I’ve been on the road in Death Valley National Park, Olympic National Park, and the Central Cascades for the past two weeks. My brother Lee & I are currently on a 1 month “spring” road trip which will hit all of the national parks in the South West, and most on the west coast.
We’ve knocked out 84 miles of backpacking so far and will continue into Zion National Park tomorrow, for 4 days, followed by the Escalante, Capital Reef, and Canyonlands.
Prior to heading back out I wanted to drop off my latest photos for April. I also linked a bunch of helpful tutorials for everyone below:)
As always, thanks for looking!
After touching down in El Calafate, Chile I caught the 4PM bus out of town to El Chalten.
It was early March & autumn color was starting to kick up pretty strong in the Andes Range. The weather was still nice, it was 70 degrees on the day I arrived.
It takes about 3 days to get into El Chalten from Seattle Washington where I live. With me I brought all my backpacking food, for the first two weeks, including lots of calorie dense nuts and trail mix. This allowed me to hit the trail by 7PM that evening and not return back to El Chalten for the next 12 days.
My goal was for the first evening was to catch sunset ( which ended up being really nice ) just out of El Chalten with views of the Fitz Roy Group.
After that I hiked 7 mi further out in the dark to an area where there would be some really nice views of the night sky as well as a few old trees to show scale.
The night skies in that region of the world are some of the darkest and most vivid that I’ve ever seen, I’d say darker than deep in the Olympics Range of Washington and even Capital Reef National Park.
None the less I got fairly lucky that there were clear skies. After the sun had been down for 4-5 hours the air started to get dense and foggy at this point the sky was no longer visible & I had to setup camp nearby and call it a night.
Prior to everything fogging up I was able to capture 10 milky way images. This is the first that I’ve gotten around to processing. More coming soon from different parts of the trip.
I just put out a new video ( editing the photo above ) showing my entire Noise Reduction Workflow for star, milky way, and night sky photography. You can access it using the link below.
Guardians of the Light
One of our last days in Patagonia we woke up early to catch sunrise which we had scouted the night before. The quick 5 mile hike to this area in the dark was fairly easy since the trail was well marked.
It looked like we were going to be clouded in, but by the time the sun was nearly up everything was starting to turn pink. 5 minutes later it was over. Nothing but grey clouds. Good times!
I teach the exact shooting methods used to capture this image, in Class 1 of my Free Photography classes, which you can access using the link below.
The Alaska Range, Alaska
This was one hell of a night of shooting. Paul Weeks and I landed in Fairbanks at 3:30AM. Slept in the airport and waited for our Xterra rental. Yes I rent the same vehicle as I own at home, I’m weird. I know the thing works!
Anyways, after loading up we were headed out of Fairbanks as fast as possible, until we saw Denny’s. After a huge breakfast we were back on the road headed a few hundred miles south to Denali National Park, where we hoped to catch the Northern Lights. Hoped…
We arrived at Denali at 2PM, the sun was starting to set already as it was November.
Strapping our snowshoes on we headed for the summit of a nearby peak to shoot sunset. No light, but clear skies… were good to go for the Aurora or so we think.
5PM it’s completely dark. The temps start to drop. Really drop. We didn’t know much much, but after 3 hours there was zip zero aurora activity. We snowshoed the 7 miles back to the Xterra and turned the thing on.
It started with no issue. You actually plug the cars into an outlet at the park so the battery stays warm. The temperature said -25 degrees F. Great! Love it. We did jumping jacks and ran in place for an hour.
Still no aurora. It’s now 10PM. I had the idea to drive all the way back, North of Fairbanks and straight into the Arctic Circle 300 miles back the way we came.
We got some music on and got to it. By the time we were within 100 miles of the Arctic Circle the lights started to flair up. We were in the middle of nowhere and snowshoed out into the woods.
By that time they were really kicking in. I’d say level 5-6. For the next hour we shot one of the best displays I’ve seen, at least at that time 2 years ago. After that hour, they went away, not to be seen for another 3 days.
9 hours of driving, 10 miles of hiking, we did get Denny’s and a few RAW files out of it;)
Learn how to capture images like this using my Free Northern Lights Photography Tutorial ( Shooting & Editing ) linked below.
The Pacific Coast – Southern Oregon
From one of the best stretches of coastline on the Southern Oregon Coast. The half moon lights the entire coast, beaches and massive sea stacks.
We got really lucky in having some nice clouds and patches of stars prior to the whole thing clouding over.
Look closely at the bottom left of the photo and you’ll see the small stream that feeds into the Pacific Ocean. Just 30 feet behind me that stream drops off a waterfall right down onto the beach, behind that mossy forests, then highway 101, then logging, lots of logging, almost infinite.
So much logging that only 2 small patches of old growth forests still exists on the entire Oregon Coast. The Rock Creek Wilderness and the Cummins Creek Wilderness. Thankfully they are protected, but the rest of Oregon is hurting pretty badly.
Learn to take shots just like this using my Free Star Photography Tutorial linked below.
Temple of the Moon
Capital Reef National Park, Utah
I’ll always remember this as one of the most enjoyable nights of shooting in my life.
My brother Lee and I rolled into Capital Reef National Park 2 days prior on a road trip which started in Pennsylvania 11 days before that.
On the way to Capital Reef we did 3 days of backpacking in Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District and the snow covered dunes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado where it hit -35 degrees F one night. We slept in the Xterra in 35 degree bags and froze. I remember waking up and turning on the engine at 5AM. Everything was covered in frost, inside and out.
It was my first time at all 3 parks and shooting the night sky in Capital Reef & Canyonlands has been high on the locations list for years.
Back to Capital Reef and the shot above. After exploring Notom Bullfrog Road all day we headed into the Cathedral Valley to catch sunset at Temple of the Sun. Next we drove over to photograph Temple of the Moon for Moonset.
As soon as the Moon past west of vertical over the top of the Temple it started to cast really nice light on the entire west side of the Temple. This made it perfect for photographing the thing backlit with star trails overhead. I’ll put this shot out later.
When the moon dropped lower in the sky I walked around to the North Eastern side of the Temple to take this shot. I knew that the different large spires would cast erie moon shadows on the snow.
We ended up shooting here for 5 hours then setting up tents near the temple and calling it a night. We had a little bit of fresh snow which I was hoping to make for a great sunrise but clouds came in and we got nothing.
A great night of shooting none the less.
Crossing the Nisqually River
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
After heavy snow of nearly 16 inches we were able to explore some of Mount Rainier’s ancient river valleys. This shot comes from a 10 shot vertical pano which allowed me to catch the massive size of the glacier rivers at Mount Rainier in Washington State.
Want to start exploring the wilderness with your camera gear? I’ve created a free tutorial to help you out & linked it below:)
Backpacking Through the Needles District
Canyonlands National Park, Utah – January 2016
During the winter you rarely see anyone in the Southwest. This made it a great time for us to take multiple day backpacking trips through some of the usually crowded locations of Canyonlands National Park.
Driving in Iceland During Level 9 Aurora Activity
East Fjords – Iceland
From a 12 day trip through Iceland with my friend Paul Weeks. During the trip we had some of the most intense aurora displays I have ever seen. Many nights we had level 4-6 activity, and others all the way up to level 9!
Hiking Through the Old Growth Forests on the Pacific Coast
Olympic National Park – Washington
Taken on a 3 day backpacking trip down the South Coast Wilderness Route in Olympic National Park. Click here & read the entire trip report.