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April 2014 Daily Photos and Updates for Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole

A monthly journal for both photographers and Teton visitors!

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Wildlife Banner

Wildlife Reports: Current and Archived

Road Reports and Winter Closures:  Not all areas are open. Check out the link to get a better idea of where you can to go in April.

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April Photos and Reports:

Web_StringLake_May1April Overview:

April is the Rodney Dangerfield of Months: “It just don’t get no respect!” Some stores and restaurants close for a few weeks, kids are out for Spring Break, so many people leave the valley. Most of the antlered mammals will have shed their antlers. Their coats can look shaggy. The parks are mostly still closed during the first half of the month, then open slowly throughout the month. The winter Ski resorts close after the first week. It is too early for golfers. But…it is a month of change. For photographers, April offers lots of possibilities.  Animals are on the move, yet still confined to a relatively small area of the park. Migrating birds return or pass through the valley. You can sometimes find evidence of Spring at one end of the valley and find yourself smack dab in the middle of Winter in other parts of the valley. By the middle of April, Grizzlies start emerging and can be worth a trip. Check out the Wildlife Reports:  for more specifics. Days are comfortably long—but not too long. Light is still good for several hours at each end, with a smaller percentage of the daylight in what people call “harsh light”. Some people think of April as “mud month”, or merely something “to get through”. I like the month, however!. The park is always relatively quiet and deserted. I often get a chance to see more animals per day than at any other month of the year. And, there is so much variety available on any particular day!

April is also the month the Park Service reopens Antelope Flats Road. I look forward to the opening, not only to get access to the homesteads and barns along Mormon Row, but also to allow for a loop to Kelly and back around to the highway. All Winter long, we have to backtrack to the highway before having the option to go north. The road into the Chapel of the Transfiguration is also plowed out sometime in April. The Craig Thomas Visitors Center at Moose opens on the 11th in 2014 after a winter closure.

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Noteworthy Openings:

Upcoming Road Openings:

  • Teton Park Road — Around April 1st to hikers, bikers, roller bladers. Dogs allowed, but on a short leash. No Vehicles.
  • Antelope Flats Road — Never officially announced, but usually near the middle of the month.

Other Openings:

  • Craig Thomas Visitors Center: April 11

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What’s Hot? — Wildlife Highlights

Web Temporary Standoff Mar27Mountain Goats In many of the prior years, Mountain Goats were most reliable in February. In 2014, February was slow and March was better. For whatever reason, they continue to come close to the road road in the Snake River Canyon. It would definitely be worth a trip if you haven’t seen them. This page has more info and maps: Mountain Goats of the Snake River Canyon: The image above was taken March 27.

Web_GrizzlyOnSnow_April26Grizzly Bears have been seen in the south end of the park in mid-April. They usually show up around Oxbow Bend sometime around the 11th to the 15th. There won’t many services in the park so go prepared. Sows with cubs usually show up well after the lone bears or sows with year old cubs.

Web Clarks April6Clark’s Nutcrackers, Mountain Chickadees, Eurasian Collared Doves, Robins, Hairy Woodpeckers and Flickers have been regular visitors most of the winter and should be around all of April. Dark-eyed Juncos push through in April and a few Cassin’s Finches start appearing. I’ve had a Bluejay in my yard all winter, which is unusual for here.

Web Moose Hillside Apr2Moose are usually good subjects in April. They won’t have antlers, but are still one of my favorite subjects. Watch for them along the Gros Ventre River and in the sage flats north of Kelly and along Ditch Creek. During April, some of them will be shaggy, while others will have clean coats.

Web Elk Sleeping Indian Apr8The Kelly Loop! At the first of the month, you might not get to make the full loop around Antelope Flats Road, but the drive out the Gros Ventre Road can be loaded with Elk, Deer, Moose, Bison and possibly a few of the Pronghorns coming off the National Elk Refuge. Watch for Grizzlies, too. Bluebirds, American Kestrels, Meadowlarks, Horned Larks and even White-faced Ibis can show up in April in that area. Also check out the Shane Cabin.

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What’s Hot? — Scenic Highlights

Web_MoultonFirstBarn_Apr12Winter and the Barns! As soon as the Park Service opens Antelope Flats Road, we normally get a few days of snow on the valley floor around the barns. A Winter storm can blow through and give you a set of shots most people never get to take. While I have lots of photos of the barns, I still like to go there early in the year. The road to the T.A. Moulton usually is closed to vehicles for a few extra weeks, but you can walk to it. You can also get to the The Shane Cabins in April along with Snake River Overlook. Lastly, April is great for night time photography. It is usually not bitter cold. Days are still relatively short so you don’t have to stay out all night. Skies can be beautifully clear and the Milky Way often runs parallel with the valley floor. Night Time In the Tetons:

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Artists and Sculptors

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Wildlife Photos From April

Most of the photos on this page were taken specifically “for the blog”. Some are the best of the day, but most were taken to let you see what the valley looked like on that particular day. Normally, I keep the very best ones for future purposes like the ones at Teton Images.

Landscapes and Misc. from April

Back Yard Birds from April

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Feature Posts for April:

With all the seasonal changes, I felt compelled to get quite a few Feature Posts on line in April. I hope it wasn’t too much too fast! The idea at my end was to get the info out there in hopes it helps you plan your trip. Here’s a bulleted list of April Feature Posts:

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Daily Photos and Reports:

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Evening Light Hitting the John Moulton Homestead.

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April 29, 2014   | 7:00 AM: 22°F : Sunrise 6:18 AM, Sunset  8:23 PM :  High Temp Forecast 36°: Clear & Calm Morning

Last Night: I attended a presentation at the Jackson Public Library about light pollution from our tiny little town. We put out as much night light as Flagstaff, AZ. Several groups are working together to educate the public and hopefully have some influence on town regulations and enforcement.  Mike Cavaroc – Free Roaming Photography did a great job.
Wildlife Sightings: Richard Pontius saw 20-30 Mountain Goats along the road on his way into Jackson this morning. He said some were licking salt and minerals on, and near the road. The sites I searched simply said Mountain Goats give birth to their Kids in “Spring”. Worth noting!

Dark Skies: If you happen to be in the valley this afternoon, consider going to the Jackson Public Library (6:00 pm). Several groups are making a presentation about Jackson Hole’s night sky. From what I understand, our little town of Jackson emits more light that Flagstaff, AZ. The presentation will focus on attempts to reduce the night time footprint and show the potential value of being designated as a Dark Sky Place by the International DarkSky Association.

“What is an International Dark Sky Place?

The International Dark Sky Places Program promotes preservation and protection of night skies across the globe. Three types of areas compose the program; communities, parks, and reserves.The links below will lead you to more information about each of these. Preserving dark skiesstarts locally, with a dedicated group of citizens, staff, or volunteers. IDA International Dark Sky Parks and Reserves are home to some of the darkest and most pristine skies in the world. IDA International Dark Sky Communities are filled with citizens concerned for the many factors that dark skies depend on and while their skies may not be perfect, they are examples to the world of how a city may light the streets without lighting the sky above.”

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Ballerinas: Two snow covered trees near Leek’s Marina. Notes: This is an example of white on white with flat light. I like it to some degree, but I’d love to see how the same shot might have looked with early morning gold light on the tree and blue shadows behind it on the snow. It would have been a completely different image. Still, I liked the “married” quality of the two trees and the gentle tilt of the tree tops that reminded me of ballerinas leaning back.

Regional Geology: Two Ocean Creek  You might enjoy this site. It highlights a creek in the Teton Wilderness that starts out along the Continental Divide, then splits. One goes to the Pacific via the Columbia River to the Pacific and the other drains in to the Mississippi and into the Atlantic. A Mountain Man was credited with making the find all the way back in 1835.

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Web Ice Patterns April20

Abstract Patterns of Frozen Ice:

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Landslide: The Jackson Hole News and Guide showed a photo of the house being broken in two. Here’s the story: Slide speeds up, breaks home in 2

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Landslide: Around Noon, I drove to the slide area. The area under, and to the right of this house is slipping down the hill. The dark area on the right has slumped maybe 20 feet.

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House—Cracked in Two: The land under the south section of this house dropped about 8-10 feet, taking it down with the land. It split the house in two.

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Walgreens Sign and the Pump House: At one time, the pump house on the left was about 10 feet to the left of the Walgreens sign. It is being pushed down the hill and towards the highway.

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April 18, 2014   | 7:00 AM: 39°F : Sunrise 6:35 AM, Sunset  8:10 PM :  High Temp Forecast 42°:

Today in JH: Late in the evening yesterday, I went to the slide area and took a few shots. This morning, I drove over and took a few from the same spot.

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Thursday Afternoon

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Friday Morning 10:00am:

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Spectators Thursday Afternoon:

Town Of Jackson Streaming Video. If you had been watching the streaming video, you might have seen my walking around with my camera!

Hovercraft Images: Check out these stills taken with a hovercraft over a period of a few days. It shows the steady progress of the slide, including images of the parking lot and road buckling.

While I was there, it looked like the Town of Jackson was removing (salvaging) the equipment, pipe, and valves from the new Pump House. It is cool now, with light rain and occasional flakes here at 10:30 am.

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Image linked from the Jackson Hole News & Guide : Jason Rolfe / Case Brown / Tributary Environmental

April 15, 2014   | 7:00 AM: ?°F : Sunrise 6:40 AM, Sunset  8:06 PM :  High Temp Forecast 38° with possible rain and snow.

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Blood Moon: April 15

  • Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 200.0-400.0 mm f/4.0 at 400 mm, 1/2 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 3200, ©2014 All Rights Reserved (Note: this is about a 50% crop)

Last Night in Jackson Hole: As you can see, I went out to photograph one of the four “Blood Moon” events we are scheduled to have this year. I learned quite a bit in the process. Focusing was a problem to work out and image sharpness was a challenge. Long exposures….forget it with a telephoto!  There is a formula the night photographers use: Divide 400 by the focal length to determine the maximum shutter speed. That gives you “acceptable results”. At 400mm, I needed to shoot at 1 second or less. The image above was a half second exposure. I used my histogram to help me with the exposure times in manual mode. By the end of the full coverage time, I was starting to dial in the variables. Next time, assuming there are no clouds, I could start shooting with some of the settings I stopped at last night. I’d probably keep 1/2 second (or even try 1/4 second), then adjust the aperture to try to lower the ISO. I didn’t drive to a place where I could have tried to get the Milky Way in the shot, and I didn’t do any homework to see if the two were close enough to get both? Lastly, I didn’t take the new CamRanger and tablet with me last night. It might have been easier to manually focus while looking at the larger image on the tablet in Live View.  I tried viewing in Live View, but the moon was much too dark. Other than the lack of sleep, it was well worth seeing. It also taught me some valuable information I can hopefully apply to future night time outings.

Mormon Row Shooting Info: You can go to the barns with a heavy back pack, loaded with all of your gear if you like to have it all with you. I’ve been there so many times, I have it dialed in and only take the pieces I really need. Today, I took the lighter of my two tripods with an Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head. The camera body was a 35 mpx full frame Nikon D800, and I took the Nikon 24-70 mm short zoom lens and the 70-200 mm intermediate zoom lens. I used the 70-200 mm initially as I started back quite a ways and moved in gradually. I shot some before sunrise, moving in a little at a time, then when the sun peaked out, I ran all the way back to the beginning and started back near the road. Since the snow was solid, I didn’t worry about creating tracks early. All the early shots were taken with a tripod. Some were as slow as a quarter of a second, but as the sun hit, shutter speeds went to closer to 1/1000th second at times. Once I switched to the shorter 24-70mm lens, I was able to hand-hold most of the rest of the shots. That allowed me to move around quickly and get shots from all kinds of angles and vantage points. Light is at a premium for only five to ten minutes, so I try work quickly within that window. Oh yes, when photographing in the winter, you seldom really need a neutral density graduated filter. Snow in the bottom of a scene is usually bright enough to help equalize the shot. Bounce light from clouds and the sun also helps light what would normally be very dark in a summer shot at the same phase of sunrise. Of course, these are just comments and suggestions. Shoot ’em the way you like!

Web Moulton Barn 2007

Premium Light: Today, the light and the clouds were “good”. At least there were a few clouds to work with. Every once in a while, Mother Nature hands out a morning to remember! This is an example where a small break in the clouds in the East lit the mountain range with an orange band of light, yet the sky behind was beautifully dark and rich. The best part of this morning lasted only a few minutes, or possibly even a minute. Knowing the “premium light” lasts only a short period, I can only get those best shots at maybe two or three locations, and that’s if I am moving quickly. But the point I’m attempting to make is I would need to be out quite a few mornings to get a whole stack or folder full of images with this kind of light. Today, I chose to set up an wait at the John Moulton barn. Another morning, I might set up to get the best shots at the Chambers barns or any of the other spots. Simply look back at the shots from this morning and imagine each of them with this sky and Teton range! Most visitors won’t have the opportunity to go back over and over. I understand! But, unless you are lucky on the day you come and are part of a morning similar to the one above, your images will lack the sizzle Mother Nature occasionally delivers. Luck and perseverance eventually pay off!

Royce Bair

Guest Shot: This image was taken over Jackson Lake by my good friend, Royce Bair.  You’d love any of Royce’s photos, but his night images jump completely off the page! Check out his NightscapePhotos.com site to view a lot more! Also, check out Royce’s Into The Night blog for tips and information about night photography. Lastly, if you are interested, Royce offers workshops around the region, including a few in the Tetons at various times of the year.

Total Solar Eclipse in GTNP: Speaking of Royce Bair, he forwarded this link about a Total Solar Eclipse for August 21, 2017. According to the page, the Tetons are going to be THE place to witness this event. Reservations for local hotels might start filling up long before the hotels realize what’s happening! The article says spectators arrive from all over the world. Should be an interesting time in the Tetons!

Bears Waking Up to a New Year: Click the link to read an article in the JH News & Guide. The article cites confirmed Grizzly tracks in Buffalo Valley. The ranger I spoke with this morning wasn’t aware of any confirmed sightings in GTNP yet.

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April 1, 2014   | 7:00 AM: 17°F : Sunrise 7:05 AM, Sunset  7:50 PM :  High Temp Forecast 35°

Web Camera Bag Drawing April1And the Winner Is: At lunch time, I went downtown and recruited a few tourists to help me with the drawing for the CLIK camera bag. The drawing was open to anyone signing up to follow Best of the Tetons by the end of March. Special thanks to Chris Balmer at Perfect Light Camera Store in Idaho Falls for the beautiful new bag. The first name pulled out of the box was Loren Davis of St. George, UT.  They’ve already responded to claim the bag and it is in the mail! Thanks again to all the people taking time to register!  I have to admit, it was a bit humbling to fill a box full of people’s names willing to sign up to see my photos and read what if have to offer. Thanks again!

 

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Comments (10)

  1. Mike, this is another wonderful post. Lots of information here and, as someone who lives back East, it really helps me feel connected to the area and make me want to begin planning my next vacation. Some smart businesses will realize this is a great vehicle to associate with. I would patronize them. Ed

  2. Mike – another outstanding report. We saw 80 (!) Bighorns on Miller Butte and on the Elk Refuge road yesterday and 6 Coyotes along the Gros Ventre and Antelope Flats this morning. As you said the moose are plentiful along the Gros Ventre. Thanks.

  3. Hi Ed,
    Thanks for the comments! I like to write the posts with two concepts in mind: What do I think other people “want to know” and what do I think other people “need to know”. They are not always the same thing! Between the two, I am hoping to make a visit here much more rewarding and help with more efficient use of their time here. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again this year. MJ

  4. Loren, I’ll make that note in the Wildlife Report. That road was like driving through a war zone last time I was there. The county graded Spring Gulch Road, which was also in bad shape. I hope they did the same for the Elk Refuge Road.

  5. Agree! It was graded last week and is much better after the first 100 feet.

  6. Lowell Schechter

    Hi Mike
    Looking forward to your upcoming Blogs on the Teton area. I guess in a short time the weather will be turning for the better. I really like the images you took of the night sky and the one of Hansen barn at night. It looked kind of eerie but its something I would think about on my next trip out there. Staying late in an area where you can continue to try and get more images instead of going back to your hotel well before the day is done. You certainly gave us a lot of information that will useful to me in my future photo treks in Grand Teton National Park. thanks again Lowell
    Schechter

  7. Chuck Lyons

    Another great GTNP post from Mike. Thanks for your time and effort, always looking for the next episode.

    Chuck Lyons

  8. Oscar Nunez

    I really appreciate and enjoy the updates, Mike. Great work as usual with the blog. Thank you again.

  9. Diana & Jon LeVasseur

    April 18, 2014
    There are still a few mountain goats in Snake River Canyon. We drove up this morning and spotted around 30 head. The first group was just above “Goat Rock” by the second turnout. Out of camera range as they were quite a ways up the hill. There were a few goats scattered from there to the fourth turnout, still too far out. There was a small herd of around five goats just off the road on the hill at the fourth turnout well within shooting range with a 300mm lens. Ospreys were on almost every nest site before Alpine and in the Snake River Canyon.

    The Antelope Flats Road is open or was when we went out there this afternoon. The road to the one barn is still blocked as it looks to be a mess. The pink house and barn are accessible and we hope to get some sunrise shots of it Sunday morning.

    Love the blog, Mike, keep up the good work!

    Diana & Jon

  10. Hi Diana and Jon,
    Thanks for posting! Please feel free to do so anytime. I can’t get out every day (gasoline, energy, and varied interests), so anytime someone else adds these kinds of comments, we all benefit!

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