Yellowstone, then and now Pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson took this photograph of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River during the 1871 United States Geological Survey of the Territories, lead by Ferdiand Hayden, in the region that would become Yellowstone National Park. (William Henry Jackson/National Archives And Records Administration via AP/Bradly J. Boner/Jackson Hole News & Guide via AP)
Yellowstone, then and now
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Boulders shift, canyons erode, old trees fall, new ones grow and tourists crowd Yellowstone National Park, the length of their vacations barely any time at all in the stream of history.
 
A century and a half is nothing in the eons of often violent geology that made Yellowstone. Even so, an exhausting project by a Jackson, Wyoming, photographer shows how an ecosystem protected for that long can change in ways obvious and subtle.
 
Brad Boner visited dozens of sites in the park photographed by William Henry Jackson in 1871, the year before Congress made Yellowstone the world's first national park. Boner painstakingly replicated in color more than 100 of Jackson's black-and-white photographs.
 
This summer, 40 of Boner's images go on display next to Jackson's originals at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyo. During the centennial year for the National Park Service, the exhibit testifies to the success of the world's first national park, Boner said.
 
"The whole point of creating Yellowstone was to give future generations an opportunity experience these special places," he said. "When I look at these pictures, I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that my kids are going to be able to go to a lot of these places and see the same thing."
 
The images show what can change, too: Rock pinnacles at Tower Fall crumble and alter the flow of Tower Creek; the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake erodes dozens of feet in places; the edge of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where Jackson once stood, collapses into the chasm.
 
Boner took several trips to Yellowstone over the summers of 2011-2014. He spent much time wandering with Jackson's photographs held up to the horizon.
 
"Things would just sort of click and fall into place. All of a sudden, you're looking at the landscape that is in the photograph that I was holding, that Jackson took," Boner said. "There were definitely times I got goosebumps."
 
Jackson traveled Yellowstone as part of a federally funded expedition to explore and document the area. He carried his photography gear on mules. Taking a photo back then involved exposing images on an 8-by-10-inch glass plate and developing the negative on the spot.
 
"Basically he had to set up his little darkroom every time he wanted to take a picture," Boner said.
 
Boner had modern digital camera gear but a couple of his trips were plenty ambitious. With a friend, he paddled around the edge of Yellowstone Lake, about 60 miles, in a canoe. Another trip took him, his wife and a friend more than 30 miles over the rugged and remote Mirror Plateau.
 
"We saw bears where we didn't think we would see bears. We got snowed on in July," Boner said.
 
Other times his targets, especially grand vistas and thermal features, were heavily traveled.
 
"I'd be standing shoulder to shoulder with a whole bunch of tourists because Jackson had this knack for a picking out the best spot," said Boner.
 
Boner, a staff photographer for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, plans to publish the images in a book later this year.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why can't we compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (5)
  • Steve0620-yyca
    6/08/2016 - 01:05 p.m.

    I think that it is amazing how Jackson took many photos of Yellowstone National Park. Back then, he carried his gear on mules, exposed his images on a 8x10 glass plate and developed the negative on the spot. He made his own dark room so that the picture could turn out fine. He was funded by the government and took great pictures. Brad Boner went on a journey to do the same thing. He had modern cameras but still had some trouble. He had to cross many difficult terrains and even met some bears. Yellowstone National Park was the first national park. Now, it is changing. Some parts are eroding away and the edge of the Grand Canyon is crumbling.
    I think that we can't compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago because many parts about the park have changed due to the weather or age.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    7/31/2016 - 02:05 a.m.

    We cannot compare photos of Yellowstone today with photos from a thousand years ago because such photos do not exist. Photography is still a new invention, which was not yet used a thousand years ago. It would be really cool to see Boner's recent photos beside Jackson's older ones. Brad Boner's job, photographing the same areas Jackson had, would, in a way, be fun.

  • jareds-cel
    8/05/2016 - 10:03 a.m.


    There are many reasons why we can't compare photos of Yellowstone a thousand years ago to today. One of them being that it hasn't been explored yet back then and neither was America. There was no technology back then whatsoever so you had no idea what it looked like. Also the people probably didn't know that was going to be national historic park today. And that is some of the reasons why we can't compare photos of Yellowstone a thousand years ago to today.

  • heathers-man
    11/03/2016 - 11:10 a.m.

    I think it's really cool how Jackson was able to photograph Yellow Stone and how we're able to go back and view them and be able to make the comparison.

  • carriem-man
    11/03/2016 - 11:11 a.m.

    Crazy to see how much the world changes.

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