The night was very short. I was already up at 5am, but I can’t say I slept well. Something about being alone in bear country, it seems. It has been a long time since I camped alone in these mountains and… I guess you could say I lost the habit. Being at the bottom of the food chain can play tricks on your mind. The sun came up and painted the Tetons of a beautiful orange color. These are the moments that make a trip worth it, when the nature wakes up and there’s nothing but beauty around you. After taking some sunrise photos I went back to sleep, and I napped for a while.
I made some coffee and breakfast and snapped a few more photos. The sun started to warm up considerably, the sky was blue and there was no even a breeze. It seemed like a good time to fire up the drone and took some breathtaking aerial shots, except that…
… Controller battery dead. How is it possible? I know I left it to charge the day before leaving. I plugged it in my portable charger and left it charging for nearly two hours. After going through the whole setup process again still nothing… controller dead. I did some research online to figure out if I was missing something, then later tried to plug it in in a wall outlet at a friends’ house in case the charger wasn’t enough and… still nothing. Eventually I had to send the controller back to DJI for being defective. Online search showed I wasn’t the only one having this problem with the Mavic Air 2 Controller. It took about 12 days to have it returned to me in working order. So that was the beginning and the end of aerial photography and video. As you can imagine I was quite disappointed since I was staying in one of the very few (only?) places in Jackson Hole were flying a drone is allowed. And thank to Murphy’s law, what was supposed to be a sunny week started turning for the bad. The wind picked up pretty quickly, before I knew it the sky was covered and dark and rain looked imminent. I decided to break camp and go see some friends in town (thank you Christie and Sargent). I’ve camped in the rain on more than one occasion and it’s not a problem, my real concern was having to ride my heavy motorcycle on a road that is steep and technical and was about to become slippery. I couldn’t risk dropping the bike, and then being unable to pick it up with its over 600 lbs (about 250Kg) or worse get injured in the middle of a lightning storm. I know those Rocky Mountain storms, they’re no joke.
I joined some friends in town and the next morning rode to Grand Teton National Park to hike with another friend. We decided on a classic: Hidden Falls behind Jenny Lake. It’s an easy 2 miles hike each way with little elevation gain. Good part of the trail coasts the lake while the rest is buried in the forest, you can’t go wrong. The video of the hike can be found in my YouTube channel, here’s the link.
The following day I packed my motorcycle again and prepared for another great camping location in the middle of Jackson Lake: Elk Island. This is a fairly large island with several campsites far from each other and a few mule deer that roam around showing no fear (and no interest) in people. They actually came to the camp a few times. At the Jackson Lake boat dock you can renter kayaks, and it’s totally worth it, but watch for the weather as mountain weather can change quickly and you don’t want to be caught in the middle of the lake when the wind picks up.
My friends pick me up at the dock with their boat and after setting up camp we went for a boat tour of the lake. I remember saying: how can there be so much beauty in just one place?
This is Jackson Hole, after all. Every corner is a wonder. We made it under Mount Moran (one of the most professionally photographed mountains in the world) and boated along the western shore of the lake before returning to camp for dinner. The night came (and so did the mosquitoes) and after spending a while at the campfire I moved away from the light to shoot some night photos. I explained the process for those not familiar and it will be the topic of another video that I haven’t published yet. I wanted to get one of those classic camping photos with a tent lit from the inside and the starry sky in the background. For this shot a tripod is absolutely necessary, and preferably a remote control for the camera. I set the camera to 6400 ISO (I will let Topaz Labs DeNoise AI remove the unwanted noise, I love this software, if you decide to buy copy you can get a discount with code RideWyoming)
and the focus set to infinity with a f/5.6 opening and 25 seconds of exposure. Clicked on the shutter and ran inside the tent to light it up with a quick flash from my flashlight. With an ISO that high you don’t want to leave the light on too long or the image will be burned. It takes a bit of trial and error but soon you will get the results you like. And don’t worry about appearing in the image, if the scene is completely dark you won’t, but for good measure you should wear some dark clothes.
The next morning I woke up early to snap some sunrise photos. The water and the air were still and the mountains tinged in a pink-orange color. Mountain flowers were in full bloom and dotting the grass of blue and red and spots. This scene seemed to be taken out of a painting. After a nice breakfast it was packing time again and I hitched a boat ride to the shore where I started my ride back home, once again going through Yellowstone. I took my time to absorb the views, the smell of the woods and wildflowers and rode with my spirit full of life. These moments are special, life must be enjoyed as it comes, for time to play is so limited.
Head to YouTube for Part IV of this camping trip:
Or watch the whole series here: