“Jackson Hole Photo Shoot”
Darrel L. Hammon
Take perfect weather, incredible scenery that surrounds the majestic Tetons, one-on-one tutoring from a renowned photographer, great company, and you have a phenomenal day. Thursday, July 7, 2011 was one of those days. My brother, my wife, and I trundled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to participate in a great photo shoot.
Of course, to take the kind of pictures a professional like my brother Dennis is, you have leave at “o’dark thirty” in order to catch the best light. So, we did, crawling out of bed at 3:35 a.m. and leaving the house to pick up Dennis on Highway 26 around 4:10 a.m. Now, some may say that is way too early. Well, I can tell you that by the time we arrived, we were, according to Dennis, about 15 minutes too late for the best light. But we definitely were not deterred by this 15-minute delay. There were pictures to be taken.
Before I embark on this photo shoot, I have to stop here and say this: Dennis is a professional photographer; I like to take pictures. There is a huge difference, perhaps even a mega-difference. Dennis knows everything about lighting, composition, exposure, texture, lenses, cameras, etc., etc., etc. I basically look at a scene, determine whether it appeals to me, and begin clicking shots. Now, on the other hand, Dennis takes pictures of everything—the whole barn, bits and pieces of the barn, the barn wood, the eaves, the windows, the frame on the windows, the flaky paint, the rusty nails that jut out of the barn and windows, the mosquitoes hovering around the windows, the flowers or weeds growing in and around the barn, and numerous other shots. He’s got the eye for “the shot”; I just have two eyes that see a particular scene. So, I learned a great many lessons watching him. It’s like the driver on the movie Sabrina. He became a millionaire like his boss who he toted around in the big car. When his boss bought stock, he bought only in smaller quantities; when his boss sold, he sold. I watched Dennis take a particular shot, and I would take the same shot. Of course, his camera and lenses are much better than mine, but I still took advantage of what he shot. Thus, I captured a few good shots. Really!
Our first photo session was the famous John Moulton barn, probably the most photographed barn in the entire world. It just happens to be situated in a gorgeous green pasture, surrounded by lush green grasses, with the majestic Tetons clamoring in the background. By the time we arrived, there were already several photographers there. Dennis and I climbed out of the Avalon, anxiously grabbed our cameras, affixed them to the tripods, hefted our camera accessory packs to our shoulders, maneuvered our way to the barn, and took our places in and around the barn where we set up shop. Each time we took a shot, the clouds changed, thus covering the sun for a brief second, which in turn created a new lighting image for the photographers.
Soon, we moved on to the other Moulton homestead buildings, shooting shots from a far and then moving closer in. To some people, the buildings may be old and decrepit. To photographers, they are a dream, full of texture, light, and other important photography things. The oldness only adds to the potential details. Plus, with the drifting clouds that day, the light changed after every photo. I enjoyed shooting the various windows, the old door and its framing, the shadows on the old house, the little vermin that scurried from one hole to the next, and those stunning Tetons that forever majestically loom in the distance. Even I could take a pretty good picture. After a zillion shots, we were ready to move on.
Next stop: Schwabaucher’s Landing. What an incredible spot off the road, about 16 miles out of Jackson Hole. When we arrived, two vans were already there plus a few other cars. We quickly grabbed our cameras and headed out. The two vans were full of photographers on a “picture taking expedition.” We arrived at the choice spots, set up, and took our pictures. They came upon us like locust on a wheat field, their cameras hanging from every limb. I was amazed at the number of cameras each had and the quality of their cameras and lenses. I whispered this to Dennis. His reply was classic: “They may have excellent cameras and stuff, but that doesn’t mean they know how to use them.” One guy grabbed his camera by the bottom of the tripod, hung it upside down over the pond, and took a series of pictures. Perhaps his technique was one of the “professional” techniques found in some photography book, but I just hoped he didn’t drop it in the water. Dennis just shook his head, rolled his eyes, and gave me that “well-I-told-you-about-these-types.”
Our final stop was a “Dennis Hammon” secret place, just down the road a few miles, then off road down a dirt road that ran along an old buck fence. We stopped and climbed out of the car. Wow! was the one word that slipped out of my mouth. No one was here, except a huge swarm of monster mosquitoes who felt we were invading their territory. Aside from Mt. Moran being shrouded with clouds, the view was more than spectacular! It was phenomenal. I took several shots, knowing that I could stitch them together, using Photoshop’s photomerge. In fact, I could wait to get home to do it. Also, there were several yellow browned-eyed Susans, scattered everywhere and gloriously tucked in and around the buck fence.
Too soon, the clock hands cried out that it was time to go; so, we headed back. Since we hadn’t eaten since 3:25 a.m. hunger pangs overtook us. Besides the mosquitoes had taken several 100 cc’s of blood from Dennis. We trundled into Jackson Hole and decided to eat at the famous Bubba’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant. My “Combination of sliced beef and pork simmered in our sauce between two hunks of garlic toast” and a scoop of coleslaw were mouth-watering and divinely delicious.
Our trip home was nostalgic, traveling past West Piney camp where Joanne and I spent time at Young Women’s camp; through Swan Valley, one of my most favorite places in the world; and along the Snake River, now almost overflowing its banks. We dropped Dennis off and thanked him profusely.
Just think of it: spending a day with and being tutored by a renowned photographer, capturing great hints about photography, learning something about your camera you didn’t know before, and capturing phenomenal scenes with the Tetons in almost every shot. What could have been better?
Note: More Jackson Hole photos are on my Facebook page.