Partial Pemi Loop, NH

Here are some photographs from a partial Pemigewasset Loop that my wife and I hiked this 7-8 August.
We hiked the loop in a counter-clockwise direction from Lincoln Woods trailhead, over Bondcliff, Mt. Bond,
Mt. Guyot, South Twin Mtn, Garfield, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, and exiting
down Falling Waters Trail from Little Haystack Mountain.
25 miles, 17 Hours in two days.

The first (roughly) 10km is pretty flat, on an old rail bed, and after a long but easy vertical kilometer, you emerge onto Bondcliff, In my head, I think of them as the Bond Cliffs, as they are on the shoulder of Mt. Bond, and therefore, I anthropomorphically ascribe ownership
of the cliffs to the body of Mt. Bond…in any case, here’s my wife in the classic cliche Bondcliff shot, but it’s an amazing spot everytime I go to it.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

View from the Bondcliff "plank" ; from the hiker's perspective, it's not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there's a part of the brain that doesn't really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall...

View from the Bondcliff “plank” ; from the hiker’s perspective, it’s not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there’s a part of the brain that doesn’t really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall…

From Bondcliff, its uphill to Mt. Bond (elev 1,432 m), and then to Mt. Guyot (1,396 m), and then a 3 km walk through the woods to South Twin Mountain (1,494 m). From there, its a short but STEEP downhill to Galehead Hut, and then a slow but steady and then steep climb to Mt. Garfield (1,372 m). At the summit of Mt. Garfield there are panoramic views from an old fire tower’s foundation (from WhiteMountainHistory.org)

The 1938 Hurricane blew down thousands of acres of forest and many sections of the White Mountain National Forest were closed to public use because of the high fire hazard. Several new lookouts, guard stations, trails and roads were constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) at this time. The concrete foundation of the lookout on the summit of Mount Garfield is a stark reminder of that period. (Incidentally the outhouse for the Garfield Lookout is still standing and is a short distance north of the summit hidden by balsam fir trees. )

View of Owl's Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

View of Owl’s Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

From here, it was several kilometers unti the summit of Mt Lafayette (1,603.2 m) became visible.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

Stunning views from the summit:

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

And then, a down and up to Mt. Lincoln before a final descent/ascent to Little Haystack:

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

All in all, a great hike in perfect weather conditions over two days — a rarity in the White Mountains!

Iceland, Post #1

I just returned from my first ever visit to Iceland, a trip I’ve been wanting to take for many years. I had a mixed mission to photograph and run up as many mountains & volcanoes as possible. But, alas, the weather conspired to make real running problematic at best. A day or two prior to my arrival, a blizzard deposited a snow all over the mountains and backroads of southern Iceland, making travel to trailheads via ordinary 4wd not possible.

Of course, if you had one of these, you’d be all set:

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

As it was, I had to drive 25 km on supposed main roads to get to the cottage I rented, and the wind had already begun drifting over sections of the road. When I took the side “road” to the cottage, I got stuck off the road, and had to dig out the snow from under the truck with my mittened hands. Finally I made it to the “R50″ cottage (just a name, not an insulation value)—it had a nice view of Hekla:

This is the little cottage "R50" that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It's super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

This is the little cottage “R50″ that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It’s super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

The hill on the left looks to be the same height as Hekla, but it’s not; as you can see in the view from a different vantage point:

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)---it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn't even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)—it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn’t even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

My first day, I went for a nice 12km run to explore the first hill; it was obvious that running shoes would be iffy at best due to the ice, snow and steepness as one approached the summit, so I resolved to come back in a day or two with my crampons and ice axe. More about that in another post.

On my second day, I ended up having the good fortune to have picked up two hitchhikers from Reykjavik University—they were headed to Seljavallalaug — a small pool built into the mountainside of the mountains by Eyjafjallajökull (that’s the volcano that erupted in 2010), a fifteen-minute walk (over rocky streams and under basalt turrets) off the end of road 242. I’d have not found this pool if they had not been hitching a ride when I drove by. Here’s the pool:

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920's. I gave a couple of hitchhiking  students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920’s. I gave a couple of hitchhiking students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

and here’s a picture of steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside:

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

On the way back to the “ring road” (rt. 1), I came by this house, and made my favorite image of my trip (click any image to view it larger):

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

A few things I’ve learned about traveling to Iceland: (1) if you come in March or April, bring SkiMo gear (this is an awesome place to ski tour, and sometimes, the only way to cover the distances over snow needed to reach trailheads, (2) don’t even think about seeing the whole island in a week. You need time, and the weather may not always cooperate, (3) Iceland’s weather is like that in the mountains of New Hampshire or Maine, it can be very windy and significantly colder than at the lower elevations.

More in my next post.

Black Mountain, Maine

Tunk Lake from Black Mountain

Tunk Lake, ME from slope of Black Mountain

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted due to having moved the family and set up a new house, but I’ve still managed to shoot a fair amount—however, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. I’m starting to get caught up with work and now that we’re all just about settled in, and I hope to post more regularly.

So, in the spirit of getting started again, here’s an image from my new favorite hike in downeast Maine—Black Mountain. Most people that hike in the area (just north of Ellsworth) go to Schoodic Mountain, and I’ve hiked it many times. But, it’s a little disappointing to have radio towers on the summit. Black Mountain doesn’t have this problem, and I rarely see many people hiking on in. It has an extended region with sweeping views extending from Mount Desert Island to the mountains of Western Maine. The photograph above is from an overlook toward Tunk Lake, and the photograph below, of the granite close to the summit of Black Mountain.

Granite and Lichens, Black Mountain, ME

Isle Au Haut, Maine #1

Recently, my wife and I spent a day (sans children) hiking on Isle Au Haut, a 10 km ferry ride from Stonington, ME. Isle Au Haut has about 45 year-round residents, and much of the island is part of Acadia National Park. Due to it’s remoteness, it’s the least visited part of Acadia (actually, I don’t have any data on that, but I’d bet you a nickel it’s true). There are only two rangers on the island and part of their job (aside from being incredibly friendly and knowledgeable) is to make sure everyone that entered the park in the morning leaves at the end of the day on the last ferry.

This will be the first of several posts on the trip, and I’ll include a photo or two with each post.

Today’s photos, the ferns (A) and the beach rocks (B), are taken at Duck Harbor (southwestern part of the island), and Squeaker Cove, respectively.

Duck harbor was where I first noticed that Isle Au Haut has some of the largest uninterupted fields (except for large boulders and occasional trees) that I have ever seen. These fields are so densely packed with ferns (I believe in this case, hay-scented ferns) that they seem to have crowded out many other species of plants. The visual effect is amazing, and the soft overcast light made photographing the fields quite pleasingly simple.

After a short hike up and over Duck Harbor Mountain, we arrived at Squeaker Cove. Beautiful smooth granite stones line the beach, which inevitably prompts people to create little cairn scultpures, many of which you can see here.

Incidently, when we arrived at the next beach at Deep Cove, which is populated by similarly smooth granite stones, my wife stepped in such a way that two of the polished stones slid against each other and produced a noise we both spontaneously described as a squeak, hence our theory that this is behind the naming of Squeaker Cove.

I have no idea if this theory has any truth to it, but it’s a good sounding theory. So there.

I hope you enjoy the images. More about hiking on the island in the next post.

Breaking the rule; sometimes the subject is in the center!

My family (last weekend) stayed for several nights at Maine Huts & Trails’ Flagstaff Lake Hut which is on the northeastern shores of Flagstaff Lake. To the south lie the Bigelow Mountains (whose peaks the Appalachian Trial passes over). It’s a beautiful location where the nightime sounds are consist of owls and plaintive loons, and some of the darkest night skies I’ve seen.

The actual story behing the creation of Flagstaff Lake still leaves a bad taste in many people’s minds—read more at this link.
Despite the history, the hut is situated in a beautiful spot and landscape photography opportunities abound. Our first night there, a short walk down a peninusla, and we were treated to a peaceful sunet with some dramatic light.

I could see, as the sun lowered in the sky, that it was soon going to be behind the clouds and anticipated the rays of light, and deliberately underexposed this image slightly to help preserve highlight detail.

But how should I frame the scene? Conventional wisdom is to not center your subject in the frame (and for some people not to take a photograph of a sunset!); so if you say that the sun & the dark central clouds are the subject, I’ve clearly violated this rule. In many cases, this rule is a good one to follow, since a central subject placement can me very static (i.e. boring). So, is there another framing of this scene that would be better?

Perhaps, but my eye sees this image as well balanced with the heavy blacks at the bottom third of the image and the sky occupying the rest. Furthermore, the dark edges of the clouds form a “v” shaped (or a nearly oblique line rising from left to right). I find the shapes of the mountains make my eye wander naturally from bottom right to bottom left and then up toward the sun and clouds. The sharp contrasts lead my eye around the image naturally, and in a way that seems pleasing to me.

I like this image, and I think the framing works well. I think this image is a good example of when it’s a good idea to ignore the “rule” of avoiding central subject placement.

Technical details:  this image was 1/640 sec at f/8.0 70-200mm f/2.8L at 70 mm, ISO 100 -1/3 EV, processed in Adobe Lightroom 3  and converted to B&W using SilverEfex Pro.