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

Road Trip to Banff for Golden Larches and Fall Colors

The Enchantments Lakes Basin in Washington State is my usual Hiking to Fall Colors Larch Fest, but this year I put together a trip to the Banff area for some camping and Larch photography.  My friend and I had about a week to play with so I arranged some last minute camping at Lake O’Hara to start the trip.  From there we would head to Lake Moraine for Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass.  I’d heard reports that the colors were glorious mid September and a bit of snow had freed up some of the reserved months in advance camping spots at Lake O’Hara.

We spent two days at the campground and did a bit of hiking up around Opabin Prospect to capture amazing views that finally cleared up a bit on our last evening.  I brought my Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent, Mountain Hardware Phantom Zero degree bag and Kahtoola microspikes, all of which I was glad to have and made the trip a lot more pleasant.  We were warm and dry in the tent, I was warm in my bag and the spikes made getting up and back down the icy trails a lot safer.

 

View of Lake Mary and O'Hara from Opabin Prospect Voigtlander 10mm

View of Lake Mary and O’Hara from Opabin Prospect Voigtlander 10mm

We came back down after two nights and headed to Lake Moraine Lodge for some photography and hiking around the Lake itself and then up to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass.  Lake Moraine was spectacular as always with a dusting of snow atop the Ten Peaks that surround the lake.

The next morning at 5am, we set out to hike into Larch Valley and up up to Sentinel Pass.  We hoped to hit the golden larches around sunrise and found ourselves in a wonderland of fall colors as the sun rose.

 

Fall Colors Wonderland in Larch Valley Lake Moraine Banff

Fall Colors Wonderland in Larch Valley Lake Moraine Banff

Eventually we headed back down the now-crowded trail, catching even more glimpses of Fall’s splendor in the valley.

The next part of our journey took us to Bow and Peyto Lakes, before heading back to Seattle. Peyto was crowded and not its usual impressive self so we headed up the road to Bow Lake and waited for dusk  The dusting of snow on Crowfoot Mountain made for a dramatic reflection.

The next morning, we headed back west towards the border and on to Seattle. In two weeks we would be heading into the Enchantments Lakes Basin for 5 days of backcountry Cascades fall colors and beautiful tarns.

 

 

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

Day three was rainy and gray as promised.  I drove back up to Fossardalur but the skies were still low overcast. I spent a lot of time in the van and offloaded files to my laptop as a backup.

iceland roadtrip van laptop

Rainy day means van time and file management 🙂

At this point I was starting to get the feel for how long it took to get to certain places.  I knew for example it was about 2 hours to get from Hofn to Fossardalur.  I also learned the the roads really emptied out after about 9pm, where there was still about 2 hours until sunset. At this point I was halfway through my trip and knew I still wanted more time at Jokulsarlon and to visit Stokksnes for the first time.

So far I was pretty happy with my gear choices and logistical moves.  I had brought the right lenses and ND filters to make the most of various waterfalls and the ice art around Jokulsarlon.  I still had to chuckle, however, at bringing a very strong headlamp.  It never got dark during the summer, even after sunset so this was amusing. One item I threw in my bag which was constantly useful was my Duracell 175w power inverter:

Amazon Duracell 175w Power Inverter

This handy device allowed me to plug into the car’s cigarette lighter and have a power strip with two US plugs and 2 usb ports for charging.  Made power management a lot easier for sure.

Later in the day I got some peeks at blue sky and pulled over in random locations for interesting views.   This spot below was a nice calm reflection of surrounding cliffs coming back from Fossardalur.  The local seabirds (Skuas) must have had babies nearby because the farther I got out on the tideflats, the more relentless they were with divebombing me.  I got a few shots and the message and headed out.

DSC01451

Iceland Low Tide Reflection

I decided for the next sunrise to check out Stokksnes.  This area shows up quickly when you do photo searches on amazing shots from Iceland.  It’s owned by a farmer who runs a little cafe and charges a few dollars to walk his land for pictures.  I drove to the Viking Cafe and checked out the layout for coming back the next morning around 2am for sunrise.  He also charges for camping so I decided to park off the highway closeby and head in from there.

Nothing to do but dinner at this point so I headed to Hofn and decided to visit another highly recommended restaurant in town.  Driving into town, I ventured down a few side streets to see how the locals lived and got around.  I got one photo of this cool Land Cruiser, clearly set up for adventuring.

toyota landcruiser iceland

This Land Cruiser is ready for action

I thought about going to the same place for dinner as before but decided to go down to the waterfront for a local favorite: Pakkhus.  Their promise was nothing fresher Lobster or Langoustine as it’s known locally.  I was going to order Fish and Chips but decided to take the plunge and order the house specialty.  I find lobster in the States to be tough and chewy, but this was clearly carefully prepared with two of my favorite shellfish accompaniments: Garlic and Butter

iceland langoustine pakkhus

Succulent Langoustine grilled with garlic and butter, and a spectacular local ale to go with

After such a beautiful meal, I took a short walk along the pier to see the local vessels.

Then off to rest a bit before sunrise 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

jokulsarlon iceland

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

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.

iceland

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!

iceland arcteryx

And one time someone actually took a photo of me!

camera zeiss otus sony a7r2

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.

IMG_6593

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.

fossardalur falls iceland

The various tiers of Fossardalur Falls

fossardalur falls iceland

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.

fossardalur falls iceland

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.

 

Aerial Volcano Photography

Aerial Approaching Mount St Helens at Dusk

Aerial Approaching Mount St Helens at Dusk

Ok well Mount St Helens isn’t an active volcano per se.  It last erupted and basically blew its top off in May of 1980.  Like most people in Seattle of a certain age, I remember what I was doing on that date.  I was rollerskating around Gasworks Park to Donna Summer.  Ok then.

Anyway, the result of the happenings on that date back in 1980 are a very photogenic crater in SW Washington.  I have a friend who likes to fly and we went up last night and headed down to Mount St Helens. I brought two Zeiss prime MF lenses and my Sony a7r2. My friend who was also shooting had his 5DSr and 24-70.

I was in the front seat, wearing all black to reduce glare. Kurt basically flies wherever we need to get the shots we want. I had the camera set to internal stabilization and the MF lens set to infinity. When I shot out the side window, glare creeped in but shooting through the curved front glass cut it down considerably. I watched my shutter speeds to keep them above 1/300 as much as possible.

I got about 1000 RAW files and so far about 85% are keepers…I love this perspective of the mountain and I think we both did a nice job of capturing the sunset light.

Approaching Boeing Field at Night Seattle Aerial night Photography

Approaching Boeing Field at Night

Sunstar Lights Up Mount St Helens at Sunset

Sunstar Lights Up Mount St Helens at Sunset

Golden Light on Mount St Helens from the Air

Golden Light on Mount St Helens from the Air

Sunset Skies Above Mount St Helens from the Air

Sunset Skies Above Mount St Helens from the Air

Sunrays Bathe the Volcanic Wasteland Below St Helens from the Air

Sunrays Bathe the Volcanic Wasteland Below St Helens from the Air

Mount St Helens Aerial Crater Closeup

Mount St Helens Aerial Crater Closeup

Mount St Helens Aerial Photography Sunset

Mount St Helens Aerial Photography Sunset

Snow and Mud Details along the Crater of St Helens Aerial

Snow and Mud Details along the Crater of St Helens Aerial

Crater of St Helens onto Spirit Lake and Rainier in the Distance

Crater of St Helens onto Spirit Lake and Rainier in the Distance

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Edge of St Helens Crater and Rainier in the Distance Aerial Photography

Edge of St Helens Crater and Rainier in the Distance Aerial Photography

Approaching Mount St Helens By Helicopter Panorama

Approaching Mount St Helens By Helicopter Panorama

 

 

First of the Fall Colors Larches – Blue Lake

Fall colors were beckoning out on Highway 20. Its a bit of a drive to this wonderland from Seattle, but oh so worth it. There are several awesome fall colors hikes along the highway. We arrived at the Blue Lake trailhead in the afternoon to a full parking lot and cars parked out on Highway 20. When we came back after sunset, the lot was empty.

This trail is in great shape. No stairsteps over roots, mostly dry. Came across several people with dogs. I love seeing dogs on the trail. Honestly most dogs treat the wilderness better than many people. Anyway the lake and the larches are spectacular. Incredible views in every direction. A short easy hike with incredible payoff. Warming up for the Enchantments next week and this is a nice introduction.  #larches #fallcolors

 

Blue Lake Fall Colors Reflection

Washington State Fall Colors Larches PhotographyWashington State Fall Colors Larches PhotographyWashington State Fall Colors Larches PhotographyWashington State Fall Colors Larches PhotographyWashington State Fall Colors Larches PhotographyWashington State Fall Colors Larches Photography

 

Artist’s Point With a Nip in the Air – Zeiss 15mm Milvus

Trying to spend more time up here and catch the first snow before they close down the road to Artist’s Point. It’s a drive from Seattle but so worth it for the spectacular views. I have a few rituals heading out 542. I stop at Subway for dinner near Glacier. I hit the Starbucks off Woburn Street to get a triple tall mocha in the morning and wash up. If that isnt enough I also stop in Fairhaven at Tonys.

Anyway, the drive up is great. I know all the landmarks and once I pass the DOT buildings, I know the windy road to the top begins. Shuksan has a tiny dusting of snow on the peak. Table Mountain has no snow yet. Baker is beautiful as always. Its just enough nip in the morning that Picture Lake usually has mist at night. Because I am here for photos, usually I am heading in at dusk at others are heading out and vice versa in the morning. Met quite a few other photographers. Lent my tripod to one, had a nice snarky conversation with another talking about how many a7s shutters he has destroyed while making hours long time lapses. Also shared some homemade pumpkin bread with him. Helped a couple from Kentucky find some of the lesser known gems in the area. Gear-wise, I was carrying two bodies: Sony a7r and Sony a7r2. Zeiss had sent me a preview copy of their new Milvus 15mm so I was intent on using it as much as possible. I also put my Voigtlander 10mm to use for its unique perspective.

Once in the parking lot, I decided to stay in the area as sunset/sunrise would be good from the Huntoon area. Really happy with my decision.Mount Baker ReflectionTable Mountain Dusk LightTable Mountain Dusk Light in a Small TarnMount Shuksan and Night MistMount Shuksan Sunrise Reflection - Zeiss 15mm MilvusHeather Meadows and Table MountainMount Baker Sunrise Reflection in a Small Tarn at Artists Point