Alpine views

I think this might be the very last of these Throwback Thursday posts. Coming up with a theme for these posts has been fun, and sometimes a little challenging. Today’s link had me scratching my head for a few moments until I realized the connection: both photos were taken in one of my favourite places, the alpine.

1. TBT to a beautiful Thursday in September 2012 on the Skyline trail in Jasper, the view south over Curator Lake from the Notch

First up is this stunning view from the Notch, the highest point along the 44-km Skyline Trail. What can’t be seen is the howling gale that greeted us as we came over the rise. We were oh-so glad of the sunshine after the previous day’s miserable cold rain, and the view was as breathtaking as the wind, but the downside to the alpine is the lack of shelter, and we were certainly feeling that as we huddled down in a group to eat our lunch.

The wind was a constant companion for the next hour or so but it was worth it for the never-ending views along the ridgeline of Amber Mountain. Definitely an awesome hike, and one I would love to repeat.

2. Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak.

Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak. For #LeaveNoTraceTuesday I'll add that getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It's also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I've witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they're putting their feet. On busy trails I'll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens 🙂 #zoapeak #coquihalla #alpine #wildflowers #glacierlily #erythroniumgrandiflorum #lnt #leavenotrace #beautifulbritishcolumbia #hiking #mec #mecnation #rei1440project

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The second photo is of a subject that entices me up into the alpine as soon as the snow has melted: the humble glacier lily. Every year I like to go in search of them just as they poke up through the snow, and this year will probably be no different. The trick is to find somewhere new each time, and I’ll need to start thinking about that soon as we’re already in May!

This photo was originally posted on a “Leave No Trace Tuesday”, so I’ll include the comment I made at the time. Getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It’s also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I’ve witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they’re putting their feet. On busy trails I’ll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens.

I’m always wary of stepping off the trail in popular areas in case someone sees me and interprets that as a green light to wander wherever they please. What they don’t see is the extreme care I take to step through the flowers, sticking to rocks where I can and bare dirt otherwise as much as possible. If I can’t identify a way through then I just don’t go and I’ll find an alternative flower to photograph.

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Forest light

Forest light: morning sunshine streaming through the trees picks out some young hemlocks on our way up Mt Gardner

Recently I’ve been enjoying Adam Gibbs’s YouTube channel and his exploration of the coastal rain forest of south-western BC. One of his main talking points is light. I’ve known good light is critical for good photographs but his discussion of some of the more subtle aspects of light has had me looking anew at various scenes.

Now let’s face it, the sunshine lighting up the young hemlocks is pretty obvious but having watched Adam’s videos and seen how he uses light in his photographs I immediately saw this as an opportunity to put into practice some of what I’ve been watching. I really like the contrast in light, but also the contrast in texture: the small, bright green hemlocks against the darker background of mature tree trunks. The diagonal trunk also adds an extra element, and the new ability to make local adjustments in DxO meant I could tone down the brightest highlights and preserve a more realistic look.

Overall I’m really happy with this photo and it’s inspired me to look for more scenes like this as we get our hiking season under way.

A little water, falling

Cascades on Kill Creek for waterfall Wednesday – I think this was the first time I remember seeing this creek flowing.

Last Saturday we took a leisurely hike up Mt Gardner on Bowen Island, a lovely little getaway destination for a day especially when topped off with a serving of local gelato. As we neared the trailhead on our descent, I looked upstream to see a gorgeous little double cascade of a waterfall. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit both in to the Instagram format so I ended up cropping around the upper drop. For such a small waterfall – barely a metre high – it has quite a bit of character thanks to the way the water is running over the broken log.

Thankfully the sun was well hidden and I was able to use a low ISO (100) coupled with a moderate aperture (f/5.0) to get a roughly half-second exposure, long enough to blur out the water nicely. I even had a well-placed tree to balance the camera against (while trying not to fall down the short but very steep slope), though it still took several tries to get a photo that was not blurry. I would have liked to have been able to avoid the spindly branches sweeping across the frame but that wasn’t possible without getting into the creek itself. The main downside to this image is that I had to crop quite heavily to just focus on this little waterfall. While it doesn’t really stand up to close viewing on a large screen, I’m happier than I expected at how it looks on a phone or small tablet. If nothing else, it’s introduced me to a previously-unknown (to me) little waterfall I can capture another day.

Light on Brunswick

Light on Brunswick – the view from the sunny summit of Black Mountain.

We’d spent a good while basking in the sunshine on the rocks at Eagle Bluffs and on our return opted for the quick detour up and over the south summit of Black Mountain. To our amazement, the summit was silent. I was expecting at least one group of people to be there, but it was vacant. Not even a whisky jack or raven to be seen. The view towards the Lions and other nearby peaks isn’t that great from here (the view from the north summit is better) but it was good enough and we had some superb dappled light hitting Brunswick and the East Lion. Having just posted a whole series of photos of the Lions, I figured today should be about Brunswick Mountain!

I grabbed a couple of shots, ensuring I didn’t blow out the highlights (thinking back to Sean Tucker’s excellent recent video called Protect your highlights) which is still quite easy to do on the little Sony RX100II. This meant that the shadows fell really dark, but I felt that was the point of a photo like this one. With the dramatic dark cloud behind the peaks, my idea was to produce something “moody”, maybe a little ominous, in contrast with my photo of the Lions from Hollyburn a couple of weeks ago which had a more ethereal feel to it. I’m not sure I entirely succeeded with the processing I went with – perhaps I should have increased the contrast even more, especially in the mid-tones. I may re-edit the photo for the Flickr version.

Still, I like the way the clouds rise up over the summit of Brunswick, keeping their distance as if giving it some respect, and the gleaming white snow does look good against the dark background. And every time I look at Brunswick, I’m transported to the wonderful day we had up there.

An ice waterfall

This was going to be a waterfall-Wednesday post but I didn’t get round to it so it’s a frozen-Friday photo instead 🙂 This is the uppermost part of the falls on Joffre Creek between the middle and upper lakes, where not much water is flowing but some lovely ice formations have been created. Earlier in the day I watched a dipper hop its way up the terraces of waterfall, eventually disappearing over the top to the creek above.

On my way up to the top lake, I paused to admire the waterfall although it was lit too strongly by the sun to make an interesting photograph. A blur of movement caught my eye and I spotted a dipper as it landed on one of the lower terraces of the waterfall. I watched it for minute or two as it hopped from terrace to terrace before disappearing out of sight at the top of the falls.

As I neared the waterfall on my return, I looked upstream as the trail switched back down the slope and noticed some striking blue ice formations that I hadn’t noticed earlier. I picked my way through the snow (I had to be careful as I was on a steep slope) to get this angle on the falls and framed up my photo. While I composed with the native 3:2 aspect ratio of the camera, I could see that the majority of the scene was contained within a region that would probably work for a square crop on Instagram. Thankfully I was right.

I just love the colour and shape of the ice and I’m very happy that I was able to capture and reproduce that colour and texture. Definitely another of my favourite photos from the day.

Still winter

The view up to Mount Matier and its namesake glacier from lower Joffre Lake – still very much frozen, very much snowy. It’s late in the day for Trip-Plan Tuesday but after reading a few posts and seeing the number of unprepared hikers at Joffre Lakes I feel compelled to add my two cents.

The view up to Mount Matier and its namesake glacier from lower Joffre Lake – still very much frozen, very much snowy. It's late in the day for #TripPlanTuesday but after reading a few posts and seeing the number of unprepared hikers at Joffre Lakes I feel compelled to add my two cents. With a warm weekend in the city it's perhaps not surprising that people want to get out and enjoy the outdoors. But don't you think that driving past 5-foot snowbanks at the side of the road would be a bit of a clue as to how snowy the hiking trails might be? Don't you think that heading into the mountains wearing your casual street clothes might not be the best idea? Did you bring a hat? Gloves? Has your phone battery just died due to the cold? My concern is that those who made it up to upper Joffre Lake and back without incident will have learned nothing from their trip. They slipped and slid their way up, and avoided sliding off the trail into the trees or creek below on the way down. They made it back to the car with freezing cold hands, a little hungry and thirsty. It was all good fun (as it should be!) and maybe they managed to squeeze a photo or two out of their phone before the battery gave up. Maybe that photo made it onto Instagram and shows what a great time they had. But I would like to think that something registered in their mind that maybe next time they should wear more suitable footwear, maybe buy some microspikes, and make sure their phone is fully charged when they leave the car. Maybe find out more about the trail conditions beforehand, and bring some warmer clothes. So as a relatively experienced hiker I feel I have to spread the word and encourage anyone and everyone heading out into the backcountry to do some trip research and planning before you go, especially now as we head into shoulder season. Check the AdventureSmart website, and check local hiking websites, forums, and Facebook groups. We hikers are an amiable bunch and we love telling others about our hikes! #joffrelakes #joffrelakesprovincialpark #hiking #snowshoeing #bcparks #mybcparks #standupforparks #explorebc #beautifulbc #tenessentials #beautifulbritishcolumbia #adventuresmart #ifttt

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With a warm weekend in the city it’s perhaps not surprising that people want to get out and enjoy the outdoors. But don’t you think that driving past 5-foot snowbanks at the side of the road would be a bit of a clue as to how snowy the hiking trails might be? Don’t you think that heading into the mountains wearing your casual street clothes might not be the best idea? Did you bring a hat? Gloves? Has your phone battery just died due to the cold?

My concern is that those who made it up to upper Joffre Lake and back without incident will have learned nothing from their trip. They slipped and slid their way up, and avoided sliding off the trail into the trees or creek below on the way down. They made it back to the car with freezing cold hands, a little hungry and thirsty. It was all good fun (as it should be!) and maybe they managed to squeeze a photo or two out of their phone before the battery gave up. Maybe that photo made it onto Instagram and shows what a great time they had.

But I would like to think that something registered in their mind that maybe next time they should wear more suitable footwear, maybe buy some microspikes, and make sure their phone is fully charged when they leave the car. Maybe find out more about the trail conditions beforehand, and bring some warmer clothes.

So as a relatively experienced hiker I feel I should spread the word and encourage anyone and everyone heading out into the backcountry to do some trip research and planning before you go, especially now as we head into shoulder season. Check the AdventureSmart website, and check local hiking websites, forums, and Facebook groups. We hikers are an amiable bunch and we love telling others about our hikes!

Postscript: I’ve been wanting to make some of these points for a while now but had not taken the time to write them out in a coherent manner. I still need to let my ideas gel a bit more before writing a more thoughtful and better-reasoned article, but the essence of what I want to get across is the fact that getting away with being unprepared likely means that nothing is learned from the situation. As a result, the same mistakes are repeated until something goes wrong.

And I believe that’s my first Instagram “blog” post 🙂

Centre stage

The imposing bulk of Slalok Mountain and the Stonecrop glacier take centre stage in the winter.

I had a free afternoon on a sunny Saturday and I was already in Whistler – where else do I go but Joffre Lakes? With a low-moderate avalanche risk I decided that I’d be happy to head up the trail and take in the views. I wasn’t disappointed: it was absolutely stunning up there, and I was delighted to find a few angles with untouched snow in the foreground to lend that extra air of untouched wilderness. Never mind that a few feet to the left of these animal tracks was a two-boot-wide path in the snow stomped flat by a succession of skiers and snowshoers.

While most of my photos tend to fall in the category of “snapshot”, I did actually take my time with this composition, seeking just the right angle to keep the tracks while including or excluding various trees and shadows at the edge of the field of view. And I must admit it’s probably my favourite photo from the afternoon. I don’t often feel that my photos are good enough to show, but I cautiously think that this is one of them. I love the whole feel of it, and it’s immensely satisfying to see a scene, visualize it as a photograph, take that photograph, process it and have it come out exactly as you’d hoped. A keeper.

The full-height photo can be seen on Flickr, and to my mind is much more effective with a greater sense of being led into the frame by the animal tracks:
Joffre Lakes, 10 Mar 2018