Perhaps at no other time do I feel the love of God surrounding me, carrying me along, and permeating the deepest nooks and crannies of my soul, than when I am out in creation forming compositions with my camera. And among the varied landscape beauty that is America, there are a handful of places that God’s gracious love feels especially personal for me. Yellowstone National Park is one of these.
Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife and rightly so, but what most consumes me when photographing there is the other-wordly landscape of hot springs and mineral pools. I find these remarkable geothermal features fascinating in their abstract beauty, and to photograph them makes me feel somewhat like a painter putting colorful brushstroke to canvas, with a strong sense that I am making ‘art’. That is not always the feeling I get as a photographer, and I relish how this wild landscape sets me free to explore and play.
I was excited to return to this magnificent corner of Wyoming a couple months ago. The first place I headed upon evening arrival was the upper terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. This place evokes a sense of wonder as I roam about the mineral formations, often grinning childishly and even chuckling out loud at times in sheer delight at the crazy visual goodness before me. On this particular evening storm clouds had moved in, softening the light to enhance a satisfying composition of golden patterns of curving lines in the terrace. Moving further down the trail I was struck by the skeleton figures of two barren trees and used them as a foreground overlooking a mineral flow that resembled the best special effects from a modern science fiction movie. The moment of grace occurred when late-day sunlight made its way under the cloud canopy and gently highlighted the colorful steaming terrace, set against the backdrop of dark blue rain clouds.
A second day of scouting and shooting brought a short but steep hike up the face of a hill overlooking the famous Grand Prismatic Spring. This largest of all hot springs in America and third largest in the world is surrounded by a riot of color that overloads the visual mind with its in-your-face glory. The usual tourist path to see Grand Prismatic is along a boardwalk at ground level, but the view afforded from trekking up the adjacent hillside is more than worth the effort. From this high ground I was able to look down on the swirling bands of bold color, and selected a telephoto lens to concentrate the eye on the best section of landscape candy. Steam rising from the spring added another element of mystery to this spectacular spot in one of America’s most beloved national parks.
Here is where the love of God becomes so tangible to me: first, that he blesses me simply to be in this stunning place! And that he has given me eyes to see, a spirit to resonate with the unique beauty, and a craft that allows me to physically engage it rather than to only observe. It’s truly the Creator’s art, not mine, yet he invites me to come and experience it and use vision and tools to make something out of his raw materials that I can call my ‘own’ work. For me this is pure amazing grace! What profoundly personal love from my Father in heaven, the One who knit me together in my mother’s womb and frees me to live out of his exact design for me.