Terra Galleria Photography

Photo Spot 13: Grand Teton National Park – Schwabacher landing


Among all the mountains in America, the Grand Tetons – rocky, jagged, and abruptly rising seven thousand feet above the valley of Jackson Hole – remind me the most of the Alps, on the high peaks where I had my first life-changing wilderness experiences that inspired me to become a photographer.

With many lakes laying in the valley, there are quite a few choices for photographing the Teton range reflected, but some are a bit too close, while others are a bit too far. The body of water which yields the best reflections is a modest pond, called the Schwabacher Landing. To reach it, watch for Schwabacher road, a dirt road 4 miles north of Moose Junction on hwy 191, and follow it to the end. Then walk a short distance along the river until you see a spot to your liking.

You will be shooting straight west. Since this is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful mountain scenes in America, many gather there for sunrise. A grad filter helps to brighten the reflection, but even though, I find that without clouds above the mountain (more likely in summer), the scene looks a bit flat because of the lack of cross-lighting.

You sometimes read that landscape photographers should just take a nap at mid-day, as the light is “bad” (this will be the subject of a future blog post), however, after photographing the scene at dawn and sunrise, I made sure to come back for a mid-day shot. I positioned the reflection better, since I had missed a better spot while setting up in a hurry before dawn, anticipating that the contrast of the cloudless sunrise would be to high. More importantly, the cross-lighting brings more relief to the mountains, and the polarization angle makes the autumn colors shine brightly. The enduring popularity of the resulting image (more on that later too) would seem to contradict that “golden rule” of landscape photography.

More images of Grand Teton National Park


  1. erik says:

    wonderful daytime image- looking forward to your thoughts on midday shooting.

  2. Sharlene says:

    Wow. I think these are some of my favorites of yours. We visited the Tetons this past summer and I fell in love. Thank you for bringing those memories back.

  3. QT, to follow up our twitter exchange. It is probably true that we both follow the golden rule in general, and there is always an exception, which is a rule that accompanies all general rules. Full front light, even if it is butter golden, lacks the contrast that gives interest to most all photos–in general. That factor alone plays a big part in the above two photos. Statistical analysis of my most interesting landscape photos is heavily weighted towards both low angle light and repeated display of contrast due to the angle of light. But as your popular photo above shows, there are some exceptions. I’m curious, it is your most popular photo for others, is it your favorite?

  4. QT Luong says:

    How are you supposed to choose amongst your children ? I don’t have a single favorite (or even a small set), however I do like the mid-day Grand Teton image a lot. Since there is no golden light 95% of the time, I believe that as a nature photographer, I also ought to show what the landscape looks like most of the time.

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