Eye to Eye With the Teton Peaks

April 03, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I've been wanting to photograph the Teton Peaks up-close (via small plane) for months. In the summer, haze can be an issue - especially in a year like 2016 when fire season began early and burned within close proximity.

While the air quality is much better in the winter, obviously there is the weather to deal with at that time of year. The winter of 2016/2017 was especially snowy, which made travel between Idaho and Wyoming challenging on a number of occasions. With front after front marching through the area, it's also been difficult to find a suitable break between storm systems with a good chance for the kind of sky and quality of light I wanted.

Finally last week, it looked as though the conditions might be workable. I scheduled the plane and pilot for a late evening flight in hopes of catching alpenglow on the western faces of the mountains. 

(Side note: a benefit of flying in early April versus January or February is the temperature! With the window open in the plane, a winter shoot can get mighty chilly.) 

Unlike the eastern side of the Teton range, where flight restrictions over the National Park limit you to landscape shots (i.e. aircraft must stay to the east of the Snake River), you can get right up into the mountains on the western side. It's quite a view.

Though there were very few clouds visible from ground level on the Jackson side, once we got into the air we saw that cumulus clouds were blanketing the western side of the range. While this would limit some of what I'd be able to shoot, it also added something special: the highest peaks were poking out of the clouds.

We made a pass by the Cathedral Group and then up to Mount Moran before turning around for a second look. In that short time, the light from the setting sun had already changed dramatically and was even warmer. I photographed another series. Looking to the west, however, we could see we were soon going to lose our window of opportunity. High clouds associated with an approaching front were moving in much earlier than had been forecast and would put a damper on the hoped-for alpenglow. 

We made one final pass in front of the Cathedral peaks and then headed back for the airport.

Mother Nature always has the final say! 

Last LightLast LightThe last rays of sunlight warm the western peaks of Grand Teton and Mount Owen at the end of the day. (Teton Range, Wyoming)


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