Monthly Archives

October 2007

Snow, Grass and Fire Trees

National Parks, Wyoming, Yellowstone

Near the Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park is a stand of fire-scorched trees, or “fire trees” as our younger daughter named them during her first visit to the park five years ago. The ground surrounding a section of these trees is often steaming, hinting at the subterranean warmth and runoff from springs on Firehole Lake Drive nearby. Following a snow fall this phenomenon was illustrated nicely with a sharp delineation between cool and hot ground. This is another 16×9 photograph taken with our cool little Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2.

Burned trees in grass meadow in Lower Geyser Basin.  Grass on the left has hot runoff from nearby thermal springs, keeping it free of snow, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Burned trees in grass meadow in Lower Geyser Basin. Grass on the left has hot runoff from nearby thermal springs, keeping it free of snow.
Image ID: 19789
Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces and Dead Trees

National Parks, Wyoming, Yellowstone

We spent time checking out the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, in the northwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park. Several thousand pounds of calcium carbonate, carried in solution from the hot springs that bubble up through thick limestone, are deposited onto the enormous terraces each day. As the terrace complex spreads and grows, surrounding vegetation is overtaken. In this photo several dead trees are seen embedded in calcium carbonate, with steaming water flowing around them, a ghostly scene. This was photographed with our tiny Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. While probably considered a simple point-and-shoot camera by most people, it produces surprisingly high quality images (when used properly, including low ISO). Among other features, the camera allows full manual exposure (f-stop, shutter speed, ISO), auto-bracketing and RAW file format, all of which are uncommon in the point-and-shoot market. A number of the photos we shot with this fun camera while in Yellowstone are sufficiently sharp and clean to be posted for hopeful stock sales.

Dead trees embedded in calcium carbonate deposits in the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, near Minerva terrace .  Over two tons of calcium carbonate (in solution) is deposited each day on the terraces, gradually killing any vegetation that had managed to be growing, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Dead trees embedded in calcium carbonate deposits in the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, near Minerva terrace . Over two tons of calcium carbonate (in solution) is deposited each day on the terraces, gradually killing any vegetation that had managed to be growing.
Image ID: 19796
Location: Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Yellowstone Grizzly Kills Two Other Bears

Brown Bear, National Parks, Wildlife, Wyoming, Yellowstone

Shortly before my visit to Yellowstone National Park this fall to photograph elk, I learned that not one but two female grizzly bears had been killed, presumably by other bears. Fratricide among adult grizzlies is not particularly unusual, but two killings within days of one another is strange. Since both females were killed in the same part of the park, it is natural to presume they met their demise from the same cause: a male grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). When I arrived in the Lamar Valley, I spoke with a few photographers and animal watchers who told me that indeed the conventional wisdom, based as it was on circumstancial evidence in the absence of any witnesses to the killings, was that a single large male grizzly was probably responsible for the killings. I was fortunate to spot the bear as I was passing through Little America near the distinctive stand of aspens on the north side of the road, not far from the river. By the time the bear had made his way up from the river to cross the road near me quite a crowd had formed. I was told that a “bear researcher” was among those watching, and that this researcher had confirmed the bear as being the one suspected of the killings in the preceding weeks. The bear was bending his nose, perhaps to get a better scent of the people watching him.

Grizzly bear, autumn, fall, brown grasses, Ursus arctos horribilis, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Grizzly bear, autumn, fall, brown grasses.
Image ID: 19614
Species: Grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis
Location: Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

“Grizzly bears” and brown bears are one and the same species. Perhaps they are best thought of as distinct races of the same species, differing in size primarily due to diet. Some refer to grizzlies as Ursus horribilis or Ursus arctos horribilis but that is a distinction without a difference and I suspect would be discounted by modern taxonomists. The scientific name is Ursus arctos and I only include the horribilis on my web site to help distinguish between the two races. “Coastal” brown bears, which inhabit coastal regions in Alaska and Canada and include the famous Kodiak Island, Katmai and Kenai populations of brown bear, have access to vast amounts of fat rich salmon and thus grow considerably larger than interior grizzlies. Indeed, coastal brown bears are the largest bears found in the world. Grizzlies are found further inland in Alaska through Canada and into the northern United States and are often seen in Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks.

Plumes

California

Another interesting shot of the smoke plumes viewed from space. Look, there’s Guadalupe Island down there too!

No, I didn’t take this photo. NASA did. They have better cameras than me.

Santa Anas — Good News, Bad News

California, San Diego, Surf

Santa Anas whipped up strong yesterday, sending offshores out to meet the clean swells coming ashore. Every wave had a rainbow trailing it. Just as each wave was poised to break, the wind would rip the lip off with impressive sound, sending spray aloft only to fall back around me after the swell had passed. It was great, the most fun I have had in the water all year. But …

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf.
Image ID: 19534

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf.
Image ID: 19535

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf.
Image ID: 19532

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf

Breaking wave, tube, hollow barrel, morning surf.
Image ID: 19533

Today those winds are whipping up fierce fires that are burning houses and causing massive evacuations throughout San Diego. I heard on the news that 1000+ fire engines are on their way from surrounding states to assist. Some people, civilians and firefighters, have already been critically injured or killed. We are packed and ready to go if our part of town gets the call to evacuate.

Cardiff Surf, Oct 21

Surf

Today things lined up in North County for some great surf. I got out shortly after the sun hit the water this morning in Cardiff. The sun was bright, the swell we’ve had for a few days was peaking, and we got the offshore winds that had the TV weatherman so excited. (Half of San Diego is now burning, courtesy of those winds.) After three hours in the water I had shot 1200 photos — the camera was firing hard. It was quite a workout as there was a steady south longshore current running all morning against which I had to kick the entire time. My legs were wasted when I stopped for lunch today. Here is one sequence that turned out pretty good:

Killer breaking wave animation, fun day

I haven’t posted anything from my Yellowstone trip since I have been tied up with work and kid stuff. I’m almost done editing those shots and will have them posted in the next week or so.