Yesterday I went up to Camp Muir to check if I had altitude sickness and test my fitness level for a possible climb to the summit.
At Paradise I was greeted by thick fog. It was a hard decision whether to go or give up but I saw other mountaineers go and people who came down said the fog was clearing up at the higher elevations.
When I got to snow fields it was a white out. For four hours I kept pushing upwards surrounded by white snow and white fog. I kept following a rocky outcrop on my left to make sure I didn’t get lost. At the four hour mark the rocks that I used for guidance ended. There was nothing but white ahead. I didn’t want to risk going out into the white.
I was dismayed by the weather and ready to turn back when suddenly fog cleared out and I saw Rainier closer than I had ever seen it before.
But it’s only when I turned around I was really stunned. Majestic snow covered Tatoosh Range was below me, green mountain ranges and valleys were below me, and the endless sea of clouds was below me. Awestruck, tears of joy running down my cheeks, I tried to take it all in.
Right then I knew there was no turning back. I had to get to Camp Muir. In a mad dash I climbed remaining 800ft of elevation gain toward Camp Muir.
When I got there I was filled with joy, I wanted to dance, I was hi-fiving random strangers at the camp sharing my joy. And I was taking a lot of pictures.
It was getting late and I needed to go down. With byes from people in the camp in tow I started running down the snowfield. I was light on my foot letting them slide from time to time. When slope was steep enough I was glissading enjoying it the way the kids would enjoy.
It took me five hours to get up to Camp Muir. It took me only one and a half hours to get down.
The end of the year is a good milestone to wrap up projects, reflect on a year of life, and think of inspirations for the year ahead.
That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks besides enjoying time with friends and family during the holidays: wrapping up projects I worked on in 2018. More than that I’ve been working through my backlog of projects from 2017 and uploading them to my website. I’ve uploaded 19(!) completed folios from 2018 and 2017. I hope you’ll make time to look at and enjoy them.
There is still much work to do. And that’s probably the first observation and resolution for the next year. I got a bit carried away with traveling and capturing images and did not spend enough time finishing the images. There were hundreds of images that I had not even looked at yet. My resolution for the next year is to finish projects before starting new ones.
Another observation I have had as I worked through the backlog of the images is that my photos are too alike. It might be consistency or style but I wish there was more discovery and exploration in my images, a sense of wonder. So, my next resolution for the next year is to fail more often. Success is a rewarding experience that is very seductive. Failure is a learning experience that can be rewarding it a completely different way.
And the last observation I had is that I have quite a few odd shots, just one offs that don’t fit into any theme. Not a shot that I made exploring some place, working for some project but some shot because something caught my attention or just because I was somewhere and felt obliged to take a picture. It was not an interesting venture into some new area either because I did not follow up with more images of the same place or subject. I delete many of them get deleted while keeping a few, even though I’m not sure what to do with them. In either case it cost me a lot of time at the computer dealing with those images. So, my last resolution for 2019 is to be more mindful at the time of capturing an image, focus on the projects I’m working on and sometimes just putting camera away and enjoying the scenery.
I’ve just got back from a trip to Banff and Abraham lake in Canada. What an adventure! Not all of it was safe or easy. Winter roads can be quite challenging to drive.
My body was challenged too with the cold that I’ve never experienced before in my life. First day it was -31C. The day after it was -21C which seemed like an improvement but it was slightly windy which made it feel even colder.
On the third night I wake up earlier to photograph sunrise at Abraham lake. The place is popular for photography due to natural phenomenon. The lake freezes up deeply during winter and as freezes up methane bubbles rising from the lake bottom get captured any preserved in the ice creating fantastic three-dimensional structures.
As I got to the lake, to location I explored and decided on the day before. It was cold, very cold. The wind was howling outside rocking my car from side to side. Despite layers and layers of clothes I had on me, once I stepped outside I got cold within seconds.
I immediately got back in the car. I could not convince my body to go outside again. No matter how beautiful sunrise was going to be I could hike to the lake and back in such weather.
As I was faced with this challenged my first reaction was to just sit in the car and watch the sunrise. Then I thought that maybe I should get out of the box and photograph something else. I remembered the trees with a small frozen pond around them with ice shining like a mirror. I drove to that place. It was cold but it was quiet, still, no wind at all. I felt warm and cozy.
That ended up the place where I photographed the sunrise. There were no bubbles in the ice in my photos but the sky was nice and I liked the trees and the frozen pond around them.
In fact, I realized, I’m not that attached to the bubbles in the ice. I’m fascinated with the phenomenon and I like to look at them but I don’t feel emotional connection to the scenes involving them. Thanks to extreme cold and wind that drove me away from the lake I found something of my own, something that I enjoyed more photographically.
Lately I started doing something different on my photographic road trips. Staying somewhere for a while. Somewhere quiet with only sounds of nature around.
I don’t mean like backpacking or camping which I like to do a lot. But sometime whether is not very enjoyable for those activities. Rain or snow makes backpacking rather a serious ordeal.
Instead I just drive into remote enough location, open the back of my SUV and sit in the back, looking outside, enjoying sounds of nature, reading a book or typing this blog.
Right now I’m in Steptoe Butte park in the Palouse. It is snowing lightly with sun breaking thru the snow. It is a beautiful winter day. I’m sitting in the back of the car and typing this blog.
I’ve tried to get to the top of the Steptoe Butte… unsuccessfully. The road is not maintainable in winter with lots of snow on it. The temperature is just right for packed slick snow under the tires. Even with all wheel drive I was sliding down instead of driving up.
So, I backed down to the small parking at the bottom of the butte and decided to just enjoy this beautiful winter day.
As I sit and quiet down I start noticing signs of coming spring. The sun is warm and pleasant. Birds are chirping outside. Somewhere under the white cover small streams of melted snow can be heard running briskly and happily.
I’ll probably take a few pictures later but for now I’m just enjoying the place.
Life is full of experiences, exciting and mundane, surprising and routine, spending time with loved ones and grocery shopping and paying bills. It is not always that I can find time to go on a trip to some exciting location.
I dream. I dream a lot. I dream big. I dream of a life in a wilderness, photographing, painting, being creative all the time. But…
To be honest, as much as much as the dream of being in the wilderness all the time seems to be attractive it is not all that makes me happy. Having someone I love and who loves me back fulfills my life with happiness that I cannot draw from the wilderness. All the exciting and quiet moments shared together fill me with joy.
To be honest, as much as I want to photograph all the time, I have a limit to my creativity. After the first few active days on a trip I find myself exhausted and numb to everything around me.
To be honest, if I truly want to be creative, all I need is to take my camera and step out into my own backyard. Because that is all it takes to find this…
I celebrated this New Year in Stockholm, Sweden. This was mostly a social and sightseeing trip but I still took my trusted camera because… just because that’s the way I am.
What was different this time though is that I did not take my tripod. I tried to challenge myself to capture fleeting moments, to be more mobile and to create a story with several photos.
This is very different from the way I am used to take photos. Many of my photos have long exposure, taken from a tripod and I spend a lot of time in the same spot, trying various angles, adjusting framing, micro-adjusting positioning of the camera to take the best image possible.
What I had not realized just how little light Stockholm gets in winter even during midday. I had to crank up exposure to 400-800 ISO just to get 1/40 sec exposure with fully open aperture during day. Nights were out of the question. So, I missed my tripod.
Finally on the last day of my stay in Stockholm something happened that made things a little bit brighter: snow. Rather then going into the city I went into kind of park and kind of forest. Turns out it does not matter where I go, I enjoy hiking in the nature. Nothing better for me. And hiking in the snow was a special treat.
There is a special kind of silence reserved only for quiet snowfalls. There is absolutely no sounds. Everything is still like a picture. And only snowflakes dancing in the air.
P.S. In retrospective it was a good decision not to take tripod on that trip. Even though I could not know way back that it would be a good decision. On the way back my luggage was lost and the airline has no idea where it is. But I have my tripod with me safely at home.
There are moments in the Nature so quiet and peaceful that I’m reflexively holding my breath afraid that the mere whisper of breathing will destroy the magic of the place.
I love nature, I love wilderness not only for what it is but also for an opportunity to run away from the noise, chaos and often purposelessness of our civilization.
That’s why I so much like to go to Olympic National Park in winter. The weather is less than inviting most of the time that keeps most tourists out and I often have places crowded in summer to myself. They become something else allowing truly appreciate their beauty.
When I find such a place where I experience a sense of harmony with my surroundings I put camera aside and just enjoy those moments of quiet and peace; following leisurely moving waves on a lake or slow floating clouds in the sky. And I feel like I belong here.