Photographing the Grand Tetons

Michele Wanke
Grand Tetons

It's hard to take a bad image when photographing the Grand Tetons. The collection of majestic mountains surrounded by pristine lakes and dramatic open areas is a photographer's dream.

Glorious Grand Tetons

Each year, tens of thousands of professional and amateur photographers from around the world make the trek to Grand Teton National Park. The popular tourist attraction is located in northwestern Wyoming and sits just south of Yellowstone National Park. Together, the two national parks, linked by a single parkway, span more than two million acres. Each acre is filled with glorious natural wonders, which serve to inspire photographers of all skill levels.

Grand Teton National Park alone covers 310,000 acres, most of which runs along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and into the valley of Jackson Hole. The centerpiece of the breathtaking natural treasure is Teton Range, also known as the "Grand Tetons." The three Tetons: Grand, Middle, and South were named in the 1800s by French Trappers of the Hudson Bay Company. Today, Grand Teton, which rises more than 13,700 feet high, remains the second highest peak in Wyoming.

Tips for Photographing the Grand Tetons

With its stunning scenery and easy accessibility, it's no wonder Grand Teton National Park is one of the most photographed places in the world. If you are planning a trip to Wyoming, then consider these tips for photographing the Grand Tetons:

Timing

Similar to most photo subjects, timing is everything when comes to shooting the Grand Tetons. When mapping out your trip itinerary, consider the season you plan to travel and the time of day you plan to shoot. If you prefer to capture the magnificent mountain range while it is draped with a blanket of lily-white snow, then you'll want to plan a winter trip. Conversely, if you prefer to work in more temperate conditions and photograph the Grand Tetons with a foreground of lush green meadows and a rainbow of colorful wildflowers, then you'll want to visit during the summer months.

Time of day is another important consideration. You're likely to get the best pictures of the Grand Tetons during the "golden hours," which are roughly a few minutes before sunrise until about two hours after sunrise, and from an hour before sunset until about a half an hour after sunset. In addition, shooting the Grand Tetons from the Wyoming side will allow you stunning shots of the sun shining on the mountains with a wealth of warm tones. These optimal shooting conditions continue until sunset when the mountains are silhouetted and you can take aim at sun rays and sunburst effects.

Location

One of the best locations to shoot the Grand Tetons is Snake River Overlook. The prime photo spot is located on Highway 89 near the Moran park entrance. It was made famous by Ansel Adams, who shot the Grand Tetons while on assignment for the U.S. National Park Service. The area offers an amazing perspective on the Teton Range and it's very easy to navigate, which can't be said for other spots in the park. The downside is that the overlook is often packed with people. If you go, don't forget to exercise patience because you will likely have to wait for a spot to clear before you can set up your shot.To get the best shot of the Grand Tetons from Snake River Overlook, head out before sunrise. When the sun comes over the eastern side of the mountain range, it illuminates it with a remarkable glow. In addition, don't be shy about looking for unique angles. By moving beyond the visitor staging area, you can get a great shot of the mountains and the Snake River meandering in front of it.

Other prime shooting locations include:

  • Schwabacher's Landing
  • Mormon Row
  • Signal Mountain Summit
  • Jackson Lake Dam
  • Amphitheater Lake

Other Photo Ops

Another way to capitalize on your trip to Grand Teton National Park is to include other natural wonders in your shots. During the summer months the park is filled with:

  • 18 species of carnivores, including wolves, and black and grizzly bears
  • 7 native species of hoofed mammals
  • 300 species of birds
  • 900 species of flowering plants

Final Tips

Regardless of your experience as a landscape or naturalist photographer, you can find a wealth of spectacular images at Grand Teton National Parks, including the dramatic mountain range with rare wildlife roaming in and out of your viewfinder. Photographing the Grand Tetons can be a new experience each time you visit as the stunning landscape lends itself to award-winning images.

Photographing the Grand Tetons