Tetons in the Fall

I had the amazing privilege of taking a trip through the Grand Tetons during the height of fall color change. This incredible adventure produced some of the best images I have taken in 20 years of photography, in the course of 4 days. Next year I will be returning, and I hope to do so as a workshop. It would be great to have 8-10 people tagging along and learning how to shoot amazing scenery, awesome wildlife, and superb fall foliage.

I have to thank Shaun Peterson and Sarah Johnson for making the trip possible. Make sure and check out their facebook pages for some great visions of this trip. The one thing I learned from traveling with two other great photographers is that there is always something to learn from others, and that three people standing just feet apart can capture three incredibly different versions of the same view. 

It was an incredible time on what we dubbed the "Orange Chair Tour" of 2014, as we took the orange chair out every chance we got to add to Shaun's great project. (The Orange Chair Files can be found here.) There are several of me that will be seen on this site very soon. 

As we arrived in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) on Saturday evening, we were just in time to catch sunset over Jackson Lake. The great thing was that we were able to get two sunsets a day, if you know how to time it. If you are in close to the tetons, the sun will set behind them, putting you in the shadow of the peaks. You can grab a could great shots, then race out away from them to a location farther to the east, and you leave the shadow of the majestic mountains and get a complete new chance at the sun going behind them.

This image was one of the first I took as we got to the park. I love the feel of it so much. (Click to enlarge)(Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

The photo above was taken at 6:49 pm on September 25th. We grabbed this shot from the shadow of the mountains, at Jackson Lake. Then hopped in the van and raced back away from the mountains to capture the photo below at 7:07 pm from Oxbow Bend. Obviously these are only about 10 minutes apart. I don't speed (too much).

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It was very cool to get two sunsets. But the day was so very clear overhead that we didn't get any great color, but we stuck around Oxbow bend and did some astrophotography till about 9:30 pm, and I got one of my favorite shots of the trip. That glowing sky in the photograph below is a very mild form of Aurora Borealis that we could not see with our naked eye. Shaun called it "air-glow", but we surely saw it in our cameras set to iso 6400 and 20 second exposure.

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Then we retired to our cabin. But we were up bright and early Sunday morning to catch sunrise. And we decided that sunrise was best suited for our first morning from Signal Mountain. The view from there is stunning, and It was a great morning for the Alpenglow and that icon shot of the Tetons in the Morning.

Taken just before the sun broke over the hills behind me. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

Taken just after daybreak. The Tetons love to look like this in the morning. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

The great morning broke into a day and a half of cloud cover and we didn't have much for a sunrise or a sunset until Wednesday morning, before we headed home. But that didn't stop us getting some great images. 

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Sunday evening looked like this. We didn't get that amazing sunset we were after, but we go this great shot with the light rays. We were driving down the road toward Mormon Row and this was was we saw. So we pulled over, grabbed our gear, and sprinted across the highway to capture this. The light rays were only good for a couple of minutes, and then they disappeared forever. I'm glad we braved the traffic to get this shot.

Then we were off to Mormon Row, and we got the first Orange Chair shot of the trip. Seeing how the sky was so drab, we didn't really get any amazing shots of the barns. But we had fun taking the chair out and having getting creative with it.

Make sure to watch Shaun's facebook page for this and more Orange Chair Photos from the trip. (Once again this is the link)

©2014 Shaun Peterson - Click to see his other Orange Chair Shots

©2014 Shaun Peterson - Click to see his other Orange Chair Shots

And so ends Sunday. But never fear, we were up early Monday, and had a great day of shooting despite the cloudy weather. There was no seeing the mountains at sunrise. It was completely covered with clouds. We decided to take the Ferry across Jenny Lake and then hike up to Hidden Falls.

If you ever get the chance it is a very beautiful hike up to the Hidden Falls.

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It's a 400 foot vertical rise on the trail from Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls. We thought about hiking another 1/2 mile up the trail to Inspiration Point, but it is another 800 vertical feet in rise, and we were almost at the cloud line already. But if you don't leave anything to do, then you don't have a reason to come back.

But we had fun getting this image. For those who care, I shot this at ISO 100 f/22 8sec with 8 an 8 stop ND Filter.

It is very beautiful at this location and even though we hiked up in the rain, and had to wait for the weather to break to get the shot. And be prepared to hike a rocky trail. Hiking boots and outdoor apparel are suggested. 

If you are ever in the area it's worth the hike.

Click to Enlarge

So even though we had a cloudy day, we got some interesting photos. And sunset was about the same. But we ended the day back at Mormon Row and I go the timelapse video above.

So we didn't get any stars, and were able to get back to the cabin early. 

Of course the next morning was covered in clouds, and we got up early but didn't see the Tetons, again. So off we went in search of hijinx. As we were driving down the road we saw a bunch of cars pulled over, and that means one thing in a National Park... Wildlife. So we screeched the van to a stop, and Shaun and Sarah took off running to capture this monster Elk standing fairly close to the road. As they were sprinting toward it, I had another shot in mind, and I climbed up on top of the van and grabbed this next photo.

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I don't know about you, but I fell in love with this shot as soon as I saw it in my camera. To me this just captured the spirit of the morning so amazingly well.

Click to Enlarge. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

(Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

I was able to switch out and grab my 300mm lens to grab this one just before the big boy walked over the hill and out of sight. (Shaun got a great shot of this bull. Check it out HERE

We ended up having a bit of an adventure by accidentally trespassing on federal land, and being escorted off the Elk Refuge. Make sure and read the signs, even on an open gate!

We got some great shots with the Orange Chair as the clouds kept obscuring the beautiful mountains we had come to photograph. One of the funniest shots I have seen is one we took when we got the Orange Chair out again at the Barn on Mormon Row.

©2014 Shaun Peterson (click to see more)

©2014 Shaun Peterson (click to see more)

Click to Enlarge

Shaun managed to get photographers from 3 different countries to line up like we were waiting to use the outhouse. It was hilarious to watch. And wonderfully good sport sitting in the chair even made Shaun sit down so she could take her own photo of him in the chair. This was after we had an entire group of Trinity Baptist from Texarkana sitting in it below the Elk Shed Arch in Jackson Hole. (Watch for it on Shaun's Facebook)

Between Buffalo and Bears (We think) we got some other nice images.

Click to enlarge. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

Click to enlarge. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

Click to enlarge. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

Wednesday we got up extra early to be at Schwabacher's landing for the third morning in a row. But this time Clear Sky Chart (a very handy website) was telling us that it was going to be a great morning for shooting. So up at 4 am and off we went. Yes those are stars in the shot. This type of shot is only available at a very specific part of the morning. And it generally only lasts about 15 minutes.

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This morning was interesting, and I'm very glad we were the first ones on location because by the time the sun came up we had over a hundred photographers at this location.

Click to Enlarge

But with a view like this. Can you blame them.

Click to Enlarge. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

Click to Enlarge. (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

My recreation of Ansel Adams Famous Tetons Shot (Click to Enlarge) (Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

(Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

(Like this shot - Buy it HERE)

It was an amazing 4 days. I think this HDR sums up the emotion I had for the entire trip. This was an interesting shot to get. I actually climbed halfway down the steep, thickly forested, hill at Snake River Overlook and climbed up some precariously placed fell trees to set up my tripod and grab this shot. Shaun was there with me, and three Japanese followed us down through the thick brush. As i am snapping this 3 exposure bracket for the HDR. Shaun is behind me on the ground trying to explain to the Japanese gentlemen what bracketing is. I almost started laughing so loud that I fell out of the tree. Try and explain intermediate photography techniques to people that don't speak your language at all. The Irony is that our high end DSLR's are from their country.

Thanks for reading this far. Leave your comments. Let me know what you think, and what your favorite place in Grand Teton National Park is.

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If you like any of these images you may purchase them in my online fine art gallery - tetons.307photo.com

Phill Harnden2 Comments