camping gear reviews + Mt. Rainier

This time of year is exciting for any outdoor enthusiast, photographers included. Flowers are blooming, snow is melting out in the mountains by the hour, and the days are longer. Now is the time to get out!


I will be the first to admit I get bored easily. As a photographer, that is both great and not so great. Let me explain a bit. With that said, from spring until fall, it seems a lot the photographers around here all follow each other from spot to spot, myself included. But who can blame them. The Pacific Northwest is one of the most diverse areas in the US, if not the world. 100 miles in any direction from Portland, the landscapes are drastically different from each other. Same goes for most of the PNW.


Right now, seems Mount St. Helens is the popular spot to shoot, rightfully so. It really is amazing to be hiking these trails and hard not to think what that same vantage would like like some 34 years ago. Indian Paintbrush and Cardwell’s Penstemon (purple flowers) scatter the hillsides. Combine that with an effortless hike from the parking lot (5 minutes or less) and a clear view of MSH, why would you not make the trek out there? Next month (or even in a few weeks), Mt. Rainier wildflowers will litter the pages of sites such as 500px and flickr.


So that got me thinking. I want something different – something that gets people to start asking questions, gets people to start thinking as well. Opening their eyes, so to speak. There are many, many areas within a few hours drive from here. Most of the people who are in these areas are backpackers. People that have cameras, but nothing serious. Sure there are photographers out there, but in very few numbers. This is what I want to start doing! Of course I will hit up the normal spots as well, as I can’t always take 4 days off every week to get out to more remote areas. 🙂


In May, I won an employee grant from work (REI) and I picked up a Flash 27 bag. A month later, Big Agnes sent me a Fly Creek UL3 tent and a Q-Core SL 3.5 sleeping pad. Within that time, I got a Gregory Baltoro 75L bag in a sick, sick yellow color.  Last weekend, I put these to use. Not anything crazy – went up to Mt. Rainier with my wife to scout some areas. She had never been there before, and I hadn’t been there this year. I embark on a 4 day trip next week – most likely into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.


The tint sets up in less than 3 minutes. Super light, weighs in at 3.3 lbs I believe. I do need to pick up the foot print for this – I used a tarp. The REI Flash 27 sleeping bag weighs just 1lb 9oz, and I can get that into an 11 Liter compression sack with room left over. Could get it into an 8 litre bad, but might be cramped. The Q-Core weighs in at 1lb 1oz .Amazing! It is super, SUPER comfortable. I move around a lot when I sleep, and didn’t fall off this pad once! All of this stuff weighs in at 5lbs and some ounces. My camera (Nikon D700, batter and lens (Samyang 14mm 2.8) weighs almost as much as this. Amazing!


The Baltoro is also a superb bag! I hiked around a bit at Rainier with the tint in there, along with a ton of other stuff and really distributes the weight nicely. I could even put my bulky tripod in there – which I may do…

Next week I will have a much better input on the bag, as we will be putting some miles in. I will also hopefully have some amazing images to show for it. Maybe it will get people to start to enjoy some of these more rugged areas!

Oh, here is a shot I took at Mt. Rainier last week. Didn’t realize I had gotten some of the Aurora Borealis until I got home. Isn’t that the way it usually works? 🙂






Bandon Easter





This was taken this past Easter. When one thinks of the pacific ocean, they don’t think of sunrises as the ideal time to shot the beaches, myself included. I was proven wrong and has me thinking of sunrises at the beaches now. 

Will do a better job of keeping this updated. Image

Long time

Wow, it has been a bit since I updated this blog. Quite a bit has happened since then; and I will update this regularly, especially with “older” stuff.


In my last post, I had mentioned that I sold my digital equipment and went caveman; meaning upgrading to film. That did really happen, for sure. Right after I sold the 1Ds, I picked up a Nikon F5. At the time, I had never shot with Nikon; although my lens was a Tokina in a Nikon mount. So it seemed the logical way to go. I got the F5 locally, and it was in superb shape. I ended up shooting 5 or 6 rolls of film through it, and Blue Moon here in Portland developed and scanned it for me.


In October, I decided to get back in to digital. The film I liked was discontinued (Fuji Reala), and the previous generation cameras were getting cheaper by the month. I found a mint Nikon D700 for a superb deal. The D700 has a reputation for having killer IQ AS WELL as being a low light king. TO this day, I haven’t been able to shoot stars under a dark sky. It seems to work out that there is a full moon every time I find my self in a great location.


Also it so happened that I tried to “fix” my Tokina lens. It wouldn’t mount right side up on my Nikon, whereas on my Canon, it did mount correctly. I figured that with the use of an adapter, it cleared the flange. When I got the Nikon, that is when I noticed it didn’t mount correctly. Anyways, I couldn’t get the back element back on, so now I own the amazing Samyang (Rokinon) 14mm 2.8 II. If you are on the fence about getting one, do yourself a favor and purchase one!


Here is the shot from Panther Creek Falls from earlier this month. I call this one “Hobbit Falls”.

Panther Creek Falls

Panther Creek Falls

Last bushwhack with digital

Several weeks ago, a few buddies and myself headed out to the Gorge. For the last few years, there have been several waterfalls on my list that I have wanted to shoot. There still are many falls on my list – which I hope to knock off this year. It took some work/research to get these directions – as they are kinda hard to get. I now understand why.


These falls are located on the Ruckel Ridge Trail. This trail is no joke. Pretty much uphill for 3 miles or so, relentlessly. After checking our coordinates, we broke down to the creek. Of course by this time, the sun was shining and the lighting was pretty harsh – thus we are heading back soon. It took 3 hours of hiking to get to the first falls. Crazy – I know.


After shooting this first falls, known as Epiphany Falls, we went downstream for about an hour I would say – at least an hour of walk time. It took longer than an hour, as we stopped and took pictures of this area that probably doesn’t get shot but a few times a year, if that. We finally reached Deadman Falls, which is really an amazing small area. The trek from here to the trail is seriously brutal. It basically is heading up this sloped hill, for like 2400 feet (estimated). It took an hour to get to the trail, and then another hour+ to get to the truck.


It ended up being the last bushwhack with my 1Ds. I have a Nikon F5 – which by the way is such a beautiful camera. It is said to be the finest 35mm film body ever made. The build quality is on par with the 1 series for sure. Personally, I think the nikon is a much better looking camera than the Canon 1 series. Even the digital Nikon pro bodies look better than the 1 series. Of course looks are just cosmetic.


I hope to have my first roll of film developed and scanned in the next week. My Fuji Reala 35mm film just came in today. I am sad to see Fuji discontinue this amazing film in 35mm. They still make it in medium format – which I may end up moving to.. who knows. So I have 15 rolls of Fuji Reala, a roll of Fuji NPS 160 and a Roll of Kodak Ektar. The great thing is that the Reala is not yet expired and has been refrigerated.



Been a while since I entered anything here – this is due to being busy, and thus not being able to go out shooting. There was over a month between shoots, which got me thinking. During the next 3-4 months, I will most likely be pretty busy with work – so that means not a whole ton of shooting; but you never know. This got the thinking about selling the camera, as it doesn’t gain value. Yes, I think about resale value on most everything:).


Then it dawned on me that I could shoot film. When I last shot film, I was not very good – to say the least. It is a bit more expensive, but not as bad as I had thought. Plus if I am not shooting a ton, it won’t cost me as much, and film gear doesn’t depreciate – especially the higher end bodies. Scanning is pretty cheap, and the files are equal to 17 MP files.


Another reason to shoot film is to get better as a photographer. With digital, one gets kinda lazy, especially with things like Live View, being able to instantly see the shot, and of course the histogram. I don’t have Live View on my camera, the LCD screen on my old camera is not very good and I don’t know how to read a histogram; so these extras I won’t really miss. Sure I would be lying if I said I won’t miss the instant results (i.e.; no waiting to get developed, etc).


Film will make me slow down, although I don’t usually fill my CF card. Also, each shot will literally cost me money. I will still bracket my shots, but in moderation, lol. My goal is to be able to trust my skills enough to where I can go to some place new and know that I can get the same shot I could with digital. Perhaps shooting film might be a new trend. I have been told that B&W film is on the rise in the U.K.


Anyways, here is a shot from yesterday, taken in The Gorge.


Grand Staircase and an arch

We spent most of our time here, the majestic area known as The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There are TONS of things here to shoot; from slot canyons to arches.


This is a shot of Sunset Arch. I don’t think it gets a whole lot of love. Hiking in the desert at night with rattlesnakes is kind of a crazy thing – but I guess people who live here would think of hiking with bears is crazy as well…


Southwest Trip

About a month ago, a buddy and I took a quick 2700 mile trip to Utah. We left on a Monday and came back early Saturday morning. It was a fun trip, and some really special about the Southwest.

The irony is that I spent many summers (ok, like 3 or 4 – but that is a lot when you are a kid lol) in Arizona – mostly in Flagstaff. Flag is about 2 1/2 hours from the slot canyons (Antelope, Canyon X, etc), 2 hours from the Grand Canyon, and 4 1/2 hours from Zion, and so on and so forth. The deal was that I wasn’t really into photography back then. Might be due to me being 14, also being due to there was no such thing as a DSLR – or even blogs for that matter. It was also more expensive to click the shutter. How I wish I could go back in time.

There would be no waiting in line to shoot much of anything! Antelope Canyon wasn’t as well known, and you didn’t need a guide to access it. Same goes for many places – except “The Wave” recently had the permit system implemented. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which by the way should be a National Park for sure; was not as visited as it is now.

The reason why I bring that up is that I HATE shooting in traffic. What I mean by that is I am not used to shooting locations that have 100s of people. That brings us to our first morning in the SW. We decided to hit up Arches National Park. It was easy and quick, which was very welcome after our 1000 mile drive. We rolled in at 2am and slept for a few hours in the car. Then awoke to jet-boil water for our coffee, and to my amazement, 10 cars or so roll into the parking lot.

We walked up to Turret Arch, and were yelled at by an instructor for a Hasselblad workshop. He was very rude to myself and to tourists. He acted like we were on private land. The bottom line was everyone paid the same to get into the NATIONAL PARK, and traveled to get there. Incidentally, I looked at the back of my Outdoor Photographer magazine just as we left to see if any tours/workshops were going to be happening while we were there. So I knew we may run into them. The instructors’ name is Peter Lorber. He is a talented photographer, but has not much tact.

So after shooting Arches, we decided to hit up Canyonlands. We decided to shoot the False Kiva for sunset, and Mesa Arch for sunrise. Again, we ran into the Hassy workshop at Mesa. To keep a long story short, I kinda was forced from my spot, and found a way more wicked spot for a composition that I bogarted the entire sunrise. I later found out that the workshop was here 2 days earlier for sunrise – so I didn’t feel as bad, lol.

To sum it up, we went to every National Park in Utah, except for The Great Basin National Park and Zion. We were in Bryce long enough to say we were in Bryce Canyon.

Here is a shot of the False Kiva. This brings me full circle to my first few paragraphs of this entry. Without the internet, I would have NOT found this site. It is not hard to get to, but without spending months here to explore the wonderland that is Canyonlands, not many people would have their shot at this incredible vista…