Fire in the Hole

The Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park must be one of the most aptly named bodies of water. It enters the Upper Geyser basin just behind Old Faithful through a heavy forest.

Geyser Hill trail across Firehole River

Geyser Hill trail across Firehole River

It loses tree cover as it enters the Upper Geyser basin.

Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park

Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park

Super heated water from thermal features enter the river. The constant temperature is a home to a multitude of colorful thermophile (heat loving) bacteria. The River runs near iconic Old Faithful Lodge.

Old Faithful Lodge

Old Faithful Lodge

Bison graze for meager food along the warm banks of the river. The river is only 21 miles long as it flows from the Continental Divide, into the Madison River which is one of the three main tributaries of the Missouri which joins the Mississippi as the longest river system in the contintent.

Bison along the Firehole River

Bison along the Firehole River

Home for the holidays

I usually choose a nature scene for my Friday Foto posts. But most of my time is spent in the urban environment of downtown Chicago. So for the end of the year, I'll post some of my favorite shots when I had my camera downtown this year.

Chase Bank, Dearborn Street

Chase Bank, Dearborn Street

First, a trip along Dearnborn Street. Look up near Madison and you get this view. Down the block is great local hat store.

Optimo Hats, Dearborn Street

Optimo Hats, Dearborn Street

Heading north, you get to the Chicago River.

Dearborn Street Bridge, Chicago Riverwalk

Dearborn Street Bridge, Chicago Riverwalk

Then crossing the river on the Michigan Avenue bridge with the Tribune Tower and Wrigley Building.

Michigan Avenue bridge in the Windy City

Michigan Avenue bridge in the Windy City

It seems some of my favorites this year were of bridges on the river. Sunrise on LSD.

Lake Shore Drive bridge sunrise

Lake Shore Drive bridge sunrise

Merchandise Mart Elevated Train stop

Merchandise Mart Elevated Train stop

OK, the last bridge shot is of the El going over the river.

Time for some cold weather looking out over Lake Michigan from Northerly Island.

Lighthouse and water crib Lake Michigan from Northerly Island

Lighthouse and water crib Lake Michigan from Northerly Island

A final view back at the skyline on a cold, December morning.

December skyline

December skyline

Who's watching?

The press has been reporting stories of Snowy Owl incursion from their Arctic home into the upper Midwest this year. Ornithologists still don't seem to know with certainty why these incursions occur. The theory used to be that lemming and other rodent population in the north crashed sending the owls south to find food. The current theory is that a large lemming population in the Spring led to a lot of owl births and so the young move south into new territory because of the large numbers. In 2010 there was an incursion of Great Grey Owls and my son Dan and I traveled to Minnesota and were fortunate to find some.

Great Gray Owl, Aitken County, Minnesota

Great Gray Owl, Aitken County, Minnesota

A few years ago, I read reports of a Great Horned Owl nest in St. Cloud, Florida when I was visiting and was fortunate to have one of the chicks raise its head above the feathers from leftover food its parents brought.

Great Horned Owl chick, St. Cloud, FL

Great Horned Owl chick, St. Cloud, FL

One of my favorite encounters with an owl was finding a Burrowing Owl on a hike in Florida. Unfortunately, I can't find the images. Grrr. I did find this image of a captive Eastern Screech Owl that was being rescued in St. Augustine, FL.

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

When Snowy Owls had an incursion a few years ago that went down to Florida, one found a good source of food among the rodents and other creatures at Montrose Harbor in Chicago. I was not locating it, when in the distance I saw a white bird flying. As I looked through my lens, it flew toward me, until it got so close I couldn't focus and it flew a few feet next to me. What a first encounter! I got some good flight shots and then this one when it landed nearby. If you find reports of Snowies in your area this year, I hope you can find one of these magnificent creatures.

Snowy Owl, Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL

Snowy Owl, Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL

Warmth

A small herd of bison spent the night on a small rise near Old Faithful geyser where the snow was melted because of the thermal feature underground. The constant mist from the geysers covered the bison in frost as they huddled together.

Frosty cow bison

Frosty cow bison

The bison began to rise along with sun to move to new ground.

Frost-covered yearling

Frost-covered yearling

A path was soon created as the herd moved into the valley.

Bull and cows plow through the snow

Bull and cows plow through the snow

Soon much of the herd were heading in the valley along the tree line.

Winter line of bison, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Winter line of bison, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

One mother and her calf, who insisted on milk, remained behind as the sun got higher in the sky behind the mist of Old Faithful.

Sunrise, Old Faithful Geyser

Sunrise, Old Faithful Geyser

Ancestral homes

The Antiquities Act became law in 1906 in significant part to protect ancient American archaeologic sites as well as vast natural areas such as Grand Canyon. The Act gives presidents power to designate and protect these national treasures as National Monuments. Navajo National Monument was created in 1909 by President Howard Taft to protect these remote ruins from further destruction by vandals and souvenir hunters.

The red rocks that make up the geography of this area reflect their color back up to the clouds.

Navajo National Monument, Arizona

Navajo National Monument, Arizona

Betatakin cliff dwelling and Keet Seel are two major protected sites in the monument. The surrounding protection also prohibits mineral exploration and extraction. President Trump's removal of similar protection from most of Bears Ears and Grand Escalante National Monuments this week allow mineral extraction such as fracking which results in increased seismic activity which will destroy nearby ruins.

The pinyon pine nuts were a significant part of the ancient culture that lived here. When we visited, the nuts were ripe. Just outside the park, many people were harvesting in the pinyon forests surrounding the area.

Pinyon pine

Pinyon pine

Unfortunately, our short visit did not allow us to reserve a ranger led hike in Betatakin as the people in this image were enjoying.

Betatakin alcove hike

Betatakin alcove hike

Monumental Vistas

Monument Valley in Navajo Nation on the Arizona-Utah border is iconic as any location in the Southwest U.S. From early Westerns to Forrest Gump to car commercials today, the buttes serve as classic backgrounds of the West. I'd never been to this remote area, but several years ago, I got a shot from a plane window.

Monument Valley at 30,000 feet

Monument Valley at 30,000 feet

Sentinel Mesa in the top right is in Utah. Immediately below that in the right center, in Arizona, is West Mitten, Merrick Butte and East Mitten.

West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

East Mitten Butte

East Mitten Butte

The Tribal Park visitor center provides a terrace on John Wayne's Viewpoint of West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte. In the aerial shot above, the white visitor center building is in the upper center next to the large mesa. Two years ago, I ran into a man in a wheelchair in Chicago who said he was an extra in several John Wayne movies. He sure looked as though he could've been.

John Wayne's Point, Monument Valley

John Wayne's Point, Monument Valley

Unlike the red sandstone of the buttes, Algathla Peak is a volcanic plug--the eroded igneous rock that's left from an ancient volcano. It is easy to feel why it is sacred to the Navajos.

Algathla Peak, El Capitan, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Algathla Peak, El Capitan, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Just north of Monument Valley is Bears Ears National Monument, protected by President Obama. For the first time ever, it is expected that on Monday a president will remove the protections of National Monument land reducing the size of Bears Ears Monument by 85%. This will place thousands of ancient archaeologic sites at risk, make native holy sites vulnerable and open the land to mineral exploitation. http://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2017/11/30/report-trump-to-cut-crucial-landscapes-out-of-grand-staircase-and-bears-ears/

Capitol experience

Capitol Reef National Park has remarkable sandstone features. Cathedral Valley road requires four wheel drive to get through the rough road, but we gave up before trying to cross a wash that was flowing from the previous night's rain. Here's a view of Temple of the Sun monolith on the left side.

Cathedral Valley Road view

Cathedral Valley Road view

Cottonwoods grow along the Fremont River that bisects the park and provide a nice foreground for the sandstone features.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Mormons settled along the Fremont River in the 19th century and planted fruit groves and named the community Fruita. The Park Service maintains the groves and you can pick fruit to eat, and after a hike get some incredible fruit pies to eat and enjoy the view. This trail rises above Fruita and leads to a massive hanging canyon.

Cohab Canyon trail above Fruita

Cohab Canyon trail above Fruita

Rural Utah Autumn

Autumn in the Wasatch mountains in Utah really surprised me for the lovely rural scenes and dramatic color. Since there wasn't much fall color in Illinois this year, I'm still living off this majestic color.

Aspen ridgeline

Aspen ridgeline

Plenty of ranchland and horses.

Autumn horses

Autumn horses

Plenty of active and abandoned barns along the roadways.

Sunrise Utah Route 16

Sunrise Utah Route 16

Northern Harriers and other raptors searched the ranchlands.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Magical arrival

It is unfair to describe a hike in the Wyoming wild to be mundane, but a trail up a rise at Fossil Butte National Monument was lovely and peaceful, but not especially photographic. A ranger described some wildlife I might see, and I really wanted to photograph a badger. But no luck. The wind was fierce and darkness was coming on, so I needed to get back to the car.

Then I turned, and on the ridge of the butte were some bull elks silhouetted against the sky. Then I could see dozens, no hundreds, of elk in the shadows of the hills. As I got to the car, I was able to get this image of the sun setting.

Sunset, Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming

Sunset, Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming

As it got dark, the elk were bugling and crying out and you could hear the bulls battling with antlers clanging together. It darkened and the sounds seemed to get louder as the stars got brighter.

Milky Way, Fossil Butte National Monument

Milky Way, Fossil Butte National Monument

Here is some audio from my camera. Not great recording, but it will give a sense of the night sounds of the elk. At about 12 and 15 seconds are the indistinct sounds of antlers coliding.

Walls

Capitol Reef National Park in south central Utah is a long, narrow park encompassing a 100 mile long wrinkle in the earth (a monocline). It is nearly impossible to cross -- why early European-American settlers called it a reef, like an uncrossable ocean barrier. The Fremont River trickles through and sustained the Fremont Culture beginning about 500 CE. They left petroglyphs on canyon walls.

Fremont culture petroglyphs

Fremont culture petroglyphs

Some current residents keep watch along the wall.

Sagebrush lizard

Sagebrush lizard

Utah Highway 24 is the only way across the Park today, but pioneers brought their wagons through Capitol gorge, a narrow path between steep canyon walls.

Capitol Gorge Trail

Capitol Gorge Trail

Capitol Gorge still has remnants of the early electric lines that were strung through this access, and pioneers and later travelers added their names in the walls next to ancient petroglyphs.

Pioneer Register

Pioneer Register

These markings, too, have their current protector.

Scorpion

Scorpion

We left the red rock walls of the Park at Panorama Point watching the sun set and the moon rise.

Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Bucolic

Bucolic: origin from the Greek boukolos, cowherd or herdsman.

Driving in the Wasatch Mountains outside Salt Lake City was a revelation. I never expected flaming autumn colors. Or open range. With cowboys and dogs herding sheep along the road, and then around a corner more cowboys with cattle in the middle of the road.

Heading back to Salt Lake City on the state highway, I saw a little dirt road beckoning, and a quick exit led to a scene I won't forget.

Autumn in the Wasatch Mountains

Autumn in the Wasatch Mountains

After soaking in the wide grandeur, it was time to capture some details.

Aspen

Aspen

Twin firs

Twin firs

Utah Pastoral

Utah Pastoral

And I was readying to leave, the cows circled for a pleasant composition. A very fortunate detour.

Wasatch bucolic

Wasatch bucolic

Arches National Park

This park holds the world's largest concentration of natural arches. Landscape Arch is the longest. A football field could fit underneath it. The day started overcast, rainy and sleeting.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

There were lots of Ravens in Utah, and I really wanted a picture. So this fellow accommodated me and came by for a visit while we sitting and enjoying the view of Delicate Arch. This is the arch depicted on Utah license plates. Blue sky was starting to peek through.

Raven and Delicate Arch

Raven and Delicate Arch

My favorite, though, was Double Arch.

Double Arch

Double Arch

Three arches are in this sunset scene of the Windows section of the park under the snowy LaSal mountains. It's easy to see the one arch on the left. The two in the center are a bit of a challenge to spot.

Windows, Arches National Park, Utah

Windows, Arches National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah is one of the most remote locations in the U.S.. However, I had to wait for a bus load of Chinese tourists to finish their group photo before getting an image of on of its iconic locations: Mesa Arch.

Mesa Arch at sunrise

Mesa Arch at sunrise

Then it was time to peer over the edge.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The northern part of the Park, between the Colorado and Green Rivers is called Island in the Sky and provides vast vistas.

Grand Point, Canyonlands

Grand Point, Canyonlands

A few morning clouds lingered in the canyon of the Green River.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Aliens on the border

Saguaro National Park is in the Sonora Desert just north of the Arizona border with Mexico. I drove into the western unit of the park near sunset. It is an alien world.

Here's a prickypear cactus with its arms open wide to welcome you. You may not wish to return the embrace.

Pricklypear

Pricklypear

If that didn't get your attention, continuing the welcome is Jumping Cholla.

backlit cholla

backlit cholla

Time for a close encounter with Barrel cactus. You can see one behind the prickly pear above.

Barrel cactus

Barrel cactus

After sunset, rich colors fill the sky and Tucson mountains.

Dusk in Tucson Mountain District, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Dusk in Tucson Mountain District, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

The ancient rulers of this land, the Saguaro cactus, great the night and the rising moon.

Giant Saguaro and tiny moon

Giant Saguaro and tiny moon

Fall Forward

The trees are changing here and some promising color seems to be on the way. Here's hoping some Midwest scenes such as these this year.

Bear Head Lake, MN

Bear Head Lake, MN

Devils Lake, WI

Devils Lake, WI

Eagle Cliff, Starved Rock State Park, IL

Eagle Cliff, Starved Rock State Park, IL

Iowa Farm

Iowa Farm

Cosmos

Mid-September in Illinois often brings foggy mornings. This year, the fog arrived today. I managed a quick walk to a nearby park looking for some images of trees in fog. However, the flowers were wonderful in the soft light, so I took them instead.

Sometimes the Cosmos cannot be ignored.

White Cosmos in the autumn

White Cosmos in the autumn

Purple Cosmos, Wilder Park

Purple Cosmos, Wilder Park

Looking out to sea

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Florida and the Caribbean looking out to sea and worried about what awaits.

 

Sunrise, Satellite Beach, FL

Sunrise, Satellite Beach, FL

Your angle of view

Black Skimmers are delightful to watch as they hunt for food. True to their name, they skim along the water with their lower mandible knifing the water until they get a fish to snap up, or actually the top one snapping down. This delightful day, I met a photographer who works at the Cape and we had a great day of shooting at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with some Skimmers repeatedly flying by us.

Black Skimmer fishing at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Black Skimmer fishing at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

They lose a bit of grace when standing on the beach. Black Skimmer's feathers were among those prized in the 19th Century hat craze and approached extinction.

Black Skimmers on the beach

Black Skimmers on the beach

This one is showing off the Skimmer's unusual lower mandible that is much longer than the upper one.

Black Skimmer and Royal Terns

Black Skimmer and Royal Terns

But I had no idea how knife-like their mandible is until this one scratched its head and gave a view from the top.

Black Skimmer's knife-like mandible

Black Skimmer's knife-like mandible

The flash

I hope you haven't seen too many eclipse photos to tire of them, since I have some to share. Never seeing a total eclipse, I wanted to experience totality so went to Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. I had an open spot in mind that I'd hiked to four years before in an area called Bell Smith Springs that had some open sky.

I got there early and a few photographers had set up tripods and families had set up blankets and picnics, and young kids played in the water catching crawdads.

 

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

I envisioned getting a reflection of the eclipse in the water, but realized the sun would be too high in the sky.

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

Eventually about 50 people gathered in the area as the sky began to darken.

view 125253.jpg

Here's a composite of some phases of the eclipse.

 

solar eclipse Shawnee NF-363 composite.jpg

Although it had gotten quite dusky, suddenly it was as if the light switch was turned off, and the sun replaced with an odd slate blue ring. The corona seemed to spread and spread as the solar winds reached out. Later when looking at the images, I noticed the flares near the surface at about 3 and 5 o'clock in this image.

Totality. August 21, 2017

Totality. August 21, 2017

And with a flash, time started back again.

solar eclipse Shawnee NF-472.jpg

What awaits around the corner

Nothing is more important to a photographer than great light. Then once you have the light, you want a subject. Driving across West Virginia several springs ago, clouds were clearing near sunset. Then a rainbow began to form. The light was turning golden. I was moving down the highway, but no good subjects for a composition.

Then a sign for Little Beaver State Park. Potential. Speed the car in. A lake. A fisherwoman. The last light.

 

Sunset rainbow. Little Beaver State Park, West Virginia

Sunset rainbow. Little Beaver State Park, West Virginia