In 1871, the Hayden expedition set out to survey the sources of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. Thomas Moran joined as artist of the team and, along with photographer William Henry Jackson, depicted many of Yellowstone’s geologic features and landscapes which later proved essential in convincing the United States Congress to establish Yellowstone as our first national park. I have always admired Moran’s paintings, but especially his depiction of the Green River Cliffs that I first saw at the National Gallery of Art in Washington many, many years ago, and I actually recognized them when I drove through Green River, WY later in the trip. His famous painting of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was bought by the US government for the amazing sum then of $10,000!! (to see it, click here) I’m sure he and Jackson were inspired by the varied displays of the earth’s power so easily evident throughout the area. Whether it was the mountains, forests, hot springs, geysers or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, there is so much to inspire anyone who wishes to record it.
Although each morning of the week began cloudy, there were two occasions I was extremely lucky when those clouds broke for just a few moments. Each time I scrambled to find something to photograph before that beautiful light disappeared, I was fortunate to have those flat lands and rivers close by when the sun broke through on those mornings, but no such luck ever occurred for any sunsets. I did have a couple late afternoons when there was some sunlight, but those sumptuous skies at sunset eluded me the entire week I spent there. In fact, for the most part, there was a severe lack of sunlight all together and an overabundance of clouds. But I do have to admit, there were times when those clouds proved to add immensely to the drama of several scenes and were an advantage for some panoramas here and at the other parks I visited, a few of which have already been posted.
The solitary night that was clear in Yellowstone was a complete surprise because I went into the Old Faithful Inn while it was raining, but when I left to head to the campground, it had cleared and the sky was full of stars. One of my hopes was to photograph a geyser erupting with the Milky Way above and I had that chance when I came across White Dome Geyser along the Firehole Lake Drive that first night. Although the first unexpected eruption caught me by surprise and I recorded it without having properly set up the camera, I did get a decent shot of it. But it was the second (also unexpected) eruption about 20 minutes later that turned out a bit better. I had hoped to do the same at Old Faithful and possibly Castle Geyser, but there was never another clear sky again and I was a bit disappointed. But I am happy with what I was able to come away with.