Jackson Photography Tours

Capture Wildlife and Landscape Shots in Wyoming’s National Parks

Deanna Devey | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Mar 12, 2018

Many people dream of photographing iconic nature images like bugling elk and standing grizzly bears or perfectly lit landscapes. However, most national park-goers don’t have the knowledge and expertise needed to make those photographs reality.   

In Jackson, Wyoming, tour companies increase the chances of capturing that perfect shot through photo safaris — excursions that help photographers of all skill levels take beautiful wildlife and landscape photos in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

 Jason Williams, owner of Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, captured unique wildlife photos working as a snowmobile guide, which gave him the idea to combine a guided tour with photography instruction. For more than a decade now, he’s been sharing his insider knowledge to help others have similar experiences.

“The guides teach you where to look, how to look and how to be prepared,” says Kevin Kiernan, Community magazine’s art director, who went on several photography tours in the Jackson area. “You get to know the habits of the animals and learn about the ecosystems. I learned more about Grand Teton in six hours than in three previous visits.” 

Bull moose among the autumn leaves
Bull moose

Choosing a Tour

Most of the companies offer a variety of half-, full- and multiday tours, and the excursions are often private.

“We will look for what you want to see,” says Jack Bayles, owner of Jack Bayles Photography. “If you want to see a grizzly bear, we will spend all day looking for grizzly bears. If you want to spend all day looking for iconic landscapes, that’s what we’ll do.”

Both Bayles’ and Williams’ tours also provide photography instruction. Expect to learn techniques appropriate to your skill level. This may include information about time lapse, shutter speed versus aperture, ISO settings, rule of thirds, depth of field and so forth.

“We adjust the instruction up or down depending on where people are at,” Williams says. “One of our instructors is a Nikon professional shooter while another teaches photography for Texas Christian University and has won 14 Emmys.”

In addition to photography tours, many tour companies offer similar wildlife safaris, which focus on sightseeing, helping tourists spot animals, and providing education about the history and ecology of the area. These wildlife-viewing tours offer many opportunities to take pictures but don’t provide specific photography instruction.

Avoid surprises and make sure you understand in advance what you’re booking and what services are included.

Elk clashing with their antlers

Helpful Hints

If you intend to stay in the Jackson Hole area several days, plan your tour near the beginning of your vacation. You can learn from an expert before exploring on your own. You’ll know how to look for animals and can revisit the best wildlife areas.

Bring your own camera equipment and any special lenses because there are no places in Jackson to rent these items. Some photo tour companies will lend equipment, but find out before you go. Also, bring your camera manual so the instructors may more effectively assist you.

Entrance into the parks is often not included in the tour fee so bring a national park pass if you have one. During your tour day, expect to start early in the morning when the light is best for taking photos and the animals are most active.

Understand you may not see every wild animal you hoped for. Tour companies make every effort to find wildlife for you to photograph, but as Bayles says, “Wildlife is wild; it does what it wants and works on its own schedule. Sometimes it’s not going to do what you want.”

Bayles’ full-day tour focuses on photo instruction and experimentation with techniques during the afternoon hours when it’s more difficult to spot wildlife. Photographers can then implement their new skills when the animals become more active again in the evening.

“You could study for an entire semester and not learn as much as you would in a day of doing it,” Bayles says.

Bayles and Williams say there is no better classroom than Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

“The goal is to get people excited about these national parks,” Bayles says. “Then they’re more likely to go home and feel invested in keeping them healthy and the animals protected.”

Bison grazing in grasslands near a lake
Bison in Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park

Tour Operators

The following companies offer photo tours in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

AlpenGlow Tours

EcoTour Adventures

Jack Bayles Photography

Jackson Hole Grand Expeditions

Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris

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