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.

Water...Of Course!

With all the storm damage in Cades Cove, especially to the trees along Sparks Lane, I was searching out other interesting compositions along Sparks.  

Initially, we had gone down the road a bit and photographed directly down the road in the fog, which was a great scene, but I was still looking for something else.  Then I turned around.  The water from the creek was flowing across the road at a pretty good rate.  Then the sun was trying to break through the fog a bit, too.  I knew I wanted to use the water as a strong point in my composition, so I got down at a low angle and included as much of it as I could.  I adjusted my circular polarizer to knock off the glare from the water, then I set my aperture to F/16 so I could get a long shutter speed to blur the water.  The sun lighting up the right side of the frame a bit was just a bonus.

Aperture-priority, 1.3 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 24 mm

Everything came together for this scene....the fog, the water, the light.  It was a great morning.

Image created with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All supported by my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20x Ballhead.

Smoky Mountains

Last week we held our Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop.  David and I arrived on Wednesday to get a little early shooting in.  We had plans to go to Roaring Fork on Thursday morning...promptly after a sop at The Log Cabin Pancake House, of course.  When we got to Roaring Fork, we realized we were in trouble.  I was getting out of the car every few hundred feet to move limbs and branches.  One time we came across a tree that was big enough we both had to get out and move it.  Then we started seeing the trees bend in half, it seemed.  The winds were howling.  We finally came to a tree blocking the road that was too big to move, so we had to turn around and go out the wrong way.  Once we got out, we notified the park service and by the time we had gotten to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, almost everything within the park was closed due to downed trees.  Our workshop started on Friday morning.  Everything was still closed in the park until late Friday afternoon, and then the only thing opened was Cades Cove and a small portion of the road to Tremont.  We photographed at Tremont Friday evening, then spent the next day and a half in the cove.  Our group was super, though!  They all had a wonderful time, despite our limitations and, from what I've seen, they all got some amazing images!

The landscape of Cades Cove did change a bit.  There were several downed trees and limbs.  The iconic image of Sparks Lane will never be the same.  One of the trees had some massive branches that came down and virtually looks like it's half of what it used to be.

I guess because of having to deal with all of those issues (either that or as my late birthday present), mother nature rewarded us Sunday Morning with a morning full of beautiful foggy scenes.  The fog seemed to last forever and we were able to capture several different subjects in it.  One of my favorite scenes from the fog was this fence line, that I'm certain I've never noticed before.  We were parked along Sparks Lane looking for different shots, since "the shot" was not very appealing anymore, and we found this fence line off the road...and it just looked great in the fog.

Aperture-priority, 0.5 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 31mm

When I composed this scene, I knew I wanted to have a solid anchor for the foreground.  I also knew I wanted to use a fence post for that.  I picked out a nice one, placed it in the scene where I wanted and let the fence line and fog do the rest.

Image made with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I stabilized my gear with a Sirui W-2204 Tripod and Sirui K-20X Ballhead.

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.

Mesa Arch Glow

As promised yesterday, I'm sharing the image of Mesa Arch lit up underneath.  I promise this is the last one I will be sharing before moving onto a different subject.

This is the reason people line up in the dark to shoot here.  On the opposite side of this arch is about a 1200 foot drop.  That drop is part of what is known as a "bowl" in the rocks. When the sun rises, it hits that bowl directly and the reflected light lights up the underside of the arch with this nice, warm light.  It is something to see, for sure.

Aperture Priority, 1/10th second, F/16, ISO 100, 15mm

If you look closely at this image, in the distance you can see a formation known as Washer Woman.  Washer Woman is actually a desert tower and an arch.  It gives the illusion that a woman is reaching her hands into a tub.  The "woman" part of the formation creates the tower and the "reaching into the tub" part creates the arch.

This image was made with my Canon 5D Mk III and Tamron 15-30mm Lens resting atop my Sirui Tripod and K-40X Ballhead.

 

Another From Mesa Arch

What a week last week was!  First, it started in Moab, UT in Arches National Park and Canyonland National Park, then a long drive up to Pinedale, WY to tour the Wind River Mountain Range, finally on to Jackson for the next 5 days for our workshop in Grand Teton National Park.  It was a week of almost no sleep and no reliable internet, so you didn't hear from me much at all.  It was also a blast!

Last week I shared an image with you form Mesa Arch.  That one was just after that sun had risen above the horizon.  This image was before that.  The sky and clouds are awesome but the arch hadn't lit up underneath just yet.  I'll show you that one tomorrow ;).

If you ever get the chance to shoot this scene at sunrise, get there early!  We were there at 3:30 am.  There is only about 8 feet or so of "prime" real estate to shoot from so you need to be there first to get it.  After sunrise and we packed up to leave there were at least 100 other people behind us.  Not all of them were photographers, but we couldn't have photographed with them in front of us regardless.

Aperture Priority, F/8, ISO 100, 5 seconds.

Image captured with my Canon 5D Mk III and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  That combo was resting atop my Sirui tripod and K-40X Ballhead.

Mesa Arch

Tomorrow we start our workshop in The Grand Teton National Park, but we arrived a few days early to visit a few other places before the workshop begins.

One of the places we wanted to visit was Mesa Arch in Cayonlands National Park.  It is a very iconic arch and probably the most photographed thing in the park.  It is located in what is called The Island in The Sky district of the park.  It is very easy to get to as it is only about 1/4 mile from the parking area along a well maintained trail, which is probably why we were soon joined by about 100 of our closest friends for the sunrise shoot, most of them iPad shooters, however.

Just to the other side of the arch is a 1200 foot drop into Buck Canyon. This creates a "bowl" and what happens is when the sun rises and reflects off of that "bowl" it lights the underside of Mesa Arch up glowing red...more of those shots to come ;)

This shot was taken after I got some sunrise images from the "iconic" few just to the left of where I am standing now.  Some of the crowd started to disperse and I tried a few quick compositions before wrapping up and leaving.   I am always a sucker for a sun star, so I tried it from a few different angles.  This was one of my favorites, although there were many from this particular morning.

Aperture Priority, F/11, ISO 100, 1/40th second shutter speed, 15mm

This image was shot using a Canon 5D Mk III and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  This setup was all mounted on my Sirui N-3204X Tripod and K-30 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.

Great Blue Silhouette

Today I'm sharing another image made at Viera Wetlands down in Florida.

Many times you arrive at a location before dawn.  While you can't really shoot any action you can take advantage of the sky back lighting some of the birds and use that opportunity to get creative.  Here I used the colors of the sky before sunrise to create a silhouette of the Great Blue Heron that was tending to her nest.

ISO 640, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/80th second

Hover over the image with your mouse to view the camera settings.  Click the image to view it larger.

If you look at the camera settings, you'll notice a pretty "slow" shutter speed.  Especially when we normally think of shooting birds.  Shooting a 600mm lens at 1/80th second does require a stable tripod.  Bear that in mind if you are out trying this.  Handholding at that shutter speed would not result in an image as sharp as using a tripod.

Another thing to keep in mind when shooting these silhouettes is I typically shoot these in aperture priority with multi-segment metering mode.  I then shoot them at about -1EV.  This allows for more contrasty colors in the sky and we aren't really looking for detail in our subject anyway so I am not worried about that.  

One last thing to remember when shooting these is how to properly read your histogram.  When you shoot these silhouette images, your histogram will be mostly to the left indicating not much shadow detail.  Great!  That's exactly what we are looking for.  In this case, the "perfect" histogram is all the way to the left.  Don't get hung up on your histogram needing to have the "perfect" bump in the middle while not touching either side.  That maybe perfect in some situations, but not if you're looking for a silhouette.  

This image made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All mounted a top my Sirui tripod and Ph-20 Gimbal Head.