On a recent jaunt to Jackson, I decided to track the mileage and write directions to the hot spots around the Grand Teton National Park so my students could take a drive from Rexburg, Idaho, and experience the breathtaking scenery so close to BYU – Idaho. I met several interesting photographers early in the morning and learned some new techniques.
1. Get up early and shoot at the crack of dawn! It will be worth getting there early so you can get the first light, I call “alpen glow.” This orange light hits the tops of the Tetons in the most amazing way! Just Google “sunrise in Jackson Wyoming” to find out the exact sunrise time. Then leave Jackson about 45 minutes before sunrise, so you can capture the first alpen glow that hits the tips of the Tetons. Seriously, some say it is not worth going at all if you can’t catch this first light. Many landscape photographers only shoot during the first and last 60 minutes of the day. If you are going to make the drive, get up EARLY!
2. Start at the town square in the center of Jackson. Look for the antler arches in the park and set your odometer to clock the route.
3. Go North on Hwy 89 (191) for 12 miles to Antelope Flats Road, which is 1.1 miles past Moose Junction.
4. Turn right on Antelope Flats Road and go 1.5 miles. Look to the left for an old orange house with some other out buildings. This is Mormon Row, and the most famous old barn in the world is about 150 yards past the orange house.
5. Turn left into a pullout near the orange house and park, but be careful not to block the road, which is marked clearly with a chain and “no parking” signs. You can buy a pamphlet for 50 cents to read later, about the history of Mormon Row, in a box near the sign. Here are some shots of this house and other buildings I took about a month ago.
6. Walk down the dirt road for about 150 yards to the barn. Take a flashlight if necessary to see the terrain (if you go early). Look for a spot to cross the small ditch just to the right of the road. Walk back into the sagebrush area, away from the barn, so you can frame the Tetons nicely. You will want to be a little to the left of the barn to get some of the left side of the barn in the shot. Stake your spot and set up your tripod with all the other photographers who will be arriving about the same time. Be respectful not to setup in front of someone else who got up earlier.
7. Take a few sample shots to test the light, and then wait for the first inkling of light to break out from behind you. I started with something like: f/20 SS: 1/4 ISO: 100. You want to underexpose the shot, so you can get the rich colors and the light. You can always lighten things a bit later, but if you shoot it too light, you will overexpose some details and they will be lost. I like to keep my tripod in the same spot the entire time, so I can bracket the light and blend two shots later. This photo below, is one photo. I used an adjustment brush in Camera Raw to bring out the light on the barn. The light will hit the Tetons first, then about 15 – 20 minutes later, the light will hit the barn.
8. Quickly go the opposite direction to shoot the second barn. Hop in your car and go south on this same road to shoot the rest of Mormon Row. You will see the sign that says “Mormon Row,” with the second barn to the right, just off the road. Shoot the second barn from a similar angle. If you google Mormon Row – Images, you will see both barns. The first barn has the corrals to the right. The second barn has no corrals, so it is not quite as interesting, but it can be an equally nice shot. If you are in a hurry, skip the second barn, and get to the next spot, which is the killer location. You can always come back later in the day to check out all the other out buildings in the area.
9. Go to Schwabacher Landing to get the Tetons reflecting in a beaver pond. This is one of my favorite vantage points! Drive back down Antelope Flats Road to the highway, where you came from. Turn right and go 3 miles. Look for a small sign on the left that says Scwabacher Landing. (If you get to the Teton overlook, you have gone too far.) Take this washboard gravel road slowly, if you are in a car. Go as far as you can on this road and park. Then take your gear on a 1/4 mile walk along the water. You will find a small beaver pond (and more photographers), where the water is often glassy smooth.
Check out this shot below, I took of the Tetons reflecting in a beaver pond at Schwabacher Landing. Next time, I think I may skip Mormon Row at dawn and go straight to this spot and get the first light here instead. If you don’t get there at the first crack of dawn, you will miss the best light. Believe me, it is just not the same, if you take the shot later in the day. Under Andy”s shot, you can see a shot I took from the same spot I took a few years ago later in the day (and later in the year). To get the Alpen Glow, I will need to leave Rexburg, Idaho, at about 3:00am to get there on time (or just stay overnight in Jackson, which can be expensive in the summer). One of these days, I plan on it, for sure. You have to pick the right day, without clouds covering the Tetons, which has been my common misfortune.
10. Go north to the Snake River Overlook. After shooting around Schwabacher Landing, go back to the highway, turn left, and continue north to the Snake River Overlook. This is the famous shot Ansel Adams captured his gorgeous black and white image from a high vantage point above this bend in the river.
NOTE: If you don’t want to pay the entrance fee for the Grand Teton National Park, stop here, and go back to Jackson. The price is about $20 per car to enter the park. This will give you a seven-day pass for this park and the Yellowstone National Park. So you may want to head on up the road to Yellowstone, while you are at it!
Continue on to Oxbox Bend. This is another famous vantage point where you can get amazing reflections of the right side of the Tetons, or more specially Mt. Moran.
11. Continue north to Jenny Lake. Continue on Highway 89, then turn left, off the highway, to cross the Jackson Lake dam and continue to the Jenny Lake area. Turn right onto the Jenny Lake loop road. There are great stopping points all along this road to stop and take breathtaking view of the Tetons. Drive to String Lake to take a walk, eat your lunch, or just sit by the lake and take in Mount Moran. This loop will take you along Jenny Lake, which sits at the base of the Tetons. You may also want to take the ferry across Jenny Lake and hike to Hidden Falls, which is a gorgeous steep walk, but not too strenuous, and only about 1/2 mile along a rushing mountain stream. See my previous post for more photos along this hike.
12. Drive the hard-packed dirt road from Moose Junction to Wilson. This less-known route will take you past beaver ponds and beautiful views through a corner of the park. You will end up at Teton Village, Jackson Hole ski resort. This is a fun spot to walk around, ear dinner, or maybe ride the tram to the top, for a panoramic view of the whole Jackson area. Then you can continue on to Wilson and over the pass, for the ride home. Don’t forget to stop at the Rainey Creek Store for a square ice-cream cone. See my previous post for more photos along this road.
My next post will feature photos from the Swan Valley area, another stunning location. A few miles from Swan Valley, is the picturesque Palisades Dam and Palisades Lake. I hope you enjoy your tour of the Grand Teton National Park. Please leave me a comment or contact me via email (see Contact Page on my website) to let me know what you think of this tour and how your images turned out. I would love to hear from you. Have a great trip!