Tag Archives: Yellowstone

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sky

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

As a photographer I find myself obsessed with certain things at different times.  Sometimes I am looking closely at ground level, my attention on the details of plants and walkways.  And lately, I find that my eyes are on the sky.  I’m noticing clouds (when there are clouds) and even the differences in color from deep saturated blues to the barely visible sky on those gray, marine layer mornings.

My time in Yellowstone offered a variety of sky views.  This one captures the darkness of the afternoon storm along with the steam rising from the geyser.

Geyser sky

And in this one with the waterfall, I find myself interested in the echo I feel between the waterfall and the clouds above.

Waterfall sky

On another day in Yellowstone, filtering a horizon on an overcast day brought out colors that the camera lens had a hard time capturing, revealing more details of the sun breaking through.

Colorful sky

Coming home from Montana meant the opportunity for a fairly low flight in a small jet.  In my combination window/aisle seat I snapped picture after picture.  This one captured clouds from above rather than my usual vantage below.

Above the clouds

A trip to Los Angeles meant more opportunities for photos…and again, my eyes were on the sky.  I loved the way the blues and whites of this conservatory suggest the blues and whites of the sky and clouds.


As I drove home that night the big, bright super moon watched my progress.  As I pulled into my driveway after the long drive I couldn’t resist taking time to snap a shot of the moon peeking through the palm.

dark sky

In our effort to stay cool and still hike, we headed off to Cabrillo National Park last weekend. The proximity to the air station on Coronado meant the opportunity to watch airplanes take off and land.  If you look closely, you will see the plane in this photo with the San Diego skyline shrouded in a bit of marine layer below.

in the sky

I couldn’t believe the deep, dark indigo of the sky in this picture of the lighthouse.  This is the image with no filtering or editing.

indigo sky

Yesterday morning I awoke to flashes of light in my bedroom window and booming rolls of thunder.  My cats cowered and the neighborhood dogs barked.  As I was getting ready for work, my husband called for me to come out and bring my camera (phone).  I walked out to a sky full of rainbow!  Here’s my best attempt at capturing it!

rainbow sky

So this week’s challenge is to look up.  What will you capture when you look to the sky?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #sky for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So look up and notice what the sky has to offer.  I can’t wait to see surprises your sky holds!

Citizen Scientists: Researchers in the Wild

This morning someone shared an article about kids as citizen scientist researchers–observing and documenting ladybugs in their place, and learning about research and data in the process. I love engaging students in real work as part of the learning process…and teaching them that all of us, as part of our daily lives, can and should continue to learn every day.

On our rain hike in Yellowstone the other day I got to look closely at the environment around me, noticing details and appreciating the beauty.  Our destination was this natural bridge, a work of nature that I’m sure informed the first people who saw it.

natural bridge

And as we walked away from the bridge back toward the car, I noticed bubbles in the puddles as we passed.  I was sure I was noticing something in the bubbles…and stopped to watch.  It seemed that with the rain drops, a bubble would form with a white insect in it–magnifying the image of the bug–and then pop after it floated a ways.

insect drops

I had to look closer…what were these creatures?  And why do they form these bubbles?  Do they only come out in the rain?  Are they native to this forested area in Yellowstone?

insect bubble

I haven’t yet found out what these insects (I think they are insects) are…but I am curious to know more about them.  I’m hoping that someone will know something more and lead me to some research to answer my questions.  Here is a close up view…

insect bubble close up

There are so many interesting things to learn about when you take the time to notice.  As I start to prepare for the beginning of school, I’m thinking about ways to support and encourage my students to pay attention the world around them and then to document and further research the questions that interest them.  I’ll also be on the lookout for citizen scientist projects in my area (and would love any information you might have)…what a great way to engage students as researchers!

And if you happen to know anything about these bugs in the bubbles…I’d love some leads!



A Bear and a Bridge

This really is a month for the unexpected!  On our last day at Yellowstone, we set off early knowing we were heading toward the other side of the park and hoping that an early start would bring more opportunities to see wildlife.

As we sipped our coffee and drove down the road, we suddenly saw a bear ambling across the road.  You might remember from yesterday’s post that Geoff had his heart set on seeing a bear during our visit…so imagine our excitement and the jolt of adrenaline when we spied the bear ahead of us on the road!  I grabbed my phone as the bear looked up and headed off to the side of the road.  I started taking pictures as it headed off, stopping and looking back at us then continuing into the trees.

bear in action

I was excited that the photos captured the bear…and with some editing, showed some of what we saw.  After consulting with some folks at an information center, we think this is a grizzly based on the hump on the back and the fact that it is collared.  (They said they believed only the grizzlies are collared in the park…not the black bears.)



This bear sighting was truly the cherry on the top of this trip to Yellowstone!  Even the rainy day couldn’t dampen our spirits or spoil our adventures.

As a lark, later in the day we decided to take what we thought was a quarter mile hike to a natural bridge in the rain.  Donning our rain jackets with hoods on, we headed down the path through the woods.  That quarter mile turned out to be at least a three-mile round trip in a steady downpour…and totally worth it!  The natural bridge was spectacular!

natural bridge

We ended our day with dinner at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, a delicious and relaxing ending to three days in the park.  The rain stopped and the sky brightened.  As we drove out of the park towards our hotel, the sun and clouds gathered to create a gorgeous skyscape.  We stopped not far from the arch to take this final photo at Yellowstone.


Our time in Yellowstone has been amazing, filled with the unexpected.  We’ve enjoyed exploring the natural beauty, spending lots of time outdoors, and piquing our interests to learn more about the natural world.

There is so much more to say…and so many more photos I’ve taken on this trip.  I’m sure you will be hearing more about my adventures in Montana and Wyoming!

Beyond Old Faithful

Today’s Yellowstone adventures took us well beyond Old Faithful and the thermal features that marked our first day in the park.  Today we set out in search of wildlife and waterfalls and found so much more.

Geoff loves bears…and has his heart set on seeing a bear in the park, so we headed toward the northwest entrance and the Lamar Valley where folks at the Yellowstone Association recommended for possible wildlife viewing.  And while we didn’t see bears, we did see some other wildlife.

We followed a road we didn’t travel yesterday, and not far into our drive Geoff saw this amazing bird of prey.  He quickly turned the car around and passed by it again…as it sat and posed while I took its photo through the open car window.  A bit of research has us believing it is a golden eagle.

golden eagle

After such a great beginning we were optimistic as we headed off the beaten path and followed a dirt road for 6 miles in search of other animals.  We saw beautiful meadows and listened to the songs of birds as we drove the bumpy, dusty path at about 10 miles per hour with the windows open…but nothing beyond birds and squirrels showed themselves.  As we headed into the Lamar Valley we were feeling much less optimistic when we noticed cars pulling off the side of the road.  In Yellowstone, that is a signal that someone has spotted something of interest.  And sure enough, there were buffalo…a lot of them in the distance. Over a stretch of about 10 miles we saw several herds and some big bull buffalo right up close to the edge of road.  We watched them wallow in the mud and listened to them grunt.  The calves frolicked as the adults ate and rested.  This guy was pretty uninterested in the traffic, people with cameras, and even noisy motorcycles going by.  And he made a great photo opportunity for me.  If you look closely, you can see the rest of the herd in the distance.

buff and his herdLater in the day, with the help of a photographer with a huge telescopic lens, we located an osprey in a nest with chicks out on a rock formation in the canyon.  If you know what you are looking for, it is barely visible in this shot.  Geoff was able to get a shot where you can see the birds using a camera with a more powerful zoom than my iPhone.

Osprey nestToward the end of our day, we also caught a glimpse of some elk and some mule deer…but not close enough for photos.

In addition to wildlife, we also saw amazing waterfalls and canyons today…and spent some time at over 8800 feet!  There is still evidence of the devastation of wildfires in some areas, but there are also spectacular forests and green meadows.  Here’s a view across the meadow at well over 8800 feet.

high altitude meadow

I was surprised to learn that Yellowstone has its own version of the Grand Canyon.  As we headed out to Artist Point, we saw both the spectacular Canyon Falls and canyon views to take your breath away!  I was lucky and glimpsed a raptor in flight, catching the dark wings and white head.  I think it may have been an osprey in flight.  Catching the just right light to bring the colors to life in a photograph is challenging, but I think this one begins to catch the beauty. This particular spot makes it clear why the park is called Yellowstone.

Yellowstone's grand canyon

And a little unexpected treat…way up high on an overlook above Canyon Falls a couple asked me to take their photo.  And after I did and handed them back their camera, as I was about to walk away without taking a photo of my own…I was feeling uncomfortable way up high and feeling like I had taken photo after photo of these falls, I noticed a rainbow!

Rainbow over canyon fallsThese few pictures are only a scratch on the surface of today’s adventures.  It was another day filled with the unexpected and the wonder, beauty and majesty of our natural world.  We have another adventure planned for tomorrow…what more will we find in this amazing place?


Zigzagging Through Yellowstone

A trip to Montana for some work inspired a side trip to Yellowstone National Park–a place neither my husband nor I have ever visited.  And after a long day of hiking and exploring and photographing…zigzagging through Montana and Wyoming, on boardwalks, winding roads, and dirt trails, it’s nice to take a little time to reflect (and to put my feet up!).

What trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a trip to Old Faithful?  This world renown geyser is iconic.  It erupts pretty reliably about every 90 minutes…and draws a large crowd that gathers, jockeying for front row seats.  I’ve been interested in taking photos of people lately…and this crowd gave me ample opportunity!

viewers of old faithful

And somehow, we managed to arrive at Old Faithful moments before it erupted.  I was able to walk right up and move into a great place for experiencing the eruption.  It starts slow, burping steam and spewing water, gathering momentum and height as each burp shoots water and steam higher and higher into the air.  At its height, I could feel the warm drops on my body, like a gentle sprinkle.

old faithful

One of my favorite times of the day was the quiet time we found out on a trail away from most of the thermal action.  We hiked through a forest, over a river, up and down trails, enjoying the quiet magic and natural beauty.  We heard the loud clicks of insects and watched a chipmunk nibble the leaves of a plant growing up near a fallen tree.  I loved watching these butterflies light on the plant in front of me.

butterflies in yellowstoneAs we continued back toward the trail head, we caught a glimpse of Old Faithful…from the back, through trees, far from the crowds gathered.

Old faithful through trees

Later in the day we continued our explorations as we headed back in the direction of our hotel. We almost missed this amazing display of color…thinking we had already seen geysers.  And this unedited photo only captures a fraction of what you see in person!

unexpected colors

As we headed further down the road to catch a glimpse of some paint pots, the light was beginning to change as clouds gathered and the sun dipped behind them.  I love the way the light and shadow plays with these bare trees with the clouds as a dramatic backdrop.

light and bare treesThe sky continued to darken as we came around the corner to find this geyser spewing.  It seemed to be in continuous action, with water and steam shooting high into the air.

sky and geyserIt probably won’t surprise you to learn that we soon found ourselves in a huge downpour. Luckily, we had made it to the car before the sky unleashed.  And after a pretty good soaking, the skies began to clear and sun emerged again.  As we got closer to the North entrance of the park, the sky was bright and the clouds once again white and puffy.

light and river

And the sun was in a great position to take a perfect picture of the historic arch, marking Yellowstone as our first National Park.  What a beautiful place!  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds as we set off on another zigzagging Yellowstone adventure!

arch at yellowstone

**A side note…I decided on zigzagging for this photo essay because of the zigzagging boardwalks and walkways in the park.  Here’s one example:

zigzag walkways