Skagit Valley Daffodil Photography

Skagit Valley Daffodil Photography, WashingtonSkagit Valley Daffodils #61987b  Purchase

One of my spring rituals is to make a trip down to the Skagit Valley to photograph the Daffodil and tulip fields. After months of grey rainy weather it’s always a treat to see such bursts of color. From the end of March though the first week or so of April daffodils are the star attraction. Depending on the weather, tulips begin to bloom around the second week of April. Of course the fields also make great subjects for photography. Since the fields change location every year it’s worth scouting out in advance where the best compositions may be.

Skagit Valley Daffodil Photography, WashingtonSkagit Valley Daffodils #61960b  Purchase

Photographing daffodils can be more difficult than photographing tulips. Mostly this is due to the fact that daffodils bloom earlier in the season. In late March the weather is still winter-like with rain and cold winds. Daffodil blossoms stand higher and on thinner stalks than tulips, so they move easily in the slightest of breezes. Meaning if you’re lucky enough to have good light you may be hampered by windy conditions.

If there is a breeze present you may need to resort to techniques such as focus stacking to achieve the necessary depth of field while using a faster shutter speed. Photographing in lower light conditions will only compound these issues. Of course it should go without saying that a good tripod is a necessity here. Another very helpful item I’m never without is a remote to trip the shutter while the mirror is locked up.

Photographers know that it pays to get up before dawn in order to take advantage of blue hour and sunrise light. Here in the Skagit Valley, another good reason to arrive early is to beat the crowds. On a sunny weekend the roads will be gridlocked like Seattle on a Friday afternoon. At the height of the bloom it may seem like everyone on the entire West Coast is here to get a photo of their loved ones in the tulip fields! So go early, and preferably on a weekday.

Other Skagit Valley Daffodil Photography Subjects

Aside from photographing Skagit Valley daffodil fields and tulips, the lower Skagit Valley also boasts some other worthwhile attractions. Foremost among these are the snow geese and trumpeter swans. Every winter through early spring these beautiful white birds come to the fields to rest and feed before resuming their long journey north. They move among the fields every day, so it can be a challenge to photograph them in the best location. If you plan on photographing these birds please refrain from alarming them. While it’s a magnificent sight to see an entire flock in flight, it also cause undo stress on them.

Snow Geese Skagit Valley WashingtonSkagit Valley Snow Geese #59742  Purchase

Finally, visit to the Skagit Valley wouldn’t be complete without stopping by LaConner, a self-described artist enclave and boater’s paradise. Aside from browsing the quaint shops and having a bite to eat, photographers can come away with some great travel photos from this picturesque town. Hint, photograph the red bridge and sailboats in evening light!

Skagit Valley Daffodil Photography, WashingtonSkagit Valley Daffodils #61982b  Purchase

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Oregon Desert Photography

Oregon Desert Photography 

Warner Lakes Wetlands, Oregon Oregon Desert PhotographyWarner Lakes Wetlands, Oregon #60942  Purchase

Oregon Natural Desert Association is a grassroots organization that promotes awareness and protection of unique environments of the Oregon Desert. Several years ago I was approached by Jim Davis, one of the founders of ONDA, to contribute photos for their yearly promotional calendar. Until then I wasn’t even aware of ONDA, but I quickly jumped at the chance to have my photography help with their conservation efforts. Being a lifelong landscape and nature photographer I always look for opportunities to give something back to the environment, and also help others appreciate the natural world we live in.

So when ONDA asked if I was interested in sharing some desert photography tips for their blog I didn’t hesitate to join in. The post has numerous tips from a variety of photographers that have contribute to the ONDA calendar. Many tips can apply to all landscape and nature photography subjects, but some are specific to desert environments.

You can check out the article here: How to Take Better Images of Oregon’s High Desert 

Below are a few more tips I’d like to share.

Oregon Desert Photography Tip: Lighting

Warner Lakes Wetlands with full moon, Oregon Oregon Desert PhotographyFull moon over Warner Lakes Wetlands, Oregon #60939   Purchase

The two photos above illustrate two important tips for all landscape photography. The first being, make sure to scout out locations with potential for good compositions in advance. That way you’ll know just where to go when the light gets good later on. Here at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge I wanted to find a good spot to make some photographs of Warner Lakes. While spending the afternoon hiking the slopes of hart Mountain, I looked an elevated view along with a foreground that included some features native to the area. Here I included ubiquitous sagebrush and basalt boulders.

Secondly, photograph in the best light. There are many types of lighting conditions to work with and not all are suitable for every subject. I already photographed both of the above images the previous evening. However clouds had diminished the quality of light. The next morning I awoke early, ready to work in the soft saturated light present during the Blue Hour. Many photographers pack it in as soon as the sun goes down, but it’s worthwhile to keep working. The hour following sunset can offer a soft colorful glow with low contrast. Not all Blue Hour light is equal though. Wispy high clouds directly above can reflect warm light down on your subject. However, those same clouds can cancel out any color if they are situated on and below the horizon where the sun set or rises.

Oregon Desert Photography Tip: Be Patient

Owyhee River Canyon Sunset Oregon Oregon Desert PhotographySunset over Owyhee Canton, Oregon  #56352   Purchase

The photos above and below illustrate another important tip, be patient. Watch the weather, and wait it out until the light is gone. In both photos I experienced good light at the last minute. The weather had been dismal and grey for the entire day, and it didn’t look good for evening light. Both locations were very remote, especially Owyhee Canyon. Meaning there was no cell signal, so I couldn’t check weather forecasts. With nowhere else to go it just made sense to wait and see what happened, in these instances I was lucky.

When photographing the immensely popular Painted Hills, I was the only photographer that stayed. Everyone else gave up on the light and left. I also had my doubts until a tiny clearing in the clouds opened up on the horizon. Fortunately this clearing was were the sun would be setting. When the sun poked through this clearing I had less five minutes of good light to work with, but it was enough.

Painted Hills Oregon Oregon Desert PhotographyPainted Hills, Oregon #44747   Purchase

Oregon Desert Photography Tip: Midday Light Creativity

Another tip, and one that many photographers scoff at, is don’t neglect midday light. While not as common, making good photos during the middle part of the day is possible. Interesting cloud formations or approaching storms can add an often overlooked dimension to a landscape. Also, this is a good time to get a bit creative. Experiment with minimalism, low saturation or black and white. The image below of Alvord Lake may not have the dramatic qualities to make it on the cover of Landscape or Outdoor photographer, or garner thousands of likes on Instagram or 500PX. However, it does illustrate the barren aspect of the Alvord Desert.

Painted Hills Oregon Oregon Desert PhotographyPainted Hills Oregon  #44704   Purchase

Alvord Lake Oregon Oregon Desert PhotographyClouds over Alvord Lake, Oregon  #60973  Purchase

Oregon Desert Photography Tip: Enjoy Your Surroundings!

If you’re photographing in the Oregon Desert, and especially the southeast corner, check out the many hot springs. After a job well done there’s nothing like a soak in a natural hot spring. Just sit back and enjoy the view!

Willow Creek Hot Springs Oregon Desert PhotographyWillow Creek Hot Spring, Oregon  #61026

Oregon Desert Photography

 

 

 

 

 

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New Website Alan Crowe Photography

New Website Alan Crowe Photography

Sawtooth Mountains Idaho Condo New Website Alan Crowe Photography

I’m excited to announce that I just launched a new website. With the title Alan Crowe Photography, this new website is dedicated to selling fine art prints.  I believe you will find this site simple, clean, functional, and easy to navigate, with a high degree of usability. I also hope you will find many images that will inspire you to place my photography in your home or office!

To clarify, Alan Crowe and Alan Majchrowicz are the same person.  Alan Crowe is a somewhat distilled version of my name. I just removed the first and last syllables and added an e to the middle syllable. In case you are wondering, Majchrowicz is pronounced muh-CROWvitch.

New Features

Since this new site focuses solely on fine art prints I want to make a clear distinction between the two. My other website still exists under the same name and will continue to offer photography for commercial stock licensing, along with fine art prints.

On this new website there are several features which aim to improve the user experience. First is a more streamlined method of purchasing prints. All photos are no more than a click away from purchasing. There is now a Lightbox feature where you can add photos selected for later review and purchase. A new page called In-Situ helps you envision what my images look like in several different interior scenarios. Another new features is the FAQ page. Here you can find on one page answers to common questions, such as shipping and print materials. Bringing the site together is a clean uncluttered look with photos organized into galleries with distinct categories.

Take a few minutes to browse through my new website, and feel free to contact me if you see anything that isn’t functioning properly or needs correction.

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Photo Highlights 2017

Photo Highlights 2017

We say it every December, yet another year has flown by! It seems it was only yesterday I was writing on this blog about my favorite images of 2016. As with every passing year we can look back and revel on our accomplishments, and learn valuable lessons from our disappointments. Hopefully we all had more of the former!

This year I was once again very fortunate to be able to travel to and photograph some great new locations. I was also thrilled to make a long awaited backpacking pilgrimage to one of my favorite spots in the North Cascades. Throughout my journeys I met some great people who shared my love for the natural world.  This past year also brought with it some valuable new clients and business opportunities. Building on these successes I hope to make 2018 an even better year!

So without further ado let’s see some of the photo highlights 2017.

John Day River

John Day River Oregon Photo Highlights 2017John Day River, Oregon  #59904   Purchase

This image of the John Day River was made during an extended spring photo tour. One of the first stops on this trip was Cottonwood Canyon State Park in north central Oregon. Designated a wild and scenic river, the John Day snakes it’s way through steep walled valleys of the Columbia Plateau. One of the few viewpoints down to the river is above Cottonwood Canyon. I  made this photo shortly before sunrise after car-camping on a muddy backroad near the rim. The green slopes can be misleading. This is a very dry region, with brown the dominant color for most of the year.

Lichens

Lichens on basalt Photo Highlights 2017Colorful Lichens on Basalt  #59871  Purchase

Down in Cottonwood Canyon colorful lichens paint exposed cliffs of Columbia Plateau basalt. Seen across the river at the campground I made it a point to check out this display. The lichen colonies are impressive enough from a distance, but a close inspection reveals another world. I spent a good part of the morning exploring the cliffs with my macro lens. Getting in close you can find an infinite range of details and abstract patterns. Some are reminiscent of fractal patterns.

Hood River Valley

Hood River Valley Orchards, OregonHood River Valley Orchards, Oregon  #60108  Purchase

After photographing in Cottonwood Canyon I returned to the Hood River Valley. I was hoping to photograph the orchards in bloom. However a cold lingering winter delayed the bloom by a few weeks. On my return only a few of the orchards offered a good display. Arriving at sunrise throngs of other photographers were already setting up. When it became apparent there would be no dramatic clouds or light, they all left. I lingered on for a few hours, slowly scouting out some compositions. The above composition, and a few others, helped make the most of a blue sky.

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta Photo Highlights 2017Mount Shasta  #60134  Purchase

Further south the same trip I was able to make this image of Mount Shasta just as I arrived in the area. Driving madly down a gravel road I was able to find this composition only minutes before the light faded. I spent several days exploring this area, however, this was the best light I encountered.,

Point Reyes

Point Reyes Beach Photo Highlights 2017Point Reyes National Seashore, California  #60262  #Purchase

Point Reyes National Seashore in California is arguably the windiest place on the North American coast. On this and a previous trip it would’ve been hard to convince me otherwise. To make this photo I crouched down behind a small boulder to shield me from the incessant wind. Even with the tripod inches off the ground with the legs spread wide I still had to hold on to the camera to reduce shaking.

Redwoods

Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) Photo Highlights 2017Coast Redwoods  #60743  #Purchase

The Redwood forests of Northern California are among some of the most beautiful and humbling places to visit. Pictures cannot convey the scale of these massive trees. They are also one of the most difficult subjects to photograph. Generally the best opportunities are from the edge of a clearing. In this case my photo was made from alongside a road. While most photos of Redwood forests utilize a wide to super wide angle lens, I used a short telephoto for this one. Of course the nearly constant fog and overcast works in your favor to accentuate colors and keep contrast manageable.

Gold Bluffs Beach

Gold Bluffs Beach, California Photo Highlights 2017Triptych, Gold Bluffs Beach, California   Purchase

On Gold Bluffs Beach in Redwoods National Park I enjoyed making a series of images of surf action as the fog cleared. The simple elements of dark sand, water, and sky were constantly shifting into new shapes and patterns. While several images from this session stand well alone, I feel this triptych helps further project the abstract nature of the experience.

Harris Beach

Harris Beach Oregon Photo Highlights 2017Harris Beach, Brookings, Oregon  #60783  Purchase

The southern Oregon coast has some of the best locations for photographers. Harris Beach State Park, in Brookings, makes a great base for days or weeks of location work. This photo was made in the twilight before dawn. A long exposure gave the creek a silky feel, which adds another dimension to the curves and textures of the composition.

Liberty Bell Mountain

Liberty Bell Mountain Washington Pass Photo Highlights 2017Liberty Bell Mountain, North Cascades, Washington  #61324  Purchase

Back on my own home turf in the North Cascades, I made this photo as park of a fun weekend of hiking in the Rainy and Washington Pass vicinities. For over 30 years I’ve visited Washington Pass and marveled at the beauty of Liberty Bell Mountain. Although I’ve photographed this scene many times in the fall, or snow covered in early spring, this was my first attempt during the height of summer. Photographic compositions here come fairly easy, with help from leading lines curves of the meandering creek. If you decide to visit this area please thread very lightly, as the meadows are fragile and are showing signs of wear and abuse.

North Cascades National Park

Whatcom Peak North Cascades National Park Photo Highlights 2017Whatcom Peak reflected in Tapto Lake, North Cascades National Park  #61497  Purchase

I made this photo last August during a six day backpacking trip to Whatcom Pass and Tapto Lakes. It’s a magical place that for various reasons took me over 20 years to return to. North Cascades National Park is a rarity in the National Park System. Over 90 % of the park is designated wilderness, with only one short gravel road intruding on it’s borders. Most of it’s magnificent rugged beauty can be seen only via hiking its many trails. Even then, some of the best views are off-trail, requiring mountaineering experience.

Whatcom Pass is an exception. You can visit this scene after trail hiking around 18 miles, over one pass, down into a deep valley, up another pass, and then straight up a rough climbers route. This trip can be made in three days by strong hikers with light packs, but I recommend a more leisurely 5-6 days. Plan a day or two of just sitting around taking in the views. You never know when you’ll get a chance to come back!

Heather Meadows

Heather Meadows Recreation Area in winterHeather Meadows, North Cascades, Washington  #61935  Purchase

Adjacent to the Mount Baker Ski Area, Heather Meadows is just a short drive up the road from my home. It’s one of the gateways into the rugged backcountry of the North Cascades, in addition to being one of my longtime go-to places for winter photography. I made this photo after the first major snowfall of the season. Slowing making my way around on skis I came across this composition in soft diffused light. I liked how the soft delicate shapes in the foreground contrasted with the harder rugged shapes in the distance.

I hope you enjoyed my Photo Highlights 2017 please feel free vote and comment on your favorite images! And don’t forget, all of these images are ready to purchase as fine art prints or commercial licensing. Just click on any image!

Thanks for viewing this post, I wish you and your families, peace, joy, and prosperity in 2018.  I hope to see you on the road and trail in soon!

Photo Highlights 2017

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Bluenose Coast Nova Scotia

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks Nova Scotia  #58819   Purchase

Bluenose Coast Nova Scotia

In my last post I left off with our departure from Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia. In this post I’ll be talking about our visit to Bluenose Coast of Nova Scotia. This area of Nova Scotia has been high on my photography wish list for many years. Bluenose Coast contains some of the most famous tourist attractions in the Province. Situated southwest of Halifax the area includes Peggy’s Cove, and the lovely coastal villages of Chester, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, and Blue Rocks. How the term Bluenose originated is up for debate, some say it is a derisive term dating to political divisions of the late eighteenth century. However, others will say it refers to a bluish variety of potato, or the nose color of locals in winter.

Rowboat, Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58804  Purchase

Our drive from Cape Breton Island down to the Bluenose Coast was again a long tiring journey. Not only was the weather rainy discouraging, the route we took was longer than anticipated. Instead of taking a direct course via the main highway, we decided on a more scenic drive along the coast. While I won’t say this was a mistake we did find the road to be exceedingly long with very few coastal views. Most of the way travelled through heavily forested lands dotted with tiny villages. Occasionally the roads breaks out on the coast with views of numerous islands. According to our travel brochures this area northeast of Halifax is a haven for wilderness loving sea kayakers. I’d love to be able to return and explore this vast area with a boat.

The Fo’c’sle Pub Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastThe Fo’c’sle Pub Chester, Nova Scotia #58700  Purchase

At Chester

Between the rain and the torturous road we decided to finish the drive to Bluenose Coast the next day. We weren’t to thrilled at the prospect of finding our way through the Halifax area at night. After anxiously getting through Halifax in the morning we decided to base our stay at Graves Island Provincial Park. Well situated near all the sites I was hoping to photograph, Graves Island also had some of the best campsites on our trip. After setting up camp we went on to check out the nearby town of Chester. Founded in 1759, Chester is a quaint village on Mahone Bay noted for stately old homes, and a thriving artist community. Along with a boat filled harbor Chester is also home to The Fo’c’sle, Nova Scotia’s oldest pub. I couldn’t resist photographing the whimsical dragon hanging above the entrance.

After a few weeks of photographing mostly nature oriented locations we were finally in Coleen’s environment. Picturesque coastal towns with lots of shops to browse through was something she had been looking forward to. Although I’m mostly a wilderness nature lover I also was enjoying the change. The next day was perhaps the most memorable of the entire trip. It was a big day with lots of sites to see and photograph on the Bluenose Coast. We began it with breakfast at The Kiwi Cafe in Chester, a colorful establishment with great food, after which we proceeded to Lunenburg and Blue Rocks. Along the way we passed by Oak Island, the site of questionable buried treasure, made famous on the History Channel’s Curse of Oak Island tv show. Needless to say, we didn’t stop by to check it out.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastMahone Bay Sailboats  #58726  Purchase

Mahone Bay & Lunenburg

Along the way we had to stop in the town Mahone Bay for the annual Scarecrow Festival and antique fair. Even without the festival the town is definitely worth a stop. Dating back to 1754, Mahone Bay has numerous eclectic boutiques, art studios, antique shops, B&Bs, and restaurants. Of course with the festival in full swing Mahone Bay was overflowing with tourists, including us. We ended up spending several hours there checking out shops and the over 250 whimsical handmade scarecrows. But we had to move on, I was anxious to scout Lunenburg and the tiny fishing community of Blue Rocks. Aside from Peggy’s Cove these to locations are perhaps the most scenic and photographed in all of Nova Scotia.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastMahone Bay Scarecrows  #58715  Purchase

Lunenburg is yet another old historic fishing town. In my mind it was the most interesting one we visited. The town sits on a gentle hill overlooking the bay, with many of the historic buildings sporting vibrant colors. For photographers looking to capture these colorful buildings on the waterfront there is no better spot than a park directly across the bay. You have the option of photographing from the waterfront or up a hill on the edge of a golf course. The later offers a wonderful elevated view of the town and boats.

Lunenburg Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastColorful Lunenburg Architecture  #58737  Purchase

Blue Rocks Fishing Community

After finding these locations and making a few photos we went on to scout Blue Rocks. Being new to the area it was a bit difficult to find among the maze of roads. However there was no mistaking it on arrival. Blue Rocks really is just a small community with several fishing shacks and boats on calm inlet. The location though is classic, old colorful fishing shacks and boats moored alongside with islands and the Atlantic as a backdrop. And the rocks are really blue, with the layers eroded into fantastic shapes. With crystal clear water and bright yellow skirts of seaweed the rocks boats and buildings presents a dazzling array of colors and shapes. I was bubbling over excitement at photographing this wonderful location! The only thing missing though were clouds, the sky was an empty electric blue. Perfect for picnics and leisurely drives but not for photography.

Boat dock Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58778  Purchase

It was still early so we went back to Lunenburg to check out the town and have a bite to eat. We found another gem at the tiny Salt Shaker Deli. I would highly recommend stopping by if you are in the area. The food was wonderful, probably the best seafood chowder in the Province, and the friendly staff and outstanding harbor view made for a memorable experience.  And if this wasn’t enough, as we were finishing our meal I noticed some interesting clouds moving in!

Rainbow, Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks Rainbow  #58795  Purchase

Blue Rocks Evening Photography

Our plan was to head back to Blue rocks after dinner for evening light, and then hurry back to Lunenburg to photograph the waterfront at twilight. Arriving at Blue Rocks the sky darkened and rain began to come down in sheets. A complete opposite of the earlier sunny blue sky. I was getting discouraged at my prospects when the showers began to move on. The elements for some great evening light were beginning to come together. Firstly a rainbow began to take shape, followed by curtains of rain and clouds being illuminated by the setting sun. Moving around I found many compositions among the boats and fishing shacks. As the light began to peak and fade I worked to photograph one of the most iconic shacks in the last glowing light of the evening. So far this was the best combination of light and subject matter on the trip.

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58807   Purchase

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58825   Purchase

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58811  Purchase

We were also able to get back to the Lunenburg location in time for more photography. I quickly set up and made some photos just as the lights began to turn on in town with a purple twilight glowing above. All in all it was a perfect autumn day, sightseeing in historic towns with Coleen, great meals, and successful photography. But there was more in store for us along the Bluenose Coast the next day at Peggy’s Cove, our final location in Nova Scotia.

Lunenburg Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastLunenburg, Nova Scotia  #58836  Purchase

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Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British Columbia

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British Columbia

Marriott Basin alpenglow, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin alpenglow, #61843    Purchase

Last month I made my third trip into Marriott Basin, in search of new landscape images. Hot on the heels of my recent trip to Whatcom Pass, I wanted to get in as many backpacking photo trips as possible before wildfire smoke returned. This season has been one of the worst in history for wildfires. Both in the western United  States and British Columbia numerous large fires are burning.

Located in the southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Marriott Basin is an extensive alpine area. Access to the area is from Cayoosh Pass on highway 99, about an hour’s drive east of Pemberton. Nearby is the extremely popular Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. While the lakes are popular with sightseers and day hikers, the Joffre Group of peaks is wildly popular with climbers and backcountry skiers.

Generally above 6000′ Marriott Basin contains several lakes and numerous peaks for climbing, most notably Marriott Peak. My previous trips to Marriott Basin entailed one overnight backpack to Mount Rohr, technically outside the basin. The other was a winter ski trip to the Wendy Thompson Hut, located at the head of the basin. The Wendy Thompson Hut is operated by the Alpine Club of Canada and is open year round. However, the hut sees most of its visitors during the winter and early spring ski season.

Avalanche warning sign Coast Mountains British ColumbiaTrailhead avalanche warning #61910    Purchase

Marriott Basin Trail

Getting into Marriott Basin is fairly straightforward, with summer access being slightly different from winter. In summer you can drive a couple of miles up a brushy gravel secondary road to the trailhead. Parking and turnaround space is extremely limited and you my need back down the road to find a spot. The total length into the basin from trailhead to the hut is around five miles with about 2000′ feet of elevation gain. I say around and about since I don’t carry a GPS and rely on maps and online trail guides instead. Depending on your fitness and pack weight the hike in can be from 2-4 hours.

Posted at the trailhead is a large sign warning of and explaining avalanche hazards, which generally is of no consequence in summer. Hikers accustomed to hiking on U.S. trail in the Pacific Northwest may be in for a rude awakening. Well marked and easy to follow, the trail receives very little maintenance. Climbing over logs around boulders and muddy areas the trail is pretty rough in places. After a short level spell the trail climbs a headwall very steeply, without switchbacks, trough forest. Near the top of this section is the turnoff for Rohr Lake and Mount Rohr. From here the trail levels off a bit and zigzags around muddy bogs and small meadows until a tricky log crossing of a stream. On my visit the water was low but in late spring early summer the crossing must be quite exciting!

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Rohr junction #61905    Purchase

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCreek crossing, Marriott Basin Trail  #61892    Purchase

The next section of the trail climbs into the subalpine zone, or the boulder zone as I call it on this trip. As soon as you start breaking out of the trees the trail is almost constantly negotiating rocks and boulders. The constant ups and downs and zigzagging can be very tiring, especially in warm weather. However the views also begin to open up now, above to the ridge tops and over to green Marriott Lake. After reaching the far end of the lake the last bit of climbing to the hut begins. Again, depending on your pack weight this section can be short or agonizingly long. In all it’s less than a mile and 200′ higher up. A level boulder filled meadow with a meandering stream is home to the hut.

Wendy Thompson Hut Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaWendy Thompson Hut  #61793    Purchase

Wendy Thompson Hut

The upper lakes were my ultimate destination, so I only paused briefly for a rest and inspection of the hut. Wendy Thompson was a ski patroller and paramedic. She died tragically in 1995 at the age of 33 in a Medivac flight crash in the Queen Charlotte Islands. As a memorial and legacy to Wendy, her parents and the ACC worked with volunteers to build this hut.

Since my last winter visit the ACC made some substantial renovations. They extended the entire length, added solar powered lighting and USB ports. They also replaced the obnoxious smell of kerosene heaters with a wood burning stove. As is usual in backcountry huts one of the tables was covered in maps, guide books, and misc. reading material. Also present was the obligatory cribbage board and multiple decks of cards.

From the hut the work begins again. Access to the upper lakes is via more and bigger boulder fields without benefit of a trail. Some well placed rock cairns mark the way but mostly it’s a pick your own best route deal. Once at the upper lakes it wide open wandering in all directions. I set up camp in a spot suitable for easy access to photo ops of the distant peaks and valley below.

Boulder field Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British ColumbiaBoulder field, cairn visible in lower right corner  #61849    Purchase

Upper Marriott Basin

The next day I did some exploring and I set my eyes on  an easy ridge within my comfort level. Hiking and easy scrambling over boulder slopes brought me to the crest with new view to the west and north. One of the reasons I picked this particular ridge was for the unobstructed views of Cayoosh Mountain. Sitting at 8200″Cayoosh  is a fairly bulky chunk of rock with the north and east aspects covered in glaciers. Looking down between me and Cayoosh was a high pass with a small green lake. To the north was a long deep valley with countless peaks on the horizon. Taking in such a view I immediately wished I had my camp set up here! Photographing in good light would be spectacular. I guess I”ll have to make another trip back sometime.

Later back at my camp I settled in to wait for evening light. Although the sky was mostly free of clouds, there was some nice alpenglow present which enabled me to make a few photos. It was nice to watch the progression of layered colors after sunset. First came yellows and oranges followed by purples and blues of the Belt of Venus.

Marriott Basin backcountry camp Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCamping in Marriott Basin #61795    Purchase

Cayoosh Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCayoosh Mountain #61805    Purchase

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British ColumbiaUpper Marriott Basin #61815    Purchase

Back at the Hut

The next day I had planned to hike out to my truck but on exploring the area near the hut I decided to stay an extra night. Near the hut were small grassy meadows and a small stream among more boulders. I found a nice campsite near the small stream which held potential for some nice photographic compositions. I tried to make some evening photos but the light was bland, especially with no clouds. In the morning it was apparent that winds had shifted. Smoke once again began to creep across the sky. Although there still weren’t any clouds the light was a bit nicer, with the smoky haze giving a more pastel hue to the scene. I set up my tripod in a few predetermined places and came away with several more photos.

I had a quick breakfast and packed up my gear. Although I wasn’t as successful with photos as hoped I did have a great time. And I did manage to find a new view that was worthy of a return trip.

Marriott Basin campsite British ColumbiaMarriott Basin Camping #61863    Purchase

Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin #61871    Purchase

Marriott Lake smoke haze, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaSmokey haze over Marriott Lake #61884    Purchase

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Bay of Fundy New Brunswick

Bay of Fundy New Brunswick

Bay of Fundy low tide Bay of Fundy New BrunswickBay of Fundy at low tide  #58545    Purchase

A year ago I made my first visit to the Bay of Fundy New Brunswick. For many years the Atlantic Provinces of Canada have been on my must see list. Last year my wife, Coleen, and I finally had the opportunity to visit and photograph in this beautiful region. Our plan was to spend six weeks traveling to Nova Scotia and New England for fall color photography. Since we had to drive through New Brunswick we couldn’t miss the opportunity to check out the fabled Bay of Fundy.

Fundy National Park

Fundy National Park was our first stop in the Atlantic Provinces after leaving New England. Fundy National Park showcases rugged coastline, over 25 waterfalls, dense Acadian Forest, and of course the famous tides. We excitedly pulled over at the first overlook of the bay. After such a long drive across the continent it was a welcome sight to see and smell saltwater again. We checked in at the visitor center to secure a campsite then quickly set up our home for the night.

Fishing Boats Bay of Fundy New BrunswickFishing boats, Alma, New Brunswick  #58493   Purchase

We stayed in Headquarters Camp and found it very convenient, being very close to the bay. Campers in Fundy National Park have a variety of options available in three different campgrounds. You can choose between traditional tent and RV sites, yurts, rustic cabins, oTENTik, or the new Goutte d’Ô. Goutte d’Ô is a structure with a water droplet shape suitable for couples or family. I must warn, however, along with the park’s daily use fee per person, the cost of renting out an oTENTiks, or Goutte d’Ô could be higher then a nice motel room.

Alma, Bay of Fundy

Our next objective was to pay a visit to the small town of Alma in search of lobster. While in town I made some photos of fishing boats moored to piers at high tide. My plan was to make some comparison photos of low and high tides. We searched the town but couldn’t find any open lobster shacks. It turned out the season had closed so there wasn’t any lobster available. So we settled for the next best thing, clam chowder and fish & chips. I wish I could report that we had a good introduction to east coast seafood, but it wasn’t to be. The clam chowder was very watery, with hardly any cream clams or flavor. Unfortunately the fish & chips were no better, a small fillet covered in thick very greasy batter. Although we were sorely disappointed, our dining luck will greatlyimprove in the coming weeks!

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Dickson Falls

Aside from the obvious attraction of the bay and it’s tides, Fundy National Park also has over 100 kilometers of trails. I wanted to check one of those trails before getting ready for evening photography. I decided on the popular Dickson Falls Trail, a short walk into a forested ravine to a famous waterfall. Upon entering the forest I was immediately struck by the heavy fragrant scent of spruce trees. Forests in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are classified as Acadian, a mix of northern hardwoods and boreal spruce usually found in the far north. A well constructed boardwalk trail takes you through a cool green forest which felt more like home in the Pacific NW. Due to all of New England and the Atlantic Provinces experiencing a severe drought, Dickson Falls turned out to be a disappointing trickle.

Bay of Fundy New BrunswickBay of Fundy headlands  #58518   Purchase

Bay of Fundy New BrunswickFog over Bay of Fundy  #58525   Purchase

After the hike we returned to a wide overlook of the bay and settled in to see what kind of light evening will bring. A quaint feature of Fundy National Park is the placement of red Adirondack chairs in quiet scenic locations. It was relaxing to take advantage of the chairs as we gazed across the bay hoping to see whales. While we didn’t see any whales in the bay I did manage to make a few semi-abstract photographs of cloud patterns.

Bay of Fundy at low tide Bay of Fundy New BrunswickFishing boats at low tide, Alma New Brunswick  #58535   Purchase

Fundy Low Tide

I got up early the next morning to drive down to the bay for low tide. It was quite a sight to see such a low tide. All the fishing boats were now resting high and dry on a gravel and mud seafloor. After scouting for photos along the expansive low tide beach I headed back to camp to pack up and move on to Nova Scotia. I was hoping to make a stop along the way at Hopewell Rocks to photograph the famous sea stacks. However, as we pulled into a full parking lot the sight of a large quantity of tour busses was discouraging. I knew from experience that the best views for photography would be crowed with tourists. So with a tinge of regret we instead drove on to our next main destination, Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia.

It seemed a shame though to have only a little more than a day for this area. I guess we’ll have to come back again!

Low tide Bay of Fundy New BrunswickBay of Fundy low tide  #58540   Purchase

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Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2

Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park

Mount Challenger North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Mount Challenger, North Cascades National Park  #61740    Purchase

Several weeks ago I was finally able to make a return visit to Whatcom Pass and Tapto Lakes. In the heart of North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass is quintessential North Cascades wilderness. It rises out of deep untouched forest valleys to jaw dropping views of rugged glacier clad peaks. From Part 1

Exploring Tapto Lakes Basin

Tapto Lakes is one of those locations that many hikers dream about visiting. Remote, high in the subalpine, and surrounded by rugged snowcapped peaks, the lakes have all the features of a classic backpacking destination. Tapto Lakes sit in a basin about 800′ above Whatcom Pass. The basin contains on large lake and several smaller lakes set in a heather filled subalpine meadow. The basin is shaped somewhat like an amphitheater, with the main show being the stupendous views of Mount Challenger and Whatcom Peak. Situated in a designated cross-country zone by the park service, with a permit you are free to camp anywhere among the lakes, though with a few caveats.

After investing two days of hard work reaching the lakes I woke up rested and refreshed. Content on not having to hike anywhere with a full pack I took in the view and planned my day. Of course since my main reason for being here was landscape photography I woke up early to survey the light. I had already identified several excellent spots to run to in the event of some great morning light. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case on my first morning, so I had lots of leisure time to explore all the lakes. My usual modus operandi is to spend most of the day scouting out and lining up possible compositions. I then try to assign a priority to them and work from top down when the lighting becomes appropriate. My first evening had some very nice light, enabling me to photograph some classic reflections of Whatcom Peak.

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The View North

On my second day I decided to move camp to a higher location. My map showed a very small lake not far away in its own small talus fringed basin on Red Face Mountain. It appeared to offer even more commanding views, along with quick access to a ridge on Red Face Mountain. The short hike up was definitely worth it. The lake still had some snow along one side and also had some good composition qualities. I quickly found an excellent spot to set up camp, after which I hiked up to the ridge.

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As I crested the ridge I was presented with incredible views of the wild peaks to the north. Dominating the view was Bear Mountain and the jagged needle-like spires of Mox Peaks and Silver Peaks. Far below the precipitous and crumbling ridge were the turquoise colored Reveille Lakes. All of this territory was completely devoid of trails, a true wilderness only accessible to the most determined mountaineers. I sat there for quite some time, contemplating how fortunate I was to be in such a special place. I got up after a while and headed back down the slope, wondering if I’ll ever return.

Waiting for Light

Back down at the lake the day was wearing on and it was time to set up some compositions. Some clouds had moved in and were swirling arounds the summits of nearby peaks. I was hopeful they wouldn’t completely sock in everything before sunset. I moved to the back of the lake where Whatcom Peak cast a nice reflection in the still waters. Waiting to see what would happen I photographed a series of images in which the clouds and reflection created a sort of Rorshach effect. Although the light didn’t have a dramatic saturation of color, I did like some of the subtle pastel tones. All in all it was a very satisfying day.

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Whatcom Peak reflection North Cascades, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Whatcom Peak cloud reflection, North Cascades National Park  #61630    Purchase

Middle Lakes

The next day feeling that I accomplish my goals and not wanting to overly duplicate images, I packed up and moved on. A bit east of Tapto Lakes are a few more small lakes, the most accessible being Middle Lakes. I decided to spend my last day here before heading back. Climbing back up to the ridge I turned and bid a somewhat sad goodbye to the lakes I had dreamed of revisiting all those years.

Middle Lakes turned out to be an easy short mile or so further, there was only a steep rock slope to cross to add a bit of excitement. When I reached upper Middle Lake I found the setting to be somewhat desolate. Surrounded by steep slopes on three sides and a boulder filed at the outlet, there didn’t seem to be any good campsites. I moved on to check out the lower lake. The lower lake was more attractive, but it too afforded little flat ground for camping. However, when scouting for campsites I noticed an odd mound near the lake outlet with intense iron red soil. There appeared to be springs emanating from the mound. The main spring had formed small red mineral terraces similar to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. I felt the water but it was cool to the touch.

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Mount Challenger North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Swirling clouds over Challenger Glacier, North Cascades National Park  #61711    Purchase

I ultimately found a nice spot for the night among boulders and heather meadows with a commanding view of Mount Challenger. For a mountain with such an imposing glacier it seemed that its elevation should be more than 8236′. During my entire stay in the area I noticed a nearly constant flow of  clouds near its summit. Apparently for such a modest height Mount Challenger tends to make its own weather, partly explaining the huge glacier. Most of that afternoon and evening I enjoyed and photographed a show of mists whimsically curling around the summit. To commemorate my trip to this special place I made several photos of my campsite, including a couple with the tent illuminated.

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Hiking Out

The next day it was time to head out, retracing my steps down to Whatcom Pass and into the Chilliwack River Valley. Although I was filled with a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, I was also sad to say goodbye. I faced a long day of hiking filled with retrospection on this and my first trip to Whatcom Pass many years back. Once again a highlight was riding the cable car across the river. After around ten miles I reached Copper Creek Camp, tired with plenty of hot spots on my heels and toes. The next day I faced the stiff climb back up to Hannegan Pass and then the final miles out to the trailhead where my truck waited.

Nearing the pass I began to meet more hikers. Many of them were just beginning trips similar to mine. You could easily see the excitement in their faces, anticipating the wonders that were waiting for them. Of course I stopped to chat and helped stoke their excitement by passing on some of the highlights from my own trip. Then it was down the pass for the last five miles of the trip. Although I was out of North Cascades National Park and in the Mount Baker Wilderness, it was easy to sense civilization was close. I began to see more people on a wider well maintained trail. I got back to my truck in a few hours, in a parking lot that had dozens of cars in it.

Tired but happy I began to drive home. I began thinking how soon I might get a chance to go back to Whatcom Pass.

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Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2

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Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1

Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National

Whatcom Peak reflected in Tapto Lake, North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Whatcom Peak reflected in Tapto Lake # 61497    Purchase

A Long Awaited Journey

Everyone has a place they dream of, somewhere that holds a special spot in their heart. At some point in their lives, usually at a young age, they see a picture or read a story about a place that for various reasons grabs their imagination. They carry it with them over the years and hope someday for the chance to visit it in person. For me it has always been mountain wilderness. And not just any run-of-the-mill mountain wilderness. It had to have a primordial feel. Dark mysterious forests, raging rivers, and rugged peaks with jagged rock summits jutting out from expansive glaciers. For me the North Cascades fit the bill perfectly. It was this vision that drew me to Whatcom Pass many years ago.

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Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1

Several weeks ago I was finally able to make a return visit to Whatcom Pass and Tapto Lakes, in North Cascades National Park. In the heart of the park, Whatcom Pass is quintessential North Cascades wilderness. It rises out of deep untouched forest valleys to jaw dropping views of rugged glacier clad peaks. Far away from any road town or cell signal. My first visit was way back in the late eighties and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. There have been many reasons for my delayed return, not least of which is the long tiring hike accompanied by swarms of flying insects.

Unlike most backpacking trips this one has a few major ups and downs in addition to covering lots of miles. The first day climbs a pass and then descends deep into another valley. The next day you must climb all the way up to another pass, then higher to the lakes basin. In all you’ll cover around 40+ miles and about 8500′ of elevation, including side trips, before returning to the trailhead. A very strong hiker could make it in two days, most people allow three to four days. My primary goal was for photography and relaxation so I gave six days to accomplish this trip. Aside from the photography thing I always feel that if you work so hard to get some place why hurry to leave? Take your time to relax and enjoy the surroundings!

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Hiking to Hannegan Pass

On the first day I made an early start, hoping to make it through the brushy Ruth Creek Valley before the black flies awoke. It’s about five miles and 2000′ up to Hannegan Pass, along a very scenic trail that sees very heavy foot traffic. I’ve been up this trail to the pass nearly a dozen times and never get tired of the open views of rugged Nooksack Ridge. About halfway up you begin to see snowcapped Ruth Mountain guarding the head of the valley. Ruth Mountain itself is a popular destination for hikers climbers, and skiers in early season. Although I’m not much of a mountaineer I managed to hike up the glacier to the summit several years back. From the top you get an incredible view of Mount Shuksan and it’s glaciers spilling into Nooksack Cirque. Truly awe-inspiring!

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Down the Chilliwack Valley

On reaching Hannegan Pass I took a rest to have a snack and dry off my sweat soaked shirt. I also chatted with a group of volunteers that were part of a trail maintenance crew. From here it’s all downhill into the wild Chilliwack River Valley, losing all that hard-won elevation. Shortly after leaving the pass I finally entered North Cascades National Park, indicated by a weather beaten-wooden sign. The hike down into the valley is through a beautiful untouched fragrant forest of silver fir, mountain hemlock and grand fir. The feeling here of true wilderness is very tangible, even the trail seems wilder. From the pass I needed to travel another five miles to U.S. Cabin camp, my first night’s destination.

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Ten miles is about my limit for hiking with a full mutli-day pack, so I was glad to reach the camp and set up my tent. Amazingly there were very few bugs so far and I was able to relax and eat dinner along the river unmolested. I was even able to make a few photos of the impressive forest at this camp. That night I turned in early in anticipation of a grueling hike the next day. I had to hike another seven miles and over 3000′ up to my next and ultimate destination, Tapto Lakes above Whatcom Pass.

The next morning I again got up early to hit the trail. The first stop of the day was the unique crossing of the Chilliwack River via a hand operated cable car. I don’t know how common these contraptions are but for most hikers it’s a highlight of their trip. Later in the season crossing the river on foot wouldn’t be very hard, but why pass up such an interesting experience? Two hikers and their packs can fit in the car which is operated by pulling on a rope. It’s pretty easy getting across the first half since the cable sags down a bit.  After that you begin to pull your weight up to the opposite side. By the time I got the car docked on the platform my arms were pretty tired from pulling. Of course I had to make sure I got a few photos before moving on.

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Climbing to Whatcom Pass

After the river crossing it’s back to work again on the trail, which now goes through a very brushy section. Years ago, on my first visit, the chest high brush was covered in morning dew. After a half an hour of hiking I was soaking from the waist down. A few miles later the climb to Whatcom Pass begins in earnest. The trail begins to rise from the valley bottom and gradually views open up to rugged Easy Ridge. After what seems like an eternity Whatcom Peak comes into view and the terrain begins to take on a subalpine look. I arrived at Whatcom Pass exhausted and again drenched in sweat from the climb.

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I still had another mile and 800′ feet of elevation to travel to my camp at Tapto Lakes. At this point I was wiped out and didn’t think I could make it. The trail to the lakes is more like a climbers route, with sections so steep you need to pull yourself up by root and branches. While deciding if I had the energy I spoke with a few other backpackers doing the cross-park hike to Ross Lake. Like me they spent the whole morning climbing up to Whatcom Pass. However, they only paused briefly to take in the views before heading down again into the adjacent valley.

Again I though to myself, what’s the point in all the work if you hurry past the best parts? The previous day I met a woman doing the Pacific Northwest Trail. This 1200 mile long trail starts at Glacier Park in Montana and ends at the Pacific Ocean. Like the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian trails, you need to hike a set number of miles each day to complete it. During our brief conversation I couldn’t help admiring her determination and stamina. At the same time I also felt a bit sorry for her that she needed to hurry through such beauty to stay on schedule.

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At Tapto Lakes

By this time I felt physically and mentally rested enough slog up to reach my camp at Tapto Lakes. Taking it very slowly, the climb proved easier than I anticipated. Soon enough the views exploded to include Mount Challenger and the imposing rock buttresses of Whatcom Peak. A short 200′ descent into the basin brought me to beautiful Tapto Lakes. The day was still young so I took my time and leisurely explored the area to find the best campsite. The only other people there was a small group staying at the pass below. They had day hiked up to the lakes to take in the views and a quick dip in the frigid lake waters. When they left I had the entire place all to myself!

Time to rest and take it all in, and do nothing but marvel at the rugged beauty that spread before my eyes. At last I returned to the place that held my imagination spellbound for nearly 28 years.

Coming up in part two: Exploring and photographing at Tapto Lakes.    Click here to read part two

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Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1

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