mountains

Roaring Fork

The Roaring Fork Motor Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite destinations in the park.  I love photographing water, so that automatically gives it an advantage.  The mossy greens on the rocks in the springtime are absolutely fabulous, too.  I also love that the water, in most places, isn't more than knee deep, so it's easy to get in the water and create more pleasing compositions than from the stream side.

The weather was bright overcast on the day I visited Roaring Fork.  That allowed me to shoot in that area for several hours...and I did indeed.  It's such a great area of the park, especially if you enjoy the water, and it isn't anywhere near as crowded as some of the other areas.

I used a 24mm lens here with a circular polarizer.  I never shoot water without a good polarizer.  It makes a huge difference in your images.  In this scene, it doesn't only kill a lot of the reflections off of the rocks and water, it also helps to make the greens a little more saturated.

Equipment list: Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 Di VC USD, Sirui Circular Polarizer, Sirui Tripod and K-40 Ballhead

EXIF Info: Aperture-priority, 4 sec, f/16, ISO 64, Compensation: +1/3, 24mm

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.

Photographing In The Snow

While out in the tetons on our photography workshop, it snowed.  Then it snowed some more.  After that, it snowed a little more.  Over about a two and a half day period it snowed over 30".  So, we got our fair share of photographing while it was snowing.  If you didn't mind standing outside and getting snowed on, there were a lot of photographic opportunities to be had.  Wildlife was the biggest of those opportunities.

You encounter a few problems when photographing in the falling snow.  Depending upon the amount of snow falling in between you and your subject it can cause your autofocus system to get confused. It can also create a layer of "haze" between you and your subject.  The first one you can deal with in a few ways.  You can just use your autofocus system and hope it is smart enough to figure it out, which might cause you some lost shots, or you can simply switch to manual focus.  The problem with autofocus is it's going to, sooner or later, decide to focus on falling snow instead of your subject.  There is almost a guarantee this will happen when your subject is doing something super interesting, or has moved to a nicer background ;)  The second problem..haze.  It can't really be fixed, but can be helped out a bit by using the "dehaze" slider in Adobe Lightroom CC.  This slider is pretty much magic and can knock down that haze in your image by a great deal.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,250 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +1, 150 mm

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

This is one of the moose that came to hang out with us at the ranch.  There were three of them.  They showed up everyday.  Usually, when the ranch fed the horses, the moose showed up there to "share" breakfast with them.

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

Blue Hour at The Snake River Overlook

I enjoy shooting sunrises, but the time before sunrise and after sunset, known as blue hour, is another favorite time of day of mine to shoot.

On this particular morning I believe the temperature was somewhere around -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was very cold!  My camera and lens preformed flawlessly in the extreme temps.  The only issue was the cold zapping the batteries quickly.  I had plenty of spare batteries in preparation for this.  I also kept the spare batteries in my pocket, close to my body, in an effort to keep them as warm as possible.

Another exciting thing about this particular morning was the moon was setting behind the mountains about the same time the sun was rising.  We were hoping to get the moon setting with the sun hitting the mountain peaks, which we did ;) And I will share some of those at a later time.

Aperture-priority, 10 sec, f/16, ISO 100, Compensation: +1

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

This image was taken at The Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park.  It was taken about 30 minutes before the sunrise time.  The image was made using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Lens.  The combo was resting atop my Sirui W-2204 tripod with Sirui G-20X Ballhead.

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.

Schwabacher's Landing

I'm really getting excited about our workshop in GTNP next week.  A few days ago my teaching partner, David Akoubian, posted a bit about shooting one of the many iconic locations, Schwabacher's Landing, from different locations than the most popular spot.  David mentioned shooting it from the main parking area.  I wanted to share a few images from a different area, also.

These two images were made within feet of each other.  Honestly, I like the scene from this spot better than the more popular spot.  You don't get a good reflection of the mountains in this location, but I like the way the river leads you to the mountains.  I also like the foreground elements here a lot better, too.

Aperture Priority, F/16, ISO 100, 1/6th second, Exposure Compensation -1.0

Aperture Priority, F/11, ISO 100, 1/40th second

Like I mentioned, you do lose the reflection here.  It really is impossible to get because the water is flowing much too fast.  However, I love the scene with the river rocks in the foreground.  These images were made on 2 separate trips, so I liked it enough to go back twice ;)

Sometimes all it takes to bring new enthusiasm to a scene you've shot multiple times is changing your perspective.   Next time you are at a scene that you've shot several times before, walk a few hundred yards down river or lower your tripod...whatever it takes to get a new perspective.

These images were made with the Sony A7R, Metabones adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.

Spruce Flat Falls

Here's an image of Spruce Flat Falls located in the Tremont area of GSMNP.  This is a really nice waterfall with the upper section being about 30 feet tall.  It is about a mile hike to get to, however.  The trail for this fall begins at the Tremont Institute.  

I took this image using my Tamron 15-30mm lens and just got as close to the water as I could.  You can't shoot these waterfall scenes without a circular polarizer.  I used a special filter mounting system designed for the Tamron 15-30 by Vu Filters.  It allows me to have a polarizer on that lens.  I can also add additional filters if needed, like a neutral density or graduated filter.

Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter, Tamron 15-30, VU Filters Polarizer, Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

Aperture Priority, F/16, ISO 100, 2 seconds, 16mm

 

Showy Orchis

While in The Great Smoky Mountains last month, we were on the lookout for various wildflowers in the area.  One of my favorites is The Showy Orchis.  According to the US Forrest Service website, the showy orchis only gets between 4-8 inches tall.  The showy orchis also has to maintain a relationship with a certain type of fungi in order to grow.  They also prefer moist soil, like somewhere near streams...The Great Smoky Mountains is a prime spot for them.

Here's an image a I made using my Sony A7R II, Metabones Lens Adapter and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  I shot this in Aperture Priority at F/4.  I wanted a very shallow depth of field so the background would fall off quickly.  Macro photography is much easier with a tripod.  I used my Sirui W-2204 and K-20 Ballhead for this image.

Here's all the EXIF info:  Aperture Priority, F/4, ISO 100, 1/50th second, 90mm, Exposure Compensation 0. 

Smoky Mountain Sun Rays

While in the Smoky Mountains for our workshop we decided to go up to Clingman's Dome for sunset.  The idea was that the full moon was rising 15 minutes before sunset, so we were going to photograph both the moon rising and quickly adjust for sunset.  The weather had a different idea.  We stuck with our plans, though and waited it out at Clingman's Dome.  It's a good thing we did, too.  About thirty minutes before time for sunset, there was a small break in some clouds near the horizon that allowed these amazing sun rays to display.  They lasted for about 15 minutes or so.  There was no real sunset, but seeing these rays light up the mountain tops was a pretty decent trade off.

I shot this with my Sony A7RII, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 70-200mm Lens all resting on my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and G-20 Ballhead.  The 70-200 is my favorite lens for Clingman's Dome.  I use it to compress the scene and get that nice layering effect in the mountains.  

No real trick to processing this image, but I will tell you using the Dehaze slider in Lightroom CC helps enhance the rays a bit.

Aperture Priority, 1/60th second, F/11, ISO 100, Exposure Compensation -2