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Wind River Range, Wyoming
Accessible only by foot or by horse, Dad’s Lake is located in the Bridger Wilderness within Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. The trailhead is located at the Big Sandy Campground, which is also a southern access point to the Wind River Range. The campground can be reached by car from Rock Springs, Wyoming, via U.S. 191 North to Highway 28. Turn east on Highway 28 and proceed to Farson/Big Sandy (County Road 23), and go north until you reach the Big Sandy Campground. Situated between the Shoshone National Forest and the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the Wind River Range is an incredibly beautiful granite mountain range. With many 13,000-foot mountains, sparkling blue lakes and deep canyons, it provides infinite opportunities for landscape photographers. The magical sunrises and sunsets in the Winds are an added plus.
Winterlike conditions dominate the Bridger Wilderness for most of the year. On average, high-country trails are snow-covered from October until early to mid-July. Trails are very wet in July, so be prepared. Stream runoff peaks in June, while high water levels continue into July, and many of the larger streams in the Bridger Wilderness aren’t bridged. The best weather is between August and September. Summertime highs fall between 65º and 85º F, and lows are usually around 30º to 40º F.
Traveling in the Winds is mostly by backpack or packhorse. For backpacking, I bring my Canon EOS DSLR with a Sigma 17-35mm ƒ/2.8-4 EX DG wide zoom and a Sigma 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 APO DG macro zoom. This camera and lens combination is relatively lightweight, and with two lenses provides focal lengths from macro, wide-angle and telephoto to capture the Winds’ wildflowers, wildlife or huge sweeping landscapes like Dad’s Lake. To keep the camera steady while using the telephoto or for slow shutter speeds necessary in low light, I use a Manfrotto 484RC2 mini-ballhead and Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3. My Gitzo GT-0541 Mountaineer tripod has carbon-fiber legs for a lighter payload on the hike. To adjust for the best reflection on Dad’s Lake, as well as to achieve better color saturation, I use Tiffen circular polarizing filters. Because of the unpredictable weather in the Winds, I’ve made a rain cover out of a waterproof, large-sized sleeping bag stuff sack. I cut a hole at the bottom of the sack big enough for the end of the lens to pass through and use rubber bands to secure the stuff sack to the end of the lens. This setup allows access to my controls and keeps my camera, lens and ballhead dry while shooting images in a thunderstorm.
My favorite time to visit the Winds is in the late summer when it’s warm and not too buggy; mosquitoes can be a major irritation in the early summer. Best times for photography are in the morning and evening during or after thunderstorms. The rich-colored, low-angle light of the sun, with reflective lakes in the foreground and the Wind River Range in the background, is absolutely astounding. One last thing—the fishing in the Winds is excellent, so don’t forget your fly rod!
Contact: The Bridger-Teton National Forest, www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf.
For the sharpest possible image, nothing beats using a carbon-fiber tripod, and there never has been a better time to carry one into the field. Carbon-fiber construction provides more durability than ever before while also weighing less. Sturdier legs also mean support for bigger payloads and more accessories, and while carbon-fiber tripod legs may be more rigid for better stability, they also offer flexibility for better portability and more effective vibration reduction. The technology has even matured to the point where you can find a quality tripod at pretty much any price range.