What they say is true. The early bird gets the best light. (Maybe the worm too.). Patches of golden light filtered through the trees and lit this Great Blue Heron standing erect in the marsh. An hour later this soft, golden light was just a memory, or in this case, a photograph.
Wake up time
I’m the first to admit that I like to sleep in. Waking up to a buzzing alarm clock when it’s dark outside is NOT the way I like to start my day, especially when it’s cold outside. Proof positive that I braved the dark and the cold and forced my sleepy body out of bed at 6am in Jackson Hole is this photo of Rendezvous Mountain at sunrise. As you can see, I was in position to take this sunrise exposure before the first skier appeared on the slopes.
With the temperature only reaching 8 degrees Fahrenheit, my toes felt like blocks of ice in few minutes outside, so I got back in the car to look for some wildlife. We found some bald eagles in short order!
Dawn at Lake Louise
Apparently I carried my tripod to Canada, in and out of 6 hotels in my 50-pound suitcase, for a reason. The Really Right Stuff tripod is too heavy to hike with, but I set it up in front of our picture window at the Chateau Lake Louise. Which was a good idea, because my husband pointed out the reflection of Victoria Glacier on Lake Louise early in the morning as the sun peaked over the eastern ridge. I was able to make this image in my pajamas!
I Wish I Were There
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.
Full Moon Sets at Sunrise
If you visit someplace scenic like a National Park for the Full Moon, you can look forward to a Moonset with gentle morning light on untouched Nature. That’s what we found on the morning of May 20 in Joshua Tree National Park. The Full Moon (95% full) looks brightest when the sky is still a bit dark, and a little bit of light on the landscape allows you to see the amazing landscape in the foreground. You will only have a few minutes to balance the darkness and the light for optimum effect.
Fall’s Fog and Color
I love to watch fog moving along the surface of a river in the Fall. I have memories of that fog on the Potomac when I lived in Washington D.C. and on the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. In Jackson Hole, morning fog crept across the Snake River as we watched the sun rise. A thicker layer of fog — not so translucent — filled in the valley closer to the mountains.
The trees are reaching their colorful peak in Pittsburgh today, and the sun is shining, but rain is on the way. I hope to capture some Fall color close to home. Happy Halloween!
Grand Tetons from the Mormon Barn
It was another dark and frosty morning before dawn, when I found myself trudging down a dirt road with my camera backpack on my back and tripod in my gloved hand. At least two dozen photographers had already arrived at this iconic location, and many were in no mood to share their space.
Finding a spot along the edge of a creek, I waited for the rising sun to color those wispy clouds pink. What I like most about the final image is the warmth of the barn, the grass and the foliage in contrast to the cool blue and grey in the sky and the mountains.
Morning Has Broken
The moments when the day’s first sunbeams spotlight the mountain tops are very special. I have awoken in the dark and the cold and dragged my weary bones to the right place. Am I awake? I’m not sure. My buddy has brought the wrong tripod, and is struggling with the settings on his camera. He is not awake.
As the time for sunrise approaches, the sky begins to lighten, and there don’t appear to be any clouds in the sky. Darn, clouds would help to enliven the sky and pick up the rosy tints of the rising sun. Perhaps 50 photographers line the shore along Schwabacher’s Landing, some with DSLRs and tripods, others with iPhones. Looking back toward the parking lot, I see a line of headlights as more photographers flock to this popular site.
And then the magic begins. The tips of the peaks reflect the sunrise first, and moment by moment, that rosy light grows and moves down the Grand Teton range. The full moon (well, it was full the day before) just as swiftly slides downward and to the right toward the peaks. Yes, morning has broken at Schwabacher’s Landing.
Moonset on Mount Moran
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.
Back to the American West
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.