Monday, December 31, 2018

Winter Wonderland in the Cascade Mountains

In the Cascade Mountains, where frequent storms that pour down a deep blanket of snow upon their ramparts, a clear sky can be a rare event, and should not be missed. In the waning days of 2018 I took to the skies to view this slumbering landscape of frosted mountain peaks, quiet winter woodlands, and icy canyons from above. Flying through skeins of glowing fog, and above drifting cloud banks this perspective gives new dimension to these high and lonely places.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Wild Wonders of Puget Sound - Woodard Bay and Burfoot Park

As the tide rushes in to the forest cloaked reaches of Woodard Bay, so do the fish and nutrients that sustain the vibrant ecosystem that thrives there. Birds flock to this quiet corner of Puget Sound, and harbor seals bask on docks and pilings that are all that remain of the industry that once occurred here. Now industry has moved to other parts of the Salish Sea, leaving Woodard Bay to become once again a refuge for the wild things that call it home.

Friday, December 28, 2018

DJI Ronin S - Unboxing, Test, and First Impressions

The Ronin S is DJI’s answer to the exploding market of “pro-sumer” camera gimbals, a market thick with so many nearly identical devices that no one could be blamed for being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of options. The question is, does the Ronin S do enough to stand out from the pack?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

The holidays are upon us - the lights are strung, the cookies are iced, and the tree coated in ornaments. The presents are wrapped, snow globes carefully unboxed, and on the eve of the night itself the farmyard animals are happily fed and snug in their stalls with mangers full of hay.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Autumn Ascension - Music Video + Autumn Aerial Photography and video editing tips!

Spectacular fall colors, cool seas of mist, towering mountains - their slopes jeweled with autumn finery. The last hurrah of nature before its winter slumber is a sight to behold throughout the Pacific Northwest.

This video is the culmination of two months of work, about a dozen hours of cumulative flight time, over a week of editing, 3 rough drafts, and numerous re-shoots. The song is "Ascension" by Miracle of Sound, which I selected mid-way through the filming process, a selection which dramatically increased the complexity of the project as it demanded that I match my visual story with that of the song.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

#NatureWritingChallenge: Public Lands Wish List

At present our public lands are in a state of near constant peril and crisis, and it is hard to think beyond defending them today and imagine what the future could look like for these treasured wild places. However, I think it’s important that as we fight in the metaphorical trenches it is important to keep in mind the goals and dreams for public land. What our good fight will mean for future generations.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Trails Less Travelled

The best lengths of trails in our National Parks are perhaps those which are least appreciated - though even knowing that you and I may well pass them over in preference to more glamorous pathways. I speak of those trails that lead not to the best views, the big falls, stunning canyons, glaciers, or alpine lakes. I write of the quiet forest paths, overgrown and wonderfully neglected for their obsolescence. Every park has them, and they are a treat for anyone who has had their fill of the famous sights and who now merely seeks solitude and respite from the crowds.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art Lens Review

Full frame quality on an APS-C size sensor? Well might you scoff, but that's exactly what Sigma has achieved with the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art. It is a lens purpose built to get the most out of crop sensor camera - professional results from cameras unfairly labeled as only fit for amateurs. Known as a "Bag of Primes" or the "Youtuber lens", the 18-35mm is a versatile tool for photographers and videographers alike.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Last Wild Ride of Mr. Toad

From beneath a rock the toad took flight, running on its hind most legs like a man, fleeing for its life the slithering terror that pursued it with ravenous intent. It hid itself behind a stone, in vain it seemed, as soon it hurried on. The legless monster came on in undulating hoops as if a garden hose had sprung to life with cold intellect and malicious intent.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Encroaching Enochlophobia - a troubling future for wilderness

It is no secret that the woods and mountains are not so wonderfully lonesome as they once were. National Parks get all the press for excessive overcrowding, but the sad fact is that solitude is becoming a decidedly rare commodity practically everywhere. You may well point out that you can still get away from people if you seek out relatively unknown trails and travel in the off season in poor weather in the middle of the week. This is true, but for how much longer?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Welcoming the Alpine Dawn

The trail has been long and hard - mile upon mile of relentless climbing have made the distance stretch until the waning hours of the afternoon. An evening at the end of such an exhausting day is spent as much collapsed in a comatose heap as it is ogling the spectacular scenery around you. Only once you have had time lying dead to the world in a sleeping bag as the stars wheel overhead can you recover and actually appreciate the wonders you have worked so hard to experience. That is part of what makes dawn the next day such an incredible experience.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wild Olympics: Wonders of the Quinault Rainforest

There is no forest more incredibly alive than that to be found in the wild northwest corner of the Pacific Northwest - an island of incredible biodiversity the scale of which boggles the mind and fires the soul. From the tidepools on the rugged wave tossed coast to the glaciers tumbling from mountain peaks into the great green carpet of the timeless rainforest.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Flying over Astoria's John Day River

The John Day river is a quite coastal river merging with the mighty Columbia river just a few miles before it empties in to the Pacific Ocean. Spruce bogs and house boats line its banks, gulls wheel overhead, and fisherman ply its briny tide-infused waters.

I found the marsh forest downstream of the boat launch where I flew to be particularly interesting, as it was practically impossible to view from the ground, and completely impenetrable to exploration otherwise. The huge old spruce trees seem to rise out of a lake of tangled brush and deciduous trees - what a mysterious and wonderful place!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Save the enchantment lakes! Comment period ends soon.

It is distressing to learn that sometimes not even wilderness designation can protect our beloved wild places from the destructive exploitation of humans. When it was designated, the Alpine Lakes wilderness included compromises allowing for the continued inappropriate use of spectacular alpine lakes as reservoirs that have allowed wasteful water use practices to continue. The dams would be entirely unnecessary if changes were made downstream to curtail water waste. Now they want even more water for towns and irrigation downstream, and have hatched a plan that would devastate wilderness treasures.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Peshastin Pinnacles

Peshastin Pinnacles rise majestically over the verdant videyards of the Wenatchee Valley. Erosion is slowly revealing these massive sandstone formations from the grassy foothills of the snow capped Cascade Mountains. Though popular mostly with climbers, the pinnacles are also a great spot for hiking and bird watching, as many avian species flit and wheel around the twisted spires.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Eyes on Mt. St. Helens - Episode #1: May

This is the first episode of a 6 part monthly series of videos that I'll be filming and publishing over the course of the summer. Utilizing timelapse and aerial photography I will document the changing seasons and dramatic weather of the blast zone from spring through the start of winter.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Worlds Largest Sitka Spruce

Deep in the Olympic Rainforest, on the shores of silvery Lake Quinault, stands a massive, ancient tree. The World's Largest Sitka Spruce is one of a number of record setting trees in one of the most vibrant valleys on the planet. It is more than a thousand years old, 17.7 feet thick, and stands nearly 200 feet tall. It is truly awe inspiring to stand in its presence.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Vivid Spring Flowers in the Forest

The spring flower show of the forest is typically a subtle affair - lots of new green foliage and a flower here and there. However, in one little forest of alder and mossy pines I found a display of nature that was more vivid than any spring previous. Bleeding heart, oxalis, Vetch, an endless carpet of Oxalis covering everything, the green clover leaves sending up their own little white blossoms streaked with delicate colors. The air was heady with the scents of new growth, fresh flowers - the smell of a billion living things springing from the cool earth to reach up for the dappled sun.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Keep Mt. Hood Wild! Prevent development at Cooper Spur/Government Camp. Stop the Land Swap.

Today I learned of a long planned land swap on the slopes of Mt. Hood, and I was horrified by just about every aspect of the situation. The land swap is a raw deal for the public, and development of either location would be a blight on a beautiful region treasured by millions of Americans. Please join me in voicing strong opposition to the land swap and to further development of Mt. Hood.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Wonders of the Temperate Jungle

The temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest are a wonder comparable to any tropical jungle. Giant trees soar skyward, crystal streams tumble beneath the ferns, and moss covers everything making the forest a vertical maze of greenery even the depths of winter when the leaves have fallen. Now it is spring, and the dormant foliage is waking back up. Soon the devils club and stinging nettle will be taller than my head, making expeditions into the forest depths even more of a challenge.

Monday, April 16, 2018

New Mindshift Gear Camera Bags - Exposure shoulder bags and Backlight 18L

Mindshift makes excellent outdoor camera bags, and whether you need a versatile backpack or a durable and weatherproof shoulder bag, they have you (and of course your gear) covered. The newly announced Exposure shoulder bags and Backlight 18L backpack promise to be just as excellent as the rest of their products.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Close Call in the Chugach

For today's #naturewritingchallenge I brought in a guest writer! 
My mother, Nancy Zahn, has had encounters with wildlife that I just can't top!

As a teenager, I grew up in a hiker’s shangri-la. Our house in Alaska abutted state land and overlooked a creek that tumbled its way down from the Chugach Mountains through the high tundra into forests of spruce and birch guarded by tall patches of devil’s club and fiddlehead ferns. This was my refuge, and every afternoon I would run down our homemade trail to the creek and dash through the thickets and the wandering springs up the creek as far as I could go, hoping to reach the expanse of tundra, a many hued carpet that stretched up to the jagged rocks of the Chugach.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Tumwater Falls

This series of cascading torrents is hidden well in its deep river gorge. Cars rush by on I-5 without a clue of the splendor just beyond the freeway's edge. Tumwater Falls is a spectacular wild gem in the heart of a city.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Quiet Spring Hike to Packwood Lake

The path to Packwood Lake is well trodden indeed. However, in spring the winding woodland trail to
this forest gem is a quiet and lonely journey. A taste of the mountains when the high country is blanketed in snow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sunsets of Early Spring

March is a month of spectacular sunsets - the wild and unpredictable weather of the changing season throws up wild cloud formations that catch the dying rays of the sun and light up like wildfire.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Snowshoeing under a Blue Sky

Winter is almost over, but there's still a lot of snow in the mountains!  Eagles drifted by on surprisingly warm breezes, the alpine sky free of clouds was an almost painfully vivid shade of blue, and it was particularly fascinating how you could tell how far way different mountains were by their varying shades. A wonderful day of snowshoeing indeed.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Joby Gorillapod Action Tripod Review

Every photographer needs a small tripod to compliment their full size tripod. There are just situations where you can't have a full size tripod, or where you simply want to cut down on  weight and bulk. For this purpose the obvious choice is probably the Gorillapod - a flexible, compact, and lightweight means of camera support.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Clarion Call of the Mountains

There are many sounds to love in the wild places of the world. Who doesn’t love the chuckle of a brook hidden amongst the flowers of a lush meadow, or the distant roar of a mighty river deep in the canyon it has hewn for itself over the millennia. The rush of evening breeze in the boughs of an alpine forest is another lovely noise, and so is the lonely keening of the wind through a notch on a blasted stony peak.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Strange Sights on a Snowy Night

A snowy landscape and a sky full of stars are an ideal combination of conditions for capturing unique and unearthly photos. Bare winter branches coated in snow, fields blanketed in powder, and all glowing with the light from the nearby barn light. With owls hooting in the distance it was wonderful to experience for as long as the frigid temperatures allowed.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Mindshift Gear Firstlight 40L Camera Backpack First Impressions

If you're like me, then you frequently find yourself in the position of travelling on foot and weighted down with an unreasonable amount of camera gear. Eventually you will find that your cameras and lenses and the rest no longer fit in one, or two, or maybe even three of the camera cases and backpacks that accumulate organically and which multiply exponential throughout the life of a photographer. At some point the only solution is a bigger bag, and it might be that the Firstlight 40L from Mindshift is the bigger bag you're looking for.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Nothing disturbs the silence of a snow shrouded forest in the early hours of a winter morning after a the thick blanket was laid down by the blizzard that raged the night before. Every fern is sculpted, the thin branches of maples and alder guilded in shining powder, the wide branches of douglas fir and the imposing cones of cedars weighed down by drifts of crystals. As the day warms, the glittering suessian wonderland will collapse, raining down avalanches of powder that will catch the light like diamonds and dance to Earth. For now, though, it is as if time has stopped, and not a breath of wind disturbs the perfect quiet of the woods.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Desperate Times at the Edge of Paradise

Arriving late to a popular National Park in the middle of summer with no reservations of any kind is a bad idea. Nevertheless, there we were, goggling at the massive, soaring peaks of Glacier National Park - without a clue where we’d be staying that night. Well into the afternoon we learned at the Logan Pass Visitor center that all the big campgrounds were already full. A smaller, less developed campground was our only chance. With that in mind we chose the nearest, and as the sun began dying in the west, we fled down the mountain, ignoring many a famous viewpoint in our haste.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Soaring over the Snow - Aerial Photography of Winter in Southwest Washington

Glittering fields, frosted trees, and frozen marshes. Landscapes in the lowlands of Southwest Washington can be a dull subject for photography, especially in the winter, but with a layer of fresh snow and an eye in the sky with the DJI Spark the world is transformed and great photos are easy to find.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thunderstorms and Memories of Old Wars on Whitebird Hill

On the long drive between Glacier National Park and central Idaho there is a particularly steep and infamous hill that strains the engine of many a car and is often clogged by slowly creeping semis churning their way up the steep grade. The original road can still be seen across the valley from the summit: a winding contorted collection of switchbacks that makes the casual traveler on the modern highway grateful for the newer road's lack of terrifying curves. However, it’s not the road that is of interest - this place has a much older and bloodier history to explore. Though today the only storms that visit White Bird Hill are those wild thunderstorms of an Idaho summer, once, nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, it was the thunder of war that broke the silence of the hills.

Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Review

Wildlife photography is perhaps the most demanding genre of photography in terms of gear. Since most of the time you can't (and shouldn't) get up close to wildlife, you need a massively long lens in order to capture those amazing shots like the pros get. In most areas of photography, the skill of the photographer is far more of a factor in great images than the gear they use, but when it comes to wildlife you not only need a high degree of skill, you also have the gear to match. If you have the skill, but not the dough, the Sigma 150 - 600mm Contemporary lens offers a way to get into wildlife photography without taking out a second mortgage.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Secrets of the Woodland Realm

Look more closely at that favorite forest trail you like to walk. Passing by, you will see very little - just a lot of green that seemingly lacks variety. A sea of moss with some bushes and trees poking out of it. Kneel down, let the mud stain your jeans and your hair fill with flecks of bark. Put your eye right up close to that sea of moss that seemed so much a monoculture of lichenous growth. You will find another forest hidden in plain sight; a secret woodland realm just as, if not more complex that the one we walk ourselves.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Signs of Wilderness

Humans have a habit of creating boundaries that are essentially meaningless. We love dividing the world up into mine and thine, and the results of this love of borders, fences, and boundaries is in some cases visible from space. For me, the boundary with the greatest meaning is that which bounds our wildest and best protected places: Wilderness.

Ever since I started hiking in my early teens I have had a fascination with the rugged markers of these pristine havens - weatherbeaten gray slabs of wood that stand sentinel to these bastions of untamed country. Each proclaims with silent, implacable finality that past this point the works of man are not permitted. Leave your clanking, whirring, roaring contraptions behind. Once across this line you will tread with care, leaving as little mark as possible on the land, and you shall not remain in this place. Past this point is the kingdom of untamed creatures, and its rulers; the wolf, the bear, the elk, and the rest. Do not permit your emigration into their domain lest it be forever altered.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Sunsets and the Super Moon

Last week I went out to photograph the Super Blue Blood Moon. I got a few good shots, and even tried flying my DJI Spark drone up to film it from a higher angle. However, the drone struggled to pick up the moonlight with it's tiny little camera, and a rain storm soon concealed the moon and forced me indoors. However, when combined with video from a couple of sunset flights, I got enough footage to make this ( perhaps overly dramatic) video.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

A close encounter with infinity at Takhlakh Lake

There is an illusive experience that may be found only in the depths of space, or in the wildest corners of our public. The realization of our utter insignificance in comparison with the unimaginable vastness of the cosmos is a revelation that most of the human race never experiences. People tend to bury themselves in the safe, comforting bubbles we all create for ourselves, tucked away inside a house or high in an apartment building within the concealing haze of our atmosphere. It is easy, in such a life, to believe that there is nothing more; that we are an unstoppable force in a tiny, helpless world. It takes a special sort of experience to shatter such delusions.

Those who chose to explore our public lands will find wonders that make them feel small indeed. Small adventures give you a taste of the grander scheme, but seldom do they cross the line into illusion shattering territory. Still, growing up with the small adventures, one tends not to build up the really strong homo-aggrandizement. Yet, even for me, with all I have seen, it was not until last summer that I got a real look at the true scale of the universe.

Winter Camping on the Wild Olympic Coast

There are few places more primal and untamed than the wild coast of Olympic National Park. Its rugged cliffs and rock strewn beaches are lashed by the fury of the Pacific Ocean, and that fury builds to a crescendo in the midst of the Pacific Northwest Winter when great typhoons bring pounding surf, torrents of rain, and howling winds to the twisted forests and the snow capped mountains that rise over the lowland rainforest. Exploring the Olympic Wilderness coast in winter is not for the faint of heart.

There is some insane part of my soul that drives me out there into the maelstrom, despite the repeated misery of past experiences. The raw power of nature on display is intoxicating, and to spend days at this point where the forces of land and water clash is an experience like no other.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Surprising Solitude in Arches National Park

In my experience, most surprises that occur on trips are thoroughly unwelcome. When you’ve allotted so much in the way of time and resources to an expedition, the best surprise tends to be a total lack of surprises. However, there is one surprise I always hope for, but rarely experience: solitude. This is nowhere more rare and precious than in a National Park. In Arches National Park it seemed a fool's dream indeed as we embarked upon our canyon lands adventure.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Silver Rivers and Sleeping Farms - Aerial images of winter in Washington

Winter is a difficult season for photography in the lowlands of Western Washington. All the leaves
have gone, and the landscape is turned a sullen quilt of sepia and monochrome. I've done my best this past week, between boughts of torrential freezing rain and howling wind, to capture the gloomy atmosphere of the season from the air.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Nature's Wrath in the North Cascades

It was the tail end of a 10 day long backpacking adventure - the previous day being a grueling traversal of the rugged rollercoaster of Jackita Ridge. We could have cut things a day short - dropping down the switchbacks to Ruby Creek and the North Cascades Highway, but the bright alpine sky and the towering peaks of Crater Mountain beckoned, and it was quickly decided that a few extra nights were needed to do this alpine wonderland justice.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Forest Flight

Forests are complex webs of life - and most of the layers of those webs remain far beyond the reach of prying human eyes, bound so firmly as they are to the mundane floor of woodland realms. Perhaps the most rewarding experience I've had since I've started flying the DJI Spark is to venture into these vibrant no-mans-lands and traverse the secret tunnels in the reaching arms of the high tree limbs. The diminutive size of this drone makes it ideal for this purpose, and I look forward to further expeditions in the canopy of the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

DJI Spark low light test.

I decided to test out the DJI Spark's camera in dim conditions while we still had the outdoor lights up. I was happily surprised how well it did, even at high ISO's! However, while the images look great, they were not easy to capture. The various collision detection and vertical positioning systems were highly unreliable in the darkness, and the drone wouldn't stay stable and still in the air. I had to keep constantly fiddling with the controls to keep it from drifting.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Flying above the clouds with the DJI Spark

Earlier this week I took the DJI Spark out to fly up near Mt. St. Helens. I got some amazing footage from above the clouds (which was scary to film!), as well as of the Toutle River flood plain created behind the Sediment Retention Dam.

Monday, January 1, 2018

DJI Spark First Flight Photo and video gallery

Giant Sequoia surrounded by goat trails in the field. 
I finally have a drone! The DJI Spark is the latest addition to my photographic tool kit, and I don't know of any other piece of gear that has done more to expand my creativity. Everything looks totally different from the air - even with just a few dozen feet one can look down and see patterns otherwise indiscernible.