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Grand Teton in the fall is one of the most spectacular places on the planet, and this year the timing for the Aperture Academy Landscape & Wildlife workshop could not have been more perfect. The fall colors were at absolute peak, sharing their bright yellows, oranges and reds — sometimes all in the same tree!
Our group assembled Friday night for orientation where we went over the itinerary for this two day journey, and discussed wildlife safety, meals and of course...the infamous crockpot dinner that has become tradition on our multi-day workshops.
We departed the first morning and made the drive deep into the park to meet the sun at a location called Oxbow Bend. It's obvious why this is such a spectacular place for sunrise...the lazy bend in the Snake River offers mirror-like reflections of Mount Moran in the distance, with peak aspen groves full of color highlighting the scene. As the sun crested the mountain range behind us, the low, early light illuminated the scene, bringing the day to life — it was stunning to witness...and photograph.
Once our students had many captures and compositions of our first stop at Oxbow Bend, we loaded up and headed off in search of wildlife and more fall colors. The morning was filled with sightings and another patch of aspen trees that might possibly have been the best fall color we'd ever seen in Grand Teton National Park.
On our way back into Jackson Hole for our mid-day break, we went past the bridge at Moose Junction to see if we might spot some more wildlife, and sure enough...a moose...NO! Three moose! We quickly unloaded, gear in hand and made a short hike to a small stream where, on the other side, was a large bull moose (male), a cow (female) and their calf! It was such a rare sighting and we were there with cameras in hand to capture the moment! And the good news was the light was just right...these moose were nicely lit and moved around, getting in the water a couple of times creating some really nice environmental compositions.
We then headed to a scenic turn out of the Grand Teton range for our traditional picnic lunch before heading to town for a much needed afternoon break.
After the break, we headed back out, and not far into our drive into Grand Teton, we came across some horses and bison, which offered us a nice natural western style shoot with the Tetons and fall colors as an incredible backdrop. From there we proceeded back to the Oxbow Bend area to see if we could spot some elk, which are in rut, so their Jurassic sounding bugle calls make them easy to locate...but not so easy to photograph. We spent the afternoon in pursuit of just the right place to sit and wait to capture a crossing, but this evening we would have no luck. No matter, with a full day of shooting and so many great images already, we were ready to return to Jackson Hole for the evening. Everyone was tired and hungry, so it was time for dinner...and the legendary crockpot!
The group assembled for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, salad and brownies with ice cream. With happy, full tummies, everyone retired for the night to rest for their second full day in the field.
We started Sunday morning in the Antelope Flats area at another famous location, the Mormon Row barns. These old homesteads, built from old barn wood, light up nicely with that early morning sunlight. Using a bit of zoom, students were introduced to telephoto compression, that brings that majestic Teton range larger into the scene and frames the barn, towering over the composition. We spent a few moments to capture a group photo before heading off in search of more wildlife...and it wouldn't be long!
We had only been in search for about 10-15 minutes when we came across two black bears and more moose! We spent the next hour and a half photographing these two black bears, one in a large bush eating berries. The bush was rich with fall colors which really made for nice framing of the bear's face...not to mention the partly cloudy light made exposures pretty easy to capture.
With memory chips full of this amazing morning, we headed back to town for lunch and a break.
We spent our final afternoon in search of more wildlife, especially elk, given they had been elusive the day before. Then, just as hope was fading, we spotted three large bull elk walking across a field. Looking like a crack commando squad, everyone piled out of the van and quickly made their way into range to fire off some quick shots of these elk who were clearly on the move.
Our last stop of the trip was back to the very location where we started...Oxbow Bend...and for good reason — it's awesome! And on this night, the clouds were high and the potential for a colorful sunset was good...and it was a very nice autumn sunset, with some great oranges highlighting the range around Mount Moran, and with the still waters of the river, the colors reflected in the foreground making a breathtaking panorama.
With two full days of shooting, it was time for our workshop to come to an end. We returned to the Jackson Hole Lodge to look back over student's favorite images and to say our goodbyes. It was a great workshop, and many great images were captured at a breathtaking time of year.
Until next time,
Stephen, Scott, Kevin, and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.