2010
05.24

Among the most photographed national parks in our country’s system, Grand Teton National Park has been immortalized in the work of countless photographers over the years, most notably Ansel Adams whose photo of the Tetons and Snake River is instantly recognizable to so many of us.  It can be a humbling experience to stand in the same location as so many greats that have come before you and attempt to do justice to one of the most photographed landscapes in the world.  Yet, a trip to photograph the Tetons simply isn’t complete without hitting a few key spots.

Often called the “most photographed barn in America”, the Mormon Row Barn is actually a pair of barns built by T.A. Moulton in an area called Antelope Flats in the southern portion of the park.  The north and south barns can be found off a gravel road called Mormon Row which lies between Antelope Flats Road and Gros Ventre Road, a few miles east of Moose Junction.  As you travel through this area, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful location than the land on which these barns lie.  There are only a few houses on the road, but please respect the local owners if you make it this way.  It is safe to say they see their share of tripods as this location is often crowded with photographers year-round.

Sunset at the Mormon Row Barn in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

Sunrise at the Mormon Row Barn in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

Geographically, the spine of the Tetons runs north-south, making for dynamic shots both at sunrise and sunset at most of the popular locations.  The Mormon Row Barns are most often seen photographed at sunrise when the sun is directly hitting the side of the barns, as well as lighting the majestic mountain range that serves as their backdrop.  Yet, some of the best shots I have seen of the Mormon Row barns are at late afternoon and sunset when storms and dramatic skies can turn this over-photographed scene into something truly special.

Sunrise at the Mormon Row Barn in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

Sunrise at the Mormon Row Barn in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

I like to get a round of photos of the barns as the sun peaks over the mountains and turns the world alight, then head north to what could be easily be one of the most well-known locations in all of the national parks- the Snake River Overlook.  Whether Ansel Adams’ famous photograph or the work of so many others, this location has been repeatedly photographed over the years for a reason- it’s gorgeous.  With the Snake River winding into the foreground and the Tetons towering over the valley, this location is near perfect.

Sunset from the Snake River Overlook in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

Sunset from the Snake River Overlook in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

The Snake River overlook is located just off Hwy 191 between Moose Junction and Moran Junction.  Its proximity to the highway makes it a popular stop, though most people only linger a few minutes.  The overlook is rather large with several different viewpoints from which to gaze or photograph.  You can usually find a few photographers here, both at sunrise and sunset, as either time can make for a beautiful photograph.  During our three-day stay at Grand Teton National Park, I spent two sunsets and one sunrise at the Snake River Overlook and most always shared it with a few others, including one of National Geographic’s top landscape photographers.

Sunset from the Snake River Overlook in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

A few miles south of the Snake River Overlook, just past the Teton Point Overlook, is the turn-off for Schwabacher Landing.  At the end of this short gravel road lies some of the best sunrise photo opportunities to be found at Grand Teton National Park.  Schwabacher Landing is a series of channels and beaver dams which perfectly reflect the Tetons on a calm, still morning.  Whereas other locations only enjoy “magic lighting” for a short window of time, Schwabacher Landing presents fantastic photo opportunities as late as 9am.

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Sunrise at Schwabacher Landing in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

Without going backcountry, it is hard to imagine a better place than Schwabacher Landing to photograph the Tetons at sunrise.  I usually spend the first few hours of the morning just walking along the creeks and dams searching for the photographic opportunities that are constantly appearing.  On a still morning, there are mirror reflections of the Tetons nearly everywhere you look and the hardest decision is often which direction to point your camera.

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I will admit I am not a fan of crowds and unfortunately you will find them at all of the locations I have listed, as these are quite simply the most popular locations for photographing the Tetons.  Yet, one advantage to Schwabacher Landing is that while the parking lot may be packed with cars, there is plenty of space to explore and you won’t be competing for tripod space with other photographers.  Wander along the trails, creeks, and beaver dams to discover new and wonderful perspectives, but be aware that this is bear country and take the proper precautions to avoid any unnerving encounters.

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If you would like to know more about Schwabacher Landing, I would encourage you to check out my corresponding entry entitled “Photographing the Tetons at Sunrise“, found in the Wyoming section of my blog.  There you can see more photos and read about my first experience photographing the Tetons at sunrise from this beautiful location.

Another popular spot for photographing Grand Teton National Park is Owbow Bend, located just inside the Moran Junction entrance to the park.  This turn-off can easily be identified by the line of cars you are likely to find here, both at sunrise and sunset.  Owbow Bend is a looping meander of the Snake River which often holds a beautiful shadow of the Teton Range, in particular Mt Moran.  Its location makes it easily accessible from several campgrounds, contributing to its popularity, but also saving you a half-hour of driving to the Mormon Rows Barns and Snake River Overlook if you are staying inside the park.

Sunrise at Oxbow Bend in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park

I have mentioned just a few of the most popular locations for photographing Grand Teton National Park.  These are easily accessible for anybody and require little planning and just a bit of gas.  But there are photo opportunities galore on the numerous trails within the park where you can find views of the Grand Teton and surrounding peaks that most photographers will never see.  I hope this article provides some useful information for photographing Grand Teton National Park and I wish you the best of luck in finding all this extraordinary park has to offer.

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30 comments so far

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  1. great information. I will definately take pics at these spots on my trip out to the tetons.

  2. im heading up there tomorrow morning …. lets see if Mother Nature will cooperate .

  3. I am trying to determine by your images what time of year you were there. We were there last fall, the third week in September. Your post was in May but these images look to me like late fall or very early spring not May. As we are thinking of going this May, knowing when you took these images would be helpful. thanks

  4. These photos were taken in late spring around the middle of May so there’s a good chance you would find similar conditions. Very cold mornings, fewer tourists, and a nice mix of snow on the peaks and permafrost in the foreground. Best of luck to you and enjoy your visit!

  5. Great information, especially re: Schwabacher’s Landing. The sunrise I was there in 08, a moose was grazing on the far side of the river & I was just outside the parking lot when I saw him. Another couple came along and the guy walked down the trail in towards the mountains, the moose crossed the river & then went wild when he detected the intruder…luckily, the guy wasn’t injured but I decided not go any further…had I done so I may have seen the view with the beaver dam you have….maybe next time. Thanks for the tips

  6. I love your eye! Your work is beautiful!! Thanks

  7. Thanks for your kind words and compliments Paula. Wish you all the best.

  8. Excellent article. Cheers for the location tips. Planning on heading out to Tetons in early to mid May, any advice on if the roads to Mormon Row scwabacher landing tend to be clear that time of year?

    All the best

    F29

  9. Thanks for the kind words Paul. I hope you enjoy your trip to the Tetons and I have no doubt you will. I can’t say for certain whether the roads will have snow that time of year, but I’m pretty confident they will both be open, especially Mormon Row as that’s a residential area. Good luck and enjoy your shooting!

  10. hi-ya, I like all your posts, keep them coming.

  11. Kyle, Beautiful photos. I was last in the Tetons in 1982 and 1983. I was photographing with a Nikon FM2 — which I still have and kodachrome 64 slide film. I was very happy with those photos. Now, years later, I want to go back with my digital equip. and with my Noblex film panoramic camera. We are looking at a possible Semptember trip. Any idea when when the fall colors start turning in that area? Thanks.

  12. Hey Charles
    Thanks so much your kind words. I can’t say exactly when the fall colors begin to turn these days, but I recall getting some incredible colors in September the summer that I was working there. In particular, check out Gros Ventre road where you should find some truly beautiful displays. Best of luck and thanks for stopping by!

  13. Kyle, These are wonderful images. Combined with you insights, I can’t wait to arrive at the park next weekend. Thanks for not re-publishing the quick-hit list that shows up so often on the web about shooting the Tetons.

  14. Heading to Tetons/Yellowstone with my 4 year old son in late august. Thanks for the great tips!! Your photos are great!

  15. Just came back from Grand Tetons/Yellowstone thank you for the information on where to shoot! I’m not a pro but I’m an artist that wanted beautiful scenes to paint. Thank you!

  16. Thanks John! I hope you have a great trip to the park and get some beautiful images. Head up one of the many outstanding trails in the park and you’ll find even more wonderful locations. Happy shooting!

  17. Thanks so much! Hope you and your son have a wonderful trip!

  18. Thanks so much Gloria. I appreciate you getting in touch and would love to see how your paintings turn out sometime. Wish you all the best.

  19. Do you take bear spray with you when taking photos?

  20. I usually don’t bother with bear spray when visiting the sights mentioned in this article. Most of them are pretty open or busy and as long as you’re careful to make sufficient noise, you shouldn’t have any problems with bears. That being said, all these sights are located within bear country and I would advise to always be aware and follow the proper precautions. My assistant and I usually make sure to talk a lot (and louder than usual) in bear country, as making yourself known to any nearby bears is the most effective way of avoiding an encounter. If you are alone, especially at places like Shwabacher’s Landing with limited visibility around you, just be sure to call out loud as you walk around so you won’t surprise any bears. I wouldn’t hesitate from carrying bear spray and I would highly recommend it when traveling backcountry. It’s a safe and effective means of deterring bears and gives you some peace of mind that you can protect yourself, as long as you can actually keep it in a place where you can get to it immediately upon an encounter, as you probably won’t have much time to react. But be assured that with the proper precautions, encountering a bear at a safe distance is sure to be an exhilarating experience that you’re sure never to forget.

  21. These are absolutely beautiful pictures. You caught the lighting just right! Thanks for the inspiration. We are going to the Tetons mid August. Will the elk be shedding their velvet by then or when? And where is the best place to see Moose? Also, we are an older couple and still love photography, but are limited on how far we can hike on the trails. How far do you have to walk to take pictures of the Mormon Barns? Again, your photography is beautiful! You are an artist!

  22. Thank you Eileen. I’m not sure what time of year the elk will be shedding their velvet, but one good place to look for moose is at Oxbow Bend. It’s a popular spot for photography right off the road and you guys won’t have any problem there. Also, the Mormon Row barns can be photographed right from the road. In fact, all the locations listed on my blog are roadside overlooks and lookouts so they can be photographed easily and without having to hike on the trails. Thank you again for your kind words and compliments and I wish you all the best on your trip!

  23. This information was fantastic. The pictures are awesome!!! Unfortunately, I was there in mid to late September and there was a haze from the fires up north each morning and even into the early evening the haze affected the shots. It rained the day before we left, so I hit Schwabacher’s Landing the last day and got some beautiful pictures. Thanks for all the help. I hope to hit this area again in a couple of years.

  24. WOW! Just amazing! Thank you Kyle. We are going out to see the Tetons for the first time (up close anyway) tomorrow. We are very excited to realize these locations are about 30 minutes away! That’s SO close. :) These photos are beautiful. Have you taught yourself or taken classes? You definitely have a gift! Thanks for sharing your knowledge of the Tetons!

  25. Thank You for the info…going to grand teton in june…hope to find all the places you have mentioned

  26. I will be going in June around the 15th. This year, I will be brining Canon 1DX, 5D MkIII, and Nikon D4. 17mm tilt shift, and also my canon 800mm, 400mm 2.8 . Actually all the primes for canon. also Nikon primes. I am Bringing kids to see. Where did you stay that was a nice central Hub to deploy your shoots without long drives? I am excited. I also brining drone Octo copter with 5DMKIII mounted with 50mm with remote shooting and viewing. Drone can stabilize off of 8 Satellites and fly around 2500 feet above ground. Nice toy to get above the brush and trees. Used it in Hawaii to shoot Volcano. Your Shots are awesome, i love the shot looking out barn window!! Brings me back to the guys that lived there and what they really saw. Awesome. Hope there will still be some snow on mtns in June.. As white caped Mtns add to composition. What filters? Circular polarizer? Neutral density? UV haze? Higher altitudes i find Circular polarizer useful in Sierras. What do you suggest? Or just do it in post. Any favorite Canon or Nikon lenses you used most while shooting barn?

    Kind Regards,
    BB

  27. thank you for sharing both your photos and the information on locations. I’m traveling to Grand Tetons in a few weeks and your entry is just what I needed! Love love your barn photos. All are beautiful.

  28. I was there is August of this year and got some great shots. Thank you for sharing your talent and insight. Unfortunately because of the government sequester, Schwabacher Landing has been closed to the public. I was a little more than disappointed.

  29. Kyle, your images are very compelling! We are visiting the Grand Tetons NP as I write this note, and want to thank you for your very informative and helpful suggestions for prioritizing locations in such a photo rich area. It is mid-September, and we awoke this morning to the year’s first snow covering the mountain tops! What a gift; now we need to re-take many of our shots :)

  30. First time visitor to the park in mid-September and looking forward to it. Really looking forward to capturing wildlife, and hoping for some great keepers, too.