Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54613 Purchase
Here is another image from last September’s trip to Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, since this image has garnered an exceptionally favorable response on social media I felt that I should fill in a little background on how it was made. This was my third trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park and I had high hopes of getting some stunning images of the mountain. I had allocated five days to fulfill my goal. However, by the third day I was becoming frustrated by the lack of interesting light. The weather was spectacular, warm with blue skies. But while great for outdoor activities it didn’t possess the kind of light I had hoped for. Finally on the third morning clouds from an approaching storm arrived just as the sun was coming up. Perfect timing and conditions to illuminate the sky and mountains in a warm glow. Just what I wanted!
Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54615 Purchase
The images above were some of the first made as the sky warmed with a reddish magenta glow. I had thoroughly investigated this spot the day before to see where and how the best compositions lined up. I knew there were many possibilities for both horizontal and vertical images. So I mentally took note on which were the best and planned the shoot accordingly if the light cooperated. This plan paid off the next morning as I knew there would be a limited amount of time before the light began to fade.
By the time I had finished working this area the light was still going strong. About a half mile east along this basin there was another spot I planned on photographing in the evening or next morning. With the approaching weather I had a feeling there might not be another opportunity like this one. So I gathered up my equipment and ran along the basin as fast I could, and hastily set up my tripod. By this time most of the warm dawn glow had faded but the light was still intense on the clouds. The third image in this post is one of the last from that morning. The post processing was nothing more than adjusting levels and curves with some burning and dodging. I like to keep things on that end as simple and strait forward as possible.
Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54646Purchase
Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54651rPurchase
Summer is nearly over, and now that we’re in that exciting pause before the coming fall season I have some time to catch up on a few posts I’ve been too busy to work on. If you’ve been following my updates you’ll know that most of the height of summer was spent close to home. Specifically the Mount Baker Wilderness of the North Cascades. Fortunately for me this wilderness is only an hour or two drive from my home. Practically in my backyard. During the month of August I photographed the following areas accessed via the Mount Baker Highway:
During the last week of August I was hoping to visit one more spot that might offer good displays of wildflowers. I almost forgot about Heliotrope Ridge. It has been around twelve years since my last visit. And it’s been twenty since I taught a weekend photography workshop there through the North Cascades Institute.
Heliotrope Ridge trail is extremely popular due to the easy and close access to views of the sprawling Coleman Glacier. And also because it is the start to one of the main climbing routes to the summit of Baker. Since I’ve been there before I knew that the best wildflower meadows were up high near the edge of the glaciers and snowfields. I also knew that I would have the place to myself if I went during the week. Sure enough during my three nights on the ridge I saw only one other person wandering around. The few climbing parties that set up camp stuck to the glaciers with eyes on the summit.
The wildflowers of Heliotrope Ridge were markedly different from those on the hikes to Skyline Divide and Hannegan Peak. There I came across fields mainly of valerian, lupine, corn lilies, and heather, but on Heliotrope there was a greater variety of flowers with an emphasis on yellow arnicas. Also since this area is so close to Mount Baker it receives much more snow, therefore the plants had just escaped the confines of winter and began blooming in late August while other subalpine ridges in the area were already well past peak and had gone to seed.
Another thing to do aside from gawking at the views and wildflowers is to wander cross country, there are no trails at this point. Going west along increasingly barren slopes of mixed volcanic rock and crumbly slate there are numerous rushing snowmelt streams. If you are prepared for steep snowfield/glacier travel then continue higher up to the actual crest of Heliotrope Ridge. Here the ridge consists of a wild display volcanic cinders jagged blocks of andesite and lava bombs, looking like it just cooled yesterday. Even better though is the view from the ridge of seldom seen Thunder Glacier and basin below Colfax and Lincoln Peaks, this is truly a wild and lonesome area of Mount Baker!
Mount Baker climber camp on Heliotrope Ridge #54432 Purchase
North Cascades sunrise from Hidden Lakes Peak #54196 Purchase
What a great summer season for photography! Despite canceling my last trip in July to British Columbia, due to wildfires, I’ve been very busy adding lots of new images to my files. While waiting for the wildfire season to moderate I’ve returned to several of my favorite locations in the North Cascades. Since this is the height of summer in the mountains I selected some sub-alpine locations. Good displays of wildflowers and rugged vistas were my goal. These locations are mainly in North Cascades National Park, and the Mount Baker Wilderness.
Late July and August is the driest time of the year in the Northwest. It also has the most predictable weather. Sometimes though this means the weather can be a little too good, with empty blue skies. Great for outdoor activities, but not the greatest for photography. Fortunately my timing was spot on and in a few days I was treated to some fantastic lights shows in the mornings and evenings.
For now I’ll just post some image highlights from the first few locations since I still have tons of editing and processing to do. I also have another summer trip planned to a very exciting new location. That one will put the brakes on any further posts for a few weeks. Stay tuned, and don’t forget that prints and commercial licensing are available for all of these photos!
Pink Heather North Cascades Sunset #542154 Purchase
This article was originally posted back in August of 2008. Since my main summer photography trip for 2014 will be an extended visit to several very remote and seldom visited areas in British Columbia, I felt it appropriate to bring this one back to light. To date this trip to the Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia was one of my favorite and exciting in recent years. Despite an abundance of National Parks and Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwest, it is getting harder every year to find a place to visit and photograph that is relatively unknown and has a truly remote wilderness feel to it. The Athelney Pass/Salal Creek area fits the bill in all aspects, even though it has no wilderness park or protected area designation.
Begin original 2008 post:
Mount Ethelweard and Icemaker Mountain #18242 Purchase
For the last six days I’ve been working on editing all the new images from my recent trip to Athelney Pass in British Columbia’s Coast Range. This trip was one of the best and most productive amongst a string of excellent photo trips in 2008. So it’s worth adding a few words and pics about it. I was vaguely aware of this area until early last month while researching nearby Coast Mountain routes and trails on the web. It only took seeing a couple of photos on Google to convince me to make a trip there.
Salal Creek Coast Mountains British Columbia #17884 Purchase
Researching Athelney Pass in a couple of guidebooks revealed that it wasn’t too far away. Just a 4-5 hours drive north from Bellingham. I felt four-six days would provide ample time for exploration and photography. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there is no formal trail leading into this rugged wilderness. Meaning that while the hike to Athelney Pass is only a modest 8-10 or so miles in length and 2200 feet elevation gain. However it felt like it was about twice that much.
Athelney Pass Mountains British Columbia #19083 Purchase
Derelict mining cabin and equipment at Athelney Pass #17979 Purchase
There are several sections requiring route-finding in the forest. Along with a couple of torturous sections of bashing through thick nearly impenetrable slide alder. The rest of the route is “easy” hiking in open country along the river bank and steep loose glacial moraines. If your definition of easy is hiking for miles on unstable ankle breaking rocks the size of baseballs and bowling balls! All of this plus a lengthy logging road access meant that I had the whole area mostly to myself. I only saw one other person in six days and that was from a distance. The only other downside to this trip was encountering the discarded items from past mining exploration. There is a derelict cabin rusting equipment, plus discarded barrels of fuel higher up the ridge. (By 2014 all this may have been cleaned up since my 2008 visit)
As an added bit of excitement I came across a very large Grizzly Bear on the road as I was driving out after the hike. I’ll never doubt the speed at which these animals can run. I was driving a gravel road when it burst out of the brush in front of my vehicle. It took off down the road at an accelerating speed before disappearing into the brush again.
So if you are looking for a new place to go hiking away from the crowds with a true feeling of raw wilderness, and don’t mind putting in the extra effort this area might be for you.
Icemaker Mountain British Columbia #18270 Purchase
Coast Mountains Sunset British Columbia 50319 Purchase
Yesterday I finished editing and uploading all the new images from my recent Marriott Basin Coast Mountains Winter Photography trip in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. on this trip I was I was honored to be accompanied by Vancouver Photographer Adam Gibbs. I don’t know if Adam somehow brought along a good measure of luck, since we enjoyed several outstanding displays of light during our stay.
Marriott Basin has been on my must visit winter list for a number of years now. However, it has been routinely put off due to poor snow and weather conditions. This year, following a series of storms, forecasts showed an extended period of good weather. I knew it was time to make the trip.
Wendy Thompson Hut Marriott Basin British Columbia 50424 Purchase
Skiing to the Wendy Thompson Hut in Marriott Basin
The basecamp for this trip was to be the Wendy Thompson Hut, operated by the Whistler section of the Alpine Club of Canada. 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.
I routinely use skis to access many winter backcountry locations, but I’m definitely not the most graceful or competent skier. Especially when carrying a multi-day pack loaded down with camera gear! Since we were staying at a hut I didn’t need to pack a tent or a few other items, however my pack was still heavy with camera gear and extra winter clothing. Fortunately due to several parties exiting the hut the day before we arrived, we didn’t need to break trail through deep snow.
Wendy Thompson Hut Marriott Basin British Columbia 50328 Purchase
The first mile or so is easy, traveling along a summer access road. Soon after the road ends the real work begins. Almost immediately the route tackles a steep forested headwall. This section is hard enough in summer, but in deep snow with a heavy pack and skis it becomes a grueling task. Sooner than it seems the grade eases up and the forest begins to open up. From here to Lower Marriott Lake there are several areas of possible avalanche danger.
At the head of Lower Marriott Lake is the last steep section to climb before reaching the hut. After several hours of hard work the sight of the hut is a welcome relief!
Winter Alpenglow over Marriott Basin British Columbia 50319 Purchase
Evening Photography at Marriott Basin
Upon arriving at the hut, settling in, and quenching our thirst with some hot drinks, it was time to scout out nearby photo locations. When we started out earlier in the day the sun was shining in a blue sky with a few wisps of high altitude clouds. However by the time we arrived at the hut clouds had moved in, turning the sky a solid grey. Fortunately within a few minutes of checking out possible locations, the sun broke briefly through the clouds. The surrounding peaks were tasking on a warm glow, and I knew that it was time to get to work. I quickly managed to find a knoll close by that afforded an unobstructed view of the basin and peaks with some good foreground material to work with.
After setting up the first few photos it became apparent that the clouds were beginning to dissipate to create all the elements for an epic sunset and alpenglow. I quickly got into the zone and worked hard at composing as many different images as possible. Considering all the cloudless smoke hazed locations I experienced last August and September this was payback time in a big way!
The next day Adam and I went on a short ski tour to explore the upper basins above the hut. Shortly above the hut the terrain enters a true alpine landscape with wide open views in all directions. Carrying only a day pack on mostly hard packed snow the skiing was very pleasant, and I took my time to enjoy it all! In summer this area is filled with endless boulder fields and small lakes. However, in winter this is all covered in snow, which the wind has blown into beautiful shapes and patterns.
Later in the day the light once again put on a grand display. The clouds on this evening appeared stacked in layers as the setting sun illuminated them. This time I worked mainly with short to medium telephoto compositions to close in on the clouds behind the ridges so as not to duplicate the wide angle photos from the first evening.
If You Go
The hut in Marriott Basin is a little less than 5 miles in with around 1600′ elevation to gain. The trailhead to the hut is at Cayoosh Pass about an hour northeast of Whistler. You must contact the ACC of Whistler to reserve a place for a nominal fee. They will also provide you with access details.
The hut is heated by a wood stove and is equipped with pots, pans, and eating utensils. However, you’ll need to provide your own stove and fuel to cook with. There is also electricity via solar panels, and even USB outlets. Make sure you bring a good winter sleeping bag, in case there is no wood left for the stove, or enough bodies to heat the hut.
In winter backcountry skis, snowshoes, or split-boards are your best options. Skinny cross country skis are definitely not ta good option. Also, make sure you carefully consult the most recent avalanche reports before you go.
It also should be noted that the entire area surrounding Marriott Basin offers excellent ski touring opportunities. While this trip was primarily for landscape photography, there are countless downhill runs for skiers to explore. Everything from safe and easy, to life threatening expert lines. An excellent map of the area is available through Backcountry Skiing Canada.
Marriott Basin Coast Range British Columbia 50356 Purchase
Upper Marriott Basin Coast Range British Columbia 50352 Purchase
Upper Marriott Basin Coast Range British Columbia 50343 Purchase