Our musings about landscape photography, outdoor travel, hiking, gear, technology, politics, and other topics we find interesting
I've also written several blog posts about Killarney PP here, here, here, and here.....so many blogs posts that you might get the impression that I really liked Killarney PP. I did. Killarney is very unique, gorgeous, and I got a lot of great photos, albeit in no small part because I was able to arrange a flight to do aerial photography.
Even though the elevation gains are pretty reasonable (up to 1000'), it is much rougher hiking than western parks due to the nature of the trails (not well benched), the constant up and down, the average grades (can be very high), and the very, very slippery nature of the rocks when wet. This is a park, for me at least, that is much better suited for day hiking when I can choose the dry days. I would not want to be doing anything vertical in this park when the rocks are wet or when there is rain forecast.
Here are some of my favorite photos from my Killarney hikes:
For some time, I've wanted to go to a shooting range to see if it was time to own a handgun. The last gun I shot, before this year, was a .22 rifle when I was 12 years old and a Boy Scout. In April, my brother-in-law, who is well-versed in handguns, was kind enough to take me to a range and to show me the ropes.
Below are two photos from targets for my first time, first 10 shots, shooting a Glock 19, at 15 yards. First time. Standard sights. No classes, no instruction, nothing. Nada.
10/10 in the red.
I followed that up by placing 2 out of 2 (double tap) within an inch. I shot about 100 bullets that first day....with very similar accuracy. I'm not an expert, but I thought that I did pretty good.
I'd like to see what I can do with red dot sights or laser sights. Seems like this might be a second expensive hobby (the first expensive hobby being landscape photography).
I process a few photos most days. I'm probably about 10,000 photos in arrears. I processed this one today..... it is from my fall 2017 Killarney Provincial Park trip. The aurora borealis, the Milky Way, and star reflections in a lake, all in one photo. It was made by stitching 9 frames taken with a 24mm lens, resulting in a 142 megapixel photo. I am truly fortunate to have seen this scene with my own eyes.
I processed about 160 of the 700 photos taken on that flight. I really enjoyed that flight....it was sunny, with some clouds, and the fall colors were beyond gorgeous. I'll post photos from my Killarney hikes later this year. Below are some more of my favorite aerials.
The rest of the photos are in the Killarney Provincial Park photo gallery.
For a couple of decades I wore GORE-TEX rain pants on most of my hiking, backpacking, and photography trips. It was one of the few fabrics that offered real rain protection. But GORE-TEX is not perfect. Hikers who generate a lot of heat and who sweat a lot, like I do, often find that GORE-TEX is not that breathable; the end result is that you get wet....but from your own sweat. Andrew Skurka's blog has a good summary of the downsides of GORE-TEX. I sought alternative fabrics for years. As technology has advanced, some pretty good alternative fabrics have become available. One of those alternative fabrics is Polartec NeoShell. Polartec advertises NeoShell as waterproof with high breathability to help shed sweat in hot or in high workload conditions.
I decided to try NeoShell about 3 years ago, but I had difficulty in finding rain pants in my size (5'7", 180 lb, large thighs). Also, Neoshell pants can be quite expensive (most are $300 and up). After a lot of searching, I found Lou Binik at Foxwear, who makes NeoShell garments to order based upon custom measurements; the current price is $150. I've worn Foxwear's NeoShell rain pants for about 3 years now, and I can report that they have always kept me dry in the rain; and that they are much, much more breathable than GORE-TEX....so much moreso that I have not worn GORE-TEX pants since I started to use Foxwear's NeoShell pants. The only hesitation about these pants is that Lou makes the pants without zips, so be informed. Otherwise, highly recommended.
For my upcoming trip to Alaska, I purchased a pair of Galway Bay Golf's Unlined All Weather Neoshell Pants (currently $184). All I can say is "Wow!". The quality of the construction and sewing is truly top-notch. Very fine looking pants. Kathy hemmed these to my leg length. I'm looking forward to testing these..... I'm guessing that I will highly recommend Galway Bay Golf's Neoshell Pants as well.
I finished processing the photos from my 2.5 weeks at Denali National Park in the summer of 2016. The rain was epic, and the mosquitoes took a vacation. Truly one of the outstanding landscapes in the world. I've posted about that trip twice so far: Grizzly Sow Nursing Cubs: Denali 2016, and The Story Behind the Photo (that I did not take): Denali.
My, uh, "partner" and I have had a quite few adventures in the outdoors. Sometimes it's a lot of fun. Sometimes it's a challenge. Sometimes, well....."misadventures" might be a more apt descriptor. Sometimes it's all three.
One day that I hope I will never forget, a day that still brings a smile to my face, is when my, uh, "partner" and I did a guided 3-day, 20-mile, backpack of the Routeburn Track in New Zealand back in 2001. We were both management consultants back then, working 60-80 hours per week, and thus our aerobic conditioning was not even close to what it is now. This was my partner's first overnight backpacking trip. She was somewhat.....hesitant.
We chose guided mostly because it got us the option of "luxury" backcountry huts for each of the two nights, because it reduced pack weight, and because my partner felt it would be better for her first backpacking trip. There were about 12 hikers and two young women guides.
The day started easy enough....we took the group bus to the trailhead, got our packs on, and started climbing. The first day was to be about 7 miles, 1600' total elevation gain . Soon after we started, it started raining. Then it started raining harder. Then it was a downpour....a downpour that did not relent. I later learned that it rained 8" that day. The temp was about 35-40 degrees, so it was a cold, cold rain. What happens when it rains 8" in a day on a mountain backpacking trip in New Zealand? Well, since you asked, let me tell you.
First, all streams that you would normally step or rock-hop across become raging torrents that threatened to sweep you off of the mountain. Our group came up to Earland Falls, which had so much water flow that it was creating about 50 mph winds. In normal weather, you would rock-hop across the stream at the base of the falls. As it happened, there was a bridge bypass of the falls, but getting to the bridge required scrambling (which means hands and feet) down the 60-70 degree slope as well as a 8' vertical rock, all slippery with rain and runoff. I remember grabbing my partners jacket and lowering her with one arm, while hanging onto a tree with the other arm, down the rock into the arms of the people below. Back then I worked out more. Being the last down, I had to do a reverse pull-up, with my pack on, to get down the rock, and then dropped the remaining foot onto that 60 degree slope. Luckily, I kept my balance. If we had gone unguided, we would have turned back at that 8' rock; but going back at that point was just about as dangerous as going forward. Not a lot of options. The group provided a higher measure of safety. See the photo of Earland Falls below, but that photo was taken in good weather. The Earland Falls water flow on our hike was about 50 times that. Yep, that's the slope around that spot. Does it look steep and slippery enough?
Second, probably 3-4 miles in, I saw my, uh, "partner" struggling with her pack weight. Either she asked me to take it, or I offered, I don't remember, but for most of the rest of that hike in I carried her pack in addition to my own. That was probably 45 lb or so in total. I remember her lightly speeding ahead of me, more buoyant, while I laboriously wheezed with each step as I carried all of that weight uphill. "Eeeehh - aaaaw.. Eeeehh - aaaw..." (the sound of my wheezing).
Now I will say that the main reason to do the trip was to do landscape photography. I never took my camera out that day. Not once. The photos shown in this post are from subsequent days on this trip, or from a subsequent trip where I backpacked the Routeburn unguided and solo.
Third..... we got wet. Very wet. Very wet and very cold. We were impeccably outfitted, most of the outerwear being Gore-Tex rain gear. Now, I don't care how much Gore-Tex you have on....when there is 8" of driving rain in a day, and you are out in it all day, you are going to get wet. Even though the Gore-Tex did work, after a few hours, we were soaked. Soaked at a temperature of 35 degrees. Now, this is about where my recollection differs from my, uh "partner". I'll go with my recollection. At one point, my, uh, soaked and freezing "partner", who had had enough, turned and said to me "I hope that you are $&# Happy!". Totally out of character for her... "Sweetness" should be her middle name. A couple of the nearby men within earshot smirked. I felt bad. Pretty bad. This was a truly miserable first day for her first backpacking trip. Yet, the funny thing was......I also felt good. I WAS happy. It was spectacularly miserable, probably our most miserable outing yet, but even so, I was having a great time. We were persevering in epic weather, going well beyond our personal experiences, and meeting the challenge head-on. There was personal growth and achievement; new expanded boundaries.
Fourth (and, mostly unrelated to the rain), after a few hours we finally arrived at the hut, soaked with freezing water. It took hours to warm up. We changed into dry clothes and joined the group for dinner. Now, because I was carrying about 12 lb of camera gear, we (OK, I) had decided to forego some items. Like camp shoes. No boots allowed in the hut. 35 degrees, no heat, and no camp shoes. Yep, we (OK, I) planned that well. We padded along the hut floor barefoot for a while at 35, finally deciding to put on our only backup pair of dry socks. We had a fine dinner. I don't remember what we had, but it was fine. Afterward, however, we were still pretty hungry, and there was no extra food. Except for.....well, it seems that catching pancakes was a tradition for our guides. Sounded weird, but what the heck, there was food in it. The girls (guides) would cook up pancakes. The guests stood behind the counter. The girls would then flip the pancakes over their shoulder behind them, and the guests would try to catch it on their plate. Their heavy, smooth ceramic plate (that's important for later). If you caught it, you got to eat a clean pancake. If you missed, well, I guess you could decide if you wanted to go with a 5-, 10-, or 20-second rule.
Those girls must have seen me coming from a mile away. When it was our turn, my partner and I stepped up. The girls then flipped my pancake about 4-5' away. Being as hungry as I was, I lunged for it. I then lost my grip on the heavy ceramic plate, and it shot off like a rocket, smashing into the wall and into a hundred pieces, and putting a plate-sized hole in the wall. The girls (and most everyone else) fell down laughing. Laughing so hard they had difficulty breathing. My, uh, "partner" gave me one of those looks. Like, Really? It took about 15 minutes for the girls to calm down, and then we all proceeded to clean up the mess. The girls kept on breaking out into spontaneous laughter well into the evening. I don't recollect that I ever got a pancake.
The next day, however, was absolutely amazing. Sunny, warm, great lighting, truly spectacular. We climbed above the treeline and every direction held once-in-a-lifetime types of views. The Routeburn is the most spectacular trail, mile-for-mile, that I've hiked. However, I was still wondering if there was going to be any blowback for the previous day. Mid-day we climbed to a pass with a small shelter hut, and my, uh, "partner" offered me some lemonade. The lemonade seemed, well, off in color. I gave it a closer look, and then proceeded to ask her "Did you stir that with your boot?". She laughed and said "no, the water here is just dirty,...here, look at it". Sure enough, the water in the group jugs looked dirty. Well, I was really thirsty, so...... "Bottoms Up". Still, she kept on looking at me with the most interesting expression on her face.....Just saying.
Below are a few of the photos from the last two days of that guided hike, all shot on medium format film (you remember film, right?). You can find more photos in the Fiordland National Park and Mt. Aspiring National Park galleries.
I still smile when I think about that first day. It was the worst day, and it was also the best day. A memory to treasure. My partner remembers that backpacking trip with pride. When I mention it to her, from time-to-time, she both winces and smiles at the same time, and says "Hiker Chicks Rule!". True.
P.S. #1: I'd like to thank my, uh, "partner" for approving this post.
P.S. #2: Below are some more photos from the Routeburn. They are from my subsequent unguided solo Routeburn backpacking trip in 2011.
I've posted once already about my 2016 trip to Denali. The rain was epic. I took about 2700 frames. My best guess is that there was "sun" shining in maybe 50 frames. Nonetheless, I loved it. And, I have a return trip planned out for this year.
As a lone camper and hiker, I feel it prudent to take a lot of care, and I mean a LOT of care, hiking alone in grizzly country. Such was Denali. I saw about 40 grizzly over 11 days. I spent a fair amount of my hiking time evading grizzlies. I yell a lot so they know I'm around. The most common scenario was to see them come over a ridge, and head toward me, not yet knowing I was there. They can cover ground very fast, certainly faster than me. I retreated to the road several times to get on one of the hiker buses because the grizzlies were getting too close.
I photographed (handheld, 100mm, first photo, below) this sow nursing her cubs after such a retreat to a bus. The sow came over a ridge with her cubs and headed for me. She did not seem to know that I was there. I walked left. She and her cubs headed left. I headed right. They headed right. I figured a retreat was in order about that time.
The 2nd photo (below) is the first photo at 100%. The 3rd photo shows her claws quite nicely. No thank you:)
P.S. If you are wondering....no, I won't take photos of grizzlies from the tundra while hiking alone. Very dangerous. I'm too busy walking the other way.
Our household supports Donald Trump. We support him on immigration. We support him on trade. We support him on defense. We support him on North Korea and China. We support him on the corporate tax cut to keep more companies in America that provide jobs for Americans. We support him in pushing back hard against the liberal agenda that would ultimately destroy our country and way of life.
We don't support his communication style and all of the unnecessary White House drama. But, those things seem to be part of the entire package required to get the country moving in a better direction.
Kathy and I recently returned from a 12-day landscape photography trip to the southwestern USA deserts. This was one of the most spectacular and fun trips of our lives. Below is the first photo that I took on that trip.....then, it just got better from there. More later.
I live in Chapel Hill (part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle metroplex) which is in the center of North Carolina (NC). Central NC is a very high quality-of-life, pleasant place to live. It's subtly pretty, with all of the greenery and towering pine trees. However, Central NC is not known as an aspirational landscape photography location (no snarky comments, please, it just isn't). My landscape photography takes me at least a couple of hundred miles away (the Appalachian Mountains), and usually much further. Most of my recent trips have been to Canada, or to the USA parts north or west.
Yet, there IS a hidden gem of a photography location in Central NC, one of which that I'm willing to bet most people in the Triangle are not aware. It is the 60,000 acre Sandhills Game Land nature preserve outside of Southern Pines, about an hour from the Triangle. Sandhills Game Land is a unique environment of small hills, sandy ground, grasses, ferns, and pines. I have been aware of the area for a while, and decided to check it out in October of 2017. I spent one full night doing astrophotography, and one full day doing daylight landscape photography, driving around on and hiking the many dirt and two-track roads that bisect the area. Brady Beck, currently the Southern Piedmont Management biologist for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, kindly met with me to provide some guidance on the roads and on which areas might be most productive for photography.
I took about 60 compositions in two days of shooting. Below are the first three that I have processed. I'll try to get the rest up on my website before the end of 2018.
It was enjoyable. Not spectacular, but enjoyable. Pretty in its own way. And,....close to home. Shhh....don't tell anyone....
In early March of 2017, I wrote a post outlining our 2017-2018 destination plan for landscape photography. Life and fate, it seemed, intervened. Shortly after that post, two of of our extended family members became very ill. Kathy and I contributed in numerous ways, including spending almost 6 months out of state helping to take care of these two family members. Their need for our help was more important than our desire to be out in beautiful places. It was a very difficult year for us, but it was even a more difficult year for our extended families.
I was able to do some landscape photography in 2017, however, including Montana's Lolo National Forest in February, a trip to the Canadian Rockies: Purcell Mountains and Kananaskis Country that was cut short by the unprecedented wildfire season, a short trip for fall color to Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario, and a couple of autumn days in the North Carolina Sandhills Game Lands (photo gallery forthcoming). In all, however, I spent only about 14 days doing landscape photography.
What is on the list for 2018? We have scheduled a couple of trips, and have more that are speculative and that are currently being considered.
Plus, I purchased a 45 MP Nikon D850 camera which will be my new main camera moving forward, with my current 36 MP Nikon D800E now being a backup camera.
We are very fortunate to be able to travel this way. I hope that 2018 is a better year for everyone.
I finally finished processing photos from our 2016 trip to Capitol Reef National Park, the last stop in our Utah tour that included Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, and Snow Canyon & Dead Horse Point State Parks. Capitol Reef was our favorite.
The reasons are simple: uncrowded and extremely scenic. Nothing like the crowds of Grand Canyon or Zion National Park. When we go on landscape photography trips, the last thing we want is to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other people. We like to get away. You can (still) do that at Capitol Reef. At night, doing astrophotography, we ran into just one other person just one time. Plus the red rocks...if you like reds, the complete red pallette is waiting for you at Capitol Reef. We spent 4-5 days there and just "scratched the surface." Fantastic.
Here are some of my favorite photos from Capitol Reef
I enjoy seeing and being in beautiful places. I use photos to remind me of the majesty and grandeur of the places I've been. I strive to make those photos spectacular. It is worth asking, then, "What is "in" a spectacular landscape photo"?
The photo below is from the first day on my 4-day Routeburn Great Walk in New Zealand in 2011. It's a nice photo. Pretty mountains. Interesting lines. Not "spectacular", however, at my first glance.
Glances can be deceiving. If you look closely, in the edited photo below, you can see the Routeburn Trail, and 3 separate hiking parties, each outlined in red ovals.
A close up of the lower-left hiker reveals a lot of detail. This was shot with on a 40 megapixel Pentax 645D with a 45-85mm zoon lens at 85mm. That camera system could produce wickedly sharp photos.
Blue backpack, tan trousers, purple socks. Purple socks?? Yikes.
Sometimes, people are "in" a spectacular landscape photo. The people, who are just small specks upon the landscape, serve to demonstrate just how immense and majestic the landscape is. Have you seen the hikers in any of my other photos?