5 Tips For Photographing Grand Teton National Park (Without Going Inside The Park)

John Moulton Barn Grand Teton National Park

Barn by the Tetons – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

The Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming is incredibly beautiful! It’s one of my favorite places. Once you’ve been, you’ll want to return again and again. There’s a magical quality to it, similar to that first view of the Grand Canyon or a misty morning in Yosemite Valley. If you’ve never visited the range, it should be high on your bucket list of places to see! The Grand Tetons are a landscape photographer’s playground, and you definitely need to visit with a camera in hand.

Many people who see the Grand Tetons do so from their car. U.S. Highway 191 runs north and south just east of the mountain, offering spectacular sights the whole length. There are so many amazing views of the range that don’t require an entrance into the park. Yellowstone National Park, which is a little north of the Grand Tetons, is the more popular park of the two, and Jackson Hole has itself become a destination, so a lot of people only see the Teton Range as they travel between the two places. While taking time to go inside the Grand Teton National Park is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, it’s definitely possible to experience exquisite views from outside the gate. Going inside the national park isn’t required for a memorable Teton visit. Below are five tips for photographing the Grand Tetons from outside the park entrance.

The Off Season Is The Best Season

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Tetons From Mormon Row – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Avalanche Canyon – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

The Grand Teton National Park can get very crowded. Even though it plays second fiddle to nearby Yellowstone, it still sees a ton of visitors from across the world, especially in the summer months. The winter months are harsh yet could provide some amazing photographic opportunities for those willing to brave the elements, but that’s not when I’d recommend visiting. There are a couple of small windows that are better suited for travel to the Grand Tetons.

The month of May is an excellent time, as the crowds are low since school is still in for many people, and the weather is usually decent enough. The earlier in the month you go, the smaller the crowds will be, but the temperatures will be colder and it still might feel like winter. Mid-May is the sweet spot. Mid-September to mid-October is another excellent time, as most children have returned to school, and the weather is still decent enough. The earlier you go the better the weather, but the larger the crowds will be. Late September is another sweet spot for visiting Grand Teton National Park. If the forecast is for clouds and cold temperatures, it could provide a dramatic environment for your pictures, so it might be preferable over endless sunshine, but be prepared for the conditions.

Early Morning Is Magical

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Mountain & Clouds – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Sliver of Illumination – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

While sunset can be a spectacular time to photograph the Grand Tetons, nothing beats sunrise. Since the highway runs on the east side of the range, the sunrise light is often better for photographing the mountains. The early morning “golden hour” is a time that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to arrive well before the official sunrise because the peaks will illuminate before the valley. If you can only be there for either sunrise or sunset (and not both), make sure that it’s sunrise. It’s worth getting up while it’s still dark outside to catch the early morning light on the Teton Range.

Because the sunrise will light the tips of the peaks first, it’s a good plan to begin the day with a telephoto lens. Once more of the landscape has daylight, you can switch to a wide-angle lens if you’d like. The Grand Tetons are a place where you’ll want the option for both telephoto and wide-angle focal lengths, and you’ll probably switch between both frequently.

Mormon Row Is Historic

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Mountain & Mormon How – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Barn In The Mountains – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

If you are starting off your photographic journey in the early morning, make the Mormon Row Historic District your first stop. It’s located just north of the Grand Teton National Park entrance on the east side of the highway. The old houses and barns are found about a mile down Antelope Flats Road. The John Moulton Barn is probably the most famous of the historic structures, and surely you’ve seen pictures of it, but there are other buildings that are equally picturesque. Mormon Row is one of the most famous spots at the Grand Tetons for photography, so even during the off season you’re likely to find a crowd with cameras at this place.

Besides the historic buildings, this is a location where you might spot bison, as buffalo commonly graze in the area. You might also see deer or even moose. Always be vigilant around wildlife and keep a safe distance. While the animals are fairly used to crowds of people, they can still be quite dangerous, so don’t get too close.

Schwabacher Landing Is Unbelievable

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Tetons From Schwabacher Landing – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Schwabacher Landing Beaver Dam – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

After you are done photographing the barns at Mormon Row, head further north up the highway to Schwabacher Landing. There’s a little road on the west side of the highway that takes you down close to the river, which is calm and reflective thanks to a bunch of beaver dams. Honestly, this place is magical! It can feel unreal. It’s my favorite place at the Grand Tetons, so be sure to stop here.

If there’s a place that you’ll want to use a tripod and really take your time, this is it. Walk around the trails a little. Soak in the scene. Enjoy the incredible nature that’s around you. Don’t be in a hurry to head down the road. Be in the moment, because the moment is amazing. If you are visiting during the off season, there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself. Don’t miss Schwabacher Landing because it’s unbelievably beautiful!

Snake River Overlook Is Iconic

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Snake River Fog – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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The Tetons and the Snake River, 2017 – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

About 21 miles north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the Snake River Overlook, which is a pullout on the west side of Highway 191. There are a bunch of scenic pullouts along the highway that offer stunning views of the Grand Tetons, but this one is special because Ansel Adams captured one of his most iconic pictures at this spot. What makes it especially great is that you can capture the Snake River winding in front of the incredible mountain range. This is a good place to finish the morning, and, if you can, return for sunset.

As a photographer who has studied Ansel Adams’ work, who has been inspired and influenced by his pictures, there’s something prodigious about being in the exact spot where he captured one of his famous pictures. It’s walking in the footsteps of greatness. It seems particularly appropriate, when you visit the Teton Range, to pay homage to Adams by making your own photographs at the Snake River Overlook.

See also: 5 Tips To Become A Better Photographer

5 Tips To Become A Better Photographer in 2020

Fujifilm X-E1

It’s almost the new year! 2020 is at the doorstep. This year is nearly over. You might be wondering how to improve your photography in 2020. Perhaps you feel that your pictures aren’t “good enough” and you wish you could make pictures like what you see others creating. Maybe you are in a rut and don’t know how to move forward. Or it could be that you always keep your camera in auto because you are intimidated by all of the different settings and you don’t really understand all of the technical stuff. Perhaps you just received your first “real” camera for Christmas and don’t know where to start. Whatever the reason, you want to become a better photographer in 2020. Well, this article is for you!

If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. No matter what your skill level is, you should always be striving to improve. You should be pushing yourself to be more technically proficient or to learn a new technique or to be more creative or to have a stronger vision. Throughout your life, and not just in 2020, you should be trying to become a better photographer. Keep working towards improvement. Don’t stand still, because you can’t.

Really, I’m in the same boat as you. I’m trying to become a better photographer in 2020. I’m pushing myself to improve my camera skills. My advice is aimed at myself just as much as you. We’re all in this together. I hope that you find the five tips below helpful in your quest to become a better photographer in 2020!

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UP 4014 & UP 844 Racing West – Richardson Draw, WY – Fujifilm X-T20

Tip #1 – Know Your Gear, Part 1: Read The Manual

This might sound silly and obvious, but it’s important to know your camera and other photography gear inside and out. You need to know what all of the different settings do. You need to know how to make adjustments. You need to know how it all works. Most people thumb through the manual when they first get a new camera or other gear, and never look at it again. It’s a very good idea to take a careful look at it during unboxing, but it’s also a good idea to revisit the manual every so often. Pull the booklet back out after owning the camera for three months, and again at the one-year mark. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find! If you are like me, you’ll learn new things each time that you do this. Knowing your gear is the necessary foundation for improving your photography.

Tip #2 – Know Your Gear, Part 2: Understand How It Works

Knowing how to change the aperture is one thing, but knowing how it will affect the picture is another. Those who have been doing photography for awhile likely have a good grasp on what all of the different settings do to a picture, but those who are inexperienced might have no idea. Even if you have a good grasp, it’s always beneficial to investigate more deeply, understand more precisely, and try new techniques. There are tons of people who don’t understand even the basics, and things like the exposure triangle are completely foreign to them. If you rely on the camera to guess what the right settings should be, you are basically crossing your fingers and wishing on a star that your picture will turn out well. If you intimately understand how your camera works and how different settings affect the image, you can ensure that your pictures turn out just as you want them to.

There are tons of great resources for learning different aspects of camera settings. Nowadays, with the internet, everything is right at your fingertips. Oftentimes the best way to learn is by doing, which means that you take your camera out of auto and play around with it. Spend some time experimenting with different apertures, different shutter speeds, different ISOs, etc.,etc., and compare the results. This is a learning process, so don’t worry that your pictures aren’t good yet. It takes a lot of time, but the time investment is well worth it. Whatever you are trying to learn, read up on it, then go out and do it, not being afraid to fail, but trying again and again until it’s second nature.

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Onaqui Wild Horses – Dugway, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

Tip #3 – Invest In Experiences

Camera companies want you to think that you need the latest and greatest gear to become a better photographer. If only you had more resolution, better auto-focus, a larger sensor, a faster lens, etc., your pictures would look amazing, and they don’t because you didn’t buy it. My advice is to use what you already have to the best of your ability, and spend the money on experiences instead of new gear. Travel! Go someplace amazing. It doesn’t have to be far. Even if you were only going to spend $500, that money could get you somewhere. Take your camera with you and use it. Take lots of pictures! It’s better to keep the gear that you own and really use it, than to buy new gear and not use it as much. Eventually it will make sense to “upgrade” to something new, and you’ll know when that time is, but for now spend your money on experiences and not gear.

Tip #4 – Find The Light

Photography requires light, so it should come as no surprise that great photography requires great light. “Great light” is a little difficult to define, and it varies greatly depending on the subject, but oftentimes you know it when you see it. You can find great light anytime of the day or night if you look hard enough, and most of the time you have to seek it to find it. You can sometimes even create your own great light if it does not naturally exist. The most obvious great light is found near sunrise and sunset, and that’s a great starting point for those searching for it. With practice and experience, you’ll more easily spot great light, recognizing how to best utilize it for stronger pictures. The key is to always actively look for great light, but it takes a lot of clicks of the shutter to be proficient at finding it.

Tip #5 – Be The Man Who Came Back

There was an article in the September 1955 issue of Arizona Highways magazine by photographer Chuck Abbott entitled You Have To Go Back To Get The Good Ones. In the article he addresses the very question of this blog post: how does one become a better photographer? His answer: be the man who came back. Return again and again to the same subject. Try the picture at a different time of day, in a different season, under different light, from a different angle, etc. Keep coming back to it over and over, and don’t stop, even if you are satisfied with the results. Press yourself to make a more interesting picture of something that you’ve photographed before. Be a better storyteller than the last time. Make a stronger composition than your previous attempts. This is the best piece of advice that I can give you: if you want to become a better photographer in 2020, be the person who came back.

New: Fuji X Weekly Development Page

Fujifilm Blog

I created a new Fuji X Weekly page called Development. You can find it by clicking on the top-left “hamburger” menu and then selecting Development. This new page has absolutely nothing to do with developing pictures, but instead has posts relating to personal development as a photographer. This is where you’ll find things like how-to articles and photography advice. So far it’s not a huge list of articles, but I hope to expand it greatly in the coming months. It’s small now, but it will be much larger soon enough. I’m hoping that it will be a wonderful resource for some of you. I encourage you to check it out, and to revisit it regularly to see what’s new.

7 Incredibly Cheap & Easy Photography Hacks

In the video above I share seven simple and inexpensive (or free!) photography tips and tricks. Feel free to use them, and if you like the video be sure to share it so that others can learn the tricks, too.

Here are the seven hacks in the video:
– mini string lights for foreground bokeh (click here for the mini string lights)
colored page markers for light leaks (click here for the page markers)
– crumpled tin foil bokeh background
– coffee sleeve lens hood
faux wood ceramic tiles for worn wood setting
– backwards mount macro lens (click here for the adapter)
shift the white balance

You’ll notice that I included links above to Amazon where you can see and purchase some of the items that I used in the video. I am an Amazon Affiliate partner (so that I can improve the Fuji X Weekly experience), but I did this more so that you can see the actual product used than for you to go buy something (the items are under $10 each, so I don’t expect the links to be particularly financially beneficial). Perhaps doing this is helpful to someone.

I hope that you appreciate the video and find it useful! It was fun to make, and I hope to do many more videos over the coming days, weeks and months. If you like it, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don’t miss anything!