Blink and You Might Miss It

June 29, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

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

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 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!!


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