On The Pages Of Popular Photography Magazine - Mike Contos
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So, a few weeks back I was contacted by a fellow from Popular Photography Magazine and asked to take part in a survey about my favorite photo adventures. From my beaming responses on the Tetons, which turned out to be the #1 landscape photography destination, they asked me to explain in more detail why I loved this place so much. So, I took an hour to sit down and look back at what made the Grand Tetons such a memorable place for me. I was, and still am, completely blown away that they decided to use some of my words in the actual article. It's only a paraphrased sentence, but boy, what an amazing feeling! So, I wanted to take the chance to share the write-up in its entirety and just what a incredibly special place the Tetons are. Also, to share some more photos from our time there!


WHY THE TETONS ARE #1

I felt the draw of the Grand Tetons since I was a young kid hearing the stories my mom would tell about the incredible beauty of the area she experienced in the summer of 1974 on a road trip after college and how it never left her. She always told us kids, “Overlooking the Snake River and the Grand Tetons - that’s where I want to be buried someday.” I remember searching for pictures of the area on our old dial-up internet and seeing, for the first time, Ansel Adam’s photograph overlooking the Snake River and the Grand Tetons slowly materialize in front of me. Years later when I got the chance to do a proper American road trip, one we coined “The Great American Road Trip”, full of America’s greatest National Parks from California to New York - I knew the first place that would go on my list.

The Tetons offer such a wide array of photographic opportunities. Where else can you be standing across the river from a momma moose and her calf one minute and watching sunset over arguably the most beautiful mountain range in the US the next? Having traveled quite a bit in my 27 years and been to nearly all the major National Parks – Grand Tetons is where I found myself overwhelmed with possibilities as a photographer. I was up at 4am every morning and not back into my sleeping bag ‘til at least midnight every night. There’s something about that river valley and the way it concentrates wildlife – the bear, the buffalo, the moose, the fox, the beaver – under the shadow of that iconic mountain range that is unparalleled anywhere else. Sure, other National Parks have more wildlife or taller mountains, but they lack the spirit and rawness of the Grand Tetons. Take for example, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons conjoined sister park to the North – it has multitudes more wildlife by numbers, but it also has multitudes more people. There’s something about seeing a family take a few steps from their car and snap selfies next to a buffalo as if it’s a goat at a petting zoo that ruins the elation of seeing a majestic animal so close. In the Tetons, it’s easier to find yourself off the beaten path and away from the masses, and if shoulder to shoulder to anyone, it’s with closer minded photographers that appreciate and respect that moment as you do.

In one sentence, I think of it like this: Grand Teton is to photographers what Yellowstone is to families crammed in RV’s – it’s the Mecca of our National Parks. It has a rich diversity in scenery, wildlife, and nature that is without equal.

As for places to shoot - there are endless opportunities strewn throughout that valley. I would recommend narrowing it down to two or three spots and then returning there at different times of the day over a few days. As a well traveled person will hear many times, in many places - if you don’t like weather in Teton County, wait 5 minutes and it’ll change. The light is always changing, and likewise, so will your photos. The Teton mountain range is a spectacular ribbon of granite laid out from North to South – creating the perfect canvas to capture both that morning glow and that stunning sunset. Three places that you’re guaranteed to get some amazing shots are: Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s landing, and Mormon Row. Now, these are some extremely popular spots with photographers so I’d recommend showing up early and taking a walk around to find your desired composition and then post up and wait for that perfect lighting. But, I guarantee you this – if you show up and put yourself anywhere in the middle of this stunningly beautiful, majestic, raw place – it will not only change your photography, it will change you.

Thank you all for reading and your incredible support! 

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