Best of the Tetons

Morning Pause

Wild West in Jackson Hole: Cowboys, Wranglers and Horses

An Almost Invisible Slice of Life Around Grand Teton National Park.

Ranchers and Farmers settled Jackson Hole back in the late 1890’s. The area developed a rich western heritage over the years—eventually evolving into a tourist’s destination with the majestic Grand Tetons as a backdrop. Along with the ranching and farming, many ranches turned to Dude Ranches in the summer, catering to the visitors coming to the area for a first hand glimpse of the old west. Many of the Dude Ranches in, and around, the park are still thriving. Many farms and ranches in the region still raise cattle to support their families. Much of the western way of life is identical to the way it was 50 or 60 years ago.

Branding Day

Branding Day at the Campbell Ranch: Bondurant, WY

I liked the semi-silhouetted image circled by the lariat along with the layering of the scene from the smoke and dust. Calf brandings happen around Memorial Day around the region. Volunteers from neighboring ranches help with the branding, followed by a wonderful western dinner at the host ranch.

Little Jenny Branding

Branding at the Little Jenny Ranch: Bondurant, WY

Without being too graphic, you can easily get an idea of what goes on at a calf branding in this shot. The first day I was there, I asked the foreman to let me know if I was getting in the way or too close. In typical cowboy fashion, he replied, “I won’t have to tell you. You’ll know if you are too close. You’ll either get burned, stomped or run over.”

Old Patriarch and Passing Wrangler

Old Patriarch and Passing Wrangler:

This is just one of many images I took at this spot a few years ago. Fog was thick when I started, but it cleared off for a wide variety of looks that morning before clouds rolled in over the Grand peaks.

Fog and Wrangler

Foggy Morning at the Old Patriarch Tree: In Grand Teton National Park

The morning fog was just lifting as I took this image.

Red Rock Ranch Wranglers

Ridgeline at Red Rock Ranch: Up the Gros Ventre

A couple of Wranglers pausing along the ridge top with the Grand Teton Range in the distance.

Returning Wrangler

Returning Wrangler : Up the Gros Ventre at Red Rock Ranch

A few years ago, I took a lot of photos for Red Rock Ranch for their web pages and promotional photos. In exchange, they let me take some photos of the wranglers for my own use. A small part of Crystal Creek can be seen in this shot.

Reflections at Red Rock Ranch

Reflections at Red Rock Ranch: Up the Gros Ventre

Taken in June with everything still lush and green. I had high boots so I could wade into the stream for this shot.

Soggy Wranglers

Soggy Wranglers and Horses: Red Rock Ranch – Up the Gros Ventre

 I was wet, along with my equipment, but I enjoyed getting a chance to get shots most people will never get.

Dusty Horses

Dusty Trail Horses: Triangle X Ranch in Grand Teton National Park

By later in the summer, the area gets dry. A large herd of horses can kick up a substantial dust storm.

Summer Pasture

Sunrise Wrangler at Triangle X Ranch: Grand Teton National Park

On many mornings, the wranglers head out into the pastures to bring in all of the trail horses for the dudes at the ranch. I met William a few years ago and managed to become good friends. He is studying acting at the University of Wyoming.

William and His Horse

William and His Horse: Near Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

The western shots always seem to give a lot of freedom in post processing. I let a tiny bit of the original color show through in this one.

Morning Pause

Morning Pause: Near Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

Fog is common along the Snake River. It can make some of the backgrounds very dramatic. In this case, it helped isolate the subjects from the distant mountain range.

Pondering Saturday Night

Pondering Saturday Night: Near Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

This is a vertical crop of the previous image and treated differently in post production. I added some grain back into this image.


Grand Ridge Line: Near Hedrick Pond in GTNP

I took this image from quite a distance with a 200-400mm lens for a unique view of the Grand. The shot is there all the time, but I liked adding the anchor element of the stark wrangler against the plain sky.

First Light Parade

First Light Parade: Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

This one didn’t have a wrangler in it. I liked the rich colors of the morning light.

Morning Roper

Morning Roper: Near Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

I found this kind of shot to be terribly difficult! The wrangler’s lariat, the horse and its legs have to be perfect as they pass by the peaks. A band of morning light was just hitting the valley floor, while the wrangler was passing by almost in the shadows.

Justin Roping June 2011

Summer Roundup: Near Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

Taken in mid June just after the sun light hit the valley floor.

Slow Walkers

Slow Walkers: Taken near Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

Landscapes “anywhere” in the valley would have been great that morning. I like the snow and the mountains and dark, steel blue skies. Throw in a cowboy and a horse!

Triangle X Corrals

Triangle X Corrals: GTNP

Similar to the trade photos with Red Rock Ranch, I supplied photos to the ranch for a coffee table book they hope to produce for the ranch. I had to sign a release to be able to roam around on the property. This gave me access to some of the wranglers working the Dude Ranch. Oh yes, you never want to make the mistake of calling a wrangler a “Cowboy”. “I don’t push no doggies”, they will reply!

Incoming Herd

Incoming Horses: Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

This image was taken with a telephoto lens from quite a distance as the horses were herded towards the corrals.

First Light on the Tetons

First of the Morning Light: Near Lost Creek Ranch in GTNP

Just down the dirt road from this scene, people were taking images of the sunrise at Snake River Overlook. I’ve taken sunrise photos there dozens of times. Shots like this one pose a lot of challenges, but when it works, you can drive home very happy!

Grand Vista

Grand Vista: Near Lost Creek Ranch in GTNP

It is hard to beat this scene, but throw in a Wrangler and I believe it is even better.

Wrangler at Hedrick Pond

Wrangler at Hedrick Pond: Near Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

Wrangler at Hedrick Pond

Wrangler and Horse in Morning Light: Hedrick Pond in GTNP

There was a small knoll just to the right and behind me at this location. I had to wait until the sun cleared it, then the Wrangler had to get back to the ranch in time for breakfast.

Thick Dust

Thick Dust: Triangle X Ranch in GTNP

My camera has trouble focusing with this much dust, but managed to lock onto this group.

Ridge Top Wrangler

Ridge Top Wrangler: Near Hedrick Pond in GTNP

One last shot of William. I like to include the Grand in as many shots as I can.

JH Rodeo_Sept2012

More of the Wild West in Jackson Hole: My very first post on Best of the Tetons was called: The West of Yesteryear and Today, Besides the western activities I documented on this page, Jackson Hole offers a wide range of western opportunities including Stage Coach Rides, Western Music Shows and Chuckwagon Cookouts, Horseback Riding and Rodeos twice a week. Click the link for more details and information about the area. Lastly, each night during the summer (except Sundays) the Jackson Hole Shootout happens on the Northeast corner of the Town Square at roughly 6:00 PM. It’s free! I went to the Shootout last week. To be honest, it seemed a bit “lame” to me compared to the shootouts I remember when we first move here. I believe they put on a different show each night, so maybe you’ll find one you like. Heck…it’s FREE! Check it out if you are in town.

Please Note: All images on this page, and most images on this site, are fully copyrighted with the US Copyright Office. Any use of any image is prohibited, including use as source or inspiration for paintings, drawing, collages, and so forth. Feel free to link and share this this page, but please do not copy or re-post my images! 

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Comments (4)

  1. Leo

    Very nice series Mike. I enjoyed seeing and reading each one.

  2. Robert Leslie

    Very nice images Mike, beautiful light on these.

    These should be hanging on a wall.

  3. Robert, thanks for the comments. Actually, some of those are hanging on walls! Cheers, Mike J.

  4. Leo, great seeing you again! Hope you snapped a bunch of wonderful images…but I think that is a given! MJ

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