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James Chow 
Grand Teton National Park

This is a fascinating example of how the same location can provide two totally different images as a consequence of the light and weather. In fact, some say that landscape photographers don't really photograph places at all, but that these are simply backgrounds for whatever light and weather is present. ‹ M.R.

By: James Chow

Oxbow Bend is the name of a bend in the Snake River in the north end of Grand Teton National Park just downstream from the outlet from Jackson Lake. From this viewpoint, you have a commanding view of Mt. Moran and the river bend, which is lined with Aspen. 

I exposed these two images on two consecutive mornings in early September 2000. Notice the completely different moods created by the lighting. My composition relied on getting the yellow bushes in the foreground to frame the river and the contour of the reflection of the mountain, with the river leading one's eye to the golden aspen and Mt. Moran in the background. 

For the shot, I needed a short telephoto lens, namely either a 180mm in 6x6 or a 300mm in 4x5. I had both 6x6 and 4x5 camera systems with me with the proper lenses, so I had the luxury of choosing between either. In this case, the large format camera (Toyo VX125b monorail, Nikkor 300/9 M lens) was ideal in that it offered the tilt necessary to get the foreground vegetation (about 15-20 ft away) and Mt. Moran into sharp focus simultaneously, and it was appropriate for the contemplative photography of breathtaking landscapes such as this. Note that the 180mm lens on 6x6 would have required more like f/45 in which case, resolution is diffraction-limited and drops dramatically. 

For the first image, I arrived before sunrise only to find clouds and drab lighting. About 20 minutes after sunrise, it started to rain. I protected my equipment with my Gortex jacket. After about 30 minutes, the showers stopped, and the sun broke just enough to illuminate the foreground while the background was still overcast. Suddenly, a beam of light illuminated Mt. Moran, steadily moving down and to the right-hand side. I managed to take a quick meter reading and exposed two Velvia Quickloads in the half-minute or so before the light disappeared. 

For the second image, I again arrived before sunrise and setup in nearly the same location. This time, there were thin, white clouds in  the sky over Mt. Moran; otherwise the sky to the east was clear. This morning was also very still, hence the reflection of Mt. Moran in the river. Just before sunrise, the sky turned progressively more pink from the white clouds reflecting the alpenglow. Meanwhile, the pink sky reflected off the river, which was covered by a thin layer of surface fog with moose grazing in the far background.

All text and photographs on this page are Copyright © 2000 James Chow

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Concepts: Grand Teton National Park, Light, Snake River, View camera, Sun, Large format, Grand Teton, Teton Range

Entities: Moran, Oxbow Bend, Nikkor, Snake River, Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Tags: image, sunrise, white clouds, Grand Teton National Park, light illuminated mt, short telephoto lens, Toyo VX125b monorail, large format camera, river bend, fascinating example, foreground vegetation, consecutive mornings, landscape photographers, commanding view, right-hand side, Snake River, different moods, yellow bushes, proper lenses, golden aspen, Jackson Lake, pink sky, different images, north end, surface fog, sharp focus, 30 minutes, camera systems, Gortex jacket, quick meter, contemplative photography, Velvia Quickloads, lighting, weather, telephoto, Nikkor, drab, Oxbow, alpenglow, overcast