Yellowstone by Night

In the fall of 2016 I made a trip to Yellowstone timed for the new moon and a plan of photographing some locations in the park with the Milky Way.  I was there at the end of the season in late September as the park was starting to shut down.  My original idea had been to photograph both the Firehole River area while camping at Madison and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone while camping at Canyon Village.  Well, I was too late in the season and Canyon Village was already closed.  So I modified my plan to stay two nights at Madison and spend both nights photographing the Firehole River area.

I arrived in the park with just enough time to pitch my tent and then drive along the Firehole River.  I caught a nice sunset along the way and arrived at Grand Prismatic Spring as the last of the tourists were leaving.  I knew in the daytime this place was packed, but I walked on the boardwalk up to the spring and had it all to myself!

I knew once it got dark the Milky Way would be visible right over the spring and I waited for Astronomical Twilight and true night.  Sure enough the Milky Way was rising (or actually setting) right over the spring.  I sat there and made images as the temps dropped into the 30's and the spring put out steam.

What turned out to be a great surprise is that there is a Geyser right behind Grand Prismatic Spring and I was able to photograph it with a view to the north.  Now the Milky Way is not as bright that direction (see my last post for more on that) but with the steam plume it puts out it looked awesome!

As I photographed I noticed a strange light on the northern horizon.  There are no cities that direction for many many miles so I was not sure what it was at first.  Then looking at my camera images, the light was green.  I was witnessing the northern lights!!

Wow!  Wow!  Wow!

It was right on the horizon but it was the an aurora (AKA the northern lights).

I ended up there for a few hours photographing both geothermal features and finally was so tired I called it a night.  And what a night it was.  Milky Way, Geysers, Aurora.......Wow.

The next day I explored the area more and found a small side loop that went to the White Dome Geyser.  It has a nice cone.  You could be very close to it (maybe 40 feet) and the geyser was erupting every 30-40 minutes.  I knew this was the spot for that night.

I returned at sunset and photographed the only few clouds in the sky and the geyser.  Again I had the location to myself!  It was nothing like being one of thousands watching Old Faithful.   After it was dark, I waited for the eruption and had two cameras ready.  I could hear coyotes howling, I kept an eye out for bears (none) and watch the sky in awe. When it finally happened I was able to get three or four shots with each one during the eruption.

I did both some light painting and some just the stars.  I got another set of images I could have only hoped for, an erupting geyser under the Milky Way.  

After that I made a few stops along the river on my way back to camp picking up a few more images.

In two nights in Yellowstone I ended up with images I had hoped for but was not sure I could get.  What a way to start a trip.


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