Friday, January 4, 2019

GRAND TETONS IN WINTER



A DAY AT THE TETONS 
 (Click on any image to enlarge it.)
On a recent trip to Dubois, WY at the end of November 2018 Bob Colvin and I decided to spend our last day with a trip to Grand Teton National park.  The Grand Teton National Park was only 55.6 miles from where we were staying.  Normally this might only take an hour to drive but for us it took longer because 1) the roads were covered in snow and 2) we kept stopping to take pictures along the way.


We hadn’t gotten that far out of Dubois when we spotted a cow Moose and her calf near the side of the road.  Naturally we had to stop and capture this opportunity on digital film.  
Nikon D500, Sigma 150-600mm Lens, f/5.3, 1/640sec ISO 1250
The road was covered in a packed layer of snow and the temperature was below freezing that morning.  The Highway Department had done an excellent job of clearing the roads but you still have to drive with caution because of the packed snow.  Bob was the designated driver.  I think I scared him the day before by doing a fishtail in a parking lot and although he didn’t say anything his actions told me he was driving from that point on.  No problem for me I got to act as the wildlife spotter, hence the Moose on the road. 
Nikon D500, Sigma 150-600mm Lens, f/5.3, 1/640sec ISO 5000
What I like about these shots was the creek being part of the exposure.  It was 7:45 am and the sky was a solid sheet of grey.  This required a higher ISO and a wider aperture to adjust for the lighting while maintaining a high enough shutter speed to match the lens length.  They were just standing there checking us out so my shutter speed of 1/640 second was sufficient to capture the image.  It was lightly snowing which makes for fun getting the focusing system to lock on to the subject while ignoring the snowflakes. 
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Lens, f/14, 1/125 sec ISO90, EV +33
The landscape along the way was beautiful with its winter blanket of white snow as cover.  Yep another stop along the way to get in some landscape shots.  As we got closer to our destination the sky cleared and was a vibrant blue which for me makes for a colorful high dynamic scene.  A few clouds would have added to the overall composition but when dealing with nature you take what you can get.   
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/16, 1/125sec ISO 110
It wasn't too long before we saw the Tetons.  Since we were coming from a higher elevation going towards the Tetons Valley we were afforded a great opportunity to photograph the Tetons from a higher vantage point.  Look closely and you can see a fog hovering over Jenny Lake.  Man it doesn’t get more gorgeous then this and I am sure I did not capture it in all its glory.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/11, 1/500sec ISO 160
Once we reached Moran Valley we opted to take US 191 into the Grand Tetons National Park.  The road was not open all the way to Yellowstone but we were able to get to Colter Bay which sets on Jackson Lake.  Along the way we stopped at the Oxbow Bend, one of the most photographed scenes in the area.  If you happen to be there in the spring or summer in the early morning hours you will be treated to the sun rising over the Tetons painting them in shades of purple.  But you better get there really early, like 4:30 to 5:00 am to be able to claim your spot. 
Nikon D500, Sigma 150-600mm Lens, f/6, 1/2500sec ISO200 EV+.33
The Snake River creates the Oxbow Bend.  While we were there parts of the river appeared to be frozen and out in the center were about a dozen Trumpeter Swans.  Largest of the native waterfowl in North America, and one of our heaviest flying birds, the Trumpeter Swan was almost driven to extinction early in the 20th century. Its healthy comeback is considered a success story for conservationists. Ordinarily the Trumpeter is quite sensitive to human disturbance; in protected areas, such as some parks and refuges, it may become accustomed to humans and allow close approach.
  
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/10, 1/1000sec ISO160 EV+.33
Continuing north on US191 toward Colter Bay afforded us numerous opportunities to frame up the Tetons with various foreground settings.  This is my first time ever seeing the Grand Teton National Park covered in snow.  The blue skies and cold air, it was 17° when we got there, set the mood for shooting this winter wonderland.  Insulated underwear, snow boots and fur lined cap were the order-of-day.  They had just plowed the road and there were only three other cars there so a lot of the landscape had been untarnished with foot-prints.  What captured our interest in this location was the fog above the ground and below the mountains.  Upon investigation this was coming from Jackson Lake.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/10, 1/800sec ISO 160, EV +33
  Cropped in view to accentuate the fog a little better.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/10, 1/800sec ISO 160, EV +.33
There are no salts or other minerals used on the road in this area but they are plowed pretty close to the road so that driving on them was excellent.   The evergreen trees were capped in snow as were the mountains.  There was a good 10 inches of snow on the ground.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/16, 1/250sec ISO 160, EV +.33
We continued towards our destination, Colter Bay and the Jackson Lake, in search of the fog.  There were lots of stops along the way to photograph the Tetons at slightly different locations with the lake and fog coming into few.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/10, 1/640sec ISO160 EV+.33
Another friend, Niala Branson and I stayed here at Colter Bay back in the fall of 2011.  It is a really nice area.  Driving in the area it was so quiet and peaceful.  Colter Bay Cabins were closed for the season but the rest rooms at the gas station were open.  This is also where the park maintenance crew offices and sheds are located so the roads to this area are plowed.  Here I walked over to the lake.  This is a good indication of how deep it was. 
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/10, 1/800 sec ISO160 EV+.33
Finally I reached the lake and there was a layer of fog suspended over it.  This was awesome and surreal.  There were some tracks which could easily have been Moose because they were in the area.  This shot gave me a leading line around the lake as well as towards the fog clouds,  Gotta love the tones of nature. 
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/18, 1/125 sec ISO160 EV+.33
As I was leaving the lake I noticed the sun shining through the pines and re-positioned myself so I could get the sun's rays while shielding my lens from overexposure.  Normally, I would shoot two exposures one for the lights and the other for the darks but since I didn't have a tripod with me and I was hand holding the camera I exposed for the bright areas knowing that I could recover the shadows in post processing.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/16, 1/250 sec ISO160 EV+.33
Well after several hundred images from this area we decided to head on down to Mormon Row and the National Elk Refuge.

Mormon Row, formerly known as the town of Grovont, was settled in the late 1890s by Mormons from the Salt Lake region. Due to the Homestead Act of 1862, which granted land ownership to any person willing to build a house and cultivate the area for five years, this community was able to establish a presence in the area east of Blacktail Butte. Settlers secured 27 homesteads that they built close together to share labor and community.


Today, two picturesque barns highlight Mormon Row. Settlers John and Thomas Alma (T.A.) Moulton built these barns on adjacent homesteads. After nearly 30 years of working the land, John replaced his log home and barn with a new carpenter-constructed two-story gambrel barn north of Antelope Flats Road.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/16, 1/200 sec ISO160 EV+.33
Settlers dug miles of ditches to bring water from the Gros Ventre River to their fields. In the winters, these ditches would freeze so families traveled to the river with buckets to gather much needed water. It wasn’t until 1927 that a dependable water source to residents was available year round. Families mainly grew hay and ninety-day-oats, as these were a few of the only crops that were able to survive the short growing season and harsh conditions of Jackson Hole. Families also owned cows, whose milk and meat provided food, as well as horses, that helped settlers till the fields.
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/14, 1/320 sec ISO160 EV+.33
South of John’s homestead,  is T. A. Moulton's barn which took over 30 years to build this gable-with-shed style barn. Photographers from around the world stop by T. A. Moulton’s barn to capture this iconic historic structure with the Teton Range in the background. 

The town of Grovont once contained multiple ranches, homes, a church, and a school. The church, built in 1916, played a critical role in the community, serving as a social stage for all, regardless of faith. Although the building was moved to Wilson, it is marked at Mormon Row by fence posts, two cottonwoods, and a spruce tree. 
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art Lens, f/14, 1/400 sec ISO160 EV+.33
In the mid-1900s, Mormon Row was acquired to expand Grand Teton National Park and in 1997 the district was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Below are descriptions of some of the barns that still stand today, offering the same feeling and setting of the district as it was 100 years ago. 
Nikon D500, Sigma 150-600mm Lens, f/5.3, 1/2000 sec ISO 200 EV+.33
After photographing Mormon Row we continued our adventure heading towards the Elk Refuge when we spotted a group of cars along the side of the road with people and cameras pointing west.  This is always a good sign that wildlife is nearby and sure enough there was a Bull Moose and Cow grazing about 100 yards from the road.  Bob and I travel ready to stop at a minute's notice and set up outside the car.  Our tripods are in the back of my Grand Cherokee fully extend.  Just pull them out slap on the camera and you're ready to shoot.  Having multiple cameras with different lens works great for us.  One camera is set up for landscapes and the other for wildlife.  With a bright sunny day and at this distance focusing with a low ISO is pretty much guaranteed. 
Nikon D500, Sigma 150-600mm Lens, f/8, 1/800 sec ISO 200 EV+.67
Moose are large ungulates (hoofed mammals) identified by their long, rounded snouts; huge, flattened antlers; humped back; thin legs; and massive bodies. Moose are also the largest members of the deer family. They are also the tallest mammals in North America. Their height, from hoof to shoulder, ranges from 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters). Males are heavier than females; males weigh 794 to 1,323 pounds (360 to 600 kilograms), while females weigh 595 to 882 pounds (270 to 400 kg), according to the National Museum of Natural History.

Moose live only in areas that have seasonal snow cover. The animals prefer colder climates. They cannot tolerate temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) for long because they cannot sweat, and the fermentation caused by their digestion creates a large amount of heat.
Nikon D850, Nikor 300mm Lens, f/8, 1/1600 sec ISO 160 EV+.33
Well we finally made it to our destination the National Elk Refuge Road.  To get to this road stay on US 191 and go into Jackson Hole.  Go right or east on Broadway until you get to the National Elk Refuge Road and then go left.  This road will circle back around and reconnects with US 191 if all the access roads are open however, on this trip they were closed so we had to back track.  We spotted Big Horn Sheep, and Pronghorn on this road.  There were a lot of Big Horn Sheep and as this was the rut season they were not interested in vehicles except for this guy.  He was just standing in the road as cars passed by giving them no thought.  We stopped some 100-200 yards back and got out of the car to take his picture.  He stayed there for quite a while and then began watching us and proceeded to come our way.  Well he got closer and closer and was headed straight towards me and I was on the passenger side of the car.  I took a lot of pictures being cognizant of his distance to me.  I learned my lesson shooting a buffalo in the Badlands once.  I got so wrapped up in shooting his picture that I paid no attention to just how close he was getting so I was not going to repeat that situation again with this big guy.  Besides this guy can kill a man instantly by butting him with those horns.  I jumped into the car and Bob at the wheel was ready to go so we just drove around him. 
Nikon D850, Nikor 300mm Lens, f/8, 1/1000 sec ISO 160 EV+.33
There were a lot of Big Horn Sheep in this area and for sure it was the rut season.  This guy was following a ewe which was in heat.  Note the head up and curled back lips.
Nikon D850, Nikor 300mm Lens, f/8, 1/1250 sec ISO 160 EV+.33
The rams can be seen resting a lot. The rut season keeps them in constant motion and breeding draws a lot of energy out of them.
Nikon D850, Nikor 300mm Lens, f/8, 1/800 sec ISO 160 EV+.33
The really great thing about this road was how close we could get from our car.  Most of the time we were able to stand outside the vehicle without interfering with the sheep or causing them any distress.  Using a telephoto lens can have a lot of pluses and well as some drawbacks.  As long as you are within a reasonable distance you can get some killer shots.  With the light we had, keeping a low ISO was a plus as well.
Nikon D850, Nikor 300mm Lens, f/8, 1/1000 sec ISO 160 EV+.33
There were a lot of rams in this area and is the winter grazing area for Elk, Pronghorn, and Big Horn.  This was the first time I have traveled this road and we were so thankful that Bill told us about it.  Well we  got a lot in for just one day and made it back to Dubois at a reasonable hour.  This was a great trip.  

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you enjoyed this trip with us.



3 comments:

  1. Awesome series of photos and great story!

    ReplyDelete
  2. John-Very, Very nice. Excellent photography and excellent writing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great stuff John, it was nice to meet you and Bob here in Dubois.

    Bill

    ReplyDelete

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