I took a very nice trip to the Tetons over the holidays and would like to share one of my favorites from the trip and the story behind it.
Grand Teton National Park is surprisingly accessible during the winter. The main road that runs through the park is open all the way up to the end of Jackson Lake, close to an hour’s drive from the town of Jackson. The image above was shot at the edge of Jackson Lake, well into the park. Needless to say, I was the only one around during this sunset shoot. I was very happy with the particular conditions this evening. It was very cold, around 10 degrees Fahrenheit or so, but the lake hadn’t frozen over yet. In previous winter visits to the park, the lake had always been frozen solid, making foregrounds a bit hard to come by. I was also happy with the light, of course. For this image, I was up very close to the edge of the ice forming on the shoreline, getting sprayed by icy lake water. My tripod was gathering icicles and the spray would hit my lens and freeze immediately. Here is a little trick that works very will in these conditions to combat this problem. Fill a tiny spray bottle with as close to 100% isopropyl alcohol as you can find, not the 70% stuff. Spray the lens and the ice comes right off. This also works well to combat sea spray. I was shooting this image with my Canon 11-24mm F/4 L ultra-wide angle lens and a gigantic polarizer attached to the front, so it definitely was a water magnet and the spray worked very well. I had to spray and wipe in between almost every shot but I was able to come away with enough clean ones to get the image that I wanted. Another thing I did during this trip that helped a lot was keep my gear in my car to acclimate to the extreme cold and cut down on any haze or fog. I have learned the hard way that taking gear out of a warm room and heading straight into sub zero temps will fog up the lens and filter and ruin every single shot. The above image is a blend for dynamic range, mostly in the bright parts of the sky using luminosity masks. I dialed in a shutter speed of 1/4 second for the foreground exposures, quick enough to capture some detail in the waves. My lens was set at 14mm, and I was using f/16, an aperture small enough to catch everything sharp in the scene from front to back. I wasn’t as close as I could get to the ice on the edge of the lake because the spray would have been too intense. Also, I only had one chance to set up because within a minute my tripod was frozen solid and wouldn’t be moveable again until a warm up in the car. Even though it was bitterly cold with a wind chill below zero, this was one of the most fun and unique experiences I have had doing winter photography.
Chip Phillips began his relationship with photography in 2006 when his father gave him his old Pentax Spotmatic film SLR camera. Chip was immediately hooked and soon made the transition to digital. Given his lifelong love of the outdoors, he naturally made the progression to focusing on landscape photography. A professionally trained classical musician, Chip also performs as Principal Clarinet with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, and is Adjunct Professor of Clarinet at Gonzaga University. Chip resides in Spokane Washington with his wife and son.