A Case of the Blues

As you might have already noticed, I’m not usually one to shoot grand vista shots.  I’m captivated by abstract photos that showcase color, texture, and form.  This is one of the many reasons why I love to visit Yellowstone National Park.  The thermal pools are a photographer’s dream land.

The color is caused by tiny bacteria that thrive in hot water. The color of the water indicates the temperature.  Clear represents the hottest water because bacteria is no able to survive.  This is followed by blue, green, yellow, and finally orange.  Some thermal features such as Grand Prismatic Spring feature all of these colors.

On this trip, I returned to my favorite thermal feature, the Black Pool, at the West Thumb Geyser Basin.  The name is clearly deceiving.

Calm Waters (Fuji Velvia 4x5 | Nikkor 210mm)

I don’t recall the depth of this pool, but I believe it’s somewhere around 50 feet.  That’s one big vat of boiling water.  The beautiful shade of blue suggests that it is VERY hot.  I included the edge of the pool to give a sense of perspective, and to ground the shot.

Shooting at this location certainly requires patience.  The tripod must be perched on the railing.  This means that anyone walking by, or leaning against the railing will certainly disturb the camera.  Secondly, I needed to wait for the steam to blow away from the camera. These two are not a big deal.   By standing there long enough, I had many moments to myself with cooperating steam.

On this particular afternoon, I experienced a serious equipment failure.  This photo was shot on quickload film.  Each individual sheet of film is encased in a lightproof black envelope with a metal clip to pinch the open end.  The other necessary piece of equipment is called a quickload holder.  This piece is inserted in the back of the camera.  When I am ready to shoot, the quickload is slipped into the quickload holder, I lift the envelope to reveal the film, make my exposure, lower the envelope, and the metal clip is reattached.

The first photo (above) was without incident.  I often times take a second photo just for piece of mind.  This time when I removed the quickload from the holder, the metal clip was not properly secured.  The clip was attached, but there was a 4mm gap which leaked light into the envelope.  I immediately realized there was a problem, and inserted a third quickload — same problem.

I packed up my gear and called it a day.

After returning to camp later that evening, I grabbed a sacrificial quickload of Provia 100, and tested the holder in sunlight.  It passed the test with flying colors. I am unsure why the quickload holder failed for two consecutive shots but it seemed to cooperate for the rest of the trip.

Since quickload film is no longer available, I suppose this will not be an issue in the near future.  I still have a few boxes of quickloads in the freezer though.

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