Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A day off = A day in the woods!

(Above: Mt. Sophie fire tower framed by Maple trees)

This time of year, if its my day off from work and its a beautiful day, it means that I'm probably going to be spending the whole day out in the woods. And that's exactly what I did today. I spent all day wandering around the local logging roads and looking for fall color and any other interesting things I might come across.

(Above: Maple leaf on fern)

(Below: Fall colors and sun)

(Below: Moon Trees, Woodcock frozen in the headlights from my car)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Turbulent Sunrise

I woke early this morning to shoot my first sunset on Lake Superior in over a month. There had been a good wind blowing all night long, which meant there would be some nice waves to shoot. I actually wasn't sure if the sun would even show or not. It was pretty cloudy when I left the house, but not long after arriving at this location the sun came out from behind the clouds and gave me some nice color and some great light.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The guys behind the lens

And here's a rare treat... a couple photos of the guy behind the lens :-)

(Above: Me at Grand Teton National Park - Photo by Gary "Jake" Jacobson)

(Below: Me at Swan Lake, Yellowstone National Park - Photo by Gary "Jake" Jacobson)

(Below: Stuart and I under the elk antler arch in Jackson, Wyoming - Photo by Stuart Dahne)

(Below: Jake and Stuart in Yellowstone National Park)

I had a blast with these guys photographing in Yellowstone and the Tetons. Thanks again guys for one heck of an awesome trip! Jake and Stuart are both fantastic photographers... do yourself a favor and check out their work:

Jake's website:

Stuart's website:


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sunset at Schwabacher's Landing

Just when I thought the entire trip was going to go by without having any decent clouds, the planets aligned and for my last sunset of the trip we had fantastic clouds and color over the Teton Mountains! Our decision on where to shoot sunset on this evening was kind of up in the air, so I suggested going back to Schwabacher's Landing and giving it a try. Normally known as a better spot for sunrise shooting, the other morning when we were there I couldn't help but think that this would be a good spot for sunset as well. I always like to have moving water in my shots when possible, and I thought the water just below the beaver dam would make for a great foreground for a sunset shot.

Another element which added some drama to the scene was some smoke and haze from a nearby prescribed burn that was going on elsewhere in the valley. The Tetons were sort of "trapping" this haze on the east side of the mountains, which really helped to catch some extra color from the setting sun. It was a phenomenal sunset to witness. I only hope I was able to catch at least some of that feeling in these images.

An interesting thing that happened is that as soon as the "best" of the light started to fade, all of the other photographers started packing up their gear and leaving. The last one to walk by me stopped and said "Well, the lights gone now." I replied: "Not at all! There's still at least half an hour of good light left!" "Well, if you say so....." the man replied. He wished me well then retreated to his car. I spent close to another hour shooting after than encounter. The image below was made almost 40 minutes after that other photographer proclaimed the "good" light to be gone.

After shooting the sunset I parted ways with Jake and Stuart, thanking them for an incredible time. We had loads of fun shooting together. They went back to the hotel, and I hit the road since I had to be back in time to work Saturday morning. It was a short trip, but a great trip nonetheless. I can't wait to go back!

Aerial Afternoon

It looks like fun, but I don't think I would ever do it :-) Heights don't really bother me, but the thought of hanging in mid-air with nothing under my feet makes me kinda woozy. The hotel we were staying at in Teton Village was right at the base of the ski hill, and the cable car that goes to the top of the mountain was right behind our hotel. These guys were taking the cable car up the mountain, then sailing down and landing in a small field right across from the parking lot of our hotel. I'm guessing it was an instructional course, as some of them were doubled up.

This afternoon Stuart and I decided to take a drive to the town of Jackson (Jake opted for some nap time back at the hotel), which was only a few miles away. One of the tail lights on my car had burned out, and since I was heading for home after shooting sunset I wanted to have that fixed. So, we drove into town to look for an auto parts store and on the way back we came across this Osprey nest which was just off the road. Stuart has an eye for spotting birds and he noticed it well before I did. We pulled over to watch the nest for awhile, and were lucky enough to see an Osprey carrying a fish in its claws.

Sunrise on Mormon Row

Another beautiful morning... and another crowd of photographers! This is certainly not something that I am used to... usually when I am out shooting back home its just me out there, by myself. Its kind of nice, though, on occasion, to shoot in places where other photographers gather. It certainly makes for interesting conversation and sometimes new friends are made.

Odds are, if you've seen images from Grand Teton National Park before, then you've probably seen pictures of this barn before. Its sort of a rite of passage for photographers visiting the Tetons... if you're in the area, even if you don't normally shoot old barns or buildings, you feel compelled to shoot this one. It definitely is a photogenic location, without a doubt.

This barn is located in an area of the park known as "Mormon Row", so named because the barns and cabins represent some historic Mormon settlements.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Night sky over the Teton Range

(Above: Deer at sunset near the Snake River)

We were pretty tired after our long day in Yellowstone and our early morning of shooting the Teton Mountains, so we decided to take it easy in the afternoon and just spend some time relaxing in our suite back at the hotel. Which, by the way, was really an incredible place. If you are planning on visiting the Tetons and looking for a REALLY NICE place to stay, check out Hotel Terra ( Its pricey, but if you have a couple of friends to split the cost with, its not so bad.

After getting some rest, we headed back out for sunset. We decided to try Oxbow Bend, another popular place... a bit too popular, as it turns out. When we arrived at Oxbow Bend the parking area was full and the cars were lined up on the sides of the road for quite a ways in both directions. The area was crawling with people, so we just drove past and turned on the next road we came to, which was a gravel road on the left. This road went for a little over a mile and ended up at the Snake River, just upstream from Oxbow Bend. We walked around a little bit, and just decided to head back to Oxbow Bend after the crowds were gone. Our focus this evening was going to be shooting the night sky and the stars. Thinking ahead, I was looking for nice foreground subjects for the star shooting to come later, and thought that the tree in the image above might fit the bill.

We waited until about half an hour after sunset then headed back to Oxbow Bend. Almost all of the cars were gone; only a few remained. We had enough light to make some really nice exposures of the river with Mt. Moran in the distance. An added bonus was the moon, which provided some extra drama to some of the shots:

I know Stuart and Jake were excited to do some night shooting with me... and me, well... I'm always game for staying up late and shooting the night sky :-) We had a perfect night for it, clear skies and no wind! And to top it off, while we were making our long exposures of the sky we could hear bull elk bugling in the distance!!! It was pretty incredible to be sitting under this awesome sky and hearing the mating calls of elk in the distance. Without a doubt, one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Above and below: 30 second exposures at an aperture of f 4.0, ISO 6400 using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera and Canon EF 17-40mm L lens.

Below: This one was a 29 minute exposure, aperture f 4.0, ISO 100 using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera and Canon EF 17-40mm L lens.

Sunrise at Schwabacher's Landing

After spending a full day, sunrise to sunset, in Yellowstone yesterday, we drove to Teton Village just outside of Jackson, Wyoming where we would be spending the next couple of nights. We got in pretty late, but that didn't stop us from getting up early and heading out to shoot the sunrise. Today's plan was to shoot sunrise at Schwabacher's Landing, one of the iconic photo locations in Grand Teton National Park. Schwabacher's Landing overlooks the Teton Range, with a very photogenic beaver pond in the foreground.

Upon our arrival at Schwabacher's Landing, we saw right away that we certainly weren't going to have the place to ourselves (if that's even possible!). The parking area was already full of vehicles, and we saw what looked to be about 30 photographers already set up along the first couple of bends in the trail. We squeezed our way in between the other photographers and waited for the sun to hit the peaks. After only a few more minutes the tops of the peaks started to glow as the sunlight washed down them from top to bottom. All of a sudden the silence was broken by the sound of dozens of camera shutters clicking one after the other.

Once the sunlight had worked its way to the base of the mountains I started working my way upstream, finding myself stopping again after only traveling a few steps, having seen another composition catch my eye. The going was slow in this special place, as each bend in the trail presented a whole new batch of photo opportunities.

Part-way up the trail I actually ran into someone I know from back home... Don, who owns the camera store in Duluth. He and his wife were there with some friends. I snuck up alongside Don and exhaled rather heavily, then said "Well.... its not Lake Superior, but I guess it'll do!" Don started to mutter a reply, then turned and saw that it was me. "Hey! How are you?" It was a priceless moment :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A day in Yellowstone, Part One

Tuesday morning greeted us with bitter cold temperatures... I'm not sure what the temp actually was, but it felt like it was around 20 to 25 degrees. There wasn't a lick of wind, though, and its always good NOT to have wind when its cold! Jake and Stuart already had our sunrise location picked out, which was on a lovely little body of water known as Swan Lake. As we made the drive to Swan Lake, we passed several geothermal areas that were throwing up quite a bit of steam in the cold morning air. It was rather surreal to see all this steam drifting skyward as we passed the geothermal areas... it felt like we were on a different planet.

After shooting sunrise at Swan Lake we made a quick stop at "Roaring Mountain", so named because of the sounds emitted as steam escapes from the many vents along the hillside. Next we drove for a little while and stopped at this small river alongside the road, where we had fun shooting the running water.

One of my favorite things to do when shooting rapidly moving water is to use my telephoto zoom lens to move in tight on sections of the water and create abstract-type images, like the ones seen below:

Once we had our fill of the small river, we headed to a big river... actually THE big river... the Yellowstone River, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Easily one of the most popular places in Yellowstone, we had to take turns with lots of other photographers in order to get the images seen below. It was such a beautiful spot... and such an amazing, powerful waterfall! Lower Falls is 308 feet high, almost twice the height of Niagara Falls.