Again and Again

May 30, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

REFLECTIONS OF SPRINGREFLECTIONS OF SPRINGFirst light on the Teton Range, still beautifully snow-covered in late May, is reflected in Jackson Lake

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
There is no harm in repeating a good thing.

New locations are exciting to explore and photograph, but there's a lot to be said for familiarity. 

Realistically, if we want to shoot regularly, it likely means frequenting places closer to home. Distant travel is not a prerequisite for making great photographs.

Because I live near two of the crown jewels in the national park system, my local locations are perhaps a little more "epic" than average - but the concept of repetition is the same. Visiting a location frequently can either be considered monotonous or artistically advantageous. I don't think there's any question it's the latter. 

Invest some time and you'll come to know the personality of the place; you will connect with it on a deeper level. You'll begin to understand its quirks and what to expect at different times of day or during different seasons of the year. You'll discover nooks and crannies that typically remain hidden to the casual visitor.

Keep an open mind; each time you visit there's a chance you'll notice something new, or feel something different, or think of another way to convey an emotion.

While the location in which you're shooting remains constant, it never looks exactly the same. Conditions change. Seasons change. You change. 

The better you know a place, the more likely it is that the quality of images you make will there will improve. You can correct mistakes made previously or experiment with new techniques.

You'll get off the beaten path and explore more. Your eye will become more discerning.

Look more deeply at the landscape and inevitably the images you make there will start to become more unique. Perhaps more personal. You will be forced to look beyond the obvious.

You'll build your portfolio.

Importantly, knowing a location intimately means you can anticipate what to expect. For example, if it rains overnight, XYZ is likely to happen in the morning. You know this; you've seen it occur many times. Obviously you'll never bat 1.000 but it'll improve the odds of positioning yourself in a good spot from which to work.

By frequenting a location you'll have a better chance of witnessing and capturing interesting and/or unique conditions that might occur only sporadically.

Shooting closer to home enables you to react spontaneously to weather: things like approaching storm fronts or snowfall as it's happening or hoarfrost. If something looks like it might pan out, it won't take long to reach your preferred location.

The more you revisit a place, the less likely you are to go into it with specific preconceived ideas, which is a creative advantage.

I rarely have any firm idea what I'm going to shoot when I go to Grand Teton National Park. I typically approach visits with nothing more than very broad, generalized thoughts in mind. Take spring as an example: two of my favorite things about it are its palette of lush greens and the mountains still dressed in winter white - so when I'm in the park this time of year, those are things I'm especially attuned to. If I can find a way to tell either of those stories, I'm all in. 

Spring is also wildflower season, so in June I'll keep my eyes open for potential compositions featuring the blooms. If I see something, great. If not, that's okay.

And so it goes throughout the year.

I let the park take the lead and endeavor to hear whatever it's trying to tell me on any given day.

Familiarity does not breed contempt - at least photographically speaking. Familiar locations are terrific places to work. And let's be honest, they are quite practical. Unless perpetual globe-trotting is in your future or you're not planning on shooting much, you're going to find yourself revisiting areas with your camera. 

Don't be afraid to take a deeper dive. The water's fine.

About the Photograph

Going into Grand Teton NP last week, I figured (correctly) the aspens wouldn't quite be leafed out yet, so there'd be no lime green subject matter to work with. As for the blanket of white on the Teton peaks? Magnificent. The fact that it had snowed the day before didn't hurt, either.

Timing my visit between fronts, I hoped for an assist from an incoming low pressure system. 

I spent the afternoon enjoying wildlife (two sightings of 399!) and checking out the status of trees in various areas but not doing any real shooting. I had Jackson Lake in mind for the following morning; if I'd get the red skies often associated with incoming weather, there could be nice reflections of alpenglow. The lake is quite large, though; calm water can be a big ask even when the air seems mostly calm. Nearing dusk, I stopped by to see how the surface looked: still a bit rough, even though the wind had died down. Didn't seem promising.

I set up camp unsure of where I was going to shoot in the morning.

Ultimately, I chose the lake. The water was, surprisingly, mostly calm - but the sky over the mountains was uninteresting. I kept the camera out but figured I'd likely be enjoying the early morning simply as a spectator.

Conditions were fluid. As time passed, clouds built over the Tetons. Eventually the sun found an opening and painted the eastern sky pink. I doubted there'd be enough "oomph" for any color to extend to the west, and the water had gotten a little choppy. Again things changed - this time quickly - as the lake calmed and the mountains were slowly bathed with lovely alpenglow. 

The beautiful scene disappeared as incoming weather blocked the sun. The mountains went dark and the glassy surface of the lake was lost to the breeze. 

Meanwhile, Back East

Sad news came yesterday from Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. Star, the horse pictured here and a fixture in the field across from Polly's Pancake Parlor since 2006, passed away "very peacefully...surrounded by her people, the wildflowers, and in the sun."

If you've been out shooting with me in the White Mountains you have no doubt seen Star.

Rest easy, sweet girl.


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