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Western Arthurs : January 21-26 2017

This January, I had the good fortune to hike part of the Western Arthurs Traverse with Luke Tscharke, Tim Wrate and Francois Fourie. This was a trip that we had planned for last year but had to pull out due to the bushfires preventing access to the trailhead. The weather gods this year did smile upon us at times and we all head a great trip. In all, we spent 6 days and 5 nights on the trail and experienced just about everything we could have hoped for. This is an ‘adapted’ version of the diary I kept while on the track.

Saturday : 21st Jan :

Hobart’s as beautiful as ever but there’s some strange connection between my arrival here and fatal hit and run incidents. Last year, a woman and her unborn child, this year 6 dead as a result of a crazed driver hurtling through Bourke Street. I’m in a better frame of mind thanks to a far lesser state of anxiety from Marianne and a happy farewell. I was sad to be leaving Charlotte’s affections while it was hard to feel the same about screaming Jaime as I left for work that morning. Ah the terrible twos. QANTAS really do need to get their act together. Nearly all of their flights were delayed or late as I listened to announcement after announcement in at the boarding gates. The rest of the process though, was smooth and thanks for Francois’ hospitality, I spent the night resting up here in Hobart before hitting the trail. Marianne predicted 130,000 steps for the week but I thought it could have been more!

Monday 23rd January

(Written in retrospect and also some parts added in after the trip)

Reviewing the last 3 days will be difficult to put to paper as the expectations of the hike are just too incredible. Last year , I wrote an article for Australian Photography Magazine about managing expectations (which will be published in April). So this year, as we were headed in, I’m not sure whether it was a defence mechanism on my part to play down expectations or whether I was distracted ; but there wasn’t the same degree of hype.

Luke & Tim were waiting for us with their massive bags undoubtedly full of post trek comforts I wish I had packed . With all things jammed in the rear of Francois’ car, we headed for the trailhead in somewhat grey conditions and stopped at  New Norfolk Banjos for morning tea and a lunch pickup. This seems to have become a routine for us in the last two years! Getting past the town of Maydena was a huge psychological relief as that was where our literal roadblock form last year lay. Once we were at Scott’s Peak Dam, it was hard to gauge what the Arthurs would ultimately look like as we knew we had hours of scrub and mud to squelch through before the plains opened up for views of the range. Two people who had just completed the full traverse looked reassuringly ‘not that muddy’. Famous last words!

Preparing for the trek : Reorganisation fresh from the airport and last minute wholesome lunch.

Preparing for the trek : Reorganisation fresh from the airport and last minute wholesome lunches.

The first hour of walking saw little in the way of mud but for the next two, approaching and beyond Junction Creek, it was pretty foul stuff to get through. Keep your head down and walk, you just had to. Most of the decisions to be made were around going through the middle or attempting to skirt around the puddles and bog. Both ended up in many a foot, knee and even hip into the mud. Not the most pleasant of experiences and the mud would never truly leave the equation for the rest of the trip.

Easy going at the start of the Port Davey track

Easy going at the start of the Port Davey track : Luke looking happy

The track starts to open up before the range at Junction Creek

Tim and Francois slosh through mud as the track starts to open up before the Western Arthurs at Junction Creek

Brief pause at Junction Creek for afternoon snacks

Brief pause at Junction Creek for afternoon snacks

Our walking time was 1315 to 1600 to Junction Creek.  After the plains slog and a short unintentional detour off route, we arrived at the base of Alpha Moraine at 550pm. We decided to push for the top of the range that evening and while I didn’t sweat much , it still took a lot of energy to get there at 745 pm for ‘no light’ as a reward. We couldn’t look far for camping spots as light was fading by the time Tim and Luke arrived at 830pm. The wind was also picking up at our relatively exposed camp site. I thought I would sleep a welcome sleep of the dead, but it wasn’t to be; yet another restless and sleepless camp night after the first of many freeze dried meals cooked in the vestibule of our tent.

Halfway up Alpha Moraine. better to just keep the head down and climb until you suddenly aren't climbing any more!

Halfway up Alpha Moraine. Better to just keep the head down and climb until you suddenly aren’t climbing any more! 750m ascent in 2km is the meaningless equation. The trailhead is seen in the distance near Lake Pedder at the top left.

SUNDAY

The morning looked grey as I peered out of our tent, but I was keen to head for Mount Hesperus. The others were initially more keen to take it easy after the previous day’s slog,  and given that my phone GPS failed, I was not keen to roll the dice on getting lost in the mist covering unknown terrain. Now that I’ve walked the terrain, I’d have had a little more confidence in doing so. The light ended up being absolutely beautiful but I was in no position to shoot the peak of it. Ironically, the light was best seen from closer to the camp site. Nonetheless, we all still captured a stunning introduction to the range.

Strata : Layers of cloud , land and light featuring Scott's Peak and Lake Pedder

Strata : Layers of cloud , land and light featuring Scott’s Peak and Lake Pedder

Layer upon layer of mountains and changing conditions ; a feature of the Western Arthurs.

Layer upon layer of mountains and changing conditions ; a feature of the Western Arthurs.

The rest of the day was spent making our way up and down toward the saddle between Mount Sirius and Orion. As we did this , we passed Lake Fortuna in the mist, and Lake Cygnus which were both remarkable spots on their own but for the waiting jewel of the range in Lake Oberon beyond. Climbing up and down Mount Hayes was a challenge , particularly one section of steep scree. Our aim was to have lunch at Square Lake past Procyon Peak. We thought we would be there on a few deflating occasions , only to be led to another ascent and descent en route. When we finally did get to Square Lake, we stopped for an hour’s lunch and napped on the rocks in bright sunshine. It was there that I ate my infamous Kung Pao chicken meal.

Walking through the mists toward Lake Fortuna

Walking through the mists toward Lake Fortuna

Luke walking at the base of Mount Hesperus

Luke walking at the base of Mount Hesperus

Walking below the mist at Lake Cygnus

Walking below the mist at Lake Cygnus

Descending the scree slopes of Mount Hayes

Descending the scree slopes of Mount Hayes

 

Afternoon snooze at Square Lake.

Afternoon snooze at Square Lake.

Following our sunbaked snooze, we gathered water from Square Lake’s outlet creek and headed to the pass above Lake Oberon. The uphill was surprisingly short , taking only 30 minutes or so. Francois and I then darted off to take a look at the famous entrance to Oberon and its numerous Pandani. We believe that we found the 3 pandani made famous by the late Peter Dombrovskis and for personal reasons, I opted not to take an image here.

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After pitching tent and relaxing , the late afternoon and evening blue sky shoot was from Mount Sirius and Square Lake. Despite plain skies, it was such a beautiful evening and we knew we wouldn’t get much sleep due to astro conditions being on offer. The milky way was predicted to rise at around 230am.

Quadrantic: Beautiful evening light illuminates the quarzite peaks of Mount Procyon and Mount Hayes in the background. Luke Tscharke is seen in the mid ground as well as two tents along the shores of Square Lake for scale.

Quadrantic: Beautiful evening light illuminates the quarzite peaks of Mount Procyon and Mount Hayes in the background. Luke Tscharke is seen in the mid ground as well as two tents along the shores of Square Lake for scale.

MONDAY

Sleepless while waiting for the stars is one thing, sleepless because of Kung Pao diarrhoea is another (or was it the Beef Bourginon???). Explosive diarrhoea all night including an effort at the Oberon entrance was not a pretty sight and left me drained for the rest of the day. Luke, Francois and I shot some astro frames before meandering along the numerous intersecting paths offering views of Oberon with pandani in the foreground. It was a magical kind of dawn and morning as we watched moonrise, milkyway rise and then sunrise within a few hours and I’m hoping the images represent my wonderful memories from that morning (health issues aside) . Following breakfast, it was yet another jaunt up to Mount Sirius to catch receding shadows of Mount Pegasus on the Lake. I think we had more photographic success from up here again.

Genesis : Moonrise, Milkway rise and the beginnings of sunrise as shot from the saddle above Lake Oberon.

Genesis : Moonrise, Milkway rise and the beginnings of sunrise as shot from the saddle above Lake Oberon.

Cleansing: The sun starts to peak over the top of Mount Pegasus bathing the pandani garden in red hues.

Cleansing: The sun starts to peak over the top of Mount Pegasus bathing the pandani garden in red hues.

Hypnosis : Cloud rush past overhead as we looked down upon Lake Oberon from the summit of Mount Sirius. 15 stop ND filter used for the sky effect.

Hypnosis : Cloud rush past overhead as we looked down upon Lake Oberon from the summit of Mount Sirius. 15 stop ND filter used for the sky effect.

Standing atop Mount Sirius

Luke and Francois standing atop Mount Sirius

After breaking camp, we bumped into two very seasoned brothers who were 100% gristle and sinew and knew the path probably better than anyone. They gave us some pointers while we listened and soaked in the experience. Then, it was time for the famous descent into Lake Oberon.

Honestly speaking, some may make light of it , but I had never done anything quite like this before. It really was rock climbing for 30-50m of the trail where false moves could have resulted in serious injury. Nonetheless, we all made it down (several times during the next few days) without incident. On arrival to the camp site, the weather was balmy but expected to turn. With that in mind, we all took a cleansing dip in the freezing waters of Oberon while getting ourselves refreshed. A quick afternoon nap came and went and the weather began to look inclement.

Our beach camp site at Lake Oberon - clothes out in the temporary sun in an effort to de-stink .

Our beach camp site at Lake Oberon – clothes out in the temporary sun in an effort to de-stink .

Francois and I tried to head up Mount Pegasus before dinner but I chickened out at the sight of ascending fairly smooth and sheer exposed rock faces. I feared with my 2 hours of sleep that coordination might not be at my strongest. I earned a new respect for those who continue on to do the whole traverse with heavy packs on.

Mount Orion and its shadow as seen from a tarn at the base of Mount Pegasus

Mount Orion and its shadow as seen from a tarn at the base of Mount Pegasus

We all settled down to use our phones at a tarn just above the campsite which still strikes as being odd. Yes , the weather forecast is helpful but the sight of four walkers sitting down staring at their phones seems kind of like an antithesis.  After dinner, there was no opportunity for photography as strong winds, then heavy rain set in and did not let up. By 8pm , I was asleep in bed and having the best camp sleep I had ever had.

TUESDAY

6am : no sunrise , steady rain and we were getting battered by wind. To pee or not to pee, that was the question ……bladder wins out and an opportunity to refix a few stray guy lines.

8am: everyone decided to skip breakfast and stay asleep. A good call as the buffeting continued. it was good opportunity to catch up with diary writing.

1pm. Finally we ventured out of our tents for lunch and inspected the sogginess of our beach /mud camp. In retrospect, it wasn’t the best idea given the rain would predictably transform the sand into a boggy morass. After lunch, more snoozing as the rain continued but finally by about 4pm, it relented! I decided to go walking to the tarn for some attempted long exposures while Luke shot the various streams around the base which are clearly visible from above.

730pm: After an early dinner, I decided that I would go up for sunset on the saddle given that there were patches of blue sky. What a grand decision that ended up being as I made the ascent in surprisingly short time (20 minutes). I was greeted by blazing pre-sunset light and shot this from halfway up Mount Orion before heading to the Pandani forest overlooking Oberon. The sunset eventually petered out and as I was heading back to the trail, I bumped into Luke and Tim who had decided to come up after me. Together we went down in the dark with safety in numbers. The only incident being Tim’s shoe getting wedged between a root and rock necessitating some extraction. That night, sleep did not come at all which wasn’t surprising given that I had slept 18 of the last 24 hours.

Epiphany : Glorious light illuminates Square Lake and distant peaks during blustery conditions nearing Mount Orion's summit

Epiphany : Glorious light illuminates Square Lake and distant peaks during blustery conditions nearing Mount Orion’s summit

Aftermath : Sunset faded away but had some moments of gold illuminating the foreground pandani.

Aftermath : Sunset faded away but had some moments of gold illuminating the foreground pandani.

WEDNESDAY

A keen 430am awakening to the sound of our alarms and we set ourselves to climb up for one more view of Lake Oberon. Each time we did the climb I felt that it had become more instinctive and less of a risk. The conditions themselves looked promising and ended up delivering in rays of golden light! So much so , that we hung around shooting well after peak light. It was one of those mornings where you start to pack it all in with satisfaction, and then even more light happened. In a small cove of pandani, it was  difficult not to get in each other’s way but I think we managed to do it well enough. A few selfies later, many SD cards later and we were headed back to camp quite satisfied with what we had achieved. We even dared to dream about other epic shots for the rest of the trip that would unfortunately never eventuate.

Glory : Morning light breaks through rapidly moving cloud while illuminating this beautiful pandani shelf.

Glory : Morning light breaks through rapidly moving cloud while illuminating this beautiful pandani shelf.

Luke lining up a composition in epic lighting on our last morning of shooting

Luke lining up a composition in epic lighting on our last morning of shooting

Packing up the tents was messy business that morning as the waterlogged bog of a beach had infiltrated all of our gear. Even Tim’s tank of a tent suffered some minor tent pole damaged from the high winds. The climb out from Oberon was a last hurrah and a fitting farewell to an epic location. Timelapsed selfies were done and the plans adjusted to Lake Cygnus for lunch.

Climbing out of Lake Oberon - just above the 'tricky' section

Climbing out of Lake Oberon – just above the ‘tricky’ section

Farewell to Lake Oberon

Farewell to Lake Oberon

Though we thought we were prepared for all the ups and downs, there were still seemingly more than we thought.  At the top of our ascent out of Oberon, the weather started to turn a little funky.  By the time of the ascent to Mount Hayes and its scree slopes, it was nearly 2pm and we thought that we’d have arrived at Cygnus already. That last section dragged on and the weather forecast was poor, so we pushed on to pitch tent at Cygnus. Along the way, a father-son duo and pretty clueless French dude were the only other walkers we saw on the trail.

When we arrived at Lake Cygnus, Francois ducked off and discovered the cache of beer he had hidden a year ago when he did the trek with Ben Wilkinson!  Legend! If only I actually drank beer, the moment would have been even more momentous. The plan was to spend the next 2 nights here and wait out bad weather for a walk out on Friday. The site was pleasant enough with matted floors but a few things conspired against us.

  • Weather : this turned foul late afternoon to the point of whiteout at dinner time. Luke returned from a search for a Dombrovskis composition overlooking Mount Hayes and was soaked through.
  • Toilets: F*@*#@me ! overflowing and with maggots no less.
  • Poor calculation: It was going to be fairly unrealistic to leave after sunrise on Friday and still make it back to have Francois meet his promise to Erin to be at the Hobart beerfest by 5pm.

Dinner was had in our vestibules where we narrowly dodged a gas cannister explosion. For an awkward few seconds we just watched the fire slowly recede around the cannister kind of just hoping it wouldn’t escalate.  Sleep actually came fast until the diarrhoea arrived again at 1030pm. It was near whiteout conditions outside and I began to frantically search for a spot to dump since I knew I wouldn’t make it to ‘that’ disgusting toilet on time. So much for eco camping – I ended up having to dig a hole just off the path and hope it wouldn’t contaminate the water source. I suspect the French dude we bumped into , whose tent was adjacent to ours, may have heard some interesting sounds.  Fortunately this was a once off and I did sleep the rest of the night.

THURSDAY

We awoke to greyness and showers. This consolidated a last minute decision to head out one day early and it was a good one. After having some sips of my beer and sharing the rest around, we broke camp and prepared for a long hike out. We calculated 8 hours on the trail and our start was delayed by a Luke toilet call, in ‘that’ toilet.

1 year old mountain chilled beer!

1 year old mountain chilled beer!

For the ridge sections, we battled horizontal wind and rain the whole time with no visibility whatsoever. So much for epic views from atop Mount Hesperus! Luke still managed to stop for some photos though in those conditions, the sony was proving its liability in damp conditions. We were glad to reach the leeward side of the mountain for the 750m descent down Alpha Moraine. Tim and Luke’s bulging knees held up but not Tim’s already torn boots.

Alpha Moraine was a soul destroyer on the way up and to a lesser degree on the descent. It did require constant concentration not only to negotiate drops , but the ever present mud. On the way down there were passing showers and light typical of our whole time on the range. Francois, Tim and I managed the descent in 75 minutes and waited a good 30 minutes for Luke before deciding on lunch at Junction Creek only 3km away. The Aus Geo article should have some pretty good passing light from that descent. As predicted, the track was a boggy stream which worsened on the approach to Junction Creek. Thanks to Tim’s steam train efforts, we made rapid time to the campsite in 45m minutes where we had our last freeze dried fill of food for the trip. HOORRRAYAY. Luke arrived at camp a little while later and after lunch we were off again on our last leg! The weather down below had warmed significantly so I ended up leaving waterproofs only below but hiking in a T shirt.

Wet but at least having seen off Alpha Moraine . This group was on their way up to pretty bad conditions up top but which were predicted to clear.

Wet but at least having seen off Alpha Moraine . This group was on their way up to pretty bad conditions up top but which were predicted to clear.

Our approach for this boggy section was simple. Mud in the way? Bash right through it! This did make things easier to the point that the last 10km went by in 2.5 hours. This included a waist deep episode for Francois and three false ends in forests that were morale sapping. Tim and Luke were only 30 minutes behind for this leg. Along the way, we met a few parties heading out on Australia day. A guided group of 4 led by the same  guide we met on the ferry out from the Overland Track last year. He was leading Hobart photographer Sohee Kim to Lake Oberon. There was an ill prepared trio with no gaiters ! I’m sure their feet were suffering from each sucking step threatening to pull their boots off.  Finally a solo traverser who gave us an indication that we were only 1 hour from the car.

When the end finally came, it was sweet! Our gear was scattered, my excess weight in fresh clothes was put to good use and overall, we felt just that much more human.  100,000 steps and 1400 storeys of climbing, 1300 photographs and a few hours of footage concluded here. The 3 hour drive back was rewarded with pizza, soft drink and a 5 minute shower before crashing into a mattressed bed. END

Mud above and below Tim's gaiters and the smashed up boots

Mud above and below Tim’s gaiters and the smashed up boots

I’ll remember this trip with fondness for a long time. The group banter, the quality tent time, the wild, changeable, beautiful and horrendous weather, the amazing views of grand and prehistoric scenery, the f@#$ explosive diarrhoea, the sore shoulders, the fatigued legs, the scoparia riddled cuts. It was ALL worth it and I’d love to do it again ( and again) in the future! It might even be worth hiding a cache of beer up there again 🙂

 

Farewell Lake Oberon , until next time!

Farewell Lake Oberon , until next time!

 

 

 

USA 2013 Part 6+: To the conclusion

I’m speeding up the end of this series to the USA as I do feel I would like write about a few other topics! Here’s a summary of the rest of our trip and some tips about each image.

Chapter 15: Any ‘ole mountain

When I was doing my virtual research for walks around the Mount Hood area, I came across several pictures of Mount Hood with Mirror Lake in the distance below. I actually thought people were ‘taking the mickey’ of the walk by saying that they climbed ‘Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. Now I know it is a real place, and I also know that it isn’t just any ‘ole mountain. It happens to have a superb view of the whole area. Our accommodation was  the little town of Government Camp which meant that I had very easy access to this trail and decided to do it in the dark. There were no issues with path finding but for my recovering lungs, it was a challenge to walk at my usual pace up the mountain. The path itself is never particularly steep or challenging but more unrelenting in its slow climb.

Photo tips to achieve sunstars : Try to have the sun partially obscured. Shoot at a narrow aperture (f16 or smaller). Have clean glass. Have less glass (exposure blend if you have to rather than having layers of filters which can create extra flare). Place an object (like your finger) over the source of light to prevent flare over the rest of the image. Consider taking shots on either side of your desired image (like a panorama) with your flare suppression technique such that any residual flare can be recovered from an overlapping image source.

Mount Hood from ‘TDH’ summit

Chapter 16: Mojo returns

By this stage of the trip, we had thankfully returned to health but Marianne’s recovery took somewhat longer as the pregnancy no doubt also took it’s impact on the course of influenza. I was glad that some time while in the Mount Hood area, her mojo for photography returned. Our second day in the Mount Hood area was spent doing a beautiful hike to Tamanawas falls. The trailhead was about 30 minutes drive from Government camp and ascends slowly through lush forest scenes toward the falls. At the time of of our visit, the fall colours were among the most vivid we had seen all trip and Charlotte certainly appreciated the walk from her seat on my back.  She was so comfortable that she once again fell asleep during the walk! Whenever this happens, we adjust our plans to wander around for an extra hour to give her undisturbed sleep. While we were doing this, we were able to find many species of fungus which we attempted to photograph. This fungus exploration and the walk’s photography was largely led by Marianne while I kept the paces going to lullaby Charlotte’s ongoing snooze. The evening was once again completely clear and so, we stayed home while munching some fries and spending some down time watching TV.

Phototip on shooting waterfalls and foilage: Often the wind will be blowing and moving foilage so your long exposures of the water will be accompanied by blurred leaves. You can take separate images at higher iso or larger apertures with a shorter shutter speed to overcome this problem but when you do so, try to compose to have the leaves not directly opposed to water as your shorter exposures will also include shorter exposures of the water motion.

Tamanawas Falls : long enough for water motion, short enough for still foilage

Chapter 17: Pumpkin Mania!

The drive from Mount Hood to Mitchell is a beautiful one through agricultural land and a gradual departure from alpine scenery. Along the way, the autumn colours were blazing as were the oranges of pumpkin fields the likes of which we never see back home!

Phototip on shooting landscapes with long focal lengths : One of my favourite aspects of shooting landscapes at long focal lengths is to achieve what is known as ‘compression of planes’. Simply put, the perspective of a highly ‘zoomed’ image minimises the apparent distance between different objects of interest. In the shot below, Mount Hood to the naked eye , though visible and looming appears much more distant than this image portrays.

Pumpkin workers with Mount Hood in the background

Chapter 18: Dali-esque landscapes:

The painted hills are an amazing array of bald , eroded hills in Central Oregon. They are part of the larger John Day Fossil Beds national monument. We based ourselves in the town of Mitchell in some beautiful holiday homes. (www.paintedhillsvaction.com) . The weather was once again clear which meant that the landscapes did not compete with dramatic skies for attention.

Phototip for choosing lighting direction: At given locations, consider how much of the detail in the landscape you want. In front lit scenarios shooting into light, it can be difficult to extract detail from the landscape due to broad dynamic range but the results can often be striking in terms of contrast. In back lit (or side lit) situations, the scene is often easier to capture and the risk of losing detail from flare or incorrect exposure is lessened. Side light can also provide some interesting shadows. At the time we visited, the painted hills overlook appeared to be best shot at sunset for a slightly side lit appearance.

Sidelight on the hills provided shadows across the textured hills

Chapter 19: From nowhere :

The next leg of our journey took us back to Eastern Washington with much more arid landscapes passing by the car window. Our final destination was Colfax in the Palouse region. Naturally we had been attracted by the rolling hills and greenery we had seen in previous images but we were visiting at the wrong time of year for those conditions. The land instead comprised of tilled earth with groves of autumn colours speckling the undulating land. Just over one hour from Colfax, Palouse Falls makes a sudden appearance seemingly out of nowhere. There was no hint of gaping chasms or any flowing water for miles around before arriving at the state park.

Phototip for shooting icons or well shot locations: Certain vantage points do offer the best view and most pleasing composition of a given scene. I found this to be the case at Palouse Falls with the ‘traditional’ top down view of the falls seemingly squeezed in on the left of frame. When visiting locations like this, I do like to photograph ‘that’ scene but try to achieve something else either by exploring the area more thoroughly or visiting at different times of the day. These are some of the takes of these magnificent falls :

The hike to the base of Palouse Falls is moderate , but the view not so grand.

During the afternoon, the sun’s light can strike at beautiful angles

Don’t forget the iconic shot! The touch of autumn colour at least added something different to this inconic view

Chapter 20 : Grass is greener

We had a very relaxed three days based in Colfax where we didn’t adventure past Steptoe Butte to the north and Kamiak Butte to the south. The skies were once again crystal clear on the first two dawns there before unexpectedly firing up for the last morning when we didn’t have plans to shoot!

Phototip for travelling and sunsets: We had been getting used to a sunset at approximately 6pm for most of our trip and planned a sunset shoot on our first evening in the Palouse for about that time. However, remember that when travelling east within a time zone, all times are pushed back to a varying degree! In turned out that the sunset was about 20 minutes earlier in the Palouse than around the Portland area meaning that we arrived late on the scene. The safest thing to do of course, is to double check with tools such as ‘The photographers’s ephemeris’ rather than make assumptions….

The Palouse from halfway up Steptoe Butte after arriving late!

Surprise! This dawn came out of the blue and had us scrambling to somewhere outside of Colfax…

Chapter 21: Happy returns

For the last two nights of our trip, the original plan was to visit the Stevens Pass area and possibly do a strenuous return hike to one of the alpine lakes in the area. However, given that our initial visit to Mount Rainier was plagued by influenza and the closure of the National Park, we decided to return to the area to close out the trip. It would also mean a shorter drive to the airport on our last morning. We are very glad that we chose this option as we were finally able to appreciate the park itself and in good health. From Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier itself initially  proved  to be elusive before bearing too much of herself with the absence of any cloud on our last day. Of the two lakes we visited, I’d say the view of Mount Rainier is more complete from Bench Lake even though it is a short muddy slog down to its shores.

Phototip for shooting alpine conditions: Simply this, don’t give up on the light! On the first evening at Mount Hood, there was constant drizzle and no visible sky as we drove from east to west across the park. Returning to Reflection Lake at sunset, there seemed to be no chance of any light or visibility of Mount Rainier but out of the blue, some spectacular light fell across the mountain albeit shrouded in cloud.

Initially there was no Mount Rainier!

Then there was a pink cloud mountain in Mount Rainier’s place!

Finally, some visibility from Bench Lake on the following morning

Chapter 22: Transition back to Urban life.

“Charlotte , do you like forests or the city?” . To which Charlotte repeatedly responded “Charlotte like forest”. That’s our girl! After leaving the crisp cool autumn of the Pacific Northwest on a beautifully clear morning, we headed to our last stop before returning to Adelaide. Marianne and Charlotte had not been to Los Angeles before while I had visited as an emo-driven teenager who did not necessarily appreciate. In a short visit there, we planned to visit Hollywood itself before spending some time in Disneyland. Even though those aspects of our visit were fantastic, we also encountered the most stress while here for the entire three weeks away. We had to wait in a rental car queue for 2 hours while trying to prevent a 2 year old meltdown. Driving itself wasn’t as bad as I had imagined but on our departure, we experienced lengthy delays due to  a shooting at LAX a few hours prior to our departure! On the positive, Charlotte enjoyed placing hands and feet at the Chinese theatre and surprisingly enjoyed most of the fast moving rides at Disneyland! On our last night, I managed to talk my way into obtaining a ticket to Mickey’s Halloween party after hours which was absolutely packed on Halloween evening.

Phototip for photographing your toddler on the go!: As posing and standing still are not two things toddlers are accustomed to doing, your shutter speed needs to be relatively high. Regarding movement to and from the camera, picking very wide apertures is highly likely to miss focus no matter what funky artsy shot you might be aiming for. After all I’m more taking images of Charlotte as  a record rather than artistic statement. For those reasons, I try not to open up below F4, I try not to reduce shutter speed below 1/100 (even when we’re posing for a family shot) and adjust iso accordingly. 

At any second, Charlotte might do a sudden movement to cause blurring!

Charlotte enjoyed most rides with the exception of Ursula who brought her to tears! 5dmk3 showing off clean high iso capabilities at  iso12800.

Phototip for shooting multiple trails of fireworks: Prior to the display commencing, work out what exposure you need for the background at a low’ish iso. Then probably halve that exposure time (for 1 stop less light) and keep that exposure time in your mind. When the fireworks start, leave the camera in bulb exposure mode with a black card over the camera until fireworks are launched. Count how long you have left the black card off for and end the exposure once you’ve reached your approximate exposure duration after varying salvos of fireworks. I hope that works for you as it did for me during Mickey’s fireworks over the castle!

Multiple trails of fireworks in the one bulb exposure

Lastly, Charlotte has the last word in this video of her trip experiences!

Well, that rounds out a fantastic trip to the USA and hopefully we’ll be able to return in a few years time with an older Charlotte and sibling at the same stage of development 🙂 Have a merry christmas and happy new year everyone!

-D & M & C & (yet to be named infant!)

USA 2013 Part 5: The illusion of choice

Chapter 13 : Great expectations

Two days based in Portland to visit the Columbia River Gorge? Too short!! If you are planning a visit to this area and wish to take your time hiking and photographing the multitude of waterfalls here, plan longer. Our accommodation was located near Burnside in the eastern suburbs of Portland. This was still half an hour away from the start of the waterfall run. Some of our time was also unfortunatelyconsumed with finding a place to repair a flat tyre which a Les Schwab outlet did for us free of charge! Our plan on the first day was to visit a few of the closer waterfalls after Charlotte woke from her afternoon nap. As a travelling couple, Marianne and I used to be able to leave at the drop of a whim and be out the door in no time flat. These days, with the right amount of cajoling and giving in to Charlotte’s requests, we might take 30 minutes? A happier child in a car is still better than a grumpy one no matter what the non life-threatening agenda ! As such, we only made our way out at 3:30pm. On the first day we were able to visit Latourell falls and Multnomah falls which we accessed through the old highway and scenic drive (well recommended). At two years old, I can only be thankful that Charlotte still likes being in the carrier provided she is given enough distraction and stimulation. It seems that moving water works a treat 🙂

The walk to Latourell Falls is a short one. We approached from the park below the falls though there isn’t a dedicated parking lot. The main feature of these falls is the almost graffiti like lichen on the rocks and it’s basalt textures. Marianne shot the falls from a higher vantage point while I waded in the water with Charlotte (flowing water is a good distraction for her!)

Latourell according to D (left) and M (right)

Multnomah Falls is the ‘King’ of waterfalls in this area. The parking lots were full, visitors of all ages and agendas were present and it also happens to be the start of a great hike which we didn’t have time to do . Evening was a good time to photograph the falls as there were minimal sharp contrasts to contend with. After photographing these falls, we made our way back to Portland for a quick bite at a local Chinese restaurant. I might add a small note that if you haven’t eaten at Chinese restaurants in the USA, you’d be doing well to finish one menu item per person such is the size of the serves everywhere we went.

Multnomah Falls upper section

Chapter 14: Local knowledge

One of the highlights of the trip for me was meeting Tula Top, a local photographer who has an impressive portfolio of waterfalls in the region. Tula’s site is here : http://www.tulatopphotography.com . We had arranged to meet and hike for a day while Marianne did more ‘cosmopolitan’ things around Portland itself. After Multnomah, possibly the most photographed waterfall I have seen from the region is Punchbowl falls. I wanted to see this with my own eyes and Tula graciously obliged in playing host. As it was a beautiful day, an early start meant that we had the Eagle Creek trail nearly entirely to ourselves but as the day warmed, the crowds of hikers began to make their way up the creek.

Our first stop was at Metlako falls. From the top down perspective and view to its canyon I wonder if it is at all possible to wander up to its base?

Metlako Falls

After taking our time there, we pushed on to Punchbowl falls where we both witnessed some incredible lighting over the falls.Despite further falls tempting us further upstream, we decided to turn back and visit other falls in the area – the choice really made things difficult but by the time we arrived back at the parking lot, it was well after noon.

Lower Punchbowl Falls

A dino egg removed?

Punchbowl Glory!

As time was limited, we chose one further fall to visit and that was Panther Creek falls north of the Columbia River. By this time, the afternoon sun was strong and there was no chance of any mists like we had seen earlier in the day which made photography difficult. It was interesting to talk to Tula and find out all sorts of things in common , none the least being that we were both physicians! By the end of the day, Marianne had arranged for our tire to be repaired (free of charge!) and we finished on a great note by having a delicious dinner at Ya Hala. We would meet Tula again later in the trip.

Panther Creek Falls

Waterfall master Tula Top in action

Chapter 15: Mad dashes

By now I must have mentioned the superb weather countless times in this series of blog posts? Originally we had no plans for our last morning in Portland but as I was feeding Charlotte breakfast, I took a look outside and saw fog! I am thankful that Marianne let me head off on another solo dash out to the gorge in the hope of getting some atmospheric type of shots which had been lacking in our trip’s images to date. The fog cleared about 10 minutes out of Portland on the highway! I chose Elowah falls , dashed up and down the path, spent 20 minutes in the stream before dashing back to Portland to finish packing. Our next destination at Mount Hood was only 1 hour away so we had some time to kill before leaving. It just so happened that for one reason or another, one of our tripod heads had become stuck whereby no horizontal panning was possible. Thankfully, camera stores in Portland were far better stocked than any in Adelaide and we were able to purchase a Benro ballhead during a brief sojourn into the CBD. Gitzo will be receiving a few ballheads from us for repairs when we get around to it! The GPS was set yet again, and it was time to head to our accommodation at Government Camp, Mount Hood.

Elowah Falls

Autumn yin yang along the Eagle Creek hike

Next Chapters: Hoodwinked!