Spirit of the Caldera

I have a few photo series that I’ve never fully published, because spamming a social media feed with lots of similar pictures feels a bit out of place to me. But I always wanted a place to share them together. This blog seems like the right place, where I can tell a full story and show the complete set of images.

To start these photo series, I’ll go back to Yellowstone in 2015 when I photographed a bull elk resting next to the warm steam of the fumaroles at the West Thumb Geyser Basin.

I followed the elk for about an hour, careful to keep him against the setting sun, and with the steaming fumaroles behind him, until he finally went to rest. I used no filters. Instead, I let the sun hit straight into the lens by removing my lens hood, and by shooting through pine needles that flared and streaked golden light into the camera, creating colorful bokeh effects.

Shooting without the lens hood and with blurry foreground elements sometimes tinted the image orange, sometimes green, and sometimes turned it into a soft, low-contrast gray. The larger bokeh effects were from the pine needles, which sometimes directly touched my lens and sparkled under the direct sunlight.

Before the elk had settled down, it had been grazing among the tall grasses, dipping his head into the gold. I took two close-ups, focused on the antlers, that I think serve as perfect bookends.

This was a magical moment I’ll never forget. Yellowstone is so full of wonders, the alien landscape should be enough, but you also get the incessant flow of wildlife on top of it, always around you and always diverse.