Teton Valley Hot Air Balloon Rally

Mark your calendar, get up early, and head over Teton Pass for next year’s Teton Valley Balloon Rally. That’s my suggestion!

I was there early for the 36th annual event, typically held around July 1st each year. It’s a heck of a deal! Pay $5 to park, then walk around almost unrestricted! I had visions of being roped off, away from the balloons, but those visions were wrong!. Onlookers are rewarded with an intimate experience. Spectators can walk among the balloon crews and watch the balloons being unfolded, filled with air, and then raised to the sky via hot air.

Unrolling the Balloon

I was at the fairgrounds site long before daylight…too early! I’ve seen photos from the Albuquerque event where balloons were being filled during the pre-dawn period—lit by the fire of the propane jets. For this event, most balloons are filled between 6:00 am and 6:45 am. The balloon above was being unpacked prior to the 6:00 am pilot’s meeting.

Take a Ride! Entry to the parking area is $5, but if you want to take a Hot Air Balloon Ride, get there early and bring about $300 per person. Riders help ready the balloons, as seen above.

Balloon Interior

Balloon are temporarily filled with cool air via large fans. During that stage, all of the crews allowed photographers to shoot into the balloon.

Balloon Interior

This is definitely not something I see every day!

Adding the Heat

It’s cold a first light here in the mountains. The blast of warm air from the jets raises the balloon from the ground and emanates to chilly onlookers.


This year, there were nine colorful Hot Air Balloons registered to fly out of the event. An additional couple of balloons took off just to the south for a total 11 balloons in the air.

Take Off

There were a lot of people at the event, but it didn’t feel crowded. Following the National Anthem and a short intro from an announcer, balloons began to lift off with Lynard Skinner’s Sweet Home Alabama echoing across the valley.

Hot Air Balloons

The Fairgrounds are located just to the south of the Driggs airport. There are nine balloons in this scene, with two more readying to lift off. Gentle southerly winds pushed them north with chase crews not far behind.

Teton Valley Hot Air Balloon Ralley

This is one of the last balloons to take off. Notice the Grand in the distance and spectators right in the middle of the action.

Camera Gear

I carried two cameras and two lenses for the event. A Nikon 24-70mm lens was paired with a Nikon D5 (full frame) and a Nikon 14-24mm lens on a Nikon D810 (full frame), leaving the tripod in the truck. I’d use the same gear if going back.


 Up, Up, and Away! See you there next year!

Cape Town and the south coast

On our extended two-month photography safari in South Africa we chose to start in the beautiful city of Cape Town and travel the south coast to visit eight national parks along the way. We chose Cape Town first because of its well-deserved reputation as a beautiful, safe, relaxing city that would give us a chance to recover from our jet lag and acclimate to the country. Cape Town-07656Cape Town-07656   Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Cape Town - beautiful cities on splendid waterfronts and tourist destinations not to be missed. Our two-month visit to South Africa in the spring of 2017 started in Cape Town, moved east along the south coast, inland into the mountains, and back through wine country returning to Cape Town. Along this first month's travel we visited eight of South Africa's national parks. I will cover the parks in the next post but, in this episode, I will discuss some of the joys of the city on the Cape. Continue reading "Cape Town and the south coast"

Jackson Hole’s Great Solar Eclipse!

A Page of Resources and Links

August 21st will be the big day for this year’s Solar Eclipse—and Jackson Hole is directly in the totality path!  The Park Service is preparing for the event with extra staff, one way roads, camping and parking restrictions and so forth. Expect bumper to bumper traffic and all kinds of “issues”. Even with a few potential logistical hassles, this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us. Luckily, I live in the path so I don’t have much invested in the eclipse. I don’t have to gamble at all! Others will have paid premium prices to be in Jackson Hole for the event—with no guarantee of clear skies. Heavy clouds, and even smoke from area fires, are always a possibility. Barring clouds or smoke, onlookers can expect some of the least polluted skies in the country. Plenty of areas of the country will be in the path of the Solar Eclipse but Jackson Hole will be a hot ticket! Remember—it will be August. Traditionally it is a very hot month in most parts of the US. Jackson Hole’s cool weather and clear skies make it a premier location. NOAA Map NOAA: Ready, Set, Eclipse: As the map indicates, JH is predicted to have a good chance of clear skies for the Eclipse in August (Historical Averages). Viewers originally planning on being in Oregon might rethink their choices. The “clear skies” gamble is much higher there. Continue reading "Jackson Hole’s Great Solar Eclipse!"

Light Painting Without Lights

Lightroom and Photoshop to the Rescue!

Recently, the Park Service announced slight changes in the enforcement of a few rules already on the books. The change involved a restriction on the use of artificial lights to illuminate a subject for the purpose of photography. Flashlights are still allowed for safety and wayfinding. I posted a new page on the subject a week or so ago. Check out this page: Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park. Night Barn Original Capture I thought it might an interesting challenge to attempt to imitate a light painted shot. This is a screen grab of an image as it was captured on a Nikon D5 body and a Nikon 14-24mm lens. You can see the shooting data near the top corner: 20 seconds at F/2.8, with ISO 2500 at 18mm. The photo was taken during the “blue light” period, which can often appear too blue. I set the White Balance to a Custom setting of 6800k. (This is just a starting point for LR and not set in stone).  Of course, I was using a tripod. This page will show a lot of steps and tools that might spark some ideas of your own. I am using Lightroom CC 2015 (the current version) which contains a nice set of features that are not included in the boxed LR6 version. One of the recent additions is the Guided Transform tools, which work similarly to the Perspective Crop tool. It has been in Photoshop for quite a few revisions. Lightroom can do a lot of the heavy lifting on most images—and can even do all of the work on many images—but a project like this one still needs Photoshop. Continue reading "Light Painting Without Lights"

Planning an African photo safari

Africa - the dream of a lifetime but how do you plan for an extended photo safari? [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="944"]Kruger-3715-Edit African lion in Kruger National Park[/caption] Kruger-3715-EditBig cats of South Africa   I recently returned from a two month photo safari in South Africa, truly a trip of a lifetime and want to share many of the things I learned in the planning, execution, and photography of this adventure. This is part one of a multi-part series of posts about South Africa and its photographic treasures. Continue reading "Planning an African photo safari"

Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park

The Times They Are a Changin’!

How about borrowing a line from Bob Dylan’s 1964 title song?  The days of adding artificial light in Grand Teton National Park (and all National Parks for that matter) are coming to an end. As it turns out, the regulation has always been in GTNP’s rules—they just weren’t being enforced. In essence, it states that no artificial light can be used for night time photography. You can use a flashlight for navigation and safety, but not to light a subject. Photographers have been shining flashlights and popping strobes on trees, barns, footbridges, wagons and so forth for as long as I have been doing digital photography. I heard about “light painting” for a few years before I ever tried it. The concept is simple: during a long exposure, the photographer shines a light on a subject, usually slightly from the side. After that, it’s simply a matter of practice and finesse. March Snowman Over the years, I’ve asked if it was okay to use a flashlight in the Park, and have always been told it’s fine as long as I don’t shine the light on wildlife. I’ve had rangers come up while I was light painting, and each time said I was fine. One time, the Ranger chatted with me while I was light painting a snowman at one of the turnouts. He chuckled at the setup and drove off. As it turns out, I was probably breaking two regulations that night…more on that later. Continue reading "Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park"

Fort Henry Rendezvous 2017

Photos from the 28th Annual Rendezvous held near Rexburg, ID.

Mountain Man Rendezvous are held all over the country, but head to the Northern Rockies if you want to be where it actually happened! Rifle Range If you were attend a Mountain Man Rendezvous, you’d find an eclectic mix of individuals that share an interest in American History. The Mountain Man era spanned from roughly 1825 to 1840—a blink of the eye in US History. Hardy trappers roamed the Rocky Mountain West in search of beaver pelts—trapping them in late fall and early winter to be used for fashionable European top hats. Lack of demand and depleted supplies of beavers resulted in the demise of the Mountain Man period. Continue reading "Fort Henry Rendezvous 2017"

Another Day at the Office!

Cowboys and Wranglers in Grand Teton National Park.

Three Cowboys and Mt. Moran Each year, Pinto Ranch moves a herd of cattle to one of the leased pastures north of Elk Ranch Flats. In preparation of tomorrow’s cattle drive down the highway, three cowboys saddled up near the historic old cabins and dude ranch. Another Day at the Office 1 I managed to get to the cowboys at about the time they were ready to ride West. I asked if I could take some photos. “Yep, no problem. We are headed that direction”.  I did my best to line up either the Grand or Mt. Moran, moving to my right at a pretty quick pace. From what I understand, their job for the morning was to move bison out of their pasture and then patch up the fences. Jon Holland, broke away from the other two cowboys and then all hell broke loose! Continue reading "Another Day at the Office!"

Beating the Summer Crowds in Grand Teton National Park:

Tips and Strategies to Help Make Your GTNP Visit More Enjoyable!

GTNPVisitation at Grand Teton National Park has been on the incline for several years—each one breaking the previous year’s totals. We are likely on a similar pace this year, and that’s not taking into consideration the extra visitors in August for the Solar Eclipse! Air travel is getting more and more difficult—and less fun. It is probably going to get worse with new restrictions on computers and eventually photo gear. Gasoline prices have remained relatively low and there is a renewed interest in the Parks in general. That’s great for our regional market. It’s great for the tour operators, merchants, galleries, restaurants, dude ranches, and activities! If you are stuck behind a bear jam or waiting to get through the entrance station, it’s not so great! Continue reading "Beating the Summer Crowds in Grand Teton National Park:"

Old West Days Parade 2017: Kids, Horses, Dogs and Magic Memories

The Old West Days Parade may not resemble parades in most cities. Horses make up a large portion of the entries. Why not? There are lots of them in the valley being used for trail rides, rodeos, dude ranches, back country outfitters, covered wagon cookouts, search and rescue—and of course as pets. I went to the Old West Days Parade again this morning and came home with the normal amount of images. This page contains just a small cross section of the captures! Photographer and Tiny Model Kids are a major attraction at a parade. Only a few of them are actually in the parade, but there are always a lot of them hugging the road and occasionally holding still long enough for a photo. Continue reading "Old West Days Parade 2017: Kids, Horses, Dogs and Magic Memories"