Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring is often photographed for its vivid spectrum of colors. By photographing the evening light reflecting off its bacterial mats, Cody High School student Kinley Bollinger captured a perspective of the Wyoming landmark few people have seen. (Kinley Bollinger)

Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring is often photographed for its rainbow of colors — the deep blue and emerald green pool is ringed by an eye-catching corona of yellows, golds and reds. 

But when 16-year-old photographer and Cody High School student Kinley Bollinger visited the landmark, it wasn’t the spring’s colors that stood out to her. Instead, Bollinger was struck by the way the gauzy evening light reflected off the bacterial mats, highlighting the delicate structure of the geologic marvel. 

“The soft, golden glow brought a different dimension to the very popular Grand Prismatic Hot Spring,” Bollinger wrote. “I reflected on the beauty of our planet while taking this picture. Moments like these make me determined to protect our wild and free home.”

Bollinger’s stunning image earned her first place in the “Wyoming Lands” category of The Nature Conservancy’s 2019 “I Love Conservation” student photo contest. As part of a special Photo Friday series, WyoFile will highlight first-place winners from all four categories. 

The Nature Conservancy of Wyoming’s student photo contest is open to photographers between the ages of 14-19 who attend high school in Wyoming. Students are urged to submit striking images of Wyoming nature that convey their connection to conservation of the state’s land, water and wildlife. Images are judged on creativity, technical quality, composition and relevance. The 2019 contest, which marked its tenth year, drew more than 500 entries, according to TNC. 

Bollinger, who used a Nikon D7500 to capture her winning image, said she wanted to show Yellowstone’s unique beauty. 

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“Photography can and does play a significant role in conservancy because it reinforces the importance of nature in our lives,” she wrote to WyoFile. “When we see beautiful pictures of our natural world, we are more likely to try to protect this planet we call home. I hope my pictures inspire others to make conservation a priority in their lives.” 

More information on the photo contest, along with entries and winning images, can be seen here.

Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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