I don’t wear ski goggles. They annoy me. Instead, whenever I go into the mountains I wear my beat up, $15 pair of glacier glasses. Even in raging snowstorms in the backcountry, I wear this trusty pair.
Yet, each time I take a picture, I normally take off my glasses to see the world in its true colors. Then, when I get home, I process those images to reflect the bright whites and blues that I see in wilderness.
Even though this may be what the camera sees, this isn’t the world that I see.
Last week, the dry winter in the Sierra finally relented. For a week, storm after storm dropped feet of snow, building up a nice base and bringing one of 2012’s few powder days. Naturally, I dropped everything and headed straight for the hills as soon as the skies cleared, camera in hand. I spent a few days near Tahoe–one at Alpine Meadows, the other in the Mt. Rose backcountry. While I was in line at Alpine I thought, “hmm, wouldn’t it be cool to capture the experience of milking the powder in a dry year though my eyes, those covered by a beat up pair of yellow mountaineering glasses?”
The following images are just that: my friends and companions riding as much fresh snow in and out-of-bounds around Tahoe in one of the driest years in memory, but through yellow-tinged eyes that I wear everyday in the mountains.
The mountain didn’t remain virgin for long…
An unknown boarder leaves his mark on the mountain on his first run.
Richard Mack drops in off a ridge eager to find his own fresh turns. From here out, we charged:
As we worked through the day, the fresh powder became ever harder to find and the heat of the sun thickened it into powdery crust.
We refused to quit…
The following day we headed out into the backcountry in hopes of finding great snow high and in the trees near Mt. Rose. My buddy, Paul, came along for his first day out in the BC in a few years. Having sold his ski setup, he joined Richard for the snowshoe slog.
Late afternoon light looked as pretty as ever streaming through the trees on our ascent.
And after a few hours of skinning and postholing in snowshoes, the crew finally reached a high ridge on Incline Lake Peak.
That’s right, boys. You made it. Soak it up.
And now the reward: a descent into the trees with the high desert behind you.
Paul grabs his first turns of the season.
And Richard cleans up.
As we drive back home, the late evening light paints the sky above Lake Tahoe and the surrounding basin.
This year has been rough for winter sports in the Sierra. As I write this, most areas have received between 20%-40% of their typical snowfall. The drought has crippled the winter economy in areas like Mammoth and Tahoe, and it’s definitely made shooting backcountry skiing and snowboarding more challenging.
Despite the challenge, there still have been a few good days out there. This past week I spent a few days with a friend around Donner Pass near Truckee, and I was able to get in some good turns through the trees and some fun shots of him boarding in the backcountry. Getting up in the mountains was such a great change of pace. Recently, I’ve felt like all I shoot is the Bay Area and surfing. I’m not complaining, but I’ve been itching to breathe some cold air, hear the rhythm of my skis and breath as I hike up the snow and see the world transformed under a blanket of white. This week, although the storms were small, I did get my wish.
Today I went out to Mavericks to shoot the big wave surfers for the first time. I learned a few things: I need a larger lens, boat and to arrive early in the morning for the best light. All the same, I still had some fun shots:
This past month I haven’t been to the mountains once. The snow has not come and it still looks like it might be weeks away. More time around the Bay has turned my eye towards the beauty of my city. Here are some of my favorite images from the past month.
It seems that every time I head out to the Sierra, I can’t avoid staying up long after everyone has bedded down in their sleeping bags to shoot long exposures of the Milky Way. There’s just something about looking up into the vast, cloudy galaxy and contemplating my part in it that keeps me awake in the cold and wind, hunched beneath my tripod.
Capturing the Milky Way is challenging. In order to have a nice, crisp Milky Way, my exposure needs to be quite short: less than a minute or so. Otherwise, the earth’s rotation will blur the galaxy into a big, nondescript, celestial fog surrounded by streaking stars. However, to achieve such a short exposure with so little light, my camera’s ISO has to be pushed to levels that will could create too much “noise”, little specks in dark areas. It’s always a balancing act.
Here’s an example of a shot that did succeed in getting some detail of the Milky Way, but it is slightly blurred due to its minute-long exposure. I’m not satisfied. Time to head back out and try to capture the galaxy again.