Friday, March 17, 2017

Exploring the Tetons

Exploring Grand Teton National Park and chasing images in the day and night.  After a couple of nights in Yellowstone, I moved camp south to the neighboring Grand Teton National Park.  I had several areas picked out for sunrise images and some locations I wanted to do some night photography.

Having waited until the fall I knew the Milky Way would be more in the southwest and west in the night sky which would open up some options to do some of the classic views of the Teton Range at night with the Milky Way beyond.

I was hoping to do Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher's Landing, Snake River Overlook, and maybe a few other spots.

All of those locations are great in the morning.  They could also be good at sunset if there were clouds.  Finally all of them would work with the Milky Way too if it was clear.

As always with landscape photography there is the weather factor and it could be clear or cloudy.  I was prepared for both and hoped for the best.

As luck would have it I was able to photograph several locations and get good light at sunrise, some Milky Way images, and then have some good hikes.

Sunrise is always a good time for the what the first light will bring to the Tetons and this trip was no exception.  Even on a mostly clear day, low fog made for a great shot of the Tetons.  I also caught a rainy morning at Schwabcaher's Landing with great soft light.

The Milky Way images worked out too with night images of the Tetons over Jackson Lake, Schwabacher's Landing and Oxbow Bend.

As always the park had a lot of people and the famous overlooks can be crowded, so while I will visit them, I often go looking for more solitude and had a spot along Jenny Lake all to myself for a sunset in the rain one day and a night of Milky Way images another.

The Tetons also let me make good use of differing lenses.  My favorite night lens is the fisheye but the 24mm and 55mm lenses worked well to bring the mountains closer and make the Milky Way bigger in the frame.

After four nights there I was exhausted from the long days and being up half the night chasing the Milky Way.  I had several very good images from the trip and had seen some amazing sights.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Yellowstone by Night

In the fall of 2016 I made a trip to Yellowstone timed for the new moon and a plan of photographing some locations in the park with the Milky Way.  I was there at the end of the season in late September as the park was starting to shut down.  My original idea had been to photograph both the Firehole River area while camping at Madison and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone while camping at Canyon Village.  Well, I was too late in the season and Canyon Village was already closed.  So I modified my plan to stay two nights at Madison and spend both nights photographing the Firehole River area.

I arrived in the park with just enough time to pitch my tent and then drive along the Firehole River.  I caught a nice sunset along the way and arrived at Grand Prismatic Spring as the last of the tourists were leaving.  I knew in the daytime this place was packed, but I walked on the boardwalk up to the spring and had it all to myself!

I knew once it got dark the Milky Way would be visible right over the spring and I waited for Astronomical Twilight and true night.  Sure enough the Milky Way was rising (or actually setting) right over the spring.  I sat there and made images as the temps dropped into the 30's and the spring put out steam.

What turned out to be a great surprise is that there is a Geyser right behind Grand Prismatic Spring and I was able to photograph it with a view to the north.  Now the Milky Way is not as bright that direction (see my last post for more on that) but with the steam plume it puts out it looked awesome!

As I photographed I noticed a strange light on the northern horizon.  There are no cities that direction for many many miles so I was not sure what it was at first.  Then looking at my camera images, the light was green.  I was witnessing the northern lights!!

Wow!  Wow!  Wow!

It was right on the horizon but it was the an aurora (AKA the northern lights).

I ended up there for a few hours photographing both geothermal features and finally was so tired I called it a night.  And what a night it was.  Milky Way, Geysers, Aurora.......Wow.

The next day I explored the area more and found a small side loop that went to the White Dome Geyser.  It has a nice cone.  You could be very close to it (maybe 40 feet) and the geyser was erupting every 30-40 minutes.  I knew this was the spot for that night.

I returned at sunset and photographed the only few clouds in the sky and the geyser.  Again I had the location to myself!  It was nothing like being one of thousands watching Old Faithful.   After it was dark, I waited for the eruption and had two cameras ready.  I could hear coyotes howling, I kept an eye out for bears (none) and watch the sky in awe. When it finally happened I was able to get three or four shots with each one during the eruption.

I did both some light painting and some just the stars.  I got another set of images I could have only hoped for, an erupting geyser under the Milky Way.  

After that I made a few stops along the river on my way back to camp picking up a few more images.

In two nights in Yellowstone I ended up with images I had hoped for but was not sure I could get.  What a way to start a trip.