This is another image of the same bull elk I shared earlier in the week. This image was actually taken before the one when elk was in front of the giant steam plume. A different area of thermal features is behind the elk here as it began to move a little faster. I don’t usually shoot at an ISO of 3200 but the situation warranted it here and the camera handled the higher ISO well. If I had chosen to stay at a lower ISO, then I probably wouldn’t have been able to get this shot due to the low light. The sun hadn’t reached the lower part of the frame though a beautiful pink light can be seen along the top. The elk didn’t’ wait around for the light to reach the entire area unfortunately.
I’m crediting the title of this to the 1985 Song “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” and perhaps showing my age a bit by doing so. Brown-headed cowbirds can often be seen around herds of bison. As the bison graze they chase up insects in the grass which the cowbirds can easily catch and eat. The cowbirds will also eat parasites off the bison. They’re also seen on elk and other ungulates including, as their name suggests, cows. This cowbird was riding around on the back of a bison when I photographed it. Even though I had a long lens with a teleconverter, I did crop this image a respectable amount as it’s not wise to ever be too close to a bison.
I know I tend to make these titles cryptic but the title of this post refers to the huge steam plume behind the elk. This steam plume is coming from an erupting Fountain Geyser for which a number of landmarks in this area share the name including Fountain Flats, Fountain Paint Pots, etc. By this time in September I’d hope to have photographed quite a few elk as it’s their breeding season but so far this is the elk I’ve managed to photograph. I’m not sure if it’s been the heat, the heavy traffic, or some other factor but the elk haven’t been active during the daylight hours much. Speaking of heavy traffic, September used to be considered a “shoulder month” to the busy summer seasons. And I’ve been asked frequently lately about visiting in September since kids are back in school. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a “shoulder season” to the busy summer months for probably ten years now. September proves to be just as busy as July and August and it’s not uncommon for the West entrance to back up into town. I’m not writing that to deter people from coming to visit only to have the proper expectations.
This photo was totally not what I was after when photographing this bull bison. His other side was completely caked in mud that he had rolled in and it made him look totally awesome, if not a little dirty. I waited until the sun lit the scene which was when he decided to turn around and show this side. While he still had some dried mud visible, it wasn’t as impressive. With the breeding season over and these bulls alone again, they’re mostly focused on feeding in preparation for winter. I spent the previous day waiting an hour for a bison to lift it’s head and began to think this guy wouldn’t cooperate either. Well, he didn’t. After the sun came up and he turned around, he slowly walked into the trees not to come back out. Oh well, until the next the opportunity.
Whirli… what? Whirligig, yes that’s the name of a geyser in Yellowstone National Park. In fact, that geyser is the pool of water in the center of this image. But it was actually the runoff channel in the foreground that always draws me to this spot. Trying to find a composition where the runoff channel works well in a photo can be challenging though as it runs alongside and then under the boardwalk. Once the sun was above the distant ridge, the backlight of the steam and pool made this a much more interesting scene and one that I was happy to photograph.
This image just kind of screamed “Yellowstone” to me. The huge steam in the left background is from Midway Geyser basin while immediately behind the bison, more steam obscures the closer area behind the bison. The thermally killed trees, hot springs and steam, and of course, perhaps the most iconic wild animal in Yellowstone, a bison, all add up to a photo that show case America’s first national park.
Another hummingbird photo? No, not yet anyway. This is what is commonly called a hummingbird moth, or more correctly a White-lined Spinx Moth. But they do mimic the behavior of a hummingbird in that they feed by hovering near a flower. They then feed through a proboscis, a long straw-like tube, they keep rolled up and extend to get nectar from flowers.
Geothermally killed trees. Canon R5, 200mm, handheld, 1/640 @ f11, ISO 1600
Steam, mist, and some dead trees. These trees died as a result of the thermal runoff from hot springs and geysers in the area. The trees brought the thermal water into their systems and the minerals essentially turned the base of the tress to stone. The bottoms of the trees are white as a result of the minerals absorbed and they are referred to as “bobby sock” trees in reference to a fashion from many years ago.
September in Yellowstone means autumn and autumn means colors! Yellowstone has very few deciduous trees. Aspens are about the only tree that shows any color in Yellowstone and there aren’t big stands of them as there are in other places. But the golden grasses certainly help to make photography magical. It’s still hot here in what has been a very hot year that has seen record heat and drought. As such, the only elk I’ve seen recently disappear into the trees before the sun comes up as they hide from the heat. The bison have moved from Hayden Valley to Fountain Flats as they disperse from the breeding season. This bull bison was by himself as he passed in front of a beautifully backlit thermal feature. The scene was amazing as the sun did it’s magic on the landscape.
The hummingbirds are still here, on September 8, though I never see more than two whereas a month or so ago I was seeing as many as ten at a time. Last year, the date I photographed the last hummingbird for the year was on September 9, so we’ll see if I will have many, if any, more hummingbird days. I’ve felt truly fortunate to have had so many wonderful opportunities to not only see but photograph these amazing birds. I will show more images over the coming months. This was photographed on September 8 as the hummingbird attempted to chase off a mountain chickadee.