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To balance out images that show contemplation and meditation (a person just sitting and watching a sunset) I try to shoot active hiking images as much.

1. Have your camera ready to shoot. Carry it on your chest, shoulder strap or hip belt. This is easy with a smartphone but a bit more challenging with a DSLR. Use a chest harness or shoulder/hip belt. Don’t rely on taking off your pack every time you want to take some photos. Simply using a neck strap and having your camera bouncing off your abdomen as you hike down the trail is awkward, uncomfortable and increases risk of damage to the camera.

Michael on a day hike on the Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico. We were scouting while on an assignment for Backpacker Magazine for a Gear Guide shoot. Michael uses an F-Stop Navin case with 4 attachment points to his day/overnight pack (a Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest). Inside is his APS-C sized mirrorless camera – a Sony A6300 with Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4. Other chest holder pouches that can be configured to carry a lightweight system are made by Osprey Packs and Mindshift Gear.

2. Camp High. Most campers/backpackers like to nestle in shelter in lower lying areas, close to water. When camped in a valley, the sun goes behind terrain or stays behind terrain in the morning, long before or after the colors and light are at their best. Yes, being up high means risking exposure to weather. You need a bombproof tent and the knowledge to pitch it correctly but up high is where the best light and views are! It doesn’t always mean camping on ridge tops, but ideally, high enough to catch twilight and the very first and last rays of light hitting interesting terrain in both foreground and background. Even in desert locations like the Grand Canyon, we prefer to carry water a little ways to a high dry camp with better views and light.

Camped at Portage Pass, with open sweeping views, Lauri waits for sunrise over Passage Canal and Prince William Sound. We were pounded all night by strong winds off of Portage Glacier, but we use a bombproof pyramid tent from Hyperlite Mountain Gear.

We always strive to camp in open country as in this campsite on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon National Park. This is Lauri at first light, getting up to start our day. Whenever possible, Michael tries to facilitate images that depict what happens before, in-between, and after the act of hiking/backpacking, such as this camp scene. Yes, he sleeps with his camera in the tent, or within arm’s reach in the vestibule and leaves it set up for shots like this.

3. Start early, end late. Duh! Sometimes you have to state the obvious but the best light is at the ends of the day! And if you are up high, you stand a better chance of capturing magical light than if you are in trees or canyons. We like hiking late or pre-sunrise to get the best hiking in the landscape imagery. Twilight, alpenglow and night images also work better in open terrain. If you have a sturdy but light tripod or you are in open country with rocks, you can stabilize your camera and take long exposures, say in the 1/4 second to 20 second range and capture the soft colors of twilight balancing with the light of a headlamp or tent light. It is not uncommon for us to hike to a pass or ridge for a sunset and return to camp or trailhead under headlamp.

We hiked 7 miles to Kearsarge Pass on the border of Kings Canyon National Park in the Eastern Sierra to capture the best light at sunset! With a well defined trail, it wasn’t difficult to do our return hike at night.

4. Photograph people more and avoid direct sunlight on faces.Don’t just focus on the act of hiking within a beautiful setting. Focus on what happens before, in between, and after the action.

As far as lighting people goes, direct sun on faces is harsh and unflattering. Shadows under hat brims, eyes, under the nose and chin will appear darker and harsher in a photo than they do to the naked eye. The only exception to lighting a face with direct sun and getting flattering results would be when the sun is literally sitting on the horizon going through maximum atmospheric to soften the harsh sun.

On this hiker portrait of CC (Color Coordinated) on the PCT in Washington, it was harsh mid-day light and Michael had no lighting equipment. The only way to get a decent portrait was to turn her away from the sun, overexpose the image to make her skin tones bright, and use the little pop-up flash.

The best natural light for peoples faces is on bright cloudy days. On sunny days, turn your subject away from the light (backlight) and place them against a dark background such as shadowed rock cliffs or dark forest. The goal is to keep the light even and soft on your subjects’ faces. (To avoid faces appearing muddy and dark, see tip 5 below.) Most backpackers do not carry a flash (strobe, speed light) with them on the trail. But, many point and shoot cameras and lightweight mirrorless cameras come with a little pop-up flash. If you have one, use it! They are great tools for filling in harsh facial shadows in hard sunlight. The trick is to stay close. When using a small flash the effective range is almost always closer than 8 feet.

Bright overcast is the best light for flattering faces and portraits. When we have these conditions, Michael throttles back on small hikers in a big landscape and focus on candid moments such as this.

On this hiker portrait of NeeMor on Scout Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington, the sun had been up less than a minute. This is the only time we would use direct sunlight on a portrait.

5. Add light to bright scenes.Yes, you heard that right. Most landscapes involve lots of sky, water (we all love shooting alpine lakes) and/or snowy landscapes. All these surfaces are brighter than middle tone and can fool light meters even in pro level cameras. Even though high-end cameras divide the image area into multiple zones (referred to as “evaluative” or “matrix” metering) and average them, if most of the zones are bright, then your meter reading will be faulty. This is because your meter renders whatever it is averaging to be middle tone. Sky, even with dark clouds, reflective water, light colored rock and snow are all brighter than middle tone! So add exposure to your camera’s reading to bring the tones described above back to where they need to be.

When photographing faces as described in tip 4, where you turn your subject away from the sun, their faces will appear dark and muddy, unless you add light to your camera’s suggested exposure. Many cameras today, including DSLR’s and mirrorless, will allow you to dial in exposure compensation (adding light) when you are using a program mode such as full automatic, aperture, or shutter priority modes.

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Now that the first day of winter is close (though winter began months ago in some places), there is no reason to put your photography in hibernation! In fact, my favorite light of the year is winter. This is mainly because the sun doesn’t get as high in the sky and thus, yielding more hours with great light.

I spent much of the afternoon a few days after Christmas last year searching for the location I wanted to shoot sunset from. The night before it had snowed heavily and the forecast was for clearing skies later in the day. This was a predictable “great light” scenario over the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico after nearly a foot of fresh snow. This was a very cold airmass for southern New Mexico and as usual, cold air yields warm winter light.

Generally speaking, if you live in a location that has real winter, defined by frequent temperatures below freezing and snowfall, the colder the air the better the light. Cold air produces warm light and winter landscapes in warm light make fantastic images. It may be uncomfortable on my fingers, operating the camera in well below freezing air, but very cold air, especially shortly after a frontal passage, often contains ice crystals suspended in a cloudless atmosphere. These ice crystals create backscattering and reflection of the longer (warmer) wavelengths of the visible light spectrum back toward the light source often creating a pink alpenglow opposite of the sunrise or set. High humidity in the lowest levels of the atmosphere in sub-freezing air can also produce a beautiful warm color wash shooting into the sun.

This was one of my best selling winter images ever. In a very cold (highs remaining below zero) airmass, I found a small body of water near Anchorage that didn’t freeze. Water vapor rising into the very cold air scatters the light creating a warm glow shooting the setting sun. This image follows the cold air-warm light formula.

WHEN TO SHOOT: I study forecast transitions in weather patterns. Pay attention to the forecast changes from clear to stormy weather and visa-versa which usually produces the most dramatic light. Approaching storms in the mid-lattitudes often produce dramatic and colorful clouds at sunrise and storms that clear in the afternoon often produce rich vibrant colors at sunset, especially if associated with a fresh snowfall. I also look for fog, especially if you live in hilly or mountainous regions where you have a chance to get above the fog. If you wake up and you can’t see across the street, rejoice! Grab your camera and try to get to the edge or top of the fog layer. That is where the photo magic is happening.

This shot of a runner is from Park City, Utah a valley that gets frequent winter fog. In the valley, it was grey and dismal (and colder) Driving to the top of the fog yields this crisp backlight with a high-key soft box feel. The freezing fog was at this height earlier and deposited “dew” on the snow, known as surface hoar giving the snow a bright crystal look.

TECHNIQUE: Snow is the easiest thing to shoot and expose for. It is nature’s best fill card, bouncing light everywhere and allowing for images not possible without it. You can shoot snow-covered spruce trees into the sun with amazing detail on the shadowed side. Over expose from what your meter is saying to bring your snow to a crisp bright white, otherwise, your images will be underexposed and muddy. Don’t forget to shoot images while snow is falling, especially if the flakes are big. When this happens you can get the most dramatic results if you place your subject, a person or animal (wild or domestic), against a dark background such as evergreen trees. Shoot with a telephoto lens to make dramatic images of falling snow around your subject. Pay careful attention to your focus. Snow falling in front of your subject can make your AF search needlessly and focus on something other than your subject. More often than not, I manual focus when I’m shooting in falling snow. I love portraits in falling snow which beautifully enhances bokeh.

I love shooting shooting during falling snow. The soft bright light is great for skin tones and portraits. Images in falling snow can yield great results. Using dark colors on your subjects and dark backgrounds enhance the feel of the falling snow. The falling snow feel is even further enhanced by the using telephoto compression. This shot of a happy couple in Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico was shot at with the exposure compensation at +2/3 or .7 of a stop above what the camera meter read to brighten the subjects’ faces.

The most appealing and best selling winter images (tracking sales reports) are of two things: really warm light and alpenglow, fresh snow with a winter wonderland looking landscape, and portraits in falling snow. In general, the coldest air, especially after a fresh snow, produces the warmest light with pink and orange sky and clouds.

This was a dawn alpenglow shot of the setting moon on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in late December. This was 2 days after a snowfall and the morning temperature was around zero Fahrenheit.

My favorite light is backlight and shooting into the sun is my favorite tactic to render a scene. Had this been a hiker in a snow-free setting with the dark spruce trees, this shot would not have worked. The fresh snow and “winter wonderland” look reflecting light everywhere is what makes all the detail on the shadowed side of the trees and skier possible.

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I recently ordered a couple of prints using the TruLife® Acrylic face mount and I love the way they make my prints look.

TruVue reached out to me regarding one of those prints, interviewed me about the image (Turnagain Arm Lupine) and is featuring the interview on their site. Here is the link to the featured interview: TruLife® Acrylic Features Adventure Photographer Michael DeYoung

Lupines along Turnagain Arm near Anchorage, Alaska

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I want to write more often about equipment I use and why but there are plenty of reviews on just about anything cameras and lenses that I struggle with offering something different that would have value. Before I write about any product or service though, I want to say that currently I am not sponsored or endorsed by anyone thus having no influence on my reviews.

During February, I spent nearly 100 hours putting together 2 days worth of Keynotes for my Santa Fe Photo Workshops class and 2 other Keynotes for presentations at NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) and FCCC (Florida Camera Club Council) events in Florida. Of course I always back up my work regularly for piece of mind. Well, I found out recently that getting my own personalized flash drives that I can carry on my keychain were a really great idea and affordable.

I am always looking for new, innovative and practical ways to brand myself without making everything a hard sell. Recently, I have been using flash drives from USB Memory Direct. My “DeYoung Photo Workshops” logo in my favorite shade of blue is very sharply and nicely inscribed to the shaft of the drive.

USB Direct has a very nice selection of drives that you can place your business logo, web site, or any branding message. I have the Clover model with a nice chrome finish, shaped like a key which, coincidentally, fits nicely on a key ring or small caribiner made for keys. The company was easy to work with and had a very fast turnaround time. I really like having a marketing piece that is also very practical and useful.

I’m using my branded drives in two specific and beneficial ways. First, when I give an instructional-based photography workshop, I place PDF versions of my Keynote presentations on these flash drives and pass them out to workshop participants at the completion of the workshop. Speaking of Keynotes, I now back up my presentations on these drives and have one with me at all times as they are so easy to carry on a keychain or lanyard. After spending countless hours preparing a presentation, having a back up that is always with me gives me great peace of mind should disaster strike with my laptop the day I am giving a presentation.

When I have a portfolio review with an art director or an advertising agency, I always have a presentation ready on my laptop. However, I always bring a back up my digital portfolio on a flash drive. Most of the time, a conference room will have a projector and big screen already set up and ready to just pop in my flash drive, making it easier than setting up my laptop. At the end of the review I give them a drive as another leave behind piece and something else to remember me by.

I have not gone through my first 50 yet but that is likely before the year ends and I will be ordering more.

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10/7 – 10/10 Tuolomne Meadows (Yosemite National Park) 942.5 to Agnew Meadows (915) &
10/11 – 10/14 Onion Valley Trailhead over Kearsarge Pass to Cottonwood Pass (750.2) – 80.9 miles

Total miles hiked to date: 660.4

Lauri watching sunrise on Banner Peak from Island Pass

We are now off trail again probably for the rest of the year. After 218 miles through the Sierra and after going over the highest pass on the PCT, Forester Pass at 13,200 (luckily in stellar weather), we bailed out at Cottonwood Pass. Looking at the weather we are having as I’m writing this in Mammoth Lakes where it feels much like Anchorage in October, I am glad we are off the trail. We are hearing reports of 9 inches of snow above 10k. As much as I love backpacking and will NEVER quit as long as I am physically able, I’m not sure if a continuous thru-hike is for us. But we will try again next year. We are already planning a section hike next year doing Washington and Oregon, southbound again. That will only be a measly 950 mile hike. And Lauri gets to see all the awesomeness of the Washington Cascades and maybe it won’t rain and snow half the time.

There are 3 primary reasons we pulled off trail.

First, the photographer in me took over my desires. The late season and drought meant long water hauls the further we got from Forester Pass. I began seeing 12, 18 and 30 mile distances between reliable water sources further south. Our packs were heavy enough without having to carry 8-10 lbs of water.

Like the high Rockies, the high Sierra is off-peak season and all the tundra is brown. I can see the effects of the severe drought here, sadly, and the landscape is starkly lacking in color while lower elevations, such as the Owens Valley, have a lot more color and more photo ops. In this section, I discovered the Minaret Range north of Mammoth Lakes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness and while there, despite the freezing mornings, I didn’t want to leave! In fact that section was the highlight of this section hike. A day either side of Forester Pass was also fantastic. A day south of Forester Pass, the Sierra took a turn for the lower and less interesting. We got spoiled being immersed in this beautiful and quiet high elevation wilderness through the remote sections of Yosemite and Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks. All I wanted to do was get back to some of the more photogenic places we had recently hiked by. I know it sounds kind of elitist, but I got bored with the scenery I saw in front of me heading to Kennedy Meadows and the prospect of camping close to roads and undoubtedly hearing vehicle noise and gunshots the closer we got to Kennedy Meadows. Prior to the PCT we have always sought out wilderness areas to backpack in. A big adjustment for me is dealing with the fact that not all of the PCT is in wilderness. Much of it goes near and across roads, dams, power lines and other things I’d rather not be around. I guess I’m not ready to motor through the less desirable sections of the PCT knowing we could be more productive photographically in areas close by.

Second, I really underestimated the impact of the shortening days. Considering the following factors, Lauri’s pace, restricted amount of food we could carry in a bear canister, and an 11-12 hour hiking day it started feeling like a forced march. I felt like we were having less time to really enjoy the trail and had to make miles. The routine was to get up at 6am and pack up everything up by headlamp, half the time in sub freezing weather to hit the trail at sunrise, (about 7am the day we bailed out over Cottonwood Pass) and hike until about 45 minutes before sunset, set up camp and eat dinner as it was getting dark. We camped mainly at high elevation for views and photo ops and thus could not make campfires. So by 7pm we were in the tent for 11 hours to stay warm. Honestly, we were lucky and only had a few cold mornings where water bottles froze and hands became painful breaking camp and hurt for an hour or two until body heat from hiking kicked in and thawed out extremities.

After dressing in all our warm layers and eating, it is easier to pull the tarp tent away and just pack everything up without the confines of the tent walls. We use custom cut Tyvek house wrap as ground cloths. To save weight, we left the bug insert and bathtub floor insert to our tarp tent at home. No bugs or creepy crawlies in the high elevation cold of fall.

Finally, Lauri had to listen to her body and most importantly, the doctor. This hike was a test and was both a success and a setback. I’m really proud at what she accomplished, hiking 218 miles with a 25-32 lb. load through the tough climbs and descents of the High Sierra only 4.5 months from her leg break. Most long distance hikers I spoke with talked about needing 300-400 miles to get really trail hardened feet and legs. That was my experience as well. It took most of Washington for me to sustain daily 20+ mile hikes day after day with out having to live on Ibuprofen. We just simply did not have the time to build up to that before winter hit the high Sierras. She had to try and remain optimistic. The doc said try but that if sustained multi day pounding caused too much pain and inflammation that she might be impeding the healing process. So more rest was called for. All in all, she averaged 15 miles days with a couple close to 18. I think living at high altitude really helped. I marched up Kearsarge Pass at 11,700’ and Forester Pass at 13,200 without feeling affected at all by altitude.

On days when the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority bus was not running, we resorted to hitchhiking

As with Washington, this hike introduced us to some great locations to go back to, and we also met some great new people. I do enjoy the trail culture and hanging out with other “hiker trash” and experiencing the generosity of trail angels who helped us out. I feel like living out of a backpack and hitchhiking on the highway to and from and between trail access points gave us a taste of the 60’s free spirit lifestyle that we missed, since we were only elementary school kids in that decade. That’s OK. Better late than never. Anyone know when the next Woodstock will be?

Two young ladies from Seattle hiking the JMT (John Muir Trail) which shares a stretch along with the PCT.

Time to put miles on hold. Luckily, we gave ourselves 3 full days to cover the 27.5 miles from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite NP to Mammoth Lakes. That made for a leisurely pace for a thru hiker. When we passed by the small pond at Island Pass in mid afternoon we both knew we would camp there and shoot this stellar scene at first light. The view of the jagged Banner Peak with potential reflection and favorable orientation to first light was too good to pass up. I was living what I preach. In my workshops I stress that 80% of the success of an image is simply finding the right image and being able to forecast when all the components of a good to great image will coalesce. The actual shooting is only a minor part of it. When I hike, I occupy my mind by constantly analyzing what will make a great image. I stay keenly aware of where the sun will be at the ends of the day and what areas give the best color and most interesting lines. As a general rule, I try to camp high where the views and light are. That comes as a risk of dealing with the perils of exposure to the elements.

It’s all a gamble. Sometimes you have to accept that all your patience and determination and what you “thought would make a good photo” just doesn’t pan out. Gotta know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. In this case it all came together and in the 700 miles I’ve hiked, scenes like this where it all came together were the exception not the rule. The afternoon gave me the time to scout viewpoints and develop my vision for the morning. I thought about the shots all night as I tossed and turned, fearful I would miss my alarm and the best light which comes at you fast at sunrise. Several times during the night the wind blew and I got concerned. When the alarm went off and I looked at the scene, a feeling of calm and elation came over me. I knew we had this in the bag! Yeah it was cold. Get over it. Be numb to it. Get out and do your thing. This is what you live for and it is all right here in front of you! This didn’t fall into your lap. You recognized it, waited for it, and put it all together. This is what it is all about.

We are not quitting hiking. In fact we spent another week day hiking parts of the Eastern Sierra and will post another blog about that. We are off to the Grand Canyon for more backpacking and hiking before leading our Zion Fall Landscapes workshop begins.

TRAIL SCENES:

Banner Peak at dawn from Island Pass

Camped just 4 miles north of Forester Pass at 11,000 feet. Enjoying a few minutes of rest before getting the inside of the tent ready for the night.

Fall colors in the tundra along the trail at Island Pass

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9/23 – 10/3 Echo Summit Trailhead 1090 to Tuolomne Meadows (Yosemite National Park) 942.5 – 147.5 miles

Total miles hiked to date: 579.5

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SIERRA.

Last light from Dorothy Lake just inside the Yosemite Wilderness.

I’ll try to keep this blog shorter on text, with lots of pics to look at.

This section had many firsts for us. The first first is finally, FINALLY, after 4.5 months of healing from a fractured tibia plateau, Lauri is on the trail! This section was a test to see how her stamina would evolve and whether she would be strong enough for the 125 mile long haul between off-season resupply points (Mammoth Lakes to Onion Valley TH) in the highest of the Sierra with shortening days, chilly mornings and daily big climbs of 2500’ to 4000’ to 11 and 12 thousand feet.

This was also our first time hiking in the Sierras and I was excited about that. The whole region is in severe drought and with late season vegetation mostly brown the landscape is surprisingly stark with only a few colors: grey, brown, blue, conifer green with splashes of riparian autumn colors. I knew I would be challenged visually and have to rely on great light and strong color created by the light to carry my images.

This was also the first time we cold contacted trail angels in South Lake Tahoe who opened their hearts and home to us to help launch the trip. It is wonderful to know there are gracious people out there willing to help adventure seekers like PCT hikers.

This was also the first time we hitchhiked together over a long distance but it turned out just fine.

We passed this camp and Yosemite-esque view in mid morning wishing we pushed farther the previous day and camped here! These cliffs would have lit up fiery pink in the last light of the day. Discovery and imprinting of places to return to for photos are part of the journey. In a way it is good to feel the pain of having missed something you know would have turned out great images.

We were fully prepared for and expecting cold, heat, dry, wind and snow and we got it all. It doesn’t mean we liked it but we were expecting it. Hiking through the snow on our last day into Glen Aulin and Highway 120 at Tuolumne Meadows was quite peaceful and soft as we walked through an empty wilderness in off season, knowing that a month earlier this very trail was a highway full of hikers.

Camp in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. Lauri blowing up a Sea to Summit pillow. We got used to going to bed between 7-7:30pm. This was one of our warmest nights on the trail camped at about 9000 feet.

Hats off to the Ultamid (www.hyperlitemountaingear.com). It seems like most hikers like to camp in river bottoms with shelter near water. Not me. As a photographer, the views and best light are up high. So is the wind and the full bite of any nasty weather. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid can be a bit of a pain to set up but it tests well against brutal winds and, when set up properly, it can easily withstand 40-50 mph winds. We tested that several times on the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) and in Alaska with fierce katabatic glacier winds.

Our first night was started calm with great sunset images. We awoke to brutally cold winds at sunrise and had to pack everything up inside the tarp then taking it down was a two person operation. (We left the bug insert behind to save a pound thinking that in a dry climate and no bugs it was not needed.)

Not all of the PCT is pretty and jaw dropping wilderness and the first 75 miles south of Echo Lake certainly proved that. We crossed 2 paved passes before landing at Sonora Pass for an unexpected hitch to Kennedy Meadows Resort for a shower and fatty salty food. Lauri got a blister on day 2 and it got progressively worse until we pulled off trail on 10/3 after 12 days. Sadly, the Leuko Tape we applied only seemed to make it worse. She wore her sock for the last three days concerned about removing it would re-open the raw skin below.

We started slow, going 12 miles the first day and gradually ramping up to 18 miles. We throttled back on the last 75 miles from Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows. Some of the guide books labeled this section as some of the toughest trail on the PCT. Having hiked Washington, this was hard to believe. The elevation profile indicated some decent climbs with a couple in the 2,000 – 2,500 foot range. But it was the track itself that was laden with loose rock and steep, short step ups and downs that made it slow and difficult. None of the “dangerous” fords existed this late in the season and we only had to wade across a very benign Kerrick Creek.

The first 8 miles southbound from Sonora Pass stayed on a high traverse above 10,000 feet with great views of the Emigrant Wilderness. Here we are up and going at 7:30am with sunlight streaming through a pass.

Watch out for Hunters. One of the things I don’t particularly like about the Guthooks App is that I feel it gives you tunnel vision of the trail and does a poor job at revealing when you are around a lot of jeep and ATV roads. The Halfmile Maps are a little better but for someone who needs reading glasses to see that map they are not much better. Unfortunately, we walked from Echo to Carson to Ebbetts Passes during opening weekend of deer season. Only one of the many hunters we saw wore any sort of hunter orange. Along that whole stretch, we could not escape the constant annoying frequency of Harleys, ATV’s or gunshots. After an 18 mile day, we did not realize we were camped a mere few hundred yards from a dirt road running parallel to the trail where we heard 30 rounds fired off near sunset and vehicles running up and down the road. Fortunately, things quieted down after dark. Let your presence be known if you are in a popular hunting area. I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a lightweight orange vest.

Yeah, it coulda been a bear but probably wasn’t. I tell myself and others I talk with that just because you hear loud noises in the woods doesn’t mean it is a bear. Other big animals such as deer, elk, and cows step on sticks in the night in an otherwise quiet landscape. Even a raccoon or porcupine, neither of which are very stealthy, can cause a loud ruckus as they lumber across dry leaves or sticks. But there we were, camped at Dorothy Lake, just inside the Yosemite Wilderness where bear canisters are officially required. As usual, we were in bed near 7:30 with our bear canisters and an OR food bag with stuff that didn’t quite fit in the canister just hanging about 8 feet off the ground in a limber pine about 50 feet from the tent. Just after dozing off I heard the loud crash of a big animal getting ever closer to the tent. Lights on, voices yelling, hands clapping, it took about 5 minutes (an eternity in our mind) for the “animal” or Sasquatch to wander off. Out into the cold, we took our food to the next (unoccupied) camp about 200 yards away and went back to bed. Didn’t sleep well that night but the food bag was untouched the next morning. I guess we had nothing appealing for Sasquatch.

This leg, and especially the first 75 miles, was a test for Lauri. She has done amazingly well and I’m proud of how far she’s come. But it takes more than two weeks of sustained hiking to build your stamina up and get hardened “trail legs.” Given the shrinking daylight, the elevation gains and losses and having to carry bear barrels, she admits she is not ready for the highest of the Sierra. So we are skipping the 125 miles from Mammoth to Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley TH and saving it to when she is stronger. After ferrying our vehicle around, we will complete the Tuolumne to Mammoth section then transfer south to Onion Valley Trailhead where we will attempt to hike to Kennedy Meadows South and end at Walker Pass before heading to Zion to teach our Fall Landscapes photo workshop.

It has been great to meet new trail angels, new SOBO’s and re-meet hikers we met earlier, including Spicerack and Crusher, and the Frenchtastic 4. Can’t wait to see those folks again. Back on the trail. Until next time …

TRAIL SCENES:

Morning descent through manzanita and aspen groves, Yosemite Wilderness


Fall colors at Dorothy Lake near first sunlight. We were filling water bottles as we were leaving camp. We left late this morning due to some photography of the calm lake and fall colors.


Lauri at sunset just a few feet from our high camp above 10,000 feet close to Sonora Pass.


Back on the trail late in the day. Sunset above Sonora Pass above 10,000 feet.


Dinner near sunset our first night on the trail in the Sierra. We camped too close to Carson Pass and woke up to brutally cold winds


Almost every PCT hiker who filters their water uses the Sawyer filter which Lauri is using here in a beautiful clear and very cold Sierra mountain stream


After a frigid mid 20s morning with frozen water bottles and fingers, we hiked most of the day to Tuolumne Meadows in beautiful soft, orographically enhanced stratiform snow. Around lunch time, the snow started sticking to the ground.

TRAIL PEOPLE:

Starting at Echo Summit Trail Head in South Lake Tahoe


SOBO Spicerack at Kennedy Meadows Resort. She was given a “bouquet” of flowers to which she is carrying to the southern monument in Campo, CA.


SOBO’S Crusher (left) and Spicerack were some of the first SOBO’s I met north of Harts Pass in Washington in July before any of us had trail names. We met on a cold wet day near Walker Pass. In a senior moment, I never took pictures of them that day like I should have. I was pleasantly surprised to meet them again at breakfast at Kennedy Meadows Resort. I was blessed with a second chance to make some images of them, although not in an ideal location.


SOBO Hotwater (from Canada) and NOBO Honey Badger in the background at Kennedy Meadows Resort. We passed Hotwater still sacked out in his tent along the trail early in the morning. He passed us about lunch on our final day to Sonora Pass where we both hitched into Kennedy Meadows Resort for a Nero. (“Nearly Zero” miles hiked on a given day.)


2016 Trail Angels of the Year, Joe and Terri Anderson of Casa de Luna gave us a ride from Lee Vining to the Davidson House Hostel in Mammoth Lakes.


Horton, our muskox mascot, has been going on all of our adventures since 2003. Being an arctic animal, he welcomed the snow and cold more than most of us would.

All images captured using a Sony a6300 and a  Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS lens
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Ike shooting the stars with his A6000 from camp on the Tonto Trail in Grand Canyon National Park. I shot this at ISO3200 at 15sec. @F/4. Focusing at night is a little tricky with an electronic view finder (EVF). In low light there is a lot of noise and I used the MF mode which magnifies the image for focus assist. It helps a lot but takes getting used to. Ike is illuminated by his Sony’s LCD. My image at ISO 3200 looked amazing and moving the luminance and color noise sliders to about 45 in Lightroom resulted in a beautiful image. The smaller lenses allow more depth of field than the equivalent full frame focal length.

There is a wealth of reviews of virtually every piece of photo gear made, both on dedicated review sites as well as thousands of customer reviews on retail sites such as B&H. My review is not meant to re-hash what’s already been revealed. My goal is to offer a performance perspective from a working pro with broad outdoor photography interests. This is non-scientific review about quality and performance of this camera. Is this $1000 smallish camera body a serious professional tool capable of performing and delivering pro results?

The short answer? Yes. But it takes some getting used to. Don’t want to read much further? Then here is my Sony A6300 (with Zeiss 16-70F/4) Report Card.

  • Image quality (compared to Canon 5D Mark III with 24-70F/4 L): A+. Pound for pound, across the aperture and zoom range, I find no noticeable difference in image quality and sharpness. There are some minor differences in auto white balance performance and contrast. I still like the Canon 5D files a little better but that is very subjective. The A6300 has the best APS-C sensor I’ve used.
  • Price: A. You really get a lot of features for a $1000 body.
  • Autofocus performance: Manual and single shot: A. Continuous: A or D. Seriously, there is no in-between. When it’s on, like tracking skiers flying through trees in flat light, it is dead nuts on with a 90% keep rate. When it’s off, it’s WAY off, like not just a little soft, but like, it can’t lock onto a subject in bright backlight (in servo mode) to save its life resulting in an entire series of blur!
  • Metering accuracy: A. Maybe even slightly better than the 5D3.
  • Ergonomics: C. I can’t make my hands smaller. Please, some more thought into button layout. This is where they need the most help in my opinion.
  • Customization: like being able to change settings quickly from landscape shooting to action shooting (or visa versa): D.
  • Image Stabilization: B. No better than Canon, although it’s in the camera body not the lens. It doesn’t work with all lenses. Disappointingly, IS is not available with my new dedicated 12mm/F2.8 Touit.

 
 
Last spring I knew I had to get a different outfit for the type of hiking, canyoneering and skiing I do. I was tired of carrying heavy Canon gear long distances along with all the other gear I needed. Every pound adds up. With my plans to hike long sections of the Pacific Crest Trail getting a lighter outfit without sacrificing pro results and performance was critically important to me. I looked at a lot of options including using a lighter entry level Canon DSLR with my existing lenses. That option seemed to offer very little in weight or cost savings.

Self portrait on the PCT in Washington’s North Cascades, 4 miles from the US-Canada border. The camera is on a mini tripod with 10 second self timer. The first 10-days of my hike were wet and cold. The Sony in the f-stop’s Navin Pack mounted on my chest remained pretty resistant to the near constant wet and cold. I never had any condensation problems in the lens.

This was an agonizing decision. I looked hard at the modern crop of 1” sensor point and shoot cameras. They are fantastic, fun to use travel photography tools with great optics and zoom ranges. I just wasn’t ready to go that small and sacrifice not having files I felt were suitable for large prints and large magazine use. Going with the full frame Sony A7R only saved weight on the body. The full frame lenses are as heavy as the Canon L lenses, so no real savings with a Sony full frame system. So I settled on the mirrorless APS-C system.

After all the years of shooting pro level Canon DSLRs with L series lenses, it was hard to believe that now I was holding a camera and lens (24mp with equivalent to a 24-105F/4) literally a third of the weight, size and cost that was capable of delivering images of equal quality. Since acquiring the A6300 with 16-70F/4 last I have landed a 1.5 page spread and cover of Backpacker Magazine with this camera/lens.

My Pacific Crest Trail camera outfit. Sony Alpha6300, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F4 lens, Really Right Stuff compact tripod and mini ballhead, 55mm B+W polarizer, Singh-Ray 3-stop hard step, 100mmx150mm graduated ND, extra battery and wall charger, lens pen, 2 extra SD cards and F-Stop Navin chest holster case. The camera and lens with the Really Right Stuff camera plate with battery and SD card weighs 1.8 pounds. The whole ensemble was 3.2 pounds.

Initially purchased for a niche landscape outfit for personal backpacking trips I have since used it on ski action and backcountry adventure work for both stock projects and on assignment. More on that later. With a smaller base outfit, everything else I need is also smaller like filters, cases, tripod head and camera plate.

Prior to the A6300 I was not a big fan of cropped sensors. In fact, I sold my Canon 7D and 50D a month after purchasing it. The files were inferior to me compared to the original 5D. I don’t know what Sony did with their cropped sensors, but they are considerably better than the earlier Canon cropped sensors.

When new cameras come out, reviewers go hog wild with descriptions of all the technological advancements. No camera/lens combination gets any consideration from me unless the optical quality for big prints and pro results is there. That’s the foundation. Beyond that, I try to see through all the hoopla and remind myself that ALL cameras are still the same basic thing: a light proof box with 2 functions – exposure and focus. The ease and accuracy of the 2 basic functions determines performance. I value performance and practical function over whiz-bang bells and whistles, most of which I never use.

There are 5 functions and operations I use and change regularly when my eye is to the viewfinder. They are:

  1. Changing the aperture and shutter in manual.
  2. Applying exposure compensation in aperture or shutter priority mode.
  3. Changing focus points on the fly.
  4. Using manual focus override, or changing focus modes (servo to one shot AF).
  5. Changing ISO.

 
The ease of using the 5 functions mentioned above is why I chose Canon in the first place years ago. The layout and ergonomics just made sense to me. The A6300 has some serious performance and ergonomic design issues to improve upon. I can’t reduce the size of my hands without serious loss of blood, so I don’t know how much smaller they can make camera bodies. Sony can, however, put a little more thought into button and dial layout. For example, I operate mainly in Aperture Priority mode. I change the aperture setting by spinning a wheel with my right thumb. It is easy to accidentally change the shooting mode as that wheel is close and similar in feel when your eye is in the viewfinder concentrating on the image! The thumb wheel is too small and often jumps functions. I can’t just change focus points unless I turn the focus point selection on.

My friend Catrin shot this image of me using the A6300 with 16-70F/4 lens (24-105 full frame equivalent) on the Watchman Trail in Zion National Park Utah. She shot this with my 5D Mark III with the 24-70F2.8L. The next image shows what I shot of her while she shot this of me.

This is my friend Catrin, with my Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 24-70F/2.8 L on the Really Right Stuff tripod and head. This is what I saw while lying on my side in the previous image. The Sony A6300 has liberated me somewhat allowing enjoyable photography when I need to be light and mobile. HOWEVER, I am not ready to sell off my Canon system. On important assignments and all day shoots, the Canon still reigns supreme.

Performance as a landscape camera. The Sony A6300 has everything you need to create excellent landscape images. And you never have to lock up the mirror. My favorite mode is DMF (Direct Manual Focus) where the camera lets you set a focus point, and uses a keyed color display to tell you what is in focus and what is not. I find this very useful. I can turn the focus ring and the camera will do a 5X magnification to assist with critical focus. This has been helpful in twilight shooting. When on a tripod, Sony recommends turning IS off. On the Canon, this is a nano-second flip of a switch on the lens barrel. On the Sony, I have to press 3 buttons needing reading glasses to get to the same point. Again, they have all the right stuff. They just need to improve performance. Switching IS modes should be a one button function.

Sunrise over the Inner Gorge along the Tonto Trail, Grand Canyon. 16-70 lens at 16mm. ISO400. 1/60th sec at F16

Emily and Jordan Star gazing in the Zion backcountry near Northgate Peaks. Sony A6300 with Sony-Zeiss 16-70F4 lens at 16mm. ISO1250, 8 seconds @ F4. The DMF (Direct Manual Focus) mode was the most helpful. By..

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Denali National Park, Alaska, bull moose on early autumn tundra dripping water from antlers in velvet

I’ll never forget listening to a lecture from the president of Tony Stone Worldwide in the early 1990’s saying that when a photo buyer has narrowed down their selection, the image that’s one percent better gets 100% of the sale. That has stuck with me for two decades now and has driven me to push myself to always make the best image I can. To do this, I’ve always prioritized creative technique. I’m less of a “rule” guy and more of a “technique” guy. We use technique to add visual impact and pizzazz to our images. Rules, such as the compositional rule of thirds, are important and have their place, which in my eyes is mainly to satisfy formatting needs for commercial use. Technique helps us attain impact and brings the image closer to the impact we saw in real life. Separation of your subject from the background is critical to a successful image.

Remember, life is in 3D and photography is in 2D. When we are photographing we see a 3-dimensional separation between our subject and the background. However, when we view the image on the screen, we lose that real life separation and instead we might see a bunch of chaotic and busy lines running together. There are several techniques to create separation of subjects and backgrounds creating depth in our images. This blog just addresses one technique of simply moving around and paying attention to intersecting lines until you get your image to where it needs to be.

In my workshops and private consults, I still see shooters focusing too much on exposure bracketing. I say forget exposure bracketing. Dial your exposure in and focus on other stuff like composition, point of view, different apertures, and even lens focal length if the situation allows. Doing these things will help you find a more impactful separation of subject from the background. Great separation leads to simplifying and simplifying strengthens the core message of the image and that’s what it’s all about.

This is where one of the powers of digital photography and its instant feedback are very helpful in determining when you got the shot. Here are a couple examples of how I used my LCD and bracketed my compositions to get the image to where it needed to be, creating a good separation of subject and background.

This was my first attempt shooting Jackson making this jump off Kachina Peak at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. The ridge off his left shoulder is a long way away in 3D, but in the image his green pack blends into the patterns of trees and snow on the distant ridge yielding a murky separation of my main subject. Fortunately, I saw this in the LCD after evaluating the shot. I knew what I had to do to make it better.

The ski shots are from a routine stock shoot with hired talent doing a mix of stunts and ski lifestyle scenes. When I first saw this jump, knowing what my talent was capable of, we set up a shot. On the image from the first take, there is clearly a separation in real life between the skiers left side and the distant hillside. When I reviewed the image on location I saw that his orange jacket stands out and the separation is OK but I knew I could do better. I wanted him above all the terrain and have his orange jacket pitched against the high altitude Southwest blue sky. Usually, a lower point of view solves the separation problem, so I skied downhill and got closer and lower. It worked. I verified on the LCD that I got the shot and it was sharp so we could move on to other shots. Mission accomplished.

On my second attempt, I simply skied downhill a little and planted my butt on the snow. I knew I wanted Jackson and his colorful orange parka and green pack to clearly stand out against the blue sky. Fortunately, I got the shot on the next take, verifying sharpness and exposure on the LCD. Time to move on to other ideas. You never see everything you need to on location no matter how hard you try. In retrospect, I should have gone to the other side of the jump, got low and shot him into the backlight. It would have been a totally different image. I think I passed because that would have put the lift in the background – something I didn’t want.

This image of spring bloom and cholla cacti near Abiqui, New Mexico along the Rio Chama lacks a center of interest. Even though I could clearly see separation between the cacti and the background cliffs, the image comes back with a bunch of busy and confusing intersecting lines. Perpendicular lines, as seen in the upper right between the cacti and the distant hills, is visually distracting to me.

On the desert landscape images I was intrigued by the cholla cacti in spring. On the first shot, you can see there is no separation between the cholla and the background. I changed my point of view by getting down low and pitching the cholla against the sky, thus achieving more separation. Though it’s a stronger shot, I lost the background in the process. Toward sunset I tried again but this time, to get separation I chose a higher point of view but carefully searched for a cactus that I could completely, or near completely, surround by colorful lower weeds and still show a sense of place with the distant sandstone cliffs. Mission accomplished simply by taking the time to work the composition.

To create separation and emphasize the cholla I chose a lower point of view and moved around so the foreground cactus didn’t intersect with the other cacti in the right middle ground or blend in with similar tones and textures. In the process, I lost the background cliffs and a “sense of place” but the image is stronger and you still get the idea of a desert bloom across.

I continued my search, as the light improved toward sunset, bracketing my compositions until I came away with something I was happy with. This time I chose to separate my cholla by completely surrounding it with the sea of lower weeds and still showcased the sandstone cliffs that add to the sense of place I really wanted.

Next time you are chimping don’t just pay attention to “blinkies”. Look critically at your composition and design and whether you’ve achieved clear separation of your subject from a complementary background.

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Lauri tying back the screen door at a 0600 sunrise on the Tonto.

This blog features our April, 2017 trip: Tanner to Hance Rapid via the Escalante Route continuing on the Tonto Trail to South Kaibab Trail back to rim. Total distance: 54.5 miles over 7 days. Day 1 and 7 were half days. Total drop down Tanner Trail is 4,650’. Day 7 climb out was 3,650’ in 6.5 miles in 3.5 hours.

Moonrise and sunset from the end of Tanner Trail, above Tanner Rapid on the Colorado River with a touch of fall colors on riverside willows, November.

My bladder woke me at 4:48AM, 12 minutes before the alarm. The crescent moon with Venus to its north bathed in a subtle wash of blue and pink light dominated the view to the east. This was our final night on the Tonto, sleeping only with the mesh portion of the tent on a cool, calm morning. Our crew of 6 eagerly rose at 0500 to hit the trail at 0600. This was “hike-out” day and real food, a shower and beating the heat on a 3300’ climb were the main motivators for the early start. One more painfully short steep descent into the west arm of Cremation Canyon followed by a gradual 300’ climb brought us to Tip-Off Point where the eastern Tonto trail joins the South Kaibab. By the time we finish our bathroom break near 0700 on a Sunday morning we will have already seen more people at this one spot than we did the previous 6 days in the primitive sections of the Grand Canyon. In 3 hours, Lauri and I would complete our 11th multi-day Grand Canyon backpack trip.

Andy on the Tonto Trail at sunrise, coming out of Cremation Canyon approaching Tip-Off Point there the Tonto meets the South Kaibab Trail.

Most of our trips have been in March and April with two in November. This is when the inner canyon is most tolerable. For the most part, spring and fall don’t see much flash flood danger. Those floods take place mainly during monsoon season when tropical moisture can dump large amounts of rain in a very short period of time. Hikers can also face winter weather near the rim during this same time period. We’ve had trips where we used microspikes and gaiters up top with summer weather near the river.

13 year old Erich negotiating a lingering snow field with a steep drop off on the upper reaches of the Grandview Trail, April.

We’ve hiked in and out of every trail east of here including Grandview, New Hance and Tanner, including 5 Escalante Route hikes. Further west, we’ve done 2 Royal Arch Loop trips. Last November, we reluctantly did one corridor trip, camping at Bright Angel near Phantom Ranch. Finally after many years of talking about it, we did Rim to Rim (North Bright Angel to South Kaibab) in October in 12 hours. My Grand Canyon wilderness addiction started in 2001 when Lauri and I oared a raft through the Canyon for 225 miles on a private 21-day winter trip. I guess you can say we are experienced Grand Canyon hikers.

Our gang of 6 on this latest trip had a common Alaska bond. With us was long time friend and hiking buddy, John Hoffer from Seattle. Lauri and I met John at a mountain pass in Alaska in 1990 on a backcountry ski trip. We’ve been friends ever since. His two adult sons, Dean and Erich, were with us. That’s what made this trip special. We’ve known these boys all their lives and this was our first trip with them together as adults and it was great to see father and sons sharing this kind of trip. Rounding out our crew was our good friend Andrea DeVore, a lifelong Alaskan, and intrepid world traveler and hiker. All of us except for Dean, the oldest son, had been on a previous Grand Canyon backpack trip. John has been on 5 “Big Ditch” backpack trips with us. Erich did his first when he was 13 and Andy was on her second Escalante trip with us having done it for the first time in 2014.

Our mostly Alaskan group on our latest trip, hiking the Escalante Route, above Escalante Canyon

Erich at age 13 on his first Grand Canyon backpack trip down New Hance Trail, and Again, at age 20 on Tanner Trail.

A DESERT IN CONCERT. I submitted my permit application for this last trip via fax, at 8AM sharp, on Dec. 1, 2016 – the first eligible day and hour for trips starting in April. I got lucky. My permit notification was emailed to me a few weeks later. I knew that a trip in the third week of April had a greater than 50% chance of being HOT! The average mid April high at Phantom Ranch is 85, so even 5-10 degrees above average would put us at risk for heat injury. The Tonto is mostly shadeless and brutally hot. But I timed it for peak flower bloom and I’m glad I did. From what I understand, fall rains (and I remember a wet fall here) have as much influence on following spring blooms as winter rains do. It paid off.

Andrea walking among fields of gold on the Tonto Trail with prolific nakedstem in bloom as well as several species of cacti

Claret cup in bloom along the Tonto Trail, Hance Creek, April.

The Tonto Platform was in concert! In fact it was the best I’ve seen on a spring trip. Fields of nakedstem daisies, cliffrose, showy four-o’clock, paintbrush, globe mallow, prickly pear, beaver tail, hedgehog and claret cup cacti all in simultaneous bloom were everywhere not to mention the profusion of green from blooming black brush, mesquite, willow, cottonwood and service berry. This kind of desert beauty can’t be seen from the rim. Pictures don’t do it justice.

As it turned out we had average to slightly above average temperatures on this trip with zero rain and one night of strong winds. Average was hot enough. Ironically, our lifelong Alaskan, Andy, adapted the best. In fact, after a few days we were wondering if she was part reptile for all the sunbathing she did. For the rest of us, forget it. After leaving Alaska, the Hoffer boys grew up in Seattle, and Lauri and I re-located from Alaska to the high, dry and cold ski town of Taos, New Mexico. Our blood is still northern thick and probably always will be. If you hike smart and stay hydrated, the inner Grand Canyon heat is managable.

Andrea on the lower Tanner Trail, walking by numerous prickly pear cacti in boom, April.

When we arrived at Cardenas Beach, there was already a raft party camped there that we didn’t see approaching the beach from the trail above. I remember from our raft trip that there are many great beaches to camp on, but Cardenas isn’t really one of them as it is overgrown and rocky. We bushwhacked upstream of the rafters to eat an early dinner, hydrate (“camel up”) and chill in the afternoon heat. Another mile up would bring us to one of my favorite dry camps, above the cliffs that line Unkar rapid on river left. This time it would not be as pleasant as I was in previous trips. The all night westerly winds damaged a couple of tents and resulted in a short night’s sleep. Strong winds kept the temperature from falling very much. It didn’t go below 60 and I didn’t crawl into my bag until wee hours of the morning. Strong nocturnal winds usually relent some in the morning. They calmed to a slight breeze, enough for a fairly pleasant breakfast with a few minutes to enjoy the stellar view of the inner canyon, river and rapids below. What lied ahead was my favorite section of trail along the Escalante Route.

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PACIFIC CREST TRAIL HIKER PORTRAITS.

The Smith Boys, three generations of hikers from Tehachape, on Kearsarge Pass in the Sierra. We ran into them as we were returning to the PCT from our last resupply at Independence.

Here, finally, I am posting a collection of hiker portraits as personal photo project. Some of these images have already been published on previous posts from my PCT 2016 hike. I hiked the trail with a new camera, a Sony A6300 with a Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens, so I was learning the camera as I hiked and used it. As a way to learn the camera, as a chance to come out of my comfort zone as a photographer, and focus on a weakness, I set out to make portraits of select hikers I came across on the trail.

I did not take a tripod with me on my hike through Washington to save weight. I wanted to do something a little more dynamic as a self-portrait than the cliche “standing at Monument 78 at the border” shot, which I did anyway. Four miles from the border at Hopkins Pass I fiddled with the self timer mode and propped my camera on some rocks to make a few self portraits. The distant ridges in the background are Canada.

Don’t get me wrong. I also took plenty of images of other subjects within my normal area of expertise, like landscapes, hiking action and camp scenes. I did all my trail photography as a minimalist. I had no lighting. All I had was one camera and one lens. Sometimes I would run across hikers in the middle of a harsh sunny day and after a 5-minute conversation, try to make the best portrait image I could given the conditions. Other times I photographed hikers who became friends and hiking companions – most notably, the Frenchtastic Four. These were four millennials from France, all friends prior to hiking, doing this big adventure together in America. They were so awesome to hang out and hike with.

Nancy and Linda, two delightful women at the Stehekin, Washington Campground, who hiked in from Highway 20 at Rainy Pass. Linda, on the right, had a vintage rucksack – almost the exact pack I carried at Philmont Scout Ranch in 1976 except mine was burnt 70’s orange. They were camped next to me when I arrived and we talked for several hours.

My hope was that being in a wilderness environment and connecting with like-minded people would ease my apprehension of asking people to be photographed. It did help but I was surprised at how hard it was to overcome my extreme introverted persona even on the trail. I don’t feel these are earth shattering portraits by any means but I do feel like I’ve improved and that is a good feeling. Ironically, soon after we pulled off the trail, I was hired by a national client to make portraits, mostly sports portraits mixing natural with strobe lighting. Fortunately, they were pleased with the results.

Zed (Liam) is a Scottish Southbound hiker. He is a seasoned world traveler, having worked as a nurse and hiked in Australia, Tasmania and Iraq. He was the first PCT hiker I met on the trail, on day one, 4 miles from Harts Pass. I was starting my northbound “tag the border” hike and he was returning from his border tagging and continuing south. I didn’t photograph him then as it was raining. We leapfrogged each other regularly in the northern half of Washington. I photographed him here in the Glacier Peaks Wilderness. A day or two after this meeting he dropped his very expensive carbon fiber ice axe on the trail. I picked it up and carried it for two days and got it back to him at Snoqualmie Pass.

Gang of SOBOs in the rain and hail at Mica Lake, waiting for visibility to clear before heading up Fire Creek Pass. Sherry, Andrew and I went first despite the horrible weather. New hail and snow covered the trail and boot pack on the pass so we had to do a few minutes of GPS navigation to find the trail.

Lauri and I will be section hiking all of Washington this summer and I will continue with this project then.

Northbound thru hiker, “Hummingbird” (Tela) in morning fog on summit of Grizzly Peak just outside the southern boundary of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. She was the first PCT thru hiker I photographed both in action and here as a portrait. She had done most of the trail northbound being stopped by fires. So she was section hiking Washington northbound.

“Hummingbird” (Tela) in morning fog on summit of Grizzly Peak just outside the southern boundary of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. I wouldn’t classify this as a true portrait. It represents what I’m more comfortable with: action and environmental portraits. This was one of my most liked Instagram post from my PCT hike.

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