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.