Posts Tagged ‘park’

A Brief History of Grand Teton National Park’s Mormon Row

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017



Grand Teton National Park is a photographer’s dream, and one place in particular draws photographers from all over the world: Mormon Row.  It’s such a distinctly American vista: the craggy, dramatic Teton range looming majestically over a symbol of settlers’ dreams and tenacity in a harsh landscape. There’s such beauty in the simplicity, in the Moulton Barns in particular; the way the warm light hits the wooden beams, some vertical, some horizontal. I’ve wondered over my years of visiting the park about the history of the area, but I never knew much besides a vague idea.

Basically, the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, said that people could migrate West and set up a homestead and get 160 acres of public land to own, free.  In the 1890s, Mormon settlers from Salt Lake set up homesteads in what is now called Mormon Row. They named the village Grovont, after the Gros Ventre river (which is actually named for the Indian tribe, and means “big belly” in French). All in all, there were 27 homesteads, clustered close together, unlike most Western homesteads, which tended to be quite isolated.  The closeness helped the people of Grovont share work duties and community. In addition to the ranches and homes, Grovont also had a schoolhouse and a church.

The land and the climate are harsh. The soil was sandy and rocky. Winters in the area are long and brutal, and farming season is relatively short. The people of Grovont dealt with these conditions by digging a network of ditches, to supply water to the community.  Water still flows in some of these ditches.

Probably the most famous structure in Grovont still standing is the John Moulton barn. Pictured above, it stands near the more modern, arguably less attractive, pink stucco house that belonged to John and Bertha Moulton.  The Moultons originally lived in a log cabin on the site, but replaced it with the distinctive pink house after living there for many years. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a pink house in the Tetons?

Nearby, John Moulton’s brother, T.A. Moulton, set up a homestead with his wife Lucille, and built a very similar barn. This barn looks a bit newer as it took T.A. Moulton over 30 years to build.

Several other barns and structures remain in the former village, which is basically a ghost town, if you think about it.

In the early 1900s, tourism in the Jackson Hole area began to take off, particularly “dude ranches.” Wealthy Easterners wanted to travel to the Tetons and have a taste of living the adventurous cowboy life. I had no idea that dude ranches were wildly popular in the 1910s and 1920s. But as tourism took off, so did people’s concerns about development and protecting the environment. Congress created Grand Teton National Park in 1929, much smaller than it is today. John D. Rockefeller Jr. in particular wanted to preserve the natural beauty of the area and began purchasing land, eventually buying 35,000 acres, which he donated to help expand Grand Teton National Park. Many former homesteads were donated or bought by the national park, some with agreements that the homesteaders or their descendents would continue to live there until their deaths. The former village of Grovont was acquired by the park in the mid-1900s, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.


Human Scale in Landscape Photography

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

As a person that loves the beauty of nature and photographing all it has to offer without the presence of man or man-made items. There are many times I have learned over the years that incorporating those elements in certain images turns out to be a must have for without these additional elements the images feel like they would be missing something.

You might create a great final image of a location that has a lot of offer but leaves the viewer a little short in determining the true sense of scale of the area. Common locations for this are rock canyons yet there are other instances this comes into play. Take a look at these photos and see how much more the images offer with man and man-made subjects.

Below friend and fellow photographer Kevin McNeal stands on a large rock inside Devil’s Punch bowl showing how gigantic this space truly is. He is facing a large opening that is a couple stories tall, an element in this image that you hardly notice.

"Inside" - Devil's Punchbowl, Oregon

Here several hikers stand for a rest near a junction inside a canyon in Zion National Park. It’s hard to spot them at first glance as they kind of blend into the environment, you will see them in the center. Immediately you can understand how tall and narrow the walls are.

"Deep Passage" - Zion National Park, Utah

Of course it does not need to be limited to canyon and rock caverns. Large open spaces with sky can be enhanced with a person placed in it to help provide scale. Here my wife Molly stands on a rock ledge over looking the valley below on a hike in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains.

"Spotted Light" - Chugach Mountains, Alaska


We do not limit this to humans. Below is an image of Napli Coastline with a 60ft catamaran showing not much more than a white dot in the ocean, thus you can see just how immense this landscape is.

"Na Pali Day Dream" - Na Pali Coast, Kauai

And then there are scenes the opposite can be true. Not having a sense of scale can actually enhance the image and leave the viewer with their own interpretation, especially for more intimate abstract views. Below are several examples.

The width of these diagonal channels is not easily known. Would you say they would be measured in feet or inches? If you are curious these are actually over 2 feet wide.

"Natural Spacing" - Northern Oregon Coast

Here we are really are not sure if it’s the side of a larger rock wall or what. Actually it’s zoomed in texture of a rock captured with a telephoto at close range.

"Desert Lizard" - Zion National Park, Utah

Lastly we have color reflected on water. This could be a wide angle take or a telephoto or somewhere in between. It has an absence of scale not making it very easy to determine. Yet does that really matter here? I would say no.

"Liquid Zion" - Zion National Park, Utah

On your next photography excursion think about scale and how it relates to what you are trying to show in your final work. It is a key element where exclusion or inclusion can make for vastly different pieces of work.