Lunar Alpenglow at Ice Lakes Basin

lunar alpenglow, moonlight, Ice Lakes Basin, Colorado, alpenglow, stars
Lunar Alpenglow : Prints Available

The rising moon casts lunar alpenglow on the peaks of Ice Lakes Basin in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado on this chilly November night.  The 30-second, high ISO exposure enhanced the light and stars beyond what our eyes could see. 

On Thursday I headed out backpacking to Ice Lakes Basin, near Silverton, Colorado. This previous week there has been a high pressure system over Colorado, with warm temps and clear skies, so I figured it would be a good time to head up into the high country for a quick overnight trip. The trail up to Ice Lakes Basin generally faces south, and I enjoyed a dry trail most of the way to the lower basin, and even after that the snow was only shin deep at most. With no snowshoes or snow-boots required it was like winter camping but easier! I found a nice little flat spot near the lake and set up my tent.

I knew the post-full moon would be rising an hour and half after sunset, so I hiked around looking for a good vantage point of the basin, set up my camera, and waited in the dark. While I was waiting I was having fun experimenting with my new camera setup – a Canon 5D2 with tilt/shift lenses. This camera has better high ISO performance than any other camera I’ve used, so it was fun to be able to take photo of the stars and the Milky Way. The moon rose on time, providing some nice lunar alpenglow on the peaks with the stars above. The photo above was a 30 second exposure at f/4 and ISO 2000, with the 24mm t/s lens.

Winter tent at night in the mountains

Here’s the obligatory illuminated tent shot! Even though I was warm and cozy inside in my -30º sleeping bag, I hardly slept a wink due to the erratic gusty winds all night. The wind must have been coming in pulses, or else it was swirling around like mad in the basin, because it would be calm and quiet, then a blast of wind would pound my tent, over and over again every 30 seconds or so for the whole night. I knew the tent was fine, but still the noise was disconcerting enough to keep up awake most of the night.

Ice Lakes Basin, sunrise, San Juan Mountains, Colorado
Icy Ice Lakes Sunrise : Prints Available

A gorgeous sunrise over snowy Ice Lakes Basin, November.

This was right before sunrise. I was stoked to see clouds in the sky after a week of bluebird days.

As for the new camera, so far so good! Everything seems to be laid out nicely, and it seems to do what I expect it to do. But most of all, the lenses I got are sweet. I’ve said it before on this blog, but I am a sucker for good lenses, and the whole reason I decided to get into the Canon system was for their new tilt/shift lenses. Being able to carefully shoot a full-frame dSLR with lens movements makes it feel much more like shooting the 4×5 field camera; I can be ultra precise with the focussing from near to far in the scene. Also, I can easily make two-frame panos by taking two exposures with the lens shifted to either side; then the two exposures can be placed together almost perfectly, with no software stitching required. The first shot above, in fact, was made with two exposures with the lens shifted vertically. Anyhow, I’m sure I’ll write more about this camera setup later on when I know it better, but for now I can say I’m happy with it and will probably be using it for a while.

First Ride of the Winter!

Hiking up snowy mountain

It’s been snowing the last few days throughout Colorado, and this morning my buddy Mike and I rode our first lines of the winter! Above is a view of the top portion of the line we snowboarded. It was very cold up there, more like mid January than October.

snowboarding in october

Mike Bryson shreds the powder. Despite a few rocks lurking underneath, the snow was light and fluffy, and all in all it was a great first line, especially for October!

snowboarding in colorado

Walls Above Ouray

Snowy Cliffs above Ouray, Colorado

Snowy cliff walls above Ouray, Colorado. I took this shot from my porch today with my new Olympus 70-300mm telephoto lens, at 200mm (400mm equivalent in 35mm terms). With this lens I’ll never even have to leave my house to get mountain photos! It’s a pretty sweet thing to have a 600mm equivalent reach in a lens that’s only 5 inches long and weighs just over a pound. I’ve never been much of a telephoto shooter, but I look forward to seeing what I can do with this lens.

Sunset on Sneffels Summit

Sunset on the San Juans, from the summit of Mt. Sneffels, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels shadow, Teakettle on the right, Cirque Mountain in the center.

Sunset over the San Juans, from the summit of Mt. Sneffels, Colorado

With warm September temperatures and a gorgeous clear blue sky, yesterday afternoon I hiked up Mt. Sneffels to watch the sunset from the 14,156 ft. summit. Though I could have driven my truck to the upper trailhead, I decided to start from the lower trailhead because there was no hurry and I needed the exercise anyways. I hiked up to Blue Lakes Pass then took the southwestern ridge route to the summit, a fun scrambly route that I’d never done before. I relaxed for a couple hours up on top, had fun taking photos of the sunset and the post-sunset glow, then made my way down the standard route via headlamp and a quarter-moon.

This was the fourth time I’ve summited Sneffels, but it was the first time I’ve seen the sunset up there, and the first time I’ve hiked it without crampons and a springtime snowpack.

Here’s a link to some photos from a previous hike I did up Sneffels for the sunrise, via moonlight.

Solar Ranch Sunset

Sunset in Ridgway, Colorado

I was at my friends’ house for dinner last night in Ridgway, and the sunset was looking good so I walked out into a field in front of their house and took some photos. I didn’t really have much to work with out there except a little brush-filled ditch, and I’m not entirely convinced that this shot is a “keeper”; I do like the colors though! The Cimarron Range is lit up in the background.

Lightning Overdose at Blue Lakes

Blue Lakes and Mt. Sneffels

On Saturday I went on a quick overnight backpacking trip to Blue Lakes, under Mt. Sneffels. I’ve been to Blue Lakes before in May, with the peaks and lake smothered in snow, and I’ve been there in the summer, with the wildflower fields and lush green tundra. But I’ve never been there in September, and I was amazed at the beauty of the multicolored autumn tundra.

It was also great to get back up into the San Juans again after my last few weeks of laziness (and after my six weeks abroad before that). There’s something indescribable about these mountains that I just love so much. It’s hard to put my thumb on any one thing, it’s more just a feeling I get when I’m here. Perhaps I’ll try to explain this in some future rambling post.

Lightning in Colorado

After a fun evening of photography, I was then treated to an freakish all-night-long thunderstorm. The photo above is a stacked exposure of six shots, taken during five minutes at sunset. This same storm moved up into the mountains around my camp soon afterwards; imagine the nearly constant bolts like in this photo, but all around me in the high mountain basin! I didn’t sleep hardly a wink, but it certainly made for a memorable night!

>>See my photos and read more about the trip here.<<