At the end of September I spent nine days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the Summit Photography Workshop learning about nature and wildlife photography. My first visit to Wyoming and for sure not my last. The workshop classrooms were located in the National Museum of Wildlife Art, just north of the town of Jackson at the southern end of Jackson Hole. It really should be called Jackson Valley since it is a very large flat valley encompassed on all sides by mountain ranges. The majestic Teton Range to the west and the Gros Ventre Range to the east. West of the valley is the Grand Teton National Park and a fairly short drive north is Yellowstone National Park. Can one ask for more?

The Summit Nature and Wildlife Workshop, also know as Photography at the Summit, is one of the finest nature and wildlife photography workshops in the country. Now in its 31st year, it offers its students the opportunity to learn and improve the art of nature and wildlife photography from a superlative group of professional photographers. Their work has appeared numerous times in National Geographic, Audubon, Outdoor Photographer, Nature Conservancy, Discover, Smithsonian and others. Through their photography these professionals strive to bring awareness to the rest of us about the beauty of the natural world we live in and how precious and fragile it is. They also work closely with conservation organizations in an effort to preserve and save our natural world.

The National Museum of Wildlife Art was a great place to hold classes and presentations for the workshop. On display it has a great collection of wildlife art from around the world expressed in all kinds of mediums. To top that, its architecture is exceptional. Overlooking the National Elk Refuge, it’s dramatically situated on the side of a hill and appears to emerge from the earth like a natural outcropping of stone. It is totally part of the natural landscape and as you drive by it chances are very high you will miss it. Don't. Stop and visit. Our field photography was done in the Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole. We looked for landscape and wildlife. For nature and landscape, you just couldn’t miss. All you had to do is point the camera and click the shutter. As for the wildlife, almost the same can be said but not entirely. Animals are on their own schedule and not ours. We did see elk, deer, moose, pronghorn, grizzly and black bears, bison, wolf, bald eagles, swans, grouse, ducks and small birds. But you had to be a bit lucky to be in the right location and at the right time of the day to get memorable images. Local knowledge from the instructors was priceless. As a group we did very well in the short time we had. I need to point out a very important thing especially for those from the city or suburbia and those who have not spent time in true wilderness. Hoping to get that killer shot of an animal there’s a great temptation to get off the road and chase the animal in it’s own environment. Not a very smart thing to do. I was guilty of that. We found this beautiful elk in a sagebrush field and I walked off the dirt road chasing it into the woods for a good distance. Once they see you, most if not all animals will avoid human contact and run away. The problem comes up when a photographer or hiker surprises an animal. That’s when their behavior is unpredictable. And bad things can happen. And remember; phone signal in most of those areas is spotty at best. Your personal safety first. Don’t chase animals in the fields.

In September Jackson Hole and the mountain ranges are magnificent. There’s snow on the peaks and the leaves are rapidly changing color. With winter around the corner Jackson Hole is one of the best skiing areas in the country. And wildlife is still very active. Thousands of elk migrate to the National Elk Refuge at the southern end of Jackson Hole. Also the largest single managed bison herd, more than 1,000, also spends the winter in the valley. Plenty of opportunities for photography.

It was a successful workshop for me and I learned a lot in a short time. We were a very diverse group of students from all over the country and overseas and we got along very well. New connections and friendships were made. There’s so much more to learn in this art and I have only skimmed the surface. A great place to practice and improve this knowledge is Summit Photography Workshops and Wyoming. Hope to return soon!

Photography at the Summit; Jackson Hole; Jackson Hole history; National Museum of Wildlife Art
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