Ain't They Grand? A Review of My Recent Adventures in the Tetons

November 24, 2023  |  Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming, is simply stunning. I've visited twice now, but since the first time was only for about 16 hours, I hardly count that, except that I did manage to make a few good photographs in that time. Thankfully, last month, I was able to go back for a longer time, and spent a week with some friends exploring and photographing.

Mount Moran bathes in the alpenglow on a crisp autumn morning at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.
Mount Moran

Mount Moran bathes in the alpenglow on a crisp autumn morning at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

I consider myself primarily a landscape photographer, but on this trip, two of the people I was with were also very interested in photographing wildlife. I've already written about my experience photographing Fritter the grizzly bear as well as a bull moose, pronghorn, and plenty of bison. Photographing a grizzly bear was definitely a bucket list item for me, but wildlife in general is not something that's ever been the top of the list for me. I simply don't have the patience to pick a location and wait for an animal to come along. In the case of Fritter the Grizzly, I was tipped off by a friend (thanks Christopher Georgia! Definitely check out his work). Otherwise, I never would have known she was there and I was lucky that she hung around long enough, and moved closer to where we were standing, for me to get the images I did.

Fritter, also known as Grizzly 1063, roams a meadow in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming.
Fritter

Fritter, also known as Grizzly 1063, is well known in Grand Teton National Park as another grizzly, Blondie's daughter. Thanks to a tip from a friend, I managed to track her down and photograph her in an open field near where she's known to roam.

And in the case of the moose, that was dumb luck. Earlier in the week, we'd gone looking for moose and came up empty. We hit all the known spots only to find them deserted. On the last morning, after photographing at sunrise at Oxbow Bend, and then photographing morning light at Schwabacher Landing, we headed back to my friend Fred's place where we were staying (thanks Fred!). As we turned a corner onto one of the park roads, there was the telltale sign of a lot of stopped cars and people out of their cars with cameras, binoculars, and and phones pointed to the side of the road. Naturally, we stopped, and the moose was right there! My point is, when I get wildlife, it's because I get lucky.

A bull moose looks around while on a morning stroll in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming, on an autumn day.
Moose on a Morning Stroll

A bull moose looks around while on a morning stroll in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming, on an autumn day.

Landscape photography on the other hand, is much more my preference. While you can't always count on the conditions, mountains and rivers are always where they're supposed to be, so I can always make an interesting image. Even while we were out searching for wildlife, I was able to find a few landscape vignettes to photograph. The difference is that often, when I'm specifically out to photograph landscapes, I'll get set up before the light is what I want, and I'll wait until the light is perfect. But when we were out looking for wildlife, we would stop at a location and wait a bit, then move to the next if there was nothing happening.

The peak of Grand Teton is framed by vibrantly colored aspens on an autumn morning in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Golden Splendor

The peak of Grand Teton is framed by vibrantly colored aspens on an autumn morning in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

That's not to say we didn't have great light while we were out looking for bears, moose, or elk. We did, and I took advantage of it while waiting to see if any wildlife showed up. Golden Splendor, above, was one such opportunity where the light was beautiful, and the aspens and cottonwoods framed the peak of Grand Teton just perfectly.

A herd of bison graze and relax in a meadow as Grand Teton towers above on an autumn day in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
In the Shadow of the Tetons

A herd of bison graze and relax in a meadow as Grand Teton towers above on an autumn day in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

There were also times that wildlife and landscape coincided, as in the image above with the bison grazing in the grasses and Grand Teton towering in the distance. I love when I can include animals in the scene, to really provide a sense of scale, as well as a sense of the activity that can be seen in the park. The bison add depth to the scene, and even a sense of movement.

Grand Teton towers above as a grove of aspens displays their vibrant fall colormmon a beautiful autumn morning in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Grand Teton

Grand Teton towers above as a grove of aspens displays their vibrant fall colormmon a beautiful autumn morning in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

One of the things that I do differently in the mountains at times, is use longer lenses for landscapes. I absolutely love my wide angles, and they serve me well in my coastal scenes when I'm at home in Maine, or anywhere with a coastline. But wide angles stretch perspective, making anything in the distance appear smaller than it would to our eyes. That means mountains towering at 12,000 feet suddenly look small and distant. So I try to avoid using my widest angle lenses in the mountains and use more of a midrange, or even a telephoto lens. My go-to in the Tetons for landscapes was my Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8. It's an awesome lens, that allows me to be moderately wide at 35mm, or moderately telephoto at 150mm. That gives me a lot of flexibility for composition, without the need to change lenses often. At 35mm I can still be kind of wide, but the exaggerated perspective is not as much of a factor.

Mount Moran towers above Oxbow Bend on the Snake River, as a flock of ducks swim along the Snake River at dawn in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Autumn Morning at Oxbow Bend

Mount Moran towers above Oxbow Bend on the Snake River, as a flock of ducks swim along the Snake River at dawn in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

The final morning at Oxbow Bend and Schwabacher Landing was just magical. Clouds danced around Mount Moran and Grand Teton, and as the sun came up, the alpenglow on the peak of Moran was a gorgeous pink. As the air temperature rose slightly, a fog began to rise from the Snake River, adding to the atmosphere of the scene. It was amazing to watch the entire mood change as the fog rose from the river and the light continued to come up.

Three ducks swim on the Snake River near Schwabacher Landing as Grand Teton dances with the clouds above in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming.
Teton Reverie

Three ducks swim on the Snake River near Schwabacher Landing as Grand Teton dances with the clouds above in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming, on an autumn morning.

It was a fantastic week in the Tetons, but I still feel like I have much more to do there. I still haven't had much chance to hike some of the trails I'd like to hike. This most recent trip was a welcome deeper exploration of the park and I'm happy with the images I was able to make. Still can't wait until next time though!

Grand Teton is shrouded in clouds on an autumn day, as the calm waters of the Snake River create a mirror reflection of the scene in Grand Teton National Park.
Shrouded Grandeur

Grand Teton is shrouded in clouds on an autumn day, as the calm waters of the Snake River create a mirror reflection of the scene in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming.

A white horse grazes in the shadow of Grand Teton on a sunny autumn afternoon in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming.
Teton Tranquility

A white horse grazes in the shadow of Grand Teton on a sunny autumn afternoon in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming.