I love winter in Yellowstone; it is stark, frigid, and beautiful. We had a rare opportunity to visit West Thumb on Yellowstone Lake in a snow coach, making the entire loop usually left to the faster Bombardiers. Deep snow covered everything and even the boardwalks were almost completely buried. We had to be careful where we stepped. We were the only visitors on this day. The scene was quite different from those I’d seen in past years because the deep snow refashioned the landscape. Steam from the hot springs created frosting on the trees. The only colors were white and shades of gray. What a gorgeous sight.
In the morning after a snowy night, Bison in Yellowstone National Park are encrusted with snow. If they sleep near a thermal feature or hot springs the snow turns to ice that clings to their pelt in clumps. When they arise in the morning, they shake off the snow that has accumulated on them during the night. The Bison cow on the left has just begun to shake off the snow. The calf to her right is still encrusted.
After a visit to West Thumb by Yellowstone Lake, we arrived back at Old Faithful in time for its afternoon eruption in the midst of a snow storm. Old Faithful is becoming less faithful as the complex underground geyser plumbing has changed but it is still a spectacular sight. This image does not show the peak of the eruption but the aftermath as it sputtered to its end with voluminous clouds of steam billowing in the breeze and with snow falling in the foreground.
What a spectacular day for photographing Coyotes in Yellowstone National Park! Wednesday was our third day in the park. We have had glass on Coyotes at least once each day since our arrival. As we left the park late Wednesday afternoon, we saw a pair of Coyotes weaving through a small herd of Bison in a meadow. We were ready with our long glass as we kept close to the Snow Coach as each of the Coyotes passed in front of us across the edge of the meadow. Their world can be stark as this image shows with nothing but snow and the Coyote followed by its footprints.
Porcelain Basin Hot Springs is in the Norris Geyser Basin which is one of the most active and dynamic thermal basins in in Yellowstone National Park. Yesterday, the fumaroles, perpetual spouters, and springs were more active than I’ve seen on any of my many previous visits to this area. What a sight, with steam gushing from hundreds of vents across the vast area at once! The winds whipped the mists obscuring the spouts from view then as suddenly the air cleared to show this incredible scene only to disappear seconds later, shrouded in the caustic mists. The mineral, siliceous sinter, is spewed through the active vents in the hot water and settles out over this flat area. This mineral is one of the agents of change in the basin. After witnessing this incredible and dynamic display, it is not hard to imagine that this area of Yellowstone is one of the most active and fastest changing areas in Norris Geyser Basin.
Steampunk Raygun? It looks like a weapon from a vintage Flash Gordon movie. But no, it’s new technology that deices airplane wings. The inclement weather in Salt Lake City this time of year requires deicing of an airplane’s wings for safe flying. The machine that sprays the de-icing solvent appeared outside the airplane window Saturday night. As I watched, two thoughts came to my mind: “Steampunk” and “Raygun.” I later Googled those terms and discovered there are all kinds of “Steampunk” guns including something called a “Steampunk Raygun” and it does look something this. Who knew?
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse provides a guiding light through the treacherous entrance to the Columbia River as the relentless waves crash beneath it.
No two enormous waves at Cape Disappointment were the same. Each had its own character and appearance. The fantail in this wave makes it seem frivolous not ominous, unlike so many other waves we saw. We went to Cape Disappointment on each day of our four day visit to the area but on only two of those days did the waves have distinctive character. The other two days we took no photographs because the waves on those days didn’t have the ferocity or appearance we were seeking. While the best potential for huge waves with lots of character occurs with high tide when there are storms at sea, that combination didn’t always create the excitement we were seeking. On our last day, despite the highest tide of the week, the storms had calmed and the waves were flat. We were lucky to be there on two days with great photographic opportunities.
One of the incredible things about the monster waves at Cape Disappointment last week is that they took on a character that distinguished them from ordinary waves. It was amazing to watch these waves through the viewfinder and see them grow and convulse and throb and change into something more than just a wave. They took on a personality, often an ominous one. Pressing the shutter release at the right time to capture the feeling the waves generated at that moment was part of the challenge. This particular wave reminded me of the monster whale that pursued Pinochhio and Gepetto in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, its maw agape as it thrashed through the surf.
The winter storms thrash the ocean waters at Cape Disappointment into violent upheavals of foam. The roiling waves toss debris and stun the occasional fish allowing the opportunistic Bald Eagles patrolling near the water to swoop down and catch an easy meal. The foggy mist envelops the area and shrouds the cliffs and the lighthouse. The waves are relentless. The waves are mesmerizing. Despite the stormy, wet, and windy conditions, it is exciting to watch the drama of the waves unfold. The scene had no color so I converted this image to black and white.
What a way to end a week of phenomenal photography! On our last day of shooting, the stormy skies calmed and the clouds gave way to a rainbow directly over the North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment. The brief respite from the relentless rain storms that pummeled the coast was a welcome change and the rainbow was just the icing on the cake.
Standing on the edge of Waikiki Beach, bracing yourself against 30-40 MPH wind gusts and the cold, pelting rain, with a couple of friends and a Nikon Z6 at high tide is an exhilarating way to spend a morning. I was not on Hawaii’s expansive Waikiki Beach but rather in Washington State on tiny Waikiki Beach at Cape Disappointment where the mighty Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. But as winter getaways go, I’ll take this over Hawaii any day. Winter storms and high tide create an unforgettable spectacle of raw power and beauty at Cape Disappointment. The waves are never the same twice and the wave patterns are not the same two days in a row. The roiling surf with its crashing waves is at eye level separated by a huge unstable pile of logs that shifts constantly by the powerful tide surges. The eye level view makes it possible to get photographs that create the illusion that the photographer is standing in the surf. What better way to get a feel for the magnificence and awe of the ocean?
“There be fury on the waves” said Nathaniel Hawthorne in his short poem The Ocean, written in 1825. A visit to Cape Disappointment in Washington State Sunday morning during high tide was a perfect illustration of the fury on the waves. We were standing in a parking lot facing the lighthouse at Cape Disappointment along with a few dozen other photographers there to witness the phenomenon. A Washington State Park Ranger appeared and for our safety, ordered the vehicles parked behind us to move immediately as the imminent high tide could force not only water into the parking lot but also huge sodden redwood logs that could crush us. The ranger came by often to ensure our safety and would have moved us out of harm’s way if the fury of the waves posed a danger to us. The waves are an incredible sight, no two are the same. What a way to start our latest adventure! I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings.
You don’t always need a macro lens to focus on and isolate the details of an interesting subject. The very handy and capable Nikon Z50 with the tiny Nikkor 18-50mm lens captured this image of a clump of mushrooms that created an interesting diversion from the drab winter sidewalk landscape.
The morning fog has been persistent in the Valley since the new year and on foggy mornings, I take my Nikon Z50 with me on my walk. It’s the perfect camera for this because it is small, weighs almost nothing, and doesn’t get in the way when I’m not taking photographs. I love the look of the massive valley oaks partially obscured by the fog.
The cool, damp weather has produced large clumps of Physalacriaceae, a form of gilled mushroom, along my daily walking route. Their shapes and colors are fascinating. I used my small Nikon Z50 DX camera with the 16-50mm lens to capture this photograph.
The little Pine Siskins at The Ranch in Montana were constantly on the move either pecking at the seeds in the feeders, jostling for space on the edges of the pond, or disappearing en masse as they all took flight at the slightest possibility that a predator was in the area. This is one of the rare moments that one took the time to sit still in peaceful repose for what was probably just an instant but it is frozen in time now. It somehow reminds me of a diorama in a natural history museum, its namesake pine muted in the background.
The tiny Red-breasted Nuthatch seems intent on whatever it’s watching beneath the perch at The Ranch in Montana last summer.
This female Anna’s Hummingbird was chilling out on one of the perches that I placed strategically in a pot near one of the feeders a couple of months ago. She was so relaxed that in about half of the shots I took of her, her eyes were closed and she looked like she was starting to fall asleep. The female Anna’s seem to be more tolerant of me and my camera and will sit in the open while I’m standing there. The male Anna’s are territorial and object to me being outside at all. In fact, I can always tell where they are because when I go outside, they start their squeaky sounding call. I don’t always see them right away because they are usually tucked away in the shadows unlike the females who are content to perch in the open but by following their voice, I can usually locate their hiding place.
After posting yesterday’s Anna’s Hummingbird photo, I revisited my images from Madera Canyon, AZ taken in July 2020. The male Broad-billed Hummingbirds are so delightfully jewel-like with their iridescent green and blue feathers that I couldn’t resist posting this shot.