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Miller House

Three Moody Minutes of Changing Light

The Historic Miller House is located on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, WY. I pass by it regularly during the winter months as I drive to see the Bighorn Sheep at the base of Miller Butte. Over the years, I’ve photographed it many times. A couple of days ago, I stopped when I saw interesting light patterns beginning to develop behind the trees and structures. This page contains six of the 80 images, taken over a span of only three minutes.

Signs posted along the roadway state visitors cannot stop their vehicles in the road, but Refuge officials say it is okay as long as no other vehicles are approaching in either direction. I took a series of photos out the window of my parked truck using a telephoto zoom lens at a distance of about 400 yards. I always turn off my vehicle when photographing out the window.

Miller House

This is the first shot taken at 2:54 PM. I would have set up a tripod if conditions were workable. It would help with consistent framing and composition across all of the shots, but there was no way I could have known the light would change enough to get this kind of variety. Furthermore, the closest parking spot was a hundred yard behind me. This event would have been long over by the time I parked and came back. Other than the raven flying through the scene and the threatening distant sky, this is a fairly boring and basic image.

Miller House

2:55 PM: In less than a minute a cloud began to darken the foreground, structures and trees—leaving a thin band of light on the foreground grass.

Miller House

2:56 PM: Foreground darkened even more and structures began to silhouette against the sunlit butte.

Miller House

2:56 PM: Within seconds, the barn on the right lit as some of the distant hillside darkened.

Miller House

2:56 PM: Bingo! The structures lit up while foreground grass and distant hillside went into shadows.

Miller House

2:57 PM: And then the interesting light was gone!

Modified Image

Miller House

If I were to print one of these captures, I would probably take it a step farther. Adding a little contrast in Photoshop can help make the scene even more moody and artistic without going over the top.

The Historic Miller House might not “trip your trigger” but I think it’s a worthy subject and it makes a great subject for this topic. Light changes constantly on days with patchy clouds. It occurs regularly everywhere in the country, not just Jackson Hole! If you scroll up to the top photo, you can see the “every day” shot most people take, but if you are lucky and at least a little patient, the same scene can become much more interesting or compelling. I love to be out when the clouds are sweeping above the valley. The challenge is to find scenes with interesting foreground, middle ground and background while Nature’s magic is happening. You might also enjoy seeing images on this page: Bands of Light

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, 1944 by Ansel Adams: Check out this page… Ansel says he went to his spot four successive mornings before he nailed it.

The images on this page were captured using a Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G1 Lens with VC turned ON. The first image was taken in Manual Mode at 1/640th Second, F/7.1, and Auto ISO 200. To take advantage of the VC while shooting over a bean bag, I dropped the shutter speed to 1/320th second at F/8 and Auto ISO varied the ISO from ISO 140 to ISO 200. I adjusted the zoom to roughly 220 MM on the set of images. Other Notes: I typically use a Nikon D850 for landscapes and have the D5 set up for quick “grab and shoot” wildlife opportunities. For these fleeting images, I simply did just that! The wildlife setup works fine for many landscape opportunities.


Most Best of the Tetons readers already know I offer One-On-One tours and training here in Jackson Hole. I am a licensed tour operator in both Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. If you are interested in a private tour with me, check out Teton Photo Excursions. If not sure, check out Client Comments!

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Comments (4)

  1. LLOYD MILLER

    Hello Mike, As always we enjoy your work. Hopefully in 2018 I can take advantage of your one on one tour opportunities. We should be ready to tracvel fulltime beginning May 2018. I look forward to seeing you.

  2. Lloyd…Thanks!!!!! Anxious to see you and take you out on a tour in GTNP! Thanks for following the site and appreciate all comments. MJ

  3. Lowell Schechter

    Hi Mike. I really like the progress of the light changes as you photographed this scene, especially the one you hit a homerun on, where the trees , house and small barn were lit in unison. When you see the light change like this quickly do you use Auto ISO for this kind of image taking?

  4. Lowell,
    Occasionally, I grab the closest camera and blast away when the light is fleeting. It might be set up wildlife, or it might be set up for landscapes. For wildlife, I usually have the camera set to Manual with Auto ISO. For landscapes, I usually have the camera set up in Aperture priority with ISO set to the base (usually 100). In both cases, if I have the luxury of time, I snap one or two shots, then check my histogram and adjust from there.

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