Moon Over Mount Moran

By Noel Casaje

Few places in the US can rival the magnificence of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park during autumn. Within the park, there is perhaps no other location more popular than Oxbow Bend. The lush swathes of fall foliage under Mt. Moran is just impossible to ignore. So iconic is this location that I marked this spot as a priority stop for our photo trip last September.


As fate would have had it, I lost my tripod the day before while we were shooting in Schwabacher Landing. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a ballhead, which I attached to my Platypod, and I was able to carry on shooting in Oxbow Bend.

Being close to the peak of autumn colors, there were easily more than 50 photographers waiting for sunrise that clear morning. I surmised that had there been a forecast for cloudier skies, the number of photographers could have easily doubled.

It felt very strange to be among a crowd of tripods and finding myself the only one sitting on the ground, making low-angle compositions with my camera on the Platypod. I thought that even if I had my tripod with me, I would still have brought out the Platypod just to see if I could get a more unique composition.

One of the challenges of shooting at Oxbow Bend is the riverbank's dearth of good foreground elements. This is the reason most photographers just opt for a straight up reflection shot. I had previously scoured the entire area and could only find these two small rocks by the water's edge. 

The extremely low vantage point afforded by using a Platypod allowed me to get a different perspective of the iconic location.

While I first tried to do a single vertical shot, I didn't like how that left too much of the foreground rocks out of the shot.




I next tried a vertorama using 3 horizontal shots (and focus stacking on the bottom 2 frames). I used the long end of my 24-70 lens to increase the apparent size of Mount Moran as well as take advantage of the lens' compression effect. The Platypod was perfectly stable even while I was swinging the camera up and down to capture the frames for this vertorama.

In post-processing, I increased the moon's size by 10% to better approximate what I saw the morning. I also cleaned up a bit of mud around the foreground rock and took out a couple of out-of-place pebbles. I hope you enjoy my take on this popular, iconic location.

Noel Casaje is Nikon 100 photographer and avid student of light. Follow Noel for more beautiful images on Instagram!