Photos from a single morning in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.
Oxbow Bend is one of the most photographed spots in Grand Teton National Park. The area is conveniently located along the road to and from Yellowstone. Oxbow Bend has ample parking and stunning views across the river, Majestic Mount Moran is staged as a perfect backdrop for the scene. Mirror reflections are possible on calm, early mornings.
At peak foliage, Oxbow Bend attracts throngs of photographers and tourists. All are willing to lose hours of sleep and endure chilly early mornings. It’s always a gamble.
Under the right conditions, Oxbow Bend undergoes a daily metamorphosis. The night sky is replaced with non-descript blue gray sky, followed by a light show of pink, magenta, and lavender. Shortly afterwards, light begins to glow on the mountain tops as the rose colored glow gradually spreads to the entire range. Photographers then wait for the stand of Aspens at the far end of the bend to light up. The light show is complete!
If you hit it right, there can be much, much more!
What happens in the East affects what happens in the West. Thick clouds can thwart the morning colors and unfortunately it happens all too often. On other days, thick clouds in the West can completely obscure the Teton Range. Fog and haze can be a factor. The clouds that block the light can magically split enough to allows eye-catching bands of light to batch smaller zones, mountains, or stands of trees.
No two days are exactly the same. Suffice it to say some days are simply better than others! The best shots of the day can happen after the bulk of photographers have packed up and left the area. Clouds can roll in, causing a mass exodus. A break in the Eastern clouds can relight an otherwise dull scene in unique and interesting ways.
That’s what happened on this day! I can’t say I was that wise today, but I did feel there was a “chance” I would get a little clearing or an occasionall break in the clouds.
Clouds blocked the sun, dulling the landscape. The sunlit mountains turned dark and clouds lost most of their color. Much like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a break in the clouds gave the scene new life!
When Mother Nature pays off, she can do it in a big way!
Bands of light can create a variety of moods and opportunities.
I could have stayed much longer than I did. Another cloud in the East moved in and dulled the landscape again. I needed to get back to town for a vet appointment for our Golden Retriever and I wanted to check out one more spot on my way home. I loaded the tripod and gear in the truck and reluctantly headed towards town.
To be honest, I would have been a happy photographer right after the early morning, rose colored sky shots. Everything else was a bonus!
A Few Comments:
Oxbow Bend can be “good” any time of the year, but Fall “can be” great! Late in September or early in October, Park hydrologists begin dropping the water levels by restricting the flows coming out of the dam. Water levels remain about the same all Winter, but the slow water of the Oxbow freeze solid. It’s pretty, but not the same! It takes a little luck to get good light, colorful trees, calm water, and wonderful clouds. Peak foliage is not easy to predict and the window can be very short! A strong, persistent wind can clean the yellow leaves off in a very short time.
Photos on this Page: I took all of the images on this page on a single day, using a Nikon D850 and a Nikon 70-200mm lens and a good, sturdy tripod. Individual shots were taken in Aperture Priority at F/9 to F/11, with ISO 64. The Panos were taken in all Manual Priority mode.
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I have a few open dates between October 4,5,6,7. If you are interested in a custom tour, Click the photo above for more information!