Works in Progress - Winter 2017

Full Steam Ahead

By Dan Westergren | December 5, 2016
Dan Westergren
Dan Westergren


Dan Westergren was a photo editor at National Geographic Traveler for more than 20 years. Every winter he travels to Yellowstone National Park to lead a workshop for photographers. One morning last year, he chanced upon the eruption of Castle Geyser, one of the tallest and oldest features in the park’s Upper Geyser Basin.

I first went to Yellowstone when I was in college, when I was a geology major. Now in the last four years, I’ve only been to Yellowstone in the winter. Even 25 years ago in the summertime, it was a zoo. I don’t think by choice I would ever go there in the summer now. It’s just really magical in the winter. If it’s below zero, photographs just have a look you can’t get in the summer.

I didn’t think I would ever see Castle Geyser erupt. It’s not like Old Faithful, which goes off every 90 minutes, give or take. That morning it was 11 degrees below zero. I told everyone I was going out before sunrise, and only one person went with me.

You just wake up about 45 minutes before sunrise and you walk around, and usually the whole area is covered with fog and steam, and you wonder when the sun is going to rise. We heard the noise, and I looked across the Upper Geyser Basin, and I just couldn’t believe that I was witnessing this. Right as the sun started to come up, we could see it hitting the geyser erupting. What I really like about this picture is the cloud bank in the background—the sun has risen just underneath that, and it hit the tip of these trees to highlight the geyser erupting. It was quite an amazing sight.

The next morning, everybody went out with me.

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