the 1951 black-and-white version? To me, that’s a classic. The timing and overlapping of the dialog, the whole black-and-white scenario. I love it. Oh, the special effects are laughable, but I still like it way better than the 1982 film. Maybe it’s an age thing, but to me, the old movies are classics and always will be.

Anyway, where is this going, you may ask? Well, in the 1951 version, at one point, the plane with the scientists and the Airforce personnel are flying over the alien’s frozen-over crash spot, and it looks exactly like this little hot spring’s configuration right here. As a matter of fact, when I spotted this thermal spring, it was the first thing that popped into my head.

So, sometimes, you may photograph the things you see because they remind you of something else, right?

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park

A Good Photo Should Evoke An Emotion, Feeling, Or Memory

Cold And Windswept, Yellowstone National Park

I had driven along the length of the Lamar Valley, then the road curved and headed more northerly, toward Cooke City. I’d already stopped and photographed Soda Butte (you can see it way in the distance a little left of center of this image), but decided to pull over again for a more wide-angle landscape.

Now, this image is nothing spectacular, although I think it’s pretty enough, and I (of course) like it. This image is more of an example of how a photograph can (and should) evoke some sort of emotion, memory, or feeling. That’s the hallmark of a good image, actually. Doesn’t have to be stunning to do that. When I look at this shot, I feel downright cold because I remember just how cold it was that day. I see the dry powder snow blown across the road by the freezing wind that chapped my cold hands. The day had a blue cast to it because it wasn’t a very bright day. The sun was hidden above angry clouds that turned into a winter snow storm later in the evening. The mountains were blue because they usually look blue in winter photos, don’t they? This shot shows that it’s a frigid winter in Yellowstone.

Scene shot with a Sony a7riv (a7r4) and Sony 24-105mm lens.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, Photography, Sony Alpha a7r IV, Yellowstone National Park

Same Park, Same Spot, Different Season, Different Camera

A 2022 winter morning view of the landscape between Hellroaring Trailhead and Tower-Roosevelt Junction in Yellowstone National Park
A 2018 summer view of the landscape between Hellroaring Trailhead and Tower-Roosevelt Junction in Yellowstone National Park

Yeah, yeah, I know – another one of those posts? Well, why not! Besides, I happened to be in the same spots (deliberately) in Yellowstone so I could capture similar shots. Granted, the cameras are different and the focal distance is different, too. With the winter shot, I used a focal length analogous to 48mm, and with the summer shot, I used a focal length of 70mm, so there’s a slight difference in the amount of landscape you are seeing. I tried cropping the winter shot so that it was a little bit closer to the view of the summer shot.

This may be a similar shot, but with the weather conditions / season you can see how visiting the same spot can yield different results to make it look almost like a completely different landscape.

This location is going downhill on what is known as the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park. It’s between Hellroaring Trailhead and Tower-Roosevelt Junction. Since it’s Fun Fact Friday when I post this, here’s a bit of trivia for you:

During the summer and warmer days, in general, there are more water molecules in the air. During the winter (cold temps aside), there are far fewer water molecules, which is why it generally feels much drier, your hands and lips get chapped easier, and your photos are much clearer. Aside from the differences in camera resolution, this is why the winter shot here seems to be “crisper” than the summer shot, which appears softer due (at least in part) to the sort of “smoggy” morning with all those steam and summer water molecules in the air.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, Photography, Seasons, Yellowstone National Park

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Here’s a fun fact for you (nothing to do with St. Paddy): that green you see in this image is thermophilic (heat-loving) algae. And it’s a red algae called Cyanidium that doesn’t have the pigment for the color red. So it’s green. You can see this in Porcelain Basin at Yellowstone National Park.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Photography In The National Parks: Yellowstone In Winter

Paw Prints On The Shallow Terrace Surface At Midway Basin, Yellowstone National Park

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest photo column. It’s all about photographing Yellowstone National Park in winter. If you are planning a winter trip to this national park, yourself and are taking your camera, or if you just want to look at pretty winter photos of this park, then click on the image above to be taken to the article.

As for this image here, it was taken during a snowcoach tour with four other people. Our first stop was at Midway Geyser Basin (where Grand Prismatic is located) and we had the entire place to ourselves. It was wonderful! During our walk along the snowy, mainly ice-encrusted boardwalk, we saw different hoof and paw prints on the milky white surface of the shallow terraces. This wide-angle shot shows a set of clearly-defined paw prints on the terrace and the steamy landscape in the distance. It’s actually one of my favorite shots from the entire trip.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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National Parks Traveler Quiz And Trivia #47: Happy Birthday Yellowstone National Park

A winter view of a portion of Excelsior Geyser Crater at Midway Basin in Yellowstone National Park

Here’s a winter view of a portion of Excelsior Geyser Crater at Midway Basin in Yellowstone National Park. I couldn’t get the entire view through the particular lens I had on the camera that morning, and it would have been difficult to see anyway because of all the steam issuing from this geyser crater.

I posted this image because there is a question about Excelsior Geyser Crater on today’s quiz and trivia piece that I wrote for the National Parks Traveler. It’s all about Yellowstone National Park because March marks the 150th birthday for this world’s first national park.

How much do you really know about Yellowstone National Park? To take the quiz and read the trivia, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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