The Lowdown

June 08, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

THROUGH THE FOGTHROUGH THE FOGGrand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
A parade of low-pressure weather systems has been moving through this area - one after another - for weeks. As a result, there's been a chance of rain nearly every day, and the afternoon skies more often resemble those you'd expect to see in mid- to late-summer during monsoon season. 

This being a semi-arid climate which has experienced its share of issues with drought in recent years, I don't mind the current "rinse and repeat" cycle. And photographically speaking, I'd rather take my chances with unsettled conditions, which are far more promising than extended periods of fair weather without a cloud in sight. 

Drizzle and/or light rain saturates color. The light is diffused. Precipitation often creates mist or fog. Puddles hold reflections within them. Incoming and outgoing fronts can produce dramatic skies. These are wonderful opportunities; don't let the dampness send you inside.  

Driving rain is another story. When it's coming down hard, it's difficult to keep the lens clear of droplets. (Persistent heavy rainfall also makes for miserable camping. Not exactly my cup of tea.) I'll take a break if it's raining aggressively.

Last weekend's weather in Yellowstone - where I happened to be working - featured a great deal of rain. Much of what I'd hoped to accomplish would not be possible. And yes, the camping was uncomfortable. But when the conditions go sideways there are two choices: throw in the towel, or figure out what kinds of photographs can be made given the situation. 

There's almost always something to shoot.

The images I've posted illustrate that fact. They're a sampling of what those soggy few days in YNP produced. 

BUBBLING UPBUBBLING UPChinese Spring

Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

MOTHER OF PEARLMOTHER OF PEARLThermophile color

Norris Geyser Basin
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

TERRA COTTATERRA COTTAPalette Spring
Mammoth Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Shooting in precipitation simply requires a little preparation. Persistence, too.

A rain jacket will protect your camera, and your bag probably has a jacket, too. Always carry a lens cloth. Using a lens hood will help keep droplets off the glass, but check it frequently. You won't necessarily see water on the lens while you're shooting but it'll be visible on the image when processing. Consider an umbrella as another line of defense for your lens. This might require some juggling, but once the shot is set up the umbrella can be used to shield the glass. 

Patience is a virtue: even when rainfall is persistent, there are almost always variations in intensity. Be willing to wait for breaks during which it's easier to work. 

"Bad weather" might turn out to be quite good.

About the Photographs

1) After heavy rain overnight, fog was plentiful in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. As is often the case, it ebbed and flowed. Sometimes it was so dense that very little was visible, but then a few minutes later it'd look completely different. I found a composition I liked and waited for the Goldilocks moment. 

2) There's more to the geyser fields than Old Faithful. I find some of the smaller springs and geysers to be especially interesting. This is Chinese Spring in the Upper Geyser Basin. The contrasting blue and orange are more prominent in overcast, damp conditions.

3) Thermophiles are the heat-loving organisms that create the fantastic colors in the hydrothermal features within the park. Different temperatures = different colors. The bacteria mats are great places to create abstracts. I made this one at Norris Geyer Basin.

4) The colors in the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs always appear more vibrant when it's damp and overcast.

Side note: While on this shoot I popped up to Gardiner, Montana - the first time I've been there since before last year's flooding. You may recall that the road connecting Gardiner to the north entrance (and on to Mammoth Hot Springs) was severely damaged. The new road, which was built in record time, opened November 1st. It's terrific, and the vegetation on either side is completely established. If you didn't know about the flood and extent of the damage, you wouldn't have a clue from what you see now. 

While in town I had lunch at Wonderland Cafe. Two thumbs up. If you're passing through on your way to the park and looking for a bite to eat, check it out. Who knows, you might end up picking up a t-shirt before you leave (see below). This one made me laugh out loud. 


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