Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Yellowstone for Waterfalls

Yellowstone National Park is known for many things, probably most notible, the abundance of wildlife. While there is much opportunity to capture bison, moose, eagles and bears there is a limit to how far from the car you can travel. Especially if you have dogs waiting in the drivers seat for you to come back. Since we were travelling with our dogs, and in a National Park, we could only dayhike, or hike with our dogs on the paved surfaces, according to park policy. As much as I like shooting wildlife, I seem to lack the luck of getting that wild pack of wolves chasing an elk calf, or that bear foraging safely close enough and not interested in me. That's okay with me. Allthough not known for sweeping mountain vistas reflecting off still waters, Yellowstone will not dissapoint a landscape photographer. Our foray into Yellowstone started with pulling into a beautiful little campground right on the Snake River. Snowcapped hills and rushing water flowed just feet from the campsite. So did the mosquitoes. We watched the other campers running from thier vehicles to the bathroom waving thier arms and hands as if to confuse the bugs off thier trail. We spent the afternoon with a map of the park trying how best to see the sights, without backtracking. The weather report called for rain for the next couple of days. Perfect! What am I crazy? No, but overcast skies and rain are perfect conditions for shooting waterfalls. We tracked out a sort of basic outline to hop from falls to falls, and ultimately exiting the park from the north, or Mammouth Hot Springs. Our first stop was my favorite, Moose falls. It was located just inside the park entrance from the Teton side.
If you weren't careful you could easily drive right past it. It indeed was raining, but somehow the light was just right to really bring out the greens in the mosses. With overcast skies, you can leave the shutter open longer, and thus smooth the water out to make a nice silky waterfall picture. The next stop was Lewis Lake. There was a small falls just nearby, but you have to park and crawl below the bridge for a decent view. It was raining really hard at that time, and the composition was a bit flat so we moved on.

Our next stop was out toward the east end of the park. There was not much to see at that end, except a big lake. Which would have been nice, though wet. Instead, we opted for a quick side hike to a natural bridge. I was surprised another little waterfall was flowing just below it. We exchanged greetings with a family of yellow bellied marmots, and returned to the van to our patiently waiting pups. Next stop: the venerable Upper & Lower Yellowstone Falls. It was raining, still.
Lower Yellowstone Falls 2
I blew out the Upper Yellowstone falls, because I couldn't set my tripod up with all the hoards of people. I did have fairly good luck at the Lower falls, as well as Inspiration Point.
Unfortunately, a bear had just attacked a hiker just a few miles away from the area and all the hiking trails were closed, forcing us to move on. Next up was Gibbon Falls. The rain began to let up by this point, which meant that the light would be brighter, and leaving the shutter open would likely blow out the highlights. To solve this I installed a polarizing filter and a netutral density filter. They kind of work like dark sunglasses. I could then leave the shutter open longer, giving the water that silky look.

Alright. You can't not see It. It is really spectacular. Water shooting out of the ground. And on schedule. You can't get that lucky even in bed. The rest of the day we saw the usual boiling cauldrons and exited out the west gate in search of what else; free camping. Somehow we found our selves on a bluff looking down at the border of the park and a large creek surrounded by wild flowers. Not a bad place to chill, kick back some beer and slumber.
Our first stop for the day was gas, ice, beer and groceries. The next stop was a shower. Worth the two bucks, by the way. We did some back-tracking to get to Tower Falls, but oh well. It's only gas, and the destruction of the planet. Tower falls was one of my favorites, and we tried to hike to the base. The trail ended up being closed due to a number of trees that had fallen and made the trail impassable.
Undine Falls
Undine Falls was next on the menu, and also very pretty. It was best seen from the road side pull off and a great place to eat lunch. We got to Mammoth Hot Springs, but it was getting late. If we were to find a free camp spot we would have to leave the park and have time to search out a site. So I took a couple of pics and we cruised down river and out of the park. We found an interesting site over looking a river and an old quarry of sorts. We did return to Mammoth, but that story will have to wait.

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