November 3, 2011

Yellowstone & Grand Teton, Sep. 29 - Oct. 3

Mount Moran and changing aspens reflect from the calm waters of OxBow Bend on a cool fall morning in Grand Teton National Park. Captured with a Canon 5DII 70-200/2.8L IS II in manual mode at ISO100, f/7.1, and 1/320th of a second. The camera was mounted on a Gitzo 3540XLS tripod with Arca-Swiss Z1sp ball head a cable release was used in LiveView (mirror lockup) mode.


I went on this trip a month ago. I misplaced my trip notes and my mind is a bit rusty at the moment, so this post will be short. Plus, the images do a great job speaking for themselves.

I left work Thursday afternoon on the 29 with plenty of time to get my tires rotated and still make it to the top of the Beartooth Pass in time to shoot sunset. On my way, I stooped to shoot dust, seed and insects aglow in the last light of the day, before racing to the top of the pass. I reached my planned sunset spot as the sun was drooping behind the mountains (actually, I had plenty of time). Some might think I was running late, but my plan was actually to shoot the sliver moon setting behind the sun, and it all worked out.

With the pass still under construction, I had to leave a bit before I wanted to, so I could make it through to Lilly Lake before the road closed at 20:00h. I made it with five minutes to spare and drove up to the empty lake where I got my camera in position to capture a single 2h34m56s star trail exposure of the scene.

When I had my tires rotated, I asked that they leave my tire pressure a bit high, as I was heading to the pass where it would be much cooler. They neglected to follow my request, and the combination of low tire pressure and a poorly placed rock left me with a flat.

I changed my tire, and decided I should head back to Billings, MT to get a new tire. On my way home, I photographed sunrise at one of my favorite lakes, then some small little scenes as the light began to spill over the mountains.

At the top of the pass, I found three mountain goats that demanded I photograph them before continuing on. As I descended the pass, I decided I should shoot a few more scenes on the off chance that I decided not to head back to the park after my tire situation. Rock Creek called out to be photographed, and then I happened on a pool that was turning with aspen leaves that I simply could not pass up.

I continued back to Billing, MT where I ended up buying four new tires for the second time this year, and the fourth set of tires that my 2009 Subaru Outback has had. I went home, took a shower and decided that I should call it a trip.

By about 20:00h I had flipped back and forth between staying in town and returning to the park about 100 times. I went to bed, still undecided, but by the time I awoke it was settled: time to leave for the park. I drove to Cody, WY, as I needed to return a pair of boots to Sierra Trading Post. I did a little shopping, had an unhealthy lunch and headed into Yellowstone where I found a fire burning near the Lake.

I headed up Dunraven Pass where I ran into a friend who had decided to head to the park last minute, too. We chatted about our plans for the next few days, and I confessed that my original plan was to be in the Tetons already, but after my "bad luck" I was thinking it a sign to stay in Yellowstone. We parted ways as a rainbow appeared, and although I had just said I was staying in YNP I took this as a sign to shoot sunset then drive toward the Tetons. Before I got the chance I came across another group of friends photographing a Great Grey owl near Rainy Lake. The light was quickly fading, so I left a bit early to try and find a place to shoot sunset.

Near Petrified Tree Drive a shaft of golden light broke through the clouds just for me. That was all the signs I needed to start my drive toward the Tetons, exhausted as I was. I drove to some National Forest land where I decided to sleep in my car, as sunrise was only 4h30m away.

I was at OxBow Bend third or forth and headed to my secondary location to shoot the sunrise from the east of the bend. I like to use that spot when I am not the first one there because it is impossible to be in anyones shot from the location. Unfortunately for me, even when the crowds grew three "gentlemen" decided to go and position themselves in all of our planned shots as the light was reaching the peak of Mount Moran. Some folks started yelling at them, so one left the group and joined the crowd above. I changed my composition and kept shooting.

A cloud choked off the light before it really got good, and many folks left for Schwabacher's Landing, but I chose to stay. My decision paid off as first light on the trees was filtered through the edge of the clouds and it was pretty cool.

The light got a bit harsh, so I headed off towards the smoke that filled the southern half of the park, but I did not make it far. Nice light, quarter horses, clouds, and a background of the Teton Range made me stop. As I stopped others did too, and my morning of rude "photographers" continued as a number of people walked right past me, looked at what I was shooting, and then steeped in front of me. They got theirs though, as moments after everyone left a rainbow appeared in the magical scene. I took off running, like a mad man, to position the rainbow with the herd and three golden cottonwoods. There was only one couple present with the rainbow, so there was no one to get in my shot.

The rainbow faded, so I continued south, looking for moose/bear/anything. I ended up in Jackson, WY waiting for 11:00h, so I could get some Mountain High Pizza (I LOVE MOUNTAIN HIGH PIZZA). I really love pizza and a small whole wheat crust pepperoni pizza is my favorite thing to enjoy while in Jackson, WY.

After lunch I headed back to the park to scout for...whatever I could find. I headed up Signal Mountain where I photographed a few classic Teton B&W scenes and a dusky blue grouse. As it was getting late I decided to go and pinpoint where I wanted to shoot sunrise from at OxBow the next day. I arrived to some interesting clouds and light, so as I marked my spot I took a few "interesting" shots.

I finished the afternoon with a walk through the changing aspens, then began my hike up the hillside to photograph OxBow Bend from above at sunset. The view was unique, and the sliver moon even made an appearance. Off to camp...

Up and at OxBow Bend more than two hours before sunrise, so I could be first and get my spot. The morning was chilly and filled with steam, but that made for some nice images. Struggling to keep my cold lenses fog free as the sun warmed the bend I had plenty to worry about. Fortunately (sarcasm) a couple of "professional photographers" set up along the shore directly in my shot. They apologized, "moved" just beyond the edge of my frame and promised to keep their arms down and not to get in my way. The last part proved too difficult for them do handle, and after reminding them about five times I just gave up and changed my composition slightly, and refrained from shooting when they stuck their elbows into my frame.

The morning started off slow, but I picked up quickly, as the clouds and light decided to play nice. I even had a pair of American bald eagles fly through my frame, but even their near distance proved too far for a wide angle lens. I must just not be as good as Tom Mangelsen ;)

I left and headed up Signal Mountain where I have long wanted to photograph the Tetons with fall colors through the long dead stump, so I did.

I took the long way out of the park, spotted a black bear and some moose, but decided not to take any photos. My drive through Yellowstone was uneventful, as was the drive over the Beartooth Pass. I mean some great rays of light broke through the clouds to illuminate a few alpine lakes, but that is nothing new.

Wow, I did a pretty good job remembering the trip details without my notes, even after a month and two other trips.

Make the jump to go through the online gallery, I ask that you leave comments/criticism or at least give your favorites a thumbs up...Thanks!

If you have questions, ask. I published the camera information with each image and have added full keywords to share just about anything you would want to know about the images.

Happy shooting

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