Continuing my re-appraisal of images from last summer I found this image from the coast of Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Hiking along the coast on a rather murky day we turned around at this point, but not before taking some photos of the waves crashing into a small rocky cove.
My first experiments shooting with a Fuji medium format rangefinder (a GW690ii) in Iceland led to very satisfactory results. During the rest of the summer and autumn I shot a few more rolls, which I’ve only now gotten around to processing and scanning (such are the trials of film!). I’m afraid the laboratory work this time around has not been a total success… I was delighted (and surprised!) to find that my local camera shop could process B&W 220 film overnight, but less pleased with the results. The actual processing seems OK (there’s a light leak on one frame that may be my fault), but the advertised “high resolution” scans are mostly junk. It will take a while to find a more robust scanning solution and see what the real quality of the images is, but for now here are a few frames that the lab didn’t mangle too badly!
Heading to the office this afternoon I spied some promising-looking clouds to the west, and with thoughts of a backlit orange sunset behind the high peaks made a detour up Flagstaff Mountain to the Lost Gulch Overlook. It’s the nearest place to downtown that offers a clean view west to the Indian Peaks, and as usual for a decent day there was a small crowd there to see the sunset. Alas, sunset didn’t happen. Returning to town, though, I found a pull-off I’d overlooked before with a great view over Boulder. On the right day, this might be a good location for sunrise too.
Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument was established way back in 1908, but it remains off most visitors to the Utah desert’s radar. It’s a small, rather old-fashioned park, with a beautiful loop drive that takes you right past the main attractions: Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo natural bridges. The first bridge you encounter – Sipapu – is the second largest in the world, and an impressive sight. You don’t need to do any hiking to see the bridges, but the 9 mile loop hike which connects the bridges via stretches of beautiful canyons is highly recommended. I’ve done it twice, and it makes for a wonderful moderate outing in the desert.
Looking at some photography books over Christmas prompted some experimentation with a different black and white process of images from Iceland. Although I rarely try to process color images “as I saw them” (often, for example, applying a gradient of color temperature which is not really a naturalistic thing to do), I do have a tendency to gravitate toward a somewhat neutral look. In black and white it’s easier to push toward something more dramatic, and for this second look at Iceland I’ve played with a much more contrasty look.
As fall turned to winter I set up a camera in my office to capture a short time lapse sequence of the first light on the Boulder Flatirons every morning. Over the course of a month there were some spectacular dawns and a handful of my favorite Boulder mornings when the Flatirons are covered in fresh snow. Processed for 4k, if you have the bandwidth and screen for it!
My first trip to Utah was in 1999, and although there were already plenty of internet sites back then information on even popular hikes was pretty hard to find. As a result my brother and I got to do some of the classic hikes like the Zion Narrows and Angels Landing with only a vague idea of what to expect. That kind of experience is rarer now, when searches for even obscure trails in the US return hundreds of photos, but there’s plenty of wilderness elsewhere with less of an internet presence! Planning a trip to Bodo in arctic Norway last summer – primarily as a base to visit the Lofoten Islands – we noticed that Rago National Park was just a short drive from the town. Rago has one famous sight, the incredible Litlverivassfossen waterfall, and it looked like one could combine the two front-country trails to make a long day hike that looped past the falls. We couldn’t find any web pages that described the loop in detail, so we turned up at the trail head in late July with a map but only a rough idea of the length or difficulty of the hike. It turned out to be one of the best day hikes we’ve done.
The hike starts at the end of the road at the Lakshola trail head, reached by following the E6 north from Fauske and then taking the turn toward Nordfjord which comes immediately after a short tunnel. The road is paved all the way and the trail head is notable for having the fanciest restroom, by far, that I’ve ever seen gracing a wilderness! The first two miles follow the Storskogdalen along a peaceful and surprisingly lush forest. On a pleasant summer Sunday we encountered a pair of locals on this stretch of trail, the only other hikers we met or saw all day. At a bend in the valley the trail crosses a creek (at a spot that’s not entirely obvious on the ground… we went wrong here) and climbs steeply through trees to an overlook of the canyon. The picture above was taken looking back from the top.
Once out of the lower valley the trail dips through forested sections but largely crosses sparsely vegetated and sometimes rocky ground. The landscape is one of lakes, waterfalls and granite cliffs, somewhat reminiscent of Wyoming’s Wind Rivers. It takes about six miles to reach the sole junction you encounter, where a trail takes off into the interior of the park and eventually across the border into wilderness on the Swedish side. Continuing around the loop, the trail stays high, with numerous small climbs and descents and excellent views of the park’s mountains. The main rivers are all crossed via suspension bridges, but there’s one creek at the outlet of a lake that’s unbridged. We waded across without difficulty, but I can imagine this might be an obstacle if the water level was higher. Conceivably one might need to turn back.
Hiking the loop clockwise (much the better direction) the highlight is saved for last. At about the ten mile mark the trail crosses the brink of the Litlverivassfossen, before climbing to a great overlook of the falls. The 250 meter high falls, draining a large lake ringed by mountains, are an amazing sight. Once past the falls, it’s an alternately steep and boggy descent, partly on a jeep road, to the finish at the Nordfjord gravel pit. A short road walk closes the loop.
The loop turned out to be about 15 miles, with 3,000+ feet of elevation gain along the way. In the summer you have 24 hours of daylight, so the hike can be done in a day without needing to rush. I’d rate it as moderately challenging. Neither the distance nor the amount of climbing is extreme, but this is a sparsely frequented trail where you need to pay attention rather than mindlessly plodding along. There’s at least one spot where the route, marked by paint on the rocks, traverses a boulder field, and plenty of places where you need to be on the lookout for the next cairn. And it might not be much fun in bad weather, as the most interesting parts are above tree line and fully exposed to the elements.
Rago is a pocket-sized park, and the loop we did is the only long day hike. It’s possible though to continue further and camp in the back country, or to hike into a much larger area of adjoining wilderness on the Swedish side of the border. Based on our experience, Padjelanta, Sarek and Stora Sjöfallet National Parks in Sweden are all places well worth checking out.
The final dawn in my “month of sunrises” project saw wonderful first light on the Flatirons. There are about 140 GB of raw files awaiting processing into time lapse…
In Las Vegas last weekend giving a colloquium at the university, before joining friends for a trail marathon through Titus Canyon to finish on the floor of Death Valley. Taking the bus at dawn to the start of the race I was reminded that Death Valley is exceptionally beautiful, and I resolved to return for a longer photo trip than I managed back in 2006. (Titus Canyon is also beautiful, though by the time I got to the best parts at around mile 21 I was more focused on the pain in my muscles!) The day after the race we did a short warm-down hike in Red Rock Canyon just outside Las Vegas. Red Rocks is somewhat reminiscent of Zion, and one can explore the smaller formations off the road pretty much at will. We were there at mid-day but I’m sure there must be good photographic possibilities when the light and weather are co-operative.