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Grand Teton National Park; Iconic Images

Beaver Pond, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
copyright 2012 Andy Richards

In May, my buddy, Rich, and I and our fairer spouses scheduled a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for some photography and sightseeing and vacation “R&R.” As photographers, we tended to plan for things like snowcap on mountains, wildlife coming to life, probable atmospheric conditions, and smaller crowds. Note to those of you who are interested in the “sightseeing” and things to do part: Don’t schedule your trip until Memorial Day Weekend or later. While we met 80% of our photographic goals, and we did get to drive around and do some sightseeing we were disappointed to discover that in this “shoulder season” (following the ski season and preceding the summer season in the National Parks), there were no trams open, nor were most of the sightseeing boat tours open yet. But we made do.

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

For those who don’t already know this, Jackson Hole sits right in the middle of Grand Teton National Park. Just to the North (the transition is essentially seamless except for the official entry points) is the Wyoming-based part of vast, Yellowstone National Park (more on that in a later blog). We planned 5 nights and 4 full days in the area. Compliments of our chosen airline, we missed our very first connection (there is no easy way to fly into Jackson Hole from Saginaw, Michigan) and lost a full morning (in this case the equivalent of a full day of shooting). On the positive side, we did get to see the inside of a very nice Comfort Inn near the Salt Lake City, Utah airport.

From the moment we walked off the plane at Jackson Hole Airport we knew we were in the West

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012
Andy Richards

From the moment we exited the plane at Jackson Hole Airport, we knew we were in the West. The spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery of the Teton Range surrounds the airport, and inside, the one-story, Western-motif airport terminal is small and friendly. Within minutes we drove out of the airport in our nearly new Toyota 4-Runner and headed into the park (meaning Grand Teton). While there is much to be captured by a landscape photographer in both parks, I came away with the strong feeling that the Grand Teton Park is much more of a landscape photographer’s “place.” Yellowstone looks to be the place to see wildlife. However, both parks have their share of both subjects.

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

With only 3 mornings left in the Park, and with our base of operations being in Wilson, Wyoming, just West of Jackson and just South of the Teton Village Resort, on the Moose-Wilson road, we knew we needed a plan. There are many iconic photographs of the park, but perhaps the 3 most famous are Oxbow Bend, the famous “Moulton Barns” on Mormon Row, and Schwabacher Landing. The forecasters promised us 2 clear days and then rain. So we made a (literally?) triage decision. Schwabacher and the barns were close to us; Oxbow a bit further out. Our first morning (Sunday), we headed for Schwabacher (we had made a scouting run, taking the ladies to see where we would shoot the next day, the afternoon we arrived). We knew that we could get the sunrise at Schwabacher and still have decent light on the barns, just a mile or so from Schwabacher.

There are many iconic photographs of the park, but perhaps the 3 most famous are Oxbow Bend, the famous “Moulton Barns” on Mormon Row, and Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing is at the end of a narrow, but easily passable, dirt road. There is a small parking lot and a vault bathroom facility and when you see the bathroom, you know you are at the end of the road. About three-quarters of the way down the road, there is a pull off, but don’t mistake it for the parking area (though there are certainly some nice photographic compositions from there, too). This area is actually a small creek that runs to the Snake River (the major river running through the park). There are numerous places along the footpath where the creek nicely frames the Tetons in reflection. The iconic shot is down the path a ways, where there is a flat bench. When you reach the bench you are at a place in the creek known as “the beaver pond.” It is aptly-named, as there are beavers actively at work there. When the water is normal, you can frame the Tetons between some tall fir trees and get a full up and down reflection. When I first saw Rich’s 2006 shot of this scene, I imagined a large, several-acre lake or pond in front of the range. To my surprise, it is a very narrow area of the creek and this year, the water was down enough to expose a gravel bar on the near side, which would encroach on a full reflection unless you shoot from a very low perspective. I did get down on my knees to try this shot, but I just didn’t like the “look.” You can see in my shots that the tree tops are cropped in the reflection.

Photographer at Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

We were hoping for some dramatic skies, but it was not to be

What separates a nice image from a great image in shots like this is some kind of drama or interest. What we were hoping for was atmospherics producing some clouds in the sky which, when lit by the early morning sun, would turn dramatic colors. It was not to be. Both clear mornings were crystal clear, yielding plain, cobalt skies. Still, not a bad result; nor a bad place to watch the sun rise

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards


One Response

  1. […] spending a sunrise on Sunday morning at Schwabacher Landing, we headed back down Wyoming Highway US 89 about 2 ½ miles to Antelope Flats Road. Turning East, a […]

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