I know: the typical line on a scenic post card is “Having a great time, and wish you were here.” This weekend the opposite was true. My daughter Erin was hiking and loving the scenery in Grand Teton National Park, and I wished I were there!
My memories are fresh and sweet from Grand Teton National Park, because I was there recently in late September 2018 for six days of photography from before sunrise to after sundown. I’ll look up an image that I haven’t already shared with you.
Jackson Hole, I will be back! While some of roads are inaccessible in winter, I’m sure the Tetons are beautiful in all four seasons.
The shimmering golden aspens of the Rocky Mountains are known for their white trunks and brilliant fall color, but did you know their biological secret? Clumps of aspen trees are actually clones of each other. Yes! They share the same DNA.
“One aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism. A stand or group of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system.”
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Did you ever wonder why the Grand Tetons rise straight up out of a flat valley? The Teton Fault separates two tectonic plates at the foot of the mountains. For the past 10 million years, the mountains have inched up to 13,700 feet, while the flat valley floor has sunk to its current level at 6,800 feet above sea level, according to the National Park Service.
During the Ice Age glaciers moved south from Yellowstone region, filling the valley and then eroding the mountains into jagged peaks and melting into lakes. All of this geology history tells a fascinating story too gradual for us to observe, but we can observe the changing seasons and fall color.
Do the colors in this scene leave you feeling uplifted?
Grand Teton National Park is such a strong magnet for landscape photographers, that many of the popular lookout points are quite crowded for sunrise and sunset. Tripods legs are interlaced, and I consider myself lucky if the people around me are cooperative and friendly. If an inexperienced photographer starts to set up in front of another photographer who has established his spot, look out! There will be fireworks.
Our workshop group of nine had this spot on the edge of Jenny Lake to ourselves. Check! When we first arrived on the lake shore to see a bright blue sky and backlit mountains, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the location. We had carefully climbed down a rocky hillside, carefully making our own path over boulders and downed trees. I moved to the right and left, looking for foreground elements to create an interesting composition.
As we waited for the sun to sink lower and lower, the show began. Our group became very still when the orange light show reached its peak, and every photographer tried to perfect a long exposure.
As I packed up my gear, I could hear others murmur, “Did you see that reflection on the water?”
Ansel Adams made an iconic photograph of the Snake River Valley looking toward the Grand Tetons from this very spot in Jackson Hole in 1942. So, with my Sony mirrorless digital camera and the latest software, I followed the master’s lead and made this vibrant color image at sunset in late September 2018.
The view was even better in Adams’ day, because the Snake River made a serpentine curve leading the eye to the mountains. Today trees obscure part of the river from this lookout. It was still exciting to walk in Ansel Adams’ footsteps 76 years later.
I can hear these words echo in my mind, “The Moon carries tremendous visual weight.” My photography mentors remind me to consider this when I compose a frame with the moon. I am listening. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the moon. To create balance in the composition, the other side of the frame needs some “weight.” That’s where the Grand Teton comes in, the high peak on the right.
This image also features a contrast of cool and warm tones. The blue and grey in the sky and mountaintops contrast the warmly lit fall color in the trees and grasses in the valley. Good morning, Jackson Hole! I’m enjoying a deep breath of your fresh air and cool Fall temperatures. It’s time for a warm cup of coffee.
While Black Bears are not considered as dangerous as Grizzly Bears, they are still no match for a human, so we need to keep our distance and take care not to attract or provoke them. I spotted this bear quite a way up the hillside above the road, and I was able to use my 400mm lens, steadied with a tripod, to capture this photograph. (I was not as close to it as it appears.)
I have read that the Black Bear’s eyesight and hearing are better than a humans. Its sense of smell is WAY better, seven times better than that of a dog. Signs warn national park visitors not to leave food in a cooler inside a car, for a black bear might smell it and destroy the car to reach the food. Food lockers are available, but you better hope that everyone locks the locker well, or everybody’s supplies will be gone.
A human is no match for the speed and the strength of a bear. Take your photo, and then get back in the car and move on!