The Found Abstract Art Of Yellowstone

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All images Leica SL and Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90 ASPH

If you visit Yellowstone National Park and drive up the eastern side of its crazy-eight loop, the world is precise, rectilinear, even as it is, of course, wildly gorgeous and gorgeously wild.  A gorge in fact, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, shows how the park got its name, and if you are a photographer, you are drawn to take certain pictures, year after year, each time reveling in the precision and sharpness of your lens capturing every facet of the rock faces in the plummet to the water.

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Ah, but after you’ve spent time crossing Dunraven Pass and seeing the movement of the animals in the Lamar Valley, when after a day or so it is time to head back down the west side of the park, things get weirder.  This is the land of the fumarole, of the geyser, a steaming, smoking remnant of the volcano underneath your feet. You leave the world where the sharpness of your lens is what matters and enter a place where the art that’s thrust before you everywhere you turn has become unmoored from familiar geometry.

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Once you’re in the Norris Geyser Basin, you are in a completely unfamiliar place, mystical in many ways.  And before you know it, you’re surrounded by pure abstraction and found art.

Yellowstone AbstractYellowstone is sublime, an environment worthy of Rilke.  As you work your way further down its western road, it becomes nothing short of magical.  The herds of bison you’ve seen earlier in the day seem as far away as the grid pattern of Manhattan. Things get very strange.  And found art, nature’s Jackson Pollacks, is everywhere you look.

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Fountain Paint Pot, a perennial stop on our visits there, is different every time, the bacteria pools a completely different color then when last you were there.  Which makes sense, since they’re piping hot and exist in a fierce environment.

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You begin to wonder how the surface of the Earth would look as a giant photograph hung on a large living room wall.

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By the time you get to Grand Prismatic Spring, you know that no human could possibly compete with the caldera of Yellowstone in creating non-representational beauty.

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The Earth is a beautiful place, but the Lower Geyser Basin is more than simply beautiful.  It is, in its own way, terrifying, even as you marvel at it, jaw agape.

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Lurking behind the question of how nature determined its design is, of course, the world’s greatest mystery.  Where did this come from? How did it happen to be here?  Answer that and millions will follow your words down the centuries.

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And when you leave, and head back to your safe existence, you do so determined to come back to this repository of glorious natural art.  And you do so, year after year, like visiting the Louvre, or in this case, Nature’s MOMA.

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For more images of Greater Yellowstone in color, go here.  And if you’d prefer black and white, go here.

One Response to “The Found Abstract Art Of Yellowstone”

  1. Beautiful. And magical.

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