The Grand Tetons – M3 -> DSLRs -> R -> 6D Mark II and M50

I have been a big advocate of the M series due to lens selection, image quality, compactness, and weight. However, my trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming I realized that a heavy full frame DSLR has its place. I shot Nikon film SLRs from 1982 to 2005, then Nikon DSLRs from 2005 until 2010 when I switched to Canon DSLRs. In 2015 I switched to the M3 and still shoot with it today and love the camera. I shot with DSLRs since there was no alternative. I recently bought 3 DSLRs to supplement my M3. Why? There are several great shots 30 seconds to 5 minute walk from the parking lot. Consequently, a small mirrorless camera isn’t necessary and a large DSLR and tripod can be easily carried. I ended up buying a 5D Mark IV, 7D Mark II, and a 5Dsr to shoot the Tetons. I added the EOS R in Nov 2018 and am most likely going to migrate to the RF mount and sell my DSLRs. See my review in progress of the R.

The Grand Tetons are relatively easy to shoot. They are a sunrise shot and have 5 distinct areas that should not be missed. I was there in September 2018-November 2018 and experienced rain, snow, smoke, 0F temps, fog, haze, no clouds, all in the same week. I do not recommend visiting here in Sept. I hear May is great, before the crowds and there is still a lot of snow on the mountains. Late Oct to late Nov can be a great time. I left before Thanksgiving.

The Snake River Overlook is where Ansel Adams shot this iconic image. This is the standard that most photographers try to live up to I suppose. Odd since a sunset shot here is the worst light unless there are clouds blocking it.

AdamsTetonsThis image works since the clouds obscured the bright sun, contrast of the snow, and the Snake River in the foreground. However, this is a rare occasion to get a sunset shot of the Tetons since the sun sets behind them. Moreover, the trees have all grown and obscure the river in the foreground. I recommend shooting at sunrise.

1) Snake River Overlook. The two shots below: M3 55-200 and no GND filter!IMG_1911

Don’t forget to shoot vertically. This is a 1 minute walk from the parking lot.


2) Schwabacher’s Turnout is where you can get an iconic shot as the sunrise just touches the Tetons. All shots below M3 with an 18-55. A one minute walk from the parking lot.

IMG_1771Five minutes later and the sun will light up the entire range. The reflection is what most of the photographers are looking for.IMG_1804-copyThe above composition had the bank of the river filled with photographers. I chose a different composition as you can see below. The light never lit up the Tetons and the clouds at the same time so the clouds lit up actually looked better.IMG_13483) Blacktail Ponds overlook is another great location to shoot the sunrise. There are often moose in this area. A 5-20 min walk from the parking lot.IMG_14134) This is sunrise from the Glacier View Turnout. You might get lucky with a clear day, clouds in the background, and some animals in the foreground, unfortunately I didn’t. A one minute walk from the parking lot.IMG_2059

5) The Barn on Mormon Row. Nov 1, 2018, 5D Mark IV, f/22, 1/30 24-70 at 37mm. A one minute walk from the car.


The lesson from the images above? Sept is a terrible time to visit. Smoke and lack of snow make for below average landscape shots. Late Oct to Dec is much better.

The M3’s sensor is impressive in terms of color rendition and dynamic range. It’s October 2018 and I’m now shooting this area with a 5Dsr. Though the resolution is amazing, it is a difficult camera to shoot with. The exposure is critical and 1/3-2/3 of a stop is very significant. The images are a little flat color wise so the M3 has much more latitude and base saturation so post is much easier. All of the images above were shot without any filters, the 5Dsr requires GND filters. I used a 3 stop on the image below.


5Dsr, ISO 100, f/22, 0.50 sec, 70-200 f/4 at 70mm, 3 stop GND
What you can’t see from the pic is the temp was 14F/-10C !

October and November are much better months to shoot compared to September. There is no smoke and there will hopefully be more snow on the Tetons. Snow gives the mountain range more contrast and character. Keep in mind the temps can drop to below 0F so see my tips on how to shoot in cold weather. Below are my shots from my 5D Mark IV and EOS R at the Tetons in Oct and Nov 2018: