Diamond Dust

Canon 1ds Mark 3, ISO 200, FL 100 mm, 1/800 sec @ f/8.0

Canon 1ds Mark 3, ISO 200, FL 100 mm, 1/800 sec @ f/8.0

 

Last January, I spent about 10 days in Yellowstone N.P.  I had been to Yellowstone several times but always in the late summer or fall.  This was my first winter trip to the park and after this experience, my plans are always to visit in the winter.  The park is almost surreal – snowy bison, thermals next to frost laden trees, very few people, and the ability to hear the wolves calling in the distance.  It is really a glorious feeling of frozen, quiet solitude to be there in the winter.

I also experienced something that I had never heard of nor seen before – diamond dust.  Diamond dust is a cloud of tiny ice crystals that form near the ground in clear sky conditions.  It requires frigid conditions – usually in the vicinity of -10 to -15 degrees fahrenheit.   This weather phenomenon depends on the condensation and then freezing of the water vapor, which is always present in the air, into ice crystals.  It is not to be confused with an ice fog.  An ice fog is tiny drops of water in the air which then freeze.  But diamond dust starts out as fully formed crystals of ice that are then suspended in the air.

I awoke one morning just before daybreak.  It was very cold, somewhere in the vicinity of -15 degrees.  I had hoped to photograph bison sleeping by thermals because the combination of very cold air and the water condensation from the hot thermals created an almost dreamlike, foggy environment with the bison coated with frost and exhaling visible streams of air.

That was my plan.  Instead, as the sun started to come up, the very air around me began to sparkle, like there were tiny diamonds suspended in the air.  It was absolutely beautiful – as the air moved, the glittering and sparkling would twirl all around me.  It was as though the air itself was alive and dancing in the early morning sunlight.  The whole event didn’t last long – maybe half an hour.  And try as I might – I couldn’t capture the event in my camera.  The crystals were in constant motion, with varying degrees of light reflection and I couldn’t get the exposure or the focal length in my camera right.

But I am so glad that I was able to experience this – sparkly, glittery air dancing all around me, icy solitude,  and a cloudless blue sky.  It was one of those moments when I felt completely alive and in harmony with the world around me.  Perfect!

snowy bison, yellowstone national park

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 400, FL 280 mm, 1/160 sec @ f/5.6

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 400, FL 280 mm, 1/160 sec @ f/5.6

grand prismatic spring, midway geyser basin, yellowstone national park

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 24 mm, 1/500 sec @ f/8

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 24 mm, 1/500 sec @ f/8

castle geyser erupting, yellowstone national park

canon 1ds mark 3, FL 24 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/22

canon 1ds mark 3, FL 24 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/22

rainbow at castle geyser eruption, yellowstone national park

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 50 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/14

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 50 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/14

bobby sox trees, upper geyser basin, yellowstone national park

canon 1ds mark 3, FL 100 mm, ISO 200, 1/800 sec @ f/11

canon 1ds mark 3, FL 100 mm, ISO 200, 1/800 sec @ f/11

old faithful in winter

canon 1ds mark 3, FL 55 mm, ISO 100, 1/320 sec @ f/11

canon 1ds mark 3, FL 55 mm, ISO 100, 1/320 sec @ f/11

fire hole river, yellowstone national park

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 50 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/11

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 50 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/11

upper geyser basin, yellowstone national park

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 100mm, 1/800 sec @ f/11

canon 1ds mark 3, ISO 200, FL 100mm, 1/800 sec @ f/11

Crazy like a fox

Canon SX50, ISO 100, FL 200 mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/6.5

Canon SX50, ISO 100, FL 200 mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/6.5

 

That phrase – crazy like a fox – is a curious American speech idiom that refers to behavior that, on the surface, looks irrational or crazy.  However, on closer inspection, one can see that the behavior is, in fact, very shrewd and cunning.  Ted Turner, apparently, often referred to himself as ‘crazy like a fox’.  The fox that I photographed above was anything but crazy – he was hungry.  It was cold and snowy and he was on the prowl for rodents in the snow.  He looked at me like I was the one that was crazy, for standing around in all that white, doing nothing useful that he could understand.  Then he turned his attention to the snow at his feet.  Tilting his head to the left, then to the right, then …snap!  He plunged head first into the snow and emerged with a wriggling mass of fur and legs.  He took one more look at me over his shoulder as he scrambled off to find a quiet place to enjoy his meal.  I was too slow to photograph the entire sequence with my camera but at least I got to SEE the whole sequence.  And it was remarkable – crazy like a fox, indeed!