Where to Find Moose in Grand Teton National Park

Bull Moose in Early Winter
A bull moose standing in sagebrush as winter begins to set in. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

As a professional guide in Grand Teton National Park for nearly a decade now, one of the most frequent animals I’m asked to see is a moose. The odds of seeing them however, particularly during summer months, can vary wildly depending on weather, seasons, and of course, time of day.… Keep reading...

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Go into the Night – Stay til Morning!

Set the alarm clock for 1:30 am, and take your chances!

Milky Way

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM at 24 mm, 25.00 at f/1.4, Manual Mode, 0 EV, ISO 2500, Tripod.

On this particular morning, or night, depending on how you look at it, I was hoping to capture the Milky Way close to the Teton Range with calm water to add some interest to the lower portion of the image. I suppose you could say that was THE primary goal, but I was also interested in seeing how well I could do capturing the night skies on a Sony A1 and a Sony 24mm F/1.4 lens. I knew it would be a challenging shoot knowing I am still not 100% familiar with all of the menus on a new camera. The last time, or the first time, I went out with the gear, my experience was testy at best. I got a couple of shots, but realized I had a learning curve ahead of me.

You might think that setting a camera in full manual mode, controlling the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture would be the easy part. As it turned out, I couldn’t set the shutter speed any slower than roughly 1/5th of a second. Standing alone in the dark, and trying to understand what was going on, I texted a friend. He replied that I needed to switch from the electronic shutter to the mechanical shutter. Bingo! That solved that problem. There were a few other “speed bumps” on my first night out that I had hoped to work through for my next night time shoot.

The photo above isn’t really a great or riveting image, but it was taken from the roadway to see if I still had any kinks to work out while I was near my vehicle. The only kink was an orange cloud that I hadn’t expected. In the test photo above, I did a quick clone in Photoshop to remove it for this post. It’s not uncommon to remove comet trails or airplane trails in night shots.

A few clouds can actually add to the variety of the night. However, this unnatural looking orange cloud was being lit by the runway lights at the Jackson Hole Airport and the glow at the horizon is the light pollution from the Town of Jackson. I was hoping the few clouds would blow on through.

Milky Way with First Clouds

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM at 24 mm, 25.00 at f/1.4, Manual Mode, 0 EV, ISO 2500, Tripod.

In most cases, I prefer perfectly clear skies are best for my late night Milky Way photos. The weather report called for clear skies, and Stellarium let me know where the Milky Way would be during the night time hours. I would have only a short period of time to capture the Milky Way near the Tetons before sunrise. In other words, I would be in the “two minute warning” period of a close football game once I got set up at String Lake. My test shots above gave me the confidence to continue north.

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Milky Way Over String Lake

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM at 24 mm, 25.00 at f/1.4, Manual Mode, 0 EV, ISO 2500, Tripod.

Instead of blowing through, the clouds thickened. I had scouted this spot the day before so I knew the Milky Way would be nicely located in the large void area east of Teewinot. A calm String Lake would offer the star reflections.

Clouds Over String Lake

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM at 24 mm, 25.00 at f/1.4, Manual Mode, 0 EV, ISO 2500, Tripod.

It became clear that my hopes of capturing a Milky Way were being dashed by the building clouds. I’d have to come back for that.  I switched to capturing the beautiful clouds, abandoning my original chosen location to try to capture a variety of shots from various locations around String Lake. It felt like the two minute warning! The “blue light” period was beginning.

String Lake

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM at 24 mm, 6 at f/1.4, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 2500, Tripod.

The clouds were changing constantly. In this shot, they seemed to be more frozen, yet the settings in the camera were the same as the photo below.

Mt. Moran and Big Dipper

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM at 24 mm, 6 at f/1.4, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 2500, Tripod.

At this time of the morning in early June, the Big Dipper nestles nicely over Mt. Moran. The blue light period was just beginning.

Streaming Clouds

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM at 24 mm, 30 at f/1.4, Aperture priority Mode, 3 EV,  ISO 640, Tripod.

There’s an asphalt covered trail that connects the main picnic area with the Cascade Canyon trailhead at the footbridge of the outlet of String Lake. I’ve hiked it dozens of times, but with the lake extra high, some of the trail was covered with water. After a couple of detours, I figured Mother Nature was telling me to move on. The streaming clouds still looked good, so I made the executive decision to head to the Old Patriarch Tree. It was still dark at the time.

Old Patriarch Tree

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM at 43 mm, 10.00 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, 1 ³⁄₁₀ EV,  ISO 320, Tripod.

The Old Patriarch Tree is located roughly 3/4 mile east, southeast of the road to String Lake and the one way loop along Jenny Lake. There’s no sign, nor a trail to the Old Patriarch Tree. You just have to know where it is and bushwhack through deep sage to get there. In the dark, you need a flashlight! Luckily, I’ve hiked it a hundred times and walked directly to it. The photo above was taken while there were still a few stars in the sky…still very dark!

Old Patriarch Tree

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM at 70 mm, 5.00 at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 320, Tripod

Needless to say, I was the only person at the Old Patriarch Tree that morning. Over the years, I’ve only see a handful of photographers while I was there. At one time, the Teton Park Road (Inner Park Loop Road) went right by the tree, but it takes a little work to see it now. The front side of the old Limber Pine split off, exposing the interesting color and texture. The cluster of spruce trees have grown considerably since in first photographed it in roughly 2006.

Old Patriarch Tree Pano

Shooting Data: Sony A1 ILCE-1, Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM at 70 mm, 2 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, ‒ ⁷⁄₁₀ EV, ISO 100, Tripod.

 I was prepared to stay for the first light on the mountains, and eventually on the tree, but the band of clouds thinned and essentially disappeared. I had plenty of time, so I photographed the scene from a variety of spots, distances, and angles. This photo was taken as a three or four shot pano using a 50mpx Sony A1 camera. In creating a pano capture like this, I know I can easily crop the wide shot while back at home and essentially recompose and crop the scene as desired.

Additional Thoughts on Night Photography

  • While I don’t always follow my own advice, It’s probably best to go out with a friend.
  • If possible, scout your locations in the daytime before going at night. It will be very dark and you need to know your way.
  • Let someone know where you are planning on going.
  • Take at least two way finding flashlights.
  • Wear plenty of layered clothing. Temperatures can be close to freezing at sunrise.
  • Bring insect repellent.
  • In some areas of the Park, remember your bear spray.

Night time photography takes a fair amount of special gear, including a high ISO capable camera, a super fast lens (something like an F/1.4), and a solid tripod.

Related Pages on Best of the Tetons

Other Sources of Information about Night Photography

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Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

I offer year round photo tours in Grand Teton National Park and Winter tours in the National Elk Refuge.  Book now! Click the image for additional information.

Client Comments: “As a published and passionate photographer, I recognized Michael Jackson’s extraordinary skills as a photographer. Today I learned more about composition and creative technical ideas than I ever could have imagined.” G.S., 

The post Go into the Night – Stay til Morning! first appeared on Best of the Tetons, Area Info & Photography.

Best Spots in Grand Teton National Park for Night Photography

The Milky Way Galaxy stretching over the Moulton Barn on Mormon Row in Jackson Hole. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is filled with amazing sites and all kinds of incredible outdoor places to explore. Much less frequented though are its phenomenal night skies! If you’re looking to do some night photography in the park and aren’t sure where to start, this guide will help you find some perfect locations.… Keep reading...

The post Best Spots in Grand Teton National Park for Night Photography appeared first on Free Roaming Photography.