Glenn Randall Photography

Extraordinary landscape photography from Colorado and the West

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Star Trails over Old Faithful



Star trails over Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Star Trails over Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

I first encountered Fernando Boza's great shot of star trails over Old Faithful several years ago. It inspired me to go to Yellowstone in February 2016 with one goal: to create an image of Old Faithful erupting at night, lit by the full moon, with star trails circling around Polaris directly above the towering column of boiling water and steam. I anticipated lots of technical challenges: figuring out the correct exposure for Old Faithful at night, putting together the frame containing the correctly exposed geyser with all of the frames containing star trails, and preventing condensation on the lens during the two-hour series of exposures. What I didn’t anticipate was getting stared down by a 2,000-pound bison. Fortunately, losing the battle of wills with a bison forced me to find a still better composition than the one I originally had in mind.


Initially, I had envisioned placing the geyser in the center of the frame, with Polaris directly above. I rarely aim for simple symmetry in my compositions, but in this case I thought it would be pleasing. When I arrived at Old Faithful, however, I discovered that a group of bison had bedded down for the night not ten yards from where I wanted to plant my tripod. The legal (and safe) limit for approaching a bison is 25 yards. Every year tourists get gored by bison in Yellowstone. Bison are so strong they can toss a person into the air with a single thrust of their massive horns. I backed off and began searching for an alternative composition.


Fortunately, a light snow had fallen the previous day. Warm water flowing away from the geyser had created a meltwater channel, which served as a leading line that took the viewer’s eye into the frame and toward the geyser, which I placed in the lower right corner. That put Polaris left of center, creating an asymmetric but dynamically balanced composition.


After a complicated series of calculations (see my blog post The Making of Star Trails over Old Faithful for details), I arrived at an exposure of 10 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1250. I attached an intervalometer and began making ten-second exposures back-to-back. In a final stroke of good luck, the wind blew from right to left when the geyser erupted half an hour later, pushing the steam into the frame rather than away from it. When I returned home, I spent many hours experimenting with ways to assemble the 615 frames in the series, finally arriving at the image you see here.

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Glenn Randall Photography  |  2945 Colby Dr.  |  Boulder CO 80305-6303 | Office 303 499-3009  |  Mobile 720 320-7126

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I offer over 100 images on this site, in four or five sizes each and as many as five different presentations (loose, matted-only, framed, gallery-wrap canvas, and gallery float). It is impossible to keep every size and presentation of every image in stock at all times. Accordingly, most of the items I offer for sale on are hand-built one at a time as customers order them. It normally requires between five and ten business days to complete an order, but it may take longer if I am on an extended shoot. Shipping time is in addition to these figures. To get specific information about delivery time for a particular item, please call 303 499-3009 or email me. I will do my best to accommodate rush orders. Thanks for your patience!

All photographic prints, regardless of presentation (loose, matted-only, framed, etc.) are delicate and require careful packaging to be shipped safely. Accordingly, all online purchases will have a 15 percent charge added for shipping and handling. This shipping charge only covers shipments to the continental United States. Please contact me for a quote on shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, or to international destinations. If you would like to pick up your print at my home office in Boulder rather than have it shipped, please call 303 499-3009 (office) or 720 320-7126 (mobile) to complete your purchase and make arrangements for pickup. Alternatively, I can deliver prints in the Denver metro area for $1.00 per mile based on round-trip mileage.

All matted-only and framed prints larger than 24x30 inches, all gallery-wrap canvases and gallery-float prints larger than 30x40, and all framed panoramas wider than 30 inches, are too big to be shipped via FedEx ground and too big to fit in any standard-size art box. While these prints can be shipped, they require a custom-made crate and the cost is exorbitant ($300+). I strongly suggest that all customers who live outside the Denver metro area and who wish to purchase a print larger than the maximums specified above buy the loose version and take it to the custom frame shop of their choosing. Loose prints can be shipped rolled at the standard shipping rate of 15 percent of the retail price. I will gladly provide detailed instructions to the framer on the moulding I use and my preferred method of mounting and framing the piece.

I use elegant hardwood frames on all of my framed prints. The image above right shows the frame I use for the smallest framed size of this image. I use proportionally larger frames with the same color finish for larger prints. The moulding shape will vary, depending on the size. For more information on the frames I recommend for different size prints, please visit my framing page.

Studio Moulding frame 353-125 cherry Studio Moulding Forte 4934 mahogany-finish picture frame Studio Moulding Forte 4834 mahogany-finish picture frame

I allow returns for a full refund (minus shipping) for 30 days from the date of delivery if you are dissatisfied with the print. You are responsible for the cost of shipping the print back to me, including the cost of insuring it for the full retail value, and the print must arrive in salable condition for a refund to be issued.

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