Singing in the Rain

July 13, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

 

SINGIN' IN THE RAINSINGIN' IN THE RAINPassing showers create a show as they're lit by the rising sun

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Summer arrived rather abruptly in Teton Country earlier this week. Even in the mountains toasty temperatures are on deck; the forecast calls for a high of 90 degrees in Jackson this coming Monday.

The combination of heat and dry conditions means the end of green season is near: another transition which can take place rapidly. Grasses and sedges dry out quickly, while aspens and cottonwoods shift from bright lime to darker shades as the leaves mature. All good things must come to an end...

Grand Teton NP was still lush and decorated with plenty of fresh green at the end of last week, though, thanks to many weeks of cool and wet conditions. I was there to take advantage of another round of anticipated unsettled weather, knowing it would more than likely be the final shooting opportunity of this year's green season.

Like anything involving Mother Nature, there were more than a few surprises. Long story short, I didn't make any photographs featuring bright greens or wildflowers. A few other things I had in mind didn't pan out for one reason or another. The precipitation, however, did not disappoint.

The localized effect mountains have on weather is fascinating. I'm originally a flatlander - born and raised in the Midwest. Watching storm clouds forming over the Tetons or climbing high above Jackson Hole is endlessly fascinating to me. The more foreboding, the better. 

Had I retained color in the following image, you would have seen quite a bit of lime green, but what's going on in the sky - and the relationship between the clouds and the landscape - is the story. As much as I like "green season," here color was a distraction. The photograph is stronger in black and white.

The image at the top of this post was made following a night of widespread precipitation. My high hopes for the morning were somewhat dashed when it began raining again just as I was getting ready to head out from the campsite - but in spite of that it wasn't completely overcast. Passing rainfall can be great if the sun is able to light it. I remained cautiously - though blindly - optimistic; the canopy blocked my view to the eastern horizon and I couldn't see the mountains from there, either. 

It wasn't raining directly overhead when I arrived on location, though I could see rain streaks in more than one direction. There was some magenta developing behind me to the east, but given the cloud cover it seemed unlikely this would strengthen sufficiently. 

Wrong!

Eventually the eastern sky exploded with color which then expanded and filled the entire sky. Though less intense to the west, pinks and purples lit the clouds, the passing rain, and the mountains. Because I wanted a 1:1 crop, I needed a pano to create a large file at that ratio. The color didn't last long but I had time to make four panoramas.

The lovely hues disappeared and it started to rain again, but I lingered to enjoy the peace and quiet - not to mention the scenery. In spite of all the holiday week visitors, I was blissfully alone. 

In Local News

Park visitors appear to be back in force this summer. I haven't seen official stats for June, but anecdotally I can assure you it's busy. Lines at entrance gates are long. The Jenny Lake lot is packed by 8am. 

The Bureau of Reclamation has been holding the flow at Jackson Lake Dam all spring, which has made for noticeably low water levels at Oxbow Bend. Last week low water at the bend appeared even more dramatic. I hiked up the hill to have a look at the side channel, only to find that it was mostly dry. This was puzzling since they were supposed to begin releasing more water from the dam toward the end of June. On Monday the powers that be finally started to increase the flow. Better late than never. Jackson Lake is 90% full - roughly three feet short of capacity - which is a vast improvement over the past two years. All marinas are open.


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