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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Challenges Of Yellowstone

Salvatore Vasapolli gets off the beaten path, works around the crowds and shoots in fast-changing light. He shares some secrets from his 20 years of photographing this jewel of the American park system.

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challenges of yellowstone
The brink of Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
Salvatore Vasapolli has a long list of photographs in his stock library, but one place that continually has inspired him for more than 20 years is Yellowstone National Park. The reason is simple, he says: It’s unlike any other place on earth.

“One reason that I love Yellowstone is that, out of all the parks I’ve been to, it’s the one park where geology actually lives,” says Vasapolli. “You could stand in front of a glacier all day, and it’s not going to look like it’s moved much. Whereas in Yellowstone, you can go to the geysers and hot springs and actually see the park itself being active. There’s an interaction with the land and the sky and the wildlife. That’s what attracts me to the park; it’s constantly changing.”

Looking back over two decades of photographs, it’s clear to Vasapolli how much the park has changed—both from the influx of tourism as well as the general activity of the region’s geological wonders.

“In Yellowstone, things change dramatically,” Vasapolli explains. “One photograph, Minerva Hot Springs, has been one of the most unique hot springs in Mammoth Terraces. It has moved over the hill, at times up to 100 feet from where it originated. The last time I checked, for the last several years, it has been gone—totally underground. It’s somewhere, but not on the surface. [In the photograph] that formation is probably only a few months old.

challenges of yellowstone
Bison herd at an erupting Old Faithful Geyser, Upper Geyser Basin Minerva twilight, Mammoth Hot Springs

“Tourists can be intense,” Vasapolli says of the park’s evolution. “There are locations, the many tourist areas, where at certain times you have to keep away from them. Crowded. In some areas, you’re shooting from a boardwalk, and if a person is walking on that boardwalk—and they could be hundreds of feet away—you get the vibration. It becomes difficult.”


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