You Never Know

July 14, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

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.



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