Best of the Tetons

Winter Landscapes 2018

The Jackson Hole valley is magically transformed into a “Winter Wonderland” following a big overnight snow storm. Four to eight inches of the white powder is perfect—allowing the new layer to blanket the old dirty snow and clutter. When this happens, the world looks pristine again. It’s a great time to be cruising the Park’s available roads and trails!

Alpenglow at Snake River Overlook

There are plenty of landscape opportunities, both after a Winter storm and during the storm itself.

Hansen Barn

A lot of Grand Teton National Park’s 310,000 acres is closed to human activity in the Winter. Likewise, many of the roads and pullouts are closed to vehicular traffic. It occasionally feels like we have little access, but there’s a fair amount of GTNP open to hiking, snow shoeing, and cross-country skiing. Additionally, I like to augment my Winter photography by traveling some of the area’s county roads.

Tetons and Setting Full Moon

Varying Conditions

You’ve probably been to a sub shop with a paper order form and a small pencil on the counter top. You check your choice of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, salt, pepper, mayonnaise, mustard and so forth. They assemble the sandwich to order based on the checked boxes. Wouldn’t that be nice for landscape photography! It doesn’t work that way, of course, but there are a few elements that we all wish for—and would check if we could.

Grand Pano

Winter landscapes in Grand Teton National Park often include views of the Grand and the Teton Range. That’s why people come here! Ideally, Mother Nature offers up some great morning light and clouds behind the snow covered peaks. Clouds and dramatic lighting often separate an every day image into something special. Early morning shots typically offer more chances to get the romantic lighting, but it can happen at any time of the day.

Sun and Branches

Conditions do not always have to be perfect!

On days I can see the mountains, I am looking to put some sort of subject, like a small barn, in front of a wide view of the valley. The barn or stand of trees might simply be an accent or foreground element. On overcast days, the snow covered barn or stand of trees might be THE subject.

Snow Banks

Just like photography in the other seasons, it helps to be flexible and adjust to the conditions.

Jackson Lake Sunrise Pano

I think there are two scenarios for landscape photography. In the first one, you find a location and composition you like, then wait for the dramatic light and clouds. It might even take several trips to get the shot. In the second scenario, you are driving around and “presto”, the dramatic scene is staring you in the face. Stop, set up, and take the shot. Few people viewing your photo will ever know which scenario was in play when you captured the image, but you’ll know! There is never an apology needed for the serendipity shots.

Winter Night


Not all fresh snow is the same. It can wet and sticky or dry and fluffy. Additionally, with no wind, the snow can gently settle on any horizontal plane or it can be windblown and drifted. Sticky wet snow can cover the sides of vertical planes during a windy storm. There’s so much variety and so many opportunities!

Photography during a snow storm can be more challenging. The size of the flakes and the distance to the subject are two of the big factors. Exposure time can be adjusted for artistic, streaking effects. It helps to check the front of the lens regularly. Blowing snow always seems to find the glass!

Bronze Elk

After a storm, the prime “window of opportunity” can be limited. Wind can blow fresh, light snow off the branches and structures. Sun often begins the melting process.

Wedding Trees

The Winter Season

Winter often feels like our longest season. That, of course, depends on where you are in the valley. By May 1st, some people have already mowed their yard at least once, but snow banks and berms near String Lake can still be higher than most vehicles. By late Fall, I am always ready to see fresh snow and by late Winter I am ready to see hints for green grass and budding trees.

Snake River Overlook

Even as Winter wanes, I almost always think about the shots I didn’t take or places I wish I had gone. There’s always next year.

Landscapes and Photographic Considerations

Daylight hours are limited during the Winter months. The shortest day is usually December 21, but it takes a month or two either side of that date to see much of a change. The low sun, when you can see it, casts long, beautiful shadows. Bounce light from the snow helps reduce harsh shadows. On overcast days, morning can start out quite dark, yet by midday, the clouds can act like a county sized light box. Filtered sunlight can all but eliminate shadows.

Teton Range

I particularly like the Winter days with patchy clouds. The clouds cast shadows in some areas, but allow the sun to create bands of light in others. On those days, chances of getting a dramatic landscape are greatly improved.

Mt. Moran Colors

During the Summer months, most Alpenglow happens at the far south end of the valley. During the Winter months, Alpenglow usually occurs between the Grand and Mt. Moran. Perfect! Snake River Overlook offers a good chance to capture Alpenglow, and the parking lot is usually plowed.

Sleeping Indian

In a nutshell, Winter photography can be challenging. Cold temperatures can push the equipment and the photographer’s ability to withstand the conditions. Heavy coats, insulated underwear, lots of layers, and hand warmers help on many mornings.

Box L Ranch

I augment the GTNP photographic opportunities buy frequenting some of the county roads around the Town of Jackson. Not many of them offer vista views of the mountains, but the barns, fences, and landscapes can offer some great shooting.

Lockhart Ranch

Both short and long telephoto lenses can be used for landscape photography. They are great for “getting to” subjects on private property or to subjects that might require shoe shoes if using a standard lens. Telephoto lenses can help isolate and compress a scene and can be used for panoramic images.


Exposures and Processing

Metering in many cameras can be fooled during the Winter. Specifically, auto metering will typically result in underexposed images. I’m a “histogram person”—checking the histogram on the back of my digital camera regularly. Many snow captures require 2/3 to 1 stop positive EV and sometimes more. I get a lot of chances to shoot in these conditions and can now make quick adjustments to the EV values. Relative to wildlife photography, landscape photography is more forgiving. Landscape photographers usually have more time to take a test shot and adjust as necessary.

Elk Ranch Flats

Digital noise is seldom an issue in Winter captures. Dark zones are usually limited in winter landscapes, and as I mentioned earlier, light is often reflected back into the shadows. High ISO settings are seldom needed. On many days, we get to use fast shutter speeds, reasonably high aperture settings, and relatively low ISO on hand held shots.

Grand Pano

No matter what time of the year you are here, Grand Teton National Park is perfectly suited for panoramic landscape images. Current software makes stitching two to nine images a breeze.

Overcast days are often dull and gray. Right? There’s seldom anything in a scene that is bright white. That’s not the case on a sunny day, but the shots taken on a gloomy day often need some additional post processing help. But, how much?


My artist side, especially the watercolor artist side, loves the pure white aspect of Winter shots. This is especially true on photos taken on an overcast day. A watercolor artist starts with a white sheet of paper and then applies paint where they see subject matter. Some areas stay white.

Rolling Fence

Although I change my approach and attitude on this topic off and on during the year—and over the years—I still like the simplicity available to me on Winter shots. In Lightroom or Photoshop, I can usually make a dull image pop considerably by adjusting the “white” slider and then tweaking the rest of the sliders to taste. Note: JPG shooters will have less flexibility in post processing than the RAW shooters.

Sunrise at Snake River Overlook

Modern cameras are extremely forgiving when photographing in RAW format, and the software is getting so good, I seldom use graduated ND filters anymore. The white snow and reflected light in the bottom of a Winter landscape capture enough information to bypass the filters in most situations.

Teton Range Reflections

Jackson Hole

If you’ve never been to Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park during the Winter months, you are missing out! There are virtually no crowds and the pace of the day seems much less hectic. There are plenty of subjects if you are willing to be out in the cold weather. Get here, bundle up, and capture some shots of your own!

Evening Barns

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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!

Working in 16 Bit Mode

Memory is Cheap — Memories are Priceless!

I typically shoot in 14 bit and process in 16 bit in Photoshop as long as I can. Here’s why…

16 Bit Clobber and Recovery

The issue is not what you can see, or what your monitor can display, or what your printer can print—but what is under the hood of the file! I believe you will be amazed by the examples! (For this article, 8 bit vs 16 bit refers to Color Bit Depth while using Lightroom and Photoshop.)

14 Bit Capture 16 Bit Image

16 Bit Export

The image above was captured with a Nikon D810 in 14 bit mode. I set that in the camera’s menus long ago and never looked back! The files are much larger, so they fill cards faster, fill the buffer quicker, and possibly slow down the frame rate on some cameras. You might consider these issues up front. You can always “downgrade” a capture during your workflow, but you can’t “upgrade” one. As seen in the screen grab, I export images from Lightroom to Photoshop by selecting the 16 bits/component option.

5 percent Output

For this example, I am going to CLOBBER the image by bringing the output levels to 5, darkening it to almost black. I’ll be doing the same commands to an 8 bit image in a minute.

16 bit at 5 Output

It doesn’t look like there is much data here. Now comes the magic!

Adjust Input to 5 percent

I adjusted the Levels on the “black image” by dragging the white slider in the Input Levels to 5 and hit OK.

Results After Input

Wow! It looks darned good! The tiny bit of data in the “clobbered” image’s histogram has been “stretched” to fill the entire histogram.

5 percent output

If I open the Levels box again, I still have a good histogram. Personally, I think this is amazing! Now watch what happens with an 8 bit file.

8 Bit Clobber and Recovery

8 bit File

8 bit Export

This is the same 14 bit image, exported this time at 8 bits. (You won’t be able to see any differences in an 8 bit JPG web image).

5 percent Output

Just as before, I dragged the Output Levels to 5, which darkened the entire image.

8 bit at 5 Output

Same 8 bit image at 5 Output. It looks that same as the first 16 bit image.

5 percent Output

To recover the dark image, I opened the Input Levels adjustment tool and dragged the white slider all the way to the left to 5 and hit the OK button.

8 bit File

This shows the results of the Input slider at 5.

Results on 8 Bit File

The Histogram on this recovered 8 bit file looks terrible and the sky is severely posterized. This 8 bit file NEVER had the same amount of data that was stored in the 16 bit version.

The Real World

Underexposed Image

No one would ever “clobber” an image like I did in the two previous examples, but everyone takes an underexposed image once in a while…or often. It might look a lot like the one above.

Levels Adjustment

The common, and easy fix, is to drag the white slider in the Input Levels to the left until it touches the right edge of the histogram. (Note: you can do this with Curves, too)

Adjusted Image

After the quick Levels adjustment, the underexposed image looks correct again, and if you followed along with the previous examples, it’s histogram will have been slightly “stretched”, but still have plenty of data if I had been working with a 16 bit file.

Should you shoot in 12 bit or 14 bit for your raw files? This debate can get hot and hostile!

First, let me grab a quote from John Sherman at Photography Life. “12-bit image files can store up to 68 billion different shades of color. 14-bit image files store up to 4 trillion shades. That’s an enormous difference, so shouldn’t we always choose 14-bit when shooting RAW? Here’s a landscape I snapped, then found out later I had shot it in 12-bit RAW. Better toss this one out, right?”

14-bit vs 12-bit RAW – Can You Tell The Difference?

John’s conclusions seem to indicate he couldn’t find much difference. I found sites that landed on both sides of the answer.

The Wrap Up

Each day, there are countless numbers of photos taken with point and shoot cameras, iPhones, and even professional level camera bodies in (8 bit) JPG format. Some shoot in RAW + JPG, giving them quick access to their process JPG files and full control later with RAW files. JPGs are small in file size, and in most cases have been processed using the camera’s software for hue,  saturation, contrast and sharpening. But, they are almost always JPGs with 8 bits.

I seldom shoot anything but 14 bit RAW files—knowing I can convert them to JPGs at any time. I also know I have options to export my 14 bit captures to 8 or 16 bit images. Again, I can downgrade the files but not upgrade them after capture. Also consider…at this moment in time, some people cannot see the difference in files shot at 12 bit and 14 bit, but technology is changing fast! I sometimes look at some of my oldest images captured as JPGs and wish I had taken them as RAW files. I have a tendency to think of them as primitive images, or not up to par. A few years from now, I might think the same thing about 12 bit RAW captures?

While I process a lot of the images seen on Best of the Tetons with only Lightroom adjustments, my “important” images always go through Photoshop, even if the heavy lifting was executed in Lightroom. Photoshop is definitely a player if I plan on adding textures or compositing images.

Many people work in 16 bit in Photoshop “as long as they can” before being forced to work in 8 bit. Sometimes, converting to 8 bit is the very last step when a web sized JPG image is required. Other times, third party filters require the conversion to 8 bit. I watched a web cast a while back featuring many of the Photoshop filter packages that were available for purchase. Throughout the web cast, web audience members were writing in to find out if the filters were 16 bit. Many are 16 bit of course, but unfortunately not all of them! Interestingly, even with Adobe Photoshop CC 2017’s Filter Gallery functions only on 8 bit files.

I definitely shoot in 14 bit for sunrise, sunset, and night shots. In other words, the tough captures may need the benefit of all of the data, while captures in bright, sunny days may not. I might switch back to 12 bit if it looked like I was running out of space on my memory cards. Memory cards are relatively cheap and hard drives are constantly getting cheaper, so staying in 14 bit when I can makes sense to me. My current lineup of cameras don’t seem to be adversely affected by shooting in 14 bit, but my older D300 dropped from 7 FPS to 2.5 FPS when shooting in 14 bit. Your camera may or may not have similar issues.

Out of curiosity, I dug through my Lightroom Catalog and found a similar photo to the example image, shot in 2011 using a Nikon D300 in 12 bit. I put that shot through the same Photoshop routine as the example image. That file looked fine—without gaps in the histogram nor did it have a posterized sky. Worth mentioning!

Lastly, you can do Internet searches for “14 bit vs 12 bit” and “8 bit vs 16 bit”. If someone tells you that 14 bit files can contain 4 trillion “shades” of color and 12 bit files can contain “only” 68 billion colors, you might be impressed, or not?

12-bit RAW file can contain 4096 colors per RGB channel or over 68 billion colors. When you combine the RGB channels you have: 4096 x 4096 x 4096 = 68,719,476,736 colors.

14-bit RAW file can contain 16,385 colors per RGB channel or over 4 trillion shades. When you combine the RGB channels you have: 16385 x 16385 x 16385 = 4,398,851,866,625 colors.

Impressed by the math?  If not, scroll back to the top of this page and go through the images again!  Think of the differences as “potential” color data, along with the possibility of more dynamic range, less banding, and more detail in the darkest part of the image. Maybe you will see it? Maybe you will need it? For me, for now, it’s only a matter if file size and storage costs.

If you like Charts and Graphs, check out this site. And, check out Thom Hogan’s page on RAW Conversions.


20th Time Results

July 27th Update: I was impressed with my original test image after cutting the output levels to 5 and then adjusting the input levels to 5 to fill the histogram. Out of curiosity, I put the results of that “clobbering” through the test again. It still looked good. I ran that file through the routine and it looked good. The image above is #20! There’s a little loss of detail in the clouds, but overall the image still looks pretty good. After doing a screen grab of #20, I reverted the file to its original, then ran the test again, but this time setting the output level to 1 (the scale goes from 1 to 255). When adjusting the input levels, I received a notice the entry had to be between 2 and 255, so I reverted the image and set the output setting to 2 and then the input slider to 2. I copied the results to the clipboard, reverted the file, and then pasted the clipboard contents on top of the original image. I could turn off the visibility of the pasted layer and never see the difference when flipping back and forth.


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Eight Seconds of Fury

Brahma Bull Riding: “The most dangerous 8 seconds in sports”

The American Flag

If you have them, jump into your Wranglers, put on your Tony Lamas, snap up your long-sleeved shirt, lock in your silver belt buckle and top everything off with your best Stetson. Then head to the Fairgrounds for a night of fast and unpredictable action. The Jackson Hole Rodeo has been thrilling tourists each Wednesday and Saturday for decades. If you can can’t make to either of those nights, Friday night rodeos have been added to the lineup.

Little Bull Rider

Each week, little tikes are initiated to the cowboy tradition and develop the skills for a lifetime of rodeo action. Bear Emlyn isn’t in Kindergarten yet, but he’s already on a bull! The Rodeo way of life starts early for some!

Sequence 1

Each cowboy that gets on the back of a one ton Brahma Bull knows they are taking an eight second ride that can possibly kill them—or cripple them or life. No two rides are the same, but they are all potentially dangerous. These athletes “cowboy up” and put it all on the line, while us spectators do just that from the safety of the bleachers.

Sequence 2

To “earn the points”, a bull rider must hang on for a full eight seconds without touching the bull or the hardware with his free hand. If they hang on for the full eight seconds, judges give them style points based on a 100 point system. The action of the bull can augment the score, with a good ride in the high 70’s.

Sequence 3

When things start going bad, they can go really bad in a split second. Landon Smith’s ride looked great for the first few seconds, but as the bull spun to its left, Land began to lean to the right and it was all downhill from there.

Sequence 4

Judges, rodeo clowns and other rodeo officials scamper up a fence as a raging bull approaches. By this time, I am sure Landon knew his ride would never reach 8 seconds.

Sequence 5

“Survival mode” kicks in.

Sequence 6

In real time, this sequence happened over a period of only a few seconds. I’m sure it felt like slow motion to Landon.

Sequence 7

This is a place where no cowboy ever wants to be.

Sequence 8

The job of the rodeo clowns is to distract the bull once the cowboy becomes defenseless, but they have no control of where the back legs of a bucking Brahma bull will land. I this shot, the back legs of the bull are pushing the Landon to the ground.

Sequence 9

The grimace on Landon’s face tells of the pain he must have been feeling at that split second. All of the bull riders wear a protective vest and many wear helmets during their bull ride. Luckily, the bull’s hooves landed on the ground and not in the middle Landon’s back, but it appears there was plenty of weight pressing down on his lower back and buttocks. Interestingly, he’s still hanging on!

Sequence 10

Chaos—captured a 12 frames per second!

Sequence 11

1/12th second later.

Sequence 12

Still not out of danger!

Sequence 13

Any doctor or E.M.T. would tell someone that just experienced a back injury event to “stay still”. In that moment, a bull rider’s instinct would be to attempt to protect himself from additional danger. After he saw the danger was gone, he collapsed to the ground.


An E.M.T team is always on hand at a rodeo. They were quick to respond to this event. The arena was quiet for around 10 minutes.

Walk Off

Cowboys are tough. Landon walked off on his own power as the arena cheered and the announcer wished him well.

Jerry Jeff Walker – Ro Deo Deo Cowboy

You might enjoy Jerry Jeff’s 1977 song about bull riding! Click the link above, or read the lyrics here!

Saddle Bronc

If you were to do an Internet search for “The most dangerous 8 seconds in sports”, you’ll find a page or so of references to Brahma bull riding. Even if you could come up with a few other dangerous sports, like cliff diving, the photos on this page should convince you to put bull riding right up there with anything else you might consider. It’s bad enough to think the bull is doing it’s best to buck the rider off his back, but knowing the same bull is plenty willing to turn and gore the helpless cowboy puts this sport in a category all by itself.

A Photographer at the Rodeo

I mentioned earlier that the JH Rodeo is held during the summer months on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I like to go early in the summer while the days are longest and light is best for photographing the first round of the bull riding. The Fairgrounds Arena has new lights, but they are not strong enough for most photographer’s needs once the sun goes down. I have three camera bodies, but I immediately grab my Nikon D5. It can shoot at 12 frames per second, and it can handle high ISO speeds much better than my other two cameras.

On the positive side, rodeo photos (and western photos in general) can handle more “grain” than some other genres of photography. It’s almost expected!

You can get all of the dates and prices for entry into the JH Rodeo at their site:  Jackson Hole Rodeo — Where the West is still Wild! I never hesitate to ask for my “senior discount”! More importantly, you probably don’t want to pay for the better seats under the canopy and at midfield. General admission tickets will allow you to move around based on the event. Unlike the NFR rodeos in the huge arenas, this is a small, intimate rodeo. You’ll be close to the action anywhere you stand or sit.

Camera Settings: For freezing action, I like to keep my shutter speeds at 1/1000th to 1/1250th second. I’d love to keep my aperture at F/8, and I’d love to keep my ISO speed at ISO 400 or less. At the evening and night rodeo, that’s probably not going to happen! There will be compromises! For example, the Brahma bull ride shots on this page were captured at 1/800th of a second, wide open at F/5.6, and the Auto ISO varied between ISO 5000 and ISO 6400. By the time, the cowboy was walking off the arena, the Auto ISO had jumped to ISO 11,400. I photographed these images with a Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens, using a tripod with VC OFF.

American Flag Blur: For this photo, I was set up on a leveled tripod at 1/13th Second, at F/11 and Auto ISO at 125. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens, using a tripod with VC OFF.

Bronc Rider Blur: For this photo, I was set up on a leveled tripod at 1/20th Second, at F/6.3and Auto ISO at 560. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens, using a tripod with VC OFF.

Other Posts of Interest

Another Day at the Office! An unexpected broncing horse ride.

Rodeo – Saturday Night Action, Jackson Hole Style!

Wild West in Jackson Hole: Cowboys, Wranglers and Horses

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Light Painting Without Lights

Lightroom and Photoshop to the Rescue!

Recently, the Park Service announced slight changes in the enforcement of a few rules already on the books. The change involved a restriction on the use of artificial lights to illuminate a subject for the purpose of photography. Flashlights are still allowed for safety and wayfinding. I posted a new page on the subject a week or so ago. Check out this page: Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park.

Night Barn Original Capture

I thought it might an interesting challenge to attempt to imitate a light painted shot. This is a screen grab of an image as it was captured on a Nikon D5 body and a Nikon 14-24mm lens. You can see the shooting data near the top corner: 20 seconds at F/2.8, with ISO 2500 at 18mm. The photo was taken during the “blue light” period, which can often appear too blue. I set the White Balance to a Custom setting of 6800k. (This is just a starting point for LR and not set in stone).  Of course, I was using a tripod.

This page will show a lot of steps and tools that might spark some ideas of your own. I am using Lightroom CC 2015 (the current version) which contains a nice set of features that are not included in the boxed LR6 version. One of the recent additions is the Guided Transform tools, which work similarly to the Perspective Crop tool. It has been in Photoshop for quite a few revisions. Lightroom can do a lot of the heavy lifting on most images—and can even do all of the work on many images—but a project like this one still needs Photoshop.

Transform Tab There was a taper in the image caused by aiming up using a wide angle lens. It might be difficult to see in the image above, but I wanted to get this issue resolved first thing. I used the Guided Transform tool in my base image, aligning one guide over one of the posts on the left side of the barn and another on one of the faint tree trunks on the right side.


After applying the transformation, I used the Crop tool to end up with my final image frame. I allowed the two bottom corners to be white, knowing I could fill them later in Photoshop. This cropped version became the base image for the other three images. I made three “virtual copies” of this image. I used the keyboard shortcut of Control+’, but you can always use the menus: Photo>Create Virtual Copy. (On a Mac, the shortcut is Command+’).

Initial Sky Adjustment

On one of the Virtual Copies, I adjusted the night sky using the various sliders in Lightroom.

Amber Barn

On a second Virtual Copy, I changed the color Temperature, moving the Blue/Yellow slider to the right and the Green/Magenta slider slightly to the right. The exposure slider was moved slightly to the right, to lighten the lower section slightly.

Night Barn Mask

On the third Virtual Copy, I adjusted the various sliders, such as Highlights, Shadows, and Contrast to create the beginnings of a mask layer I knew I would use in Photoshop.

As Layers

I selected my three Virtual Copies in Lightroom, then used the command “Open as Layers in Photoshop”, by clicking on the Photo menu, the Edit In and Open as Layers in Photoshop as seen in this screen grab. Lightroom opens Photoshop and builds a layered document. Each layer can be rearranged in the layer stack as desired.


I activated the Mask Layer and used a black brush to knock down the small details, and then a white brush to get rid of the gray in the corners of the original layer. (Normally, I wouldn’t leave the two layers seen in the layer stack in the Layers screen grab below, but I left it there for this demo.) This layer becomes the “mask” used in the Layer Masks to isolate the sky from the foreground.


Just to have it at my disposal, I highlighted the Amber layer ran the Reflector filter in NIK’s Color Efex Pro.  NIK always makes a new layer above the source layer.

Layers in PS

After opening the three files in Photoshop, I gave each layer an appropriate name by double clicking the default names in the layer stack.

At this point, most of the parts were in place. I activated the Fixed Mask Layer, then clicked on an area of the black to select the black portions. Occasionally, I add the Select>Select Similar command if there are non-contiguous zones of black. With the “marching ants” active, I activated the Amber Layer and then clicked the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers tab. Photoshop creates a new layer mask of black and white based on the current selection.

Often the layer mask is opposite of what is needed. Click Control-I to invert the mask (or Image>Adjustments>Invert). In my project, I had the Amber Layer stacked over the Night Sky layer so I needed to mask the sky.

This image shows the lightened foreground under the night sky. There are a few problem areas, but this serves at the base for the final touches. I used a medium opacity, soft black brush to paint black and gray into the Amber Layer’s Layer Mask to block out some of the offending areas.

Masked Sky

In the NIK Reflector Efex layer, I used the same layer mask to paint in some additional hints of light. The effect was a bit harsh, so I adjusted the opacity on that layer to 30%.

Merged Layer

The project was coming along nicely. I Merged All of the Layers into a single new layer by using a keyboard shortcut of “Control+Alt+Shift+E” as seen above. I used a Magic Wand to select each of the two triangles in the bottom corners and used the Content Aware Fill tool (Edit>Fill>Content Aware). I cloned out the red light streaks on the left at this stage.


I tried an experiment that seemed to work. I ran the merged image through NIK’s Color Efex Detail Extractor. It lightened the image and brought out some of the details. I created an Adjustment Layer to paint black to conceal some of the Detail Extractor’s effects. (See the Layers screen grab a couple of images below).

Soft Light

In Photoshop, I’ve created quite a few “Actions” that I can run at any time. One of them is what I call a “Soft Light” adjustment layer. I can always do the same technique manually by clicking the Create Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers tab, and choose Curves. Without making any adjustments, I accept the changes, but when the new Adjustment Layer is created, I simply change the Layer Mode to Soft Light. Typically, I drop the opacity of the Soft Light Adjustment Layer, depending on the strength desired. While I chose to apply the Soft Light Adjustment Layer over the entire image, I could have easily added a layer mask and modified or limited the effect to either the sky or foreground.

final layers

Final Layered Image

At the very end, I created a final Merged copy and did a few minor tweaks. I cloned out a few airplane trails and eliminated the halo on the hillside on the far left.

This is a very moody, night time image. While it might seem like a lot of work, I could actually complete the project is a short period of time. Using a small flashlight would have been a lot easier!

If I did the project again:

Typically, night time long exposure images are kept to roughly 20-30 seconds, depending the focal length. Longer times result in star trails. Most cameras have a limit of 30 seconds for the maximum shutter duration unless the image is taken in “bulb” mode. In other words, 30 seconds is a practical limit but it is not the limit. The project above was created using a single capture— favoring the night sky over the dark foreground.

In the future, I would consider taking two images. The first would be the same as the capture in this image, and the second one could be captured over an extended time using a much lower ISO and exposing for the foreground zones. Exposure times might be a minute or two, but unless the wind is blowing trees or the subject, it shouldn’t matter. The low ISO capture would have more detail and less noise. There would be no worries of star trails since the sky was captured in another image. Once isolated in Photoshop with the Mask, either could be adjusted as needed.

Quick Project Recap

A project like this one blends some of the better features from both Lightroom and Photoshop. Lightroom may eventually be able to handle all of the project, but I don’t think it’s ready yet. The concept of making Virtual Copies of an image gives Photoshop users some powerful tools, and features like “Open Images as Layers in Photoshop” makes a job like this fairly easy. It is possible to create three or four Virtual Copies at various exposures that can now be Merged into a single faux “HDR” style image while in Lightroom. I used the NIK Color Efex Pro filters on this project, but there are similar tools in the Topaz filter suites. If you are already a veteran Lightroom and Photoshop user, the concept of creating Virtual Copies in LR for the sole purpose of creating mask in Photoshop might be new and unique.

The steps I did here fit this particular project. Other projects might need a slightly different approach, but once you understand how some of the features and tools work, you can begin to plan how you might later use them during the initial captures.

Unsolicited Light


This is a quick edit of a capture in which headlights from drivers on Antelope Flats Road lit buildings, fences and trees. Traffic is currently heavy on Antelope Flats Road due to the 2017 (temporary) closure of Gros Ventre Road. There’s a steady stream of vehicles and campers heading east on the Antelope Flats Road. At other times, bright lights from drivers southbound on Highway 89/191 light the north side of the barn. It’s possible to time an exposure to take advantage of their headlights.

Leeks Marina

Also check out Leek’s Marina at night. There are a couple of “street lights” that can softly bathe the area. Over a 25-30 second exposure, the camera’s sensor picks up some of the ambient light on the boats, masts and surface fog.

Artist's Point

The moon can also work as a light source. This is a screen grab from an image I captured in 2012 at Artist’s Point in Yellowstone. At times, the full moon was almost too intense but if I waited for the right opportunities, a cloud softened its effect on the scene.

Artist's Point

This is a screen grab of the same image after I made a few targeted adjustments for exposure, contrast, clarity and saturation. These adjustments were all made in Lightroom but I could make a few Virtual Copies and export them as Layers to Photoshop and would have even more control of the darks and lights. It might be possible to expose and process this image bright enough to almost make it look like a daytime shot, but that’s definitely NOT what I would want to do with a shot like it this. I was there at night on purpose, so the vision I had would be to present a moody, night time image.

NIK Adjustments

I opened the previous image in Photoshop, then ran two filters in NIK. They were the same two filters I ran in the Mormon Row barn shot—”Reflector” and “Detail Extractor”. I inverted the layer mask and then painted black at a low opacity in the layer mask to reveal the effects on the edges of a few of the ridges. I like to make these kinds of changes, then do something else for a while and come back to the image with “fresh eyes”. Right now, there’s something making me like the middle image better than this one. It is easy to turn off the filter effects in a layered Photoshop document by unchecking the small eyeball icon or it is also easy to reduce the effect of a filter by adjusting the opacity of the filter layer.

Night Barn

After uploading this page, I went back to Mormon Row for another night under the starry dome. This image was captured just after midnight as part of four vertical images—later stitched into a pano in Lightroom CC 2015. The resulting DNG file was then processed in much the same way as the example image at the top of the page.

Safety Note

Even though photographers are not supposed to be lighting the barns and other objects in GTNP, you will need a flashlight or headlight to be moving around at night. Deep badger holes and scattered logs and fences rails on the ground make night time movements potentially treacherous.

Additional Resources:



Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park

The Times They Are a Changin’!

How about borrowing a line from Bob Dylan’s 1964 title song? 

The days of adding artificial light in Grand Teton National Park (and all National Parks for that matter) are coming to an end. As it turns out, the regulation has always been in GTNP’s rules—they just weren’t being enforced. In essence, it states that no artificial light can be used for night time photography. You can use a flashlight for navigation and safety, but not to light a subject.

The issue is actually twofold: (1) You can’t use a light at any time to spotlight an animal. (2) If you need artificial light for a photo or film project, you need a Commercial Photography Permit—but even that permit does not allow a photographer to use artificial light between dusk and dawn in GTNP.

Note: When I originally uploaded this page, I purposefully left out all of the legal mumbo-jumbo. After thinking about it for a few days, I added it to the page in the section below. You can read the official information for yourself, if desired, but for some, the information could be very important.

Here’s the Legal Stuff

2017 Superintendent’s Compendium

(22)e”Viewing of wildlife with any type of artificial lighting is in the park and the parkway. This prohibition conforms to Wyoming State Law (W.S. 23-3-06).

The Superintendent has determined that prohibiting the use of such devices is necessary for the protection of wildlife.”

WY Statute 23-3-306:

“No person shall take any wildlife with the aid of or by using any artificial light or lighting device.”

1.6(f) GTNP Activities Requiring a Permit include:

5.5 Commercial Activity: Commercial photography when utilizing props, models, or support crew.
Grand Teton National Park Commercial Filming and Photography: Application Form
“Commercial filming means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, television broadcast, or documentary, or other similar projects. Commercial filming activities may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.”
Notes: In my direct conversations with enforcement and permit officials, I was told numerous times that using artificial lights and strobes also initiated the Commercial Filming and Photography requirements. Also, when applying for a Commercial Filming and Photography permit, I was told that even with the permit, artificial lights are not allowed between dusk and dawn.
Currently, Grand Teton National Park’s regulations and Superintendent’s Compendium do not specifically address “light painting”.
However, Hovenweep National Monument & Natural Bridges National Monument recently added this statement to Form 10-114 
16. Light painting – Light painting activities are not authorized under this authorization. Light painting, or light drawing, is a photographic technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or to shine a point of light directly at the camera, or by moving the camera itself during exposure.


Photographers have been shining flashlights and popping strobes on trees, barns, footbridges, wagons and so forth for as long as I have been doing digital photography. I heard about “light painting” for a few years before I ever tried it. The concept is simple: during a long exposure, the photographer shines a light on a subject, usually slightly from the side. After that, it’s simply a matter of practice and finesse.

March Snowman

Over the years, I’ve asked if it was okay to use a flashlight in the Park, and have always been told it’s fine as long as I don’t shine the light on wildlife. I’ve had rangers come up while I was light painting, and each time said I was fine. One time, the Ranger chatted with me while I was light painting a snowman at one of the turnouts. He chuckled at the setup and drove off. As it turns out, I was probably breaking two regulations that night…more on that later.

Schwabacher Landing

One year, a Ranger came down to Schwabacher Landing to check on me after someone called Dispatch. Apparently, the highway passerby thought I was in distress and signalling for help. After the Ranger determined I was okay and “only light painting”, he suggested I call into Dispatch and let them know I was going to be light painting on future nights. I did just that quite a few times before a Dispatch ranger told me I didn’t need to call in.

Old Patriarch Tree

Over the years, I’ve light painted a lot of the valley. Some require a bit of hike, like this one to the Old Patriarch Tree. In 2015, I added a page about light painting here: While Most People Were Sleeping: and I’ve sprinkled dozens if not hundreds of them into the Daily Updates and Journal pages. If stars are visible, I typically go out at least once each month during the new moon phase.

Oxbow Bend

In 2009, there were probably hundreds or even a thousand people lined up along the bank to take morning photos at Oxbow Bend. By the time I took this image, most of them were at home, back in a motel, or having a late dinner. I most cases, night time photographers have the park to themselves! Within the current enforcement, a shot like this one will not be legal.

John Moulton Barn

Best of the Tetons Mission Statement: “What I would like to know, and need to know, if planning a trip to the JH and the Tetons”.

The middle part of that statement, the “need to know” portion is really the focus of this post. To be honest, I don’t know how strict the Park Service will be on this topic. It is apparent the policy adjustment is working its way through they local system. When I first heard of the change, I called Park Headquarters to get clarification. They had received numerous similar calls at the time and were already dealing with the issue. Sure enough, the rumors were true—NO ARTIFICIAL LIGHTS IN GTNP FOR PHOTOGRAPHY!

A few weeks later, I attended the CUA Permit Holders Meeting at the Craig Thomas Discovery Center. At the Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) meeting, we were all told NOT to use artificial light for photography purposes on any tour. Royce Bair told me the Park required him to sign an affidavit stating he will not use artificial lights during his night time photography workshops. He has already been dealing with the issue in the Utah Canyonlands and Arches Parks.

Just last week, I applied for a Commercial Photography Permit. Not long ago, a book publisher contacted me about some photos for a book about fly fishing the areas smaller, and lesser known waters like the Hoback, Ditch Creek, Gros Ventre, Buffalo Fork, Cottonwood Creek and so forth. When a “model”, props, and/or artificial lights are needed, a Commercial Photography Permit kicks in. Even with a Commercial Photography Permit in hand, strobes and artificial lights are not permitted from dusk to dawn. In other words, having that permit will not give a photographer the green light to light paint in the park anymore. Even though the Ranger didn’t give me a hassle, I was probably breaking the rule about using a snowman “prop” in the Park without the permit. FYI, the Commercial Photography Permit is $325 for a year plus $50 per daily shoot. Video Photography requires a different permit. You need a permit to record sounds in the Parks, too! Park weddings require a permit, but the photographer’s activity (including using strobes) is included within the wedding permit.

Licensed Guides can be found on this page: GTNP Current List of CUA Holders. (Mine is listed at Golden Era Studios dba Teton Photo Excursions.) I include the page here possibly for your protection! If you are coming to GTNP and your tour operator is not listed, the odds are high they are bootlegging the tour. If they do not know the new rules and are shining lights all over the barns, they’ll likely get busted and your trip may be truncated! If their trips are advertising light painting in GTNP, that should throw up a big red flag. Check the list!

Headlights on the Barn

Occasionally, a vehicle’s headlights hit the barns at the right angle and the right duration for a unique shot.

Enough of the Rules Already! Get Back Out and Shoot!

DronesOkay, we’ll survive without artificial lights! It might take a couple of years for the rules to be enforced and accepted. Currently, there are signs up at various locations that state the use of drones is illegal and I would assume we’ll see similar signs for artificial light and strobes.

Other than the CUA Permit Holders that attended the meeting, I am not seeing any indications that anyone else knows the rules. There are no signs at any of the prime spots, and as far as I know, these rules are not in the summer newspaper.

Milky Way

The challenge going forward will be to find places where adding light might not be that necessary. Still water can reflect stars and heavenly bodies.

Milky Way

Newer cameras like Nikon’s D5 and Nikon D750 are great for high ISO photography. Software like Adobe Lightroom is getting better at revealing details in the shadows. I didn’t do it in the photo above, but we can now expose the same scene two or three times at different exposures and then combine them into a single image.

Stars with Tetons

Silhouettes and familiar subjects can help with foreground subjects to accent the heavens above. In most cases, the stars and clouds are the star of the show, but sneaking in a hint of the Tetons can add to the image.

Stars At Slide Lake Feb1

Currently, I don’t know of any restrictions on artificial light outside Grand Teton National Park. There may still be a lot of opportunities on the outskirts.

String Lake

Traditionally, Milky Way photographers prefer the “new moon” period each month and tend to shy away from periods with a partial moon. You might find the faint light from the moon to be an asset on some shoots. I’ve always liked the “blue light” period. Full moon nights can be a bit harsh and can cast strong, unnatural shadows. The Milky Way is less visible with a full moon, too.


Get Creative!

If the times are changing, night photographers will need to change, too! Maybe it’s not such a bad thing. I expect to see new and creative images stemming from the loss of direct lighting. Since I first heard of the news, my head has been spinning—thinking of ideas that fit within the guidelines. Tents in some of the back country could still be photographed with a light inside. They add a foreground subject and some light to the scene. The Park official I spoke with told me photographers should still be able to photograph a person doing what they are normally doing in the park, such as a fisherman, biker, hiker, and so forth (as long as they are not imported models) without needing a Commercial Photography Permit. (The trigger would be whether the person would need a model release if used for commercial purposes). So, a person in a scene could be carrying a light, right? If you know the rules, you may still be able to get unique and compelling shots within them!

Tipi and Stars

Additional Feature Post: Light Painting Without Lights

Artist's Point

This post offers a few suggestions and techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop that might be of interest to night time photographers! Light Painting Without Lights

Other Related Resources:

If you like this post or know someone that might “need” to hear about it, please share it on your favorite sites! MJ

Telephoto Lenses For Landscapes

More than likely, most photographers purchase a telephoto lens for wildlife photography. It’s totally logical, and I use my telephoto lenses for wildlife, too. A telephoto lens gets the photographer “close”, even when it is either impossible or illegal to do so otherwise.

Moulton Barn

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 340 mm, 1/800 Second at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 180

I love to use my telephoto lenses for landscapes and close-ups. When I attach a telephoto lens, I see the world differently. Common subjects and scenes often become not so common!

Smokey Sunrise

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 at 195 mm, 1/200 Second at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 100

When a photographer is close to his subject, a long telephoto lens has a very shallow depth of field. When the subject is a considerable distance from the photographer, much of the scene will be in relatively good focus. The layers in the scene become compressed. Engineers can tell you “why”. I can simply tell you that it “does”. (Hyperfocul Distance: Cambridge In Colour)

Oxbow Roadway

Shooting Data: NIKON D810, Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 at 200 mm, 1/320 Second at f/10, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 200

All of my lenses are zooms. I’d love to own all of the prime lenses, but I would be extremely in debt, and I’d have to make a lot more decisions when leaving the truck. Imagine the cost of needing a 200mm, 3oomm, 400mm, 500mm and a 600mm! I would need a llama to pack around all the gear. Maybe prime lenses are a bit sharper, but zoom lenses are extremely versatile. My normal landscape lens is a Nikon 24-70mm workhorse. I’ve had it a long time and use it regularly. The mid-range telephoto is a Nikon 70-200 mm VR2. On the longer side, I have three telephoto zooms. My oldest one is a Nikon 200-400mm VR. I now have a Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens and a Nikon 200-500 VR. The 200-400mm hasn’t been getting a lot of use over the past couple of years with the lighter weight and longer reach of the other two. For this page, I’m including images mostly at 150mm and above.

Red Hills

Shooting Data: NIKON D810, TAMRON SP AF 150-600mm F5-6.3 VC USD A011N at 250 mm, 1/1600 Second at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -2 1/3 EV,  ISO 320

Most people seem to use a “landscape lens” for their landscapes, right?  But, photos taken with a landscape lens are simply not the same! For example, I could drive to the base of the lower stand of aspens in the photo above, and I could get some great foliage shots, but those photos probably wouldn’t have the same impact. A telephoto lens allows me to isolate zones of my choosing within the otherwise huge environment.

Triangle Q Ranch

Shooting Data: NIKON D300, Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 at 116 mm, 1/500 Second at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 200

In most areas of Jackson Hole, it is illegal to get closer to wildlife than 25 yards—or closer than 100 yards to a bear or wolf. It’s generally not smart to be within 40 yards of a Moose and I tend to be next to my vehicle when photographing Bison from any distance. There are places in the Tetons where you can walk right up to a historic old barn, house, windmill, or structure. Outside the park, most areas are privately owned, so unless you are able to get permission to be on the private property, it’s almost always necessary to take photos from the roadway.

Miller House

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON SP AF 150-600mm F5-6.3 VC USD A011N at 190 mm, 1/1250 Second at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 640

If visiting the National Elk Refuge, tourists and photographers are required to stay within about 10 yards of the roadway. Other than the days the Bighorn Sheep are actually on the roads, a telephoto lens is almost mandatory there.

I love the ability to get the shots, AND compress the scene in a landscape. That’s a common theme within the images on this page!

Peach House

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, Nikon 200-500 mm f/5.6 at 200 mm, 1/640 Second at f/11, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV,  ISO 280

There are a lot of “layers” in this photo. The house at Mormon Row is dwarfed by the hills and mountains behind it. The buildings are plenty sharp, but you might also see someone skiing on the top of the distant mountain.

Peach House

Shooting Data: NIKON D810, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 48 mm, 1/125 Second at f/13, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 100

This is the only photo on the page taken with a “landscape lens”. Overall, the angle is about the same as the previous image, but the results are  very different!

Peach House

Shooting Data: NIKON D300, 70-200 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/2500 Second at f/11, Aperture priority Mode, -3 1/3 EV,  ISO 200

This one was taken at the short end of the 70-200 mm lens. It could have been taken at the long end of my 24-70mm lens. All I had to do was back up a hundred yards to put the entire homestead into an environment. (Note, I was having a problem with that lens at the time, overexposing images. I sent it in for service and it worked fine afterwards)

Even if you never plan on visiting Grand Teton National Park, you should check out the slideshow on this page: Photographing the Mormon Row Barns: On the page, I try to explain how you can control many aspects of a landscape image by moving back from the closest subject and using a telephoto lens. This shot, and many others on this page will make a lot more sense if you check out the other page. More importantly, you can use the same techniques with barns, geysers, and covered bridges—and even family photos and portraits.


Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Nikon 200-400 mm f/4.0 at 350 mm, 1/1000 Second at f/7.1, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 400

This wrangler photo uses the technique in a grand way!

Sometimes, a close object or objects will be slightly out of focus when focusing on the main subject. Across the board, most people overlook the issue when viewing a photo, but it is possible to plan ahead in the field and capture multiple images for a relatively simple process called focus stacking. You can read a lot about how to do it on this page: Focus Stacking: Increased Depth of Field by Combining Multiple Images

Focus Stack

An Example of Focus Stacking: I took this image using a Nikon 200-400mm lens at a long distance from the subjects. I focused on the fence in one image and the barn in the other. The result of the two captures is shown in the image below.

Box L Ranch

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, Nikon 200-400 mm f/4.0 at 400 mm, 1/250 Second at f/10, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 100

Photographers use Focus Stacking for all kinds of projects, including Macro/Micro Photography. I include the info here because it is relatively easy to do with a telephoto lens, too.

Rain Storm

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/60 Second at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Occasionally, Mother Nature catches me off guard or unprepared for the situation. Imagine being out in the field with a telephoto lens, capturing a variety of tight shots and then a quick moving storm rolls in. It is possible to level the tripod, then take a series of shots that can be stitched in Lightroom or Photoshop. Better yet, it is possible to rotate the camera to “portrait mode” and capture the scene with a lot of pano parts that can be turned into a jumbo image! I’ve captured full rainbows using this technique. This page can give you a good background on how to capture and stitch panoramic images: Panoramic Images: Tips for Getting More of the Tetons in a Shot

Hidden Falls Pano

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/15 Second at f/9, Manual Mode, -2 EV,  ISO 64

When I planned my outing to Hidden Falls, I hauled a heavy tripod, camera and telephoto lens with me. I got plenty of wacky looks going both directions as I trudged by the other hikers. Most people carry their small camera, iPhone, or point-n- shoot camera. They get shots, but not the same kind you can get with a telephoto lens! I captured this image quite a few times as pano parts. Each pano set consisted of 6 to 10 horizontal captures, as described in the page above. Yes, there might be a little practice to get a handle on pano photos, but they can be extremely rewarding. Here’s the link again: Panoramic Images: Tips for Getting More of the Tetons in a Shot.

Note: I cover these techniques on my One-On-One Excursions if people are interested in them!  In the Tetons, panoramic opportunities are everywhere!

Falls Creek

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/2 Second at f/32, Aperture priority Mode, -2 EV,  ISO 100

Falls Creek, on the South Fork of the Snake, is a hidden gem. It takes a drift boat ride to get to the island across from it, so you seldom see a shot from this vantage point. A slow shutter speed is workable on a solid tripod. I used a 3 second “Shutter Delay” on the camera to help eliminate the mirror flap.

Elk and Tetons

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, Nikon 70-180 mm f/4.5-5.6 at 140 mm, 1/100 Second at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 100

This is one more example of using a telephoto lens for a panoramic image. I had a mid-range telephoto lens on the camera when I drove alongside this group of elk. I couldn’t get the Elk and the top of the Grand in the same photo, so I took two shots and spliced them in Lightroom. I could have switched lenses to capture this in a single shot, but the skittish elk would have been long gone!

Arizona Meadows

Shooting Data: NIKON D810, Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 at 200 mm, 1/160 Second at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 100

This golden meadow is located near Arizona Creek, close to the north end of Jackson Lake. I was taking photos of the distant aspens when a group of Mule Deer ran across the scene. It’s possible to walk up to and into the aspens, but the telephoto shot from around 300 yards is my favorite opportunity there in the fall.

Bison and Death Canyon

Shooting Data: NIKON D300, Nikon 200-400 mm f/4.0 at 300 mm, 1/320 Second at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 200

These last two shots are landscape captures that just happen to have some wildlife sprinkled into them.

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON SP AF 150-600mm F5-6.3 VC USD A011N at 210 mm, 1/250 Second at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, -2 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Currently, I own three camera bodies. I used two for most of my years. One of the bodies usually has the long telephoto lens, more or less ready for wildlife encounters. One typically is paired with the mid-telephoto lens, and the third one has the landscape lens. I grab the one that fits the scene, and often it is the longest reaching lens!

Sunrise Over Ft. Meyers Beach

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/640 Second at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 100

Telephoto lenses can work wonders for capturing the sun and moon, but photographers need to use extreme care when capturing the sun! I took this one at 600mm from Sanibel Island across the bay to Ft. Meyers Beach.

Super Moon

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, Nikon 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/320 Second at f/8, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV,  ISO 450

This is one of the recent “Super Moons”. There’s a formula for celestial photography. Divide 400 by the focal length to come up with a maximum shutter speed to be able to “freeze” stars at an acceptable level. For example, 400 divided by 50mm = 8 seconds. At 600mm, the shutter speed shouldn’t be much over 3/4 second. Of course, the moon is much closer to the earth than any star, so slightly slower shutter speeds might be okay. I still use “the formula”, even for the moon.

Spider Web

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 300 mm, 1/320 Second at f/18, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 1600

At the other end of the spectrum, telephoto lenses can work well for close-up photography. 600mm at only 5-7 feet can capture some fun images.


Shooting Data: NIKON D5, Tamron 150-600 mm G2,  f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 Second at f/8, Manual Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 800

A backlit image like this early Spring aspen can be difficult to photograph with a short lens. Lens flare can be an issue, but with a telephoto, it is possible to isolate areas without the flares.

Pond Scum

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, TAMRON SP AF 150-600mm F5-6.3 VC USD A011N at 600 mm, 1/200 Second at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 100

As I mentioned earlier, going out with a telephoto lens allows me to see the world with a different set of “eyes”. This is a photo of some reflected pond scum.

Frosted Leaves

Shooting Data: NIKON D300, Nikon 200-400 mm f/4.0 at 270 mm, 1/400 Second at f/7.1, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 200

At close range, a telephoto can help isolate the important subject, while throwing other parts quickly out of focus.

Stove Pipes

Shooting Data: NIKON D5, Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/1000 Second at f/10, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 220

Often, I go to the Mormon Row and do the obligatory photos using the standard lenses. I then go back to the vehicle and change lens to one of my telephotos. I’ve photographed at Mormon Row hundreds of times, but each time with the telephoto lens attached, I find hundreds of ways of seeing the area I had never photographed before. When I am back at home, I typically migrate to those images. Everyone shoots the others.

I mention Mormon Row above, but I do the same pretty much everywhere I go. Get the obligatory shots out of the way, then start looking for the more interesting, tight shots. Check out the image below and just look for all of the additional photo opportunities I had while walking around with a telephoto lens!

Evanston Round House

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/125 Second at f/10, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 200

The image above was captured at the Evanston Round House.

Back in my college art school days, we had to set up still life scenes, then draw or paint them. I could move a book, or flower vase, or clock—and “adjust” any element in the scene as desired. I could change the angle or intensity light source. I could adjust the angle I viewed the scene by raising or lowering the table top. In other words, I had total control. In photography, we usually get to move around a bit, get higher, get lower, and so forth. We can change lenses and camera bodies. But, we typically don’t get to move the parts around in the actual scene! With a camera, I like to think I am actually “cropping nature” instead of composing a scene. It might take you some time to wrap your head around the concept, but I am thinking about it constantly on landscapes. Someone might suggest that an image has a “nice composition”, but I would suggest I did a good job of “cropping” the scene in front of me! Telephoto zooms are great tools for this.


Shooting Data: NIKON D810, Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 Second at f/10, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 180

Telephoto lenses allow me to experience the world in much smaller “boxes”. Often, less is more. Earlier, I mentioned using telephoto lenses to create panoramic images. After doing a few thousand panos, I’ve learned to “see panos” all around me. After a few thousand tight shots like the smoke above, I “see” the tight shots that possibly others pass by.


Shooting Data: NIKON D500, Nikon 28-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 at 250 mm, 1/250 Second at f/7.1, Manual Mode, 1/3 EV,  ISO 500

Whether an image makes its way on someone’s living room wall is never the issue! Capturing them simply makes me smile.

Brown Ranch

Shooting Data: NIKON D300, Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 at 135 mm, 1/125 Second at f/10, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 200

There are lots of times I need a landscape lens in the Tetons, but I think I have the most fun and capture the photos I like best with a telephoto lens. Knowing I can create pano parts at any time, I often have the best of both worlds. I’d be ready if a Badger pops its head out of a hole or a wolf or coyote walks by. I can capture relatively close objects as “close-ups”—and I have lots of options regarding depth of field. Photographers have been coming to the Grand Teton National Park since 1929, so it is a challenge to find different, or unique ways of photographing the park. Telephoto landscape captures are one of the ways of fulfilling the challenge.

Please, if you like this post, SHARE it using the Social Media Icons on this page. Remember, these images are fully copyrighted with the US Copyright Office, so don’t copy them or use them as source images or paintings.

Customizing Perspective Corrections in Lightroom

Starting with Lightroom CC 2015, Adobe added a powerful new tool for correcting perspective issues. The Guided Upright transform tool allows users to manually define lines in their photos that need to be horizontal or vertical. It works with skyscrapers, churches, bridges, and an almost endless list of subjects.

This feature is similar to the Perspective Crop tools in Photoshop, but in Lightroom, these adjustments are non-destructive. Having this feature at my fingertips in Lightroom means I can save time and disk space while creating a PSD or TIF file. In Lightoom I typically work on a virtual copy (Control-Apostrophe), but that is not absolutely necessary.  Note: This feature, along with a long of other cool features, have not been added to the “Standalone” versions of Lightroom.


Lens CorrectionsMost images taken with a wide angle lens introduce perspective distortions as seen in the image above. I took this image at Mormon Row with a Nikon D5 and a Nikon 14-24mm lens at 24mm. I started out the Lightroom project by applying the proper Lens Corrections for the lens. This step often corrects a few distortions and removes vignetting common to the lens. These are quick and easy adjustments. Just click the two check boxes! (Occasionally, you might need to select a Make and Model of the lens).


GuidedIn previous versions of Lightroom, the Upright tools were located in the Lens Corrections panel. You had the option of trying Auto, Level, Vertical, and Full, and typically one of them would do a good job. With the release of Lightroom CC 2015, these tools were moved into their own tab, and “Guided” was added to the array of choices.

While in Transform, click Guided, as seen in this screen grab. Near the bottom of the tab, you’ll see a hint, “Draw two or more guides to customize perspective corrections”. (The limit is four guides)

At least initially, you shouldn’t need to adjust the other sliders like Vertical, Horizontal, and Aspect. You can always tweak them after the original corrections.

Also Note: For this example, I chose to do some basic adjustments to the image before attempting to straighten it. In reality, it doesn’t matter! You might find it better to straighten first, then apply your adjustments for hue, saturation, contrast and so forth. Lightroom is very forgiving and extremely flexible. If you captured your image in JPG format, the technique still works!

Note: You might notice that my menus are collapsed—except for the Transform tab. This saves a lot of scrolling through the adjustment tabs. To use Solo Mode, simply right mouse click on any of the tabs and choose “Solo Mode”. To adjust the Basic controls, all I have to do is click Basic. It expands and the Transform tab collapses. First Guide

This screen grab should help you understand what to do the first time. Click on the image to set a point. Then align the white guide along the edge and click the second point. Nothing actually changes until you assign the second guide.

Second Guide

The magic happens after clicking the second point on the second guide! You can always click and drag any of the nodes to tweak the guideline.

2x3 Crop

For this image, I opted to crop the results with a 2×3 rectangle using the standard Crop Tool (R is the shortcut key). Note: Click the lock icon to make an arbitrarily proportioned rectangle (A).

Cropped and Cloned

I applied the crop by clicking the Enter key. For this image, I did some minimal “Spot Removal” (Q) to reduce and simplify the parked vehicle, and darkened the footbridge using the Adjustment Brush (K).

Evanston Warehouse

Tip: Occasionally, you might find an image that looks a bit “unnatural” if everything is perfectly vertical. For Mormon Row image above, I aligned my guides exactly along the side of the building, but you can fool Lightroom by offsetting the guides slightly. The Evanston Railroad Warehouse image above had considerable perspective issues. I originally straightened it, then deliberately returned a bit of tapering.

Another Tip: You can always adjust an image that was originally captured “square” to make elements tapered.

Chapel of the Transfiguration

This shot taken at the Chapel of the Transfiguration shows some typical distortions. Most viewers wouldn’t care or even notice if some of the lines are out of square.

Chapel Guides

With only a few clicks in the Transform tab, I was able to apply three guidelines. Note: You can turn the visibility of the guides on and off by clicking “Shift-T” or clicking the crosshatch icon in the upper left corner of the Upright tab.


The beam at the upper left is still slightly out of square, but the bulk of the image was corrected.

The examples on this page should get your creative juices flowing! Of course, you don’t have to live in the Tetons to put the features to work for you. The tools work great on almost any architectural subject, as seen here. It also works for squaring the window inside the Chapel, or capturing the reflections off the window on the back side of the chapel. If you ever see your own reflection in a glass panel or a glare in an image, try stepping slightly to the side. The captured image might be slightly distorted, but using these tools, you can always straighten it. All I can say now is, “Give it a try!” You’ll soon find lots of uses for the technique.

If you like this post, please Share it! MJ



























There Should Have Been a Moon! Morning at Schwabacher Landing

Super Moon

I you followed the recent hype, you’d probably know about the November 2016 “Super Moon”. It is 17% larger and 30% brighter than normal.  That makes it a virtual magnet for any warm blooded photographer willing to get up early and brave the elements! The last Super Moon this large was in 1948 and the next one won’t be until 2034. As they say, “You have to get it while the getting is good!” Well, that was my plan!

Mother Nature often has a say in whether best laid plans come to fruition. She rebelled today, covering the western side of the Tetons with a thick wall of clouds. C’est la vie! All it really cost me was a few hours of sleep each morning for two or three days.

Schwabacher Sans Moon

A setting full moon is always a nice touch if you can capture one, but many scenes do just fine without it. Schwabacher Landing seems to be built for photographers — with or without a moon, lightning, or rainbows.

There’s a saying in baseball that goes something like this: “Win a few, lose a few, and some games get rained out — but you have to suit up for all of them!” I’ve found photography to reflect or mimic the phrase. To capture a setting moon, you have to set the alarm at a ridiculously early hour, then make a leap of faith that conditions will work out for a successful shoot.

Don’t count on the weather report to help much either! A thick bank of clouds can thwart any attempts for a good shot. Fog is another potential villain. Mountain weather reports are unpredictable at best, and wrong more often than right. Regional weather models don’t always factor in the local micro climate caused by the warm water of the Snake River, nor the fact the clouds like to form and cling to the high peaks. A lot of factors can go wrong, and often do.

Schwabacher Sans Moon
(Click this image to see it much larger)

That’s the down side! It’s just part of the game. The upside? Getting up that early means you are up and out in the “Great Outdoors” — and in my case, in Grand Teton National Park! Sound the trumpets! Even if there is no moon, there’s a good chance to get other sunrise shots. Occasionally, like yesterday, clouds cover the Teton Peaks, and for my purposes, ruins the scene. I look for other peaks or head off searching for wildlife.

Sunrise Pano

(Click this image to see it much larger)

Most sunrises go through several distinct changes. The “blue light” period occurs during the two hour span of time leading up to sunrise. Alpenglow usually begins around 30 minutes before sunrise, adding a purple and pink cast to the scene. Then golden sunlight, assuming it can break through clouds in the east, bathes the mountain range for a short period before changing to more of an amber or white light on the peaks and eventually the valley floor.

 Amber Peaks
(Click this image to see it much larger)

On this particular morning, the peaks lit up for a few minutes at a time over several different occasions. Not long after this shot, misty clouds rolled in over the peaks and the sky turned white and uninteresting.

Jackson Peak

Typically, I do what everyone else does at Schwabacher Landing…take the obligatory shots. Tourists and photographers have been doing the same since the 1920s. Still, it’s worth looking in other directions once in a while. Jackson Peak, in the southern end of the valley, might not be as spectacular as the Tetons, but it can add interest to a normal scene.

Eastern Sky

I’d love to be able to include a silhouette of a barn, a herd of elk crossing the ridge, or a windmill or farm scene in this photo, but there aren’t many such features down there. Clouds like the ones above influence the light in the normal west side landscapes.

Mt. Moran

Mt. Moran, at the other end of the valley, can also be a stand alone subject.

Looking Down

The top half of this shot is the scene almost everyone takes, essentially the one at the top of this post. I like to get the most “bang for my buck” when Mother Nature does pay off. I shoot wide, then closer and closer. I turn from landscape orientation to portrait orientation and shoot everything again. Most of the images near the top of the page were “stitched” panoramic images, made up of three to five individual images. Assuming photographers do everything right on location, Lightroom makes this process quick and easy.

Lover Horizon

I doubt many people do it, but I often “drop the horizon” for a few shots. Who knows when a shot like the one above might be just the perfect image for a magazine or phone book cover? How about the cover image on a folded map? It doesn’t take much to add a few to the morning’s shoot.

Shooting Notes

I made it to Schwabacher Landing this morning “early” (around 5:30 am). It was dark enough I needed a flashlight to see where I was going, and so dark I couldn’t tell if the Grand was covered by clouds. I took the first image at 6:06 am. The Teton Range was still uncovered, despite the slight breeze and ruffled water. Official sunrise wouldn’t be until 7:15 am, but it is always later due to the eastern mountain range.

I used a Nikon D5 and a Nikon 24-70mm lens for all of the shots.  Typically, I used a Nikon D810 for my landscape photos, and looking back, I might have planned a little better and took that body with me. I like the D5 for my night and low light photography. It does great with high ISO images.

The first images were captured in full Manual Mode. The dark sky image was set to 15 seconds, F/2.8 at ISO 2500. I was standing “in the pool” while wearing a pair of fishing waders. There were no other photographers at the reflection pool all morning! That’s a luxury of being out that early in the morning and that late in the season. I lit the bank with a Brinkman 2 million candlepower flashlight. Later images were captured in Aperture Priority at F/8 to F/11 and ISO 100. Shutter speeds varied from 13 seconds to 1.3 seconds and faster as the ambient light increased.

The moon image at the top of the page was captured two days earlier as the moon came up two using a Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.

Additional Links and Posts

Teton Sunrises: It Takes Two to Tango

Night Time In the Tetons:

Cold Morning at Schwabacher Landing:

Panoramic Images: Tips for Getting More of the Tetons in a Shot

Beavers of Schwabacher Landing:

While Most People Were Sleeping:

Alpenglow: Morning’s Fleeting Phenomenon

Schwabacher Notes

Schwabacher Landing is usually open through November and possibly a week or so into December. After around December 15th, no human presence is allowed along the river bottom, even for people willing to hike in





































The Grungy Side of Kelly

~ Common Scenes from a Historic Corner of Jackson Hole.

Kelly Wagon Wheels

Some subject matter is “grungy” by nature. In post production, you can make something appear grungy (or grungier) by adding textures and patterns over the original capture. The look and techniques are popular in ads and on TV, and as an artist, I like the options of adding a little of my aesthetics to a captured image.

You don’t have to make a trip to Jackson Hole to find little gems worthy of photos. Abandoned vehicles and dilapidated buildings can be found sprinkled across the country. I like old things and old places — so I find myself driving around looking for them. In this case, I didn’t have to go far!

Kelly Chevy Truck

The small community of Kelly, WY rests inside the southeast corner of Grand Teton National Park. At least to my eyes, and aside from the three new residences currently under construction, it looks almost identical today as it did when we moved here 30 years ago! The town has a small grade school, a post office, and a coffee shop. Kelly was established in the 1890s. Much of the original town was swept away in the Kelly Flood of 1927 following the failure of the natural dam left below the Kelly Slide of 1925.

Kelly Sheep Herder's Wagons

Most images on Best of the Tetons are “straight photos”, meaning they haven’t been given my artistic license to tweak them and take them to new places. That’s not the case on this page! Hopefully, the images are interesting, moody, and captivating.

Kelly Junk Wall

All of the images on this page were captured using a Nikon D5 and a Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens. The properties in the town of Kelly are all privately owned. I don’t believe the owners would be particularly happy to see people roaming around on their property, so I sat in my vehicle and took the photos over a bean bag in the window. That’s where the telephoto lens comes in!

Kelly Gas Pump

The images on this page were composited using the base image and then stacking several different texture layers over the top using Photoshop. Each texture layer was assigned a layer mode of either “multiply, overlay, screen, soft light, linear light, and saturation” (just to name a few). In most cases, I also adjusted the layer opacity slider.

Kelly Weathered Cabin

I like the challenge of taking a photo something relatively plain and making it worthy of a second look.

Kelly Power Station

This foggy image was essentially “gray” and lifeless. A few textures later, it takes on a mysterious, moody look. It’s not a shot people would typically think of when visiting a National Park!

Kelly Structures

Screen GrabThe previous image had an ambiguous cool and warm color scheme, while this one has a strong warm color scheme. The screen grab on the left shows the original base layer and three texture layers. The top one adds the golden glow, set to Overlay at 74%. I spend a lot of my spare time capturing textures like these for use in projects like this. They are free — and they are everywhere! Still, if you prefer, you can purchase textures or add third party plug-in filters for Photoshop containing an abundance of textures and texture effects.

If you were to scroll back up to the gas pump image, there would be dozens of texture images available to me. I’ve also spent time photographing the steel grills in the campgrounds. They are loaded with rust, drips, and stains from years of use and abuse. Textures are everywhere! How about the texture on a piece of toast, or a slice of watermelon, orange, grapefruit? Maybe a shot of a waffle or pancake? The power station in a previous image can be a texture on some other project, even though it is the subject of the image.

How about something wonderful  for FREE! Go to Google/NIK and download their collections for FREE! You’ll love ColorEfex and SilverEfex!

Kelly Water Tank

There should be a couple of takeaways from this post. First, you don’t need to go to a spectacular place like Grand Teton National Park to find similar subjects. Second, post production doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to a realistic image. Expand your horizons! Photograph something every day, and then allow yourself to experiment in Lightroom and Photoshop! > MJ











Days of Rose, Amber, and Gold

— Find a Subject and Capitalize on the Rich Morning Colors!

Wildfires are a late summer reality across the West. It seems there is at least one wildfire pumping smoke and ash into Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Sometimes there are half a dozen! A light morning wind can sweep the smoke out of the valley, but when we are surrounded by fires, our chances of a clear morning drop to almost none.

Sunrise and Sleeping Indian

Still…smokey mornings offer possibilities!  You can complain, which does no good, or go out and take advantage of the opportunities. Filtered, altered light is often beautiful and captivating. On this particular morning, early sun light had to pass through this intertwined layer of smoke and haze.

Bull Moose and Rose Background

While the bull Moose in this photo was still in shadows, the distant butte was being lit by the rose colored light. Instead of normal cool shadows, they will often be warmer and richly washed.

Cow Moose

It is possible to neutralize the rose color in post processing software programs like Photoshop and Lightroom. Light like this, doesn’t happen that often, and it doesn’t last long. I prefer to preserve the colors over removing them. There will be other clear days. Cow Moose can be territorial, especially when another cow gets too close to her yearling calf. The down turned ears let each other know of their mutual discontent.

On the Move

In the Tetons, Moose often move overnight into the sage flats to feed on bitter brush. It is usually mixed in with sagebrush in the southern portion of the Park. Bitter brush is shorter and deeper green, as seen near the left side of the shot above. On most mornings, moose move from the sage flats to the cottonwoods and willows at about the time first rays of the sun clear the eastern ridges.

Lip Curl

The rose colored light of the early, early morning gradually changes to peach and then amber. On this morning, I was concentrating on moose while landscape photographers were surely watching the Teton Peaks morph through the same transitions. This bull Moose is still in velvet and not really “in the rut”, but they still take the early season opportunity to sniff the urine of a cow, followed by what most people call a “lip curl”. See: Flehmen Response or “Lip Curl” in GTNP Moose

Gold Light

Amber and gold light follow the rose and peach colored light.

Wooded Lip Curl

At this time of the year, the bulls are careful not to tear the thin velvet membrane. Any “sparring” will be slow and cautious.

Cow Moose

I prefer to shoot in “Custom White Balance”, then adjust the Kelvin (K) value as needed. If shooting in RAW format, it really doesn’t matter what Kelvin setting was used at the time of capture. Temperature adjustments can be adjusted in post processing without compromising image quality. Most “point and shoot” cameras, including cell phones are originally set to “Auto White Balance”. Auto White Balance is typically very good, but on days like this one, the internal software in the camera can neutralize the great light, or in some cases, can amplify the light values. A severe color cast is much more difficult to remove or adjust in a typical JPG capture. Temperature and Tint sliders in Adobe Camera Raw can help “set the mood” of a capture.

Meadow Bull

This bull was backlit, requiring a bit more post processing. The smoke in the air softens distant objects and amplifies the morning light.

Meadow Bull

Something in the sagebrush had this bull’s attention. He stopped in a place next to shadows, allowing me to adjust settings to capture the rim lit velvet antlers.

In Cottonwoods

This bull paused in the willows, keeping an eye on the cows that had crossed before him. The distant cottonwoods were being lit by the soft morning light.

Across Cottonwoods

This image was taken roughly 50 minutes after the first image. By 7:57 am, light began to feel “bright”, even though it was still very good!

In Willows

A few minutes after I took this shot, the bull bedded down. When I find a good subject like this one, I am willing to photograph him for hours—sometimes past what some people consider “good light”. On days with lingering smoke, the window of good light can be much longer.

Candid Comments: I know people that cancel a trip to Jackson Hole if there is smoke. Some leave the valley because of it. At least from my perspective, it’s their loss! Conditions can change, and do change rapidly. I love the variety and I love the possibilities!

Check out this page: August 2016 Daily Journal of Photos & Comments for Grand Teton National Park & JH. It contains lots more  smoke altered images taken during August of 2016!

Photo Notes: All of the Moose photos on this page were taken with a Nikon D5 and a Tamron 150-600mm lens. I used a tripod on all of them. The shot with the clouds over Sleeping Indian was taken with a Nikon D810 and a Nikon 70-200mm lens. I hand held it over the top of my van as I was heading out of town.

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Rodeo – Saturday Night Action, Jackson Hole Style!

What’s more western than a good ol’ rodeo? If you are in Jackson Hole on either a Wednesday or Saturday night, consider an action packed and entertaining evening at the JH Rodeo. It is just one of the many attractions that make Jackson Hole a special place.

Bull Fighters

Bull Fighters: Cowboys climb onto a bull or bronc and hold on for dear life. If the rodeo gods favor them, they stay mounted for a full eight seconds.

Holdin' On

Things can go wrong, and at that point, the goal is to live to ride another day!

Bull Rider

Awkward Ride: A cowboy capable of staying on an agitated bull for a full eight seconds is a thing of beauty. Still, I get somehow drawn to the riders caught up in terrible situations that send them violently in all directions. Action can be brutally unpredictable.

Saddle Bronc Rider

Saddle Bronc: The “rough stock” are equally athletic. They work eight seconds, twice a week.

Rodeo Crew

Pick Up Team: The bronc and bull riders are the center of attention, but an equally rugged and talented group of wranglers, cowboys, and bull fighters risk broken bones to make the rodeo event happen. Remember to pay attention to the action away from the cowboy dusting himself off and picking up his hat!


Abstract: For a photographer, a rodeo is a “target rich” environment. I went to the rodeo last night with a Nikon D5, capable of capturing action at 12 frames per second. I shot from the edges with a general admission ticket with a Nikon 200-500mm lens. At the live event, everything is fluid and fast. When I view the images on my computer, it is easy to see incredible, frozen split seconds of action and expression.

Calf Ropers

Calf Ropers: I love the stop action captures of the horse’s poses and expressions. It happens much too fast to appreciate it the same while at the event.

After the 8:00 pm opening ceremony (flags and Star Spangled Banner), bull riding opens the rodeo events, followed by a few bronc riders. Calf roping and barrel racing are equally action packed.

Barrel Racer

Barrel Racing: Cowgirls and their horses get to shine in this timed event.

Artistry in Motion

Artistry in Motion: All of the horses in a rodeo are agile and powerful. I love it!

Pee Wee Bull Rider

Pint Sized Duo: The rodeo has lighter moments folded in between the heart stopping action. Five and six year old bull riders test the twisting skills of a smaller bull.

Low Five

Low Five: What’s not to like here!

Pee Wee Cowboy

Pee Wee Cowboy:


Chaos: Moments like these make me glad I am in the stands and not on the bull. Rodeo is a way of life for many of them.

Bronc Rider

Bronc Rider: Check out all of the cameras in the hands of the spectators! Some of the spectators were from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Canada.

Out of the Chute

Out of the Chute: I could have a lot of fun in Post Production on rodeo images. New lights and a new crows nest were added to the rodeo grounds last summer. They are adequate, but they don’t light the place like you’d see at a pro football or baseball park. Expect some grain in your images, but the grain seems to fit right in with the nature of the photos.


Horses: I panned with the horses the best I could as they flew by me at close range. Speaking of close range, our small rodeo puts spectators very close to the action. I was standing at a rail, with only a 3′ zone between me and the dirt arena.

Last Bull Rider

The Last Bull Ride: All good things must come to an end. There was no shortage of action and subject matter from the first ride to the last one.


JH Rodeo Jackson Hole Rodeo — Where the West is still Wild! Rodeo has been a part of Jackson Hole’s cowboy culture since the first settlers arrived over 100 years ago. Your Jackson Hole vacation would not be complete without experiencing the legendary Jackson Hole Rodeo. See you at the Rodeo!”

The link above will take you to their site. You can view their schedule, prices, and special events.

100 Years Strong: The History of the Jackson Hole Rodeo.


Photography Comments: June and July are good months because of the long days. I mentioned earlier that I entered the rodeo grounds with a Nikon D5 and Nikon 200-500mm lens. I had a full battery and an empty card, and left with over 2000 images and a slightly drained battery. I’d like to go back at some point in the summer and take a friend to hold a group of remote strobes… (at least if the owners let me use a strobe). I’d probably also take a second camera body and shorter lens. An F/2.8 70-200 would be a good choice, and possibly a 24-70mm lens. We had a wonderful sunset, but I couldn’t capture it.

Every rodeo will be different! Bulls or broncs will turn differently and there will be other cowboys and wranglers. The images on this page are collected from just one rodeo…last night. If I went to every Saturday night rodeo all summer, I’d eventually compile a rock solid collection, and I’d get better at it. I’d know where the best angle would be for each event. If I supplied some of my images to the Rodeo, the owners would probably give me permission to get into otherwise forbidden areas of the arena. Sometimes, you simply have to “work” an opportunity. >>MJ

Moose and a November Snow Storm

~ Effects of Shutter Speed on Streaking Snow

In the early part of November, I found this nice, mid-sized bull Moose along the Gros Ventre River.  I have lots of shots of Moose images without snow. This snow squall was exactly what I had hoped to capture that day. More importantly, this moose stood essentially still for about 10 minutes during the storm.

Moose in Snow 1-200-f8-3600

Moose in Snow: As I usually do, I checked the settings on my camera before leaving my vehicle. 1/200th of a second at F/8 on a dark day would give me a good starting point that morning. The actual settings were: Manual Mode, with Auto ISO as the variable. I left the van with a Nikon D810 and a Tamron 150-600mm lens attached to my tripod. Who knew what I might actually find? It was overcast and the skies had a feeling of a pending storm. After a good half mile hike, I found this mid-sized Bull Moose along the Gros Ventre River. It had begun to snow as I entered the area. I found a good spot with limited background distractions and planted the tripod at about 40 yards distance, then snapped off a few quick shots. He had his head up and looking straight at me. Click, click, click! I typically get a few quick shots “in the can” (on the card), and then check my settings. He could look away or turn away at any second—so getting some shots always seems like a good idea. At 1/200th second at F/8, the resulting ISO was 3600.

A Nikon D810 can handle an ISO 3600 shot fairly well, but I prefer to be lower if possible. 1/200th of a second will also freeze most snow flakes. The first few shots were perfectly fine, and depending on my mood back at the computer, might be THE shots. Luckily for me, this alert and curious moose stayed put and gave me lots of chances to try additional settings.

Moose in Snow 2-40-f56-400

Moose in Snow: This image was captured at 1/40th of a second at -F/5.6. The resulting (AutoISO) ISO was 400. At that point, I knew I had plenty of elbow room for additional changes. While the images on this page show the moose more or less centered in the frame, I did a lot of additional captures with it off to the side, or in one of the four optimum “designer” locations in the scene. Sometimes, the camera’s auto focus will grab flakes much closer to the lens and put the subject out of focus. If you are using “back button focus”, I’d suggest refocusing regularly. You don’t want to get home and discover you captured 200 images focused 5 feet in front of the subject!

Moose in Snow 3-25-f56-220

Moose in Snow1/25th of a second at F/5.6, Auto ISO 220. At F/5.6, only the flakes close to the focal plane of the Moose’s eyes would be in focus. There are lots of long streaks at a slow shutter speed.

Moose in Snow 4-100-f8-1600

Moose in Snow1/100th of a second at F/8, Auto ISO 1600. I think this is a fairly nice balance in the settings.The shutter speed allowed for some streaking, the aperture gave me a variety of sharp and blurred flakes, and I can easily live with ISO 1600 on an image like this.

By experimenting, and being able to review my captures in Lightroom, I am able to dial in the settings for future similar occasions when I might only get one or two captures. If I walked up on a similar scene in the future, I’d probably set the Shutter speed to 1/80th Second to 1/100th of a second (assuming the animal is not moving), set the Aperture to around F/8 (which is where I started), and try to keep the ISO at 2000 or less.

Nanny and Kid

Nikon D810 100th of a Second at F/6.3, Auto ISO 560

Empirical Notes about Shooting in the Snow:

Living here in the mountains, I get quite a few chances to take photos of animals during a snow storm. Not all snow storms are the same! The four images of the Moose at the top of the page were taken during a relatively consistent storm, with relatively light flakes. However, even within a few seconds of time, flakes can be thicker and larger, and wind gusts can pick or slow down, creating a matrix of variables. This is a time to SHOOT A LOT! I  have no control over flakes covering the eyes of the animals, so having a large number of captures gives me better chances of getting a few keepers. I like to get “the most bang for my buck”—so to speak. I change the settings, then click two or three shots, zoom in closer, click another two or three, and keep zooming in steps until fully zoomed. I pull back on the zoom lens, make a few settings changes, and go through the routine again and again until the situation changes.

Wall Of Snow

Some snow is light and fluffy, while others are wet and chunky.  1/640 of a second at F/8, Auto ISO 320.

There is a “wall of snow” between the camera and the animal. A long exposure means there will be much more snow passing in front over the lens, and that will directly affect the overall sharpness. It’s the same for distance to the subject! Besides the issue of sharpness, those two variables also increase the chances snow will be covering the subject’s eyes. Large, chunky flakes multiply the issues. Dark areas, or a dark background, helps accentuate the flakes and the drama of the storm.

Streaking Snow

Aperture Priority 1/40th Second, F/7.1, ISO 400, Nikon D300 and Nikon 70-200mm (cropped image). Also note, you’ll need to be shooting from a tripod for long exposure shots like most of the images on this page. Almost ANY movement, like simply rotating the head will result in some sort of motion blur at these speeds.

I’d prefer to be out in a snow storm than a rain storm—but both can be hard on equipment. Especially during periods of heavy winds, snow can land and accumulate on the front of the lens. The flakes or drops can eventually distort or ruin images, so I check it regularly. I usually carry a clean, dry chamois in my pocket to clear and dry the face of the lens.

Remember, very few other photographers will be out during a snow storm. If willing to pay the “price of admission”, the shots are often unique and memorable. Use information on this page as a starting point. Go out…give it a try and review your own captures. There’s a lot of valuable information stored in the shooting data that can help on your next shoots. If you are shooting always in Auto ISO, Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure, and Auto Focus, you’ll be at the mercy of the settings the camera applies. The results are often “pretty good”, but you certainly can take over some creative control! Also remember, you can pre-visualize or anticipate what you might find, then set your camera in advance. If you actually find the subject, you’ll be ready. The Moose at the top of the page gave me plenty of time to adjust from from my original settings—but I find that to be the “exception to the rule” and not “the rule”.

Please, if you like this post, or you know someone that might use the information, Share it with them! MJ

Aging the New Moulton Barn Roof in Lightroom:

The Powerful Adjustment Brush in Action!

Bright New Roof

Crews just finished roofing the main part of the T.A. Moulton barn along Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park. Earlier in the year, volunteers replaced the shake shingles on the two sheds on the same barn. Unless the Park stains the new portions (especially the most recent additions), it will take Mother Nature a year or so to naturally age the bright new panels of rough sawn pine. The image above shows its current state.

Photo purists might frown on modifying the image, and that’s perfectly fine, but if it annoys you and you are willing to spend a few extra minutes in Adobe Lightroom, you can at least reduce the bright glow of the roof. The steps are fairly simple — and the same steps can be used regularly on a variety of images and projects.

Adjustment Brush

The Adjustment Brush is found on the far right of the Tools. (Shortcut Key: K) In my opinion, it is the most powerful and versatile tool of the group and perfect for this project.

Show Pins

Once the Adjustment Brush is selected, a new set of fairly important choices appear near the bottom (under the photo). For each new edit with the Adjustment Brush, an “edit pin” is added to the screen. I prefer “Always”. This allows me to see all of the pins and select the one I might need to adjust. The shortcut to toggle the pins on and off is the H key (think of Hide). Similarly, you can view a mask indicating where the adjustments are made. The default color is red. The shortcut key to toggle it on and off is the O key (mask Overlay) or simply click the check box on or off.

Basic Menu

The basic Adjustment Brush panel looks something like the image above. The Up/Down arrows shown in the large oval allow you to pick from one of dozens of adjustments. For this initial step, I chose Exposure. Just to the right is a small triangle. Clicking it will either expand or collapse the additional adjustment options. The illustration above shows it while collapsed. Knowing I would be trying to darken the roof, I put in a negative amount by dragging the slider. The amount entered is really not that important initially.

Brush Size

The three sliders just below the Amount slider control the brush size, feather amount, and flow. Notice I have Auto Mask checked and Density set to 100. Drag the Size slider left or right to change the size, or click the open and closed bracket keys on the keyboard. Hold down the Shift Key while clicking the open or closed bracket keys to increase or decrease the amount of Feather the brush will have (hard or soft edges). Also, you can use your scroll mouse to adjust the brush size including holding down the Shift Key to adjust the Feather amount. The Flow slider imitates how quickly the effect is applied. For this project, a setting near 100 is fine, but you might lower it when darkening skies. Auto Mask helps keep the adjustment inside well defined borders.

First Brush

With the settings from the previous image, I simply painted over the roof with a mid-sized brush. The image above shows the first click before dragging the cursor around. I used a mouse for this project. A Wacom pressure sensitive tablet might be even better for this kind of editing.

Red Mask

When the Overlay Mask is turned on, you’ll see where you painted. Click O to see it or hide it. The Auto Mask feature allows you to be a bit sloppy. Also, notice the new little circle (edit pin) at the top corner of the barn.

-.76 Results

With the Overlay Mask turned off, you can see the results of the -.76 Exposure adjustment.


To darken the roof a little more, I went back to the slider and changed it. The adjustments are dynamic, meaning you can see how the adjustment is affecting the image.

-2.38 Adjustment

This is the result of the -2.38 adjustment from the previous screen.


To fix the problem of the stroke outside the roof, I needed to erase a couple of areas. The Erase button is just under the main slider.

Erase with Overlay

With the Erase feature turned on, the Overlay Mask comes in handy (O). Notice the minus symbol inside the cursor. With a hard edge and sufficient flow, it is possible to erase parts of the Overlay by clicking and dragging. Adjust the size of the tool by using the left or right bracket keys.

Erased Results

With only a few strokes of the Eraser tool, I was able to fix the problem areas.

Shed Adjustment

For the shake shingle shed portion of the barn, I clicked the word “New” under the Adjustment Brush tool, adjusted the brush variables and then clicked somewhere inside the shed portion of the roof. The first click sets a new pin. The original pin changes to a light gray circle while the new active region’s pin is filled with black. I simply repeated the steps from the main roof. The image above shows the roof just after cleaning up the overflow areas with the Eraser tool.

Third Pin

The image above shows the shed portion of the roof without the red Overlay Mask, and it shows a new third pin. This time, I reduced the brush size to the approximate width of the bright plank. (Look closely at the previous image) To make a delicate line, I clicked once about where the new black pin appears above, then while holding down the Shift key, I clicked at the top of the diagonal board. Lightroom connected the two clicks with a (straight) line. Presto! I clicked again at the top of the barn to set that point, and then again (while holding down the Shift key) just below it.  Note: the Eraser tool works equally well if you need to erase along straight sections. Click the H key to hide or show the pins.

For all practical purposes, the adjustments are complete! But to see some more of the power of the Adjustment Brush, let me add a couple more adjustments.

Expanded Adjustments

Click the small arrow to show a much longer list of possible adjustments. For this project, I wanted to desaturate the main roof. With that pin selected (click on it), I dragged the Saturation slider down a little. For this portion of the roof, I dragged it to -76. For the shed portion, I clicked that pin and dragged the Saturation slider down to -24. Every image will be different, of course. The important point here is to realize you can adjust any of the settings in any of the three pins by any amount at any time. If you don’t see your pins, hit the H key to toggle them on and off.


But wait, there’s more! Near the bottom of the Adjustment Brush’s expanded menu, click the small Color chip. This brings up a familiar color chart. Click anywhere in the chart to set a color. Once the color is selected, drag the slider to control the saturation. You’ll have to experiment to see how the color affects your pinned selection.

Adjusted Image

This is the full view of the adjusted roof sections. Scroll up to the top to see the original image.

Final Comments:
I have been using the Creative Cloud version of Lightroom for quite a while. The most current version includes the Auto Mask feature and I use it regularly. I am not sure how far back that feature goes, but it would still be possible to do this kind of project in earlier versions by simply using the eraser tool if you go out of bounds. Adobe is gradually adding new features to the CC version of Lightroom that are not included in the boxed versions. They are obviously coaxing people to switch to the Creative Cloud option.

I didn’t mention it above, but it is possible to save “Snapshots” of your work at any time or any stage. Click the plus next to Snapshot (in the left panel) at any time and give the current state a name….like Begin New Roof or Finished Main Roof. You can return to any state at any time and begin again at that point. The Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is very impressive! I am a long time Photoshop user, and quite honestly, I could do this same set of adjustments better and cleaner there. Faster? Maybe.  However, all of the adjustments I did to create this image are just “code” applied to the original raw file. The adjustments are non-destructive and they require very little additional memory, unlike a layered Photoshop document.

Lastly, these tutorials can make a project like this look long and drawn out. In real time, this set of adjustments might take three or four minutes.

Smoke In The Tetons: Use It To Your Advantage!

Sunset Over Mormon Row

Many people come to Jackson Hole to experience the grandeur of the Tetons. Current visitors might not be too excited about all the smoke obscuring the vista views. The smoke of 2015 is streaming into the valley from wildfires in Idaho and Montana (and probably Oregon). As I write this post (August 19, 2015), newspaper reports are not too optimistic for clear skies anytime soon. Conditions might not be ideal by most people’s standards, but they certainly offer plenty of opportunities.

Now’s a perfect time to be more creative and more open to what you actually can capture during the hazy days. My best immediate suggestion would be to be out very early and very late. The colors in the sky will be much more vivid than on most ordinary days. Morning light will remain “golden” much longer. Your images will probably have a unique, saturated appearance.

Washakie Stripping Willows

This image was taken late in the evening. The moose was in the shade, but the light dispersed nicely into the scene.

Chimpmonk in Hawthorne Tree

If you can get close to your subjects, the layers of smoke will not be apparent at all.

Pre-Dawn Elk

Smoke and haze will usually turn textured distant mountains and tree lines into solid planes of solid color.

Watch for layered mountains and screaming colors in the morning sky.

Death Canyon

Remember to look for smaller chunks of the landscape. Simplified shapes can be very powerful!


Scenes we’ve seen a thousand times before can take on an ethereal character.


Also, remember smoke is similar to fog and rain—though it might be more vivid. Here are a couple of old Feature Posts that might give you additional ideas on how to capitalize on the smoky conditions:

On many late summer days, a fair number of photographers take a nap or spend the afternoon looking for future shooting locations. Light is often “too contrasty” for their tastes. With the filtered light, it is possible to shoot all day.

Software Helpers

Dehaze Before

This is a screen grab of an image in Lightroom showing the morning’s hazy skies.

Dehaze Screen Grab

The new Lightroom Dehaze filter is located in the Effects tab. It is easy to overdo the effect, and occasionally you might find it necessary to cut back on the Vibrance and/or Saturation sliders. You might also want to try this filter on “normal” shots.

Note: The Dehaze filter is included only in the Creative Cloud version of Lightroom. Check this page: Compare Lightroom CC

Dehaze After

The image above is the same image after applying the Dehaze filter at +74, as shown in the screen grab above. It might be worth noting this shot was taken just as the morning’s sun had barely cleared Shadow Mountain at my back. The gold was very saturated and the pink cast in the mountains was amplified as a result. The Dahaze filter won’t solve all problems, but it can certainly help! Advanced Photoshop and Lightroom users could probably recreate the results, but the adjustment above was created with one simple slider!

Comments: In some years, the Forest Service and National Parks set controlled burns in the late part of summer and into fall. Most photographers, including myself, complained about the smoke and plead for them to set the fires after the fall foliage season. Our pleas were seldom heeded. Even the JH Chamber of Commerce’s requests for later burns had little affect. This year’s fires are different. As far as I know, none of the current smoke is a result of local fires or controlled burns, so we really have no valid bureaucratic complaints, at least on a local level. Hopefully, we can stay fire free for much of the season. There are plenty of photographic opportunities either way.

It might be worth noting the circumstances this year. When we had prescribed burns and controlled burns here in the Tetons, some photographers bailed on our area and headed into Yellowstone to escape the smoke and haze. The Chamber of Commerce didn’t like it, of course. This year, most of the western states are going to be covered by the same blanket of smoke. The Tetons might be the best place to be during the late summer and fall.


Please, if you like this post, share it by clicking on the Social Media Icons and spread the word! Mike Jackson

Teton County Fair 2015: A Photographer’s Perspective.

Jackson Hole’s Mid-Summer Break Filled with Bright Colors, Flashing Lights, and Non-Stop Action.

Teton County Fair Wide Shot

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1 EV,  ISO 640

Teton County Fair: I find this time of the year fun and exciting. A few miles north, animals and tourists scurry about doing what animals and tourists do. Down the Snake River Canyon, fishermen fish and whitewater enthusiasts paddle through the rapids in kayaks and rubber rafts. In town, and for only a single short week, we are given a chance to experience the thrills of the rides, the familiar barking of the carnival midway workers, and enough color and flashing lights to send our senses into overload. (Click this image to see it much larger!)

Starship 2000

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/13 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

Starship 2000: In previous years, I spent a fair amount of my time capturing images with lots of blurs, similar to the shot above. Check last year’s post: Fair Time! Photos from the Teton County Fair.

Mike with Strobe

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 52 mm, 1/100 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

This year, I changed my approach some by taking a Nikon SB910 strobe with me.  Not every shot includes the extra light, but having it gave me some additional options. The SB910 was triggered using an on-camera SU800 controller. The normal infra red signals don’t communicate well in bright sun and require “line of sight”, so I added a Radio Popper transmitter and receiver to change the IR signal to radio frequency. To trigger the camera, I used a Vello FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release. It works great on by my Nikon D4 and Nikon D800. Vello makes additional controllers for other brands and models. The wide shot of the Fair near the top was washed with light from the strobe. Without the strobe, the shot would have been dull, flat, and generally silhouetted in the foreground. And of course, some shots worked well without the strobe.

Zipper and Vertigo

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/50 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 125

Zipper and Vertigo: The layout of the rides and midway changed considerably this year. From a photographer’s perspective, I think the change was for the better. In the past, the general configuration went from East to West. This year, it changed from North to South and was pushed against Flat Creek Drive. This layout eliminated a few annoying power lines behind some of the rides and attractions. Evening skies remained deep blue much longer. The Jackson Hole fair is unique in a few ways. There are no admission fees—so it is cheap to simply mill around each night. The rides and attractions are tightly configured into the allowed space. The people at Frazier Shows don’t have a problem with photographers taking photos, and the workers seem to enjoy having photos taken of their rides.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 44 mm, 1/200 at f/14, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Aliens: For the most part, I go to the Fair to simply have fun, experiment, and learn. Other than taking a few photos for a blog post like this one, I don’t have any particular use for the images, and as a result, don’t have any editorial restrictions. The aliens in this shot were actually vivid green. While in Lightroom, I experimented with quite a few of the sliders to come up with a unique color scheme that makes me smile. The fair gives me plenty of room for experimenting—both in the capture and the post processing.

Tiger's Head

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 200 mm, 1/125 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 640

Tiger’s Head (Sunday Addition):  Kids are turned loose to roam around on the inside of this Tiger’s belly. They slide out when finished. I shot this scene a few times with different ambient light, but liked this somewhat mysterious version best.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 52 mm, 1/100 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

Dots: On this shot and on quite a few others, I turned the focus button on my lens to manual and then purposefully put the scene out of focus. After seeing some of the results from these experimental images, I can see how I might use the effect on other, more finished images.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/1 at f/14, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 100

Duckies: The concessionnaires at this attraction let me set up the tripod next to the spinning rubber ducks for a few shots. When the flash settings are turned to “rear-curtain sync”, the flash fires at the end of a long exposure. This allows for blurred movement, but then a tiny bit of sharpness at the end of the blur. Objects near the center of the spinning move much less.

Carousel Horses

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/4 at f/16, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 1000, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Carousel Horses: This is a typical shot of the horses, augmented with a little fill flash via the remote strobe.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/1 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 640

Horses in Motion: This shot was taken with Rear Curtain Sync as the horses flew by.

Horses Oncoming

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/1 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 640, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Carousel: This is close to “my vision” for this shot. I was looking for long streaks with a split second of stopped details.

Ghostly Horse

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/6 at f/16, Aperture priority Mode, -3 1/3 EV,  ISO 320

Ghostly Horse: I could go to the fair and shoot a thousand more shots of the carousel horses and never recreate this 1/6th second shot. In reality, most photos taken at the Fair fall into the same category. Lights, people, and conditions are constantly changing. Last year, Frazier Shows opted to leave the Carousel out of the fair. I believe they said it was merely a matter of space. This year, the large Ferris Wheel was being repaired, so the Carousel was back. Who knows if it will be in the show next year? I spent more time there than normal.

Lion's Head

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/15 at f/16, Aperture priority Mode, -3 1/3 EV,  ISO 320

Lion’s Head: Without the fill flash, the blue frame and details on the figure would be almost non-existent. Carnival rides are “ridden hard and put away wet”—  to use a cowboy phrase. Very few of them are pristine, as seen here. A few bulbs are usually missing or burned out. The bottom of the crested frame on this element of the Carousel is broken off. Character?

Lion Head In Motion

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/13 at f/10, Aperture priority Mode, -2 EV,  ISO 320

Lion’s Head: Rear Curtain Sync: 1/13th second at F/10, ISO 320. I experimented with the Shutter Speed to get the length of blur I wanted.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 14 mm, 1/2 at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Carousel (Saturday Addition): I shot this image with a Nikon 14-24mm lens at close range. The ride was next to a large white trailer. I turned the power settings on my strobe to 1/1 (full power) and bounced light off the trailer—effectively making a small light source into a huge light source. In post production, I used some of the “upright” features in the Lens Corrections tab and then finished it off in Lightroom using the Perspective Crop tool.

Kids Train

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Kids Train (Saturday Addition): Another long exposure with Rear Curtain Sync and a strobe to semi-freeze a few zones.

Cliff Hanger

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/4000 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 800

Cliff Hanger: A couple of the rides pose problems for me. The Cliff hanger is one of them. The actual gliders lack lights. After it gets dark, they disappear. Also, when dark, there are numerous intense lights in the hub area that shine directly at onlookers (and photographers). My better shots of this ride have been taken while there was still some ambient light.

Cliff Hanger in Drizzle

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 82 mm, 1/400 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Cliff Hanger in Drizzle: “Neither rain, sleet or snow will stop the fair rides!” Well, that’s not exactly correct. They do stop the big rides during heavy rain and lightning storms. Drizzle didn’t stop this ride and provided some moody lighting. I would have preferred the “Freak Out” ride was not behind this ride, but that’s not an option I can control.

Cliff Hanger Riders

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/125 at f/4.5, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 800

Cliff Hanger (Saturday Addition): I’ve tried to get a similar shot on numerous occasions—but without much success. The riders in the paraglider style carts fly by at incredible speeds and very close to the riders in front of them.

Freak Out

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 16 mm, 1/1 at f/14, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Freak Out (Saturday Addition): I processed this image in Lightroom using mainly the new “Dehaze” adjustment slider (found in the Effects tab). It can add contrast, saturation, structure, and clarity with one slider.

Rain Delay

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/400 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Rain Delay: There are moments of transition following a big rain as the rides begin to start running again.

Ring of Fire

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 210 mm, 1/160 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Ring of Fire: I prefer the night and lights, but some rides translate well in broad daylight. On this day, I drove to the fair early in anticipation of a possible rainbow. Once there, I stayed for the entire transition from afternoon light to darkness.

Ring of Fire

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/800 at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Ring of Fire: Direct light on the silver sides of the ring pushed the exposure down and created some drama in the skies. The ride was ending as I set up the shot. A cloud moved in front of the sun by the time the next ride was loaded and the effect was negated.

Ring of Fire

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 18 mm, 1/60 at f/5, Aperture priority Mode, 5 EV,  ISO 640

Ring of Fire (Saturday Addition): This is another of the rides that doesn’t display well at night. The passenger car doesn’t have lights, so the only lights you see are in the blinking sign and the ones around the ring. I don’t believe all of them were even on a once. For this shot, I set the remote strobe to 200mm zoom and with a high output setting. The ring and sign were captured with the ambient light, while the car and upper portion of the ring were lit with the strobe.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/6 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

Midway: I tried this shot with the strobe lighting the fair goers, but that distracted from the the scene. It’s easy to shoot it both ways and pick the one I like.

Zipper Detail

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/50 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2 EV,  ISO 320, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Zipper: Using a telephoto lens, I concentrated on small areas. The lights change constantly, so I took lots of images.

Zipper: Blurred Lights

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 160 mm, 1/60 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 80, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Zipper: Lights out of focus.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 90 mm, 1.30 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 100

Zipper (Sunday Additions): The streaks occurred as the cage and wheel were being positioned to let people out.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 170 mm, 1/3 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 100

Zipper (Sunday Additions): I didn’t do a lot of zooms and twists this year, mainly because I concentrated on them last year. Just for “old time’s sake”, I did a couple on the last night, but did some extensive adjustments in Lightroom to change the nature and color of the abstract image.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 175 mm, 1/4 at f/20, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 320

Zipper (Sunday Additions): Sometimes, a little of a special effect goes a long way. The shutter speed was only 1/4 second on this one.

Vertigo With Indigo Skies

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 50 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1 EV,  ISO 2000

Vertigo With Indigo Skies: This is probably my favorite ride to photograph.

Vertigo and Zipper

 Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 18 mm, 1.30 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 320

Vertigo and Zipper: I tilted my camera to slant the horizon on this one. The long exposure created streaks, while the static Zipper ride remained in relative focus. The cages on the Zipper are lit by the ambient light, but disappear in the dark night shots while spinning.

Zipper and Vertigo

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 14 mm, 4 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 100

Vertigo and Zipper: (Saturday Addition): You might say the stars finally aligned for this shot! It has been difficult to capture two of the major rides operating concurrently, I finally was there at the right time and with settings ideal to capture the motion. As a bonus, the half moon was visible just to the left of the spinning Vertigo ride.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 14 mm, 1/2 at f/16, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 500

Vertigo (Saturday Addition): The first night, I took my Tamron 150-600mm lens, along with several of the shorter lens in a backpack. One night I used a 70-200 mm lens for some mid-range shots. On Saturday, I shot mostly with a Nikon 14-24mm lens. For this shot, I was standing next to the fence and aiming up. The perspective is completely different.


Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/250 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Goldfish: If you can throw a ball into a cup, you can go home with one or two of these goldfish. An aquarium sits in each of the four corners. I was set up taking a few shots of the fish when a youngster put his hand on the corner of the aquarium, causing the fish to move to the other side. I suspect this happens hundred of times a day. A human element can be a big plus.

Brynn and Her New Fish

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 140 mm, 1/200 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Brynn and Her New Fish: This fish has a proud new owner.

Another Winner

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 140 mm, 1/100 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Another Winner: For a few dollars more, you can go home with a few fish and mini-aquarium.

Carousel and Riders

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/400 at f/2.8, Manual Mode, -3 EV,  ISO 100

Brynn and Father: Hard to beat a good ol’ family shot. I was taking artsy photos of the horse’s head while the ride was stopped when the seat filled with a little rider.

Carousel Horse Portrait

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 98 mm, 1/800 at f/3.5, Manual Mode, -3 EV,  ISO 100

Carousel Horse Portrait: This shot was taken when there was still a considerable amount of ambient afternoon light. I dialed in some heavy negative exposure on the camera, then moved the remote strobe relatively close to the head.

Black and White

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 98 mm, 1/800 at f/3.5, Manual Mode, -3 EV,  ISO 100

Black and White: Same shot after processing through NIK Silver Efex in Photoshop.

Fresh Pizza

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 105 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1/3 EV,  ISO 640, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Fresh Pizza: Kayla Perez and Dominic Fraley were working in the Pizza trailer. I asked Kayla if she would hold the next pizza up for me when it came out of the oven. No problem!

Fresh Pizza

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 105 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1/3 EV,  ISO 640, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Fresh Pizza: Sometimes, all the bright colors can be distracting. I like this one both ways.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/80 at f/4.5, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 800

Basketball Toss (Saturday Addition): This carnival worker let me take a couple of quick captures. I stepped to the side to hold the remote strobe off center and triggered the camera with the remote. Other than the harsh shadow of the ball on his shirt, it worked out okay. Given a little time, I could have added another strobe or softened the light source. I liked the color version, but the black and white had a stark journalistic look.

Cliff Hanger Tilted

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 50 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1 EV,  ISO 2000

Cliff Hanger Tilted: Blurs are still good! A tripod is a must for this kind of shot.

Pharoahs Revenge


Pharoah’s Revenge (Sunday’s Addition): I neglected this ride for some reason. Sunday night, I took my Nikon 70-200mm lens and strobe. I believe I did a combination of panning and rear-curtain sync on this shot.

Pharoah's Revenge

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 112 mm, 1/10 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 640

Pharoah’s Revenge (Sunday’s Addition): Rear curtain sync and Nikon SB910 strobe. In this shot, the ship was heading down. In some of the other shots, I captured the motion as the ship was still going higher. Those streaks looked like souls being pulled to the underworld.

Pharoah's Revenge (Sunday's Addition):

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 200 mm, 1/20 at f/7.1, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 400

Pharoah’s Revenge (Sunday’s Addition): I put a cross filter on the front of the lens for a few shots. The color shift was created in Lightroom.

Tut's Red Eyes

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 200 mm, 1/60 at f/5.6, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 640

Pharoah’s Revenge (Sunday’s Addition): This is a fairly straight forward shot (without a strobe). I adjusted sliders in Lightroom.

Pharoah's Revenge

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 100 mm, 1/500 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Pharoah’s Revenge: There’s a treasure trove of unusual subject matter at the Teton Country Fair right now. It’s a great place to experiment, make mistakes, learn from them, and generally have fun like a little kid. Better yet, there are about five nights, so even if you don’t get what you want one night, you should have second and third chances. If you are shooting in RAW format, you have additional chances to modify the original capture.

The Wrap-Up and Comments

I went to the Teton County Fair all five nights of the rides. There are lots of other events and attractions at the Fair, like the 4-H Club’s animals, petting zoo, food court, Rodeo, Figure 8 Contest, and so forth, but I have always been drawn to the lights and motion of the rides and midway attractions. This year, I wanted to work on “rear curtain sync” with my strobe. I also wanted to see if I could control various aspects of adding harsh and soft light into scenes I had photographed in previous years. Over the five nights, I took 4000 images. I included a fair number of them here, yet I could have doubled the number with no problem! Each night, I was able to look at my most recent captures, then develop strategies for shots I might want to take the next night—sometimes with different lenses. I challenged myself to improve on some of the less successful shots from the night before. Going five nights in a row drained some of my energy, but I would have loved to go each night for a full month! I know I’d be a better photographer at the end of it!


Here’s a link to last year’s Fair post: Fair Time! Photos from the Teton County Fair.

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Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens: Completely Rewritten June 3

Lightweight, Relatively Small, Sharp, and Inexpensive!


NOTE: This is essentially a rewrite of a post I made in early February of 2015, updated with additional photos and comments. I had owned the lens a week or two when I wrote it, so most of my comments then were essentially “initial impressions”. It wasn’t intended to be a thorough review, but simply a list of hands-on comments, observations, and a few actual photos taken with both of my Nikon bodies. I figured there were already plenty of sites evaluating it with DXO scores and bench tests using calibrated charts and targets. This new page is being written roughly four months after receiving the lens, and as before, are simply observations and comments from an end user. And, if it matters, I paid full retail for my lens.


Evening Light: Taken with a Tamron 150-600mm at 350mm with a Nikon D800.
Evening Light
: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/100 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1 2/3 EV, ISO 100

The Short of It!

If you’d like to save a lot of reading, I’d suggest: “Buy One”!  I was initially surprised and impressed. Now, I use it regularly.

Red Fox Approaching: 220mm
Red Fox Approaching
: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 220 mm, 1/500 at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV, ISO 200,

Initial Comments:

I’ve been a dedicated Nikon Lens user all along. My Nikon dealer suggested I check into the Tamron lens, so I started reading reviews. Talk about a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde bag of results! Most were good. Some said it was great. Some said it was soft past 400mm. Some said it wasn’t good for low light shooting. Some user reviews included images the reviewer considered were tack sharp, but wouldn’t have made it past my first cut.  Other quotes were along the lines, “A great lens for the money” and “Super telephoto lenses compromise sharpness”. Then, occasionally, there would be a group of incredibly sharp images. If you’re reading this page, you’ve probably seen many similar comments.

Red Squirrel
Red Squirrel
: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/640 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, -2 EV with Strobe, ISO 1000

My Needs:

I have a well used Nikon D4 and a Nikon D800 pair of bodies. I have Nikon’s pro list of zoom lenses including a 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm and a 200-400mm lens. I like zooms. What’s missing? Aside from tilt-shift and macro lenses, the obvious gap is from 400-600mm. In Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park, the 200-400mm lens on either of my full frame bodies always worked fine, but I kept watching for opportunities to fill in with a 500mm or 600mm lens. Neither of them ever fit my budget. I suspect my situation in this regard mirrors many others. If a Tamron 150-600mm lens worked better than my 200-400mm lens with a 1.4 TC on it, I’d be happy. I never had much success with the TC, so it wouldn’t take that much to impress me in that range.

Slepping Indian 150mm
Sleeping Indian
: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/2500 at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV, ISO 200

Sleeping Indian 600mm
Sleeping Indian:
NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/3200 at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV, ISO 200

My Client’s Needs:

Late last summer, I started offering One-on-One Photography Excursions into Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Many clients lack a lens much over 200mm. Part of my decision to purchase the lens originally was to let my Nikon clients use it while on the trip. They’d be thrilled.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/800 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV with Remote Strobe, ISO 1000

My Final Decision:

While still on the fence, I ran across this Flicker page by Kristofer Rowe. The page is LOADED with birds in flight.  His page, along with the many positive comments put me over the top:  To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have pulled the trigger without seeing Kristofer’s pages. Possibly my photos on this page will help you.

Swan Squabble
Swan Squabble
: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 EV, ISO 180


 Random Musings & Comparisons

  • Lightweight vs Heavy Build: This Tamaron lens weight 4.3 lb and is lighter than my 4.7 lb Nikon 200-400. The Nikon 600mm weight 11.2 lbs! My Nikon 70-200mm lens weighs 3.39 lbs. The Nikon pro lenses are heavier and have a more rugged, long-life feel. Still, light weight is good on some level.
  • Included: The Tamron doesn’t come with a clear glass front filter nor a case.
  • Collar Foot: The Tamron lens has one mounting hole in the bottom of the foot. I would have preferred to see two, as I have on my 70-200mm and 200-400mm.
  • Minimum Focus: On my Nikon 200-400mm, I can focus as close as 6.6′ (or roughly 19 feet with the limiter turned on). The Tamron’s minimum focus is 8.86 feet (or 49 feet with the limiter turned on). Interestingly, a Nikon 600mm f/4 has a minimum focusing distance of 15.7 feet. (5.0 m).
  • Balance in the Tripod: As the Tamaron lens is zoomed out from 150mm to 600mm, the barrel telescopes out an extra three inches. When mounted on a Gimball head or a “sidekick” style setup, the balance changes as the Tamron lens is zoomed in or out. The lens is light enough this isn’t a huge issue, but worth noting. It is also easy enough to slide the camera forward or back in the clamp to balance it again.
  • Wide Open Aperture: At 150mm, the Tamron is wide open at F/5.6 or at 600mm, wide open at F/6.3. The difference is only 1/3 of a stop. A Nikon 600mm and my Nikon 200-400mm are F/4 lenses. That’s a full stop better than the Tamron at 150mm or 1.33 of a stop better than the Tamron at 600mm. An F/2.8 lens, like my 70-200mm is two full stops better than the Tamron at 150mm. You might hear someone suggest this lens in not great in low light conditions. That’s a tricky comment because there’s not enough information to qualify the statement. I’ve shot this lens in very low light conditions for landscapes, sunrises, and sunsets. It (and not many of the F/4 telephotos lenses) is not going to stop the action of a running animal at sunrise either. My original post from last February suggested this lens probably works best when stopped down, however over the past month, I’ve been shooting it wide open regularly on migrating songbirds and other subjects. If low light, action shots are important, I typically start my morning with my F/2.8 70-200 on my D4.  I can switch it to the 200-400 f/4 as I get better light. If none of this makes sense, check out the F-Stop Chart at Digital Camera World.
  • EV Compensation:I don’t know if every copy of this lens works like mine, but my lens overexposes my shots. I add a considerable negative EV value in almost all cases. In other words, when I know I should be shooting at -.3 EV, I set this lens to -1 EV. That could sound like a knock on the lens, right? I certainly don’t look at it that way. The negative EV compensation gives me back some of the “lost” aperture value of this F/5.6-F/6.3 lens over an F/4 Nikon lens.
  • Image Stabilization: Nikon calls theirs “VR” (vibration reduction) and Tamron calls theirs VC Image Stabilization. Over the four months of shooting, I can say Tamron did a great job with their image stabilization in this lens. I leave it ON all the time, including while on my sturdiest tripod, over a bean bag, and hand held. I’ve been able to get some amazingly sharp shots hand held at 600mm, though I prefer a tripod.
  • Removable Collar: The collar on the Tamron lens is removable. Some people might take it off when not using a tripod. I shoot using a tripod almost all the time, so this is not an issue. The knob of the collar loosens easily…or should I say too easily. I’m ready to put a drop of “Lock-Tight” on mine. If the know loosens too much, the entire collar assembly can wobble. I believe this is an easy fix.
  • Focus Issues / Brain Dead: Occasionally, my Tamron 150-600mm simply stops focusing. The only solution I can find is to turn the camera off, take the battery out, put it back in, then turn the camera back on. I’ve read of others with similar problems. The permanent fix is to send the lens back to Tamron for repairs. Reports I’ve read said the problem goes away afterwards. (Note, my rep suggested Tamron may have a firmware fix in the works for this issue) I’ve had the lens on one of my bodies almost constantly since I purchased it. It has been difficult to find a time slot to send it in! I’ve also noticed the lens occasionally refuses to begin searching for a focus zone when I am zoomed all the way to 600mm and change to another nondescript subject. My solution is to pull the zoom back to around 200mm and aim at a highly detailed subject to initiate the focusing. Lastly, the lens typically searches from front to back, then back to front. Lately, I have been taking photos of birds at fairly close range. If a bird stops on a branch at about 15′ and I take a few shots, then moves to 10′, the lens has to search to infinity before returning to locate the closer subject. This can take what seems like a long time if the close bird is doing something “important”. To be fair, I believe my Nikon 200-400mm works in a similar fashion, but it only has a range of 200mm to search while the Tamron is searching a 450mm range.  I’m sure the techno-babble wizards out there understand this issue. I am just reporting what I see when I am focusing.
  • Self Inflicted Striping Problem: I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons I bought the Tamron 150-600mm lens was as a “loaner” to clients going on a photo tour with me. I made a mistake of purchasing a cheap clear filter to add to the front of the lens. The cheap filter caused some occasional stripes or bands in some of the busy backgrounds. I asked if anyone else had seen the issue on a couple of forums and got a response suggesting the filter being the culprit. Bingo! They were correct. I removed it and have not seen the problem since.


Early Photos

Shots above this section were all taken within the first week or two after receiving my lens. The shots below were taken on the first day.

Tram Tower with Insert
Tram Tower
: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 280 mm, 1/500 at f/7.1, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV, ISO 100


Partial Pano Surprise: The first afternoon after receiving the lens, I headed to Boyle’s Hill to get a few shots of Swans and test the lens. While standing around waiting for Swans to fly in or out, I took a few panoramic images of the Teton ridge line, shown above.

Tram Tower Detail
Tram Tower (tight crop)
: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 280 mm, 1/500 at f/7.1, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV, ISO 100

This is the crop (red box) of the image above the pano strip. I can easily see the tram tower and dock at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at Teton Village and the mogul fields. That mountain top is roughly 8 miles off!


April Photos

The images below will probably appear fairly small on your computer. Click each one to see it at it’s native size.


The inset image above shows the full capture at 250 yards. The larger image is an unedited, cropped screen grab of a 100% view as seen in PhotoMechanic. This image tells me a lot about the capabilities of the lens. It would be very easy to drive down the highway and never see this climber. When standing on the road, I could see him, but there is no way I would ever see his belt and pouch, much less the small “d” on his chalk pouch. (Note: Click this image to see it much larger!)


The inset image above shows the full capture at an estimated distance of 40 yards. The larger image is an unedited, cropped screen grab of a 100% view as seen in PhotoMechanic. (Note: Click this image to see it much larger!)


The inset image above shows the full capture at an estimated distance of 30 yards. The larger image is an unedited, cropped screen grab of a 100% view as seen in PhotoMechanic. (The smaller white box is part of a final crop I made for this image) (Note: Click this image to see it much larger!)


The inset image above shows the full capture at an estimated distance of 20 yards. The larger image is an unedited, cropped screen grab of a 100% view as seen in PhotoMechanic. (Note: Click this image to see it much larger!)

The images above can be made to appear even sharper in post production working off the original raw files. Other than a camera like a Nikon D800e, cameras apply an optical low pass filter (OLPF) which slightly blurs raw captures. I always sharpen my images to my tastes in Lightroom.


AF Fine Tuning

Most newer DSLR cameras have a feature called Auto Focus Fine Tuning.  This function allow users to make minor tweaks to improve focusing between each camera and each body, including the addition of various teleconverters. The first body I owned with the feature was a Nikon D300. It definitely improved the sharpness of my images. You can probably still find a person or two that will tell you lenses don’t need to be tuned to a camera body, but most people I’ve met in the past 5 or six years think they do need it. I use a Lens-Align tool to check and adjust all of my body and lens combinations. If you are buying a Tamron 150-600mm lens, I’d suggest buying the relatively inexpensive tool to use on this and all lenses.

AF Fine Tune settings can vary at different focal lengths on any zoom lens. A fixed prime lens does not have this issue, of course. A super zoom lens like the Tamron increases the chances some. For example, at 600mm the optimum setting might be +4. At 150mm, the optimum setting might be +2, and at 300mm, the optimum setting might be +3. Some people might suggest to set the AF Fine Tune amount to the middle one. Knowing the main reason I wanted this lens was for the 400-600mm reach, I gave more importance to the longer range settings. You might hear a few “user comments” suggesting the lens gets softer over 400mm. I suspect they haven’t taken the time to find their optimum settings in that range. They might also have poor technique, with small movements amplified at the longer ranges. In reality, my copy of the Tamron 150-600mm lens does not have much of a variation in AF Fine Tuning settings from the short to the long ends.


For The Money?

Quite often, a reviewer starts out their comments with, “for the money, this is….”. That’s often a red flag, at least for my perspective, but maybe it doesn’t need to be a deal breaker. A Nikon 600mm prime lens is just under $10,000. ($9,799.00) This Tamron lens sells for $1069. Using really rounded numbers, the prime lens is roughly ten times the cost of the Tamron zoom lens. (To be exact, it is 9.116 times.) Of course, they are two completely different products. I read one review in which the person said the Nikon prime is not “ten times better”. I might add…”to that person”. You could also argue that if the images from a Nikon prime are 10% better to some professionals, it probably IS worth ten times the cost. Right? It is simply a matter of perspective and size of the wallet. If you don’t have the extra nine grand, decisions become a little easier. If, or when, I win a big Powerball lottery, I am sure I’d own a 600mm prime!


A Few Photos

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker: Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/160 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 800,

Great Gray Over Prey

Great Gray Owl: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 300 mm, 1/1000 at f/9, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 800

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/160 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 500

GGO with Vole

Great Gray Owl: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 220 mm, 1/1250 at f/11, Manual Mode, -2 EV,  ISO 320

Stallions Fighting

Mustangs: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 450 mm, 1/800 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 280

Fort Meyers Beach

Fort Meyers Beach: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/200 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,   ISO 100

Reddish Heron Fishing

Reddish Egret Fishing: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/640 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 1250

Birds in Flight

In April, my wife and I made a trip to Sanibel Island. I took the Tamron 150-600 lens and my Nikon D4. I took a lot of photos of the plentiful birds in flight and came home with lots of good shots of birds in flight, along with stalking and chasing shots. You can view a lot of them on this page:  Tamron 150-600mm Lens at Sanibel Island, FL . I think it performed wonderfully, however, I don’t have a prime 500mm or 600mm to compare.

White Ibis

White Ibis at First Light: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/1000 at f/9, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 720

Low Light

I mentioned this issue earlier. There are a few issues. First, don’t expect this lens to freeze action at daybreak. But, you also have to be realistic and understand that no telephoto lens is great at daybreak either. There are lots of low light shots on the Sanibel page and I don’t hesitate to use it.

Wet Flicker

Wet Northern Flicker: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/500 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, -1 EV,  ISO 5600

I should mention I own two of Nikon’s best high ISO performers (Nikon D4 and D800 -the newer models are D4s and D810). I shoot at ISO 1250 without even thinking about noise and often take shots at ISO 4500 or even above. The Northern Flicker image above was taken yesterday at ISO 5600. The two bodies allow me to set my camera to Manual where I control the shutter speed and aperture, then let the camera set the ISO via Auto-ISO. When some people complain the lens is not a good “low light performer”, the odds are they don’t have a good low light performing body. In that case, the best shots will be taken in the brighter hours of the day. I also speculate some of the blurry images taken at low light are a combination of poor technique, a wobbly tripod, and failure to adjust shutter speeds to an adequate level to stop motion blur.

Zodiac Sculptures

Zodiac Sculptures: These sculptures are currently on exhibit at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, just north of town.  Click this image to see it MUCH LARGER!

Quick Wrap-Up

Whether you want include the qualifier “for the money” or not, I’ve found my Tamron 150-600mm lens to be a welcome surprise and a solid performer. I like it…well because I could afford it…and because of its size and light weight. Once I got rid of the cheap filter I purchased for it, and after I ran it through the normal AF Fine Tuning adjustments, I’ve found it to be plenty sharp. I personally don’t see a drop off in image quality over my $6200 Nikon 200-400mm f/4 lens, which is heavier and has less range. The Tamron had a cheaper, more plastic feel than the Nikon 200-400mm and doesn’t appear to be as weather sealed. The Tamron’s VC (VR) works very well. I have been surprised of the image quality when hand held. I have realistic expectations for my early and late day photography, and as long as I work within practical boundaries, I get good low light results. For my back yard photography, the 93″ focusing range allows me to capture birds and critters at close range at 600mm.

Sigma has recently released their version of a 150-600mm lens. My dealer suggested the lens is just as sharp, but costs just over $2000 and is quite a bit heavier. He also thought it focused a little faster and had a better weather seal. I would image there are reviews and comparisons for the two lenses beginning to show up. Worth noting here.

I have been shooting regularly with the Tamron 150-600mm throughout March, April, May, and June. I create a Daily Updates and Photos page for each month for Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole. I’ve only included a sampling of the images on this page, but if you still need to see more, click any or all of these links:

Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH: 2015: June: | May: | Apr: | Mar:


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Snow Day On Mormon Row:

Photographic opportunities for anyone willing to brave the elements.

We’ve had snow here in Jackson Hole on the 4th of July, so getting a blast of it in April should not be a surprise to anyone. It’s great for the high country snow pack and the reservoirs that hold the water it produces. My kids are always saying something is “bad” when they really mean it’s good—like “that’s a bad ride”. So, when it’s “bad” outside, it can be “good”. If not good—unique!

On most snow days, the majestic mountains in the Teton Range are covered with clouds. This more or less forces me to look for alternative angles and views. Most shots of the two historic barns are taken from only a few spots. Right? I enjoy just milling around and looking for interesting compositions—even if the Tetons are not part of the picture.


Half Mile Barn: I took this shot from Antelope Flats Road using a Tamron 150-600mm lens on a D800. This image was captured at 600mm.

Half Mile Barn

Chambers Barn: Taken from the same spot with the same equipment.


Heavy Snow captured at 1/125th second: The flakes are mostly frozen.


Heavy Snow captured at 1/8th second: The flakes streak as they pass in front of the subjects.


TA Moulton Barn — Front View:


TA Moulton Barn — Front View: On snow days, I typically take dozens of the same shot. They won’t be exactly the same, of course, because of the endless concentrations of flakes. This is a random pick out of the group. On a “real” project, I’d go through all of them looking for the best one. When photographing animals in the snow, like moose, I shoot even more! I end up looking for images without a big flake across their eyes.


Long Distance Shot to the John Moulton Homestead: I’ve never measured it, but I’d guess the distance between barns is around half a mile.




Remains of the Old Fences:


Chambers Homestead:


Chambers Homestead: The snow lasted long enough for me to walk around the various homesteads. The Bed & Breakfast is still privately owned and is marked with signs, but tourists and photographers are allowed to mill around the rest of the areas.


Cart: This cart is actually on the Bed & Breakfast property, but I don’t think they care if you shoot from outside the fences. It helps to find subjects with dark areas behind them to show the falling snow.



The Gate: I shot this one with a telephoto lens from across the road with a wide open aperture. It helped blur the background and isolate the gate.


Gate and Wheel: The snow was not coming down as briskly on this shot of the corner gate at the Bed & Breakfast. Here’s their link: Moulton Ranch Cabins | Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


Chambers Shed: For a lot of the images on this page, I “opened up the shadows” by dragging the Shadows slider to the right in Lightroom. Doing so helps reveal some of the snow flakes against the dark zones.


TA Moulton Barn: For the snow shots today, I set my camera up with “back button focusing”. Large flakes can play havoc with the camera’s auto focus. With back button focusing, I am able to put the center focusing sensor on the corner of the building. When the focus locks down on the corner, I let up on the back button. That sets the focus. I can recompose the scene. When I press the shutter button (even half way), the back button focus settings prevent the AF from trying to find a new position. On a daily basis, I go back and forth between the default focusing and back button focusing, but this is definitely a good time for the latter. Here’s a YouTube tutorial if you are not familiar with the feature: Back Button Focus : Steve Perry on YouTube


TA Moulton Barn: I moved back and shot through the cottonwoods on this one. I am not sure if I like it, but it was worth a try.


Moulton Barn with Wintering Robin:

A Softer View

A Softer View: The artist side of my training is always tugging at me after a photographic shoot. For this image, I dragged the “clarity” slider to the left instead of the right to create a soft layer in Photoshop. I made a second version of the image in Lightroom with more traditional settings and brought that into Photoshop. I used the “Find Edges” filter in Stylize group of Photoshop filters on that layer, then desaturated the results. I pasted that image on top of the soft layer, and changed the blending mode to Multiply, then adjusted the opacity to fit. This little image took only a few minutes to make (for this blog post). If I were doing a more serious version, I’d soften or reduce the dark edges on the branches at the bottom. If someone asked, I could do a tutorial on this technique in a future Feature Post. If you were to scroll up to the gate image, you might notice this is just a cropped area of that image. On a personal level, this image trips my trigger more than the literal photograph.

Winter Robin

Winter Robin: For this image, I desaturated everything but the Robin.

High Key

High Key: This is the same image as the one at the very top. I did a quick “curves” adjustment. Snow day images leave you will tons of post processing flexibility.

Comments: “Bad” weather is all the more reason for me to want to be out. I am not a big fan of heavy, steady rain, but I love being out as storms are moving in or moving out. Snow storms usually offer opportunities at showcasing familiar subjects in an entirely different manner. We’ll probably get additional snow days through April and possibly into May. Count on me being out, and if you are around, I’d suggest doing the same!


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While Most People Were Sleeping:

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Images Captured Either Late in the Night or Early in the Morning.

2017 Update: While we haven’t seen firm documentation yet, it appears Grand Teton National Park will be enforcing part of the compendium that prohibits “artificial light”—without first obtaining a “Commercial Photography Permit”. This hasn’t been strictly enforced since I’ve lived here, and in fact Law Enforcement Officers have been present while I was lighting barns and even the snowman in one of the photos below. A lone “still” photographer can photograph in the park without a permit, but once artificial lights, props, or models are included, the Commercial Photography Permit regulations kicks in.

After the sun drops behind the clouds, most photographers and tourists are diving home or heading into town for dinner. When conditions are right, I might just be getting started. Who needs sleep! Images on this page are augmented with a little artificial light—usually a flashlight. The size of the flashlight varies based on the subject, the distance from the camera, and the amount of ambient light. I used a small pen light on a few and a 2 million candle power flashlight for others. The image above illustrates how just a little light can help tremendously.

Note: I processed the images for this post larger than normal. Click each image to get a better view!

T.A. Moulton Barn

T.A. Moulton Barn: When I set up to take this image, I never knew the bison were there! I started the 10 second timer, then ran down the little trail on the left side of the scene. I turned on the flashlight and lit the scene as normal. That’s when I saw the dark shapes. I only got one capture before they moved off to the right.

Chapel with Night Stars

Chapel with Night Stars: Several of the popular spots work well for light painting. Man made objects like barns, windmills, and fences make good subjects.

Oxbow Gold

Oxbow Gold: You can image most photographers and tourists were long gone as I was making this photo. The “window of opportunity” for a shot like this is typically very short and you have to be a bit on the lucky side to hit it right.

Moulton Barn and Milky Way

Moulton Barn and Milky Way: Royce Bair was in town last year doing a night photography workshop. We had lunch together and he showed me an image he had captured. It presented a bit of a challenge, so I went out to see if I was up to it. This is actually a stitched “panoramic” image consisting of three or four vertical, wide angle captures.

Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing: In 2013, the Park Service closed Schwabacher Landing to vehicles and bikes for the summer. I drove to the pull-out at about 3:00am and walked down the road in the pitch black darkness—armed with my bear spray of course. I photographed it during the dark skies, but liked this one captured during the “blue light” period an hour or so before sunrise. I stayed for the morning sunrise. Others were walking in as I was heading back to the vehicle. In the light of morning, I could see lots of bear tracks in the mud along the road. The road has been reworked and, beginning again in May, people can drive to the parking lots as in previous years.


Snowman: For this shot, I rolled up three snowballs at home and loaded them into my truck. I made a “snowman kit” complete with hat, scarf, arms, corn cob pipe, and the face elements. The hat came from a Halloween shop on the Internet. I added the band and holly sprig. We used this image for our Christmas cards that year and we had a custom puzzle made for the Grandmas and Grandpas.


Carriage: One of the advantages of living here is being able to make friends with ranch owners and concessionaires. I doubt many people could get access this property for a night shot like this. A bright light at the ranch cast a strong green cast into the scene. I would have preferred it to be off, but that’s sometimes asking too much!

Saddle and Tack

Saddle and Tack: Other shots like this one are a little easier to set up. Last year, I bought this old saddle, lariat, blanket, bridle and cinch strap. One of the local ranchers gave me a worn out pair of gloves and I borrowed the chaps (chinks to be specific). I also found an old hat off eBay, for for this shot, the hat was too white and dominated the shot. I took this shot at the buck rail fences at the Shane Cabin last fall.

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade: Unlike the other images on this page, I set this still life up in my office. All the items have a lot of character and texture. This particular image is a composite of maybe six images, lit at different times.

Twin Barns

Twin Barns: These two beautiful historic barns are well off the beaten path here in the Tetons. It took a little work to obtain permission to shoot there. The property went up for sale not long afterwards and I probably couldn’t get access again.

Night Barns

Night Barn: I probably have hundreds of night shots of the two Moulton Barns taken over the past six or seven years. I like the clouds mixed in with the starry night on this one.

Cactus Flowers

Cactus Flowers: Not all night shots need to capture a large scene. Wildflowers work well, too. It helps to try to photograph them on a windless night, but that can also mean doing so with swarms of mosquitoes buzzing around and biting.


Columbine: I had to go back several times to get this shot. Wind was a problem on the earlier attempts.

December Barn

December Barn: Winter light painting usually requires just a “touch” of light. I typically don’t do much light painting on full moon nights. A crescent moon is normally okay, but it doesn’t take much of a moon to overpower the night scene.

Boise Penitentiary

Boise Penitentiary: I included this image to illustrate there are light painting opportunities just about anywhere. You don’t need Tetons to go out at night! Still, if you are IN the Tetons, why not include them!

Chevy Truck in Color

Chevy Truck

Chevy Truck: Some subject matter works well “grunged” to taste in post production. A little contrast, grain and texture can add some interest and mood.

Old Patriarch

Old Patriarch and the Milky Way: After taking the shots, this capture requires a 3/4 mile walk back to the truck in total darkness. The golden/green light in the lower left is light pollution from the town of Jackson. Even so, our little corner of Wyoming contains some of the darkest, least polluted night skies in the country.

Comments: It’s easy to lose a lot of sleep to get images like these. During the summer months, it is not uncommon to be dragging into the house after midnight or getting up at 3:00am. I prefer the evening shooting the best because I have a bigger window of time to take the photos. Light gets too bright too quickly in the morning. Spring and Fall are great times to stay out late. I prefer the “blue light” period, but many Milky Way photographers thrive on the time between the two blue light periods. Typically, I start shooting after I can see the first dozen or so stars. If photographing objects like the saddle and fence, I can start a little earlier, but it takes a while to balance the mountain silhouette with the subjects. Exposures range between 10 seconds and 30 seconds on most of the images on this page. ISO can go up to 4500 to 6400, but I prefer 3400 or below. Most of the images on this page were captured with one single image, but I am not against taking two or three and merging them if it takes the extra frame to get the better final image. That’s a personal call. And speaking of personal calls: I tend to like to keep my night shots at least somewhat believable. For my way of thinking, they still need to look like night shots—dark and moody. It is possible to brighten the sky, milky way, and stars to a point the scene becomes unbelievable. On a personal level, that point of believability swings from one extreme to another from year to year. Over the years, I’ve begun to fall back to “a little light goes a long way” and I like my night sky to look like a night sky.


Additional Resources


Please, if you like this post, share it on any of the Social Media sites like Facebook and Pinterest. And, please respect my copyrights! MJ

April 2015 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH:

A monthly journal of wildlife reports, scenic opportunities, and tidbits for both photographers and Teton visitors!


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