Winter in the Grand Tetons alternates between moments of absolute minimalism and brushes with nature's splendor, from blue moons to a diverse array of wildlife.
The first waves of a powerful winter storm approach the high ridges of the Tetons. Over the coming days more than 4 feet of snow will fall. It is a time of great solitude and profound silence.
A large bull moose pays little attention to the younger bull who stays respectfully behind. The younger moose may appear like he wants to challenge the larger bull, but it is an illusion. Both know such a challenge would end quickly.
When the winters are long, even horses get protective of their daily feed, chasing out this bull elk that had come for their winter hay.
To reach the Moulton Barn in mid winter can often require a difficult hike or ski across hip deep soft snow. But the effort can be worth it, as you experience this barn in the solitude and purity of winter.
An advantage to skiing is the opportunity to experience some higher regions of the Tetons, including the areas surrounding Sublette.
A bull moose slowly grazes his way across the sage meadow.
Five Cottonwoods. Trying to understand the essence of transcendent things requires sometimes a bit of silence, solitude and simplicity.
The crowds of summer are gone and Grand Teton National Park is often desolate in winter.
In the depths of winter, the Wyoming landscape can be exceptionally barren.
The desolate landscape is punctuated by a coyote that bravely searches for food in a blowing snow.
In most seasons Moulton Barn, built by Mormon settlers at the turn of the 19th century, is a crowded and trampled iconic scene in the Grand Tetons. I determined this winter to see it at its most inaccessible and simplest state. So after days of heavy snow, I embarked on the nearly one mile trek on snowshoes through unbroken 3-4 foot snow to reach the barn. It was an exhausting walk with occasional falls. Poles brought as an afterthought proved indispensable for balance and also just to get up at times. After more than an hour, I reached the barn. For a long time I just breathed it in, transcended to an earlier time, free of noise and distraction, conflict and sadness. There were only a few moose and wolf prints to be seen. The Tetons were cloaked in heavy clouds. In the silence, it stood. Still.
A bald eagle springs to flight from this dead cottonwood from which he had been perched surveying the landscape for food.
After hours of waiting, this eagle soars toward the Gros Ventre river where he might have better luck finding prey or a carcass. Winters are challenging for all creatures in the cold and snow of the Grand Tetons.
A bald eagle sits on a snow-covered branch of a cottonwood along the banks of the Gros Ventre river.
The crusty top on the deep snow is a mixed blessing to hunters like this red fox. It allows the fox to travel across the snow without expending huge energy sinking in. But it is also a crust that this fox must jump through when diving for rodents two or more feet below the surface. To do this, the fox must jump higher and enter vertically to reach the target. There is little room for error.
A red fox jumps high for food. He has stood intently where he first detected motion below the deep meadow snow. After locking in on the precise location, he has jumped some four feet in the air.
After jumping high, this fox tucks to begin his dive.
Straightening his dive, the fox prepares to hit mouth first. He knows he must enter the snow like a high diver into the water if he is to find his mark.
At impact the fox dives through the soft snow to catch a rodent that had moved at a most unfortunate time. When winter's snows become really deep, the athletic hops that many foxes posses become critical to survival. This red fox jumps at least four feet in the air to dive teeth first through several feet of snow to catch a rodent it had detected. A fascinating study shows that foxes kill almost 75 percent of the time when they jump 20 degree off magnetic north, 60 percent in the opposite direction and just 15% percent in other directions, suggesting that perhaps foxes uses earth's magnetic field as a range finder.
One of the great challenges when photographing our great mountains and sacred places is trying to find unique ways to convey what I have been blessed to see, to feel. Here, the Grand and surrounding peaks of the Teton range peak above the final wispy clouds of a departing storm, revealing peaks and ridges coated in snow and ice. These jagged, steep peaks won't hold this snow for long but for this moment, they stand as if painted white for heaven above
A full moon rises over the Gros Ventre.