Sunset Road

Every now and then I get the urge to just go and shoot something. This particular day, I decided to go hunting after the sunset. I took off up the pass as fast as I should (speed limit) go! At the summit there is a dirt track (not a road) that heads higher still, and west. I blazed off as I watched the shadows creep ever higher on the hills in front of me. I got to the top, but there was really no shot to make. But, not to be defeated, I decided to keep on going.

After I had traversed the top of the pass and started the descent, I finally had my chance to capture the sunset. While I was not able to come up with any spectacular scenery, I did manage to get a couple shots just to commemorate my mad dash.

Backpacking: Bench Lakes & Fishhook Creek, Idaho

We're ready to go!

Last July (I know, long delay posting pics) Sylvia and I went on our first-ever backpacking trip! It was basically awesome and amazing, and a little nerve wracking. I had only been “backpacking” one other time, and that was more akin to camping 2 miles from the car. This time, we went into the Sawtooth Wilderness, where there are bears to eat our food and ourselves. Fortunately we saw no signs of bears and only saw the cute animals that aren’t likely to kill you. Things like deer and kuna (marten?), and horses with people on them.

On the first night we barely had time to set camp before dark because of a delay leaving. The landlord had hired a crew to paint the exterior of our apartment, and they decided to come on the very day we were set to leave for our trip. VERY upsetting as we had to stay there so they could paint our doors, which requires the doors being open. Anyway, we didn’t hit the trail until about 6:45 pm. VERY late to start a backpacking trip, but at least it was early July and we had the most daylight possible! Let’s go!

We started out on a beautiful little trail off through the trees and along a gurgling stream, which was actually more like a small river in the late spring runoff. I didn’t get a single picture of the stream for some reason. I was probably too excited about just going on the trip. I’d been itching for it for a very long time.

As we walked along, getting accustomed to carrying our food and shelter on our backs, I was paying careful attention to all of the ‘signs’ around me of possible danger. Where those scratch marks on that tree, or just ant trails left behind after the bark fell off? Was that scat nearby or just a clump of debris leftover from winter? I wasn’t taking any chances!

When we reached the edge of the officially designated wilderness area, there was a small wetland. We didn’t see any wildlife here, but it saw us. Mosquitos! I think we used up half of our bug spray right then and there.

As is evident in the picture to the right, we were running out of daylight pretty fast. In my nervousness I pestered Sylvia to walk as fast as she could and together we hustled on the rest of the way to what seemed like the end of the trail. We set camp in pretty good time considering we had neither one done it before. After a delicious supper of re-hydrated mac n’ cheese and something with an Indian flavor, we got the dishes done and set about tidying up for the night.

Good morning, sunshine!

The most difficult part was tying up the food. You would think that in the forest, surrounded by trees, you could get a line up and suspend your food without much trouble. Boy was I wrong about that. It must have taken 20 or 30 minutes to find the proper tree, figure out a way to throw the line through and get it around all the other branches. I had read that the food should be about 12 feet above the ground and six feet from the nearest tree, including the one’s suspending it. This proved to be very difficult for me to accomplish. I think I made it to about 9 feet and 3 feet.

We turned in for the night and waited for it to get dark. This was the most difficult part. Sleeping in a tent doesn’t provide much darkness from the brilliance of the long evenings in the north. It was nice to just lay there and listen to the stream, wondering what the stars looked like. My tent does have a full ‘screen’ body, so we could have removed the rainfly to see the stars, but I didn’t want to wake up in the night covered in frost, or worse, in rain.

Uneventfully, morning arrived. Brr… I didn’t want to get up until the sun was shining on our camp. That proved to be a very long wait. The mountains around us were tall, and the valley deep. It was probably around 8 am before we decided to get up and see what the day had in store. As I flung back the tent flap, to my surprise and joy I got my reward for walking up this one-way valley. The first sight of the morning was a deer outside the tent. What a way to start the day! The many flowers blooming, the greenery all around and the bright sunshine beckoned us to get moving and enjoy the day. We had a delightful breakfast of oatmeal and struck camp. We were headed to a new location, but back the way we had come the night before in order to get there.

On our way out, the scenery was much different and more beautiful, at least to me, because of the time of day. The vividness of the spring colors really grabs your attention when the sun is shining bright.

After we passed back through the previous days terrain, we headed up a new trail toward Bench Lakes, so named because there are several lakes that rest on the side of a mountain each one progressively higher than the other. Sadly, we didn’t see anything like I’m sure you are imagining. The trees surrounding the lakes were enough that we really weren’t aware we were on the side of a mountain at all.

On our way to the Bench lakes, we walked along a large mountain lake called Redfish. The name comes from the endangered sockeye salmon that used to inundate the lake with their red bodies. The waters no longer shimmer red with the color of the fish, but they can still be seen there today.

Our journey was interesting to say the least. After climbing up what seemed like an endless ascent through the dry foothill forest, we finally reached the top of the knife ridge. To our left (east) we had a gorgeous view of Redfish lake, which was nearly straight down. And to our right (west) the mountains we were headed for.

The ridge trail trek was about 2 to 3 miles long, briefly descending into a gentle valley with a trailside creek, and then we started up again. This time it was on the nearly treeless face of the mountain we were to camp on. This last part of the trek was the hottest and most dry, but it was free from bugs and there was a little puff of a breeze from time to time.

As we climbed higher and higher, the view got better and better. And I think our energy got lower and lower. Of course I was fueled by excitement for the trip, but even that can run out eventually. At least we had good reasons to stop and rest: the scenery was too good to pass by and not take a picture!

Shortly after our last photograph of the surrounding mountains, we reached a turn in the trail and headed into the trees. Just a few hundred yards ahead lay a lake. We had made it! We thought that surely we would find a place quickly and set up camp, but to our surprise there were already quite a few campers there already. Most of these people were choosing to ignore the wilderness rule of camping at least 100 feet from the nearest water and instead were directly beside the lake. I suppose we might have been tempted to do the same if there were any good spots available, which there weren’t. We spent the next hour hiking around in circles trying to find a place that was free from snow, boulders, saplings and was somewhat level. When we finally got that accomplished it was time for some food! And time to go through the rigors of tying the food bag up in a tree. We made it, with even more difficulty, but no harm done. This was what we signed up for, right?

The only shot of the lake, barely.

When we finally lay down for the night, we opted to keep the rain fly off so that we could see the stars. While it wasn’t the most spectacular starry night I’ve ever seen, it was still worth the effort. Lying beneath towering trees watching the stars slowly appear in the ever dimming night sky is a treat not often enjoyed in our modern, city-oriented lives.

As we lay dozing off, relishing the bliss of clean air and silence all around, our silence was intermittently perforated by bumping and thudding and a sort of ‘whoosh’ sound. I was concerned about bears, but the sounds just didn’t seem right. I tried to remain calm and go to sleep but it was so difficult. I think it was Sylvia who sat up to have a look around at what was making these noises. To my great relief, it was only passing deer. We had inadvertently set up camp near a busy deer trail, probably leading down to the lake. We were interrupting their evening drink, and I suppose as they smelled us they would stamp and snort to alert others before moving away.

In the morning it was the same routine, and we decided to head home. Our first trip was a success, and we experienced both the beauty and the rigor of backpacking.

Summer is on the way, and we’re fully prepared to hit the highlands as soon as the snow will allow!

Happy trails!

Below are all all of the images from this trip, worth showing. There are a few repeats from above, but more than half are unique.

McCall, Idaho Winter Sunset

One weekend in February I had the pleasure of going to camp. The first evening the sky was just so calm and serene, and the evening star shone so bright. The sunset was soft and shallow. This really allowed the entire scene to speak out, rather than the sky stealing the show.

Often a photographer will choose to capture a scene in several different ways, but only show the one he feels is best. I decided I would most enjoy showing you all three versions of how I saw this particular scene. My favorite is the one with the posts in the foreground. Which one is your favorite?

Please let me know what you think in the comments boxes below.

Horseshoe Bend Sunset & Editing

While I do try to remain honest with my photography, sometimes you have to push the edge of reality just a little bit. On a beautiful January day, I was happily working away at my desk (at home) when I noticed the sky start to become more and more rich and bold in color. I had my camera ready and rushed outside to snap off a few images before the colors died. Usually this type of sunset sky only lasts a moment or two when it is at its most magical, so I had to be fast. Because of this, I had to shoot it where I was. In town. No time to run up the pass or around the bend of the river. Just shoot!

Below is a description of what I did to make the image appealing to you and I, and to be usable as the featured image for this website.

  1. In the first image you’ll notice two things:
    • There are power lines
    • The highest hill is on the right, not the left.
  2. In the second image the power lines are gone
  3. In the third image I flipped it so that there would be a good place for the site name and tag line
Click on the first image and then use your keyboard’s arrow keys to quickly flip back and forth for the magical disappearing act.

It’s as simple as that. Though it did take over an hour to remove the ‘man made’ stuff. If only I had Photoshop CS5…

Payette River Frost

Ice and frost on the Payette River. Banks-Lowman Road, Idaho.

On my way to visit Sylvia at work I had to stop and photograph the cold, winter river. This valley runs east/west so it gets little to no sunlight during the winter months. So even though it was the middle of the day, there was still plenty of frost on the rocks. The river humidity makes an ever-present ice covering in the deep of the valley.

Payette River “Beach”

This is a prime example of almost doing it right, then trying again. And getting it very wrong
on the second try.

I first decided to shoot the little beach and when I thought I had it, I moved on to doing a “backup” shot of it with the sky. Well, both shots were sub-par. The first is mostly a cropping issue (save the lack of light, but the sun doesn’t shine here for more than half the year). The second has a better crop, but in trying to create and HDR shot from 4 exposures I really ruined this one. Not to worry. I’m showing it anyway. This is a blog, after all, not a portfolio.

Spring Hail Flowers

After a worrying drive home, looking at ugly clouds and wondering about tornado’s, I passed through a tiny bit of a hail storm. Much relieved I arrived home to discover I had experienced only a little bit of the storm that had happened at home. With the sun coming out and warming temperatures already melting the ice, I had to act fast to photograph these little balls of joy among the spring flowers. The images of both turned out to not be so compelling but the individual shots are quite nice, at least to me.