Written by Julie Boyd | Photography by Julie Boyd
Alpine scenery doesn’t get much better than that in Grand Teton National Park. The craggy peaks of the Tetons rise above a green valley, giving visitors unobstructed views of the mountain range. Below, the Snake River winds it way through pine forests and lush meadows filled with wildflowers. It’s hard to take a bad photo when in the presence of such splendid beauty, but knowing when and where to be certainly helps when trying to capture the best light.
Since the Tetons face East, morning is prime for shooting, which means very early starts when visiting in the summer. On our most recent trip in July, sunrise was at 6:00 a.m., which usually meant waking up one-two hours earlier. It was always a challenge to get up, but once we saw the morning glow hit the peaks it was all worthwhile.
A slightly off-the-beaten-path location along the Snake River, and my favorite spot in the park. Most photographers know about this location, but since you have to take a dirt road down to riverbank, many tourists pass by without noticing the turn-off. Since the water is calm here, it is a great location for capturing the Tetons reflected in water. There are a few different vantage points at Schwabacher’s Landing, so be sure to explore a bit before the end of Golden Hour.
In the the Antelope Flats area of the park, there are two beautifully preserved historic barns. When the sun peaks above the horizon, they are both illuminated in beautiful gold hues, which creates a stunning image with the Tetons in the background. Both barns make for a great shot and have advantages and disadvantages. The TA Moulton Barn (above) is often less crowded, and has a cleaner foreground, but a fence prevents you from using a telephoto lens and compressing the barn against the mountains. The John Moulton Barn has a corral surrounding its front, but allows you to shoot from further back. The only caveat is sometimes other photographer stand close to the barn, so they end up in your shot.
This is a very crowded location at sunrise, and a challenge to shoot due to all of the other photographers lurking around. I liked the composition best from slightly above in order to have some foreground elements in my image. Unfortunately, on the morning that we went most of the shutterbugs went down to the waterfront, which meant I had a ton of heads in my image. It was also overcast, so I guess my nature photo karma was just not good on this day. When we go back again, I would definitely arrive earlier to get a prime spot, and I would probably set up down the road a bit in order to get away from the crowds.
Not too far from Oxbow Bend, lies a clearing along Jackson Lake where you can capture Mount Moran reflected in the water. To my surprise, no one else was here on this morning, so it was a welcomed change to have a few quiet moments with Brian as we watched the clouds turn pink and the sun illuminate the mountains.
Do you have any favorite spots to watch the sunrise in Grand Teton National Park? Let us know in the comments below!