I drove through parts of Yellowstone a week ago, just a day after the Park (as it’s known locally) opened to automobiles. (I had been hoping to bike in the car-free weeks before that, as I normally do, but the weather was uncooperative.) Despite my regular visits, and posts to this blog, I realized I’ve never shown any photographs of the thermal features for which Yellowstone is justly famous. I have made a few before—surprisingly few—but somehow they never appealed much to me. For some reason I can’t put my finger on, this time felt different, and there are several images I’m willing to publish.

The first is of Roaring Mountain. It doesn’t truly live up to its name from the nearby road, whence these images were made, but it can be pretty loud if you’re up quite close (as I happen to know from previous experience). The image below is just a detail view with a longer lens of an area contained in the image above. Because the sun was not too high, and I was facing east, the mountain appears very dark, though the sun brightens the steam rising from the many vents. If your vision of Hell is dark, perhaps this will serve.

Next stop down the road was the Norris geyser basin, which does not have any sizable and regular geysers. It was odd going ’round on the trails. Where there was boardwalk above the warm ground, it was covered in three feet of packed snow, unmelted by virtue of being held in the colder air. But most of the ground was not only clear of snow, but looked achingly hot in the sun, now higher and falling on flatter, wetter ground. Steam was around you as well as the subject, making the blasted trees all the more mysterious.

I was interested to notice that these two desolated regions, deprived of most visible life by the heat and the chemistry, came out near opposites in terms of tonality: too dark and too bright. Which is closer to your idea of devastation?

In contrast, waterfall results did not live up to last year’s at this season. In fact, I scarcely wanted to take photographs of the falls at all. But I did find another subject there…to appear in a future post.

I’m wondering: what makes you ready for a subject or not?