My Favorite Day

So, I recently realized that my blog posts have been coming in at over a thousand words each, which might be excessive for a blog with a photography theme (aka photoblog), so I might start making these shorter and posting more often. If I knew how to make one of those polls with the radio buttons “Agree” and “Disagree,” I’d have one sitting right here. With that, I could take the “Pulse of Buckstopphoto Nation,” as they might word it on ESPN. But for now, my only choice is to refer you to the comments section below if you want to cast a vote.

One other slight change: I’m going to start including some basic image-capture info in the caption of each photo, per an email request from a reader.

A couple of Sundays ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting one of my long-time Flickr friends, a local wedding photographer named Daniel Dunlap. He read on my Contact Me page that I was interested in meeting up with Omaha-area photographers, so he sent me an email. We talked shop over some German beers at 1892, trading tips and insights. You’ll notice immediately from his Flickr photostream that he is a proud father and a doting husband, as well as a talented portraitist.

Daniel also has a trait common to many photographers I’ve met in person and corresponded with online—an eager willingness to spend time sharing advice on equipment, resources, and techniques. If you’ve browsed through the discussion area of many groups on Flickr, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t and are interested in learning, it’s a great place to start.

One of the best pieces of photography advice came last year from another one of my Flickr friends, who told me to march right down to my local library and pick up The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby and Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I did, and I read every word. I offered the same advice to my brother, Justin, after he got his new camera a few weeks ago.

Morning, October 5, 2010

| Day 1 | Day 2 (part one) | Day 2 (part two) | Day 3 (part one) | Day 3 (part two) | Day 3 (part three) | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 |

When we awoke before sunrise on Tuesday, October 5, 2010, the previous day had been my new favorite-ever day for photography. I did not know it then, but it would take less than 12 hours to replace that title. Maybe it was fate. After all, I have always known that October 5th holds its own fiery magic, since it was on that day in 1933 that my grandmother was thrust upon this Earth, poised to improve it from that day forward.

That morning, with suitcases in hand, we descended the curved staircase of Stage Coach Inn in West Yellowstone, Montana, into perhaps the creepiest of all hotel lobbies, with a hundred vacant eyes of stuffed buffaloes, moose, elk, bears, wolves, and big-horn sheep watching us as we walked. We decided to skip the free continental breakfast, since even at that unreasonably early hour, the tiny dining room was spilling over with a huge group of foreign tourists clamoring for the muffins and coffee. Instead, we headed toward McDonald’s for the second morning in a row.

It was another frosty Yellowstone morning, although slightly cloudier than the morning before. The first agenda item that day was to head quickly over to Artist Point to hopefully catch the low-angled morning sun skimming over the Lower Falls. Even without stopping, it would be at least a full hour’s drive, and I experienced only a few moments of weakness along the way. The scene below tortured me for a mile or so after we had passed it, forcing me to turn around to find it again. I’m so glad I did, as it’s one of my favorite photographs from the whole trip.

Buffaloes in front of Mount Holmes and Dome Mountain, Grand Loop Road, Yellowstone National Park; f/16, 1/8 sec, ISO 100

As you might remember, we left off last time at Artist Point, with plans to return the following morning in search of better lighting. Well, it wasn’t much better when we arrived to find Artist Point nearly deserted, with only one other photographer admiring the view, a stark contrast from the crowd the previous evening.

The three of us got to talking about the bitter cold that morning, and it turns out he’s a professional photographer from Gresham, Oregon. Oddly enough, his name is also Buck (Layton), and he was kind enough to share one of his own techniques with me—a process that involves combining two slightly different overexposures of the same scene (tripod required) to create a dreamy effect. The results are illustrated in his Metolius River Album, which is part of his Impressions of Nature Collection. Meanwhile, Teri stood by, patient as ever, as I shot several long exposures of the falls.

Lower Falls of Yellowstone River from Artist Point, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park; f/7.1, 30 sec, ISO 100

Lower Falls of Yellowstone River from Artist Point, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park; f/9, 30 sec, ISO 100

Lower Falls of Yellowstone River from Artist Point, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park; f/16, 1/2 sec, ISO 100

Our plans for the rest of the day were to make our way slowly through West Thumb and to revisit the Old Faithful area to find a hot spring called Morning Glory, so we had plenty of time to explore the surprisingly high number of vantage points along the north rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone before heading south along Yellowstone River toward Yellowstone Lake. My favorite of such points was a concrete platform right on top of the Lower Falls themselves, which can be accessed only by a long and tortuous zigzag path. The platform affords an incredible view of the canyon, opposite that offered by Artist Point. On one side of the platform is a view of the rushing river; with one ninety-degree turn, you get to watch all that water plunge hundreds of feet downward, the drop creating an enormous plume of mist. The experience is divinely vertiginous, the thunderous falls providing the soundtrack as you cling to the rail.

Above Lower Falls of Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park; f/10, 30 sec, ISO 100

Above Lower Falls of Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park; f/10, 30 sec, ISO 100

Lower Falls of Yellowstone River from Lookout Point, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park; f/11, 30 sec, ISO 100

By the way, I’m already at 1005 words and counting. So much for a shorter post. I promise to try harder for brevity next time.

This next one is another of my favorite shots from the trip.

Lower Falls of Yellowstone River from Grand View, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park; f/16, 25 sec, ISO 100

  • sarah - ummm three up from the bottom–the b/w one with the ghostly figures…AWESOME. and slightly creepy. but mostly awesome!
    all the b/w shots are superb. i love the textures in the land! thanks for adding the exif info…i rarely shoot higher apertures so this helps me to learn!ReplyCancel

  • Daniel Dunlap - I’m a huge fan of your work and I’m completely honored for the mention. Thank you Buck! We need to get a beer again soon and maybe listen to some more didgeridoo music! HAHAReplyCancel

  • Diane - Love the advise you got ( a process that involves combining two slightly different overexposures of the same scene)! Awesome results and that one lone tree below. Also the recommended books! Great post along with your word usage (my new favorite-ever day).ReplyCancel

  • Judy Knutson - Again…great work, Buck!ReplyCancel

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