The Moulton Barns on Mormon Row are two historic and remarkably picturesque barns in Grand Teton National Park, frequently described as the most photographed barns in the world. Their idyllic setting in front of the Teton Mountains has made them a go to target for photographers from all over the world. Some photographers only have one chance to get it right though. Following this guide will make sure you leave with photos of the Moulton Barns that you’re happy with.
Which Barn to Look For
Along Mormon Row, there are plenty of structures that are historic and beautiful, but most people have their eyes on two specific barns: the T.A. Moulton Barn and the John Moulton Barn.
The John Moulton Barn is the one that receives the most traffic, found a bit closer to Antelope Flats Road, which cuts across Mormon Row. The T.A. Moulton Barn isn’t much farther away on the other side, but its parking area isn’t as visible, so the John Moulton Barn tends to receive a bit more traffic.
Both are incredibly scenic, so choosing which one is really a matter of personal preference. However they’re also so close together, why not capture both?
When to Photograph the Moulton Barns
The time of day can dramatically alter how he barns are rendered in a photo. The good news is that once you understand the layout in relation to the cardinal directions, it’s easy to choose a time that works best for you.
In essence, both the barns and the Teton Mountains both face east, which means you’ll want to be there for sunrise if you’re looking for some warm light on both. Keep in mind though that the mountains will be lit up well before the sun crests the Gros Ventre Mountain foothills that will be behind you. For this reason, it’s best to plan to stay for a bit if sunrise is your destination time.
Even if you don’t make it there for sunrise, there’s still plenty of great opportunities to photograph the Moulton Barns. I’ve had great success photographing them even in late morning, well after sunrise, especially if there’s a bit of weather producing at least a few clouds.
Late afternoon and sunset can be a trickier time since the lighting tends to be much harsher. Creating an image that successfully blends the shaded barn with the bright sun above tends to not work out too favorably. For this reason, it’s best to really only attempt a sunset if you have some nice clouds or weather creating some interesting lighting and backgrounds.
Likewise, staying out past sunset and capturing twilight and even the night sky can be a fun experience, especially if you’re not accustomed to shooting at that time.
Ideal Settings for Photographing the Moulton Barns
In most cases, you’ll likely want to capture one of the barns with the Teton Mountains rising high in the background, perhaps a bit of sky as well depending on cloud presence. To accomplish this, you’ll need to get a bit of distance from the barn.
Your first instinct might be to walk up and open up a wide angle lens on it. This might produce a nice effect in one sense, but all that’s going to do is shrink down the mountains behind it, making them more of an afterthought than a component of the photo.
Instead, back up several dozen yards. At the T.A. Moulton Barn, the back of the fence makes for a nice starting point, while at the John Moulton Barn, cross the small irrigation ditch and continue about a dozen yards further back. This will effectively frame the barn below the mountains, completing a beautiful rustic portrait of historic architecture.
In terms of camera settings to photograph the Moulton Barns with, you’ll want your aperture around f/16 to preserve all the depth you’re capturing. Shutter speed and ISO will of course depend on the time of day, but keep your ISO as low as possible, preferably around 100 if it’s near sunrise or sunset or anything in between.
Your focal length can definitely alter how the photo comes out. As mentioned, to wide and the Teton Mountains won’t be big enough to have any impact. Similarly, they’ll also be behind the barn where they’re not really adding anything to the photo.
If you use too high of a telephoto, then you’ll have move farther back which will cause the Tetons to be too big, which could have some interesting effects if done right. But if you want the classic look of the peaks rising just above the roof of the barn, there’s a specific sweet spot to get it right every time.
To capture the majesty of the Tetons rising above either of the historic and rustic barns, you’ll want a focal length somewhere in the range of 50-70mm. This of course will vary not only depending if you’re using a crop or full frame sensor, but also which barn you’re photographing. Try a few variations, which you’ll always want to do anyway with any subject, and see which combination works best for you.
There are plenty of ways to capture something as fantastic as the Moulton Barns in front of the Teton Mountains. While this guide describes tried and true techniques to get it right, never be afraid to try some new things to see if you can create something new that you love.
Want to photograph the Moulton Barns with an expert guide by your side? Sign up for a Grand Teton National Park private workshop with me to make sure you get the shot just right.