In this August 1996 image from my trip up north, I spent a couple of days in Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming. This is a faerie-tale land of serrated peaks, forests, rivers, lakes and majestic wildlife. On this morning, after a rainy night, clouds obscured the peaks and hung low over the lakes and forest; a brooding presence. It was windy as I scaled the bank of Jenny Lake in order to set up my tripod in the water. I wanted a low angle for my 24mm lens to include the foreground rocks to contrast their smooth textures with the jagged Tetons in the distance. Small whitecaps adorned wavelets as the breeze came in off the lake and blew the clouds from the mountaintops. This is one of my favorite images. I like the raw power of the scene: the basic elements of earth, water and sky, as well as the turbulent motion of the water and clouds. The foreground rocks anchor the image and serve as a tranquil focal point / counterpoint to the chaos in the lake and clouds beyond. I also like the limited color palette here—it almost lends the scene the feeling of a black & white image and allows the viewer to focus more on the shapes and movement of the scene. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)
“Craggy Rocks & Twin Lakes”
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is located in south-central Montana, with a small section overlapping into northern Wyoming. This area resides partly in the Gallatin, Custer and Shoshone National Forests. Named after the two predominant and geologically distinct mountain ranges in the area, this region hosts craggy peaks, conifer forests, glaciers and glaciated valleys, alpine tundra plateaus and deep canyons, along with many streams and more than one hundred lakes. The Absaroka Range is volcanic in origin and contains dark rugged peaks and more vegetation, while the Beartooth Range is mostly granite, with sweeping tundra and ground-hugging grasses, wild flowers and lichen.
While driving through this area in August 1996, I was struck by the desolate landscape of the Beartooth Range, bereft of trees in many places, and the patches of snow which linger year-round. I was surprised to find many species of wild flowers that are present in the mountains of my area in southwest Colorado, only much smaller—under five inches in height–miniaturized due to the tundra conditions. This cluster of shark tooth-inspired rock slabs overlooking Twin Lakes in the canyon below caught my eye as an ideal foreground subject for a landscape image. The weather was spitting snow periodically, windy and chilly, and the lighting changed by the minute as thick clouds dragged their shadows across the tundra plateaus. This image isn’t perfect—the lighting was near-impossible to handle due to the brightly lit sky in the distance and rapidly shifting shadowed areas in the scene, hence the inclusion of only a sliver of the sky in this shot. Using a graduated neutral-density filter to attempt to hold back exposure in the sky would have proven futile in this instance—its use would have been painfully obvious, and in nature photography, a natural appearance is of utmost importance. Transparency (slide) film has such a narrow exposure latitude as it is, so I was surprised to end up with a decent image that captured detail throughout in both brightly illuminated and shadowed areas. I like the overall gloomy look of the image, as if portending doom (or just a snowstorm), and I think the jagged rocks in the foreground add so much texture and foreboding personality to the scene. Once again, my beloved 24mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens captured the image I had in my mind, and I was satisfied with the end result of this strange, desolate landscape. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)
“Grand Tetons & Snake River at Sunrise”
In August 1996, I took a trip up north to see my buddy Jeff in Montana. During that trip, I visited several national parks and monuments in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, including Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Devils Tower National Monument. On my way home, I spent two nights at Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park sleeping upright behind the steering wheel of my little truck in bear country (no tents allowed) and woke up both mornings to this very sight. Shortly after making this image, a bald eagle flew lazily across the sky, then three moose decided to stand right smack in the middle of the river for about an hour, watching me. Later that day at another Grand Teton location I saw a black bear. It was incredible. Sometimes nature can be wonderfully generous. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)