Wyoming and the Grand Tetons

       The time had come in my life to start living it instead of sitting dreaming about my future. I have always wanted to see the country. So many wonderful places to visit and photograph. While my wife does not share my excitement in my travel to destinations, she has certainly given me the go ahead to do what makes me happy. One promise I had to make was, if I were ever to travel to a place within 50 miles of a mall, she was going to come with me. Fair enough, I thought. In addition, we go to Walt Disney World every year, sometimes twice which makes her and I very happy. How could you not like the friendliest and funnest place on earth? Well, that’s a question for another time I suppose. I have a great life, happily married for over 18 years to my soulmate, a career in photography that I love and my wife and I feel as though we have the worlds great son. Straight A’s with a B thrown in there every once in a while. He has his whole life it seems planned out.. at 15.. College, the car he wants, where he wants to work and live..  I’m 48 and I just figured this stuff out yesterday. Anyways, with that short intro out of the way, and with a little money saved, I started looking for places to photograph!

      I went on Google Earth and basically threw a dart at the map. My very favorite animal growing up was the American Buffalo, so, I searched google for the most densely populated state with them and voila, Wyoming popped up. Not gonna start off my Blog lying to you, I too thought I would have never visited Wyoming. Nothing personally against it but, it just never really came up in conversation, however, not only was it heavily populated with buffalo, but also, grizzly bear, elk, coyote, wolf, moose and I’m sure many others, along with the Grand Tetons,… Awesome! All within an hour, I had my hotel, rental car, airline tickets, a long lens I rented(didn’t want to risk mine- 500mm) from Lens Rentals and all I had to do was wait. It was not easy…   couple tips

  1. Wyoming’s weather = Crazy. Unless you’re traveling in June, July or August, be ready for almost anything. I went in the first week of May. Mornings were freezing and afternoons were 75/80. So, layers of clothes are very important. Bring it ALL!
  2. Unless you are traveling within the 3 months listed above, make sure by calling ahead that restaurants and shops you are interested in are open the time of year you plan to visit. Many restaurants were closed during my visit (first week of May) which was not a problem because… ahem… I called ahead. Lots of nice websites available if you’re are in search of things to do, restaurants and such. I mainly used this one Jackson Hole Events

If you have never flown into Jackson Hole airport, get ready for a little excitement. There are no direct flights… Unless you live in Salt Lake City or Denver. The pilot actually came on over the intercom, with passengers on the plane and said, and I quote, “Folks, Jackson Hole Airport has a really short runway, as soon a we land, I am going to get aggressive with the brakes, so be prepared.” End Quote. The look on some of the peoples faces seemed to match mine. Wait… What?

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Old fashioned off boarding in Jackson Hole. Cell phone pic

I’ll leave out the boring parts of the travel except for the fact that on my way from NJ to Wyoming, I flew for the first time, in the same day, the now largest and smallest planes I had ever been on. I guess it all adds to the memories!

Upon my arrival in Jackson Hole, I went straight to the car rental counter(Enterprise) where I had a Nissan Altima all lined up and waiting for me. The very nice young fellow behind the counter informed me that I had been upgraded to any type car or truck except for the BMW X5 for the same price.. Nice! I’ll take the Suburban! wooohoooo! Other than the pilots I’m hoping joke and short runway thingy, we’re off to a great start!

At this point, it’s about 1 o’clock in the afternoon, much to early to go to my hotel because check in isn’t until 4, so, instead of heading south on highway 26 into Jackson Hole, I headed north deeper into the Grand Teton National Park. I had previously at home with the use of Google Earth, many times scouted some of the more popular locations to photograph according to a few local photographer’s websites and blogs. Before making my left north, I had to chuckle. See, I’m from NJ, about 45 minutes south of NYC, traffic and roads are an absolute disaster, cars everywhere, off ramps, on ramps, getting to and from airports is a crapshoot at best. The approach to Newark International Airport is a 5 lane highway, 4 different exits, like described earlier, a real mess… While leaving Jackson Hole Airport, I passed nobody, except a whole bunch of Elk. Two lanes, one coming, one going. Not even a painted stripe down the middle of the barely paved road. I may sound like I’m making fun of it, but trust me, I welcomed it. I knew my experience was going to be awesome!

Heading north on Hwy 26, not even 5 minutes passed and this is officially my first photo taken other than my disembarking from the airplane pic posted earlier.

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BUFFALO”S!!!

I swear, I could’ve turned around, boarded the plane and went home and I would have been happy. No, not really, but I was excited. So I kept driving north. Everything was so spread out, I still hadn’t passed another human being, I wish my eyes were bigger so I could have taken in more of the sites. I knew I had to pace myself though, I still had the rest of today and 3 others to fill. Not a problem, I could have been there a month and hardly covered it all. Challenge accepted! I was coming up on the right turn I knew I had to take according to Google Earth, and there it was, the wooden sign, I had made it to Antelope Flats Road. Home of the most famous and photographed barns in the world, The Moulton Barns. Again, with the potential of boring you, and after all, this is a photography blog, google the Moulton Barns at your leisure, it’s actually a pretty interesting story about the Moulton Family. Here are a couple captures of them…RMP_1525  and…

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Barn 2

Check. And check. More of these to come. I heard they’re stunning at sunrise, I think we’ll test that theory in the morning. Time to continue heading north. After getting back onto Hwy 26, I was looking for another popular spot, Schwabacher’s Landing. Quite possibly, after viewing a photograph taken here from a local guy online, this may have been the biggest reason why I traveled 2200 miles, to find this location, to take some test shots so I could be ready to capture my masterpiece at sunrise! After another 3 or 4 minutes, I see the sign, Schwabacher’s Landing next left, I approach to make my turn and…. ROAD CLOSED FOR SNOW…. NO!!!!! I sat there for the better part of 10 minutes, thinking, I have a big four wheel drive… I moved on, upset but I knew there would be other possibilities, so I hoped. North I went, for another 15 or so minutes and I came across another popular destination, The Snake River Overlook, one that Ansel Adams himself made famous back in the 1940’s when the park service hired him to photograph the park to show it’s beauty to the government to keep the developers from building on it. It must have worked, because there is nothing going on out here but a bunch of beautiful scenery. At the time of taking this photo, It was close to 3 o’clock so I wasn’t expecting a very good photo, but surprisingly, I think it came out fantastic, even with a harsh sun peaking through between the clouds. You be the judge…

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Snake River Overlook

Well, I had seen enough for one day after all that traveling, it was time to head to the hotel. I stayed here The Lexington at Jackson Hole Nice hotel with some very nice amenities. More pillows than you’ll know what to do with. Above all, clean! No restaurants connected but plenty within walking distance. Continental breakfast was included but I left way to early in the morning to partake. During check in, which was painless, just behind me was a huge plate of freshly made chocolate chip cookies. Well, it would have been rude not to take 2 or 3.. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Again, not a Jackson Hole Blog, or a foodie review, but if you happen to travel to Jackson Hole in the near to distant future, keep this place in mind for either lunch or dinner Cafe Genevieve Diner’s Drive in’s and Dives was there a while back and they serve pig candy! Oh, and I had to try a bison burger. Kind of weird I must say, photographing them and admiring their natural beauty and at the same time never thinking, I think I’ll try that for dinner, it looks really good. Somewhat surprisingly, it was quite good!

Bright and early the next morning I headed out to my favorite barn, dark as could be and Elk all over the place, even in the center of the road, which delayed me about 15 minutes.. That’s ok, I considered it to be stuck in a Wyoming traffic jam. When I arrived, I was surprised to see a few fellow photographers setting up with their coal miner lights on their heads. So I joined in, said my hello’s and set up for this shot and many others…

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Moulton Barn at Sunrise

With the sun behind our backs and it shining on the just the peaks of the mountain range made for one truly eye opening moment in time. My first experience with a sunrise in Grand Teton will be forever implanted in my mind. The glow, the experience, that moment was life changing… Well, it’s time to go is what it felt like, you only get the sun at it’s best for less than 2 hours every morning so off to the next spot. The rest of the day was going to be just a drive around day, the kind of day to soak in the sites on my own and to kind of get the lay of the land. Oh, and to enjoy this killer Suburban!! It was awesome. For someone 6’4″, it made me feel small, which does not happen often. It didn’t take long before I found some more of my friends…

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Buffalo and Elk

Being at such an elevation, I believe over 5000ft, clouds seemed to sometimes get stuck between mountains or at least that’s the way it seemed to this tourist…RMP_1642

During my search of Grand Teton National Park, the name Jenny Lake popped up more than once so I headed in that direction. Once there, as I already knew, most of the roads had been closed to the actual lake. It’s a huge touristy place so, I guess since the lake was mostly still iced over that they weren’t willing to open it. However, they did leave a few roads open for us photographers. I don’t know if that’s truth or not but, I’m going with it. Here are a few more captures from around Jenny Lake.

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Cascade Canyon

and..

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Cascade Canyon from the other side. Jenny lake iced over

Now, what I’m about to tell you is 100% the truth. Not fabricated or exaggerated in anyway. Just after taking this photo, I turned to walk back to my truck which I left running to make a quick getaway incase I were in a location I was not supposed to be in. So far, I had seen from the truck while driving, just about every type of wild animal that I had hoped to see, except one, the grizzly bear. Well, it had appeared that my luck had changed and I could now cross that one off the list. About 20 feet from the truck, straight ahead, coming out of the woods, maybe forty feet away from me, he or she emerged from the woods. It’s head was 2 feet across and its body was in the terminology of our President, HUUGE! Now here I am, halfway between me and the bear was my truck, I had two choices, stand my ground with my hand on my bear spray or run for the passenger door. I stood my ground as my legs appeared they did not want to work and luckily, the bear looked right at me, seemed to shrug his or her shoulders, turned away and went back into the woods. I was ecstatic at the time but looking back at the situation, I feel a bit taken back, as if I weren’t good enough to have for lunch? I kid of course but what really makes me angry is that I had a $5000 camera hanging around my neck and I hadn’t the slightest inclination to take a picture of it. Well, I sat in the truck for a few minutes waiting for the bears possible return and decided that I had pressed my luck enough, so, I took off back for town to get some lunch.

On my 20 to 30 minute journey back to town, I’m coming back in the direction of the Schwabacher Landing turn off. I could see the sign. It’s OPEN!! Of course I turn down and quickly discovered why it had been closed. From the roadway, it were a very steep, turny and twisty downgrade to the bottom (think Lombard street in San Francisco full of snow and ice) passable easily with a 4×4 and quite fun to go down. Enterprise rental would probably not agree with my decision but hey, they know the terrain around here. So I went for it! I finally reached the destination after about a mile, pulled over and captured these…

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Schwabacher’s Landing

and…

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My Son says this looks like a beer ad. Further down the bank of the river.

Now I knew where I would be in the morning, sitting here on the bank waiting for the sunrise to light up these mountains. Hoping for good weather and nice smooth water for that perfect reflection shot. After spending the better part of 3 hours here, I headed back plenty hungry and a little tired. Tonight was a good night to hit the sheets early. While leaving though, a local was walking his dog and told me of a spot that he almost guaranteed I’d find a moose, so I went in search for Blacktail Ponds, just a short 3 mile trip from where I was at, in the direction of town, so why not?

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Blacktail Ponds

No moose on this day but plenty of beauty! I’d be back and the next time, his guarantee came through!

The next morning could not come soon enough. I bought some donuts the night before, and I had a Keurig coffee maker in my room so after breakfast, and probably the best shower in the world, I headed out to Schwabacher’s Landing. Todays journey was about 30-35 minutes but it did not seem that long at all. For as many Elk as there were the day before, today, there was none. Zero. No Wyoming traffic jam today. Upon my arrival, the ride down in the dark was a little more terrifying than the day before. You were basically driving blind. The truck was in such of a decline, that the lights were facing down to the ground, even with the hi beams on. I took my time. I was surprised to see so many photographers already lined up, but they welcomed me with open arms and even moved from their spots a scoushe to squeeze me in. We shared in some great conversation, talked about photo gear, where we were from and what we had planned for the rest of the day. It’s like I knew them for years. Great time! Time to get serious! Here’s a capture from that morning…

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Schwabacher’s Landing sunrise

The Schwabacher’s Landing sunrise experience was everything I had hoped for. Another life altering event if you happen to love photography, perfect views and the anticipation of waiting for them. One thing and it’s an important discussion we must have, because of all the places I have been to so far on this trip, this place although beautiful felt to me as though it had a hi presence of bears. Could be wrong, but the further I walked along the water and deeper into the wooded part, you definitely were in bear country. The whole place was, but this place for some reason, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. So, although you cannot travel with Bear Spray in your carry on or checked bags, there are plenty of places to buy it in town. I bought 2 cans, about 20 bucks each and I had one connected to my belt at all times. You never know. When I left for home, I simply left the cans at the front desk and made the clerk promise me that he would give them to his next traveler. Hopefully, the good karma vibes help at some point, but more importantly, I hope the spray never needs to be used.

For the rest of this day, I just drove around revisiting places I had already been, saving the last place I had Google scouted, Oxbow Bend, for my last sunrise shot which was also the furthest place for me to travel to, about an hour, and I wanted it to be a total first time experience. I had heard good things.

I found an intersection and I kind of felt link Tom Hanks at the end of the movie Castaway. I really didn’t know what direction to turn, I was unable to view the road on Google Earth, because even they had not traveled down this road in that direction I finally chose. East. I went East. Maybe I was starting to miss home, my wife, son, or I just chose that way because Google chose not to. Turns out, I made a great choice, although, I could have gone in any direction and probably had been just as happy, but here are a few captions of what I found…

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Gros Ventre Junction Rd (5 sec exposure)

I simply turned around from where I was standing and took this photo below..

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Snow Covered Mountains

This next photo is from the same river after walking further east for about 3 minutes…

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River alongside Gros Ventre Junction Rd Moose, Wyoming

As I had left this location, I traveled back to Hwy 91 and spotted this out building I had previously missed along with another herd of Bison…

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You may be wondering, no elk pictures? Good Question. Simply put. Elk lose their antlers every year, sometime around late fall and they do not begin to grow new ones that are substantial until mid July and possibly later. Honestly, they just looked like big female deer. Maybe next time. You may be also wondering, no sunset pictures? Also, good question. However, what I did not know about Wyoming is that, their days are really long! At this time of year, sunrise or first light was at 6 am and sunset did not happen until almost 9 pm. At that time, I was dead tired! I chose the sunrise shots this time. Maybe a different story next time I visit. Through a lot of online searches though, I tend to agree with most that this is the place to be to capture a sunrise.

After by far my best night sleep, It was my last half day here in Wyoming. I had to be at the airport at 1 pm so that gave me a few hours to head north and capture Oxbow Bend. Off I went, in the complete darkness again. This time however, I decided to go another way. The trip north into Grand Teton National Park is basically, one highway that splits into an inner road, more scenic but much slower speeds and highway 26, the outer rd. Eventually, after 30 to 40 minutes, these 2 roads comeback together as one around the town of Moran, which is where Oxbow Bend is.

After driving on the inner road for 20 or so minutes, just after the Jenny Lake section I had been in the day or so previous, I was now in unfamiliar territory. I pulled over, turned off the truck and just listened. Wolves were crying out. Probably hunting. It was a surreal experience. Something, until this point I had only heard in movies. It’s real folks…Much to early and dark to photograph anything, but enough light to take a goodbye selfie that I shared with some friends on Facebook…

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Cold and Red Faced at Cascade Canyon

The rest of the ride was awesome. My camera just sat there on the passenger seat, this was my time to just soak in this experience without stopping every 2 minutes to compose another capture. I doubt these mountains and trees are going anywhere, just more opportunities for next time, I kept telling myself. After another 20 minutes at most, I came across a clearing, a glow, an experience which at this point, I could not have imagined. The header photo to this particular blog, and next couple I’m about to post is from an indescribable location. Jackson Lake…

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Is this heaven? Is how I felt. I know, quoting my second movie here, but by far, the most incredible location I have ever seen. Ever. I’d like to think I made a good capture, I’d like to think I’m a good photographer. I’d agree to both statements above. I did and I am, but I did not do this place any justice for it’s beauty. I know I’m over selling it, but it’s only for the fact that I lack the terminology and brain power to give it a proper explanation to what I saw. Mother nature did good!

I continued on, I had still not come to the spot I was saving for last. Clearly, I had missed my opportunity to capture the sunrise at Oxbow Bend, but after what I had just witnessed at Jackson Lake, who cared at that point. Look everyone, a mom moose and her baby at Oxbow Bend…

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Mom & Baby Moose

Between this and the next photo, baby had laid down..

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Oxbow Bend Moran, Wyoming

The above shot was the first shot I took at Oxbow Bend before realizing there were moose in the area. I hurried and swapped to a longer lens for the previous captures. I did not want to press my luck approaching any closer with mom protecting her little one. If it were not for Jackson Lake, this would have been the most beautiful location I had visited on the trip. It had everything, wildlife, water for refection, those mountains and the parking pull off was about 6 feet from where I was standing. I stood next to my truck for 30 minutes or so, just hoping that mom was going to give her little one a bath in the water, but mom just stood there watching as her baby played in the tall grass. What a great experience it was to share with nature. I feel privileged. Well, I promised you another moose, and as I mentioned, the local guy from the day previous, guaranteed it as well, we’re off to Blacktail Ponds.

Just a short 40 minute drive down good old 26 and I had arrived. I was again, all by myself and I must have sat for an hour, watching the geese fly in and out of the area I was looking down on. Just as I was about to give up, and as a matter of fact, I owe the guy, whoever he is an apology for some choice words I used at the time, out of the woods came a small, adolescent moose. Let’s see if you can spot him. He blends in really well…

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Blacktail Ponds Moose

Busted! He was looking right at me. I was at least 150 yards away. Probably further and he heard the shutter of my camera. Amazing. I waited for more of them to come out but I enjoyed my time with him for a while and I left for the airport. What a great way to end my trip.

I hope that you have enjoyed hearing all about my trip to Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park. Truly an amazing time and I hope that it has inspired you some to go. If not here, then somewhere else that takes you out of your comfort zone a little and explore this great country. Since this trip, I have decided to go back this September and I have also booked for May 2018, my Utah trip to see the big 5 National Parks there. Over the summer this year, my wife and I plan on driving through Vermont and capturing some of there 130 something covered bridges and also have plans to photograph the Adirondacks in upstate NY along with driving to Maine with the family, staying at a bed and breakfast and eating a lobster roll or 2 as big as my face! Now, get out there and tell us your story!!

ps.. I am responsible for spelling an grammar errors, but I am a photographer, not an English major. You get the point…

My first blog post!

Welcome! To both you and me… My very first blog post and i’m excited to be here. Funny that yesterday, I had a million things and ideas to talk about but, as I sit here in front of my computer, nada! Not a thing you can expect in the future as I promise to have things planned out before posting. However, I wanted my first post to come from my heart, not from a pad of notes or something scripted.

My name is Ryan. I have been a New Jerseyian for 30 something years. Before that, until about the age of 11, born and raised surrounded by farms in Missouri. Loved the midwest until we moved from it and quickly discovered a whole new world and bagels…

Enough about that…

For the better part of 20 years, I have been an event photographer. Love it till this day and plan to continue doing so until I no longer have the energy to keep up with a bride all day. HA! I have picked up a lot of tips and tricks I’ll be sharing I’m sure but, I wanted this blog to be more about a passion of mine that I hope to increasingly get better at and that is capturing landscapes… I’m not a beginner, I have spent many of hours trying different techniques and trying settings on my camera’s that I used to say, “I wonder what you use that button for”? Plenty of room for growth though. I don’t think you ever stop learning which is the awesome part of photography, or any art for that matter, which is why I love it.

Over the next few days, weeks, months and years, I have some very exciting travels lined up. Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Utah and I just returned from a week in Wyoming! The Grand Teton National Park. If you have never been, please, place it on your bucket list. Life changing. More on that over the next few days with a new post and pics!

Again, I’d like to welcome you. Please say hi when you have a chance. Critiques are always welcomed! The photo I placed below is how I felt about starting a new blog. Kind of like starring down a long scary corridor not wanting to go any further. I’m glad I did though, this was fun and a good first step.  Peace!

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