Yukon’s Tombstone Provincial Park

The far north of Canada was in the news today, with the opening of a road (unpaved, there are limits to even the Canadian government’s largesse) between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. The closest I’ve gotten to these outposts is Tombstone Provincial Park, which is near the start of the (also unpaved) Dempster highway that leads across the arctic circle up to Inuvik. It’s truly spectacular country!

Hiker, Grizzly Lake trail, Tombstones

Hiking toward Grizzly Lake, Tombstone Provincial Park

(For a glimpse of the Dempster, check out my brother’s timelapse viseo. No gimbals or fancy mounting equipment here, this is reversed footage from a hacked Canon compact strapped to the rear spoiler of our rental car!)

Mount Hood wilderness

Looking back at images from a late summer visit in 2012 to the Mount Hood wilderness. I have fond memories of this trip. We hiked from the Timberline Lodge across Zigzag canyon to reach the meadows in the Paradise Park area. The wildflower display there was the best I’ve ever seen.

Wildflowers at Paradise Park

Hiking back to the lodge the sunset light on Mount Hood was good.

Sunset

Mount Hood from the Timberline trail

After main years of being closed due to a washout, the Timberline trail that circumnavigates the mountain is now open again. It’s a tempting prospect!

Hiking Upper Muley Twist

Upper Muley Twist is my favorite hike in Capitol Reef National Park. I’ve done it three times now, most recently earlier this year with my brother. The video is a mix of Canon 5D3, Sony RX100 II and DJI Osmo shots. Some color balance issues aside, the Osmo really worked remarkably well despite my almost complete lack of practice ahead of time!

Update: I’ve put up a new Capitol Reef hiking page, with images from three or four trips over the years that I’d never gotten around to processing. There are still hikes in the park I haven’t done, including Hall Creek Narrows (though that’s tough to reach on a day hike) and the slot canyons on the east side.

Chasm Lake

Process of an old slide from 2004… dawn light at Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Sunrise didn’t happen on a return trip with digital equipment, so for now this is the best capture I have of the magical scene.

Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Deserts in black and white

Experimenting with monochrome versions of images from the Namib desert and Death Valley. Cropped of the sky, sand dunes lend themselves to somewhat abstract and highly textured images, and I think these ones work better in black and white than in color.

Namibia

The Namib desert

Death Valley

Views of the Namib desert

Looking back through the catalog of Namibia photos, trying to find images that better capture some of the vastness and barren beauty of the place. These four are from the Namib desert.

Before sunrise

Early morning

Noon

Afternoon

Utah 2017

Took a short break last week with my brother to go hiking in Utah. We based ourselves out of Torrey and Boulder, exploring a few of the canyons in Capitol Reef and the Box-Death Hollow wilderness. I rented a Fuji GFX 50S medium format camera for the trip, and shot a mixture of stills and video (the latter with my usual Canon 5D3, supplemented with a DJI Osmo gimbal). More about all that gear later, but the short version is that it was tremendous fun and, although I’m not yet a convert to mirrorless, I’m open to being proselytized! For now a few images from the trip, all captured using the Fuji with a 63mm f/2.8 lens.

Chimney Rock Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah

Canyon walls, Utah

Green River overlook sunset, Canyonlands

Visiting Etosha National Park

The second leg of our wildlife viewing trip to southern Africa last September took us to Namibia’s Etosha National Park. This was toward the end of the southern hemisphere’s winter dry season, and Etosha at that time is very dry. White dust blows everywhere and the already sparse vegetation looks as if it’s dead. It’s a stark landscape.

Namibia’s Etosha National Park

Etosha is not always like this. In the summer rainy season it’s lush and green, and the park website warns you to be careful in case the roads are flooded. Wildlife viewing though is best in the winter, when the arid conditions force the game to visit the park’s widely separated waterholes.

Afternoon near the Andersson gate

What we did. We flew to the capital Windhoek and drove north to the park. It’s about 300 miles to the entrance, all on paved roads, all of which are good. The final stretch north of Outjo is almost deserted. We stayed for four nights at the Etosha Safari Lodge Gondwana, 10km outside the park’s Andersson gate. There are a number of accommodation options in the same general area but there’s nothing in the way of a town – each lodge is self-contained.

Mid-day at Okaukuejo

It’s also possible to stay at rest camps inside the park. We visited Okaukuejo, accessible from the Andersson gate by paved road, which is built next to a large natural waterhole that’s floodlit at night. The wildlife here comes to you! From our base outside we instead spent three days driving into the park when the gates opened (at dawn), twice on guided trips in safari vehicles and once in our decidedly non-safari VW Polo. Unlike in Kruger the wildlife in Etosha is strongly concentrated around the waterholes, and although you’ll certainly see giraffe, zebra and the like from the road the main strategy for game viewing is to wait at the waterholes and see what happens. One of the highlights of our trip was a morning spent at Nebrownii, where four lions had taken up residence for the day. The lions weren’t really doing very much, but their presence on one side of the waterhole led to a stand off with large numbers of springbok, oryx, and the odd giraffe on the other side.

Late morning at Nebrownii waterhole

Later a group of elephants appeared to drink and bathe in the mud.

Early afternoon at Nebrownii, Etosha National Park

The nearest waterhole to the Andersson gate is Ombika, and it’s a good spot to visit immediately after the gate opens in case predators are still around. On our second guided trip two lionesses were just finishing drinking as the sun rose. They left the waterhole and headed past us back into the bush.

Sunrise at Ombika waterhole

A luckier sighting came along the dirt road between Ombika and Gaseb. Driving the road in the early morning a trail of blood pointed to a fresh kudu carcass beneath a small tree. We waited, but of the killer there was no sign. Returning in the afternoon, though, a cheetah lay casually guarding its kill. The environment didn’t make for a great image, but it was wonderful to see.

Cheetah seen along a rough road near the Andersson gate

Thoughts on visiting Etosha. Etosha is Namibia’s best known national park, but it’s nowhere near as famous as South Africa’s Kruger and information on the park is thinner on the ground. I must admit that prior to planning our trip I’d never even heard of it! With that in mind here follows a few random thoughts…

Where to stay. The easiest option would be to stay at one of the rest camps overlooking a waterhole (some of the accommodation units even have views of the action). One could have a relaxing vacation and see quite a lot of wildlife without having to drive anywhere. The accommodation within Etosha books up quite quickly, so if you want to stay in the park it’s essential to plan ahead. Staying outside the park, as we did, has merits too. You probably get slightly better / cheaper accommodation, and we were very happy with the quality of the guides employed by our lodge.

Entering the park. Getting into the park is easy, but you do need your passport. On arrival at the gate the ranger fills in a form, but you don’t pay on the spot. Instead you take the form to the visitors’ center (in our case at Okaukuejo) and pay there, in return for which you get an exit permit that you show on leaving.

Getting around. The only paved road within the park is the short stretch between the Andersson gate and Okaukuejo. From there, we only drove a handful of the main and secondary dirt roads east of Okaukuejo, but the ones we tried were in good condition. We encountered no real problems in our VW Polo, and certainly any vehicle with even a bit more ground clearance would work well. You do, of course, get a better view with the extra height and open sides of the safari vehicles used on guided tours.

Photography. We found Etosha to be easier for photography than Kruger. The environment is more open and distinctive, and the focus on waterholes means you’re not scrambling to capture fleeting scenes seen from the road. Notable wildlife moments in real life are measured out much more sparingly than in nature documentaries, but three days in Etosha was enough for us to have some truly memorable encounters.