Photographing the Glow of the Tetons under the Milky Way

What is it like to attend a night skies photography workshop? Follow along on a personal adventure in Grand Teton National Park.
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National Park Trips Media and Tamron USA teamed up to host a night skies workshop in Grand Teton National Park in summer 2017. As a photography intern for National Park Trips Media, I was lucky enough to partake in the night skies workshop.

Workshop participant setting up his shot at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

Workshop participant setting up his shot at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

The workshop attracted more than 25 photography participants ranging from beginner to expert. Alongside the participants, a team of Tamron photographers offered assistance in capturing night sky photography, especially the Milky Way.

As a start to the workshop, a seminar was held in the SpringHill Suites in Jackson, Wyo. While sitting down for dinner, the Tamron team spoke about ideal camera tactics in capturing the night sky. The team explained that setting a DSLR camera to manual during the night offered the best shot. They also taught about ISO settings as well as how to set the proper exposure. The duration of the seminar lasted an hour, thus leading us to our first photography location—Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

Workshop participants setting up to take sunset photos at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

Workshop participants set up to take sunset photos at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

Prior to sunset, we arrived at Oxbow Bend on the Snake River with a marvelous sight of Mount Moran. The Tamron instructors helped us dial in the ideal camera settings to capture the colors of the setting sun. As the sun started settling down, vibrant colors ranging from hot pink to golden yellow filled the sky above the mountains. The participants’ faces lit up with emotion; the colors compiled the entire spectrum.

Sunset at Oxbow Bend.

Sunset at Oxbow Bend.

After spending an hour or so taking photos at Oxbow Bend, it was time to travel to our second location of the workshop.

The sun had completely descended below the Tetons to the west. We unloaded our gear from the vans and started trekking into the darkness. After what seemed to be a quarter-mile walk, we arrived to our second location— Schwabacher’s Landing.

As the Tamron group aided participants with setup, we gathered along the Snake River over looking the Teton Range above. At this location, we were able to capture mountain silhouette shots as well as shots of stars glistening above the mighty Tetons. My heart filled with awe, for I had such a feeling of bliss capturing scenes that former photographer Ansel Adams once saw. After spending some time at this location, it was time to capture the Milky Way.

The Milky Way over one of the cabins at Moulton Ranch.

The Milky Way over one of the cabins at Moulton Ranch.

The third location of the night skies workshop was the Moulton Ranch Cabins on Mormon Road. Arriving around midnight, the crew was eager to capture the Milky Way. 

“The Moulton Barn on Mormon Row is one of the most photographed scenes in the Tetons and was a perfect foreground for the Milky Way,” says Rob Wood, executive director of National Park Trips Media. 

The Milky Way over Mormon Row.

The Milky Way over Mormon Row.

The Tamron team gave a quick lesson on light painting, for it offers a nice way to light up subjects while keeping the picture dark. As a team, we practiced light painting a cabin. Light hit the cabin, yet still revealed the Milky Way above. Having never shot a night sky before, seeing the Milky Way at Moulton Ranch was a grand sight. Millions of stars brightened the sky, revealing pockets of space within the Milky Way. The moment was completely surreal.

After our Milky Way shoot, we left the Moulton Ranch Cabins to head back to the hotel for a quick power nap to get energized for our sunset location. Hours before the first light, we all gathered in the lobby to travel to our final location—Signal Mountain along Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

In the early morning hours, Rob Wood from National Park Trips Media (foreground) and Marc Morriss from Tamron (behind Rob) set up cameras for a shoot at Jackson Lake.

In the early morning hours, Rob Wood from National Park Trips Media (foreground) and Marc Morriss from Tamron (behind Rob) set up cameras for a shoot at Jackson Lake.

The temperatures were frigid, yet the water along the lake was as still as glass. The sun started to rise from the east casting a blanket of sunlight on Mount Moran along the west bank of Jackson Lake. Participants, with the help of the Tamron crew adjusted their cameras and started shooting away. Each minute, the sunlight became more vivid resulting in us having to change our exposure and ISO settings frequently. We spent a couple hours along Jackson Lake at the Signal Mountain area capturing tremendous shots of the sunrise above the mighty Tetons.

Sunrise at Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

Sunrise at Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

Following our sunrise shoot, we travelled back to the SpringHill Suites. As a crew of participants, we joined the Tamron team as well as members of National Park Trips Media to partake in a post photography-editing seminar. Crew members gave a presentation on Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, teaching us how to tinker with contrast, saturation and spot removal. They told us how to enhance a photo without being unethical with the postproduction. 

At the end of the seminar, the night skies workshop had came to an end. Participants thanked the Tamron team as well as members of National Park Trips Media for the great experience they all encountered. 

“This is the perfect night skies location,” says Rob Wood. “We had a phenomenal group of participants who really immersed themselves in this workshop.”

As a photography intern for National Park Trips Media, I had an absolute blast teaming up with the Tamron crew to capture the night sky within Grand Teton National Park. The experience was life changing, offering me a greater outlook on photography. I learned a lot about camera settings from the Tamron team and was able to travel to extraordinary places. I would recommend a National Park Trips Media Night Skies Photography Workshop to anyone willing to enhance his or her camera skills and seek an adventure of a lifetime.

Nikita Mamochine is a student at University of Colorado Boulder who spent the summer as an intern for National Park Trips Media. 

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