Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wildflowers at Mount St. Helens

When people think of visiting wildflowers, they often think of Mount Rainier or even Mount Baker for their lavishly beautiful displays.  And rightly so - both can be spectacular!

However, there is another volcano in our state that also sports nice displays, which many probably wouldn't think of - Mount St. Helens.  While destruction and devastation largely symbolize this area in many people's minds , they might be surprised at the beauty that can be found on its lower flanks and nearby ridges all these years after that mighty eruption.  With the trees naturally cleared by nature's forces, flower seedlings have taken to many of the open, sunny slopes and turned them into beautiful meadows in season.  The difference here is that they are often set against a stark, gray landscape of pumice and ash.

The predominant flowers here are lupine, Indian paintbrush and violet penstemon.  There are many other varieties as well.

My favorite St. Helens destinations for wildflowers are Johnston Ridge and Windy Ridge - both on the north side of the mountain.  Johnston Ridge is approached from the west (I-5), and Windy Ridge from the northeast (Highway 12).

Johnston Ridge

Johnston Ridge is a drive to destination with a large parking area at the visitor center at the very end of SR 504. Flowers abound all around the visitor center and recently constructed amphitheater.  There is much easy wandering here, and your pace will likely be slow!  For more flowers, walk the Boundary Trail in either direction to fully enjoy the scenery.  This area offers the most spectacular wildflower display St. Helens has to offer, in my opinion.

Windy Ridge

Windy Ridge is approached from Randle on FR 25, then following the Windy Ridge Road (FR 99) to its end at the parking lot.  While the views from Windy Ridge are jaw-dropping in themselves, a bit of exploring can lead you to even better destinations.

One of the most famous views of St. Helens is from Norway Pass along the Boundary Trail (yes, this is the same trail as the Johnston Ridge one), overlooking Spirit Lake.  You've seen it in books, magazines and calendars.  Flowers add to the scene here, and can be pretty profuse in places along the trail.  For a colorful side trip, be sure and check out the Indian Ridge Trail.

The best lupine display I have ever witnessed also resides in this area.  From the south end of the Windy Ridge parking lot, walk the abandoned road 1.7 miles to the Truman-Abraham saddle.  Stop.  Look down to a sea of purple in season!  Now take the right fork and follow the Truman Trail down the slope to see this amazing meadow up close and personal!  While the Plains of Abraham won't offer any flowers, I highly recommend it as a side trip.  To do so, return to the saddle and follow the Abraham Trail (left fork) to a world of barren world of pumice and scattered boulders.

The image above was taken from Johnston Ridge and recently appeared with an article in a German newspaper on this very subject.  To view more images of this area and around St. Helens, feel free to visit my South Cascades Gallery.

See you on the trail!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in the North Cascades

A star-filled sky over Mount Shuksan in the North Cascades, North Cascades National Park, Washington, USA.
Stars over Mount Shuksan.
Last week I spent some time up at Artist Point in the North Cascades for some fall color and night-sky photography.  I began shooting around 10:30 or so and learned I was the lucky recipient of a half moon.  The light from the moon helped light up the forefront, making it appear almost as daylight with the long shutter exposure.

This was my first time trying out my new Rokinon 14mm lens, which I acquired specifically for star photography.  Previously I had relied on my Canon 17-40mm, which provided very disappointing quality in low light.  The difference was night and day! (pun intended!).  I'm super impressed with the Rokinon lense (also sold under other brand names such as Samyang, Pro-Optic, and Bower) and highly recommend it to anyone interested in night-sky photography.

Earlier in the day I had hiked up Table Mountain and received a message welcoming me to Internet Canada - "International rates may apply".  I quickly turned my phone to airplane mode, blocking data usage as a safety precaution.

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) over Mount Shuksan in the North Cascades, North Cascades National Park, Washington, USA.
Northern Lights over Mount Shuksan
So when more cars started arriving at the parking lot around midnight on a weeknight, I began to suspect that an Aurora Borealis alert may have been issued that I wasn't privy to.

I've only photographed the Northern Lights once before - in Jasper National Park in Canada.  The circumstances were much the same.  I got up in the middle of the night to photograph the milky way and noticed some rather bright clouds off in the distance.  I composed a shot to include them and the results came back green on my display!

The same sort of clouds were present this night, but they were so bright I figured it was simply light pollution from the Bellingham area (yes, my direction was a little off as I thought I was looking west, not north).  The stars were more numerous now, so I composed an image of Mount Shuksan once again and noticed a red plume of light in the results.  The red in the sky was not viewable to the naked eye.  Interesting!

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) over Mount Shuksan in the North Cascades, Washington, USA.
Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan.
I changed from a vertical to horizontal composition to include more of the horizon in the sky and noticed the light seemed to growing and that the funny clouds I had seen were indeed the green of the Northern Lights!  It was a good night to be out with camera in hand!

So what is the Aurora Borealis?  The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere.  The most common auroral color is a pale yellowish-green.  Rarer is the red aurora, which I was fortunate to capture for the very first time (again, I couldn't actually see it).

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) over the North Cascades, Washington, USA.
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
The Aurora Borealis is predictable as it usually follows a solar magnetic storm on the sun.  The chance of visibility is measured by the kp index.  It's a 0 - 9 numbering system known as a planetary index.  You can download a phone app to follow this, and even receive alerts when the kp number rises in your area.  I use the app "Aurora Alert" for this.  Typically, you need a kp number of 5 or greater in the Puget Sound area to see the lights.  The larger the number, the more prevalent in the sky the lights will be.

Admittedly, I am relatively new to night-sky photography and still have a lot to learn.  But I am finding it fascinating and rewarding!

As always, thanks for looking!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Introducing Mount Olympus Pear Cider from Finnriver!

Well, this is an announcement I bet you're not expecting.  I'm proud to be a part of Finnriver's latest cider release! 

If you are a cider fan and make it over to Olympic National Park, be sure to check out the Mount Olympus Pear Cider (hard) at the visitor center! It is organically brewed locally at Finnriver Farm in Chimacum, and has a beautiful image of Mt. Olympus on the label. Of course, I could be biased!

If you're a cider fan looking for even more choices (lots!), visit Finnriver Orchard & Cider Garden in Chimacum near Port Townsend. They have a fantastic tasting room and knowledgeable staff. Live music on weekends and family friendly.  You can find much more info at www.finnriver.com!

This image of Mount Olympus was taken from High Divide in Olympic National Park as the lupine were peaking, and is one of my favorite images I have taken in the park.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Visiting the Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Shale Lake

Mount Jefferson above pink heather and Shale Lake along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Willamette National Forest, Cascade Range, Oregon, USA.
Mount Jefferson above pink heather at Shale Lake.
I've been wanting to visit the Mount Jefferson Wilderness for several years now - specifically Jefferson Park, or "Jeff Park" as the locals call it.  Finally this year, my schedule allowed me to plan a visit.

I planned to visit two areas not far apart from one another - the Pamelia Lake area and Jefferson Park.  I originally planned on doing them as a single backpack, but logistics wouldn't work for me as I had a deadline to be back in town by.  So instead, I elected to treat them as separate trips.

The Pamelia Lake region is the most popular backpacking destination in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness.  As such, a special Limited Entry permit is required, which can be purchased online at recreation.gov, or picked up at the Detroit Ranger Station. 

I drove down to Detroit, OR and to the TH on Sunday night and slept in my vehicle, planning to get an early start the next day.  I awoke at 5:00 am and was on the trail by 6:00.  My goal was to beat the droves and get a good campsite at Shale Lake for the night.

I arrived at Pamelia Lake in about 45 minutes and took a break to snoop around the campground.  It appeared vacant.  The lake is surrounded by forest and affords limited views.  Basically, it's a place to fish and hangout, and serve as a basecamp for those wanting to daytrip to the high country, such as Grizzly Peak.

I followed the connector trail up to the PCT and turned south for Shale Lake.  The trail climbs mostly through forest, entering sub-alpine country just before the lake.  I arrived to dozens of empty campsites at Shale Lake at 10:00 am.  I had it all to myself for most of the day.  So much for beating the crowds!  Around mid-afternoon, some PCT thru-hikers began arriving and would take a break to absorb the view.  Thru-hikers are prohibited from camping at the lake without the special permit, so all had to move along.  The few campers that did arrive didn't appear until near dinner time.  Most of the campground remained empty during my visit.

I met several thru-hikers as they came by and stopped.  In fact, I was surprised at how many due to how early in the year it was (July).  In each case, I learned they all had one thing in common.  They skipped a section of the trail - most commonly the Sierras, in some cases all of California.

One hiker I really enjoyed meeting and talking with was One Gear (PCT hikers always use nicknames on the trail).  He had a long, 17 mile day that turned into 20+ mile adventure when he got lost and accidentally descended into Hunt's Cove and had to climb out of it off-trail in steep terrain to regain the PCT.  He was beat.

Mount Jefferson reflected in Shale Lake after sunset, Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Willamette National Forest, Cascade Range, Oregon, USA.
Mount Jefferson reflected in Shale Lake after sunset.
After setting camp, I wandered south a short distance to an awesome viewpoint overlooking Hunt's Cove.  Hunt's Cove consists of two lakes - Hunt's and Hank's, set in basin of meadows and trees far below.

Thunderstorms were in the forecast, so I was hopeful for some dramatic evening clouds for sunset.  It never happened.  What appeared to be a low level marine layer began sneaking up on the northwest side of the mountain.  Also, the smell of smoke became noticeable in the air.  I began hearing of a new forest fire just over the ridge to the north, it's plume of smoke spotted by several thru-hikers shortly before they arrived.  Speculation was that is was a considerable distance away.

Shale Lake isn't the best photography destination for shooting Mount Jefferson at sunset.  This side of the mountain receives minimal light at sunset in the summer months.  Also, I had hoped for more snow on the mountain.  I found little foreground material to work with as well, focusing on a small patch of heather and other flowers on the shore of the lake.  Fortunately, I was awarded some nice pink skies about 20 minutes after sunset, and the lake finally glassed over to offer a reflection of the mountain.

The next morning I awoke at 5:00 am and was on the trail by 5:45, beating sunrise by several minutes.  I made quick work of the trail and arrived back at my vehicle at 8:00 am.  My eyes burned from the smoke in the air at times.

After a short break, I drove back to Highway 22 and caught the Whitewater Road only a couple miles up.  As I approached the first TH, a sign greeted me on the side of the road - "Fire Ahead, Trail Closed".  My heart sank.  I continued up the road in hopes that it was only for that trailhead.  It was not.  As I approached the Whitewater TH, another sign greeted me stating the same thing.  My trip was done before it even got started.

There are other trails to Jefferson Park and I considered them for a brief moment.  But I realized the amount of smoke in the air likely would compromise photography, as well as the overall experience, and elected to save the visit for another time.

In retrospect, I was very underwhelmed with the Pamelia Lake area.  While it was a fun experience, it is not an area I will likely return to.  I believe the popularity of the area (crowds which I never encountered) are due to its easy access (2 miles from the TH) and being a popular fishing hole.  Just my two cents.

For photographers, I recommend a mid-range telephoto lens for this area.  I brought a couple wide-angle lenses, but they never saw the light of day.  While flowers exist in this area, they are not overly abundant.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to see you on the trail! 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Visit to Dusty and Ancient Lakes

Evening light above Dusty Lake
Dusty and Ancient Lakes near Quincy, Washington have piqued my interest for several years now.  This spring I finally launched to the area with my son, and we couldn't wait to hit the trail!

The hikes to both Dusty and Ancient Lakes are very short.  They are both optimal day trips from a hiking standpoint.  But when one weighs in the drive time, such a day could become quite long, especially if planning to stick around to photograph evening light. I elected to make Dusty Lake an overnight destination, and visit Ancient Lakes in the morning on our way out.

We arrived on a Friday to a friendlier parking lot than expected.  Parking was plentiful, but it filled up fast while we got ready.  I imagine weekends can get pretty tight.  If planning a weekend trip, I would try to arrive early in the day.

We tossed the packs on our backs and began the gentle hike to Dusty Lake, passing the turn-off to Ancient Lakes not far from the TH.  After the junction, the trail to Dusty climbs over a knoll and traverses east to the lake, which sits in a basin surrounded by coulees.  We arrived in just about an hour from the trailhead.

The prime camping area (the only flat area) is located on the west side of the lake on a small peninsula.  There are several tent sites.  Unfortunately, this area was already inhabited by a loud, drunken and foul-mouthed group that we didn't want to be next to.  As it was, we were still too close to them.

There are other sites on the north end of the lake, not as close to the lake (but not far away either).  The best evening photography in the area, in my opinion, is right in between the two areas, so either would work as a photographer's base camp.

We enjoyed hiking into Dusty Lake under partly sunny skies with beautiful, puffy clouds scattered above us.  As evening approached, these clouds began to disappear, much to my disappointment.  But then, just as the sun began to sink lower in the sky to the west, some beautiful clouds began to develop over the area, turning orange and then pink as the sun lay to rest.  It was a beautiful evening.

The next morning I awoke early to catch sunrise, but not much happened.  Still, it was a beautiful morning to experience.

After a quick breakfast, we packed up camp and headed out.  We found a trail that short-cut the traverse around the coulee that separates Dusty and Ancient Lakes, and followed it to the point it descended into the basin.  We then left it and travelled cross-country due north to pick up the main trail so we could drop our packs and pick them up easily on the way out.

Ancient Lakes were beautiful and there was a lot to explore.  There were a lot more people camped around these lakes, but the area is so large that it swallows people up and pleasant camping can be had.  This is definitely an area I will return to to spend an evening.

After an hour or so of exploring, we returned to our packs and finished our journey back to the TH.

This is tick and rattlesnake country, so we remained very observant and aware. We found two ticks on our gear while camped at Dusty Lake - one on our tent and one on a pack.  We did not encounter any snakes, even during off-trail travel.  This was in early April, and I think it was still a little cool for them (temps reached freezing overnight).

Photography Hints:  It's a short hike with little elevation gain - you can bring the kitchen sink!  If you think you might use it, bring it!  I mostly used my 24-70mm.  I did bring my 14mm lens in hopes of some night photography, but the skies remained cloudy overnight.  You will want to bring your split neutral density filters, unless you plan to bracket and use HDR back home.

If interested, your can view other images from Eastern Washington in my Eastern Washington Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking! 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Photographing Monica Meadows, Southern Purcell Range

Mount MacBeth above fall larches in Monica Meadows, Purcell Range, British Columbia, Canada.
Mount MacBeth above larches in Monica Meadows.
For many people, when they think of mountains in Canada it is typically the Canadian Rockies.  And why not?  They offer some of the most impressive scenery in the world and are one of my personal favorites as well.  What some people may not realize is that they have some pretty cool neighbors also competing for your attention.

The Purcell Range are a north-south trending range in British Columbia, just to the west of the Rocky Mountains of Canada.

A particularly famous section of the Purcells are the Bugaboos.  The Bugaboos are a spectacular collection of granite spires rising from massive icefields, and a world-renowned alpine rock climbing destination.  Bugaboo Provincial Park receives significant attention from the climbing, hiking and photography community, and is probably the most popular destination for visitors.  I wrote about my recent visit here.  Most other locations in the Purcells are far more remote and undeveloped, offering beauty and solitude to the adventurer willing to take on their challenge.

Mt. MacBeth above fall larches in Monica Meadows, Purcell Range, British Columbia, Canada.
Mount MacBeth above larches in Monica Meadows.
The biggest challenge can sometimes be road access.  Roads are subject to washouts and can take time to be repaired.  You should always check the latest conditions when planning you trip.  In the case of my visit to Monica Meadows, a bridge was washed out and only scheduled to be repaired toward the end of my trip to this region (maybe).  As it turned out, it was only repaired the day before my arrival.

Much of the Purcell Range can be accessed from Highway 95, which runs north-south along the Rocky Mountain Trench.  This highway runs parallel along the eastern side and offers many logging, mining and forest road access that extend deep into the heart of the Purcells.

Mt. Monica reflected in a tarn surrounded by fall larches in Monica Meadows, Purcell Range, British Columbia, Canada.
Mount Monica above a tarn in Monica Meadows.
On the west side of the range, access is more remote, and often requires ferry travel.  No worries, they're free and a fun experience!

Monica Meadows is such a place.  Located near Lardeau, BC, this fantastic destination competes with the likes of Jumbo Pass and MacBeth Icefields.  While the drive can be challenging some years, the trail is rather easy - 2.5 miles and 1,900' gain to some amazing meadows, especially in fall when the larches have turned golden.  This is typically toward the end of September.

Mt. Monica above fall larches and a lake in Monica Meadows, Purcell Range, British Columbia, Canada.
Mount Monica above a lake in Monica Meadows.
The drive to the trailhead is mostly on pretty good road.  However, some years it can get adventurous towards the end.  Especially with the bridge that is subject to washouts.

The views from the parking lot are amazing, and only get better as one begins up the trail.  After a series of steep switchbacks, the trail traverses around a ridge and into a basin where camping is available.  Please don't camp above this as this would scar the meadows.  Also, remember this is grizzly bear country and appropriate precautions should be taken.

Mt. Monica above fall larches and a lake in Monica Meadows, Purcell Range, British Columbia, Canada.
Mount Monica above a lake in Monica Meadows.
The meadows are beautiful and offer endless wandering.  If the larches are in season and you have camera in tow, progress along the trail will be slow.

At a junction, you can turn right to find a couple of lakes, or continue straight to pass a small lake before climbing to a ridge with incredible views west to Mt. MacBeth and other nearby peaks.  Of course, the view of Mt. Monica immediately before you is also nice.

Photographers:  While beautiful images can be had at any time of season here, I personally recommend fall.  The larch show is spectacular.  As with any destination, I recommend backpacking in to take full advantage of sunset and sunrise.  I was nursing a knee injury on this trip and was forced to limit myself to the weight of a day pack.  Wouldn't you know I missed one of the best sunrises of my entire trip!

Mt. MacBeth above fall larches and a lake in Monica Meadows, Purcell Range, British Columbia, Canada.
Mount MacBeth above a lake in Monica Meadows.
My predominant lens of choice was my 24-70mm.  I do not believe my 70-200mm ever left my pack.  I know my 17-40mm didn't.

GND filters are important to have, unless you plan on digitally blending back at the computer.

For the larches, this is an evening photography destination as there is a tall ridge directly to the east, blocking morning light.  However, light on Mt. MacBeth across the valley could be spectacular in the morning hours!

I hope to have these images added to my website soon.  As always, thanks for looking!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Ramparts and Amethyst Lake

The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Jasper National Park is the northernmost of the four famed national parks of the Canadian Rockies (the others being Yoho, Banff and Kootenay).  One of the most iconic settings in this park is The Ramparts above Amethyst Lake - truly a spectacular place to visit, especially in the fall.

Getting there is no easy task, however.  It requires a 12.7 mile backpack up the Astoria River, or a 14.2 mile and 2,400' climb over Mccarib Pass to get there.  I did the latter, as the Astoria River trail was closed due to washout.  It was a beautiful, but slow and tedious trek in on sore feet, having just hiked out from Berg Lake the previous day.  My feet were hamburger!

On this trip, I endured a grizzly bear swatting at my vehicle in the middle of the night as I slept at the trailhead, startling me out of a sound sleep.  The scratches from its claws can still be seen on the window of my vehicle.

I also had a cougar follow me back to my tent in the middle of the night after star photography, circle the tent, and then swat at it as I lay there silent with one hand on my headlamp and the other clutching my bear spray.  I didn't know it was a cougar until the following morning when saw its tracks, as there was also a pack of wolves in the area.

Some photos require a lot of hard work and perseverance just to get in position to be successful.  This is one of those images!  Fortunately, the images I captured from this area with have been quite successful for me.  This particular image was recently licensed for web use to a design and publishing firm in the UAE.

You can see more images from this area and more in my Canadian Rockies Gallery, if interested.

As always, thanks for looking!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Photographing Bugaboo Provincial Park

Hound's Tooth and the Anniversary Glacier above fall larches in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Hound's Tooth above fall larches.
I first visited this area in the fall of 1997 while the larches were at peak, and had the entire area to myself.  This included a night in the Conrad Kain Hut (already shuttered up for the season) and Applebee Dome.

Today, this area is much more popular amongst hikers, climbers and photographers.  In summer months, reservations are strongly encouraged.

To get to the TH for the Conrad Kain Hut & Applebee Dome, drive to Brisco, BC and turn west at the Bugaboo Provincial Park sign.  Continue around the saw mill and follow Bugaboo Creek Road for 30 miles on a good gravel road to the parking lot at the end (there are a couple of spots near the end that can be muddy after recent rainfall).  This parking lot will be full of cars with chicken wire wrapped around them!

Fortress of chicken wire!
Warning:  Porcupines will eat the tires, hoses and anything else rubber on your car for the road salt.  The park service provides chicken wire and wood at the trailhead to protect your car with.  Have doubts?  Sleep in your vehicle overnight at the trailhead and listen to the critters trying their best to get through to the goods - all night long!

The first mile of trail is an easy walk along the valley floor, with some boardwalks in places to get over some marshy sections.  Then the trail begins its steep ascent up switchbacks, large slabs of rock, steps made out of concrete, wire cable hand holds, and yes...even an aluminum ladder!  Above this you follow the trail up a steep moraine to the Conrad Kain Hut.  Views across the valley are stupendous through this entire stretch of trail, which allows a good excuse for the occasional rest break.

The Conrad Kain Hut below Eastpost Spire, Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Conrad Kain Hut in Bugaboo Provincial Park.
Depending on the time of year and your intentions, you have choices on where to stay.  The Conrad Kain Hut can be VERY busy in the summer months and reservations are strongly encouraged.  During my visit in late September, I shared the hut with a couple dozen people for two nights, which wasn't bad at all.  I had reservations, but most visitors did not and there was plenty of room.

The hut offers the convenience of a strong shelter, heat, cooking amenities and socializing.  It offers a huge convenience factor.  The hut is named after a legendary mountain climber and guide, Conrad Kain.

Snowpatch Spire above fall larches in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Snowpatch Spire above fall larches.
If it is solitude you are looking for, continue past the hut and descend a trail about 1/2 a mile into the woods to a campground.  There isn't much in the way of views here, but it is quiet and well sheltered.

For the biggest bang for the buck, continue on up past the hut 1/2 a mile to Applebee Dome, where the views are to die for.  For this reason you won't be alone, and will likely share it with many rock climber who have their sites on the spires towering above you.  This area is very exposed to storms and can be quite cold, especially in the fall.

A cascading creek below fall larches in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Fall larches above a creek near the Conrad Kain Hut.
There is photography to be had everywhere.  My purpose was to photograph the larches below the spires, which are found around and below the hut.  So I elected to stay there.  Above the hut is a world of rock and ice - not much vegetation.  More on that later.

Below the hut is a creek that can be fun to photograph in a mostly open basin with larches above.  A very shy black bear frequented this area during my visit, but mostly stayed on the distant slope.

Snowpatch Spire is the dominating spire looming above the hut, and a wonderful sight to see.  As you would guess, it is distinguished by a permanent patch of snow on its shoulder.

Also dominating the scene is Hound's Tooth and Anniversary Peak to the southeast - my personal favorites.  The seracs on the Anniversary Glacier are mesmerizing.  Hound's Tooth can be photographed both morning and evening.  Most of the spires in the upper basin are best photographed in the morning only.

Morning alpenglow on Anniversary Peak in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Morning alpenglow on Anniversary Peak.
My first morning I awoke in darkness and left the hut to ascend to the upper basin with headlamp.  The sunrise that unfolded as I climbed the steep trail was nothing short of amazing!  It turned the entire sky to the east pink and seemed to last an eternity.  I was surprised at how many different compositions I was able to compose during its duration.  As most photographers can attest to, these moments are usually very quick and if you blink you might miss them!

It was a wonderful morning.

Snowpatch Spire reflected in a small tarn in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Snowpatch Spire reflection.
The climb from the hut up the moraine to Applebee Dome and the upper basin is steep for much of the way.  The path is well marked and there are lots of places to explore.  At the junction with the climber's route, turn left a short distance for some interesting roaming and photo opps (but only experienced climbers with proper gear and knowledge of how to use it should venture onto the glacier).

Otherwise, stay right and follow the path on up to Applebee Dome for the grand views.  Look back down on the tiny hut and surrounding area, and across and up to the likes of Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboo Spire, and more.  Follow one of many paths over a small moraine to Bugaboo Lake below its namesake spire.  Continue on a path around the lake and up and over a pass to a set of small tarns if you wish for added exploration.

Clouds can roll in and out of the upper basin, continually changing the light and adding dramatic effect.  I was lucky to experience such during my most recent visit.  Likewise, storms can move in with little or no warning, so always be prepared.

Snowpatch Spire in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Snowpatch Spire.
While some evening photography can be had, morning offers the best.  My advise is to awake early for sunrise, and even shoot into mid-morning in the fall.  Then spend the rest of the day exploring and scouting for the next day. 

I mostly stuck to my trusty 24-70mm lense, but did break out the 17-24mm in the upper basin.  There isn't much wildlife to be had outside the local rodent population, so you can probably leave the big glass at home.  I did bring it and used it (once), so if you are motivated...

Dramatic sunrise in Bugaboos Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Sunrise from above the Conrad Kain Hut.
GND filters are very useful here, unless you plan to blend later.  A polarizer is also highly recommended, but in small doses so you don't turn your sky black.

There are other fanatastics trips in this immediate area as well.  Cobalt Lake and Black Forest Ridge are high on my list to check out (go ahead, do a Google image search).  Also, Chalice Ridge looks enticing.

If you are toying with visiting this scenic area, I highly recommend it.  Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have for your planning.  I am always happy to help.

To see more of my photography, please visit my website, Mountain Scenes Photography.  I hope to have a Purcells gallery up soon.

As always, thanks for looking.  Hope to see you on the trail!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Photographing Cannon Beach

Sunset over Haystack Rock at Cannon beach on the Oregon Coast, Oregon, USA.
Sunset over Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.
Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast is a pretty special place to visit, especially during the "off-season" if you are a photographer.  The off-season is actually the best time for photographing the coast, in my opinion.  In the summer, a heavy fog bank often envelopes the coast, making photography difficult.  It's less common in the spring, fall and winter.  Winter can also offer stormy skies and dramatic surf, yet still provide beautiful sunsets, as pictured here. 

This image of Haystack Rock was taken in December, in shorts and T-shirt!  Admittedly, this attire in December is probably the exception to the rule.

Lodging is also easier to come by in these seasons - especially winter.  And Cannon Beach has many options to choose from.

When you're tired of photographing Haystack Rock and The Needles at Cannon Beach (is this possible?), there are many more photography opportunities at nearby Ecola State Park.  The view from Ecola Point is one of the most iconic images of the Oregon coast.  Just a short walk up a path leads you to an incredible panoramic vista looking south along the coast, back to Canon Beach and beyond!  Even the view from the fenced area of Chapman Point is outstanding.

The best time to photograph both of these locations is late afternoon to sunset, though colorful skies in the morning can make sunrises interesting as well - mainly in winter.

This image is currently being used in the travel and tourism market, helping to promote Cannon Beach and the Oregon coast as a family get-away.

You can view many more images from this area in my Oregon Coast Gallery, if you wish.

As always, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Combining Fun with Fun!

Hikers ascend the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail below Mount Victoria in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Hikers on the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail in Banff National Park.
My photography takes me all over the Western United States and Canada.  I love to travel.  In fact, these days I seem to do more hiking and photography out of state than I do within.  I guess I just enjoy searching out new destinations, and sometimes need a break from repeat local trips.

Travelling can have its negatives though, too.  It typically means I'm away from my family for extended periods of time while travelling alone.  Now that my kids are older and involved in competitive sports, it's can be very difficult to find a time when the entire family shares a window with nothing going.  But when it happens, it can be special!

I love being able to combine photography trips with a family vacation.  I know other photographers who shy away from this for various reasons.  But I have always been able to make it work without cheating either activity.  Shoot in the early mornings and evenings, and play with the family all day!  And if I can compose some images of the family in action, all the better!

This photograph from Banff National Park in Canada was taken during such an experience.  I believe I spent the morning at Moraine Lake for sunrise.  Then I went back to camp to my awaking family and we got ready for a day of hiking! 

This scene was captured along the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, above Lake Louise, with the steep face of Mount Victoria serving as the backdrop.  My daughter and I also scrambled up Fairview Mountain on this trip - her first 9,000' summit!  Can you tell I love the memories?

This image has been a popular one, and has been published multiple times.  It is currently being used by an editorial website in the media design & publishing sector.  But of course, what is most special to me is that my family is included!

If interested, you can view more images from this trip to the Canadian Rockies, and others, in my Canadian Rockies Gallery.  I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

More Than Pretty Landscapes

As a Landscape/Nature/Wildlife photographer, I'm always striving to put myself in the best possible position for success.  This means researching my subject material well in advance, and keeping up-to-date with any last minute influences (forest fires, road/trail closures, etc.) that might affect my goals.

It's easy to be so focused on your primary objective that you unknowingly put blinders on to other elements or stories along the way.  I know, because I have been guilty of it many times.

The drama of this scene, while hiking up the West Fork of the Wallowa River in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Oregon, pretty much hit me over the head.  The number of logs that had come down stream and were stacked against this bridge was incredible.  And while some damage had occurred, amazingly, the bridge remained mostly intact.

This story spoke to me on many levels:  Nature's power, the resiliency of the bridge under such forces, and how the importance of trail maintenance and budgets for such play such an important role in being able to continue to enjoy hiking to our favorite spots.

After spending several moments simply taking it all in, I dropped my pack and composed a few images of this scene - mostly for the memory.  However, they have served me a bigger purpose as well.  This particular image is currently being used for a worldwide editorial story on trail repair.

I guess it just goes to show that the road to our destination can be just as important as the destination itself!

If you wish, you may view images from the Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness in my Wallowas Gallery (Sorry, I don't have a "trail damage" gallery.  Maybe I should!)

As always, thanks for looking.  Have a great winter and I hope to see you on the trail in the spring!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Visiting the Wind River Range

Elephant Head above Island Lake in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Elephant Head above Island Lake.
The Wind River Range is a phenomenal backpacking destination – and more!  The two most popular areas are Titcomb Basin and Cirque of the Towers, near Pinedale, WY.  I have visited both on multiple occasions and never tire of them.  My plan was to revisit Island Lake, Titcomb Basin and Indian Basin.  But this time I wanted to add some spice to the traditional trip.  While studying guide books and maps I put together a loop troop, beginning at the Elkhart Entrance.

I drove 14 hours straight, leaving Seattle at 6:00 am and arriving at Pinedale at 9:00 pm (1 hour time zone difference, for those checking my math).  The air was extremely smoky and the sights poor from Hoback Junction to Pinedale.  A nearby forest fire, which I knew about, appeared to be much worse than I thought.  My hopes were dashed as I snuck in a dinner in town well after closing time.  Not only was photography a question mark, so was simply being able to breath.

I made the drive up to the Elkhart parking lot in the dark to find the lot probably ½ full – also strange.  I slept in my vehicle and planned to start the decision making process in the morning.

Morning arrived under cloudy skies and rain, with no smoke to mention.  It was on!  The only question mark was when to leave the TH.  I waited until the worst part of the squall appeared to be over, then set out on the trail.

I hiked 5.3 miles to Eklund Lake, pausing briefly at Photographer’s Point to enjoy the traditional view.  From there, I took a right and headed for a new adventure!  I traversed past too many lakes to mention, most of which were not named on my map.  Soon I arrived at Mury Lake, then began the long traverse to Pole Creek Lakes.

There were numerous stream crossing, some more difficult than others and requiring bushwacking/boulder hopping upstream several hundred feet to find a safe crossing.  This was also tiring with a full pack at 9,000 + feet elevation.

Finally I arrived at the first Pole Creek Lake, which meant I only had one more lake to go.  I began my rapid ascent toward my final destination for the day – Cook Lakes.  It was a trudge and my gas tank was nearing E.  After another sketchy stream crossing, I began my final approach to the lakes and soon found myself at the junction sign.  From here, the lakes were still another mile or so, and campsites yet another mile!

I arrived at Cook Lakes completely exhausted and found a campsite looking like it needed a guest.  Lucky me.  Distance for the day 10.4 miles.

I got camp set up and immediately started the stove up for dinner.  Soon it started to rain.  I ate dinner under the protection of the vestibule of my tent.  Soon the rain stopped and I cleaned up camp and retired for the evening.  This is when the skies opened up and the drum gods violently played their instruments, one wave after another.  First it was large hail, covering the ground white, then changing to hard rain.  Soon it would slowly calm down to showers and eventually, withdrawal to quietness and solitude.  Then the process would repeat itself, over and over again.  This lasted almost the entire night.  It was fascinating and calming to me, in a strange way.  Because I would experience storms like this most every day of my trip, though not to this severity.

I awoke to cloudy skies and the threat of more showers.  They did not let me down.  At least they were short lived.  I tried to light my stove for some breakfast, only to learn my lighter was done.  No spark.  It appeared to empty.  I forgot to pack backup.  Cold food would have to do.

I hiked back to the trail junction, swung right, and began my ascent toward Lester Pass.  I soon reached Tommy Lake, which was absolutely stunning!  Think Island Lake, but surrounded by meadows rather than granite.  My first thought was how inappropriately named this beautiful lake was.  I mean, who looks at a map and says, “I want to go to Tommy Lake!”

A backpack rests against the sign at Lester Pass in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Lester Pass.
Just beyond this lake I climbed into an upper basin below the pass and ran into a party of 5 or so trying to dry out their gear.  The sun was out now and they were taking full advantage.  They got caught in the storm the night before and were fully exposed to it in vast, open meadow.  Upon learning of my lighter fiasco, they all offered to give me theirs as they were packing many.  Turns out they were Bears fans, obvious from the lighters they offered me.  I chuckled and thanked them repeatedly for their kindness, while laughingly giving them half an attempt at a “Go Hawks!”  We all laughed.
Lester Pass wasn’t much further, and offered the grand views I had read and heard about.  I stopped for lunch and spent some time drying some of my gear out as well.  Such a beautiful day.

The descent down to Little Seneca Lake was steeper, but extremely scenic.  My plan was to make camp at Island Lake my second night, but fatigue was setting in.  My legs were still struggling from the long first day and I had come to the realization that a half day and rest was in order.  I found a camp in meadow near a small, scenic lake above Little Seneca Lake and called it a day.  The rest was nice.  Distance ~5.8 miles.

A reflection in a high alpine tarn in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Reflection in alpine tarn.
That evening I finally got my first chance at some photography after two days on the trail.  It was rewarding and motivating.

The next morning I awoke early and headed out for Island Lake.  I tried to time my arrival for around 9:00 am, when I figured campsites would be opening up (this is an extremely popular lake – the destination of most people).  All worked well, though scouting the campsite took much longer.  I overshot the area I wanted to camp and had to come back searching for it. Distance ~3 miles with wandering.

I met Bill and Rachel from Minnesota, who were actually instrumental in me getting a prime campsite next to them.  They were fun people who I would get to know better in the coming days.

I relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon in anticipation of evening photography, which never happened.  While the day was beautiful, the typical afternoon/evening Rocky Mountain storm moved in.  While it struck and eventually departed, clouds to the west remained and I never got any light on the nearby peaks for sunset.  So far, the story of my trip.

A cascading creek in Upper Titcomb Basin of the Wind River Range in Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Upper Titcomb Basin.

The next morning I awoke early and headed out to revisit Titcomb Basin.  There were few on the trail and it was an enjoyable hike.  On a previous visit I hiked all the way up to Dinwoody Pass for views and photos of Gannett Peak.  But today I simply visited the upper lakes, saving my energy for a visit of Indian Basin on my return.

While enjoying the environs of Titcomb Basin at very leisurely pace, I met Jeff and Claire from Bozeman, MT.  I recognized them from their dog as neighbors from my second night camped above Little Seneca Lake.  They were fascinating people and we must have visited for over half an hour!  All talk was about our travels and recommendations for future travels.  Fun!

I continued my retreat down the trail and soon came to the Indian Pass trail junction, where I turned left and pursued my next adventure.  I had been to Indian Basin previously, on my very first trip to the Winds in fact.  We climbed Fremont Peak from Mistake Lake, then descended into Indian Basin.  It was earlier in the year and the upper basin was mostly snow covered.  I was excited to relive the memory and see the basin in drier conditions.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It was beautiful and I had it all to myself.  As the skies began to change from blue to gray, I began my descent back to camp, arriving just as the thunder gods began to bang their drums.  Distance for the day ~17.8 miles.

Fremont and Jackson Peak above Indian Basin in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Indian Basin and Fremont Peak & Jackson Peak. 
Story time.  During my stay at Island Lake I witnessed blatant disregard for the rules.  There was a burn ban in effect and the area was signed no camping within 200’ of a lake (these signs were common at all lakes I visited).  Despite this several groups decided the rules didn’t apply to them and set camp within 25’ of the lake.  There were also numerous bonfires in the area that evening.  As I sat at my camp close to dinner time my first night, I watched 3 men pass my area and descend down to the lake below me looking for a sight on the peninsula below.  The peninsula wasn’t even 200’ at its widest point.  The area was empty prior to their arrival.  I hoped common sense would set in, but it did not.  Up went their tent.  To make matters worse, they were loud well into the night.
Fast forward.  Upon returning from Indian Basin, I found this group at camp and overheard them say, “We have to move the tent”.  It became evident to me that somebody must have talked to them.  They moved their tent 25’ behind a bush.  They then proceeded to erect a tarp shelter where their tent used to be.  Total face palm on my behalf.  Did they seriously think a ranger would allow this?

Storm clouds part to reveal Fremont Peak over Island Lake in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Storm clouds part to reveal Fremont Peak over Island Lake.
Soon rangers showed up (again) and informed them that they could not camp at their new location.  The response I clearly heard was, “Well then, where are we supposed to camp?”  There were many sites available, including just above me.  These guys weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed and classic comedy!  The rangers ended up holding their hand and leading them to an acceptable campsite, which they had walked by (if not thru) on their way down to the illegal site.

Why did I tell that story?  Because on the morning of me departure, I grudgingly ran into them on my way out at a key point on the trail, messing up my navigation.  Immediately after leaving my camp above Little Seneca Lake en route to Island Lake earlier in my trip, I made note of the switchbacks up an exposed hillside to Island Lake.  I was watching for them on my way back down as a landmark.  It was at this location that I ran into Dumb and Dumber and Even Dumber (sorry, but this was the joking reference being made of them).  

Fremont Peak above Island Lake at sunset in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Sunset at Island Lake.
But while conversing with them I lost sight of where I was and continued on in search of the switchbacks.  Soon I came to a small lake and asked some people if I was on the trail to Seneca Lake.  Their response was yes.  I then came upon a very big lake that took time to circumnavigate.  Strange that these lakes weren’t on my map (at least where I was looking).  Soon I was losing confidence in the trail.  It was descending, which was the only trail in the area that should be, and by position of the sun it was going in the right direction.  Soon I descended into forest unexpectedly and stopped once again to check the map.  Nothing looked familiar (keep in mind I did not hike in this way, but had on previous visits).  Soon I ran into a hiker coming in who asked how I was doing.  I answered, “Lost, I think.  Everything appears right, but I am not recognizing anything along this trail”.  He asked where I was headed and I told him Elkhart TH.  He replied that I was on the right trail then.  I pulled out my map and showed him where I thought I was and he chuckled and said, “You aren’t where you think you are.  You know that big lake you passed a little while ago?  THAT was Seneca Lake.  You’re only about 6.5 miles from the trailhead!”  I could have hugged him.  One by one, all the prior details started making sense.

I arrived at the TH at 2:00 pm, ready for good food and the drive home.  Distance out 11.7 miles.  What an amazing trip!

The last evening at Island Lake was amazing, and offered the best light of the entire trip.  The skies opened with rain and hail only an hour before sunset.  As sunset grew very near, the skies were gray and concealed the nearby peaks.  All of a sudden the clouds began to lift with only minutes of light left.  It was pretty magical.

You may view more images from this fantastic area in my Wind River Gallery.

You can also read about some of my previous trips to the Wind River Range at the following links:

Island Lake

Island Lake

As always, thanks for looking!