Aerial Volcano Photography

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 Visit to the Banff Area for Photography

I finally made a trip the Banff area for photos.  I think its hard to be a landscape photographer and not be aware of the beauty in this area.  June seemed to be a good time to go.  Lakes were melted out and the summer crowds had yet to hit hard.  We went for a week, flying into Calgary, renting a car and heading west.

Our first stop was a night in the Fairmont Lake Louise.  I was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded from our basic room to one of the 5 best rooms in the hotel .  Amazing views and it really set the bar high for our trip.

The weather, however, wasn’t as spectacular.  Clouds, rain, and wind were on the menu for the first few days.  This allowed a lot of scouting however and we drove all over figuring out compositions and how to get to certain places.

The remainder of our stay was in Canmore.  I learned not only is Banff mostly a sunrise location (to me) but also being in Canmore was a bit far from the spots I wanted to be at around sunrise.

A few highlights from the trip:

Moraine Lake Banff Sunrise Alpenglow Reflection

Moraine Lake Banff Sunrise Alpenglow Reflection

Peyto Lake 10mm Cloudscape

Peyto Lake 10mm Cloudscape

Banff Avenue and Snow Peak

Banff Avenue and Snow Peak

Mount Rundle and Vermillion Lakes

Mount Rundle and Vermillion Lakes

Fairmont Lake Louise

Fairmont Lake Louise

Peaks Above Moraine Lake at Sunrise

Peaks Above Moraine Lake at Sunrise

Schlepping That Beast – Zeiss 28mm Otus Goes to Europe

I sent a few photos from my trip to my contact at Zeiss.  Her response was:

“Wow, Mike. These are great.  You should get some badge of honor for schlepping that beast around with you.”

It didn’t seem like much at the time but yes the Zeiss 28mm Otus isn’t subtle.  I had planned my visit to London and Paris around my Zeiss deliverables, but you really have to carry it day to day to get the whole picture of its size.  It’s kind of like the Blazing Saddles Moment. “S’cuse me while I whip this out…”  On the other hand, most of my shots are handheld, so it’s clearly manageable.

The payoff of course is stunning image quality.  Shots that really stood out on my editing laptop really bloomed in vivid, contrasty detail on my home 34″ 4K monitor.  And clearly my editors at Zeiss are happy.  Now where’s my badge?  🙂 #zeiss

Liberty London Interior Zeiss 28mm OtusParis Pons Invalides at Sunset Zeiss 28mm OtusParis Palais Garnier Opera House Stairwells Zeiss 28mm OtusParis Palais Garnier Opera House Ceiling Zeiss 28mm OtusParis Dusk Notre Dame and the Seine Zeiss 28mm OtusParis Dusk Flower Shop Zeiss 28mm OtusParis Dusk Eiffel Tower Shadow Zeiss 28mm OtusTower Bridge View from the Tower of London Zeiss 28mm OtusThames Sunset Big Ben Reflection Zeiss 28mm Otus

 

London and Paris Redux

My last visit to these two cities was years ago.  I had just gotten my first serious camera, a Canon Digital Rebel and kit lens.  I got some nice shots and promised myself I would be back.

I learned I was going to visit them again about two months ago and started researching shots and locales.  I also put together a gear list.  Three weeks ago, Zeiss had provided me with a 28mm f/1.4 Otus and I knew this would be prime hunting grounds for this gem of a lens.  My camera pack came together like this:

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Bag full of Zeiss goodness headed to Europe

So the adventure began on the 14th and started in London, where we had rented an airnbn with a great view.

London along the Thames night view of the Tower Bridge

Next night it was up to the Shard for some handheld night shots of the city.  The 85mm Otus was my savior for sharp night shots from above.

Zeiss 85mm Otus handheld night shot of the Tower Bridge from the Shard

Zeiss 85mm Otus handheld night shot of the St Pauls and the Thames from the Shard

Really an amazing place, the Shard.  The next day we were off to the Tower to see how the 28mm Otus did.  More on that later  🙂

 

Enchantments Fall Colors Multi-Day Hike

My Enchantments party kept shrinking until there were two of us: Dan and myself. We headed up Sunday, leaving a parking lot packed and parked cars running down the road. I basically carried too much stuff. My pack was at 45lbs which is twice what I usually carry. Part of me is proud of this: Not bad for a 50yo, but also I need more gear discipline. Many of my gear choices paid off since we had snow the second morning but it still was heavy load. I brought two camera bodies, 3 lenses and a tripod.  Didn’t end up using the tripod, but the three lenses were nice to have.  The Arcteryx Altra 75 does carry well.

A ranger was checking permits at the Stuart/Colchuck crossroads. Much appreciated and we thanked him for hanging out there being the gatekeeper.

The fall colors going up were absolutely gorgeous, and never stopped. Took a while to get up Aasgard but we reached the top with a bit of light left to find our first camp spot. Dan had mistakenly dropped our Sawyer filter down a stream chute so it was unfiltered water for the trip. I’ll get back to you on how that panned out although I’ve usually had no trouble drinking unfiltered water up there.

We found a spot around the first of the lakes and camped there. We moved the next day to something a bit more wind protected. Weather was cold and windy, with snow apparently on the way. We got the snow the next morning. I didn’t sleep well, both hearing the snow and dealing with a mouse in my tent. I thought one was trying to come in. Who could blame them? I had some seriously yummy treats in a warm dry enclosure. Turns out once he ran across my head I knew that he was trying to get out. Eventually I got that sorted.

Anyway woke up the next day with a light dusting of snow. Really beautiful landscape. Eventually it started to continue to snow for the rest of the morning and we decided to head down on Tuesday. Snow turned to rain on the pass, and continued all the way to the car and down to Leavenworth. I think it was a good decision. We shared lots of beta with various other hikers. Drove back to Seattle where my cat was very curious about my pack and its intriguing smells 🙂

Ok now some gear commentary. What I brought and thoughts on it…someone might find this useful.

Arcteryx Altra 75 Pack: Carries very well, very adjustable and comfortable. It’s so big you can get lured into bringing more stuff than you really need 🙂

Shires Tarptent Contrail: Very light, roomy and easy to set up. Tends to sag when loaded with snow and rain. Very dependent on its stakes which creates issues in soft powdery granite sand. Not much condensation when set up up facing into the breeze. I didn’t use a groundcloth this time and had no issues. Uses a hiking pole to set up. I didn’t bring poles but instead used a single 48″ zpacks carbon pole.

Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 Degree Bag: I sleep cold. I know this about myself and bring much more bag than most would. Part of this is a slower metabolism that doesn’t create as much heat in the bag as it used to. That being said, I was warm in this bag, wearing pants and a light coreloft top. My little Sea to Summit inflatable pillow and Thermarest NeoAir XTherm pad helped create a very snuggly sleeping situation.

Anker Power Port Solar Lite: I usually get a hair of a Verizon signal in the Enchantments so I bring my phone to wake up in the morning, capture candid photos and text missives of well being back home. The Anker did a great job of keeping the chargeables charged. Keep in mind that the cold is working against your batteries and often just keeping them inside the sleeping bag at night will preserve some charge.

Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry, Good to Go Dehydrated Meals: Yuck. Sorry I don’t know what to tell you. We carried an assortment of these up the hill and back down. One dinner of these was enough. One reason I love overnights is that I can bring a zip lock bag of my frozen homemade bolognese pasta sauce or meaty three bean chili and reheat.

Zipshot TR406 mini tripod. I have two monster Gitzo’s at home and they stay there when I’m headed into the Enchantments. I don’t use tripods much in the backcountry. I watch my shutter speeds and practice careful handheld technique to get sharp photos. That being said, to catch a timelapse, a small tripod helps. I like the 9oz Zipshot which basically has tent pole collapsing legs and a minimalist ball head. One secret to making this more stable that no one mentions is to spread the legs out wide enough to create some tension. That seems to help make it more solid.

Arcteryx Firebee Parka and Atom LT pants. Hiking up the hill, you are plenty warm. Its the time sitting around camp or waiting for sunrise that you need insulated layers. Like most NW natives, I have a whole closet of options. These two pieces however were essential to my warmth. I wore them constantly and was never cold, even in windchill gusts into the teens.

Endurox R4 and Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes. I like to think that I use every modern trick of nutritional chemistry to make the Enchantments a more pleasant hike. I mix Endurox into my water bottle as it does a great job of replenishing lost glycogen and helping with muscle damage and protein needs. Everyone has different thoughts on this kind of thing but Endurox makes me feel less sore the next day. Plus the banana flavor is yummy. Since I tend to sweat like a waterfall, eventually I’m going to flush out my electrolytes which leads to cramps. Putting some Endurolytes in my drink helps ward these off. A pinch of Sea Salt will do the same thing but I like the Mango flavor.

Ok that’s what I have….hope it helps

 

Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingAasgard Pass Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingPrusik Peak Sunrise Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingFire and Ice Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingVoigtlander 10mm Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingEnchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingLocal resident Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingIce, snow and granite. Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and HikingPrusik Peak and skies reflected. Enchantments Fall Colors Larches Photography and Hiking

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

 

Elsewhere in Park Butte

I have never made it to the lookout. It seems like a nice goal but I always end up taking photos amongst the tarns. So when an overly smug 20something woman came along, noticed my overnight pack and informed me that the lookout was already occupied by overnighters, I didn’t care really. I knew I was heading elsewhere.

It was a brisk night but my friend and I found a nice clear spot to lay out our tents. Sunset was nice but sunrise was amazing. Lots of pink, interesting clouds and gentle breezes. I was trying out a new 13oz cuben fiber Hexamid Solo Plus tent from Zpacks and it really did the trick. No condensation. I was also happy with my lens lineup including a 10mm prime, 16-35mm zoom and 100-300mm zoom. Great night for photos. Always good to be back at the trailhead too and heading for a triple tall mocha. #zpacks

Zpacks Hexamid Tent Mount BakerNorth Cascades MoonrisePark Butte Mount Baker Reflection SunrisePark Butte Mount Baker Reflection SunrisePark Butte Mount Baker Reflection