No matter how early you wake up in the morning, you’re bound to find crowds at the best places to shoot sunrise in Grand Teton National Park. But your whole trip doesn’t have to a bust just because you don’t get exactly what you were aiming for. We asked professional Tamron photographer André Costantini, who teaches our in-person photography workshops and our online Night Skies Photography course, for his tips on how to make the most of your time in the Tetons.
1. Convert midday photos to black and white.
To skip the sunrise and sunset crowds and ensure a good view of iconic spots like Oxbow Bend and Schwabacher’s Landing, visit mid-day and capitalize on the contrast. Costantini suggests converting daytime photos to black and white—after you shoot, not before. “During the day, ‘contrasty’ light might lend itself well to black and white,” he says. The lack of color will highlight those dramatic peaks.
2. Don’t just focus on the light.
Every time you get up at 3 a.m. for a good shot at sunrise, there’s always a chance the light will disappoint. But you don’t have to go home empty-handed. Look around you, Costantini says, and shoot abstract images like the patterns pollen makes on a lake or puddle, or the natural lines of the forest. “Don’t get too focused or obsessed with the things you’re trying to get,” Costantini says. “There are things right in front of you that are maybe even more beautiful.”
3. Don’t forget the wildlife.
You can’t exactly move them around where you want them to go, but if you spend enough time in Grand Teton you’re bound to see bison, elk and antelope. Watch for them and include them in your photography, Costantini says. “Wildlife is really everywhere,” Costantini says. “If you spend a little bit of time in a place, it reveals itself.”
4. Stay put.
Even if everyone else packs up when the sun goes down, you shouldn’t, Costantini says. And you shouldn’t ditch your chosen spot as soon you think it might be a bust. “It might not look that great at first, but if you wait it out, something will happen,” Costantini says. “At sunset, when the sun goes down, people leave. But 15 to 20 minutes later, the sky illuminates with amazing color. Especially if you’re just starting at this, stay longer than you think. You never know what Mother Nature’s going to provide.
André Costantini has been a professional photographer for more than two decades. His clients include American Repertory Theatre, Constellation Center, Tamron and Discovery Channel. He regularly teaches workshops on filmmaking and photography.
Want to improve your game on starry nights? Sign up for our online 9-part Night Sky Photography course, taught at your own pace by professional photographers André Costantini and Ken Hubbard.