Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Cold Night In Heaven

In early October, I joined a small group heading up to Rainy Pass. When we met at the park and ride in Lynnwood, the weather was perfect for hiking -- temperate, with a clear blue sky and some puffy white cumulus clouds.

When we stopped at the Washington Pass overlook, it was 28 degrees.

When the sun set fully, it got cold.

Fortunately, we set up camp before the cold really set in, and the Lone Pine campground has fire pits, so we had a nice warm campfire going. We spent most of the evening close to the campfire in the interest of staying warm.

Overnight, the temperature dropped down to the low teens. The jacket that I left in next to me in the tent had frost on it when I awoke. After a hot breakfast with some hot coffee and a lot of time around the campfire, we packed up and headed for Blue Lake.

On the way up, we hiked pretty quickly in the interest of staying warm. Once the sun crested the high ridges, we felt a lot better. We ended up relaxing on the shores of Blue Lake for quite a while.

This is autumn in the Pacific Northwest... rugged, beautiful, and decorated with blue lakes and golden larches.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Prusik Peak

A few minutes' walk from our campsite on Lake Vivianne I found this view of Prusik Peak. There was just enough of a breeze to break up a nice smooth reflection, so I located a boulder with a lot of texture as a foreground instead. Not long after I made this photograph, we packed up our camp and headed back toward the trail head.

Though I wish that I had a color version of this, I find the black and white image has a texture and timelessness that appeals to me. I actually did expose two sheets of Astia (color slide film, for the non-film folks reading this), but the first one I lost because the clasp on the Quickload envelope jammed in the film holder, and the second came back from the lab black... I probably neglected to reset the shutter when I put the second sheet in.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Road to Asgard continues...

In case you missed them, you can find part one here, and part two here.

That evening, the wind started blowing across Lake Viviane, and the temperature dropped. We slept fitfully with the gale flapping our tents, and rattling the branches. Some mountain goats explored our camp site during the night, but they didn't bother us.

The gale didn't let up overnight, if anything it strengthened. And the morning also brought snow.

After thawing ourselves out, we embarked on the final leg of our journey to Asgard.

We planned on heading quickly up to Asgard, so that we might have time enough to scramble up Dragontail or Little Annapurna... but there was too much to see, too much beauty to not stop and admire.

We paused for a snack along the shores of Perfection Lake, admiring Little Annapurna, and began to realize that we would not have time to reach its lofty summit. For now, we were going to have to settle for admiring its graceful shape.

Onward, we passed Inspiration Lake and on to the upper tier of the Enchantments.

Crystal Lake gleamed like a jewel below us, and beyond lay the magnificent desolation of the Upper Enchantment Lakes.

Even here, among the granite boulders there are plants and wildflowers.

The wind continued to buffet us, but finally getting a look at Dragontail rising above the boulders and crags gave us the energy to continue a little farther.

And at long last, after hours of effort and toil, is our reward: Asgard Pass... and nearly 3000 feeet below lies beautiful Colchuck Lake.

The wind here was the strongest we had encountered yet. The gusts were so strong that it was difficult to stand still atop this boulder.

Wishing that we had time to scramble up to the summit of Dragontail, we reluctantly began the return trip toward the Lower tier and our camp at Lake Vivianne.

The gale didn't abate that afternoon. Or that evening. We ended up moving our camp to a more sheltered location, and bedded down for our last night in the Enchantments. We photographed during the early morning hours, enjoying the first sunny day of the trip.

With regret and heavy hearts, we turned away from this beautiful place and began the long, steep return trip that afternoon, already looking forward to a return.

Well, some of us were looking forward to returning. I found several photographs that I was not able to make on this trip, and I am keen on reaching the summits of Dragontail and Little Annapurna.

More images from the trip are available here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Road to Asgard continues...

In case you missed the beginning of this tale, you can find it here.

After departing from Upper Snow Lake, we began the steepest part of the trip. Fortunately, this is a hiker's trail rather than a miner's trail, so it has switchbacks, unlike the trail to the Lake of the Angels... but even so, it's quite steep. We gained 2000 over approximately one mile, scrambling up and over rocks, and struggling to keep our spirits up.

The expression on Erika's face shows the elation we felt when we found the sign indicating that we were about to enter the Enchantment Lakes Basin at long last. Our destination lay just around the bend!

It was a little bit more than just around the bend, but fortunately not much more.

Looking back over our shoulders allowed us to gain a sense of how far we had come from Upper Snow Lake.

After finding ourselves a beautiful campsite on the shores of Lake Vivianne, with Prusik Peak standing above us, we headed out to do some exploring with nice, light packs. Carrying so little weight after all that grueling climbing was very liberating.

We meanderd among the Lower Enchantment Lakes for a time; since we stopped frequently to photograph or simply admire our surroundings, we didn't travel very far. We strayed from the trail of cairns frequently to get closer looks at the creeks that connected the lakes, the tarns scattered among the lakes, and of coure the trees and heather, interspersed with splashes of colorful wildflowers.

Prusik Peak, always visible from within the basin, caught the light nicely.

After our afternoon of exploration, we headed back to camp to settle in for the night, hoping to get some rest before the trip to Asgard. We planned on leaving early, traveling lightly, in the hopes of giving ourselves time enough for a side trip to the top of one of the high peaks, either Little Annapurna or Dragontail.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Road to Asgard

Erika and Orion and I met at 4:30 at Erika's place in Kirkland on Wednesday morning. Fortified with caffeinated beverages, we drove to Leavenworth to pick up our camping permits and get some breakfast. After that, we made for the trailhead.

We booted up and hefted our massive packs, then started on the trail.

After a short descent to Icicle Creek, the switchbacks began.

Ocassionally, we encountered hikers heading down to the trailhead, who offered us words of encouragement, usually relating to how spectacular the destination would be when we got there.

We also met some mountain goats on the way.

After pausing to photograph the pair, we continued onward. We stopped for a light lunch at Nada Lake, and spent some time being entertained by the camp robbers, and photographing the mountains and the lake.

Looming over Nada Lake are the Temple and Prusik Peak. The more distant Prusik Peak marks the entrance to our destination. We have a long way to go yet.

The combination of the arduous and unrelenting climb, distance, and weight of our packs forced us to rest for the night at Upper Snow Lake.

So far, we have hiked 7.5 miles and gained approximately 4000 feet of elevation.

After enjoying the spectacle of the rising sun over Upper Snow Lake the following morning, we began the next stage of our journey.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Voyage of Discovery

A friend of mine, Nona who I met at a photography workshop
with Tony Sweet last fall, headed out to visit Seattle last week.

We met up with another of Nona's friends and wandered over
to Discovery Park looking for some sunset photo opportunities
overlooking the Puget Sound.

Discovery Park is right smack dab in the middle of Magnolia, no
more than a ten-minute drive from where I live in Queen Anne.

Exotic it is not.

That does not mean that there are no photo opportunities there, of course;
you just have to learn to have new eyes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Stairway to Heaven

On our July 4th weekend, my friend Eve and I headed for the Olympics.

We stopped at the Staircase ranger station to pick up our back country pass and a bear cannister, then headed to the Hamma Hamma road and continued until we reached the washout. From there, we walked to the Putvin trailhead.

The first 1.7 or or so miles of the trail are well maintained, following a set of broad switchbacks along the mountainside, with grand views of Mount Pershing.

After crossing an old road, we started up the unmaintained part of the trail. It begins with a series of steep switchbacks, then levels off and follows the mountainside for a time.

Then it starts climbing. It doesn't bother with luxuries like switchbacks; it just heads straight up the wall of thise valley above the Whitehorse Creek.

This large waterfall filled the valley with its song. As far as I know, this is unofficially named Putvin Falls, after Carl Putvin.

This grueling climb lasted for at least a mile. It was like walking up a steep flight of stairs with a fully loaded pack... plus I was carrying my Ebony 4x5 setup, bringing the total weight of my pack up to around 60 pounds.

Needless to say, by the time we reached the fields of beargrass, my quads were burning.

When the trail reaches the top of the valley wall, it gets a bit steep.

It's a good thing that this moth (butterfly?) wasn't moving around, because I didn't have the energy to chase it by this point.

After walking through a meadow and through a bog, we came to the first of three ponds that we expected to find on our way to the Lake of the Angels. We thought we were there, that our destination was just around the corner... and as it turns out, that was almost true... it was, in fact, around the corner... and across the marsh, and on top of that headwall, the source of the Whitehorse Creek.

It was almost 9pm when we reached the Lake of the False Prophets, so we made camp on the rocky outcropping below the marsh, and planned on hiking up to the lake in the morning, with our new found friends Hal and Diane.

Even though we weren't able to be in the Valley of Heaven when the light was at its most beautiful, at least we had a chance to see it!

This is a beautiful place. This rock formation is known as the Pearly Gates, or St. Peters' Gate, as I understand it because they mark the entry into the Valley of Heaven from the High Divide.

Hal told me about the views he and Diane would see on their way over the ridge, including classic fviews of Mount Olympus. Eve and I didn't have time to make the ascent on this trip, so for my return I will plan on spending an extra day in the Valley of Heaven so that we can have some time to walk up Mount Skokomish and up the ridge to have a look around.

This was definitely the most challenging hike I've done yet, but having done it I feel a lot more confident about my ability to make the trip to the Enchantments later this summer , as long as I keep training and hiking!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I finished my book!

True, the layout is very simple, and there aren't any nifty interactive features, video, music, or that sort of thing, but since it's my first book, I don't mind that.

I may go back and create another version that includes actual photo essays, but for a first book, I'm pretty happy with this effort, because I succeeded, a day early.

For those of you who take the time to check my book out, I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

SoFoBoMo: Loowit

This was my first sight of the mountain, from the Silver Lake visitors' center. It was also the first time I had a chance to see it with that much snow.

This is the view from the Hofstadt Bluffs visitors' center. I wish there had been some clouds in the sky, but with nature photography you have to work with what nature gives you.

I find the new spring leaves on the stands of forest growing atop the landslide debris in the Toutle River Valley makes for a striking contrast amidst the devastation. The evening light gave their foliage a soft glow, and the snow covering the shattered stratovolcano gave it an air of peace and tranquility.

I also highly recommend the Fire Mountain Grill, at the Hofstadt Bluffs visitors' center. I ate a delicious dinner on their porch while watching this view.

No matter how many times I get a view of this, I suspect that I will never tire of it. I am also planning a Mount Margaret backcountry trip, intent on finding a campsite with a crater view so that I can get some more views of it.

This was my third SoFoBoMo photo safari. I'm now up to 22 images for the book, so I think that I'm making excellent progress, and I have a few slides to get processed as well. Now I just have to start working on the book layout. I'll most likely keep the layout fairly simple for my first crack at making a book. Maybe my second effort will be more ambitious, but that's for another time, after I'm done with this one.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SoFoBoMo: Point of the Arches

My first SoFoBoMo photo safari was quite succesful.

My friend and I went out to Neah Bay, 
and hiked out to Shi Shi. We
walked along the beach and found 
a camp site near Point of the Arches.

After setting up camp, we spent some time 
wandering about the tide pools
while the tide was nice and low, which 
kept us busy until the sun set.

The haze kept us from seeing the moon rise, 
so we just went to bed and
awoke at 4am hoping to see the moonset. 
The overcast took care of that
though, so we couldn't see the moon in the morning, either.

The rising sun burned off enough of the 
cloud cover to give us some nice soft
morning light, so we got some good 
photo opportunities during that
period. The morning tide was very low, so we 
were able to explore the tide pools
some more, and also get some alternate 
views of the sea stacks from
close up.

We found that little crab early in the morning after the sunrise.
Naturally, I'd left my macro lens back at the tent, so I used
the lens I had on the camera, which was my wide angle. It
worked out better than I hoped.

The waves were picturesque, and the fog layer on the
mountains was beautiful.

This hermit crab was feasting on this, as far as I can

This ended up being one of my favorite shots from the trip.
That tree made its way into quite a few of my images, both at
sunset and at sunrise.

So my SoFoBoMo month has begun. It is on :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SoFoBoMo: Update... starting soon

Now that SoFoBoMo has officially begun, it's about time I got mine started. I'm not going to worry about upgrading my copy of InDesign, CS3 will do the job just fine.

I've been thinking about the scope of my project a bit. I realized that I may not be able to make it out to eastern Washington during the specified time period... and I'm going to Victoria next weekend.

That means that it won't be a full portrait of Washington, not that one could do justice to Washington in a month!

This weekend I'm heading to the Pacific Coast, specifically to Point of the Arches, and so I'm going to start my project with that trip. Next weekend's trip to Victoria should yield some interesting new images, and for Memorial Day Weekend, I'm planning to be at Mount Saint Helens. The first week in June, I'm going to the Enchanted Valley, and on the first weekend in June, I'll be attending a Feeding Crane Kung-Fu seminar with Liu Chang. I probably won't get to do much photography there, but you never know.

Rounding out my photography trips, I'm going to take a few dawn and possibly dusk trips to the Washington Park Arboretum, and I'll probably pay a visit to Kubota Gardens as well.

These are from the grounds at my condo complex. We have a pretty nice display of flowers in bloom at the moment. It just goes to show, you don't have to go far to find worthwhile subjects to photograph!

Monday, April 6, 2009

SoFoBoMo: Thoughts

Since it's nearly time for SoFoBoMo 2009 to start, I suppose I should start thinking about what I'm going to do... 

As far as software goes, I'm using InDesign. I used it to create the one edition that I handled of the newsletter for the North Bethesda Camera Club in Maryland (I ended up moving to Seattle shortly after publishing it), so I've been through the learning curve already.

I would like to have a physical book as well as a PDF, so I'll probably get some prints done; since I'm most likely going to be hosting my web site on SmugMug, or at least using SmugMug as my back-end, I'll give their partner a try to see how they do.

These pictures are of flowers around my condominium complex. I suppse these are further signs that spring really is here at last.

I used my 105mm Nikon Micro lens with a Nikon 2x teleconverter. There was a bit of a breeze, so I used 1/250th shutter speed and aimed my Metz flash into the silver side of my reflector to get enough light to freeze their movement.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring is here at last!

One of my friends organized a trip up to Mount Vernon on Friday. I left Seattle at around 4:25am, met up with the crew, and arrived in Mount Vernon at around 6:15. We puttered around a bit, looking for the "best" daffodil field, and parked.

The "best" daffodil field is a tough one to determine, because they don't look that different from each other. The one picked had a bit of a hill, and more space for us to park than the others. :)

The first shot here is an attempted HDR, showing the sky, the flowers, and one of the farmhouses in the area. I merged the HDR in Photoshop CS4. It seems to work fairly well; I'll have to keep experimenting. I have a lot to learn about working with HDR images.

Although I did do come up with some wide-angle shots like the one above, most of my images are, as usual, close-ups.

I found this bug while setting up a close-up on one of the many daffodils in full bloom. The insect didn't move while I set up the shot, so I had plenty of time, one advantage of being out there so early in the morning.

I don't know whether the insect was hiding there, or feeding. Possibly both. I need to learn more about daffodils and insects, I suppose :)

This was some dew that I found on one of the daffodils. I like seeking out little details like this, there's always something new to discover if you look closely enough!
The hard part is setting up the shots, more than just finding them. With the magnification that I was using (Nikon 105mm VR Micro + Nikon 2x teleconverter), there was very little depth of field available, so I couldn't get all of the dew drops in focus. Instead I had to pick one, and attempt to arrange a composition around them that that didn't require that the rest of them be sharp. Even then, it wasn't an obvious setup, and it took several tries to get it to this point. I'm still not entirely satisfied with this image, because I think it needs to be sharper.

I'll get a second chance when we go back to the Mount Vernon area in search of tulips. :)