Grand Teton National Park by Mark Andre

Everything I hear about the area surrounding Jackson Hole made it sound like a mini paradise in the west. All the outdoor activities gave me some very high expectations for the second half of the trip. I was looking forward to seeing Yellowstone, but not nearly as much as I was looking forward to Grand Teton National Park.

Views obscured by the haze of smoke from Western wildfires

I was a little nervous for this part of the trip. All the wildfires that have affected the west meant that smoke was drifting all over the mountain west. Arriving in Jackson and seeing the haze in the skies admittedly had me a little down. However, I was not prepared for how it might actually make for some great photos.

The images above and below were both made on the haziest evening of the whole trip. It goes to show that even when you think conditions are not ideal, its still worth it to head out.

Sunset over Jackson Lake

Grand Teton National Park is all about the views to the east. Sunrise at the numerous view points along the various streams and rivers made for some amazing moments early in the morning.

Sunrise at Schwabacker’s Landing

I’ve always been a sunrise person, but the crisp and cool mornings in Teton National Park were special. Waking up and driving out to the park to watch the sun wash across the landscape was vastly different than sunrises I’m used to in DC. The mountains reaching up and grabbing the first orange light in the morning is one of the memories I’ll keep with me.

Snake River Bend

While we didn’t see nearly as much wildlife in the Tetons as in Yellowstone, we did catch some distant views of Moose and Buffalo. Its probably a good thing that they were always quite far off. The hiking we did tended to be in places where coming across a moose might have been rather terrifying.

In many ways, the Tetons were a contradiction. The landscape was vast and intimate. The closer you get to the mountains, the more intimate the landscape became.

Elk Flats Ranch

Moving from the grandeur of the overlooks to the tight trails of the Aspens and Lodge Pole Pines to the lakes in the shadows of the mountains, It leaves you looking around each corner for more. Given more time in this amazing place, moving up into the mountains in the next logical step.

Taggart Lake Loop

Bradley Lake

While we took a hike partially up into the hills, I can only imagine what lies a few hundred feet further up.

Aspens with their fall colors

Sunrise from Oxbow Bend

Towards the end of the trip, I felt like I was just getting started. The routine or sunrises, hikes, and sunsets quickly dwindled into packing for the flight back home.

Sunrise at Blacktail Ponds

This place left me wanting more time while not having enough of it. The rich golden yellow tones of early autumn with the deep greens of the pines created beautiful contrast to the orange first light on the mountains.

Its not hard to understand why this place is so popular and so steeped in the historical movement to preserve public lands. The tectonic shift of the mountains up and the valley down has created that special hole in the middle of Wyoming. Who can’t imagine people 150 years ago trodding across the empty landscape - in size not beauty - of the great plains up into the mountains only to come across this amazing valley rife with rivers, sagebrush, pine and aspen groves, and glacial moraines all in the shadow of the dramatic peaks.

Dead tree at Blacktail Ponds

Stay tuned for a post soon about how I plan my trips and tips to make your next vacation to the wilderness a quieter escape from our daily lives.

Yellowstone by Mark Andre

Two weeks ago, Heather and I headed out west for a week of vacation in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park. To say that these places were amazing is a dramatic understatement. Even after spending time in the Swiss Alps in May the landscapes of these two places are second to none.

On our first morning in Yellowstone, we came around a bend in the road to see this one tree on the hillside

I was looking for the immense beauty of Yellowstone and was rewarded with it. I was dramatically under-prepared for its scale. I have been spoiled by the proximity of the East Coast and Europe recently, forgetting the distance that the west covers.

The Madison River as sunrise grazes the face of cliffs

We spend the first half of the week in Island Park, Idaho. The drive into the park each morning was serene. by the time we hit the entrance gate to Yellowstone, the light was just beginning to strike the sides of the cliffs, casting a beautiful warm glow in the valleys. I treasured most, the view of the golden tree on the hillside. It was perfectly placed when you drove into the park.

A dead tree in the water pools surrounding Grand Prismatic Spring

If you’ve been to Yellowstone, you understand the contrasts of its landscapes. For those who haven’t, I can only compare it to Iceland. The vast and varied environments, give you only a hint of the violence in the geologic past of this area. It seemed as though the earth is spewing the colors that make up the surrounding landscape. Pools of cyan given to the sky. The yellows, oranges and reds given to the rocks, the soils, and the grasses. The greens given to the trees. Even the natural cycles of the deaths of trees surrounding the thermal areas was beautiful. The trunks of old dead trees standing defiantly in the pools of superheated acidic water.

The colors of Grand Prismatic Spring

I was ready for the colors of grand prismatic spring but never prepared for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I understand why artists the world over flock to this place to try and represent its beauty, somehow always falling short of its vastness and intimacy.

Upper Yellowstone Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of Yellowsont

Walking along the canyon’s south rim, you witness the minerals and thermal features pushing the painted colors out of the rocks down to the canyon floor. The trail begs you to stop each time the trees open to take in the panoramic views of the sheer rock faces.

Colors flowing down the canyon

Norris Geyser Basin

Stepping away to the more mundane features, the traffic jams caused by the Bison in the park were quite impressive. No one wanted to miss the opportunity to see the amazing creatures up close. After seeing several small herds on our last day in the park, I can only dream of what it must have been like to witness groups, thousands strong, of the animals thundering across the landscape.

Bison in front of the Lower Geyser Basin

We were lucky enough to walk up to Old Faithful just a few minutes before it began erupting. With the exception of the crowds surrounding this icon of the west, the landscape surrounding all of the geysers seems out of this world. The small streams of water flowing through the grasses emanating from the acidic sources of boiling water are a contradiction. The environment in which these plants thrive seems to be inhospitable, yet somehow the extremophiles have found a way.

There is not question why this place was the first national park on the planet. It reminds us why we have to protect the pristine environments left. We must keep these places in public hands, managed for the people in a way that lets the natural environment take its own course, unencumbered by commercial interests.

Light Painting with Planes by Mark Andre

I don't get to work on it as much as I'd like, but I was able to get another in my series looking at the approach path in to National Airport. Check out the others in the grid below.

Memorial Bridge.jpg

Stormy Beach Weekend by Mark Andre

A couple weekends ago I was out in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. There was a massive coastal low pressure system that hung around all weekend creating some mammoth surf and angry skies. 

Beachgoers braving the wind, rain and surf

While it wasn't the most picturesque beach weekend, it did challenge me to get outside of my comfort zone and work for the photos. 

Waves crashing along one of the Jetties

Watching all the seafoam roll up the beach in the wind

Going for long shots with my 70-200 gave the beach scenes some really great depth while still getting a sense of space and scale. 

Stormy Sunrises

Once the rain died down I was able to get the tripod and filters out to do some long exposure shots with water swirling around the Jetties. 

Getting some sunrise color on the last day