Mammoth Hot Springs. Yellowstone National Park. July 31, 2014
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved
I’ll start with the spring… The last time I was at Yellowstone was in the very early 1980s, the summer between 1st and 2nd Grade, I think. Mammoth Hot Springs was one of the last places we went, I if I remember right, and I was suffering from a little geothermal feature burnout and wanted to do something else that day, but my parents hauled me up from the Bridge Bay campground (I think) under duress, and I was glad they did. I was blown away.
So I was really looking forward to this stop, our first major geothermal site in the park on this trip.
But the springs have settled down a bit since then. While this is still a spectacular place, it does not feel as active as it was 30 years ago. Spring after spring had notes about being more active in the 1970s and then quieting down in the early to mid 80s.
At first, I started worrying that, well, maybe Yellowstone wasn’t going to live up to my memories, but no, things are just a little more quiet at Mammoth then they were the last time I was there. It’s the nature of these features to change and shift, to ebb and flow…
Still, the Mammoth Hot Springs Trail Guide assures us that, while these springs “change constantly, and sometimes overnight” that the “overall activity of the entire area and the volume of water discharge remain[s] relatively constant.”
Because of this, it might not be so much that the Mammoth springs have settled down, but that the water flowing from the springs I remember has moved on to other springs. I suspect that things were more spread out back then, maybe the volume was being discharged by a number of smaller features and now it is being more concentrated in fewer but larger springs.
So, while I remember a lot of water coming down on both sides of the boardwalk between Mound & Jupiter Terraces and Minerva Terrace, Minerva was pretty dry this year making this stretch of trail a lot less dramatic than my memories (one of my favorite spots back when I was a kid). But in exchange, we were greeted with a much more active and spectacular site at Palette, which is much more active since I was there last, in fact overrunning and closing one of the trails looping through the area.
As for the photos… This was a long trip for our family, and these photos was taken at the end of the third day… We’d jammed out to the park in a day and a half and arrived late, after dark on the 30th, so this was our first day out and really sightseeing.
Taking photos while on a family vacation can be a touchy endeavor. Seeing this spring, at this time of the day, with this light, I could have lingered for an hour (or, at least, until we lost the light… Thank God for the endless summer golden hours!), but the kids were getting tired and hungry (dinner at Outlaw Pizza in Gardiner was our next stop), and I had to rush things a bit.
So these are the sacrifices for art I have to make… Instead of running back to the car for a tripod, I made due with my monopod and some hand held shots… So I don’t feel like I got the photos I really wanted in the end, and relied on repetition to get some of the ones I did capture (take 20, one might be still enough to use!)…
Too often, rushing through locations is my downfall, and has been for most of my photographic life. With the Recreating the Historic Columbia Highway project, most of my photography is rushed, trying to get to as many sites as possible during the day, and often I am shooting not for art but to document sites and conditions of old road and building traces. On family trips, I feel like I am holding up everyone else, so I rush with gear, settings, and even with being absolutely sure that I got the shots I think I got, relying on a quick chimp, at the most, instead of really zooming in on the frame to make sure that the photo is a clear as it seems with a quick glance at the back of the camera.
But on this trip, I did try to slow down and to take some time to be a little more still, a little more sure, and a little better equipped. These are not locations that I expect to be returning to any time soon, and I didn’t want to return home with cards filled with almost but not quite shots.
However, on the first non-travel day of the trip, these practices were not entirely in place yet, and I will admit that it is a life long struggle that won’t fix itself overnight!
On aflitt.com: http://www.aflitt.com/p66748386/h3543e03a
On 500px: http://500px.com/photo/80631853/palette-spring-by-a-f-litt
On Panoramio / Google Earth: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/110815300