Archive for the ‘Mountain Monday’ Tag

Mountain Monday: The Mogollons   20 comments

This post is one day late for International Mountain Day.  But right on time for Mountain Monday!  It highlights a relatively remote place in western New Mexico.  I’d been wanting to go to this part of the southern Rockies for a long time, and earlier this year I finally made it.  I drove up a dirt road that ended at a gate marking the boundary of the Gila Wilderness.  The road continued beyond the gate, growing worse and clinging to the side of a mountain.

I parked and began to hike along the rough jeep track, recognizing it as an old mining route.  I followed it toward the head of a canyon.  Poking around I found some weathered shacks, a couple adits and other remnants of the gold & silver boom of the late 1800s.  There is a ghost town not far from here called Mogollon.  On the way back, as the sun sank lower, the air cooled and fog began to form over the mountains to the west.  It made for a mystical scene.  The sunset that followed was nice, but this shot was my favorite because of its mysterious feel.

The Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico's Gila Wilderness march off into the distance.

The Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness march off into the distance.

Mountain Monday: Outback Oregon   4 comments

Winter begins by dusting the Pueblo Mountains of southeastern Oregon.

Winter begins by dusting the Pueblo Mountains of southeastern Oregon.

I posted Friday on photography around stormy weather but neglected to include snow.  Good images are really difficult to get when it’s snowing heavily.  So let’s follow up and correct that error.  This is an image where the snow had just fallen on the mountains but never really reached me.  It was early morning and I was hoping for the mountains to show themselves.  It was chilly so I though maybe there would be snow, but I was surprised there was so much.

I was in what is called Oregon’s “outback” (apologies to Australia).  Southeastern Oregon is very thinly populated and is wide-open high desert.  Geologically, the mountains are fault-block type.  This simply means that they were formed by high-angle faults which throw one side down (becoming the valley or basin) and one side up (forming a long relatively narrow range).  It’s also known as basin and range terrain and continues south through most of Nevada and east to the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

The reason I didn’t get snowed on is because of the “rain shadow effect”.  This is when rain or snow is essentially blocked by a mountain range.  The clouds are lifted by the mountain slopes, cooling the air and causing precipitation.  When the air descends the lee side of the range, it warms and dries, leaving little or none of the wet stuff for the valley beyond.  In areas where the weather pretty much comes from one direction, there can be very dramatic differences in vegetation between the windward and lee sides of any range that runs nearly perpendicular to the direction of prevailing winds.

Enjoy your week and Happy Labor Day to my fellow Americans!

Mountain Monday: Big Chief   10 comments


This beautiful mountain lies in northern Montana not far from the Canadian border.  It has great significance to the local Blackfeet.  It was a major landmark for trappers and other early explorers of the early 19th century heading west across the northern plains to the Rockies.  Big Chief, which is 9081 feet high, is protected not only by Glacier National Park, but also by the Blackfeet.  It’s eastern and northern slopes are on reservation land, and it is sacred to the tribe.

To see it you need to travel up the east side of Glacier N.P., going north from the turnoff for Many Glacier.  Travel up Highway 17 like you’re going across into Canada, and several views of the peak present themselves.  To get even closer of course you need to hike.  Just before the border station a parking area is on the left side of the road.  The trail, which is the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail, heads up the valley of the Bow River into Glacier’s heart.  It’s a spectacular area.

Mountain Monday: Mount Drum, Alaska   4 comments

This is an old film shot of Mt. Drum in Alaska.  The Copper River, famous for its salmon runs, sparkles in the foreground.  Drum is a large volcano, part of the Wrangell Mountains in the south-central part of the state.  The mountain and surrounding area are protected within Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, which at over 20,000 square miles is the largest national park in the United States.

Although it rises just over 12,000 feet above sea-level, hardly a great height for these parts, Drum stands up in dramatic fashion.  It rises 11,000 feet above the Copper River in about 25 miles, and the spectacular south face rises 6000 feet over the Nadina Glacier.

It is quite a young volcano, the youngest in the Wrangells in fact.  It last erupted just 250,000 years ago when a large part of the summit collapsed and a huge avalanche cascaded down the south face, covering some 80 square miles (200 sq km) of terrain.

Although it is not technically very difficult to climb, it involves a fairly major expeditionary effort because of the remoteness and the amount of glaciation and snowfall.  It was first climbed in 1954 by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer.  It wasn’t climbed again until 1968.

This was shot years ago, as a young man driving through God’s country on a beautifully crisp autumn afternoon.  It was mid-September.  I recall that evening camping on a pass and, while freezing my butt off, seeing the northern lights.  It was the only time I actually heard them, and they were also the brightest and most spectacular I’ve seen so far.  Unfortunately I didn’t think it possible to capture them on film.  Reason enough to return for a road-trip!

Mount Drum and the Copper River, Alaska

Mount Drum and the Copper River, Alaska

Mountain Monday: 2014’s Favorite   12 comments

Despite 2014 being the first time in years where the amount of photography I did actually decreased, I had a pretty tough time picking a favorite mountain image.  A bunch are more spectacular and dramatic than this one.  But I really like the perspective and light, so this is the one!

Captured from the edge of String Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, you see three peaks, the center one being the tallest one in the range, Grand Teton itself, at 13, 776′ (4200 m.).  The one on the left is called Teewinot Mountain, after the Shoshone word for “many pinnacles”.  This peak is very nicely highlighted by the light from the setting sun, which is streaming down and bouncing off the walls of Cascade Canyon.

I was just returning from a great hike along the range-front past Leigh Lake and to the sunny, empty shore of Jackson Lake, where I had a nice warm siesta.  I went off-trail for a couple hours and saw moose (including a baby), elk and deer.  I had been rushing to get back before dark, but when I came to String Lake, not far from the trailhead, the sun was getting ready to set.  I wandered off-trail and along the shoreline.  I was actually more in wildlife mode, with a long lens on.  But when I saw the light on Teewinot, with the Grand behind it, I began to look for good landscape compositions.

String Lake has plenty of rocks and logs along the shore, but I thought the partly submerged grass in this spot where a small creek entered matched the mood of approaching evening.  The light reflecting off the water looked beautiful filtered by the grass.  It’s been said that pictures will come to you if you let them, and that’s what happened this time.  The framed composition just appeared while I was awkwardly trying to keep my feet dry (I failed).  I set up quickly while the light lasted.  The vertical composition was so obvious to me that I didn’t do a horizontal.  I usually try to do both.

I named it The Sentinel because that’s what Teewinot reminds me of here.  Although I have a number of very nice images of the Tetons, this might be my favorite thus far.  But tell me what you think; don’t be afraid to be honest either!  I hope you are enjoying your short work week!

Teewinot Mountain and Grand Teton from String Lake.

Teewinot Mountain and Grand Teton from String Lake.

Mountain Monday: The Other El Capitan   6 comments

On some Sundays, I like to go behind the scenes of a shot for Single-image Sunday.  Work yesterday prevented me from posting.  So I had an idea.  Mountain Monday is one of those themes you see for posting pictures on the internet.  One example is Throwback Thursday).  But instead of just posting a mountain picture on Mondays, I’m going to start a little semi-regular series.  I figure, at the very least, for those times when I miss Single-image Sunday, it makes a good fall-back.

And so I’m combining Mountain Monday with the idea behind Sunday’s posts.  That is, I’ll post one image and briefly tell a story about it.  It’ll be a story of what I find most fascinating about the subject of the photo, and how I chose to photograph it given the conditions at the time.

I don’t like to go into detail about the settings and equipment I use while shooting; I don’t think it’s very interesting or illuminating.  But I do think it’s cool to see how other people see a given subject, what they find interesting about it.  In particular, I think it can be instructive to see how other photographers take what’s given in terms of light, weather and other conditions, and exactly how they choose to showcase the subject through their images.

When shooting, it’s always my goal to (first) put you right there as if you’re seeing the subject in real life, and at that moment; (second) to hold your attention long enough for a little story or emotion to come to mind; and (third) to make you see and appreciate some of what I love about the subject.  For me, this is the real purpose of photography.

So now, finally, to the image (they won’t all be this long!).  This is a mountain in west Texas that I recently bumped into.  I didn’t even know about another El Capitan.  I thought that “El Cap”, the one that overlooks Yosemite Valley in California was the only one.  You know, the one that is scaled by those incredibly limber rock jocks.

This El Capitan lies in west Texas near the New Mexico border.  It was, in the old west, a well known landmark for travelers.  In the 1700s and 1800s, it was a beacon for Spaniards and then white Americans pushing into the American desert southwest, heading for Santa Fe or California.  It was also an important landmark for native Americans in pre-historical times, going back at least 12,000 years.

Geologically, El Capitan is part of the Guadalupe Mountains, which is the uplifted portion of a long, mostly buried limestone reef.  This reef was alive in a warm sea 250 million years ago, in the Permian.  It was created by sponges, algae and solitary corals seeking sunlight.  And it supported, as modern reefs do, a huge community of bottom-crawling and free swimming critters.  Coiled-shell ammonites, a squid-relative that is survived today by the reclusive pearly nautilus, were especially abundant.

Imagine time-travel (of the deep variety): the soft-muffled sound of small waves washing across a shallow bank of brilliant white sand; iridescent shades of turquoise blue water spread in layers across a subtropical seascape, a warm breeze, and no other humans within millions of years of you.

What the years have done to it!  The Chihuahuan Desert is one I haven’t properly explored yet.  I began to on this little trip.  I found a great variety of succulents, including cholla, prickly pear, and several different varieties of agave (including century plant), plus various kinds of yucca.  What they all have in common is the ability to hurt when you bump into them.  The yucca pictured is called the Spanish bayonet!

For the picture, I scouted this area the day before.  I saw (and felt!) that the slopes bordering a major wash had plenty of plant diversity, plus a great view of the mountains.  Next to El Capitan is the highest mountain in Texas, Guadalupe Peak at 8751 feet.

Next morning was cold, windy and very clear.  Most landscape photographers, you may know, hate clear skies.  But it was so darn clear that you could see halfway across Texas (not really).  The clarity of the air itself was attractive to me.  So I dragged myself out of bed and wandered through the pricklies.

For the foreground, I wanted either an endemic, cool looking plant or an interesting outcrop of limestone.  The background was a given: El Capitan & the Guadalupes in the first rays of the sun.  The extreme clarity of the air meant that using a wide angle lens and moving very close to the foreground would, despite the lack of clouds, add some sense of depth.  The lesson: don’t always assume clear, cloudless conditions equals a flat, boring photograph.

Though this isn’t an award-winner, and certainly won’t secure many “wows” on the internet, I think it’s the kind of image that both depicts this place as it is and also shows it to good advantage.  What more can a photographer ask for?

Yucca and the Guadalupe Mountains, west Texas

Yucca and the Guadalupe Mountains, west Texas

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