Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Grand Tetons 2: Black & White

more images from Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

When I arrived at the Tetons this trip, I had left Idaho Falls in the morning, driving up the Snake River Canyon, all the way up to the Tetons. It was a journey of some few hours, and all the way it was either raining, or promising rain. The ground when I stopped in the Snake River Canyon to take photos was freezing mud. It was a dreary day.

But I knew that when I got to the Tetons, the sky would begin to clear. To clear enough to reveal blue sky behind the fast-moving clouds, and to provide dramatic lighting. That is what I asked for, and what I hoped for. And that's exactly what happened. I spent the rest of the day in the Tetons, photographing. At times the sky was completely clear over me, warming me with direct sunlight, even though clouds still built over the mountain peaks.

Rays of light come stabbing down through the clouds above the peaks. The clouds moving very fast, snowing up there above the glaciers and cold grey Precambrian stone. Sometimes stabbing down to spotlight a parcel of land. Jackson Lake, at the foot of the mountains, is the source of the Snake River; another reason the Snake is one of my favorite rivers, because of its origins.

It was dramatic lighting all day. When I pulled into the Snake River overlook on the highway just south of the Pacific River flowage, surrounded by golden aspen, I knew I would get good photos there. I knew that I was supposed to arrive exactly when I did. I was not the only photographer there, and I had a good conversation with a nice man from Arizona, who was doing a long photographic project about the entire length Hwy. 191, which runs from Canada through Mexico, and passes directly through the Tetons, through Yellowstone, and many other scenic areas.

Early upon my arrival at the Tetons, I started shooting some of what I was doing in black & white. I felt the presence of Ansel Adams looking over my shoulder all day; so shooting in B&W was a natural thing. This scenic overlook above the Snake River is very near the same location in which Adams took one of his most iconic photos of the Tetons; it has been endlessly reproduced, and is quite famous. When I stopped at the Park station in Jackson, before driving on north, Adams' photo was reproduced as everything from posters to refrigerator magnets, and some even more exotic media. (I bought myself a notecard reprint of the image, as an icon to take home.)

The photos I took this single day of driving, stopping, and shooting in the Tetons are among the best photos of the entire road trip. The dramatic lighting was a gift from the gods, in answer to a photographer's prayers. The weather was windy but stable enough for the video camera to capture some amazing footage. These photos are some of the best I've ever captured, and the best I've ever been able to make of the Tetons.

This road trip, lasting five weeks, was more than a vacation. It was a revelation, and a life-changing experience. Somewhere along the way, I rose to a new level in my own photography. Going back over the images I made during the trip, I see many that are at a new level, both technically and artistically. I think I rose to a new level, although I couldn't tell you how or why. It just seemed to happen. I can truthfully say that intuition played a huge role in all this, leading me to be in the right place at just the right moment, more often than not. I can truthfully say that I spent a lot of time on this trip in, if you will, listening to my intuition about where I was supposed to go, and when I was supposed to get there. More than once, events and timings were synchronistic. Just look at the dramatic lighting made by these clouds! Right time, right place, luck and listening as my guides.

These are some of the best photographs I've ever made, ever; and they are the start of something new. This return to making B&W photos during the trip was part of this change, this evolution, this growth in my skills and eye. I can sense this, although it's very hard to articulate it verbally. I can only point to it as something that I think is new and different, and stumble around it with limited words. Meanwhile, the images speak for themselves, and, I think, speak well.

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Blogger Every Photo Tells A Story said...

Great images, Art! Must have been an amazing experience.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Artblossom said...

Beautiful. Fantastic!

11:56 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi and thanks for the comments. They're very much appreciated.

It was indeed an amazing experience. That whole day I felt like I was burning at white heat, and everything was aglow and transcendent. The photos sort of get at that, too, in retrospect.

8:06 PM  

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