A Photo From My Last Space Mission (Sigma DP2s)

Surface of Planet X

Sigma DP2s, ISO 50, f/8, 8.0 secs.

“Here’s a photo of a new planet from my last space mission.”

I would love to be able to say that someday but I have to be realistic, because these sorts of missions are a little more expensive than what I can get sponsorship for from the likes of, say, GoLite or the Astronaut Ice Cream Shop, and then there’s the whole logistical problem of trying to send the photo back to Twitter in planetary systems with limited satellite coverage, etc.

So for now, I’ll settle for illusions.

I’ve walked past this hot spring in Yellowstone National Park dozens of times, but last weekend was the first time where everything clicked: soft light during the evening of a severely rainy day while I was carrying a camera capable of capturing its color and smoothing its bubbles, with a tripod, and a few key filters.

I’ve been experimenting with an interesting setup with the Sigma DP2s lately in an effort to eke out as much image quality as possible with as little post-processing (computer time) as possible, and this image is one of the first satisfactory results of those efforts:

I’m using the Lensmate 52mm filter adapter on the Sigma DP2s with a Singh-Ray LB Color Combo Polarizer and a Heliopan 3-stop ND filter. All of this is mounted to a Gitzo 1541 tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-25 ball head. I use a cheap hotel shower cap for rain protection while I’m composing and adjusting settings, and a tiny viscose towel to sponge off the little drops of water that accumulate on the filters during rain, right before the snap. A Photon Microlight allows me to see the buttons on the camera when the light fades. On this trip, I also carried a Micro Four Thirds camera (Panasonic GF1) to take side by side shots that reminded me why I love the Foveon sensor and abhor the MFT format for landscapes, which makes me spend more time in front of the computer for lesser results for uglier prints.

The only post processing I did on this image was a small bit of contrast adjustment, and a little bit of burning along the top to create the illusion of a space horizon. The rest is handled in camera by the Sigma DP2s, and delivered in its exceptional RAW files.

Breakup, Yellowstone Lake (Sigma DP2s)


Breakup, Yellowstone Lake: May 28, 2010

Sigma DP2s

This is about the time of year when the Chukchi Sea begins to break up along the shores of Kotzebue.

It coincides with breakup on our version of an arctic ocean, Yellowstone Lake, which is the largest alpine lake in the United States.

That forest on the opposite shore in the photo above, really isn’t on the opposite shore. It’s an island. The opposite shore is way, way, way out there. Here’s a shot of the opposite shore:


Opposite Shores, Yellowstone Lake

Sigma DP2s

The Bacterial Beauty of Yellowstone (Sigma DP2s)

Thermophiles, Yellowstone National Park

Sigma DP2s, ISO 50, f/14, 1.3 sec.

What you see in the photo is not the result of a science fair experiment.

It’s one of the reasons our family loves Yellowstone, and it’s part of why we are spending the holiday weekend here instead of going to a KOA.

This particular formation is spooky because it changes every time we see it – it has personality.


Tower Creek, Yellowstone National Park (Sigma DP1)


Tower Creek, Yellowstone National Park

Sigma DP1, ISO 100, f/11, 1/8 sec.

Thomas Moran’s less famous painting of Tower Creek shows a wispy blue stripe meandering its way through yellow stone cliffs, which is sort of how it looks in the creek’s higher reaches.

But if you trek down the creek, which is neither a meander nor particularly safe, Tower Creek becomes a rumbling bumbling bouldered brook that can sweep you during the high water season right over the brink of the 132-foot Tower Fall.

I like the color of the creek water in Yellowstone soon after snowmelt peaks and just before the water clears completely, because creekside vegetation is rich in color, and the creek water still has enough silt to reflect magnificent hues of green in it, like the photo above, which was taken early in the morning before direct sunlight ruins the view. I used a tripod of course, and a low perspective, which required me to stand right in the middle of the crashing rapids, hanging on for dear life, because Tower Fall was below me.

Cold temperatures and cold water meant that I could get into the car and turn the heater on and warm up, and lightweight hiking pants dried fast so I wasn’t too uncomfortable for a day of packrafting and hiking. By the end of the day, I was a long ways away from the ice cream shoppe at Tower Junction, dozing under a tarp in SE Yellowstone, 15 miles from the boat dock and 9 days away from my final destination near Jackson Hole.

I love Yellowstone because there are plenty of photographic views never seen by a million tourists every year because they don’t have waders. I love Yellowstone because there are remote camps visited by an infinitesimally small proportion of those millions.

I love Yellowstone because I’ve learned to escape the masses with a little bit, or a lot of bits, of effort, as needed.

I love Yellowstone because it’s really big, and still really wild.