Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Finding Ansel's Tripod Holes in Grand Teton

Teton Range and Milky Way from the Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton Nat'l Park ~ © Royce Bair [click on image to enlarge]
Aligning the Milky Way with the Grand Teton: For years I've dreamed of taking a Milky Way "NightScape" over the Grand Teton peak —especially one from Ansel Adams' viewpoint that he used to make his famous Tetons and the Snake River. That view, including a visitor's information plaque about Ansel's photo is located at the Snake River Overlook just off Highway 26/89/191.

Ansel Adam's famous 1941 B/W photo, Teton and the Snake River was taken from a position that is now a park pullout called the Snake River Overlook.
To make that Teton alignment with the Milky Way required that I wait until September when the brightest portion or core of the Milky Way rotates into almost a due West position. Although the core moves from East to West about 15º per hour during each night, it still doesn't move far enough to the West without the additional rotation provided by the seasons (averaging about 30º East to West movement per month). Planning for Milky Way alignment can be accomplished with applications i.e. Photopills, Sky Guide or Stellarium.

Even though the bright core of the Milky Way is just below the horizon, “The Great Rift” (where the MW splits and forms the “Sea of Darkness”) rises dramatically over the Tetons. This photo was taken with my Canon 5DM3, using a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 @ f/2 • 13 sec • ISO 6400 for the sky • blended with a 2nd exposure for the foreground @ f/2.8 for 240 sec • ISO 3200 (using the camera’s “Long Exposure Noise Reduction” function to prevent noise build up during exposures that last over 30 seconds).

Note the silhouette of the Tetons on the horizon —shown from the perspective of the Snake River Overlook [click on image to enlarge].
Seasonal Changes: This graphic also shows the seasonal changes to the "posture" of the Milky Way in much of the Northern Hemisphere. In the early Spring, the Milky Way is very horizontal during most of the Astronomical Dusk (the darkest part of the night). By mid Summer it is in its most vertical position during most of the night. In mid June, the core is in its highest position. By Fall, it's posture is leaning more to the West and its core dipping below the horizon by mid evening. By mid December, the core or Central Bulge of the Milky Way will never make it above the horizon (during the Astronomical Dusk) until late February.

Tree Trimming Needed? Despite all my planning and the impact of the Milky Way, my photo lacks the beautiful snow pack that disappears from the mountains by August. But even more noticeable is the growth of the trees that has occurred since Adams took his photograph in 1941. This new grow has obscured much of the Snake River.

Some Grand Teton park visitors have wondered if the park should trim these trees similar to what is being done in Yosemite. Under Yosemite’s “Scenic Vista Management Plan” young trees are being removed that block the historic views that John Muir and Ansel Adams rhapsodized about when they first saw Yosemite in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What’s your opinion?

Ansel Adams' beautiful "S" curve composition with the Snake River is almost completely obscured in my photo due to recent tree growth [click on image to enlarge]. 



  1. Incredible shots! It's sometimes hard to believe shots like these are real! I guess I need to travel more.

  2. This is incredible! I was planning my "dream" trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone and thought I'd "google" 'night photography Tetons' and your blog came up. Just what I was looking for! Ive done some astro-photography here in the Everglades, but this is going to be a little more difficult. Well, maybe not difficult, but more thought will have to go into planning the perfect time and praying that the weather cooperates.
    I'd like to follow your work. Is this where you do most of your sharing? Or do you have an Instagram or Facebook page? I've seen some of your posts on The Milky Way Chasers Group on Facebook. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Beautiful shots! it makes me happy to see how beautiful this world can be. i really need to travel around more and see more of it with naked eyes. anyways love your blogs <3

  4. I was looking for! Ive done some astro-photography here in the Everglades..


  5. Wow.. You are incredible. I can't believe these images are real. The effects you made with the real photographs are impressive. I really liked the way you worked with photographs.

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