A few weekends ago, I ran up to the Bighorns for a quick weekend getaway. I had planned my first backpacking trip of the summer starting out from the Circle Park trailhead in the southeastern part of the range and drove up to near the trail head Friday after work to car camp before hitting the trail the next day. When driving in to Circle Park after sunset on Friday night, I could see in the twilight that the meadows were packed full of wildflowers and knew an early rise to shoot sunrise was in order. The 4:40 alarm came around way too soon but crawling out of my warm sleeping bag was surprisingly easy; I was excited to get out and check out all those wildflowers! Once up and about, I was bummed to see that not as much as a single cloud was in sight! Still, I can’t complain about how the sun back lit some of the taller flowers and made them appear to glow.
Posts Tagged With: WY
Circle Park Wildflowers – Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming
Early Summer on Casper Mountain – Laramie Range, Wyoming
Casper Mountain rises just south of Casper, Wyoming but it may as well be a world away. Come June, town can get scorching hot and the vegetation can dry out pretty quickly. It is a border zone between the great plains to the east and the high deserts of the American West. I guess if you really pressed me, I’d say Casper is more high desert than plains, but nonetheless, it’s flat and pretty dry in the summer. But drive Casper Mountain Road south out of town and up 3000′ on top of Casper Mountain, a very different landscape awaits you. Much of the mountain is covered in forest but head all the way to the south side of the mountain and you will encounter a vast open area. In late June and early July, this area is blanketed with colorful wildflowers.
These photos are from two weeks ago when I headed up to catch a Friday night sunset. Wyoming had been getting pounded with thunderstorms for a couple weeks and this Friday was no different. Thunderstorms blew through town that afternoon and evening, but the weather forecast called for the storm to pass and the area was to clear up around sunset. I was excited at the prospect to have a chance at getting out of the house and not risk getting struck by lightning! Just in case the storm decided to stick around, when I grabbed my camera gear, I stuffed my rain jacket in my pack and was off. It turned out I didn’t need that jacket and instead enjoyed a fantastic sunset.
After just fifteen minutes of driving, I was on top of the mountain but realized June 5th was definitely a little premature for the full showing of wildflowers. My expectations were biased based on my visit up last summer at the end of June when the whole area was quite literally a carpet of wildflowers. The images don’t quite show it, but I had to hunt for good groupings of flowers and the ones that were out were not quite in full bloom. Still, I think I managed to find plenty of flowers that were out and photogenic!
As the storm dissipated the wind died down; a rarity in Wyoming! Because there was little wind and the flowers were not blowing all around, I took the opportunity to practice a “focus stacking” technique. Due to the optics of lenses and because some of these flowers were about a foot away from my camera when I took their picture, not all of the image could be in focus as once. For example, if I would focus on the flowers in the front, the mountain in the distance and sky would be blurry and just the opposite true if I focused instead on the distant mountain. So, I set my composition and took a series of frames focused at different points of the scene such that between all the frames, every bit of the composition was in focus. I later used a blending technique in Photoshop to combine all of those frames into one image! It’s not Photoshop trickery, it is just a method to overcome the limits of my camera; I actually described the process in a previous blog post.
I said it before and I will say it again, I’m super lucky and happy to have such an incredibly beautiful place practically out my back door. If you like the outdoors, there are few better places to live than Wyoming!
The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – Yellowstone National Park
While visiting Yellowstone National Park last summer and on the same grey and rainy day we toured West Thumb Geyser Basin, my friends and I also drove to and explored some of the front country area around Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We checked out several spots near the canyon area but the view of Lower Falls from Artist Point was my favorite.
Many artists have visited Yellowstone’s Lower Falls over the years. In fact the Hayden Survey in the early 1880’s included both photographer William Henry Jackson, who became famous for his groundbreaking images of the expanding American West, as well as Thomas Moran, whose paintings of the Yellowstone country helped pave the way to it’s protection. No wonder this prominent viewpoint is called Artist Point!
The canyon is one thousand feet deep in some places and the lower falls cascade an incredible 308′ into the canyon. Amazingly, at 308′ of drop, Lower Falls are not the tallest waterfall in Yellowstone. It is however, the largest waterfall by volume not only in Yellowstone but the American Rockies.
Don’t let the precipitous drop you see in my photos deter you; the area is well marked and safe. These views are but a short and easy stroll from the parking area and can be enjoyed by anybody!
Casper Mountain Road – Casper, WY
The other week, as a spring storm cleared out of town, I ran up the Casper Mountain Road to try to get a few shots of the fresh snow. The snow was really wet and heavy down in Casper, but up the mountain, I was surprised by how light the snow was and also that all the trees were covered in frost! The sunset wasn’t all that bad either… 🙂
January in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
I have a severe backlog of other images to edit and post, but I couldn’t help myself and went ahead and edited a few photos from my recent trip to Jackson, Wyoming. The main reason for the trip was to ski, but I did get up early and stayed out late with my camera on a few occasions. Jackson Hole is absolutely stunning any time of year, but the gigantic Teton Range covered in snow is an extra special site to see. Another bonus of visiting Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park in the winter is that the crowd levels are way down compared to the summer and fall months.
Driving in Thursday night, I noticed a full moon rise and looked at the moon set time and saw it would set near sunrise the next morning. So, I woke up early with high hopes for a great morning shoot. I drove north out of Jackson looking for a good composition of Grand Teton. I found a cool looking group of trees that would make a great foreground with “The Grand” behind and set up my camera along the side of the highway. I first made the panorama below when it was still quite dark out.
A few minutes later, the scene exploded in color. I zoomed out slightly and included more of the pastel clouds, creating my favorite image of the trip. Amazingly, a few other photographers that were also parked along the road stopped shooting and loaded up their camera gear and drove off looking for a different spot during these precious few seconds of peak color! Yes, these first two images are very similar, but if I were in a hurry to get to the next spot, I would have missed this incredible moment. In landscape photography, sometimes it pays to be patient.
The vibrant pinks and purples began to fade quickly, so I pulled out my wide angle lens and decided to focus on the sagebrush in the valley. The sage caused drifts and patterns and textures in the snow that I found interesting. The moon still refusing to dip behind the Teton Range was a nice little bonus. Less than a minute after taking this image, the moon was lost behind the mountain ridges.
At this point in the morning, I knew I had a few strong images, but wanted to explore the area a little more before heading off to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to go skiing. I hopped in my truck and turned off the main highway at the Antelope Flats Road to scout out the often photographed Moulton Barns. I parked at the winter road closure and while looking to see how far off the barns were, really liked the look of the buried grasses and sage as the sun cast its first direct light of the day on the valley floor.
I couldn’t help but notice the frosted trees and how they appeared to sparkle with the low angled sunlight hitting them. I tried to shoot the back-lit trees (the trees right below the sun in the above picture), but my cheap-ish 70-300mm zoom lens is prone to really nasty flare when shooting directly at the sun. I ended up settling on shooting some trees that were still nicely lit, but not fully back-lit.
After a hard day’s skiing at the resort, I set out to shoot sunset. After driving a while I decided to pull over and ended up at the Snake River Overlook. Ansel Adams made this viewpoint, along with the Tetons themselves nationally recognizable in 1942 with what would become one of him most recognized images. The trees in the foreground have grown much taller over the last 60+ years, but the view of the Snake River and the Tetons is still breath taking.
I processed the first two images in this blog at the hotel in Jackson. When I showed them to one of my friends, he asked, “is that really what the sunrise was like?” I invited him to come along with me the next morning and find out for himself. Once again, I got up early, well before sunrise, and drove to the winter trail head for Mormon Row. We hiked the mile or so out to the Moulton Barns with just enough time to spare before the night sky gave way to pinks and purples of morning twilight. The sunrise was not nearly as spectacular as the morning a few days prior, but beautiful nonetheless.
Jackson Hole and the surrounding area are truly a special place any time of year. I would practically cut off my left arm if it meant I could reside in this beautiful valley. For now, I will take thanks that I live in the same state as the Tetons and they are close enough to visit over a weekend.