Thermal Drama

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The challenges that landscape photographers face are many. Non-photographers think that it is simply going to a location, shooting a dramatic image and that is it.  It is not so simple.  First, we have to get up well before dawn so we can get to the location before the sun rises.  That may mean a walk outside our hotel or an hour drive.  Then we have to hope that the weather will cooperate.  I can't tell you how many times a driving rain has ruined a planned shot.  Then you are competing with other photographers for a great spot if the location is iconic. Of course, there are times when you don't think that you are going to get a good shot and the stars align for one you are surprised at. This is one of those shots.

I was staying at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and wanted to get a shot of Old Faithful. Fortunately, I didn't have to be up at dawn as Old Faithful is not a prime sunrise shot. What I wanted was deep blue skies so that the details of its steam would stand out against the sky (if the sky was cloudy, the details of the thermal release would be lost). When I left Lake Yellowstone, the sun was just rising and the sky was perfectly blue. An hour later, I pulled into the parking lot and that great blue sky was gone, replaced with totally white clouds - my worst nightmare. After getting the gear out of the car, I walked towards Old Faithful and noticed the crowds were starting to appear, meaning that the geyser was getting ready to erupt.  I set up despite the clouds, ready to shoot. Fortunately, the geyser eruption was late and these dark threatening clouds appeared on the horizon. I prayed that Old Faithful would not be faithful this time and wait until the dark clouds were above the geyser. As you can see, my prayers were answered.

The scene was quite dramatic, almost making Old Faithful look like a tornado billowing into the sky. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. That being said, get yourself in the right positions and sometimes the photography gods smile upon you.