Photography in Grand Teton National Park offers many stunning vistas where you can capture beautiful mountain panoramas, foliage and wildlife year round. Shooting options abound in Grand Teton any time of year, with each season affording its own options. I like to make a big thermos of coffee and just get out early to see what unfolds. You'll see Grand Teton in a different light, such as animals moving around at dawn and other things that just don't happen later in the day.
Pro Photography Tips for Shooting in Grand Teton
- Be aware of sunrise and sunset times, as well as the weather forecast. Your best source beyond any doubt is our local weather site, Mountain Weather, which my friend and local meteorologist Jim Woodmencey publishes. Watch for clouds to the East that will block the rising sunlight. The "magic" happens when it's clear to the East, but weather (clouds) are coming over the Tetons, as they will generate an amazing sunrise as the light reflects off the clouds. This might only be for a few minutes so pick a spot and stay there for sunrise.
- The exposure difference from the first light on the Tetons to the unlit dark valley is extreme. You'll need a split neutral density filter to compensate. This is a must-have filter to make the most of your shots. This really defines the amateurs from the professionals, so get one and look the part! Get them locally a Wyoming Camera Outfitters.
- Dress warmly. Anytime of the year you can wear a down jacket in Jackson Hole. Dress in layers and shed them as needed.
- Be aware. There are large mammals (bison, moose, bears) to be aware of while you roam around the park. Bear spray is good to have, as is common sense. Please do not in any way harass the wildlife: This means don't whistle, get close, or throw objects to make them look up. Be a good advocate for them and ask others who are too close to respect them. Wildlife encounters can be dangerous for humans and animals, too.
- Be social. I meet great folks from all over the world that are here to share in the passion we have for nature, wildlife and photography. Say hello to those standing to your left or right. Ask about their experiences and you might just get an insightful tip! Tag your photos #OnlyinJH on social media and share them with us! Our Instagram account will give you ideas of what to shoot.
- To make the most of your trip, get this guide, Grand Teton National Park Photographer's Map and Guide
Below I share some of my favorite spots to catch a fantastic shot:
Schwabacher's Landing is my favorite spot to photograph in all of Grand Teton. Walking the river channel from the parking area north for approximately a half-mile affords an endless number of photography options. Make sure to show up early as this is a very popular spot. Pro Tip: Bring some river sandals so you can get wet and find angles that others don't seek.
This location is good for both early mornings and late evenings. There is a beaver family that has dammed the river channel which provides a lot of entertainment during the evening hours. If you are traveling with a non-photographer, this will give them something to do while you are photographing away.
Mormon Row and Moulton Barn
Located on Antelope Flats, this is probably the most photographed barn in Wyoming, if not the world. This area, Mormon Row, was an early homesteading settlement in Jackson Hole before Grand Teton National Park was formed. The T.A. Moulton Barn is to the south on the row of buildings and to the north is the John Moulton barn, separated by the road.
If it's your lucky day, a bison herd might be moving through and you'll get the combination shot like the one above. Please drive slowly to keep the dust down on the gravel road that leads you to the Moulton Barn.
Grand Teton Photography Tips from Tom Mangelsen
Jackson Hole's legendary nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen shares his thoughts and advice on photographing the big game in Grand Teton National Park. One of the most prolific nature photographers of our time, Mangelsen is as much an artist as he is a conservationist. Tom was named the 2011 Conservation Photographer of the Year by Nature's Best Photography, placing his work in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He was named one of the 40 Most Influential Nature Photographers by Outdoor Photography. See his gallery, Mangelsen-Images of Nature, in downtown Jackson, Wyoming during your visit.
Oxbow Bend of the Snake River
The Oxbow Bend area provides another great reflection of the Grand Tetons and Mount Moran. The best time here is early morning before the wind kicks up, which will destroy the mirror-like reflection. Park anywhere along the road and just walk the bank to find your perfect frame. I like both getting close to the water's edge and shooting up and also standing on my car roof to gain a higher perspective. On the north side of the road in June you'll find wildflowers so take time to walk up the hill (it's steep) and have a look around. You can capture a nice panoramic as you gain elevation and scan for a suitable foreground.
Snake River Overlook
Thanks to Ansel Adams for pioneering this vantage point of the Snake River. It's been more than 75 years since the U.S. Government commissioned him to create a photo mural for the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Thus, trees are now blocking a lot of the river bend, though this location remains a symbolic icon of Grand Teton National Park.
Get there pre-sunrise and get your tripod stationed. Enjoy a cup of coffee and make some new friends by bringing donuts. Once you do move around you can also get a great panoramic image of the entire Teton Mountain Range.
Wildflowers in Grand Teton
Starting in late May with the bright yellow Balsamroot, the flower show begins and then lasts into late summer. As with fall foliage, the display can vary. I like the wildflower show on Antelope Flats during late May and into mid-June. This area not only has wildflowers, but wildlife and the Mormon Row buildings, so you might just get them all in your shot on a perfect day.
The river bottoms along Schwabacher's Landing and Oxbow Bend give you easy access for some variety including the Indian Paintbrush, Wyoming's state flower, and lupine. Hike out to Taggart Lake and enjoy a rolling foreground of color and the Grand Teton looking down on you. Early morning is great as the flowers are more still for your shots. Late afternoons give way to fun motion movements in the frame with the Tetons as a still backdrop.
Just driving around will give you plenty of options to explore new frames and locales to shoot; the color can be everywhere. Just watch out for the ants when you are close to the ground as they will have fun with you.
Photographing Wildlife in Grand Teton
We love our wildlife and if you know where to look, you'll generally find them (see our article on wildlife spotting.) Moose hang around the river bottoms and some are occasionally spotted near the Moose (Wyoming) bridge, which is pretty fitting. Black and grizzly bears are harder to spot, but in the fall you'll find them eating berries along the Moose-Wilson road. The hike to Bradley Lake and others at the base of the Tetons offer up chances as well.
Elk are the hardest to photograph, as they really don't like us being around them. During the fall rut they are less concerned and with a long lens and you'll get some keepers. Just remember to be very respectful. Think of it like this: You are standing in your yard at home and all these people keep coming by. Would you like it if they ran up to you and took a picture? At some point you might snap and run over them.
A Young Pro's Wildlife Photography Tips
Award-winning wildlife photographer Ashleigh Scully may only be 14 years old, but she has learned more about photography over the past 6 years than most people thrice her age. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist is a full-time resident of New Jersey, but her family also has a house in Wilson, making Jackson Hole her “home away from home.”
Mentored by legendary Jackson Hole-based wildlife photographers Tom Mangelsen and Henry Holdsworth, as well as world-renowned wildlife photographer Melissa Groo, Ashleigh’s photos have been used by the Teton Raptor Center, The Murie Center and Wyoming Untrapped.
Ashleigh says the best time of day to photograph is definitely at dawn or dusk when the light is low and it looks the best. She has also learned some good lessons about keeping her distance from wildlife when photographing.
"I love getting intimate portrait shots when I can, but I have to stay at the minimum distance based on the park rules, so I use a telephoto and extender to get closer shots if I want them," Ashleigh says. "I am starting to appreciate how important it is to give wildlife more space and to show more of their environment in the photo."
For more of Ashleigh's tips and her photography background at the ripe old age of 14, see related article: Tips For Photographing Wildlife in Grand Teton National Park
Author: Latham Jenkins is the publisher of Jackson Hole Traveler and a professional photographer who has been out trying to take a great shot for more than 20 years. He enjoys sharing his love of the parks with others through his images. Follow him on Instagram @jacksonholetraveler and please share your photos by using our hashtag, #OnlyinJH.