Friday, December 28, 2012

Photographing Mount Assiniboine

Mount Assiniboine reflected in Lake Magog.
I can't think of a more iconic mountain for the Canadian Rockies than Mount Assiniboine, and I have learned in recent years just how world-renowned it is.  It is the 'Matterhorn of the Rockies'.  I have sold usage rights for my images of Assiniboine to calendars, books, magazines, and even product packaging.  The only mountain I have sold more images of is Mount Rainier.

This image of Mount Assiniboine reflected in the waters of Lake Magog in the early morning hours is appearing in a magazine in the Czech Republic.  It was taken several years ago during a multi-day backpack.  I had plans to revisit the area this past fall, but it didn't happen.

Mount Assiniboine is most commonly reached by a 17 mile hike up Bryant Creek and over Assiniboine Pass (with Wonder Pass a wonderful option on the return) or via helicopter on select days.  One can elect to stay in the lodge, the Naiset Huts or Lake Magog Campground.  More information can be found here.

September is a wonderful month to visit for photography as one can catch the larches turning color.  Excellent compositions can be had from the shore of Lake Magog (in front of the lodge).  If the water doesn't cooperate in catching the reflection of the peak, there is a tarn nearby that is more sheltered from the breeze and may serve you better.  Don't forget to hike up The Nub for a more encompassing view.  Also, be sure and check out Og Pass where you can frame the mountain above the larch.  Wonder Pass offers excellent photography as well and is a must visit, though Assiniboine will not be your subject matter here.  In all cases, morning offers the best light

The best lens selection for this area is a wide-angle.  As always, bring your polarizer and a selection of GND filters.

This image and more of the Canadian Rockies will be up on my website shortly.

Happy shooting!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Visit Rainier Brochure

2013 VisitRainier Brochure
 I'm pleased to share the 2013 Visit Rainier Brochure, which sports one of my images of Mount Rainier on its cover.  The image was taken from Spray Park during flower season, close to sunset.  Spray Park is one of my favorite destinations in the park.  Many times I have hiked up to these meadows in the late afternoon and photographed the flowers and sunset, then returned to my truck in the dark with headlamp.

There is so much to do at Mount Rainier throughout the year, whether you like to climb, hike, horseback ride, fish, car camp, ski, snowshoe, etc.  Local communities around the park offer additional ammenities to those in the park.

So where do you start your planning?

If you plan to visit Mount Rainier National Park, I highly recommend you visit the Visit Rainier web site.  It is the ultimate planning site for the park, offering recommendations for lodging, eating, recreation, maps, current road and trail conditions, web cams and more!  It really is an all-in-one site for planning.  Check them out!

The Visit Rainier brochure is available at most businesses around the park, and is free.  Pick one up!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Photographing Mount Robson

Evening light on Mount Robson.
Mount Robson is the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at over 12, 972'.  It's a majestic mountain, especially when viewed towering above Berg Lake or from the Robson Glacier's lateral moraine below Snowbird Pass.  It attracts hikers, climbers and photographers from around the world, and it's easy to see why.

While Robson can be viewed from Highway 16 and the Visitor Center, the best views of the mountain are from the opposite side, requiring a 13 mile hike or helicopter ride (restricted to certain days) to Berg Lake.  From there, day trip options abound for more vantage points.
Evening light on Mount Robson.
While it is common to see people day hiking up to Berg Lake, it is better done as a multi-day backpack for photography.  The reason for multiple days is due to both the number of places to visit each morning and evening, as well as weather considerations.  Robson is notorious for bad weather,  or so I've been told.  I've been lucky in my trips I guess!

Kinney Lake is an easy 4.5 miles from the trailhead.  It offers excellent campsites with with tent pads, some right on the lake.  Kinney Lake holds a beautiful reflection of the surrounding peaks in the morning (and possibly evening).

Suspension bridge over Robson River.
From Kinney Lake the trail climbs over a rib, descends back down to cross the Robson River, and then switchbacks up to another crossing of the Robson River over a suspension bridge at Whitehorn Campground.  From here, views up the Valley of a Thousand Waterfalls present themselves.  There isn't much photography to be had here necessarily, but all that is about to change.

Whitehorn Campground is a popular stopover for hikers wishing to establish a base camp for day hikes to Berg Lake and other areas.

From Whitehorn Campground, the flat trail continues up the valley a short distance to another crossing of the Robson River and a dramatic view of White Falls.

On the other side, the trail begins its steep ascent to Berg Lake, passing views of Falls of the Pool, Emperor Falls, and numerous other waterfalls along the way.  You will need a strong telephoto lens to capture these.  Due to the steepness of the valley, shadows wreak havoc in mid-day sunshine.  Morning and evening finds them in shade.  Of course, slightly overcast days would be best for nice even lighting.

After climbing above Emperor Falls, the trail passes through Emperor Falls Campground before traversing a hillside along the river on its final approach to Berg Lake.  Marmot Campground at the beginning of Berg Lake is reached after crossing a series of creeks, courtesy the Hargreaves Glacier.  Photographers will want to continue on to Berg Lake Campground a mile further along the lake shore.
Berg Lake Campground is perfectly situated above the lake shore near the lake's north end and offers postcard scenery practically from your campsite.  You have arrived!

The Berg Glacier above Berg Lake.
The photography options here are numerous.  The classic composition is to simply walk down the shore and compose the mountain across the water, hopefully with icebergs floating in the water for some added interest and depth of field.  The icebergs are present all year long, but are more numerous in early to mid summer.

Mount Robson draws both morning and evening light, so you will want to spend time at both here with camera on tripod.  The amount of light is dependent on the time of year.  By fall, evening light just barely kisses the summit rock, turning only the very top brilliant pink.  Blink and you might miss it.  Morning offers more light.  Both times are attractive and worth your time.

Reflections can be had in the pools created by the braided streams on the lake shore in late season.  Early morning and late evening when the temps are cold are best.

Don't forget to bring your telephoto lens to isolate sections of the Berg Glacier across the lake.  The ice seracs provide beautiful texture, and compositions are endless.  For added drama, include floating icebergs in front of the glacier where it meets the water - you know, the chunks of ice your heard calving off the glacier all night while in your tent!

For larger views, grab your headlamp and hike a short ways up the Toboggan Falls trail to a bench - yes, as in park bench!  It is situated in a clearing offering unobstructed views of the mountain and lake.  You can tell everyone how you had to hang precariously over a ledge to get your shot.  I won't tell.  Honest.
The Toboggan Falls trail offers excellent opportunities to photograph many waterfalls and cascades if you find yourself clouded in.

The Robson Glacier from Mumm Basin.
For even larger and more expansive views, hike up to Robson Pass (short, flat hike from Berg Lake) and follow the trail through the Robson Campground. This trail climbs steeply from the campground up to the incredibly scenic Mumm Basin. At a large cairn on the edge of a ridge, enjoy views down to Berg Lake, across to Mount Robson and the new view up the Robson Glacier towards Snowbird Pass, unseen from Berg Lake. From Mumm Basin, you can traverse south to the Toboggan Falls for your descent back to camp, or you can continue on to Hargreaves Lake for a longer loop back.

Mount Robson and the Robson Glacier.

 If I could recommend one hike from Berg Lake, it would be to Snowbird Pass.  It's not for everyone though.  It's an extremely strenuous hike with many exposed sections of trail. Oh, but the rewards!  As you climb the steep moraine, the Robson Glacier rests at your feet.  Soon the beautiful glacier bowl of Robson is revealed - a world of rock and ice.  The best view is at the very top of the moraine, though you won't be convinced of this until you get there!

Mount Robson from Snowbird Pass.
From the top of the moraine, the trail climbs up to a beautiful hanging basin of tarns, streams and meadows.  The rolling meadows seem to stretch on forever.  Snowbird Pass can be seen up ahead and it seems so close.  But every time you think you are almost there, you come over a rise and realise there are more meadows to traverse and streams to cross!  Finally, the trail reaches a rock slope where it is defined simply by cairns, and the final climb commences - up to some of the best views in all the Rockies.

Look over your shoulder back to Mount Robson and the Robson Glacier (I mean, its not like you could ever get tired of looking at it).  Ahead at Snowbird Pass proper, find a spot to shed your pack and be amazed.  Ahead of you to the north is the expanse of the Reef Icefield and Coleman Glacier in Jasper National Park.

The Reef Icefield and Coleman Glacier from Snowbird Pass.

The Reef Icefield is huge, encompassing miles of ice.  Goat trails abound, and the animals can often be seen on the glacier (or maybe above you on the rock).  You're in a different world now, one that is hard to peel yourself away from on a nice sunny day.  Enjoy it and don't forget to bring the memories back on your camera card.
Dramatic clouds at sunset over Berg Lake.
I think all lenses come in handy here.  I used my 17-40mm lens to capture the above reflection shot of Robson in the pool of water.  I also used wide angle to capture most of the Robson images above Berg Lake, and the pano from Snowbird Pass.  The trusted and true 24-70mm was a workhorse as well, also used at Berg Lake, on the Toboggan Falls trail and Mumm Basin.  Finally, I hauled my 70-200mm and 2x teleconverter up for wildlife opportunities and the chance to zoom in tight on the glacier.  Of course, there is a huge weight consideration with this last one, and many may elect to leave it at home.  Cost vs reward is a viable argument!

The standard line of filters are recommended for this trip - polarizer and both 2 and 3-stop GND filters.  I always like to carry an enhancing filter as well.

If you are considering visiting during the summer months, I recommend you consider reserving a permit.  Changes have been made for 2013, and reservations will start being accepted January 2nd.  More information here.  If you plan to visit during the fall, reservations are not necessary.  When I visited in mid-September with a bluebird forecast, Berg Lake Campground was 1/2 full at most, Whitehorn, Rearguard and Marmot had just a few residents, and Kinney Lake was empty.

I hope you get the chance to visit this wonderful place.  I would budget 4 days minum in favorable weather, more if questionable weather is forecast.  Unless you elect to fly in via helicopter, it's a long haul in with most of the elevation gain at the very end.  Stay a while.  Enjoy it.  You earned it.
I hope to have these images and more up on my website very soon.  Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mount Assiniboine Image Usage

Mount Assiniboine above larches in fall.
I can't believe it has been exactly 1 month since I last posted here.  See, I told you things were busy!

Some of what has kept me busy has been the editing of images from multiple visits to the Canadian Rockies.  In July I spent considerable time around Lake Louise and along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.

In late September I returned for backpacks to Berg Lake, Tonquin Valley, Floe Lake, and a visit to the Lake O'Hara area (I will be posting about these trips soon!).

Lake Magog in Assiniboine Provincial Park was to be my final backpack of this trip, but it did not happen.  The image above of Mount Assiniboine was taken during a previous visit.  This image was recently licensed for use in a retail book in Japan, appearing in a print run of 50K, and has been a popular image for me over the years.

I will be introducing a new Canadian Rockies gallery on my web site soon, which will include this image.  I know, I've said this before, but this time it is really going to happen!  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No More Shows or Appearances in 2012

I've received several inquiries about upcoming appearances for the remainder of 2012.  I'm sorry to say that due to my extremely busy schedule, I have had to cancel regularly scheduled appearances and pass on some new invites.  It's a tough decision as I really love doing these shows and meeting people.  I hope to resume doing shows in the spring of 2013.

I'll keep you posted as my schedule becomes available.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Western Byways - Wyoming Edition

I'm currently editing images from my recent trip to the Canadian Rockies.  Hopefully I will be able to share soon!

In the meantime, I realize I haven't shared any recent published work.  Let's change that with this current cover image for Western Byways - Wyoming Edition.

This image is of Elephant Head reflected in a small tarn near Island Lake.  I'm not sure I would have captured this image had an unfortunate event not altered our trip.

We were only about 2 miles up the trail when 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.

More images from this trip and others in the Wind River range can be viewed in my Wind River Gallery.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Back from the Canadian Rockies

Grizzly print on vehicle window.
I'm back from the Canadian Rockies with many stories and experiences to share!  I visited Berg Lake, Mumm Basin and Snowbird Pass in Robson Provincial Park, Tonquin Valley and Macarrib Pass in Jasper National Park, Floe Lake, Numa Pass and Numa Peak in Kootenay National Park, and Lake O'Hara and Opabin Plateau in Yoho National Park.

I logged over 100 miles of hiking, and just over 19,000' elevation gain during my visit.  I met lots of great people, including Mike from Beacon Hill in Seattle, Mike Vincent of Canmore - a professional guide for Chateau Lake Louise, Don & Wendy from Virginia, Scott Forsyth - a professional photographer from Calgary, and more.

I had hoped to see a lot of wildlife (on my terms, of course), but this didn't really happen.  A grizzly bear had recently been spotted near Berg Lake before my visit, but there were no further sightings.  A sow grizzly and her two cubs had been hanging around Macarrib Pass, but I only saw old scat both times I hiked through this area.  A lone caribou was spotted at Amethyst Lake during my visit, but I missed it.  Wolves were present throughout the Tonquin Valley, but I did not actually see them.

Oh, but I do have some wildlife stories to share!

I'll start with my overnight stay at the Portal Creek trailhead in preparation for my hike into the Tonquin Valley.  As I pulled into the parking lot in early evening I saw two porcupines wandering about.  Later that night I could hear them (and likely rodents) beneath my vehicle.  At ~ 1:30 am I was awakened with a loud thud against my vehicle.  I sat straight up, startled.  Was someone trying to break into my vehicle?  The noise was much too loud to have been caused by the porcupines.  I listened further, expecting to hear someone test my door handles.  Nothing.  No cars had pulled into the parking lot.  I eventually used my key remote to turn all lights on my vehicle on - interior and exterior.  Nothing further was heard.

I couldn't fall back asleep right away because I had to pee.  So I got out of my vehicle and walked only a couple of steps to do so.  I returned to to my vehicle and, eventually, was able to go back to sleep - though the mystery of the sound continued to baffle me.

I rolled over at 7:30 in the morning and looked out the window to see how light it was outside.  It was then that the source of the thud was answered.  Just above my head on the rear side window was a distinct paw print from a grizzly bear, with other smudged prints and scratches below!

Soon a couple of guys showed up, including one from Fire and Rescue.  Neither had seen or heard of such a thing.  Both encouraged me to report the incident to Bear Management.  The gentlemen from Fire and Rescue then asked my permission to report the incident himself, since he had a buddy working for Bear Management.

I began getting my pack ready for my trek.  As I walked around to the other side of my vehicle, I noticed a huge wet spot in the parking lot.  It became clear that the bear had been on this side of my vehicle relieving itself at the same time I was doing so on the other side!

I returned from my trip to find a note on my windshield, asking me to stop by the Information Centre in Jasper to discuss my bear encounter, and did so.

Wolf print near tent at Amethyst Lake in Tonquin Valley.
While camped at Amethyst Lake in the Tonquin Valley, I spent time both nights photographing the stars.  On my second night, I awoke at 1:30 am and ventured a short distance from the tent.  As I photographed, I occasionally could hear something in the trees behind me.  Every now and then I would shine my headlamp over in that direction, but never saw anything. 

At 3:15 I finally packed it in and returned to my tent.  I no sooner got settled into my sleeping bag when I heard something outside my tent.  It broke branches on the back side of my tent, then circled the tent.  It returned to the back side and pawed or bumped my tent.

I sat up, cleared my voice rather loudly, and turned my headlamp on to illuminate my tent.  I soon heard twigs breaking in the distance as whatever animal had been visiting me retreated off into the night.  The next morning I awoke to wolf prints around my tent!

Also while photographing stars my second night, a large bird dove down upon me, pulling up only several feet above my head.  Its wing span was huge and I realized instantly that it must have been an owl.  Its angle suggested it was actually interested in my camera and tripod, which I was obviously standing close to.  Needless to say, it startled me!  I never heard it.  I only saw it out of the corner of my eye as it was only feet above my head.  Those poor rodents at Amethyst don't stand a chance with such a stealth predator in the air!

So, those are my wildlife stories.  The griz experience was pretty scary at the time, mostly due to the mystery.  The wolf experience was scary due to the fact that I assumed it was a cat.  It wasn't until the next day while sharing the story that it was pointed out to me that cats walk with their claws retracted, leaving only pad marks.  The tracks around my tent had distinct claw marks, making them canine.  I assumed they were cat mostly due to their size - they were huge.  I had no idea wolves had such large feet.  Knowing I had a curious wolf follow me back to camp was more comforting to me than to think I had a cat stalking me in the night!

I hope to begin editing images from my trip soon.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Photography Trip to Banff National Park

Ten Peaks above Moraine Lake, Banff National
The Canadian Rockies are comprised of four adjacent National Parks - Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho - and a distant Waterton.  They also include several provincial parks, including Assiniboine, Hanber and Robson.  They are heaven north of the border and one of my all-time favorite destinations - one of Canada's true treasures.

Of all the parks, Banff is probably the most popular.  It offers a wide variety of attractions and photography possibilities; whether it's nature landscapes, manicured parks, man-made structures, people & wildlife,  or a combination of all the above.

I recently returned to this park after a lengthy hiatus and spent a week photographing throughout the park, even venturing into Yoho for a day.

It was a fantastic trip with mostly great weather.  It included summiting a 9,000' peak with my 9-year old daughter, several family hikes, lots of wildlife (including a grizzly bear near our campground) and photographing most of the major attractions of the park.

The peaks around Lake Louise reflected in Herbert Lake.
The most popular area in Banff National Park outside of the Banff town site is the Lake Louise vicinity.  Lake Louise and nearby Moraine Lake draw visitors by the thousands every day, and for good reason; the scenery is outstanding and both offer excellent hiking trails.  Parking can get crazy by late morning at both.

Mount Victoria, Mount Lefroy, Temple Peak and The Ten Peaks offer dramatic settings in the area, whether it is hiking to their base, climbing to their summits, or catching their reflection in a lake.

One of the beauties of this area for photographers, besides the scenery, is that the best time to photograph the area is in the early morning. So it is easy to beat the crowds. Arriving at both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in the early dawn hours found me nearly alone as early light struck the nearby peaks.

The humorous thing I found about Lake Louise was that both mornings I spent photographing there was that the masses would show up just about the time I was packing up to leave. Visitors from the lodge came running down to the shore, often in their pajamas and bathrobes, and the tourist buses would start arriving in the parking lot.

Moraine Lake never produced such crowds during my visit.  Typically I would see a couple of other photographers during the prime light (arriving after me), and a few more would arrive before I packed up.  Returning mid-morning would find larger numbers, but nothing crazy.  The crazy numbers are found mid-day!

Hikers below Mount Victoria on the Plain of Six Glaciers
 There are plenty of hikes to do in the area once you are finished capturing first light.  From Lake Louise, the Plain of Six Glaciers trail follows its north shore and climbs well above the lake to a prominent viewpoint of Mount Victoria.  There's even a tea house waiting for you near the end!

Another fun trail is to Saddleback on the opposite side of the lake.  The adventurous can scramble the final 1,500' to the summit of Fairview Mountain.

Paradise Valley is another popular destination, though bears can be a problem.  Such a warning was in place during our visit, requiring a group size of four or more.

Mount Temple above the Bow River.
Moraine Lake offers one of the best hikes in the area, especially in larch season (late September).  Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass are excellent destinations.  Again, group size restrictions can be in order due to bear activity, and were during our visit.

The Lake Louise Campground makes for an excellent base camp.  It is very close to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake for easy and quick access, and is also centrally located to attractions further away.  The campground is alongside the Bow River, which affords excellent views of Mount Temple.  It is also located in prime grizzly bear habitat, necessitating an electric fence around it (it's not as obtrusive as it might sound).  The proof was in the pudding during our visit, as I returned to camp one morning to spot a mother grizzly grazing in an adjacent meadow.  As I later learned, she had two cubs.  I was not fortunate enough to see them.

I spent many evenings driving the Bow Valley Parkway between Lake Louise Village and Castle Mountain Junction.  This is probably one the best wildlife viewing areas in the park.  I photographed numerous black bears, bull elk, and the largest osprey nest I've ever seen, complete with young!

Castle Mountain above the Bow River.
 Of course, there is also Castle Mountain, which received pretty dramatic light most every evening as afternoon thunder storms cleared.  Most people seemed oblivious to this though as they were too occupied driving up and down the parkway in hopes of seeing a bear.

Near Castle Junction, several very large bull elk made daily appearances.  They were most likely to be seen in the evening, but not limited to.  They were quite a treat to see.

Peyto Lake along the Icefields Parkway.
The drive up the Icefields Parkway is not to be missed.  There are photography options every stretch of the way.  An entire day or more can easily be spent along this highway, especially if continuing all the way Jasper.

Peyto Lake is an often photographed lake along the parkway.  It requires a short but rather steep hike to the famous viewpoint, and you will not be alone at mid-day, which is considered the best time to photograph it.  I actually didn't have much luck at mid-day due to overcast skies and flat light.  The image here was taken in early morning as a storm crept in.

Bow Peak above Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway.
 I was fortunate to time my visit during flower season, and was amazed at the flower show along the Icefields Parkway.  They lined the road as far as I ventured, and offered unlimited photography opportunities.  My favorite area was around Bow Lake.

On a day that cloudy skies and showers were forecast, we headed over to Yoho National Park and visited Takakkaw Falls.  Though Banff was mostly cloudy, Yoho offered us bluebird skies and pleasant hiking to the base of the falls.

Takakkaw Falls.
As I write this, I am packing and preparing for a return trip to the Canadian Rockies - leaving in just a couple of days.  This time, I will be spending two full weeks in the backcountry of Robson Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park and Assiniboine Provincial Park. 

Backpacking destinations will include Berg Lake (Robson), Tonquin Valley (Jasper), Floe Lake and the Rock Wall (Kootenay), Lake O'hara (Yoho) and Lake Maggog (Assiniboine). All but Tonquin Valley will be repeat visits for me.  My itinerary has me hiking 136 miles (not including side trips) with just under 10,000' gain during this time.

Upon my return I hope to have a lot of images to edit!  I also hope to edit my wildlife images from my previous trip, and to construct a new Canadian Rockies gallery on my web site.

Wish me luck!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Recent Photography Trip to Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier above Edith Creek before sunrise.
Many influences come into play when photographing outdoors.  Many of them, such as choosing location, camera settings, lens and filter selection, and composition, we control.  But there are natural elements that we do not.  Oh, we plan ahead and do our research so as to put ourselves in the best possible position to be successful, but we don't control it.  For me, this is one of the most exciting elements of photography

Recently I met up with my good friend Kevin Ebi at Mount Rainier National Park.  I had spent the previous morning there and had scouted out the flowers around Edith Creek - our meeting point.

Arriving in time for sunrise requires a very early start and involves driving in the dark to your destination.  You can't wake up to a bluebird sky and say to yourself, "Yes, I think it will be a good day to go photograph."

I knew the forecast called for a change in weather towards afternoon on this day, but noticed as I neared the Nisqually Entrance that the stars were blurred.  This told me there was moisture in the air.  I knew this could mean low elevation fog, which got me even more excited!

As I drove up the Paradise Road, I noticed a definite cloud bank to the west and no stars.  As I neared the Paradise parking lot, it became clear that a system was moving in quicker than I had expected.  Yet, to the east it remained mostly clear, but with some interesting whispy clouds.  Of course, east is what is important for sunrise photography!

A lenticular cloud over Mount Rainier at sunrise.
Kevin informed me that the forecast had changed somewhat, and they were calling for completely cloudy skies by 7:00 am.  All we could do was cross our fingers.  This could still work.

We set our cameras up in the dark and aimed them at the mountain.  We watched the sky in between shutter clicks (yes, we start taking pictures well before first light on the mountain).  We watched the cloud bank to the west growing stronger and more clouds appearing to the east, though still generally scattered.  This morning had the opportunity to prove dramatic and exciting, or it could skunk us all together.  We remained optimistic.

Clouds began to form directly over the summit of Rainier and grew in size as they moved west to east.  Soon they turned a brilliant pink and it was game on!  As we watched the intensity grow above the mountain, we noticed signs of a lenticular cloud forming above the mountain.  It grew to prominent status rather quickly, just in time for the first rays of the sun.  We had found paradise! (pun intentional).

As climbers and many others know, lenticular clouds are strong indicators of a couple of things:  They are a sign of heavy winds on the summit (often exceeding 100 mph), and a sign of a pending weather system arriving in the next 24 hours.  This meant there were plenty of unknowns ahead of us as the mystery unfolded on this morning.

Lenticular cloud over Mount Rainier at sunrise.
The lenticular cloud became more and more defined, and the unique light seemed to last an exaggerated length of time - minutes, not seconds.

Alas, all good things must come to and end and this experience was no different.  As the sun rose higher in the sky the light became much less dramatic, then disappeared entirely as clouds began to consume the skies above and the wind picked up.

As Kevin and I began packing our gear up, we could only smile, knowing we had been a part of something special.  Neither one of us had actually photographed a lenticular over the mountain before, and neither one of us could have predicted it would happen on this morning.  But we were ready for it and embraced it when it happened.

From Paradise, I drove around the mountain to the Chinook Pass area to hike the Naches Peak Loop.  I had heard rave reports of the flower show and wanted to scout the area out for a possible return the following day.  Despite not planning to do any photography, I carried my camera gear anyway.  I was glad I did.

Flowers of lupine and assorted flower along the Naches Peak Loop.
The flower show was incredible from the moment I hit the trail and grew stronger the further I hiked.  Upon crossing the shoulder of Naches Peak beyond the PCT and Dewey Lake junction, I was greeted by the spectacular meadows above the tarn and some interesting light on both the meadows and the mountain.  I wouldn't ordinarily shoot so late in the day (10:00ish), but the diffused light struck me.  The soft transition of Rainier into clouds also piqued my interest.  It was a unique blend.

Shortly after working this composition, the sun became much stronger and subtleties of the setting that struck me were gone.  But I was glad to not have left my camera behind in the name of a scouting trip!

These images and more can be seen in my Mount Rainier Gallery.  As always, thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 27, 2012

...Yet Another Flower Update For MRNP!

Mount Rainier above lupine on Mazama Ridge.
A couple days ago I shot up to Mazama Ridge for sunrise.  The flowers are okay, but not what they were a week ago.  Venturing higher proved what I suspected - most flowers are now gone.

Pardise is supreme right now, especially around Edith Creek.  Not much variety though.  Expect to see mostly lupine.

Spray Park, Berkeley Park and Summerland are rocking right now.  But the best flower display I have seen this year is actually partially outside the park along the Naches Loop Trail - wow!  Such variety!  A very intense showing all along the trail.

Did anybody else photograph the lenticular on Mount Rainier at sunrise Sunday morning?  Awesome!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rainier 2012 Flower Update

Mount Rainier above lupine in Spray Park.
I thought a quick update was in order for the flower conditions at Mount Rainier National Park, since a lot can change in a week or two!

Spray Park, Skyscraper Pass, Berkeley Park, Summerland and the Naches Loop Trail are getting rave reviews right now.  Glacier Basin is also quite nice.  Grand Park is well past prime, as is Sunrise.

I have not visited nor seen reports from the south side of the mountain in the last few days, but I would expect Paradise and Mazama Ridge to be coming into their own.  I would also expect Van Trump Park and Indian Henry's Hunting Ground to be looking nice, as they typically coincide with Mazama Ridge for flower displays.  I hope to learn more in the next few days.

See you on the trail!

Edit:  I have heard from mutliple sources that Paradise is absolutely popping right now!  Maybe the best show in the past 10 years.  I'll be checking this out the next couple of days!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flowers at Mount Rainier 2012!

Mount Rainer above flowers on Mazama Ridge before sunrise.
For the second year in a row we can throw all flower rules in relation to the calendar out the window!   Here it is August 13th, the period that flowers would be at peak or even slightly winding down on a normal year, and they have only just begun.

I've spent the last week extensively traveling through the park and thought I would post my findings.

One of the earliest flower shows in the park takes place in Yakima Meadows at Sunrise.  Still true to form this year, the flowers there have reached peak and are on their way out.  However, hiking destinations from there still have a lot to offer.  Summerland is a sure bet with flowers just below looking prime.  They will surely be in their prime at the campground in the next week or two.
Mount Rainier above meadows on along The
Lakes Trail.
Upper Berkeley Park is currently sporting a nice display of flowers, as is Grand Park.  Skyscraper Pass will be a sure bet in the next week or so.

Spray Park is almost melted out and the incredible display of avalanche lilies it was showcasing are on their way out.  This should pave the way for the lupine, paintbrush and asters in the coming week.  Some can be seen now.

Indian Henry's was is still under patchy snow.  Flowers here will be at least  a couple of weeks away.

What does that leave for the wildflower officianados?  Why, Paradise and Mazama Ridge of course!  Lupine is in grand display right now near the Paradise parking lot, but not much higher.  The short stroll to Edith Creek will leave you disapointed.  Give this area at least another week or so.

Mazama Ridge is also well behind schedule.  The Lakes Trail near the Skyline Trail junction is still 20-25% snow covered.  Avalanche lilies are numerous, though they are on their way out.  There are a few patches of meadow sporting lupine, lousewort, paintbrush, aster and more, but they are few.  One would expect blankets of these flowers in a normal year.  But this year " Abby somebody.  Abby Normal  I believe."  (for you Mel Brooks fans out there).

Mount Rainire reflected in a melt pool on
Mazama Ridge.
Venturing higher up the Skyline Trail and on to the Paradise Glacier Trail, one runs into some supreme meadows.  These flowers are at their prime right now and demand your attention.  Wow!

Of course, there are other compositions you can take advantage of right now too as a photographer.  Melt ponds are numerous and offer a unique chance to capture a reflection of the mountain that will be short-lived.

Mount Rainier always has something to offer visitors and photographers, and now is no exception.  Go!

Interestingly, bugs have not been a problem during my visits to these many meadows (though they were ferocious in the forest along Frying Pan Creek).  Spray Park would be the exception (shocking, huh?).

The last thing worth mentioning is the haze in the air from the Siberian fires.  It was extensive last weekend on the Paradise side.  I received reports of even worse conditions on the NW side; primarily Spray Park, where Rainier was hard to distinguish at times.

I hope the sharing of my observations, and the reports of friends and colleagues helps.  As always, feel free to drop me a line with any questions you may have.  I am always happy to respond.

See you on the trails!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Returned from Banff National Park!

Hikers on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail in Banff National Park.
I've returned from a fantastic trip to Lake Louise in Banff National Park!  Also visited were Kootenay and Yoho National Parks!

The photography opportunities were excellent.  I spent considerable time at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, but ventured many other places as well - including the Icefields Parkway, Takakkaw Falls, and up and down the Bow Valley Parkway.

Wildlife was plentiful.  I photographed black bears, grizzley bears and several large bull elk.

I will be editing images from this trip for quite some time, but hope to be able to share some soon!  Be sure and check back from time to time!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Visiting the Canadian Rockies!

Mount Assiniboine Reflection
I'm excited to be leaving for the Canadian Rockies in just a few days!  While I won't be visiting Assiniboine Provincial Park on this trip (pictured), I will in a subsequent trip in late September.

I do plan to photograph throughout Banff National Park and possibly Jasper National Park as well.  The opportunities should abound and I am excited!

I have visited the Canadian Rockies on several occasions.  I have hiked and climbed in most of the national and provincial parks associated with them.  However, years have gone by since I last enjoyed visiting one of my very favorite places.  Redemption!

I will be focusing on Banff National Park for this trip, primarily areas around Lake Louise.  I hope to venture into Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay as well, but they will be limited.  My photography will be mostly roadside and short dayhikes.

In late September I will be returning to these very parks - and more!  I will be backpacking into Assiniboine and Mount Robson Provincial Parks, as well as Yoho, Kootenay and Jasper National Parks.  It should be an exciting season.  I hope to return with many new images to share!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park
To enjoy the best that the Washington coast has to offer, one must be willing to hike away from the paved roads.  For those that do, incredible beaches and sea stacks await you - Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches, Strawberry Point, Toleak Point, Cape Alava, Third Beach - and more.

There is an exception, however.  Ruby Beach is simply a 0.25 mile stroll from the parking lot just off Highway 101 near the Hoh River entrance to Olympic National Park.  It offers incredible scenery, including up-close sea stacks, and makes for an excellent sunset destination.

This image was captured during a March visit while camped at the Hoh River Campground in ONP.  I had hoped to photographed the sea stacks, but this early in the year the best light was further to the south.  I'm happy with what I came away with.  Others appear to be as well, as this image was recently licensed to appear in world-wide circulated textbook!

You may view other images from the coast in my Washington Coast Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

North Cascades National Park Gallery Update

Glacier Peak above Image Lake at dawn.
July is here and I am busy planning backpacks for the coming months, as I'm sure many of you are!  Of course, with our late snow melt in the Pacific Northwest, many trips will have to be scheduled a little later than normal.  Do you have anything special planned?

Speaking of backpacks, I've finally gotten around to updating my North Cacades Gallery with images from an extended backpack I did last September.  The trip was a loop trip, beginning at Buck Creek Pass and continueing on to Image Lake, Cloudy Pass, Lyman Lakes, Spider Gap and Spider Meadows. It's a classic backpack and I now know why!

Fortress Mountain above flower meadows.
This special trip provided me with several new images which I am excited to share.  You may view my North Cascades Gallery, or visit any of my other galleries by visiting my web site at  I hope you enjoy.

More images will be coming soon.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe Fourth of July!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Display at Los Angeles International Airport

Coyote in Yosemite National Park.
This is an image I took of a coyote hunting in the meadows of Yosemite Valley during a snow storm.  It caught its prey within seconds of this capture.  I have plenty images of that as well!

The image is part of a display being considered in Los Angeles International Airport in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs.  Its intent is the promotion of Yosemite National Park, and is part of a program meant to educate, entertain and inspire travelers.  The aim is to enhance and humanize the overall travel experience for millions of people every year.

This image was taken on the very last day of my visit, as I was leaving the park to drive home.  Funny that such an afterthought would prove to be some of my most successful images from the trip!

You can see more images from this trip in my Yosemite Gallery.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Western Byways, Wyoming Edition

Western Byways, Wyoming Edition.
Wyoming became one of my favorite states to visit long ago, after just a few trips. It offers Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, as well as my favorite - the Wind River Range.  Of course it offers much more, demanding further exlploration.

But, it goes beyond destinations. You can't escape the history and culture while visiting. Wyoming is cowboy country as I like to call it. It's not a tourism angle, it's a way of life. And it's a refreshing experience both for "city slickers" looking to escape as well as history buffs interested in Native American culture and/or settlers of the west. 

Did I also mention how much it has to offer for the outdoor enthusiast?  Mountain climbing, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, fishing, hunting - the list goes on.

So when I was approached by Western Byways about photos for both the front and back cover of their Wyoming edition, I was intrigued. When I discovered both images they were interested in were from the Wind River Range, well, they had my attention!

If you are thinking of enjoying the experience of Wyoming, and I highly encourage you to do so, make sure to pick up a copy of this magazine. I have visited numerous times - more than I can count. And I will be back. I will always be back.

If you need some eye candy to understand what I am talking about, feel free to visit my Wyoming galleries at

As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, June 8, 2012

2013 Mountains of Washington Wall Calendar

Flowers on Mazama Ridge below Mount Rainier
I'm proud to announce that my image of flowers on Mazama Ridge below Mount Rainier will be included in the 2013 Mountains of Washington wall calendar published and distributed by Smith-Western.  It's the second time this image has appeared in their calendar line.

This image was taken during a particularly strong flower year, the likes I have not seen equaled over the past several years.  Despite appearing to be taken during mid-day, this was actually taken within an hour or so of sunrise to capitalize on the softer light.

These calendars are typically readily available in many of your favorite stores.  In past years I have seen them at Fred Meyer, Rite-Aid, Bartells, Made In Washington, The Space Needle, etc.  Keep your eyes open!

I will also be selling them on my web site and at my upcoming shows.  Details to follow soon!

Monday, June 4, 2012

WTA Hike-A-Thon Winner Prize

Matt Loesch and Don Geyer on Iron Peak summit.
Congratulations to the winning 2011 Washington Trails Association Hike-a-Thon photo winners!  Yes, this was an event that took place last summer, but the prize was only claimed this past weekend.  And the prize was? so to speak!

Winning contestants got to spend time with me on the trail, while I offered photography tips and suggestions.

Well, that was the plan anyway!

The reality is that one winner is currently hiking the entire PCT, another was running a marathon in San Diego, and a third had a family member fall ill at the last moment.

This left Matt.  Matt wasn't very interested in photographing flowers along Ingalls Creek as had originally been planned - he wanted to go high for views. So we called an audible and headed up the Teanaway, targeting Iron Peak.

It was a fun adventure.  Matt summited his first peak outside of Mt. Pilchuck, and signed his first summit register!  He also experienced his first time of extensive snow travel (and there was a lot of snow).

This was a fun event, and one that I have been looking forward to ever since signing on last September.  Thanks for a fun day and great company, Matt!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2012 Tulip Season in the Skagit Valley

Roozengaarde Gardens
Tulip season has come and gone in the Pacific Northwest.  There was no better place to spend it than the Skagit Valley throughout the month of April.

I enjoyed three separate visits to the area.  My first visit was a solo trip to photograph the daffodils - a beautiful precursor to the tulips, which usually peak in late March.
Subsequent photography trips were made with photographer friends Brad Wetli and Kevin Ebi.  Kevin and I were fortunate enough to hit Roozengaarde Gardens at their prime.

Rows of tulips at Roozengaarde Gardens
Of course, we weren't alone when visiting Roozengaarde Gardens.  Not even close.  This place packs them in fast, especially on weekends.  I highly recommend arriving early.

The fields were a little disappointing this year.  The few we could find were still a week away - I suspect the final days of April.  This is extremely late for them.  The exception was the field directly behind (east) of Roozengaarde Gardens, which was spectacular.  Access was the issue, however.  If you wished to photograph it during prime light, I'm not sure access was legally available (though the fact they demanded to see your ticket stub upon re-admittance to the gardens tells me it was possible).

All the fields I have enjoyed photographing over the years were not planted this year.  They remained barren.  This includes my absolute favorite, the field that surrounds the parking lot across the street from Roozengaarde Gardens.  Why do I like this particular field so much?  Because it has a gentle up slope to it to better catch the rows of different color tulips, and offers the snow-clad Olympic Mountains as a backdrop on sunny days.

Tulips at Roozengaarde Gardens in Skagit Valley.
Hopefully the planting rotation rewards photographers next year.  We can hope!

I will be adding tulip images to my web site at soon.  In the meantime, feel free to visit for any of my other photography from around the Western U.S.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Tulip Time in the Skagit Valley!

Tulips at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon, Washington.
That's right, it is that time of year again!  The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full swing and the tulips are strutting their colors!  Now is the time to get up and pay them a visit!

A drive around in search of colorful fields will yield few results, despite what the Bloom Map might say.  However, the field behind Roozengaarde is absolutely spectacular!   It is also huge, offering many varieties of tulips - the largest collection I recall seeing in any one of their fields in the past.

Of course, the Roozengaarde Display Garden is the highlight of any visit, and is easily worth the $5 admission fee.  If visiting on a weekend, arrive early!

A sea of daffodils in the Skagit Valley.
If daffodils are your thing, it's not too late to catch them either!  There is a prime field on Beaver Marsh Road, just south of Roozengarde.  There are also many varieties still on display within the Gardens themselves.

Photographers - bring all your lenses!  There is so much opportunity here that you will tire of shooting long before you are even close to "finishing".  One can spend days here and still not come away feeling complete.  Wide-angle lenses are great for catching the fields.  Mid-range lenses work well for capturing the artistic arrangements in the display garden.  Telephoto lenses are excellent for getting up close and personal.  You can use them all here!

Definitely waterproof your gear and yourself.  I would recommend rubber boots if planning to visit any of the fields, even on a nice day.  The fields can take days to completely dry out after a period of showers.

I hope to have tulip and daffodil images from this year and years past on my web site soon.