Do you dream of pictures? Most passionate photographers do. Some dream of a beautiful location with the right lighting, while others dream of perhaps a perfect subject in a perfect environment. Whatever the dream is, the goal is to create a unique, beautiful image that will trigger the emotions of the viewer, touching their deepest senses and ultimately creating a very positive experience – a picture worth a thousand words…
I had a dream like that for a while, perhaps after seeing Yellowstone for the first time. The raw nature, strangely beautiful and colorful pools of hot spring water and geysers left some unforgettable memories in my head and I have been dreaming of some images of Yellowstone ever since. While there are plenty of pictures of Yellowstone out there, most of them show the famous Yellowstone Falls or some other waterfalls, geysers and hot springs. Most other photographs are of bison, wolves, bears, moose, elk, deer and other animals – the wildlife part of Yellowstone. Landscape photographers certainly give a lot more attention to Grand Tetons, largely because of Ansel Adams’ classic photographs and also because the Tetons are very “contrasty” and beautiful, especially in fall.
Lola and I took a short trip to Wyoming this past weekend and decided to check out Yellowstone and drive through Grand Teton National Park on the way back. Obviously, I already knew that I would not be able to capture anything good from the Tetons, since we were planning to leave Yellowstone at around noon time – the worst time of the day for Tetons, especially when it is hot. On top of that, the wildfires of Yellowstone and the surrounding areas contributed to the thick haze, making it extremely difficult to capture images during the day. Here is the picture of Grant Tetons with fall colors that I captured right before we took off home:
The colors were stunningly beautiful, with the aspen leaves glowing in dark yellow and red colors. I was surprised to see the leaves still on the trees, since most of the aspen leaves in Colorado have already fallen due to winds. As you can see, the thick haze is very visible in the above photo, despite the fact that I used a polarizing filter to reduce the effect of haze. An early morning shot would have certainly been better, but the warm weather above 80 degrees Fahrenheit has been leaving the haze throughout the day…
So, what does my photography dream have to do with any of this? Let’s get back to Yellowstone for a second.
When you drive through Yellowstone from the east or south entrances of the park, you get to see the beautiful Yellowstone lake. Parts of the lake shore have some active springs and geysers, the vapors of which fill up the area with fog in cold mornings. I saw this scene about a year ago and I have been thinking about it ever since. I wanted to capture one of the hot pools in the glimpse of the morning light, when the sun rays hit the vapor, giving it a beautiful yellowish color. What I was not sure about, was where the sun rises and sets, because it would determine where I would need to stand, etc.
On the first day in Yellowstone, I drove around the area and noted the orientation of the sun and where it rises. I used an app on my iPhone called “Focalware” to find out the exact timing of the sunrise and to make sure that the sun does rise from where I thought it would. I found a few good spots, but did not do a detailed inspection of the area since we were so short on time.
Next morning, Lola and I arrived to the lake at around 6:45 AM. It was very cold and below 30F, so I quickly scouted the area to find a good spot. I found a hot spring close to the road and set up my tripod and camera equipment, getting ready for the sunrise. I set my Nikon D700, along with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens and Lee Filter System with 0.9 Grad ND Filter and patiently waited for the sun to come up.
As the first rays of sun penetrated the sky, I took a few images, but wasn’t happy with the result – the sun rays did not reach the vapor in the frame. I then waited for a few more minutes and took the following shot:
Just the way I dreamed of it…