Yellowstone by Night

Geyser eruption and Milky Way
Yellowstone was the worlds first national park.  A place with incredible wildlife and geology, where geysers and hot springs are a wonderland to see and photograph.  I visited in early September this year with a goal of photographing the landscape of the park.  I made my reservations for a couple of campgrounds well in advance as I know the park fills up on most nights.  A good plan also put me near the areas I wanted to photograph.  

When I photograph, I am usually hoping for clouds, rain, snow and epic light.  What I got in Yellowstone was a week of clear sky.  Totally.  Clear. Sky.  That was ok as in addition to wanting to photograph some of the geysers with a big sunset, I also wanted to photograph them at night with the Milky Way.  Being a landscape photograph means you are always at the mercy of the weather.  Luckily there would be quite a bit of moonless sky during my trip so I could go nocturnal and chase the stars.

Grand Prismatic Spring and Milky Way
Do know that being out in Yellowstone one needs to be cautious.  Geysers and hot springs are a place one needs to stay on the boardwalks and designated areas.  Do not wander off of them.  Also Yellowstone is bear country (and Grizzly bear country).  You will see bears.  Carry bear spray and be bear smart.  For me out there alone in the dark, being bear aware was necessary.  Having a Grizzly encounter in the dark is something I do not want to have.  Luckily all goes well, no bears in the dark.

I find that in the dark I can have most locations to myself.  Even places that will be packed in the daytime are empty at night.  This works great for me as a nightscape photographer as I am looking for dark and quiet where there are not people waving lights around.

Over a few different nights I visited a couple of different geysers and hot springs.  Each time being mindful of bears and staying on the right areas.

Red Aurora over Excelsior Geyser
For the hot springs and pools I could set up and get my shots.  For the geysers it was set up and wait for the eruption, hoping to have it framed with the Milky Way.  That means a bit of a waiting game as there is no set schedule and you wait and wait.  It gives one time to look at the stars and think about bears in the dark..........

One of the locations I stopped was Grand Prismatic Spring.  There out on the boardwalk I had a view of Grand Prismatic Spring and the core of the Milky Way to the south and a view of the Excelsior geyser, a bit of Orion arm of the Milky Way and an aurora to the north!  A magic night with amazing sights all around.  I had two cameras going as I tried to capture the views.  One does normally expect to see the aurora but this is the second time I have seen it in Yellowstone.  It was just in the north on the horizon but it is still a great sight to see and photograph, especially at the geyser.  The hiss of the geysers, the bright stars, the core of the Milky Way, an aurora and even the occasional falling star made this a great night to be out there.  I think I spent about 3 hours out there before the cold air began to seep into me and I called it a night.

Over the 4 days I was in the park, I caught no epic sunrise, but standing out there in the dark watching a geyser erupt in the dark was a different kind of experience.  I only hope the images can capture that.


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