In Ansel’s Footsteps – Twelve Significant Photographs in any One Year (2012)

Ansel Adams once said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” This doesn’t sound like very many but at that time Ansel was shooting with an 8×10 large format camera, a very heavy and bulky piece of equipment. Photography has evolved drastically since then with the advent of digital cameras, which are lighter and much more compact than the old field cameras Adams hauled around. With high capacity memory cards and bigger hard drives one can take hundreds of photographs without even thinking twice about it.

While it seems that taking photographs has gotten a lot easier, actually making significant photographs that stand out above the rest is a skill that still requires hard work and dedication, lots of patience, and sometimes even a little luck!

Due to an extensive amount of traveling this year I just couldn’t narrow it down to just twelve, so below are thirteen images from 2012 which are significant to me. Clicking on the image will open a larger, high quality version. Happy New Year everyone, Enjoy!


“Emerald Fairy Tale” – Adirondack State Park, New York

"Paradise Meadows" - Paradise Valley, Emigrant, Montana

“Paradise Meadows” – Paradise Valley, Emigrant, Montana


"Another Day at the Office" - Adirondack State Park, New York

“Another Day at the Office” – Adirondack State Park, New York

"Perfect Harmony" - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

“Perfect Harmony” – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


"Nature's Architecture" - Glacier National Park, Montana

“Nature’s Architecture” – Glacier National Park, Montana


"Ghost Ship" - Adirondack State Park, New York

“Ghost Ship” – Adirondack State Park, New York


"The Height Of Summer" - Crazy Mountains, Montana

“The Height Of Summer” – Crazy Mountains, Montana


"Frozen Wonders" - Adirondack State Park, New York

“Frozen Wonders” – Adirondack State Park, New York


"Glacial Chamber" - Glacier National Park, Montana

“Glacial Chamber” – Glacier National Park, Montana


"An Early Spring" - Adirondack State Park, New York

“An Early Spring” – Adirondack State Park, New York


"Beyond The Falls" - Hyalite Canyon, near Bozeman, Montana

“Beyond The Falls” – Hyalite Canyon, near Bozeman, Montana


"Mountain Paradise" - Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana

“Mountain Paradise” – Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana


"Grand Finale" - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

“Grand Finale” – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming









Crazy Ambitions

OF ALL THE climbs I did while photographing out in Montana the past 4 months 11,214ft Crazy Peak was probably the most memorable and challenging. While it’s not the highest peak in the state, it is the highest in the Crazy Mountain Range and also the highest peak in Montana north of the Beartooth Mountains. It is also the most topographically prominent peak in Montana.
Since the peak is trailess I scouted out some possible routes using my map. The route I chose to reach the summit was, like the name, Crazy. After much climbing and some hair-raising scrambling I finally reached the ridgeline that would eventually lead to the summit. Most of the ridgeline was a knife’s edge, barely a foot wide in places with a mix of scree and loose talus slopes and a 3,000ft+ drop on either side:eek: I ended up having to drop my pack halfway over the ridge (I carried way to much photo gear) because it was throwing my balance off, and I really didn’t want to fall here :biggrin:

This view from the top was my reward. A pika joined me on the summit and I managed to catch him peeking out from the rocks in the foreground. Legend says that Chief Plenty Coups, the last great leader of the mighty Crow tribe, had a vision on the summit that led him throughout his life. The only vision I got was the magnificent and rugged landscape that was laid out before me. The jagged, serrated peaks of the Crazy Mountains surrounded me while far off in the distance the central Montana plains lead to more distant mountain ranges. I wondered how far the human eye would actually be able to see if the world was indeed flat.

On the way back from the summit clouds began to fill the sky and it got darker and darker, much different than the bluebird skies I had earlier that day. I knew I had to get off this exposed ridge before it started to rain. I had some trouble locating my pack on the way back because all of the rocks looked the same. I started to get a bit worried since my pack held lots of valuable photo equipment inside, not to mention it was the only way I had to transport my gear out. I wondered if it was possible that I had somehow missed it or that a mountain goat or other animal kicked it off the side. At last I found it and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

As soon as I made it off the ridgeline it started to rain, talk about getting lucky. I rushed down as fast as I could to find some shelter from the weather, since I had forgotten to grab my rain gear in the tent that morning and fires were not allowed in that area so I would not be able to dry out my clothes back at camp. Finding a good shelter proved to be a difficult task since I was still above treeline. I finally found a small patch of stunted trees and huddled up inside to wait out the rain.

When the rain subsided a few minutes later I crawled out of my shelter and headed back down only to be caught again in the rain, only this time it was worse. With the rain also came some fierce winds and the sounds of thunder crashing overhead. Flashes of lightning filled the sky and sent me straight to the next nearest shelter I could find, a patch of small trees overhanging a small ledge. Inside there was a fairly large den of something, but this being my only option I stuck with it. The temperature dropped considerably and being wet I started to get a bit chilled. I rubbed my hands together to keep warm while waiting. Being in this “survival mode” I felt like I was in an episode of Man vs. Wild.

I’m not sure how long the storm lasted as I drifted off to sleep while waiting. When I woke the storm had passed and the skies were beginning to clear. It was quite late now and I wanted to get back before nightfall. The rest of the hike down was pretty straightforward and I made it back to my campsite before sunset and cooked a nice hot meal and finished drying out before going to work on the sunset.

Windswept World

Marcy and Colden from Iroquois windswept col“Marcy and Colden from Iroquois’s windswept col”

I had been planning a winter ascent of Algonquin (5,114ft) and Iroquois Peak (4,840ft) in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks for some time now, in hopes of getting some nice shots of the snow covered trees on and around the summits. I was afraid the mild temperatures combined with the wind and rain we’ve been having this last month of winter had stripped all the trees of their snow. As fate would have it I got my break two days before I was to attempt the climb, it came in the form of snow, but I did not know this at the time. While the southern Adirondacks were being targeted by heavy rains the higher elevations were actually getting snow. This turned out to be a wonderful blessing as it covered up much of the ice above treeline.

Plans were hashed out and my hiking partner and I decided on an 8am start. I reached the trailhead at approx. 7:45 and self registered at the Adirondack Loj. There I met up with Dan and we loaded up our gear and hit the trail shortly after 8. Trail conditions were great, the melting and freezing of the snow created nice hard pack conditions and we were able to make really good time. Iroquois would complete Dan’s 46th Winter High Peak (He has done them all in other seasons as well), so this was the main goal of the trip for him. On the trail he told me that this was his 3rd attempt this winter at Iroquois and one of those times he was less than 150 yards from the summit but was forced to turn back due to extreme whiteout conditions and the numerous spruce traps that he encountered along the way. I told him the weather forecast looked very promising, and although this can change in an instant, it called for clear skies and relatively calm winds on the summits. If there was ever a day to bag Iroquois, this would be it!

We continued onward, marching like ants up one snow covered slope after another, only stopping to catch our breath and take a few sips of water in between elevation gains. The tops of the trees were now starting to show a layer of ice that had built up from the extremely cold temperatures at this elevation. I was getting excited, knowing these were exactly the conditions I was after. An hour and a half later, at a little over 3 miles, we reached the junction to Wright Peak. The summit of Algonquin was now a little less than a mile away, though if we were to get Iroquois we would be looking at over 2 miles still to go.

Dan nearing Algonquin's windblown summit
“Dan nearing Algonquin’s windblown summit”

After a short breather we were off again. I was sporting a newer pair of Tubbs Flex Alps mountaineering snowshoes I picked up earlier this winter and Dan had on a pair of MSR Denali Ascents, we were ready and eager to tackle mountains! The ascent from the junction was grueling, with some extremely steep pitches that seemed to go on forever. Our aggressive snowshoe crampons did their job and before long we had views behind us of Wright Peak and Whiteface way off in the distance. Even the Green Mountains of Vermont made an appearance through the distant fog. The views seemed endless, I could only imagine what they must be like from the summit. The air was very clear and the wind was extremely calm by High Peaks standards. I soon asked Dan if he had seen a nicer day this winter while in the mountains, to which he quickly replied “No!”.

Algonquin's summit from just below treeline
“Algonquin’s summit from just below treeline”

Snowshoe Hare tracks below Algonquin's snowy summit“Snowshoe Hare tracks below Algonquin’s summit”

Surrounded by snow covered trees and distant views we continued for another fifteen minutes or so until we both agreed that we were now higher than Wright Peak, which stands at a lofty 4,587ft. With my camera in hand, I scrambled up some more steep pitches passing lots of snowshoe hare tracks along the way. The snow and ice encased summit of Algonquin was now coming into view. Winding our way through the scrub trees we finally reached treeline. A little further up the trail Dan yelled down and said “You’ve got to get a shot of this, this is really unique”. It was a small spruce tree completely covered in snow and ice, and intricately sculpted by the wind. I insisted Dan go ahead as I was going to take some pictures from here, and told him that I would catch up to him. With blue skies and fresh snow all around me, I was in a photographer’s paradise. I barely noticed the last section of steep pitches and before I know it I’m walking across the summit of Algonquin with incredible vistas in all directions. Dan was making good time and was already nearing the col between Algonquin and Boundary when I finally spotted him. I snapped a few photos of him and put my camera back in the bag.

Dan's unique find, a spruce tree sculpture!“Dan’s unique find, a spruce tree sculpture!”

Krumholtz Line on Algonquin“Krumholtz Line on Algonquin”

Cloud whisk over Algonquin“Cloud whisk over Algonquin”

I made a quick descent of Algonquin and decided to take my camera back out when I saw a puffy cloud whisk making its way towards Algonquin’s summit. High winds had ravaged this area, carving out unique patterns in the snow. I stopped for more pictures before ascending Boundary, the peak between Algonquin and Iroquois. When I reached the summit of Boundary I could see Dan making his way up Iroquois, I took some more photos of him and then hurried to catch up. I was on the summit not to long after and he congratulated me upon arriving, telling me that this is one of the harder peaks to get in the winter. I congratulated him on his 46th winter High Peak and we decided to have a snack. He checked his watch, it was 11:15, not bad considering the two mountains we climbed, well, technically three if you count Boundary. It was a bit windier on Iroquois than it was on Algonquin so I put on an extra layer. I took a couple of photos of Dan with Marcy and Algonquin in the background and then asked if he would take my picture.

Single cloud over Algonquin“Single cloud over Algonquin”

Marcy from windswept col“Mount Marcy from windswept col”

After refueling we geared back up and began slowly making our way back. Back down Iroquois, up Boundary, down Boundary, and back up Algonquin, phew! Now our legs are feeling the effects of all the paces we’ve put them through. We decide to take it easy on the way back up Algonquin, stopping every so often to give our legs a break. Just before we reach the summit a group of 5 climbers greet us on their way to Iroquois. We chat with them briefly and then make our way to the summit. We have a quick look around and then start our descent. The snow is nicely packed and still a bit icy so we take the opportunity to glissade on our bottoms down the extremely steep pitches that we had to climb while making our ascent. Our legs and knees thank us.

Another unique spruce tree sculpted by the wind“Another unique spruce tree sculpted by the wind”

Iroquois panorama“Iroquois panorama”

Upon reaching the junction we stop for lunch and a much needed break. We agree to talk it easy on the way out, as it was such a beautiful day there was no need to hurry. Back on the trail we talk about hikes we’ve done in the past and places we’ve been until finally reaching the parking lot a little after 3pm. Our total round trip was around 10.5 miles. All in all it was a great day to be in the woods, and a great way to spend a day.

I would like to send out a special thanks to Dan for accompanying me on this climb and congratulations again on your winter 46 buddy!

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
-John Muir

Ampersand Mountain

Ampersand Mountain

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog here, mainly because I have been taking advantage of winter and getting out to shoot as much as possible. I shot this beautiful sunset from the summit of Ampersand Mountain near Saranac Lake, NY, this past Monday. The forecast called for gradually clearing skies throughout the afternoon so I was anticipating a nice sunset. After hiking nearly 3 miles I reached the 3,352 ft summit and found these wonderful wind sculpted patterns in the snow. The rest of the summit was mostly bare rock from being blasted by the wind constantly. It was so frigid my camera ate up 3 lithium batteries in the relatively short amount of time I spent on the mountain. Temperatures were only in the single digits and with the wind it was well below zero. My camera looked like an ice cube by the time I was done shooting the sunset. Hiking back down under a starry night sky is always an exhilarating experience!