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.

banff, lake ohara, camping, gear

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…

 

Learning To Fly: DJI Inspire Pro and Mavic Pro Drones

My first drone a few years ago was pretty basic by today’s standards.  Low quality camera, a few minutes of battery life.  No object avoidance:  You were truly on your own.  I flew it a few times, then it went in the closet.

Something about the DJI Mavic Pro made me want to check it out.  I got one and took it to Iceland where it flew once.  My mind was elsewhere.  Back home, I flew it up around Mount Baker and down at Mount Rainier.  Drones had clearly come along a way.  Tons of features, compact and easy to fly.  A reasonable camera for the price.

Of course, coming from Sony a7r2 and Zeiss lenses, I wanted more from the camera.  I looked around and realized I needed a DJI Inspire.  What I really wanted was the included X5 camera which allows different lenses and a nice micro 4/3rds sensor.  It comes with a Leica-ish 30mm kit lens and I recently added an Olympus 90mm 1.8 lens as well.

So the journey begins in drone photography and videos.  Here’s a sampling of what I’ve come up with so far.  Honestly, it’s a bit daunting sending that much money up in the air.

Salt Marsh Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Salt Marsh Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors and Patterns Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors and Patterns Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Aerial Photography Drone Rainier White River

Aerial Photography Drone Rainier White River DJI Mavic Pro

Above the Forest and Road

Above the Forest and Road DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Above the Lake Tipsoo and Road at Defrost DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Drone Photography Road Through the Forest Dji Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

About to Land through Sunlit Trees DJI Inspire Pro

Drone Photography Rainier at Sunrise 90mm

Drone Photography Rainier at Sunrise DJI Inspire Pro 90mm

drone photography, aerial photography

Mount Rainier and Yakima Peak at Sunrise DJI Inspire Pro

aerial photography, drone photography, iceland photography

Aerial Photography Fresh Snow on Peaks in Iceland DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Nooksack River Heads to the Sunset DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Smaller Rivers Lead to Larger Ones DJI Mavic Pro

And finally a video from Rainier this morning

 

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

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

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.

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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.