Grand Teton and Yellowstone Roadtrip- August 2016
It was the summer of 2016, the last summer before i graduated from college. Me and my girlfriend, Katie knew that with it being my last summer vacation we had to do something epic. We had always talked about going to Yellowstone and when we say we are going to do something, we do it. So we decided to go on a week long road-trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. We loaded up the car with all our gear and all the goldfish, grapes, and string cheese we could fit to survive the eight hour drive. It was a long drive that felt even longer due to our high levels of excitement and anticipation, or it could have been because I missed the exit and was headed in the complete wrong direction for almost an hour before Katie realized and got us back on track. It was a silly mistake that we would have a good laugh about.
We arrived at the park after a quick stop at the gas station that has the world’s biggest taxidermist jackalope. Yes, that's a thing and yes, it’s weird. But we made it to Grand Teton National Park and were treated to an amazing first sight of the most magnificent peaks I had ever seen. I've lived in Colorado my whole life so i have certainly seen plenty of large mountains, but the Tetons are special. The way they rise out of the ground with no foothills or other mountains blocking the view is extraordinary. And at the top of these giant mountains are some of the most dramatic and jagged peaks I've seen. They are truly magnificent and everyone should see them at some point in their life. Driving through the park was a challenge, paying attention to the rode and not to just stare in awe was difficult, so we ended up pulling over and snapping a few pictures on the way to our campsite.
We made it to our first campsite of the trip that would be home for the next 3 days. It was a lovely campsite surrounded by big tall pine trees that was fairly secluded from other people. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Our first night, Katie and I made some amazing loaded quesadillas before heading off to explore more of the park. We drove off on the dirt road out of the campsite toward the park, when we saw a group of antelopes roaming in the tall grass. We pulled over and took plenty of pictures of these cool animals. As we were driving away we noticed another herd of animals, this time buffalo. I had never seen wild buffalo before so for me this was a great experience. We pulled the car over on the dirt road to try and take some pictures but they weren't turning out great since the herd was so far away. Fortunately though, as we were taking pictures we noticed that the herd was heading in our direction. Before I knew what was happening our car was surrounded by hundreds of wild giant buffalo. It was a crazy surreal experience that I'll certainly never forget. It was such a rush of excitement and at that moment I knew that this trip was already so amazing.
Continuing on our journey we arrived at Schwabaccher’s Landing where we planned on taking pictures of the sunset. We got there and decided to hike up and down the river a little bit to take in the sights. As we were walking we noticed something moving in the water. It was a beaver carrying a stick as he was building his dam. It was so cool to see and just added to all the wildlife we have seen on this trip just in that one day. We found a spot along the river to take pictures where you could see the beautiful peaks, the surrounding trees, and the calm river all in one shot. There was a lack of clouds so the color in the sky wasn't phenomenal, and we were shooting into the sun as it fell behind the Tetons making this a difficult photograph. All things considered though the pictures turned out all right but the memory of enjoying the first sunset of many on our trip. We headed back to the campsite and went to sleep ready for another day of exploring this beautiful national park.
On our first morning in the park I wanted to photograph a place I had seen many times online, the famous Moulton Barns. We got there early before the sun rose and set up our gear. The promise of a good sunrise was looking bleak as there were some heavy clouds to the east. Just when I though that we wouldn't get any good light that morning, the sun peaked through the clouds hitting the peas with vibrant pink alpenglow. It was beautiful and just like that it was over. It happened so fast but I'm glad I was able to capture an image that I was satisfied with.
After our morning shoot we continued on the road and explored the rest of the park. Since Katie sprained her ankle the night before our trip we couldn't do any of the hikes we planned, instead we decided to drive around to a bunch of the overlooks around the park. We stopped at so many amazing viewpoints such as the Snake River Overlook and Oxbow Bend, coming to the conclusion that I need to return and photograph many of these places in better light. We made our way to Jenny Lake where we scrambled down a short trail to the shore. The lake there was pretty stunning. Beautiful blue water at the base of the Tetons created an amazing view and an amazing spot to stop and absorb the beautiful scenery around us.
Once we returned to the campsite and finished dinner, we decided our next adventure would be to go out that night and practice star photography. Star photography was something that at that time, I was really knew to. We went back to the barn from that morning and I began taking some pictures. When I saw the LCD screen I was pretty shocked. The detail and color looked amazing. Later at home I realized how images will always look better in the field when it's pitch black outside. And looking back on it now I've learned new techniques that make these older pictures look pretty outdated. It also doesn't hurt to have a nicer camera with a nicer sensor. I imagine that in a few years I'll look back at the night images I'm taking today and think the same thing. After taking lots of pictures we finally headed back and off to sleep after some animal rustling in the dark scared us off.
On the final morning in Grand Teton, we headed off once again toward the barn, trying to get better light. As the sun rose and the light began to show on the mountains, we realized that the light was going to be pretty good that morning, and quite different from the previous morning. There were no clouds in the sky so there wasn't that bright pink light, but there was terrific golden light that hit the peaks and the barn. I tried getting a little big of a different composition this time and found one that I liked shooting through some trees.
We hen moved on but I had to make one more stop. I had one more photo in mind Which was a road shot that I had seen on our way into the park. So I ran out into the middle of the road and took the shot. We then proceeded on our way past Grand Teton, headed for Yellowstone National Park.