Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke: Blog en-us (C) Copyright 2002-2023 Rebecca Metschke All Rights Reserved (Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Thu, 02 Feb 2023 12:48:00 GMT Thu, 02 Feb 2023 12:48:00 GMT Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke: Blog 120 80 The Little Things The devil is in the details. 

This is certainly true when it comes to photography. There are many details that can impact how successful the image will be. The more time you log with your camera, the more you'll notice them. 

What's going on around the edges of the frame? What potential distractions might there be in the background? Are there any issues with contrast? Is the composition cluttered? How do you want to lead the viewer's eye? 

The list goes on.

Haste isn't your friend when it comes to detail. That said, rapidly changing conditions don't necessarily allow for a careful and orderly approach to landscape photography. Dither and you might not capture anything. (Even when rushed, you must be aware of all the little things that can make or break a photo.) But when you're not under that kind of pressure, it's advisable to slow down. Take your time.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind is the relationship of objects to one another. That visual connection is something you can often control, especially if you're willing to move and/or have some patience.

Following are a few examples:

Clouds can be pivotal objects in photographs. One summer when I was back home in Illinois, the skies were phenomenal: beautiful blue and dotted with abundant fair-weather cumulus clouds as far as the eye could see. This persisted for a few days and was begging to be captured with the camera. Far northern Illinois being farm country, I went out in search of a good looking wheat crop to pair with the spectacle overhead. It took a while but eventually I found a field oriented correctly in relation to the light with silos standing tall in the distance. Now all I had to do was wait for the right combination of clouds to drift along. After shooting for maybe thirty minutes, I got what I was after. The cloud which dominates the upper left portion of the frame is the focal point of the image - in spite of the other clouds present - because there is empty blue sky to its left. That "primary cloud" balances the silo and trees diagonally opposite on the bottom right. The ratio of sky to ground emphasizes the show overhead. Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois

To make the photograph below I changed position quite a bit - and also kept at it for a few hours. The fog was extremely animated on this early morning, so in that sense the conditions were quickly changeable. In circumstances like this, my advice is to have situational awareness (know what's going on everywhere, not just where your camera is looking at the moment), keep shooting, and be ready to move. I liked the fact that Mount Moran was only partially visible; this provides some context but keeps the Tetons in a secondary role. That middle band of fog began undulating while the fog closer to the ground rolled in and out. I waited until the trees in the background were obscured and then scrambled as needed in order to line up the repeating shapes of the foreground aspens and cresting fog.

SpectralSpectralAn overnight thunderstorm blankets the mountains with the season's first significant snow and leaves behind spectacular dense fog.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park is listed on the National Historic Register, and situated - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. This photograph is an example of a seemingly very little thing that adds quite a bit to the final result. When it looked like I was going to be able to isolate three cumulus clouds in this shot (odd numbers being more visually appealing), I waited until the largest of the three moved directly above the cross before making the picture. This adds visual weight and further emphasizes the subject.

Chapel of the Transfiguration Grand Teton National ParkThe ChapelThe Chapel of the Transfiguration is sited - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. The log structure was built in the 1920s and placed on the national register of historic places in 1980.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

When photographing trees, it's important to take your time and think about spacing. Look carefully at the composition and adjust your position as many times as necessary in order to get it right. Here, many factors needed to be considered: the three pines in the foreground, the pines on the left and right sides of the frame, and the spacing of the red maple (its trunk is dead-centered between the two bigger trees). How far back I needed to stand was determined by the maple: it needed enough room to lean through the frame. 

Non-ConformistThe Magic ForestA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking.

Hiawatha National Forest
Upper Peninsula of Michigan
I made this next photograph while on assignment capturing thunderstorms rolling through the Teton Valley in early spring. The Big Hole mountains, still snow-covered, are visible in the distance on the other side of the storm. You'll see that the top of the fence lines up with the (field) horizon line in the distance. Getting those into alignment determined the height at which I was going to shoot. The single leaning post drove my decision about where to stand.  

Thunderstorm Teton Valley IdahoThunderstormThe Big Hole Mountains are visible on the other side of the storm, still snow-covered in mid-April.

Teton Valley
Tetonia, Idaho

Moral of the story: take the time to notice the details. It's these types of "little things" that make images stronger.

In Local News

It's been an active weather week here in Teton Country. A significant storm dumped more than a foot of snow into some of the valleys last weekend so you can imagine what that meant for the mountains. Then the cold moved in; Monday morning the air temperature was 31 below zero in Idaho Falls. (It was colder than that when factoring in the wind chill but I think you get the idea. Frigid!)

In the midst of all the wild conditions, the annual Pedigree Stage Stop Dog Race has been underway (they postponed one of the stages due to the extreme cold). Mushers from all over the United States - as well as some international participants - are competing for $165,000 in prize money. Starting in Jackson, Wyoming, the sleds race on public lands of the Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, and Shoshone National Forests. The contest wraps up in Driggs, Idaho on Saturday.

Area ski resort season-to-date snow totals:

Grand Targhee - 292 inches
Jackson Hole - 351 inches
Snow King - 150 inches

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park photography Tetons tips Thu, 02 Feb 2023 09:03:00 GMT
Yellowstone Wonderland ReliableReliableOn very cold winter days, it's not unusual for Old Faithful toss snow or ice high into into the sky during an eruption.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year....

Whenever I'm in Yellowstone in the winter I can almost hear Andy Williams crooning his signature song - at least the first line of it. That's exactly how I feel about the park this time of year.

Snow is piled high and the thermal features are even more dramatic in frigid temperatures. Beautiful hoarfrost clings to vegetation, ghost trees are caked in white, and wildlife is easier to see.

In winter, the place feels almost - gloriously - empty.  Lodging in West Yellowstone can be secured for a fraction of what it costs during the summer months, and most of the time you can book on short notice. What's not to like?

With the exception of the road between Gardiner and Cooke City, the park is closed to over-road traffic from November until April. The only way you LonerLonerBison sport thick, wooly coats during the frigid winter months to protect them from harsh conditions.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
can get inside is via snowcoach, snowmobile, or on foot (snowshoes or cross country skis) - so yes, you've got to work a little harder. It's worth it, though.

The roadways are in great shape; they're groomed daily. Each afternoon at about 3:30 the groomers begin making their rounds; all visitors have to be out by 5pm to make way for road crews. In the morning - pristine!

A few things to be aware of if you're considering visiting Yellowstone in winter:

Dress Appropriately
Expect it to be very cold. Daytime temperatures typically range between 0° and 20°F, while overnights can drop well below zero. Make sure you've got the proper clothing. Wear layers; when the sun comes out and especially if you're moving around a lot, you can still get overheated. 

Services are Limited
Most of the park is closed for the season. If you're looking for food, your only real option is at Old Faithful. There's a coffee shop at Mammoth, and vending machines at both Mammoth and the Canyon Visitor Center Lobby.

Snowmobile fuel is available at Mammoth and Old Faithful.

You'll find warming huts at Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Indian Creek, Madison, West Thumb, and Mammoth Hot Springs. There are yurts at Old Faithful.

Use Traction Aids
It's slippery! Especially on boardwalks near thermal features, you're going to run into lots of ice. It's much easier to get around with microspikes on your boots.

Like the rest of this area, Yellowstone is having a very good winter so far in terms of snowfall. The current snowpack is 38 inches, which is 121% of normal.

The park is worth seeing any time during the year, but for my money nothing compares to winter. Yellowstone in winter truly is a wonderland. 

Winter WhiteWinter WhiteBiscuit Basin

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) snow winter Yellowstone National Park Thu, 26 Jan 2023 09:06:00 GMT
Can't Get There From Here In Teton Country, you can count on the fact that winter driving will be challenging: it's just a question of how bad the season is going to be.

If you're a regular reader, you're familiar with my lament regarding "snow removal" (air quotes) around here. Because the trucks are often nowhere to be found, fresh snow is routinely driven on and compacted, which creates lots of ice - the kind you can see as well as black ice.

More ice forms on roadways when inversions produce freezing fog and/or freezing rain. 

There there's the wind. During snowstorms, high winds can create whiteout conditions and drifting - which sometimes forces the closure of main roads. (Highways leading into Swan Valley, the Teton Valley, and between Tetonia and Ashton are equipped with gates. Same thing for the mountain passes. When the gates come down you're not going anywhere. Sorry!) 

Last week I decided to take advantage of a two-day window during which the forecast was favorable (i.e. dry and overcast for nice flat light) and make a run to Yellowstone. How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice....?

Right. Shame on me. I trusted the forecast. 

Driving north toward Montana, it was dry and cloudy, as advertised. Perfect! Not fifteen minutes after my arrival in West Yellowstone, though, it started to snow. Aggressively. (There would be five inches of fresh powder on the ground the next morning.) In and of itself that wasn't so bad; new snow is great for photographs. I was just glad I'd gotten there ahead of the disturbance and figured I'd extend my stay an extra day if necessary. 

It didn't take long before things got a lot more interesting. My phone began blowing up with winter storm warnings for West Yellowstone, Island Park (Idaho), and Idaho Falls. Uh oh. 

Early the following morning those alerts were more urgent; up to a foot of snow was predicted for Island Park, 50mph winds were expected, and they cautioned against driving for the next two days. Though I hadn't yet been inside the park, I decided the only prudent thing to do was to abandon the photo shoot and get out of Dodge ahead of the storm. 

It's been that kind of winter around here. Sometimes it can be really tough to get - well, anywhere. 

Maybe winter travel is difficult where you live, too. Raising the white flag in surrender is not the only course of action! Our cameras don't want to be packed up and left to gather dust.

When I can't get to Grand Teton or Yellowstone or the Teton Valley, I look for opportunities to shoot closer to home. If it's too treacherous to get out of my own driveway, I look inside my home. 

Do this and you might be surprised what you can come up with in the way of subject matter.

A while back another photographer turned me on to the idea of experimenting with colored water, which I have found to be endlessly fascinating. All you need for this is food coloring (for better results use intense formulations for vibrant colors), various vessels in which to put the water, and a white surface on which to place the vessels (for better reflections). 

Position yourself near a window. A sunny day is required if you wish to shoot refractions; otherwise you just need bright overcast. I suggest trying both. Then it's simply a matter of combining different colors and shapes and moving around to see what you get. You can test different lenses, too. I've had the best results using my LensBaby Velvet 56mm, but that's just a personal preference. 

If the roads are holding you hostage and you're stuck at home, you can still make photographs. Use your imagination.

I've posted a few examples of what can be created. Scroll down to see the simple setup (along with my trusty assistant). I've also used stemware, flower vases, and even some bowls but they're not pictured. The wine bottle didn't work well for me though the guy who got me interested in this used wine bottles successfully. When I need more variety in terms of glasses I prowl around town at places like the Dollar Store looking for additional options.

As for Yellowstone, I'm hoping to try again next week. We'll see.


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstracts color photography winter Thu, 19 Jan 2023 09:05:00 GMT
Mistakes "And bad mistakes, I've made a few..." So sings Freddie Mercury in We Are the Champions.


All photographers make mistakes. Those who are experienced are less likely to do so, but nobody is immune to the occasional goof - not even artists whose work you greatly admire. Rookies aren't the only ones who make rookie mistakes!

Especially if you're just embarking on your photographic journey, it's good to remember that. Don't be too hard on yourself. 

With time, you'll make fewer compositional errors. You'll be more aware of the light. You'll notice more things, like what's going on around the edges of the frame, or distracting background elements. You'll remember to check settings (like ISO). You'll remember to charge your batteries. 

Still, things can go wrong - especially when you're trying to work quickly. Let's face it, it's not unusual for nature photographers to have to scramble (think rapidly-changing conditions or fast-moving wildlife). 

Sometimes you don't know you've made a mistake until after-the-fact; it might not be discovered until post-processing. You can do a lot in post, but some flaws are fatal. It's deflating to pull an image off the card about which you had high hopes, only to discover a critical error. It doesn't matter how strong your composition was, or how interesting the subject matter, or how special the conditions might have been. You can't save the photograph, and there's no do-over. 

That's a bad day.

Want to avoid unpleasant surprises in post-processing? Here are a few tips:

Check Your Glass

When shooting in fog or mist (this includes near waterfalls or fountains), be sure to check your lens frequently for water droplets. You'll probably be thinking about this if it's raining or snowing, but when the water is coming at you more subtly it might not be top of mind. In those situations there's a good chance you won't see any droplets when looking at the scene through the viewfinder - but if they're there, the camera will see them and they'll ruin the photograph. 

Take Insurance Shots

There's room on the card. Don't be stingy; shoot a lot. Bracket. Try more than one compositional variation. Fire a burst of shots if you're photographing wildlife to increase your odds of getting at least one image that's tack sharp.

Is it breezy? To avoid any unwanted motion (let's say you're shooting trees or flowers), take multiple shots. Even when using a faster shutter speed you can get movement. The more you capture, the more likely you'll end up with one crisp photograph. If you're trying to create a panoramic in such conditions, be sure to make more than one series (a few more if time permits), and avoid placing stitching in the middle of an object that might be prone to moving. 

Don't be in a hurry to put your camera away; the conditions may get even better. Sometimes it's hard to know what will end up being the most compelling scene while it's happening, so just keep shooting. It's usually obvious when things are "past peak:" the quality of the light changes, the color fades, the storm loses intensity, etc. Until then, stick with it.

Depending on what you're photographing, focus-stacking may not be an option. If you want to get as sharp as possible from front-to-back with a single exposure, stop down and focus the camera at midrange. Sometimes midrange is hard to establish, though, and you can't always determine from the depth of field preview whether or not you've nailed it. You can make a shot and then try zooming in on the display to check it, but if things are moving quickly you may not have time for that. The solution is insurance shots. Choose a few different points at which to set your focus, and capture them all. 

Use Your Polarizer

You can't remove glare in post-processing. Especially if it's a damp day, put the filter on and keep it there. 

The better you know your gear and the more shooting time you have under your belt, the less likely you will be to make mistakes. They'll still come, and you may lose some otherwise good images as a result, but the errors will occur less frequently. 

Lessons learned the hard way are sometimes the best; we tend not to forget them. 

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
Henry Ford

In Local News

The snow just keeps on coming in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming, which is great unless you have to get somewhere. Winter driving around here is never a picnic; 2022-2023 winter road maintenance - or more accurately the lack thereof - has sunk to a whole new low.

All the local mountains are recording excellent levels of snowpack - enough to address agricultural irrigation needs for the coming growing season. Obviously, it remains to be seen how the rest of the winter will play out. 

It might seem early, but requests for backcountry reservations for the summer season in Grand Teton National Park are being accepted now. Likewise, campsites in the park (Signal Mountain, Colter Bay, Jenny Lake, Gros Ventre) are now available to reserve. Be advised the calendar is only open through the first week of July at this point. Visit to apply for backcountry permits or to snag your campsite.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park mistakes photography winter Thu, 12 Jan 2023 09:05:00 GMT
Beauty in Bleakness Patterns in WhiteWinter LaceAs heavy, wet snow rapidly falls, it clings to tree branches creating a design of dark tree limbs against the white snow and sky.

Newfields, New Hampshire
The first few lines of the poem-turned-Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter paint a vivid picture:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow...

The image that conjures up probably has something to do with the way you feel about winter in general.

As a kid, I loved it; you'd routinely find me ice skating after school. Following any significant snowfall we had to haul shovels down to the lake to clear enough ice to create a "rink," but that was a minor inconvenience. If we weren't skating we were sledding. As for the cold, we didn't seem to feel it.

Somewhere along the way I soured on the whole thing. Adulthood probably had something to do with it.

If you live in a northern climate there's no denying the fact that winter can be a challenge. It's sometimes bitterly cold. It can be gloomy when the sun decides to stay in hiding for days - or weeks - at a time. Driving becomes difficult. Keeping driveways and sidewalks cleared is a chore.  

I'll admit I had to rekindle my affection for the season, but the feeling is definitely back, and I have photography to thank for the change of heart.

Yes, winter can be harsh. Unforgiving. (And driving on slippery roads is not fun.) But winter can also be elegant, understated and quiet. Gorgeous.

The slumbering landscape, stripped down to its essence, is starkly beautiful. It's often soft, delicate and ephemeral: hoarfrost, blankets of snow, sea steam, ice-encased twigs. Jack FrostJack FrostSub-zero temperatures and fog create hoarfrost overnight, decorating the cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre River in white. While the peak of Grand Teton is in full sunshine, lingering fog below heavily filters the light.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Cloudy days create soothing and understated monochromatic scenes. When the sun does make an appearance, it casts long shadows. On those clear nights, the stars appear brighter than at other times during the year. 

There is something wonderful in the minimalist simplicity of winter. It begs to be photographed.

We're all at the mercy of how efficiently snow is removed from the roads. After all, you've got to be able to get to wherever it is you want to shoot. Beyond that, though, as long as you're dressed appropriately, you can stay one step ahead of the weather. 

If you're new to winter photography, here are a few tips to help you stay warm:

Wear layers

Even when bitterly cold, it's possible to become overheated. Wick away moisture by choosing wool, not cotton, for your base layer. Then add items like an insulated vest and balaclava. Invest in a good pair of snow pants.

Chemical warmers

For me, these are game changers for both hands and feet. They last for hours. I wouldn't be able to stay out nearly as long without them.

Get a knit hat with a liner

This makes a huge difference; the liner will cut the wind. If your head is warm, the rest of you will be warm(er).

Avoid touching equipment with bare hands

Tripod legs can become extremely cold; don't handle yours without hand protection. Even with gloves, if I'm going to be carrying my tripod for a while I don't grip it with my hand - the cold quickly cuts through in spite of my hand warmers. Instead, I balance the tripod on one shoulder and drape my arm over the front of it.

About those gloves

Dials, buttons and filters all require dexterity to manipulate. This is a challenge when you're trying to keep your hands from freezing in bitterly cold conditions.

I still haven't found the ideal solution. Believe me when I tell you I've tried many things over the years. (Then again, my hands are very cold-sensitive.) Gloves aren't great; the chemical heat warmers can only nestle part of the way down in them, which leaves my fingers out in the cold, so to speak. Also, for gloves to provide sufficient warmth they've got to be fairly bulky - which makes it nearly impossible to adjust the camera. I've tried silk glove liners with no success. I've also used battery-operated heated gloves but because I have to set them to "high" in order to feel anything, they quickly run out of juice.

Mittens are a non-starter for obvious reasons.

Currently, I'm using mittens with trigger fingers. They're warmer than gloves, provide much better dexterity than regular mittens, and enable me to comfortably handle my bag and tripod. That said, I can't operate the camera wearing them so still end up briefly removing a mitten every time I need to make a camera adjustment. (I double up on chemical warmers to compensate.) This is not ideal, but until I come up with something better it has worked, even at -24F on brisk Yellowstone mornings.

Each season has something special to offer. Even winter! Don't miss the many beautiful scenes just waiting to be captured this time of year. If you and winter aren't currently in simpatico, getting out there with your camera might change your attitude. It worked for me.

In Local News

If you're going to be visiting Teton Country, drive carefully. I'm not kidding when I say municipal snow removal around here seems to be little more than an afterthought. It's crazy. There were 245 slide-offs and crashes between December 14 and 26 in Eastern Idaho. 12 days!

Beyond the lousy road conditions, remember that even in the dead of winter wildlife are out and about, especially at dusk. Be on the lookout and slow down. On the evening of December 29th 13 bison died after being struck by vehicles just north of West Yellowstone, Montana. Some were killed upon impact while others had to be put down due to the severity of their injuries. Tragic. 

On a happier note, ski resorts are rejoicing as the La Niña weather pattern continues to produce plentiful precipitation. Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole, and Snow King are all enjoying above-average snow totals season-to-date. 

Look UpLook UpSnow squalls moving in create angry skies over hoodoos silently waiting for the rough weather to arrive.

Bryce Amphitheater at Sunset Point
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) snow winter winter photography Thu, 05 Jan 2023 09:05:00 GMT
That's a Wrap

The hours are ticking down until we close the book on 2022.

Father Time waits for no one; the years fly by. Happily, our cameras enable us to capture some of those fleeting moments and hang onto them. As the great Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange said, "Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still."

What a gift!

We can thank Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre for giving us this amazing capability. Niépce is credited with capturing the first permanent photographic image in 1826 via camera obscura (albeit crude - and it was quite cumbersome to create). Monsieur Daguerre, an associate, continued developing the technology following the death of Niépce in 1833. He made vast improvements and ultimately introduced the first commercially viable photographic process: the daguerreotype. Until the mid-19th century, it was the most commonly used method to create photographs. You've probably seen some of these images; Matthew Brady's famous portraits of public figures like Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were daguerreotypes. So were the early portraits of Abraham Lincoln.

Whether it's casual snapshots or fine art photographs, the moments we capture with our cameras are unique. None can be exactly replicated. No matter how similar scenes might look from one day to the next, they're ephemeral. Never are the conditions exactly the same. (That's one of the reasons working repeatedly at the same location is far from boring.)

Time races by, yet we can freeze it, returning to singular moments - over and over again - via photographs. It's magical. 

Millions upon millions of snapshots are taken each day. Landscape and nature photographers don't collect as many images. Actually, by the time you finish processing and culling your work, you might end the year with a relatively small number of "keepers." That's okay.

It's quality that counts - not quantity. 

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
Ansel Adams

May the new year bring you good health, happiness - and great light.


About the Photograph

This is First Night in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Originating in Boston in the mid-1970s as a finale to the Bicentennial events, First Night had become a huge deal in Beantown by the 1990s - with ice sculptures on the Common, thousands of artists and musicians participating, a parade, and tens of thousands of revelers. There were not one but TWO opportunities to see fireworks: an earlier show for families and then the midnight extravaganza at the Harbor.

The December 31, 1999 Boston shindig (First Night 2000) was especially elaborate - though there was some worry about whether the whole Y2K computer brouhaha would gum up the works. Spoiler alert: it didn't. Hotel elevators kept working at midnight (though guests weren't allowed to enter the lifts as a precaution), the lights stayed on, and the celebration continued uninterrupted.

First Night came to Portsmouth in 1986. Just like Boston, Portsmouth gets into a pyrotechnic frame of mind on New Year's Eve, though it's a single show at an earlier hour: 7:30pm. 

Part of the challenge of shooting the Portsmouth fireworks is to try to come up with a new vantage point from which to capture them from one show to the next. The year I made this photo was one of the first times I decided to take my camera into town for First Night so I went for the wide angle. To be accurate I guess I should say my camera and I were in Maine for First Night: here you see the Portsmouth waterfront along with the landmark North Church as viewed from across the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine. Because it was bitterly cold, I was appreciating the fact that they didn't wait for midnight to light up the sky. Didn't really matter, though. I love fireworks.

Here's to First Night 2023!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Boston fireworks First Night New Hampshire New Year's Eve Portsmouth Thu, 29 Dec 2022 09:12:00 GMT
It's Official Great ExpectationsGreat ExpectationsThe minutes just before the sun clears the opposite horizon: lovely anticipation.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Yesterday was the solstice; winter has officially arrived!

Here in Teton Country it's kind of a meaningless formality: since early November temperatures have been running well below average and snowfall has been copious. In this neck of the woods, winter doesn't wait for a gilded invitation. 

The ski resorts love it, of course, as do all outdoor enthusiasts. Both Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole have recorded totals of more than 200" of snow season-to-date. Way ahead of last year. 

(By the way, I was teased before I moved here - a lot - about the "500 inches of champagne powder" which awaited me. I was sick and tired of digging out from New England Nor'easters so the joke was unamusing. Lest you think it's just a bogus marketing tagline, the 500 inches at Grand Targhee is real. And yes, it's gorgeous, dry powder. But I don't ski.)

If generous precipitation persists throughout the winter it'll also be helpful in terms of the water supply. Obviously very advantageous.

It'd just be nice if the plows would get out in a timely fashion - before the roads turn into vast sheets of ice. But no. "That's not the way things are done here, sister."

I'm no stranger to winter driving in northern climates but the road conditions in Eastern Idaho, Western Wyoming and much of Montana give a whole new meaning to "treacherous." Welcome to the wild, wild west.

C'est la vie.

Lousy roads can make winter photography challenging. Dangerous, actually. It's worth the effort, but caution is warranted.

Fresh PowderFresh PowderPowdery early season snowfall covers the berries on a crab tree in winter.

Newfields, New Hampshire
Road conditions aside, there are some great things about shooting this time of year: 

Fewer People
Brave the elements and you'll be treated to elbow room - even in national parks, most of which remain open throughout the season. If you've never visited Acadia or Bryce or Grand Teton (the list goes on) in the winter, you don't know what you're missing. Full disclosure: expect limited access - but that's a small price to pay. Make sure to check before you go so you know exactly what's open and what's not, which roads are closed for the season (i.e. Yellowstone is mostly oversnow only), and what types of services - if any - are available.

Excellent Light
Because the sun is lower in the sky (much lower if you're far to the north), the angle and quality of light remains quite good throughout much of the day. This creates dramatic, long shadows and extends the time you're able to work. Air quality is also typically very clear.

Short Days
Sunrise is late and sunset is early. Sleep deprivation is not required to shoot at the edges of the day.

Spectacular Landscapes
Fresh snowfall transforms everything. It declutters and simplifies. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Snow takes on the color of the sky. Pristine conditions following the arrival of new snow are fleeting; hoar frost usually doesn't last long. These types of transient scenes exponentially increase the opportunity to create more unique images.

Winter is Magical
I'm sure you've noticed how quiet it can become as the snow is falling. There is a uniqueness about it. Everything is hushed. I love the experience just as much as I do the photography - maybe more. 

I know, I know - I've mentioned this before. But come on, those holiday displays are just begging to be photographed. You've still got at least one week left!

There was a time when I didn't shoot much in the winter. Once I saw the error of my ways, I never looked back. If you've never gotten into it, give winter photography a chance. You might find yourself hooked, too.

Better get busy; now that the solstice has passed, the days are getting longer. Summer will be here before you know it. :)

Speaking of getting busy, I'm way behind on viewing my stockpile of Christmas entertainment. Truth be told, I haven't started yet, which is really quite pathetic. That changes beginning tonight. The first feature playing at my house will be the best of them all: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Wishing you and yours a joyous celebration.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) snow solstice Teton Country winter winter photography Thu, 22 Dec 2022 09:15:00 GMT
Get the Reps While I've been interested in photographs and cameras since childhood, I didn't set out to pursue photography as a vocation.

Upon receiving my first SLR camera and kit (a college graduation gift from my folks), I was serious about teaching myself how to use it and quickly became comfortable with both its operation and the fundamentals of lighting, depth of field, and composition. I went through quite a bit of film. That said, the camera was a hobby. 

My career in telecom and emerging technology had absolutely nothing to do with photography and for some years required me to be on the road a great deal. While hanging around too many airports I was unable to devote a lot of time to actively shooting, but kept up with my education. That's when I discovered people like Galen Rowell, John Shaw, George Lepp and Frans Lanting. I read their columns, bought their books, and studied their work. 

The trajectory of things changed when I relocated from California to New Hampshire. If you're interested in outdoor photography, the Granite State is hard to beat: its geography is richly varied, yet its size is compact. There were still long hours on the (day) job, but I didn't have to spend as much time traveling. The camera came out of the bag much more frequently.

When I (often) didn't have the time to venture very far into the field, I photographed close to home. Sometimes at home. 

I needed the reps, and finally started to get them.

It was a long and winding road from that first camera to now: casual hobby to avocation to vocation. 

I speak from experience when I tell you the only way to improve as a photographer is to shoot. Often. 

We all need the reps. There's a reason even world-class athletes spend a great deal of time practicing. 

Knowledge is obviously critical. Understand your gear. Understand light. Understand processing. But that's not enough. Foundational knowledge of photography requires action to have real value. It has to be put into use. We must build "muscle memory." We must train our eyes. If the camera is sitting in the bag gathering dust, you can't expect to improve your skills. Regular practice is necessary both to maintain technical proficiency and to improve artistic ability. 

Especially when you haven't shot for a long while, it's easy to forget how to perform various functions. If you're spending time fiddling with your gear trying to remember how to do this or that, you're not engaging with your surroundings and will miss opportunities. Better not to let that much rust form in the first place.

Shooting infrequently doesn't help advance your creative competency, either. The more you shoot, the better you'll get. 

Practice regularly.

Avoid viewing each shoot as an activity that must yield superior images. You might not even process some of what you produce. Give yourself permission to experiment. 

I'm not a proponent of forced daily shooting because it's an exercise that can easily become drudgery or induce stress if you fail to stick to the schedule. If that type of application works for you, by all means go for it. Otherwise, I think it's sufficient to be mindful about making time to shoot regularly. Exotic locales are not pre-requisites. There is always subject matter locally. Easy access; no excuses. 

Self-assignments can be useful when it comes to practice. For example, you might spend a session searching for and composing images featuring a certain color or shape. You could choose to concentrate only on subjects that are backlit. Limit yourself to using only a single lens. Challenge yourself to find 10 ways to compose the same subject. 

The sky's the limit.

If carving out time to practice still seems daunting, I can guarantee you'll find subject matter at home - maybe inside your house (even if you are first and foremost a nature photographer, remember this is practice).

This time of year there is no shortage of interesting things to photograph. Holiday decorations, anyone?

My first experiments with intentional camera movement were conducted years ago using my Christmas tree's lights. That was just about as convenient as it could get and it was festive, too. (Having since switched to white lights on the tree, I can definitively say that, for the purposes of this type of exercise, colors are superior!)

One year I challenged myself to find a variety of ways to depict my tree abstractly. This was one of the results:

Christmas lights are also great if you want to experiment with bokeh (see the example at the top).

Decorations and lights make good subjects as you explore creative options with various lenses. The bowl of ornaments below was photographed using a LensBaby Velvet 56mm. Scroll down further to see the same ornaments arranged differently and photographed with another lens (micro 60mm with the main ornament focus-stacked).

I've never done anything with these images nor do I intend to, but making them served a purpose. Besides, I'm a pushover for Christmas lights so I get enjoyment out of trying to find interesting ways to capture them.

The point is, there's always subject matter. Every session doesn't have to yield an award-winning result.

Get the reps.

Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase.
Percy W. Harris


In Local News

Yellowstone opens for the 2022/2023 winter season to oversnow travel today.

This has been one of the best starts to the ski season in the Tetons in many years thanks to generous snowfall and cold temperatures. Island Park, Idaho is also reporting excellent conditions for snowmobiling - running about a month ahead of last winter.

The Moose climate station in Grand Teton National Park recorded November 2022 as the coldest on record (dating back to 1958, when the station moved to its current location).

I haven't been inside the park to confirm, but Antelope Flats Road is still showing as open. The clock is ticking; it'll close soon for the winter. After that you'll have to access Mormon Row and the barns by foot.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas lights photography practice tips Thu, 15 Dec 2022 09:06:00 GMT
Beyond Black Idaho is full of lava fields. Craters of the Moon is probably the best-known volcanic area in the state. There the landscape is a vast expanse of black: lava, cinder cones, tree molds, and lava tubes. 

For an over-the-top lava field experience, head for the Big Island of Hawaii. Volcanoes National Park is a must-see, but you can find evidence of volcanic activity everywhere. My personal favorite? Black sand beaches.

Once the lava cools enough to solidify, it turns black. Unless you're witnessing an active eruption, then, the color you'd associate with past volcanic activity is black.

Within Death Valley National Park in an area of the Black Mountains, there's a spectacular exception to that rule: Artist's Drive.

TechnicolorTechnicolorArtist's Palette

Death Valley National Park, California
There you'll find a riot of color: red, pink, purple, aqua, green, yellow, orange, and chocolate brown. The rock is volcanic in origin, created by explosive activity that occurred during the Miocene Era. Oxidation and chemical weathering has transformed the volcanic deposits, painting them in a variety of colors.

So while Craters and Volcanoes like their basic black, these volcanic remnants in Death Valley are most certainly unafraid to wear color.

The Artist's Drive formations are probably not what most people conjure up when they think of the desert. 

There are ample opportunities to hike there, and if you visit I highly recommend doing so - especially the washes. 

To fully appreciate and photograph the color, avoid the area at mid-day when the sun is shining. Warm late-afternoon light enhances the pinks and reds and casts some nice shadows, but that's a double-edged sword if you're trying to shoot: you'll also encounter a lot of high-contrast situations. For my money, the best time to work anywhere in Artist's Drive is early morning before the sun climbs above the mountains. (Obviously an overcast day will create the same flat light but those can be hard to come by in the desert.)

The images I've posted here were created before the sun became an issue. The beautiful purple you see in the photograph above disappears as soon as it's lit: at that point it reads as gray. The green is still visible but not at all vivid. With the sun shining, you'd walk right by this scene and not give it a second glance. 

The pinks you see below wash out in sunlight, and the rocks lose definition because of frontlighting. 

Within Artist's Drive, the early bird gets the worm. That doesn't mean you have to be on location at 0-dark-30. Because this area is nestled beneath the hills, there's plenty of time to work between official sunrise and when the sun climbs high enough in the sky to get in the way.

Scout it and enjoy looking at it during the afternoon, absolutely. But shoot it first thing.

Alluring AquaAlluring AquaArtist's Drive

Death Valley National Park, California

V is for VibrantV is for VibrantArtist's Drive

Death Valley National Park, California


In Local News

The elk hunt is ongoing in Grand Teton National Park, which means Antelope Flats Road is still open. They typically close it the day after the hunt is over. You can still get to the barns after the road closes, but you'll have to walk.

The calendar says it's still autumn, but winter arrived early and with gusto. November 2022 was tied for the snowiest in the Tetons since 2000. The ski resorts are roughly a month ahead of where they were this time last year. Grand Targhee is reporting 140" on the season with a 64" base. Jackson Hole is at 166" for the season with a 54" depth.

The ice rink at the Jackson Fairgrounds (with lights) opened this week. The rink in Town Square is scheduled to open at the end of the month. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Artists Palette Death Valley National Park Grand Teton National Park lava Tetons volcanic Thu, 08 Dec 2022 08:23:00 GMT
Too Easy? Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMist Meets FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River

Near Lincoln, New Hampshire
A few years ago I went to see a photography exhibit featuring the work of Alfred Stieglitz at the Art Institute of Chicago. In one of the galleries, I overheard snippets of conversation between two visitors - both of whom clearly enjoyed what they were seeing; they were effusive in praising Stieglitz's images.

Then came this: "It must be so nice to be a photographer. All you have to do is click the shutter."

This comment wasn't meant to be derogatory. Remember, these folks liked the exhibit! Clearly, though, there was an assumption that it doesn't require much to make a good photograph.

Many probably share this view. After all, thanks to smartphones, cameras are ubiquitous. Snap, snap. One wonders how many millions of snapshots are taken every day. 

Those who are serious about photography know there's a lot more to the process than simply showing up and releasing the shutter.

Preliminary planning is often involved. Then you must get to and from the location, which isn't always simple (there might be a long flight, a long drive, a challenging hike before dawn - or maybe it's all three). Once on site, time is spent scouting. You find an interesting subject and compose the shot. Yay! Not so fast, though - the conditions could force you to wait. And after all of that time and effort, it's still possible to walk away empty-handed. 

While making a photo isn't always this complex, it's safe to assume there's more to it than a casual click.   

That said, there are times when - out of the blue - everything just falls into place. Something great happens: the conditions are unexpectedly amazing - or maybe you spot a phenomenal subject only a few yards from where you've parked the car. Making the photograph is surprisingly uncomplicated. Whatever the scenario might be, you get the shot and feel like you should pinch yourself. Did that just happen? 

When the stars align and you're able to create a good photo without sacrificing a massive amount of blood, sweat and tears, you might wonder if it was too easy.

Is a photograph that was captured with relative ease somehow substandard? Absolutely not. If it's a good image, it's a good image.   

Consider the occasional gift of an "easy" photograph a little reward for all the time you've spent slogging out there in the field on challenging shoots. Appreciate your good fortune!

“It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.”
Timothy Allen

About the Photo

This is the Pemigewasset River near Lincoln, New Hampshire in the White Mountains - and it's an example of an "easy" shoot. This location wasn't on my radar. Actually, I make a point of avoiding it. Never before (or since) have I stopped there during foliage season. Adjacent to the river is a very popular trailhead into the Lincoln Woods along the also very popular Kancamagus Highway. 

On this drizzly early Saturday morning with the color nearing its peak, I'd decided to take the Kanc up to Bear Notch. The conditions were superb: precipitation enhanced the vibrance of the foliage and the rain kept the tourists inside. It couldn't have been better. As I drove over the river, I glanced in the direction of this footbridge and saw beautiful mist hovering over the water, with a very low ceiling and fog overhead. Pulling into the large parking area, I was stunned to find - nothing. There wasn't a single vehicle; the place was deserted. If you've never been in the White Mountains for peak autumn color let me assure you this is very unusual. Unheard of, actually.

Grabbing rain gear for both the camera and myself, I walked back to the overpass and set up on the side of the road. I don't think I worked for more than 30 minutes. In that time, nobody came by.

Whenever I look at this image, I recall the unusual circumstances that morning at the Pemi. It doesn't have to be difficult every time!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) New Hampshire Pemigewasset River photography White Mountains Thu, 01 Dec 2022 08:45:00 GMT
Thanksgiving, Then... This Thanksgiving Day, I hope you're enjoying family, or friends, or both.

There is always much for which to be thankful, even when times are troubled. If your heart isn't feeling full of gratitude, go outside. Walk among the trees. Look at the sky. Listen to the birds. 

Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude.
Louie Schwartzberg

After the Macy's parade, a special meal and maybe some football, what's next? Shopping? Not for me, thanks. I'm content to stay outside and enjoy the sights, because now - officially - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. 

Sidenote: many artists have recorded that song, but do you know who wrote it? The pride of Mason City, Iowa: Meredith Willson.

If you don't recognize his name, Willson was an accomplished musician who is probably best known for having written the book, music and lyrics for The Music Man, winner of five Tony Awards - including Best Musical. The original Broadway production ran for 1,375 performances. (Meredith Willson also wrote the fight song for my alma mater, the University of Iowa. Go Hawks!)

Back when Willson wrote his Christmas song, the "candy canes and silver lanes that glow" didn't show up at the glistening five and ten until after well after Thanksgiving. Now retail proceeds directly from Halloween to Christmas. For some even that won't do. The super-express lane goes from Back-to-School straight to Jingle Bells. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. 

Charlie Brown first despaired over how commercialized Christmas had become - in 1965. What must he think now? Good grief.

Happily, many municipalities choose restraint, waiting until after Thanksgiving tables have been cleared before ushering in the Christmas season with tree lightings, parades and visits from Santa. Inside and OutInside and OutInside, a Christmas wreath decorates one of the windows in the Quincy Market Rotunda; outside stands the Custom House Tower.

Boston, Massachusetts
This will be a big weekend for such festivities, which for me can only mean one thing: grab the camera. It's Christmas Project time.

Part cityscape, part landscape, and part street photography, it began as a lark in 2010 when I decided to head into Boston the day after Thanksgiving to photograph the big Faneuil Hall Christmas tree. Me - the woman who avoids Black Friday like the plague. Christmas in the city? Sure! But not over Thanksgiving weekend.

I don't know what prompted the temporary change of heart, but something interesting happened that day.

Almost immediately, I was hooked on the idea of photographing the Christmas season. I returned to Quincy Market a second time that same weekend before setting my sights on festive scenes across New Hampshire's Seacoast.

Then...heartbreak. My father died unexpectedly. 

The evening before he passed, I'd been in Greenland, New Hampshire to photograph the town's little gazebo decorated and illuminated for Christmas. Afterward, I phoned my dad in Chicago for our usual "how's things?" chat. Sixteen hours later he was gone. Just like that.

Returning to New England after his funeral, I felt compelled to pick up where I'd left off. My father bought me my first SLR camera as a college graduation gift, and it was photography, in the form of this nascent little holiday project, that lifted my spirits following his death. 

Back in Boston a week before Christmas to shoot more holiday vignettes, it was clear this self-assignment had legs. I was pretty sure I'd be doing it again the following year. After all, there's only so much ground a person can cover in a few short weeks! 

13 seasons later, it lives on.

After moving away from the northeast the project became more complicated. Now it almost always requires significant travel.

Care to guess where I'll be shooting this year?

Two locations have been selected, both in the western United States. I'll be on site at the first one next week. Weather permitting, the second is scheduled for mid-December. 

I'll give you some clues:

Location 1

  • pucks
  • rebel 
  • the meadow
  • XXI

Location 2

  • dome
  • gem
  • bronco
  • Ada

Happy Thanksgiving!                                                                                                                                                                         


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Boston Christmas Christmas Project holiday lights Meredith Willson New England New Hampshire Thanksgiving Thu, 24 Nov 2022 09:22:00 GMT
Shades of Gray Nature's BlanketNature's BlanketThick fog hangs over the valley beneath the Tetons as the sun rises

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Though I work primarily in color, I prefer black and white for various situations and scenes. Sometimes I know I'm going to go with black and white before I release the shutter. More often, it's a decision made during post-processing.  

In terms of the types of subjects I photograph, color is often necessary for the image to be successful. However, there are occasions when it doesn't add anything or is a distraction. There are also images for which it truly is a flip of the coin. The photograph will work either way; it's just a matter of what I wish to emphasize or what I'm trying to communicate.

Fortunately, as long as you're shooting digitally there's a lot of flexibility in terms of color versus black and white. Back in the day the type of film KeyholeKeyholeLower Antelope Slot Canyon

Page, Arizona
you chose committed you to one or the other until that roll had been exposed. Now you can decide after the fact. 

The world looks different in black and white. By their very nature, black and white photographs are stylistic and lend themselves to dramatic treatment.

Many of the elements that are important to black and white photography are also factors when working with color: for example, shapes, lines, textures and light. But contrast is in a league by itself. Contrast is the most important tool in the B&W kit and is used much differently. High contrast and black and white were made for each other. You can do things with contrast that would otherwise be unsuccessful if you were contending with colors and tints.

Because contrast is so pivotal to black and white photography, it also opens up many possibilities in terms of "suitable conditions" when you're out in the field. Consider harsh midday light. It's tough to work with so much contrast - or is it? Consider how the scene might look in black and white. High contrast can produce excellent B&W images that really pop.

Conversely, otherwise bland conditions like a flat sky might work perfectly once the color is removed.

If you're new to this type of photography, there are a few things to remember when working with the image in either Lightroom or Photoshop. First, there's more to the procedure than simply selecting the button to make the conversion. The image still needs to be processed!

Second, there's a big difference between desaturation and black and white. Choose the latter. Desaturation strips the image of all color. Those color values are required to preserve maximum ability to customize the file.

Third, as mentioned earlier, contrast is king. Tinker with the slider. You have much more leeway than you would if you were working in color; contrast can be pushed aggressively to create rich tonal values.

Finally, because the color information is retained, individual color luminance values can be adjusted. Even if you've never shot black and white film you're probably aware of the color filters photographers utilize when working with such film; these filters add differentiation and improve contrast. Different colored filters produce different effects. You'll achieve similar results with the luminance sliders. You have many choices regarding how individual colors will translate into grayscale. This enables the emphasis (and mood) of the scene to be shifted.

Though some photographers prefer to work only in black and white (or vice versa), more commonly it's a case-by-case judgement. It depends on what you're trying to convey. 

There is no right or wrong - but it's interesting how dramatically different an image can be when converted to black and white. The essence of it can change completely. 

If you haven't already, give shades of gray a try.

“Black and white is abstract; color is not.
Looking at a black and white photograph,
you are already looking at a strange world.”
Joel Sternfeld

All is Calm, All is BrightAll is Calm, All is BrightAmidst vibrant colors everywhere on the grounds, this little vignette - illuminated with only white light - was quietly beautiful in a completely different way.

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
Lisle, Illinois



(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) black and white photography tips Thu, 17 Nov 2022 09:05:00 GMT
It's About Time I was happy to say hello to standard time over the weekend. All is not right with my morning when the clock strikes eight and the sun has yet to rise.

While there's always a certain amount of griping associated with the bi-annual time change, Daylight Saving seems to be the golden child while standard time is painted as the outcast.

Surely that dastardly standard time must be to blame for winter's darkness! 

Some of the great minds in Congress have cooked up a solution to this contrived issue: permanent Daylight Saving time. They've obviously forgotten what happened when this was last rolled out. If you're too young to remember, it was in the 1970s during the oil embargo (January 6, 1974 was Day One of the big experiment) - and it turned out to be a massive failure. The population conserved energy by burning every light in the house each morning while getting ready for the day. Kids took flashlights to navigate to their bus stops; they arrived at school in darkness. People hated it. Whoops!

The bill was repealed. Standard time returned in October 1974, and thereafter the clocks again changed twice a year.

Since bad ideas have staying power in Washington, it's déjà vu all over again with the current push for never-ending Daylight Saving time.

Meanwhile, we got an extra hour of sleep Saturday night. 

For a few months our body clocks will be more closely aligned with the sun. Beyond that obvious benefit, it occurred to me there are at least two other reasons outdoor photographers can be happy about setting the clocks back. 

First, dinner. By late autumn we've already lost quite a bit of daylight. Now that it's dark an hour earlier it's possible to photograph the sunset, make your way back to wherever you're based, thaw out, and still enjoy an evening meal at a civilized hour. That's just about as leisurely as it can get. During the longest days of summer you might be out in the field for 16 hours. Meals consist of whatever you stowed in your bag.  Let There Be LightLet There Be LightThis whimsical string of enormous Christmas lights sits outside the McGraw-Hill Building on Sixth Avenue.

New York, New York

Second, holiday lights. They'll be here before you know it (some will appear before the Thanksgiving table has been cleared). Is it a bad thing when daylight begins to fade around 4pm? No! It's instant Winter Wonderland when the lights come on - no snow required. There is absolutely nothing gloomy about twinkling Christmas lights.

You cannot say there's nothing to photograph during the holiday season. Prepare to grab the camera and start capturing all of that sparkling glory. Big city displays are great but not a prerequisite. Use your own Christmas tree's lights to create abstract images (see above). Take a walk through your neighborhood; there will be plenty of photo opportunities. Check out your downtown. You don't have to travel far to find abundant holiday illumination.

Following are some of my favorite places to enjoy light displays, along with the dates they'll be kicking off their 2022 seasons:

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
Lisle, Illinois
Saturday, November 19

Nubble Lighthouse
York, Maine
Saturday, November 26

Columbus Park Trellis
Boston, Massachusetts
Tuesday, November 22

Light the Lights - City and County Building 
Denver, Colorado
Wednesday, November 23

The Magic of Christmas - Butchart Gardens
Victoria, British Columbia
Thursday, December 1

Odds and Ends

The calendar says autumn but current conditions in Teton Country suggest otherwise. Winter is knocking at the door. The mountains are snowcovered (Grand Targhee Ski Resort is reporting 75" on the season with current depth at 41" - a good start); the Snake River Plain and foothills in Idaho have collected accumulating snow more than once. The latest storm, a slow-mover, is departing today and will leave in its wake very cold temperatures. Single digits are forecast for the next few overnights in Eastern Idaho while Jackson will be below zero.

Speaking of skiing, Grand Targhee is scheduled to open on November 18th. Jackson Hole opens on the 25th, and Snow King follows on December 3rd.

Sign up with Yellowstone to receive road status updates if you're going to visit this winter. Text 82190 to 888-777; you'll receive an automatic reply to confirm receipt. The North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana (to Mammoth) remains open to vehicle traffic all year but inclement weather periodically forces temporary closures. Texts are the best way to stay informed.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas lights holiday lights photography Standard Time Thu, 10 Nov 2022 08:42:00 GMT
Perfect 10 Remember when it was still possible to understand the scoring system for gymnastics? 10.000 was the ultimate. Perfection. Everybody knew what a "10" meant. 

Now there's a D score, an E score, composition requirements - and before you know it my eyes glaze over and I go back to watching tennis.

Anyway, when a friend asked recently how I'd rate this year's foliage season, that old scoring system popped into my head. Did this October come anywhere near a Perfect 10? Just as an element of subjectivity factored into the gymnasts' scores (and still does even with today's much more complicated system), it influences how that question is answered. Also, the nature photographer will probably rate the season differently than will the casual leaf peeper.

What is perfection? What makes a foliage season great?

Many would base their rating on the vibrance of the colors. But what if the spectacular color lasts only a short while? Let's say sustained high winds strip the trees prematurely. Is it still a preeminent season?

What if the color is early - or late? You flew in to photograph "the show" but mis-timed it. 

What if the color is lackluster but the conditions are interesting?

What if the color is good but the conditions are challenging?

This rating thing can get complicated.

Banner years for color are noteworthy: no doubt about it. You'll remember them. (For example, 2016 in Grand Teton National Park. Best I've seen in this area.) But exceptional color isn't a prerequisite for a great foliage season. 

The following images were made in autumns that were - on the surface - less than ideal for photography. Still, each was special. There's more than one way to define perfection. 

Orange CrushOrange CrushMount Moran is rendered as mysteriously spectral thanks to thick haze from distant wildfires and low clouds which seemingly clutch it: a wonderful backdrop for aspens at peak color.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Mount Moran - Grand Teton National Park

Smoke from fires burning hundreds of miles away created substandard conditions: not what you want for foliage season. I wasn't planning to include the mountains in any compositions that year and didn't anticipate making anything but small scenes - but one day the combination of a murky atmosphere and fantastic low clouds clutching at the Tetons created an opportunity. Shrouded in haze, Mount Moran was transformed into something vague and almost spectral. Using a long lens to compress the scene, it was a perfect backdrop for the vibrant orange aspens.

Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene.

Near Durham, New Hampshire

Lamprey River - Durham, New Hampshire

The year this photo was made, the color was "off." Not as vibrant as usual, it also didn't last long. Driving around the Seacoast looking for any last opportunities the season might have to offer, this red tree caught my eye. I hiked through the underbrush down to the river but the site was uninteresting close-up. The tree was relatively small and and there was nothing attractive about the shoreline. (Not exactly a picturesque New England autumnal scene.) The reflection, though, was another story, thanks to the small leaves scattered on the surface of the water. I focused only on the river and kept the shutter open long enough to capture some movement from the floating leaves. This abstract remains one of my all-time favorites. 

Raindrops Keep FallingRaindrops Keep FallingSieur de Monts
Acadia National Park, Maine

Sieur de Monts - Acadia National Park

Such a soggy year. Having left persistent rain in the White Mountains, I arrived to heavy overcast and showers in Maine. The situation would only deteriorate; a tropical storm (the remnants of a hurricane) was following me. Not long after I entered the park it began to rain aggressively, but I wanted to try to get something accomplished since I had no idea how long the weather might force me inside. I love the ferns at Sieur de Monts so hiked into a heavily wooded area there where the canopy would provide some protection. This maple leaf covered with droplets caught my eye. I was initially disappointed it had come to rest upside down, but the neutral hue is a plus: the raindrops are accentuated and there are no distractions from clashing colors. Even using an umbrella to shield the fern from the rain, it was tough to keep it from moving. 

Center of AttentionCenter of AttentionWith rain on the way, sunlight breaks through building overcast to accent a strip of the fiery color marching up the hillside.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Aspens - Grand Teton National Park

I made this photo just a few weeks ago. The incoming rain provided the finishing touches; first I waited until the bands of light and dark clouds moved far enough north to extend all the way across the top of the frame, and then for the sun to break through and illuminate the center strip of trees. Was 2022 a banner year for foliage in the Tetons? No. The color was very late and spotty. To make matters worse, high pressure sat stubbornly over the region for weeks, producing day after day of absolutely clear skies. Not exactly the photographer's best friend. That said, this season earned high marks. There were pockets of very good color, and I was fortunate to be in the park for the one extended period of unsettled weather which produced rain, a few good sunsets, the first substantial mountain snow, and some fantastic fog. The foliage ended up being only a bit player in many of the photographs I made this time around.

Four different years; four foliage seasons that, in many ways, could have been considered lacking. Still, each was consequential. 

What makes a foliage season great? For me, simply experiencing "the show" - and having the opportunity to photograph it - is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to assigning a score. In light of that, every year rates a 10.


In Local News

The east, west and south entrances to Yellowstone are now closed for the winter - but the "new" Old Gardiner Road, severely damaged in last June's floods, re-opened last week (ahead of schedule). This road connects Gardiner, Montana to the park's North Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs - and remains open year-round. 

The elk reduction in Grand Teton National Park begins on Saturday, November 5th. Don't get me started on the irony of providing protection to the animals (at the National Elk Refuge) and then allowing them to be hunted for five or six weeks every year. At any rate, if you're going to be in GTNP, wear bright colors as a precaution. Antelope Flats Road remains open until after the hunt so you'll be able to drive to the barns for a while yet.

Gas in Jackson is in the neighborhood of $4.35 for regular grade. Diesel is about $5.50. Expect to pay more in the park. Speaking of which, fuel is available throughout the winter inside the park (pay at the pump) at Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake Lodge, and Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Acadia National Park autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Maine Mount Moran New Hampshire Thu, 03 Nov 2022 07:54:00 GMT
No Apology Necessary Summer Snow Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingWest Side StoryFollowing a chilly spring, early summer kicks off with substantial snowpack remaining.

Western Slope - Teton Range
Alta, Wyoming
The nature photography community can be very opinionated, which is fine - but some of the things people have to say come across more like pronouncements. When that happens it's important to remember these are simply points of view, not immutable rules. Your opinion counts, too. 

One example is the great debate over grand landscapes vs intimate scenes. These days, the "big landscape" has its share of detractors (though, it should be noted, the viewing public continues to enjoy such images).

Not content with "it's just not my cup of tea," some assert that there is no way a grand landscape can be anything but uninteresting and derivative. The implications are obvious.

It's gotten to where some photographers who appreciate and capture grand landscapes are almost apologetic about doing so. I attended a seminar a few months ago at which one of the speakers - an accomplished, respected nature photographer - began his talk with a disclaimer of sorts ("I'm going to be showing you a lot of grand landscapes") followed by a justification of the subject matter.

I'm not disparaging smaller scenes; far from it. I shoot both big landscapes and more minimalist compositions. It just seems crazy that this is even a "thing."

In the world of photography, there are more opinions posing as statements-of-fact than you can shake a stick at, many of which are contradictory.

Only shoot during the golden hours.
Sunrises and sunsets are overdone; they’re
nothing but clichés. 
National Parks are overphotographed; they're nothing but clichés. 

Don't waste your time on storms; those types of images aren't popular.
Grand landscapes lack originality. 

And so on, and so on.

What bothers me is that aspiring photographers can begin to second-guess themselves after being exposed to enough such assertions. They start to self-edit when choosing locations or selecting subjects or composing shots. Some become so deflated they consider abandoning photography altogether. It's a shame.

My two cents?

There is always room to grow as an artist. It's a lifelong process, and you can learn from and be inspired by other photographers. Advice, ideas and suggestions are useful. Different schools of thought are beneficial and can provoke thought.

Dismissiveness, though, is not helpful. ("Grand landscapes are boring. If you're not making intimate images you're not being creative.")

There's a difference between information that's offered to help you make better photographs and "my way or the highway." Tune out the latter.

Be yourself. Work locations that you find interesting. Enjoy the experience of being in nature. Connect with your surroundings; let the landscape be your guide. Photograph what speaks to you. Compose the shot in a way that most effectively conveys that emotional connection. 

No apologies.

By the way, if you're drawn to grand landscapes, Ansel Adams was, too. You're in good company.

"We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium."
Ansel Adams


Odds and Ends

Yellowstone closes to vehicle traffic on Tuesday in preparation for the winter season. There have been some temporary road closures in the park over the last several days due to snowfall, but high-pressure is moving into the region later today which will - hopefully - improve road conditions until it's time to bid farewell to the geysers until 2023 (unless you're lucky enough to be going in over the winter - the best time of the year in YNP). 

The Inner Loop in Grand Teton NP between the Taggart Lake trailhead and Signal Mountain also closes on Tuesday.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) grand landscapes nature photography photography Thu, 27 Oct 2022 07:46:00 GMT
Through the Fog In one of his poems, Carl Sandburg likened fog to a cat: silent and stealthy.

Fog in the Tetons, though, is often anything but stealthy. At its showiest it's big and bold. Undulating; expanding, receding, then expanding yet again. The mountains influence its movement. Sometimes it climbs so high the towering peaks are mostly obscured. 

Like Sandburg's cat, it behaves as if it's a living being. Unlike the cat, it appears to me as some sort of restless, gargantuan life form. 

This showiest variety of Teton fog reliably appears in autumn. Recently I was fortunate enough to have two consecutive mornings with such spectacular conditions. Compositional opportunities were plentiful as the scene was constantly changing. 

I have a nearly limitless capacity to linger when the fog is behaving in this way. It's like watching a good movie with multiple plot twists; you have no idea how it's going to turn out.

SpectralSpectralAn overnight thunderstorm blankets the mountains with the season's first significant snow and leaves behind spectacular dense fog.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

This time of year, if it rains late in the evening or overnight you won't need to check with the meteorologist to know you can count on foggy conditions the next morning (this occurs in the summer, too, though I've found autumn to be the most predictable season). Post-precipitation fog isn't always as dramatic as what's pictured above, but the fact that it'll be there is something you can take to the bank.

Where you are in the valley plays a part in how dense the fog will be. Once you get to know the area you'll have a good idea where to position yourself for the conditions you prefer. While the middle of a total white-out isn't conducive to making photographs, somewhere on the edges - or on the outside looking in, so to speak, can be ideal. 

Bridge to the PastAcross the DecadesImmortalized by the early 1940s image Ansel Adams made from this place, the Snake River Overlook - though it appears much different many years later - remains a beautiful setting.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Other months produce fog, too. Jackson Lake, the Snake River, the lakes nestled at the base of the mountains, and the Gros Ventre River are just some of the many water sources in the area. In the winter and spring, the air temperature in the valley can be much colder than the water. Voilà! Morning fog.

The image below, made in early July, is typical of summer fog in terms of its character: it tends to be more like a blanket then - flatter and hovering over the water, leaving the peaks in full view. This day was unusual in that the fog waited until well after sunrise to fully develop, which was just about perfect since by then cloud cover began moving in from the southwest to create a more interesting combination of conditions. 

Nature's BlanketNature's BlanketThick fog hangs over the valley beneath the Tetons as the sun rises

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
I made the photograph below on the last day of December. The fog was very dense at sunrise; it took many hours before it began to lift and the peaks of the Cathedrals became visible. Fortunately the sun is so low in the sky at that time of year I had a lot of leeway in terms of waiting it out; harsh light wasn't an issue.

You can see how the fog eventually split with some lifting upward and morphing into stratocumulus clouds, while below a "racing stripe" persists nearer to the water.

Racing StripesRacing StripesBeautiful bands of low fog are suspended beneath the Teton Peaks

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

You never know exactly what you're going to get with fog. Sometimes it does act like a cat. Quiet. Furtive.

In Jackson Hole, though, it's often quite charismatic. Big and bold, just like the mountain range next to which it forms.

Odds and Ends

If you want to get into Yellowstone before it closes to vehicle traffic for the year, time is short; the curtain comes down on November 1st (the road between the North and Northeast entrances remains open throughout the winter). Oversnow opening is scheduled for December 15th.

In Grand Teton National Park, the inner loop (Teton Park Road) will close to vehicles between the Taggart Lake trailhead parking area and Signal Mountain, also on November 1st. There isn't a set date for the closure of the road down to Schwabacher Landing but it can be as early as Thanksgiving. Antelope Flats Road usually remains open until sometime in mid-December. After that you'll have to access Mormon Row and the barns by foot. The rest of the park remains open throughout the winter months, though be advised it will become more difficult to get around as the snow accumulates. 

It's odd to be thinking about winter road closures since it's been quite warm here for much of the month (overnight lows are about where they should be but afternoon highs have been running 10-15 degrees above average). Consequently, the trees have been confused; color in Eastern Idaho is very late. We haven't yet reached peak foliage in and around Idaho Falls. Conditions appear to be on the verge of shifting; mountain snow is predicted this weekend, with the possibility of snowfall at lower elevations also.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog Grand Teton National Park Tetons Thu, 20 Oct 2022 07:43:00 GMT
Seeing Red Riotous RedsMaple's MagicExeter, New Hampshire Spend time in New Hampshire's White Mountains in early October and you'll be seeing red: beautiful, ravishing red. Log enough hours in the region and you'll come to know exactly where to find crimson leaves that will make your heart skip a beat. 

This is not to suggest the Granite State is a one trick pony. Quite the contrary; it boasts a variety of fiery autumnal hues (more than you might imagine). Amber, honey, tangerine, carrot, ochre, apricot, burnt orange - each more brilliant than you would have thought possible. But the reds are in a class by themselves. The crème de la crème. The pièce de résistance.

One of the best places to see reliable reds en masse is Bretton Woods - a beautiful area located within the town of Carroll.

Even if you've never been to New Hampshire, the place name of Bretton Woods might ring a bell from a long-ago history class or Econ 101. In 1944, delegates from 44 Allied nations gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel to establish an economic system intended to, among other things, help countries recover from the war. The Bretton Woods Conference.

That property, which opened at the turn of the last century and still operates today, is one of the four remaining Grand Hotels in the state.

Looking at the hillside next to which it's nestled, you can see why the red roof was an appropriate choice. 

You might be smitten with Bretton Woods, too - just as I was many years ago. It was love at first sight.

You don't have to work very hard to see the jaw-dropping beauty in this area; you can be amazed right from your vehicle (though you really ought to get out, spend some time, and explore). Driving north through Franconia Notch on I-93, exit on Route 3 and proceed until it intersects with Route 302. Head east and prepare to be dazzled. I recommend seeing the area in all types of light: in the morning, late in the afternoon, in overcast, in the mist. As with any foliage, remember to check it out from both directions to get the full effects of front and backlighting.

You will not be disappointed. 

This isn't to suggest Bretton Woods is the only place in the White Mountains - or in New Hampshire or New England, for that matter - to find ravishing reds. It's reliable, though. Even in years when the foliage display isn't quite as vibrant (which seems to disproportionately impact reds), you can usually count on Bretton Woods to deliver. Beyond that, I just happen to have a real soft spot for the area. It's one of my own personal "Happiest Places on Earth." (Meaning no disrespect to Mr. Disney, I think the happiest places on earth are to be found in nature, not theme parks.)

If you share my reverence for red, there are a few other locations in the White Mountains I'd suggest. Try Chocorua Lake, Zealand, the area around the Willey House, Bear Notch, Pinkham Notch, and in the general vicinity of Rocky Gorge (accessed via the Kancamagus Highway). That should be enough to get you started - but remember the other colors are amazing, too. It's hard to go wrong.

Is it possible to see red without getting angry? Of course! Visit New Hampshire in autumn: a little bit of heaven on earth.

Colorful CarpetColorful CarpetAt the height of foliage season in New England, the ground below is often as beautiful and colorful as the trees above.

Dover, New Hampshire

Radiant Red White Mountains New HampshireRadiant RedVibrant autumn foliage can nearly always be found in this spot at Bear Notch. The season this image was made, however, the crimson leaves outdid themselves. Mount Washington, often cloud covered, is visible in the distance - entirely in the clear.

White Mountains, New Hampshire
About the Photographs
(in order from top to bottom - and proving my point that you can find red anywhere!)

1) I found this reflection in a pond about ten minutes from my home. The shoreline was cluttered and there was quite a bit of algae on the water - but this young sugar maple was absolutely beautiful. I found some open water and simply removed all the distractions by focusing only on the reflection.  

2) If you're interested in shooting the Mount Washington Hotel (technically the Omni Mount Washington Resort, though I still use its original name) I'd suggest doing so from somewhere other than the viewing area adjacent to Route 302. While that's a good spot for a snapshot you'll probably want to do something more interesting. There are many options if you're willing to walk. There's a pond on the grounds out front you can use for reflections if the sky is cooperative (there's also the potential there for a dash of morning fog); the Presidential Range is behind the property. 

3) This is the west shoreline of Chocorua Lake at its most beautiful. The color that year, already especially vibrant, was even more striking on this drizzly late afternoon. Conditions were rapidly changing; the ceiling was dropping, fog was rolling in, and I was losing both light and visibility. There was no time for the tripod. I wouldn't know until later whether or not the photo was successful since this was captured on Ektachrome.

4) There are many lovely cemeteries in New England: old and filled with stately, massive maples which often stand in rows. I made this in Dover, New Hampshire at my favorite cemetery where the falling leaves create a spectacularly thick carpet thanks to the abundance of these specimen trees. If you catch them when they've just begun to drop it's as colorful under your feet as it is overhead. One huge, brilliant red tree there stands out not only because of its size but also its color - surrounded, as it is, by yellows and oranges. Here, one of its leaves had drifted and come to rest on a nearby blanket of yellow. Good neighbors.

5) And finally, when it's a knock-out year for color Bear Notch can deliver some really nice reds. On this morning not only was the foliage popping, but Mount Washington - notorious for hiding in the clouds - was completely in the clear. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Bretton Woods foliage Mount Washington Hotel New Hampshire White Mountains Thu, 13 Oct 2022 07:56:00 GMT
Highs From a Low Majestic MoranMajestic MoranGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to deduce that the foliage in Grand Teton National Park would be late in turning this autumn. Spring was cold and lengthy; it didn't begin to warm up until well into May. Then an extended heat wave at the end of the summer dragged on into September. Those are two key factors that impact the timing of autumn's "big show." (Just how late is late? Separate question. Maybe you do need to be a rocket scientist to address that one.) 

This leaves the issue all foliage aficionados wonder about: How will the color be?

One never knows.

Having just returned from working in the park, I'd rate 2022 as average in terms of vibrance with some areas in the southern end sub-par. The progression of color, though, has been odd. Unconventional. Apparently the trees decided this time around to be individualists, each one marching to the beat of its own drummer.

As of last Sunday it was still something of a pot-pourri; you could find a little bit of everything. Swaths of green - trees unwilling to let go of summer. Others had begun to turn but were maybe 4-5 days from peak. There was a lot of fiery peak color. Some trees were past their prime. More than a few were already finished; bare; leaves on the ground.

Weirder still, this mix could be seen in relatively close confines: expanses of intense foliage a few hundred yards from trees that had only just begun to turn. Very unusual.

While it hasn't been a prime year for color in GTNP, this has still been a special autumn for photography. Mother Nature has been finding other ways to show off. 

I was gifted with a low pressure weather system that turned out to be quite a performer. It moved in and stalled over the region just as I was heading over to the park, remaining for days. The unsettled conditions delivered a little bit of everything, most of which was quite good. Superlative, actually!

A few of the highlights:

In a park that's stingy with sunsets, it served up three of them - on consecutive nights, no less. 

One overnight thunderstorm blanketed the mountains with snow - the first significant high-elevation snow of the season.

There was beautiful, dense fog on multiple mornings (also courtesy of overnight precipitation). More on that in another post. The fog in the park is something to behold.

The stationary low pressure delivered in a big way. This was one of the best multiple-day shoots I've had in Grand Teton National Park. I almost had to pinch myself. I'll admit the camping was a little on the nippy side and I was rained on quite a bit - but the low temperatures and precipitation were instrumental in creating the magical conditions. 

As for the color? I've seen better, but that's the way the ball bounces. Not every year yields a "bumper crop." Every foliage show is unique, and each is lovely in its own way. 

First SnowFirst SnowSeasons collide as an early autumn overnight storm drops heavy rain below, blankets the mountains with snow, and leaves behind dense fog as a parting gift. Grand Teton's peak receives the rising sun's first light.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Follow the LeaderFollow the LeaderTogwotee Pass
Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

Rain on FireRain on FireGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Center of AttentionCenter of AttentionWith rain on the way, sunlight breaks through building overcast to accent a strip of the fiery color marching up the hillside.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


Odds and Ends

The Inner Loop Road at Jackson Lake Dam will be closed for construction beginning Tuesday (October 11th) and continuing through much of October. During that time you'll have to access the Signal Mountain area from Moose.

In Yellowstone, Old Gardiner Road (providing limited access between Gardiner, MT and Mammoth Hot Springs) will open no later than November 1st. All other entrances will close to vehicle traffic on November 1st in preparation for the winter season. Now is a great time of year to visit the park (far fewer people!) but be advised some services may have already closed. It's a good idea to bring food and water so you don't end up wasting time driving around looking for somewhere to grab a snack. Also note that some businesses in West Yellowstone close for a few weeks between seasons, so the further we move into October the more likely it is you'll find slim pickings there.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Tetons Thu, 06 Oct 2022 07:55:00 GMT
A Little Goes a Long Way My father was an accomplished civil engineer and site planner whose body of work includes high-profile projects like the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and Chicago's O'Hare Field. Having received his undergraduate training in landscape architecture, the diversification into civil engineering wasn't a huge stretch - though I wonder if it's the future he envisioned for himself when he first graduated from Iowa State University. Funny how life turns out. 

(His pencil sketch above, made during his college career, depicts the Landscape Architecture Building at ISU.)

Dad's interest in plants, shrubs, trees and landscaping in general never waned. The kid whose manicured lawn and beautiful gardens at the family farm in Nebraska were well-known across Dodge County became the man who, years later, kept finding places to add yet another flower bed to our yard in Illinois.

Wherever his travels took him, he made it a point to visit public gardens, parks and open spaces. Even in his later years he could still rattle off the botanical names for just about anything he saw.

There was one thing my dad wasn't especially keen on: yellow. "A little yellow goes a long way," he'd say.  Aspen's ArcArc of the AspenGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Actually that just brought to mind a second item: red-leafed trees. Not autumnal red, which he loved, but varieties that are red in-season. The day we buried my mom he could only shake his head and smile when he saw one such tree - sizeable - situated very near what would be his final resting place. Had it been there when they purchased the plots it's safe to assume a different location would have been requested!)

I digress. Back to yellow - for which I inherited my father's proclivity for minimalism. 

There's just one problem with that. I'm currently based in the Intermountain West, where yellow is dominant. You cannot escape it. In Grand Teton National Park it begins with the wildflowers in late spring and early summer. To be sure, there's some variety - but yellow is by far the most prevalent color. Then when the vegetation dries out in July the entire landscape becomes golden. In autumn the aspens, cottonwoods, willows and rabbit brush take up the mantle.

If you're a nature photographer living in this neck of the woods you'd better learn to embrace yellow or the options regarding subject matter will be limited. The irony is not lost on me. Were my father still alive the two of us would have shared a few laughs over this state of affairs.

I'm never going to tell you yellow is my favorite color - but I have adapted. I'm all-in when it comes to saffron, gold, amber and flax. I shoot the spring wildflowers, the summer fields, the aspens and cottonwoods in their autumnal glory, and it's all beautiful.

Sometimes when I'm out working in the midst of this lemony landscape I smile to myself and think of my dear dad.

Yellow, yellow, yellow.

He'd consider it beautiful, too.

Chapel of the Transfiguration Grand Teton National ParkThe ChapelThe Chapel of the Transfiguration is sited - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. The log structure was built in the 1920s and placed on the national register of historic places in 1980.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Sunshine BeneathSunshine BeneathArrowleaf balsamroot add splashes of cheerful yellow to the fields of Jackson Hole in late spring.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) aspens Grand Teton National Park Iowa State University landscape photography wildflowers yellow Thu, 29 Sep 2022 07:44:00 GMT
The Idea List Canyon SquallsCanyon SquallsAutumn snow squalls move through Cascade Canyon on a blustery afternoon.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
It's impossible for a location to become "worn out." Just the opposite: the more time you spend in a place, the more possibilities you'll find there. 

Over time, you create a list of ideas for that area - things you've seen along the way that might have photographic potential. Little vignettes capture your attention. Maybe it's a cluster of trees or perhaps something as specific as a single tree: its shape or the way it's lit or its relationship to the surrounding area. 

You can't always pull the camera out and try to make a photograph right then and there. The conditions might not be conducive. Maybe the sky is flat or there's too much contrast or it's too windy. It could even be the wrong season. But later? It could be something special.

Add it to the list. 

Sometimes an idea turns into a photograph relatively quickly. However, it's not unusual for it to take months - or years. Maybe it never happens. (Not all ideas end up being workable.)

In advance of this season's foliage shoots in Grand Teton National Park I've been jotting down notes from my "idea list" to get my head in the game, so to speak, and make sure nothing slips my mind. Will each of those ideas become a photograph? I doubt it. Some have been on the list for quite a while; favorable conditions can be annoying elusive. 

That said, the list gives me a starting point - whether or not I end up shooting anything on it.

The photo at the top of this post is an example of something very specific that caught my eye: that tree in the foreground. I watched it over the course of three seasons - over and over. I didn't have anything definite in mind in terms of a composition, but because I was going to need to include at least some of the sky something interesting had to be happening overhead. Beyond that I had no idea. I just liked the tree; it was nicely shaped, it was healthy, and it stood alone.

When I made this it was a late afternoon toward the end of September. It was very cold; snow squalls had been moving through the canyon. I'd only stopped at this spot to grab a snack. The sky lacked definition and I had no intention of pulling the camera out.

While I sat there, though, the overcast started to develop a little bit of an attitude. Maybe I'd shoot after all.

Originally I envisioned a composition with the tree positioned in the "V" created by the canyon but the sky dictated a change in plans. Instead I lined the tree up so the shape of its crown mimicked that of the peak behind it, and then waited for a cloud with some visual weight to move into the space above the canyon. Your eye is drawn first to the cloud even though the tree is in the foreground. They balance each other in the frame.

Six months after that tree was added to the idea list, I got a photo.

If you're feeling like a location is becoming too familiar, think about all the benefits associated with knowing a place intimately. It can be a challenge to see familiar things in new ways, but there is great reward once this skill is developed.

The voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. 
~Marcel Proust

Odds and Ends

Air quality in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming has greatly improved over the past week. The Tetons have been looking very good - the highest peaks even got a tiny dusting of snow last night (which won't last since it's going to warm up again tomorrow). As expected, the color is late. I'm hoping it isn't too muted.

In GTNP, Moose-Wilson Road is closed until winter, the LSR access road is closed this week for paving, and the Jackson Lake boat launch is closed.

In Yellowstone, the West Thumb Geyser Basin is temporarily closed. If you want to get into YNP before it closes to vehicle traffic in preparation for the winter season, you've got roughly six weeks left. Tick tock. 

In both parks, the elk rut is well underway. Be sure to give the animals plenty of space; the bulls can be unpredictable and dangerous this time of year.

Finally, welcome to autumn - which officially begins today!

In the PinkIn the PinkMount Moran, with a dusting of late September snow, awaits the rising sun.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) foliage Grand Teton National Park photography tips Thu, 22 Sep 2022 07:45:00 GMT
Less Can Be More Revealed Chocorua Lake White Mountains New HampshireRevealedClearing fog just after sunrise picks up color from the first light, and reveals part of the shoreline at Chocorua Lake.

Tamworth, New Hampshire
When I take newcomers to New Hampshire's White Mountains to view and photograph the autumnal foliage extravaganza, the initial reaction to those first expansive views of hillsides and mountains painted with spectacular color is nearly always the same: unrestrained delight.

Truth be told, those scenes have the same effect on me even though I've experienced them many, many times. Supremely beautiful and awe-inspiring, the Granite State's autumn landscapes are a sight to savor. Non-ConformistThe Magic ForestA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking.

Hiawatha National Forest
Upper Peninsula of Michigan

While northern New England remains my favorite place to view and photograph "the show," plenty of other locations stage lovely productions of their own. My personal hit parade includes the Blue Ridge Mountains, Upper Michigan, throughout Québec province, Zion, and of course Grand Teton National Park.

When it comes to capturing the foliage with your camera, sweeping vistas may beckon, but trying to include too much in the composition is often a mistake. Your eyes can edit these (often overwhelming) scenes; the camera cannot make order from chaos without assistance. 

This is not to suggest you shouldn't attempt "big landscapes" or that they won't produce successful images, but you don't have to show everything to tell a compelling story.

Editing what's included in the composition often creates stronger visual impact. Sometimes less is more. Try tightening the scene. This also exponentially expands your creative options; think smaller and you'll probably walk away with images that are more unique.

Three other suggestions/reminders as you prepare to capture foliage season:

Bring the Polarizer

I almost never shoot without mine this time of year. It's not only indispensable on damp days; glare can be an issue almost any time. The polarizer will enhance the brightness and vividness of the leaves even when the sun is out. (It'll also cut through haze and add some depth.)

You can do a lot of things in post-processing but you cannot "fix" glare. 

Mind the Exposure

It's not uncommon for digital cameras to overexpose the reds and yellows, especially when shooting in sunlight. Check the histogram; you might see clipping in the red channel. Underexpose slightly to capture more detail in those brilliant colors.

Embrace Precipitation   

There is no such thing as "bad weather." Drizzle, mist, fog, and light rain create excellent conditions; foliage pops when it's wet. Put a rain jacket on your camera - and yourself - and take advantage of good fortune! Your gear can take it. So can you.

Finally, don't get so wrapped up in making photographs that you forget to take it all in. Set the camera down every once in a while and simply appreciate the extraordinary beauty.

Odds and Ends

If you'll soon be heading out this way to photograph the "show" in Grand Teton National Park, smoke could be an issue. The Moose Fire near Salmon, Idaho (human caused) - already the largest in the United States - grew significantly over this past week and is now just over 130,000 acres. Containment initially dropped with the substantial increase in acreage involved, but is back up to to 47% as of yesterday. That said, estimated total containment has been pushed out one month to October 31st.

Intermittent rain arrived this week with more expected, and temperatures have dropped - both of which should limit significant fire growth. However, air quality was poor throughout the region yesterday, including western Wyoming. 

As for color, rabbit brush in the park is yellow but for the most part the trees aren't yet doing much. As always, expect the south end to kick things off. The aspens around Oxbow Bend and the Buffalo Fork will lag.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Grand Teton National Park New Hampshire photography White Mountains Thu, 15 Sep 2022 07:24:00 GMT
Que Sera, Sera Leaves of GoldLeaves of GoldGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming A late-season heat wave has been baking Eastern Idaho for the past few weeks: much of the Snake River Plain has seen high temperatures hovering around the century mark. Even the two national parks have been unusually hot. With humidity in the 7-8% range currently there's obviously no precipitation in the forecast. It's too dry to rain.

Some relief is on the way, though, as a cold front is poised to move into the area. ("Cold" is relative. It'll be 88 today - but they're talking mid-70s for tomorrow which sounds divine if it really happens.)

Along with all the heat the air quality has been poor: probably the worst it's been all summer. The thick haze is coming primarily from the Moose Fire in Idaho's Central Mountains near Salmon, burning since mid-July. At more than 107,000 acres it's the largest fire in the United States; containment remains unchanged at 44%. They'd originally projected full containment by the end of September but at this point it seems like the chances of that happening are fading.

I mention the sweltering temperatures and all the muck in the air because foliage season is fast approaching - which, for many nature photographers, is the high point of the year.

Uh oh. 

Will the colors be late? Will they be muted? Will the display be truncated? What if the leaves are so stressed they just turn brown and drop? What if the dense haze persists?

Photographically speaking, this could be a challenging autumn in Grand Teton National Park - but it is what it is.   

Que sera, sera. 

There are so many variables that factor into the timing and intensity of the "show" you begin to realize it's Radiant Red White Mountains New HampshireRadiant RedVibrant autumn foliage can nearly always be found in this spot at Bear Notch. The season this image was made, however, the crimson leaves outdid themselves. Mount Washington, often cloud covered, is visible in the distance - entirely in the clear.

White Mountains, New Hampshire
anybody's guess how things are going to turn out. 

Interested in knowing what determines how much of an extravaganza you're going to get? Here's the Readers' Digest version:

It's a combination of moisture and temperature that affects the display - and this "recipe" is created over many months (going all the way back to late winter). How long the snowpack lasted, whether spring was cold and late or warm and reasonably rainy, if the summer was dry and hot or very wet...all of those things impact the timing, intensity and duration of the color.

Weather conditions as the leaves begin producing less chlorophyll also influence vibrance and even which colors you'll see. Sunny days followed by chilly nights encourage trees to produce more sugars which are trapped in the leaves. Those sugars create brighter color - and more reds.

If you end up with a Goldilocks scenario and everything is "just right" the foliage display will knock your socks off.

That said, you might find stunning conditions even though the prognosticators projected a lackluster result. One of the best autumns I have ever experienced in terms of vibrant color in New Hampshire followed a summer during which it hardly rained. Everyone thought it was going to be an off-year (me included) so it was a nice surprise. 

You never know for sure what's going to happen - and it doesn't have to be a "bumper crop" for the display to be beautiful. I have never been underwhelmed by foliage season in the White Mountains, even when the colors weren't as vibrant as usual. 

Contrary to what Goldilocks thought the porridge can still taste pretty great even if it's a little too hot or too cold.

You know you're going to be out there shooting the foliage regardless of the color forecast, so stop worrying and concentrate on making the best of whatever conditions Mother Nature provides! There is always something to photograph. 

Odds and Ends

Is the 2022 leaf peeping forecast keeping you in suspense? I have a few locations on my radar so can share what I know about them. My number one favorite place to view the show - New Hampshire - is expecting an "average" season. The same is true of Grand Teton National Park. Utah's colors, on the other hand, aren't shaping up so well since the entire state has been exceptionally dry for quite some time. Zion, the Wasatch, the red maples near Moab - all are normally quite pretty but we'll see what happens. 

If you're planning a trip to the Tetons to photograph the show, my guess is the color will be on the late side because of this recent heat wave and since spring was cold and late. Since I've lived here peak color has come as early as September 15th-16th but that seems to have been an outlier. Lately it has been closer to the last week of the month.

Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming remain under a red flag warning through tonight. As of Tuesday the fire danger in Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and the National Elk Refuge was increased to "high." Yellowstone is now "very high." Campfires are still allowed but please be cautious. So far this year there have been 99 abandoned campfires in the Teton Interagency Fire area. Inexcusable. 

The average gas price in both Teton County, Wyoming and Teton County, Idaho is around $4.70. It's less expensive in West Yellowstone ($4.30). You'll pay more in the parks.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park New Hampshire photography Thu, 08 Sep 2022 08:13:00 GMT
Waiting in the Wings Still LifeStill LifeThere is nothing which says autumn in New England quite like Acer Saccharum: "sugar maple." Especially in the north country where the landscape is covered with the reds, oranges and yellows of maples in their resplendent glory, they are a sight to behold. This still life was photographed in Newfields, New Hampshire. I don't know about you but I'm certainly not thinking a lot about autumn in mid- to late-August, or even the first few days of September. My foliage shoots are scheduled and booked nearly a year in advance so at this point I'm content to let summer have its final hurrah.

One of my favorite places to be as the season winds down is in New York City for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open. As both temperatures and the Zig ZagZig ZagUS Open (Flushing Meadows - Corona Park, New York) relative humidity soar at the Tennis Center, I can assure you that apple cider, pumpkins and Jack Frost seem very far away.

The tennis is great but the conditions are often oppressive. There's a reason so many New Yorkers leave the city on vacation at the end of summer.

Yet in Northern New England, lift your gaze upward beginning in the middle part of August and you might be in for a surprise: there are always a few leaves starting to turn. It's subtle and you must be paying attention to notice them - but they're there, waiting in the wings for the big show to get underway. Change is quite literally in the air. 

In my little town one tree in particular liked to be the first to jump the gun. It was always a bit of a jolt to see some orange and yellow fluttering in the breeze way up at its tip. It didn't matter that the calendar said August and the weather was still sweltering and muggy. The next season wanted you to know it was already within reach. 

Drive north toward the mountains and you'd see more signs of autumn's impatience up in the treetops. 

In just a few weeks New England will be awash in fiery color: a magnificent spectacle the likes of which you won't see anywhere else. Acadia National Park, Downeast Maine, the Green Mountains, the Northeast Kingdom, the Berkshires, Cape's all beautiful. That said, I'm partial to New Hampshire and the White Mountains specifically.

If you've never experienced autumn in New England - especially northern New England - put it on your bucket list. You won't be disappointed and it'll be something you will never forget.

In Local News

Moose-Wilson Road will close after Labor Day and remain closed until winter (construction).

The Jackson Lake Dam boat launch will close after Labor Day (construction).

Though Yellowstone and Grand Teton have both recorded reduced visitation for the summer, there are still quite a few people in both parks. After Labor Day that will change. If you enjoy a little more solitude this is the time of year for you! Be advised Yellowstone will close to vehicle traffic on November 7th in preparation for the winter season, so you've got roughly two months to take advantage of the additional elbow room. 

Eastern Idaho is under a heat advisory through Labor Day weekend. Even Jackson, Wyoming is forecast to top out in the low 90s on Saturday and Sunday. Hydrate!  

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park New England New Hampshire photography Yellowstone Thu, 01 Sep 2022 07:43:00 GMT
American Sanctuaries DownpourDownpourBalanced Rock

Arches National Park, Utah

Today the National Park Service celebrates its 106th birthday. To mark the occasion, entrance fees are waived at all park service units for the day - so enjoy!

I'm not one to get excited about government agencies but as for the parks themselves? Nothing but love. From Maine to Hawaii and Alaska to Florida, I have yet to find one I don't admire. Picture Frame Grand Teton AutumnPicture FrameGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

[Though national parks take top billing, the park system includes Lakeshores, Memorials, National Monuments, Recreation Areas, Historical Parks, Battlefield Sites, Seashores, Riverways - and more - in all 50 states and D.C.]

For the past seven years I've lived in the shadow of not one but two iconic national parks. Nine more are within reasonable driving distance. For a nature photographer, that's hitting the geographic jackpot.

To say this turn of events was unexpected would be an understatement. As a kid growing up in the Midwest, the closest I got to a national park was watching Yogi Bear and his sidekick Boo-Boo trying to steal "pic-a-nic" baskets at Jellystone. Who knew I'd one day end up with the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in my backyard?

Obviously, nature photographers can work anywhere; national parks aren't prerequisites. Photo opportunities surround us. That said, everyone knows there's something special about the parks.

I'm not in the Tetons or Yellowstone every day - but I could be. That kind of proximity to two of the crown jewels in the park system is an embarrassment of riches. I never take it for granted. 

While it's gratifying to work with my camera in these beautiful places, I get just as much fulfillment from simply experiencing them. 

I hope the same is true for you.

“A national park is not a playground.
It’s a sanctuary for nature and for humans
who will accept nature on nature’s own terms.”

~Michael Frome

Locations Pictured:

Balanced Rock
Arches National Park, Utah

Autumn colors frame the Grand
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Death Valley National Park, California

Hoh Rainforest
Olympic National Park, Washington

Lime greens of early spring
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Mist and fog at Jordan Pond
Acadia National Park, Maine

Ghost Trees
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Shadow PlayShadow PlayThe setting sun creates beautiful long shadows at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park, California
LushLushHall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest

Olympic National Park, Washington
Shenandoah SpringLime LinesEarly spring color in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Shenandoah National Park creates interesting patterns in lime green. Dappled late-day light enhances the effect.

Near Rockfish Gap, Virginia

Jordan Pond Shoreline Acadia National ParkFeeling MistyAs early morning fog rolls over Jordan Pond, the shoreline dances in and out of sight. Low water levels expose a great deal of pink granite.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Ghost Trees IIGhost Trees IIIce crystals created by steam from thermal features cover nearby vegetation. Combined with snowfall, the result is a stand of "ghost trees."

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Acadia National Park Arches National Park Death Valley National Park Grand Teton National Park Olympic National Park Shenandoah National Park Yellowstone National Park Thu, 25 Aug 2022 08:03:00 GMT
Up Surges of monsoonal moisture have been making their way up here to Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming over the past few weeks. This activity hasn't generated significant widespread rainfall (unfortunately) but oh, the skies. Leading into and throughout last weekend they were magnificent, especially in the vicinity of the mountains. 

If you're wondering how the monsoon is different from other patterns, it occurs once a year, originates in the desert southwest, and moves generally from the south to the north (rather than west-to-east). Warm, moisture-laden, unstable air from the Gulf of California and Gulf of Mexico combines and is pushed northward by pressure gradients. While the bulk of monsoonal storms in the United States occur in the Four Corners region, sometimes high- and low-pressure systems are positioned in such a way that a super-highway is created which enables the energy to travel all the way up to this neck of the woods.

The storms are fueled by daytime heating and typically build during the afternoon. 

One of the signatures of monsoonal activity is towering cumulonimbus clouds. Things begin rather quietly with the formation of a few cumulus clouds. Soon more appear. They expand. Rapidly.

Up, up, up they climb, transforming into cumulonimbus giants which can reach as high as 60,000 feet.

When the monsoon hits town I grab the camera.

These impressive skies can be tough to photograph: the cloud formations build quickly - and often move quickly, too. Once they become super-sized, creating a strong composition becomes a bit of a puzzle. Get too close and you lose the sense of enormity. Go too wide and the photograph can easily become unbalanced. Try to outdrive massive cloudscapes to reposition yourself and they may have already shifted too much.

That said, I like the challenge. 

During last week's especially showy surge of monsoonal activity I spent quite a bit of time prowling around the Teton Valley looking for photographic possibilities.

I'd hoped to incorporate the Tetons into at least one composition but given the orientation and movement of the storms, better opportunities were adjacent to the mountains. The two images featuring grain elevators were both made near Ashton, Idaho. In the first photograph you can see a storm in its earlier stages of development while the second depicts enormous cumulonimbus clouds. 

One evening interesting skies were right outside my front door as the setting sun added a dash of excellent light and color to the incoming storm. It was well past the development phase and thundering steadily; rain was fast approaching. Though much of the sky was flattening, quite a few otherworldly shapes and unusual color combinations remained and created a nice little window during which I could shoot abstracts. My favorite image from that session, though, (below) transcends "monsoon" and is instead all about magical light and shadows and how they've formed a connection between these objects. 

Perhaps because Chicago's song Dialogue Parts 1 & 2 (which I hadn't heard in years) popped up - twice - on satellite radio that day while driving back from the Teton Valley, I saw in this scene a dialogue between the two clouds.

While chasing monsoonal activity in the Valley I made a reference shot (below); this illustrates how massive these things can be. It also illustrates how it can be a fool's errand to try to incorporate the whole enchilada into your composition. Depending on where you're positioned and what you've got to work with below to anchor the shot, the cumulonimbus formations can be far too large for that. 

The structures belong to a farm, and that's the northern end of the Teton Range. Though the mountains are rendered quite small it's a function of the wide angle. They're not very far away: I was just outside the town of Tetonia so only about 20 miles from Grand Teton.

Local News

Gas prices have dropped in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming but you'll still pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.70-$4.85 per gallon for low grade and as much as $5.29 for diesel.

The Moose Fire in the central mountains near Salmon, Idaho (human caused) continues to burn and is the largest in the state at more than 78,000 acres. It is currently 34% contained. Air quality in this area has fluctuated since it began burning in mid-July. The monsoonal flow which has been moving into the region on-and-off since the first of the month has helped to knock back the haze.  

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Ashton Idaho monsoon storms Teton Valley Tetons Wyoming Thu, 18 Aug 2022 07:37:00 GMT
Prepared for Luck spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Does luck play a part in nature photography? Sure - but not as much as you might think. It isn't happenstance that makes great photographs. It's preparation. All the luck in the world is pointless if you're not positioned to take advantage of opportunity when it comes knocking.

Preparation stacks the deck in your favor.

Turns out the boy scout motto applies to photographers, too: "Be Prepared!" 

Improve your chances of being in the right place at the right time
Sometimes luck needs a little bit of coaxing. The more familiar you are with an area the better equipped you'll be to predict what might unfold and where the best spot might be to try to capitalize on a given situation. That doesn't mean you can't create some luck in a location with which you have less on-the-ground experience, but it underscores why returning often to the same place is beneficial. 

If you're not already, become a student of the weather - and not just broadly. You'll also need to understand microclimates specific to various locations at which you'll be working. Pay attention to the activity of fronts. Be able to identify various types of clouds and know how to interpret them. Monitor cloud cover forecasts. Consult radar. Keep an eye on things like wind speed and the dew point. 

Have situational awareness
Unexpected opportunities sometimes sneak up quietly. They can be fleeting. Don't be so focused in one direction or on a single scene that you miss something incredible developing right under your nose, so to speak. Take the blinders off. Check what's happening behind you or directly overhead. 

Know your equipment
The amazing light or the double rainbow or the spectacular storm clouds can change rapidly, or move quickly, or be short-lived. (Maybe all three.) If you're fumbling with your gear you could miss it. There's no do-over if you don't catch a mistake until you pull the image off the card. If you don't know how to manage a specific lighting situation, you won't get the shot. 

Know which camera settings to select. Understand how to deal with challenging conditions such as extreme contrast. Develop good habits (like bracketing or checking the ISO before you begin). Practice until these things are second nature.

Remove as much uncertainty as possible.

Be adaptable
"Lucky" situations often require flexibility and quick thinking. The composition you originally had in mind may no longer be suitable. Adjust accordingly. Move the tripod. Move yourself. Get higher. Get lower. Go tighter. Zoom out. Switch lenses. 

Plan ahead
Consider what you'll require to ensure you can stick around in the field long enough to give opportunity a chance to come calling. If you're being eaten alive by mosquitoes or black flies, or if you're cold, or wet, or thirsty, your concentration will suffer and you'll probably want to bail out sooner rather than later. Be prepared with the proper clothing and things like bug repellent, water, and maybe an energy bar.

Opportunities can be missed if you're unable to get where you need to be. Don't forget the headlamp, or your microspikes, or muck boots, or snowshoes, etc.

Planning ahead also means making sure to have backup batteries and extra memory cards. 

Preparation - combined with persistence - will often coax luck out of the shadows. It's not a guarantee (Mother Nature is in charge, after all) but you can dramatically improve the odds.
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church.

The "Little White Church" at Crystal Lake
Eaton, New Hampshire

About the Photographs

"Spotlight on Spring" - Grand Teton National Park

My main objective on this day was to capture what I refer to as "green season" so I was working in the north end of the park where aspens are plentiful. The storm was unexpected. I'd been watching it develop but up to that point hadn't found a photograph - until a little crack in the clouds appeared. It looked like a few rays of light might be able to break through. I had to wait and see which direction the light was going to shine before I could compose the shot but speed was the name of the game since the conditions were fleeting. The trees were lit only briefly, but it was long enough. 

"Curtain Rising" - Eaton, New Hampshire

With low overnight temperatures forecast, I expected fog over the lake on this early October morning and got it in spades. More than I bargained for. Extremely dense, it lasted for hours - well past sunrise. Who knew how harsh the light would be when the scene finally became a little more clear? That's the thing about fog: it's unpredictable, and once it begins to lift it often does so very quickly. I'd planned on making a wider shot to include colorful foliage on the hillside behind the church. Given the conditions, I had to abandon that idea. The scene revealed itself in a magnificent way and made possible something much better than the photograph I originally had in mind.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Eaton Grand Teton National Park luck New Hampshire photography Thu, 11 Aug 2022 07:17:00 GMT
No Restrictions I wonder if you can figure out what the images posted below have in common (aside from the fact that I was the photographer)?

Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMist Meets FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River

Near Lincoln, New Hampshire

Room With a ViewRoom With a ViewView of the Teton Range from the ruins of the Shane Cabin

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church.

The "Little White Church" at Crystal Lake
Eaton, New Hampshire
Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky.

T.A. Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The Neglected Fence VIIThe Neglected Fence VIIBonneville County, Idaho Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois Obviously it's not the location or time of year. It isn't orientation; there's a mix of portrait and landscape. They're not all in color so it can't be that, either.

Here's the common thread: I would've (generally) avoided making every one of these photographs way back in the day. Why? Because each composition includes something manmade. 

My rationale for steering clear of that type of subject matter, though it seemed logical at the time, was misguided. Fortunately, I course-corrected early in the game and lifted the self-imposed restrictions. 

If I could give just one piece of advice to photographers first starting out, it'd be to shoot what interests you - whatever that might be. There's no "right" or "wrong." Broaden your horizons. You'll spend more time with the camera and find many more opportunities to shoot. That's essential in terms of developing both skill and artistic style. 

Don't worry if your interests are eclectic. That's an asset, not a liability. Photographing a broad range of subjects and disparate styles will sharpen your eye, enhance your creativity, expand your understanding of the camera's capabilities, and improve your ability to problem-solve.

While my main focus is the natural world, I also shoot cityscapes. Architecture. Professional tennis. Air shows. Christmas lights. Abstract still life.

Some disciplines can overlap, like wildlife and sports. The lens selection, camera settings and techniques used to capture fast-action sports is similar to what you'll use to photograph birds in flight. Other subjects might be a bit more idiosyncratic, like air shows. To properly photograph a propeller-driven aircraft overhead requires a slow enough shutter speed to blur the action of the prop - but not too slow: the fuselage must remain tack sharp. Fighter jets are another story altogether. 

You'll take a very different approach making landscapes at a low ISO working from a tripod. And so on.

Shooting without restrictions also means not being constrained by what you think people want to see, or what you feel you ought to capture. Photograph what speaks to you. Compose in the way you think is most effective. I've said this before: you can't please everyone so don't try. That's an exercise in futility. 

Of course if you're on assignment output is dictated by the client. Otherwise, you're the client. 

Give yourself permission to photograph whatever interests you, in whatever way you think is most effective.

About the Images

1) Persistent precipitation created nearly perfect conditions on this early morning in the White Mountains: saturated color plus a combination of mist hanging over the Pemigewasset River and low fog overhead. (Kancamagus Highway near Lincoln, New Hampshire).

2) The "Shane Cabin" (Paramount Pictures, 1953) on the edge of Grand Teton National Park was originally the Luther Taylor homestead before Hollywood came to town. The park service is no longer maintaining it, so the structure is falling into disrepair. This is the view from its west window.

3) The "Little White Church" stands on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire.

4) Long shadows extend from a cluster of cottonwoods to the T.A. Moulton Barn in mid-winter.

5) This derelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence in Bonneville County, Idaho is a great "close to home" subject.

6) Beautiful summer sky over a wheat field in far northern McHenry County, Illinois.

Local News

It's been hot, hot, hot here for weeks, so why not think about snow? The lottery is now open for 2022-2023 winter permits to snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park without a commercial guide. Visit now through August 31 to apply. If you hit the jackpot you'll be notified early next month. (If you've never experienced YNP in the winter, I cannot recommend it enough. Hands down, it's the best time of the year.)

Turns out I haven't been imagining it being slower in Grand Teton National Park this summer. It's a fact. The park hosted a total of 497,531 visits in June - down roughly 34% from the same time last year. I'd expect July's numbers will reflect another decrease. After the record-breaking crowds in 2021, the extra breathing room has been fantastic.   

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park New England New Hampshire photography Thu, 04 Aug 2022 07:44:00 GMT
The North Face Everyone knows Grand Teton is - well, grand. The tallest mountain in the Teton Range, it demands attention. There's no denying its magnificence. 

I often photograph the Grand and appreciate it. Even so, my favorite peak is located a few miles away: Mount Moran. 

Towering above Jackson Lake and appearing to stand alone, Moran is a stunner. Sublime. It dominates the north end of the park.

[Ironically, Thomas Moran, for whom the mountain is named, never saw it. He did view the Teton Range from the Idaho side, though, circa 1879. About these mountains he wrote, "The Tetons loomed up grandly against the sky, and from this point it is perhaps the finest pictorial range in the United States if not in North America."]

How many ways can Moran be photographed? Let the mountain guide you; the options are probably limitless.

The other night as I camped in its shadow, I found myself spending nearly as much time gazing at Moran's outline against the Iridescent IlluminationIridescent IlluminationMount Moran

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
night sky as sleeping. If you're having a restless night there are worse things to look at.

The preceding evening's unsettled skies (which produced a fantastic sunset) completely disappeared as dawn approached. No clouds, no photo. The camera stayed in the bag and I settled in to enjoy daybreak as a spectator.

After the sun came up and washed the mountain with warm color, I ventured south toward the Cathedral Group to see what was going on there. High-level clouds were drifting into Jackson Hole but they didn't look particularly interesting so I turned around. It was still calm; there would be reflections in the Snake River at the Oxbow. That seemed to be as good a place as any to wait and find out what the morning would bring. 

Sitting along the shore I watched pelicans fishing for their breakfast. Those high clouds began to fill more of the sky, filtering the sunlight. Suddenly, Moran was beautifully lit - almost as if it were bejeweled. The pattern of illumination was almost perfect, sweeping downward from the peak and duplicated in the mirror image below to create an arc. The fact that everything else was in shadow enhanced the effect. 

The magical iridescence vanished nearly as quickly as it appeared. In all the times I've photographed this mountain it's never looked like that. 

I hadn't planned on photographing Moran that day but it beckoned anyway: not the first time this has happened - like last autumn during peak foliage. Because there was still a great deal of haze from distant wildfires, compositions involving the Tetons were often the last thing on my mind. Still, on one of the days when air quality was at its worst, Moran had something to say to me.

Orange CrushOrange CrushMount Moran is rendered as mysteriously spectral thanks to thick haze from distant wildfires and low clouds which seemingly clutch it: a wonderful backdrop for aspens at peak color.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The clouds looked like giant claws (a grizzly's paw, perhaps?) clutching at the mountain's peak, which was rendered spectrally due to the conditions. This created a really interesting backdrop for the bright orange aspens.

Sometimes you'll find a photograph when and where you least expect it.

Keep an open mind. Let the landscape guide you. 

Twilight Wedge Grand Teton National ParkAwakeningBright autumn foliage punctuates the Willow Flats landscape at daybreak while the twilight wedge tints the sky pink. With temperatures below freezing, steam rises above distant Jackson Lake as Mount Moran waits for the sun to rise and warm its face.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

UnsettledUnsettledGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming The Lines are DrawnThe Lines are DrawnA study in diagonals: the tree line, the shadows on the face of Mount Moran, and the line of the peak itself.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Through the Looking GlassThrough the Looking GlassGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming If you really want to see Mount Moran differently, you can climb it. 

The first successful ascent (all the way up) occurred in 1922 though there had been an attempt a few years earlier. Many people now summit it each year but you need to know what you're doing; all routes are rated Class-5 technical. 

My ophthalmologist will be climbing Moran next weekend, an ascent which is described as a "unique and remote experience." Because there are no maintained trails to the base of the mountain the approach is made by canoe across String and Leigh Lakes. 

I'll leave the mountaineering to him while I stick with the camera.

Local News 

Yellowstone's June attendance numbers are down 43% from the same period last year, which is unsurprising in light of the flooding. So far in 2022 YNP has hosted just under 1.7 million visits, which is a 20% decrease from 2021.

The park service still hasn't posted June numbers for GTNP but those, too, will likely be lower year-to-year.

Also in GTNP, Moose-Wilson Road remains closed from the Granite Canyon entrance to the LSR Preserve during the week for road construction. It's open weekends. Once Labor Day rolls around the road closes completely until winter.

The current red flag warning will expire at 9pm today.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Mount Moran photography sunrise Tetons Thu, 28 Jul 2022 07:55:00 GMT
Riders on the Storm Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Powerful. Dramatic. Imposing. Sometimes threatening. Always unique. 

Storms make compelling subject matter. 

Photograph them as they're forming, when they're fully developed, as they're dissipating, as they're departing - or catch the aftermath. Who doesn't like an expansive double rainbow?

Though the Four Corners region is the epicenter for the North American monsoon, the pattern makes its way up here to Teton Country, too. Intensity fluctuates from one summer to the next; though it's been relatively weak in recent years, 2021 still managed to produce some The Neglected Fence IIIThe Neglected Fence IIIBonneville County, Idaho impressive surges of moisture. 

Monsoonal energy has been moving into the area lately so I've been keeping an eye on both the forecast and the sky for opportunities.

Back in New Hampshire you'd often find me capturing departing Nor'easters on their way out to sea, but I didn't spend too much time chasing turbulent summertime weather. Since relocating to the Intermountain West I've found myself drawn to stormy conditions. Maybe it's because "big skies" make it hard to miss these displays.

The irony of this attraction is not lost on me; some of the forbidding skies I've been out shooting would've once had me running the other way. In the Midwest of my youth I'd have been heading for the basement to take cover. 

My change of attitude can likely be attributed to the fact that tornadoes are much rarer in this part of the country and those that do form are typically weak. 

Monsoonal energy can produce some really showy storms. Plentiful, too, if you're lucky. Head to the Grand Canyon in August for reliable action; during a good "burst" period thunderstorms will be an every-afternoon occurrence. [Note: I highly recommend the North Rim. Even during the height of tourist season you'll encounter far fewer people there than if you were to work from the other side, and it's equally pretty.]

Though we don't usually experience that kind of burst frequency here, when monsoonal storms do materialize they're just as compelling as their Arizona cousins. The thunderheads form, climb higher and higher in the sky, and then darken, creating impressive cloudscapes. Toss the Tetons into the mix and the compositional possibilities get even better. The mountains also provide good scale.

Buckle UpBuckle UpHeavy weather moves through Jackson Hole on an early summer afternoon.

Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming
Occasionally these storms sneak up on you. Strictly speaking, that's a misnomer - if you're in an area where you can see enough of the sky of course you won't miss that activity. But when nothing like that has been forecast, and especially if the conditions are changing rapidly, it's a bit confounding. 

Storms can be unpredictable in other ways, too. Sometimes they move more quickly than expected, or are closer than they appeared. They can go through multiple strengthening and weakening stages.

One accepts whatever Mother Nature decides to put on the menu. There's bound to be a photograph there somewhere. 

A dramatic cloudscape isn't the only draw; of course there's lightning, or the times when the rain itself is beautifully dramatic, creating a curtain as the heavy precipitation moves across the mountains. 

And the Rain Came Teton Peaks from Driggs IdahoAnd the Rain CameSheets of rain darken the sky above this old, abandoned homestead standing in a field of wheat.

Alta, Wyoming
Some storms come with surprises: you might think you're photographing one thing (i.e. that curtain of rain moving across the landscape) only to discover when pulling the images off the card that you got much, much more.

The image below of the T.A. Moulton Barn during a fierce storm illustrates that phenomenon. The winds were so violent I had to fight just to hang on to the tripod - let alone keep it steady. The fact that I was trying to create a panoramic made it that much more difficult. Little did I know what was going on more immediately overhead. The camera could see what I couldn't. 

Moulton Barn Grand Teton National ParkTurmoil AloftA strong storm creates stunning, turbulent skies and brings with it powerful winds. As it passes, the mountains are rendered as shadows by heavy rain.

T.A. Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park Wyoming
If, like me, you're captivated by stormy skies, make sure to treat lightning with respect. It can travel more than 10 miles from a thunderstorm. Since you generally can't hear thunder if it's further away than 10 miles, when you do hear it it's probably time to seek shelter. At the very least get off the mountain and/or out of the open.

Safety first. 

Fury Grand Teton National ParkFuryA powerful storm brings with it fierce winds and creates an ominous sky.

Mormon Row
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Local Park News

The entire Beartooth Highway re-opens to two-way traffic between Cooke City and Red Lodge tomorrow at 5pm - ahead of schedule. It was damaged in six places on the Montana side following the widespread flooding in early June. The Wyoming side of the highway partially re-opened on June 28th. Beartooth has had an unorthodox 2022 thus far: it officially opened for the season on the morning of May 27th only to be forced to close due to winter weather conditions later that same day. Following extensive plowing it re-opened on June 9th. Flood damage forced its closure once again just a few days later on June 13th. 

Third time's bound to be a charm, yes?  (Be advised there are still daily closures for construction on the Wyoming side from 7am-7pm Monday thru Thursday.)

Last week I mentioned Grand Teton National Park seems to be not-so-busy. Turns out that's more than just my casual observation. Occupancy in Jackson is running 22% behind last summer. (Room rates, on the other hand, are up 18%.) I haven't seen official June visitation numbers for either GTNP or Yellowstone published yet. Even before last month's flooding Yellowstone's numbers were down. Some of that could be attributed to the cold spring. It's not too hard to figure out what's behind the rest.

Both parks were slammed last year. One of the bright sides regarding the drop in attendance is that, for the time being, the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is a little less stressed.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Beartooth Highway Grand Teton National Park monsoon storms Tetons Thu, 21 Jul 2022 07:42:00 GMT
Smoke Gets In My Eyes In Full BloomIn Full BloomSticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum) and Twin Arnica (Arnica sororia)

Antelope Flats
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The period between late-May and late-July is a flurry of activity for me when it comes to working in Grand Teton National Park. There's a lot try to accomplish and it's always a race against time before the air quality deteriorates due to inevitable wildfires. Particulates in the atmosphere can produce more colorful sunrises and sunsets, but the mountains don't photograph well in it. 

First order of business is capturing green season: my favorite time of the year. As of this past Sunday it was - surprisingly - still looking quite green in much of the park but Forest OrnamentsForest OrnamentsAbundant wildflowers decorate the forest floor

Signal Mountain
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
it'll soon be on the way out. There has been little rain and temperatures have spiked. Daytime highs over the past week or so have felt more like the dog days of August than the first part of July (though it dropped into the mid-40s overnight where I was camping). Unusually warm.

Green will give way to gold and tawny brown.

(If you're wondering what unusually warm means, it was 87 degrees yesterday in Jackson; 99 in Idaho Falls; 100 in Pocatello. Normal highs would be 10-15 degrees cooler.)

Overlapping with green season is wildflower season. On the valley floor, both the Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Mule's Ear have come and gone - but we're now at the point where a wider range of plants are in bloom. There's still plenty of yellow: the Twin Arnica (Arnica sororia) are having a particularly good year, especially around Antelope Flats. See above. At first glance these might resemble the aforementioned earlier-blooming yellow flowers, but the Arnica are taller and present as single stalks rather than "bouquets."

Lupines are abundant right now on the way up Signal Mountain, paintbrush dot the landscape in many locations, and sulphur buckwheats seem to be everywhere. I saw some sticky geraniums at Antelope Flats along with Monument Plants which are just beginning to flower. Then there's field chickweed, phlox, Bolander's Yampah - and more. 

As for water, the bulk of the snow has melted so the rivers are running clear rather than brown from all the runoff. Much more photogenic.

Hidden Falls and Canyon Creek were running very full and fast over last weekend. Snowpack was below normal last winter; I didn't expect to see that kind of volume.

Ivory TreasureIvory TreasureHidden Falls

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The water level at Jackson Lake remains very low. Colter Bay Marina isn't opening at all this season; that should tell you something. Leek's was still operating last time I went by there, and Signal Mountain Marina (pictured below) is also open.

As of the end of May the reservoir was only 25% full; it's projected to reach a maximum of just 45% this year.

Mirror, MirrorMirror, MirrorSignal Mountain Marina - Jackson Lake
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Bottom line, outside of the reservoir situation the park has been looking great but the clock is ticking: the first haze of the season (from the Washburn fire at Yosemite) reached Eastern Idaho last weekend. Thus far the Tetons have mostly blocked the bad air from moving into Jackson Hole but that won't last. 

So it begins...

Odds and Ends

The fire danger rating for Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and the National Elk Refuge was elevated yesterday to high. Don't be deceived by how green the landscape looks.

The park has been far less busy than usual so far this summer. (At least it seems that way; I haven't seen the numbers for June.) I've got to think that has something to do with the price of gas, which is currently in the neighborhood of $5.50 in western Wyoming. It was actually cheaper inside the park than in Jackson the other day. Paying a king's ransom for fuel is crazy but the extra elbow room is nice. Silver lining. 

Campgrounds are filled but sites do open up. If you're hoping to snag a spot, keep checking I've seen the inventory situation change multiple times over a single day.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Antelope Flats Grand Teton National Park green season Tetons wildflowers Thu, 14 Jul 2022 07:55:00 GMT
Up, Up and Away Would you like to fly in my beautiful balloon....

For more than 40 years, hot air balloons have been a fixture in the early morning skies above Driggs, Idaho over the Fourth of July holiday. This year's Teton Valley Balloon Rally featured a few dozen balloons and pilots who came from as far away as New Hampshire to participate.

The four-day event began last Friday. I went over on the first morning and was treated to an intensely colorful sunrise while driving through Tetonia and into Driggs on the way to the launch site. It was too good to pass up. I took a little detour and scrambled to find somewhere from which I could make a photo.

There was no time for the tripod, nor did I have the luxury of making multiple exposures, since the color was beginning to fade. I was happy to have had the opportunity to capture it. Unexpected bonus.

With that impromptu mission accomplished, I continued on to the fairgrounds. 

The bad news: it wasn't just passing rain that made that sunrise show possible. There was something a little more aggressive blowin' in the breeze. A few flashes of lightning followed by cracks of thunder and I knew there wouldn't be any flying. Had any of this been in the forecast? Of course not! 

Everyone hoped the following morning would bring better luck.

Round 2, next day: I left the house at 4am for the 75-mile drive to Driggs. Again. This time it was a beautiful morning to fly.

Arriving as the gates opened, I was greeted by three balloons that were already upright and nearly ready to lift off just as the sun was getting ready to rise over the Tetons. 

The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon...

The conditions were excellent and you couldn't have asked for a better looking sky. 

Never been to a balloon rally? Whether you're flying, photographing it, or simply a spectator they're a lot of fun - as long as you're not allergic to early mornings. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Driggs hot air balloons Idaho Teton Valley Balloon Rally Tetons Thu, 07 Jul 2022 07:43:00 GMT
Blink and You Might Miss It Sleep TightSleep TightThe sun sets behind the Teton Range, bidding the wildflowers goodnight.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
You may be under the impression there are four seasons. 

Au contraire. There are so many more!

Mud Season. Green Season. Wildflower Season. Black Fly Season. Runoff Season. Garden Blooming Season. Foliage Season (not to be confused with autumn). Monsoon Season. Fire season. Depending on your locale, you may have more to add to the list.

There are more micro-seasons than you can shake a stick at. 

Admittedly, not everything on that list is photogenic. Some are a nuisance at best, real problems at their worst. Others, though, are spectacularly beautiful and beg to be photographed; I wish they'd hang around a while longer. 

Depending on the year, some micro-seasons might be barely a blip on the radar. Blink and you might miss them. Even when conditions are superior, opportunities can still be fleeting. Peak autumn color is a good example: if it's a bumper crop and you're lucky you'll squeeze out 10 days. Flowering trees in early spring may only last a week. And so on.

This can make life difficult for the nature photographer. For instance, the past two wildflower seasons in the Tetons have been extremely challenging: not because of the blooms themselves, which have been beautiful and plentiful, but due to persistent high winds. When that Wyoming wind decides to settle in and stay awhile, any ideas you might have had about capturing closeups of the plants becomes more fantasy than reality. Flowers that are constantly in motion don't lend themselves to compositions requiring focus stacking - and violent gyrations end up damaging many of the blooms.  

It's been that kind of wildflower season here so far this year. The Arrowleaf Balsamroot began to bloom just as a period of unstable weather moved in Majestic Grand Teton National ParkMajesticAs sunset nears, a dramatic sky complements the grandeur of the Teton Range while the lush greens of spring decorate the landscape below.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
and persisted. Now they're gone and the Mule's Ears have taken up the mantle. We'll see what happens. 

While I'm on the subject of late spring and early summer, green season - my absolute favorite time of the year - most likely will not linger due to inadequate snowfall last winter. Things have already begun drying out in and around the Snake River Plain in Eastern Idaho. It's only a matter of time before this occurs at higher elevations like the Teton Valley and throughout Grand Teton National Park.

You've got to make hay while the sun shines. The flowers aren't going to extend their bloom for the convenience of photographers. Lush green landscapes give way to tawny brown. Autumn leaves let go and fall whether or not you're ready to say goodbye.

It's the nature of the beast for the landscape photographer. These micro-seasons are fleeting - and often, conditions aren't what we expected or hoped for. It doesn't matter how much advance planning has gone into a shoot; it's never a sure thing. We have to be prepared to adapt and figure out how to work with whatever Mother Nature has gifted to us. Sometimes she's quite stingy. It can take years to make certain images. 

Frustrating? It can be. But I'm not sure having to cede control is a bad thing. 

There's something to be said for problem-solving and quick thinking. What kind of photograph can you make given particular conditions? When things aren't working out the way you envisioned, it might just stimulate creativity and innovation. A fresh perspective.

You can still hit a home run even if you don't get a fastball down the middle.

The conditions might be more interesting than what was forecast. You might find a composition that's even more compelling. 

In the end, you could walk away with a stronger image than the one you originally had in mind. 

In Local News

Yellowstone will re-open the north loop to all visitors on Saturday; the temporary alternating license plate entry system will be suspended that same day. Back to normal entrance procedures from the east, south and west gates! This means more than 90% of the park's roads will be accessible; you'll once again be able to travel from Norris to Mammoth, Mammoth to Tower, and Tower to Canyon (Dunraven Pass).

A 23-mile segment of Beartooth Highway has also reopened.

The north and northeast gates remain closed.

Record recovery!!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park photography seasons wildflowers Thu, 30 Jun 2022 07:55:00 GMT
Before You Go Mountain MelodyMountain MelodyGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming More than one of my friends who've come to Teton Country from back East to make photographs has experienced a few surprises. I can relate; I was a visitor once, too. Especially if you haven't previously worked in the Rockies, there are some things that will be good to know ahead of time.

The following pointers refer specifically to Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area but can also be applied more broadly to the Intermountain region.

1. Weather

Just because the calendar says it's June (or July or August) doesn't mean it won't get cold, or that it isn't going to snow. It can snow - and has - in all 12 months. Even when you don't have to contend with freezing precipitation, overnights can be quite chilly; this is a semi-arid, high-altitude climate. In late spring, late summer and early autumn, 50-degree temperature swings from dawn to mid-day are not uncommon. Bring layers.

Some of the outerwear I toss in my vehicle when heading over to the park in late spring and summer might seem strange but can come in handy at the edges of the day. Ski jacket. Insulated gloves. Lined knit hat.

Weather conditions can also change quickly. During the summer months pop-up afternoon thunderstorms often develop rapidly. Be aware. There's signal in some parts of the park; I'm able to receive National Weather Service advisories on my phone at least some of the time. If you're a photographer you probably have multiple weather apps. Enable alerts and keep your eyes on the skies, especially if you're heading out on a long hike.

2. This is Bear Country

Always carry bear spray and know how to use it. You can't fly with it, so if you're traveling to this area by air you'll need to pick some up upon arrival. It's widely available and you can rent a can if you prefer.

I also have bear bells attached to my camera bag though I remain skeptical about their effectiveness (they are often jokingly referred to as "dinner bells"). If you can hike with a buddy, so much the better; you'll make more noise. That's not always possible, though. I'm often alone and am therefore choosey about which trails I'll hike solo.

Bears are especially active in the spring (coming out of hibernation and mamas with cubs in tow) and autumn (foraging aggressively for food in advance of hibernation). Grizzlies love huckleberries. If the trail leads you into the midst of a stand of ripe huckleberries, be extra vigilant. Or turn around. 

The north end of Grand Teton National Park is prime habitat for grizzlies. This doesn't mean you can't - or shouldn't - work there. It's my favorite part of the park. Just be aware of your surroundings. Speaking of the north end, I've been wanting to make an image from above the Oxbow during "green season" for a while, but wasn't comfortable poking around high up on that hillside by myself at daybreak during springtime. Opportunity knocked a few weeks ago when a relative was in town; I drafted him to keep an eye out while I was working. (The image posted above came from that shoot.)

Finally, store food properly. Wild animals who become habituated to human food sources often end up euthanized. Don't make a bear pay the ultimate price for your mistake.

3. Slow Down

The overnight speed limit on the main highway is 45mph. It's lower on the inner loop road. Still, you'll routinely see vehicles racing by like bats out of hell across the ink-black landscape at 0-dark-30. Some of these people are no doubt on their way to make pictures. (Let's be honest: in a national park at that hour it's probably not 'some' but 'many.') 

This is infuriating. Since I've lived here more than one grizzly cub has been killed by a hit-and-run driver. Moose, too. Give yourself enough time to get wherever it is you want to shoot without endangering wildlife. And yourself.

4. Speaking of Dark

When it's a new moon or if it's heavily overcast, the wee hours are very dark inside GTNP. Know where you're going. Scout ahead of time. Identify landmarks you'll be able to find in low illumination. When driving, it can be difficult to see signs, side roads and/or pull-offs and it doesn't take much to miss a turn. Have a headlamp or flashlight for hiking. 

5. Avoiding Crowds

Even during the busy summer months and/or foliage season, it's possible to get away from the crowds. Rule number one is easy and obvious: shoot early and late. Most non-photographers don't enter the park until well after the sun comes up and they'll bail out before the dinner bell rings. Still, some of the "hot spots" at the magic hours can be very busy (Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher, the barns). Know ahead of time where you want to position yourself, and plan on arriving earlier than you otherwise would. If you'd normally show up for a sunrise shoot an hour before the first rays of light are scheduled to make their appearance, 90 minutes - or maybe more - is better.

Second, stay away from the inner loop (Teton Park Road) during the day.

Third, get away from where you parked your vehicle. People typically don't venture far from their cars, let alone the lot. Walk away. The bonus is you may be surprised at the compositions you'll find.

Fourth, check out adjacent areas to the park like the Red Hills and Bridger-Teton National Forest. Beautiful. Lots of opportunities to make photographs. 

And fifth, if you see a road, take it. Visitors tend to stay on the main highway and inner loop. There are many other options for exploration within the park boundaries. 

In Local News

There's been a Herculean effort underway in Yellowstone to get the park open again following the devastating flooding. The southern loop re-opened yesterday morning via the west, south and east entrances. People were excited; lines began forming outside West Yellowstone's gates at daybreak. There were so many vehicles (backed up into town) they ended up opening an hour earlier than originally planned.

To control traffic, entry is limited and based on license plate numbers. Plates ending with an odd number can go on odd numbered days, and vice versa. If you've got a vanity plate that contains numbers, the last number will determine your designated entry. If your vanity plate contains no numbers, you'll enter on odd dates.  

Surprisingly - no, wait - that's not strong enough of a word choice. Astonishingly, the park service announced on Monday they anticipate re-opening the northern loop in two weeks or less. That means you'll be able to get to Mammoth, Dunraven Pass, Tower, and Norris. Add that to the southern loop and about 80% of the park will be back in business by roughly the Fourth of July. 

If that's not enough to blow your mind, they're also hoping to be able to provide temporary access between Gardiner and the park and restore access to Cooke City and Silver Gate yet this summer. Beartooth Highway may even re-open during the 2022 season. 

[As far as the license plate entry system is concerned, one hopes this is, indeed, temporary. It makes sense in the near-term since it allows for rapid implementation, but alternate-day access is impractical on a permanent basis. Unless you've got a campsite or other lodging reservations inside the park - and good luck with that for this season - it's going to make photography difficult. We'll see what happens. One step at a time.]

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park photography Yellowstone Thu, 23 Jun 2022 07:52:00 GMT
Party Interrupted KaleidoscopicKaleidoscopicThe best way to appreciate Grand Prismatic Spring is from the air - where both its otherworldy appearance and immense size are apparent. Note the man on the walkway...though only a speck from the sky, he casts a long shadow.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Poor Yellowstone National Park. Celebrating its 150th birthday this year, the party has been abruptly interrupted.

As you're probably aware, a combination of snowmelt and unusually heavy rainfall over last weekend caused river levels to surge overnight Sunday-into-Monday, which led to record flooding and widespread damage - especially in the northern sections of the park. (The Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs, MT surpassed the previous high mark set more than 100 years ago by several feet.) I was in the far-southern part of Yellowstone on Saturday; rivers were already high due to spring runoff and it had only just begun to rain at that point.  

Some sections of roadway in the northern loop are completely gone and others are badly damaged. There have been bridge failures, rockslides and mudslides. Too much water, too quickly.

The park is completely closed to visitors until at least this Sunday, June 19th. Probably longer. The north and northeast entrances will remain shuttered for the rest of this season; I wouldn't be surprised if 2023 is impacted also. Grand Teton National Park had some significant flooding a few years ago which took out part of Gros Ventre Road. The repair/rebuilding process was lengthy and the scope of that project doesn't begin to compare to what lies ahead for Yellowstone.

As for the southern loop, apparently it didn't sustain major damage but there are several question marks regarding when and how it will re-open. Work has already begun but the park service has to wait for the water to subside to thoroughly evaluate the situation and assess damage. (More rain is forecast for this weekend along with warmer temperatures which will accelerate snowmelt.) Then power must be restored, and both water and wastewater systems need to be properly operational before the south, east and west entrances can accept inbound traffic. 

They're talking about implementing some sort of temporary reservation or timed entry system to avoid overcrowding on the southern loop. 

Ironically, much of Yellowstone is experiencing serious drought conditions (the same is true for Grand Teton National Park as well as Eastern Idaho) - yet here we are with flooding. Though there will be some immediate benefit from this event as far as the water supply is concerned, a news report last night indicated that it will have little long-term impact. Unchanged is the fact that neither Jackson Lake nor Palisades, the two local reservoirs here, are expected to fill this year.  

And so it goes.

If you've planned a trip to Yellowstone this summer, check frequently with the park service regarding status. They'll be keeping the website updated, and as mentioned in previous posts, I urge you to sign up to receive text updates for up-to-the-minute road reports. You'll probably need to secure an entry reservation, and some attractions in the north (like Lamar Valley) will likely be inaccessible. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) flooding Wyoming Yellowstone National Park Thu, 16 Jun 2022 07:55:00 GMT
Country Roads Eastern Idaho is heavily agrarian: not just the potato capital of the world, the region is also a big producer of wheat, alfalfa, barley and hops. I'll bet you didn't know Idaho is the country's top-producing barley state. (Fully half of Anheuser-Busch's malting barley comes from Idaho.) And the Gem State is #2 in the production of hops. One wonders if "Beer Grows Here" might be just as appropriate a license plate slogan as "Famous Potatoes."

[Speaking of Anheuser-Busch, the Idaho Falls Budweiser plant processes 300,000 metric tons of barley annually. Fremont, Madison, Bonneville and Jefferson counties - all in Eastern Idaho - are the largest malt barley producers in the U.S. Draw a rough obtuse triangle from Idaho Falls to Ashton to Driggs and back to Idaho Falls to get an approximation of Idaho's barley-sweet-spot.]

At any rate, all those acres of fields under production are especially beautiful in late spring when everything is lush and green. Meaning right about now. Throw in the Teton Range as a backdrop and you've got a pretty sweet landscape.

One of my favorite drives is heading eastbound on Route 33 starting in Sugar City and ending in Tetonia (roughly 35 miles). You won't find this excursion listed in the guidebooks but it's lovely. Tractors, Tetons, and mile after mile of emerald green.

This is hilly country; the elevation steadily increases as you travel out of the Snake River Plain and toward the mountains (from 4900 to 6100 feet). When the road dips and curves it occasionally hides the Tetons from view - but as you climb again they reappear in all their springtime glory, still covered with snow and dominating the skyline. Once you travel far enough east you'll have wonderful views of the Big Hole mountains, too, which are spectacularly green this time of year. 

The pot of gold at the end of this country drive is the Teton Valley, nestled between the Tetons to the east, the Big Holes to the west, and the Snake River Range to the south. "The Quiet Side" of the Tetons. Picture perfect.

A few miles after you enter the valley, Route 33 intersects with Route 32. This is roughly the mid-point of the Teton Scenic Byway - which most definitely is listed in the tour guides, and worth exploring. Teton Valley IdahoThunderheadsThe Teton River cuts a path through the Teton Valley - which is never more lovely than in late spring and early summer, awash in green. Here, thunderheads climbing high into the sky dominate the scene.

Tetonia, Idaho

Just under 70 miles in length, the byway begins in Swan Valley - home to the South Fork of the Snake River (considered to be one of the finest trout fishing rivers in the country). It'll take you into the Targhee National Forest, then up into the Big Hole Mountains and over Pine Creek Pass. As you begin descending toward the town of Victor you'll catch your first glimpse of the Grand. The route parallels the Tetons through Driggs and continues on to Tetonia. 

For an exceptional high-elevation view of some of the tallest peaks in the Teton Range (not to mention a beautiful vantage point from which to take in the breadth of the Teton Valley as well as the Big Holes), consider taking a detour to visit Grand Targhee Ski Resort where you can jump on the chair lift and ride up to the summit of Fred's Mountain.

Ski Hill Road is easy to find. Driggs is a one-stoplight town; Ski Hill is at that intersection. Turn north and follow it to the end. Grand Targhee is actually located in Wyoming so you'll cross the state line into Alta along the way. 

A few indoor activities to consider while in Driggs: 

Teton Aviation Center's Airplane Museum, which houses aircraft like the Navy FJ-4 Fury and T-2 Buckeye, the Air Force T-28 Trojan, and the Soviet MiG-15 and MiG-17, all of which still fly. I saw the FJ-4 and the MiGs at a local air show a few years ago.

Teton Valley Historical Museum (10am-5pm Tuesday thru Saturday)

Grand Teton Vodka Distillery (make an appointment for a tour)

Back on the byway, there are many lovely, expansive views of the western slope of the Tetons between Tetonia and Ashton. In this area you'll also see dryland farms - meander around on side roads and you'll be treated to some lovely landscapes with fields free from irrigation equipment.

Route 32 terminates on the outskirts of Ashton. Should you be in the mood for further exploration, the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway starts here. I'll save that for another post.

They say you can traverse the Teton Scenic Byway in 2.5 hours but why in the world anyone would want to complete it so quickly is beyond me.  

Especially with fuel costs in the stratosphere, it's a bonus when the mileage delivers something special. These are two country drives that won't disappoint. 
Raindance Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingRaindanceChangeable skies over the Teton peaks

Alta, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Big Holes Driggs Grand Targhee Idaho Teton Scenic Byway Teton Valley Tetonia Tetons Thu, 09 Jun 2022 07:25:00 GMT
Lupine Season Evening Glow Lupines White MountainsEvening GlowLupines watch as the last light of the day casts warm alpenglow on the Northern Presidential Range in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Jefferson, New Hampshire
Late spring is a special time of year in New Hampshire's high country: lupine season. 

It is also true that this is black fly season, which is not so wonderful - but you have to take the bitter with the sweet. 

In late May and the first part of June the White Mountains serve as a stunning backdrop for picturesque natural displays of these lovely flowers. Mountain's GiftMountain's GiftLupine season
(Sugar Hill, New Hampshire)
Fields, pastures and roadsides are decorated with spikes of vibrant color, and many visitors are drawn to the area to enjoy the blooms. 

As with autumn foliage, the "show" can be unpredictable - both in terms of timing and how productive various fields might be from one year to the next. Somewhat mercurial. Always magical.

How do you find the flowers? There are maps, but my preferred method in terms of learning the ropes was to get on back roads and explore. And definitely chat up the locals. Early on I befriended someone who lives in Sugar Hill; she was very helpful in terms of giving me a heads up each spring regarding the progression of the display.

Speaking of Sugar Hill, I'd recommend starting your quest there, but know that there are fields to be enjoyed in and around many mountain communities: Franconia, Jefferson, Bethlehem, Easton, Littleton, and Lisbon. 

I'm always amazed at the variety of colors. Blue and purple I expected, but little did I realize that I'd find white, pink, and a myriad of other hues. Lavender. Pale pink. Blush yellow. Mauve. Blush peach. Weird hybrid combinations, like this:

IdiosyncraticIdiosyncraticUnusual color combination on a lupine blooming near Pearl Lake in Grafton County, New Hampshire.

By the way, I've only ever seen this yellow and purple combination on three plants, two of which are pictured here. I never found them again in subsequent seasons at that same location, and I've not come across this color pairing anywhere else. 

Even if the flowers aren't particularly photogenic, I always take a snapshot of anything unusual, just as a record. The blush peach plants I saw one year are a good example: another one-of-a-kind sighting (at least for me). Field of DreamsField of DreamsLupine field at Sugar Hill
(White Mountains, New Hampshire)
Are these Fields of Dreams? I think so.

Believe me, I would otherwise avoid the mountains in late May and early June to keep from being ravaged by the black flies (to which I'm allergic - and who seem to know this and therefore attack me with unbridled enthusiasm) but I cannot say no to this fantastic display.

Lupine season quickly became just as much of an obsession for me as foliage season. Be forewarned: you may become addicted to these lovely spikes, too.

About That Mailbox

Robert Frost and his family lived in Franconia, New Hampshire full-time from 1915 through 1920. He returned to that farm every summer until his wife's death in 1938. You'll find the Frost Place - and his mailbox - on Ridge Road. The house is now home to poets-in-residence as well as a museum.

God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said "To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowers tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end."

God's Garden
-Robert Frost (circa 1890)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Franconia lupine season lupines mountains New Hampshire Robert Frost Sugar Hill White Mountains Thu, 02 Jun 2022 07:22:00 GMT

May we never forget our fallen comrades.
Freedom isn't free.

~Sgt. Major Bill Paxton


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bill Paxton freedom In Flanders Fields John McCrae Memorial Day Mon, 30 May 2022 12:35:43 GMT
The Fire Beneath Your Feet Topaz DelightTopaz DelightSilex Spring

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park celebrated its sesquicentennial on March 1st but the party is ongoing throughout 2022. Not just the first national park in the United States, YNP was the first in the world. 

It sits on top of an active volcano - a super volcano - which is one of the largest calderas on earth at 45x30 miles. That's what powers the park's 10,000+ hydrothermal features, more than 500 of which are active geysers (that's more than half of all the geysers on the planet). 

Especially when walking through the geyser fields, you can feel the heat and see the energy. It's obvious something is going on beneath your feet - but you may not realize just how close you are to the action. Magma is very near the surface in greater Yellowstone.

There have been three super-eruptions over the past two million years, each of which created a caldera. The third and most recent super-eruption is responsible for the caldera we're familiar with today. As the volume of magma and hydrothermal fluids fluctuates and/or as magma moves between the two chambers which lie beneath the park, the caldera floor lifts, tilts, subsides, and shifts. 

If you're wondering how a super-eruption differs from a "garden variety" volcanic eruption, it's more powerful by many magnitudes. Catastrophic isn't really a descriptive enough adjective but it'll have to do. Yellowstone's first super-eruption ejected more than 6,000 times as much volcanic material as did Mount St. Helens in 1980, covering nearly 5800 square miles with ash.

The three super-eruptions combined expelled enough ash and lava to fill the Grand Canyon.  

All this heat and movement just beneath the surface makes Yellowstone prone to earthquakes. Lots of them. It's one of the most seismically active areas in the country. (There were more than 1,000 last July.) 
Marshmallow TreatMarshmallow TreatCanary Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As far as hydrothermal features are concerned, Old Faithful snags the lion's share of attention but some of my favorites are found elsewhere. Mammoth Hot Springs is one example. 

These beautiful, otherworldly "fountains" appear almost as if they're waterfalls which have been frozen in action and painted with colorful stripes.

Water trickles from some; others are dry. The distribution of water changes as the magmatic system underground shifts.

The terraces were created by this thermal water: rising through the limestone, it releases carbon dioxide when it reaches the surface and deposits calcium carbonate, which in turn creates travertine. Voila! 

We can thank heat-loving bacteria for the stunning paint job which decorates the terraces. These are the same thermophiles which populate other hydrothermal features you'll see elsewhere in the park. 

If you enjoy abstract photography, you'll find plenty of potential subject matter in Yellowstone's hot springs and bacterial mats.

I made the images below at the mat near Grand Prismatic Spring. Different thermophiles live at various specific temperatures; that's what creates the variety of colors. In Living ColorIn Living ColorBacteria mat, Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

TentaclesTentaclesBacteria mat, Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Geysers don't always have to boast super-sized eruptions to be interesting (at least in my book). I have a soft spot for Clepsydra, located between the Midway and Lower Geyser Basins. It doesn't toss spray hundreds of feet into the sky but it's showy in its own understated way. Since the late 1950s it has erupted almost continuously. I've seen it in all four seasons and stop by for a visit every time I'm in that area of the park.

Sparkling WaterSparkling WaterErupting continuously, Clepsydra Geyser on this winter day was particularly beautiful as the sun briefly cut through heavy overcast, side-lighting the spray and further darkening the stormy sky.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Steamboat Geyser is a good illustration of how the energy beneath Yellowstone shifts. Mostly dormant for years, it suddenly came roaring back to life in 2018. During major eruptions it's the world's tallest at 300+ feet. Minor eruptions now occur frequently.

Here you see one of those minor eruptions. The lighting was excellent on this early morning. Sub-freezing temperatures amplified the steam; backlighting from the rising sun accentuated the geyser's energy.

A Force of NatureA Force of NatureDuring major eruptions, Steamboat Geyser is the world's tallest. Here, backlighting from the early morning sun lends an air of mystery to a minor eruption.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
In Yellowstone, the fire is right there, just beneath your feet. Magnificent.

Did You Know?

There's more to the park than geysers, mudpots and hot springs. 

  • Yellowstone boasts more than 900 miles of hiking trails 
  • It's home to the largest high-elevation lake in North America (Yellowstone Lake is 7,733 feet above sea level) 
  • Its ecosystem is nearly intact - meaning the plants and animals you'll find there are essentially the same now as before humans arrived 
  • Part of Yellowstone is located in Idaho 
  • It's home to the largest concentration of wildlife in the Lower 48
  • It's the only place in the U.S. where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times

Happy Birthday to the granddaddy of them all.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Clepsydra geysers Mammoth Hot Springs Steamboat Geyser supervolcano thermal features Yellowstone National Park Thu, 26 May 2022 07:52:00 GMT
Lucky Enough

This little plaque was on the wall in my West Yellowstone, Montana room earlier this month.

Lady Luck has - thus far - mostly avoided ostentatious exhibitions in her dealings with me. No sweepstakes bonanzas. No heretofore unknown wealthy distant relative appearing out of thin air to leave me a vast fortune. No big payouts at the roulette table. Wait - that last one doesn't count. You can't win if you don't play.

But I do live in the shadow of the Teton Range and spend a lot of time in the mountains. According to the plaque, that makes me lucky enough. I won't argue with that.

(Just for the record, though, I wouldn't turn up my nose at a winning lottery ticket.) 

From the east, from the west, from the air - the Teton peaks are photogenic from all angles. They don't have a bad side. Teddy Roosevelt said the Tetons are "what mountains are supposed to look like." 

Give a five-year-old a crayon and ask for a drawing of mountains. Easy! The little artist will create a rough rendering of the Cathedral Group. Like TR, kids know what mountains are supposed to look like: the Tetons.

The view from the east is atypical of most mountain ranges in that there are no foothills; the panorama of the dramatic elevation profile is completely unobstructed. The mountains tower over the valley. This phenomenon was created by the Teton Fault, which runs along the base of the slope. 

Over on the western side you'll find those missing foothills - but the sights are no less beautiful. Whether you're just outside of Ashton, or in Tetonia, or standing at the summit of Table Mountain (where you'll be treated to a mind-blowing, close-up view of The Grand), you'll see something awe-inspiring.

If you get to spend time with these mountains, you're lucky.

Trivia Question:

Which peaks make up the Cathedral Group? Depends who you ask. One marker in the park indicates it's the three tallest peaks in the Teton Range: 

  • Grand Teton (13,770 feet)
  • Mount Owen (12,929)
  • Middle Teton (12,804)

Other geologists say it's Grand Teton, Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain (12,330).

Elsewhere the park service contradicts itself by designating the eight peaks between Avalanche and Cascade Canyons as the Cathedrals. That would add South Teton (12,514), Teepee Pillar (12,266), Cloudveil Dome (12,026) and Buck Mountain (11,938) to the list. 

You decide.

Sunshine BeneathSunshine BeneathArrowleaf balsamroot add splashes of cheerful yellow to the fields of Jackson Hole in late spring.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Twilight Wedge Grand Teton National ParkAwakeningBright autumn foliage punctuates the Willow Flats landscape at daybreak while the twilight wedge tints the sky pink. With temperatures below freezing, steam rises above distant Jackson Lake as Mount Moran waits for the sun to rise and warm its face.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Summer Snow Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingWest Side StoryFollowing a chilly spring, early summer kicks off with substantial snowpack remaining.

Western Slope - Teton Range
Alta, Wyoming

Face-to-FaceFace-to-FaceAerial view of the Grand from the west

Teton Range, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Cathedral Group mountains Teton Range Tetons Thu, 19 May 2022 07:38:00 GMT
It Don't Come Easy That classic Ringo Starr song popped into my head last week while I was working in Yellowstone.

Obviously Ringo's lyrics have nothing to do with photography. As for that line, though: I can't think of a better way to describe the mechanics of making photographs inside YNP.

It don't come easy. NamesakeNamesakeFirst light of the morning enhances the color in the canyon walls.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone is filled with extraordinary subject matter. That's never an issue. It's the size and popularity of the park that present challenges. 

The place may be huge - larger than the combined size of Rhode Island and Delaware - but it doesn't feel roomy during peak tourist season because there are a lot of visitors (nearly five million last year) and, generally speaking, most are concentrated in only a small percentage of all that acreage (in the vicinity of the roadway system). 

Envision the inevitable congestion at the park's main features, not to mention the number of vehicles on the roads themselves. Then somebody spies a bison and all bets are off; people think nothing of stopping in the middle of the road to sit and watch. In both directions. Bison bottlenecks. 

This is why I rarely set foot inside Yellowstone from late-May until mid-September. It's not a fail-safe solution; even during the collar seasons it can be busy. But it helps. 

This self-imposed restriction makes sense (for me) - but there's no denying it costs a few months every year in terms of access.

The size issue is also a logistical challenge: in my experience, Yellowstone is more difficult to manage than Death Valley, in spite of the latter being even larger. Chasing weather conditions, for example, often isn't realistic due to distances between locations. I log exponentially more mileage in YNP than when I'm working next door in Grand Teton NP. There's typically a cap on what I'm able to achieve in a single day. C'est la vie. It don't come easy.

TentaclesTentaclesBacteria mat, Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Last week's shoot had been twice delayed due to road closures within the park (snow) and high winds (not the best look for the geysers). It's been a crazy spring; winter has been reluctant to bow to the inevitable. Memorial Day - my unofficial YNP cut-off - is fast approaching so these postponements created some angst. Last week's forecast calling for a short break from the chaotic weather was welcome. 

While I was there, overnight temperatures dipped into the mid-20s. Expecting fog, I rolled the dice one morning and set out for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone hoping to find some there as the sun came up. While not as dense as what I'd driven through on the way, fog was hanging over the Lower Falls; it lingered for a while. Quite beautiful. The fact that I was able to enjoy it in complete solitude was an added (and unexpected) bonus. 

But for that run to the Canyon, I spent the majority of this shoot working the geyser basins. 

With two weeks remaining before the holiday, there's time to head back. Which I plan to do. Make hay while the sun shines!

EffervescentEffervescentClepsydra Geyser

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Speaking of Yellowstone Roads:

The south entrance to the park opens for the season tomorrow - at which point all entrances with the exception of Beartooth will have reopened. That one is scheduled for the 27th. 

During the collar seasons it's a good idea to sign up with the park service to receive text updates regarding road closures. (My phone has been blowing up with notifications over the past two weeks due to all the recent snow.) They try to stay on top of plowing but it can get hazardous quickly. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Wyoming Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park Thu, 12 May 2022 07:44:00 GMT
If May Were a Color... would be green. Glorious, gorgeous, ubiquitous green. Springtime green. 

Leaves unfurling on shrubs and trees, grass coming out of dormancy - all that new growth is bursting with energy. Foliage this time of year has a unique look. (The grass, too.) The greens are lighter and brighter than what you'll find in mid-summer. 

Lime green. Apple green. Maybe even some chartreuse.

In its own way, this "foliage season" is as lovely as the show in autumn.

It's been a roller coaster weather ride here in Teton Country over the past few weeks, with snow accumulating as low as 4,700 feet more than once. A day or two of seasonal temperatures is followed by a cold snap - and then back again. It's safe to say winter and spring have been sparring.

Still, much of Eastern Idaho is now green. Trees and shrubs are decorated with buds. Perennials are back in a big way. I mowed my yard for the first time the other day.

Even over on the Wyoming side signs of spring are unmistakable in Grand Teton National Park, albeit a little late. It'll be greening up there, too. Soon.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth...
-D.H. Lawrence


About the Photos

I made both of the images posted here in late May; it doesn't look like this on either side of the Tetons yet but there's still plenty of time for things to begin to pop.

At the top it's Mount Moran at the north end of Grand Teton National Park. I went looking for lime green and got it in spades. The quality of the sky added a lot to the scene: vibrant, adjacent cool colors on the color wheel punctuated with a few clouds to complement the snow. The field of sage was included to extend the swath of green. For a brief few weeks in spring the grass retains enough moisture to green up nicely - here it harmonizes with the beautiful color in the line of aspens. 

Below, you're looking at the Teton Valley in Eastern Idaho. That's the Teton River in the foreground; the small town of Tetonia is visible in the distance. The valley is never more lovely than in late spring when it's lush and green. I waited until the more vertically-oriented cloud moved into position above Grand Teton; it mimics its shape. The views of the Teton peaks from here are stunning. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Eastern Idaho Grand Teton Grand Teton National Park green May spring Teton Valley Thu, 05 May 2022 07:44:00 GMT
Plant a Tree "Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky."
Kahlil Gebran

Tomorrow is Arbor Day - one of Nebraska's great contributions to the country, and the world. This year we celebrate its sesquicentennial.

J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska City-based newspaper editor who later became Secretary of the Nebraska Territory, was an enthusiastic lover of trees. He pitched the idea of a tree-planting holiday, and the citizenry got behind it in a big way. On that inaugural Arbor Day 150 years ago an estimated one million trees were planted across Nebraska. Two years later the governor (Robert Furnas) made it an official annual observance, and it was designated a legal holiday in the Cornhusker State in 1885.

Today all 50 states observe Arbor Day, as do many countries across the globe. The Arbor Day Foundation distributes many millions of trees to its members each year.

I'm with Mr. Morton; I admire trees. How can you not?

Wander through the forest among beautiful, towering specimens. Listen to leaves dancing in the wind. Find respite in their shade. Marvel at the magical extravaganza staged by deciduous varieties each autumn. Stuff of Dreams Autumn New HampshireThe Stuff of DreamsBretton Woods, New Hampshire

"Come to the woods, for here is rest." 
John Muir

New Hampshire, my adoptive state, is second only to Maine as the most forested in the country. More than 80% of it is covered with trees. From the seacoast to the Great North Woods, it's a beautiful place. That said, I've got a soft spot for the White Mountains. There you can really appreciate the dense tree cover - and if you're lucky enough to experience the riot of color in early October it's a sight you will never forget.

Looking across that landscape now it may be hard to fathom, but the Whites had been logged to the point of deforestation by the turn of the last century. Look for photos from that period and you'll see the devastating result of years of clear-cutting.

Granite State native John Weeks was the driving force responsible for turning that around. The Weeks Act, passed in 1911 and signed into law by President Taft, made possible the creation of the White Mountain National Forest (among others) and is credited for returning forests to the Eastern United States.

Sometimes something useful actually does come out of Washington, D.C.

Next time you visit Pisgah National Forest, or Allegheny, Green Mountain, George Washington, Monongahela - or my beloved White Mountains - give a nod to the man from Lancaster, New Hampshire: John Wingate Weeks.

Quite a legacy.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arbor Day forest John Weeks Nebraska New Hampshire trees Weeks Act White Mountain National Forest White Mountains Thu, 28 Apr 2022 07:16:00 GMT
A Clearing in the Distance This coming Tuesday, April 26th, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted: the father of landscape architecture.

Count me as an admirer. 

Perhaps I acquired my appreciation for natural environments and plant life (and people like Olmsted) via osmosis. My dad was an accomplished landscape architect and civil engineer. Walking through formal gardens or parks with him was always an education, and we visited quite a few of them. Even in his later years he could still rattle off the botanical name for just about any type of plant. When I was growing up our yard had multiple flower beds - his beds - home to hundreds of blooms.

I was introduced to Frederick Law Olmsted long ago. You might be acquainted with him, too - even if you're unfamiliar with his name - because you may have enjoyed one or more of his artistic creations.

"He (Olmsted) paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills; with mountainsides and ocean views..."
Daniel Burnham

Olmsted's legacy includes New York's Central Park (abstract reflections in the park's Bank Rock Bay are pictured here), Boston's Back Bay Fens, Asheville, North Carolina's Biltmore Estate, Chicago's Jackson Park, the Stanford University campus master plan, and Louisville's park system. 

That's just scratching the surface. He designed many, many parks and other outdoor spaces.

A landscape architect before the profession was founded, he remains influential even today. He understood the positive effect of nature, and knew how important it is to incorporate natural landscapes into urban environments. 

Olmsted was also an early conservationist and foresaw the concept of - and need for - national parks well before they became a reality.

If you're inclined to want to learn more about him, I highly recommend Witold Rybczynski's biography entitled A Clearing in the Distance (Scribner, 1999).

From the cover flap:

Olmsted was both ruthlessly pragmatic and a visionary. To create Central Park, he managed thousands of employees who moved millions of cubic yards of stone and earth and planted over 300,000 trees and shrubs. In laying it out, "we determined to think of no results to be realized in less than forty years," he told his son, Rick. "I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future." 

The book closes with an account of a modern-day visit to Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

I have visited many Olmsted parks. Most, like this one, are being tended, cared for, restored. That pleases me for these really are precious, historic places - as precious and historic in their way as Chartres Cathedral or the Acropolis. Unlike old buildings, however, these places are not historical relics. Timeless, I want to say. But I well know that they are rooted in a particular time and place, and in the minds of particular men. What ambition, what effort, what devotion. 

What gifts.


In Local News

Both national parks are under weather advisories through Saturday. In Yellowstone it's a winter storm warning while Grand Teton has a watch. As mentioned last week the west entrance to Yellowstone is now open to vehicle traffic but it's been touch and go due to snowfall. The park offers text messaging for up-to-the-minute road conditions. It's a good idea to sign up to receive these if you're considering visiting during the collar seasons.

Even some locations as low as 6,000 feet (Teton Valley, ID and Jackson, WY) are expecting up to eight inches of snow by Sunday morning. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Central Park Frederick Law Olmsted landscape architecture landscapes New York parks Thu, 21 Apr 2022 07:55:00 GMT
Toss the Plan Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Planning and photography go hand-in-hand. The odds for a productive outing are improved if you've got a plan.  

All sorts of tools are available for this purpose. Apps that project the percentages and levels of cloud cover; apps with tide table charts; apps that calculate exactly where the sun and moon will rise and set; apps to determine the apparent altitude of the sun or moon; apps that forecast wind speed. 

Preparing for a shoot at an unfamiliar location requires an extra level of preparation, a lot of which is related to maps. For instance: How far is it from wherever you'll be based to locations of interest? What's the distance between locations? How are various subjects oriented relative to the sun? What are the trail options? Roughly how long will it take to hike from point A to point B? 

Of course the weather is monitored: both current conditions and the forecast. Temperature. Dew point. Wind direction and speed. Precipitation. Visibility. (Tools that accurately forecast in one-hour increments are the most useful.)

Not every shoot involves detailed pre-planning, of course. Sometimes it's a matter of racing out the door on the spur-of-the-moment to chase something - perhaps a weather event. Still, even impromptu situations benefit from a rough game plan.

Am I a planner? Absolutely. 

But I'm also flexible, because I'm always prepared to toss the plan. (Actually I expect to toss it.)

Landscape photographers aren't in charge; it's Mother Nature who calls the shots. How many times are the conditions exactly as you hoped they'd be? How often is the forecast 100% accurate? 

By all means arrive on location with a game plan, but keep an open mind. Expect the unexpected. Allow for contingencies.

Be ready to call an audible.

If you do need to pivot, try to think of it as an opportunity rather than a setback. Be patient; anticipate what might happen next; consider alternatives. When faced with challenging weather or light (or whatever the issue) it could be a good time to try something new. Experiment. You may find a completely different subject or more interesting composition than what you originally had in mind. There is almost always something to photograph.

Why bother creating a game plan if it's likely you're going to end up abandoning it? 

  • You may be able to use it. Every once in a while the stars align and the conditions are optimal! 
  • Serendipity favors the prepared.
  • The plan likely contains information that will be useful in terms of developing an alternate course of action. It'll improve your ability to pivot - especially when you need to react quickly.
  • There is accumulated knowledge in shot planning which is especially useful if it's a location to which you return often.

Preparation is worthwhile. Create a plan.

Be ready to toss it.

Recognize opportunities; make the most of them. 

Have a good outing!

About the Photograph

This is an example of a jettisoned plan with a good result. I was in Grand Teton National Park intending to photograph the Comet Neowise. The forecast called for completely clear skies. Knowing where the comet would appear and at about what time, I pre-selected my location and determined how I was going to compose the shot.

I'd arrived much earlier in the day to scout locations for another project. As predicted it was clear - but by late-afternoon I noticed cumulus clouds forming to the south. This was a bit concerning; when you're hoping to photograph a celestial object, clouds are a problem. Obviously. 

Over the next hour or so clouds continued to develop and climb higher; the sky filled. Those thunderheads were drifting northward into Jackson Hole. So much for the forecast.

I wasn't worried (yet). There was time for the monsoon to roll through and conditions to clear before nightfall. 

Meanwhile, I had to try to do something with this impressive sky. Situated near the Inner Loop, I was too close to the mountains. I needed a vantage point where the enormity of the clouds would be apparent. Because the storm was now advancing rapidly there would be little time to reach a more suitable location. I settled on Antelope Flats. From there the Teton Range provided good scale for the massive leading edge of the monsoon.

What about Neowise, the subject I'd planned to shoot? Sorry, but no. There would be no comet for me. Thunder and lightning rumbled through the area all night.   

In Local News

The west entrance to Yellowstone National Park opens at 8am tomorrow, conditions permitting. It has been cold and snowy this week. (We need precipitation; we'll take it however we can get it.) Island Park, Idaho had about eight inches of snow on Tuesday. From the looks of the west gate webcam they had at least that much.

It's snowing today and there's more in the forecast for Saturday. Check ahead with the park service to make sure they're open. I'd anticipate less-than-optimal road conditions once inside. I've pushed my own plans to head up there back by a week. 

Happy Easter!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park monsoon photography planning storm Thu, 14 Apr 2022 07:23:00 GMT
Get Lost The Road Less TraveledThe Road Less TraveledPinkham Notch
White Mountains, New Hampshire
A great way to get to know a new area is to explore side roads. Back roads. Off-the-beaten-path roads. 

Get lost.

Maybe not in the literal sense: that's not necessarily such a great idea. It's good to have a general understanding of where you are in relation to the broader environment. But sometimes there's nothing better than heading down a road when you have no clue where it leads. It can be like a treasure hunt.

That's how I got to know the White Mountains and Great North Woods of New Hampshire. I'd only been to the Granite State maybe five times before I Notice MeNotice MeCrawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire moved there - and those had been brief visits primarily to the Seacoast. So my camera and I would head up north and go exploring. Notice a little side road? Take it. Over time I found all sorts of things, including some great shortcuts.

Occasionally I picked up useful information from people I'd meet along the way, like one late afternoon when I was in a field shooting wildflowers and two bicyclists stopped to chat. They gave me a great tip about a carpet of wild daisies in full bloom they'd seen earlier that day and told me how to get there. 

I used the same method to became familiar with Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming. My hair stylist here spends a lot of time in the great outdoors so she's always interested to hear about where I've been shooting locally. Maybe a year after I moved to the area, as I was telling her about one of my random photographic adventures, she laughed and said, "I grew up around here and already you know the place a lot better than I do." 

If you're a landscape photographer, I highly recommend secondary roads. Who knows what sorts of treasures one of these detours may yield? Going where others don't is a good way to find opportunities to make unique images. It's also a good way to get away from crowds.

You don't have to be a transplant to try this. You can get lost in a place you might think you already know. I grew up in Northern Illinois and remained there through my early adult years. Apparently I didn't wander enough back in the day! I've made quite a few discoveries in recent years while tooling around on rural highways way up in the northernmost part of the state (and into southern Wisconsin). 

There can be some real gems off the beaten path.  

Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois   

In Local News

Right on cue, April's high winds arrived last weekend. If you read the last post and thought I was contraire. Mother Nature was just getting warmed up on Saturday with sustained winds in the neighborhood of 28mph and gusts into the 40s. That was windy enough to force the closure of Interstate 15 due to poor visibility (blowing dust) but it was just the opening act.

By Monday the advisory was upgraded to a high wind warning and they weren't kidding. Sustained wind speeds escalated with gusts topping 60mph. The Interstate closed again. I tried to avoid looking out the window at my poor trees contorting wildly. 

In the Teton Valley, violent winds blew The Spud Drive-In Theatre's giant screen to the ground on Monday night, shattering the supporting structure as if it were toothpicks.

The landmark 70-year-old outdoor theater just outside of Driggs, Idaho is listed on the National Historic Register, and both the screen and the wood structure (the latter having been fortified over the years) were original. The Spud was the last wood drive-in in the United States.


The owners intend to rebuild.

Fortunately Old Murphy and his wife, parked just outside in their 1946 Chevy loaded with a giant spud, survived unscathed. 

Don't worry. Old Murphy and the Missus are potatoes. Still, I wouldn't have wanted to see anything happen to them. They're landmarks, too.

The windiest month of the year has blown into town.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Driggs Eastern Idaho New Hampshire Northern Illinois photography The Spud White Mountains wind Thu, 07 Apr 2022 07:55:00 GMT
The Best of Times Lime LinesLime LinesEarly spring color in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Shenandoah National Park creates interesting patterns in lime green. Dappled late-day light enhances the effect.

Near Rockfish Gap, Virginia

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land (1922)

A wintry mix is falling outside my window. So much for March going out like a lamb. (We desperately need precipitation so whether it's rain, snow or sleet it's fine by me.)

April waits in the wings: poor maligned April, linked for 100 years with a most unflattering adjective thanks to T.S. Eliot. 

What did Eliot have against April? 

I wonder if he spent one in Eastern Idaho where it's the windiest month of the year. That's saying something, because it's always windy in Eastern Idaho. A few posts ago I poked fun at Wyoming's notorious wind - a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Here, April and wind advisories are kind of like Batman and Robin: an established pairing. When high winds are forecast you'd better secure the outdoor furniture; it'll blow away to Montana if you don't. Visibility plummets as the air is choked with dust. Trees bend to the breaking point. You know Mother Nature is really intent about making a statement when they close the Interstate. 

Or could Eliot have been recalling springtime treks through New Hampshire's White Mountains? Mud season is in full swing at the beginning of April. Many unpaved roads are impassable. (It's so bad this year they've re-mapped some school bus routes and are telling people to avoid dirt roads altogether.) Hiking is difficult - if not dangerous. Eliot's family was originally from New England; he attended Milton Academy and later Harvard University. I've got to think he knew a thing or two about mud season. 

Daydream BelieverDaydream Believer'Spring Snow' crabapple blooms
(Idaho Falls, Idaho)
As for the annual rite of misery known as the tax filing deadline, back in the 1920s income taxes were due in March. Eliot might have loathed Tax Day as much as everyone else but he couldn't pin that one on April. 

So what's with the badmouthing?

I'll admit the month has some quirks but the charge of cruelty does seem harsh. :)  

The poem is, of course, an allegory. The post-WWI world Eliot writes about was messed up. So is the world today. Don't blame April. 

Hope really does spring eternal if you give it half a chance, and April is filled with it.

In the northern hemisphere, the earth awakens from its winter slumber. It gets warmer. The days lengthen. Daffodils and tulips begin to bloom; perennials send up shoots; trees bud. The birds return; their cheerful singing sweetens dusky early mornings. 

Sometimes winter is reluctant to release its grip, but random snowstorms and cold snaps don't last. 

Highlight of the month? Easter. My favorite holiday. Its timing shifts but statistically speaking Easter is much more likely to occur during April rather than in March. 

How can any of that not put a spring in your step?

Welcome to April. The best of times.

Trees in Bloom, Beds Ready for PlantingAnticipationThe beds in Prescott Park's formal garden await planting as the crab trees in full bloom take center stage. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) About the Photos

Top: The different shades of green in newly unfurled leaves is stunning; I think of it as a second foliage season. It's especially pronounced in the mountains of the east where there are vast expanses of trees and a variety of species. I made this photograph in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. On a chilly late afternoon, the persistent rain paused and the sun made a brief appearance. The beautiful dappled light created a geometric scene on the hillside. 

Middle: I'm partial to flowering ornamental trees. Cherry, crabapple, pear - you name it. It's much more challenging to photograph the blooms in a windy climate; the trees are nearly always in motion and the flowers don't last long. This is a flowering crab on a rare calm morning near Idaho Falls.

Below: The formal garden in Portsmouth, New Hampshire's Prescott Park is what I consider to be one of the loveliest spots in town. It features three circular pools, each of which contains a fountain, brick walkways, eight spectacular Japanese crab trees and thousands of flowers in-season. Here the massive crabs are in full bloom; the beds are cultivated and ready to be planted with annuals. 

In Local News

Teton Park Road (the inner loop) in Grand Teton National Park is now open to bicyclers, pedestrians and rollerbladers. It will re-open to vehicles on May 1st. As of yesterday both Antelope Flats Road and Mormon Row Road were still closed. Schwabacher Landing opens tomorrow (4/1).

In Yellowstone, cyclers and other non-motorized traffic can use the following roads:

  • West Entrance to Madison Junction
  • Madison Junction to Norris Junction
  • Norris Junction to Mammoth
  • East Entrance to the east end of Sylvan Pass (conditions allowing)

The west entrance will open to vehicles on April 15th. The rest of the park roads will open one-by-one throughout the month of May. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) April Grand Teton National Park Idaho New Hampshire Prescott Park Shenandoah National Park spring Yellowstone Thu, 31 Mar 2022 07:25:00 GMT
Hiding in Plain Sight Photographs are everywhere. Whether or not we can recognize the nearly limitless potential is another matter.

One of the ways to take the blinders off is to expand your ideas about what might make for an interesting subject. You wanted to make an expansive landscape but didn't get the colorful sunrise you hoped for. Was the outing a complete disappointment and waste of time - or could there still be something to shoot?

You seldom have opportunities to visit iconic destinations such as national parks or forests. Will your camera sit in the bag, unused, but for those rare occasions when you're able to travel? 

And so on.

Set pre-conceived notions and expectations aside; you'll begin to see with a fresh perspective. Your idea of "suitable locations" will expand, too.

Broaden your horizons by including small scenes and/or abstract compositions in your repertoire. "Grand landscapes" are great - but consider how seldom it's possible to make one. (After all, we have no control over the conditions.) Even on those occasions when Mother Nature cooperates, I can almost guarantee you'll find additional interesting subject matter if you take the time to look.

Every-day locations might be treasure troves, like these steps (below) leading up to an office. Just a nondescript building, just a few miles from my home. How's that for ordinary? The leaves were falling so rapidly that afternoon it almost seemed as if it they were raining down. I was struck by the fact that the color was nearly as intense under foot as it was in the canopy remaining above. I finished my business inside, grabbed my camera from the car, and got to work. There's more than one way to tell the story of autumn in New England. 
Step Right UpStep Right UpAs the foliage peaks and leaves drop from the trees with increasing frequency, the colors on the ground begin to rival those which are above. The maple leaves are so thick here they nearly obscure the steps on which they rest.

Exeter, New Hampshire

Past peak foliage in the White Mountains, I was back in New Hampshire's Seacoast looking for colorful scenes locally. To be honest I didn't expect to find much, if anything; the show that year had been lackluster. Heading down a rarely-travelled (for me) road late one day, I was just about ready to pack it in when a pop of red caught my eye. I made my way down a steep bank through thick underbrush to the river only to find that the scene was uninteresting now that I was closer to it. The tree was small and a bit scrawny, the shoreline cluttered and unattractive. (The river itself isn't exactly picturesque at this spot, either.) The reflection, though, had potential. I used the red to anchor the composition and completely eliminated the messy shore - including its mirror image - from the frame. A slower shutter speed created some movement in the leaves floating on the surface. A Claude Monet moment.

Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene.

Near Durham, New Hampshire
A period of calm conditions prior to my arrival (and during this entire stay) at Death Valley meant there would be no wind to erase the hundreds of footprints scattered liberally over the sand dunes. Even after hiking a few miles into the dune field, pristine real estate was nearly impossible to come by. I won't lie: it was a disappointment. Wide vistas were a non-starter. But the color contrast was spectacular and interesting lines, shapes and textures were still out there. I just needed to think much smaller. 
Architecture presents excellent opportunities to consider subjects differently. I got an assist on this day from incredibly foggy conditions in my home city of Chicago. The image is not processed in black and white which will give you an idea just how dreary it was. (The ceiling dropped even lower after I made this photo.) The Hancock building becomes somewhat anonymous. The photograph isn't about a skyscraper or a specific landmark; it's a study of lines and mood. 
Disappearing ActDisappearing ActHeavy fog descends nearly to street level, shrouding the Hancock Building. Though this appears to be a black and white photograph, it is not - giving you an idea just how foggy it was on that day.

Chicago, Illinois

You can also try framing subjects such that they're rendered completely abstractly and perhaps become unrecognizable. (This is Cloud Gate in Chicago's Millennium Park.)

DistortionsDistortionsAn abstract view of Cloud Gate (nicknamed "The Bean"), the sculpture which is the centerpiece of Millennium Park.

Chicago, Illinois
If you're new to smaller compositions or abstracts, let yourself go. Experiment. Don't worry about whether or not everyone will like everything you shoot. (They won't. You can't please everyone and shouldn't try.) The point is to practice seeing your surroundings differently. You'll develop your eye and begin to find subject matter that might previously have been hiding in plain sight. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Chicago Death Valley foliage New England New Hampshire photography tips Thu, 24 Mar 2022 07:45:00 GMT
You Cannot Improve On It Along the Grand Canyon's North Rim you'll find this plaque marking a point named for Teddy Roosevelt. It's inscribed with something he said about the Canyon just after the turn of the last century (it would become a national park in 1919):

Leave it as it is.
You cannot improve on it.
The ages have been at work on it,
and men can only mar it.
What you can do is to keep it for your children,
your children's children,
and for all who come after you,
as the one great sight
which every American...should see.

The Grand Canyon is most definitely a treasure. The same is true of all our national parks, forests, and other protected land. The beauty of places like the Canyon, Arches, Yosemite and the Smokies is undeniable - and the fact that they've been untouched by development makes them all the more special.

All of nature is precious: a tremendous gift. Not only wonderful to observe, it's also a tonic - both physically and mentally.

Have you ever wondered why landscape images started showing up on the walls of so many doctor's offices, clinics and hospitals? Those types of Sweeping ArcsSweeping ArcsAbove and below, in reverse directions

Vishnu Temple - North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
visuals can have a positive impact on patient recovery time. Studies going back at least as far as 2014 quantify the therapeutic benefits of such scenes. 

Outdoor photographers are fortunate to spend so much time in the natural world. While we're out there working, nature is working on us: energizing, calming, clearing the mind. It inspires awe. It fills us with appreciation and gratitude. As an added bonus, the more we slow down and allow ourselves to get in sync with our surroundings, the better our images will be. We notice more things. Explore more. The landscape guides us if we let it.

The dark side of humanity shows itself all too often (we need look no further than the last two years for proof). Added to the other inevitable adversities in life, one can feel overwhelmed.

I find nature to be an antidote to that. It might only be temporary, but it's a good start.

Nature doesn't lie, cheat or steal. It's not hypocritical. It doesn't have an agenda. It can be tough and demanding and dangerous at times, but it never acts out of spite or with malice. It just "is." I'd rather be spending time in nature than just about anywhere else.

Obviously you don't need to be a photographer to reap the benefits of the natural world and a far-flung destination isn't a prerequisite. A state park, a local nature preserve, the shore - even your own gardens will do just fine.

Treat yourself. As often as possible.


In Local News

Our snow deficit continues. The mountains have received fresh powder over the past two weeks with a few of those storms leaving behind accumulations down to 4800 feet, but that hasn't been enough to make a material difference in terms of snowpack.

Plowing of the interior roads within Grand Teton National Park began on Monday. The Inner Loop Road won't open to vehicle traffic for quite a while yet but that's one of the early signs of spring.

Yellowstone is now closed to over-snow travel and also preparing the roads for vehicle traffic (the West Entrance is scheduled to open Easter weekend). 

Grizzlies are emerging from hibernation in both local parks, which is about a month earlier than normal. The first sighting in Yellowstone was on March 7th; in Grand Teton it was this past Sunday.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Canyon nature Teddy Roosevelt Thu, 17 Mar 2022 08:00:00 GMT
When Bad isn't So Bad Now You See It...Now You See It...Cold temperatures and early morning rain create rolling waves of fog which alternate between transparent, translucent and opaque - occasionally exposing a wonderfully moody scene at Balanced Rock.

Arches National Park, Utah
What exactly is bad weather? Photographically speaking, maybe there isn't any such thing. Perhaps the same can be said about bad light. 

Maybe it's all a matter of perspective. 

Of course it's disappointing if the conditions make it impossible to create the type of image you had in mind - but that doesn't mean you can't make good photos. 

Similarly, a lot of people will tell you the only times worth shooting are during the golden hours.

Those who wait for ideal conditions spend a lot of time waiting and miss scores of opportunities along the way. 

"Bad" and "good" are simply labels. Bad weather can actually be quite good. As for the quality of the light, compelling photographs can be made at any time of the day. Bad weather or bad light might turn out to be...nearly ideal.

It's more constructive to think in terms of what's possible given the conditions. 

Bad Weather

Don't be afraid of rain and/or snow. Your camera can take it; so can you.

  • Autumn foliage is even more vibrantly colorful when it's wet; the dampness acts like a giant enhancing filter. Just remember to use your polarizer to manage glare. 
  • Storms can create dramatic skies: before, during and immediately after. Rainbows, too. 
  • With precipitation can come ephemeral mist and fog.
  • There will be reflections in puddles and water droplets clinging to leaves and branches: many opportunities to get creative.
  • Everyone knows snow looks best when it's pristine. Get outside when it's coming down! You can either freeze falling snow or transform it into impressionistic streaks.

One word of caution: remember to check the surface of your lens frequently for water spots. They may not be visible when looking through the viewfinder but the camera will see them and they can ruin an image. Keep a lens cloth handy. 

The photograph at the top of the post is an example of interesting conditions created by "bad" weather. This early morning in Arches National Park was cold and windy with squalls depositing mixed precipitation. Rain, then sleet, then snow, then back to biting rain. Thick fog rolled across the landscape, sometimes completely obscuring Balanced Rock.

It was definitely uncomfortable out there but fascinating to watch the fog; it put on quite a show. I waited for an opening during which Balanced Rock was mostly visible but with enough light fog surrounding it to wash the scene in white. By making this a panoramic I was able to provide more context, both in terms of the weather and the surrounding landscape.  SkylineSkylineNear Moab, Utah Bad Light

Mid-day light is probably the most maligned when it comes to what's considered "bad." While its quality is much different than what you'll encounter at the edges of the day - and it behaves differently - you can create interesting images in bright light. Keep your eyes open and the camera handy.

  • Take advantage of high contrast: you might try thinking in terms of black and white compositions. Distill the scene to its essence. Shapes, textures, lines and tonal contrast are elements that lend themselves well to black and white.   
  • Be mindful of how you can use backlighting to your advantage. 
  • It's sometimes easier to manage contrast with a smaller scene; pull out a long lens and look for more intimate compositions. Notice the interplay of light and shadow - including the shapes and lines they create; look for patterns and textures.
  • Don't forget open shade. Even if there are no natural objects nearby to create it, you can make your own with an umbrella or collapsible diffuser.

I made the photograph above near Moab, Utah in the middle of the day with a little bit of a smorgasbord in the unsettled sky, including a few small patches of blue. Even in the absence of full sun the scene was very bright with quite a bit of haze which washed out the color in the rock. Both above and below the colors were distractions. Going with black and white eliminated that issue and also changed the character of the sky. Black and white intensifies the high contrast, renders the rock in silhouette, and simplifies the scene. It underscores what caught my eye in the first place: lines and shapes.

The photograph below was made just before noon, also near Moab. The light couldn't have been more harsh but it's precisely that strong backlighting which made the tree pop. It nearly sparkled; the delicate twigs were rendered silvery white. The appearance of depth is magnified because the subject is lit from behind.

Standing as it does beneath a huge red rock wall, the tree is in full shade for much of the day. But for the bright noon-hour sunlight you'd probably pass by this scene without seeing it.

GracefulGracefulNear Moab, Utah

Weather is weather and light is light: neither is inherently good or bad. Successful photographs can be made in all sorts of conditions. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arches National Park Balanced Rock light Moab Utah weather Thu, 10 Mar 2022 08:30:00 GMT
By the Numbers Just like that March is here and along with it come thoughts of spring. Then again maybe you're way past that. Spring might have already arrived where you live. Here in Teton Country it's "meet the new boss, same as the old boss." March isn't much different from February, especially during the first half of the month. The past few days have been an exception with a little mild spell but everyone knows Old Man Winter isn't going anywhere just yet.

There have been quite a few numbers in the local news over the past week, many of which relate to the landscape:


February was one of the coldest Jackson Hole has experienced in 30 years. The story on the Idaho side of the Tetons was similar. There have been many frigid nights with quite a few plunging to double-digits below zero. February is normally cold but these temperatures have been, shall we say, unusually enthusiastic.


It wasn't just cold last month - it was also very dry: the least-snowy February for the Teton Range since 1991. 31 years ago. Snowpack in the mountains is an anemic 78%. The town of Jackson is also below average at 44.7 inches of snow so far this winter (the average is roughly 65 inches).

A little bit of snow is forecast for this weekend. More than a little would be great. 


Jackson Lake Dam in Grand Teton National Park is only 21% full. That's the water supply for Idaho farmers in the Snake River basin. Teton County, Wyoming is in severe-to-extreme drought. Teton County, Idaho is in moderate-to-severe drought.

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

We could use a March miracle.  

KaleidoscopicKaleidoscopicThe best way to appreciate Grand Prismatic Spring is from the air - where both its otherworldy appearance and immense size are apparent. Note the man on the walkway...though only a speck from the sky, he casts a long shadow.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

On a cheerier note, Yellowstone celebrated its 150th birthday on March 1st. In 1872 there were no national parks; the concept was unprecedented. Yosemite had already been designated for protection from development in 1864, but as a state park. Yellowstone may well have become a state park, too, but because it extended into three territories and two of them were quarreling at the time, the feds stepped in and the rest is history.

Yellowstone is a weird and wonderful supervolcano that could blow at any minute! Just kidding. Or maybe not. 

Within the park you'll find a wide variety of vegetation and habitats, from near-desert to sub-alpine. Of course there are the thermal features - including the world's largest concentration of steam vents, geysers, mud pots and hot springs. And don't forget the wildlife who call the place home. Nothing says Yellowstone like a bison traffic jam. 

At more than two million acres, the place is huge. (It's not the largest park in the Lower 48, though: Death Valley easily eclipses it.) Oddly, those 3,500 square miles can still sometimes feel claustrophobic: nearly 5 million visitors passed through YNP's gates in 2021. It was the busiest year on record. Like many parks maybe it's being loved a little bit too much.

Sunset at the Barn Grand Teton National ParkStylish ExitA beautiful sunset fills the sky over the historic John Moulton homestead with fiery color. As there was a herd of bison not too far away, tourists bypassed this stunning scene in favor of the animals - leaving it to be admired in solitude.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park had a birthday last week, too. The original designation only protected the Teton Range and some of the lakes surrounding them: it took another twenty-odd years before the park we now know was established. But it all began 93 years ago on February 26, 1929 with Calvin Coolidge's pen. 

GTNP is 485 square miles of jaw-dropping beauty. The parkway/recreation area which connects it to Yellowstone adds an additional 24,000 acres. It's home to arguably the most recognizable mountain range on earth but there's much more to love if you take the time to get to know the place. 


Face-to-FaceFace-to-FaceAerial view of the Grand from the west

Teton Range, Wyoming


This one is just for fun and won't make the local news, but Monday is 307 day in Wyoming (March 7 - 3/07 - area code 307).

Wyoming is annoyingly windy. (Do a search for "Wyoming wind sock." Funny and almost accurate!) It's arid. It's cold. Winters are even colder.

But Wyoming is also home to some amazingly beautiful scenery and I'm lucky enough to live within the shadow of its two national parks. Crown jewels. Cheers to the Cowboy State.


About the Photographs

1) It was -16F when I entered GTNP on this morning. After wrapping up my sunrise shoot I went over to the Kelly Warm Springs to see if any bison were hanging around. There were perhaps a dozen of them enjoying an early breakfast, including this little youngster - all covered with frost. 

2) I had the pleasure of photographing Grand Prismatic Spring from the air early one morning a few years ago. This is not at all what I had in mind when leaving for the airport. The plan that day was to photograph the Teton Range at sunrise, but a lightning-caused wildfire had filled Jackson Hole with smoke overnight. The Idaho side was mostly free of haze but when I got to the top of the Teton pass I could smell it. Uh oh. Rather than scrub the shoot we hoped to outfly the poor visibility by heading to Grand Prismatic. I'm sure you're not surprised to learn that renting a plane and pilot for an hour of flight time is exponentially more expensive in Jackson than Laconia, New Hampshire (another airport my camera and I are familiar with). Flying to Yellowstone guarantees you'll exceed the one hour mark. Tick tock. It was a huge gamble but I got lucky. 

3) Generally speaking, Grand Teton National Park isn't great for sunsets but sometimes it'll surprise you. This was one of those evenings. Even more amazing was the fact that I was the only one anywhere near the John Moulton barn. There was a herd of bison less than a mile down the road so the few cars that raced by were on a mission to see the animals; nobody even looked to see what was happening in the sky to the west.

4) Another aerial shoot from out of Jackson Hole airport, this one timed for sunset. That's the western face of the Grand on the right side of the frame. It had been a lovely early spring day down below but as you can see the landscape was still mostly snow-covered. Once we gained enough altitude the pilot and I were surprised to encounter a huge blanket of clouds on the other side of the Tetons. Not only did it look like it might end up obscuring the western horizon and therefore the sunset (it did), but the cloud bank was also climbing. We were able to make two passes while there was still some warm light and before the peaks mostly disappeared from sight. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) bison Grand Prismatic Spring Grand Teton National Park John Moulton barn Tetons Wyoming Yellowstone National Park Thu, 03 Mar 2022 08:42:00 GMT
Anticipation I didn't appreciate just how dark the night can be until I started logging a lot of time in the wee small hours of the morning at Grand Teton National Park. If it's a new moon and there's cloud cover you might be hard-pressed even to make out the Tetons. That's saying something; a towering mountain range just a few miles away is obviously not an insignificant landmark. 

GTNP isn't officially a dark sky reserve but if you're going in at night I promise you'll want a headlamp.  

I've also learned to appreciate that the Teton Range is going to do what it's going to do. The mountains influence the weather surrounding them. The first order of business when I get up at 0-dark-30 for a sunrise shoot is to poke my head out for a look at the sky. In a way it's an empty exercise: what I see directly overhead isn't necessarily the same thing I'm going to see above the peaks. Whatever is (or isn't) up there certainly isn't going to keep me from heading out. 

You never know what you're going to get when stepping into an inky morning in the Tetons.

There's always a heightened feeling of anticipation as my eyes strain to see the outlines of the mountains. What will the morning bring? Especially when it's pitch black the Tetons can remain hidden for a while. I sit and wait. And peer into the darkness. It's exhilarating when those magnificent shapes begin to appear. 

As it lightens further I can begin to assess the situation regarding clouds. Too many? Too few? Are they moving? In what direction? How quickly?

Unless the peaks are completely socked in, I don't get too worried about what's happening above them. Things can change dramatically - and relatively quickly. You just have to be patient, see what's going to happen, and be ready to react. (Besides, there's nothing I can do about the conditions...)

I generally won't make a photograph if the peak of the Grand or Mount Moran is obscured by clouds. Other than that, it's game on.

I've seen localized showers drift from south to north over the peaks on an otherwise cloudless morning. I've been sitting in the rain yet treated to dry conditions and beautiful color two hours later when the sun comes up. Heavy cloud cover can lift to reveal a lovely scene as sunrise nears. There may be spectacular bands of low fog. Or perhaps it's a day when the sun will remain hidden - yet dreamy landscapes can be created via long exposures. 

It's all part of the magic.

They say the anticipation is often more enjoyable than the actual experience. Not always true! They can both be fun. Take an early morning trek into the Tetons and see for yourself. 

Moody BlueMoody BlueGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Morning Has Broken Grand Teton National ParkMorning Has BrokenShortly after sunrise, the Teton Range is bathed in warm light while the last of the morning's brief showers pass from south to north over the peaks. The entire scene is reflected in the mirror-like surface of the Snake River.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

About the photographs

You never know what's going to materialize out of those pitch black skies.

The first image was made about 45 minutes before sunrise. It was becoming more overcast as the minutes ticked by and there was quite a bit of haze from far-away fires - the air quality was much worse than it had been the evening before. The clouds were moving at a pretty good clip, though, the color contrast was pronounced, and it was very still so the reflections were good. I used a slow shutter to create movement above. Without that the image wouldn't have been successful; the static sky was uninteresting. The sun never appeared and eventually it began to rain.

The morning the second photograph was made started out inauspiciously. But for a few anemic little wisps brushing over the mountains, there wasn't anything at all happening overhead. Even the wisps failed to hang around. It was completely lackluster. (I'm talking photographically. Watching the Tetons brighten with morning light is never, ever uninspiring.)

As sunrise neared, something a little more substantial had formed over the southern peaks and was moving northward. Rain! If these clouds would make it into range quickly enough - and as long as they didn't obscure the Grand - they'd be just about perfect. Even as the mountains were completely lit by the rising sun, though, this remnant shower hadn't yet reached far enough past the Cathedral Peaks to create a balanced composition. Fortunately, it drifted into position while most of the foreground remained in the shadows. I waited until the sunlight reached the bottom of the treeline on the left bank and then made the pano. The river was completely calm; not a duck or beaver was anywhere in sight to disturb the water. I wouldn't have predicted this result based on what I saw when the darkness began to lift two hours earlier. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) dark sky Grand Teton National Park sunrise Tetons Thu, 24 Feb 2022 08:44:00 GMT
Inversion In late December I wrote about all the snow falling in Teton Country. It began snowing just before Christmas and kept at it for the next ten days or so - enough to completely erase the snowfall deficit from a mostly-dry late autumn. 

Then it stopped. 

There hasn't been meaningful snowfall in Eastern Idaho or Western Wyoming for weeks - even in the mountains. Snowpack, which ought to be in the neighborhood of 120% this time of year, is under 80% in some areas. I don't like driving in it but I'm rooting for a storm. Or three.

The Neglected Fence XIIThe Neglected Fence XII The seemingly endless parade of high pressure systems means conditions have been just about perfect for inversions. Lots and lots of 'em.

These occur when warmer weather aloft traps colder air below it. In the winter, inversions in the Snake River Plain often create dense fog which in turn can produce beautiful hoar frost. Sometimes they even generate a little bit of their own snow. The air masses are often confined by the Tetons so it's not unusual for conditions to linger.

When that happens we get socked in for days at a time; it almost makes me feel like I've been transported back to winter in the Midwest. Sun? What sun?  

So while the inversion suppresses temperatures and keeps things dreary along the I-15 corridor, over on the other side of the Tetons the mercury climbs and the sun shines. Just 60 straight-line miles but it may as well be a world away.

You'll often find me prowling around on foggy mornings looking for scenes featuring lacy white hoarfrost. Oddly, one recent inversion sent visibility plummeting to zero at many reporting stations across the region but failed to produce frost. Still, the landscape was striking even without it. That day I decided to stick around very close to home and head up to one of my favorite local subjects: the fire-scarred, derelict buck and rail fence just a few miles away.

It seemed even more pitiful and neglected in the dense fog. 

I spent about an hour there. Could have stayed longer - the fog had actually gotten even thicker while I was working - but since I'd bolted out of the house without grabbing chemical glove inserts my (numb) hands were pretty insistent about stopping.

What, I wondered, was the situation at that moment in Grand Teton National Park? Upon returning to the house I checked the webcam over there:

How's that for night and day? They're slathering on the sunscreen in Jackson Hole while we can't see across the street. A weather smorgasbord!

The fog hung around all day, finally lifting just before sunset and just in time for temperatures to begin to drop - thus setting the table for the next round.

And so it goes. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) fog Grand Teton National Park inversion snow Tetons Thu, 17 Feb 2022 08:23:00 GMT
Familiarity Cats have an uncanny ability to notice - almost immediately - when there's something new in a familiar space. Nothing is too small or seemingly insignificant. There's no pulling the wool over their eyes! They'll head right for whatever that object might be and investigate. 

I don't know how they do it, but they can teach photographers a thing or two. 

Observational skills are crucial, especially when visiting the same location(s) again and again. And unless you're planning on traveling endlessly you're probably going to be working some areas repeatedly. 

How is it possible to continue to make unique photographs in familiar places? 

For starters, be like the cat. Be aware. Notice little details. Subtleties. What's different? There is always uniqueness in scenes with which you're already well acquainted. Nothing ever looks exactly the same from one season to the next, from day to day, from morning to afternoon, even from minute to minute. You're different, too. Your reactions, your mindset and your experiences keep changing - which influences your vision and interpretation. 

Regardless of the location, photographic potential is limitless. You just need to be able to recognize opportunities.

Our observational skills improve when we slow down, so don't be in a rush. Slow and steady wins this race. Give yourself time to get in sync with your surroundings. Make a connection with nature. Wander around. Be curious.

Creativity is enhanced when we let go of expectations. Keep an open mind. If you already have a composition in your head, you may miss a great scene right in front of you. Try not to previsualize.  

Letting go of expectations also means freeing yourself from the presumption that the session absolutely must generate a photograph. If you're able to make a picture, great. If not, it's okay. Enjoy the experience. Appreciate being there. Take the pressure off and photos are more likely to follow.

Finally, give yourself permission to shoot freely. Not every photograph needs to be a keeper. Remove that expectation and you might be surprised how much more imaginative you can be. Experiment. See how many different ways you can shoot a scene. Give yourself assignments. 

Creativity doesn't just happen; neither does a heightened ability to notice things. They both require practice. Once those skills are developed you'll realize potential photographs are everywhere.

I don't think it's possible to "wear out" a location. The better you come to know a place the better you'll be able to represent it.

Familiarity? I'll take it. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) creativity observation photography tips Thu, 10 Feb 2022 08:46:00 GMT
I See a Story Tug of War Autumn MaineTug of WarSpectacular burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in all of its autumn glory, seemingly not wanting to be held back by the fence desperately attempting to stand its ground.

Mount Desert Island
Somesville, Maine

"There's nothing to shoot!"

If we're being honest, all nature photographers likely struggle with this at one point or another. Whether the creative dry spell is due to lack of inspiration, fatigue, or persistently difficult conditions, there are times when it can be a challenge to find interesting subject matter.

It's especially frustrating when you've invested time and money to travel to a location only to find Mother Nature in a stubbornly uncooperative mood. Imagine a first-time visit to Grand Teton National Park with the mountains smoked in for the duration, precluding you from ever seeing them. That isn't just uncooperative - it's downright obstinate. And it happened last summer to a friend of mine.

What to do? Pack up the gear and forget about making any photographs?

Of course not.

You might not be able to make some of the images you had hoped for, but you can find subject matter anywhere. Shake off the disappointment and have a look around. 

You might be able to make lemonade out of some very bitter lemons.

The photo at the top was made on a trip when the conditions were persistently poor. That autumn, my foliage shoot at Acadia National Park just happened to coincide with the arrival of the remnants of a slow-moving hurricane. It didn't just rain; the sky opened up and it poured buckets. The winds howled. This continued for the better part of two days. 

I knew it was out there lurking; I'd been watching the forecast. But after having spent a few days fighting persistent rain in New Hampshire's White Mountains and pulling into Bar Harbor with old Hurricane Nate nipping at my heels, I thought, "You have got to be kidding me. Enough already." 

I'll shoot in just about any type of conditions except heavy, driving precipitation. That's something I prefer to avoid. So while the drenching was underway it was either cool my heels and accomplish absolutely nothing or continue to prowl around and scout the area. I opted for the latter. Maybe I could find something new in a place that was already very familiar. I'd certainly never seen Mount Desert Island in that type of foul weather.

Hours later, I'll admit it wasn't going well. I hadn't seen anything. It was cold and clammy, I was wet and tired, and the light was fading. Time to call it a day. I turned the car around at Southwest Harbor and began to head back in the direction of Bar Harbor - but when I reached the little town of Somesville, Maine I saw something that screamed out at me to stop.

There on the edge of an expansive lawn was a long hedge of burning bush in full autumnal glory. It was fuchsia like I've never seen it. I found somewhere to stash the car and walked up for a closer look. There was a weathered white fence adjacent to and running the length of the hedge line.

The color knocked me over but how was I going to make a photo out of that?   

Walking up and back, though, I began to see something more.

A story. 

The fence looked almost as though it could collapse at any moment; it was propped up in a few places with slats. The shrubs pushed through, up, and over it. This was a tug of war. The fence was mounting a valiant defense but the burning bush had the upper hand. Who would prevail?

Mature trees nearby created a thick canopy overhead and blocked some of the rain, making it much easier to work. The foliage popped even more in the dampness and the cloud cover provided excellent flat light.

Is that the kind of image I thought I'd shoot that day? Absolutely not, but not every photograph has to be a "big landscape." Not every location needs to be exotic.

There can be beauty in more intimate scenes and in everyday objects.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Acadia National Park autumn burning bush foliage Maine Somesville Tetons Thu, 03 Feb 2022 08:45:00 GMT
Magic Moments Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer.

Cape Neddick, Maine
I love a good sunrise; watching one makes for a great start to the day.

Photographing one is even better.

Of course you never know exactly what you're going to get. Even when the conditions look prime for a riot of color it may not come. Conversely, the sky can fool you; something special happens even though it seemed unlikely.

I've spent dozens upon dozens of early mornings along the Atlantic Coast in northern New England waiting for the sun to come up. There, the best shooting is anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes before sunrise when the colors are most intense. The cap usually goes back on my lens when the sun peeks up over the horizon. By then the color temperature of the light has changed and the sky has begun to wash out.

Just because I'm finished shooting doesn't mean it's time to make a quick exit.

Some magic moments are captured with the camera; others I simply appreciate as an observer. I linger a little while at the shore as the sun begins to climb, listening to the sea and the buoys and the lobster boats. 

SerenitySerenityAs the day dawned on this humid, late-summer morning, the saturated air was completely still - transforming the tidal pool into a lovely looking glass.

Atlantic Ocean
Rye, New Hampshire
Grand Teton National Park is another place where I've logged many early morning hours, though most of the time the orientation for these sunrise shoots is reversed. Here I usually face west with the brightening sky behind me, which might seem counterintuitive. 

Admittedly, multiple colors in the opposite horizon at sunrise is a big ask. It probably isn't going to happen. So why point the lens in the "wrong" direction?

The Tetons, of course! 

They look their very best in the early morning. There's no haze (unless it's fire season). It's typically calmer then - even in windy Wyoming. If the conditions are conducive, there might be spectacular low bands of fog. Most important? That beautiful pre-sunrise phenomenon known as alpenglow. That's the main reason to look to the west. 

Great ExpectationsGreat ExpectationsThe minutes just before the sun clears the opposite horizon: lovely anticipation.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Though I'm primarily interested in the colors and quality of light which occur before the sun makes its appearance, the show isn't over after the alpenglow fades. A second act follows.

The moment when the tips of the tallest peaks receive the first light of the day is remarkable. Grand Teton is first. Then Mount Owen. Middle Teton. Mount Moran. One by one they brighten. The light washes downward until one of the most dramatic and immediately recognizable mountain ranges on earth is completely illuminated and almost seems to glow. Magical? You bet. It's an awe-inspiring thing to watch. 

Sunrise shoots require early starts (really early in the middle of the summer). It's pitch black. It's often cold. And yet I can't think of a better way to start the day.

Parallel ThoughtsParallel ThoughtsAspens in front, the Teton Range beyond. Nature's symmetry. The rising sun lights Moran's peak first as a new day begins.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Sunkissed Grand Teton National ParkSunkissedMount Moran and the surrounding peaks glow with the first light of the day.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic Grand Teton National Park New England New Hampshire ocean sunrise Tetons Thu, 27 Jan 2022 08:40:00 GMT
The Essentials There’s always some shiny object to tempt photographers. The latest accessory. The state-of-the-art body, just released. The sharper, faster lens. 

The “latest and greatest” is often far from trivial. It could involve a significant change. A learning curve. A price tag that’ll take your breath away. It could be something like making the switch from DSLR to mirrorless or dropping $11,000 on a fixed long lens.

You might spend months agonizing over whether or not to take the plunge. Decisions, decisions.

There’s nothing wrong with “the newest thing” or a consequential upgrade, but (fortunately) the latest and/or most expensive gear is not a prerequisite to making good photographs. That said, there is something you can’t do without which - happily - won't set you back a single extra dime.

It's your eyes.

Photography requires an ability to notice things; a unique perspective; an aptitude for finding something interesting – perhaps extraordinary – in what might otherwise be considered ordinary.

Photographers don't just look. They see.

Of course you need to know how to organize whatever it is that captured your attention into a compelling composition. As Ansel Adams said, “a good photograph is knowing where to stand.” But how you decide to arrange the scene in the viewfinder is driven as much by your eyes as it is by your knowledge of compositional technique.  

Anyone can develop and improve their observational and compositional skills; it just takes practice. Get that camera out and use it! The more you shoot, the more you'll see. The more you see, the more you'll want to shoot. 

Far-flung locations aren't necessary. Actually, focusing your attention close to home is probably more beneficial. It's handy; you can shoot any time. And the fact that these are landscapes with which you're very familiar means you'll be forced to observe them with fresh eyes.

Slow down and take your time. Be mindful and aware. Look at details. Look for patterns. Textures. Look at how the light interacts with your surroundings. Avoid tunnel vision; turn around and see what's behind you. When something catches your eye, think about why you're drawn to it.

Notice things.

Don't be in a rush to start shooting. Once you do pull your camera out of the bag, experiment. Photograph things you otherwise wouldn't. Use every lens you have with you. Shoot the same subject in multiple ways.

Pictures are everywhere when we learn to see them. 

About the Photographs

These are all examples of the kinds of interesting things you might see not far from your door. All but one of the photos depict something that was located in my yard, or that I could see from my house. The exception is the derelict buck and rail fence which is less than four miles away.

FireworksFireworksAbstract of Western Salsify plant gone to seed - its lines and shapes reminiscent of exploding fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Patterns in WhiteWinter LaceAs heavy, wet snow rapidly falls, it clings to tree branches creating a design of dark tree limbs against the white snow and sky.

Newfields, New Hampshire

In the Middle of it AllIn the Middle of it AllGarden dahlia (Dahlia pinnata)


Nature's JewelsNature's JewelsScores of droplets cling to a day lily leaf after persistent drizzle and light rain. (Newfields, New Hampshire)
The Neglected Fence IIThe Neglected Fence IIDerelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence (Bonneville County, Idaho)


Ride 'EmRide 'EmTeton Valley, Idaho
Look InsideLook InsideDaylily (Hemerocallis)
Newfields, New Hampshire


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) gear observation skills photography tips Thu, 20 Jan 2022 08:44:00 GMT
The Road Less Traveled Great ExpectationsGreat ExpectationsThe minutes just before the sun clears the opposite horizon: lovely anticipation.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
If you've visited any national parks within the last year or so, you know how crowded many of them have become. More and more park units are experimenting with timed and ticketed entry in an effort to manage the traffic. Arches in Utah is one of the latest to do so; they'll be implementing a pilot entry system beginning in April (and which will run through early October).

Want to avoid all that? Go over the winter.

Not only will you encounter significantly less people, but you'll see wonderful things - sights that summer visitors will never experience. It's a great opportunity to make photographs! Ghost Trees IIGhost Trees IIIce crystals created by steam from thermal features cover nearby vegetation. Combined with snowfall, the result is a stand of "ghost trees."

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
There are a few caveats when it comes to exploring national parks in the winter, especially those located in harsh and/or snowy climates. (All but one of the Top Ten on the most-visited list are no strangers to these types of conditions.) Most important, expect road closures. Some might be storm-specific and temporary while others are season-long. Check ahead but anticipate reduced accessibility. Even Yellowstone, which essentially closes to vehicle traffic for the winter, still keeps one route open - and there are other options to get inside.

Roads that are passable may be in rough shape. Slow down, take it easy and by all means carry a winter emergency kit in your vehicle just in case. 

Next, be prepared for extreme temperatures. It can get exceptionally cold; make sure you're dressed for it. That means layers. Good boots. A lined hat. Chemical hand and foot warmers. (Note: I still haven't come up with a winning solution as far as hand protection for photographers is concerned. I've tried battery operated heated gloves and insulated ski gloves, each of which had shortcomings and were ultimately abandoned. An experiment with glove liners was a complete waste of time. Lately I'm using trigger mittens which are warmer than gloves while providing some dexterity. Not enough, though. I still have to pull them off from time to time to manipulate the camera. To compensate, I double up on chemical warmers in each mitten.)

At any rate, do not shy away from going out when the mercury plummets. Along with the icy cold you often get beautiful conditions like hoar frost or fog created by temperature inversions. The colder the better! I've worked outside for hours in double-digit below zero temperatures and I'm cold-sensitive. It's manageable if you're wearing the proper clothing. Geometry in NatureGeometry in NatureThe canyon glows with the first light of the day. Snow accentuates the diagonal lines of the walls which, along with the vertical lines of the many hoodoos in the Silent City beyond, creates a geometric vignette.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Copious amounts of snow can make walking - not to mention hiking - a challenge. Ice can be a problem, too. There's nothing worse than being limited only to areas that are cleared or paths that have been compressed by previous foot traffic because you're unprepared. Microspikes and snowshoes make getting around much easier. Mine live in the back of my vehicle this time of year so I don't have to think about it. They're always there.

Aside from the welcome elbow room, there are two more good reasons to work the parks during the winter months. The low angle of the sun creates softer light for extended periods of time. And thanks to short days, sunrise and sunset sessions occur at much more reasonable hours than during the summer. What's not to like about that?

As for your gear, be sure to carry extra batteries and keep them as warm as possible. I store mine in an interior insulated vest pocket close to my body.

Watch out for ice burn from exposed metal surfaces (like a ballhead clamp). As mentioned earlier, even on the coldest days there are moments when my trigger mittens have to come off; if you operate similarly, be careful what you touch with your bare hands. 

Finally, remember to protect your camera and lens from condensation when coming in from the cold. An easy way to do this is to place them inside an airtight plastic bag while you're still outside; keep your equipment there until it has warmed up to air temperature. 

Dress accordingly, bring the right tools and know how the conditions may affect your gear - then prepare to step into a winter wonderland. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Now You See It...Now You See It...Cold temperatures and early morning rain create rolling waves of fog which alternate between transparent, translucent and opaque - occasionally exposing a wonderfully moody scene at Balanced Rock.

Arches National Park, Utah

Pictured parks, in order from top to bottom:

Snow-covered Teton Range on a frigid morning just before sunrise, captured from Antelope Flats at Grand Teton National Park

Ghost trees in Yellowstone National Park 

Snow accentuates the geometry of the amphitheater at Bryce Canyon National Park

On-and-off precipitation and cold temperatures combined to create heavy fog which rolled in and out of the Windows Section of Arches National Park 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arches National Park Bryce Canyon National Park Grand Teton National Park photography winter Yellowstone National Park Thu, 13 Jan 2022 08:37:00 GMT
Should I Stay or Should I Go? That's often the $64,000 question for those of us who work with cameras in the great outdoors. I know of one renowned photographer who says he never waits. Ever. If the conditions aren't right he moves on.

I think the answer is more nuanced. There are any number of factors which might influence whether or not a photographer opts to stay or go. 

  • Is it a location you can get to easily and often - or is this a place you might not see again?
  • Is what you're hoping to capture fleeting (i.e. autumn color or spring wildflowers)?
  • Are the current conditions changeable? What was forecast? If you're able to access your weather apps, what are they indicating now?
  • Do you know the area well enough to be able to make an educated guess as to what might happen next/soon and how long that might take?
  • How much are you trying to accomplish in the next few hours? Can you work elsewhere in the meantime before returning to try again? Is there another location nearby that might yield better results given the cards Mother Nature has dealt?
  • How cold/wet/miserable are you?

And so on (and on and on).

I'm nothing if not persistent. If I think there's a chance I might be able to make an image I've got no problem waiting. Does this strategy always produce a photograph in the end? No. But good things - sometimes - come to those who wait. 

One additional thing to consider when the conditions aren't conducive to making the image you had in mind: it might be a perfect opportunity to switch gears entirely. What other types of photographs can be created? Challenge yourself. You might end up with something better than what you envisioned.

Should you stay or should you go? Only you know the answer.

I've waited in vain. I've bailed out too soon. I've waited and been rewarded. It's never a sure thing. See below for the back stories behind two waiting games that ended well for me.

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church.

The "Little White Church" at Crystal Lake
Eaton, New Hampshire
First up, we have a foggy morning at Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire. Driving time: 3 hours (round trip). Waiting time: 3 hours. Shooting time: just a few minutes.

The lakes in this area reliably produce early morning fog when the temperatures drop low enough overnight in early October. That's what I was after: I wanted to incorporate it into a composition featuring the "Little White Church" and colorful foliage. Upon arrival that morning when it was still dark it was obvious I'd gotten fog. In spades. It was so dense along the shore you wouldn't have known there was a lake just steps away. At dawn a fisherman launched his rowboat and almost immediately disappeared from sight. 

Extremely dense fog is unpredictable. It can take hours to burn off. By the time it finally starts to lift the sun might be too high in the sky to provide the kind of light you're after. Composition is nearly impossible until the last minute; you can't see anything and have no idea how the fog is going to behave. When it finally dissipates, it might do so very quickly.

Whether or not I would hang around that morning was never in question, though. I wanted fog over Crystal Lake and got it. Waiting for it to lift was by necessity baked into the schedule.

I showed up more than an hour before sunrise. Another hour came and went and still I could see nothing. Since I hadn't been to this location yet that autumn, I had no idea whether or not the color on the hillside behind the church was peaking. All I had to go on was my previous experience with the calendar and this spot. After cooling my heels for more than two hours I had no idea what, if anything, I was going to shoot.

At 90 minutes past sunrise I could begin to see some of the lake and the sky brightened a little. 30 minutes later the far shoreline danced in and out of sight. The church appeared and disappeared. Those brief glimpses were enough to tell me the color was spotty. 

I called an audible based on the bright red tree you see in the center of the frame. It was going to have to do the heavy lifting in terms of providing seasonal context. I abandoned a wide shot for a tighter composition. The fog would downplay distracting elements like the parking lot and too many trees which were still green. It would also soften light from the sun which by now was quite high in the sky.  

When the fog lifted it did so very rapidly but in just about the best way possible, both rising and lowering to reveal this lovely little scene.

It's not at all what I intended to capture when I set out for the lake, nor did I expect to have to wait that long before I could make the photo, but the result exceeded my expectations. 

Moulton Barn Grand Teton National ParkTurmoil AloftA strong storm creates stunning, turbulent skies and brings with it powerful winds. As it passes, the mountains are rendered as shadows by heavy rain.

T.A. Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park Wyoming
This image is an example of persistence, storm chasing, luck, and knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em - all combined in a single afternoon.

Driving time: Nearly 6 hours (round trip from my house plus chasing around the park). Waiting time: roughly 2.5 hours. Shooting time: maybe 10 minutes total during two storms. 

On this summer day, afternoon monsoonal moisture was forecast. I'd been watching the situation from my home in Eastern Idaho and via webcams in Grand Teton National Park; by late morning I decided to make a run over there. The sky over the Big Holes was phenomenal. Beautifully stormy. As I made my way over Teton Pass the situation got more complicated. There was some sun. There were those thunderheads, but they looked to be moving in the wrong direction. There were also plenty of benign cumulus clouds. 

Would the threatening sky I'd seen while en route continue to develop or had driving over been an exercise in futility? Would other storms form as the afternoon progressed? If so, where would be the best vantage point from which to make an interesting photograph? 

Hoping something would materialize, I decided to head to the north end of the park. Monsoonal activity typically moves from south to north through Jackson Hole so this seemed logical. It made sense on paper; in reality it was a dud. When I got to Moran the sun was shining and there was nothing even remotely stormy going on overhead. After waiting and watching for a while, it appeared there was more potential to the south. Time to fold 'em, at least as far as Mount Moran was concerned. I drove back in the direction from which I'd come.

But where to shoot? The only thing I could think of to use for a foreground were the barns at Mormon Row. The plan had its flaws; this being mid-summer (prime tourist season) I could expect a lot of people there. At a loss for a better idea, that's where I ended up.

Sometimes luck is on your side. I had to wait a while, but eventually the skies turned threatening again and ended up producing three waves of storms. The first rolled through just to the southeast with aggressive wind gusts. Not only did it create interesting imagery in the vicinity of the Gros Ventre, it also cleared all but three tourists from the area. Bingo!

The jackpot came next. This storm wasn't kidding around; the winds were violent. But it wasn't raining on me yet and the thunder was far distant so I stayed out and watched to see what would happen. It was difficult to ascertain what exactly was going on with the clouds directly overhead but I thought they might be interesting if I could expose properly for them, and I could clearly see the "curtain" fashioned by the downpour sweeping across the Teton Range. The only way to properly capture all of this would be via a panoramic. This was easier said than done given the high winds but I anchored the tripod as best I could and split the difference in terms of exposure. 

In post-processing it was obvious the camera saw spectacular detail that wasn't apparent to my eyes while on-site: the angry, swirling clouds were fantastic and turned out to be the star of the photograph. Had I been able to discern the extent of that fury up above I'm not sure I would have stayed out there, but ignorance is bliss.

Not everyone is drawn to storm imagery. I am! (This is ironic since I grew up in a tornado-prone area and developed a fear of that type of weather at a young age. You wouldn't expect me to find turbulent weather visually striking.) I have a real soft spot for this image. In an overly photographed location, I was able to capture something very unique. 

I hung around for the third and final storm, but it wasn't as impressive as either of the others and I didn't make any photographs of it. The sky didn't clear afterward so a sunset wasn't on the menu. Time to pack up.

Sometimes persistence pays off.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Crystal Lake Eaton fog Grand Teton National Park New Hampshire storms Teton Range The Little White Church Thu, 06 Jan 2022 08:44:00 GMT
First Night First NightFirst NightAs the chapter closes on one year, the fireworks show at Portsmouth, New Hampshire's annual First Night celebration helps to ring in the next. "An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."
William E. Vaughan

I no longer usher in the new year when the clock strikes 12. What does that make me? A realist? :)  

Actually, I do welcome the year - it's simply a few hours after everyone else, just as the darkness begins to lift. Somewhere in the great outdoors, camera in hand, I watch the day break and photograph it as it happens.

Truth be told, New Year's is my least favorite holiday. Living in New England softened my attitude - just a little - in part because of First Night. Conceived of in Boston and introduced in 1975, by the time I moved to New Hampshire First Night had become quite a "thing" and expanded beyond Beantown; Portsmouth had one, too. One of the hallmarks of the celebration is fireworks. The magic elixir. How can I say no to fireworks? 

While I did go into Boston one year for the festivities, it was a lot easier to stick around the Seacoast. 

On New Year's Eve I'd head into town to photograph the fireworks display which - happily - takes place in the evening rather than at midnight before it's bone-chillingly cold. At 8pm it's just frigid! 

The next morning it was off to the ocean, where I'd sit in the darkness waiting for the sun to come up. Sometimes there'd be a handful of other people out there along the shoreline, too. They were in on the secret. There's no better way to start the new year than watching the day unfold.

The New Year's Eve fireworks situation is more of a challenge here in Teton Country; it's a bit of a drive and the weather is often dicey - but I'm planning on being at Grand Targhee Ski Resort tomorrow when the torchlight parade begins. Assuming that works out, early on Saturday I'll be in position and ready to photograph the first morning of 2022 on the western slope of the Teton Range. Will I be gifted a sunrise? The cloud cover app says it's unlikely but hope springs eternal.

Stay tuned, though: Mother Nature may derail all my grand planning.

After a mostly dry December (exceptionally dry), the sky has opened up. It began snowing on Christmas Eve and has barely stopped since then. I've lost track of how many times I've cleared my driveway. Surprisingly, the mountains are now ahead of the December average snowfall. The lion's share of that powder has come in the last week.

All that snow - along with high winds - has made a mess of the roads, some of which have been closed intermittently. Pretty much everything between Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming was shut down on Tuesday. 

It's snowing as I write this. Again. (Still.) We'll see what happens.

Happy New Year!

"To make an end is to make a beginning."
T.S. Eliot

CountdownCountdownNew Year's Eve torchlight parade and fireworks at Snow King - Jackson's oldest ski hill (1936) and the first ski area in Wyoming.

Jackson, Wyoming

About the photographs

Above: The landmark North Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire pairs beautifully with fireworks. For many years the church's steeple was visible from nearly everywhere downtown as well as from across the river in Maine, though recently constructed buildings have unfortunately eliminated some of those sightlines. On this First Night I photographed the fireworks from the top of the parking garage just a block away from the church.

Below: it's the New Year's Eve torchlight parade and fireworks display in Jackson, Wyoming. Snow King is the "Town Hill" and when it opened in the 1930s it was the first ski resort in the state. I made the photograph from the viewing platform at Flat Creek on the north end of Jackson near the Elk Refuge.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Boston fireworks First Night New Hampshire New Year New Year's Eve Portsmouth Thu, 30 Dec 2021 08:33:00 GMT
Let There Be Light Tuesday was the solstice; winter has officially begun. The nights may be long but now we'll gain daylight moving forward. Summer will be here before you know it. :) Love's Pure LightLove's Pure LightVibrant Christmas lights create a festive backdrop for these Christmas lanterns.

Temple Square
Salt Lake City, Utah is winter. There are plenty of short days ahead. 

Get up when it's dark, go to work in the dark, come home in the dark. Admittedly, it can get a little dreary, especially if you live in an area that's prone to experiencing long periods of cloud cover during the winter months.

Long nights coupled with dark days pack a punch. I'm from Chicago, where the sun has been known to go missing this time of year - sometimes for quite a while. One late November day in the early 1990s as the sun began to set over the Windy City, little did anyone suspect it wouldn't be seen again until well into January. Six weeks. True story. 

I no longer mind winter's scarcity of daylight, though. My change of heart might have had something to do with the fact that there's a lot less sleep deprivation associated with nature photography during the winter months. Not having to set the alarm for 3:30 or 4am almost feels decadent.

While we're on the subject of daylight - or lack thereof - consider the symbiotic relationship between long nights and festive holiday lights (next to pyrotechnics, one of my favorite things). Extended darkness means there are more hours to admire beautiful illuminated displays. Just a flip of the switch and those nights become quite bright. There's absolutely nothing dreary about that. 

It's the most wonderful time of the year
There'll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It's the most wonderful time of the year...
Eddie Pola & George Wyle)

Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas!


About the photo

If you like holiday lights, you can enjoy roughly one million of them in Salt Lake City's Temple Square. There were more extravagant displays elsewhere on the grounds but something about the lanterns called my name. A few were embellished with decorations, like the snowflakes you see on this one. I looked for a decorated lantern that was positioned where I could create a nice wash of color behind it, and selected a shallow depth of field to blur the red and white lights in the background. Then it was just a matter of waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a break in the pedestrian traffic to release the shutter. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas holiday lights Salt Lake City Temple Square Thu, 23 Dec 2021 08:45:00 GMT
Grand Illusions Grand IllusionsGrand IllusionsRepublic Plaza

Denver, Colorado
It can be a great change of pace to swap landscapes: in my case, natural for urban. Better yet, urban abstracts.

Because I no longer live within easy access of a large city, I relish opportunities to wander around urban environs with my camera now more than ever. Since Denver isn't too far away (in this part of the world anything under 650 miles qualifies as "not too far away"), I've been compiling a list of buildings that Alternate RealityAlternate RealityBusiness district reflections

Denver, Colorado
might make for interesting subject matter there. My recent trip to the Mile High City was the first opportunity to work some of those sites. 

Unexpectedly, there was a treasure trove just steps away from my hotel. Unlike some of the structures on the shot list (like the Denver Art Museum Extension - 2006, designed by Gio Ponti), none of these buildings were particularly unique or unusual and hadn't been on my radar. I noted street addresses and had to consult a map to identify most of them after the fact. 

If it wasn't the architecture per se, what was noteworthy enough to stop me in my tracks? 

It was a combination of great light and weird, wonderful, diffuse reflections. Not just reflections - but reflections of reflections. Many of the distorted images reminded me of what you'd see in a funhouse mirror. In some cases it took a while to figure out exactly which building's image I was looking at.

I pulled out the long lens and had a field day.

Who would have thought there'd be so much potential within the space of a single city block? (If you're familiar with Denver this was in the vicinity of Tremont and Court between 16th and 17th.)

My plan that morning was to photograph the exterior of the Denver Art Museum but thanks to these reflections - and a tight schedule - I never made it there. 

Next time.

In local news:

The elk hunt at Grand Teton National Park has concluded. No need to wear bright colors to avoid a mishap or - as I am prone to do while it's ongoing - avoid the park altogether. Be advised, though, the Snake River is now closed to public entry until March. Antelope Flats Road is still open but expect it to close for the season very soon; you can still visit the barns at Mormon Row after the road closure but you'll need to hike in to do so. 

Yellowstone opened to oversnow travel yesterday. Island Park has had three feet of snow since Sunday; the same storms deposited quite a bit of fresh powder in West Yellowstone. If you're planning on taking Route 20 through Island Park en route to the west gate, drive carefully.

It's late but "real" snow appears to have arrived - at least at elevations above 6,000 feet. Now it has some serious catching up to do in the mountains.

Snowpack at area ski resorts:

Grand Targhee - 50 inches

Jackson Hole Mountain - 18 inches

Snow King - 18 inches

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstract abstract photography architectural photography city Denver reflections Thu, 16 Dec 2021 08:55:00 GMT
A Mile High Christmas The first installment of 2021's Christmas Project is in the books (and yes, there was a winner - Jim from Maine was the first to correctly guess where I was shooting last week). If you wondered about the hints in the previous post: the falcon to the south was a reference to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and 1,760 yards is equivalent to 5,280 feet which is equivalent to one mile. You know, the Mile High City!

With daytime temperatures topping out in the mid-70s it felt more like Spring Break than Jingle Bells, but I'm happy to report there was no shortage of holiday spirit.

Downtown Denver has been in my back pocket as a potential Christmas Project location for quite a while. While there are fewer holiday scenes there than you'll find in a huge metropolis like New York, Denver's size is an advantage in that it's more manageable. And - importantly - it delivered. Its city sidewalks are most definitely dressed in holiday style.

Have a look!

First stop is the Colorado State Capitol - in spite of the fact that it apparently didn't get the "holiday illumination" memo. The huge conifers on the grounds are just begging for strings of lights (at least I think they are). Still, deciduous trees in nearby Civic Center Park are lit, so along with the Christkindl Market lights there's enough there to create holiday compositions featuring the landmark building. 

A Capitol ChristmasA Capitol ChristmasColorado State Capitol

Denver, Colorado
Perhaps the Capitol opts for the understated look because the nearby City and County Building goes completely wild with festive, flamboyant abandon. Yin and yang.

Initially I was a little frustrated with the C & C Building; it remains unlit until well after sunset. Strike one. And though I was told by park district personnel that its holiday lights stay on overnight, that wasn't quite accurate. (Okay, it was wildly inaccurate. The switch flips off around 11pm.) Strike two.

Without dawn and dusk shooting opportunities you're left with a sky completely devoid of color: a little bland for my taste.

In spite of the black sky situation, though, the building more than redeemed itself; it's the star of two spectacular choreographed light and music shows each evening. Between shows and following the final one, the lights revert to a static display - also bold and brilliant (pictured below). You can't be anywhere in the vicinity and fail to notice this!

Glad TidingsGlad TidingsThe neoclassical City and County Building (1932) dressed for the holiday season

Denver, Colorado
From the Civic Center we continue to the 16th Street pedestrian mall - where deciduous trees lining its entire length are wrapped in white lights. There are potential photographs all along the route; it's just a matter of what strikes your fancy. 

It might be a colorful sunrise...

Dressed in Holiday StyleDressed in Holiday Style16th Street Mall (Denver, Colorado) ...or the Daniels & Fisher Tower dressed in its holiday finery.

A Merry Little ChristmasA Merry Little ChristmasStroll down the street to the Daniels & Fisher Tower (1910), lit in Christmas colors.

Denver, Colorado
By the way, the mall looks a little bit like a ghost town, doesn't it? I like to work on holiday shoots very early in morning when the sky is just beginning to develop some color and the streets are nearly deserted (there may be some pedestrians but at this time of day it's not tourist traffic so they don't linger). This allows for maximum flexibility and also creates a tranquil kind of vibe.

You just need to make sure the lights remain on overnight. Most of the time they do - but there are always exceptions, even in the biggest cities. Wasn't I just grumbling about the state of affairs over at the Denver City and County Building? :) 

Next up at the intersection of 16th and Welton Street is the Mile High Tree. I included this art installation on the shot list even though I thought it might be a little on the kitschy side.

Au contraire!

It is most definitely large: 110-feet tall and 39-feet in diameter. Its 60,000 lights are continuously lit - but each evening it transforms into a real spectacle with a fantastic pixel-generated light-and-music show from 5pm-10pm. The pièce de résistance is viewing the show from inside the tree. Walk in, lay down on the ground, look up - and you will be transfixed. The vibrant lights are in constant motion and absolutely mesmerizing. At one point it felt like I was on the bridge of the starship Enterprise just as it was accelerating to warp speed. Seriously!

The static display:

LoftyLoftyAt 60,000 lights, 110 feet tall and 39 feet in diameter, the Mile High Tree is a show stopper. Each evening during the holiday season a spectacular pixel-generated light show is presented (the best viewing is from inside the tree). Overnight, the tree reverts to static blue lights.

Denver, Colorado
The show from the inside:

Travel roughly ten blocks further down the Mall and you'll arrive at Union Station. The front of the building features an illuminated show each evening along with a lighted Christmas tree and other decorations on the grounds, but I was more interested in what was going on out back.

All AboardAll AboardUnion Station Terminal (1914) and Train Hall (2014 - designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Denver, Colorado
The juxtaposition of the ultra-modern train hall and historic terminal building is striking. Bright Christmas colors add an exclamation point to the scene.

A short car ride away from the business district the Denver Botanic Gardens also get into the holiday spirit with the annual Blossoms of Light display. The garden is compact - only 24 acres - but they've managed to light just about every square inch of it. Stunning. 

AfloatAfloatBlossoms of Light Holiday Display at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver, Colorado

There's more, of course: garland, wreaths, twinkling lights, a lovely Christmas tree and a massive 25-foot holiday chandelier - all adorning the atrium of the Brown Palace Hotel, illuminations along Arapahoe Street, the beautiful tree and many yards of roping inside Union Station's Terminal, the winter wonderland inside Maggiano's...

You get the idea. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go."

Deck the halls, Denver! Well done.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas Christmas Project Colorado Denver holiday lights Thu, 09 Dec 2021 08:44:00 GMT
Born in Boston For many, Thanksgiving weekend is synonymous with holiday shopping. While I prefer to pass on the retail mania I look forward to the immediate post-Thanksgiving period for another reason; it means cities and towns everywhere are lighting lights and decking their halls. 

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like....the next installment of The Christmas Project!

Born in Boston in late November 2010, it wasn't a "project" right out of the gate. I was just going into the city to photograph the massive Faneuil Hall tree on the day after Thanksgiving. This was completely out of character: normally I steer clear of the Black Friday frenzy. I enjoy holiday displays, though, and there was a lot of hype that year around the fancy new synchronized light show (Boston Blink) at the Marketplace. It was enough to lure me in.

All it took was that single outing to get me hooked. I worked nearly a dozen locations between Thanksgiving and Christmas that year; it became apparent this could morph into something bigger.

You can hardly ask for a better place than New England to find scores of quaint holiday scenes. It's an embarrassment of riches. 

Every autumn I'd research options for the approaching holiday season and map out my plan. I focused mostly on New England but branched out to include places like Manhattan and my home city (Chicago).

It was smooth sailing until I moved to the Intermountain West where The Christmas Project is a wee bit more of a challenge. There's the obvious issue of logistics: it's sparsely populated and towns are spread out. The bigger problem? Let's just say a lot of these municipalities aren't going to win awards for decorating prowess. 

This has left me to broaden my horizons. I've traveled thousands of miles to keep this thing going.

Right now I'm at the first 2021 Project location and have been working here for the past few days. (A second site is planned for mid-month.) Any idea where I might be? It's in the United States - west of the 100th meridian and south of the 42nd parallel, and less than 750 miles from Idaho Falls. Looking to the south, I'm pretty sure I can see a falcon. 1,760 yards means something here.

Send me your guess!  

If we were in Chicago I'd buy a Tom & Jerry's at Miller's Pub for the first person to answer correctly - but instead the winner will have to settle for bragging rights. 

In the meantime, let's take a little trip and enjoy some holiday sights from The Christmas Project.

'Tis the Season!


Window WreathsWindow WreathsFaneuil Hall (built in 1742) is ready for the holiday. The statue of Samuel Adams stands behind the building on Congress Street. The inscription on the pedestal reads in part: A Patriot - He organized the Revolution, and signed the Declaration of Independence.

Boston, Massachusetts

Faneuil Halll - Boston, Massachusetts

O Come, All Ye FaithfulO Come, All Ye FaithfulAnchored by the stately spire of the North Church, the center of downtown Portsmouth is the quintessential New England scene year-round; the addition of holiday decorations only adds to the charm. Here, rainy streets on an early morning amplify the glowing lights.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Lobster Trap TreeLobster Trap TreeThe lobster trap Christmas tree at Fox's Lobster House on Cape Neddick complements the lights on nearby Nubble Light.

York, Maine

Lobster Trap Tree and Nubble Light - York, Maine

Rickety RacquetsRickety RacquetsThe International Tennis Hall of Fame gets into the holiday spirit: wreaths on the front double doors are decorated with tennis balls and vintage wooden racquets....strings busted, of course!

Newport, Rhode Island

International Tennis Hall of Fame - Newport, Rhode Island

Let There Be LightLet There Be LightThis whimsical string of enormous Christmas lights sits outside the McGraw-Hill Building on Sixth Avenue.

New York, New York

New York, New York

The LionThe LionThe South Lion at the Art Institute (built in 1893 for the Columbian Exposition) wears his Christmas wreath handsomely. In the background, both the Prudential Building and Two Prudential Plaza are lit in the colors of the season.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Ilinois

Love's Pure LightLove's Pure LightVibrant Christmas lights create a festive backdrop for these Christmas lanterns.

Temple Square
Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

Old World ChristmasOld World ChristmasDay breaks on Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America. Construction began in 1687 and was completed in 1723.

Old Town Québec City, Canada

Québec City, Québec

AglowAglowParliament Buildings and Front Fountain, ready for for Christmas.

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria, British Columbia

Dreaming of a White ChristmasDreaming of a White ChristmasTown Square
Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson, Wyoming

Silent NightSilent NightAs light fades from the sky, this lovely Christmas tree takes over to brighten the quiet darkness.

North Hampton, New Hampshire

North Hampton, New Hampshire

Up on the RoofUp on the RoofPerched 600 feet above ground, the Space Needle's Christmas tree adds a festive holiday touch to the skyline.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

YesteryearYesteryearThis landmark covered bridge stands at the entrance to historic downtown Long Grove, Illinois. On a mostly overcast afternoon, a bit of color still managed to peek through as the sun went down.

Long Grove, Illinois

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Boston Christmas decorations New England The Christmas Project Thu, 02 Dec 2021 08:55:00 GMT
Gratitude This being Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., it's time for feasting, family, friends - and maybe some football. Hopefully, there's also an acknowledgement of that for which the holiday is named. The "giving thanks" part.

What's on your gratitude list? 

The natural world is way up there on mine. I suppose it's not surprising that I ended up combining a life-long interest in photography and an affinity for the great outdoors. Having also spent time as an executive in corporate America I can assure you I prefer working out in the field with my camera. The first career was successful but outdoor photography is more rewarding. 
Picture Frame Grand Teton AutumnPicture FrameGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Nature is fascinating and spectacularly beautiful - but its attributes extend far beyond its many noteworthy physical characteristics. The natural world is a powerful tonic. It lifts the spirit. It soothes. It inspires. 

Things move at a slower pace in the great outdoors. It's good to exit the fast lane every once in a while. What better place to do that than among the trees, in the mountains, or at the ocean? Spending time in nature can coax you to become more mindful. Patient. Deliberate. 

Nature also provides a respite from noise in its many forms: from the urban environment, from the distractions of ubiquitous gadgets, and from a world gone increasingly haywire. 

"Out there" you can leave it all behind (at least temporarily). Trade all that manmade noise for the music nature has composed. Listen to elk bugling during the rut or leaves rustling with the breeze. Hear the distant thunder or water lapping at the shore or the whisper of an eagle's wings as it flies low overhead. 

Sometimes there's no sound at all - which is, of course, also music. The silence between the notes, as they say.

There is something different to enjoy each season. Each month. Each day. Every hour! Nothing in nature ever appears exactly the same. If one takes the time to look - really look - there is no end to what can be seen.  

Nature is one heck of a gift-giver and we are the lucky recipients. 

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
-John Muir

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) gratitude John Muir nature Thanksgiving Thu, 25 Nov 2021 08:35:00 GMT
Lessons Learned Jordan Pond Shoreline Acadia National ParkFeeling MistyAs early morning fog rolls over Jordan Pond, the shoreline dances in and out of sight. Low water levels expose a great deal of pink granite.

Acadia National Park, Maine
Anyone who owns an SLR camera knows there's a lot to learn if the goal is to produce something more than snapshots. Beyond equipment fundamentals and mastery of the software required to process images, one needs to understand light, exposure, perspective, depth of field, elements of composition, and more.

Log enough time with the camera and you begin to learn other types of essentials. Just as important as the core basics, these have to do with how you approach your photography.

This came up in conversation again the other day so I thought I'd share a few of the things I've learned and observed along the way.

1. Photography Isn't "One-Size-Fits-All" 

Often there is no right or wrong way to do something. "Rules" are sometimes better to be thought of as suggestions. Trust yourself.

2. Photograph What You Love

Unless you're on assignment, shoot what interests you. This applies both to the subject matter and the way you choose to depict it. Of course the image should be technically sound, but beyond that, follow your instincts. You'll be more enthusiastic about what you're doing and the quality of your work will likely be better if you're concentrating on things you're passionate about.

3. You Can't Please Everyone 

Art is subjective. Different people are drawn to different types of subject matter or styles. One likes abstracts, the next prefers realism. Another enjoys intimate desert scenes while his buddy would rather look at big mountain landscapes. It stands to reason, then, that different people will react in different ways to your photographs. That's okay. 

As Rick Nelson sang once upon a time, "You can't please everyone so you've got to please yourself." Your value as an artist is not determined by the number of likes generated on social media. 

4. Don't Put the Gear Away Too Soon

Sometimes the subject is fleeting; you may have only enough time to click the shutter once before it vanishes. When things aren't so rushed, though, be thorough. Think about all the different approaches you might take with a scene. Switch lenses. Move. Change your perspective. Use different depths of field. Try both horizontal and vertical orientations. Stretch your creativity.

Especially if it's somewhere you can't easily return to, take the time to make some "insurance" images just in case. Shoot more than you think you'll need. There's nothing worse than discovering - after the fact - there's an issue which renders an otherwise powerful image unusable.

5. Previsualization Can Blind You

Depending on what you're intending to photograph, setting up the shot in your mind's eye ahead of time can be critically important. That said, what's in your head may get in the way of what's right in front of you if you let it. Avoid being so wedded to an idea that you end up not being able to see the forest for the trees. 

6. Receive the Gift Graciously

Know how to call an audible. No matter how careful and thorough the planning, nature photographers can't control what's going to happen in the field. Be ready to work with whatever the great outdoors gives you. I've never forgotten a line from a long-ago article regarding this subject: What kind of photograph can you make given particular conditions? Learn to be adaptable or you'll often find yourself going home empty-handed.

There's nothing you can do about the inaccurate forecast (or whatever the challenge). Set aside the disappointment and/or frustration and figure out what can be accomplished instead. You might surprise yourself and end up making a photograph that's even better than what you anticipated.


About the Image

Points 5 and 6 apply to this photograph. The year I made this it rained nearly the entire time I was in Acadia National Park. This wasn't my first rodeo there so I had a specific composition in mind for Jordan Pond. Unfortunately, the combination of low water levels (it had been a very dry summer) and all that precipitation got in the way of the picture in my mind's eye. 

I was on site very early on this morning even though the conditions were poor and I expected no sunrise. Initially the fog was so thick it was hard to see anything. Then it started rolling through in waves, which was fascinating to watch. Hiking the shoreline looking for a composition, finally I saw these two colorful maple trees peeking out from the conifers. Just a tiny pop of color but they're the focal point - and they also provide seasonal context. The low water level revealed a great deal of the pink granite which you normally wouldn't see. More warm color. The fog was moving quite a bit; I made a series of images so I'd have plenty of options to choose from. 

This is not at all close to the photograph I had planned to make but it didn't matter. It's one of my favorite Acadia images.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Acadia National Park Jordan Pond New England photography tips Thu, 18 Nov 2021 08:55:00 GMT
Don't Leave Home Without It There are a few tools in my camera bag that are indispensable. Among them are a charger, spare batteries, flashlight, and a circular neutral density filter. All very important. But up there at the top of the list is the circular polarizer. 

Back in the film days I carried quite a few filters. While most of those are now unnecessary, the polarizer is anything but. I won't head out into the field without it.

Ironically, the one function many people associate with polarizers (enhancing blue skies) is something that can be addressed quite easily - and arguably more effectively - in Lightroom. 

Glare, though, is entirely different. You can do a lot of things in post-processing; erasing glare after the fact is not one of them.  

Glare is almost everywhere. Your eye makes allowances for it; the camera doesn't. Use the polarizer to remove unwanted reflected light. LushLushHall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest

Olympic National Park, Washington

Eliminating glare enhances both color and detail. The polarizer knocks back reflections on wet rocks, wet vegetation and water. (Doing so can enable you to see things that otherwise might not be visible - like rocks laying on a shallow lake bed beneath the waterline.)

The accompanying photo was made in the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park on a day when it was raining heavily. There was glare on everything: the bark, the ferns, and even the moss - but the polarizer removed all of it. 

That said, this filter isn't just for drizzly conditions or when you're working at a water source. Reflections don't happen only where water is involved. Reach for the polarizer on dry days and when it's sunny, too. Shoot the foliage in autumn with it and the end result is a little bit like what you would have gotten back in the day with an enhancing filter. (If you never used an enhancing filter, it intensifies the saturation of reds, oranges and earth tones.)

In a pinch, the polarizer can also serve as a mini-neutral density filter. It'll remove up to two stops of light. 


It doesn't always belong on the lens, however. Sometimes a little reflection is desirable. In some instances there may be no photograph without it. For example:

Let's say you're shooting water lilies. Turn the ring all the way and the water renders as completely black - which can look very cool - but you'll also lose the reflections of the flowers. Dial back a bit to get the best of both effects. You can also make two photos: one which removes glare from the plant and the other with no polarization for a beautiful reflection. Combine them in post.

If the subject is a rainbow, the polarizer isn't your friend. Rainbows, as you'll recall from long-ago science classes, are created by reflected and refracted light. No reflection, no rainbow. 

Finally, if reflected light augments the scene, obviously you don't want to eliminate it. Warm light hitting wet rocks along the ocean at the beginning of the day might tint them in a dramatic way. The ocean might also have taken on a lovely cast. Your polarizer will remove some of that wonderful color.

There's a time and a place for everything.

A final note: when shopping for a polarizing filter, go for the gusto. It'll be spendy, but this thing will be a workhorse. You invested in good glass; get a quality filter. If your lenses don't all have the same filter thread size, save some money by using a step-up filter ring. 

Stow it in your bag and never leave home without it!

FloatingFloatingChicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, Illinois)


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) filter glare photography polarizer polarizing filter tips Thu, 11 Nov 2021 08:44:00 GMT
Transitions Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene.

Near Durham, New Hampshire
Foliage season has come and gone in many areas. High elevations in the Intermountain West said goodbye to the leaves nearly a month ago; the Kancamagus Pass in New Hampshire was blanketed with snow last week.

Winter is on the way.

In the meantime, though, there is a period of transition: not quite time yet for serious cold and snow but well past the golden days of early autumn.

I don't expect to be back in Grand Teton National Park until mid-December. The annual elk reduction begins this Saturday, during which visitors are advised to wear bright colors. Never completely confident about how visible I may or may not be I prefer to wait until the hunt is over.

I'm using the transition time to scout Eastern Idaho for scenes within relatively easy reach that might look good when snow is falling. Proximity is a plus because winter driving is a white-knuckle proposition here in the wild, wild west. For whatever reason, keeping the roads clear during and/or after snowstorms isn't high on the priority list. 

Once upon a time a big-city mayor lost his re-election bid in large part because the public felt he hadn't done a good job getting the streets cleared during a blizzard (my home city: Chicago). True story. I suspect no such fate would have befallen him had this occurred in any one of countless municipalities across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Plows? Who needs 'em? Let it snow!

I digress. 

Isn't it interesting how some of the most magical things in nature are fleeting? Flowering trees and shrubs in the spring; wildflowers as they come and go; the lacy white aftermath of a snow or ice storm; fog; the colors of autumn. Here and gone before you know it.

Perhaps it's because they are so short-lived that events such as these are even more treasured. 

As the last of the leaves flutter to the ground and the landscape transitions from a cacophony of color to monochromatic stillness, we bid the fiery foliage adieu. 

What a show it was. Magnificent, as always.

Raindrops Keep FallingRaindrops Keep FallingSieur de Monts
Acadia National Park, Maine


Tug of War Autumn MaineTug of WarSpectacular burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in all of its autumn glory, seemingly not wanting to be held back by the fence desperately attempting to stand its ground.

Mount Desert Island
Somesville, Maine

Essence of AutumnEssence of AutumnAbstract rendering of brilliant foliage in the Hiawatha National Forest

Michigan's Upper Peninsula


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Kancamagus Pass New Hampshire Thu, 04 Nov 2021 07:35:00 GMT
Beyond the Geysers Play the word association game and toss this one out: Yellowstone. "Old Faithful" or "geysers" will probably be the most common response. And why not? The park's hydrothermal features are weird, wonderful, and more plentiful there than anywhere else on earth (10,000-plus). 

It's a big park, though - nearly 3,500 square miles of it. There's more to Yellowstone than those famous hot springs, geysers, fumaroles and mud pots. 

Exhibit A: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. (Yes, there are steam vents in the canyon walls...but they're not the main player.) Roughly 24-miles long and containing two waterfalls, the canyon can keep me busy for many hours at a time. Much of the rim is hike-able and can be thoroughly explored if you're so inclined. Be prepared for some steep descents.

Even if you just drive the rim and stick with marked vistas you'll be treated to some great sights. If you've been to Artist Point you'll recognize this view of Lower Falls, where the canyon begins:

Just as there's more to the park than the geysers, there's more to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone than establishing shots like this one. 

Giant pinnacles, multi-hued rock, trees clinging to the steep walls...there is no shortage of potential subject matter. All you have to do is look more closely.

Here, the pinnacles create a beautiful sculpted frame for the trees on the other side. 

SculptedSculptedRugged pinnacles frame some of the trees growing among them within the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
At the location below I liked the juxtaposition of jagged pinnacles on one side and the relatively smooth canyon wall to which conifers cling on the other. Wider framing isn't necessary to establish context: this is clearly a steep canyon. On a mostly overcast day, rays of sunlight occasionally broke through and highlighted a small, colorful portion of one wall. The little pop of light is what prompted me to pull out the camera.

Steep DescentSteep DescentGrand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The shapes, textures and color contrast in the canyon are really interesting. I go with a long lens and keep my eyes open. 

Bottom line: whether you're in Yellowstone or a state park near your home, look beyond the obvious. There is no limit to what you might see. It could be uniquely yours, and you could be the only one who captures it.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) canyon Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone pinnacles Wyoming Yellowstone Thu, 28 Oct 2021 07:24:00 GMT
Around the Bend Oxbow Bend is right up there at the top of the list of Grand Teton National Park's iconic locations. Show up early in the morning during foliage season and you'll see just how popular it is with photographers.

Most people hang out at or near the parking area or along the road, but if you're willing to get away from your vehicle and venture further (do it!!), you'll be rewarded with a variety of interesting perspectives. 

To the north of the bend is a steep hill. You've got to work a little bit to get up to the top but wonderful views await if you do. (Added bonus: you'll have the place mostly - if not completely - to yourself.) From here you can clearly see the crescent-shaped oxbow situated right next to the winding Snake River.

Shift your gaze to the southwest for a spectacular view of the Teton Range. Moran is the star of the show but from this vantage point the peak of the Grand sneaks into the scene (far left). 

Above the BendAbove the BendAutumn color marches down the hillside to the Snake River shoreline below. Meanwhile, up above, clouds dance around Mount Moran's peak.

Oxbow Bend
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Down below, I rarely shoot at road-level: my preference is the water line. Sometimes I pull on the muck boots and get into the water. There are multiple spots along the shore from which to work, though the bank is steep and full of dense vegetation; it can be challenging to get to the river in the early morning darkness if you don't already know where you want to be. Shifting position up or down stream, so to speak, requires climbing back up the slope before descending again. Best to scout ahead of time and note some sort of landmark(s) so you can find your way with only a headlamp.

This isn't a huge area so you might be surprised how much of an impact the position you select will have on what you can see and what kind of photograph you can make. 

From the far eastern edge of the bend you'll have Mount Moran on one side with smaller peaks to its right. For the pano below I got into the river in order to completely obscure the range to the left of Moran. Moving into the water also enabled me to include the little jut in the near shoreline to the right, echoing the larger one on the other side.

Peak PerfectionPeak PerfectionPeak foliage beneath the Teton peaks: perfection.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Further up the bend, the mountains on the other side of Moran are visible.

Diaphanous DreamDiaphanous DreamLingering fog creates an ethereal scene around Mount Moran and the surrounding landscape.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
For the mid-summer shot below I was at roughly the mid-way point of the bend. Using a wider lens and getting down low essentially eliminates from view all but the portion of the Teton range which is centered in the frame. Nearly symmetrical shapes are created by the vegetation on either side. The sky and lighting on the mountains become the focal point.

Sunkissed Grand Teton National ParkSunkissedMount Moran and the surrounding peaks glow with the first light of the day.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Positioned near the western side of the bend, Moran becomes even more dominant. A long lens enhances the effect. 

Enveloped in WhiteEnveloped in WhiteEarly morning fog at the base of Mount Moran - newly snow-covered after an early season storm - adds a second soft, white blanket to the scene.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Bucolic Oxbow Bend is lovely from wherever you choose to view it.

There really isn't a bad seat in the house.


It's That Time of Year

Winter came knocking here a bit early; I had nearly a foot of snow at my house early last week. So much for the "dusting" which had been forecast. Surprise!

Yellowstone had multiple road closures during that storm, though they're fully open now (and my yard is back to being completely clear). If you want to visit Yellowstone before winter, though, the clock is ticking. With the exception of the north entrance, all roads will close to regular vehicle traffic on November 8th at 8am. Oversnow opening is December 15th.

The Inner Loop Road at Grand Teton National Park will close for the winter on November 1st. Antelope Flats Road usually closes in mid-December.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Grand Teton National Park Oxbow Bend Snake River Wyoming Thu, 21 Oct 2021 07:10:00 GMT

I enjoy showing people the extravaganza that is New England in autumn - especially first-timers. They nearly always run out of superlatives to describe the spectacle. Each new scene seems - impossibly - even better than what came before. It truly is a sight to behold, especially in New Hampshire's north country: in my opinion, the place to see and photograph "the show."  

If you haven't experienced early October in New England, put it on your bucket list. Trust me: I'm not overselling. It's something you'll never forget.

I had the pleasure of introducing my father to leaf peeping in the White Mountains. Though he'd traveled extensively during the course of his career, he was mostly unfamiliar with Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. A trained landscape architect who deeply appreciated nature, those stunning autumnal scenes made quite an impression. He ran out of superlatives, too. 

Naturally, I could relate. I still react in much the same way - no matter how many times I see that amazing display.

Particularly if you're into red foliage like me, you'll find quite a bit of eye candy waiting to be admired. In some areas, especially when it's a "bumper crop" season as far as color is concerned, there are ravishing reds that will knock you over. The location in the photograph featured here is one such place.

The colors were especially vibrant that year, and even more so on this overcast, misty day. There's nothing like dampness to accentuate foliage. The combination of shoreline color and descending fog was spectacular. Whether or not I could capture it was questionable; the ceiling was dropping rapidly and I was losing light. I scrambled to find a suitable vantage point and frame a composition. There was zero time to mess with the tripod. 

This was back in the Ektachrome days; I wouldn't know until the transparencies came back from the lab whether or not I got anything. Happily, it worked out.

One of my early foliage season images, this remains a personal favorite. The icing on the cake is that my dad was with me when I made it.

If you're a fan of colorful autumnal displays, there's no more magical place to be than New England. Treat yourself. It's not too soon to plan for early October 2022... 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New England New Hampshire White Mountains Thu, 14 Oct 2021 07:46:00 GMT
Mining for Gold Twilight Wedge Grand Teton National ParkAwakeningBright autumn foliage punctuates the Willow Flats landscape at daybreak while the twilight wedge tints the sky pink. With temperatures below freezing, steam rises above distant Jackson Lake as Mount Moran waits for the sun to rise and warm its face.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
15 magical miles. 

That's roughly the distance between Willow Flats and the Buffalo Fork of the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park's north end. Hang around that general area in autumn and you might feel as if you've struck gold. Aspens are plentiful and they like to put on a real show. Some of them dare to go Splendor on the SnakeSplendor on the SnakeGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming further than marigold and honey yellow, venturing into apricot and orange territory. A few of the truly adventurous flirt with almost-red. 

The mother lode.

It's always a beautiful sight, though of course you never know exactly when it's going to occur or how long it will last. Wyoming wind is real; it can wreak havoc on the autumnal display in the blink of an eye. 

This season color throughout the park has been, for the most part, vibrant - better than the past couple years, though a little sporadic as far as the timing. The wind has (mostly) behaved. As for those north end aspens? They pulled out all the stops. 

Each autumn, though I wander around the entire park and surrounding forests looking for potential subject matter, I can't resist that Willow Flats/Oxbow Bend/Pacific Creek/Buffalo Valley corridor. Maybe it's the oh-so-subtle nod to the colors I left behind in New Hampshire that beckons me...

It's a relatively compact area but spending all that time there is far from boring. Familiarity is a good thing.

There are always new ways to visually convey the story of the season. Figuring out how is both the appeal and the challenge. 

You never know what might catch your eye. Especially in autumn the appearance of the landscape changes dramatically within just a few hours; foliage looks very different depending on how it's lit. Then there's the color progression. Things shift significantly, sometimes in a matter of days.

The conditions this time of year can also really change things up. Late September days might begin with temperatures in the 20s but reach into the 70s later on. Wild swings like that often create interesting things (like thick morning fog).

There might be early snow on the mountains, or lingering haze from wildfires, or a turbulent thunderstorm. Anything can happen.

My kind of gold rush.

Current foliage status: the peak display has mostly passed but you can still find color. Be prepared to do some searching. Remember, you can make interesting images past peak. Don't forget to look down. There's also mountain snow in the forecast.
TransformationTransformationDense fog completely obscures the Teton Range behind the trees, instead creating a dramatic backdrop emphasizing the foliage and its various stages of autumnal color progression.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The Lines are DrawnThe Lines are DrawnA study in diagonals: the tree line, the shadows on the face of Mount Moran, and the line of the peak itself.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Buffalo SunsetBuffalo SunsetThe Buffalo Fork of the Snake River meanders through a landscape decorated in the colors of autumn.

Buffalo Valley, Wyoming

In the PinkIn the PinkMount Moran, with a dusting of late September snow, awaits the rising sun.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) aspens autumn Buffalo Fork foliage Grand Teton National Park Tetons Willow Flats Wyoming Thu, 07 Oct 2021 07:14:00 GMT
Shine on, Harvest Moon I generally don't spend too much time at the "trappier" photography traps in Grand Teton National Park during foliage season, but sometimes the forecast lures me in, as it did last week at Schwabacher Landing. 

Though I arrived well before sunrise (more than 90 minutes) I was still surprised to find only one other vehicle in the lot. More followed, but it took quite a bit of time and never became as crowded as I would have expected. Perhaps the fact that the temperatures had dipped quite low overnight had something to do with it.

Because it was very cold, I anticipated - and found - ample valley fog along with lots of frost as I drove from Buffalo Valley through the north end of the park. I chose Schwabacher because I thought I might find some interesting compositions featuring the cottonwoods dressed for autumn and it's often a reliable spot for fog. Unfortunately, it hadn't climbed too high here just yet. Who knew how long it would take. I had no interest in making a big landscape (and did not expect conditions would warrant one - it had been an almost perfectly clear night) but was going to have to make the best of whatever I was gifted.

The Harvest Moon was still fairly high in the sky; though a headlamp was required for the hike in it was not pitch black. The Tetons were visible and there was still some snow remaining on the peaks from a storm a few days earlier.

I settled in to wait and watch, not knowing yet what I was going to photograph - but it became apparent fairly quickly that the story on this morning was the magical moonlight. The quality of the light on the mountain range was superb. 

Maybe I'd compose a wide shot after all.

With the shutter set on bulb I experimented with exposure times. 75 seconds produced the proper result (at about 50 minutes prior to sunrise). If you view the photo much larger you'll see many stars in the sky, even with the moon casting so much light on the scene. 

Thick frost covering the low vegetation is apparent, there's a little bit of steam rising from the river, and you can also see the developing line of fog in the distance. The blanket of fog did grow exponentially once the sun came up, but this composition was no longer about it, nor the colors of the foliage (though they played supporting roles).

It was some of the most beautiful light in which I have seen the Cathedral Group. 

Moonlight Feels RightMoonlight Feels RightRoughly 50 minutes prior to sunrise the light from the Harvest Moon was superb: superior to what it looked like later when the sun appeared and lit the mountains. The 26 degree air temperature created lovely frost, large areas of valley fog and some steam over the water. 75 second exposure.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog foliage full moon Grand Teton National Park Harvest Moon moonlight Tetons Wyoming Thu, 30 Sep 2021 07:15:00 GMT
The Old West Sweet DreamsSweet DreamsA departing hailstorm leaves behind a colorful souvenir as the sun sets. The Absaroka Range creates the backdrop while badlands decorate the landscape below.

Dubois, Wyoming
If you want an authentic taste of the Old West along with some pretty spectacular scenery, you can find it in Dubois (DEW·boys), Wyoming - a little town with roughly 900 full-time residents located in the Wind River Valley. 

While only 85 miles from Jackson, it's a world away and surrounded by wilderness.

Geologically speaking the area is unique, with the Absaroka Mountains to the north, the Wind River Range to the south, and badlands between. You'll see evidence not just of glacial activity (Whiskey Basin is a good example) but also volcanic and tectonic. 

A high-clearance, off-road vehicle is your best bet when it comes to exploring this country. Finding some of the primitive roads is a little bit of an adventure (the forest service roadmap isn't the best I've ever seen) but well worth the effort. Access points to some of these treasures are hiding in places you'd never expect - but I'll leave that for you to discover.

Hiking trails - marked, and more often unmarked - are abundant. Bring your compass. Maybe a hiking buddy, too.

The town itself dates back to the late 1800s. Prior to his Hole in the Wall days, Butch Cassidy lived in Dubois; he owned a ranch on the outskirts. The general store where he shopped still stands. (Yes, he did business at the local bank. No, he did not rob it.) Later he had two hideouts in the area.

While there is tourism in Dubois, it remains a real "cowboy town." In my opinion, the landscape is beautiful - and distinctive - enough to warrant National Monument status. Then again, the fact that it's flying under the radar might be a very good thing. Stopping for a hike in Grand Teton National Park on the way back, it was busy, busy, busy. The difference was pronounced.

Ole' Butch knew how to get off the beaten path. 

"I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals."

From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Screenplay by William Goldman

Intricate ErosionIntricate ErosionBadlands in magical late-day light (Dubois, Wyoming)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Absaroka Mountains badlands Butch Cassidy Dubois sunset Wind River Wyoming Thu, 23 Sep 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Elbow Room I've never seen the national parks as crowded as they've been over the past few years. The issue is especially acute in the better-known destinations - like Grand Teton and Yellowstone, my two local parks. They're in the top five on the most-visited list. 

If you love the parks and enjoy photographing them you might wonder if there's any way (other than venturing deep into the backcountry) to avoid the congestion. 

Visiting during the school year used to be a good solution; it was off-peak and reliably quiet. You can no longer count on that as a fail-safe remedy. That said, there are times that are slower. Sometimes just a few weeks can make a world of difference. Take Moab, for example. Mid-March visitor traffic in Arches and Canyonlands is markedly different than what you'll encounter in late April.

Don't discount winter. While many parks can be more difficult to access and navigate, it's worth the effort. (Check first, though. Some places like Yellowstone are restricted to oversnow travel during the winter months.)  

There are other strategies: 

Consider navigation alternatives
Some parks are easier to get around in than others. If a highway runs through it, you'll have more options. If it contains only a single loop road but there are multiple access points you'll be able to jump in and out. Yellowstone doesn't have either of those features and it's huge. Once you're inside, that's it. You can easily get trapped behind scores of other vehicles; there are no alternate routes. Then someone decides to stop in the middle of the road.....just because. Ever been stuck in a bison jam? Yellowstone in the summer isn't my cup of tea. (You might have more tolerance.)

Grand Teton, on the other hand, is easier to traverse. When it's really crowded simply steering clear of the Inner Loop Road will make life easier.

Committed to summer? Consult a park map first to peruse maneuverability.

Edges of the day
I don't know any photographer who doesn't want to take advantage of the light during the golden hours. Fortunately, that's not when most non-photographers are out and about. In the morning they're still sleeping, and in the evening they're heading for dinner. If you plan carefully, you may be able to cover a handful of locations during those times.

Working during the middle of the day can be more difficult; by 9am inbound traffic might be a steady stream. If it's too crowded for you to be productive there's often interesting scenery nearby - like national forests, for example. Explore outside the park boundaries.

Get up a little earlier
If you're going to be heading out for a sunrise shoot at a popular location, plan on arriving even earlier than you'd otherwise need to. The lack of sleep and extra time spent waiting in the dark will be well worth it if it means you can claim the preferred spot from which you want to work.

Use your legs
How many times have you seen people set up their tripods just steps away from where they parked? Especially when the area is jammed, wouldn't you rather avoid all that? Besides, who doesn't want a more unique vantage point?

Take a walk away from the parking area/designated viewpoint to survey the situation. Sometimes you don't have to go very far to see something special. 

Put the crowd to work for you
Incorporate people into your shot. They don't even have to know... Break on ThroughBreak on ThroughTurret Arch

Arches National Park, Utah

A little bit of scale can add important context to a photograph. The image at right, made in Arches National Park, is one such example. Actually I had no intention of shooting anything; this was a late afternoon scouting expedition to prepare for the following morning. I'm not sure why I even brought my gear along. 

As I was beginning the hike back to the car, I looked through Turret Arch and liked the way the clouds were stacked. It was a high-contrast scene but I decided to pull the camera out anyway. A woman was on the other side of the arch photographing her two young children. I waited a while to see if she'd move. No such luck. Though the kids eventually disappeared from view, she didn't budge.

I decided to include her in the composition to provide scale. The arch is massive, but there are no other visual clues to make this obvious. I hoped she'd turn her back to me (and that nobody else would walk up there in the meantime), and voilà - it happened.

The significant contrast issues were managed in Lightroom when the image was processed.

Another example, below, is from Death Valley National Park.

It was very early in the morning and the location was mostly deserted - nevertheless, I ended up with company. This woman arrived after I'd been working for a while and walked right into the area I was photographing. She just stood in that one spot, looking around. This was a wee bit frustrating; by now the sun had risen and I was about to lose the shade.

Since it was clear she wasn't going to proceed up the path any time soon, I decided to reframe the composition, using her to underscore the enormity of the rock formations. 

The fact that she was dressed in all black was the perfect touch; it made her more visible against the trail.

Are the parks overcrowded? Yes, especially this year with visitation numbers off the charts.

It may not be the experience you hoped for, but crowds don't mean you can't see beautiful sights and make some good photographs. 

Be flexible. It'll work out.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) crowds Grand Teton National Park national parks Yellowstone Thu, 16 Sep 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Show Time Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMist Meets FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River

Near Lincoln, New Hampshire
The curtain is about to go up on one of the greatest shows on earth. 

Not meaning any disrespect to winter, spring or summer (spring is my favorite time of year, after all) but foliage season has a certain je ne sais quoi. It's a spectacle like none other; the landscape demands a reaction. 

"Admire me!"

I'm happy to oblige. 

Can trees dance and play? Can they shout? Show off? Of course they can. Take a drive on New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway in early October and you'll think so, too.

Not everywhere in the world erupts into a cacophony of brilliant color in autumn. I've lived in places you wouldn't exactly characterize as leaf-peeper paradises. But I've also called New England home, and for my money you'll never see a better show than the one staged by the trees there - especially the sugar maples. They're botanical overachievers. Exuberant exhibitionists.

Want the best seats in the house? Head for the White Mountains.    Non-ConformistThe Magic ForestA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking.

Hiawatha National Forest
Upper Peninsula of Michigan

I've seen and photographed beautiful color elsewhere, like the mountains of North Carolina, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and throughout the Intermountain West - but I stand by my claim regarding autumn in New England. If you've never seen it, you should. It's a bucket list item for sure.

Here in Teton Country, the show is tantalizingly close to getting underway in earnest. Rabbit brush and other low-growing plants on both sides of the mountains began turning yellow a few weeks ago; now the trees in Jackson Hole are beginning to show color.

The summer has been very dry; I suspect the display might come a little earlier than usual. 

Persistent, heavy smoke from California is a cause for concern as far as the local foliage show goes. It's been a lousy couple of months in terms of photography here due to poor air quality. Terrible. It'll be more than welcome if we're gifted with a shift in wind direction to help clear things out, at least while the aspens and mountain maples are strutting their stuff.  

The coming weeks will be busy. I'm kicking things off in Dubois, Wyoming and then will follow the foliage from Grand Teton National Park to Eastern Idaho and down to the Wasatch. After that it's off to New England; I'll wrap up the season in Zion National Park.

Let the show begin! Autumn at Oxbow Bend Grand Teton National ParkScene StealerThe sun's first warm rays light the trees along the Snake River shoreline, making the foliage pop. The effect is magnified with Mount Moran in partial shadow.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Jackson Hole New England New Hampshire Thu, 09 Sep 2021 07:22:00 GMT
Favorite Places If you're a baseball fan - especially of a certain age - and live in the U.S., you probably enjoyed the recent game between the White Sox and Yankees staged amid a corn crop at its lofty late-summer peak in Dyersville, Iowa. Adjacent to the park which was constructed for the occasion are the field and farmhouse from the film Field of Dreams, looking now as they did then. The setting was magical. Perfect.

I love that movie. Of course it's about much more than baseball but the game, midwestern setting and Joe Jackson are important to the story. I'm a baseball nut and my ties to and affection for the state of Iowa go way back to when I was a little kid. The fact that the White Sox play a supporting role is the cherry on top. 

Two days after the game I watched the movie for the umpteenth time. And wept, naturally. Then I pulled the book from which the film was adapted off the shelf and re-read it. (By the way, W.P. Kinsella, who wrote Shoeless Joe, was an alumnus of the acclaimed Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. My alma mater.) 

In it, Doc "Moonlight" Graham talks with Ray about the little Minnesota town in which he settled following his brief baseball career. The conversation also appears in the screenplay.

"This is my favorite place in the whole world," Doc says quietly. "I don't think I have to tell you what that means. You look like the kind of fellow who has a favorite place. Once the land touches you, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for the land like it was your child."

Old Doc has a way with words. 

Most of us have emotional attachments to various places, often associated with people or events. But when it comes to a visceral connection to the land itself, do you have a place like that? A place with which you've developed an innate, abiding bond? A place that has become part of you, and you a part of it?

If you do, you know Moonlight Graham was right: when the land reaches out and touches you in such a way, you're never the same. 

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."
-Henry David Thoreau

As a landscape photographer, I've become deeply attached to several places over the years but none has a hold over me like New Hampshire; it grabbed onto my heart and never let go. The photograph below of autumn color near peak was made from the summit of Mount Major. From this vantage point one has tremendous views of large expanses of Lake Winnipesaukee and the southern rim of the White Mountains.

"Is this heaven?"

"I could have sworn this was heaven."

It's New Hampshire. 

The Big Lake Winnipesaukee New HampshireAbove The Big LakeThe landscape is awash in brilliant color at the height of foliage season. From the summit of Mount Major, Lake Winnipesaukee and the mountains beyond are visible.

Lakes Region, New Hampshire

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn baseball Field of Dreams Iowa Mount Major New Hampshire White Sox Thu, 02 Sep 2021 07:34:00 GMT
105 Candles 105 years ago yesterday the National Park Service was born - though parks such as Yellowstone predated the agency's creation by many decades.  

Perhaps the more significant milestone is March 1, 1872, since it was the establishment of Yellowstone on that date as protected public land "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" that got the ball rolling, so to speak.    KaleidoscopicKaleidoscopicThe best way to appreciate Grand Prismatic Spring is from the air - where both its otherworldy appearance and immense size are apparent. Note the man on the walkway...though only a speck from the sky, he casts a long shadow.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We're going to need a bigger birthday cake.

I was a relative late-comer in terms of my first exposure to the national parks: it's ironic that I spend so much time in them now. There weren't any near where I grew up in suburban Chicago and my family didn't travel much when I was a kid. 

What about Indiana Dunes, you say? When I was hiking its rugged trails it hadn't yet achieved NP status. Actually that didn't happen until about five minutes ago. (I exaggerate - but only a little. It was designated in 2019.) 

Park #1 was Volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii my senior year of college. Not a bad place to start. Now I live in the shadow of Yellowstone and Grand Teton and within reasonable driving range of nine other national parks: an embarrassment of riches. 

Do I have a favorite? Yes, although there's something wonderful about every one I've visited. How about you? 

The parks are being loved maybe a little too much this year (that's an understatement - they're jammed), but this is unsurprising. Nature soothes and nurtures. After the last 18 months, who doesn't need some of that? Deep down, we instinctively crave the natural world. Most of us, that is.

There are people who wander through these beautiful places, looking but not seeing. Some don't even look. Their eyes are glued to their screens as they desperately try to access the internet. Or they're chattering away on their phones. Or they're bored. Really? That said, every time I see kids obviously enjoying the experience, I'm happy. No devices in sight, they're in the moment and delighted by "the show."

There is hope.

Our national parks truly are jewels. We are fortunate to have them. When you do visit, treat the land - and the animals who live there - with respect. Leave no trace. 

And by all means, enjoy. 

“There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness - that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Above the BendAbove the BendAutumn color marches down the hillside to the Snake River shoreline below. Meanwhile, up above, clouds dance around Mount Moran's peak.

Oxbow Bend
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park national parks NPS park service Tetons Theodore Roosevelt Yellowstone Thu, 26 Aug 2021 07:10:00 GMT
And So It Goes Harvest TimeHarvest TimeIn the shadow of the Teton Range, this wheat field awaits harvesting
(Fremont County, Idaho)
Soon after moving to the Intermountain West I discovered an inevitability about mid- to late-summer: expect smoke.

Summer is, unfortunately, fire season. 

Even when there are no local wildfires, as has been the case so far here this year, there can still be smoke. Sometimes a great deal of it. As a result, it's generally not a very good window for landscape photography. (There are exceptions, though. If the haze isn't too heavy it can augment sunrise and sunset color.)

The summer of 2021 has been especially poor in terms of air quality. Most of the current heavy blanket hanging over the Snake River Plain has come from California, many hundreds of miles away.

I've been trying to work on both sides of the Tetons for over a month but the smoke and haze have often had other ideas. Some of what I wanted to capture involves wheat fields in eastern Idaho. Last week I had no choice but to go for it regardless of the conditions. It's harvest time: "now or never."

Much of what I'd hoped to accomplish in the sister Teton Counties over the last six weeks will have to wait until next year. That's the way it goes with landscapes. If you've ever wondered how it can sometimes take months or years to make a photograph...

Maybe the tide is about to turn. Rain has been moving through Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming since yesterday. Will it clean things up - or make the situation worse? So far it's been the latter but we'll see what happens after the front passes.

If the air does clear I may have another opportunity to capture a few additional images before summer takes its final bow and exits the stage. The calendar says mid-August but autumn comes early to the Tetons. This latest weather system is bringing with it overnight lows in the 30s in Jackson Hole. Rabbit brush in the park are already yellow, and when I was heading up to the summit of Fred's Mountain last week a lot of the low vegetation along the way had begun to turn color.  

Meanwhile, the hazy conditions have done nothing to slow tourism.

July numbers are out for both local parks, and they're staggering. 

For the first time in its 149-year history, the park saw more than one million visitors in a single month. They're calling it 1,080,000. I'm calling it mind-boggling. (If you wonder why I avoid Yellowstone over the summer, I'll give you a million reasons.)

Grand Teton
July 2021 was also a record-shattering month in Grand Teton National Park. 828,777 people showed up, which is the highest number of visits for any single month in park history.

Those are big numbers anywhere, but especially so here. Consider the sizes of the gateway communities: the population of West Yellowstone, Montana is less than 1,500. Gardiner, Montana has fewer than 1,000 residents. Cooke City, Montana? A few hundred. Cody, Wyoming's population is roughly 10,000 and Jackson, Wyoming clocks in at about 11,000. 

Busy, busy, busy.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) fire season Grand Teton National Park Idaho smoke Tetons Yellowstone National Park Thu, 19 Aug 2021 07:55:00 GMT
The Time of Your Life Photography is all about light (literally translated, photography means "drawing with light") but it's just as much about time. 

There's the brief snippet of time when the shutter is open, the time invested in making the photo, and time as it relates to planning and execution.

Photographers capture and preserve moments in time - moments that will never be repeated again in exactly the same way. Yet, especially where nature photography is concerned, a single image might take many hours, or months, or perhaps even years to create. That's quite a lot to snag one little fraction of a second. 

How many moments are represented in a body of work? 

Those moments are special, but each image represents more than a single instant frozen forever for posterity. Good photographs can evoke reactions. They can tell stories. Is a picture worth a thousand words? Maybe so, especially when the viewer connects emotionally with the image. 

There are also back stories about how the photograph came to be. That's what I see and recall when looking at my own images. 

While we're immortalizing and collecting moments with our cameras, time in its broadest sense is pivotal to the process. It's every bit as important as the weather.

Consider just some of the ways time - and timing - drives decision-making and impacts the outcome:

  • The daily timing of celestial events 
  • The tide cycle 
  • How quickly the rising moon will clear the horizon
  • What is the best shutter speed to achieve the desired result
  • What day and at what time the sun or moon will be in a specific location in relation to a chosen landmark
  • How long will it take to drive to the location, make the hike, and get set up in time to capture a specific weather event
  • What time of day works best for the location
  • What time of year works best for the location
  • Time management: squeezing the most opportunity from the conditions

Time and photography are joined at the hip in more ways than one.

Time in nature is time well spent. 

"You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day,
and you only get so many days on the planet.
A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either."

-Galen Rowell

Sunset at the Barn Grand Teton National ParkStylish ExitA beautiful sunset fills the sky over the historic John Moulton homestead with fiery color. As there was a herd of bison not too far away, tourists bypassed this stunning scene in favor of the animals - leaving it to be admired in solitude.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

About the Image

Photographically speaking, Grand Teton National Park generally doesn't produce great late-day/sunset conditions. The mountains often pick up a little bit of haze and the Big Holes to the west of the Teton Range can block the light and prevent good color development. There are exceptions, though. I was expecting something as the sun went down on this day, but the vibrance, intensity and duration of the sunset color was a surprise. Interestingly, in spite of this being a popular tourist spot, I was the only one there capturing this spectacular scene. A herd of bison were grazing not far away; the cars that did come along passed by without even a glance at the sky. They were intent on getting to the animals.   

About Galen Rowell

A landscape photographer and photojournalist who also happened to be an accomplished mountaineer, Rowell influenced me when I was starting out. He left the world too soon, tragically dying in a plane crash 19 years ago yesterday when returning from a shoot in Alaska. He was a founding contributor and columnist for Outdoor Photographer magazine; I learned a great deal from studying his work and reading his pieces. You'll find his books in my library. If you can locate a copy, I highly recommend Galen Rowell: A Retrospective (Sierra Club Books).

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Galen Rowell Grand Teton National Park nature photography time Wyoming Thu, 12 Aug 2021 07:55:00 GMT
Ask Away Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMist Meets FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River

Near Lincoln, New Hampshire
I've been corresponding this week with someone overseas who will be visiting New England in early October to see and shoot the foliage show.

After purchasing and reading my photographer's guide to the White Mountains and then studying Google Maps, he wondered if I'd help him refine his plan since his time in New Hampshire will be short.

Absolutely! I love to help visitors coming to northern New England to photograph the spectacle - especially those who will be seeing the Rocky Gorge White Mountains New HampshireRed in the RocksThe first rays of morning sunlight set the autumn foliage ablaze along the banks of the Swift River at Rocky Gorge.

White Mountains, New Hampshire
autumnal display for the first time. 

After finding out what kinds of images he likes to make along with his planned points of entry into and exit out of the state, I suggested some locations based on his objectives and timetable. Obviously the conditions will have the final say; we also covered alternatives in case he's faced with challenging situations.

If you're planning a similar trip and would like some ideas, get in touch with me! By the way, even though my book is specific to the White Mountains, I photographed throughout the state during the 20 years I was based there. And though I now live near the Tetons, my camera and I still head back to the Northeast regularly.

Like that Johnny Cash song "I've Been Everywhere" - I pretty much have been everywhere in New Hampshire. 

Will you be heading way up north to Pittsburg? Over to the Mount Monadnock Region? The Seacoast? Near Dartmouth and Lake Sunapee? The Big Lake (Winnipesaukee)? Not a problem. 

Then of course there's Vermont. And Acadia. And so on. Even though I'm partial to New Hampshire, I have been known to cross the border. :) 

I have favorite shooting locations all over New England. Looking for suggestions? I'm happy to help.

One thing I'd recommend (and this goes for any photography trip you're planning regardless of location) is that you do as much advance research as possible, come up with a rough schedule based on how much time you'll have and what you've learned, and then think about what kind of adjustments you can make if Mother Nature throws a curveball.

Let's take autumn in New England specifically. What will you shoot if it's drizzly or rainy the entire time? What if the colors aren't very far along yet? What if they've already peaked? What if you never see the sun and the skies are bland? What if it's persistently windy?

You can make excellent images in nearly any kind of weather and regardless of how far along the colors are. (The only thing I find nearly impossible to deal with is heavy rain.) Be prepared to take advantage of whatever you're gifted.

And if you'd like some ideas from me, just ask

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Acadia autumn foliage New England New Hampshire Vermont White Mountains Thu, 05 Aug 2021 07:14:00 GMT
Monsoonal Magic GiantGiantBonneville County, Idaho Some of the rain that's been falling around the Four Corners is finally making it up this way. Better late than never.

To say this is welcome would be an understatement; there's been very little measurable precipitation for a few months now. We've moved beyond dry. Parched and desiccated are more accurate. 

The summer hasn't been without the occasional thunderstorm passing through the region but more often than not they've failed to produce rainfall. That, or they're very widely scattered; somebody gets lucky somewhere but it's not much to write home about.  HoveringHoveringBonneville County, Idaho

The current weather pattern is generating more widespread storms with rain expected to make it all the way to the ground periodically over the next few days. Or so the meteorologist says. 

A passing sprinkle has been the extent of it so far at my house but hope springs eternal. (The national park has seen a few downpours so that's a positive turn of events.)

Along with much-needed precipitation, monsoonal flow often produces spectacular cloud formations - especially the closer you get to the mountains. The cloudscapes are even more impressive because "big skies" enable expansive views. Throw the Tetons into the mix and you can really appreciate the scale. 

Watch one of these developing storms for a while and you'll see how quickly it expands and evolves - all the while climbing higher and higher. It's not an illusion; those anvil tops can reach a whopping 50,000 feet. Cruising altitude for commercial airliners is around 35,000 feet.

As much as I like to make dynamic landscape photos featuring monsoonal action, sometimes it's just as interesting to pull out the long lens and focus exclusively on the clouds. 

I look for juxtapositions of lighter against darker (more menacing) clouds, or the relationships between shapes, or interesting negative space. Most often these are abstract images - though if there's an enormous, mature formation with a well-developed anvil I might go for the whole enchilada and make a panoramic.  

Because I live up on a bench in the foothills only 60 straight-line miles from the Teton Range, I can see a lot of imposing monsoonal cloudscapes without having to venture much farther than my yard. 

These gargantuan showstoppers have been in short supply so far this summer but maybe change - rain - is in the air.   

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) clouds cloudscapes monsoon storm summer Tetons Thu, 29 Jul 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Seashells by the Seashore Rugged RyeRugged RyeNew Hampshire has less than 20 miles of ocean coastline - but what is lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Route 1A meanders northward here through beautiful Rye past marshland and toward Odiorne Point. If you didn't realize New Hampshire has an ocean coastline, it's understandable. At under 20 miles, it's the shortest of any state. What it lacks in quantity, though, it more than makes up for in quality. You know what they say: the best things come in small packages. SerenitySerenityAs the day dawned on this humid, late-summer morning, the saturated air was completely still - transforming the tidal pool into a lovely looking glass.

Atlantic Ocean
Rye, New Hampshire

The Granite State's Atlantic shore and coastal towns are beautiful, historic and full of charm. While each season has its own unique appeal, there's a certain je ne sais quoi about the Seacoast in the summer.

(Note to outdoor photographers...there is no shortage of subject matter.)

To drive the coast, follow routes 1A and 1B from Seabrook on the southern end to Portsmouth in the north. Along the way you'll see spectacular ocean views from both sandy beaches and rocky shoreline.

You'll also find marshland, two harbors, stately mansions, a historic fort and multiple units of the state's park system.

You can complete the drive in no time - but I promise you won't want to. Spend a few days! Whether or not you're interested in making photographs, you'll find plenty to keep you busy. 

Here are some suggestions, town by town:

Hampton Beach

The boardwalk is a little kitschy but a hugely popular place, crammed with people during the summer months. Think ice cream shops, arcades, souvenir stands, food stands, boutiques and restaurants. Into street photography? Stop here.

The beach itself is large (over a mile long), sandy and clean. Every Wednesday during the summer there's a fireworks show beginning at 9:30pm. 

The annual (June) Master Sand Sculpting Classic features artists from all over the world. If you're in town while this is going on I highly recommend it.

For an evening entertainment break see who's playing the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. It's hosted a lot of famous acts since opening in 1899 - like Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington in the '30s to The Doors, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and The Who in the '60s and '70s, to Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Huey Lewis and the News in the '90s. 

North Hampton

Fuller Gardens is a seaside public botanical garden with unobstructed views of the Atlantic. You'll find rose gardens, a Japanese garden, a hosta garden, English perennial borders and more. Compact but lovely.

Continuing north on Ocean Boulevard (1A) you'll pass grand estates with expansive grounds overlooking the sea, many of which date back to the turn of the last century. There are some modern-day luxury homes, too, but it's the stately old ones that will catch your eye. Some are in North Hampton, others in Rye. None are for the budget-minded - but dreaming is free!


Feel like exploring the coastline from the water? Jump on board the "Uncle Oscar" at Rye Harbor for a sightseeing/whale watching cruise.

Back on land, Rye Harbor State Park is just a stone's throw up the road. Odiorne Point is the second of the town's state parks and the site of the first European settlement in New Hampshire. During World War II it was a fort and part of Portsmouth's harbor defense; the battery and gun placement mortar rings still remain.

Turn away from the sea and you'll find a lot of protected salt-water marshland to the west: great for bird watching.

Rye's beaches range from bustling Jenness State Beach to smaller, quieter options.

Hungry? Enjoy catch fresh off the boat at restaurants just steps from the water. 

New Castle

The smallest town in the state, New Castle is also an island.

Near the bridge connecting the town to Rye stands one of New Hampshire's four remaining Gilded Age grand resort hotels, Wentworth by the Sea (1874). This historic building stood vacant for a number of years and narrowly escaped demolition in the mid-1990s but was ultimately rescued. The renovated hotel reopened in 2003.

Standing at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor are Fort Constitution (first fortified by the British in the very early Colonial era) and Portsmouth Harbor Light (1771). Neither are open to the public this year but you can see/photograph the lighthouse from nearby Great Island Common. And there's a double bonus: from the Common you can also see Whaleback Light (1872) marking the entrance to the Piscataqua River. Both lighthouses are on the National Historic Register. 


Founded in 1623, this is one of the country's oldest cities.

There's a lot to like about Portsmouth, not the least of which is that it's easily walkable. Stroll past the many red brick buildings on cobblestone sidewalks; you'll feel like you stepped back in time. 

This historic seaport has a vibrant, working harbor. Millions of tons of cargo move in and out every year. Watch the Moran tugs in action escorting a tanker or photograph them moored along Ceres Street. The busy commercial fishing pier is also a good place to hang around with the camera.

To survey the waterfront and/or ocean from offshore there are a few options: Portsmouth Harbor Cruises, the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company, or if you prefer sailing, the Gundalow.

Also on the waterfront is Prescott Park, a 10-acre jewel with the lovely Formal Garden as its centerpiece. For some living history, visit Strawberry Banke just across the street.

On the opposite side of the Piscataqua River you'll see the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (established in 1800) which specializes in the overhaul and repair of Los Angeles- and Virginia-class submarines.

Portsmouth's signature landmark is the beautiful North Church. Its steeple is visible from much of downtown and also from the river. Photographers, you'll have fun with this. It screams New England. Walk around town to find interesting vantage points and creative ways to capture it.

When it's time to put your feet up there are a variety of food and drink options: dozens in the downtown area alone which might surprise you given the size of the city (only about 22,000).

Hop back in the car, cross one of the three bridges spanning the Piscataqua, and you're in Maine. Wasn't that Massachusetts just a few miles ago? 

New Hampshire's ocean coastline is short but oh so sweet. Great things are tucked inside this small package. 

By the SeashoreBy the SeashorePainted pre-sunrise sky complements one of the stunning sand sculptures created for the annual sand sculpting competition.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

A past entry in the Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting Classic


You'll find scenes like this (outside Ray's Seafood) along the ocean in Rye


Marshland in Rye


Prescott Park Portsmouth New HampshireSummer at the GardenPrescott Park's Formal Garden is awash with vibrant color at the height of its summer display. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

The formal garden at Prescott Park in Portsmouth


Approaching StormApproaching StormThe North Church's steeple is visible beyond the commercial fishing pier in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The commercial fishing pier in Portsmouth with historic North Church beyond 


One of the Moran tugs heading back to its pier


PyrotechnicsPyrotechnicsFireworks and the North Church steeple: it's the annual Independence Day celebration in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The North Church on Independence Day


And finally...if you're a regular reader you know I have a thing for this tidal pool in Rye. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic coast Granite State Hampton Beach New Castle New England New Hampshire ocean Piscataqua Portsmouth Rye Thu, 22 Jul 2021 07:40:00 GMT
You Never Know You might be aware that it's been unusually hot in much of the northwestern U.S. - even at high altitude.

Here in Eastern Idaho the mercury started to soar much sooner than usual and decided to stay put. More than a few temperature records were broken already in June when it's typically quite pleasant. Even in a normal year late July is toasty so I doubt anyone in this neck of the woods is expecting a reprieve anytime soon.

Couple the heat with heavy smoke from distant fires that's settled in on both sides of the Teton Range (scroll down to see what it's been looking like in the park lately) and I'm dreaming of a little chill in the air and clear skies. 

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky.

T.A. Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
A scene like this looks refreshing right about now - and how about that excellent visibility? Yes, please.

As far as photography goes, the story of how this picture came to be proves that you never know how things are going to turn out. Let's just say I had zero intention of visiting this location on that day. Truth be told, I wouldn't have expected to be there at all that winter

It was very cold at daybreak - somewhere in the neighborhood of -20 degrees Fahrenheit. There were no clouds so a colorful sunrise wasn't in the cards. Instead, I went looking for bison and hoar frost, and found both.

While photographing the animals, a fellow joined me. Visiting from Colorado, it was his first time in the park. He asked for directions to Mormon Row. Normally this would be a simple answer - it wasn't too far from where we were working. In the winter, though, access to the barns is a little bit complicated. Roads are closed. The drive is circuitous. A hike is required. You'll need snowshoes. 

After explaining how to get there, I started thinking maybe I'd head over at some point, too.

Why I entertained the idea, I'm not sure. I generally don't spend much time at the barns. Photographically speaking, the morning had already been subpar. There was the cloudless sky. And now the color temperature of the light had changed; the sun was rising higher. I had little expectation of finding anything to shoot there. 

When I mentioned to this guy that I might run into him later, he said he'd wait and follow me to make sure he'd find his way. I hadn't intended on leaving right that minute but why not? The idea of having company was a plus; when the mercury dips well below zero I avoid hiking too far on my own. 

We were the only people there. First stop: the John Moulton barn. It was surrounded by tracks, both from snowshoes and cross country skis. I photographed one of the outbuildings, half buried by snowdrifts, but otherwise mainly served as tour guide. Once Mr. Colorado finished shooting there, I suggested we head over to the T.A. Moulton barn. After all, he'd never been to the park. If you're a first-timer you have to see both barns. 

As we got closer, I was surprised to find fewer and fewer signs of human visitors. Finally, there were no tracks at all; not even animal tracks. Nothing but pristine snow. 

The low winter sun cast spectacular long, blue shadows from a stand of cottonwood trees all the way to the barn door. Those shadows were begging to be photographed!

While my hiking buddy ventured off to try to get closer to a coyote he'd noticed earlier, I dropped down in the snow and set up my camera very low to the ground. I avoided casting my own shadow by positioning myself directly in front of the bases of the tree trunks. The cloudless blue sky was no longer a problem; very little of it is included in the frame and what remains supports the main subject thanks to the duplicating color. 

(This is a stitched pano of three images. Shooting vertically made it possible to capture the full range of shadows with minimal sky.)

Who would have thought it? To that point, the shooting had been so-so. I'd been about ready to call it a morning when some random person needed directions. I ended up at the barns. And saw something special.

Sometimes you make a picture when you least expect to.

Smoke Gets in My Eyes

Welcome to the Tetons (via webcam yesterday afternoon). Socked in. You'll need to use your imagination.

There are no clouds in the sky; that's all haze and smoke from distant fires, the nearest of which is about 260 miles away. To date most of the smoke has been coming from northern Idaho (during the overnight hours) and then when the wind shifts during the day, from Oregon.

For point of reference, Grand Teton is standing roughly in the middle of the frame - though it's tough to see anything. This camera is located not far from the Moose entrance station in the central part of the park.


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) barns fires Grand Teton National Park Mormon Row shadows smoke snow T.A. Moulton barn Tetons winter Wyoming Thu, 15 Jul 2021 07:34:00 GMT
Redefining Success Nobody wants to come back from a photo shoot empty-handed, but it happens.

Nature photographers can't control the conditions, after all. Sometimes there just isn't enough to work with.

I used to consider a session like that a complete bust. Then I began to realize there's almost always something positive about time spent in the field - whether or not I make a photograph. Of course I'd prefer to get the image(s). But I've broadened my definition of what constitutes a successful outing. There is value in the experience, too.

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore..."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Simply being out in the natural world is, for me, a win. 

Take early morning shoots, for example. I love them - and not just because of the good light! I'll admit the 0-dark-30 starts can be tough (especially when the temperature has plummeted overnight or I've had little sleep) but there's something exhilarating about being out there to witness the darkness giving way to dawn, wherever "there" might be. 

I'm often alone. It's quiet. In the hush of those early hours, it's amazing what you can hear. The water lapping. The whooshing sound of a bird in flight. Elk bugling in the autumn. The hum of a lobster boat heading out from a distant harbor. A beaver swimming by. The loon's call.

Some mornings - especially in the dead of winter - you hear nothing at all; it's completely, utterly quiet.

I always hope to walk away with a photo, but whether or not things pan out it's not a bad way to begin the day. 

Interesting random encounters can also qualify as positive outcomes. I've met a lot of people while working in the field over the years. Some have ended up becoming photography buddies: both local and long-distance.

More often it's a single meeting - someone I'll never see or hear from again - but remembered for some reason or another. Especially when hunkered down waiting for better conditions or if I'm finishing up and there's no hurry to get to another location, there's time for conversation. We end up talking about equipment. Or other shooting destinations. Maybe we trade scouting information. Tips. Advice. Anecdotes.  

On occasion you end up shooting for a while with someone you've just met - like the time I hiked high up a steep hillside one early autumn morning to try to capture foliage in the Tetons from a more unusual vantage point. With animals in the back of my mind I wasn't sorry to see two guys follow not long afterward; some company would be okay. With persistent fog obscuring the mountain peaks, I knew I was going to have to hang around and wait for it to lift. It became obvious they were going to do the same. We began to chat. The three of us ended up parked there, shooting the breeze while hoping to be rewarded with a clear view of the entire face of Mount Moran. 

The fog toyed with us. For hours. We joked that outwaiting it had now become a matter of principle. Nobody was going anywhere! Finally, with hungry stomachs demanding to be fed, they gave up and bid me farewell. Not ten minutes after they left, the last of the fog lifted and I was able to make the photo - but I would have considered it a positive experience either way. 

Even if a shoot fails to yield a photograph, you might learn something new. About the location. About other locations. About your equipment. You might think of and experiment with a new creative approach. You might make a new friend.

So, is every shoot a success? Not in the literal sense. But even if you don't make a photo there's a good chance you'll walk away having gained something. 

The Tidal PoolThe Tidal PoolRye, New Hampshire This large tidal pool along the Atlantic Coast is one of my most often-visited early morning shooting locations in New Hampshire because it's near where I used to live. And - for my money, anyway - it's tough to beat watching the morning unfold at the seashore. 

I've spent many hours there over maybe a dozen years, and return whenever I'm back visiting my old stomping grounds. 

In all that time I can think of only a few rare occasions when anybody else showed up; it's typically just me and the lobster boats out at sea. Combine this view, the sound of the water and the wonderful solitude, and it's a special way to start the or no photo.


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic ocean New England New Hampshire photography Rye Tetons Thu, 08 Jul 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Happy Birthday, America O beautiful, for spacious skies

Inspiration in RedInspiration in RedThe Organ is one of the massive sandstone formations which can be found in the Courthouse Towers area of the park.

Arches National Park, Utah

For amber waves of grain

Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois

For purple mountain majesties

Purple Mountain Majesty Teton Valley IdahoPurple Mountain MajestyThe setting sun bathes the snow-topped Tetons and the clouds blanketing them with alpenglow. The Teton River, not yet frozen, curves through farmland in the Teton Valley.

Tetonia, Idaho

Above the fruited plain!

Country SunsetCountry SunsetNear Harvard, Illinois

America, America,

God shed His grace on thee

Chapel of the Transfiguration Grand Teton National ParkThe ChapelThe Chapel of the Transfiguration is sited - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. The log structure was built in the 1920s and placed on the national register of historic places in 1980.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

And crown thy good with brotherhood,

Independence DayIndependence DayFireworks explode behind Portsmouth, New Hampshire's landmark North Church in celebration of Independence Day. From sea
Intracoastal WaterwayIntracoastal WaterwayOver the Intracoastal Waterway in Central Florida, looking toward the barrier islands of Vero Beach. to shining sea!

Shoreline Sentries Sea Stacks Bandon OregonShoreline SentriesBandon Beach, Oregon

"America the Beautiful"

Lyric - Katharine Lee Bates
Music - Samuel A. Ward

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) America America the Beautiful Fourth of July Independence Day July 4 Sun, 04 Jul 2021 14:22:41 GMT
In Black and White Imagine the mountains of New England in early October at the height of foliage season. It's a cacophony of spectacular color: brilliant hues of red and orange and yellow everywhere you look. I don't know too many people who'd want to photograph a landscape like that in black and white; color is integral to the story.

Other times, though, black and white can be a great way to go. 

Even if you choose to work mostly in color, learning to "see" in black and white will help improve your skills. It's possible to become over-reliant on color, expecting it to carry an image on its own. Eliminating it from the equation forces you to focus on contrast, texture, perspective and other fundamental compositional elements. Back to basics, so to speak.

Black and white images require strong compositions in order to be successful; color images should be built using the same blocks - just with the one added component.

There's another important practical bonus to working in black and white. It can greatly extend the workday. Conditions you might consider unsuitable for color photography, like harsh mid-day light or bland skies, can work just fine if color is removed from the equation.

If you show up on location only to find day after day of featureless, white skies, all is not lost. Switch to black and white. You might be surprised at the kinds of images you can make. Light is still critical, of course - but in a different way.

Don't forget the artistic angle. Black and white might be the better creative tool to convey mood or focus the viewer's attention. It can shift - or enhance - emphasis. The image might work perfectly well processed in color but could be even stronger without it. Sweeping ArcsSweeping ArcsAbove and below, in reverse directions

Vishnu Temple - North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The first example illustrates conditions which were too harsh for color - but this image has nothing to do with color. It's all about shapes. For that, the light was just about perfect.

I made this at mid-day along the Grand Canyon's North Rim. While waiting for the monsoonal activity which had begun to develop behind me to move closer, I used the time (plenty of it - a few hours, actually) to watch beautiful clouds fill the sky in all directions.

This cumulus formation was opposite the incoming storm. It was especially striking in that it completed a spectacular vignette featuring two sweeping arcs - one overhead, the other in the ridgeline of the Vishnu Temple below.

Processing this in black and white enabled me to further emphasize those two shapes - which is what the photo is all about.

I bumped up the contrast and used the burn tool to remove hot spots on the rocks created by the harsh sunlight. 

Next up is an image that uses black and white to enhance the mood and place the focus squarely on the early-evening storm advancing into Jackson Hole.

This was a real show-stopper of a monsoon. (It was also a bit of a surprise; as of that morning no rain had been forecast.) I'd initially been closer to the mountains but this thing was so impressive I knew I needed to put a little bit more distance between myself and the Tetons for scale. 

It was moving quickly so I didn't have much time to reposition myself at the flats. Originally hoping to find a foreground element for the composition, I decided I'd rather place all the emphasis on the sky. 

I had a feeling before I shot it that this image would end up in black and white. Color adds nothing and risks detracting from it.

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Finally, a black and white abstract. The sandstone slot canyons of northern Arizona are prime examples of erosion; the play of light on the red rock is often an important part of the composition. In this case, though, I wanted to emphasize the geometric lines. Removing color also removed some of the context - thus enhancing the rock's somewhat mysterious character. 

If I hadn't told you this was a slot canyon, would you know immediately what you were looking at?

EnigmaEnigmaLower Antelope Slot Canyon

Page, Arizona
Color is great, but black and white is no slouch. It can extend your shooting time, provide new creative options, and help sharpen your skills.

Try it!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arizona black and white Grand Canyon Jackson Hole photography slot canyon Tetons Thu, 01 Jul 2021 08:05:00 GMT
West Side Story Attendance records in Grand Teton National Park this year have been falling by the wayside (every month but February when persistent snowfall made travel difficult). Recreational visits, camping, backcountry camping, trail's all increased dramatically. Looking for a place to pitch your tent? Good luck.

Perhaps you'd prefer sleeping in a room in Jackson to the great outdoors. Prepare to be shocked when you see the rates.

Likewise, Yellowstone has been swamped (and the lodging situation is the same - or worse). Raindance Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingRaindanceChangeable skies over the Teton peaks

Alta, Wyoming

To give you some idea what that means in real numbers, in May Yellowstone welcomed 483,100 people, while 363,700 came to Grand Teton. Neither park was open until late May 2020 due to the pandemic, but compared to 2019 stats, that's an 11% May-to-May increase for YNP and 30% for GTNP.

Not just record-breaking: more like record shattering. (By the way this isn't exclusive to 2021. Grand Teton NP broke all-time records late in 2020, too.)

Since July and August are historically the busiest times of the year, I can only imagine what's coming.

Even in a "normal" year the summer months in Yellowstone are too crowded for my taste; I generally stick with the Tetons.

In Grand Teton NP crowds can be avoided if you head out as the day breaks and steer clear of places like Jenny Lake during peak hours. Evenings are generally good, too; most folks start to disappear by dinnertime. There are also lesser-known areas both within the park and just outside its boundaries which see far fewer visitors. That syncs up just fine in terms of landscape photography.

That said, depending on the time of day, trying to head south into Jackson from the park in the summer might have you feeling more like you're stuck on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway at rush hour rather than traveling on a state highway in sparsely-populated Wyoming. You'll get into town eventually but don't expect a quick trip.

Record tourism to northwest Wyoming is just another reason to love the Teton Valley. It's not referred to as "The Quiet Side" for nothing! Some visitors do head over the pass, but most stick with the national parks.

Fine with me. 

The west side has its own beautiful views of the Tetons, though with a different perspective due to the foothills. The Teton Valley is agricultural: a striking juxtaposition of farmland framed by mountain peaks.

There's a ski resort on the western slope. During the summer months Grand Targhee's lift is open for hikers, mountain bikers, and sightseers. Down below you'll find the Teton River and lots of great hiking in Teton Canyon. 

If that's not enough, the Idaho side boasts another mountain range: the Big Holes. They're not as tall or flamboyant as the Tetons - but still lovely. 

If you want to take a break from the scenery, there are some good places to eat (like Three Peaks or Tetanka Tavern or Warbirds - all in Driggs) as well as two craft breweries and an award-winning distillery that specializes in potato vodka and whiskey.  

If you want something with even more local flavor, you might try Dave's Pubb in Tetonia. It's a favorite of one of my brothers.....also named Dave. :)

At any rate, you won't go hungry. Or thirsty.

Just between you and me, the Teton Valley is pretty nice.

Shhhhh. Let's keep it our little secret. 

Teton Valley IdahoMy Own Private IdahoThe view from the Big Hole Mountains across Idaho's Teton Valley to the Teton Range is expansive and beautiful. Many tourists never see it, but the valley more than lives up to its tagline: "The Best of Both States"

Tetonia, Idaho


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Driggs Grand Teton National Park Idaho Teton Valley Tetonia Tetons Wyoming Yellowstone Thu, 24 Jun 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Tick Tock I got hooked on wildflowers while living in New Hampshire. Lupine season in the White Mountains is lovely; fields explode with color as the spikes bloom in late spring. They're not just blue and purple, either. You'll see plenty of white and pink flowers, plus all sorts of interesting hybrids if you keep your eyes open - like pale peach, pale yellow, blush pink, and lavender. 

Grand Teton National Park has lupines, too (purple only), but the more prolific springtime floral displays come from the opposite side of the color wheel. Yellow.  Sunshine BeneathSunshine BeneathArrowleaf balsamroot add splashes of cheerful yellow to the fields of Jackson Hole in late spring.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

First up is the Arrowleaf balsamroot. Hardy and drought-tolerant, they belong to the sunflower family and grow in clumps that look like bouquets. Their bloom is followed by a similar yellow flower, the Mule Ear (aster family).

In early to mid-June various areas of the park are decorated with splashes of bright yellow that go on seemingly as far as the eye can see. Bottom line: if you like yellow, you'll find plenty of it in the Tetons this time of year. Even if yellow isn't your favorite color, it's hard to look at these plants and resist their charms. 

Anyone who shoots wildflowers knows it's more difficult to make good photographs featuring blooms than one might think. You're looking for plants that are as pristine as possible: not past peak and definitely not chomped full of holes from hungry insects. They need to be oriented correctly if you're going to compose for a bigger landscape. And so on. It can take a lot of roaming around fields before finding something that might work.

As with any type of nature photography, conditions are the biggest wildcard. This becomes a little more complicated when dealing with a show that is relatively brief. Like the autumnal foliage display, timing is everything; you want to catch the blooms when they're looking their best. Unfortunately, spring is the windiest time of the year in Teton Country. Wind and flowers don't mix well.

I've been shooting the Arrowleaf balsamroot for a number of seasons with mixed results. It was so windy last year I didn't make a single image I considered a keeper. Likewise, this spring has been brutal with day after day of sustained winds in the 20-30mph range. At some point, though, you just have to go for it. The flowers aren't going to wait.

I chose a window that, if the forecast held, promised a bit of a weather smorgasbord: windy followed by a period of relative calm followed by a chance of rain the next day. Approaching fronts in the spring always mean hang on to your hat and prepare to batten down the hatches, so while a chance of rain could mean interesting skies it just about guaranteed more wind.

Not ideal, but what is it they say about desperate times?

Upon arrival it was, as promised, blowing pretty aggressively. (My wind app indicated 21mph, which it refers to as "fresh." Which makes me laugh.) The flowers were being tossed around so much it was difficult to determine which of them might make good subjects for later but I could see those who were past prime and look for groupings that might make good compositions.  

I didn't expect to make any photographs until the next morning. Still, as the day began to wind down, I returned to an area I'd scouted earlier that afternoon. It had clouded over almost completely but the wind was much calmer. I figured I might as well wait and see what would happen. I shot for about an hour, experimenting with various compositions I thought I might try the next morning while keeping an eye on the sky. Surprisingly, the overcast began to break.

This park, though stingy with sunsets, looked as though it might deliver one.

Too much air movement remained to allow for tight shots of the blooms, so I switched gears and went for a wider composition. Better to have everything crisply in focus. The last image I made was the panoramic pictured below (it's three verticals stitched together) which captured the shadows created by the peaks of Grand Teton and Middle Teton as the sun dipped toward the horizon.  

Not at all what I anticipated. 


You never know what might happen.

Sleep TightSleep TightThe sun sets behind the Teton Range, bidding the wildflowers goodnight.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arrowleaf Balsamroot Grand Teton National Park spring sunset Tetons wildflowers Thu, 17 Jun 2021 07:50:00 GMT
Stay a Little Longer spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Green season is a magical time of year. It's even more special in the semi-arid wild, wild intermountain west due to its brevity. 

When the deciduous leaves first appear on the scene, they're lush and bright. They pop against the darker greens of their conifer cousins. Aspens and cottonwoods awaken from their winter sleep looking uniformly, spectacularly, luxuriantly lime. By mid-summer, the aspens will take on a deeper hue. Teton Valley IdahoThunderheadsThe Teton River cuts a path through the Teton Valley - which is never more lovely than in late spring and early summer, awash in green. Here, thunderheads climbing high into the sky dominate the scene.

Tetonia, Idaho
The cottonwoods will shift a little toward yellow. Some of trees will become stressed; those leaves might brown prematurely. For now though, they drink it all in. Literally.

Likewise, the fields and hillsides of spring are full of viridescent vegetation. The combination of runoff and precipitation paint the landscape with broad brushstrokes.

Add to that the vast expanse of agricultural land in Eastern Idaho, which - having recently been planted - is generally green right now regardless of the crop.

In a way it's a bit of bait and switch. Surprise! Don't get accustomed to the water. There isn't more where that came from...

Reality will set in when the rain stops falling and the snow has melted from the mountains; the plants will have to learn to make do.

As the trees shift into their mid-summer form, likewise the grasses and rabbitbrush will transform. Fields will become golden and brown. 

For now, though, we celebrate in the moment. Springtime green.

Sometimes the season lingers. Last year was one such glorious example. Well into July the greens hung around, thanks to significant snowpack and chilly temperatures. 

2021 is shaping up quite differently. Though it stormed often throughout the month of February, January and March didn't contribute much to the snowpack. When spring arrived apparently the rain didn't feel like coming along for the party. Precipitation has been spotty and light. Add to that unusually warm temperatures over the past 10 days; the mercury topped out at nearly 20 degrees above normal last weekend. It is most definitely dry.

I expect this year's green season will be achingly brief. 

If only we could will it to stay just a little longer.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth...
D.H. Lawrence

About the photos

Top: Afternoon thunderstorms rolling through Jackson Hole often create quickly changeable skies. If you're patient, you may see something special. The best of the show on this day was in the northern section of Grand Teton National Park, pictured here.

Middle: Idaho's Teton Valley bills itself as "The Best of Both States." It's undeniably beautiful - and much less crowded than the park. You're looking here toward the town of Tetonia with Mount Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton forming a spectacular backdrop. The Teton River originates in Victor near the Idaho/Wyoming state line and runs through the valley. It's a tributary of Henry's Fork of the Snake River. 

Below: Green season in Grand Teton National Park. This line of cottonwoods is lime green only for a brief time in the spring. The way the baseline of the trees almost perfectly mirrors the line of the mountains always catches my eye; on this evening the aftermath of thunderstorms moving out near sunset completed the scene.


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park green season spring Teton River Teton Valley Tetons Thu, 10 Jun 2021 07:50:00 GMT
Be The Best Rhapsody in BlueRhapsody in BlueTracy Arm Fjord

Near Juneau, Alaska
Photographers are their own best curators. They're also their own worst.

As the creator of the images, you know what you're trying to convey; you're intimately acquainted with the locations at which you often work; you know how you want to represent yourself as an artist. Who could be better positioned than you when it comes to identifying what ought to be included in your portfolio?

Still, it can be tough to make such decisions. 

A single photograph can evoke all sorts of memories. You recall the hours spent on location. The effort and expense required to get there. People you were shooting with or that you met along the way. What the weather was like. How long you had to wait before you could make the photo. Interesting travel adventures and/or mishaps on the way to or while on location. All sorts of things.

To be a good curator, you have to forget all of that. Emotions cloud judgement. You must be dispassionate and unbiased; easier said than done. 

Good curators are good editors. 

Step one is learning to overcome emotional attachments to images that don't represent your best work. 

  • It's a really strong composition - but there's some sort of technical issue which can't be addressed in post-processing. You want to love the photograph (you DO love it) but you see that problem staring back at you every time you look at it.
  • You drove a crazy number of miles to get to the location. Or invested a crazy amount of time to try to get those shots. Or spent a crazy amount of money. Or all of the above! The results weren't what you'd hoped for; still you want to have something to show for it. 
  • There may never be an opportunity to return to the place where you made the photo. The image isn't your best, but....
  • Your skills have improved quite a bit since you shot it, but the photograph brings back sentimental memories of something or someone.  

Does any of this sound familiar? These are the types of images that can be hard to cut but probably ought to go. That doesn't mean you can't continue to enjoy them; it's not like you're tossing them into a black hole or purging them from your hard drive. Consider them treasures for your permanent private collection.

Reserve the finest for your portfolio. You know the old saying, "You're only as strong as your weakest link." The idea is worth thinking about as you review your images and make decisions about which best represent your body of work.

[Note: there's a big difference between removing an image with flaws or which no longer stands up creatively versus pulling a photograph simply because it didn't generate a lot of "likes" when you posted it to Instagram or Facebook. Art is subjective. You will never please everyone. Some people love abstracts. Others dislike them. Some are drawn to grand vistas while others prefer intimate scenes. You say potato, I say.... Don't let social media dictate the measure of your work.]

Good editors also know when enough is enough: there can be virtue in brevity. Should your collection showcasing (fill in the blank with a location or specific subject matter) include hundreds - or thousands - of images? You may have many terrific photographs - but will people wade through it all? Are there redundancies? How many images are necessary to convey the message? Are they all equally good? Photographers must learn when, what and how much to remove. 

Portfolios evolve over time. Skills improve. We learn new post-processing techniques. Over the years, perhaps we look at the world differently, or pursue divergent subject matter. Creativity evolves. Add a few new images, remove a few older ones.

Quality, not quantity. Leave the viewer wanting more.

Remember - there are other avenues in which you can utilize some of the images you've opted to trim. Books. Presentations. Instruction. Articles. Licensing. Save them for another time or occasion.

It can be tough to curate your own work, but it's a skill that can be developed. As you become more proficient, you'll see that it's you who is best qualified for the job. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) editing photography portfolio tips Thu, 03 Jun 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Playing Favorites There's no such thing as a National Park I don't like. Each one is a treasure with unique charms. That said, I do have a favorite: Grand Teton. Mount Moran Grand Teton National ParkThe Great Grey FaceA long lens compresses this scene, framing Mount Moran with brilliant autumn color below and a stormy sky above.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

It's not number one on my hit parade because I live nearby; it claimed that position long before I moved to the Intermountain West. The first time I laid eyes on the park it reeled me in.

Love at first sight? "Awestruck at first sight" is probably more accurate. 

It's definitely not the kind of landscape I knew in my youth. As a product of the American Midwest, I had no experience with mountains. When I was growing up, kids in Northern Illinois went to Wilmot "Mountain" in Wisconsin to ski (960 feet). My family didn't travel much; when we did hit the road it usually meant heading out to Nebraska to see relatives. Not exactly alpine territory.

The heartland has many lovely features and I have great fondness for that part of the country, but (meaning no disrespect to Wilmot) mountains aren't among its signature sights. 

As an adult I started spending a lot of time in Colorado both for business and pleasure; I got acquainted with the Rockies. Denver. Steamboat Springs. Vail. Pike's Peak. The Rampart Range. Durango. Later I was introduced to the Appalachians. If you know me even just a little bit, you know how I feel about New Hampshire's White Mountains. Love, love, love. 

But none of that prepared me for my first glimpse of Grand Teton National Park - where the mountains reach out and smack you in the face. In a good way! 

The youngest range in the Rockies - and some of the youngest mountains in the world - the Tetons are rugged and not yet finished growing; the fault line lies at the base of the mountains with Jackson Hole on the other side. There are no foothills and absolutely no visual obstructions. Standing on the valley floor, you can look straight up to the peaks. More than 30 of them top 11,000 feet.

Though they span only about 40 miles, the Tetons are arguably one of the most recognizable mountain ranges on the planet.

So of course, everybody loves Grand Teton, right? It's the tallest mountain in the range and the star of the show. After all, the park is named for it. But as far as the Teton Peaks go, while the Grand is most definitely gorgeously grand, it's not my favorite.

I've got a soft spot for Mount Moran. 

Maybe it's not as flashy, but I think Moran is a looker. It's also a bit of a loner. Towering above Jackson Lake at the north end of the range, it stands by itself (in a manner of speaking). It features several active glaciers, one of which is clearly visible on its east face. If you're unfamiliar with the park, the photo above will provide a point of reference. That's Mount Moran at the far right of the frame. It's about a 30 minute drive from the general vicinity of Grand Teton to Moran Junction.

Certainly the Grand and the Cathedral Group are beautiful; how can you not want to spend time around them? I've made lots of photographs featuring Grand Teton, Mount Owen, Teewinot and their immediate neighbors.

Still, given the choice, I'd rather hang out with Moran.  

Part of the attraction might be that I prefer the north end of the park: Elk Flats, Willow Flats, Oxbow Bend, Pilgrim Creek, Jackson Lake. Notwithstanding the throngs of people you're likely to find at Oxbow waiting for sunrise on an autumn morning, it seems easier to get away from the crowds in the north. (You can also quickly escape from there to some pretty spectacular places not that far outside the park.)

Depending on the time of year or time of day it's not unusual to find wonderful little pockets where I'm nearly alone. Or am I? There's always magnificent Moran, standing watch over it all. Including me.

My favorite. 

Twilight Wedge Grand Teton National ParkAwakeningBright autumn foliage punctuates the Willow Flats landscape at daybreak while the twilight wedge tints the sky pink. With temperatures below freezing, steam rises above distant Jackson Lake as Mount Moran waits for the sun to rise and warm its face.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Mount Moran Rocky Mountains Teton Range Tetons Wyoming Thu, 27 May 2021 07:45:00 GMT
There's No Place Like Home As the crow flies, I live 60 miles from Grand Teton National Park. The Teton Valley is even closer. 

This proximity isn't always a good thing; it can become a bit of a trap. Often, aspiring nature photographers who also live in this area tell me they're frustrated by the fact that they can't be in the Park frequently. As a result, they say they have little opportunity to practice.

Au contraire!

The only way to learn and improve is to get out there and shoot. As much as possible. If you're only going to shoot when visiting an exotic or iconic locale, your camera won't get much use. A well-known destination isn't a prerequisite. The solution is simple. Put the camera to work at home. 

One of the best ways to develop both skill and creativity is to work locally. I guarantee you will find interesting subject matter within reasonable proximity regardless of where you live. The more you look, the more you'll see. The more you're able to "see" the interesting - and perhaps even the extraordinary - in the ordinary, the more potential compositions you'll find when you do visit well-known destinations.  

Unlike the crow, who can fly directly from my house to Grand Teton National Park, I'm stuck traveling via pavement and over two mountain passes; my mileage is higher than his. I'm nearby, but not so close that I can rush over to take advantage of rapidly changing weather conditions. Or drop by every week. It requires a bit of a commitment. Bottom line: I'm not constantly in the Park. I look for subject matter closer to home, too.

Especially in the spring, you'll find me in my yard and gardens with the macro lens. (I'm a pushover for plant life.) Last summer I started working on a series of abstracts featuring monsoonal storm clouds. I can watch them forming over the Teton Range from my front porch; you can't get much more convenient than that. Another series features a fire-scarred, dilapidated buck and rail fence just a few miles away. I've been shooting that off and on for a few years. Eastern Idaho is agricultural; once the crops are established I'll prowl around country roads looking to see what I can do with fields of canola or wheat or potatoes. And so on. 

Your camera doesn't want to be cooped up in the bag; pull it out and get to work!

You may never do anything with some of the images you make. It doesn't matter. It will be time well spent.  

Daydream BelieverDaydream Believer'Spring Snow' crabapple blooms
(Idaho Falls, Idaho)

Bloom CyclesBloom CyclesColumbine (Aquilegia caerulea Red Hobbit)

The Neglected Fence VIIThe Neglected Fence VIIBonneville County, Idaho


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park photography Tetons tips Thu, 20 May 2021 06:30:00 GMT
Serendipity Evening Glow Lupines White MountainsEvening GlowLupines watch as the last light of the day casts warm alpenglow on the Northern Presidential Range in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Jefferson, New Hampshire
During the course of my career in corporate America I spent a lot of time on the road (or more accurately, in the air) and logged many miles back and forth across the United states and to Puerto Rico - seeing a great deal of the country in the process.

That said, I wasn't exactly hanging out in Northern New England. In fact, the first time I set foot in New Hampshire had nothing to do with a business trip; traveling to Boston for an impromptu "foliage weekend" I drove north to Rye and Portsmouth, and then on into Maine as far as Kennebunkport to have a look around. 

Never in a million years would I have guessed then that I'd end up not just living in the Granite State - for many years, no less - but that I'd become so deeply attached to it. That I would explore what feels like nearly every square inch of it. That I'd spend countless hours capturing its beauty with my camera. That I would come to consider New Hampshire home just as much as I do my native Chicago.

Completely unexpected.

Tranquility BaseTranquility BaseThe Teton peaks reflected in the Snake River shortly after sunrise.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Relocating to Teton Country, by contrast, was an inevitability. I didn't want to leave the Northeast but when my husband purchased 40 acres in the Teton Valley the writing was on the wall. It was just a matter of when it would happen.

Suffice it to say the marriage between me and a semi-arid climate is not a match made in heaven. 

I miss water. The canopy of abundant maples. Oaks. Green summers. Top soil. And I'm most definitely not a fan of the relentless high winds here in the Snake River Plain. Still, I adore Grand Teton National Park. It stole a piece of my heart the first time I laid eyes on it some 25-years ago. There are worse things than living in the shadow of the Tetons.

Back when I first visited the twin Teton Counties, though, I would have scoffed at the idea I'd one day live in the area (there was absolutely nothing inevitable about it at that point) - just as I couldn't have predicted I'd be a Granite State resident less than two years after that spur-of-the-moment road trip from Salem, Mass. up the coast to see the sights. It's funny how things turn out. 

Interestingly, New Hampshire and the Tetons are my two favorite places to make photographs.

You never know for sure what's waiting at the end of the path. Sometimes it's a little bit of serendipity.

About the photos

Top: the lupines bloom in New Hampshire's White Mountains anywhere from late May until mid-June. It's a stunning show, with flowers ranging in color from white, pink, and peach to lavender, blue, and purple - along with some interesting hybrids. The year this photo was made many normally-prolific fields were sparse and the flowers were very late. I ventured further north than usual to find this field of purple spikes in Jefferson on the summer solstice. The black flies were thick that evening and left me covered with bites (to which I'm allergic) but the alpenglow on the northern Presidential Range was lovely; it was worth it. 

Bottom: in early summer the landscape around the Teton Range is lush and green thanks to the runoff; meanwhile the mountains retain quite a bit of snow cover. In my opinion it's the prettiest time of the year. This photograph was made along the Snake River shortly after sunrise. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Granite State New England New Hampshire Northeast serendipity Tetons Thu, 13 May 2021 07:35:00 GMT
And So It Begins Visions in TravertineVisions in TravertineCanary Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is preparing for its busy summer season; the west gates re-opened to auto traffic a few weeks ago. The other entrances will soon follow. My preferred times for working in Yellowstone are winter and the collar weeks when it's much less crowded, so I ran up there the other day for one last shoot before all the visitors arrive. As it was cold and windy with on-and-off precipitation, there were few people around. Nearly perfect!

The flood gates are already open in the Tetons, which remains at least partially accessible to vehicle traffic all year. Truth be told, it seems they never really closed; Grand Teton National Park set an attendance record in January. Apparently that wasn't a fluke, because March also saw record visits. (Seriously. March. Not exactly renowned as the month everyone wants to flock to the Tetons.) April's numbers aren't in yet but I expect they were big, too. 

Looks like it's going to be a busy summer! 

The inner loop road opened last Saturday, so most of the park is now drivable. There's already quite a bit of traffic - and the inevitable jams wherever there's a sighting of 399, 610, or Blondie with cubs in tow. Outside of the famous grizzlies, there are some pretty adorable bison calves romping around also.

Be advised you'll still have a little bit of a wait before everything is wide open. As of a few days ago Signal Mountain Road hadn't yet opened. The road down to Schwabacher's Landing and Pilgrim Creek Road also remain closed. This time of year foot access to places like Willow Flats, Antelope Flats, and Blacktail Ponds is restricted. That's usually lifted by the end of May.

After a very wet February with one snowstorm after another, March and April were dry. Really dry. (This doesn't bode well for fire season.) Unless the weather patterns shift soon it means my favorite time of year, "green season," will be truncated. Wildflowers usually arrive the first part of June; we'll see if the precipitation deficit impacts the timing of the blooms.

However Mother Nature decides to arrange her schedule and manage her appearance, it'll be beautiful. About that I have no doubt. You can't beat springtime!

About the photos:

The travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone are one of my favorite features of that park. I enjoy photographing them in all seasons and especially like to capture them abstractly. The image at the top is a "straight up" depiction of Canary Springs which includes some of the mountains in the distance for context. Below, thermally created steam drifting across the scene helps render another area of the same spring abstractly.

Two teen-aged girls who came by while I was working there were delighted by the otherworldly scene and exclaimed, "It's like Mars! Only white!"

It's fun to see people get excited about sights like this. And IS weird and wonderful. A little bit of Mars in the northwest corner of Wyoming.


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Mammoth Hot Springs Wyoming Yellowstone National Park Thu, 06 May 2021 07:35:00 GMT
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year April ShowersApril ShowersNewfields, New Hampshire With all due respect to composers/lyricists George Wyle and Eddie Pola - who wrote It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Andy Williams - I think they were off by a few months. Christmas is great, but in my book the most wonderful time of the year is happening right now. Spring. 

Each season has something beautiful to offer, but especially if you live in an area where winters are harsh, there's nothing like watching the earth reawaken after its long slumber. Crocus and snowdrops pop up their heads early, followed by tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Blooming forsythia paint with broad brushstrokes of yellow. Then come the rhododendrons. Redbud. Spirea. And my personal favorites, ornamental trees - especially crabapples. One after another, bloom after bloom, all of these plants transform a monochromatic, dormant landscape into a riot of welcome color. 

While this is happening, lawns turn green. Seemingly overnight trees leaf out; the canopy reappears and there is shade where yesterday there were only the outlines of branches. 


Spring comes later in the high-altitude, semi-arid Intermountain West, and it's more subdued than what you'll find on the other side of the 100th parallel, but still it makes its presence known here in a beautiful way. Surprisingly, crab trees (and lilacs, too) can be found in abundance in Eastern Idaho. Obviously they require an assist when it comes to watering but learning they could survive in this climate was a happy discovery; ornamental trees were promptly added to the landscaping plan for my new yard. As soon as they were planted the place started to feel like a little more like home.

Those trees are filled with buds and I expect will be blooming in the next week or so. 

Sadly, the display doesn't last long. Especially with the high winds which are all too prevalent in the Snake River plain, the show is even more fleeting. Maybe that's what makes springtime blooms all the more special. 

“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts
well out of proportion to their size.”

Gertrude Wister

Trees in Bloom, Beds Ready for PlantingAnticipationThe beds in Prescott Park's formal garden await planting as the crab trees in full bloom take center stage. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) The opening photo was made in my yard in New Hampshire. This crab tree in the front lawn, already beautiful due to its elegant shape, was also a prolific bloomer. When transformed into a springtime vision in white it was a show stopper. On this day rain fell gently; droplets clung to the petals. I looked for a grouping which could be isolated with a nice bokeh in the background and then waited for one of the raindrops to let go. 

Pictured below is the formal garden at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The beds are prepped and ready for planting, but until the annuals arrive it's all about the eight stunning Japanese crabapples. Planted in 1962, they're unusually large and create a wonderful canopy along the outside edges of the garden. When the blooms begin to drop, the ground will be blanketed in white petals; it will appear almost as if it has just snowed. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) blooms crabapple Eastern Idaho flowers New Hampshire Portsmouth Prescott Park spring Thu, 29 Apr 2021 07:55:00 GMT
Your Choice I'm often on my own when working in the field. While I don't mind it, it does influence some of my logistical decisions. 

Case in point: hiking alone in grizzly country. In Grand Teton, my home park, there are some trails I'll hike solo - but many I won't. Venturing into bear-prone areas with a companion means you'll make more noise and will be less likely to startle wildlife. Bear bells are always attached to my backpack (jokingly referred to by many as "dinner bells") and I carry bear spray, but adding a hiking partner is even better. Especially this time of year when the bears are coming out of hibernation with cubs in tow, one cannot be too careful - even with company.

I wouldn't get very far around here if I kept off every trail marked avoid hiking alone, so if it's a couple miles or less and will enable access to something I might want to photograph, I'll consider it. A few of those trails have ended up on my "I'd rather have company" list - like one I decided to scout early on an autumn morning after a sunrise shoot; it was going to take me to one of the glacially-created lakes at the base of the Tetons. Due to the early hour, there was only one other car in the parking area; it was very quiet. In we went: me, the bells and the spray. And the camera, of course. After having walked about three quarters of a mile, I began seeing quite a few huckleberry bushes. Uh oh. Grizzly snacks. To make additional noise I talked out loud and threw in some clapping for good measure, but it didn't ease my increasing discomfort. I turned around.

As for hiking solo in general, before I start on a path that's new to me I consider how well I know the general area, the weather, the terrain, the distance and rating of the hike, and the time of day. One thing I'm not crazy about - especially when I'm alone - is a poorly marked trail. On an early October morning in New Hampshire's White Mountains a few years ago I set out on a trail that was new to me. It had rained quite a bit overnight; the ground was covered with slick, wet leaves, many of which had just fallen. They completely obscured the path. Since the trail wasn't well marked to begin with, that thick carpet only made it more challenging. My car had been the only one at the trailhead so I knew there was nobody else around. I continued for a few miles before bailing out. So much of my attention was necessarily focused on navigation, I was no longer thinking in terms of potential photo opportunities. Not an enjoyable outing.

Especially when alone I'm keenly aware of my surroundings and listen to what my gut is telling me. While I dislike crowds, there can be safety in (at least a few) numbers. On my first trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument I saw only one other vehicle inside the Monument that day; it belonged to a fellow with whom I exchanged pleasantries as we passed on a trail. Shortly thereafter, he showed up at another location. After the third encounter I decided it was time to quit working for the day. The guy was probably harmless but it started to feel weird.

What else won't I do by myself? Serious backcountry - like out in the middle of nowhere deep inside Death Valley. Or remote areas within Idaho's Frank Church wilderness which require you to be dropped off and picked up via a small plane.

Let's also won't find me by myself in the wee hours of a pitch black night shooting the Milky Way in a far-off corner of a dark sky reserve.

With a group? Different story!


There are things I'm comfortable doing, and others I've decided aren't for me. As a result, there are some sights I'll probably never see. There are some photographs I won't be able to make. C'est la vie. I'm okay with that. The world is jam packed with interesting scenery; I won't run out of options. 

Over the winter in Grand Teton National Park I met a woman who told me she frequently comes up to Wyoming from her home in Colorado. Primarily a portrait photographer, she likes to make landscapes in her spare time. She travels alone. (Actually she did have some company; her sweet pooch was riding shotgun.) She commented about how seldom she encounters solo female nature photographers on her trips. I've experienced the same thing - not just in the Tetons, but most of the places I work. 

I share these anecdotes especially for ladies who might not have a local photography buddy. Don't let that keep you from getting out there with your camera. Explore the great outdoors on your own if you haven't already tried it! (By the way, there's something to be said for being in complete control of your schedule.) You may be far bolder and more adventurous than me. You might be less so. There is no right or wrong. Whatever works for you is the correct approach, and whatever you choose, you'll be able to make great photographs. 

Note: Taggart Lake Trail in Grand Teton National Park is pictured above. It's one of my favorite hikes in the park - in spite of its popularity. I tend to visit on the edges of the day when few people are around. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) bears Grand Teton National Park hiking New Hampshire Organ Pipe National Monument Taggart Lake Trail Tetons White Mountains Thu, 22 Apr 2021 07:35:00 GMT
Jump Out of the Box Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene.

Near Durham, New Hampshire

Back in the pre-digital days I used Kodak E-6 Professional Ektachrome transparency film. The photograph above (impressionistic reflections in the Lamprey River near Durham, New Hampshire) was shot with Ektachrome and is still one of my all-time favorites. 

There were constraints with film, many of which weren't issues at the time - it was just the way film worked. For example, the inability to switch ISO between images; if the film's speed was ASA100 Daylight, you were going to shoot at 100 for all 36 shots. Also, you had to be mindful about the rate at which you were going through film. Once you ran out of the rolls you had on-hand that was it for the day.

There was no such thing as immediate feedback. No histogram. No ability to review what was just captured.

And of course there was the continued expense of film and processing.

I'm glad I cut my SLR teeth on film, though. It encouraged thoughtfulness. Unless you wanted to expose dozens of rolls with nothing to show for it, you needed to learn and master the mechanics of photography - and of your camera - as quickly as possible. Early on, I carried a notebook in which I recorded the settings used for each image so I could better understand when I got them back from the lab what had worked, what hadn't, and why. I was careful about composition; what you shot was what you were going to get.

I worked hard to avoid making careless mistakes. Sure, I could make another exposure if I knew I'd gotten something wrong - but that reduced the available "click inventory." Worse were mistakes that went unrealized until the transparency came back, when it was too late.

During my transition period between film and digital, the lab got to be crazy expensive. It cost $40 per image to use their drum scanners to convert transparencies to high resolution digital files. As far as learning how to be ruthless about editing your own work, there was no better training than knowing you'd have to pony up 40 bucks a pop for an image that could be used on the computer.

While I appreciated my training in film, there's no denying the many advantages of digital. That said, one of them - the extraordinary capacity in terms of the number of images which can be exposed - was a sea change and took time to get used to. Old habits die hard! In the pre-digital days, especially when I was just starting out, I limited what I shot with the "big" camera. Most of the time it was landscapes, and most of those images were for specific projects. Now I had to remind myself that the river of cash flowing to the lab had - thankfully - dried up, and I had the capacity to shoot exponentially more photos.

In addition to project and assignment work, I could also shoot for me. It took a while to learn to jump out of the box I'd created for myself, but once I did it was liberating.

Nature photography is still my first love, main priority, and what I spend most of my time on. But with my new mindset I expanded how I define "landscapes." This created many additional opportunities in terms of subject matter.

Then I began photographing a variety of other things, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with nature. One of those "things" is professional tennis - something I'm pretty passionate about. And weirdly, though I had no intention of doing anything with the images I'd been making at various tournaments, it led to a project involving some large tennis clubs. A happy accident. 

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsLate-day shadows enhance the beauty of the service motion.

Rafael Nadal at the US Open
Flushing, New York

Whenever I'm working with photographers just starting out, I suggest they shoot the things that most interest them - whatever that might be. Avoid arbitrary restrictions. Avoid "the box." There's something to be learned regardless of the subject matter. Shooting what you like probably means you'll end up being more creative. You'll shoot more often. And in the end, you never know where those images might lead.

In other news

While it's been unusually cold in this neck of the woods (including some scattered snowfall yesterday), spring is still on the way - which means the local parks are getting ready to open!

The west entrance is scheduled to open tomorrow at 8am.
East entrance - May 7
South entrance - May 14
Via Beartooth Highway - May 28

Grand Teton
The Inner Loop Road will open to vehicles on the first of May.
The Jenny Lake shuttle to the Cascade Canyon trailhead is scheduled to begin running in mid-May.

There's also some really good news this year regarding campgrounds in Grand Teton NP. For the first time, you can make reservations. No more sitting in line for hours at the crack of dawn on your arrival day hoping for a slot. Progress! Gros Ventre opens first, at the end of this month. (Be advised: campsites for many dates all the way through summer and into autumn are already in very short supply.)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) creativity digital photography Ektachrome film New Hampshire photography tennis Thu, 15 Apr 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Seeing Differently Whether it's a phone, professional-grade photographic gear or anything in between, all cameras have something fundamental in common: they see quite differently than we do.

Think of the things our eyes can see (and do) that the camera cannot. We see in 3D. Our eyes can automatically adjust color balance. They can easily interpret scenes with broad dynamic ranges (like deep shadows to strong sunlight). The human eye can discern a great deal of detail in dark areas, and is very sensitive in low-light situations. Nature's JewelsNature's JewelsScores of droplets cling to a day lily leaf after persistent drizzle and light rain. (Newfields, New Hampshire)

We’re able to focus selectively. How many times have you taken a picture and noticed afterward that there were distracting elements included in the shot? Your brain ignored them. The camera can't.

One other important trait that we bring to the table is our ability to "see" with emotion. The camera is dispassionate.

On the flip side, the camera is capable of capturing things we're unable to see. It can render subjects in creative ways. Often the photograph is more interesting than the scene we saw with our eyes.

For example, the camera can create silky water or skies (by blurring movement); freeze motion (like a crashing wave or a hummingbird in flight); make things disappear (slow shutter + subject movement = poof!); view minute details (via the macro lens); create soft background blur; see tonality; compress perspective (with a long lens); and render faint nighttime objects very clearly (like the Milky Way).

The image you make is the result of a series of choices, from optics and settings to composition and perspective. It’s not simply a matter of understanding the differences between how you and your camera see a scene: it’s understanding how the camera might interpret it.

Lots of decisions! But also many possibilities.  

Sometimes what comes off the memory card will surprise you; there may be circumstances when you won’t know just how much the camera “saw” until you begin processing. The storm pictured below is one such example. It was wild; I had my hands full trying to deal with stability issues as I struggled in high winds to make the four verticals I'd need for a stitched panoramic. I liked the visual of the heavy rain partially obscuring the mountains, so underexposed to capture as much about what was going on in the sky as possible. I didn't know just how wicked the clouds overhead looked until I pulled the images off the card, opened them in Lightroom, and could appreciate what my camera had been seeing. Moulton Barn Grand Teton National ParkTurmoil AloftA strong storm creates stunning, turbulent skies and brings with it powerful winds. As it passes, the mountains are rendered as shadows by heavy rain.

T.A. Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) camera photography vision Thu, 08 Apr 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Beauty in the Less Obvious Especially when photographing in and around national parks, I'm always looking for different veiwpoints and alternate ways to capture the essence of the location.

Big landscapes are great; people like them. They sell. But intimate scenes are just as interesting and effective - and they're often more unique. A series combining small vignettes along with some more iconic landmarks enables the photographer to tell a more complete story.

I like the challenge of distilling a scene to its core elements. For me, the key to finding vignettes is to keep an open mind. I take my time and try to let the place guide me.  

At Moab, Utah - home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park - one of the "stories" (of course) is the red rock. Poking around the Colorado River just east of town recently I noticed some great looking trees. They hadn't yet leafed out; what caught my eye was the combination of their graceful shapes and the fact that they were really popping against the canyon walls (the sun had just poked through a mostly overcast sky which created spectacular backlighting). 

I walked around them for a while but couldn't find a good vantage point before losing the light.

While I didn't come anywhere close to making a photograph there (the camera never came out of the bag), I began looking out for other opportunities with similar isolated trees. 

Later that week along another stretch of the Colorado, I found more potential candidates. I spent quite a bit of time one morning with three different trees. As the sun continued to climb, the lighting improved. Sounds counterintuitive, right?

Mid-day light doesn't have the greatest reputation. To be sure, it can be tough to work with. It's flat. Harsh. It creates deep shadows. But depending on what you're shooting - like these trees - it can be just the ticket. The backlighting was spectacular. Without it you might not have even noticed them.

A few miles further downriver I found my "keeper." 

This tree, with its lovely lines, stood alone. Behind it was a canyon wall (a telephoto lens further compressed the scene). The dramatic backlighting made the branches pop. The tree nearly sparkled. 

It's a more subtle way of telling Moab's red rock story. 

As for that much maligned mid-day light, I made this photograph at about 11:45am. You can shoot in the middle of the day. You just have to know what to look for and how to expose properly.

GracefulGracefulNear Moab, Utah


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arches National Park canyon Canyonlands National Park landscapes Moab tree Utah Thu, 01 Apr 2021 07:15:00 GMT
Mighty Nice ImmensityTowering SandstoneThe monoliths at Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers are even more striking in warm, evening light.

Arches National Park, Utah
The Colorado Plateau (or Colorado Plateaus Province, as the National Park Service refers to it) encompasses 240,000 square miles and is home to 30 National Parks and National Monuments - not to mention many National Forests and wilderness areas. 

Five of the region's nine National Parks are located in Utah: the so-called Mighty 5.

Not to take anything away from Bryce, a park I love, but Moab really did hit the scenery jackpot. As if being home to two of the Mighty 5 (Arches and Canyonlands) isn't enough, many additional square miles of spectacular landscapes can be found outside their borders and not far from town.

Mighty nice. 

I just spent a week in Moab photographing the area. This was my third time there; I can assure you it never gets old, and that I will return again.

Each of my visits has taken place in late winter/early spring. This is advantageous in terms of staying ahead of the crowds (many locals will tell you the Mighty 5 advertising campaign launched in 2012 has perhaps worked a little too well), and also because I find the conditions to be generally more interesting during those months. The mountains are snow covered, it's usually not too cold and definitely not yet scorching hot, and the chances I might run into some type of weather are higher. 

True to form, a snowstorm deposited a few inches just prior to my arrival. Then there was some rain; one day offered the trifecta of snow flurries, rain showers and sun (at one point all three were jockeying for position concurrently); there were periods with nice cumulus clouds; there was complete overcast; there were some Robin's egg blue-sky days. I started every morning in ski jacket and gloves. Sometimes the cold weather gear stayed on all day, but by the end of the week I was able to lose it after a few hours. A smorgasbord!

Between them, Arches and Canyonlands encompass roughly 650 square miles. It's a drop in the bucket compared to a place as huge as Yellowstone, but size isn't the only measure of greatness.

If you haven't yet explored them, put these parks on your bucket list.

Shaped by TimeShaped by TimeDeparting storm beyond the Windows formations

Arches National Park, Utah
About the photographs:

The image at the top of the post was made in the Park Avenue/Courthouse Towers section of Arches National Park. In this area, it's not about arches: the massive monoliths are the story. When the sun begins to sink low in the sky, the sandstone becomes even more beautiful as it's cast in warm light. At this moment the balance was perfect: the main subject is lit with the shadow line positioned at its base.  There's obviously a huge range of contrast with the foreground completely in shadow, yet this is a single processed image. No HDR. (Shoot RAW; all the information will be there!) Since there had been quite a bit of snow the day before, I'd hoped for - and expected - more standing water on the rocky canyon floor to create reflections. That didn't quite pan out. Still, I was able to use the remaining puddles to help anchor the foreground and create a miniature leading line.

The panorama was also made about one hour before sunset, this time in the Windows section of the park. I was looking for a different vantage point from which to photograph Turret Arch (far left). Here I was able to take advantage of warm light as well as lingering clouds from afternoon storms - both overhead and clinging to the La Sal Mountains. The original plan was to make a tighter composition featuring only the rock formations, but as the sun began to light the clouds to the right of the rocks I shifted gears and added a few vertical shots to include in the final stitched image. Those clouds underscore and extend the horizontal line created by the rocks, while balancing and complementing them. The icing on the cake is the little dark cloud, accentuated by the patch of white behind it, hovering over and calling attention to the Turret. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arches National Park Colorado Plateau Courthouse Towers Mighty Five Moab Park Avenue Turret Arch Utah Thu, 25 Mar 2021 07:42:00 GMT
Over the Rainbow Summer storms that roll through Jackson Hole can be impressive. Often the leading edge brings with it spectacular cloud formations. When the storm arrives and begins to sweep over the mountains, thunder echoes as it bounces off the peaks; heavy rain creates translucent curtains which temporarily obscure the range.

As someone who grew up in a tornado-prone area and developed a lifelong fear of twisters as a result, it's ironic that I've turned into something of a storm chaser. The fact that tornadoes aren't common in Wyoming and Idaho might have some bearing on my willingness to stay and watch rather than run and hide. :)

I prefer to photograph these from a little bit of a distance where I can get better perspective. Sometimes, though, storms catch me by surprise - especially when they show up earlier than forecast or pack a bigger punch than expected. If heavy weather arrives quickly I head for cover in my vehicle, hope for no hail - and sit back to watch the show as it moves over me. 

Going back through some of the many storm images in my files recently, I found one I'd forgotten about. This was a "just for fun" photograph - but it might give you a sense of what one of these looks like when it's passing directly overhead. In this case I was in the middle of Grand Teton National Park and had opened the window so I could shoot while keeping the lens (mostly) dry.

This was a wild storm but very short-lived, which made for interesting imagery. As high winds rocked the car and rain came down in sheets, I could see clearing and blue sky on the other side of it. It conjured up the Wizard of Oz: somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue...

In the spirit of the movie, black and white and color are combined. Why not? Open the door to Oz in Technicolor!  

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Jackson Hole storm summer Tetons Thu, 18 Mar 2021 07:35:00 GMT
The Slow Collapse It's been nearly 25 years since I first saw Idaho's Teton Valley. The area has a rich agricultural heritage, so one of the things I enjoyed photographing on that first trip was barns - especially those that had seen better days. With their sagging roofs and worn siding they made for spectacular subject matter.

While it remains sparsely populated in comparison to other parts of the country, there are more than twice the number of people living in the valley now than there were in 1997. It's still rural but the area has changed quite a bit. Homes now sit on land that was once farmed. Quirky, ancient barns are harder to find. 

That said, there are old abandoned structures scattered around Eastern Idaho. Poke around enough and you'll stumble across them. 

I quickly became attached to a rickety farmhouse in Swan Valley. Every time I was in that area I made it a point to check on my little house. A vine had grown up one side of it and onto the roof; during the summer months it was as if the house was wearing a lovely green shawl. The opposite side had begun to cave in.

Though the conditions were seldom conducive to making anything more than a snapshot when I passed by, I often pulled out the camera (if not the "Big Boy" camera, at least my phone) to record its general health, so to speak.  

This is what it looked like not long after I first discovered it:

High winds and heavy snowpack will take their toll; every year the house sank closer to the ground. Each spring I wondered whether or not it would still be standing. It surprised me more than once!

One evening as I was heading home following a day of storm chasing in Grand Teton National Park, I wondered if I might have a chance to make a "real" photograph of the crumbling house. Coming over the second pass, I could see lingering angry-looking clouds to the west. If I was lucky they'd hang around and I'd be able to find a composition once I got to Swan Valley.

I had to move quickly but the conditions held together just long enough before the sun set. The stormy skies were a perfect complement to the house in its state of serious decline.

By the way, I made this photo in the nick of time; the little house didn't live to see the following spring. It's now a pile of wood.

Slow Collapse Swan Valley IdahoThe Slow CollapseAfter too many years of heavy snowpack and high winds, this abandoned farmhouse is nearly ready to give up the fight.

Swan Valley, Idaho

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abandoned farmhouse Idaho storm Swan Valley Teton Valley Thu, 11 Mar 2021 08:40:00 GMT
It's All Beautiful It's funny how you sometimes remember people whose paths crossed yours in only a tangential way. A guy who sat behind me on a Boston-bound flight originating from Salt Lake City a few years ago is one such character. We never exchanged a single word, yet I recall him because the poor bloke was ill: afflicted with an acute case of geographic snobbery. 

After we landed and as we were taxiing to the gate at Logan Airport, he began chattering to the woman sitting next to him about the natural wonders of New England. (Loudly. Apparently he was looking for a larger audience.) Turns out this fellow wasn't much of a fan, especially when it came to the mountains. "They're not mountains; they're hills." He said he found it ridiculous that people willingly spend time there. Anyone who would do that has never seen real mountains; they don't know any better. Blah, blah, blah.

Aside from the fact that he was more than likely insulting some fellow passengers for whom this was home (we were in Boston, after all), he was also clueless about the irony. Clearly, he was the one who didn't know better. 

We all have favorite places; that doesn't make others inferior. It's not a contest. It isn't a zero sum game.

As for the grandeur of expansive, imposing and exotic locations, of course they're spectacular sights. But intimate scenes and lesser-known (or little-known) out-of-the-way settings can be equally stunning. Sometimes Mother Nature shouts; other times she whispers. She's a multifaceted artist.

We have only to open our eyes and appreciate what's on display.

The towering peaks of the Rockies and Sierras are magnificent (though if you really want to talk "big" the conversation ought to begin with the Alaska Range). The mountains of the Eastern U.S. are magnificent, too - but in a completely different way. Each has its own charms.  

Prairies and loess hills, low and high deserts, wetlands and marshes, old growth forests, expansive plateaus, swamps and coastal lowlands, vast plains, rivers and lakes, glaciers, tropics, rainforests, can find all of that and more in the U.S. What a wild, wonderful, and varied cornucopia. Whether it's Nebraska or New Mexico or Tennessee - wherever you are - Mother Nature's features, unique to that place, are waiting to be admired.

It's all beautiful. Mirror Image Mount Chocorua New HampshireMirror ImageMount Chocorua ablaze in autumn color is reflected in the still waters of Chocorua Lake.

Tamworth, New Hampshire

Pictured here is Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Much smaller than its cousins in the west, it's never going to win an elevation award. But who cares? Chocorua is a looker. And according to my AMC White Mountain Guide, it's purported to be one of the most photographed mountains in the world. 


Calendar Notes

Last call for winter recreation in Yellowstone National Park! Though it has done nothing but snow for the past month, the schedule is what it is. If you're going to be in the area and want to get in one last run, the clock is ticking. Roads will close to oversnow travel at 9pm on March 15th after which crews will begin plowing in preparation for the spring season. Weather permitting, the West Yellowstone entrance will be the first to re-open on April 16th at 8am. 

In Grand Teton National Park the Inner Loop Road remains closed to vehicle traffic until May 1st, but don't count on it being groomed once we get past the middle of March. Moose-Wilson road will re-open sometime in May once plowing between Death Canyon Road and the Granite Canyon trailhead is completed.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Mount Chocorua mountains nature New England New Hampshire Rockies White Mountains Thu, 04 Mar 2021 08:40:00 GMT
Be Careful What You Wish For Not long ago I wrote about a snow deficit here in Teton Country. Most everyone had been wishing for more: farmers, winter sports enthusiasts, nature photographers. Finally, after a significant storm at the end of January, Jackson Hole looked like it should in mid-winter. Since then Mother Nature has been a real over-achiever when it comes to snow production. Round after round, the inches pile up as the powder keeps falling. There have been so many consecutive snowy days in and around Jackson I've been unable to get over to Grand Teton National Park since the first of the month. And now February is nearly over. 

Be careful what you wish for! 

The good news is I expect to be able to make winter photographs in the park well into March. Maybe much later.

I've grown accustomed to abundant snow. While living in New England I experienced more than one so-called 100-year winter. Speaking of which, how many 100-year weather events can one person rack up? More than I would ever have thought. The winter of 2015 went into the record books as one of the most extreme. That season I cleared more than 200 inches off my driveway, sidewalk, and even the roof (no, I didn't live in the mountains; this was at sea level). The really crazy thing was that most of that snow fell in a very short period of time - only about six weeks.

Here in the wild, wild intermountain west it's the wind that wreaks havoc; blowing and drifting snow creates whiteouts and closes roads. 

Bottom line: it's not always easy to get around. Some days you can't go further than the end of your own driveway. Even after the roads have been opened, it can be challenging to find places to park the vehicle once I finally get to wherever it is I'm hoping to work. 

When driving becomes too difficult, I look for subject matter closer to home - or at home.

I had three flowering crab trees in my yard back in New England. One year they produced an incredible bumper crop of tiny fruit. Not only was this a hit with the birds, it provided a pop of color. 

Early that winter a storm deposited about eight inches of powdery snow which clung to everything as it softly fell. "Storm" doesn't seem like the right word; it came down gently. There was no wind - not even a breeze. Completely still, it was also very quiet, and absolutely beautiful. I grabbed the camera, pulled on my boots, and made a beeline for the tree with the most fruit. At about 15 feet tall and situated on a gradual slope, it was no longer very easy to access. Getting enough height to isolate a single branch while incorporating a pleasing background required an assist from the stepladder. Start with uneven terrain and mix in the already substantial snowpack and you've got a recipe for trouble. Both the ladder and I teetered somewhat precariously and the whole operation no doubt looked rather ridiculous - but I'm happy to report that the camera and I escaped unscathed!

It was worth the effort to search for a good background; all that snow clinging to the many branches in the dense woods beyond created a wonderful bokeh.   

Nature's beauty surrounds us. One need not travel great distances to find it.

Fresh PowderFresh PowderPowdery early season snowfall covers the berries on a crab tree in winter.

Newfields, New Hampshire


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) crab tree Jackson New England New Hampshire snow Teton Country winter Thu, 25 Feb 2021 08:35:00 GMT
From Out of the Ashes Moving ranks near the top on the list of things I'd rather avoid. It's a lot of work. Disruptive. It can also be very expensive. That said, whenever I'd packed up and settled somewhere new it had always gone pretty smoothly - including some significantly long hauls (like Los Angeles to Northern New England). 

Then came New Hampshire to Idaho: the move from hell.

It was a train wreck from the moment the packers stepped foot into our New England home, but I'll skip ahead. We arrived at the new residence only to be informed that our belongings would be late. Apparently the moving company considered the contractually obligated delivery window to be merely a suggestion. To our astonishment, we discovered they'd never intended to begin the trip promptly. Instead, our goods had been transported to a warehouse in Portland, Maine where they now sat baking in stifling summer heat and high humidity (my piano has never been the same). When pressed, the GM was vague about what had transpired and gave no indication of when we might expect delivery. 

The dodging and evasion went on for weeks. Meantime, I had with me only what I'd been able to load into my vehicle for the cross-country drive. Most of that space having been claimed by computers, monitors, printers and camera gear, that left a few days' worth of clothing, a coffee maker, frying pan, other small kitchen items, and a few odds and ends. I set up my office on the floor. Slept there, too.

It was a happy day when the moving van finally pulled up - until the crew began unloading. The very first piece of furniture off the truck was badly damaged. A pole lamp looked like it had been used for batting practice. A floor vase was completely shattered. And so it continued. One after another, a sad parade of defacement: these things that had always been so carefully cared for in our hands. Incredulous at first, there was so much damage I became almost numb to it.

They say three moves equals a fire. This time it took just one. Four alarms.

As the truck emptied and I perused the inventory list another problem became obvious: a lot of things were missing. I spent the next five weeks wrestling with the clowns back in New England until finally some of our property was "discovered" in their warehouse - where it had been sitting all summer. But only some of it. The balance disappeared forever. 

Final tally: 2 1/2 months from initial load until the final truck showed up, $40,000 in damage, and lost inventory valued at an additional $10,000.  

You're probably thinking we must have gone with some questionable outfit to save a few bucks. Hire Looney Tunes Acme Movers and this is what you should expect, right? Actually it was a global relocation service provider. I'll bet you'd recognize the name! (Hint: it starts with North American and ends with Van Lines.) NAVL themselves described the result as "catastrophic." 

Welcome to Idaho.

What on earth does any of this have to do with the accompanying image?

In the middle of this protracted absurdity I needed a sanity break. I know of no better tonic for what ails me than nature. (There's also gin and tonic, it's true. But nature is better!) One early evening I loaded my gear and drove over to the Teton Valley; this would be my first time out with the camera since packing it up in New Hampshire. Monsoonal storms had been rolling through the area that day and I was hoping for interesting skies. 

By the time I reached Tetonia the rain had stopped and the sun was out; the light was golden. Storm clouds hung over the mountains and there were still occasional rumbles of thunder. There wouldn't be time to make it up into the Big Holes before losing the light; fortunately I found a wonderful compositional substitution. Before me was an idyllic pastoral scene: the Teton River meandering through farmland, cattle grazing, the town in the distance - all of it nestled beneath the towering three Tetons. And those clouds! It was magical. Just looking at it made me happy. Capturing it with the camera was the icing on the cake. 

Chaos was waiting for me back at the house, but for a while it didn't matter. Exactly what the doctor ordered!

The photograph is called Departure. Turns out it's a best seller (and also a personal favorite). 

From out of the ashes, the phoenix rises. 

Storm Existing Teton Valley IdahoDepartureAs a summer storm moves out just before sunset, the sky is full of character while the valley below is bathed in rich, warm light.

Teton Valley
Tetonia, Idaho

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Idaho storm Teton River Teton Valley Tetonia Tetons Thu, 18 Feb 2021 08:45:00 GMT
Best Sides Which is your best side?

Most people photograph "better" from one side versus the other. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that faces aren't completely symmetrical. Portrait photographers - whose job it is to make their subjects look their best - know which factors affect what the camera sees, and how to pose the person accordingly.

Are there best sides in nature, too? 

Sure! And like portrait artists, nature photographers employ some of the same methods to portray their subjects in the most pleasing way possible (like lighting and camera angles). There are limits, though. Good luck getting that bison to pose for you.

That said, I can think of a subject right here in my own "backyard" that's equally attractive from either side: the Teton Range. While the beautiful gneiss faces also lack symmetry (just like human models), it doesn't matter. They photograph equally well from the east and west.

Most visitors to Jackson Hole view the mountains from within the national park. A spectacular site, to be sure. Yet the many who never see the Tetons from the other side are missing something special.

Whether from Alta (WY), Tetonia (ID), Ashton (ID) - or so many other spots in between - there are some amazing views of the Teton Range (especially the central peaks of Mount Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton) waiting for those who venture over to the "quiet side." 

  • Ride the Dreamcatcher up to the top of Fred's Mountain at Grand Targhee for outstanding high-elevation vantage points.
  • Hike Table Mountain for a spectacular face-to-face view of Grand Teton.  
  • Head up into the Big Holes; look back across the sprawling Teton Valley at an expansive panorama of the opposing range.
  • Drive the Teton Scenic Byway between Ashton and Tetonia for sweeping vistas of rolling farmland beneath the towering peaks (if the potato or canola crops are in bloom it's an added bonus). 
  • Stand on the banks of the Teton River - or float it - and admire the western slope beyond. 

Gaze at the mountains from Jackson Hole. Then head over the pass to enjoy an alternate view. 

Do the Tetons have a best side? 

I don't think so. Both are remarkable.

Summer Snow Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingWest Side StoryFollowing a chilly spring, early summer kicks off with substantial snowpack remaining.

Western Slope - Teton Range
Alta, Wyoming


Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Alta Ashton Grand Teton National Park Idaho mountains Teton Range Teton Valley Tetonia Tetons western slope Wyoming Thu, 11 Feb 2021 08:16:00 GMT
Plan B I was supposed to be working in Death Valley this week. Actually, I've tried three times this winter to get there; this latest effort was only the most recent. Why the slippery schedule? Good question. I'm not the one who keeps cancelling my reservation. Though the park remains open as do the all-inclusive resorts within it, this one property marches to the beat of a different drummer.

Since I'm not going to Death Valley to golf or attend a conference (i.e. I just need a place to sleep and shower), this non-resort option is where I prefer to stay, though they haven't made it easy.

I'm nothing if not persistent. The property cancels, then gives me updated options regarding future availability, and I rebook. Over and over. It's become kind of a dance. Unlike Audrey Hepburn, though, I could've danced all night is starting to feel like a bad dream. It's time to move on. Returning to Death Valley will have to go back to the end of the queue.

Fortunately, there is a Plan B. (There's always a Plan B!) It's right here in the Tetons. After all, I'm in the thick of a book project involving the twin Teton Counties (Wyoming and Idaho) and work remains to be done. 

It's been a quirky winter so far in this neck of the woods. The season arrived early with bitter cold in October and a spike in snowfall during November, but then there were extended dry stretches in December and January. Just a few weeks ago, snowpack at both Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee (on the western slope) was running below average. The valley was quite a bit lower at about 50%. 

Winter sports enthusiasts aren't the only ones who have been hoping for more powder. Nature photographers have been hoping, too. Last week Mother Nature delivered with a storm that deposited more than a foot of snow in Jackson and even more than that in the park. The valley now looks more like it should this time of year. Jack FrostJack FrostSub-zero temperatures and fog create hoarfrost overnight, decorating the cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre River in white. While the peak of Grand Teton is in full sunshine, lingering fog below heavily filters the light.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Timing-wise, the icing on the cake was the prediction of subzero overnight temperatures for Grand Teton National Park a few days ago. Very cold nights often yield foggy mornings. Thick fog - especially around the Gros Ventre River - creates wonderful hoar frost which coats the surrounding vegetation. It's spectacular. Eureka! Off to Wyoming.

Both the cold and frost materialized as had been forecast. Thanks to that recent snowfall, however, access within the park - always restricted in winter - was even more challenging. It was hard to find a place to stash my vehicle and then get to a spot where I could create the kind of images I had in mind.

Yes; I ought to know better by now what happens in the park after a big snow. Yet I'm always a little surprised by just how difficult it can be to get around. 

Pulling off at the last place I could think of from which there might be a way to access the fog-shrouded cottonwoods, I figured at least I could make abstracts featuring the hoarfrost while keeping an eye out for bigger landscapes. 

Moving further into the trees, I looked over my shoulder toward the Cathedral Group - and there was my photograph.

With fog still swirling over the river, the frosted landscape surrounding me remained softly lit. I used a few of the trees to frame Grand Teton's peak, which was in full sunlight. The blue sky provided wonderful color contrast. 

This isn't your "everyday view" of the park. Or of the Grand. It's always gratifying to find a new way of depicting these jewels.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) frost Grand Teton National Park Gros Ventre hoarfrost snow trees winter Thu, 04 Feb 2021 08:15:00 GMT
You Can't Always Get What You Want AglowAglowThe Wizard's Hat appears to glow as abundant mist created by gusty wind and choppy seas is lit by the setting sun.

Bandon Beach, Oregon
The Oregon coast is beautiful but often mercurial.

If you're going there to photograph the magnificent sea stacks, timing is important. Summer and early autumn are typically the least advantageous windows; you're apt to get either clear and uninteresting skies or a persistent marine layer. Winter and spring, on the other hand, deliver more active weather patterns. While that means more rain, it also greatly increases the odds of dramatic skies as weather systems move through the area.

Improved odds are good but they're far from a sure thing. You can't always get what you want. Case in point: my first visit to Oregon's south central coast.

Anxious to hit Bandon Beach with my camera, I was also happy about the prospect of spending time at the ocean. Having lived near the sea for many years, I miss it. The Intermountain West is pretty but large expanses of water aren't exactly a signature sight. 

What I was not looking forward to was the 14-hour drive from my home to Bandon. I'm what you might call a reluctant road tripper. Living in this part of the western U.S., by necessity you're going to have to drive - a lot - if want to go anywhere. So I do. But that doesn't mean I like it.

I'd timed the trip for late April. That year, Bandon's early spring weather had been somewhat dizzying; each new five-day outlook seemed to bear little resemblance to what had been predicted only 24-hours before. I pushed my arrival back twice to avoid projected lengthy periods of rain. Finally succumbing to forecast lottery fatigue, I committed to a schedule and hoped for the best. 

As I made my way across eastern Oregon's high desert, the mercury topped 80 degrees (double digits above the April average high). There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Odd. Crossing the "Oregon divide" into the lush green part of the state, it was still unseasonably warm and the skies remained clear. Robin's egg blue. I started to get a little concerned about the conditions. Where were the partly cloudy skies that had been forecast?

Once I was within 90 minutes of Bandon, there they were out on the horizon: clouds. Just what I'd wished for, and just in time for sunset! Perfect!

Or not.

What I saw in the distance was actually a thick marine layer. There were no cumulus clouds drifting above Bandon. No sunshine, either. There would be no sunset that night. 

The weather apps said not to worry so I didn't. I used the rest of the afternoon and early evening to walk the beach, familiarizing myself with the sea stacks and thinking about possible compositions. I listened to the ocean. And then I got some rest, anticipating a productive day ahead.

I'll bet you can guess what happened. Rain. (So much for the forecast.) It wasn't a complete washout; sometimes it just drizzled. But this went on and on. Not just that day, but the next, and the day after that as well. Adding insult to injury, it was the worst kind of precipitation. No dramatic, stormy skies. No rainbows. Just flat, white nothingness overhead. 

I drove up and down the coast a bit hoping I could outreach the featureless ceiling. This being unsuccessful, I switched gears and began looking for intimate compositions along the beach featuring the surf and the sand. I switched to black and white to emphasize the moodiness of the monochromatic landscape. You've got to play the hand you were dealt.

Still, I was prepared each morning and evening to capture a sunrise or sunset, just in case. I kept a close eye on my radar app, just in case. And as the clock ticked down to the final hours of my stay, something wonderful happened. There was a break in the clouds - and it persisted long enough for a beautiful sunset to develop.

Though it was low tide, it felt otherwise; high winds pushed the sea forcefully back onto the beach and created heavy mist. My lens cloth got a workout as I continually checked the glass for spray. More than once the icy water crashed up, over, and into my muck boots, the retreating waves doing their best to knock both my tripod and me off our collective feet. The force of that surging water against the tripod could easily cause unexpected camera movement so it limited the length of time I was able to leave the shutter open. We take what we're gifted and make it work.

The color was short-lived; the overcast soon returned. It began raining again overnight. Very early the next morning I pulled into my favorite little coffee kiosk in Bandon to pick up a cup of hot roasted rocket fuel, and then began the long drive back to Eastern Idaho.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bandon Beach ocean Oregon photography sea stacks weather Thu, 28 Jan 2021 08:30:00 GMT
Who Makes the Photograph? I’ve got good news for everyone whose bag doesn’t contain the latest flagship pro body and hottest new accessories. Your gear is important – but your gear doesn’t make the photograph. You do.

Your eyes, your ideas, your perspective, your creativity and your experience are more important than model numbers and price tags. So don’t get hung up about the fact that you haven’t yet upgraded to….whatever. That zippy new camera body getting all the press might make it possible - or easier - to do certain things, but in and of itself it does not have the power to make you a better photographer

Not every shiny new thing that hits the market is a "must have." Busting the budget is not a prerequisite when it comes to making good images.

That said, gear can augment your artistic abilities. Some items are essential and definitely worth the investment. Once purchased - if properly cared for - they'll remain in service for a long, long time. 

Lenses are more important than the camera body. Good quality glass produces good quality images: sharp and distortion free. It always makes sense to buy the best you can afford. In addition, lenses hold their value. Some of the first Nikon lenses I purchased nearly 30 years ago remain useful. (Most Nikon lenses can be used with most Nikon bodies dating back 50 years; the mount is consistent and backward compatible.) I’ve sold other lenses along the way for nearly what I paid for them. Contrast that to the number of camera bodies that have come and gone over the years, particularly since the advent of digital photography. They depreciate rapidly.

If you’re shooting landscapes, a tripod is part of the equation. That's a given. Panoramics and long exposures require one. Importantly, the tripod enables you to slow down and carefully consider your composition. It allows you to select the ideal ISO and f-stop for any situation. But not all tripods are created equally. Investing in quality will pay dividends.

Unfortunately, tripods (along with camera bags) are among the most difficult items to purchase since there are very few physical camera stores remaining with substantial product inventory on site - which means unless you're lucky enough to live in close proximity to a place like B&H in New York, you can't pick these up and get a feel for them. Whatever you ultimately choose is, in a way, a blind purchase. 

I’ve owned both Manfrotto and Gitzo tripods but for me there’s no comparison to Really Right Stuff. I have two: the full-size Versa carbon fiber and the more compact Ultralight (a good travel solution when space is a consideration). I use the RRS BH-55 ball head and L-plate quick release system. RRS products are expensive but they're superior and will last. I’d never go back. 

Good filters are like good lenses: the better the quality, the better the output. Especially when you've invested in superior-quality lenses, don't stick LushLushHall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest

Olympic National Park, Washington
cheap filters on them! Fortunately, digital photography and processing have eliminated the need for many of the filters that were once essential. But because not everything can be addressed in post processing, two filters remain indispensable: the polarizer and the neutral density. For example, if you're photographing wet foliage you'll need a polarizer to knock back all the glare. 

The image posted here was made in the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park. On that day, it was raining at a pretty good clip. Everything was soaked but the bark and ferns were especially shiny. You can't remove glare after the fact when sitting at the computer. It would have been impossible to create usable photographs at Hoh without a polarizer. 

Quality filters are expensive, though. Those two filters, the ND and polarizer, can set you back hundreds of dollars. If you need to prioritize, opt for a good polarizer first. 

But wait: what if you have a variety of lens sizes? Save some cash by using a step-up adapter ring. My Nikon wide-angle zoom and mid-range zoom both accept 77mm filters, while my 70-200mm’s filter size is 67mm – so I use a 67/77 adapter on the latter lens. (Mine came from B+W, a German optical manufacturer.)

Bottom line: equipment can impact your work in a positive way, but there's much more to photography than whatever it is you're carrying with you from one location to the next. Regardless of what's in your bag at the moment, remember who's making the photo. You. Not your gear.

"Gear is good. Vision is better."
-David duChemin

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) equipment gear photography tips Thu, 21 Jan 2021 08:25:00 GMT
Color My World A few months ago I began tinkering in my studio with abstracts created from the interplay of sunlight and liquid. Like making abstracts featuring subject matter in the natural world, it's a great creative exercise. However, these are quite different in that I have complete control over the objects and, because I'm working indoors, Mother Nature isn't calling the shots.   

While the basic building blocks for each image are the same, the possibilities are nearly limitless depending on which specific components are chosen and how they're combined (such as the shapes and characteristics of the vessels, which colors and color combinations are used, and whether the light is soft versus hard). 

What one might "see" in the finished images is also limited only by the imagination: it could be the surface of an otherworldly planet or the sun setting at the ocean's shore. A kaleidoscopic flower, a skyscraper, or a waterfall. 

The simplicity of the setup might surprise you. There is no strobe or artificial light of any kind. The camera is hand held. To date, I've used only a single lens (56mm LensBaby Velvet). The subjects are arranged within a very small area - roughly six square feet or less. As for post processing, it's bare bones; these images essentially come straight out of the camera. Sometimes the orientation is shifted or there's some cropping, but that's about it. 

I've shot hundreds of these but am selective about which make the final cut. Currently I'm developing pairs and triptychs based on similar color palettes. When I return from working in the field, I'm right back to my weird and wonderful colors.

I've included a few images from the series along with this post. What do you see?




(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstract photography abstracts color Thu, 14 Jan 2021 08:24:00 GMT
And Now For Something Completely Different More than one monthly attendance record was shattered in Grand Teton National Park during 2020. September's year-over-year increase was 17%, while October's was a whopping 88%.  

To give you an idea what that means in real numbers, there were nearly 603,000 visitors during the month of September and more than 350,000 in October. (Nearly 711,000 dropped by in August.)

That might not sound very appealing if getting away from crowds is what you're after.  

There's a remedy for all those people, though, and it's called Winter. The park is wonderfully empty this time of year. It's also wonderfully beautiful; the winter months offer excellent opportunities for outdoor photographers.

Racing StripesRacing StripesBeautiful bands of low fog are suspended beneath the Teton Peaks

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Sound inviting? It is - but be prepared for a different kind of experience.

Many park roads are closed in the winter. Those that remain open can be treacherous, especially if there has been recent snowfall. Areas that are easily accessible during the summer months may be reachable only on foot with snowshoes or cross country skis. Others, like much of the Snake River flood plain, are entirely off-limits to humans. That means no hiking in to Schwabacher's Landing. Or down to Blacktail Ponds.

It's often bitterly cold. You need to be dressed properly.

But the days are short, the shadows are long, the light is soft (you can work all day), and the alpenglow can be spectacular. 

There are still plenty of animals out and about if you're into wildlife photography. The elk refuge is packed. Bison have moved to the south end where the conditions are a little less harsh. Bighorn sheep hang out around Miller Butte. Moose can be found around Antelope Flats and near Kelly.

Also it might interest you to know you can find lodging in Jackson during the winter months without taking out a second mortgage on the house to pay for it. What's not to like about that? (I exaggerate. However, if you've visited in the summer or autumn you know what I'm talking about.)

For me, this time of year also means I put less mileage on the vehicle since I generally focus on the southern half of the park during the snowiest months. 

A winter visit to Grand Teton National Park is completely different and something special. As long as you're well-prepared, you will most certainly enjoy it.


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Jackson national parks photography Tetons winter Thu, 07 Jan 2021 07:45:32 GMT
King of the Hill CountdownCountdownNew Year's Eve torchlight parade and fireworks at Snow King - Jackson's oldest ski hill (1936) and the first ski area in the state of Wyoming. (Jackson, Wyoming) Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, New Year's Eve and fireworks are an inspired pairing. 

Though you won't find me painting the town red on the last night of the year, if there's a fireworks show nearby that's a different story. 

Since I was working in the Tetons on a photo shoot for a few days over the holiday, I made sure to punch my own ticket for the pyrotechnics hosted by Snow King Ski Mountain in Jackson, Wyoming.

The torchlight parade which usually draws many, many participants was cancelled at the eleventh hour, but it was wonderful to see about a dozen ski club members carry on the tradition. The slopes would have felt a little neglected without this.

Not knowing whether I'd have trouble securing my preferred vantage point I arrived nearly two hours ahead of time. It was a long wait in brisk weather (15 degrees Fahrenheit); by the end of the show my fingers were numb in spite of the chemical heat packs stuffed into my trigger mittens. But who cares? I got my fireworks fix. 

A good way to step into 2021!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) fireworks Jackson New Year's Eve Show King Wyoming Sun, 03 Jan 2021 00:36:12 GMT
Happy New Year First NightFirst NightAs the chapter closes on one year, the fireworks show at Portsmouth, New Hampshire's annual First Night celebration helps to ring in the next.

"Life is like a camera.
Just focus on what is important
and capture the good times.
Develop from the negatives;
and if things don't work out...

...take another shot."


Here's to a year filled with good light and interesting subject matter.

Cheers to you and yours.

Happy 2021!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) 2021 New Year Thu, 31 Dec 2020 08:22:00 GMT
Merry Christmas! All is Calm, All is BrightAll is Calm, All is BrightAmidst vibrant colors everywhere on the grounds, this little vignette - illuminated with only white light - was quietly beautiful in a completely different way.

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
Lisle, Illinois

This image, which I made at the Morton Arboretum in suburban Chicago, always reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas carols - "Still, Still, Still." Heavy snow which had begun falling earlier that afternoon continued to blanket the landscape as color faded from the sky, transforming already beautiful scenes into something truly magical. 

Amidst all the fantastic, colorful displays which are the hallmark of the annual "Illumination" holiday show, stood this quiet little vignette in the distance - lit only with a few white lights. 



Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas. 

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed,
The world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
'Tis the eve of our Saviour's birth.
The night is peaceful all around you,
Close your eyes,
Let sleep surround you.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
'Tis the eve of our Saviour's birth.

Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.
While guardian angels without number,
Watch you as you sweetly slumber.
Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.

Traditional: Austrian

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Chicago Christmas Christmas Carol Illumination Morton Arboretum Still Still Still Thu, 24 Dec 2020 08:18:00 GMT
The Christmas Star Tonight's the night! The Christmas Star is here and will be at its most brilliant this evening. (It seems fitting that this should occur on the solstice - the longest night of the year.) 

It's actually not a star at all, but Jupiter and Saturn pairing up to light the sky as if they were a single mega-star. A "Great Conjunction." It's an illusion, of course, but from earth it'll look like they're right next to each other. Put two celestial giants together and you get something big and bright.

You'll be able to see it with the naked eye even if you live in a populated area. Dark sky reserve not required.  

Whether or not you're into astrophotography, this will be a treat; it isn't something that happens every day. Or year. Or decade. Or lifetime. In fact, it's been nearly 800 years since a Great Conjunction like this one - happening at night and this near to earth - has been visible to sky watchers (it was March of 1226). 800 years. And you'll have to wait 60 years for the next extra-close one. 

So as far as Great Conjunctions go, this one is a big deal. Hope for clear skies.

Some astronomers have theorized that the Star of Bethlehem referenced in the Gospel of St. Matthew might have been a Great Conjunction. Several occurred around the time of the birth of Christ. 

Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright...

Since this event happens to be taking place during the holiday week, the "Christmas Star" moniker is appropriate. Wonderful, actually. And after the way this year has played out, a little bit of extra sparkle from up above is more than welcome.  Transparent TreesTransparent TreesThe Magic of Christmas at Butchart Gardens

Victoria, British Columbia

To see it, you'll need an unobstructed view of the southwestern sky. About 45 minutes after sunset you should be able to find Jupiter and Saturn hanging out together low in the sky; they'll be visible for about an hour until they set. 

As an added bonus, you may be treated to a few shooting stars courtesy of the Ursids meteor shower tonight and into the wee hours tomorrow morning (though you'll probably need to get away from light pollution to see those).

So whether or not you're going to pull out the camera gear, why not kick off Christmas Week with a little star gazing? After tonight, every time you look at a star shining from the top of a Christmas tree you can remember the time you got to see the real deal.

Don't miss it! Take some time this evening to look up!

(If Mother Nature isn't cooperating and you're socked in with cloud cover today, you're not out of luck. Jupiter and Saturn will remain close to one another for the next few days. Still worth seeing even if not quite as brilliant as this evening. Try again when the overcast lifts.)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) astronomy Christmas Star great conjunction Mon, 21 Dec 2020 08:05:00 GMT
Bundle Up Icy GripIcy GripOn this early morning with temperatures hovering at more than 20 degrees below zero, fog is suspended over the Madison River and trees are coated with hoar frost. The first rays of sunlight touch the mountains beyond.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

"To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake
it is necessary to stand in the cold."

There is a magical transience to the winter landscape. The transformative powers of a fresh blanket of snow (or hoar frost created by freezing fog, or an ice storm, or heavy snow as it's falling) are considerable, yet fleeting. Otherwise ordinary locations can appear fantastically beautiful when decorated with snow and ice.

It's a terrific time of year to make unique photographs - as long as you're willing to deal with plummeting temperatures. 

Once upon a time I was most assuredly in the "unwilling" camp. I don't love the cold and am cold-sensitive. 

That was before I realized there's actually no 'bad' winter weather, only 'bad' clothing. (More accurately, bad clothing choices. Which I guess would be poor preparation.) Textile technologies, from the protection layer to the insulation layer, have come a long way. If you're dressed properly, it's possible to stay reasonably warm in very harsh conditions - even when standing around waiting for the light to change. 

A little GORE-TEX here, perhaps some Omni-Tech there, a base layer, good boots, hat and gloves, then toss in a few chemical heating pads for good measure  - and the world is your oyster!

The photo above was made in Yellowstone National Park just as the sun was coming up on an early February morning. It was -24 degrees Fahrenheit. You see a thick layer of fog hovering over the Madison River, which never freezes thanks to super-heated water from the park's geothermal features. As the clash of temperatures becomes more extreme, hydrothermally-created conditions - like this fog - become more spectacular. 

The colder the better. 

The mercury never made it north of zero degrees that day. (Most of the time it was in negative territory.) But I was out in the field from roughly 7am until 5:30pm.

I'm still cold-sensitive, but I shoot all season long. It's all about the clothing.

The winter months can yield excellent images. Don't go into hibernation. Grab that camera and get outside!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) cold weather photography winter photography Yellowstone Thu, 17 Dec 2020 08:44:00 GMT
Feeling Crowded? Last week's Christmas Project post prompted a few questions about navigating around crowds. In short, how can you make these types of holiday images without people getting in the way?

It can definitely be a challenge. After all, cities and towns alike are hustling and bustling during the Christmas season. 

Further complicating the "people" factor - for me, anyway - is an aesthetic preference: I try to avoid pitch black skies in my images featuring holiday lights, which means working late at night (when more people are tucked in bed and there's some elbow room) isn't the best option.

Sometimes colorless skies can't be helped. For example, some venues (like botanic gardens or zoos) don't begin their shows until it's nearly dark. But if I have control over the schedule, I prefer that beautiful, deep blue/purple you get overhead just before all the color fades away. The window for that kind of sky lasts for only about fifteen minutes and in December it happens early: beginning around 4:45pm local time in places like Boston, New York, and Chicago. At that time of day you've got commuters, holiday shoppers, and tourists all on the sidewalks at the same time.

Following are three solutions to the people problem:


Depending on the location and/or how you've composed the shot, you may be able to work in the midst of a sea of humanity and still avoid including any of them in the image.  

Low CeilingLow CeilingOn a misty evening just a few days before Christmas, the ceiling dips lower and lower - dancing with the top of the Hancock Building before nearly obscuring much of the structure an hour later. Two eras of the city are represented here: the landmark Pumping Station (built 1869) and the Hancock (1968).

Chicago, Illinois

This photo of Chicago's historic pumping station tower juxtaposed with the Hancock Building was made at the corner of East Chicago Avenue and North Michigan Avenue at about 5pm a week before Christmas. If you're unfamiliar with the city, that's smack dab in the middle of the main shopping district and directly across the street from the landmark Water Tower. It was like a scene straight out of the song "Silver Bells" - city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, shoppers rushing home with their treasures. Because I was focusing upward, though, that didn't matter. The only challenges were carving out a spot large enough to set up my tripod, trying to keep from getting bumped, and stability issues (I only partially opened the tripod's legs to avoid creating a tripping hazard). 

Side note: I know, I know. Technically speaking, it's not the John Hancock Center any longer. As with the Sears Tower, there has been a name change. And like the Sears Tower, which I continue to refer to as the Sears Tower, this remains the Hancock in my book. Later we can discuss Comiskey Park. :)

Slow Shutter

As long as people aren't stationary, don't forget: you have the power to make them disappear from the shot!

The lower the ISO, the longer the shutter will have to be open to get the correct exposure. The longer the shutter remains open, the more motion begins to disappear. 

Grand Central TerminalGrand Central TerminalThis Midtown Manhattan landmark is ready for the holidays.

New York, New York

According to the clock on the building's facade, this photograph of the 42nd Street/Pershing Square entrance to Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan was made at about 4:55pm. I was surrounded by pedestrians. Obviously! Everybody was making a beeline for mass transit as the workday came to an end. There was also a lot of vehicular traffic. Yet all you see are a handful of people and the streaking lights created by a passing automobile or two. 

I used an ISO of 64, which enabled me to keep the shutter open for many seconds. As a result, all those people hustling in front of me and around the terminal's entrance "disappeared." I waited for parked taxis to drive away and for the nearby stoplight to lend an assist. Whenever it cycled to red, everyone waiting to cross 42nd Street got moving.  

Get Up Early 

The very best solution to beating the crowds is to shoot in the morning. After all, that fifteen minute window of deep blue skies doesn't just happen at night. 

In my experience, the vast majority of municipalities keep the Christmas lights on all night. Dusk to dawn. (It's not true everywhere, of course. I've been disappointed a few times.)

Even in large cities, you might be surprised how few people are out and about early in the morning. This includes New York. Which never sleeps. Those who are up and at 'em typically aren't hanging around looking at Christmas decorations. They're on their way to work. Or out for a run. Or whatever. First thing in the morning, you'll lose nearly all of the tourists and definitely all of the shoppers. 

Situated in the heart of downtown Victoria, B.C., the grounds around the Parliament Buildings are very busy in the evenings over the holiday season; everyone wants to see the beautiful decorations. The night before I made the photograph below, a huge crowd gathered to celebrate the lighting of the city's official Christmas tree (located on the grounds). And they lingered. I stopped by at 11pm, willing to shoot with a black sky - yet people were still hanging around. In the pouring rain.

Very early the following morning, but for two security guards, the place was empty. Perfecto! 

AglowAglowParliament Buildings and Front Fountain, ready for for Christmas.

Victoria, British Columbia

Now you know why there are so many deep blue skies in my Christmas Project images - and how I've been able to capture many cityscapes with nearly empty sidewalks.

I've found photographing holiday scenes to be addictive. It's also somewhat exhilarating not to have to worry about whether or not there's cloud cover, or whether or not there will be a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Interesting conditions overhead are a bonus but not a prerequisite. 

Light up the night!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas lights cityscapes holdiay how to photography tips Thu, 10 Dec 2020 08:37:00 GMT
The Christmas Project Part fine art, part photojournalism - and 100% festive. Though The Christmas Project didn't begin as an assignment, it quickly took on a life of its own and earned a slot on my annual shooting calendar. This marks its tenth year.

Back in 2010, I decided to head into Boston over Thanksgiving weekend to photograph the giant Faneuil Hall Christmas tree. Why? I'm not sure. To say I'm not a fan of the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping orgy would be a glaring understatement. No matter how much I enjoy Christmas lights and decorations, the idea of wading through that late-November frenzy to see them is pretty much a non-starter. By then, I'd lived in New England for 15 years and had never once felt the slightest urge to brave the crowds in order to admire the Faneuil Hall Marketplace decorations over Thanksgiving. And until then I hadn't typically photographed that type of subject matter.

Yet somehow there I was with my camera. (Not just once, but twice over that long weekend.) Within ten days I'd worked five locations. Off to the races!

Had I lived in another part of the country, I doubt the chain of events would have played out in the same way. It's hard to beat New England when it comes to quaint - and plentiful - holiday scenes. Bandstands and gazebos are everywhere; even many of the smallest are decorated. Town squares are reminiscent of scenes from vintage Currier and Ives lithographs: red brick buildings, cobblestones, white church steeples, old fashioned streetlamps, wreaths hung on windows, candles aglow. With a nod to the region's nautical heritage, there are Christmas trees decorated with miniature buoys. Others are built from lobster traps. Lighthouses are adorned with wreaths - and some wear twinkling holiday lights.

Conversely, for some really-really-big-city-Christmas-glitz I could hop in the car and head for Midtown Manhattan. 

Since moving to Idaho, the project has gotten a little more complicated and now generally involves air travel.

I typically start mulling over potential locations for the next year as soon as the current season's images are processed. Washington, D.C. and Edinburgh, Scotland (the latter being one of my favorite cities on the planet) were on the short list for 2020. Until 2020 unraveled. 

So for the first time in a long time I've had to call an audible. Having ceded the skies to Rudolph and Santa this season, I'm left with whatever is reachable by car. It's the wild, wild west or bust! Quite the conundrum. 

The intermountain west is spread out, sparsely populated, and many municipalities are a wee bit lacking when it comes to decking the halls. ("Wee bit lacking" is a wee bit charitable. I've poked around enough business districts over the past few years to know.) String some lights, people!

Bottom line: it's not easy to find new subject matter. 

I've narrowed the possibilities down to five locations scattered across four states - though Mother Nature will have the final say. One thinks twice about driving for many hours in a winter storm to photograph holiday cheer. I'm not sure how this is going to play out but the calendar says I need to get a move on.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a throwback to the very beginning: the infamous Faneuil Hall tree that called my name and got this whole thing rolling. The tallest Christmas tree in New England, that year it was even taller than the one at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Behind it stands my favorite structure in Boston, the Custom House Tower. 

This year at Faneuil Hall it's Bah Humbug and a lump of coal for your stocking: there is no tree. Scrooge lives.

Not to worry; he's not going to ruin this party. Feeling like some Santa Claus, ho ho ho and mistletoe? Follow the link below!

The Christmas Project

Star of WonderStar of WonderThe massive Faneuil Hall Christmas tree reaches high into the sky, lighting up the night along with the Custom House Tower.

Boston, Massachusetts


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Boston Christmas Project Christmas Tree Faneuil Hall holiday Massachusetts New England Thu, 03 Dec 2020 08:25:00 GMT
Happy Thanksgiving Chapel of the Transfiguration Grand Teton National ParkThe ChapelThe Chapel of the Transfiguration is sited - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. The log structure was built in the 1920s and placed on the national register of historic places in 1980.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. - wishing you and yours a very happy holiday.

I'd like to take this opportunity to convey a special thank you to readers who stop by here regularly to see what's new, and to those who've joined me on photographic excursions this year in the Teton Valley. 

I had expected to have some new images to share with you this week from Death Valley, but like most everything else in 2020 my shooting schedule has been turned on its head. That latest disruption involving the California desert will be (hopefully) only temporary; let's just say I didn't use permanent ink when crossing it off the calendar. It's now tentatively on the books for late January. 

Closer to home, I expect to be in the field again among the Tetons shortly, so may have some tales to share from the icy tundra otherwise known as the intermountain west (winter has come early this year).

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Thanksgiving Thu, 26 Nov 2020 08:19:00 GMT
Marty's Mountain The summit of New Hampshire's Mount Washington is notorious for its extreme weather. Though only 6,288 feet tall, the mountain is situated in the paths of three storm tracks which often converge and collide there. Conditions can change quickly. Hurricane-force winds are not uncommon. Snowfall is heavy. Winters are long. Mount Washington's low temperatures are comparable to the coldest places on the planet (like Mt. Everest's summit and the poles).

"Home of the world's worst weather" is not an empty slogan.

Conditions have been monitored at an observatory there since the early 1930s. From the beginning, pets have been part of the crew - usually cats. (In fact, they're the only permanent residents; the human staff work weekly shifts.) Their furry companionship has always been welcome. Especially during winter, the summit can be a lonely place.

Since 2008, Mount Washington's mascot has been a handsome black Maine coon cat named Marty. Though he sometimes gets a bit shy when the summer and early autumn crowds appear, he has the run of the place. Because I typically summit early in the morning before most people arrive, I've been lucky to spend some quality time with Mr. Marty.

His "mewsings" about life on the mountain are a regular feature each quarter in Windswept, the Members of the Observatory magazine.

I've been thinking a lot about Marty lately. I'd been planning on visiting him again last month, but due to the pandemic my trip back East was shelved. Though I was disappointed about not being able to photograph the foliage show, I was more downhearted about not being able to see Marty. After all, he's an elder statesman. The clock is ticking and I can hear it.

When my latest issue of Windswept arrived the other day, as always I looked for Marty's column first - and this time he surprised me with an announcement of his plan to retire after this winter. Having put in 12 years of service on the summit, he said it would soon be time to bid farewell to both the Rock Pile and his co-workers, and head to the valley below to enjoy his golden years amidst grass and trees.

It seemed fitting to mark the occasion and write a little something about this wonderful fellow.

Still wrapping my head around the fact that his pending retirement meant I wouldn't again see him on the summit, I was crushed this morning to learn that Marty suffered a medical emergency earlier this month from which he couldn't be saved.

Now he plays in the lush meadows at the Rainbow Bridge.

Au revior, chérie. Job well done. You are missed by many.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Marty the Cat Mount Washington Mount Washington Observatory New Hampshire summit Tue, 24 Nov 2020 08:15:00 GMT
Familiar Ground Can a location become "worn out" with nothing left to photograph? 

I don't think so.

To be sure, shooting somewhere new is an exciting challenge. Who doesn't enjoy exploring a location you've never seen or worked previously? It's interesting. It can boost your creativity. If you feel like you've been in a rut, it might push you out of those well-worn tracks.  

But unless you're planning on endlessly globetrotting in search of unfamiliar destinations, at some point you'll find yourself revisiting old haunts. Embracing areas you already know can improve the quality your work.

Nothing looks exactly the same from one visit to the next. Locations change from year to year; with the seasons; from one day to the next; from morning, to mid-day, to night. The light is different. Weather conditions vary. Water levels change. Vegetation grows. And on, and on, and on.

Slow down. Open your mind to see new things. Expand your horizons.

Challenge yourself to find new ways to make photographs at places you've worked before. There are many ways to do this. Limit yourself to using one lens; leave the in others in the bag. Move around to look for unusual angles. Don't normally make panoramics? Try one. If you usually work in color, create compositions with black and white processing in mind. Vary your shutter speed. Employ intentional camera movement. Visit during a different time of day.

Challenge yourself by eliminating a favorite location from your itinerary the next time you visit a well-worked area. Force yourself to find something different. Look for another back road; a new hiking trail; an alternative vantage point.

There's something to be said for revisiting familiar ground. Your eye improves. You notice things you didn't see previously. Your artistic vision expands. You move beyond postcard shots. The better you know a location, the more effectively you'll be able to capture it.

The image below was made at a tidal pool on the Atlantic Coast at Rye, New Hampshire: one of my "familiar spots." In the broader sense, it was always the same: the sea, the rocks, the horizon - yet each shoot could be wildly different (which is what attracted me to that location). Other than the tidal situation, I never knew what I'd find. Reasonably close to home, I worked there regularly. As with any location, sometimes it was maddening - but it was never boring!

TranquilTranquilColorful palette in the eastern sky at daybreak is reflected in a large tidal pool. A long exposure blurs the ocean beyond, contrasting nicely with the still water in the foreground.

Rye, New Hampshire

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) familiar ground New Hampshire photography Rye tips Thu, 19 Nov 2020 08:17:00 GMT
Finding Tranquility Off to Sea IIOff to Sea IIA departing Nor'easter made for nearly ideal conditions at daybreak. Though a breeze began to gently ripple the water in the tidal pool, it wasn't enough to interfere with the reflection. Just as quickly, the color disappeared.

Rye, New Hampshire
It's no surprise that there have been record numbers of visits to many of our national parks in 2020. Nature can be an antidote for stress: there's been more than enough of that to go around.

Nature soothes. It's restorative. 

Fortunately, you don't need a national park to get outside and experience these benefits. Head for green space at the center of town. A garden. A pond. Your back yard. Your deck. 

Put the phone away and enjoy the great outdoors. Go for a hike - or simply sit and savor the sights and sounds.

(If I were writing the prescription, I'd suggest you do this regularly.) 

Contemplate the night sky. Watch the sun come up or bid it farewell at the end of the day. Gaze at clouds drifting through the sky. Marvel at the graceful lines of trees. Listen to the birds.....the wind....the water. Track a storm as it moves in, or watch as it leaves. Admire the landscape.

Think about what a gift it is to witness such things.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and
give strength to body and soul.
-John Muir

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) benefits of nature nature outdoors Thu, 12 Nov 2020 08:17:00 GMT
The Man Behind the Mountain Majestic MoranMajestic MoranMount Moran dominates the Teton range above Jackson Lake. As the sun begins to set, a ray of light breaks through partial overcast to touch the mountain's face. (Teton Range, Wyoming) Towering over Jackson Lake, Mount Moran dominates the northern end of Grand Teton National Park. Standing at 12,605 feet, several active glaciers cling to its face. 

The mountain was named for Thomas Moran, renowned for his paintings of the American West.

Moran was one of dozens of acclaimed artists who were part of a 19th century American movement known as the Hudson River School. (Interestingly, quite a few of them - including Moran - were born in Europe.) Characterized by realism and detail, their landscapes initially focused not only on the Hudson River Valley but also nearby areas such as the Adirondacks and New Hampshire's White Mountains. The school expanded later to include other locales, including the American West.

How's that for a little bit of serendipity? Via the Hudson School, two of my favorite peaks have common ties. I can look at Mount Moran and give a nod to my beloved Mount Washington nearly 2,500 miles away.

You may be wondering what brought Thomas Moran to the wild, wild, west in the first place. 

Based in Philadelphia and already well-known by mid-century, he was asked to join the 1871 Hayden expedition into the Greater Yellowstone wilderness...and the rest, as they say, is history. His paintings and sketches of the region (along with photographs made by fellow survey member William Henry Jackson) greatly influenced those back in Washington, D.C. The following year, Yellowstone National Park was officially created by President Grant with legislation that protected more than two million acres - the first such park in the world.

Moran made many trips to the west following that, and some twenty years later returned again to the Yellowstone region - sketching prolifically the entire time.

As far as I know, he never painted the mountain that bears his name. 

Mount Moran and I have become well acquainted over the past few years. I enjoy hiking down to the edge of the Snake River in the darkness well before dawn, finding a little spot to sit along the shore, and stargazing until I can just begin to see Moran's outlines. Out of the blackness the mountain appears, until finally its face is lit by the rising sun.

Not a bad way to start the day.

Diaphanous DreamDiaphanous DreamLingering fog creates an ethereal scene around Mount Moran and the surrounding landscape.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Hudson River School Mount Moran Mount Washington Thomas Moran White Mountains Thu, 05 Nov 2020 08:22:00 GMT
October Surprise Not all October surprises are political. I had one just a few days ago and can assure you it had absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming election!

A photo shoot in Yellowstone has been on my radar for weeks. Because I avoid that park between Memorial Day and Labor Day (far too many people) my window of opportunity to work there is limited - even more so lately due to lengthy stretches of cloudless skies, heavy smoke from California wildfires, and prolonged periods of high winds. 

That said, the park's roads close for the winter on November 2nd. Now or never.

Just in the nick of time, the local meteorologist and my weather apps all predicted a two-day period of workable conditions after a cold front moved through. Winds would die down, I could expect some clouds, and it would be dry. Unseasonably low temps would be a plus; the park's geothermal features are even more pronounced when the mercury dips. All good! I packed up my gear, and in the wee hours of the morning pointed the car in the direction of the west entrance.

As advertised, it was brisk: 16 degrees. But when I hit the Montana state line I encountered ice - first a little, then a lot. West Yellowstone was like one big skating rink. Rain overnight had turned to measurable snowfall and left a parting gift of very poor road conditions. Oops. So much for the forecast.

What about the park? I'll bet you can guess. It was closed.


Would it open at all that day? The ranger couldn't say. At that point I should have called an audible and scrubbed the shoot but this cockeyed optimist decided to hang around and see what would happen. 

The park did finally partially reopen but not until mid-day. Dozens of vehicles lined up at each of the four entrance gates, waiting to get in. Many filled with kids. On a weekday. Late in October (when Yellowstone is typically very quiet). It may as well have been June. 

Once inside, it was obvious that though the roads were "open" they were ice-covered and in very rough shape. The one-hour drive to Mammoth took more than double that time. Even more snow had fallen there. What I intended to shoot was now buried under a foot of fresh powder. 

(For the record, the park is beautiful in winter. The terraces at Mammoth are pictured here in early March.) 

Hot and ColdHot and ColdEarly March means spring in many parts of the country, but at Mammoth Hot Springs, it's still sub-zero - perfect conditions to amplify the thermal features at Mound Terrace.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
So my subject matter had mostly disappeared, the place was crawling with people, the roads were terrible, and I'd lost most of the entire first day before even reaching my first location. Comedy of errors. The whole situation was so ridiculous it was almost amusing. Bottom line, it's impossible to avoid racking up mileage when dealing with a park the size of Yellowstone; given the unexpected inclement weather it was going to be difficult to efficiently travel from one location to the next.

Know when to fold 'em.

I put the camera away and treated myself to a hike before heading to the exit and back to autumn in Idaho. 

October surprise. 

When you're having a run of back luck with poor conditions, or struggling through a series of difficult shoots, try not to let it get you down. It happens to us all! Persist. The tide will turn.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Mammoth Hot Springs Montana October Surprise Wyoming Yellowstone National Park Thu, 29 Oct 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Rodney Dangerfield and The Sister Parks If you're old enough to remember comedian Rodney Dangerfield, you'll recall his signature "I get no respect" catchphrase. Before your time? Search for him on YouTube. He was a funny guy.

If Dangerfield is dipping too far into the way-back time machine, we can switch to sports and nearer to the present day for a more current example of the "no respect" syndrome.

Take the White Sox. If you're from Chicago - like me - people automatically assume you're a Cubs fan. (Don't get me started...) Go outside of Illinois and you'll find there are a lot of folks who forget Chicago has two baseball teams. Oddly, this includes sports reporters - whom you'd think ought to have some familiarity with the baseball landscape. In the runup to the Cubs' 2016 World Series appearance, multiple media outlets seemed to have amnesia regarding the Sox's 2005 Series win (I might add they won it running away, losing only one game during the postseason). For example, this CBS tweet: Wrigley Field is prepping for an event Chicago hasn't seen in 71 years, the World Series. ESPN has forgotten about the 2005 Series at least twice. Apparently they slept through that entire postseason. Granted, ESPN's Boston/New York bias is legendary but still... 

No respect. Splendor on the SnakeSplendor on the SnakeGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Which brings me to my two local national parks. Situated nearly adjacent to Yellowstone, Grand Teton is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor. Many visitors who fly into Jackson Hole depart from the rental car facility bound for Yellowstone, blasting past the Tetons with barely a sideways glance. Each night on the local news, the meteorologist gives the Old Faithful weather forecast for the following day. As for that other park? Crickets. When I tell local friends I'm heading over to the park to work, they assume I mean Yellowstone. Most often, this is incorrect.

Yes, Yellowstone is huge, at nearly 3,500 square miles. It has weird and wonderful geothermal features (best seen in winter - truly amazing). It has the Yellowstone River - the principal tributary of the upper Missouri River. It's home to the oldest and largest herd of bison in the United States. 

But Grand Teton National Park isn't exactly chopped liver. While the stunning Teton Range is one of the shortest in the Rockies, it's arguably the most recognized - and probably the most dramatic thanks in large part to the absence of foothills. 20 of its named peaks exceed 10,000 feet. It has the Snake River - the largest tributary of the Columbia. Like Yellowstone, it's also home to a large variety of wildlife - including bison.

So while Yellowstone steals an inordinate amount of the thunder, Grand Teton National Park is every bit as spectacular. 

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that nobody visits the Tetons. Believe me when I say plenty of people come! But GTNP most definitely lives in the shadow of the other park. It's a head scratcher, but something tells me Rodney Dangerfield - and my White Sox - would be able to relate. :)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Teton Range Tetons Wyoming Yellowstone Thu, 22 Oct 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Order From Chaos Many outdoor photographers consider the autumn foliage season to be the crème de la crème when it comes to subject matter. I certainly do. While spring (the "other" foliage season) is my favorite time of year, there's something unique and magical about the fiery hues of an autumnal landscape in transition.

Still, it can be somewhat overwhelming; the riot of color is mesmerizing but chaotic. While your eyes can easily edit what you're looking at - automatically filtering out the extraneous and focusing on whatever is of interest - the camera has no such ability. You might struggle to find a focal point in the wide view, while less expansive (but equally stunning) scenes often remain hidden in plain sight. 

Spinning an old saying on its head, you can't see the trees for the forest.

Capturing the foliage show is no different than making good photographs any other time of the year. Look for patterns, shapes, lines, contrast. Consider depth of field, viewpoint, focal length, and so on. As always, give careful consideration to the placement of elements within the frame and think about what ought to be excluded. Remove distractions. Simplify. If it doesn't support what you're trying to communicate, or makes it less clear, it shouldn't be in the photograph. 

One great way to simplify is to try something other than the "big landscape." Added bonus: if you're willing to look at things a little differently it'll exponentially increase opportunities to make unique and interesting photographs.

Vignettes Non-ConformistThe Magic ForestA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking.

Hiawatha National Forest
Upper Peninsula of Michigan

You don't always have to go big to tell the story of foliage season. 

This transitional forest in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is spectacular in autumn as young maples screaming with color are scattered among towering, mature pines. They seem weirdly - and wonderfully - out of place: a whimsical juxtaposition.

Especially at dawn and dusk the pops of red, orange and yellow scattered across an otherwise dark and brooding landscape here are stunning. To me, it was a magic forest with the maples as nymphs darting in and out from behind the larger trees. 

It was beautiful but there was a lot going on. 

One dreary, wet morning this location kept calling me back. With fewer maples and most of them younger and smaller than in other areas I'd hiked, it was a little less "messy." Two fiery red trees commanded attention amidst all those huge pines. 

Here I included just one of them along with a dash of yellow from one of its cousins in the distance. Then it was a matter of moving around until I found a spot that provided good separation between the trunks of each of the pines, allowed the maple's trunk to be centered between two of the bigger trees, and left room for the little non-conformist to lean into the frame. 

To illustrate the "Magic Forest," I made a panoramic including both of the red maples along with many more of the pines. One location, two stories.


Raindrops Keep FallingRaindrops Keep FallingSieur de Monts
Acadia National Park, Maine
Close-ups are another way of simplifying the composition. 

On this day, I was playing beat the clock as the remnants of a hurricane were bearing down on Acadia National Park. Close-ups were about the only thing that might still be doable in the rapidly deteriorating weather so I made a beeline for Sieur de Monts to see if I could get a photograph featuring its amazing ferns. There are hundreds - thousands - of them in this section of the park and in autumn they turn intensely deep-orange. The colors popped even more vibrantly in the rain. Tightly packed with birch trees, tall grasses, fallen leaves, and of course the ferns, it's lovely but definitely chaotic.

When I saw this maple leaf covered with raindrops and clinging to the fern, I knew I'd found my subject. Initially disappointed it had come to rest colorful-side-down, I quickly changed my mind. The photo works better without competing colors. 

Side note: don't shy away from precipitation, especially in autumn, but do carry an umbrella in your camera bag (something like a collapsible diffuser will work, too). I wouldn't have been able to make this photo without mine; it shielded my subject from heavy precipitation, keeping it from moving. 

Beaver Brook Falls in AutumnDreaming of AutumnLovely Beaver Brook Falls framed by brightly-colored autumn foliage.

Near Colebrook, New Hampshire
Autumn as a Supporting Player

Rather than making it the star of the show, you can also assign the foliage a supporting role as in this example. The waterfall is clearly the main subject; the leaves are an accent. They create a frame and provide seasonal context. 

They also salvaged the shoot.

Many of the trees had yet to begin turning; those that had weren't exactly spectacular. I didn't want to squander the misty, damp conditions (great for color saturation), and it was the last day I'd budgeted for the far northern part of New Hampshire. Now or never.

This pop of orange was tucked in an out-of-the-way corner. The tree itself wasn't anything to write home about but was just about perfect as a framing device.

Don't be too quick to throw in the towel. If something about the scene captured your attention, keep looking for a way to compose it. Think creatively. Even if the color is muted, or you've missed the peak, or the conditions aren't what you'd hoped for, there are many ways to communicate the story of foliage season. 

The image of Thompson Falls in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire (below) is another example of an understated approach to the foliage.

Often the further you hike into a mature forest, the less color you'll see; it's now high over your head. There's nothing special about the foliage in the background behind the falls. However, some really intense reds and yellows were directly above me. Only some of those leaves had begun to fall to the ground, but there were enough to make this work. They provide seasonal context, and even though there are just a handful, because of their placement in the frame they're nearly as prominent as the main subject. 

Thompson Falls White Mountains New HampshireThompson FallsThe falls are named for Joseph M. Thompson, one of the builders of the Mount Washington Carriage Road (later to become the Auto Road) and the man who drove the first horse-drawn wagon to the summit.

Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire

Bottom Line

The autumnal foliage display isn't just pretty; it's great fun to photograph. Don't let it overwhelm you. Learn to see more deeply into the lovely chaos and you'll find plenty of ways to capture one of the greatest shows on earth. 

Winter is an etching,
spring a watercolor,
summer an oil painting,
and autumn a mosaic of them all.
-Stanley Horowitz

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fall foliage landscapes tips Thu, 15 Oct 2020 07:22:00 GMT
A Way With Words I wasn't especially fond of autumn as a kid. Though I liked school, it was bittersweet when the glorious summer vacation came to an end.

Before long there would be mountains of leaves to rake - which, by the way, weren't all that colorful. The stately oak trees which were predominant where I grew up were most certainly not exhibitionists, preferring to approach foliage season in a quiet and dignified fashion. Their canopy transformed into deep rusty shades with strong brown undertones.

Autumn and I had a further falling out when I grew older. Now the season made me melancholy: a reminder of time's relentless march. Rather than a Grand Finale it seemed to be more of a Sorrowful Goodbye. And still there was the raking... Colorful CarpetColorful CarpetAt the height of foliage season in New England, the ground below is often as beautiful and colorful as the trees above.

Dover, New Hampshire

Then something interesting happened. After a few years living on the west coast I ended up in New Hampshire. I became serious about photography. And I learned to love autumn.

Actually, I wonder if it's possible to live in the Granite State and not love the season. There is nothing "quiet" about it; the deciduous trees in autumn are flamboyant, conspicuous attention-seekers. Especially the ones that turn red.

For the record, I still dislike raking leaves. Adjacent to the woods, my yard in New England was filled with exponentially more of them than I'd ever had to clean up anywhere I'd called home prior to that. It would take three backbreaking rakings over the course of a week or two to remove it all. Still, it seemed a reasonable price to pay for a front seat to the Greatest Show on Earth.

I loved looking at that show and capturing it with my camera. I eagerly anticipated its arrival each year.

This is still true today.

Poet, writer, and literary editor Donald Hall (also the 14th Poet Laureate of the United States) knew a thing or two about New Hampshire. As a youth he went to Phillips Exeter Academy, located just a few miles from the small town where I ended up. Later, he and his wife (poet Jane Kenyon) came back Rocky Gorge White Mountains New HampshireRed in the RocksThe first rays of morning sunlight set the autumn foliage ablaze along the banks of the Swift River at Rocky Gorge.

White Mountains, New Hampshire
for good - moving into the rural home in which his grandparents once lived. He remained there for more than 40 years until his death in 2018.

Some years ago I purchased a wonderful book he wrote about that place, called Seasons at Eagle Pond (Houghton Mifflin, 1987). It artfully captures the nature of New Hampshire, depicting life on his land and around the town of Wilmot in each of the four seasons. The inevitable ice storms. Mud season. Spring's relentless black flies. The crying of loons. Summer hikes through dense woods. The riot of color each October. Sometimes wry, often witty, always beautifully authentic: if you've never been to that part of the world his vivid prose will transport you there.  

Because Hall opens with winter, Fall is the final chapter - as it should be. Anyone who has seen autumn in New Hampshire knows it's the culmination of the year. The high water mark. The pièce de résistance. 

The following passages excerpted from that last chapter eloquently express the annual spectacle and will give you a sense of this gifted writer's way with words. 

Each morning is more outrageous than the one before, days outdoing their predecessors as sons outdo their fathers. We walk out over the chill dew to audit glorious wreckage from the night's cold passage - new branches suddenly turned, others gone deeper into ranges of fire, trees vying to surpass each other and their yesterselves.

He compares the superlative "show" to what you'll find elsewhere:

Deep Autumn is a beautiful Godzilla, wildest of wild beasts. Abrupt shreds and edges of New Hampshire turn fauve, while most of the northern hemisphere remains vague, impressionist, and pretty

And finally this....about how it never, ever gets old:

And you looked around you in the October woods at the extended private exhibition, low pale Autumn sunlight striking through the diminishing leafy air to catch on reds and yellows of the great woods. After hauling rocks it was good to catch your breath; it was good to look, and look, and look. And everyone looked and still looks. Even people who have lived their whole lives here never become bored with this looking...

Beautiful, sublime New Hampshire - at its most beguiling in autumn.

If you can find a copy of Seasons at Eagle Pond, I highly recommend it.

Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMist Meets FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River

Near Lincoln, New Hampshire

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Donald Hall fall foliage leaves New Hampshire Seasons at Eagle Pond Thu, 08 Oct 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Peaking Beneath the Peaks The foliage was nearing peak color in the north end of Grand Teton National Park over the past weekend. There are still some pockets which remain green but for the most part it was definitely showtime.

Conditions have been challenging. Between thick smoke from California and high winds, it's been tough to find windows in which to work over the course of the past two weeks. A cold front pushed through the area late on Friday which shifted the wind direction and greatly improved the air quality. It brought with it some unstable weather which, on balance, was a good thing. Though a few sunrise sessions were busts due to heavy cloud cover, I'd rather have something in the sky than nothing at all.

The front also made for some brisk early mornings as the mercury dipped as low as 18 degrees. I wore every bit of winter gear I had with me to start each day!

When it comes to deciduous trees and autumn foliage, I find the north end of the park to be the prettiest. While the southern half is populated mainly by cottonwoods, in the north there are many aspens - and some of them turn bright orange which provides some color variation. The area extending from Moran into the Buffalo Valley is also quite good for autumn color.  

If you're planning on visiting the park to see the landscape in all its autumnal glory, time is of the essence. Many of the cottonwoods in the southern portions are past peak and now have only dull color. The north end still looks very good but won't last much longer - especially if we get high winds. 

Parallel ThoughtsParallel ThoughtsAspens in front, the Teton Range beyond. Nature's symmetry. The rising sun lights Moran's peak first as a new day begins.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


Autumn's SongAutumn's SongBuffalo Valley, Wyoming


Buffalo SunsetBuffalo SunsetThe Buffalo Fork of the Snake River meanders through a landscape decorated in the colors of autumn.

Buffalo Valley, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Buffalo Valley foliage Grand Teton National Park Tetons Wyoming Thu, 01 Oct 2020 07:16:00 GMT
Pockets of Perfection After YouAfter YouThe aspens hold back, giving the vibrant mountain maples center stage during round one of the autumn "foliage show."

Palisades, Idaho

I may not have been born in New Hampshire but there's a lot of Granite State blood running through my veins after having lived there for so many years. It's where I learned to delight in autumn. There aren't enough words to describe the various shades of red decorating the White Mountains during the foliage show. 

Yellow may be mellow - but for me it's all about those jaw-dropping reds.

In the intermountain western United States, the autumnal color scheme is obviously quite different than what you'll find in New England. It's pretty, but generally monochromatic with yellow dominating. Still, there are pockets of red and deep orange if you know where to find mountain maples!

There's one such area near where I live, beginning in Palisades, Idaho and running on into the Snake River Canyon. If the conditions are conducive (and this year the magic recipe seems to be just about perfect), the maples explode with intense color - and yellow isn't so much in their playbook.  This season, they've been at peak while most of the aspens remain green. "No, we insist - you go first."

So at the moment, there are some areas in Palisades that are spectacular in their red and red-orange glory, with only occasional splashes of yellow to be found.  The range of color in this species of maples is less varied than what their eastern cousins are capable of producing, but it's still beautiful and quite the treat in an area where these fiery hues are uncommon.

Speaking of Rocky Mountain maples (Acer glabrum Torr), they're generally quite short - less like trees and closer to leggy bushes - and tend to be found at higher elevations and on slopes. They cling to landscapes that, quite honestly, don't appear very hospitable. Yet there they are. And this autumn, these scrubby little plants are going for the gusto.

It's enough to make this displaced Granite Stater's heart skip a beat.

Cascading CrimsonCascading CrimsonMountain maples clinging to the steep hillside are ablaze with peak autumn color.

Palisades, Idaho

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) aspens autumn foliage Idaho mountain maples Palisades Thu, 24 Sep 2020 07:12:00 GMT
Beyond the Obvious As a kid maybe you enjoyed cloud-watching: laying in the grass, gazing at puffy cumulus clouds as they drifted by, and letting your imagination run free. You might have seen a horse, or an elephant, or a puppy up there in the sky. 

In many ways, abstract nature photography reminds me of that long-ago game.

Colors, shapes, patterns, and textures can be rendered in such a way that the subject of a photograph may not be obvious. Avoiding the impulse to look at the caption, one might imagine a variety of things in an abstract image. Even if you can guess what you're looking at, it's interesting to see things from a different perspective.

Photographers can utilize a variety of different methods to make abstract images. Isolate a subject with the telephoto - or take it a step further and go as tight as you can with the macro lens. Employ intentional camera movement. Change your perspective. Shoot from an unusual angle. 

I enjoy shooting obviously recognizable subjects, but abstracts are just as much of a pleasure to create. (Sometimes more so.)

Just like the cloud-watching game: what do you see?

FireworksFireworksAbstract of Western Salsify plant gone to seed - its lines and shapes reminiscent of exploding fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Essence of AutumnEssence of AutumnAbstract rendering of brilliant foliage in the Hiawatha National Forest

Michigan's Upper Peninsula


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstract photography abstracts Thu, 17 Sep 2020 07:10:00 GMT
A Thousand Words "One picture is worth a thousand words."

Popularized in modern times by the early 20th century American advertising industry, variations of that sentiment have been around for hundreds of years (and expressed by some very famous people, including Leonardo da Vinci).

It's true for photographs as well as paintings. A single image can convey what might take many pages of text to describe.

Even more powerful is the idea that those words are not static: because viewers interpret images uniquely, it's easy to imagine how a single picture can easily be worth hundreds of words - or yes, even a thousand of them. The words a picture paints for me may be very different than those it paints for you.

Create a series or collection of photographs, and now you've got an essay. Maybe a novella! Curating multiple images around a theme enables the photographer to tell a richer story...or present an intriguing concept...or ask a question. Collections can also be an excellent opportunity to combine "big" landscapes along with more intimate impressions to better showcase a location or express an idea. Just like moviemaking: start with an establishing shot and then move in for more detail. 

Your collection might be based on a literal concept, or lean more to the abstract. I've been building a series under the working title "From Out of the Mist" which contains images like these:

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church.

The "Little White Church" at Crystal Lake
Eaton, New Hampshire

Revealed Chocorua Lake White Mountains New HampshireRevealedClearing fog just after sunrise picks up color from the first light, and reveals part of the shoreline at Chocorua Lake.

Tamworth, New Hampshire
Misty ApparitionMisty ApparitionWispy fog dances through the mountains on the heels of rain showers. The wet conditions amplify the colorful appearance of the autumn foliage.

Pinkham Notch
White Mountains, New Hampshire

Thinking about my work from a thematic perspective also gives me ideas about what I'd like to shoot moving forward. What stories am I trying to tell? What chapters still need to be written in order to complete the narrative?

Speaking of which, sometimes a series or collection turns into a book project. "Seasons in Teton Country" is one on which I'm currently working. Its outlines were established a few years ago; over time the remaining details continue to be added. 

spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

And the Rain Came Teton Peaks from Driggs IdahoAnd the Rain CameSheets of rain darken the sky above this old, abandoned homestead standing in a field of wheat.

Alta, Wyoming

Leaves of GoldLeaves of GoldGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky.

T.A. Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

You can create stories without being a writer in the literal sense. Good photographs have their own very special way with words; what they have to say can be compelling.

Write on!

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog Grand Teton National Park misty photograph picture seasons Tetons Thu, 10 Sep 2020 07:12:00 GMT
Reliving the Moment Radiant Red White Mountains New HampshireRadiant RedVibrant autumn foliage can nearly always be found in this spot at Bear Notch. The season this image was made, however, the crimson leaves outdid themselves. Mount Washington, often cloud covered, is visible in the distance - entirely in the clear.

White Mountains, New Hampshire
I consider the autumn foliage display in New England to be one of the greatest shows on earth - and there's no place I'd rather enjoy the spectacle than in New Hampshire's White Mountains. 

I'll never forget the first time I saw the tree-covered mountains painted in fiery colors. It was captivating; the immense beauty took my breath away. I found it difficult to focus on the task at hand - namely, keeping the car on the road! I'd never seen anything like it. 

Even more special is the memory of my father's reaction to the "show" during his first early October visit to my new home. Trained as a landscape architect, this was a guy who appreciated nature. His delight at what he was experiencing was palpable; the "oohs" and "ahhs" didn't stop. Each new scene seemed to be more spectacularly beautiful to him than whatever had come before. I could appreciate what he was feeling. 

For me there have been many lengthy autumnal excursions to the White Mountains since then, spanning more than 20 years. I've seen that landscape over and over again yet it never gets old. The days shorten, the leaves begin to turn, there's a chill in the air...and it's time to pack up the camera gear and head for my little slice of heaven on earth.

Each year when I catch my first glimpse of the mountains in all their October glory - exploding in bright oranges and yellows along with various fantastic shades of red you must see to believe - it's a deeply moving experience. It can bring tears to my eyes. And without fail, at that moment I also think of my father. I relive his first reaction.

The White Mountains grabbed onto my heart long ago and never let go. I feel a profound connection to this beautiful place.

Autumn in New Hampshire's north country means long workdays with the camera. There's always a lot of ground to cover and much to accomplish. Somehow, though, it doesn't feel like work.   

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage mountains New Hampshire White Mountains Thu, 03 Sep 2020 07:15:00 GMT
The Summer Garden Prescott Park Portsmouth New HampshireSummer at the GardenPrescott Park's Formal Garden is awash with vibrant color at the height of its summer display. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

“How deeply seated in the human heart is the liking for gardens and gardening.” 
— Alexander Smith

This is certainly true for me! No doubt I inherited my love of gardens and garden design from my father, who was trained as a landscape architect (even though he went on to become a civil engineer). Like my dad, I tinker in my own gardens and relish exploring them when traveling.

Give me a beautiful garden to wander through - or better yet, to sit within and linger - and I'll be a happy camper.

Not surprisingly, I also love to photograph them! 

My favorites include the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois with millions of plants in a variety of settings scattered across 385 acres; a little bit of heaven on earth. Then there are the exquisite formal and informal gardens at The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, these are a living legacy to the man considered to be America's foremost landscape architect. 

Gardens don't have to be immense in order to be magical, though. I'll happily spend any afternoon in the petite Formal Garden at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, pictured here. Steps away from the Piscataqua River and anchored by spectacular, mature crabapple trees, it's a wonderful place to find shade on a hot summer day. Featuring red brick walkways and filled with colorful annuals during the blooming season, white benches scattered throughout beckon visitors to linger. The garden's three fountains add to the ambiance.

(My appreciation of the Formal Garden extends beyond the aesthetic to the sentimental: my husband and I were married there.)

Due to its small size, proximity to the center of town, and popularity, it's not an easy place to make photographs. Quarters are somewhat cramped and there are nearly always people around. That said, if you're willing to come out very early in the day (just before the sun comes up), your chances of working without an unreasonable amount of company will be greatly improved.

If you're visiting Portsmouth, be sure to give yourself time to enjoy Prescott Park.

Take a SeatTake a SeatWhite benches line the perimeter of the formal garden, inviting visitors to linger and enjoy the lovely setting.


Trees in Bloom, Beds Ready for PlantingAnticipationThe beds in Prescott Park's formal garden await planting as the crab trees in full bloom take center stage. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) flowers garden New England New Hampshire Portsmouth Prescott Park summer Thu, 27 Aug 2020 07:14:00 GMT
A Mere Photograph Autumn at Oxbow Bend Grand Teton National ParkScene StealerThe sun's first warm rays light the trees along the Snake River shoreline, making the foliage pop. The effect is magnified with Mount Moran in partial shadow.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Sometimes intended praise falls a little bit flat.

Case in point: in a recent letter to the editor of a magazine to which I subscribe, the writer expressed admiration for a photograph which had been published in an earlier issue. He said the image reminded him of a great painting rather than a mere photo. 

A mere photo... 

I chuckled when I read that. While I'm sure it wasn't intended as such, that's what I'd call a backhanded compliment! 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Perhaps this fellow simply prefers paintings to photographs. Or when he thinks of photographs it's casual snapshots which come to mind. Maybe his definition of "art" is limited to paintings and sculpture.

Is photography art?

Are the only true artists people like the Rembrandts and Van Goghs of the world? What about Ansel Adams? Or Michael Kenna? Galen Rowell?

Consider the word photography, which comes from the Greek language and roughly translated means "drawing with light." 

Both the painter and the photographer create images. The painter begins with a blank canvas, adding one brushstroke at a time. Conversely, the photographer's process is subtractive (especially true of the nature/outdoor photographer): simplifying the lovely chaos which is inherent in the landscape, removing extraneous and/or distracting elements, distilling the scene to its essence.  

Both paintings and photographs can be either representational or abstract.

A painting takes time to create. Certainly in the case of nature photography, this is also true. It's not as simple as just tripping the shutter. It might take months - or years - to get the shot.

Becoming an accomplished painter requires hard work, skill, technical proficiency, a creative eye and an ability to visualize. The same is true of the photographer.

A good photograph, like a good painting, makes a connection with the viewer. It evokes a response. photography art? Of course! Renowned museums agree, by the way. You'll find permanent collections as well as exhibitions featuring photography at places the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the Met, and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

"You don't take a photograph. You make it."
~Ansel Adams

About the image: this is the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River in the northern end of Grand Teton National Park during what was the most beautiful autumn I've experienced thus far in the Tetons. The color that season arrived early, was intensely vibrant - and then disappeared in the blink of an eye. Though we're experiencing record heat here in Teton Country this week, autumn is waiting in the wings. You'll see signs of it in the park right now. It won't be long before the aspens and cottonwoods begin turning. 

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Oxbow Bend photography Tetons Wyoming Thu, 20 Aug 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Nautical New England Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer.

Cape Neddick, Maine
New England has a wonderful, unique character. There you'll find rich colonial history, picturesque villages filled with antique red-brick buildings, old white churches with tall steeples, covered bridges, mile after mile of stone walls, quaint seaside towns, panoramic mountain views, and - of course - brilliant autumn foliage.

Another signature sight? Lighthouses. This is a seafaring region with a longstanding maritime tradition, after all. Think about New England and you probably conjure up an image of a lighthouse or two. Like Butch and Sundance, Lennon and McCartney, Aparicio and Fox - it's a classic pairing.

Nine of the ten oldest lighthouses in the United States are located in New England. And if you're looking to get the most bang for your lighthouse buck, head to Maine - home to more than 60 of them. Among those many dozens of shoreline beauties is Cape Neddick Light Station (aka Nubble Light) on the Atlantic coast in far-southern York. 

It's not the oldest, nor is it the tallest, but it's absolutely endearing and definitely my favorite.

Fun fact: Voyager I, launched in 1977 and now way "out there" in interstellar space, carries onboard it a so-called Golden Record which contains, among other things, photographs of notable features one can find on Earth - both natural and man made. The Pale Blue Dot's hit parade, so to speak. If you guessed that a photo of the Nubble is included on that disc, you're correct! When the goal is to show off the magnificence of our planet to any extra-terrestrials who might happen upon the spacecraft and rummage through its contents, why not include this lovely lighthouse as an example? In my book, it was an inspired choice.

In case you're wondering, nearly 43 years after its launch, Voyager I is still communicating with the Deep Space Network and continues to transmit data back to NASA. As far as we know, nobody has looked at that Golden Record just yet...

Anyway, back to Maine. A relative youngster, the Nubble was constructed in 1879. Perched on a steep rocky inlet and visible for 13 nautical miles, it's still in use today, though its enchanting Victorian keeper's house in now unoccupied; the lighthouse was automated in 1987. Added to the National Historic Register in 1985, it's one of the last remaining Maine lighthouses to still have its Fresnel lens.

My home in New Hampshire was only about 25 miles from Nubble Light. I spent many early morning hours in its company with my camera. Often it was just the four of us: me, the camera, the lighthouse - and the wind. Even in the summer it can be a chilly spot in the darkness before dawn thanks to that wind. Let's just say after an hour or two out there it often felt very good to jump back in the car and blast the heat.

If you're visiting the area, don't miss Nubble Lighthouse. York is a quick run up either Route 1 or I-95 from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Try to stop by at the edges of the day as it gets quite crowded during the summer months and again when the leaves are turning. Once in York, go to the far north end of Long Sands Beach. Nubble Road will be the first right. Make your way through a residential area above the coastline before arriving at Sohier Park, where you'll make another right. There's a parking lot (space is limited) - and Fox's Lobster House is nearby if you're hungry. Obviously, their menu features plenty of lobstah! But also chowdah. Ice cream. Blueberry pie. And much more. Fox's is open May through mid-October. 

I made the photograph featured above on a blustery and frigid late November morning. Though heavy overcast hung over the scene at dawn, it broke in time for spectacular color to develop just before the sun came up. Not only were the conditions lovely, but I was able to enjoy it all in complete solitude. Quite a magical start to the day.

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic Ocean Cape Neddick Light lighthouse Maine nautical New England Nubble Light sunrise York Thu, 13 Aug 2020 07:13:00 GMT
This Wonderful World Emerald and IceEmerald and IceGlacier Bay National Park, Alaska Written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, What a Wonderful World was recorded by the great Louis Armstrong and first released in 1967. While it charted in the United Kingdom, the record wasn't promoted in the U.S. so did not perform well. In spite of this, the song picked up traction over the years as it was used in a variety of television projects. Finally, after being featured in the 1988 film Good Morning, Vietnam it became quite popular and was re-released as a single.

It's never too late!

(Others have covered it, but I'm partial to Armstrong's performance.)

In 1990 I was back again in Hawaii, touring Kauai's spectacular Waimea Canyon and Napali coast by helicopter. Though I had my camera with me, this was a sightseeing excursion rather than a charter photo flight. The door remained on; I had to shoot through the window and the flight path was set rather than flexible. Still, I had two-way communication with the pilot. As we began the return to the airport, he said he was going to let the scenery do the rest of the talking while he played some music. What a Wonderful World was the first tune up. I'll never forget seeing those stunning aerial views of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" while listening to Satchmo sing about how wonderful it all was. Indeed.

The incredible beauty in nature never ceases to amaze me. Not only is it lovely to look at, it's restorative. Balm for the soul, to borrow a phrase.

Particularly this year with all the seemingly endless craziness, I treasure every opportunity to get "out there" - wherever that might be. A national park or some other type of exotic location isn't a prerequisite (though I'm lucky to live near two parks and frequent one of them as often as possible). It can be as simple as sitting on my deck watching farmers harvest their crops in the distance as clouds drift by. No phone. No computer. No devices of any kind. Nobody admonishing me to "do this" or "do that" in the name of....something. Just nature.

Need a break from the insanity? Go outside. Nature doesn't have an agenda. Nature will help to ease your mind. 

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."
-Henry David Thoreau

If you're wondering about the images, the aerial shot was captured over Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park from a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver (the quintessential Alaska bush plane). The photograph below was made in far northern McHenry County, Illinois.  

Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Glacier Bay National Park Illinois Louis Armstrong nature photography What a Wonderful World Thu, 06 Aug 2020 07:34:00 GMT
Consolation Prize The Comet Neowise and I didn't sync up, unfortunately. It wasn't for lack of effort on my part. As is often the case, Mother Nature had other ideas.

Late last week I made my final attempt to photograph the celestial visitor, this time in Grand Teton National Park. Clear skies were forecast for the evening, with an extra bonus of pop-up storms early in the afternoon. If all went well, perhaps I could snag a monsoonal shot while waiting for Neowise to make an appearance over the Teton Range later that night. 

Unfortunately, the forecast turned out to be less than accurate.

Though the storms did arrive, they pushed into the area many hours later than predicted. It was evening when they finally materialized. Then, rather than popping up and moving along, they settled in for the night.

Completely overcast, there was no sunset - and absolutely no hope to see the comet. Still the day managed to pay dividends.

Though it took many hours to develop, once the monsoonal activity began to move into the valley its progression was rapid. Climbing high into the sky very quickly, its leading edge was quite spectacular. I had to scramble to find a good position from which to photograph it: my initial location was much too close to the Teton peaks. 

I settled on Antelope Flats, from which I could include both the mountain range and everything that was going on overhead. Though I made a few panoramics, in the end I preferred the single capture.

No comet for me this time. But the consolation prize turned out to be pretty nice.

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park monsoon mountains storm summer Tetons Wyoming Thu, 30 Jul 2020 07:34:00 GMT
You're the Artist Single DigitsSingle DigitsBoth the sky and the shoreline below are painted with warm hues just before sunrise - making the frigid January morning seem a little less icy.

Atlantic Ocean
Rye, New Hampshire
Way back in the pre-Internet days, if you wanted to teach yourself how to become a photographer you probably did so with the help of some books and magazines. That's the route I took, anyway. Good instructional manuals written by talented outdoor photographers were key to providing a solid foundation. Then I discovered Outdoor Photographer magazine, which featured great "how to" articles and regular columns by accomplished artists like Bill Neill, Frans Lanting and George Lepp. (OP now is but a shadow of what it once was, but as long as Neill keeps contributing, I continue to subscribe.) Finally, some of the best "textbooks" for me were coffee table masterpieces showcasing the work of my favorite photographers. Studying images created by artists like Galen Rowell or David Muench was - and continues to be - an excellent education and source of inspiration.

That was then. Now workshops proliferate and you can find scores of photography articles and video tutorials online. There's an abundance of information, some of which is very good. Useful tips; suggestions regarding how to develop your creativity; different approaches to processing. We all continue to evolve as artists. New ideas and techniques are always interesting to think about and experiment with.

That said, you'll also find many opinions regarding what you "should" and "shouldn't" do to make good landscape photos. Everyone has opinions. It's what makes the world go 'round! You can agree or not. Trust yourself. 

Of course there are some universal truths both about fundamentals like exposure and focus and how to control them as well as the basics of composition. Then there are guidelines like the rule of thirds. Often you'll follow these. But there may very well be times when "breaking the rules" results in fantastic photos. The better you understand the concepts behind the guidelines, the better positioned you'll be to jettison them when it makes sense to go in a different direction.    

Beyond the basics, there are many schools of thought about outdoor photography, such as:

  • To make unique images, avoid "big" landscapes. Go for intimate compositions instead.
  • Only use your wide angle to make landscape photographs.
  • You must have a pronounced foreground subject to create a strong landscape composition.
  • Stay away from icons like Yosemite's Half Dome or Olympic's sea stacks. You can't do anything original with them. 
  • Compositions featuring spectacular conditions aren't interesting. The intense weather or colorful sunset "happened" to you. Those types of shots prove only that you have patience and perseverance.
  • Never shoot during the middle of the day. Put your camera away after sunrise and don't get it out again until magic hour in the evening.
  • Create complete images in-camera. You shouldn't be processing at all. 

I'm sure you've run across at least some of what's on this short list (which contains contradictory advice). They're opinions: neither right nor wrong. What works for one isn't necessarily the next person's cup of tea. In this context, "must" or "shouldn't" are better taken as suggestions. You're the artist. It's up to you to determine how to create your art. 

Certainly it's important to get the basics correct. Know your equipment. Know how to create a technically good photo. But when it comes to subject matter and how to tell the story, don't feel you must follow everyone's advice - and don't worry about pleasing everybody else!

Art is subjective. You have a unique vision; be yourself. 

When you look at paintings in an art museum, do you like every piece on display? Probably not.  

While I enjoy a wide range of styles from impressionism to post-impressionism to American Realism, I favor French Impressionism the most. Does that mean I like every impressionist painting ever created? No. And while Claude Monet is one of my favorite painters, some of his pieces resonate more than others. 

So it will be with your photographs. Different people will be drawn to different images for different reasons. 

Photograph what you love. Strive to find ways to creatively compose the shot in a way that conveys what you're seeing or feeling to the viewer. The more effectively you're able to do this, the more likely your images will resonate with your audience. 


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) artist outdoor photography photographer photography tips Thu, 23 Jul 2020 07:10:00 GMT
A Feast for the Eyes The Wedding TreesThe Wedding TreesMiddle Teton, Grand Teton, and Mount Owen framed by the Wedding Trees.

Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

2020: serving up the mother of all perfect storms. I can't say I saw this coming when the clock struck midnight last New Year's Eve. 

That said, there have also been some pleasant surprises this year, one of which is happening right now in this part of the Intermountain West. "Green season" (which just happens to be my favorite time in Teton Country) has lingered well past its normal departure date. Head into the Snake River Canyon between Jackson and Alpine (Wyoming), or Eastern Idaho's Palisades, or Swan Valley, or Grand Teton National Park, and you'll be greeted by a landscape that remains spectacularly green.

Normally, by July the runoff is only a memory, meaningful rainfall is hard to come by, and the heat settles in; valleys and slopes transition to yellow as the grasses and rabbit brush dry out. The bright, lime green of new foliage on cottonwood trees shifts and becomes darker and more subdued. Fire season begins. The high desert, having temporarily forgotten itself for a few blissful weeks during springtime, once again looks like - the high desert.   

Not this year, though!

Thanks to a spring that was colder than usual (including unexpected measurable snowfall as low as 4500 feet at the end of May) and a period of uninterrupted soaking rain just two weeks ago, the spectacular greens persist. Eye candy! 

If, like me, you're a fan of green season, and you've been planning on visiting the park this summer anyway, now's the time to do it. The weather pattern has shifted; there's no precipitation in the long-range forecast and daytime temperatures are rising. The lush greens aren't going to last much longer.

The park is nearly completely open. Campgrounds, the main visitor center, Jenny Lake boat rides, the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, bookstores, permits desks, Colter Bay, wildlife tours - all open. Exceptions include Jenny Lake Lodge and Jackson Lake Lodge, both of which will remain closed for the 2020 season, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, LSR Preserve Center, and some guided activities. 

The photograph above (from Bridger-Teton National Forest) was made on Monday.



(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bridger-Teton National Forest green season Tetons Wedding Trees Wyoming Thu, 16 Jul 2020 07:10:00 GMT
Those Pesky Forecasts When I'm not traveling, I tune in to the local weather early every morning without fail. This routine is somewhat laughable; I'm well aware forecasting is a bit of a crapshoot. The 8-day projection seems more like a random guess; it's typically a moving target. Even the current day's forecast often fails to unfold as predicted. Still, you'll find me peering intently at the future-cast. That said, I'm not completely gullible! If a photo shoot looks plausible, I consult my weather apps to see if there's any sort of agreement. (Currently on my phone: NOAA Weather, AccuWeather, MyRadar, Clear Outside, Willy-Weather - which I use mainly to check the wind forecast, and WeatherBug.)

Last week, I took Mr. Local Meteorologist at his word when he indicated I could expect towering thunderheads to develop over the mountains that afternoon. It's July, after all, and that sort of thing often happens in the Rocky Mountains during the summer months. I packed up my gear and pointed the vehicle toward Jackson Hole. 

Cumulus clouds were abundant. So far so good.

Needing a place from which I could photograph both the promised thunderheads and the storm I anticipated would follow, I passed through the park and continued on about 20 miles to the northeast. Approaching the Continental Divide, you pick up altitude; eventually there is a wonderful view back to the west of both the Teton Range and the valley below. This would be a great spot to capture whatever was going to develop.

Settling in to wait for the show, it became apparent the towering clouds weren't going to materialize. Though plentiful cumulus pillows hung around, they failed to climb higher in the sky. Rain developed and moved through the valley, but it wasn't "showy." When it did pass, the skies turned flat. 

I was committed to waiting it out. Besides, there are worse things to do than spend an afternoon/evening watching changeable skies over the Tetons! 

After a few hours, an alert rang through on my phone: heavy weather was headed in my direction with 50mph downdrafts expected. I could see it coming. The skies over the mountains were shaping up nicely. 

It moved quickly; I only had time to make two panoramics before the sky lost definition as the rain closed in on my position. Though the final image was initially processed in color, ultimately I felt that the progression of the storm was better emphasized in black and white. 

Not what was forecast. Not what I expected to see. Still a good day.

Buckle UpBuckle UpHeavy weather moves through Jackson Hole on an early summer afternoon.

Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) clouds Grand Teton National Park monsoon storm summer Teton Range Tetons Wyoming Thu, 09 Jul 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Bloom Where You're Planted Don't live in close proximity to a national park or other iconic natural location? 

Don't have the budget - or time - to do a lot of traveling to such places?

Don't despair. In terms of your development as an outdoor photographer, this may be a blessing in disguise; there can be many benefits to working in closer proximity to where you live.

I began shooting in earnest when I relocated from Los Angeles to New Hampshire in the mid-1990s. Prior to that my job took me out on the road nearly every week. As partner at an executive search firm in New England, the hours were very long but at least I wasn't constantly flying back and forth. I could sneak in some time with the camera but most often it was going to have to be local.

The topography of the Granite State was delightfully different than what I'd been accustomed to. There's a little bit of everything: ocean shoreline, marshes, rivers, lakes, dense forests, mountains - including the highest peak in the Northeast - but it's compact. Most of it is within relatively easy reach. And while there are signature sights in New Hampshire, and photographers do visit (especially during foliage season), it's not filled with "hot spots" like the Snake River Overlook in the Tetons or Yosemite's Tunnel View, where it's easy to find tripod impressions made by the hundreds of people who've come previously and set up in exactly the same spot. 

For me, that was just about perfect.

It forced me to figure things out for myself. I explored what seemed like every nook and cranny in every region of the state. I identified the areas in which I had the most interest. I became well acquainted with weather patterns and conditions. I found my own locations and compositions. What stories did I want to tell? How would I convey them? 

Working in areas that are a little further off the beaten path increases the likelihood that your images will be more unique, and it's training that will stay with you when you do visit locations to which photographers flock. I consider myself fortunate to have had New Hampshire as my classroom.

Does it mean one can't make unique images in iconic spots? Do I have something against Zion or Death Valley or the Grand Canyon? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that you can make interesting images just about anywhere. Shooting closer to home is a great way to train yourself to see the beauty that is everywhere, and to learn how to reveal it in a unique, compelling way.

Don't feel you're at a disadvantage if you're based in Northern Illinois, or Eastern Iowa (both places I've called home) - or wherever it is that you live. 

Bloom where you're planted. 

Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene.

Near Durham, New Hampshire


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New Hampshire Photographer's Guide photography Rebecca Metschke Photography reflections river Thu, 02 Jul 2020 07:10:00 GMT
What's So Grand About the Tetons? Face-to-FaceFace-to-FaceAerial view of the Grand from the west

Teton Range, Wyoming

I've been trying to convince a long-time friend and classmate from high school days to visit the area, having offered to serve as Grand Teton National Park tour guide. He quipped that, were he to do so, he'd discover the answer to the age-old question: "What's so grand about the Tetons?"

Though that comment was obviously tongue in cheek, I thought about it while working late last week in both the park and neighboring Bridger-Teton National Forest. I remembered my reaction when I first saw the Tetons some 25 years ago, and considered how they elicit much the same feeling even now. What's so grand about them? In a word, everything. I wonder if "grand" is a grand enough descriptor.

It was love at first sight when I ventured into Grand Teton National Park on that long-ago initial visit, and the feeling has only intensified over the years as I've had the opportunity to spend much time there and become closely acquainted with the place. Though I left New Hampshire reluctantly and with a heavy heart, there are worse things in life than living so close to this magical slice of Northwest Wyoming. 

There's nothing subtle or demure about the Teton Range - and it's about as far from the landscape of my youth (the mostly flat American Midwest) as one can get. Geologically speaking, the Tetons are quite young; as a result their profile is jagged and dramatic. With no foothills on their eastern side, they rise abruptly and tower over the valley. This unique absence of visual obstructions makes the massive peaks even more commanding and awe-inspiring. Everything about the Tetons is grand. Imposing. Palatial. Formidable.

While my beloved White Mountains of New Hampshire sing, the Tetons shout out. Both are worthy of admiration but tug at the heart in different ways.

Though the rugged mountains are undoubtedly the park's signature sight, its many lakes are also superb - including 15-mile long Jackson Lake, Jenny Lake nestled at the base of Teewinot Mountain, and Taggart Lake situated at the terminus of Avalanche Canyon. The Snake River, which originates in neighboring Yellowstone, also winds its way through the park and supports a wide variety of wildlife including moose, beavers, otters and ospreys. 

And though the view from the western slope is quite different (there are foothills on that side), the peaks are no less magnificent when experienced and savored from places like Alta, Wyoming or Tetonia, Idaho or Ashton, Idaho. 

(Note to landscape photographers: you may find the western side more appealing as it's far less-often photographed.)

It never ceases to amaze me when people pass through Grand Teton National Park without much more than a cursory view; Yellowstone being their main objective, they speed by on the main highway. To each his own - but they're missing out on something special.


Do the Tetons live up to the name? Absolutely. And then some. 


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park mountains Tetons West Wyoming Thu, 25 Jun 2020 07:10:00 GMT
Finding Inspiration Locally Look InsideLook InsideDaylily (Hemerocallis)
Newfields, New Hampshire

As the crow flies, Grand Teton National Park is only 65 miles from my home. Unlike Mr. Crow, however, I have to drive from here to there - which adds additional mileage and involves traveling over two mountain passes. Depending on the time of year, that can get a little tricky. So while I'm fortunate to live in close proximity to such a wonderful park, it's not as though I'm there every week.

What do I photograph when I'm not in the Tetons or elsewhere on the road? I look for inspiration closer to home. During the summer months that inspiration often is only a few steps away, in my gardens.

I've actually been photographing my own flowers for many years: both back in New Hampshire and now here in Idaho. Despite the high-desert climate in this part of the Intermountain West, I've been able to get some gardens established. One of the first things I planted were day lilies. While I enjoy them for aesthetic reasons, I also find them to be great subject matter. They're prolific bloomers - and depending on the variety, the bloom period can last for quite some time. Because they're now available in such a wide range of colors and with a variety of traits (frilled vs straight petal edges, different petal shapes, single vs double blooms, etc.) you can find some really stunning combinations. 

I've spent many hours crawling among my lilies looking for interesting ways to render their beauty. The sky's the limit with flowers: you can go from realistic capture to wild abstract. For me, the abstracts are more fun - and an excellent creative challenge. 

While I can find inspiration in flower beds, for you it might be something entirely different. The point is, potential subject matter is everywhere. Especially now while travel is a little more challenging than usual, finding things to shoot closer to home might be just the ticket.   

Petal PassionPetal Passion


StripedStripedDaylily petal abstract (Newfields, New Hampshire)

(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstracts day lilies flowers gardens inspiration photography tips Thu, 18 Jun 2020 07:10:00 GMT
Moments of Magic The wildflower situation so far this spring in Teton Country has been superlative. As far as Arrowleaf Balsam Root are concerned, it's been a bumper crop with thousands of bunches of sunny yellow optimism showing off in a big, bold way. Unfortunately, the timing of the bloom has coincided with a period of persistently heavy winds which has made photographing them quite challenging. Late last week I was in the park for a few days hoping to find a window of relative calm in which to work. My wind speed app told me it was going to happen - and I really wanted to believe it! 

Long story short: the forecast wasn't exactly accurate. The elusive calm conditions never materialized. It became painfully clear I probably wouldn't be capturing many images of flowers during these sessions. This being "green season," though, I was also on the lookout for subject matter that would enable me to tell that story. Perhaps all would not be lost.

The second day, I worked from sunrise until mid-morning at which point the wind became a real nuisance. Thunderstorms had been forecast but weren't supposed to arrive until evening. While weighing my options, an alert rang in on my phone: heavy weather would be arriving imminently with 40-50mph downdrafts, lightning, and heavy rain. Once much for the forecast. Within 15 minutes I could see it coming; it was moving quickly. Never one to pass up a storm in the Tetons, I hurried to find a suitable spot from which I could watch (safely) - and possibly capture it with the camera. 

The storm was absolutely stunning - and unusual in that the falling rain rendered not as dark blue streaks, but white. It descended all the way from the sky to the valley floor, creating a translucent "curtain." This monochromatic backdrop accentuated the lush, signature springtime greens. Snow still clinging to the mountains added depth to the scene. 

At its heaviest, the rain nearly obscured everything. Occasionally, though, the line of trees nearest to me was clearly visible. The mountains would disappear, re-emerge, and then disappear again. Scanning the peaks, I noticed a spot where there was a break in the solid wall of rock. The dramatic "V" was a perfect backdrop - while the gauzy white accentuated the space between the first two lines of trees. I ended up with four distinct horizontal stripes at the bottom of the frame.

High winds, heavy rain, thunder, lightning - and these fantastic scenes sweeping over the landscape. Quite the spectacle!

It didn't last long, but it was pure magic. 

ThunderstruckThunderstruckAs a powerful thunderstorm sweeps through Jackson Hole, a translucent curtain created by heavy rain lowers over both the mountains and valley.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming





(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park mountains spring storm Tetons Thu, 11 Jun 2020 07:05:00 GMT
17 Minutes According to national park surveys, the average visit to the Grand Canyon lasts between five to seven hours, with just 17 minutes spent actually looking at the canyon (versus driving from one spot to the next).

That can't be right, can it?

Ah, but it's true.

While the parks are heavily visited (with some nearly overrun during peak months), for most people a visit consists of not much more than a cursory once-over. Stop at a few overlooks, grab some lunch, and you're done!

Obviously, if your objective is to make good landscape photographs at a national park, you won't be one of these 17-minute wonders. Plan on staying a while. (I'd suggest a minimum of three or four days; if you can swing more than that you won't regret it.)

No matter how thorough your advance research, there's no substitute for actual feet-on-the-ground scouting. Build time into the schedule so you can familiarize yourself with the area once you arrive. Make a connection to what you're seeing; let nature begin to "speak" to you. Identify places and/or objects that peak your interest. Study the light. Determine how long it's going to take to get from one location to the next - not just the drive, but also the hiking. From this you can build a rough schedule.

Then there's weather. It can be your friend or make life maddeningly difficult. The more time you give yourself, the greater the odds of success. (If it's a particularly challenging forecast, additional time might be what saves you from walking away completely empty-handed.) Each additional day is another chance to wait out poor conditions. Another chance to capture the aftermath when a front passes through - or before one moves in. It might provide a chance to see the landscape in a variety of completely different ways. Storms. Fog. Clearing. And naturally, each additional day provides you with one more sunrise and sunset opportunity!

Linger. You'll be glad you did.

Sweeping ArcsSweeping ArcsAbove and below, in reverse directions

Vishnu Temple - North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Canyon Grand Canyon National Park national parks North Rim Thu, 04 Jun 2020 07:23:00 GMT
On Repetition While I enjoy experiencing and photographing new locations as much as the next person, there's also much to be said for places that are frequently visited - like those closer to home. (Given the current situation, close to home may be all you've got to work with right now. And let's face it, even if things were "normal" constantly traveling to find the next exciting locale can be costly and time consuming.)

As mentioned in a recent post, when I lived in New Hampshire I spent countless mornings working at the seacoast for the better part of five years. My husband once asked whether that didn't get boring.

I'll bet you can guess my answer!  

Going to the same area over and over again is the only way to truly get to know it. You see it in different types of light. In a variety of conditions. During different times of the year. You can see how it changes over time, and you'll learn what to expect from Mother Nature. You learn to look deeper; there are many intimate shots to be found within the bigger landscape.

Shooting a location repeatedly encourages creativity. Nothing appears exactly the same from one visit to the next. What catches the eye today may be something that appeared plain or nondescript yesterday. 

In a few days I'll be back again in the Tetons - my "local" park - where I've worked many, many times. My assignment will be to photograph "green season." What that means in terms of images, I don't yet know. Avoiding preconceived notions about specifically what I'm going to shoot creates more opportunities.

If you're feeling like you're in a rut with a location, remove expectations, keep an open mind, and slow down to give yourself a chance to notice things. The photographs will follow.

Majestic Grand Teton National ParkMajesticAs sunset nears, a dramatic sky complements the grandeur of the Teton Range while the lush greens of spring decorate the landscape below.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park repetition Tetons Thu, 28 May 2020 07:00:00 GMT
Avoiding Tunnel Vision A person can have perfect 20/20 eyesight and still suffer from tunnel vision. Photographers are not immune from this malady! 

You can be so intent on getting to a specific location that you fail to notice interesting subject matter along the way. You walk right by something that would have made an even better photograph - or perhaps a more unique shot.

Working on-site, you might stick with a single composition rather than trying a different way of framing the scene, or alternate vantage points, or switching lenses. You might be so absorbed with what's in front of you that you forget to turn around and see that something equally interesting is just waiting to be photographed.

I'm not suggesting that getting expeditiously to a location in order to take advantage of favorable conditions or good light is a bad thing. We all do it. Further, the window of opportunity can be fleeting. If so, quick work is required. There may be barely enough time for more than a single shot. And of course your attention and efforts are primarily focused on the subject at hand; that's what caught your eye. Or it's what you came to shoot.

Still, be aware of tunnel vision and try to avoid it. Being mindful when out in nature pays dividends. Notice things. Slow down whenever possible. Keep an open mind. Give yourself some latitude to connect with your surroundings. And whatever you do, don't be in a rush to pack up your bag and leave.

The photo pictured below illustrates how important it can be to simply look over your shoulder. 

On this morning in Grand Teton National Park, I was hoping for fog; it had rained overnight and was still showering when I arrived on location in the hour before daybreak. Unfortunately, though the desired fog arrived, it was so thick the images I had in mind would not be possible to make. (It would be early afternoon before it burned off.) That said, the dense, opaque curtain created other interesting opportunities. I made a series of photos while the fog waxed and waned, shifting and dancing. 

While doing so, I kept an eye on what was unfolding behind me. The mountains to the east were becoming visible; the storm clouds above them had a great deal of definition; the fog was burning off more quickly in that direction. A young conifer along the river caught my eye. It stood alone, its line emphasized by its reflection. Though pretty to look at, it wasn't a photograph - until just a little bit of sunlight broke through which lit the tree, a few of the aspens in the background, and most important, the wisp of lingering fog. 

It was that illuminated bit of fog which completed the scene. This is where your eye first lands, and the spotlight effect would be much less obvious without it. Its shape is duplicated by the cloud above it which contributes to the vertical structure within the center of the frame.

That fleeting shaft of sunlight created a vignette featuring what first captured my attention: the little tree and its reflection. I wouldn't have noticed this, or made the photograph, if I hadn't looked behind my shoulder. Another bonus? It's a different way of depicting the Park; it includes none of the iconic elements you normally see. 

Take the blinders off. You'll be rewarded with more opportunities to make interesting photos.  

In the SpotlightIn the SpotlightAs heavy fog following overnight rain slowly begins to lift, a shaft of sunlight accentuates the center vignette.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog Grand Teton National Park Snake River Thu, 2