Teton Wildflower Sunrise – Friday Photo

Welcome to the FIRST Friday Photo post. It is those images, which come with a story, that photographers always remember.

Not to exaggerate, but this photograph took a decade to create. I remember one significantly cold June morning, while visiting Jackson, Wyoming a long time ago, in a galaxy… a hard frost covering all of the balsamroot flowers that were in bloom. The temps were so low that it wilted and frost-burned the majority of the flowers. I thought that if this were to ever happen again, it would make a great photo—if I could catch it before the flowers turned. That memory stuck with me for a decade.

During that decade, my life took many twists and turns. We moved from Colorado to Washington and then yes, Wyoming.

The Story

The evening before one Father’s Day, my wife Heather, said that I should go shoot sunrise and when I got home she would have fried chicken and waffles waiting. At the moment she was telling me to go, it was pouring down rain. The forecast was for the weather to clear in the morning with temps dipping well below freezing. I hadn’t been in Grand Teton National Park since ski season, so I really had no idea what to expect the next morning.

I woke at 4am to 10 degrees Fahrenheit with mostly cloudy skies, and ground fog. I wasn’t thinking anything was going to happen, but remember—a crappy day in the field taking pictures is way better than a crappy day in the office. I also had a get-out-of-jail-for-free card from my wife, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least spend the morning looking for something to take a picture of. 

I pulled out of my driveway with headlights streaming through a dense fog. All of the moisture from the day’s prior rain was blast-frozen covering everything in little icicle droplets. 

As I drove out of the valley and up on to the bench the fog began to break. I could see the bottoms of the serrated Teton Peaks poking out of the lifting fog layer. The further I drove from town, the more the fog got left behind.

I decided to see if the arrowleaf balsamroot had started to bloom yet. As I made the turn off of the main highway through Grand Teton National Park, I could see the bands of yellow in the distance. I parked the truck, exited to a now whopping 15 degrees. Wearing shorts and an 800-fill down jacket, that day from a decade ago came storming back to memory like a freight train. Only this time, the flowers were iced over in a perfect state of color. Frozen in time with utter beauty and perfection. I spent a few minutes adjusting my composition, and then just waited for the sun to touch the Tetons with a perfect pink glow. Click.

Settings and Equipment

Canon EOS-1D X | Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens | Gitzo carbon fiber tripod | Acratech ballhead | Breakthrough Photography 3-stop hard-step glass graduated neutral density filter

ISO 200 | f/22 | Shutter 1.30 seconds | Aperture Priority

Processed using Photoshop CC on an Apple iMac 5K Retina computer

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