On the evening of March 24, 1997 I headed out to Grand Teton National Park to see if I could photograph the Comet Hale-Bopp everyone was talking about. At that time I hadn’t shot that many long exposure images of the night sky, so when it came to exposure it was going to be mostly guesswork on my part. My focus was to get the mountains aligned with the Comet Hale-Bopp to make a more interesting image than the comet alone. I had imagined a silohuette of the mountain against the night sky, but a blessing of a fullmoon that night arose in the east illuminating the snow covered range.
I started shooting the Comet Hale-Bopp with my 80-200mm 2.8 Nikon lens aligning the highest peak of the Grand Teton with Comet. Freezing, I hiked back to the car and decided to shoot a few more frames with my 50mm 1.8 lens to include the complete Grand Teton Mountain Range. Shooting 800 iso Fuji negative film I made several exposures ranging in time of 15-30 seconds at f2.8
That next day after receiving my film from the lab, I was stunned at how much light the fullmoon had illuminated the mountain range, making the image appear like I shot it in daylight but still seeing the stars in the sky.
After the comet photo was published and the word got out, photographers in the region attempted to replicate the picture but were unsuccessful because each day afterwards the moon arose later in the evening, well after Hale-Bopp had already passed below the horizon. The change in lighting has made this photograph a unique image that can never be copied, or until the next time Hale-Bopp comes around.
Many people question questioned the authenticity of the image, thinking that it was a double exposure or Photoshoped, but I can guarantee you this picture is a straight print from the negative without any alterations.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at the email address at the bottom of the page.
Thanks, Jonathan Adams
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