Vacation Back Home

This last week I took a vacation from Jackson to go home to Ouray, see some friends, and help track up the three feet of fresh snow there! I went splitboarding on the same mountain for four days in a row, riding different untracked lines each day. It felt great to be back in the San Juans for a little while… I love those mountains. Here’s a few skiing and snowboarding shots from the trip.

snowboarding an untracked couloir
Mike Bryson carves into a beautiful untracked chute.

backcountry skiing colorado
Matt Wade skis the pow.

backcountry skiing in the San Juans
Tom Kelly skis a line next to the trees. Notice the tantalizing, but insanely dangerous, San Juan terrain in the background!

skiing powder
Jay Godson enjoying the freshies.

San Juan skiing panorama
Skinning up the ridge of my favorite mountain. That big crossloaded face in the center was virtually off-limits to sane people due to the avy danger; however, if you want to see a headcam video of me hauling ass down that face last year in more stable powder conditions, see here (the second descent in the video).

skiing powder in the San Juans
Tom Kelly slashes the powder.

Snowy Ouray with Canon 5D2

Beaumont, Ouray, Colorado

Despite my tenacious cold, I bundled up and walked around the block this morning to take the new Canon 5D2 and some new lenses for a spin. The fresh snow caking Ouray and the surrounding mountains made for a nice test subject!

The photo above was taken with a Contax/Zeiss 35-70mm lens, at 35mm f/8. This is an old, discontinued, manual focus and manual aperature lens, but I had read many glowing reviews about its incredible sharpness. Supposedly this zoom lens is as sharp or sharper than equivalent length prime lenses! So I picked one up on ebay for a reasonable price and this morning was my first trial run with it. I eagerly opened the files on my computer, and was not disappointed! The sharpness almost looks like it came from a Foveon sensor, but at a much larger resolution. In fact I’m so stoked I thought I’d share the fullsize file with all you pixel-peeping camera geeks out there.

>> Click here to see the sample full resolution file (7.6mb). The raw file had a sharpness setting of 3 (of 10), which does snap it up a little bit, but I figured since that’s about what I’d do anyways with my files, you might as well see it at that setting. The file was converted from 16bit to 8bit, I tinkered with the levels and color balance in Photoshop, added the watermark, and saved it as a quality 10 jpeg (to save a little bandwidth).

Anyhow, I am way stoked on the sharpness I’m getting from the 5D2, the 17mm and 24mm TS-E lenses, and now this Contax/Zeiss 35-70mm lens. I can’t wait to get out into the mountains again for some more real shooting with this setup! I’ve got to kick this pesky cold first though.

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.