JC Tetons

James Chow 
Grand Teton National Park

This is a fascinating example of how the same location can provide two totally different images as a consequence of the light and weather. In fact, some say that landscape photographers don’t really photograph places at all, but that these are simply backgrounds for whatever light and weather is present.‚ M.R.

By: James Chow

Oxbow Bendis the name of a bend in theSnake Riverin the north end ofGrand Teton National Parkjust downstream from the outlet fromJackson Lake. From this viewpoint, you have a commanding view ofMt. Moranand the river bend, which is lined with Aspen. 

I exposed these two images on two consecutive mornings in early September 2000. Notice the completely different moods created by the lighting. My composition relied on getting the yellow bushes in the foreground to frame the river and the contour of the reflection of the mountain, with the river leading one’s eye to the golden aspen andMt. Moranin the background. 

For the shot, I needed a short telephoto lens, namely either a 180mm in 6×6 or a 300mm in 4×5. I had both 6×6 and 4×5 camera systems with me with the proper lenses, so I had the luxury of choosing between either. In this case, the large format camera (Toyo VX125bmonorail,Nikkor 300/9 Mlens) was ideal in that it offered the tilt necessary to get the foreground vegetation (about 15-20 ft away) andMt. Moraninto sharp focus simultaneously, and it was appropriate for the contemplative photography of breathtaking landscapes such as this. Note that the 180mm lens on 6×6 would have required more like f/45 in which case, resolution is diffraction-limited and drops dramatically. 

For the first image, I arrived before sunrise only to find clouds and drab lighting. About 20 minutes after sunrise, it started to rain. I protected my equipment with my Gortex jacket. After about 30 minutes, the showers stopped, and the sun broke just enough to illuminate the foreground while the background was still overcast. Suddenly, a beam of light illuminatedMt. Moran, steadily moving down and to the right-hand side. I managed to take a quick meter reading and exposed twoVelvia Quickloadsin the half-minute or so before the light disappeared. 

For the second image, I again arrived before sunrise and setup in nearly the same location. This time, there were thin, white clouds in  the sky overMt. Moran; otherwise the sky to the east was clear. This morning was also very still, hence the reflection ofMt. Moranin the river. Just before sunrise, the sky turned progressively more pink from the white clouds reflecting the alpenglow. Meanwhile, the pink sky reflected off the river, which was covered by a thin layer of surface fog with moose grazing in the far background.

All text and photographs on this page are Copyright‚© 2000 James Chow