Almost every single year since 1996, my family has met in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to experience the sheer awesomeness that are Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. While I have gone in pretty much every season of the year, I prefer Fall. The Fall is great because the colors are changing and there is plenty of wildlife for when you don't have optimal weather for landscape photography.
I like to think that whenever I have the opportunity to be photographing that I am the 'luckiest man on earth.' It almost does not matter that the predominant theme of the trip was overcoming barriers. Being out there is great, no matter how much it rains or that our government is so dysfunctional that it allows itself to keep coming to these financial impasses. As I mentioned, it rained a lot during the early stages of the trip and we did a lot of wildlife viewing. This black bear was seen in Grand Teton National Park on the Moose Wilson Road.
I generally prefer the quietness of the Tetons to Yellowstone and spent the first few days in Grand Teton. If we had thought that the government was really going to close, we probably would have reversed that and spent more time in Yellowstone. The one day that we were able to go up to Yellowstone, we drove all the way up past the Sylvan Lake. We were very fortunate to see a grizzly female - one that I believe I have seen in years past. We spotted her because we saw a murder of ravens flying up and down and assumed that they were probably going after a carcass. We struck gold and had the opportunity to watch the grizzly and the ravens argue with each other over their respective dinners. At one point, there must have been 7 or 8 ravens fighting with the grizz over the meat. The below image is a bit noisy and I am looking forward to trying it out with the new DXO Optics software later.
I also created this next composition in the Yellowstone Lake area while tromping around looking for a Bald Eagle. It would be really nice to come out here for a sunrise, I think. A bit of a shlep, so next time I guess I will have to camp up in Yellowstone.
Then, unfortunately the government failed us and our parks (among other things) were forced to close. We had camp reservations at Signal Mountain Lodge, however, we were told that we had 48 hours to get out and that we were welcome to not leave our campsite. For me, this was more an inconvenience as I have been shooting in the parks for years and have a lot of the iconic shots. Also, I am fortunate to know my way around so finding things to do outside of the Parks was not going to be too difficult. However, for the kids, the park concessionaires and the towns that are connected, I feel really bad. I wrote an interview about the impacts on the park with Ms. Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles
of the Office of Public Affairs at Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway for people who want to read more about that. Fortunately, the closure is over.
We were able to steal away one day into the park right after the announcement of the closure. We were able to sneak in prior to the saw horses coming out and enjoyed one day in Grand Teton where we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Folks were allowed to leave, just no longer enter.
The great thing about the Tetons is that even with large swathes closed, there are still lots of public highways that allow for beautiful views of the big rocks. The rest of the trip was spent driving through the Elk Refuge and spending time in parts of the park that could not be closed (essentially anything with a highway running through it). As the light was not awesome, but was good, I decided to spend the peak time photographing some panos. Both of these are approximately 17x40, not the biggest I have done, but larger than a native shot.
My one issue with the next pano? The outhouse is facing the wrong direction.
We also explored the areas South of Jackson. The foliage was much better South of town. The foliage still had not peaked in Grand Teton.
The last morning, we spent our time around the barns and prepared to go home. It was a challenging week photographically but all in all, it was a good one. For just a few moments, I really was the luckiest man a live.