Earthquakes, glaciers, and other powerful forces in nature shaped the serrated peaks, glacial lakes, and U-shaped canyons of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Dramatically rising up from the Jackson Hole Valley, the park’s namesake Tetons are one of North America’s youngest mountain ranges at less than 10 million years old. This relative youthfulness gives Grand Teton a jagged swagger; a look creating a dramatic backdrop and climbing playground for National Geographic photographer and adventurer Jimmy Chin.
“I really am interested in that intersection of what happens when you put people in extraordinary landscapes,” says Chin, who lives in nearby Jackson, Wyoming and considers the National Park his backyard. “The mountains drew me in because they seem like the greatest places for adventures.”
One of Chin’s favorite climbing routes is located on the near-vertical main wall at Blacktail Butte. Some 40 climbing routes crisscross the sage- and tree-covered butte, with the most technically difficult sport climbs found on the Lower Blacktail main wall. It’s here that Chin brings Samsung #TeamGalaxy Creator Laura Szanto and Ty Anderson, a Grand Prize winner in the “Beyond the Frame” photo contest.
The contest, hosted on the @NatGeoYourShot Instagram account earlier in 2020, invited people to upload photos to their Instagram account showing what inspires them to get out and shoot every day. Winners earned the opportunity to go on-location with a NatGeo photographer and learn how to take astonishing images with the new Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.
Anderson, a waterfall photographer from St. George, Utah, and Szanto, a photographer and adventure athlete from Revelstoke, British Columbia, are first-time Grand Teton visitors. Chin is guiding the pair on a quest to capture an epic sunset shot of elite climber Savannah Cummins as she makes her way up the wall.
“It’s always nice to bring in people who have never been here, who have a new vision and perspective,” says Chin as he leads his fellow photographers up the wooded hiking trail adjacent to the limestone rock face.
While Cummins remains at the base of the wall and gears up to make the climb, Chin, Anderson, and Szanto hustle to get in position well before the sun is gone. Using the compact and versatile Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G for the shoot negates the need to carry extra gear, giving the photographers the freedom to get a good angle on the action and easily shift gears to adapt to the changing light.
Szanto stakes out a trailside perch with a clear view of the wall and the towering Grand Tetons beyond. Anderson follows Chin to the top, stopping to take in the awe-inspiring panorama of blue sky, bright-white clouds, and knife-edged mountains that, while young, are mainly made up of 2.7 billion-year old metamorphic rock called gneiss.
With Anderson stationed atop the butte, Chin rappels down the wall, hanging alongside Cummins to mirror her climb. She purposely takes a little “whipper,” falling slightly in an arcing, whip-like motion. Chin films the action using the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G’s 8K Video Snap. The feature makes it possible for Chin to do the seemingly impossible: scroll through the video timeline, find the best moment, and snap the frame to pull out a fantastic still photo—all while hanging from climbing ropes on Blacktail Butte.
To frame a shot of Chin and Cummins on the wall backed by the Grand Tetons, Anderson expands his view with the Ultra-Wide Lens, part of the professional grade camera system on the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. Much wider than standard wide-angle smartphone cameras, the Ultra-Wide Lens delivers a 123-degree field of vision.
“Absolutely stunning,” says Anderson, as he looks at the jaw-dropping image he just captured. “It really is inspiring to be so creative on the fly and to actually be able to put into fruition the things you would like in the moment. Being here with Jimmy is an absolute dream come true… I had the best time.”