Framed

Habrich framed. A pair of mountain hemlocks stand tall on Skyline Ridge, while Mt Habrich dominates the view across the Shannon Creek valley.

I love hiking through subalpine terrain, especially at this time of year as the leaves on the berry bushes start to change colour, turning from green to various shades of red. One feature of the subalpine I particularly like is the large mountain hemlocks that grow there, undoubtedly hundreds of years old given the difficult growing conditions at these altitudes. They have such incredible stature, and often take on fascinating shapes. They may not grow as big as their lower-elevation cousins, or the red cedars or Douglas firs, but they are the giants of their domain.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that the moment I saw this view, with two big trees standing either side of the granite pyramid of Mt Habrich, I couldn’t resist taking the photo.

Advertisements

The king of views

Can’t believe it was 10 years ago that we were admiring this view. Still one of my favourite backpacking trips and I think about returning every time I see yet another Instagram post from this area…

Our first backpacking trip to the Rockies; indeed our first hiking experience in the Rockies (though not our first sight of them – we rode the Rocky Mountaineer train from Calgary to Vancouver when we first immigrated to Canada). And what a way to start, with one of the highest-rated trips from the book “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies” (one of my favourite guide books ever written).

We were fortunate with the weather for our first couple of days with clear blue skies (if chilly nights) which meant we had the rare treat of seeing the summit of Mt Robson (also sometimes referred to as the King of the Rockies) free of cloud. This photo was taken on our second day on a short hike up past Toboggan Falls to visit the cave. Just an incredible view. We sat and admired it for quite some time before heading back down to the Hargreaves Shelter for dinner.

For the full photographic experience, check out the full set on Flickr.

I really can’t believe it’s been a whole decade since we hiked this trail. Like so many of the beautiful places we’ve visited, I want to return to this area and explore it some more. There’s always next year…

Marmot

When you camp in a marmot’s garden, you have to expect a visit from the landlord… Payment was made in the form of half-a-dozen chunks from the grips of my hiking poles.

We knew there were loads of marmots here, and friends had mentioned how “friendly” they were. On our first night we confidently hung out food bags from a steeply-sloped rock face thinking that they were safe from marmots there. After all, marmots don’t climb rock faces, do they?

Well, the following morning we were relieved to find that our food bags were untouched, but we soon got a lesson in just how well marmots can climb as this guy scampered effortlessly up the very rock face we’d thought was unclimbable. Huh. After that the marmot explored where we were having breakfast and then had a good nose around our friends’ tent – where I managed to capture it for the photo above.

Having earned no food, the marmot wandered off into the rocks and that was the last we saw of it that day. I didn’t take my hiking poles out on the hike and it was only the next morning that I found the grips had quite a few marmot-bite-sized chunks taken out of the foam. All I could think of was how gross it was to have to now use those poles, all covered in marmot spit… Yuck!

Sunset eye candy

A sea of mountains at sunset. Mt Matier, Joffre Peak, and Mt Rohr sure make for a pretty skyline.

One of the things I love about hiking in the mountains north and east of Pemberton is the wonderful “sea of mountains” effect as ridge after ridge of peaks fades into the distance. On our second night at Twin Lakes, a cloudless day turned into a subtly golden sunset with the snow fields on Mt Matier catching the last of the light.

When I took this shot, I exposed for the brighter portions of the image to keep the shutter speed manageable for a hand-held shot in the darkening dusk (the lower half of the photo looked almost completely black). Adjusting the shadows in DxO afterwards revealed a surprising amount of colour detail had still been captured despite being underexposed by at least one stop. Not bad for a camera from 2009! Now obviously, looking closely at the image shows that it’s smeary and lacking detail (plus the blacks still look crushed flat), but for posting on Instagram and Flickr, it has turned out well enough for me to let other people see it.

It’s photos like this that justify carrying the weight and bulk of a digital SLR, and they ensure I will always have a camera of this class, though whether it’s an SLR or mirrorless remains to be seen. I wonder what Nikon has in store for us…

Shaky selfie

Turns out that standing still for 30 seconds isn’t as easy as you might think… I have a new-found appreciation for those portraits from the early days of photography!

While I was taking photos of moonlit meadows I suddenly had the idea of taking a moonlit self-portrait, just for fun. I sat down on a rock and set going a 30-second exposure. Looking at the result I laughed at how I’d moved my head several times enough to blur out my face.

Thinking I could do better, I opted for a standing photo for my next attempt, and wondered if holding my breath would keep me still. So I pressed the button on the remote shutter release and held my breath. I made it to about a count of 26 before I had to let go, but I thought I’d held still. Alas when I checked the photo I found out that I wobble when standing.

OK one last attempt – I sat down again, and held my breath again. With my lungs bursting after 25 seconds I gradually let the air out and breathed in again. This time I’d held still enough that I wasn’t smeared out – yay! But I was too close to the camera, and the lens was focussed at infinity, so I was still blurry…

Moonlit meadows

Meadows by moonlight – the view from lower Twin Lake on a balmy evening. It certainly was a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht.

When out backpacking, I like to take a night-time photo that includes our tent lit up from within. On this trip, the moon was so bright that it lit up the surrounding landscape, giving me even more options than usual. In particular, I loved the way a 30-second exposure revealed the meadows and the stars, and I couldn’t resist trying out a few shots to get a composition I liked. I was happy with my tent and lake shots, but it was the meadows and stars that I really liked.

But what a palaver…. I’m going off my Gorillapod as it often sags during a long exposure (one or more of the joints is much looser than the others), and it’s simply not that stable when using the telephoto lens. Plus having to crawl around on my front to peer through the viewfinder is getting old. Could be time to invest in a decent hiking tripod.

I also had fun taking a few long-exposure selfies but that’s a topic for another post (for a preview of the results, check out my profile pic on Instagram or Twitter).

Triangle

Life will find a foothold wherever it can – a lovely triangular patch of cheery pink moss campion high on Finch Ridge.

Moss campion always catches my eye. It’s one of the few flowers in the high alpine, finding places to grow among rocks and dirt and not much else. Most often, it creates a little pillow of green from which the cerise flowers emerge, though it’s extremely rare for the flowers to cover more than half of the foliage at any one time. Earlier on the day this photo was taken, I found one completely pink patch right in the middle of a field of shattered rock; a real treat. But then I found this little near-equilateral triangle of pink and green, which was just perfect. All I had to do was make sure I stood to one side so my shadow wouldn’t fall across it.