The Mammoth Hot Springs area of the Yellowstone National Park is amazing! It is easy to see that it has been in the making for millions of years. My favorite spot in the area is the Canary Springs terraces. It is probably the most photographed feature. Fortunately, we had great skies and a good breeze which helped blow the steam away from the terraces. The yellow and orange cyanobacteria, combined with the bright white travertine made for a great photo opportunity.
I wanted to know more about how the terraces formed so I did some research. Water from rain and snow seeps into the ground and is warmed by heat from the magma chamber below. Calcium carbonate and calcium sulfate from the limestone is dissolved into the heated and rising water. The sulfate from the gypsum reacts with the hydrogen dissolved in the water to create hydrogen sulfide. As the hot water rises through the limestone to the surface the pressure decreases and the gases are released. The hydrogen sulfide is the source of the rotten egg smell and results in sulfuric acid. The carbon dioxide escapes and the acidity of the water decreases. The acid is then neutralized by the calcium carbonate which increases the pH. The dissolved calcium carbonate is then deposited on the surface as travertine. The deposits grow quickly, some as much as 10 feet per year. The travertine is responsible for the terraces with raised edges that create a pool of water on the terrace. The orange/yellow color is bacteria which forms over time, especially given the warm water conditions. There will be a test on this tomorrow…
Equipment and Settings
This image was taken with my Canon EOS 5DS using my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II Lens set on 117 mm. The camera was set on Aperture Priority mode with the aperture set at f/16, shutter speed at 1/125th of a second and the ISO set at 100. I used a tripod for a stable foundation. This is a single image processed in Lightroom then completed in Photoshop using Nik Color Efex Pro.
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