Two Problems

There are two problems in photography: too little good pictures and too many good pictures. I’m joking of cause. There are a lot of more important problems like soul searching. But that’s the problem that I face right now: there are just too many good pictures from the trip to Enchantment lakes.

Almost every photo is “golden”. Either I’m a good photographer or golden larches make every picture “golden”. The place is just too beautiful to fail to impress.

With that here is one photo that I really like.

Sunrise in Enchantments
Sunrise in Enchantments

Winter Storm in Enchantments

Two weeks ago I went on a trip to Enchantment Lakes. This is an area not far from where I live. It is high in the mountains, isolated and beautiful. The last two are the reason why so many backpackers want to get there. In fact so many that there is limited number of permits given each year. It helps protect fragile unique ecosystem of the area.

For three years I’ve been trying to get a permit to backpack to Enchantment Lakes during peak fall color of larches growing there. Finally, this year I got it.

Right before going to the Enchantments I got cold. But that would not stop me. The forecast was for rain. That would not stop me either. I just got more rain gear with me.

As I was walking up to Enchantments I met many people coming down telling me that there had been snow the night before. Everyone was leaving. And I was getting more excited. Snow in Enchantments – it must be beautiful.

When I got to Enchantments the snow is mostly melted. The larches were beautiful – at the peak of fall color. I was the only backpacker there.

The first night was very cold but the next day was calm and warm. The second night I learnt what winter storm meant up in the mountain, up in the Enchantments. It was freezing. The wind gusts were so loud they would wake me up. There was heavy snowfall. I had to push snow off the tents walls, so my tent would not collapse under its weight. Finally by the morning it quieted down and I could get some restful sleep.

I worried about getting back the whole night. But when I got out in the morning and looked around it was amazing. I laughed like crazy, the beauty was overwhelming. Fresh white snow, not touched, not stepped on, all around. Yellow larches. Cloudy sky with glimpses of blue. I forgot about all my worries. I forgot about getting back. I beheld the most amazing sight in my life.

There are a lot of photos to work thru now but the most important thing I took with me is an amazing experience. For now here are some images of my tent as it went thru me stay there.

Day 2. MorningDay 2. Evening before the stormDay 3. Morning after the stormDay 3. Afternoon. The site as I left it

Enchantment Lakes [16]

Day 4. Getting Closer to Home

After yet another lunch out of freeze dried bag we started moving back home. The goal was to relocate our camp back to Lake Viviane where we would spend photographing sunset and sunrise.

There was one big challenge for me on the way to Lake Viviane. At one point we needed to walk down a face of big boulder. With each step the slope was getting steeper and steeper. And the only thing that the one walking down could see was an abyss of the valley far down.

I’m afraid of heights. This place got me worried even when we were walking up. But back then I just put those worries in the back of my mind until we would head down. Now it was the time to fight my fears.

My first attempt was unsuccessful. Midway thru I panicked and turned around trying to get down on all four. Which turned both scarier and riskier. It was scarier because I could not see land under my feet at all. All I could see was the valley below. And it was riskier because I did not have full foot traction and could slid down.

Josh and John told me to climb back up. I obeyed. Josh offered me to help with backpack and I handed it over to him. While Josh walked down with y backpack I did breathing exercise to calm myself down and restore oxygen balance (I was hyperventilating at that point).

The exercise was surprisingly effective and in about a minute I made second attempt. I chose slightly different path that I was more comfortable with. I was looking strictly down to my feet. That helped and I got  down.

I cannot describe amount of joy I was experiencing. There is nothing like overcoming your own fears. (Jumping ahead when we were walking down steep rocks next day I was smiling because I was not afraid anymore.)

* * *

We had big hiking and photographing plans when we would get to Lake Viviane. When we actually got there we realized just how tired we were.

I felt tired because I did not have enough calories in my food. As strange as it may sounds I had to bring more deserts, candies and other sweet things. John got sick. Josh was the only one that had energy to move around. He went to yet another lake while John and I stayed by Lake Viviane.

I went to check on possible photo opportunities around Lake Viviane for sunrise:

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I found a small niche where I could photograph reflection of Prusik Peak in Lake Viviane. After taking a few photos with the last light of the sun I took off my clothes and plunged into the lake. The water was icy cold but after four days of sweating it felt nice and refreshing.

When I got out I put on fresh clothe getting ready for descent on the final day of the trip.

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Enchantment Lakes [15]

Day 4. Midday Light

Midday light was steep and harsh with clear sky. The previous day we spent midday resting. The last day before heading back I went back to the area between Leprechaun Lake and Perfection Lake. The day before I liked the stream and a line of larch needles along it but in afternoon light it was cut in half by a shadow of a mountain on the left. So, I returned there midday to avoid any shadows. 

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It was interesting from technical perspective as I used focus point “bracketing” to get everything sharp throughout the image.

Enchantment Lakes [14]

Day 4. Catch the light

The day before when Josh and I went to photograph sunrise to Leprechaun Lake, John stayed by the camp and photographed by Perfection Lake. At night we shared what we got and I liked what I saw in the back of John’s camera (here is the image that John posted on his blog). So the next morning I stayed by Perfection Lake for sunrise.

The night was cold, bitterly cold. There was frost on the ground. The first light that hit the granite wall was deep red:

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In just less than a minute it turned yellow. In fact the panorama above is the only image I’ve captured with that light. After that it looked like this:

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Enchantment Lakes [13]

Day 3. Afternoon light

One of the advantages about going backpacking and staying in one place is that you’re walking the same surroundings over and over and you can see landscape in different light. And you start appreciating light in a whole new way…

As I wrote earlier when we entered Core Enchantments on the second day of our trip we saw the area between Leprechaun Lake and Perfection Lake in the afternoon light and it look gorgeous. Unfortunately we have not captured much of it. So the next day in the afternoon I went back from our camp to Leprechaun Lake to photograph in the afternoon light.

The air was as still as possible. There were no ripples on the water. So reflections were perfect.

By the time I got to Leprechaun Lake it was late afternoon. The sun light was getting warmer turning golden larches into bright orange shifting further and further towards red. Leprechaun Lake was absolutely still and reflections were perfect. It was taking photo after photo but I felt they were falling short of the beauty around and the actual feeling of being there.

Enchantment Lakes [12]

Day 3. Wherever You Go

Enchantment Lakes is a place of incredible beauty. Wherever you go you see something pleasing your eye.

I want about 10 meters from the camp just to pee (pardon me) and I saw this scene: golden larches glowing in the sun on a deep blue background of the sky; playful light and dark spots on the ground. It was so beautiful I forgot about why I came there. I went back to the camp, grabbed camera and tripod to capture this:

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Or on my way to Prusik Peak I stopped by a small carving in the ground where larch needles formed geometrically perfect arcs:

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A little bit further the trail itself fascinated me as much. Spots of light and shade over the rocks:

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