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This photo was taken at one of the times of day Jeff Diener considers “the sweet spot”—during sunrise or just before the sun sets. Fog in Teton Canyon allowed aspens to frame the fading light. “This was shot in a series at sunset during a time of cold, high pressure,” Diener says. “Earlier in the evening, I shot some dynamic backlit images with the setting sun, but as the valley fog settled, it blocked any direct light, so I zoomed into this scene highlighting the great moody contrasts of these treetops pushing through the fog.”
During a pre-dawn scouting mission up Cache Creek on a morning when temperatures hovered around -25 degrees, Diener found these patterns on a cabin window. “This beautiful artistry, the detail and symmetrical structure designed by nature, always blows me away,” he says.
Thick hoar frost decorates the branches of a willow along the banks of Flat Creek. Hoar frost is formed from water deposits frozen in humid conditions. Fragile, it covers most every branch on the coldest mornings and gives off a brilliant, sterile glow. “A slight wind or warming of the sun can strip these delicate crystals, so you’ve gotta get out there early before it’s gone,” Diener says.
“It was hard to motivate for this shot, since it was my third attempt at getting this composition,” Diener says. Also, most sunrises in the Tetons are bitterly cold. “Persistence does pay off, and in this case, I got about ten minutes of beautiful light and valley fog until more clouds moved in and obscured the peaks.”
A frigid day with high winds helps to form this banner cloud flagging off the summit of the Grand Teton. “After a full day of skiing, we headed back to town, and I was able to use a long lens to isolate the final breath of sunset glow backlighting the clouds,” he says.
“My eye is always attracted to natural [or man-made] lines that lead the eye into a photo,” says Diener. “The alignment of this fence line in a field near Spring Gulch, tied to the position of the setting sun, pulled me in. The deep shadows and contrast of this light pull out the awesome frozen textures of the snow and make the fence line a powerful piece of the image.”
In Jackson, walking out the front door is sometimes enough to find a great shot. Such was the case for Diener shooting this bridge near his home on Flat Creek. “Here we’re seeing some of the first light on a 30-below morning,” he says. The shadows from Snow King Mountain helped define the snow and cold. “Winter mornings I keep time using that point when the sun finally crests the Snow King ridgeline above town and blasts through the cold.”

 

Subzero

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF DEINER

For some photographers, the secret to shooting is not found in megabytes and file sizes. More often it’s being in the right place at the right time. For Jackson photographer Jeff Diener, capturing the beauty and grandeur of the Tetons dipped in the deep of winter produces artful photographs, a change of pace from his usual work shooting outdoor gear and products.

“My natural eye as a photographer is drawn to soulful, powerful compositions that pull a viewer into the shot,” says Diener, whose commercial work appears in Backpacker, Skiing, and Runner’s World. “I love to create shots with depth, texture, and mood. The deep shadows and those amazing pastel highlights help with elevating mood and drama.”

When he’s out scouting locations for product and gear shots, Diener zooms in on details that make the darkest time of the year interesting—from hoar-frost-laced landscapes draped in warm light to foggy, subzero mornings.

“No matter the time of day, it’s always key to simplify composition,” Diener says. “Zoom in or get closer to the most dramatic and important parts of the scene. Snow, fog, and clouds are great for simplifying a composition, and our winters offer a great palette for that.”

Diener has a few tips for when you’re out in the Teton winter, when average temperatures are 5 degrees and an average of eighty inches of snow falls on the valley floor. “Definitely carry an extra battery in a warm place [if it’s subzero] and a tripod for that golden-hour light,” he says. “Wear thin liner gloves inside warmer gloves or mitts so your skin is never exposed when dialing in the camera.”

He adds, “Whoever said, ‘Don’t shoot into the sun,’ was wrong. Shooting into the sun can give you some of the most dramatic, dynamic light with the sun star just out of frame or in your composition. Some cameras’ automatic sensors will underexpose, so be prepared to correct for this and have a lens hood to guard against flare when the sun is just out of the frame.” – Jeannette Boner

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