Even more exciting than spotting my first moose was watching a spontaneous show of behavior between two male moose in the presence of a female and calf. Joining a Brushback Wildlife Tour in Grand Teton National Park one evening at dusk was definitely worth the investment.
What are these two moose looking at, you might ask? All eyes are on a mother and calf grazing on the nearby hillside. The young buck just wanted to get close enough to say hello, but the senior moose (notice the superior headgear), would block his path. Young buck takes a few steps to the left, Big Moose takes a few steps to the left. A few steps to the right are also blocked.
Light was low, and I had to increase my ISO to 3200 and use a tripod on the Sony aIIr7 with the Sony 100-400mm lens in order to capture these images.
It’s not too hard to spot a black bear by the side of the road in Grand Teton National Park. They are gorging on berries and getting ready for hibernation season. I used my 100-400mm Sony lens on my Sony aIIr7 mirrorless camera, mounted on a tripod to capture this close-up.
One just has to keep a safe distance, because bears move very fast despite their heavy weight and they and kill a human quickly if they want to. Photographers and hikers are urged to carry bear repellent spray to use in case a bear comes at you. The grizzlies are considered more dangerous than the black bears (which come in black, brown, cinnamon and golden colors), but you don’t want to startle a black bear or find yourself between a mother and her cub. Rangers (“wildlife management’) try to manage the enthusiastic humans who would otherwise get too close. These rangers should be called “tourist management.”
See the earrings and necklace on the bear (tags)? This bear was trapped, tagged and released, so rangers can monitor him.
My visit to Grand Teton National Park was well timed to coincide with the peak of fall foliage and the moonset as well. For every month, the full moon sets at virtually the same time that the sun rises. That singular morning is a great opportunity to capture the full moon close to the horizon while the sun has only gently lit the scene.
When I’m at home, the moon sets behind my neighbor’s house. The view is not at all comparable to the rugged peak of Mount Moran with fall foliage in the foreground. Traveling out West with a group of photographers gave me a better opportunity and the incentive I needed to wake up in the dark and venture outdoors in the cold.
A large number of photographers gather along the shore of the Snake River at Oxbow Bend to take advantage of the possible reflections of the mountain, the trees and the moon in the water. As the sun rose, fog began to form and the wind blew it across the surface of the water. My fingers and toes turned to ice cubes before we finished the shoot, but the experience was worth it, especially in the company of friends.
Landscape photographers understand that shooting directly into the sun, even at sunset, creates such extremes of brightness and darkness that it is difficult to make a successful image. The foreground falls into shadow, while the sky becomes impossibly bright. What to do?
Photographers planning to shoot sunset in Grand Teton National Park face this challenge every day, because all views of the mountain range face west. While today’s digital software can help brighten the shadows and darken the highlights, it ain’t easy!
One approach is to wait until the critical moment when the sun touches the edge of a tree or a mountain in the foreground. If you set your camera manually to a small f-stop such as f/22, the sunlight will refract and create a brilliant sunstar. I like this technique, as it gives punch to the scene.
Reflections in the beaver pond as well as the V shape of the trees that flank the mountains give this image a peaceful symmetry.
After this capture, I packed up my tripod and camera quickly, for soon it would be dark.
On my first evening in Jackson Hole, I was blessed to witness a magical sunset behind the Grand Teton mountain range. I cannot tell you how different every sunset was during my week in Jackson Hole. The clouds, the colors, the lack of clouds — you never know what will develop. Every minute during a sunset is also unique. Here is one of those fleeting moments during sunset behind the Grand Tetons from Cunningham’s Cabin in Grand Teton National Park.
If you like this image, stay tuned to this blog. I have just begun to process my images from numerous sunrise and sunsets in different scenic locations in Grand Teton National Park. Soon, you will be planning your own trip!
This week I will pack for a new adventure to Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This time next week, I’ll be rising before the sun to photograph those majestic peaks and the leading lines of the Snake River, and working sunset as well.
I will take part in my fourth photography workshop with the great landscape photographers Don Smith and Gary Hart. I began studying with them in 2013 in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, and went on to work and enjoy two more workshops in Kauai and Maui.
That first workshop experience in Bryce Canyon was stressful. I wasn’t used to getting up in the dark before dawn (around 4 am) with frigid temperatures, wind chill and high altitude (close to 9,000 feet) and to keep functioning at my best as I became more and more tired each day. While I produced some respectable (okay, beautiful) images (see below), I managed to break my Nikon D700 camera (putting the memory card backwards and bending the pins) and had to order a new Nikon D800 midweek, with rush shipping. Fortunately, I had a backup Fuji S5 to use for a few days.
While the embarrassment and frustration of breaking my camera remains a very bad memory, I propelled myself forward by continuing to learn important principles of landscape photography and making friends with several very talented photographers who supported my journey then and still do today. We have kept in touch.
I also discovered the beauty and majesty of the American West and its National Parks, and I have made my journey of discovery, learning and growth continue into the future. I hope you will subscribe to this blog (type your email into the form on the right to receive an email when a new post is published) and share my new images coming up next week from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
I welcome your feedback in comments and your efforts to expand our community with your friends who will also be interested in landscape photography and future journeys of discovery, learning and growth. If you like this blog, please recommend it to a friend.