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This panorama photograph of Grand Teton (13,775′, 4198m) and Mt. Owen was taken from the Cascade Canyon North Fork after a thunderstorm one summer evening. The setting sunlight piercing through the heavy storm clouds set a dramatic mood against the dramatic skyline of the highest mountains within the Cathedral Group.
Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern USA just 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park. The jagged peaks of the Teton Range rise dramatically out of the Great Plains to an altitude of 13,800′ (4200m). Grand Teton’s pristinely preserved wilderness features valleys covered with Columbine and Indian Paintbrush wildflowers, raging mountain rivers and rugged, snow-covered peaks. The park is home to many different kinds of animals including grizzly bears, elk, moose and marmots. Due to its stunning beauty, Grand Teton National Park is one of America’s most popular national parks.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
It was my first evening of a three day photography backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park. My initial plan was to climb as high as I could into the North Fork on the first night in order to get the best photos, as a park ranger had advised me. However, due to fatigue I had to settle for a campsite a lot further down the North Fork. I was very disappointed with myself to say the least.
Even so, the place I ended up in was incredibly beautiful. I had a stunning, unobstructed view of Mt. Owen and Grand Teton, a gushing mountain river and a valley filled with wildflowers every color of the rainbow at the peak of their bloom.
As the heat of the day began to subside and the evening light became nice for photography, I headed out to explore my beautiful wonderland to hopefully get some great shots. However, as soon as I pulled out my camera, right on cue, a thunderstorm came over the mountains, and the rain pelted down. I quickly dove back into my tent and wondered how long it would last.
I sat there in my tent quite disappointed that my plan, which I had carefully researched, made and paid for from half a world away was falling to pieces just as soon as it had begun. I had not made it to the “best spot” for photos, and now, a rainstorm was robbing me of my “golden hour” primo photography time on my only night in this location.
All of a sudden that thought was interrupted by what felt like the ground shaking underneath me.
What???? Was this an earthquake???
There it was again!!
I had never experienced an earthquake before. Then I could hear some of the small boulders above me teetering and knocking together. Was that a grizzly bear walking over those loose boulders? Or were they shaking because of the tremor? To this day, I don’t know.
(However, when I looked into it later, I learned that Grand Teton National Park had closed off a nearby section of the park only fourteen days prior to my visit due to a geological fissure opening up in the rocks due to tremors. Grand Teton National Park experiences many earthquakes due to its close proximity to geologically volatile Yellowstone National Park, so perhaps I really did feel a minor earthquake…)
In the midst of the thunderstorm, the probably earthquake and the probably just in my head grizzly bear, my thoughts turned from disappointment to prayer. As I waited out the storm I spoke to the Lord and read my Bible. Then, as the rain and my disappointment began to subside I poked my head out of the tent and saw this AMAZING sight!
AH HA!!! Forget all my plans, Lord! This is incredible!!! Thank you, Lord!!! Your plan is much better than mine!
All along I thought these hindrances to my plan were going to wreck my photos, when, in fact, all along God was putting me in the perfect place at the perfect time to capture the perfect photo (well, at least a really pretty photo, in my humble opinion). And as every landscape photographer knows, landscape photography is all about being in the perfect place at the perfect time in the perfect light.
Thank you, Lord, for guiding my steps, and please help me always yield to you as you direct them, even when they are different from my plan.