Can't Get There From Here

January 19, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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.

 


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