Winter to Spring in the NW: Drone Videos in the Mountains

I’ve been having a great time lately putting both drones up in the NW backcountry.  I started out doing this to get still imagery but have moved into video production as well.  Editing has been on my PC laptop with Adobe Premier Pro. I have two drones.  The first, much easier to fly and carry is the DJI Mavic Pro 2.  Harder to fly and transport, but with a better camera is the DJI Inspire 2 with X5S camera.  Generally, I send up the MP2 to scout and see if its worth sending up the Inspire.

So far they are without soundtracks which is fine by me.  Many more sequences to come as Spring arrives with warmer flying weather.  Please enjoy what I have so far:

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

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Mount Rainier Photography – Risking the Weather

With a busy weekend coming up and a forecast for mostly rain and some snow, I decided to slip down to Stevens Canyon Road and scout around a bit for shots.  The road was supposed to open on Friday so I was really eager to get on it and see how things looked.  I really prefer the 410 approach as I find Puyallup and Meridian to be depressing in a sociological sense.  I like the drive through Enumclaw, stopping for some coffee, getting supplies and gas at Safeway and then slowly approaching my favorite parts of MRNP via 410 and breathing easier with every mile.

I sidetracked up to Tipsoo to see how the lake was melting out.  Rainier itself was in the clouds and the lake showed a lot of promise.  Then down 123 to the Entrance at Grove of the Patriarchs.  To make a longer story shorter, I drove around Stevens Canyon Road until about 7pm, watching clouds fly by, occasional snow flurries, some rain, but never a really clear shot of the mountain.

Brief glimpse of Rainier amongst fast-moving clouds. Zeiss 85mm Otus

Brief glimpse of Rainier amongst fast-moving clouds. Zeiss 85mm Otus

The Castle, along the Tatoosh Range. Zeiss 100-300mm

The Castle, along the Tatoosh Range. Zeiss 100-300mm

Stevens Canyon Ridge Details

Stevens Canyon Ridge Details. Zeiss 100-300mm

Driving back to Seattle, a lot of traffic was heading out of town.  After about an hour on I-5, any sense of backcountry relaxation was gone.  I meandered along in the slow lane, watching others soar by.  Passing through the city, my mellow self was giving way to the irritated, curmudgeonly Seattle native in me.

Enchantments Fall Colors Camping Hiking Ultralight Survival Guide

Enchantments hiking camping ultralight guide leavenworth larches Enchantments hiking camping ultralight guide leavenworth larches Leprechaun Lake Fall Colors

First off I should say that I cant stay away from the Enchantments Lakes Basin in Washington State.  Each Fall, I have to go at least once.  The first time I went, I carried way too much stuff and finished the through hike in 17 hours with bleeding feet and a strong desire to crawl back to my car.  Two weeks later however, I wanted to go again.  Since then, I have become a scientist of sorts figuring out how to lighten my load and make the whole experience more fun.

Last week, I headed up to get some fall color before I fly off to China for a work trip this week.  I saw a lot of miserable people coming up the trail, carrying too much stuff. Actually it was usually one excited person and then the others they had talked into going. I recommend taking a hard look at your load and gear. My pack was a 45L Zpacks Arc Blast, which weighs less than a pound and carries beautifully. My bag was a 10 degree Zpacks 900 fill down bag which weighs 22 ounces. My tent is a Tarptent Contrail which weighs 27 ounces and has never let me down.  I won’t soon forget seeing someone carrying a full-sized Costco tent, still in the box, bungee-corded to their pack.  Or hikers carrying iron skillets.  Ugh.  And for the record, you don’t have to spend a lot to go light.  Ebay, hiker gear for sale sites, craigslist and manufacturer’s website bargain bins are all great sources of discounted gear.  I seldom if ever buy new and only as a last resort.

I saw people carrying gallon jugs of water. I carry one small bottle of gatorade and filter as i go with a Sawyer bag filter. I carry “gatorade” tablets to make more as i go along. Now the camera gear is where i splurge, since that is why I am going.  I recently swtiched from Canon to Sony, which lightened my load a bit.  I see people carrying Gitzo 4 series tripods.  I would never do this.  I carry my Gitzo 0540 and it feels excessive.  Other times I have carried my Tamrac Zipshot hiking pole tripod which weighs 8oz.

I will expand on this topic as more thoughts come to mind.  Thanks for listening. #ultralight #tarptent #zpacks #enchantments #hiking #backpacking #fallcolors

Sony a7r and Canon 11-24mm Lens Seattle Timelapse Sunset Video

I was very eager to test Canon’s 11-24mm at the Sky View Observatory. I wanted to see what 11mm meant as far as pov goes and aside from taking a number of random photos, I also made a timelapse video. I had adapted the lens onto my Sony a7r using a Metabones III adapter which allows for electronic control and eventual AF.  I can tell you that the protruding lens shade petals and front element make blocking out internal reflections against the Observatory’s windows challenging.  But I think I made a decent go of it.  I returned the lens this morning and felt ok about letting it go.  For me, 11mm is cool but a rare requirement and my Sony 16-35mm makes me very happy.  It certainly weighs a lot less, has OSS and of course doesn’t need a Metabones adapter. #a7r #canon #sony #mirrorless

11mm Seattle from the Sky View Observatory

…and now a nice timelapse made with the Canon 11-24mm lens:

Visiting Colchuck Lake and Travelling Light

Visiting Colchuck Lake and Travelling Light

Facing a really busy July, it was time to get out a bit for a challenging overnight. My friend and I chose Colchuck for a nice outing. We had some new ultralight gear to try out. The trail is in great shape and snow free but not bug free. We found a great campsite near the boulder field and set up for the night. Encountered many other hikers and climbers. Impressed with the massive packs and loads others were carrying. A few borrowed our water filter system and others stopped to chat about conditions. Rained all night but sunny and 80s the next day. An amazing adventure. Sony a7r was a dream with the two lenses I brought: Zeiss 18mm and 50mm.  My tent was a Tarptents Contrail and my sleeping bag was a Mountain Hardwear Speed 32. The Contrail was especially impressive after a night of rain and winds.  It was still standing and dried quickly.  My Granite Gear Vapor Trail also did very well with its 25lb load and most of the time I was unaware of it on my back.

Shires Contrail

First Visit to the Skagit Valley for Daffodils

First Visit to the Skagit Valley for Daffodils

…and tulips soon. Daffodils are bursting with color. Tulips are just starting to bloom barely. I will be seeing many of you up there.

Also a reminder I am showing my work at the La Conner Brewing establishment until June. Stop by for some great beer and art.

Lake Tipsoo and Naches Loop Overnight

Lake Tipsoo and Naches Loop Overnight

First off I have to say I really enjoyed this hike and got some great photos but the highlight of the trip was meeting one of WTA’s own hiking celebrities, HikingQueen 🙂 Two people on the loop at 5am and she was one of them. We were discussing Don’s trip report where he reported no bugs. We saw/met/dined with plenty.

I showed up at 8pm to catch the sunset then slept in my truck for the morning light. Trail is in great shape and the flowers are “peaked”. Tons of lupine, paintbrush etc. When I got back to my car at 7am, the lot was filling including a group of 8 guys with no bug spray. I loaned them mine.

In Search of Honeybucket Falls

In Search of Honeybucket Falls

I visited a very photogenic falls down by the Gorge last year and wanted to go back a few weeks ago. Finding this place however is tricky. Its in and amongst the web of forest service roads that cover the area and the last time I got close was at night in the snow.

So we drove around looking for it and found nothing. Panther Falls was our backup plan and we went there. I got home and got determined and found it using Google Earth and searching. So I went back to my favorite falls a day ago and got some decent mid day light shots.

I call it Honeybucket because the first time I was there, there was a Porta Potty there for highway crews.

Love this spot.

Panther Creek Falls Beckons

Panther Creek Falls Beckons

If for no other reason than by the time you get to the base of the falls, its 20 degrees cooler than where you parked above. And the falls are really photogenic. This shot was done with my Zeiss 21mm lens at f11, B+W ND and CPL filters and tripod.