Tag Archives: Yellowstone

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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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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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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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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Rime Ice – A Part Of The Bigger Landscape Picture At Yellowstone National Park

Part of a rime-iced little tree along a trail at Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park
A rime-iced tree among many other rime-iced trees along the Fountain Paint Pots Nature Trail in Yellowstone National Park
Very thick rime ice on a tree branch near Beryl Spring, Yellowstone National Park

I find rime ice fascinating. I don’t see it very often where I live, except on rare occasions of freezing fog. I did see this quite a bit while in Yellowstone National Park this past February, so naturally, I photographed it as much as possible.

According to Wikipedia: rime ice is “a white ice that forms when the water droplets in fog freeze to the outer surfaces of objects. It is often seen on trees …”

In the case of the rime ice I saw on trees in Yellowstone, it was the result of heavy steam from geysers and hot springs freezing onto the nearby trees. It was, indeed, pure white in some areas, like at Beryl Spring, but in others, it took on a tinge of (IMO) whatever particulates were floating in the air from the geysers and hot springs. Sometimes it was a sort of pinkish tinge, and sometimes it was a yellowish tinge.

These images were captured at different areas of the park, and are nice reminders to look at the fine details of nature and not to forget to capture those small that interconnect to make up the Big Picture Landscape.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, nature, Photography, Seasons, winter, Yellowstone National Park

Different Seasons, Same Location

A winter sunrise view of Canary Spring at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park
A summer sunrise view of Canary Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Ok, it’s Saturday, so here’s a 2-fer to go with the previous post.

From one of the National Park Service’s pages:

“Imagine you are here in the late 1800s, a time when yellow filamentous bacteria was prominent. What colors are present today?

This spring occasionally goes dormant for brief periods of time. Vibrant pinks and neons are sometimes seen.

A network of fractures and fissures form the plumbing system that allows hot water from underground to reach the surface at Mammoth Hot Springs. Small earthquakes may keep the plumbing open. The water comes from rain and snow falling on surrounding mountains and seeping deep into the earth where it is heated.

The volcanic heat source for Mammoth Hot Springs [in Yellowstone National Park] remains somewhat of a mystery. Scientists have proposed two sources: the large magma chamber underlying the Yellowstone Caldera or a smaller heat source closer to Mammoth.

For hundreds of years, Shoshone and Bannock people collected minerals from the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces for white paint.

Travertine terraces are formed from limestone (calcium carbonate). Water rises through the limestone, carrying high amounts of dissolved calcium carbonate. At the surface, carbon dioxide is released and calcium carbonate is deposited, forming travertine, the chalky white rock of the terraces. Due to the rapid rate of deposition, these features constantly and quickly change.”

The images you see here reflect Canary Spring seen during a winter 2022 sunrise and a summer 2018 sunrise. Aside from the colors and lighting, what other – if any – differences do you see? I saw some much brighter colors during the summer on the terraces of Canary Spring. Aside from anything else, I’ve noticed that colors during the winter seem to be much more muted and darker, as well. I saw this not only here at Canary Spring, but also at Morning Glory Pool and Doublet Pool at Upper Geyser Basin.

FYI, the winter image was captured with my Fujifilm GFX 100s and 23mm prime lens, and the summer image was captured with a Canon 5dsr and 24-70mm zoom lens.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Don’t Be Afraid To Fill The Frame

A wide-angle view of Canary Spring at Mammoth Terraces, Yellowstone National Park
A closer view of Canary Spring
Filling the frame with Canary Spring

Don’t ever be afraid to fill your frame with what you see through the camera’s viewfinder. This is Canary Spring, at Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces in Yellowstone National Park. I’ve visited this in the summer (very early in the morning before any of the crowds arrive), and can tell you how different the colors look then as opposed to now (a post on that to come later).

Anyway, here is a series of three shots, each one closer to the terraces of this hot spring. The first one is a wide-angle view captured early in the morning of my next-to-last-day in the park. I had a snowcoach tour later in the day to Norris Basin and wanted to spend the morning at the travertine terraces.

The other two shots are close-ups, each one filling the frame with more of the yellow and ochre shades of the travertine terraces. And to think, I once thought of this particular area as one of the most boring of the geothermal formations in the park. I don’t think that, now, of course.

My usual routine is to capture a wide-angle shot first, then to either use a telephoto lens to get a closer view, or I crop a part of the original shot later during the editing stage to get an image filling the frame.

On this morning, it was a rather gray day. It snowed off and on, and the area around Canary Spring exhibited a soft, painterly quality to it. I was the only one there. By the time I left on the snowcoach at around 12:30 later that day, the place was packed and looked like a zoo. Mornings and late evenings really are the best time to visit an iconic location, and the lighting is much better for photography then, as well.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Yellowstone At 150: Challenges Go More Than Crowd-Deep

Sunlight reflections and paw and hoof prints on the shallow terraces at Midway Basin

Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has a great Feature Story about the challenges and stresses facing Yellowstone National Park. No, I didn’t write it – it was penned by Traveler correspondent Rita Beamish. She’s a fantastic journalist and you should go on over and read the article. Just click on the image above to go to the article.

As for this image: I had joined five others for a snowcoach tour during my February stay in this national park. One of the places we stopped was Midway Basin, and we had the entire spot to ourselves and our driver/tour leader April was fantastic at teaching us about the various parts of the area as well as of the park, as a whole.

Here’s the thing about a visit to Midway Basin, no matter what time of year. You’re not going to see the overall stunning beauty of Grand Prismatic Spring like you do from the overlook on the hillside behind the spring (accessed by the Fairy Falls Trail, with a detour up to the overlook). What you *will* see are the various parts of the spring, as well as the other geothermal features in this particular geyser basin, each part of which has its own beauty.

The morning produced a sort of “watery” sunlight, trying to break through the cloud cover. It did so, in places, and one could see its reflection in the mirror-smooth water of the shallow terraces. One could also see the distinct little paw prints (can you spot them?) and the much larger hoof prints (thankfully, no boot prints here, that I could discern) on those shallow terraces. In the background was the steaming proof all around us of the underground geothermal machinery within the park.

Here’s a little bit of trivia for you: all the white stuff you see in the terraces and in the paw and hoof prints is *not* snow or ice. The water is too warm for that. What you are looking at is silica precipitated out of solution. Yellowstone’s geothermal waters are full of silica in solution, but once that water reaches the surface and flows away from the heat source toward the cooler portions of wherever it lands, that silica precipitates out. It tends to create milky appearances on the ground and within “cooler” hot springs, making them look sort of opal-ish.

Anyway, there is this beauty to Midway Basin that both has something to do with Grand Prismatic, and at the same time, does not. If you ever visit and can find a parking spot, it’s a worthwhile stop, even if you don’t see that areal view of color that you’d see in textbooks or at the Grand Prismatic Overlook.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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