Friday, January 27, 2012

Visiting Island Lake in the Wind Rivers

Mount Fremont and Jackson Peak above a tarn near Island Lake
While filling some book and print orders recently, I noticed a couple of print requests from the Wind River Range - both from the same trip.

Some images require more blood and sweat than others, and these were such an example!

Let me tell the story.

We arrived at the Elkhart Entrance parking lot late in the evening.  We moved all our gear from the back of my truck to the front cab, and crawled in under the canopy to sleep for the evening.  We didn't sleep much.  Shortly after 2:00 am, some local yahoos showed up and began trying to break into vehicles and vandalize them.  They also defecated on the hoods of vehicles, targeting specific out-of-state license plates.

Fortunately, we were not the only ones sleeping in our vehicles, and soon car alarms began going off.  With the added help of our voices and flashlights, the goons sped off.  We were able to provide a description of their vehicle to the ranger in the morning, and received assurance that they would watch our vehicle in the coming days.

Evening light on Elephant Head.
With that headache out of the way, we packed our gear and began our trek up the Titcomb Basin Trail in the morning.  We were only about 2 miles up the trail when it happened; I turned my ankle and crumpled to the ground in pain.  I couldn't seem to walk it off, and the pain grew worse as I rested.  In my mind, we had traveled too far (from Washington) to turn back.  We still had 8 more miles to hike to get to Island Lake - our desired camp.

Eventually, with the help of trekking poles, I was able to force some weight onto the ankle and get back on it.  We continued up the trail at a snail's pace, probably 1/3 of my normal hiking speed.  I found myself focusing on stepping squarely each step; a tedious and disconcerting process.

We successfully arrived at Island Lake late in the day and found a nice campsite.  It would be our home for the next few days. 

With the ankle injury, there would be no wanderings into Upper Titcomb Basin or Indian Basin on this trip, as originally planned.  I had explored both areas on a previous trip and desperately wanted to return for photography.  Instead, I focused my photography around Island Lake in mornings and evenings, which offered some benefits and new learning experiences.

What did I do during the middle of the day?  Mostly rest and soak my ankle.  After all, I had 10 miles of hiking ahead of me to get back to my truck!

We still enjoyed our trip immensely.  How could we not with such beauty all around us?  After all, we were in the Winds!  We experienced beautiful sunrises and sunsets, afternoon lightning storms, and beautiful rainbows.

I managed the return hike to my truck without issue, but was forced to cancel our trek into Cirque of the Towers due to the ankle.  I have subsequently returned to both these places and am happy to report I have not experienced any vandalism or theft issues, only more incredible times.

If you wish to see more images from the Wind River Range, you may check out my Wind River Gallery.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2013 Calendar Images

Garden Wall above Granite Park.
2012 has started nicely for me, with these three images being selected to appear in a 2013 calendar.  I hope there will be many more such stories to share this year!

The first image is from Granite Park in Glacier National Park in Montana.  It was taken on the first day of a 7 day backpack of the North Circle.  The view is looking back along the Garden Wall towards Logan Pass - our starting point.

We were fortunate to catch the flowers in bloom, albeit slightly past their peak in most instances (not all).  Granite Park, Fifty Mountain, Sue Lake Bench and Stoney Indian Lake all presented magnificent meadows in full bloom for us.  Such a treat!

This hike is available as a day hike as well for those not wishing to commit to an extended stay.  The Highline Trail along the Garden Wall can be hiked to Granite Park and back to Logan Pass, or as a one-way trip by doing The Loop and catching the park shuttle back up to Logan Pass.

Either way, it makes for a fantastic trip!

Haystack Falls
The second image is also from Glacier National Park, though a different trip.

Haystack Falls is located along the Going-to-the-Sun Road as it nears Logan Pass.  It's a beautiful waterfall that catches the eye of most motorists as they pass.  The cascade is framed by brick work as the road crosses the stream.

Care should be taken here if choosing to photograph the waterfall.  This area has a high volume of traffic for most of the day and turnouts are limited.  The best parking is a short walk away, and involves carefully walking the road back to the falls.  I recommend visiting in late afternoon when most people have returned to their campsite for dinner.  In fact, that is exactly when I took this image!

Another important consideration is to know the scheduled road closures for Going-to-the-Sun Road for road repair work.  I believe the work is scheduled to last through 2013.  Haystack Falls is beyond the gate and not accessible once the closure takes place.

To view more images from this wonderful park, including additional images of Granite Park and Haystack Falls, you may view my Glacier National Park Gallery.

Elowah Falls.
The final image is from a little closer to my home.  It's of Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon.

Elowah Falls is approached via a short hike from the John B. Yeon trailhead.  It's about 0.75 miles to the falls on a pleasant forest trail.  It can easily be combined with Upper McCord Creek Falls.

Elowah Falls is located in a large basin, offering many different compositions of the falls.  Much time can be spent here, and should be.  One can include the bridge, shown here, or use many other possible foregrounds, including rocks in the stream or plentiful vegetation.

I recommend combining this hike with visits to Latourell Falls, Multnomah Falls, Ponytail Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls and more!  There is a lot to see in the Columbia River Gorge, and one can easily spend a full day doing so.  Don't forget Beacon Rock and Stonehenge on the Washington side!

You can view more images of Elowah Falls, as well as many other waterfalls of this area in my Columbia River Gorge Gallery.

Enjoy, and thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Congratulations to the Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners!

This year I once again served as a panel judge for Washington Trails Assocation's Northwest Exposure photo contest, joining my friend Dave Schiefelbein, Wade Trenbeath, Eli Boschetto and Kindra Ramos.  It was a fun evening, made easier for us thanks to all the hard work of Kindra.

This is an event I really enjoy taking part in.  I enjoy seeing the variety of images submitted, and seeing each photographer's perspective on both familiar and unfamiliar subjects.  There are a lot of talented photographers that take part in this contest.

Congratulations to all the winners!

The grand prize winner was Todd Mortensen for his fantastic image from one of my favorite Olympic beaches - Ruby Beach.  Todd also won Editor's Choice for his spring image from the Columbia Hills.

The categories being judged included Nature & Landscape, Flora & Fauna, Hikers In Action, and Families On Trail.  First, second and third place winners were selected.

To learn all the winning entries and to see these beautiful images, be sure to check out the Jan + Feb issue of Washington Trails magazine!  If you are not a subscriber, you can find the magazine at REI and other outdoor recreation supply stores.  Or better yet, go to and subscribe!

UPDATE:  The complete list of winners and their images can now be viewed on the WTA's web site!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Top 10 Posts for 2011

Happy New Year!  For my first post of 2012, I thought I would take the time to look back at my most popular (most viewed) posts of 2011, and see what everyone was looking at.

My most viewed post by far is from an extended backpacking trip I did in Glacier National Park in Montana:

The North Circle - Glacier National Park

However, while this was my most viewed post in 2011, the post itself is from 2009.  Hard to believe it has already been 2-1/2 years, but it is true.

So, here are the most popular posts from 2011:

1.  Dr. Jose Rizal Park - Wow!

2.  Photographing Yellowstone National Park.

3.  New Wind River Gallery!

4.  New Year's Eve from Kerry Park.

5.  A Special Offer for the Holidays.

6.  Craig Romano & Don Geyer - A Special Book Offer.

7.  Buy Our Archival Quality Note Cards.

8.  Photographing Fall Canyon in Death Valley National Park.

9.  Yosemite National Park in Spring.

10A.  Buck-and-Rail Fences in Grand Teton National Park.

10B.  Photographing the Racetrack in Death Valley National Park.

That's right, there was a tie for the ten spot!

Some surprises with this list?  You bet.  I would not have guessed that a cityscape post would be my most viewed post from the year.  I also was surprised that my extended backpacking trip to Buck Creek Pass/Image Lake/Spider Gap in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of Washington did not crack the top ten.

So, what will be new for 2012?  Lots!  For starters, I will begin working on additional galleries to my web site, to include wildlife and Seattle/Puget Sound.  I also will be adding new images to my North Cascades Gallery. 

In the coming months I will be visiting the Skagit Valley and Fir Island to photograph eagles and snow geese.  I will also be spending more time at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.  March will find me visiting Othello, WA for the Othello Sand Crane Festival.  I have never been to this event.

Special photography trips I am contemplating this year include Southern Utah, Wind River Range, the Eastern Sierra and Canadian Rockies.  I will not be able to visit all these destinations, so I will have to choose.

In 2012 I plan to add a new element to my blog as well:  I plan to share my personal photography techniques to include everything from trip planning to lighting to compositions and more.  I hope others will find some of my suggestions helpful.  If you have any specific subjects you would like me to write about, feel free to post a comment or shoot me an e-mail.  I am always open to suggestions!

Here is to a happy 2012!