Lake O’Hara Fall Colors Camping

For the second year in a row, I decided to head to Lake O’Hara for some camping and fall colors photography.  I love this place.  Alongside awesome scenery including towering peaks and golden larches, access is restricted so its not too crowded.  Two ways to overnight at the lake:  Camping in the campground or staying at the Lodge.

Having no luck with the Lodge waiting list, I decided to camp for a few night and hope for good weather.  After an 11 hour drive from Seattle I was ready for an adventure.  I learned a lot from last year’s Lake O’Hara camping.  First was that it pays to bring real food and cook it at the campground.  Second, bring the warmest gear you have.

In the end, I overpacked a bit and got a lecture from the staff before boarding the schoolbus that takes you up the fire road to Lake O’Hara.

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Lots of gear and ready for cold overnight temps

I setup my tent on pad 26 and got situated for the days ahead.  There was a little less snow than last year so people were socializing around the campfire.  I relaxed for the rest of the evening since the skies were cloudy and the light wasn’t good.

My Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent at Lake O'Hara

My Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent at Lake O’Hara

I peeked out of my tent around 5am the next day and saw stars above so it was on.  I geared up and headed for the Opabin Plateau.  Having seen and photographed the view from the Plateau over the lakes, I decided to explore the larches and lakes farther in instead.

I found a winter wonderland of larches, frozen tarns and towering peaks.  A few of these are below.

Almost Frozen Opabin Lake and First Light on Peaks Beyond

Almost Frozen Opabin Lake and First Light on Peaks Beyond

Mount Huber Catching First Light

Mount Huber Catching First Light

Mount Schaffer Catching Morning Light Above Lake Opabin and Golden Fall Colors

Mount Schaffer Catching Morning Light Above Lake Opabin and Golden Fall Colors

Opabin Plateau Golden Larches and Towering Mount Schaffer

Opabin Plateau Golden Fall Colors  Larches

I wandered along the frozen trails for about an hour before the light lost its softness.  then I headed back down to the campground for breakfast and some rest. The lakeside cabins of the Lake O’Hara Lodge were basking in warm morning light.

Lake O'Hara Lodge Cabins Reflection Just After Dawn

Lake O’Hara Lodge Cabins Reflection Just After Dawn

Part 2 coming up…

 

Back to Iceland: Round the Ring Road Part 4

I mentioned a weather apocalypse of sorts around Hofn and it hit hard one morning.  Crazy weather is worth venturing into at sunrise or sunset because the potential for great shots is there.  Safety first, of course.  Arcteryx thought enough of my suffering and brand placement that they asked to use this photo in their website promotions.

Iceland Stokksnes Morning Hailstorm Arcteryx

Iceland Stokksnes Morning Hailstorm

 

Iceland Stokksnes After the Hailstorm Zeiss 28mm Otus Sony

Iceland Stokksnes After the Hailstorm

That morning, a beautiful sunrise wasn’t to be.  But venturing east, I found the golden light behind the storm.

Iceland Ring Road Hailstorm Sunrays

Iceland Ring Road Hailstorm Sunrays

Which in turn lit up the surrounding peaks nicely.

Iceland Ring Road Morning Golden Light On Dusted Peaks Zeiss 28mm Otus and Sony A7R2

Iceland Ring Road Morning Golden Light On Dusted Peaks

Iceland Ring Road Snow Capped Peaks Reflection

Iceland Ring Road Snow Capped Peaks Reflection

At that point, the light was on the wane so I headed back to Hofn for a nap and breakfast.  Time to rest and rejuvenate for afternoon at Jokulsarlon.  On this visit, there wasn’t much ice on the beach as it was still cold and frozen at the glacier. But wandering the beaches along the lagoon is always a pleasure.  Its interesting to see how the ice arranges itself, changing each day.

Iceland Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon Sculptures Zeiss 85mm Otus

Iceland Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon Sculptures

Later on back at Hotel Hofn, I learned of their happy hour and 20% off meals for guests. this lead to more relaxing and planning for the morning.  Hopefully without the hailstorms

Back to Iceland: Round the Ring Road Part 3

Much of the story of my trip around Iceland can be told in the rows of images on my screen here as I type.  Time spent in the North.  Time spent in the East Fjords. Much time spent in and around Hofn, and from there to places like Jokulsarlon, the Ice Lagoon, or Stokksnes.  Then back to Hofn each night after sunset.  I had found a nice hotel in the town and craving a shower and solid bed, I stayed there for three nights.

One evening, I came out to find one of my tires flat.  I was irritated but grateful it wasn’t on some side road in the night, raining all around me.  I made some calls and found the local car shop which fixes tires.

Iceland Hofn Tire Repair

Iceland Hofn Tire Repair

Patched up, I visited a place called Stokksnes three time in the next few days.  I got ok weather, awful weather, and lastly amazing weather.  Stokksnes is the place where the landowner charges about 8$usd to visit his land.  Once you see the view from out along the beach, you’d pay almost any price.

Iceland Stokksnes Beach Sunrise

Iceland Stokksnes Beach Sunrise

Later on that morning, heading back to the camper and watching for great reflections in the smooth-as-glass tideflats.

Iceland Stokksnes Sunrise Dramatic Tideflats Reflection

Iceland Stokksnes Sunrise Dramatic Tideflats Reflection

All this while also watching for sunstar opportunities on the black sand dunes.

Iceland Stokksnes Black Sands Dunes Sunstar Sunrise

Iceland Stokksnes Black Sands Dunes Sunstar Sunrise

Iceland Stokksnes Sunrise Wave Spray Zeiss 16-35/4

Iceland Stokksnes Sunrise Wave Spray Zeiss 16-35/4

I had a great first visit to Stokksnes with the light and sunrise.  I knew I would be back on this visit, but didn’t know I would have to go through a weather apocalypse of sorts before I got another amazing sunrise.  Once done here each morning, I would head out east or west for as much good light as I could get.

Iceland Clouds on the Move

Iceland Clouds on the Move

Iceland seems to be a lot about the scenery but also about the wind.  It’s constantly going.  I got in the habit of opening the door, and holding onto it as it opened.  I was happy to have brought quite a bit of Windstopper gear. My camper was my travelling photo taking operation.  This was great not only to have everything you need with you, but also for impromptu napping.

GOCampers Iceland Mobile Photographer and Napping Space

GOCampers Iceland Mobile Photographer and Napping Space

Being based around Hofn, I had to stop in at Pakkhus for my one splurge meal.  Langoustine (lobster), fresh off the boat, baked in butter, garlic and other secret herbs and spices.  I had a nice pint of  a local beer called Wee Heavy, which reminded me of the old Hales Brewing Wee Heavy.

Iceland Pakkhus Hofn Lobster Langoustine Feast beer food travel

Iceland Pakkhus Hofn Lobster Langoustine Feast

Back on the road for more early morning scenery. Sunrise was about 330am, so it made for an early start this time in May.

Iceland Southeast Morning Symmetry

Iceland Southeast Morning Symmetry

More from Hofn here shortly, and then moving west again.

 

Three Weeks of Rain in Seattle: Time for a Zion and Bryce Canyon Roadtrip

It’s been raining in Seattle now for a few weeks and I really needed to get out of town.  The weather forecast for Zion and Bryce Canyon was the opposite:  Sun and clear skies for two weeks.  So I flew to Vegas, rented a car and set out into the desert.

I drove first to Bryce Canyon, where I stayed for a night.  Sunrise was brutally cold but beautiful and serene.  It was all I could do to leave that afternoon for my next destination, Zion National Park.

Bryce Canyon Cold Morning at the Lookout

Bryce Canyon Cold Morning at the Lookout

I got quite a few nice shots at Bryce Canyon and one morning hiked down into the Canyon for a different perspective.

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Bryce Canyon Sunrise Light Closeup Canon 400mm

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Bryce Canyon Sunrise Light Closeup Zeiss 85 Otus

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I had been to Zion before and had a few ideas about compositions for sunrise and sunset.  This time of the year gave me access to Zion Canyon Drive as well, so more choices.  I found many nice compositions out the Drive.

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View of Zion National Park Out Canyon Drive

View of Zion National Park Out Canyon Drive

Each time I drove out of the Drive, the Watchman appeared as I slowed for the turn into Springdale.  I had taken the traditional shot from the bridge many times and was wary of falling back on it.  I noted a trail heading down the river and promised myself I would check it out the following day.

I headed down the trail the next day, realizing I was running out of sunset light but very curious about opportunities for other compositions beyond what everyone was getting back at the bridge.  Eventually I found this shot and came back the next night to set it up.  So glad I did.

The next day, I returned to Vegas and back to Seattle, parka at the ready.

Golden Larches Fall Colors Hiking and Photography: Enchantments 2017

Enchantments Prusik Peak Perfection Lake View

Enchantments Prusik Peak Perfection Lake View

Each year I contemplate the hike I will be making into the Enchantments for larches and fall colors.  I go over hiking gear lists, camera gear, food plans, compositions, etc.  I decided to go Snow Lakes route this year, having gone Asgaard Pass out of the Stuart Lake trailhead the previous two years.

My Zpacks pack ready to go at Snow Lakes Enchantments Hike Trailhead

My Zpacks pack ready to go at Snow Lakes Enchantments Hike Trailhead

We planned on staying 3 days near Leprechaun Lake.  The weather report indicated snow in the area we wanted to camp in and temps in the 20s so I packed accordingly.  My tent was the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1.  My sleeping bag was the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 degree and Thermarest Xtherm pad.  My pack was the Zpacks Arc Blast cuben/carbon pack.  Arc’Teryx Bora2 boots, Cerium SV and Alpha FL jacket, Rampart pants and Atom LT insulated pants.  There’s a reason why I worked retail at the ArcTeryx store for two years  🙂

My camera gear was my Sony a7r2, Zeiss 55 and Zeiss 16-35 lenses along with my Voigtlander 10mm.  I brought my carbon tent pole tripod, which was pretty underwhelming so my shots were all handheld.  For hydration, I brought two small bottles of gatorade and made more with Endurox R4 and electrolyte tabs as I hiked.  Food-wise, I had oatmeal and high protein granola, a stack of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and a pile of snacks heavy on Snickers bars.  I left the trailhead at 32lbs, which I was pretty happy with. FWIW, I don’t do poles after an unfortunately pole to tooth incident a few years back, and I drink straight out of fast-moving streams.  This has always worked for me, but I don’t necessarily recommend it for others.

Once the dates were in place, I put out some invites for others to go along.  All this inviting resulted in two people going with me: Jenn and Erwin.  Erwin insisted on camping halfway up which is new to me but we found camping at Snow Lakes to be a nice break and got some great shots there.

Snow Lake Enchantments Sunrise Light

Snow Lake Enchantments Sunrise Light

Another nice part of staying at Snow Lake is that the next section is flat for a while.  Having rounded Snow Lake, however, the climbing begins.  We took it slow and got to Leprechaun Lake in a few hours.

Jenn and Erwin Climbing up Towards Lake Vivianne

Jenn and Erwin Climbing up Towards Lake Vivianne

We camped near Leprechaun Lake and set out getting photos.It was a great trip as always.  Oncoming snow showers sent us back down a bit earlier than expected but we decided caution was in order.  As I write this a few days later, I, of course, already want to go back  🙂  Here is a random sampling of shots from the hike:

Many more shots at Mike Reid Photography

5 Days in Iceland – A Photographer’s Eden – Part Four

Time to finally check out Stokksnes.  I’d done some image research and decided to go around sunrise at 3:30am to see how the light looked. I arrived at the Viking Cafe, closed of course, and set about figuring out the self pay station.  The land owner charges a small fee to roam his land for photos.

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The Stokksnes Self Serve Pay Station. Took a few tries but it worked and only charged me once.

I headed north out of the parking lot, which I later learned was an error.  If you want the typical shot that most people get at Stokksnes, you need to head east towards the Radar Station.  I kind of regretted my error but then no because I got some unique vistas and was able to catch a great sunrise as well.

So I wandered across beautiful black and past the “Viking Village Movie Set along the massive peaks of Vesturhorn.  The beach was mostly dry, with a tiny pool of water showing at this point.  It would grow considerably later on on my way back.  I reached the bog around which I could see Brunnhorn peeking past Vesturhorn.

At this point, sunrise skies were on fire and I was backtracking all over the black sand getting shots. I was in my Salomon shoes, and getting soaked but didn’t care.

Looking back the other way was good too, as is often the case with burning sunrises.

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Sunrise clouds above Vesturhorn on the beach in Stokksnes Iceland

I kept wandering back along the beach, while watching the sunrise.  I felt like I got some nice shots even though I didn’t make it out to the typical area.  I was thankful for the solitude, great light and calm smooth beach.

I got back to the pool of water on the black sand which was growing as I watched.  Looking back towards Brunnhorn, it looked like mercury reflecting the skies.

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Vesturhorn sunrise skies reflected on a mercurial pool of water.

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Vesturhorn and sunrise reflected

I made it back to the van and napped for several hours.  My Salomons were pretty much soaked to the core so I was happy I had several other pairs of shoes with me.  Eventually I ended up back in Hofn for coffee.  Daytime was either sleeping or scouting time.  I did a lot of both.  Checking the weather, I realized that the next morning was to be another day of gray rain so I had to make tonight’s sunset and sunrise count.  I planned on focusing on Jokulsarlon partially because I knew there was more to be found there and the ice had certainly been re-arranging itself. But also because I truly enjoyed being there.

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One more view of the beach at Stokksnes

 

5 Days in Iceland – A Photographer’s Eden – Part Two

I awoke in the parking lot at Jokularlon, the Ice Lagoon.  I had taken a few shots the night before, after all who could resist.  But now It was time to explore the area.  The beach where the ice washes up is on the east side of the highway.  The much larger parking lot and lagoon is to the west.  Serious crowds and tour operators start to show up early, including this entourage with a bride from China.chinese bride iceland

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People along the beach at Jokulsarlon, a very popular spot for sure.

Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon Lencticular Sunset

Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon Lencticular Sunset

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I wandered around a while and then hit the road.  During the day is scouting time for me and I wanted to see what lie further down the road.  About an hour later I reached Hofn, a small town that would become my base of sorts.  I got some supplies at the local grocery, had lunch at Kaffihornið, a local restaurant and explored a bit.  There’s a large campground here with coin operated showers, a luxury I would put off for another day or two. At this point, my morning routine was to find a spot for espresso, use their WC after I had made my purchase and use the opportunity to brush my teeth and splash my face a bit.  All with considerable thanks expressed and gratitude.

Heading north on Highway 1, vast expanses again.  At one point I parked and just watched the shadows of huge clouds move across a hillside.

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Shadows of clouds moving across a huge slope during the day. Pretty mesmerizing!

I really didn’t know how much further I wanted to go at this point.  I was intrigued by a falls called Fossardalur, and hoped to find it.  One thing I was realizing about driving in Iceland was that the roads were narrow and pulloffs were, nonexistent, except for the occasional gravel driveway.  Usually what happened was I saw an incredible composition, then started looking for a pulloff with one eye in the mirror making sure I wasn’t holding up traffic.  Sometimes, however, I got lucky and there was an official parking area off the road.  After taking dozens of shots of other people, one time someone got a shot of me with my camera!

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And one time someone actually took a photo of me!

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My photo gear at the ready driving in Iceland

The rest of the day was driving north towards Djúpivogur, admiring the coast, dodging skuas and contemplating what was to be a gray rainy day the next day.

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My van, roadside again for the views

Eventually I found Fossardalur, and explored around the area there.  There is a lower parking lot (with the all-important porta-potties) which gives a hint of the falls and an upper one which puts you right in front of them  I got a few nice shots of the falls as the light began to soften in the afternoon.

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The various tiers of Fossardalur Falls

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The top of Fossardalur Falls Iceland

I explored around the falls area further and found a way down to the base from the lower parking lot.  There’s a somewhat tricky creek crossing but using my tripod as a stick helped get across it.

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The falls and various pools around the base.

More napping ensued into the late afternoon and I planned on heading back towards Jokulsarlon for the evening.  Rain was predicted by the next morning so I figured it was to be a day of scouting and rest.