The Best Places for Landscape Photography in the Tetons and Jackson Hole
Grand Teton National Park is truly one of the world's great photography and viewing locations with dramatic locations such as Snake River OverLook, Schwabacher Landing, Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Jackson Lake, and of course, the Majestic Tetons themselves. The area known as the Jackson Hole and the Tetons is truly a place apart. This is a place where you can see one of the world's most beautiful mountain ranges, scenic rivers, and most, if not all, of the large mammals that inhabit the lower 48 states. I guess that is why I have spent most of my adult life in the Teton - Yellowstone Ecosystem. While I have traveled the world in search of great images, it is here that will always hold my heart.
To pick the number one photography location in Grand Teton would be a fools errand since that will change day by day depending on weather and light. The first rule of photographing the Tetons is be up and out not before sunrise but before there is any light. If you're not driving with your headlights on you are already too late for the best light of the day in Jackson Hole and the Tetons. Since the Teton range is to the west of Jackson Hole the sun will rise behind you if you are facing the mountains and the sky will begin to glow 30 to 45 minuets before actual sunrise. Since many of the best locations are candidates for mountain and sky reflections the chances are the wind will be the calmest before sunrise also.
Many of the famous landscape photography locations are about the mountains reflecting in water. Usually the Snake River is the water, although Jackson Lake and String Lake can also provide a great foreground for spectacular images with the right composition and light.
When it comes to reflections the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River should be very high on your priority list. Yes it has been photographed millions of times but there is a reason for that, it is a beautiful location with many possible compositions. When you are photographing at sunrise on the Oxbow you will have plenty of company so plan on being set up in the dark if you want to shoot one of the classic angles. If you have that shot or want to be more creative move around, get down to the water level, move up and down the river but don't forget to take your eyes off the the view finder or LCD screen long enough to really take in the splendor of morning at the Oxbow.
A equally impressive Teton reflection photography location is Schwabacher's Landing. Scwabbies is actually a slow water side channel of the Snake River that like the Oxbow can provide numerous excellent images. Follow the trail from the parking lot and pick a spot that please your senses where it is a classic view to a new creative approach to this iconic location.
Of course there are many other locations for reflections along the banks of the Snake River and the various ponds and lakes in Jackson Hole but remember to stay on the trails, we are truly loving these places to death. Plants do not regenerate quickly in the mountainous places we love.
While it is important to be behind your tripod rather than behind your steering wheel when the first rays of light kiss the top of the Grand your day will have only just begun. One of the top and the most famous locations in Grand Teton National Park is actually best photographed after the sun has been up for a hour or more. The Snake River Overlook, made famous by Ansel Adams, can be photographed at sunrise but because you are high above the S curves of the river and cottonwood forest in the valley below they will be in deep shadow at sunrise. Of course I would never say never but unless you have an awesome cloud layer to bounce light into the valley or a creative concept you want to work from this location the Snake River Overlook is usually best photographed after the morning light has filled the valley or just before the sun goes behind the mountains in the afternoon.
One of the classic photography locations that does not include water or reflections is the barns of Mormon Row located along the Antelope Flats Road on the east side of Jackson Hole. These historic barns provide a great foreground to the expansive view of the Teton Range as seen from Antelope Flats. The Barns themself are almost all that remains of the early settlers ranching enterprise and are keep in a state of arrested decay by the National Park Service to be a reminder of the culture of the western expansion of this great land.
This just touches very few of the many great landscape photography locations that Jackson Hole and the Tetons have to offer nature photographers. Between the prime times of sunrise and sunset explore. Use the midday light to find places to create your own classic Teton images.
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