My basic backcountry and travel camera kit – light and flexible. a. Lowepro Toploader zoom 50 AW bag b. Nikon D7000 DX DSLR with Kirk L bracket and Nikon 16-85mm zoom c. Lightweight Gitzo tripod, ballhead, and QR clamp d. Eagle Creek bag with Singh-Ray split ND filters, 3-stop ND, and Circular polarizer e. Optional Nikon 70-300mm in a OR insulated water bottle holder.
After posting “Walk Among Giants“, I received an email from a friend that I’ll call Jed. Jed is flummoxed about what gear to bring on an upcoming international trip that requires a bunch of other gear. Jed is looking at his full frame DSLR setup and all of the sexy pro lenses, asking “what if I need the 14-24?” I just put my 14-24mm lens on the scale and it weighs a whopping 2 1/4 lbs. The short answer is for travel and backcountry travel, you can’t afford the weight penalty of this specialty piece of equipment or any of your heavy pro lenses. Too harsh? Let me explain: (more…)
At Everest Base Camp with our guide, Lhakpa and assistant guide.
“I was older then, I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan
In 2002, Americans weren’t traveling much while the U.S. was still reeling from 9-11. Nepal was in civil war. The government had a tenuous hold on power as Maoists controlled the sparsely populated countrysides where tourists like to go trekking. But my wife, Marla likes to say “do it now, while you can” and we traveled halfway around the world to go trekking in the Everest region. Our trek lasted 16 days and took us over 18,000 feet three times; at Gokyo Ri, Cho-la Pass, and Kala Pattar. Gorak Shep sits below Kala Pattar, a round mound standing 5,545 meters in a sea of giant peaks that offers a classically awesome view of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. We stayed one night at Gorak Shep, where we were out of breath just from rolling over in our tent. And although Everest base camp wasn’t on our itinerary, Marla convinced our guide to take us there, just a few kilometers up the trail at 17,600′. Other than a rock table, there were no signs of the temporary climbing village constructed on the glacier during peak climbing season in May. Just a beautiful glacier of whitish-grey stone below the Khumbu Icefall and the biggest mountains in the world. This picture takes me right back to that trek, the most ambitious of our travels, and reminds me how “do it now, while we can” holds meaning in our daily lives and our adventure life.
Common nighthawk roosting on fencepost. Pawnee National Grassland, CO
While working on my Prairie Thunder book in 2006, I visited the Pawnee Grassland on a particularly hot July day. I made a lot of these missions for the project where I’d leave home in the afternoon and blast up to the Pawnee until sunset, then make the long drive home in absolute darkness. With the thermometer pushing near 100 degrees, this nighthawk roosted on a fencepost, waiting for darkness when insects come out. A member of the goatsucker family, nighthawks have wide mouths to help them snare insects in flight. Listen for their nasally peeent call at dusk and marvel at their ability to instantly change direction in mid-air. I’ve long wondered about the term “goatsucker”, so I looked it up using the Google box. Oxford says the origin began with the European nightjar: early 17th century: so named because the bird was thought to suck goats’ udders. Thanks Oxford, I’ll probably have a nightmare about this.
The August "blue moon" sets beyond Wetterhorn Peak (14,015') before dawn. The perspective is from the summit of Matterhorn Peak (13,590').
We have a tradition of taking a long walk – usually with some mountain tops mixed in for our Labor Day break. Winds of change led us to the San Juan Mountains in our home state this year, just about the only place around to escape fire smoke riding the jet stream from Idaho. The San Juans are such a spectacular range; you simply can’t go wrong no matter what area you choose to explore. So after a couple of days in the Sangre De Cristos near Alamosa, we traveled to Creede and on to Lake City to launch a trip into the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area. Click more to see many more images: (more…)
Flowering rabbit brush lines a two lane road in the Thompson Divide area, near Carbondale, Colorado. This entire area is leased for natural gas development.
In “Drilling The Roaring Fork Valley. Really?” I highlighted yet another plan to turn a truly special place into an industrial-scale gas field. Marla and I have traveled to the Aspen/Carbondale area quite a few times, usually to hike around Mount Sopris or photograph the aspen forest on McClure Pass near Marble. I recently learned that the entire area north and west of Carbondale is leased for drilling and could become an industrial wasteland. The Thompson Divide is the only buffer between Carbondale and the Piceance Basin, a mega-field sacrificed landscape, industrial complex in northwest Colorado. Along the Thompson Divide, ranchlands and rolling sagebrush give way to aspen and conifer forest in the shadow of towering Mount Sopris. Crystal River pours from the high peaks, cutting through the valley to its confluence with the Roaring Fork in Carbondale. The Roaring Fork is a significant tributary of the Colorado. The Thompson Divide is important mid-elevation habitat for migrating deer and elk, the Crystal River irrigates hay meadows,and it’s a hiking, mountain biking, wildlife-watching, fly fishing, photography and hunting mecca; providing year round revenue for surrounding communities. The Thompson Divide Coalition, with 3,200 members, is advocating for protection of the entire area and I fuly support their position. This simply isn’t the place for a massive fracking industrial park, with the thousands of truck trips, toxic chemicals threatening air and water, and pressure on rural towns. I made a trip last week to make images that I hope will support the opposition – click more to continue: (more…)
A large bull moose feeds on willows on an August morning. Moose have just recently migrated to the eastern side of the Continental Divide along the Front Range, long favoring the wet side of Rocky Mountain National Park. On this morning, I watched a bachelor group of six large bulls feeding in the willows.
There’s a bachelor group of very large bull moose on the Front Range, magnificent creatures all feeding in harmony until rut starts next month, when they’ll battle for the right to mate. For now the bulls are fattening up on willows before they spend a lot of energy during mating season. Moose were a very rare sight on the eastern side of the Front Range until the last few years; you had to go over to the Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park or Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge to have a decent chance of spotting moose. Cow sightings are now common near Estes Park and I’m hopeful that the rut will happen in the general area where I photographed today. The photo experience included an 8 foot step ladder with my Kirk window mount on top, turning the whole rig into a “ladder pod.” Without the ladder, I’d just be looking at antlers sticking out of willow; you can only make so many of those abstract moose images. I used a Nikon D3s camera body, which has great low light capability and both a 600mm lens and an 80-400mm. The moose passed right by me and two other photographers on their way to the forest – next time I’ll have a wide angle lens in my pocket. What a thrill! (more…)
With coffee there IS hope! Mmmmmm! At Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado. Ed Abbey used to call it “well-built coffee.”
I’m honored that my Crestones Sunrise image is on the cover of the Skyline Press 2013 Colorado 14ers Calendar! I’ve worked with Todd Caudle at Skyline on a number of projects, including the award-winning 14,000 Feet and my Prairie Thunder book, also a Colorado book award winner.
The Colorado 14ers Calendar is a celebration of Colorado’s 54 highest peaks that invites top photographers to submit their very best mountain images for a place in this top-notch calendar. I’m stoked to be on the cover and have my Eolus goat shot in the calendar. Thanks to my friend Todd Caudle for your great work at Skyline and support of Colorado photographers!
Warm sunset light turns sagebrush gold below Culebra Peak (14,069') on Cielo Vista Ranch. We were paying guests of the ranch, there to climb the only Colorado 14er on private land.
The 3rd and final chapter of this Sangre De Cristo story…
I wasn’t sure we’d ever be here, but Annie invited us via Steph, who’s down to her last three 14ers, and well, here we are outside of the gate to Cielo Vista Ranch with plans to climb the only Colorado 14,000 foot peak on private land. We’re just a few miles from New Mexico and there’s a festive atmosphere, with climbers setting up camp, cooking, and talking about 14ers. A lot of climbers save this one for the end, choosing to climb all of the free mountains on public land first. This one costs $100 for camping and a day of climbing – another $50 if you want to tackle Red Mountain, and surrounded by like-minded folks, I’m warming to the experience. There’s no logical explanation for paying to climb, Colorado has thousands of beautiful peaks on public land; but if you want to summit all of the 14ers, you’ll wind up here eventually. Landowners these days are diversifying all sorts of ways, and we had just come from Zapata Ranch, where dude ranch hospitality compliments bison and cattle ranching. Cielo Vista opens the gates of the 77,500 acre ranch to paying guests climbing Culebra and private elk hunts in fall. Hunters pay ten large for the chance at a trophy elk. Our plan was to camp out as guests of the ranch, meet Carlos, the ranch manager at 6 a.m. when he opens the gate, take care of formalities, and climb the peak the next day. (more…)
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A wet July leads to a breakout in the Rocky Mountain bee plant bloom on Zapata Ranch. The high peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Range form a rugged backdrop.
Part 2 of 3 – Sangre De Cristos
Needing a shower, chef-prepared meals, and a comfy bed, we naturally headed for Zapata Ranch, just down the road a piece from Crestone. It was great to see friends from previous visits while teaching at Zapata and view the ranch in a green summer season, with everything in bloom. After a month and a half of 90+ degree days on the Front Range, low 80′s with an afternoon shower felt great! We enjoyed Chef Mike’s gourmet creations and met nice folks from all over the country – even a group from Ireland. Zapata is a Nature Conservancy working ranch managed holistically by the Phillips family. They were running a woman’s horsemanship clinic led by Cam Schryver. The clinic is one of many special events on the year-round calendar at Z-ranch. I’m fortunate to be able to teach a sandhill crane photo workshop with Michael Forsberg in the spring, another Z-ranch special event. I was hoping to get Marla on a horse – she loves to ride and it’s been too long – what I didn’t know was that I’d be riding too… on a cattle drive. (more…)
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