Grand Teton National Park — A grand experience, indeed!

Sunrise Over Mormon Row

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visit to the Tetons was dream come true

Grand Teton National Park has been on my wishlist for years. In fact, it's topped the list of places I have wanted to visit and photograph. Well, that dream came true earlier this month when two buddies and I stayed in Jackson Hole for a few days.

It's hard to explain the visual impact of seeing the Teton Range come into view as we drove out of Jackson, Wyoming, to our VRBO near the foot of those towering mountains. My heart literally began beating faster.

So we dumped our suitcases in our condo and headed out to scout for the next morning's sunrise.

Our first stop was at the John Moulton barn on the famed Mormon Row. Man, I can't tell you how long I've wanted to see this view in person. We looked around and decided where we would set up early the following day, and then we moved on.

We ended up at Oxbow Bend, another iconic photo location, on the north side of the park and were gobsmacked by the view. Aspens were lighted up with their golden fall leaves on the banks of the Snake River and Mount Moran towered above the entire scene.

Even though Grand Teton National Park isn't necessarily known as a sunset kind of place, we knew this view would be the perfect sunset location. We watched as the sun disappeared behind towering Mount Moran and finally set off a light show above the entire scene. 

I actually was able to create two versions of this sunset: "Sunset at Oxbow Bend: shows the amazing colors behind the mountains and more of the Snake River, while "Crossing Oxbow Bend at Sunset" adds a bull elk that crossed the river.

It was an amazing way to begin our trip!

Sunset at Oxbow Bend

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Crossing at Sunset

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First sunrise — Mormon Row

The next morning we were up early to make the short drive to Mormon Row. Our plan was to work from Antelope Flats Road, using longer lenses to really compress the scene. We quickly realized that wouldn't work: Other photographers began filtering into the field in front of us to set up in a spot that obviously was the place to be.

Finally, we all headed out and joined at least 50 other photographers lined up to capture sunrise over the John Moulton barn. We all chatted as we worked and waited. Honestly, I was skeptical about how everyone would get along, but it was a lot of fun. 

And when the sun finally topped the horizon behind us, The scene was bathed in beautiful morning light. It was incredible, and "Sunrise Over Mormon Row" perfectly captures the tranquil scene!

Sunrise At The T.A. Moulton Barn

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A day of banging around

That accomplished, we drove straight back to Oxbow Bend to catch the pretty morning light. We arrived to find the scene perfectly lighted, with the golden aspens glowing along the bank of the Snake River and Mount Moran's granite face beautifully sculpted.

I used my trusty Nikon 70-200mm lens to frame up the scene, creating two beautiful versions. "Fall Morning at Oxbow Bend" is a horizontal that captured the entirety of the view, with the "Autumn at Oxbow Bend" being a closer view of the brightest aspens and Mount Moran.

Both are incredibly beautiful!

Autumn at Oxbow Bend

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fall Morning at Oxbow Bend

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While we worked, I looked over my shoulder at a small aspen grove we passed as we pulled into the parking lot. I have wanted to create an image that really showcased the contrasts of these incredible trees. And I thought I saw how I could make this happen.

So I slipped away and took several frames of a set of trunks against the golden leaves that were set ablaze by sunlight filtering through them. I carefully focused on each of the larger trunks to ensure I could create a final image in which they were all in sharp focus, while the leaves acted as a beautiful soft-focused background.

The images were combined in Photoshop to create "Aspen Glow," which I think is an iconic fall image.

Aspen Glow

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Another sunrise and morning light

The next morning we decided we'd be up extra early and be the first ones at the T.A. Moulton barn, another of the Mormon Row structures that is on the must-do list when visiting Grand Teton National Park.

We arrived to find one other photographer dozing in her car, so we shagged out to the barn to get dibs on the best location. The plan here was to capture the old barn and some cottonwoods decked out in fall color, as well as the Tetons in the background.

As we stood in the cold, others filtered in to join us. Soon there was a small crowd of us, chatting quietly and enjoying the morning.

And then the sky behind us blew up just before sunrise. The colors were crazy — and I wished we had a good subject to shoot in that direction. However, our goal was to capture the barn during sunrise, so we watched and waited for the western sky to catch fire.

Soon enough it did. The thin clouds blossomed into gorgeous pastel colors as the mountains turned rose in the morning light. We snapped away as the light quickly moved down the mountain to light up the cottonwoods and finally the barn.

Honestly, this was a hard one for me to work. My first attempt was using one of the frames in which the entire scene was bathed in that rose-colored light of sunrise. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it just didn't work.

Finally, I realized the issue was that the image was almost monotone in its rose light. Everything was so uniform in color that nothing stood out.

So I backed up a couple of frames to find one in which the mountains and the trees were catching some of that gorgeous light while the barn was still in enough shadow to give it some contrast to the scene.

It worked well, and "Sunrise at the T.A. Moulton Barn" was nailed down.

Sunrise at the T.A. Moulton Barn

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The rest of the day included more poking around, stopping at one of the visitor centers and enjoying the company of good friends. And, of course, creating more beautiful images (see below). We even saw a moose on our last afternoon!

We ended up bailing out of Jackson Hole a couple of days early because nasty weather was moving in. That simply means I need to go back and work some more.

Click here to view the entire Grand Teton National Park Collection.


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Smoke on Grand Teton

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Grand Teton in Reflection

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