Mud Volcano

Bison Sleeping at Mud Volcano

Elevation Change for Mud Volcano

Elevation change for Mud Volcano
Elevation profile and route courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance: .8 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Easy
Best time of year: Year-round

The Mud Volcano area is a fantastic collection of mudpots, rich with odd pools and Yellowstone’s signature sulphur smells.

To get the most elevation change out of the way first, head to the south end of the parking area to start the trail there. Along the way, you’ll pass the Sizzling Basin, a massive mudpot bubbling up gasses and acidic water at its opposite end.

The trail begins a gradual climb up to Churning Cauldron, another large mudpot. Up the trail a bit farther is the Black Dragon’s Cauldron and Sour Lake. Both have been growing, and so in the summer of 2015, the park began work on completely redoing the boardwalks there. Each are massive mudpot lakes that need to be seen to be believed.

Pass through a quiet wooded area and continue down to the original Mud Volcano. Early explorers found this mudpot with a cone that would shoot mud up into the air. The cone has since been eroded away, and now the Mud Volcano continues to gradually eat away the ground around it.

Beyond the Mud Volcano is the Dragon’s Mouth Spring, a large cave where water bounces back and forth from one end of the cave to the other, producing an intense echoing sound resembling the roar of a dragon. Water used to shoot out of the cave as well, but it has since calmed down.

Heading down the boardwalk will take you back to the parking area.

Getting there: Head right onto the main highway northbound for just shy of six miles. The entrance to the Mud Volcano area will be on the left just before Sulphur Cauldron.

Read on Source Site

Black Sand Basin

Sunset Lake

Elevation Profile of Black Sand Basin

Elevation change for Black Sand Basin
Elevation profile and route courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance: .5 mile (in and out)
Difficulty: Easy
Best time of year: Year-round

For those already in the neighborhood of Old Faithful, Black Sand Basin is a short and sweet boardwalk trail that features some colorful and quite interesting thermal features. It’s an easily accessible and easily walkable trail whose highlights include Spouter Geyser, Emerald Pool, and Sunset Lake (pictured above), a massive hot spring lined with colorful thermophiles that makes the detour completely worth it.

The basin is primarily known for Emerald Pool, though early tourists who threw objects into the pool are now to blame for its decreasing temperature resulting in a fading of color over time. It’s still quite colorful so it definitely shouldn’t be passed up! Opalescent Pool is one of the newer features to the area, coated with a unique color and surrounded by stained pine trees that it overtook in its development.

The name Black Sand Basin comes from the obsidian sand and lava rock that is found around the basin.

Thermophiles and Geysers

To see more images from Black Sand Basin, check out my Yellowstone National Park Gallery here.

Getting there: From the Old Faithful Visitor Center, drive out to the main highway, and in less than half-a-mile, you’ll see Black Sand Basin on the left. There’s also an option to walk to the basin from Old Faithful which will bring you past Daisy Geyser as well.

Read on Source Site

Can Gear Improve our Photos?

Time to move on to discuss what helps us improve our photography. Your last homework assignment (most of you were bad boys and girls and didn’t complete your homework) was to send me your answer to the following question: I would like for you to think about the top two pieces of equipment (cameras, lenses, tripods) that had the most impact on your photography and send me your top-2 and why they have been important to your improvement. I asked a very similar question to “the dozen” with quite similar answers.

But before I share the answers let me ask a slightly different question that was intended to be the heart of the homework assignment. If I were to promise to pay for any gear that you requested BUT you had to demonstrate to me after a month how it improved your photography, what would you choose to have me buy? AND if you couldn’t prove in one month that the gear I bought you had actually made a difference, you would have to pay me back. I might be dead- wrong but I suspect that you would be careful about how you spent my money – and theoretically your money. It seems to me that improving your photography should be why you buy new gear. Hmmmm …

I have been seriously into photography for about a year. This past year is the first time in many years that I have spent any money on photographic gear. Some of the gear has had a huge impact.   But I must admit I didn’t always think about what the impact would be before I bought the equipment. I suspect some of you didn’t think about the impact either, so let’s look at what “the dozen” said about photographic gear.

Two people said “good glass” is the most important gear to improve their photography. I know both of these photographers and I would definitely put them in the advanced category, a long way from point-and-shoot. They are highly skilled and have been involved in photography for many years. One said, “I would say good glass. I have shot many cameras and they all do well. Having good glass makes all the difference.” If you have owned many digital cameras and lenses and have taken thousands of images, you can probably see the difference. But if you are just starting to make the move from amateur to artist (remember, Emerson said “Every Artist was First an Amateur”) you probably don’t need expensive glass. So what else might help you become more artistic?

A number of people talked about how zoom lenses helped them improve their photographic skills and “eye.” Tom said, “Without a doubt, the ability to change focal lengths has made the biggest difference in transitioning from the hobbyist to the serious hobbyist.” I know Tom well and I think he certainly is moving toward being a real artist and I agree a zoom lens can have a big impact. Why would a zoom lens help improve the photo skills of an amateur more than expensive lenses?

From what I have read about composition, and what I have learned from my own photographic experience, amateur photographers often make the mistake of trying to include everything in their photos. Bryan Peterson is one of my favorite photo author/teachers. He often talks about “filling the frame” (i.e., getting closer to your subject) and removing “crying babies” (i.e., object that are distracting) to improve your composition by making the focus of your photo clear. If you want to improve the focus on your composition, a zoom lens can help you to “see” differently. I have found my zoom lenses to have a dramatic impact on the composition in my photographs.

Swabacher Uncropped (1 of 1)

Swabacher Cropped (1 of 1)

These two photos aren’t great examples of the use of a zoom lens but you’ll get the “picture” (sorry about the pun). A zoom lens helped me get closer to the subject (without getting my feet wet when it was 6 degrees).

A zoom lens also helps me get rid of the “screaming baby” on the right (the trees and brush) that are distracting to the focus on my photograph (the mountains and their reflection.) So what gear is the #1 way to spend you money to improve your photography ?

The photo gear that was listed most often by “the dozen” and those who did their homework was … the tripod. But you might be thinking, why would the tripod be important? Let me share Arnie’s comment because it truly states the true value of the tripod; “A good tripod is absolutely necessary. Not only do they reduce camera shake but more important, it slows down work flow allowing photographers to focus on details of composition.” I promise, I didn’t pay Arnie to say this but I agree 100%. Let me explain why, from my own experience, I believe a good tripod is so important to improving as a photographer.

I hate to admit this but a year ago when I went out on a photo shoot I would just fire away. I had read lots of books and gone on-line to watch many videos. But when I got out in the beauty of the mountains I just started firing away. What was I thinking? The answer is that I wasn’t thinking much at all except to assume (I guess) that the more pictures I took the more likely it was that one of them would be great. Sorry Randy, it doesn’t work that way! To improve your photography you have to think about it at the time you are taking the photographs. After a couple months of listening to great photographers from the Teton Photography Group I recognized that I need to have a good tripod AND I needed to think about what I was doing as I was doing it. I needed to think about exposure and composition and … take … my … time.

I found taking my time is more difficult that I thought it would be. But now I am absolutely addicted to my tripod. In fact, I have already upgraded my tripod to get a sturdier one. And I take my time to think about composition and exposure. I take a shot and then look at the monitor, including the histogram, to think – “Is this the shot I want?” I must admit I have not arrived … not even close. And when I get home after a shoot and look at my computer I realize I need to think more and slow down my workflow even more. I guess sometimes I think it would be nice if this photography art thing was easy … but if it was easy, every photographer would be an artist. Keep on shooting, but take your time and think about what you are doing. A tripod may be a big help.

The Importance of Hearing Nothing

Cassidy Arch Abstract

When you hear it (so to speak), it transcends you. It’s an immediate zen moment that only the most remote reaches of nature can provide; away from people, away from chattering, away from road noise and cars trying to sound much bigger than they are. It even comes when you’re away from air traffic overhead if you’re lucky enough to have such a window. And it’s not just artificial noises you need to escape from. Flowing water, birds chirping, and bugs buzzing all contribute to some kind of interference with pure silence, something that roots you into your environment. This is probably why I have become so fond of Capitol Reef National Park in recent years. The silence is so easily found in such an underrated parks that you can’t help but feel more human just by being up on top of the Waterpocket Fold, the prominent geologic wonderland for which the park was created. In fact this reminder came to me while on top of the Waterpocket Fold overlooking Cassidy Arch, hundreds of feet above the surrounding landscape.

Most people when experiencing true silence for the first time (and even subsequent times) immediately flood the silence with the exact opposite sensation: yelling and screaming and testing echoes, never actually allowing themselves to be immersed in the stillness of the environment. They’re missing out on something that is inevitably and innately human that millions of people don’t even realize. It’s actually a very similar subject to light pollution. You may be able to experience silence in a room, but it’s infinitely more rewarding when it’s outside, just like you can see an amazing photo of the night sky, but you can’t really comprehend what’s in the photo until you see it with your own eyes. The problem is that both are hard to find for most people, even though each was always an essential part of human existence. Now they’re so rare, people are required to go to great lengths just to get a sampling of them.

With an absence of noise comes something unexpected. When the only sound is the faint ringing in your ears, it becomes amplified, an experience incomprehensibly far from the normal day to day routines of life. With the mind so accustomed to hearing something in the background, it begins to search frantically for something to listen to. Anything. Is that normal, or is that the effect of hearing too much noise each day? I don’t have that answer. Under those conditions though, you can hear a fly buzzing from dozens of yards away. Your sense of hearing becomes exemplary. In moments like those you wonder if there’s a side-effect to human health in hearing constant noise on such a permanent basis.

It’s easy to think of non-natural sounds creating stress on the natural world as a loud bang or a loud engine roaring by. What goes more unnoticed is the stress from always hearing something and never getting a break from it, not unlike constantly being exposed to light and never getting to experience true darkness. It’s no wonder people tend to link noise pollution and light pollution together. Perhaps this is why I always feel the need to get back to the desert southwest fairly regularly. Silence and real night skies can be so easily found there.

Whatever the case, there’s definitely something cleansing about not just experiencing pure silence, but being aware of it too and actually relishing in it.

Read on Source Site