Before we get started, I’ll let you know now that you have to click the photos to see them larger to really appreciate them (some are cropped differently too, but you won’t see it in the small version).
Okay… onward! A couple weeks ago I spent 4 days in Jackson Hole, WY and the Grand Teton National Park. A couple friends of mine were running a workshop late in the week and my friend Dave Black was going to be out there as well. I’ve been wanting to photograph that area for years. So I figured I’d fly in a few days early with them (so I’d have some shooting buddies rather than go by myself), as they scouted locations.
I was a little nervous, because they’ve had some problems with forest fires. From what I hear, the last two months have been pretty bad. Skies were hazy and smokey. But it rained the day I got there and (again from what I hear), we had some of the best weather they’ve seen in two months. And if you know anything about landscape and outdoor photography, you know it’s all about getting lucky with the weather. You can be as prepared as you want, but if mother-nature doesn’t want to cooperate, then all the preparation in the world ain’t gonna help 🙂
Let’s start off with one of my favorites. This is from as typical a Grand Teton place as you can get, but I love it. It’s a place called Schwabacher Landing. There was a small intimate group of photographers there with me as well. Hmmmmm, maybe 50 or so others all crammed into a small area of shoreline 🙂 All waiting and hoping that mother nature would put on a good show for us. She did. I love how the cloud on the tall peak looks like it’s just getting caught right on the top.
Here’s another near the same area. It’s kinda interesting, but this is one of my personal favorite photos from the trip. It was on my walk back to the car from Schwabacher Landing. I was walking fast because I wanted to get to another location. I happend to turn around and saw this scene. I put my tripod down, took 1 photo and left. Seriously! One photo (well, one bracketed series that is, so it was 5 photos). That’s it. But man am I glad I did! It turned out to be one of my top favs from the trip. I love the blues in the sky and the golden foreground.
Schwabacher landing was great, but really there’s only about 1 photo (maybe 2-3 if you look around) to be had there. So I made it a point to shoot for only the first few minutes of light and get back to my car as soon as possible. I wanted to hit Mormon Row (a historic district of old barns) while there was still some decent light happening. This shot wasn’t totally on my bucket list, which is why I went there second and not first that day. So I didn’t get the great light. But it’s a pretty iconic place if you’re shooting around the Grand Tetons, so I wanted to make sure I stopped by.
Evening shoots are tough in the Grand Tetons. The sun sets behind the mountains so you’re shooting directly into it. With no snow on the mountains yet, there’s very little to distinguish them from anything so they end up looking like big gray masses with absolutely no detail on them. But it was still a really pretty site to see. Here’s one from the Snake River overlook. This first one is right before the sun goes behind the mountain. I liked how the sun back-lit the trees up front and made them almost glow. It’s a pretty pivotal time, because you want to get the sun just as it’s touching the mountain, and you only have a minute or so to do it. So you need to make sure you have your composition all ready to go by then. Shooting it that way, while using an aperture like f/16 or f/22, is what helps give you that sun-star shape that I love in my photos.
Here’s another one from the Snake River overlook. This one was after the sun went behind the mountains. The foreground get’s pretty flat pretty fast when that happens, but I framed this one up so you could really get a feel for the beautiful sky and pastel colors that started to pop when the sun went behind the mountains. Totally different than the previous one huh? But they were both taken in nearly the same spot.
On our way to Snake River overlook to shoot sunset, we turned around in the car and saw this. We immediately pulled over on the side of the road because the God beams didn’t last for long.
On my last morning I had to make a choice. I had really wanted to shoot at a place called Oxbow Bend. I’d heard a lot about it and it came highly recommended. But the group that was there with my buddies Jeff, Randy and Dave Black were going to a place called String Lake. So I decided to hitch a ride with ’em and head there. And I’m really glad I did. This is a great location and has about 3 very different photos you can get as the sun rises so you’re not just walking away with one shot.
This one was right before the sun came up. You can start to see just a little light on the mountain in the background. I’m usually a big fan of sunrise or sunset light, but I have to say that, of the group of photos I have from this morning, this pre-dawn photo is my favorite.
Here’s one after the sun started coming up. I posted about it on the blog the other day. I like the shot, but I just don’t love it. Still, it’s a nice photo from a beautiful morning.
Right after the sun came up, I shot for about 5 minutes. Then I grabbed my tripod and headed over about 100 yards to another spot. Still pretty much the same location but a little different composition. And of course the sun was rising higher so it’s got a different feel to it too. I thought the rocks lined up really nicely for this one. Actually, if I could do it over again, I may have even chose this spot first to shoot from 🙂
On my last night there we went lightpainting at the Mormon Barns with Dave Black. I have to tell you – Dave may not have invented lightpainting but he has become the icon of it. I know of nobody else that can do, teach, and make lightpainting photos like Dave. He’s simply amazing. Kelby Training even had a crew out there for a few days recording Dave lighting painting in this exact location so keep an eye out for his class (oh and he’s got other Lightpainting classes on Kelby Training online too).
And what Friday late night light-painting trip would be complete with an after-trip to The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole? Dave Black not only showed up with one cowboy hat, but 3! Seriously, the man travels with 3 cowboy hats ready to go. Here’s a barely-corrected iPhone photo of Randy, Wes Maggio (from Wacom) and me at the bar. We had a blast enjoying the type of cold beverages you’d enjoy at a bar like that along with some dancing (or trying at least) and just hanging out 😉
I wanted to give a big thanks to my friends Jeff and Randy with The Digital Photo Workshops along with Dave Black. They were a blast to hang out with and they put on an absolute class-act of a workshop. I’d highly recommend it if you have the chance.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ve got a few other things that I’ll follow up on with posts from the trip:
• My experience editing images from the Nikon D800
• Thoughts on the Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Tripod I Borrowed
• Some tips I picked up about using live view
• And lots of other little random stories
I’ll keep you posted. Have a good one! 🙂