This was the opening meeting of the 2018-19 season and, as is traditional, involved a presentation by the Society’s chairman, Keith Snell, called “Winter Wonderland”. This was based on images taken on a trip that Keith undertook to Yellowstone National Park this January. To start Keith explained a little about the human history and geological past of the area. Yellowstone was the first National Park in the USA, being signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 and the largest major volcanic activity there blew up about 600,000 years ago and produced approximately 600 cubic miles of rock and ash having a major impact on the whole global weather system and ecology and left a caldera some 40 to 70 miles across. Geo-thermal action persists with multiple hot springs and geysers scattered around most of the park and Keith showed pictures of marvellous cascading terraces of pools formed by mineral rich hot springs running down a hillside. Exotically colourful algae transform the hot pools and edges of geysers.
Keith then moved on to landscape shots of the dramatic snow covered mountains, forests, rivers and lakes and the wonderful wildlife there which ranged from Trumpeter Swans to Moose. His group were very lucky to see not only large herds of Bison but to be able to capture a brief head to head encounter between two bulls and, in one beautiful and striking image, a line of bison walking along a ridge skyline above a perfectly situated lone tree, all surrounded by deep snow. This luck continued with the news of a killed Bison close to the road where, with patience, they were able to observe a wolf pack approach, wait for the alpha male to start feeding and then howl their appreciation of full stomachs before playing with one another in the snow. A short video added to the magic.
Keith also visited the Grand Tetons National Park, which holds a dramatic mountain range, with the highest mountain, Grand Teton, rising to 13,775 feet (4,199 m) above sea level. The weather here was bitterly cold and a toe and finger tip threatening 2hour wait next to a traditional farm barn in minus 20 degrees was eventually rewarded by 60 seconds of lifting mist which revealed glorious warm light illuminating the mountain peaks behind the barn before the mist closed down the view again. The resulting image was magical and summed up the harsh beauty of this portion of the United States.
After the break some of the members who had scored the highest points in last season’s internal competitions spoke for a few minutes each about how they had achieved their shots. Keith Snell started with a picture of an Eagle Owl peering round a tree at us the viewer, Keith was rather shamefaced about it as he knew that the owl was sat on the wrist of its handler, albeit hidden behind the tree, but the shot was extremely striking. Tony Marsh then talked about a picture of a perky Wren atop a gate post, David Woodthorpe discussed shots of a flying Kingfisher and a Jay landing on a branch, both taken in hides near Kirkcudbright and Ken Rennie analysed how he had built up three of his exquisite landscape shots.