Tag Archives: Mountains

A Final Night and Morning in the Grand Tetons

I got up early on Friday to drive the three hours from Canyon Village in Yellowstone, through West Yellowstone, and then down to Idaho Falls.  Why?  Because of some upcoming international travel, I needed a Yellow Fever immunization.  Due to timing, and a nationwide shortage of said vaccines, it was most convenient for me to make an appointment with Eastern Idaho Public Health.

I arrived early (as planned, just in case), so I went down to see the eponymous falls.  A Mormon Temple is in the background on the left.

Click any image to enlarge.

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After my immunization, I had lunch, and headed eastward to go over Teton Pass.  From the top, you can see a nice view of Jackson Hole.

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I drove on down to Jackson and got settled into the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park for my final night.  I did a little infrared photography in the bright afternoon sun, before heading back to Jackson to meet with a couple of friends for one final night.

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Because of the great location and view from near my hotel room, I set up my camera for star trails.  I did a couple of 35-minute captures from about 11 PM to a little after midnight..  Here’s one of the photos.  The moon was waxing gibbous, and provided plenty of illumination for the snow on the mountains.

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Despite the late night, I rose early in hopes of great color at sunrise.  I got a little bit of pink in the sky, much like earlier in the week.  Here are a couple of photos—one of Mount Moran, and one of Mount St. John.

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Before I knew it, it was time to leave for the airport and fly home.

The general consensus at the Nature Photography Celebration (organized by The North American Nature Photography Association) is that it was a successful event that we should repeat in new locations in the future.  We heard from great photographers presenting about their latest projects, and we had plenty of free time to go out and photograph great locations on our own.  (And we even had a small trade show with support from many camera manufacturers, camera stores–especially Gary Farber at Hunt’s Photo & Video–and other organizations.)

A big thank you to my friend Charlotte for sharing wine, cheese, and a hyperactive dog in her beautiful home, and for including me in her network of friends, who all made me feel welcome a long way from home.

I am grateful for the beautiful places like the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, and all the other National Parks and National Monuments we are blessed to protect for future generations.

Yellowstone National Park

On Wednesday, I planned to get up early for sunrise photography, and to start driving up to Yellowstone.  But I woke to rain in Jackson, and slept in another hour.

I drove up through Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway and entered Yellowstone National Park at the south entrance.  I continued north, and rain turned into snow.  It was 34 degrees and the roads warm enough to not have trouble with ice.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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I tried to be a tourist and visit a roadside sight or two.  Here’s Lewis Falls, with me standing on snow, watching the snow fall.  Did I mention it was 34 degrees?

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Soon, I decided it was best to just keep driving on to Old Faithful.  By the time I got there, the snow had subsided, and there was just a little bit of rain.  I arrived a few minutes before the famous geyser erupted.  Not the photo I imagined with a brilliantly colorful sky in the background, but this is more of a snapshot anyway.  In the peak of summer (and in better weather), you would see thousands more people surrounding Old Faithful.

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Peak season begins Memorial Day weekend, and I was there just before that.  So it was beginning to get crowded, but nothing like the park sees later on.  Being a week or two before the busy season begins also means that not every road (or campground or lodge) is open—but it’s still a great time to visit.  The creeks, rivers, and waterfalls were really flowing.

Here’s the inside of the historic Old Faithful Inn, with people waiting to enter the dining room.  Some consider the inn the largest log building in the world.

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I walked around for awhile in the rain in the Upper Geyser Basin in the Old Faithful area.  It was nice to get out and walk around.  Here’s one of the pools in the area:  Morning Glory Pool.  Pro tip:  bring your polarizing filter to cut down on reflections in the water.  I left mine at home.

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My destination for the night was Canyon Lodge, so I kept on driving north (no more falling snow!), past the other other geyser basins.  Here’s an overlook showing the Norris Geyser Basin in the distance.

Continue reading Yellowstone National Park

More Time in the Grand Tetons

I’m back in Austin now.  I chose not to keep up with the blog as I went.  A combination of 16+ hours of light for photography each day, lots of travel time, time with friends, and a little bit of allergies all conspired to help me choose sleep instead of half-hearted writing into the night.  But I’m back, and have four more blog posts in the works after this one.

Sunrise each morning was about 5:50 AM, so I’d get up every morning about 5:00 and head out to see what the sunrise would bring.  We never had any truly spectacular colors in the morning, but it was still beautiful to be in this amazing place to see how the sun would first light the mountains.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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Balsam Root, the yellow flower in the foreground of the photo below, was blooming in many places in the valley.

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Some mornings would start with fog in low-lying areas.  Clouds in the mountains were constantly changing.  This infrared photo is from the same day as those in my earlier blog post about the Snake River Overlook.  It was taken about fifteen or twenty minutes before the images I posted last week.

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I dropped by another couple of famous places for photography.

Oxbow Bend, below Jackson Lake on the Snake River often has still water in the mornings, great for reflections of Mount Moran, and to its left, the mountain known, at least for now, as Mount Woodring.  (And further left are Mount St. John and Rockchuck Peak.)

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Mormon Row is a section of Grand Teton National Park that I suspect most people don’t visit, but is famous among photographers.  A group of Mormons from Idaho homesteaded here beginning in the late 1800’s, and lived here through the mid-1900’s before being sold to the National Park Service.

Perhaps most famous is the Thomas Alma Moulton barn, shown below.

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I didn’t do much hiking this trip, but I did take an easy five-mile hike on Tuesday up to Phelps Lake.  This is where I saw the moose in my earlier blog post about Grand Teton Wildlife.

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Here’s the GPS track for the hike.  It’s part of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve in the southernmost section of Grand Teton National Park.  This section was donated by Laurance S. Rockefeller to the National Park Service in 2001.

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Snake River Overlook

Pro Tip:  If you’re going to use your iPad for your alarm clock, confirm that it’s set to the right timezone, so that you don’t accidentally wake up at 4 AM when you were planning for 5 AM.

This morning’s forecast was for mostly clear skies, so I woke up early and headed into the park.  I decided to start at the Snake River Overlook, made famous by Ansel Adams in his 1942 photo, The Tetons and the Snake River.  The view’s not quite the same, because the trees have grown so much taller in the last 76 years.

I spent about an hour there, before and after sunrise, shooting a variety of compositions.  Here are a couple of similar photos that I liked, one visible light, one infrared.  The first is closer to sunrise, with the fog still lifting off the river.  The infrared image is from a bit later, after the sun started to illuminate the foreground.  Which one do you like better?

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After I left the overlook, I headed down to Schwabacher’s Landing to take advantage of the reflections in the relatively still water.

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I saw elk and geese today, and hoping I see more wildlife tomorrow.

Grand Teton National Park

I flew to Jackson, Wyoming, today.  I’m here, in part, for a North American Nature Photography Association Nature Photography Celebration.

Today’s forecast called for an 80% chance of rain, but that can lead to some nice dramatic photos.  I headed north into the Grand Teton National Park, stopping at the Moose Junction Visitor Center to find out about trail conditions during this early part of the season.  I continued driving north, to get my bearings.  It’s been over twenty years since I was last here.

The weather held out just fine.  It was mostly cloudy, with intermittent rain showers that never lasted more than a few minutes.  I think the weather will improve somewhat during my stay.

Here are a few images to give you a taste of what it was like today.  Click on any of them to enlarge.

Grand Teton, Mount Owen, and Teewinot Mountain:

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Mount Moran, in the clouds:

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The first image was taken with a Fujifilm X-T2, with a Fujifilm 18-55 lens.

The second and third images were taken with a Nikon D300 and Nikkor 18-200 lens.  Camera converted to infrared by LifePixel.

More coming up later this week.

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 6

The Tre Cime de Lavaredo are the three mountain peaks that are the highlight of the Tre Cime Natural Park.  (In German, they are called Drei Zinnen.)  From the end of the road at Rifugio Auronzo, we began our three mile hike around Tre Cime to Rifugio Locatelli.  The hike took us up to 8000 feet, to a saddle between Tre Cime and the nearby Monte Paterno (Paternkofel), where we had lunch.  The trail descended from the pass back down a few hundred feet, before ascending again to Locatelli, back at 8000 feet elevation.  Temperatures were in the 50’s, and it was somewhat windy.

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Shown below, the Locatelli hut, with the Torre di Toblin behind it.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

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On the side of the Monte Paterno, we saw some climbers on a Via Ferrata (Italian for “Iron Road”).  These are hiking and climbing routes that have a cable, fixed to the rock every few meters.  You wear a harness with two carabiners.  As you reach one of the iron stays in the rock, you unclip one carabiner and reattach it to the cable on the other side of the stay, then follow with the other carabiner.  Thus, you are always attached to the cable.

Many of the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites are left from World War I.  The Dolomites were a major battleground in the war between Austria-Hungary and Italy.

In the photo below, you see a couple of people on a fairly flat, easy section of Via Ferrata on Monte Paterno.

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We continued on to the Locatelli hut.  This is a much larger hut than the Resciesa hut we stayed in earlier—I’d guess they have room for over 100 people.  But note that they only have one shower, and it costs €5 to use it for six minutes.  (None of our group bothered with a shower that night.)

Many dayhikers come for lunch or dinner in the cafe.  Along with a lot of people, we saw a few dogs of all sizes on the trail.  Here’s a photo of a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog.

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That night, the barometric pressure began to rise, and we set our alarms in hopes of clear skies for night photography.  We got started a little bit late, so this turned into a bit of night photography combined with pre-dawn photography.  Here’s a time-lapse sequence showing the transition from night to twilight.

We returned to bed for an hour of sleep before heading out for sunrise.  Here’s one of my favorite infrared images of the dawn light hitting Monte Paterno and the Tre Cime.

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We returned again to bed for another hour of sleep before breakfast, and then began our hike back to Rifugio Auronzo, where we waited for our taxi that would take us to Cortina.

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Up next, Cortina and Venice.

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 5

(This is my 100th post on this blog.  Thank you all for reading.)

The morning of July 1, we left Selva/Wolkenstein for Lago di Dobbiaco.  I kind of think of this as a rest day between our weather-challenged hike from yesterday, and the 8000-foot-elevation hiking of tomorrow.  We also swapped out our guides–trading Hayden for Jake, who would be with us until the official end of the trip.  Both guides provided by AlpineHikers were excellent.

As we drove over to Dobbiaco, we saw many bicyclists preparing for the following day’s Maratona dles Dolomites, an 85-mile bike race with nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain.  (The winner averaged 18.6 mph.)  Nearly 30,000 cyclists apply each year for one of the 9,000 starting positions.

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We checked into the116-year-old Hotel Baur, which sits right on the lake.

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(Click on any image to enlarge.)

We walked around the lake, then I settled on a view facing south for most of my images.  We played around with reflections, and slow shutter speeds as the water flowed over a dam at the north end of the lake.  Here’s an infrared photo from late in the day.

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Here’s a group shot of all of us on a bridge near the hotel.

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The next morning, we drove into the Tre Cime Natural Park and began our hike to Rifugio Locatelli.  Stay tuned for more.

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Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 4

The next day—June 29 if you’re keeping score—we took a taxi down to the ski village of Ortisei.  We spent a little time walking around the town and enjoying time at a cafe near the Hotel Adler before taking a funicular up into the mountains.

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From the top of the funicular, it’s about a mile traverse (light blue route below) over to Rifugio Resciesa, where we’d stay for the evening.  Unfortunately, I fell ill with intestinal pain that afternoon, so once I got to the hut, I just rested.  As I look for a silver lining to being sick, the afternoon views were hampered by a whole lot of clouds.  My body chose a good time to demand rest.

The Resciesa hut is one of many different mountain huts scattered all over the Alps.  It’s a combination bar/restaurant and guest house.  The Resciesa hut is one of the smaller huts, with room for about 40 people.  We had a room of bunk beds for all eight of us.  Some rooms are larger; some smaller.  There were two showers and two bathrooms shared for everyone at the hut.  I was pretty pleased with the experience, and people who had been at other Alpine huts agreed that this was among the nicer ones.

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The next morning, the weather and my health had both improved.  I decided to hike the approximately one-mile loop from the hut, to the peak, and then over to a small chapel.  (This is the darker blue route on the map above.)  The temperatures were in the 50’s and windy.  I’d typically wear three to five layers of clothes to maintain comfort.

On my way up, I took this infrared photo of the Resciesa hut in the lower left, with the Langkofel Group of mountains in the distance.  There are still plenty of clouds around, but at least we could see for miles around.

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Click any image to enlarge.

It’s pretty common for hikable mountains in this area to have wooden crosses at their summits.  Here’s an infrared view of the cross above the Resciesa hut.

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And a closer look from my regular camera:

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I turned around the other way, and took this panorama.  The Resciesa hut is on the far left of the photo, and the chapel is to the right of the sign near the middle.

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In the late morning, we left the hut and started a traverse eastward.  The plan was to get a better perspective on the Geislergruppe, also to our east.  We would then take a trail down to the middle station of aerial gondolas ascending up to the Seceda ski area.  We could then take the gondola down to Ortisei, where we left the day before.

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A typical lunch for us was a lunch sack prepared by our guide containing snacks and an always-excellent sandwich prepared that morning from local cheeses, meats, and vegetables.  On this day, it was more of a “build-your-own” affair.  Here’s a photo of our guide, Hayden, with the lunch preparations spread out under his tarp.

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We had lunch near one of the peaks above the funicular station.  We spent quite a bit of time there making time lapse videos.  Here’s an infrared time lapse of the Geislergruppe, to our east.

I would love to tell you that the rest of our day was uneventful.  But it was not to be.

The weather turned again.  Soon after we left our lunch spot, it looked like we might have a brief shower.  We put our rain covers over our packs, and donned our rain jackets.  Most of us had rain pants with us, but none of us felt like it was going to be necessary to put them on.  We were wrong.

The sleet started first.  Some called it hail.  The temperatures dropped to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then rain mixed in.  And then thunder.  If it weren’t for the thunder, we might have stopped to put on our rain pants.  On the map below, our travel route enters from the upper left, and we headed due east.  We were originally aiming for the intersection of trails just right of center.  With the rain, we debated going on to the Rifugio Malga Brogles a bit further on the trail to wait out the rain and sleet.  But it was the thunder that convinced us that it was time to exit the mountain as quickly as possible.

We went off trail, heading down an embankment to take us down below tree line to pick up the return trail.  It was steep and slippery, but it was the fastest way out of danger from possible lightning.  Once we got to the return trail, the hike finally met its promise of being uneventful, except for the part about being soaked.  The thunder stopped; the rain abated.  The temperatures rose as we descended.

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We made it to the cable car and descended to Ortisei to catch the bus to continue our journey.  We stayed overnight that night in Selva (known in German as Wolkenstein).

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Coming up, a visit to Lago di Dobbiaco, and on to the highlight of the trip, Tres Cime.

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 3

The next day, we took the bus to the end of the road, and went for an approximately 7-mile hike near Santa Magdalena at around 2000 meters elevation.  Here’s the trail we took, hiking from east to west:

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As I mentioned in my last post, the weather turned overcast with a low ceiling, and a nearly constant threat of rain.  The good news is that it didn’t actually rain much—a couple of passing showers that lasted only minutes.  The bad news is that we had to imagine what the scenery looked like:

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(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once again, I turned to my infrared Nikon D300 to find elements of drama in the larger scene.  On this trip, I used the versatile Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for all of my infrared photos.  This shot is using a focal length of 65mm (35mm equivalent of 100mm) at f/5.

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Another approach to photographing with uncooperative weather is to focus on details, such as this flower.

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I believe this is a Phyteuma orbiculare.
Common name: Round-headed Rampion

The weather improved marginally as we neared the end of our hike, descending to Santa Magdalena to catch the bus back to the hotel.  The mountains were still in the clouds, but we could at least appreciate more of the scenery.

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The next day, we hiked again for about five miles in the same area, heading more east:

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The weather was slightly improved from the day before—the ceiling had lifted ever so slightly, and we saw some blue sky as the day progressed.

Here’s my favorite infrared photo from the day, with the brooding clouds hanging just at the top of the peaks.

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As long as the sky was cloudy, we could switch our focus to scenes that don’t include it.  I photographed these waterfalls with a 1/3 second exposure at f/22.

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The photo below is a 1/10 second exposure, also at f/22.

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, one of the themes of this week was to find different ways to photograph something interesting while having challenging weather conditions.  This led us to time-lapse photography.

Here’s a very short video of sixty time-lapse frames.  Each frame was taken 3 seconds apart, and the video below speeds it up by 36x.  I’ll have a few more examples like this in later blog posts.

Next up, an afternoon in Ortisei, on our way up to our first mountain hut, the Rifugio Resciesa.

Puffins of Tuxedni National Wildlife Refuge

About 12 miles north of Silver Salmon Creek are a pair of islands that are part of the Tuxedni National Wildlife Refuge.  In this photo, the larger island is Chisik Island, with the Aleutian Range and the Chigmit Mountains behind it in the distance.  The small island in the right foreground is Duck Island, where hundreds of Horned and Tufted Puffins nest.

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Thanks to our neighbors at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, we were able to take the lodge’s boat to see the puffins.  As you can see, this was one of our calm, clear weather days, and the puffins were very active.  They were only a few days away from leaving the island—they winter at sea in the Gulf of Alaska.

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Here’s a photo of Duck Island as we departed, with Redoubt Volcano in the distance.  Redoubt last erupted in 2009.  (Another active volcano, Iliamna, is about 15 miles west of the lodge.)

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