Wyoming

John Moulton Barn

In Grand Teton National Park resides two of the most photographed barns on the planet.  The T.A. Moulton Barn, which is the most popular of the two, and The John Moulton Barn.  Both of these barns reside in an area known as Mormon Row and they are about a quarter of a mile apart.

The road to get to these barns is closed in the winter, so if you want to visit them, you will need to make a walk of about a mile, however, the walk is well worth the effort.

On this particular day, we hiked out in the dark to make sure we were at The John Moulton Barn before sunrise.  The area hadn't had near as much snow as normal this year, so the hike out was really easy.  It was cold, though, at -1 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Due to the lack of snow, it seemed several other people had been in the area before us.  What that meant was we had a lot of footprints in the snow to deal with.  The best, and easiest, way to deal with them was to get back from the barn a bit, lower your perspective and use the sagebrush to block as much of the footprints as possible. 

Aperture-priority, 0.5 sec, f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

This image was made just before the sun hit the mountain peaks.  The sky gave us a hint of color as the moon was setting.  I believe any morning is a beautiful morning in this area, but spending a morning here with friends, a camera and a sunrise is tough to beat!

Image made with my Canon 5D IV, Tamron 24-70mm Lens and Sirui 3 stop GND Filter.  Gear supported by my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and G-20X Ballhead.

Bighorn Sheep

During our winter workshop in Grand Teton National Park we visited the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole to search for some images of the Bighorn Sheep that frequent the area.  We had no idea what a treat we were in for!

I had been to the Elk Refuge looking for these sheep in the past.  Two or three times prior, in fact.  I had always seen the sheep when I went, but they were often several hundred yards away along the tops of ridge lines.  The day we took the workshop group it was much different.  They were feet from the road.   It was one of the most fun experiences I had during our stay there.

Several of the sheep were approaching cars to lick the salt from the tires and bumpers.  According to The US Fish and Wildlife Service, there is a major concern about the sheep licking the salt from vehicles.  They say that pneumonia is chronic throughout the herd of sheep that live on the refuge.  They go on to say that licking these shared surfaces increases the chance of further disease spread.  For those reasons they encourage visitors not to stop along the refuge road, but instead find a pullout and walk to within reasonable distance of the wildlife for photo opportunities.  

Fortunately, for us, the sheep were very close to the pullouts, so we didn't have to go far.  We kept a safe distance from them and got some amazing images!  This is a pretty majestic looking animal and I was super excited for our group!

 Aperture-priority, 1/500 sec, f/8, ISO 640, Exposure Compensation: +1, 600 mm

This is just one of many images I'm sure you will tire of seeing.  This is a good sized male.  He posed for several minutes and I was able to capture this shot of him looking "into the frame".  

Image was made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  

Along The Gros Ventre River

During this trip to the tetons, I saw more moose than I've ever seen there.  Of course, the ranch we were staying on had about three that would come in every morning, many times, right by our cabin.  Aside from the "ranch moose" we saw several many more, mostly along The Gros Ventre River.

This image was taken on my first evening in the tetons.  It had been been cold and grey the biggest part of the day, but for a brief second that evening the sun was attempting to break through the clouds to put a little touch of warm light on things.

Aperture-priority, 1/800 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +1, 180mm

Hover over the image to see my camera settings.  Click the image to view it larger.

Moose are very large animals.  This means you do not generally have to be very close to them in order to fill the frame with their large bodies.  The 25 yard limit imposed by the park service is more then enough.  Often times, 25 yards is too close.  However, in this case, I wanted to give you more of a look at the moose's environment.  I wanted to include things like the river, the frozen willows, the warm light on the river and willows, all the snow and leave enough room in the composition for the moose to "move" into.  Instead of zooming to 600mm to fill the frame with the moose, I shot this at 180mm to include the moose and it's surroundings.

This image was made using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Red, White and Blue

While those three colors represent the flag of the United States of America, they are also the three main colors in today's image.

We had the opportunity to come across a few different red foxes while we were out in the Tetons.  This one was the most entertaining to watch.  We got to watch this guy run, roll, play and bury himself in the snow for several minutes before he escaped into his den.

One of the reasons we even got the opportunity to shoot this guy was because of scouting we had done earlier in the week.  We had received some information from some local sources that there were a few red foxes in the area of the Shane Cabin.  On one of our days before the workshop started we went to investigate.  After cruising up and down the road to the Shane Cabin a few times, we finally spotted two foxes along a hillside.  We watched them and decided that they must have a den in the area.  Sure enough after watching them for a bit we saw them disappear into the den.  This was helpful for a few reasons.  First, we knew where to bring the workshop group to photograph them and second, we could photograph them in better light.  The first day we spotted them it was pretty grey and nasty.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,250 sec, f/8, ISO 400, Compensation: +1

Hover over the image to see camera settings.  Click the image to view it larger.

The scouting and planning paid off here.  The workshop group all got great shots of this fox.  And, even better, in much better light than we did a few days before.

This image was made using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

 

Northern Flicker

Ever since we started going out to Jackson in the spring one of my highlights of the trip is always finding these "bird nurseries", as we like to call them.  Basically, any cluster of aspen trees you find has all sorts of nesting holes in them and all kinds of birds make use of them.  In a small area you could see several different species of birds.

Aperture Priority, 1/1000th, F/6.3, ISO 3200, Exposure Compensation +1/3

This is a Northern Flicker feeding it's chick.  These birds are found all over the United States in any season.  This is the red shafted form of the Northern Flicker.  There is also a yellow shafted form.  Their main diet is insects, mostly ants.  They use their long, barbed tongue to collect the ants.  I need some of these guys in my backyard.  It would be a like an all you can eat buffet for them!

This image was made using a Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All resting a top my Sirui tripod and GImbal Head.

 

Jackson Hole Rodeo

Whenever possible while we are out in Jackson, we like to take those in our workshop groups that want to go to the local rodeo.  Everyone that goes always has a blast!  Seeing a local rodeo in the heart of rodeo country?  Heck Yeah!

The rodeo is a little bit tough to shoot.  It takes place outdoors at night.  They have lighting for the arena, but it doesn't work well enough for you to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze action.  The rodeo begins at 8:00PM and sunset was right around 9:00PM ish while we were there.  So for about an hour you could manage pretty well.  Anything after that and you needed a fast lens, or a camera body capable of handling high ISOs well or both.

This is one of the many scenes you see before the rodeo begins.  Just a couple of young cowboys hanging around.  Probably talking about how they are going to do better than the rest of the competition.

This image was taken about 15 minutes prior to the start of the rodeo.  If you look at the settings below you can see at F/8 and ISO 1600 I'm at 1/500th second.  That's about as low as I'd like my shutter to capture action.  I'm going to need to drop my F stop and bump my ISO as the night progresses.

Aperture Priority, 1/500th second, F/8, ISO 1600, 300mm

The bull riding event is always a crowd favorite and luckily this year they started the rodeo with that event.  This meant the light wasn't horrible yet.  I still raised my ISO up to ensure a fast shutter speed.

Aperture Priority, 1/1250th second, F/6.3, ISO 6400, 240mm

 

The below image is a saddle bronc rider.  He's got a heck of a job holding on.  Notice how the horse's hind legs are at a right angle to the rest of his body.  

Aperture Priority, 1/2000th second, F/6.3, ISO 6400, 200mm

You can see in the image below that the rodeo doesn't always end well.  This cowboy took a hard hit and got to see how dirt tastes.  This image makes me glad I am a photographer and not a cowboy.  I may have fallen before out shooting, but I don't recall a face plant in the dirt. ;)

Aperture Priority, 1/800th second, F/6.3, ISO 8000, 185mm

As you can tell from the settings for each of these images I had to shoot at higher ISOs.  I ended up shooting this event with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 16-300mm Lens.  That lens will only allow me to stop down to F/6.3 so I had to bump the ISOs to compensate for that.  I was ok with that, though because I knew the D500 performed very well at high ISOs (I didn't run any noise reduction on any of these images at all) and I was also ok with that because it allowed me a very portable setup to take into the rodeo with me.

This is a rare instance where I wasn't using a tripod or monopod.  During the summer months the rodeo is packed and there is very limited space, so you would end up moving out of people's way more than shooting.  I shot my Nikon/Tamron combo handheld and it worked out perfectly for this event.   

Schwabachers Landing

One of the most iconic spots in all of Grand Teton National Park is Schwabachers Landing.  

It is actually a boat landing used to gain access to the Snake River.  It is a popular wildlife viewing area, as well.  A quick, quarter of a mile walk from the parking lot leads you to the area seen in today's photograph.  This is one of the most popular photographic spots in the park.  And why not? You get the majestic mountains framed by evergreen trees on both sides and the still water reflects everything perfectly.  That being said, I've never been too fond of this shooting location.  Oddly enough, I think it photographs better from the parking area (this is just personal preference).  However, on the morning we were there, it really didn't matter where you photographed it from.  The light was pretty amazing that morning.  The clouds above and behind the mountains lit up very nicely and there was a nice cloud inversion in the valley, too. The water was still and gave a magnificent reflection of all of it.  It was tough to take a "bad" photograph on this morning.

Aperture Priority, 0.3 seconds, F/11, ISO 100, Exposure Compensation -2/3, 38mm

I recently read a discussion on Facebook about iconic, or popular photographic destinations.  The argument was more concerning the number of people that show up before sunrise at these locations.  Someone then said "I don't want to be that crowded to get the same shot millions of people have already.".  I myself am not a huge fan of the crowds, either, however I disagree with the "same shot as millions of people have already" part.  You can never take the same landscape photograph twice.  Simply cannot.  The light is always different, the clouds, wind, etc.  The location may be the same, but the images from day to day never are.  That's why photographers go to the same locations over and over.  I've shot the same scenes many, many times and always have different results.  The image above is now my favorite image from this particular location.

This image was made using my Canon 5D Mk III and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All resting atop my Sirui tripod and K-40X Ballhead.

Pilgrim Creek

I am putting together some final touches for our Grand Teton Photography Workshop and I am getting super excited about it!  I am getting the opportunity to visit a few cool locations several days prior to the start of this workshop. 

Here's a scene I hope we get fortunate enough to see again this year.  This is Pilgrim Creek.  The lupine in the foreground and reflections in the water made this scene incredible.

ISO 100, 61mm, F/16 @ 10 images stitched to create pano 

Hover over the image to view camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

This is a panoramic shot I took before sunrise.  I took ten images and stitched them together in Photoshop.  This image was made with my Sony A7R and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.

To learn more about this workshop you can click here: http://www.natureinfocusworkshops.com/photo-workshops/2016-spring-in-the-grand-tetons

Nature In Focus Photography Workshops is an authorized permittee of The National Park Service.

Shooting the Same Locations Multiple Times

I'm sure you've heard someone say before "Technically, you could never shoot the same photo twice.".  That couldn't be more true in nature or landscape photography.

Let's take this barn in GTNP on Mormon Row for instance.  It's been photographed a zillion times.  I've photographed it about 10 or more times now myself.  While, I still don't think I have the best shot I'll get of it, I got the one I am most happy with, so far, this past spring.  This is one of the reasons I will shoot the same locations multiple times.  There is always something different with Mother Nature.  If you photographed this same scene every day you would get a different image each time.

I always enjoy photographing a new location but many times I will revisit the same locations multiple times before I get a shot I'm pleased with.  I may be pleased with an image I take at a location then when I return I may have a better sky, or warmer light that I think makes my new image better. 

ISO 100, 24mm, F/16 @ 1/20th second

This image was made using my Sony A7R, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.

Majestic Moose

These moose shots were taken a few months back during my trip to Grand Teton National Park.  

According to park rules, you are allowed to be within 25 yards of any animal that isn't a bear or wolf.  These moose are gigantic animals.  They look really docile, but I'm guessing if they get pissed, I don't want to be 25 yards away.  Their legs are as long as my body, so I'm guessing I can't outrun them...plus, I'm fat..so there is that.

I would guess we were about 30-40 yards from this guy.  He was in a river valley and we were standing above him looking down.  Using a lens like the Tamron 150-600mm Lens and getting as low of a perspective as I could enabled me to get a shot that looks like I was looking directly in his eyes.  One of the best things you can do to improve your wildlife photography is to get eye level with your subject.  It connects the viewer to the critter in the image and is simply more dramatic.

ISO 1250, 280mm, F/5.6 @ 1/400th second

This guy was getting his antlers and they are in velvet.  He had a few battle scars on his face, too.  You can see those in this profile shot below.

ISO 1250, 180mm, F/5.6 @ 1/640th second

If you hover your mouse over the images, it will show you my camera settings for these shots.  You'll notice I was at ISO 1250.  Anytime I am shooting wildlife, I usually start at ISO 800 and go up if I need to increase my shutter speed.  Since these critters move, I like to keep a fairly "quick" shutter speed.

This is in stark contrast to the landscape & scenic images I post, where I want the ISO as low as I can get it.  Doing this type of wildlife photography the shutter speed is more important than the ISO, and even digital cameras a few years old have no problems shooting ISOs up to 1600.

These images were made with my Sony A77ii and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.