Today I’m wrapping up the Sawtooth Mountains segment of my summer photo tour. Eleven days and nearly 50 miles of backpacking into some gorgeous areas yielded plenty of new images. All the effort of hauling heavy camera gear into the backcountry certainly paid off. Tomorrow I’m heading to the Wind River Range of Wyoming. Meanwhile I’ll be checking out a few local hot springs!
Locations Photographed in Sawtooth Mountains :
Alice Lake/Toxaway Lake Loop
*The photos appearing on this post are quick on the road edits, literally I’m on the roadside working to publish this post. However they will be reprocessed and made available for sale when I return to the office.
Sawtooth Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness Idaho
Sawtooth Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness Idaho
Please note, any print orders that are placed while I’m away on this trip will not be shipped until I return to the office.
Little Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #56176 Purchase
Summer Photography Tour 2019 is about to begin! This year’s trip is very exciting as I’ll be photographing some of my favorite destinations in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Beginning in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho I’ll be backpacking in to some of the most dramatic mountain wilderness areas in the lower 48 states and Canada.*
Many of these locations have been on my schedule for several years. However, due to several summers where wildfire smoke hampered photography I had to put them on the back burner. The Wind River Range in particular suffered greatly from these fires. My past two trips to the Winds were frustrated by smoke filled skies, and I came back with only a few photos.
This year, however, is turning out to be mostly free of major wildfires. So I’m going to fully take advantage of the opportunity and hit as many locations as I can. Of course fire smoke is only one obstacle to good landscape photography. I’ll also need good light and some interesting clouds at the right time and place. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
*Please note, any print orders that are placed while I’m away on this trip will not be processed until I return to the office.
The Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho will be a very exciting segment for me. In the past I’ve photographed these mountains from various viewpoints looking into the range. This will be my first foray on trails into the interior. While the exact destinations are not set, at this point I’m planning two separate backpacking excursions, of three to four days each. And of course I’ll also be taking full advantage of the numerous natural hot springs while in the area!
Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range #49203 Purchase
The Wind River Range of Wyoming will be the central focus of this trip. This spectacular section of the Rockies contains 40 peaks over 13,000 feet, the largest glacier in the American Rockies, and over 1300 named lakes, all spread over three designated wilderness areas. While a few areas can get downright crowded with hikers and climbers, there are numerous trails that rarely sees any boot traffic.
If all goes well I will be making three backpacking trips in the Winds, keeping me busy for around 10-14 days. Destinations on my agenda include the Hailey Pass Washakie Pass Loop, Deep Lake, the ever popular popular Cirque of the Towers. Titcomb Basin will be next, and lastly the Green River Lakes area.
After a brief visit to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks my next destination on the schedule is the spectacular Beartooth Highway. One of the highest roads in North America it tops out at 10,497′ on the Wyoming Montana border. Although I don’t have any specifics spots in mind yet, I plan to spend several days exploring and photographing.
North of the Beartooth Highway I’ll make my way through the Missouri River Beaks country. Most people associate Montana with soaring mountains, cool forests and crystal clear lakes and streams. However the eastern half of the state is open grasslands, badlands, cattle ranches and wheat farms. This is Big Sky country, a region where the antelope truly play! Although I love mountains, this wide sprawling country captures my imagination, and I’m always excited to return.
Moving westward the next stops are Glacier and Wateron National Parks. Glacier was the second national park I visited, while in my youth on a family vacation. It is also the location of my first true backpacking adventure, accompanied by two high school classmates just after graduation. Unfortunately that was the last time I did a backpacking trip in the park. All my return visits have been road and day-hike based trips.
Glacier is one of the more heavily visited national parks in the country. Parts of the park, such as Logan Pass, can get so crowded during the summer months that parking lots can be overflowing by 8:00 in the morning. I’m hoping that by the time I get to Glacier it will be after Labor Day weekend , and the crowds will have thinned considerably.
Although I’ve visited and photographed in Glacier several times over the years, I’ve visited adjacent Wateron only once. Wateron is much smaller than Glacier, has similar terrain, and represents the southernmost section of the Canadian Rockies. Geologically speaking, however, the Canadian Rockies actually extend to the southern border of Glacier National Park, along U.S. Highway 2.
This will certainly be a good opportunity for me to make up for not visiting Waterton.
The Canadian Rockies
Limestone Lakes Height of the Rockies Provincial Park #461098 Purchase
Finally, after photographing in Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, I have one last location to visit. I’m optimistically adding Limestone Lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial Park British Columbia at the last minute. This is one of the more demanding backpacking trips I’ve ever done. However after more than a hundred miles of hiking I should be in good enough shape to tackle it again.
Limestone Lakes is in a very remote and seldom visited corner of the famous Canadian Rockies. It’s about a 17 mile hike into the lakes area, with more than half of that distance on rugged cross-country terrain. Even the trail on the first part is mostly a faint path. The last time I was there I didn’t see anyone else for five days. Hopefully when I get to this last segment of the trip the weather will cooperate.
By this time, If I make it this far, fall color in the higher elevations should be taking hold. Hmm, maybe I can add on a few more weeks and destinations…
Height of the Rockies backcountry camp #46205
List of Locations
Below is a tentative list of locations included on this lengthy trip. If you have any locations you’d like me to include, or if you’re in any of these areas and would like to meet up, just drop me an email!
Sawtooth Mountains and hot springs Wind River Range Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park Yellowstone National Park Beartooth Highway Missouri River Breaks Montana Glacier National Park Waterton Lakes National Park
Height of the Rockies Provincial Park
Sunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #56173 Purchase
Another great spot for photography in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho is Redfish Lake and Little Redfish Lake. While both lakes have spectacular views Little Redfish is smaller, and offers better intimate compositions than its bigger neighbor.
After my success at having good light at Stanley Lake several days before I didn’t think that luck would strike twice in the same trip, but it did. The first evening I scoured the lakeshore for good compositions. I found the best spot was one that obviously was used by photographers in the past. You can always tell by the small patch of ground worn bare and hardened. The light was nice and I got a few good shots. However evening light puts the range mostly in shade. Morning promised to be a better time for photos, if the light was good.
As always I got up before sunrise and set up in my spot and waited. Like several days prior at Stanley Lake fog threatening to obscure the view. The stillness of the air meant the surface of the lake was mirror still, and I kept my fingers crossed. Also the sky was cloudy and it didn’t look like the sun would break through. Luck was with me though, and as you can see from these photos the fog held off and the clouds began to clear. Perfect timing, as the first predawn light began paint the sky with purples and reds.
The clouds and atmosphere that morning were just right to keep the light and colors going long after the sun had risen. As the light began to wash out the fog came back and closed off any views until the heat of the day burned it off. I packed up and decided to check out the bigger Redfish Lake, there the fog was also thick but there was a couple of surprises for me which I’ll save for the next post.
Sunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #56184 Purchase
Sunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #56196 Purchase
Full moon over Stanley Lake and McGown Peak, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #55933 Purchase
Last month when I was photographing in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho one of my main goals was to come back with some exceptional images of Stanley Lake. This lake is on the northern end of the Sawtooth Mountains. With McGown Peak in the background, it is one of the more classic scenes in an area overflowing with photo great opportunities. On this trip I was lucky enough to get not one but two instances of exceptional light.
My first day in the area found me photographing a couple of meadows. They were filled with wildflowers about a mile up the trail from the lake. While at these meadows an evening storm began to clear. Just in time to fill the sky with fabulous tones of yellow orange red and finally purples and pinks. I felt lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to photograph the wildflowers and McGown Peak. But at the same time I knew that the view from the lake must have been awesome too. Unfortunately the lake was too far away to include it in the same evening session.
While back at my camp that evening I was a bit disappointed to see the night filled with stars. That meant the morning would most likely be an empty blue sky, not the conditions I had hoped for. I awoke before daybreak to check out the lake anyway and as I expected there was not a cloud in the sky, but the lake was mirror still and a full moon was drifting down from the sky to the right of McGown Peak. As I was setting up my camera as if by magic fog banks began to form over the lake, thinking rats now I wouldn’t even get this basic photo. But the fog started to spread into wisps and concentrate in areas that would enhance the composition.
After the sun began to wash out most of the color in the mountains the fog rolled back in and completely obliterated the seven for the next hour or so. The first photo below is the result. I ended up with about a half dozen variations, with of course a few verticals included for possible cover placements. A very satisfying mornings works.
Sunset over Stanley Lake and McGown Peak, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #56121 Purchase
After having more good light and photo sessions in other nearby areas, I was ready to move on to Redfish Lake, another great location. The sky was hazy all day with threats of approaching showers. It didn’t look like there would be anything worthwhile to photograph in the evening. However, at the last minute I had a hunch to head back to Stanley Lake, since it was so close. The showers never appeared and the haze began to thin out into streamers of high clouds. Those condition were perfect for catching colorful rays of light, even after the sun had set.
All I had to do was set up in the same spot as before and hope and wait for the sky to start glowing. I wasn’t disappointed. I had plenty of time to make me great images, even after the sunset. The second photo in this post is from that evening. As with the evening in the meadows several days earlier I noticed in the opposite direction some incredible cloud formations. They were glowing in orange and reds. As if taunting me to pack up my camera gear and drive like mad to chase the light just down the road. However, I knew that would be a futile effort. The light was fading and there wouldn’t be enough time to get to a suitable location.
I just stood there and enjoyed the sounds of the Loons and remaining light.
Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54613 Purchase
Here is another image from last September’s trip to Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, since this image has garnered an exceptionally favorable response on social media I felt that I should fill in a little background on how it was made. This was my third trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park and I had high hopes of getting some stunning images of the mountain. I had allocated five days to fulfill my goal. However, by the third day I was becoming frustrated by the lack of interesting light. The weather was spectacular, warm with blue skies. But while great for outdoor activities it didn’t possess the kind of light I had hoped for. Finally on the third morning clouds from an approaching storm arrived just as the sun was coming up. Perfect timing and conditions to illuminate the sky and mountains in a warm glow. Just what I wanted!
Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54615 Purchase
The images above were some of the first made as the sky warmed with a reddish magenta glow. I had thoroughly investigated this spot the day before to see where and how the best compositions lined up. I knew there were many possibilities for both horizontal and vertical images. So I mentally took note on which were the best and planned the shoot accordingly if the light cooperated. This plan paid off the next morning as I knew there would be a limited amount of time before the light began to fade.
By the time I had finished working this area the light was still going strong. About a half mile east along this basin there was another spot I planned on photographing in the evening or next morning. With the approaching weather I had a feeling there might not be another opportunity like this one. So I gathered up my equipment and ran along the basin as fast I could, and hastily set up my tripod. By this time most of the warm dawn glow had faded but the light was still intense on the clouds. The third image in this post is one of the last from that morning. The post processing was nothing more than adjusting levels and curves with some burning and dodging. I like to keep things on that end as simple and strait forward as possible.
Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54646Purchase
Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54651rPurchase