Autumn at Zion; In Pursuit of Colors

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It’s no secret that Zion National Park is a photography and adventure paradise. Zion is nothing short of a fantasy-like desert dreamland chock-full of dramatic views, bizarre rock formations and seemingly endless amounts of scenic waterways. Another thing to note about Zion is that it boasts incredible displays of vivid and unique colors. Throughout the photos I have seen from Zion over the years, I have become keen to the fantastic colors that can be found there and this Fall I sought out to capture them. I’ve become quite enthralled with water lately and wanted this to be another area of focus in my recent trips to Zion over the last month. 

On my first trip, a group of my friends and I were planning to run a technical canyon that we had in mind, but unfortunately we did not get the permit for that. Instead we were able to get permits for the entire Subway section. It ended up being a blessing in disguise though because we had a great time. We did not get through the entire Subway system due to time constraints, but we got our fair share of adventure and thrill in the first section of the Subway in Left Fork (Das Boot). Because we could not do the full Subway and I was really looking forward to it, I decided that I needed to go back. Before we even finished the hike I was mapping out plans for the next Zion visit in my head which was 2 weeks out from that point. Luckily the timing coincided with a great time to catch Fall colors in the Narrows. Pictured below is Anna Ungerman navigating through a cold and dark cave-like slot canyon. The deep, earthy and rich grays & greens were so fascinating to me. 

“Cavernous”


Fast forward to 2 weeks later – myself and three friends (Nick Reedy, Wes Hawkins and Chris Lewis) are driving down Friday after work in hopes of getting to the permit office to try and secure a Subway permit. We made it just short of Visitor Center closing on Friday and bustled through the village to the backcountry permit office. I told the ranger that we were looking for 3 permits for the Subway bottom up hike. Her initial response was “We’re actually all out of Subway permits for tomorrow, but let me double check the system.” My heart sank a little into my stomach, but I held onto the last shred of hope that there might be some permits available… “Oh, look at that. There are actually 3 available.” .. We got the permits and were on our way with unparalleled levels of stoke! 

About the hike…
Hiking the Subway from the bottom up is not a technical endeavor by any means, but it is somewhat of a long hike that takes at least 5 hours. The there-and-back hike is around 9 miles, and nearly the entire way is scenic and pretty. The beginning of a hike takes you to the rim of a large canyon with a nice view of the river below coming from the Left Fork. You’ll work your way down the side of the steep cliff/hillside and then left (North East) to a trail that parallels the river. The trail constantly cuts back/forth over the river to change sides of where the trail is. On the way back we made a bet (thanks for the beers, boys!) about how many times we would cross the stream, and it was 29 times! As for gear, you really don’t typically need more than standard hiking clothing and potentially some neoprene socks in case you end up walking through water.

Here is a map of the subway from the bottom up, credit to canyoneeringusa.com! You will begin the hike at the Left Fork Trailhead (make sure to have your permit sticker in the car window). The “Red Waterfalls” section is where you can find Arch Angel Falls and the Waterfall Crack. 


My recommendation would be to start the hike just after sunrise so that you will have time to photograph Arch Angel Falls before the light hits it, which is a nice cascading waterfall just before the true “Subway” section. Don’t forget to stop at the famous waterfall crack! 

“Drowning”

We ended up catching some AMAZING light in the Subway. It was so stunningly gorgeous and truly some of the best light I have seen. Reflected light in slot canyons never seems to stun me. Below are two of my favorite photos from the Subway. “The Explorer” pictures myself as the subject, and “Teardrop” pictures my friend Wes Hawkins. 

“The Explorer”


“Teardrop”


We were all very stoked on the adventure through the Subway! We had a celebratory meal at Oscars (sooo good!) and then went back to the campsite to have a few beers and relax. We went to bed early and set out at 5 the next morning to pack up and then explore The Narrows. My recommendation as a photographer in the Narrows is to catch the earliest buses out in order to beat the crowds and also get further up into the canyon where it is more scenic in hopes to get the good light. 


I was very pleased and excited to find that there were nice Fall colors still hanging around in The Narrows. Pictured below is the first location Nick Reedy and myself shot at in the Narrows. I was really taken back by the beauty of this small scene. The blue and turquoise-like water really complemented the soft yellows of the leaves and the soothing golden glow of sandstone in the background.

“Resilient”



At a certain point along the hike we decided it was best that we turn around as the good light started to become harsh or absent, but I was hoping that there would be something rad on the way out. Sure enough, we turned the corner to one of the last narrow sections of Wall Street to find some nice glowing walls at the end of a dark corridor. I was recently inspired by a photo from Dustin Lefevre that he released of a very dark section of the narrows with gorgeous, flowing blue water and an orange light at the end of the tunnel. I was really hoping to come across a dark scene like this and I was so excited to turn a corner and see one! 

Mesmerizing

Our Zion squad. Chris, Wes, Nick and Myself.


I apologize that it has been so long since I have written, but I hope you guys enjoyed reading about my Fall trips through Zion!

I have a holiday special going on right now where I am doing 10% off of any order total and it will run through New Years. Please use code “happyholidays” in the cart before checking out. 

Stay stoked my friends! 

The PNW – An Epic Road Trip

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It all started when … 

A recent change in jobs meant a 3 week lapse of employment, and I wanted to take advantage of this rare (for me) opportunity. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend my free time than by heading North to cool off and seek some new places. My list of beautiful destinations and adventures in the Pacific Northwest has been piling up since my last trip in April of 2017 and I’ve been itching for another visit. This window of free time was never really a sure fire thing until the last minute and the whole trip was more of a rough idea for a few weeks. Once I finally got everything confirmed, I had 1 full day to get things planned out before I needed to set out.. 3 french presses of coffee and 12 hours of Google-fu later, I was armed and ready to embark on my quest. It just so happened that I had two good friends, Nick Pearsons and Will Cruz, heading out 2 days after this to do some mountaineering on Mt. Shasta in California. I figured this would be a hell of a way to kick start the trip, so of course I agreed to join them. 

The first day of my trip was spent driving through a headwind all of the way across Nevada heading straight to Mt. Shasta. Unfortunately I arrived about 20 minutes too late to catch the good light, so I ended up taking in the rest of the sunset and relaxing by the water on Lake Siskiyou with a stunning view of the ever beautiful Mt. Shasta. For those of you who don’t know, Mt. Shasta is a volcano sitting at 14,179ft elevation and marks the beginning of the Cascades mountain range. After taking in the sunset, I went to the trailhead to catch a few hours of sleep and wait for Nick & Will who were driving through the night to start the climb upon their arrival – I still think y’all are crazy for this! We set off at 5 in the morning and ended up finishing around 5 in the afternoon. The climb was a brutal 11 miles total with 7,300 feet of elevation gain – probably one of the steepest routes I have done. Luckily it wasn’t technical as we chose the Avalanche Gulch route. Being that this route is one of the top 50 classic American ski descents, I wasn’t about to pass up a ride down the mountain and brought my splitboard just for the occasion. I didn’t really get to ski too much going up the mountain, but I did get about 4,000 feet of vertical descent and every turn was worth the effort of lugging that thing up the mountain. All things considered, we had an excellent climb and everything went as planned. After Shasta I decided I wanted to take my road bike down the access road, but that turned out to be a bad idea as I hit a pile of gravel going quite fast and took a pretty gnarly spill. Luckily I barely missed an oncoming van and walked away with a few bruises and scrapes on just one knee. Life can be a very fragile thing; never take it for granted. Afterwards we got some take-out and headed to Lake Siskiyou to catch another sunset at Shasta, pictured below. 

Shasta


The next stop was Olympia, Washington to meet up with awesome landscape photographer and close friend, Jeff Larson. I stopped in Portland for the night on the way to break up the drive. The next morning I headed up to Olympia for a day of relaxation at Jeff’s place (thanks Jeff & Anna!) before 6 days of constant adventure & madness. After a day of rest, Jeff and myself sent it straight up to the Olympic Peninsula where we spent 2 days together exploring the Hoh Rainforest, Sol Duc Falls and Rialto Beach all within the Olympic National Park. I have to say that the Olympic Peninsula was certainly the highlight of the trip. We got to see a lot of stunning areas and unique landscapes, and never really had to deal with crowds. The Olympic National park is a world heritage site, and after being there I completely understood why. The beauty in that area is so immense that I cannot even put it into words. You really have to see it for yourself. As far as pictures from the Olympic Peninsula, I’ve got “Rush” & “Tidal” below, and the background image for this blog photographed near Sol Duc Falls titled “Lucidity”. 

Rush


Sadly Jeff had responsibilities and adult stuff going on, so he was only able to spend 2 days up in the Olympic National Park adventuring. I wasn’t done exploring this scenic country though and decided to stay another day before heading into the North Cascades. Not too much to report for day 3 on the Peninsula as I spent most of it napping and eating. Constantly being on the go leaves me hungry and sleepy all the time. Sunset finally rolled around and I caught it at Second Beach to photograph the big, sexy hunk of rock you see here in my “Tidal” image. 

Tidal


The next morning I headed over to the ferry so that I could cut off some drive time by crossing the Puget Sound. After a few hours of driving I finally rolled up into the North Cascades National Park, a place that I have been longing to see for quite some time now. The North Cascades are straight up magical with seemingly endless surroundings of dramatic glacier carved peaks towering above you, massive glacial lakes and all of the beauty you could ever imagine crammed into every inch of space there. The North Cascades is hands down one of the most beautiful and stunning areas that I have been to in my travels, and it really reminded me of the Dolomites in Italy. I was in the park during what is considered early season, so unfortunately a lot of the trails were completely snowed in and closed. This wasn’t the worst news though because it meant less people and fewer crowds. Aside from cars going along the highway and some tourists at Washington Pass Overlook (which is incredible btw) I didn’t really see too many people in the entire park. I spent 2 and a half days exploring the North Cascades shooting some photos, reading, relaxing at a peaceful campsite and also doing some road biking. It was so nice to have some downtime and solitude outside of the photography excursions to reflect on my trip thus far and take in the crisp mountain air. The following 3 photos are from the North Cascades National Park. 

Looming


Singularity


North Cascades Starscape


The next stop on my radar was to head down into Portland to meet up with some friends and have a chill night of camping as well as some waterfall chasing. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t chase some waterfalls in the PNW? After arriving in Portland I linked up with Michelle Gefre, Kolbi Lloyd, and Will Cruz (again) so that we could head out to camp. I actually met all 3 of these wonderful people through Instagram! Over the years Instagram has helped connect me with a lot of great friends and I am so grateful for that. We camped in an area in Washington just outside the Columbia River Gorge so that we would be close-ish to Falls Creek Falls. We spent the following morning hiking to the falls and enjoying the sights there. I’d have to say that this waterfall is probably my favorite in the CRG surrounding area! Pictured is Michelle below the Falls to give you some scale. 

Falls Creek Falls


Alas, it was day 9 and the the final day of adventure on the 10 day road trip, but it wasn’t over yet! I set my sights on Bend, Oregon and made off on my way where I would meet up with another Instagram connection and close friend, Brock Slinger. We didn’t really have much of plan set in stone and the weather was looking a little dicey, so a lot of stuff was up in the air. Brock figured that we should check out Smith Rock, so when I got there we had a beer and set off to race the sun to make it to the top of Smith Rock by sunset. We nearly blew out a lung on the way up, but we were rewarded with some dramatic light, colorful skies and gorgeous scenery – well worth the effort! Brock and I shot the sunset and then enjoyed another beer before making our way back to the car. That sunset was nothing short of epic and really tied the trip together for an unforgettable ending. I crashed in Bend for the night (Thanks Brock and Lindsay!) and the next day would drive straight home back to SLC. 

Smith Rock


3200 miles later (google maps wouldn’t let me add on more destinations for the sake of this screenshot) and the trip was over. My mind, body, car and wallet were exhausted, but my spirit and heart were full of joy. 


I’m sure I’ll have a few more photos from this trip that I will eventually get to, but this is it for now! I hope you enjoyed following me along for this journey and hopefully you’ll feel inspired to visit some of these stunning places one day. 

Cheers,
Ross

White Pocket – Hyper Reality

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I’ve heard tell that White Pocket is an alien landscape and a photographer’s paradise, and after visiting I’d have to say that it’s absolutely true. I was fortunate even enough to spend a weekend at White Pocket back in November of last year with my good friend and awesome photographer, Jeff Larson. We set out to spend 3 days at White Pocket for a weekend of exploring this odd & unique place and it was quite the experience!

There were several other rumors that I heard about WP and each was more intriguing than the last. Rumors from the quality of the the adventurous road to tales of otherworldly rock formations & bizarre color palettes – I had to go! One of the most fascinating things that I had heard however was about the “Salmon Light” as described by Sean Baghaw (He wrote an awesome piece about it, click here to read!). During short windows of the day, the landscape begins to glow and has a gorgeous pink/red hue to it. It was definitely something I had yet to experience. I can attest that all of this, and more, is true.

The weekend in WP turned out to be quite the roller coaster ride, too. I had recently got a new tripod and I was oh so excited to use it, but I think I was too excited because I ended up making a big mistake.. During the first spot I was shooting at for sunset, I quickly set up my rig and got everything ready to go, but apparently I didn’t secure my camera in the tripod properly. Well, long story short, my camera fell right out of my ball head and tumbled a few times down a cliff. My heart sank to my stomach and I was frozen in shock, but after I snapped out of it I quickly rushed down to see what was broken. To my surprise, the only thing that was really “broken” was full functionality of the zoom on my wide angle, and my screen was a little crooked. Otherwise, it was completely functional! Team Nikon FTW!! Pictured below is the battle wound.



Dropping my camera was probably the biggest and most unfortunate event of the weekend. The rest of our time was spent chasing light, searching for compositions and just enjoying some solitude in the beautiful Desert Southwest. We were lucky enough to get some great light during our sunsets & rises, especially on our last night when things went full nuclear (see my “Continuum” photo).

I really wanted to come away from WP with unique photos that would coincide with a vision that I have been pursuing for the last year or so now in effort to define myself and establish my photographic style. I have been steadily transitioning my imagery to have what I like to call a “Hyper Real” look, hence the name of the gallery. Dramatic light, vibrant colors, surrealistic views and dreamy imagery are the qualities that I am striving to capture & draw away from the natural world. I hope that my small White Pocket gallery will help give you a feeling to what it was like to be in this strange and breathtakingly beautiful place.

 

“Converge”


“Irreversible”




“The Hypnotist”


“Continuum”



As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my blog! Cheers.

Ross



White Pocket – Hyper Reality

The story behind the photo
By //March 14, 2018

I’ve heard tell that White Pocket is an alien landscape and a photographer’s paradise, and after visiting I’d have to say that it’s absolutely true. I was fortunate even enough to spend a weekend at White Pocket back in November of last year with my good friend and awesome photographer, Jeff Larson. We set out to spend 3 days at White Pocket for a weekend of exploring this odd & unique place and it was quite the experience!

There were several other rumors that I heard about WP and each was more intriguing than the last. Rumors from the quality of the the adventurous road to tales of otherworldly rock formations & bizarre color palettes – I had to go! One of the most fascinating things that I had heard however was about the “Salmon Light” as described by Sean Baghaw (He wrote an awesome piece about it, click here to read!). During short windows of the day, the landscape begins to glow and has a gorgeous pink/red hue to it. It was definitely something I had yet to experience. I can attest that all of this, and more, is true.

The weekend in WP turned out to be quite the roller coaster ride, too. I had recently got a new tripod and I was oh so excited to use it, but I think I was too excited because I ended up making a big mistake.. During the first spot I was shooting at for sunset, I quickly set up my rig and got everything ready to go, but apparently I didn’t secure my camera in the tripod properly. Well, long story short, my camera fell right out of my ball head and tumbled a few times down a cliff. My heart sank to my stomach and I was frozen in shock, but after I snapped out of it I quickly rushed down to see what was broken. To my surprise, the only thing that was really “broken” was full functionality of the zoom on my wide angle, and my screen was a little crooked. Otherwise, it was completely functional! Team Nikon FTW!! Pictured below is the battle wound.



Dropping my camera was probably the biggest and most unfortunate event of the weekend. The rest of our time was spent chasing light, searching for compositions and just enjoying some solitude in the beautiful Desert Southwest. We were lucky enough to get some great light during our sunsets & rises, especially on our last night when things went full nuclear (see my “Continuum” photo).

I really wanted to come away from WP with unique photos that would coincide with a vision that I have been pursuing for the last year or so now in effort to define myself and establish my photographic style. I have been steadily transitioning my imagery to have what I like to call a “Hyper Real” look, hence the name of the gallery. Dramatic light, vibrant colors, surrealistic views and dreamy imagery are the qualities that I am striving to capture & draw away from the natural world. I hope that my small White Pocket gallery will help give you a feeling to what it was like to be in this strange and breathtakingly beautiful place.

 

“Converge”


“Irreversible”




“The Hypnotist”


“Continuum”



As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my blog! Cheers.

Ross