Monday, October 1, 2012

Yellowstone Revisited after the Digital Revolution

Our family first visited Yellowstone NP in 1986 when our son was 17 years and our daughter just 10 months. The large animals were incidental to our interest in the geysers and other landscape. We returned in 1994 with an 8 year old, and my new interest in nature photography still concentrated on the landscapes. After our return last week, sans children, I returned to look at the images from 1994.

There was the obligatory geyser taken while struggling with the huge crowds in mid summer of 1994. Late September in Yellowstone is refreshingly slower.  The cars still stop on the road when a large bison is seen, but it is still passable and there are safe places on the side to stop.  If the crowd grows, a ranger will often appear to keep the traffic moving and ensure people keep a safe distance.

The air was clear on those previous visits, a fact not lost on  us when compared to the smoky skies we experienced this time.  It has been a summer of wildfires and no rain. There were times when you could look directly at the sun. We actually drove past one active fire, and it was choking.  Don't understand how the fire crews survive the smoke.

This time, we found the geysers a little less impressive.  The height of the eruption at Old Faithful was decidedly less than we recalled.  Other repeat visitors noted the same reaction. But the big animals were the real prize.  I'll make another post solely devoted to them.

We searched for the one geyser field we remembered to be most beautiful; it had bubbling mud pots, clear thermal springs and a continuously erupting geyser.  We both recalled a beautiful sunset at that geyser. You can see that sunset image to the right. 

Finally, we found it at Fountain Paint Pot just as lightening was building to the west.  I so wanted a new sunset shot of Clep- sydra Geyser, but it was not to be. I had to settle for capturing a bubbling mud pot. I could not have made this photo in 1994 - less skill and slide film were against me. I ran about 25 images in burst mode to get that one instant when the mud exploded into a nice pattern. Digital is wonderfully enabling.

The great falls in the Yellowstone River were another clear memory. We returned to the lower falls on this visit to repeat the photo I'd made in 1994.  It is interesting to compare them.  In 1994, I came upon the narrow window of time when direct sunlight produces a rainbow.  But, the limitations of the slide film did not match the true color of the sunlight and the darker areas lacked good definition.  Today, I was able to adjust the darker areas a make a better image than I saw in 1994.

In 2012, almost twenty years later, I arrived on a cloudy day with marginal light. Could I match the earlier result?

I chose a wider view to bring in more of the foreground and show the river's course down from the falls.  That is experience. More importantly, digital enabled me  to fix the light to show the natural yellow in the rocks.  After all, it is the yellow stone river, not the dull stone. Now, I can review in the camera to get the best exposure.  Before, I  waited 2 or 3 weeks to see the result.  Faster learning now.

This is as clear an example of how digital has revolutionized photography as I can recall. Of course, the advent of smart phone cameras had been another aspect of how photo- graphy has changed.

Some of the change has been good and some ridiculous.  How so?  Well, while photographing an elk group some 300 yards away with a big lens, one regularly sees a car pull up, stick a smart phone out the window and presumably snap a photo of the elk.  At that distance with the wide angle lens on the phone, the animals will be a small dot indistinguishable from a rock or downed tree. Even a simple point and shoot camera is a better choice at that time, but I understand the enthusiasm.

Now, I do carry a smart phone, and used it at Yellowstone. I previously posted images made at City of Rocks with a smart phone; it did the job nicely.

I have an app --Dermandar DMD--  that stitches together a panorama automatically as I move the phone across the scene.  This it one of the thermal hot springs in Yellowstone.

With the addition of an app to add text, the sweeping view of the Hayden Valley is well-presented and identified.

Both of these were edited on my phone as we flew home. The smart phone is a lot of fun, even for an advanced photographer.  It is always with you, and offers a nice challenge to one's skill.

Now, the real reason for this trip to Yellowstone NP was to photograph the large animals, and especially the elk in rut when the large bulls gather harems of cows and have to defend their prize against other bulls,  sometimes including little "teen age" bulls.  It is a wonderful time with the haunting sound of the bull elk's bugling declaration of his strength.  I'll shortly post a third, and final compilation presenting the best images of elk, bison and one very big bull moose.

I appreciate your comments and encourage you to share these posts with other interested people.



No comments:

Post a Comment