Monday, December 16, 2013

Wall Calendar Images

Mount Steel reflected in Lake La Crosse at sunset, Olympic National Park, Washington.
Mount Steel reflected in Lake La Crosse.
This is the time of year that I become busy with calendar image requests.  Of course, calendar companies are working 1-2 years in advance.  2014 calendars were printed and on store shelves 6-9 months ago!

Here are a couple more images that will be appearing in 2015 wall calendar - both from Olympic National Park here in Washington.

The first one is from a fantastic solo backpacking trip I did into La Crosse Basin over a five day period, entering via the N. Fork Skykomish (Staircase) and exiting out the Hamma Hamma.  There was a forest fire in the vicinity, which often make for dramatic sunrises and sunsets.  One may also access the area via the Quinault and Enchanted Valley.  Any way you choose, it is a minimum two days to reach this lovely basin.  But it is well worth the effort.

Mount Olympus and lupine along High Divide after sunset in Olympic National Park, Washington.
Mount Olympus from High Divide.
High Divide is probably the best area to view Mount Olympus that is accessed by trail (my favorite place is very much off trail).  It is most commonly accessed from Sol Duc, though some approach it from the Hoh.  A favorite is to do a loop trip from Sol Duc, hiking up to Heart Lake, then venturing over to fantastic Seven Lakes Basin.  There are fabulous campsite in both locations.  But the even better ones are up on the divide itself, offering exceptional views of Mount Olympus and Mount Carrie.

High Divide is an excellent destination in late July/early August for flowers, or late September/early October for fall colors.

I'll share more information about the calendars once they go to publication, which won't be long from now.  Stay tuned!

For more images of Olympic National Park, be sure and check out my Olympic Gallery, which includes these images and more.

I'm not sure whether I'll have another update before Christmas, so please allow me to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all now.  I hope you are afforded the opportunity to spend time with family, enjoy good food, and find something special under the tree!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Snoqualmie Falls in Winter

Snoqualmie Falls amidst winter ice, Washington.
Snoqualmie Falls and an ice filled basin in winter.
One of my favorite winter destinations in western Washington when the temps dip into the teens is Snoqualmie Falls.  The splash from the falls coats the cliffs and rocks in the area and instantly freezes, creating a winter wonderland for the eyes!

Typically, the most common time for this to happen is the month of December.  But it can take place in January and February as well.  Whenever the cold snap happens, I jump in my vehicle and make the half hour drive from my house to the falls, commonly in the dark so as to be there before sunrise.

Snoqualmie Falls amidst winter ice, Washington.
Snoqualmie Falls in winter.
The facility at Snoqualmie Falls has had a recent face lift.  Previous visitors might remember the gazebo-like platform for viewing the falls from the cliff edge.  This is gone.  A new platform without a roof has taken its place. 

Also installed are some new spot lights that are pointed at the upper falls.  I think this is a pretty cool feature, both for casual tourists and photographers.  See the color highlights at the top of the falls in the image to the left?  Evening light as the sun is about to set?  Nope.  The illumination is actually coming from the new lights.  Pretty soft and natural looking, isn't it?

There have been other changes made as well.  I really like the upgrade.

There are a couple of different places to enjoy the falls.  The most obvious is the platform high up on the cliff edge near the Salish Lodge.  This vantage offers a bird's eye view of the falls and is the most famous.

However, curious and adventurous photographers will want to investigate the base of the falls.  There is a trail which from the platform area that leads down to the base of the falls.  This was closed due to ice during my visit.  My advise?  Do what most people do and drive down the road a little further to find parking at the lower TH.

Rime ice at Snoqualmie Falls in winter.
Rime ice beside Snoqualmie Falls.
For photographers, there is a lot to do here!  The obvious subject is the falls, of course.  And one can play with both horizontal and vertical compositions.  You can include a lot of the area with a wide angle lens, or come in tight with a medium lens.

Ah, but there are even more opportunities with 200mm lens or greater.  You can isolate some of the ice formations, working with patterns and natural features.

While photographing the falls, don't forget to play with shutter speeds for a completely different look.  You can shoot fast to freeze (almost, in this case) the water, or shoot slower to get the smooth, ribbon effect.  Each tell a much different story.  What is your preference?  Many photographers follow the rule that powerful, turbulent waterfalls are best frozen, while smaller, lighter streams should be shot slower for more artistic effect.  What do I think?  I think every rule is meant to be broken, and that it is up to artistic perception and interpretation.

Here is a top-bottom comparison of what I am talking about - same composition, different shutter speeds.  Which do you like?

Snoqualmie Falls and winter ice, Washington.
f 2.8, 1/80th second.

Snoqualmie Falls and winter ice, Washington.
f 22, 0.8 second.
Most people equate the choice to, artistic or dramatic? I'll let you be the judge.

For more images of Snoqualmie Falls, check out an older post I did.  You may also view more images in my Snoqualmie Falls Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2015 Calendar Images

A rainbow in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.
Double rainbow in Wind River Range, Wyoming.
 I can't believe it has been a month since my last post.  Things have been quite busy of late, starting with recent knee surgery.  I tore the medial meniscus in my right knee somehow, which required surgery about 3 weeks ago.  Recovery has been going well, but I am no where near where I would like to be.  When you are an active person, it is very hard to sit.  I would much rather be running, bicycling and enjoying snowshoe hikes in the mountains!

The downtime does allow me some opportunities to catch up things, however.  Such as planning future hikes and photography trips, getting caught up on photo submissions to both editors and my agency, and even getting some web work in.  Still...

As such, I thought I would share a couple of images that have been selected to repeat in a 2015 calendar.  I know, it's a long way off.  But that is how calendar companies operate.  They are always working 1-2 years ahead to allow for submissions, image selection, layout design, and production.  These can be time consuming tasks.

Mount St. Helens above flowers near summit of Mount Margaret in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington.
Mount St. Helens from Mount Margaret.
The image above was taken near the Elkhart Entrance to the Wind River Range in Wyoming.  We had just arrived after a long day of driving from Washington state, and were setting up to sleep at the TH.  A storm had just come through, and as the clouds slowly began to clear this beautiful double rainbow emerged. 

The image to the right is from a very special backpack I did with my dad into the Mount Margaret backcountry in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, and was taken very near the summit of Mount Margaret.  This was during a time of considerable thermal activity inside the crater as the dome was growing at an escalated pace and captivating the curiosity of geologists and researchers.

Both these images are available for purchase as prints on my website.

I have many other things going on as well, which I hope to catch up with and share soon.

As always, thanks for viewing.  Hope to see you on the trail (or snow slopes) soon!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Helpful Tips on Predicting Fall Colors

Wahkeena Creek below Wahkeena Falls.
 Overall, many photographers in the Pacific Northwest grew frustrated with the poor showing of fall colors in 2013.  There were colors to be had, mind you.  If you could get to the larch despite the early season snow fall, they were fantastic.  However, if looking for native deciduous trees in the lower hills or valleys, it was a trying time with many leaves simply turning brown and falling to the ground while other leaves waited to turn.

This was rather easy to predict, however, with the uncharacteristically dry summer we had - one of the driest on record.

Let's start with the basics.  The most important element needed for beautiful fall colors is leaf volume.  How is this achieved?  Typically, with a moderate summer.  Too wet of a summer can promote disease and insects.  In a drought summer, as we experienced with no rain in July and very little in August, volume will be limited.

Healthy leaves stay attached to the trees longer, and present a better quality viewing surface (nice, radiant colors).  Dry conditions, pests and disease disrupt leaf surfaces.

Bridal Veil Falls in Bridal Veil State Park.
Temperature and precipitation during the fall color season will also greatly affect the colors of leaves.  Cool temperatures during the night with no freezes or frost, coupled with bright sunny days will enhance the changing of the leaf colors.  Slightly dry conditions in the last half of the growing season and during the transition into fall promote the changing color effect.

Fall rain systems and long overcast conditions diminish color appearance.  So do gusty winds that blow the leaves from the trees.  Freezing temperatures and hard frosts will kill the color formation, simply turning the leaves brown.

Here's another tip:  Keep a record of prime fall color dates for a specific area(s).  Peak color dates tend to repeat themselves.

The images appearing in this blog were taken in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area towards the end of October, 2013.  You will note mostly brown leaves on the ground with only a few gold one's serving as highlights.  Meanwhile, cottonwoods and other trees were still mostly green.

I hope this information helps you to better plan your fall color trips in the coming years.

Feel free to view other images from the Columbia River Gorge on my website.

See you on the trail!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oxbow Bend in Fall - Grand Teton National Park

Mount Moran reflected in the Snake River at Oxbow Bend before sunrise, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA.
Grand Teton National Park can be an incredible place to visit in the fall.   The crowds have diminished, the colors are poppin', the elk rut is on, and bears and other wildlife are commonly seen as they prepare for the winter months.

Colors peak anywhere from the last week in September to the first week in October, typically.

There are many favorite places to photograph fall colors within the park.  Most popular are Schwabacher Landing, Oxbow Bent (pictured here), Snake River Overlook, Mormon Row and Blacktail Ponds Overlook.  You will rarely be alone at any of these locations.

The image above was taken at Oxbow Bend.  Early morning promotes calm water on the Snake River, helping to capture the reflection of Mount Moran in its waters.  Sunrise is best, and requires arriving well before sunrise to stake your spot along the shoulder of the road before the crowds arrive.

This image was recently leased to appear worldwide on an editorial news website.  It has been a very popular image for me.  I hope you enjoy.

As always, thanks for visiting!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Challenging Fall in the Pacific Northwest

Ingalls Peak and fall larches from snow-covered
Headlight Basin in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
The snow came early to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest this year, making it more challenging to visit some of the more popular larch shows in our area.  Couple this with colors running late and the government shutdown closing all the national parks in our state, and it has been a test for even the most patient and understanding photographers and hikers.

Despite a run of nice weather over the last week or so, temps remain cool up high (as one would expect) and the snow does not appear to be going anywhere.  The usual suspect for displays of larch have only been available to those prepared for snow travel.  These destinations include:   Ingalls Lake, Enchantment Lakes, Lake Stuart and Horseshoe Lake, Carne Mountain, Cutthroat Pass, Snowy Lakes, Blue Lake, etc.

What do we have to look forward to?  According my weather forecasting friends, October is not supposed to see any storms this year.  While we might have some minor systems move through, the extended forecast is one of relatively nice weather.

There are many areas of bright fall colors remaining to be enjoyed lower down in the coming weeks, including along the Columbia River Gorge, the lower western slopes of the Cascades, Sol Duc, Crescent Lake and Dosewalips areas of Olympic NP, and if one is willing to put some miles under their wheels, the northeastern part of our state is always a great choice.

Wherever you elect to go, remember that hunting season is well underway and the wearing of bright colored clothing is highly recommended if hiking in areas with hunters present.

Good luck in your search for colors and hope to see you on the trail!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Enjoying Mount Rainier's West Side

Evening alpenglow at sunset on Mount Rainier from Emerald Ridge, Mount Rainier National Park, Cascade range, Washington, USA.
Mount Rainier from Emerald Ridge at sunset.
This image is of Mount Rainier at sunset from Emerald Ridge. The Tahoma Glacier has carved out a feature called the Sunset Amphitheater on this side of the volcano. It is my favorite side of the mountain due to its mix of rock and ice in such a wild and remote setting.

The story:

Yesterday I did a rather ambitious trip to Mount Rainier. I left home at 6:00 am, and would not return until nearly 1:00 am this morning.

I drove down to the West Side Road and hiked up the road 8 miles to St. Andrews Creek, then 2.6 miles up to Klapatche Park. Here I soaked up the sun for a few hours, having the place entirely to myself. Finally, I ventured 0.8 miles over to St. Andrews Park, where I lounged for about an hour and chatted with a few thru hikers. From there, I descended 3.2 miles to the South Puyallup River, and ascended 1.8 miles to the prow of Emerald Ridge for sunset.

I arrived a little later than hoped, but still in plenty of time for the evening show. What a fantastic place!

As soon as the final show was over, I hurriedly packed my gear for the descent of the Tahoma Creek trail in the dark. Earlier in the my trip, I spoke with a couple of hikers that had ascended the trail. They gave it a clean bill of health. No issues, no problems - easy going.

Mount Rainier from Emerald Ridge in evening light, Mount Rainier National Park, Cascade Range, Washington, USA.
Mount Rainier above meadows on Emerald Ridge.
This was not the case. This trail has changed much over the last few years with many more washouts. Though easy to follow with headlamp, the trail is tedious with many steep climbs over recent washouts. I honestly can't recommend this route to anyone any longer due to the length of time and effort to get up and over all these.

The climax of washouts was when nearly back to the road. I encountered the washout I had heard about from others, but heard rumor that WTA had fixed. This washout can't be fixed. The entire hillside collapsed, leaving a wall of rock in its place; a giant cliff that cannot be navigated around.

I soon realized the cairns had me crossing the river over a giant log, though I looked for all other options before committing. Once on the other side, three more cairns lead me along the river's far side, then ended. I spent over 1/2 an hour exploring all options. Soon I saw a headlamp ahead in the dark. I knew no one else was on the trail, so it must be coming from the road. It was less than 100 yards away. Frustrated, I again explored all options. I then weighed the terrain on the other side of the river where the trail should be, and realized aiming directly for it was the best option.

Evening light on Sunset Amphitheater and chaotic Tahoma Glacier on Mount Rainier, Mount Rainier National Park, Cascade Range, Washington, USA.
Sunset Amphitheater and the Tahoma Glacier on Mount Rainier.
There was no way to cross the river. So I decided to investigate fording it. The Tahoma is a raging torrent, for those that don't know. It has inflicted heavy damage along its route for a reason over the years. I wasn't crazy about the idea - crossing a dangerous river, in the dark, and alone. But I found a spot that seemed to minimize the dangers and stepped in. I found myself nearly knee deep. A second step had me knee deep. I probed ahead with my poles and grew confident the depth would not grow much deeper. A third step had me lower thigh deep and feeling the river's push. Two more steps and I was on dry ground, and more importantly, on trail!

With wet boots I walked the final mile of road back to my vehicle, arriving around 10:30 pm.

Total stats 21 miles round trip, elevation gain ~5,600'.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Haystack Falls in Glacier National Park

Haystack Falls along the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park at sunset, Rocky Mountain range, Montana, USA.
Haystack Falls
After spending extended time down on the Oregon coast, I am trying to get caught up on print orders and other business matters.

Here is one of the images I am creating a print of.  It's an evening picture of Haystack Creek Falls along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, taken just as the sun was highlighting the peaks of the Garden Wall above.

This beautiful waterfall cascades down the western side of the Garden Wall, and spills under a stone bridge.  It is seems terraced, as if it were man made (it's not).

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is voted one of America's most scenic roads year after year.  If you haven't visited the area, I highly recommend you do so.  And don't forget to take your camera!

You will need a wide angle lens (this was shot at 24mm), and if shooting in evening light as I did, a 2-stop graduated neutral density filter.

More images of this area can be viewed on my website at

As always, thanks for viewing!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The South Oregon Coast

Sunset at Harris Beach along the Oregon coast, Oregon, USA.
Sunset at Harris Beach State Park, Oregon.
I've just returned from an excellent trip to the south Oregon coast, having visited Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, and Bandon Beach.  These beaches are my favorite of the entire Oregon coast, and they did not disappoint!

I hope to share images in the coming days - stay tuned!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Replacing my Canon TC-80N3 Remote

Programmable remote controls for Canon DSLR.
One of these remotes retails locally in Seattle at a reputable camera store for $159, while the other can be easily found online with a $31 price tag.  Can you guess which is which?

Let me get your attention even more.  Look past the name stamped on the front and these remotes are completely identical - clearly the same manufacturer.

I began my search for a replacement TC-80N3 remote for my Canon bodies due to battery corrosion (lesson learned - ALWAYS remove the battery when not in use).

I Googled the model number first, and had immediate sticker shock upon seeing the results.  I guess I had forgotten how much I paid originally.  The best price I could find for the TC-80N3 was $129 online.  But wait, some aftermarket remotes came up in the search, which I honestly hadn't considered. 

So I changed my search phrase to "remotes for canon dslr" and up popped this alternate remote by from Cowboy Studio.  From the picture it looked like the exact same remote as the Canon!  The reviews were overwhelming amongst photographers - over 70 reviewers giving it 4 to 5 stars, and no negative comments.

So I took the chance.

The remote arrived yesterday, and yes, it appears to be the EXACT same remote as the Canon.  The box has a cover photo of the remote with no name brand on it.  The manual appears to be identical to my Canon manual for the TC-80N#.  The model number for the new remote?  TC-1002.

I am leaving for the Oregon coast in the morning and will be testing this new accessory out over the coming week.  I'll let you know the results, but I can't imagine they are going to be anything but positive.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mount Rainier Flower Update

If you haven't been up to Rainier to enjoy the flower show, you are running out of time!  Flowers are still very nice at Paradise, but are slightly past peak.  Tipsoo Lakes and Naches Peak are well past peak, as is Sunrise.

Spray Park is putting on a nice show, with the best display up high.  Mazama Ridge is looking nice too - I recommend hiking the Skyline Trail and The Lakes Trail.  I haven't seen any reports on Indian Henry's, but would expect it to be sporting a nice display.

Get out and enjoy them while they last!

This will likely be my last report on the flowers at Rainier for the season as I am leaving in a couple of days for the Oregon coast.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mount Rainier Flower Update

Early light on the Tatoosh Range above meadows on Mazama Ridge.
Yesterday, I spent a long day on the south side of the mountain.  I left my home at 3:00 am, drove to Fourth Crossing near Paradise, and hiked up Mazama Ridge in time for sunrise.  I then ascended the Skyline Trail to the highest meadows before reversing my tracks and traversing the trail back to Paradise proper, using the Paradise Road to loop back to my vehicle.  Not done yet, I drove to Longmire and hiked up Eagle Peak!

I arrived home too late to process images to share (soon), but know many people would like a flower update before the weekend.
Mount Rainier above lupine at Paradise.

So here it is.

This year seems to be lacking variety on the south side.  Lupine are out in force, with paintbrush dotting the patches here and there.  The only asters I saw were along the Paradise Valley Road, and they were well past.  I believe this unusual dry spell we have been experiencing over the last 1-1/2 months may be having an adverse affect on some flower species.  It will be interesting to see how things play out.

Mazama Ridge is still a ways out, with both avalanche and glacier lilies still out in numbers, though well past.  I was disappointed with the meadows along The Lakes Trail, though there are some nice patches lower down, out-of-sight of the mountain, but in full view of the Tatoosh Range.  The same can be said along the Skyline Trail.

Paradise Meadows are fantastic right now - near peak, I would say.  The lupine are in full bloom and the meadows sport intense lavender color.  The area just shy of Edith Creek and the Edith Creek bridge crossing are particularly attractive.
Mount Rainier above Paradise Meadows.

Reflection Lakes are well past, and surrounded with construction.  I was going to drive down Stevens Canyon to scope things out, but decided the inconveniences were too much.  It was fascinating to watch the workers placing the stone blocks on the side of the highway though.  While many photographers are fearful of limited access to the lakes in the future, I think this project is bringing a much needed facelift to the area, and I'm excited to see it at completion.

Tipsoo Lakes and the Naches Peak Trail continue to have fantastic displays of a wide variety of flowers.  This area has probably been the most impressive of any place in the park this year, in my opinion.

Summerland is sporting a profuse display of Monkey Flower right now near the creek.  More varieties can be found up higher.

All of these locations share a common bond:  BUGS!  Be prepared!

Happy shooting!  I hope to see you on the trail!

Edit:  Images added 8/10.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Flower Update For Mount Rainier National Park!

Mount Rainier from the Naches Peak trail.
Have you been out to see the flowers at Mount Rainier yet?  If not, what are you waiting for?  There are lots of great showings right now!

Tipsoo Lakes are sporting an excellent show right now - probably peak.  Yakima Park at Sunrise and Berkely Park are also rocking the look, with peak probably happening later this week, based on what I saw last Saturday.

The Naches Peak Loop trail is looking very nice right now.  I would guess peak is still a few days away - maybe by this weekend.

Grand Park still looks very nice based on reports I've received, but is on its way out as one would expect.

If you are a fan of avalanche lilies, Spray Park or Lake Eunice is for you!  The Paradise area is also offering a carpet of white as most of the snow melts.  I would guess Paradise and Mazama Ridge are still on target for their prime show around the second weekend of August or so.

I hope this helps in your planning!  If you have any additional beta, please feel free to share.  Hope to see you on the trail!

Edit 8/1:  The park web site is stating flowers at Sunrise have indeed reached peak!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Flowers at Mount Rainier!

Mount Rainier above Yakima Park at sunrise.
It's that time of year again!  Yes, it is flower season at Mount Rainier, with beautiful displays appearing in select locations.

Stevens Canyon Road and the Sunrise Road are currently sporting impressive showings of lupine, aster, paintbrush and more.

Berkeley Park is ablaze in color right now, as are Owyhigh Lakes and Eagle Peak saddle.

Lupine is on display all along the Sourdough Ridge Trail and below Dege Peak.

While the flower display in Yakima Park at Sunrise is well underway, I believe they will be more impressive in another week or so. I would expect the same to be true for Summerland.

Avalanche and Glacier lilies can be found at Paradise, Indian Henry's, Van Trump Park & Spray Park, as well as along the trail to Gobblers Knob.  Heather is also in early bloom at Paradise and Mazama Ridge.

Remember that with along with flower season come those pesky mosquitos and biting flies.  Don't forget to pack your bug spray!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Recent Visit to Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier reflected in the still water of Upper Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park, Cascade range, Washington, USA.
Mount Rainier reflected in Upper Tipsoo Lake before sunrise.
I spent this past weekend up at Mount Rainier, enjoying the opening of Sunrise for the season.  Hooray!

Snow is melting fast, and flowers are only weeks away on the north side of the mountain.  But why wait for flowers when scenes like this present themselves?

This image is from Upper Tipsoo Lake.  I arrived at 3:30 am (yes, you read that correctly) in hopes of doing some star photography.  Unfortunately, the half moon in the sky had me casting shadows on the snow, and washed out all stars over the mountain.

So I sat and waited for sunrise.

While I waited, I composed this image as the Earth's shadow with it's classic blue and pink colored ribbon, reflected in the calm water of the lake.  It was a very peaceful and serene setting, making the early hour worth while (as always).

To see more images from Mount Rainier, please visit my Mount Rainier Gallery.

Thank you for visiting.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Newly Updated South and Central Cascades Gallery

Prusik Peak and fall larches in the Enchantment Lakes area, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Cascade range, Washington, USA.
Prusik Peak above Gnome Tarn.
I recently updated my South and Central Cascades Gallery to include additional images of Mount St. Helens, as well as many images from a fall trip into the Enchantment Lakes.

The images of Mount St. Helens were taken during a trip in which I spent the evening photographing on Johnston Ridge, then drove through the night to Windy Ridge for sunrise.  As I neared the Windy Ridge parking lot, the fog became thicker than I had ever witnessed, and I could not see to park!  I had to get out of my vehicle and carefully wander around in search of a parking stall.  Fortunately, I was very close to one and was able to return to my vehicle and safely maneuver to a safe parking spot for the night!

The Enchantment Lakes are a beautiful set of high elevation lakes in a granite basin near Leavenworth, Washington.  My favorite time to visit them is in early to mid October after the larches have turned.  Due to the high elevation, this can often mean snow!  Thus was the case during this visit.

I hope you enjoy the new additions!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photographing the Tonquin Valley

The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake, Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake at dawn.
The Tonquin Valley is considered the jewel of Jasper National Park by many.  Located deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the valley is famous for its dramatic scene of The Ramparts towering high above Amethyst Lakes, and casting their beautiful reflection into the lake’s calm waters at sunrise.  It is truly a sight to behold.

Of course, I must qualify the above description as being season dependent.  The Tonquin Valley is best visited in late season.  By late August, the bugs are gone and most of the “swampy” areas have dried up.  Visit in July and you will be swarmed by mosquitoes and horse flies beyond belief, likely requiring a head net and full clothing as you negotiate through bug hell.  Amethysts lakes can be difficult to approach in early season due to wetlands.  Trails can also be extremely muddy.

The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake, Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake at sun
The valley is known for its abundance of wildlife, including caribou, cougars, wolves and grizzly bears.  During my visit, caribou were not present, while a new pack of wolves was.  It was widely believed that the wolves had migrated over from another valley, chasing the caribou away.  Fatal grizzly bear attacks have occurred in the Tonquin Valley in recent years.  While most hikers will not see a bear during their visit (I didn’t), it is very important to be prepared and aware while on the trail.

There are two approaches to the Tonquin Valley – the Astoria River trail and McCarib Pass trail.  Both are long.  While the Portal Creek Trail is longer (14.2 miles) and gains about 1,000’ more elevation as it climbs over McCarib Pass, it is much more scenic.  McCarib Pass is high, open country with views in all directions.  It should not be missed, even if it means a day hike from the lake to experience.  The Astoria River Trail is shorter (12.7 miles) and the quickest way into Amethyst Lakes.  I can’t compare the two trails because at the time of my visit, a massive slide off Mount Edith Cavell had closed the road to the trailhead, as well as the trail itself.

The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake, Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
There are two prime campgrounds in the valley, Surprise Point Campground and Amethyst Campground.  Both are very scenic and offer excellent views of The Ramparts above Amethyst Lakes.  Amethyst Campground is more popular, and in my opinion, offering the better view and composition.  Nonetheless, I have seen beautiful images from Surprise Point as well.  Maybe you will need to visit both!

The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake, Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Ramparts reflected in Amethyst Lake.
Morning is the time to photograph The Ramparts and their reflection in the lake.  Sunrise turns the rock bright pink, then gold as the morning progresses.  As long as the weather is stable, the water will be calm for the first few hours of the morning.
Getting to the lake from the Amethyst Campground can be tricky, outside the obvious trail from the campground.  This is because the rolling meadows are comprised mostly of wetlands.  For the most interesting foreground, I recommend hiking the main trail south for about ¼ mile, then aiming for the obvious rocks along the lakeshore.  This is a prime sunrise location to shoot from.

The Ramparts reflected in a tarn near Amethyst Lakes in Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Ramparts reflected in a tarn in Tonquin Valley.
By mid-morning the sunlight will begin to hit the meadows of the valley.  I recommend following the obvious trail from the campground to the lake as it passes several interesting rocks and tarns.

If staying at Sunrise Point, the area near the bridge entering the campground offers excellent foreground as rocks abound along the shore and in the shallow water.

The Tonquin Valley is best suited for wide-angle lenses.  My 17-40mm was my most used lens, with my 24-70mm coming in second.  I also hauled in my 70—200mm for wildlife, hoping to catch a grizzly bear or caribou.  My only grizzly encounter was at the trailhead parking lot the night before while I was sleeping.  As mentioned above, with the new presence of a wolf pack in the valley, the caribou are believed to have mostly left.  I probably would leave the large glass at home next time in consideration of the weight.
The Ramparts tower above Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Ramparts above Tonquin Valley.

You will want both a 2-stop and 3-stop GND filter.  I would also recommend a polarizer.  If you are into star photography, the Tonquin Valley is an excellent place for star shots as well as the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).  You might even have a wolf follow you back to your tent as I did!

If you are determined to carry heavy camera gear for your visit, there are pack guide services available that will haul your equipment for you for a fee.
I highly recommend spending a few days in the valley, with a full day on both sides for hiking in and hiking out.  Every morning offered different lighting and was a unique experience for me.  This also gives you time to further explore the area.
Enjoy your visit to this fantastic slice of heaven.  Life slows down here.  It’s okay to slow down with it.

To view more images of the area, visit my Canadian Rockies Gallery.

As always thanks for reading!

Friday, May 3, 2013

2014 Wall Calendars

2014 Mountains of Washington Wall Calendar.
I know it seems a little too early to be thinking about 2014 calendars.  Heck, we aren't even halfway into 2013 yet!  But in order to get such products on store shelves in time, planning and production must start early - often 2 - 3 years in advance.

Next year I find my work appearing in several wall calendars.  But the one I am most pleased about is the line produced by Smith-Western Co., a local company out of Tacoma.  I have worked with them for many years now, and have enjoyed an excellent relationship with them.

In 2014, I will have four images appearing in the pages and on the cover of their Mountains of Washington calendar, and one image in their Washington calendar.  The wall calendars are too large for my scanning capabilities, so you will have to settle for a picture of the pocket calendar version (same calendar as the wall version, only smaller)!

These calendars should start appearing on store shelves soon, if they haven't already.  In years past, I have seen them in Fred Meyer, Bartells, Rite-Aid, the Space Needle, and more.  Keep your eyes open and help support local business!

I haven't made up my mind yet whether I will sell these on my web site again.  The problem we run into is that shipping is so darn expensive - almost the price of the calendar.  I will likely have them available at my shows later in the year.

I hope everyone is having an excellent spring!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seattle Waterfront

A ferry in Puget Sound with the Seattle waterfront in the background.
The Seattle waterfront is a fantastic place for photography.  There are many parks and vantages to view the cityscape from, all offering their unique perspectives.  I previously offered some ideas here.

My favorite waterfront vantage is this one from West Seattle - Hamilton Park.  This park is located on California Ave just before it descends down to Alki Ave, and makes a great evening/sunset location.

This image is currently appearing in a 2013 wall calendar being distributed worldwide.  Seattle is being represented!

This reminds me that I need to get my Seattle and Puget Sound galleries added to my web site soon.  No rest, I tell you!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Back from the Southwest

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park.
I just returned from Utah, and enjoyed photographing in Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands National Park, as well as Red Canyon and areas around Moab.  I had planned to spend time in Escalante as well, but weather was not very kind to me there.

The trip was incredible, and I am excited to begin editing images!  I hope to have some images to share soon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Disappointed With Gitzo Customer Service

Broken Gitzo GT2531 tripod.
You may recall I experienced a failure of my Gitzo GT2531 tripod a couple of months ago.  I spent a cold New Year's Day photographing at Mount Rainier National Park and unexpectedly had. not one, but two leg hinges break.  You can read more about the experience here (or scroll down a couple of posts).

I was pretty frustrated to say the least.  This is not how I would expect a tripod to fail, especially a name like Gitzo.

My first guess was fatigue cracks had developed in the hinges, and cold temperatures accelerated the failure.

I tried to contact Gitzo, sending them several e-mails asking if this was a known problem, or one they had seen before, or entirely new.  I offered to send the tripod to them for evaluation if they wished.  I never received a response from them.

An independent analysis of the failed part detected signs of small stress cracks.  This didn't surprise me as I wondered if I was stressing the hinges when securing the tripod to my pack - possibly cinching it down too tightly and overcompressing the legs inward.  Having removed my center column long ago, this would allow even further inward movement.

Lightweight Gitzo center piece.  Yes, that is 3.5 oz!
It was also pointed out to me that we photographers pay the price for going light.  The Gitzo Mountainer GT2531 tripod uses carbon fiber legs and a magnesium center piece.  While the carbon fiber isn't greatly influenced by colder temperatures, magnesium alloy is.

The yield strength, tensile strength and hardness of magnesium alloy increases as temperature decreases, while its impact resistance decreases.  Basically, this means in cold temperatures magnesium alloy becomes more brittle.  A great source of information on this can be found here.

I originally considered replacing my tripod, but was not excited about rewarding Gitzo with my business now.  I stongly considered switching to another brand, in fact.

Then I realized a repair of my existing tripod would be a less expensive alternative.  This made more sense to me.

Gitzo now partners with a company called CRIS in Chandler, AZ for all service repairs.  On their web site, CRIS encourages you to call first to make arrangements for repairs.  I found them very difficult to get hold off, always going to voice mail and calls never being returned.  It does appear they are going through a transition period, moving stock and operations from Manfrotto in New Jersey.  Maybe things will get better with time.

New Gitzo GT2531 center piece.
It was while I was attempting to contact CRIS that I began questioning paying for somebody else to service my tripod if I could repair it myself (it was becoming clear there would be no gratuities offered). is located in the UK and is an excellent source for parts.  They have a very large inventory, and offer free shipping - yes, even to the U.S.  In just a few days, I had the part I needed at my doorstep, and at a fraction of the price I would have paid for repairs.  I highly recommend them.

I am back up and running now and ready for my next adventure, with no help from Gitzo.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Images in Death Valley National Park

Don Geyer at Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley NP.
(image courtesy Kyle Sides)
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Park. 

About a year ago I licensed some images for a new display they were putting together.  This was my first opportunity to view the finished product, and I was quite impressed.  The production quality is excellent, and something to be proud of.

The humorous part of my visit was that, given a year since licensing the images, I had forgotten specifically which images had been used.  As I walked through the entrance and turned the corner to the right, there I was starring at - me!  Yes, that is me hiking in Fall Canyon (I believe it is the very last hike I did with my dad).  Also included are images of Fall Canyon, Badwater and Artist Palette.

While posing for this snapshot, some visitors recognized me in the picture and came over to say hello.  I enjoyed meeting and talking with them, and listening to their stories and experiences in the park.  Everyone I talked to were travelling, some from as far away as Canada.  It was obvious that Death Valley was providing them with many special memories to take back home and share.

You can view the images included in the displays at Death Valley and many more in my Death Valley Gallery.  I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Photographing Eagles along the Skagit

Bald Eagle near Diobsud Creek.
 Every year beginning in December and peaking in mid-January, the bald eagles return to the Skagit River and its tributaries.  What makes the Skagit River so attractive to them?  Several things, actually.  The swift current promotes spawning for five different species of salmon, the river does not freeze over, and as one of the healthiest rivers in the area, the Skagit is able to absorb eagles when surrounding rivers are having poor salmon years.

The peak population fluctuates from year-to-year, reaching above 800 eagles in some years, and as little as 300 in others.

The eagles follow the salmon.  As a result, they are most abundant along a 10 mile stretch of the Skagit between the towns of Rockport and Marblemount.  Highway 20 parallels the river through much of this stretch, offering several viewing opportunities.

One of the most popular places to view the eagles is near Howard Miller State Park near Rockport.  Park here and walk to the 530 bridge crossing the Skagit.  The bridge has a pedestrian walk and offers excellent viewing of eagles up and down the river.  The park itself is home to the Skagit Bald Eagle Interpretive Center, which is open on weekends throughout the eagle viewing season.  Be sure and inquire with the volunteers for up-to-date information.

Bald Eagle along Skagit.
The next spot is at a large roadside parking lot along the river's edge at mile marker 100.  It's common to be able to see eagles perched in trees up close here, as well as flying up and down the river.

My favorite spot of all is just a mile further up the road.  It is known as milepost 101 to the locals, and I first experienced it while on an eagle watching rafting trip.  Here the river makes an abrupt turn along Highway 20 and the eagles seem to congregate here more times than not.  I've even seem them perch in the trees on the road side of the river right in front of ecstatic tourists!  They can also be seen perched in trees across the river, and feeding on the gravel bar in early morning.

Be sure to park well off the road here, and always stay on the river side of the concrete barrier and out of the road.

Continue on through the town of Marblemount and turn right over the Cascade River Road bridge, driving slowly while you scout the river for eagles.  There is a large parking lot on the other side and boat ramp if opportunity presents itself.  If not, continue driving a ways further up the road and turn right, following the signs to the Marblemount Fish Hatchery.

Bald Eagle along the Skagit.
A final recommendation is to drive Martin Road on the south side of the river, just south of the 530 bridge.  Be sure to visit the Bald Eagle Natural Area along this road.

Photography Tips.

Let's start with equipment.  Large lenses and sturdy tripods are a must.  A 200mm lens is the minimum, and is hopefully accompanied by a 1.4x or 2x extender.  It you really want to fill your frame, you will need a 500mm or 600mm lens with extender.

Your camera body will play a part in your extender selection, based on whether you are utilizing a full frame or crop sensor.  A full frame sensor, such as the Canon 5D Mark II, offers a 1:1 ratio.  A camera body with a crop sensor, such as the Canon 7D or 60D, come with a 1.6 multiplier.  This means your 500mm lens is in reality, offering you 800mm zooming.

A sturdy tripod is absolutely necessary when shooting with a big lens.  Just as important is a ballhead that can adequately support the weight of a lens and hold it perfectly still.  The best I have seen for this is the gimbal style ballhead.  Once you've tried one you will use nothing else.  Wimberly makes an excellent gimbal ballhead, which I have tried and loved.  Many other manufacturers do as well.

Bald Eagle perched in tree.
You will want to use a high shutter speed when photographing eagles.  I always try to stay at 1/1000.   While you can often get by with 1/500 on eagles perched in trees, 1/1000 will allow you to be ready for anything, especially if that eagle takes off in flight.  Crank your ISO up as needed to achieve this.  Don't worry about grain.  Grainy pictures are better than blurry or underexposed ones, and can easily be fixed in post-processing if needed.

One of the challenges of photographing along the Skagit is that the main road, Highway 20, is on the north side of the river.  This means you will be shooting south into the sun.  The trick to avoid this is to walk up or down the road to change your angle.

Arrive early in the morning.  The eagles feed early and can be found alongside the river.  Towards mid-morning, they find a tree along the river to perch in while they digest their meal.  On sunny afternoons, the birds will become active and fly around the valley, often disappearing altogether.

Also consider a rafting tour.  I've used Blue Sky Outfitters and highly recommend them.  There are many others to choose from as well.  Rafting the river offers benefits and some drawbacks.  The benefits are that they offer much closer up views of the eagles, including along the riverbanks where they can be photographed feeding and gathering.  The main drawback is that you are confined to the raft and photography opportunities are short-lived as you pass them by.  You are also expected to help with paddling, which means you have to pick your moments to put the paddle down and grab the camera.  If rafting, leave your big glass and tripod at home.  They will not be practical on a crowded raft.  I recommend a 200mm lens with extender instead.  Again, shoot at 1/1000 minimum as you will be bobbing up and down in the raft, and will need a quick shutter.

Consider a photography raft tour.  These are more expensive, but more personal and conducive to successful images.  They are typically limited to one or two photographers.

Roadside or raft?  I recommend both!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gitzo GT2531 Tripod Fails

Formerly a Gitzo tripod, relegated to a monopod.
New Years Day was a glorious day in the Pacific Northwest.  A high pressure trough settled in above us, giving us bluebird skies and reason to get out and enjoy the day.

I spent the day at Mount Rainier National Park, snowshoeing up to Mazama Ridge and photographing the mountain above rolling mounds of snow and snow-covered trees.  It was a fantastic setting in fresh powder snow.

Then it happened.

My tripod sank into the snow with the weight of my 5D MII camera, as one would expect.  What I didn't expect was when I lifted it back out of the snow, again mostly powder, only two legs retracted from the snow.  The third remained in the snow, having broken off of the centerpiece.  There had been very little, if any, resistance when pulling the tripod out of the snow.  This was fresh snow.

Broken hinges on Gitzo tripod.
I was in dismay.  Close examination revealed that the hinge had broke.  The leg itself was still in fine condition.  I first thought that the hinge must have developed stress cracks over time and finally given way.

I was as puzzled as I was disappointed.  Fortunately I still had two legs left and could still compose pictures by sticking them in the snow, and then prop the third independent leg against the centerpiece for sturdiness.

Broken Gitzo GT2531 Mountaineer tripod.
Failed hinges on Gitzo tripod.
 Then it happened again!

Now I was in complete disbelief.  Again, no pressure applied to the legs or hinges to speak of.  Could it be the cold temps?  High for the day was forecast to be 32*F, and it was nearly noon.  I would guess temps were in the mid to upper 20s when the failures happened.

As disappointed as I am in the failure, I am equally puzzled as to why.  This is not the way I would expect a tripod to fail, especially with a trusted name like Gitzo.

I plan to get in touch with Gitzo to get their take on this failure.  I also have arranged for an independent analysis on the breaks for metal fatigue, stress signs, etc.  Why go to this length?  Because it's readily available to me at no cost.  It's just how I'm wired.

I have absolutely loved my Gitzo tripod.  It's the best tripod I have owned to date, this failure aside.

I hope to get valuable input from Gitzo.  Have they seen this before?  Is this an inherent problem with the leg hinge?  Is it a weakness of the material used? (though the centerpiece is of magnesium construction, the hinge bushing is clearly of different material).

I will keep you posted of my findings.  I also encourage anyone else who has experienced similar problems to comment, either publicly or privately.