Temperature: The Visual Difference

People are often shocked when I tell them I'm hoping for the coldest possible temperatures when visiting Yellowstone National Park in Winter. They remain wide-eyed and shivering as I continue with descriptions of ice crystals, foggy atmospheres and the beauty associated with cold. Not that Yellowstone isn't beautiful when it's warmer, it's just that we rarely see the formations associated with real cold anymore.  I miss those formations so I reminisce while my listener's chattering teeth go unnoticed.

Below are two photos of the same location at very different temperatures to illustrate my point.

Taken on February 13. Temperatures were in the teens overnight and about 36°F at the time of this photo. It shows the microbiological mats and dead saplings of a hot spring outflow. Temperatures are too warm to form many ice crystals or create an ice fog so we see more of the changes hotsprings create in the landscape.

Taken on February 13. Temperatures were in the teens overnight and about 36°F at the time of this photo. It shows the microbiological mats and dead saplings of a hot spring outflow. Temperatures are too warm to form many ice crystals or create an ice fog so we see more of the changes hotsprings create in the landscape.

This image of the same location taken on February 6 has a totally different feel. Overnight temperatures dipped to -33°F and hovered around -25°F at the time of the photo. Ice fog limits visibility and the dead saplings seen in the image above are now 'Snow-ghosts' covered in rime frost. 

This image of the same location taken on February 6 has a totally different feel. Overnight temperatures dipped to -33°F and hovered around -25°F at the time of the photo. Ice fog limits visibility and the dead saplings seen in the image above are now 'Snow-ghosts' covered in rime frost. 

I'm not saying that one view is better than the other. Nor am I encouraging visitors to come only when it's really cold. The best time to visit Yellowstone, or any National Park, is when you have the time available. I am saying that beauty comes in many forms at any temperature, in any weather. Only those brave enough and prepared enough to venture into the weather will have the opportunity to see that beauty for themselves. Never let the weather keep you indoors. 

Nearly Alone in Old Faithful's Basin

Day four of this trip found us in blizzard conditions. Heavy snow and wind gusts approaching 40 mph closed many roads in Yellowstone and kept the less intrepid from venturing out of the Snowlodge. Not my group of adventurers! WE bundled up and sallied forth into the maelstrom, the spirits of Shackleton and Scott at our backs. Okay, so we had a warm hotel dispensing hot buttered rums and irish  coffees upon our return but still ... we were more adventurous than most.

See the resemblance to Shackleton's band of Antarctic adventures? Okay, I admit we weren't pulling boats across the ice and we ate bison at the restaurant instead of sled dog cooked over an oil burner but we are a product of our time and we did go outside in challenging weather and had a great experience.

See the resemblance to Shackleton's band of Antarctic adventures? Okay, I admit we weren't pulling boats across the ice and we ate bison at the restaurant instead of sled dog cooked over an oil burner but we are a product of our time and we did go outside in challenging weather and had a great experience.

This coyote was one to the few living things we saw in an area known for it's crowds. We didn't see it for long as the coyote crawled under the boardwalk to escape the storm and didn't come out again as far as we could tell.

This coyote was one to the few living things we saw in an area known for it's crowds. We didn't see it for long as the coyote crawled under the boardwalk to escape the storm and didn't come out again as far as we could tell.

Flat light on days like this, while not the best for grand landscape photography, is excellent for colorful detail shots like the edge of this warm spring. The green algae and red/brown grass really 'pop' in grey light.

Flat light on days like this, while not the best for grand landscape photography, is excellent for colorful detail shots like the edge of this warm spring. The green algae and red/brown grass really 'pop' in grey light.

Hanging in front of Castle Geyser. Dressing properly is the key to enjoying days like these.

Hanging in front of Castle Geyser. Dressing properly is the key to enjoying days like these.