“Mind if I join you?” is the quote that comes to mind. There is something about this clumsy looking, yet actually graceful pelican landing that I find endearing. Brown pelicans are huddling in close quarters on this rookery island to spend the night.
It is a privilege to watch all of these graceful birds flock to the island in Rookery Bay (near Naples, Florida) at sunset. This close up is a cropped image, captured with a 200mm Nikon lens. We are not as close as we appear, and we stay silent to avoid disturbing this natural daily migration.
The sunset Eco-cruise is provided by the Southwest Conservancy. Buy your own ticket online at conservancy.org.
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.
While the sun’s brilliant orb slipped behind the Grand Tetons, the clouds reflected the orange glow of sunset. That evening the clouds took on a rippled texture as well as a misty, ethereal quality. We could feel the temperature fall. The light show was brief. Soon it would be dark.
A truly great sunset photo requires a good foreground. You know, the parking lot or the neighbor’s house won’t do. Many of us head for the mountains or the sea to watch the sunset and capture the fleeting natural beauty in a photograph.
But the second ingredient in a great sunset photos is the sky. The texture and the reflections of the golden light in the clouds separates the good sunsets from the great ones.
Both the foreground and the amazing clouds came together along the banks of the Snake River on this magical evening in Grand Teton National Park. Mount Moran and the Grand Teton mountain range, although backlit, made a pretty majestic foreground. For scale, notice the tiny boats on the left side.
What can I say about the clouds? As wispy as cotton candy and as vivid as a flame?
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!