"Last Week in Pictures"

June 5-11, 2022

Alright, so I guess technically I'm a day or so late on this one (my goal is to create a collection of photos every week, and allow myself the following week to edit and post them) but regardless, here is the second installment of my "Pictures from Last Week" series...

As you may have figured from the lead image, I've made my way back out west again and decided to finally take advantage of my proximity to some truly amazing places. I've been wanting to get back up to Yellowstone for several years, and after views of the Tetons were choked out by wildfire smoke during my visit last summer, I wanted to try and return a bit earlier this season there. I had a million reasons not to go- mostly time (looming show prep) and money (gas prices!) related, but I'm tired of making excuses and letting opportunities, and life, pass me by. That Friday afternoon (June 10) I threw some camping stuff together and drove up to Jackson Hole, pulling into Grand Teton National Park around dusk. I took a quick scouting hike to re-familiarize myself- wanting to find a nice scene near the Snake River for sunrise reflections the next morning. Back at the water's edge shortly after 4 am, the image above is a glimpse of the results.

(I should add that all of the photos here are just quick edits for this post. Not necessarily even the best photos from the trip- that's yet to be determined as I have about 1,500 from the weekend to sort through, edit, run trial prints, etc. I plan to write a few follow up posts sharing more soon- but this will offer a sampling.)

I really lucked out with the conditions that morning and that gorgeous light held even after the magical glow of golden hour, assisted by cloud cover rolling through (little did I know at the time what devastation that front would bring...) Trying to make the most of it, I rushed to nearby Mormon Row to get a few shots of the famous Moulton barns. I've photographed here before (as have thousands and thousands of others) but having just been accepted to an art festival in Jackson this coming August, figured I might as well try to get some new material.

There are two well-known barns here, set along a number of pioneer homesteads- and the 'John' Moulton barn (pictured third below) is the one I already have in my portfolio. It's said to be "the most photographed barn in the world," -and for good reason. It's hard to resist this idyllic scene. The shot I already have is more or less the straight-forward iconic view, with a few nuances in the angle, lighting and foreground- but as we grow and evolve in our work it's nice to try and find something different. That's not easy in such an insanely popular place, but it's what I was going for on this morning. (I'm sure these angles have also been done a billion times over, but I really loved the shades of early summer green in the leaves and grasses, and the textures of the tree bark. I felt these contributed a sense of nostalgia- almost like looking in on a simpler time- even more so than with the barns and mountains as sole subject matter.)

Wildflowers were really beginning to explode across the landscape too; the most prominent right now being mule's ear which seemed to cover entire hillsides in beautiful yellow, and brightened the sage lands against the front range.

Around noon that Saturday I finally pulled myself away from the Tetons and started to make my way north. Yellowstone is an enormous place and it takes a long time to get anywhere there- just one of the many reasons (top being the incredibly diverse array of wildlife and natural features) that it would take weeks... months... a lifetime to really experience it right. Definitely more than an overnight visit, so I've learned that with limited time two approaches really work best there. The first is to focus on just one or two specific places, and the other is to simply wander around slowly, with no agenda or expectations, and see what you find. Of course with photography putting yourself at the right place in the right light can be pretty critical, so for this visit I decided to emphasize two shots that I've wanted to try for several years- both to be attempted on Sunday (one at sunrise, the other midday.) They were in locations a pretty good distance apart, so I planned to pass the time between exploring at my leisure.

With that in mind, Saturday afternoon was spent securing my campsite and then going to check out the sunrise location. Here's a preview of that from my scouting hike...

You're going to have to wait until next week's installment to see how those turned out though. I will say, I didn't get the images I'd envisioned because of heavy fog and rain the next morning (and in fact, I only had a few minutes here while scouting before being caught in a torrential downpour) but the results were still pretty cool.

I'd hoped to explore a bit yet that evening, but the rain was relentless. The only brief break came while driving back to camp, resulting in the rainbow over Yellowstone Lake seen below. Again, at the time the storms seemed merely an inconvenience- I had no idea the severity of what was coming. I can't imagine anybody did.

Rain continued to fall through the night, with only one more brief respite around dawn the next morning. I did manage to get that followup shoot in at the waterfall, but not much else in the park that day. I tried stopping at a few hot springs but conditions were just cold and miserable. As I left Yellowstone, streams were beginning to breach their banks.

The historic flooding came on fast, beginning to cause disruptions that afternoon and utter destruction in the coming days. The northern half of Yellowstone will be closed for a very long time. I know those gateway communities well, and it's heartbreaking to think of how they will be impacted. But it's another reminder that Ma Nature is always the one in charge, and at least nobody (to my knowledge) was seriously hurt or killed.

It will be interesting to see how nature responds to those closures as well; how the wild can breathe free for a summer without tourists swarming those parts of the park. I kind of wish now that I'd driven that northern loop for a look during this visit- I've seen it before but it's been a few years- and I suppose there's a reminder there too. To take opportunities when we have them, because we never know how things will change, or if we'll have the chance again. In that I'm grateful for what I was able to see on this little weekend excursion, and will balance that lesson against any excuses the next time I have a chance to get out.