The sun rising above the Gros Ventre Mountains and the southern end of Jackson Hole covered in fog. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

This year was far more productive than in years past thanks to plentiful opportunities that I began to take advantage of in the spring. While the year began at a relatively slow start, I completely embraced moving back to Kelly, Wyoming after living in Victor, Idaho, making the most of every opportunity. Armed with a new lens and camera, I began pushing myself early in the spring to finally capture some photos of the famous, Grizzly Bear #399 and her astounding four cubs, finally achieving success only after my daughter caught sight of them for her first time. As tourists began to inevitably crowd the bear encounters, I began on a new project with the goal of acquiring as much good photography as I could from Grand Teton National Park’s maintained backcountry trails. Though I will need to still fill in some gaps next season as well, I was delighted that I hiked nearly 700 miles along those trails. As the summer faded and winter got off to an aggressive start, I made the most of the National Elk Refuge, capturing both the bighorn sheep and elk migrating into the preserved land.

Continue reading to learn about the backstory to each image, and why I chose it as that month’s favorite image. Each image is also linked to its place in its respective gallery, so feel free to browse more around an image you like!

January (above)

Early one January morning, I was bringing my daughter over Teton Pass when I couldn’t help but notice a striking sunrise. Still engulfed in a far cry from the life I ended the year with, my selection in January was pretty limited. Regardless, I still look at this image with great appreciation for what it represented for the year as a whole.


Earth’s shadow settling over the Teton Mountains and the runoff from Kelly Warm Spring during the winter season. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

February was a bit of a lull photographically, however I still managed to make a trip over to Grand Teton National Park from time to time. Despite a weak snow season, this warm creek provided a fantastic setting for sunrise that hid the dryness of the season.


The Fremont Gorge twisting below the North Overlook on the Overlooks Trail. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Thanks to a brief, but productive trip to southern Utah, I was able to get more use out of my camera than I had in months. Exploring Horseshoe Bend and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument reignited some of my passions for road tripping, hiking, and photographing the southwest. And while I came away some imagery I truly love, it was this simple image from The Overlooks Trail in Capitol Reef National Park that really resonated with me. Something about Capitol Reef always nourishes my soul when I need it most.


A bighorn sheep ram silhouetted against sunset on top of a rocky ridgeline on Miller Butte. National Elk Refuge, Wyoming

With bear activity relatively low, and with my living situation still in Victor, Idaho, capturing the bighorn sheep before they made their migration out of the area was an exciting opportunity, also because I had recently upgraded to a new lens with special thanks to a friend. There were plenty of great photos that I was able to come away with before the sheep headed for higher ground, but it was this proud stance by a ram under a cloudy sky at the end of the day that really struck me. I knew it would make a great black and white, and so after making the conversion, felt completely justified in my new purchase.


I try to avoid vertical images for posts like this, but this one was too perfect to pass up. Having already finally gotten Grizzly #399 and her four cubs in one shot, I lined myself up with less than a handful of other photographers hoping for a similar shot. While they were all armed with large telephoto lenses, I had my trusty 24-105mm on my camera, already visualizing a best-case scenario shot. From my experience, wildlife, especially grizzly bears, rarely cooperate for that ideal shot that I’ve pre-visualized. After several minutes of waiting, I began to give up, realizing that this would be just another shot I wanted that wouldn’t come together. That is until one of the cubs came running into the scene. Within seconds, 399 herself and the remainder of the cubs all came scrambling into a gorgeous shot along a pond below Mount Moran and Willow Flats. Capturing five bears in one shot is a big enough challenge, but capturing them all in an ideal setting was confirmation that I was doing something right.

The famous Grizzly Bear #399 guiding her cubs by a beaver pond below Mount Moran. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


The sun rising over the horizon beyond a backpacking campsite in Paintbrush Canyon of the Teton Mountains. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Though I had started my hiking adventures in May, June was when I really kicked things into high gear. I was covering more miles than I had in years. Similarly, it dawned on me that I hadn’t gone backpacking in over five years. So while I came away with plenty of backcountry scenes from Grand Teton National Park that I really enjoyed, this sunrise against my backpacking tent on my first backpacking trip in too long of a time was icing on the cake for a summer that was already off to a fantastic start.


The Jenny Lake Loop winding through ferns along Jenny Lake at dawn. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

If I’m remembering right, July was by far my most productive month in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park. While there were, as with last month, plenty of images to choose from, one of my most memorable hikes was a simple hike to the park’s most popular hiking destination, Inspiration Point. The catch, though, was that I was hiking there before sunrise. I was alone on the trail. The entire journey was encapsulated in that special pre-sunrise soundtrack of silence, broken only by a few early risers that call the bushes home.


A light fog lifting from Bearpaw Lake below the Teton Mountains as the calm waters reflect the surrounding forests. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

When I think of places I love camping in Grand Teton National Park, Bearpaw Lake isn’t typically near the top of my list. And yet, this scene just before sunrise captures a true mountain wilderness like few others I’ve been able to capture. Perhaps it’s because it’s from a typically unseen vantage point, or perhaps it perfectly captures the feeling of waking up in the park’s wilderness at a silent landscape against a glacial lake.


The Cathedral Group of Teton peaks rising above Lake Solitude at sunset. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

One of my favorite places to camp in Grand Teton National Park is the North Fork of Cascade Canyon. I had, for whatever reason(s), waited until the end of September to finally camp there. My goal was to not only get some nice shots of Lake Solitude, such as this one, but to capture the Milky Way above the Tetons from an ideal campsite in the canyon. The only problem was I was about two months late for that shot. Look for it next year.


A light dusting of snow settling on fall leaves on ground brush. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

My hiking days in the park came to an end in October, not because the snow was already coming in too heavy then, but because after some family came to visit, I came down with a nasty sinus infection. By the time I had recovered, my endurance that I had built up over the summer had dwindled. I still got in some hikes, but the mileage wasn’t what I was achieving just weeks prior. Once the season’s first snowfall fell during that time, I went to the nearby Gros Ventre Campground to look for some critters. Not finding any, I instead turned my attention to the ground, where some late fall leaves were still holding on. My first few attempts didn’t quite capture what I was hoping for, so in order to get this shot, I was lying down completely flat on my stomach in a fresh coating of snow along the main drive of the campground. Fortunately, it was closed for the season.


A bighorn sheep ram standing between snowy hills as a light snow falls. National Elk Refuge, Wyoming

With winter arriving in full force nearly as soon as November started, I turned my attention to the National Elk Refuge and the winter inhabitants that migrate in each year. I spent a lot of time with the bighorn sheep anticipating their rut, which oddly, never really materialized. This was confirmed by numerous other people frequenting the refuge as well. Despite this, I still did my best to at least get some nice portraits of the sheep in their natural winter elements, but none of them were as simple but effective as this one.


A large elk herd migrating up Miller Butte in two different paths. National Elk Refuge, Wyoming

In early December I was driving toward the backside of the National Elk Refuge to begin my day much like each other day in early winter. However, while driving along Highway 89 toward the town of Jackson and along the west side of the refuge, I was struck by an unusual pattern draped over the west side of Miller Butte. As I stared at it longer, I was able to make out that it was hundreds, or even thousands of elk migrating up the butte. I then realized I should really take a photo of it. (Assuming my last week of December doesn’t produce anything this nice), it not only became one of my favorite black and white photos I’ve ever taken, but a fitting end to a year that saw me getting back to all the reasons I initially moved to Jackson Hole to begin with.

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  1. Pingback:2022 in Review: Sharing Top Work From My Peers | Max Waugh

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