The sun was still a ways above the horizon when I arrived on top of Sundance Mountain. A welcome relief!
The last time I attempted to shoot this location, I arrived too late in the day, and I had to stop part way up the mountain to shoot sunset as it disappeared over the distant ridge. I never made it to the top that day.
Now I’m standing in the heart of the Selkirk Range, in awe of the amazing views of Priest Lake far below. The eerie remains of charred, dead trees from the Sundance fire of 1967 are all around, and the persevering wildflowers are still in bloom on this mountaintop even in late September.
Just in Time
There’s a dark, threatening storm approaching from the south and I know I must get to work. After a few minutes of searching I find the spot I am looking for. Fallen logs create an interesting foreground for this breathtaking view. As the sun’s rays are split by the edge of a cloud, I create this image with my camera. Thunder booms and the rain commences as I retreat to the safety of my vehicle.
Online Silent Auction!
This is just a little story about the creation of “Sundance Sun”—one of 12 photographs, selected for their beauty and location in Idaho’s public lands, that are being offered in an online silent auction to benefit the Idaho Conservation League. ICL will receive 25% of the proceeds.
As ICL’s artist this year, I’ve spent considerable time traveling the state and turning Idaho’s Gems—Our Public Lands into artwork. The 12 Gems are presented as 8”x8” metal pieces. Each is titled on back and signed by the artist, and comes with a black scrolled easel.
Bidding for each piece starts at $35.00 and the online auction closes on Nov. 15.
To see the pieces and place a bid visit the auction page Here
In less than 36 hours and somewhere a few more miles downstream from where I took this shot, I’ll be floating the mighty Salmon, “River of No Return.” Contained completely within Idaho, this 425-mile-long river begins as a small trickle in the Sawtooth Mountains, winding its way north through steep canyons and fertile farmlands before diving west across the rugged, roadless interior of the state.
There is no going back after launching your raft into this 81-mile stretch of isolated water. Even in Mid-July, after a banner snow year, the flow is still running a mighty 15,600 cfs. There will be rapids…lots of rapids.
I came upon this spectacular rafting adventure as a perk for being named the 2017 Artist in Residence for the Idaho Conservation League. Residency sponsors and river guides ARTA River Trips offered this unique opportunity. My job on this trip is to take photos, or more specifically…to make art. I’m used to doing that all the time, but not from a raft or a riverside camp with myriad other people milling about. I hope I can find the solitude I seek in this wilderness journey.
Preparations started months ago, and I’ve slowly been accumulating gear into what became a very large pile on my kitchen table: everything from a Pelican case for my camera gear to the proper polyester blends of clothing for life on the river. Hotel rooms were booked for the front and back of the trip, as was a flight from McCall to Salmon on a small, 10-seat, single-prop plane. The flight alone seems like a good reason to rethink this entire undertaking.
It’s the last night in my own bed for the next nine days. I lay awake into the wee hours of the morning, listening to the occasional vehicle travel past my window. My mind swirls with thoughts of what lies ahead.
Trying to leave town today by 2 p.m. My main responsibilities this morning are loading the car, dropping my dog “River” at the kennel and making a third, final decision on which lenses to bring, which proved not as easy as it seems.
I don’t get on the road until 4 p.m. After the six-hour drive to McCall, I spend another sleepless night, this time in a hot hotel room. Morning comes not a moment too soon. At 7 a.m. I am the first of Gem Air’s customers to check in for a flight. Their offices are under construction and they use a bathroom scale to weigh baggage.
Then we’re off. As we climb above the valley, I make a mental note of several roads I need to drive on my next time in the area. Soon we bank to the east and are immediately greeted with gorgeous views of jagged peaks, deep crevasses and myriad small alpine lakes. I see the Middle Fork of the Salmon winding its way north and the Bighorn Crags. A small amount of turbulence shakes the plane on the descent into the Salmon Valley, but our pilot lands the plane with precision and skill.
After a quick shuttle ride to the hotel I spend the day catching up on sleep and like a complete amateur, organizing and re-organizing my pack. Suddenly it hits me….I’m excited!
We are greeted by four young ladies at the pre-trip meeting whose petite size makes me wonder how they can handle a boat on a river.
I sleep surprisingly well and wake at 5 a.m. to take my last shower for 6 days. As the pink pre-dawn colors the sky above the Bitterroot Range, I make note of the time I will need to be ready to shoot each morning while in the canyons. One final organizational packing, this time in the supplied dry bags. We board the bus promptly at 8 a.m.
It’s a quiet two-hour ride to the put in. Before I know it, I’m sitting in the front of an oar raft gently bobbing along on soft waves. About a mile downstream and after several drenching rapids, I realize I am smiling.
Our guides, who were joined by one young man at the launch, are now five strong. They prove themselves through the entire trip. All afternoon they row into a strong headwind. We make camp above a rocky beach where the guides unload and pack gear up from the boats, cook a delicious Italian dinner and set up our open-air restroom facilities. I don’t think I have ever seen a group of people work harder.
The last golden light touches the tops of the peaks and fades into darkness. The cool evening air feels amazing. Tonight I sleep to the lullaby of the river.
14 miles in~
Back on the water, we immediately enter a stretch of rapids and I get drenched. The water smooths and the morning sun begins to dry me. As the magnificence of this canyon slowly passes by, I get lost in my thoughts. I am in awe at the beauty of this place. Dividing the Salmon River Mountains to the South and the Clearwater Mountains to the north, both with reliefs of over 7000 feet, this canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon itself.
A few miles farther and I’m sitting in the white sand soaking up the sunshine. Most of the group has headed on an uphill hike. I lay back and listen to the song of the river. All cares of daily life at work and home have magically been swept away. Time stands still.
After a lunch of chicken Caesar salad and fruit, we run our biggest rapid yet. Black Rock has a huge hole followed by a couple of very large swells. The raft dives nose first into it and a wall of water completely consumes us. We hit the wave train and it feels like I could reach out my arms and start swimming. A few more bends in the river and we break at some hot springs. It’s a sweltering day and I opt to sit in the shallows while others hike the rocky hillside to enjoy the springs.
We make camp on a big sandy beach where the river disappears around a bend and the ridges appear to intersect with each other. I anticipate the sun will set in the crevice, and make a mental note of the time I will need to be ready to photograph it. I like this spot.
24 miles in~
My alarm rings at 2:45 am. The dead remains of the Mustang Complex Fire of 2012 rise on the hillside above camp. These blackened silhouettes against the dark night sky have an eerie feel to them. Standing under this expanse of stars in the middle of true wilderness is incredible.
The day starts for me as the sun touches the mountain ridges high above the river. All references to clock time have vanished. Breakfast, rafting, lunch, rafting and camp define the days. We gain (or lose) 20 miles, including some of the biggest rapids on the “Main”, as they call this river. I spot a young black bear exploring the shore and we make a few stops. An afternoon swim in the river feels so good. I marvel at all the beautiful creeks we pass, wishing we could stop and enjoy. Our guide chooses the night camp spot just for me. It has a sweet little cascade called Rhett Creek just to the side of a sandy beach. Dinner is one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve had in a long time, or maybe the food just tastes better out here.
44 miles in~
The alarm sounds at 1:30 but this time I turn it off. The next thing I know, there is light in the sky. I have no trouble getting up now, and I take a chair and my gear upstream from camp and watch as the last stars fade from the sky. A few clouds light up pink.
Day 4 is the hottest day yet. In addition to the waves that break against the boat and cascade over us, we stop several times to swim. The cool water refreshes me. My skin is now a reddish brown combination of tan and burn. I haven’t spent this much time playing in water since I was a kid. We float 15 miles and stop at another sandy beach. There is a herd of young bighorn sheep that wanders close to camp, grazing on the scrub grasses between river rock. Tonight we eat steaks and play games around the campfire.
I like how the river curves here and disappears between the canyon contours. There’s a small rapid close to shore and I wade into the swift current to photograph the evening light. This has been a great day.
59 miles in~
I woke at 4 a.m. and was surprised to see the Milky Way still visible in the night sky. Quietly I set up my camera with a 20mm f/2.8 lens and adjust the exposure until I get what I want. Then I grab a couple more hours sleep.
Today is going to be another scorcher. The rapids are mild today and we don’t get very wet in the boat. Every time we stop I have to take a dunk in the river. For each mile downstream we travel it seems the temperature climbs. Over the course of these 81 miles we will have descended 900 feet. The canyon has widened considerably. We cross a stretch of river called Salmon Lake while fighting a headwind. A cloud moves in front of the sun and the deep water takes on the appearance of being black. A sheep rests under a tree and a golden eagle watches from his riverside perch. There’s water play and relaxation, fishing and stand up paddle-boarding.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I soak in the beauty of it all. I am amazed that in mid-July this canyon is still green. I reflect on the last five days. It truly has been wonderful.
Tomorrow we will conclude our river journey around noon. I feel sad to be leaving this place, but rejuvenated enough and ready to return home. I’m missing a different “River”. My 3-year-old yellow Labrador has been in boarding for 8 days.
76 miles in~
Our final morning and we only have a short distance to travel. Around the first bend in the river we encounter our last big rapid. The river gives a big sloppy kiss goodbye.
Idaho Scenic Images presents its 2017 photography workshop line-up and online classes. Strategically positioned in stunning locations around the state, and for different lengths of time, you’re sure to find a workshop to fit your needs.
Only 2 spots left for my newly announced Palouse “Dayshop”.
There are also 2 spots left on my permit to work in the Sawtooth National Recreation area.
One of these can be a non-lodging spot(discounted), and one full lodging spot, or it would be good for two friends to share a room with two twin beds. (At a discount of course)
Don’t miss this gorgeous time of year in the Sawtooth Mountains!
In July we’ll head to the often overlooked beauty of Island Park. Situated in the northeastern corner of Idaho, in an ancient caldera and on the edge of Yellowstone.
We have three nights in a large lodge-style house with everyone having their own private room. This will be a smaller group, accommodating only 5 students.
The “Waterfalls and Wildflowers” workshop is a deluxe, 4 day/3 night extravaganza of beauty and adventure.
In August you can take my online class “Mastering Composition” from the comfort of your own home, and photograph on your own schedule, with assignments to complete each week.
In September we’ll be staying in cabins on the shores of Priest Lake, admiring waterfalls and endless mountain views in the heart of the Selkirks.
For peak fall color, join us in the Teton and Swan Valleys of Eastern Idaho. From orange aspen to golden cottonwoods to red mountain maples, not to mention The towering Teton range. This workshop is sure to delight.
It’s always fun at the end of a year to look back and see where my travels have taken me. He’s a few good memories from 2016.
I started out 2016 with a chilly wander to the north. This is Grouse Creek in the Cabinet Mountains.
In April I explored the Owyhee Desert in search of wildflowers. I found these lupine under a matching sky.
Reflections of a sunset sky on the Centennial Marsh in May.
After an all day spring rain at Stanley Lake, the light broke through just at sunset on a June evening.
I love these old log fences in the Stanley Valley, this one surrounded by Camas lilies.
During my first destination photo workshop in the Teton Valley at the end of June, we were treated to this amazing sunrise over the Teton River.
On a September afternoon, I talked my visiting kids into accompanying me on a journey up Sundance Mountain overlooking Priest Lake.
I love the feel of this image. It represents to me the many miles I’ve driven exploring roads just like this.
This image reminds me to find a different perspective. I took a cow trail way out into a field to find this view of the Lost River Range.
I waited for the light to touch the ridge in the center of this image in the White Knob Mountains.
From a local trip in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. I love when the cottonwoods reflect gold in the waters.
This was a lesson in patience. It was raining and I shot quickly and retreated to my vehicle. As I started driving away the rainbow appeared, prompting me to shoot it again. Really I should have just given it 10 or 15 minutes. You never know…
I traveled from Alpine, WY in the pitch dark of a foggy early morning, up the Snake River Canyon to arrive here well before sunrise. It didn’t seem the mountains would appear and many photographers gave up and left. Another lesson in patience.
From a fun trip to the Eastern Sierra Nevadas with a friend. We flew into Las Vegas and drove west then north to Reno, seeing the sights all along the way. This was just after sunset in the Alabama Hills at Lone Pine, CA.
A local winter scenic on Wolf Lodge Creek. I always love getting out after a fresh snowfall.
A touch of lavender in the sky at sunrise. The Coeur d’Alene River at Rose Lake just this week.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year and many beautiful scenes in 2017!
A few recent images from spring trips to Stanley, Fairfield and Driggs and one local evening at Hauser Lake.
Idaho, South central, SNRA, Stanley. Stanley lake under sunset skies in late spring.
Idaho, South central, SNRA, Stanley. Camas Lilies and log fence in late spring in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Idaho, Eastern, Driggs. Sunrise in the Teton Valley in spring.
Idaho, Eastern, Driggs. A spring waterfall along the South Teton Canyon Trail in the Jedediah Smith wilderness area.
Idaho, North, Hauser. A spring sunset over Hauser Lake.
Idaho South Central, Camas County, Fairfield. Evening light over the camas fields of the Centennial Marsh in spring.
Idaho, South Central, Ketchum. Night sky and the milky way over the Smoky Mountains in the SNRA.
Idaho, South central, Stanley, A cabin on the shore of Pettit Lake at dawn in spring with calm water and reflections.
2017 Calendars are now available at many locations around the state with more arriving daily. Check my retailer list here. Or order from my website.
I’m headed back to Driggs this week to teach my first photo workshop of 2016. I’m excited and just a bit nervous, but really looking forward to it. In the mean time, the two autumn workshops are filling. If you’re interested in either of these, don’t delay in securing your spot with a small deposit. Read all the details here.
Plans were hatched, research was done, and reservations were made…. I’ve selected three stunning locations throughout Idaho to hold some great photo workshops. Registrations are now underway for two of the three offerings.
Spring in the Teton Valley
Take in the beauty of Idaho’s Teton Valley. Learn photography against the backdrop of some of America’s most majestic mountains. This is proving to be a popular choice and is almost full. Act fast if you want in on this one!
Next up is Autumn in the Sawtooths.
Explore the stunning landscapes of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area while improving your photography skills. We are waiting on approval of the required permit for the SNRA but you may join the wait list for first notification of when registration opens.
Last but not Least…
Priest Lake and the Selkirk Mountains
Fiery Red huckleberry bushes, golden tamaracks, waterfalls and sunrises overlooking the lake just out our front door. Maybe we did save the best for last…
Registration is now open. Reserve your spot for just a $35.00 deposit.