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Hot springs, long drives and surreal places in wild, wild Wyoming
Sounds like a made up place, right? Some odd mishmash of science and Greek, with a dash of fantasy. Then you find out it exists (and it’s a tiny town in Wyoming) and it sounds even more strange and unbelievable.
My husband James was born and raised in Wyoming, but I met him in Hawai’i and most people would lose a bet to guess his origins. That’s likely because there are a lot of people (and places!) in Wyoming that regularly defy the stereotypical Wyomingite. Thermopolis is one of these places.
Everytime I visit I am surprised and delighted by the uniqueness of Wyoming; a place where the west is still pretty wild, just not always in the way you think it is.
James and his family have been telling me stories of their childhood trips to “Thermop” since I first met him/them nearly ten years ago. I didn’t realize at the time they were actually telling me about a town called Thermopolis (I thought for a long time it was a theme park, like Wyoming’s version of Six Flags). So on a recent visit to the Equality State, we take a short drive to make the introduction. Just a mere 2.5 hours from Casper (a “short” drive for Wyoming natives- the state is HUGE), the trip to Thermopolis is through a whole lot of… open space. There are small little townships scattered through the plains (some with populations of less than 50 people), and antelope. And cows. And fences. And tons and tons of sky. As a New Hampshire native, I think all of it’s brilliant. James yawns.
Then we drive into the Wind River Canyon (the yawning stops immediately) and we are surrounded by towering canyon walls, some as high as 2,500 feet high, containing rock formations dating all the way to the precambrian era. That’s almost 3 million years ago. Yeah, for real. The Burlington railway snakes along the river and we scan every ledge for a sighting of the many Bighorn sheep that make these ancient cliffs their home.
After exiting the canyon we emerge shortly into the town of Thermopolis, the home of the world’s largest mineral hot springs and Wyoming’s first state park.
We were able to make a reservation at a renovated historical building (now operated by Best Western) located right within the park. Perfect. We check in and make our way over to the Star Plunge, one of three recreational establishments that utilize the hot spring mineral water to fill their pools, water slides and vapor room. I don’t know if a water slide will ever appeal to me more than one with 90-100 degree water flowing inside it. There’s a faint smell of sulfur in the air (mineral hot springs, remember?) but I was prepared for it, and to be honest, it smells a heck of a lot better than Yellowstone. I’ve got a sensitive nose and was pretty worried that I wouldn’t handle the smell well, but it never took away from my good time splashing around all the pools, hot tubs and steam room and before we leave I no longer even notice it.
The late afternoon is spent driving around the plains within the park, where herds of buffalo and deer roam about. We eat an early dinner at Las Fuentes Mexican Food and order the local favorite, a breaded chicken breast with aioli corn and raspberry chipotle sauce, topped off with a massive (real fruit) blackberry margarita. I was thrilled.. After dinner, the calories need some walking off, so we drive back to the park, bringing our cameras down past the Smoking Waters.
We wander across the “swinging bridge” for some awesome views of the mineral springs waterfall melting down into the Big Horn River as the sun sets. After the stars came out, we go night shooting and have fun (except for the little incident that involves me attempting to sneak up on a deer and instead stepping into a hole in the dark and tumbling awkwardly down a hill onto the pavement, the fall punctuated by curses. Oops.)
The morning of our departure we successfully find the bison in the park (check!) and then make for the rock shop as we headed out of town. Ava’s Silver and Rock Shop is not to be missed. Even if you are just driving through on your way to/from Yellowstone, make a pit stop here to view some amazing gems and learn more about geology in 40 minutes than you might in half a college semester. Discover petrified wood from the ashes of the last Yellowstone explosion, geodes that glow under blacklight and even find fossils of dinosaur bone marrow. Ava designs beautiful jewelry and Eddy has been a geologist for over 30 years. He was even part of the team in the early 90s that discovered over 35 dinosaur skeletons in the region, many of whom are found in the Wyoming Dinosaur Center right in Thermopolis. You won’t want to leave!
When I go back to “Thermop”, I will be sure to return to the mineral baths, sign up for a whitewater raft through the Wind River Canyon and maybe even do a day of digging for Dinosaurs. It’s a small, unusual and wonderful place that totally validates its strange name: Thermopolis, Wyoming. Go visit! -Meagz
Happy 1st Birthday, Shutter Force Photography
This February marks an exciting month for Shutter Force Photography. It’s our birthday! James and I started dabbling with the idea of starting a travel and adventure photography company back in 2013, but officially launched our website in February 2014.
We can hardly believe a year’s gone by already. This first year has been all about developing our skills and style (as well as the constant work on confidence). We changed our weekend priorities, setting our alarm clocks pre-dawn to go chase the light around our home island of O’ahu. We plan our activities around sunsets and we have been exploring our backyard like never before. There’s few things more exciting than discovering new locations to shoot that are only a few minutes from your bed! (Hawai’i never ceases to deliver great subject matter! We are incredibly lucky to call it home.)
A Year to Learn & Grow
James traveled to the Big Island in October to learn and shoot with landscape photography magnates Colby Brown and Jay and Varina Patel. While his talent as a landscape artist truly emerged after this workshop, what excites me most is his passion for the craft. He has really taken to post-processing, and he produces work that is very distinctly “James Brogan.” He’s really coming into his own as a photographer and it’s evident in everything from how he sets up to shoot something at a location, to his composition, to his post-processing and then finally, in how he shares it. Speaking of sharing, James has really hit his stride with marketing on Google+. For the first year on G+, sharing rather intermittently, James managed to accumulate just about 1 million views on his profile, and averaged approx. 50-75 likes per post. Then, in January, something magical happened. With one photo, his cool shot of the beach dunes on the Oregon coastline (see below), he managed to pull in over 2,500 “likes” and –get this- saw his profile count jump to FOUR MILLION in THREE DAYS.
Needless to say, we were both freaking out. Since then, he has been stream-rolling along and, as of my earlier check today, his Google+ page has been viewed 14,049,528 times.
It’s been a real delight to grow into photographers together over this past year. We love shooting together, although by now we’ve figured out that we can’t shoot the same subjects anymore. This means we go get coffee together before the sun comes up, we drive to a location together, and then we don’t see much of one another until after the dawn light is zapped and then we come back together to share LCD screens. James is totally a “big picture man.” Landscape shots, often the wider the better. I’m finding my favorite things to shoot are detail, or people, and most definitely animals. However, we do both have a similar obsession with shooting the milky way. We like to watch photography tutorials together. We share inspirational photos with one another daily.
On To 2015
This next year will be a new adventure for us, as we seek to turn our goals toward production, publication and paying gigs. We’re going to be stepping out of our comfort zones and putting ourselves out there like never before. Oh, and we’ll be doing a LOT more shooting. And traveling. Our next location lined up in Colorado in a few weeks for a totally awesome wedding, and we have our sights set on shooting in Norway and London later this year. We’ve still never been to Molokai or Lanai and the Napali coastline hike is still on the bucket list. So here’s to our second year at Shutter Force, and thanks for all the support for our first!
Thank you to Jessica Neubert for her creation of our epic new logo that we are so excited about. She is such a natural talent, and knew exactly what we were looking for!
Thanks to SmugMug for hosting our site for the first year (and kicking off our second), as well as helping us celebrate our first birthday! Thanks for making our photos look gorgeous!
We also want to thank Pat Corlin Photography, Colby Brown & Jay and Varina Patel for all their inspiration and guidance. Love also to the Corlins, the Brogans and the Haughs for their support and putting up with us and our insatiable shooting.
I’ll be posting a gallery shortly here on Meagzpeditions of our 20 favorite shots from the firstear of Shutter Force. We hope you enjoy. Aloha!