Friday, February 18, 2011

Snow Rollers

Snow Rollers

 While riding through Yellowstone National Park last month, I spied numerous small snowballs that had tumbled down the hill along the side of the road.  On closer look, they were like nothing I had ever seen before. 
"Stop the snow coach!" I blurted out and the nine of us piled out of the snow coach to spend some time photographing these curious snow formations.
I coined them "rolling bagels," since many looked like circles with holes in their center. 
Snow Doughnut
Others were rolled tightly, resembling icy cinnamon rolls...And when back lit, their coils just glowed!  During the short time we were stopped, none of us ever saw one in motion. They were haphazardly scattered along the hillside and stopped in their tracks where gravity had decided to give up on them.  
Working ALL Angles
After returning home I searched the Internet to learn more about these unusual snow formations.  I learned that they are officially called "snow rollers," or "snow doughnuts."   If they form in a wider shape, then they might be called "snow bales" or "snow logs."  Once the initial "seed" of the roller is started, it begins to roll. It collects additional snow from the ground as it rolls along, leaving a trail behind it.  
 According to, the following conditions are needed for snow rollers to form: 
• The ground must be covered by a layer of ice to which snow will not stick.
• The layer of ice must be covered by wet, loose snow with a temperature near the melting point of ice. 
• The wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not strong enough to blow them too fast.  (this condition describes snow rollers or snow logs on flat ground)
• Alternatively, gravity can move the snow rollers as when a snowball falls from a tree or cliff, lands on steep hill, and begins to roll down the hill. (This is the type of snow roller we saw...)
Because of this last condition, snow rollers are more common in hilly areas.  However, the precise nature of the conditions required to form snow rollers still makes them a very rare phenomenon. In fact, says "Many professional meteorologists go their whole lives without ever seeing this unusual phenomenon." 
Crash and Burn
How fortunate we were to be in the park during those special weather conditions in order to have seen and photographed these mysterious snow rollers!

To see more images made on my recent Yellowstone trip, please visit my  National Parks and Monuments collection.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Travel Keepsakes

You travel to a new place and bring back gigabytes of images...
Should they sit on a hard drive forever never seeing the light of day?  I think not...
In this age of digital photography and the world of online publishing, the door has been opened to new and innovative ideas to create meaningful keepsakes of your travels.
So often, I travel with other photographers and it is always fun to make a keepsake of our photos and of our adventures from the trip. Two weeks ago, I went to Yellowstone National Park with eight talented photo friends for four days of winter photography in the park. (web gallery soon to be posted...stay tuned!) 
To commemorate our travels, I asked each my travel companions to share 4-5  of their favorite images from the trip to feature on a "souvenir" poster.  I created the poster from their submitted images along with a photo of our group taken in the park at the Continental Divide.  The collection of images sums up many of the highlights of the trip as seen through nine pairs of different and talented eyes and makes a meaningful keepsake of visual memories of the trip...

Another way to commemorate a trip and create a keepsake is the bound photo book, made up of a collection of photos to tell your story.  Using one of the many web sites offering photo books, one can go beyond the traditional "picture book" and add text to tell the story.  I use  I have made many books of my travels through their web site and have had great results with the the color reproduction of my photos.  There are many other online photo book publishers offering similar products, so you would need to do your own research to compare pricing, sizes, options, etc.  Photo books are easy and fun to create and are a wonderful way to share your travels with others.
Here is a link to the book I created for "The Polar Bear 5" - a group of five photographers who traveled to Churchill, Manitoba for a week to photograph polar bears.  The book features our best images along with supplemental images to tell the whole story of our adventures.
Click on this link to see the book:  Polar Bear 5 Book  Enter ID: M916363  and Password: 1392017 in the appropriate blanks to see the book.
So, the next time you come home from a trip loaded with photos, consider one of these creative "hands on" ways to preserve and share your experience with others. (They sure beat home slide shows of days gone by!!) 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fountain Paint Pot- Yellowstone National Park

It has been four days home from my 4th visit to Yellowstone National Park, I continue to be in awe of the sights...This was my 3rd visit in winter, when the park takes on a peaceful feeling and indescribable beauty. While so much of Yellowstone intrigues me, nothing holds my fascination more than the geothermal features in the park.
Of course, no visit to Yellowstone is complete without witnessing the popular and predictable eruption of the world famous icon of the park: Old Faithful Geyser. Our group saw Old Faithful by day with the scenic steaming geyser basin below and by night with the twinkling bright stars above.
However, the features in the park which amaze me the most are the boiling mud pots. I find myself imagining what it was like to be one of the first people to witness such a phenomenon and what it was like to describe it to those who had never imagined such a thing could exist!
John Colter was one of the first white men to see what is now Yellowstone National Park in 1807. His descriptions of the area had many believing that he was grossly exaggerating what he saw: "hidden fires, smoking pits, noxious steams, and smell of brimstone."
When visiting Yellowstone, one realizes Colter's descriptions are more than accurate and quite believable when seen with one's own eyes!!
This week, I have decided to feature an image of boiling mud at the Fountain Paint Pot- an area between the Midway and Lower Geyser Basins. A fast shutter speed was chosen to freeze the action of the bursting bubbles of mud. (Click on image to enlarge)

Canon EOS 5D Mark  II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 1/1000 second @ f 11, ISO 800
The sight and sound of this place is mesmerizing...
Once again, I have supplemented my still image with a short video clip because I feel the still image does not do the subject justice. Click HERE to see the short video.
Now, if only I could share the "smell of brimstone" to complete the total experience!