Unexpected Delight

A close-up of the orange and green colors in Mammoth Hot Springs in diffuse light beside the Beaver Ponds Nature Trail in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

On my first trips to Yellowstone I knew I’d love the animals but I was surprised by how much I came to love the hot springs. It was this little part of Mammoth Hot Springs, taken from the Beaver Ponds Trail, that not only spurred on a desire to photograph the springs but to look for what I call little landscapes but are more commonly called intimate landscapes, small scenes inside of larger ones. Thankfully on my first visit I photographed it both in the evening light and in the soft diffuse light after the sun dropped behind the hills (shown here), as when I went back in later years the mineral deposits had changed and this spot lost its color.

Yellowstone was a long drive from Portland so I only went every handful of years, it’s further away now and there’s so much of the Southwest I want to explore that I’m not sure when I’ll go back, but I’ll always treasure each of my visits there, I’ve never been anyplace like it. I used to tease myself that I should visit once and only bring a macro lens and take nothing but close-ups of all the things I could never see at home but of course with so much wildlife on display I never did it.


A variety of mineral deposits at Yellowstone National Park

As someone who loves playing around with shapes and colors and textures, my head nearly explodes when I see a scene like this. Sadly I didn’t have a wider lens at the time but I did my best to capture how many different little scenes you could see from this one location. Two of my recent posts (the orange mineral deposits and the watery fingers) were taken from this spot but with a longer lens, plus some other pictures I may post in the future. Mammoth Hot Springs is always crowded since it is both fascinating and right next to the hotel, so as someone who is a bit crowd averse I limit my time here, but otherwise I think I could spend a week wandering around. One of my favorite hiking trails also leads up from near here.

Oh Yellowstone!

Mammoth Hot Springs

A close-up view of Mammoth Hot Springs

I photographed this little section of Mammoth Hot Springs on my first visit to the area in 2004. I’ve gone back to this spot on each trip since but its appearance has changed over the years and it’s never looked as good as it did on that first trip.


A young elk bull with stunted antlers in Yellowstone National Park

amateur |ˈamətər, -ˌtər, -ˌCHo͝or, -CHər|

a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid basis.

ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from French, from Italian amatore, from Latin amator ‘lover,’ from amare ‘to love.’

The term amateur has both positive and negative connotations. When it comes to photography I love being an amateur, and I love it precisely because of the origins of the term: I get to photograph what I love.

While on the way back to my hotel in Yellowstone, I came across a bunch of photographers pulled off to the side of the road to photograph a herd of elk. I took a variety of pictures and was about to wrap up when I noticed a young elk bull down a ways from where everyone else was. I walked down to him and realized why no one else was photographing him: his antlers were stunted.

I have a soft spot for animals who have more to overcome, so I settled in to spend the rest of the dying light photographing him.

Whether due to diet or disease or genetics, the poor thing wasn’t exactly photogenic compared not only to the dominant bull but even to the other young bulls in the herd. He was mostly grazing but occasionally raised his head and sniffed the air, so I positioned my tripod so that if he raised his head again, his face would be set against the strip of yellow plants behind him. And not only did he raise his head again, but as if on cue he even looked right at me.

You’re beautiful to me, little one.

White Spots

A female elk nuzzles her calf in Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park in July 2004

A mother nuzzles its white-spotted calf at sunrise near Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone National Park. This was my first real visit to the park in the summer of 2004 and was taken on my last day in the park. Despite wanting to get up early every day during the visit, I only managed to do it on the last day. I also saw the most animals and got my best pictures, I lesson I didn’t forget. It seemed like Mother’s Day, as within a few minutes I saw mothers and young not only of elk but also bison, black bears, and moose.