River of No Return

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Idaho, East Central, Lemhi County, Salmon-Challis National Forest Northfork. Golden Light reflects off rock into a calm stretch of the Salmon River.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
 
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.
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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.

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2017 Workshop Line-up

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.

Read about the workshops here

2017 CDA CalendarOnly 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)

_L6A1398_HDRDon’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.

Island Park DaisiesThe “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.

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Idaho, North, Bonner County, Coolin. Priest Lake at sunset from Sundance Mountain under a September sky.

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.

 

Tetons

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.

And there’s more. Check out the full list here

 

 

16 Favs from 2016

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.

_l6a0619_hdr-002I started out 2016 with a chilly wander to the north. This is Grouse Creek in the Cabinet Mountains.

_l6a0233In April I explored the Owyhee Desert in search of wildflowers. I found these lupine under a matching sky.

_l6a9202_hdrReflections of a sunset sky on the Centennial Marsh in May.

_l6a1069_hdrAfter an all day spring rain at Stanley Lake, the light broke through just at sunset on a June evening.

_l6a1398_hdrI love these old log fences in the Stanley Valley, this one surrounded by Camas lilies.

_l6a2927During 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.

_l6a5139On a September afternoon, I talked my visiting kids into accompanying me on a journey up Sundance Mountain overlooking Priest Lake.

_l6a6779_hdrI love the feel of this image. It represents to me the many miles I’ve driven exploring roads just like this.

_l6a7230This 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.

_l6a7474_hdrI waited for the light to touch the ridge in the center of this image in the White Knob Mountains.

_l6a7040_hdrFrom a local trip in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. I love when the cottonwoods reflect gold in the waters.

_l6a8425_hdr 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…

_l6a8225_hdrI 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.

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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.

Idaho, North, Kootenai County, Coeur d'Alene. Wolf Lodge Creek on a winter day.A local winter scenic on Wolf Lodge Creek. I always love getting out after a fresh snowfall.

_l6a0840_hdrA 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!

Spring Outings

A few recent images from spring trips to Stanley, Fairfield and Driggs and one local evening at Hauser Lake.

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.

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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.

promoPriest Lake workshop

 

Idaho Photo Worskhops

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!

Teton Valley

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.

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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…

Priest Lake workshop

Registration is now open. Reserve your spot for just a $35.00 deposit.

Visit my website to learn more.

 

 

Winter Roundup

I must say it was sooo nice to get that one good snowfall back in December. I didn’t get to make an extended trip during the peak of it, but I did some local shooting. Here’s some highlights.

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Idaho, North, Twin Lakes. A red barn in a snow covered field on a December morning.
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Idaho, North, Kootenai County, Coeur d’Alene. A fresh skiff of snow on the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene on a December morning.
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Idaho, North, Twin Lakes. A weathered barn of the Easterday Ranch in a snow covered landscape.

In January, I took a day trip to Bonner County during a nice cold snap.

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Idaho, North, Sandpoint. Sunrise over Lake Pend Oreille and the Cabinet Mountains of North Idaho in winter.
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Idaho, North, Sandpoint. Grouse Creek in the Cabinet Mountains of North Idaho in winter.

An evening drive through the Chain Lakes to Harrison netted these:

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Idaho, North, Harrison. Rural snow covered landscape, with barn and silo in evening light.
Idaho, North, Harrison.  Rural snow covered landscape, under a pink sunset sky.
Idaho, North, Harrison. Rural snow covered landscape, under a pink sunset sky.

In mid February I was finally able to make a trip south. I had business in Boise and Twin Falls, so only had one good evening of photography and a few travel stops.

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Idaho, Southwest, Boise. Boise National Forest. A morning view over the Boise Ridge from the Bogus Basin Road in late winter.
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Idaho, South Central, Twin Falls. The Snake River Canyon from the north rim in evening with Shoshone Falls inthe distance in winter.
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Idaho, South Central, Arco. A line of trees in the Big Lost River Valley between Arco and Mackay in winter.

Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I think that’s about it for winter around here. On to spring. 🙂

And then it was Autumn….

Finally, after nearly two months of nothing but heat, wildfires and smoke, the rain has arrived, and with it, much much cooler temps. We’ve already even seen snow in the higher elevations and as I stood on the crest of the Selkirk range two evenings ago, there was frost on the ground nearby. My beloved Idaho Panhandle National Forest is slated to re-open tomorrow!

Idaho, North, Bonner County. Priest Lake as viewed from the crest of the Selkirk Range looking west on a late summer afternoon.
Idaho, North, Bonner County. Priest Lake as viewed from the crest of the Selkirk Range looking west on a late summer afternoon.

 

My explorations in the Selkirks Sunday was in anticipation of the upcoming “Priest Lake and the Selkirk Mountains” autumn photography workshop being hosted by Priest Lake State Park and sponsored by Friends of Idaho State Parks.

 

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Workshop promo

I’m looking forward to leading a small group of aspiring and intermediate photographers to some great locations and teaching some classes too. Check it out, but don’t delay too long. Registrations end at 12 students or Sept. 29th, whichever comes first.

Idaho, North, Bonner County. Hunt Creek Falls in the Priest Lake State Forest in late summer.
Idaho, North, Bonner County. Hunt Creek Falls in the Priest Lake State Forest in late summer.

It certainly feels like autumn has arrived. I’m excited, albeit a little concerned.  Before I can go too far in search of fall color I have an art show to do. I’m hoping those colors don’t peak too soon!

Lochsa River Metal Art 40x20
Lochsa River Metal Art 40×20

Come say hi and see an all new, gorgeous selection of Idaho Scenic Images presented on metal this weekend, Sept. 11th-13th at “Art  in the Park” in Julia Davis Park, Boise. I’ll be there all three days. Friday and Saturday 10am-8pm and Sunday 10am-5pm.

This is my second Boise show this year as I also had a fun one day show at the Outdoor Recreation Festival as the Idaho State Parks “Artist in Residence”.

Calendar sales are in full swing this time of year and most all of my retailers have been stocked and some re-stocked 4 times! I have 3 calendars available, the 12×12 Idaho wall calendar, the mini 6×6 Idaho wall calendar and the Coeur d’Alene calendar. All are beautiful and unique and can be ordered through my website if you don’t have a retailer near you.