Photographing Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for the First Time

The Famed T.A. Moulton Barn

Earlier this month, I visited Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks for the first time.  Before you read, please know that this post is not meant to be a guide for how to photograph these locations, as I am not an expert on this area.  I am sharing my experience here so others may see what a first timer can come away with on a trip like this.

I came prepared on the trip with focal lengths ranging from 17mm to 400mm, and both crop sensor and full frame bodies to take advantage of the features that each offers.

My first stop on the trip was Idaho Falls.  Since we flew into Salt Lake City, it was easiest to stop here for a night instead of driving all the way to Jackson.  Idaho Falls isn't a huge destination, but from my hotel room, I had a gorgeous view of the Snake River with the Mormon Temple in the background.  I snapped this shot the next morning before heading off to the Tetons.

Good Morning, Idaho Falls!

On the way to the Tetons, I had to stop in Swan Valley, ID to photograph this abandoned school house.  I had actually scouted this out ahead of time as a place I wanted to visit on the way.  I had seen some pictures of it on Flickr, and since some of them were geotagged, I was able to figure out right where it was.  I also checked the map, which allows you to see interesting Flickr photos in the area you're visiting.  I highly recommend taking a look at this map before you take a trip to see if there's anything off the beaten path you might want to check out.  This school house probably isn't in any guide books, but it's a neat place to visit!

Abandoned School House in Idaho

Okay, onto the Tetons!  My goodness are the Tetons gorgeous.  There is so much history there, with lots of little corners to explore.  Below is Cunningham Cabin, one of the many old edifices that has stood the test of time.  I had to do some HDR here since the scene was so contrasty (I only do HDR if I don't think one RAW will give me enough dynamic range).

Cunningham Cabin

A Look Through Cunningham Cabin

Another great place to visit is the General Store in Menor's Ferry.

General Supplies, Menor's Ferry

I was glad I had my wide angle lens.

Inside the General Store, Menor's Ferry

Snake River Overlook, where Ansel Adams created his famous shot.

Snake River Overlook

Jackson Lake is gorgeous with the Tetons reflected in it.  I used a 10-stop neutral density filter with a circular polarizer to allow for a 30 second exposure to make the water look silky.

Jackson Lake at Colter Bay Marina

Ah...and Mormon Row.  What a wonderful place to photograph.  This row of barns and homesteads were built by Mormon settlers 100 years ago.  While I was taking the photograph at the top of the T.A. Moulton Barn (also using a neutral density filter and CPL), who walks up but talented Grand Teton photographer Jeff Clow!  What serendipity to be there at the same time and get a chance to meet a photographer whose work I admire.   Here is a shot of the John Moulton Barn at Mormon Row:

John Moulton Barn

I came back to Mormon Row week later on my way back through, and they were preparing for a celebration for the 100 year anniversary of the T.A. Moulton Barn (the one at the very top of the page, not the one right above), and I was allowed in for a peek!

Inside the T.A. Moulton Barn

Jackson was a charming western town to go back to at night for shopping and eating.

Jackson, WY

Now onto Yellowstone.  Even though it's geographically very close to the Tetons, Yellowstone is an entirely different landscape.  One of the highlights of Yellowstone is the array of geothermal features.  The hot springs and geysers are beautiful to look at, but hard to capture in a photograph.

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park

Capturing Old Faithful erupting at night was a highlight.

Old Faithful at Night

Followed by some star trails over the Old Faithful Inn.

Star Trails Over the Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone is not without its share of beautiful vistas.  The iconic view of the Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist Point is a popular spot for photographers (another neutral density shot).
Lower Yellowstone Falls from Artist Point

With my telephoto lens at arm's length, I was able to capture a few shots of bears.  I'm certainly not a skilled wildlife photographer, but at least I got a few acceptable shots.

Post-Swim Shake

A Bear Grazing in the Hayden Valley

What you saw in this post was just a small sampling of the photos I took on my trip.  If you'd like to see more, follow my Flickr Photostream.


  1. Fine series of shots, made the most of your time in the area.

    Well done throughout.

  2. Wonderful captures of the NorthWest!


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