My interest in astrophotography in January of 2015 was beginning to hit a high note. I had gotten many of the technical aspects and understandings of the process down, and shortly thereafter, Comet Lovejoy made a pass right by the Pleiades. I was able to capture the shot exactly as I hoped, and was thrilled with the result.
In February, my girlfriend at the time helped me try a new adventure by participating in the Cody Ice Climbing Festival. Though temperatures averaged in the 50s each day, that didn’t stop the festival from going forward and from me learning to ice climb on a beautiful frozen waterfall! After the first full day of the festival, we headed out to the Bighorn Basin to camp, where a cold front pushed through that night and left a bit of snow on the McCullough Peaks. It’s one of my favorite places in Wyoming, and having only seen it in the summer, I was ecstatic to see such incredible terrain in a completely different light, so to speak.
March saw me begin to check something off of my bucket list, but then cancel that check. I spent most of March hiking the first 164 miles of the Arizona Trail. The trail was absolutely spectacular and breathtaking along every step and ignited a new passion and desire in me to see it through. The only problem was that even stronger were responsibilities back home, the stress of abandoning those responsibilities, and even more stress from a rapidly shrinking budget. Ultimately, those reasons made it more appealing to leave than finish. However it was a very valuable lesson learned, and with any luck, I’ll be back this next spring to properly hike the trail. This photo was the first sunrise along the trail and still stands out as one of my favorites having never spent much time at all in southern Arizona.
After abandoning the Arizona Trail, I spent most of April sorting through photos and reliving the short-lived adventure. This kept me glued to my computer much more than I like, but few things will have me ditching the screen like the northern lights. I was able to catch them again that month when I drove out to the Taggart Lake Trailhead to be close to the peaks. The Inner Park Road was also closed for the season, so I knew that there would be minimal headlights and distractions. That is until some idiotic kids that were racing on the road illegally stopped and picked the lock to get out. This photo wasn’t affected, but the time-lapse I had left going caught much of their brakelights.
I led a successful Grizzly and Wolf Spring Photo Workshop late in May, but couldn’t help but notice many of my great wildlife shots were very similar to many others online. So when I caught a pair of bald eagles scanning over the Lamar Valley, I was more pleased with it than I probably should have been. Although the experience did help emphasize that I really just wanted to be out hiking more.
June 22, 2015. I won’t forget that date any time soon. The auroras were predicted across many news sites and the forecasts appeared to be holding into that afternoon. I drove out onto the RKO road in Teton Park to find a different spot away from my usual locations and began to set up, documenting the whole process since I knew I’d also want to create a short video of the northern lights from that night. The moment finally came and the forecasts held up. The result was easily one of the three best northern lights experiences I’ve ever had. Colors and bands and ribbons danced across the night sky for hours before subsiding around 1-1:30am. Once I had a good variety of time-lapses and photos, I headed home.
Snow in July? It happened. Late in July of 2015, the Teton Mountains received a dusting of snow. To celebrate the experience, I did a popular hike in unusual circumstances. I started off at String Lake at sunrise to capture the views on the way in. After wrapping around String Lake, I headed up into Cascade Canyon admiring the views of the Cathedral Group high above. I reached the back of the canyon as the snow started to melt, so I had a snack, and began to head back out as the crowds began to increase.
I was experiencing a lot of mental stress toward the end of the summer, so I made a point to get out and hike more to keep myself relatively balanced. A pleasant experience was taking a familiar area and making an entire day of it. Most people head to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and hike for a mile or two, then move on. I managed to find 11 miles to hike around there, doing all four trails from the LSR and then linking a couple of them via the Phelps Lake Trail. This photo came from Phelps Lake.
I was finally beginning to find some time to backpack, and one of the first trips I did was the Swift Creek to Shoal Creek Loop in the Gros Ventre Wilderness. Even being there after peak summer wildflower season and before fall colors, the landscapes were absolutely incredible. I spent the night up at the Crystal Creek headwaters, which wound up being one of my favorite views from the hike, especially as the sun was going down.
Most of October was spent on a much-needed getaway to southern Utah. I used the opportunity to explore another national park that I had always been curious about, but had never been able to devote much time to: Capitol Reef National Park. I absolutely fell in love with the park and hiked as many hikes as I could and explored as much of the park and the surrounding area as I could. I got so much material from that one park, that I had a lot of trouble narrowing it down to just one shot, but ultimately I chose a euphoric experience at sunset one evening where the sun didn’t just light up the clouds, but also the sandstone cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold. Everything within sight was glowing in a bright, deep orange. It made me sad for the other photographer that had left just minutes before. That only lasted for a split second though.
I didn’t want to stop hiking just because snow was falling and hunting season had started. I had also piled up a number of projects and work to keep me a little busier than I had anticipated. To make sure I got out, I signed up for the local Sierra Club and joined them on a couple of hikes. One was up Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park, from which this shot is from.
Since so much of my time went into the creation of a short video in December, I felt as though that should take the place of a photo. I was asked by a friend who’s helping us with getting Grand Teton National Park Dark Sky Certified to create a short video highlighting the night skies of the park. I had done several like that before and could easily whip them out in a day. However, I wanted this one to be a bit more inspiring. I wanted to leave a significant impact on people to act and to help us out. I wanted this to reflect the time, work, and love for the subject that had gone into the video. On top of that, I had also begun to study some music theory and with a basic understanding, created the music for the video. In doing so, I had ultimate control over all the aspects of the audio and video. The result was a short time-lapse video that I was proud to show.