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Tips on Photographing Jackson Hole at Night

Local photographer Matthew Brucker has set himself apart from others in his field by capturing Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park at night.  Having recently relocated to the area, Matthew shares some insider tips and inspiration for taking beautiful, nighttime landscapes and skyscapes in and around Jackson Hole.


Seeing Jackson Hole in a New Light: Darkness
By: Matthew Brucker

I’ve heard its said that there are two kinds of people that move to Jackson Hole: those that have made their millions and those that never will. I completely disagree. Once you step outside here, you’ve made it.

I’ve been visiting the Jackson Hole area on and off for the last 8 years, and can now officially call it home. The first thing I did after unpacking was grab my camera and head to Grand Teton National Park, which is only about 5 miles away. It’s almost impossible to take a bad shot in the Tetons. There are overlooks and photo spots all along the valley and even when busloads of tourists show up, there’s still plenty of elbowroom.

One of my favorite times to shoot is at night. Advances in even the most “beginner” cameras are enough to take stunning images at night. There is a steep but short learning curve. Validation came one summer evening when I was out shooting the Perseid meteor shower at the Moulton Barn in the heart of Grand Teton National Park.

I expected the area to be packed, but found myself all alone (except for the coyotes about 100 yards off!) At midnight, a group of ladies showed up and proceeded to try shooting the barns and the meteors. Listening in silence for a while, I realized they were struggling. I showed them a few tips on focus and exposure and within minutes they were gasping at the images coming out of their cameras.

During the summer months, the core (brightest portion) of the milky way is visible to the naked eye. At at 6,000 ft + in elevation and over 100 miles from the nearest “major” city, Jackson Hole boasts a phenomenaly dark sky.

We are ramping up to the “solar maximum” in 2014, an 11-year cycle of the sun’s activity. This puts the Jackson Hole area on the radar for the northern lights! The image below was shot during a solar flare on October 1, 2013.

The area comes alive at night, and with one of the lowest population densities in the United States, you are almost guaranteed your own spot! Even if you don’t plan on shooting, bring a lawn chair, a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa and just look up! You’ll see things you’ve NEVER seen before.

Here’s an image where you can clearly see the spiral galaxy Andromeda in the top-right corner. This was shot on a wide-angle lens and I’m showing this because it’s wider than the human eye. Our eyes “magnify” this more than the image below.

Anyone familiar with the Jackson Hole area will probably recognize the locations these photos were taken, but with night photography, you can make the familiar look different and new.

Here’s one last image shot in the early morning hours before the sun came up. It’s difficult to tell, but I still had to use a flashlight to get around! By the way, that’s the moon in the picture, not the sun.

To see more images of the area, visit:
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