Visiting the Icelandic Highlands Landmannalaugar Fuji GFX50s Part II

If you are here, you have to hike a bit to see the surroundings.  So I did some research and found a vigorous loop that would take me around the area and provide amazing views from above.  One source recommended Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil, one of the longer hikes, but with a huge payoff.  I set out early hoping to be in the views around dusk.

The first part takes you up and over several peaks with incredible vistas in every direction.  Each peak seemed to be better than the last.  I largely had a place to myself, only running into four other people.

Hiking the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands

View towards Bláhjúkur, Brennisteinsalda and Laugahraun along the hike.

Lone Hiker Along the Suðurnámur mountain ridge, Icelandic Highlands.

Lone Hiker Along the Suðurnámur mountain ridge, Icelandic Highlands.

Hiking the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands

View along the Jokulgilskvizl between the Barmur Ridge in the Icelandic Highlands.

About an hour into the hike, I got hit by a strong rain squall.  Fortunately I had my parka with me and slipped into it.  There was enough wind that I figured it would pass, and it eventually did.  I talked to two hikers who said the rest of the way was sunny and clear.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Two hikers I talked to about the weather…

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 100-300mm lens

Views over the ridge at Frostastaðavatn lake and beyond.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Massive geological features along the trail and the lava fields of Graenagil to the left

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Golden light on the green landscape of Landmannalaugar.

The trail and its views were captivating.  I lost sense of time, except for the sunset coming on brought me back.  The rain had indeed passed.  I started to descend to the valley below, taking care going down the slopes slick with loose gravel.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Trail to the valley below in Landmannalaugar

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Tiny sheep on the golden hillsides of Landmannalaugar.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lensIt felt good to be descending but I also missed the views from up on high.  More in Part III.

Various Zeiss Prime Lenses Adapted Onto the Fuji GFX50s

..and one very old Canon prime.

How did this happen?  Well my Sony a7r’s second shutter blew apart during a sunrise timelapse and I found myself looking into another camera body. I was going back and forth considering another a7r2 or even the a7r3.  Looking around, I came across the Fuji.  I’ve always wondered about digital medium format for landscape photography.  I rented one for the weekend and set about adapting my various Canon-mount Zeiss lenses to it.  Adapting lenses onto the GFX50s leads one into the myriad of adapters available with their pluses and minuses.

As we know, renting can lead to buying, and within a week I found myself with an almost new GFX50s.  My initial challenges were figuring out the menu system and dialing in manual focus.  Most of the online tutorials seemed to leave out an implied step or two.  Eventually I got there.  I tried adapters from Fotodiox to Viltrox and eventually settled on the Kipon AF adapter.  I meant to try to the Fringer but ordered the wrong size and by then, I was happy with the Kipon.

I adapted on my Zeiss 85 and 28 Otus lenses, my 135mm f2 ZE lens and even my old Contax 50mm f1.4.  The 28 Otus had the most vignetting.  All lenses performed well. I was especially happy with the AF using my almost 30yo Canon 200mm f1.8 lens.  Much snappier and more accurate than the Sigma MC11 or Metabones IV adapters on my Sony a7r2.

A few photos from my first few days with the camera.  Very impressed with the details and tonality.

Smith Tower Blues Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 85mm Otus lens

Smith Tower Blues Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 85mm Otus lens

Seattle Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

Seattle Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

My Contemplative Cat Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

My Contemplative Cat Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

Second Beach Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 28mm Otus lens Handheld Shot

Second Beach Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 28mm Otus lens Handheld Shot

Smith Tower Dusk Fuji GFX50s and Canon 200mm f1.8 lens

Smith Tower Dusk Fuji GFX50s and Canon 200mm f1.8 lens

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.

Bryce Canyon Sunrise Light CloseupDSC05854

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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