Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Wild South West Tour

Hey Ya'll

Last month I decided to go on an adventure through the southern states, it was something I had been wanting to do for a long time. This past year I have lost family members and friends to the other side and it has made me realize that you can't wait, you can't hold back, tomorrow may never come.

One thing I always teach others about photography is that you have to be prepared and well researched. Every detail matters.

First things first, I had to map out the trip, I had key spots I wanted to visit so I planned the trip around that. In all my research I found that the best way to do this trip was to do a road trip, this would be the most cost affective and epic way to go. So where to start??? The where drives the when, the how, etc.

I used Google Maps to plot all my most important stops to shoot, from there I looked at the travel time between and the proximity to places to stay and places to eat. Once I had this set I knew the total driving distance round trip, which was 7000km, now I could look into costs for the trip. The major facts were gas, food and accomidations. Gas was pretty simple you can find big name stations at almost any hwy turn off around towns and cities. I stuck to Shell to make sure the diesel for my car was decent, cost from state to state was pretty much the same, there were times I used other stations but only Exxon. I had done a lot of hwy driving with my new car so I knew the average tank would net 900km and I knew that an empty take was around $65 to fill. Cost one taken care of, don't forget to factor in extra
gas money just in case.

Now thats over it's time to address food, this was pretty easy to do, Im not picky with my food. For the most part I stuck to Subway (every once in a while I would get some junk food, stuff we didn't have in Canada), I had variety, I had somewhat healthy choices, they are located everywhere like Starbucks and cheap under $10 per meal. I skip breakfast so lets say $20 a day, but factor in a little extra for a nice hot sit down meal now and then plus supplies like water for the road and for hiking.

I stopped in Salt Lake City for The Cheese Cake Factory (you know I love to go there) I love this dish.

The must do stop at In and Out Burger 

Obviously Popeyes

If you head to Page make sure you go get some BBQ at Big Johns. It was so good.

Ok, 2 down. Next accommodation, this one was tricky and was for sure the most expensive part of the trip, or at least it can be. I am not adversed to camping but in the hot Utah and Arizona weather I figured I wouldn't be too happy doing that, especially with all the hiking I had planned. So I did two things, for spots that were just over night pitstops I slept in my car. I built a platform for the back to turn it into sleeping corders. The platform allowed me to store everything underneath like my camera gear and I was able to sleep on the top with some blow up camping mattresses and a sleeping bag. I also converted some standard window curtains into shades for my car windows to block out any light from the early sun to cars and trucks, this proved to be extremely helpful. Most of these stops were just outside towns and cities and rest stops, this way I didn't have crazy town folk around and I would pretty much blend in with the long haul truckers.

So that took care of the nights I wasn't hiking, for the major stops in my journey I had to book some sort of room. Near Zion I booked a KOA campground Cabin, I was about an hour away from Zion itself but the costs went down a lot. The town of Springdale Utah sits right outside the Zion gates and they have a bunch of hotels and campgrounds there but they can be expensive. In Page Arizona (near Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon) there are very little options and unfortunately the hotels there know it. The hotels are expensive but you really don't have a choice, my Motel 6 room was $140 a night and it was in pretty rough shape. My advice would be to plan the largest part of your budget to go to this place if you go to Page. Choose one of the better chains of hotels, the costs may be high but it will be worth it.

My Zion cabin.

All 3 major costs planned, whats left? Park fees, depending on the place you go you might have to pay to enter the parks (like national parks). Toll roads, luckily I didn't come across any. Tours, at Antelope Canyon you have to book a guided tour to enter the slot canyons so be sure to do this ahead of time. I booked upper and lower canyon tours for photographers and it cost under $200 for both. Some "splurge" money, not much something for stickers, t-shirts etc. The all important emergency funds, this is important, I've had tires blow out, camera batteries lost, you name it, it's happened. Don't forget a sim card for your phone to have data on the road.

Stickers are a good idea if you want to buy a keepsake because they are light and small and don't take up a lot of space.

Route, Check.

Accommodations, Check.

Cash, Check.

Now that all the logistics are taken care of lets talk about the photography stuff. When going on a trip like this you need to make sure you have what you need beyond the camera and lenses. I made sure to bring a myriad of charging options so that if I'm at the cabin or on the road I can power up batteries. You need to bring a laptop or something to check the images, it would be terrible to go all that way and shoot a location only to learn you had soft focus on that one epic sunset. Now listen carefully this is the most important thing you need to know about a big trip like this. Back up Back up Back up!!! You could not imagine the horror of loosing all your work, all those miles, all that money and time invested to have a card corrupt. Every day I budgeted time to back up the images to my computer and an external drive.

My entire schedule was based on shooting at sunset and sunrise and the occasional night shoot.

Bonnieville Salt Flats

Zion National Park

Kanarra Creek

 Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon

Monument Valley Look Out

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Arches National Park

I hope you enjoyed this blog post as much as I did creating it.

David Wilder

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Assiniboine Magic

Hey Y'all

The last couple months have been an exciting time. So many adventures, so may beautiful places. I wanted to share my trip to Mount Assiniboine and the gorgeous lodge there.

Mount Assiniboine is just over the BC/Alberta border on the BC side, there are two ways to get there, hiking the 26km in or taking a heli. I took the heli! Now there are three ways to stay out in this area, a campground, cabins or the lodge. All have their different perks but I went with the lodge, it was amazing. The owners and the staff were incredible, always friendly and excited about the day, super helpful and man oh man the food was insanely good.

Now, I went in early Sept. hoping to get some of the colour change of the larches but I was to early, the trees just began to change. There was no shortage of beautiful spots to go however. The first day I went for a hike with no camera gear just to check out the area and picked a few spots to go, along the way I met a few couples that loved the outdoors and photography as much as I do. We wondered around and found some cool spots, we swapped stories of places we had been as we walked back to the lodge.

That evening since everything was clear (not a single cloud in the sky) I decided to skip shooting sunset and wait to shoot the milky way. I went to bed early to get some rest and then woke up around 1:30am and went out and to my surprise there sky was lit up with aurora. It was an incredible moment being out in such dark skies watching the aurora dance. I set up and took a series of shots and until it stopped, then composed my milky way shot over mount Assiniboine. Once I was happy with what I shot I went back in for a few more hours of sleep before sunrise.

I woke up about an hour before sunrise and met up with a fellow photographer out front of the lodge and hiked 1km to the shore of Lake Magog, it sits at the foot of mount Assiniboine. There wasn't a lot of snow from the last winter so the water level was really low, this made it challenging for a good foreground because all we had were rocks, the windy was very strong so the surface of the water was very turbulent. So much that we were getting small white cap waves. I finally found a large rock that I could use for a foreground element and set up, got all my gear in place and then waited for the show. Large puffy clouds were rolling in from behind Assiniboine and as they did the sunrise did her magic lighting them up with beautiful colours.

Later in the evening around dinner time I saw what looked like a great sunset, this time of year was tricky because dinner service and sunset pretty much happened at the same time. Some nights I had to choose one or the other, the kitchen was great about holding a plate for when I got back though. But this evening I ate dinner in a record amount of time and ran out to a spot called Sunburst Lake. It was about 2km and I managed to get there in about 30 min with my camera gear. However during the hike the full sunset colours were already happening, so by the time I got in place I really only had some fleeting colour and then blue hour. I was a little disappointed but nevertheless the moment was still amazing.

The next two days mother nature had different ideas about the weather than I did. It was foggy and overcast with lots of rain and even snow for the entire time. I was still able to get creative and shoot some cool photos of mount Assiniboine through the clouds.

On the 5th day we had a mix of overcast sky and path clouds so I decided to take a hike with the guides and a group of others to the "Niblet" a spot that offers an insane view of multiple lakes, mount Assiniboine and Sunburst mountain. It was a mid day hike so not ideal for photographs but it gave me a chance to get there and see it. Maybe plan for the next day. Later that day the clouds came back in and covered the area for no sunset again.

I woke up on day 6 and there were no clouds in the sky which was ok for me I could catch up on some sleep. Most of the day was spent editing and shooting images of the lodge for their website. Later on that day a good mix of clouds rolled in and this had me thinking about heading to the "Niblet" for sunset or staying for dinner. Up until this point I was feeling a little discouraged because the "Niblet" was my ultimate goal on this trip and so far the results were not good.

Now the window for leaving to get to the "Niblet" in time was closing and I was on the fence until something inside me said just go or you will regret it. So I packed my gear and virtually ran the 2.5km and 250m gain to the "Niblet" in 45min all while carrying camera bag with 35lbs of gear. Most of the gain is right near the end and I won't lie my legs were toast from this past week so it took a lot for me to get into place. I got my gear set up and as I did the sun gently kissed the tree tops, then the mountain peaks and then slowly dipped behind the horizon lighting up the clouds with colours.

I did it! I got my shot that I had been dreaming about for years, it was worth every step, every set back, every struggle. I sat there with a fella who had just been hiking around, he thanked me for stopping him so he also got to share in the amazing moment. Now it was time to head back, it gets dark really fast out there and hiking in the dark in bear territory is no fun. I made the return trip in like 30min, making all sorts of crazy noises to keep animals away. Once I got back the staff had kept dinner warm for me which I thought was truly nice of them.

The next morning it was time to prep for leaving, my heli out was at 2, so I was able to sleep in, pack and even edit some images. I wrapped up with shooting a few of the cabins for their website and sadly said goodbye to everyone I met. As we loaded up for the heli it was bitter sweet Anik and Claude the owners and operators of the lodge were there loading gear and saying goodbye. These are truly amazing people, truly amazing spirits.

If you are ever looking for an amazing mountain experience, some time away from the crowds of people and distractions of technology, book a stay at Mount Assiniboine you won't regret it!

Thank you to all the amazing staff that made the trip that much better and thank you to all the amazing people I met along the way. It was awesome swapping stories and making new friends. I hope you are all well!

David Wilder