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Behind The Shot: “Spring Sunrise In Grand Teton” By Michael Swindle


Photo By Michael Swindle

One of my objectives on my trip to Grand Teton National Park in the spring of 2014 was to get a sunrise photo from Oxbow Bend. Getting the sunrise shot that you have been dreaming of can be nearly impossible when you have limited shooting days and absolutely no control over the weather or the wildlife that you might encounter. Although I would have liked to have been able to get a photo from Schwabacher Landing, it was not in the cards for this trip as it was under construction.

Getting sunrise photos in the spring is very hard, as I have to get up extremely early to account for daylight savings time. But it’s also very peaceful and quiet in the early morning hours, which I do enjoy even if it’s difficult to get up and going. So having “scouted” the area the previous night, I knew I wanted to set up near the water’s edge and had located a path that would bring me to the water line. As I was setting up and daylight arrived, I noticed that the clouds were covering the Teton peaks and thick fog was rising off the water, so I was going to have to wait for the clouds to move and the fog to lift so the peaks would be exposed. Trying to capture the sun shining on the peaks of the mountains with the mirrored reflection of the Tetons on the tree lined Snake River was bound to be a challenge, but I was committed to getting the picture.

I setup my Induro CT314 tripod, which has worked well for me for a couple years, and I attached my Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 24-105mm f/4 L lens and a Singh Ray polarizing filter. With an ISO 200 and aperture at f/11 I was ready to shoot as soon as the mountain peaks were visible. Fortunately, the weather would be in my favor, as the clouds shifted and the fog burned off. As I was shooting, I noticed ripples in the water and realized a beaver was plucking river grass from the banks and swimming downstream. Unfortunately, I was not able to focus on him quick enough to capture a picture of his busy work. As the sun was rising, the water was rippling and more visitors were arriving, I realized my opportunity for my morning shoot was passing. Someone throwing or possibly attempting to “skip” rocks on the water was the final clue that the beaver would probably not return this morning and the serene, quiet, smooth river flow would no longer reflect the Teton peaks.

Hoping I had captured the tranquil beauty of Teton Range and the Snake River on the frames I had taken, I proceeded to the Signal Mountain Lodge for some needed coffee and breakfast.

Equipment and Settings: Canon 5D MkIII, Canon 24-105mm f/4L lens, Singh Ray polarizing filter, Induro CT314 carbon fiber tripod.

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