January 8, 2014

Obscuring Old Faithful

Photograph by Abelardo Morell

Using the ground beneath his feet as a canvas, photographer Abelardo Morell inspires fresh appreciation for America's national parks. Here, he uses a camera obscura—focusing light through a small opening onto a dark surface—to capture Yellowstone's Old Faithful.

See more pictures from the October 2013 feature story “Visions on Earth.”


See this and other photographs from our list of favorites from 2013 »
Watch a video interview with Abelardo Morell »
See how Morell constructed his camera obscura »

41 comments
paulette Colson
paulette Colson

Photo super étrange; Je la regarde depuis des minutes et je ne sais pas encore pourquoi elle attire tant.

Bill Chojnowski
Bill Chojnowski

Some are turned off because they naturally want to "resolve" what's happening in the image.


I really like the idea and the longer I looked at it, the more I felt how amazing our system of sight is. Look at the way colors blend and refuse to blend. It says a lot about how we perceive what's in front of us.

Shannon T
Shannon T

This techinique makes it look like there was an explosion when he took the shot. Very cool.

Jack Freeman
Jack Freeman

It's sad when the public starts complaining about art because "it's too hard to look at". If you don't like the technique go back to Flickr and leave this alone. 


I think this is beautiful, and think Mr. Morell has managed to make something we've all seen hundreds of times into something quite unique and interesting. 

K. M
K. M

Well thought out, simply mesmerising.

Daniel Lau
Daniel Lau

Thanks,  This is beyond my imaginations how a photo is taken. Many many photos of old faithful have  been

taken and none like this

Francois Nel
Francois Nel

I like the fact that we can experiment with techniques. For me a good photograph is the one that catches the eye immidiately and you don't have to wonder what this is. A photo doesn't always have an explination that goes with it. Without an explination, I wouldn't have had a clue what was going on here...

I also don't like it.

J. Quick
J. Quick

I love this guy's stuff, and this picture's great but it wasn't what stood out most to me from the "Visions of Earth" story from a few months back. There were some where the twigs and leaves on the ground were integral parts of the finalized obscura image, and those ones really resonated with me. 

Jill Dunphy-Hanns
Jill Dunphy-Hanns

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.........my eyes prefer the real thing. This is too "busy."

Marco Aurélio de Oliveira
Marco Aurélio de Oliveira

I like. Nobody need to be normal always, we can escape the photographic standard and still produce beauty

Janice H.
Janice H.

This type of photograph is just not my "cup of tea".       Don't like. ???!!!

Ed Brantley
Ed Brantley

This is the oldest and truest form of photography. The simplest form of a lens and image there is. Go Google search "Camera Obscura" before you assume that this is a canvas or an overlaid image.  Hyper- real sharpness and hyper-color is not the only type of "real" photography. Amazing image that isn't the mainstream.

Joy Saldanha
Joy Saldanha

Yes, I too agree with Sandra  Hickman. Pictures should be pleasing to the eye, and understood. This one could be a paper 'snow storm', an explosion of ice, but it does not resemble water! When I do visit 'old faithfull' some day I will surely enjoy seeing it. My first no-no this time. j.e.s. 

M. Clendenen
M. Clendenen

I don't like this grainy canvas stuff.  I'd rather see the real image.

isaiah wiggins
isaiah wiggins

i like the color and the trees in this picture 

Lawrence Sibley
Lawrence Sibley

Duality is a natural law - the counter-balancing forces of positive/negative, which manifest as attracting/repelling, male/female, affirming/denying, for/against, yes/no, like/dislike.  The political system of democracy is designed to accommodate this lawful polarization of opinion.  


The comments on today's photo are once again exemplifying a polarization of opinion, as did yesterday's photo of the polarizing polar bear.


Morell's photo is hard to appreciate without background information on the photographer's project and novel technique.  I think the detail of the ground actually works well with the geyser image.  The fragments on the ground give the impression of exploding debris emanating from the eruption of water. 

Sandra Hickman
Sandra Hickman

Sorry.. but give me a good nature or animal photo to appreciate more than this type of so called technique. I don't make any sense of it.

Margaret Thall
Margaret Thall

Looks like what could have been a good shot, ruined on a dirty and littered canvas.  I don't appreciate having to differentiate between the two images.

Chris Higgins
Chris Higgins

Awesome! Nearly anyone can stand and take the same picture of the national parks that millions of people have taken! The challenge in today's world is to take these shots in a unique way. This is an amazing blend of old and new technology. So cool!

Sam Estes
Sam Estes

But yet my iPhone pic isn't good enough? Looks doctored to me. FAIL!!

Vinay Attri
Vinay Attri

I LIKE AT VERY MUCH...... 
SOO GOOD ..... :)

Charlotte Weddell
Charlotte Weddell

I like it, it's visually interesting, more like a painting or something.

Dan Prosser
Dan Prosser

I don't like this style of shot on here... it's just dirt with a pic overlaid.

Sandra Hickman
Sandra Hickman

No need to go back to Flicker Jack. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. What a dull world this will be if everyone liked or disliked everything at the same time. A good artist must take the pain of critism. I'm a professional photographer who also works in oils and spray can art. I can never please everyone all of the time. Even I don't  like some of the stuff I produce at times but sometimes those are the ones that sell.

Colin Warren
Colin Warren

@Lawrence Sibley  If "Morell's photo is hard to appreciate without background information on the photographer's project and novel technique" is true, then the it fails as an image and the creator has failed at the job of presenting the subject.


Appreciating it for the technology is like saying "I only ever make phone calls from an iPhone, it is a poor phone and no-one can hear me but the technology is fantastic"


There may be ways of using this technique to present great images, this isn't one of them.

Mike Bless
Mike Bless

It is hard for me to grasp that the creator has failed in presenting the subject since many times NG does not include the original written presentation that was submitted with the photo.

Im not saying it is either a success or a failure since I dont have enough info about it.

But if I did have more info on it, I don't consider myself expert enough to judge anyway, such as when I look at a museum abstract oil painting that looks to me like a kids finger painting. Sometimes I just look/stare and hope that the knowledge will arrive to me in the future about why a professional editor made the selection, at which point I can then form my critique if in fact  I do choose to critique.

Charles Spencer
Charles Spencer

I can appreciate the techniques and processes involved.

With that said, this photo and the magazine story on Morell's photos weren't to my tastes either.  I have a hard time differentiating between the image and the surface.  In the magazine photos, I often couldn't tell why Morell chose a particular 'canvas' for a given image.  I doubt his choices were random, but it seemed like certain canvas and image combinations weren't well matched.

To each his own.

Special Offers

  • multiproduct_email_100x75_jancover.jpg

    National Geographic

    Subscribe to National Geographic magazine and save. Print and digital editions available.

Shop National Geographic