Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring is located in Yellowstone National Park. Measuring somewhere at 370 feet in diameter and just over 120 feet deep, it's the largest spring in the United States. The Color of the spring comes from microorganisms. The microorganisms present in the spring produce color ranging from green to red depending on the temperature and other contributing factors. The temperature of the spring range from 150 degrees to a high of around 190 degrees.  The deep blue color in the middle of the spring comes from the purity and depth of the water. Much like you would see in a much larger body of water.

Grand Prismatic is a difficult subject to photograph. The boardwalk at the spring will get you up close but it will be hard to capture the full spectrum of color the spring displays. Also there is an abundance of steam and being close to the spring makes this photographic subject difficult.

Your best bet is to climb a hill to get a better view. There is a small parking lot just south and west of the official lookout. Park here and hike north for about a 1/4 mile then climb the biggest hill you can find. You will see multiple trails heading up the various foothills. I started taking this route but there was bear sign and also park warnings of bear in the area, although I did have my bear spray I didn't want a risk it. So I decided to head back and drive north to a pullout and climb the hill on the east side of Grand Prismatic. After reaching the top of the hill I captured an 8 image panorama and this weeks post picture.

Your best view may come from a helicopter, but the surrounding hillsides do provide good photographic opportunities. Be patient and wait for the steam to dissipate. Work quickly, you may only have several seconds to capture the image you are looking for.

The color alone makes this spring a must see and is highly recommended.

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls is located in... wait for it... Yellowstone National Park. I bet you knew that but I just wanted to make sure. The falls consist of the upper falls and the lower falls. The more popular is the lower falls and is this weeks post picture. The lower falls is approximately 308 feet high and is best viewed, in my opinion, from Lookout Point. Yellowstone Falls is twice the height of Niagara falls although Niagara falls does have a higher volume of water flowing over it.  According to the National Park Service,  "The volume of water flowing over the falls can vary from 63,500 gal/sec at peak runoff to 5,000 gal/sec in the fall."

I visited the falls in early October and it was pretty amazing. I am not sure the flow rate but nonetheless by my calculations it is was a lot. There is a lookout in the park off of the north rim trail that will take you down directly over the falls. The trail is a series of switchbacks leading down to the lookout so keep that in mind. It's a strenuous but short hike and well worth it. The view you get is staring directly down a 308 foot waterfall drop. It's pretty gnarly and Highly recommended!

This weeks post image was taken with a tripod mounted 70-200. I shot an 9 image panorama. It was an overcast day which helped but I also used an 8 stop ND filter to blur the water of the falls. I shot at f8 to get the sharpest shot I could and the ND filter gave me something like a 6 second exposure. I will cover how I shoot panoramas in a future post as it's too lengthy for this one.

Yellowstone Falls is one of the most popular sights in the park and is a must see. Now only if you can keep from saying Yellowstone when you mean Yosemite or vise versa, you're better than I.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is located mainly in Wyoming but also invades parts of Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone was established in 1872 and is Americas first National Park. Known for it's geological features which include geysers, springs, and basins, the main reason photogs swarm the region is because of it's wildlife. It's the home of thousands of animals which include but not limited to, wolves, bear, bison, and elk. Although I didn't spot any, there are supposedly some moose in the area as well, but your best chance to spot a moose will come when visiting Grand Teton National Park which is just south in Wyoming.

There is an abundant amount of wildlife throughout the park. To spot a critter just look for the usual signs, a traffic jam, people running through the woods with a camera, bison acting as a toll gate, and park rangers yelling at people to stay with their vehicle. Kidding aside, the park rangers at Yellowstone are very busy keeping people safe. I know the excitement, and the adrenaline rush of seeing a grizzly, or a big bull elk for the first time, but we have to remember that we aren't at a zoo, these animals are wild. Stay with your vehicle or better yet inside your vehicle. I saw several people in the park not making the best decisions. Standing in the path of a moving grizzly trying to fill the frame with a point and shoot, in my book is considered a bad decision.

The park is big and it takes a couple hours to get from one end to the other with the park speed limit being 45 mph. I stayed at the lodge by Old Faithful. It was nice and somewhat rustic, but my next visit I will be staying in the northern part of the park for easier access to wildlife. I would recommend Mammoth Hot Springs area. Most of the wildlife is located in the north and north east areas of the park. I will cover my favorite spots in a later post.

Things aren't cheap, I'm sure you already knew that, but there are plenty accommodations. They even have a auto repair shop open during the summer months. Fall in Yellowstone is a great time to visit. The wildlife is in the rutting season and small crowds made this trip a joy. Yellowstone closes down in October early November so check the park website to see what's available  when you do your planning.

This weeks post picture was taken while driving from Grand Teton to Yellowstone. There where a group of about eight elk on the side of the road with the male elk bugling. If you haven't heard an elk bugle you should check it out. The photo was taken handheld with my 70-200 with a 1.4 extender attached at f8.

Yellowstone is a great park with lots of wildlife and many other things to see and do. Highly Recommended!