Sunday, April 1, 2018

Newly Updated Southwest Gallery!

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park
 I have FINALLY finished updating my Southwest Gallery on my website.  I'm proud to say it is finally up-to-date, and includes images from all my visits to national parks, state parks, national monuments and recreation areas.

I've enjoyed several trips to the southwest over the years, yet I just can't get enough of the area.  While I have visited most of southern Utah and some of Arizona, I still have so much more to see (and will be very soon).

Here are some of my favorites.

Soda Springs Basin, Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT is a fantastic park to visit, and much less crowded than its neighbor to the north, Arches National Park.  It is comprised of three districts - Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze. 

Island in the Sky is by far the most popular and accessible.  It provides access to Mesa Arch (pictured above), Grandview Point, White Rim Overlook, Green River Overlook, Murphy Point and more.  These are all accessible by car or short walks.

Don't forget to visit Dead Horse State Park while in the area.  It is reached via a spur road just before the Island in the Sky entrance, and offers amazing views that will rival anything in Canyonlands!

Gooseneck, Dead Horse State Park.
The Needles District can be accessed by car, but its best offerings are from the trail, including a hike into Chesler Park.

The Maze is 4X4 or mountain bike country and is visited much less.

Practically across the highway from the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands is Arches National Park.  There are many things to see along the road into the park, starting with Park Avenue and the Courthouse Towers.  These require a short hike to be fully enjoyed, though it is quite easy (and can be made a one-way hike, all downhill, with a second vehicle).


Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Next up is Balanced Rock is just off the road a little further, and can be enjoyed from a picnic area.

Delicate Arch, the state icon, can be reached by a 3 mile trail to the fantastic viewpoint.  Be prepared for the crowds, but understand the area is large and accommodating.

Fiery Furnace is a maze of confusing narrow canyons.  Ranger led tours through this labyrinth are recommended, at least for your first visit.

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park
At the end of the road is the trailhead to The Devil's Garden.  This trail accesses Landscape Arch, Navajo Arch, Double O Arch, and many more.

5 miles east of Escalante, UT is Hole in the Rock Road.  This is the main access to Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.  There are several popular slot canyons to hike along the road, and also sports its own Devil's Garden (not to be confused with Arches).  The first 12 miles of this road are suitable for cars, as long as weather conditions are nice.

Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase - Escalante NM


Also near the town of Escalante is a short hike to a wonderful waterfall, Calf Creek Falls.  This waterfall has a beautiful pool at its base, making the hike quite popular on a hot day.  It also sports a fair amount of poison ivy, which I have yet to be successful in avoiding!

Scenic Byway 12  is an incredibly scenic road that connects Escalante and Boulder, UT.  This section passes through some of the most incredible scenery Utah has to offer and always ranks among the top scenic drives in America.  It's not to be missed!

Bryce Canyon National Park is beloved by most all.  It offers easy access to prominent overlooks along its rim,  and excellent hikes down into the canyon that add to the experience for those wanting more.

Sunrise and Sunset Viewpoints are easily accessed from the parking lot.  Sunset Point is probably the best spot to view Bryce Canyon - and is also the most popular.  A little further south is Inspiration Point, which requires about a twenty minute walk.
The Cathedral, Bryce Canyon National Park

To really experience Bryce Canyon, I highly recommend descending down into the amphitheater and wander amongst the hoodoos.  Two popular trails to do so on are the Queen's Garden Trail and the Navajo Trail.  You can connect these two trails for an even better experience, and enjoy the sights of Thor's Hammer, Wall Street and The Queens Garden in one enjoyable stroll!

Fairyland Viewpoint, Yovmipai Point and Rainbow Point are also nice visits, though much different.

The light on the hoodoos changes drastically throughout the day.  This place should be experienced in both early morning and late afternoon to see it at its best.

Oh, and don't forget to visit Red Canyon just outside Bryce NP!

The Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a much different park than those already discussed.  It basically consists of two areas - the canyon and the plateau.  The plateau is easily viewed by car and incredibly scenic, especially around Checkerboard Mesa.

The canyon is also extremely scenic, but lends itself more to hiking.  It can be zoo at times.  It has a mandatory shuttle service to get you to the end of the canyon, and the Visitor Center's parking area to catch this shuttle is usually full by mid-morning during peak season.  That being said, the shuttle system is the best I have experienced and could be modeled after.

Admittedly, I have a lot left to do at Zion.  The popular attractions on foot are Angel's Landing, The Subway, and The Virgin Narrows.

Sights to see from the road are Towers of the Virgin from the Visitor Center parking lot and The Temple of Sinawava at the end of the road.

Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Recreation Area
The Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona is an incredible place to visit, and offers something for everyone.  Lake Powell is a man-made lake (still the subject of controversy) and an excellent place to base camp.  Nearby are numerous slot canyons and hikes, enough to spend days exploring.  There are scenic road tours as well.  Nearby are such attractions as The Wave (good luck getting permits!), The White Pocket, Cathedral Wash, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam and more.

View from Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park
Finally, there is one of the great wonders of the world - the Grand Canyon.  Grand Canyon National Park is divided into two sections - the South Rim and North Rim.  The South Rim is the popular side with easier access.  It two incorporates a shuttle service all but a couple months of the year, and it works quite well.

Mather Point is probably the most popular vantage in Grand Canyon National Park.  Nearby Yavapai Point is also very nice.  Both serve well for both sunrise and sunsets.

View from Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park
Hopi Point is an excellent point to experience sunset on the South Rim - possibly the best in fact.  One can hike out to this point, then take the shuttle back after dark.

Yaki Point is best for sunrises and popular with photographers (along with Mather Point).  This requires an early rise and the use of the shuttle service.

The North Rim is at a substantially higher elevation.  The winter months bring road closures, which makes access difficult.

For the more ambitious, there are numerous hikes down into the canyon.  These are best planned well in advance as permits can be challenging to obtain.

There are many more places to visit.  I have only scratched the surface.  Many more images can be viewed in my Southwest Gallery.  You may also view images from many other areas at my website, www.mountainscenes.com.

I hope my images and the info I have shared spark a desire to visit one or more of any of these areas.  As I write this, I am only a week away from going back to some of these wonderful areas myself!  I hope you enjoy.  Thanks for visiting.






Sunday, February 11, 2018

Snowpatch Spire in the Bugaboos

Snowpatch Spire in late fall, Bugaboo Provincial Park, Purcell Range, British Columbia, Canada.
Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboo Provincial Park.
Snowpatch Spire is a prominent peak in the Bugaboos of the Purcell Mountains in eastern British Columbia, Canada.  It's named after the prominent snow patch on its shoulder.  As with many of its neighboring peaks, it's granite rock offers world-class mountaineering routes and attracts climbers from around the world.

Bugaboo Provincial Park is accessed from Highway 95 just north of Radium, BC.  This incredibly scenic park is very remote, offering very little in the way of hiking trail.  However, it offers two popular trails - Cobalt Lake and Conrad Kain Hut/Applebee Dome.

This image was taken on a late fall morning during a recent trip to the Bugaboos, and was currently licensed for worldwide usage in a soon-to-be-released book.

While I am still working on my Purcell Gallery and don't have it up yet, you may find other images to your liking on my website at www.mountainscenes.com, including images from the Canadian Rockies, right next door to the Bugaboos and Purcells!

As always, thanks for looking!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Photographing Bandon Beach

Pink skies after sunset behind sea stacks at Bandon Beach along the Oregon coast, USA.
Sea stacks at Bandon Beach at sunset.
A few weeks ago I got to spend some extended time photographing one of my favorite beaches along the Oregon coast - Bandon Beach.  Bandon Beach is the sea stack capital of Oregon, in my opinion.  It offers multiple easy access points, easy beach strolling on hard-packed sand, caves and tunnels to explore at low tide, and fantastic photo opportunities in all seasons.  While there are sea stacks to be found up and down the coast, I find these ones to be the most spectacular and most enjoyable to photograph!

These sea stacks offer dramatic seascapes from Colquille Point to just south of Face Rock State Scenic Wayside - a pretty long stretch of beach to explore.  This stretch of beach attracts all walks of people throughout the day, including beachcombers, walkers, runners, hikers, horseback riders and more.

Morning light on sea stacks at Bandon Beach along the Oregon Coast, Oregon, USA.
Morning light on sea stacks at Bandon Beach
Sea stacks are the work of erosion.  They are craggy, isolated rock outcrops that used to be part of rocky headlands before the ocean waves, and to a less extent winds, carved them into the pointed and jagged spires they are today.  They can be spectacular at sunrise or sunset with colorful skies behind them, or dramatic with darkening storm clouds building up behind them.

Much imagination and native lore has gone into the names of the sea stacks.  As legend would have it,Face Rock is the face of Native American Princess Ewauna, daughter of Chief Siskiyou, who was lured into the sea and drowned by the evil ocean spirit Seatka.  Accompanying this rock are Cat and Kittens Rocks, Witches Hat, Garden of the Gods, Elephant Rock, Table Rock, and many more.  Are are very photogenic!

Where To Visit:

There are four main public access points to this section of beach (more if you drive further south):
  • South Jetty Beach
  • Strawberry Point & Table Rock
  • Colquille Point
  • Face Rock State Scenic Wayside
Sunset behind sea stacks at Bandon Beach along the Oregon coast, Oregon, USA.
Sea stacks at sunset along Bandon Beach
Most photographers spend their time between Colquille Point and just south of Face Rock State Scenic Wayside.  Where to start?  It depends on you and the season you are visiting!  The sun sets much further south in the winter than in the summer, offering a wide variety of different light angles between all four seasons.  My recommendation is to spend the day exploring from one end to the other - go for a walk or a run!  Keep an eye out for interesting compositions while keeping in mind where the most dramatic light will be when you are shooting.  The most obvious light source will be where the sun sets, of course.  But keep an eye on compositions using the southern sky for morning photography too!

Where To Stay:

Sunset behind sea stacks at Bandon Beach along the Oregon coast, Oregon, USA.
Sunset behind Witches Hat at Bandon Beach.
Previously, all my visits to this area involved staying at Bullard Beach State Park.  This is a fantastic park that is only a 10-15 minute drive to the above-mentioned viewpoints, making it very convenient.  It's also very close to the Colquille River Lighthouse, which offers tours in the summer months.

For this winter visit, I enjoyed the comfort of the Sunset Motel with my family where we could enjoy the incredible ocean views from the cozy confines of our living room or upstairs bedroom.  We also had easy private beach access just across the street, north of Face Rock.  It was a real treat!  There are many other nearby lodging options to choose from as well.

When To Go:

What season is best?  That depends.  Most beach photographers I know tend to avoid the summer months, though I have found success this time of year.  Spring and fall are more attractive than summer to many photographers, simply to avoid the summer crowds.  Another drawback to summer is the heavy fog bank that can often roll in and envelope localized areas.  This is mostly a non-issue in the spring and fall.  Of course, for tidepooling, summer offers some of the lowest tides of the year, making it a great time to visit!

Sunset behind sea stacks at Bandon Beach along the Oregon coast, Oregon, USA.
Bandon Beach at sunset.
But wait, I've left out a very important season - winter!  Over the years winter has become one of my favorite times to visit the coast.  Admittedly, it can be a roll of the dice.  But I have been rewarded with some of my most dramatic images this time of year.  And if you are into whale watching, visit Colquille Point the week between Christmas and New Year for the peak gray whale winter migration.  The local tip is that the whales like to congregate at the mouth of the Colquille River for its ample food supply before continuing their southward journey, making it one of the premium whale viewing areas in the area!

How To Dress:

As most beach photographers know, photographing along the beach usually involves getting wet - whether it is that unplanned water crossing or those pesky sneaker waves striking while your back is turned or you're not paying attention!  In the summertime I have found shorts, t-shirt and sandals adequate attire for most occasions, along with a light windbreaker jacket (the breeze always seems to pick up in the evening).

Morning waters at Bandon Beach at sunrise.
For winter visits, I highly recommend dressing warmer, preferably layers - including waterproof pants, rain jacket, warm beanie, and donning a nice pair of rubber waders.  The waders will allow you to focus on your work and not having to worry about the incoming surf.  They also clean up easily.

Photography Gear To Bring:

So much of this is dependent on how you process your images.  But regardless of your workflow, a nice tripod is still a mandatory tool of the trade.  I think all lenses can be utilized here - from wide angle to zoom and everything in between.  If you're into star photography, don't forget your ultra-wide angle as Bandon Beach offers excellent opportunities!  If you use filters - and I do, consider complimenting your standard GND filters with a 2 and 3-stop Reverse GND for sunset.  Unlike a standard GND, a reverse GND is darkest at the horizon and lightens higher in the sky, and is one of my favorite and most used coastal filters.  I also find neutral density filters very nice to smooth
the water in low light situations (to  slower shutter speed), creating a rather mystical look.

Sunset behind sea stacks at Bandon Beach along the Oregon coast, Oregon, USA.
The sun dips behind Witches Hat at Bandon Beach.
On the maintenance side of things, make sure to have a couple of lens cloths to wipe any water drips or moisture build-up off you lens, and be sure to check your lenses often.  There is nothing more frustrating than coming home all excited about that fantastic sunset you shot, only to learn you had water drops and streaks on your lens!

I hope this sparks your interest to visit this spectacular place and helps you with your planning and preparation.  Feel free to contact me with any further questions you might have - I'm always happy to help out!

You may view more of my images from Bandon and the rest of the Oregon coast by visiting my Oregon Coast Gallery.  You may also visit the rest the galleries at my website at www.mountainscenes.com.  As always, thanks for looking!






Saturday, December 2, 2017

2018 Wall Calendars Now Available!

Western Landscapes 2018 wall calendar by Don GeyerLooking for that special gift for someone this holiday season?  Well, I'm excited to announce not one, but TWO of my new 2018 wall calendars are now available for purchase!

The first one is Western Landscapes, which includes images from all over the Western United States and Canada, including Grand Canyon NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Glacier NP, Mount Rainier NP, Bugaboo Provincial Park, Wind River Range, North Cascades, Oregon coast and more!

The second calendar is a little closer to home for me - Mount Rainier.  Mount Rainier is easily my most visited national park due to its close proximity to where I live.  This calendar is comprised of images all around the park, including Paradise, Mazama Ridge, Indian Henry's Hunting Ground, Gobbler's Knob, Spray Park, Moraine Park, Tipsoo Lake and more!

Both my calendars can be purchased online here.

You may also view more of my photography by visiting my Mountain Scenes Photography website.

As always, thanks for looking!

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!