Early Season in Grand Teton – Still Worth the Price of Admission

Sunrise Over Mount Moran, Grand Teton National Park

Sunrise Over Mount Moran, Grand Teton National Park, © Jay Goodrich

The middle of May can be a pretty drab time in the mountains of Wyoming, especially when weather events like El Nino are in force. This means that the western area of the United States tends to get its winter moisture in late spring. When this occurs, like it did this year, places like Grand Teton National Park linger in winter scenery longer than usual. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Actually, as far as I am concerned it is a great thing because there are subjects to photograph that most people never get to see.

After my recent trip to Yellowstone, I spent a few days in Grand Teton. I just cannot venture to the greater Yellowstone area without heading to The Bunnery in Jackson, WY for their Very Berry Pie or The Mangy Moose in Teton Village for their margaritas. In all seriousness though, I was here to photograph. What is really cool about this time of year is that there is no one and I mean no one here. The park is yours. And what most people, photographers included, think is that everything is brown and in a state of drab before spring explodes in full force. If you think about it though, the sun still rises and sets and there are probably more weather systems running through the typically dry sage environment than normal. This is occurring because all that snow that is melting, creates moisture, which once in the atmosphere, creates clouds. All of a sudden we have the makings for a great photo experience.

Ice Over Jackson Lake. Grand Teton N.P. by Jay Goodrich

Ice Over Jackson Lake. Grand Teton N.P. © Jay Goodrich

Something that I was not expecting was the fact that the weather had been pretty cold up until the day that I arrived. So even Jackson Lake, which I have only seen frozen in the true heart of winter, was still covered with ice. This ice was an amazing find for me. It was like discovering the missing link if I were an archeologist–well maybe not that important, but important none-the-less. I have seen the hardcore winter images of the Tetons and the full on spring ones, but never something like my recent travels and that is a gold mine for a photographer–a usual subject in new and different light. During the sunrise one morning I raced to this overlook location of Jackson Lake knowing that the gap in the clouds to the east would produce a sunrise that would last only a few minutes. I was in fact wrong, it lasted only a few seconds, three frames to be precise. I was lucky to capture the lead-in image to this posting.

As the amazing light faded, I created my second image composition and then proceeded to look for something else to photograph.  The friend I was with discovered some macro images along the shores of the lake. As we turned our focus from the grander landscape to the intimate one, the wind began to move the ice to the northeast and slam it on the beach. These breaking, cracking, and moving shards quickly became the subject for the next hour.

Re-discovering the Tetons in Ice, Grand Teton N.P. by Jay Goodrich

Re-discovering the Tetons in Ice, Grand Teton N.P. © Jay Goodrich

This is proof as to how fleeting nature is, my intro photograph could not have been created again an hour after I took it. I don’t want to show you the smile on my face, but I am fairly happy that nature removed the element of competition. Now I just need to hunt down anyone who stumbled upon this scene before me.