Dusting off the cobwebs and lugging my camera gear uphill for Alpine Photography

It has been two years since Magrit and I have been able to lead our photo tours in Europe. It is easy to forget the workings of the camera…which dial does what. As with languages, use it or lose it. With that said, I was able to get into the backcountry this fall for a few overnight trips with my camera, a small tripod, and my passion for alpine photography. As an ultralight backpacker, I do not typically mix hiking with serious photography but I was able to plan a couple of relatively short hikes, 3-4 miles in,  that allowed me to carry the extra 5-6 pounds of camera gear without too much discomfort.

alpine photography with trees and tarn

Even though Mt. Baker was hiding…a stunning scenery with wonderful trees and tarns!

Passionate about Alpine Photography

Many of you may associate me photographically with colorful doors and windows. This has been a passion for 30 years now. However, I have also developed a very addictive passion for alpine photography and I am afraid that my ultra-light pursuit may be in jeopardy. So many times I have been on an extended backcountry trip without a serious camera and have found myself immensely regretful that I did not have it with me…the iPhone does not cut it!

alpine photography with mountain tarn at sunset

Mt. Baker was fogged in but great sunset light made up for it.

alpine tarn at sunset

Love those alpine tarns.

Park Butte Meadows | Mt. Baker

One of my favorite short hikes is up to Park Butte Meadows on the south side of Mt. Baker. Only 3.5 miles hiking distance and less than 1,800 ft elevation gain bring you to a small plateau of wonderful meadows, tarns, rocks, and trees. I have visited this location many times and never tire of the different conditions I will encounter. Alpine photography at its best. The image below was from my first trip to the meadows a few years ago. Of course, the mountain backdrop is the icing on the cake. This fall’s trip was completely fogged in but I was still able to come up with a few compelling images at sunset even without views of the glorious Mt. Baker. Making a bit of lemonade out of those lemons!

alpine photography with mt. baker tarn

The classic view of Mt. Baker from the Park Butte area on a clear day

backpacking tent on tarn with mt baker and mt shukla

Wow, what a spot to pitch the tent with Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker in the background!

morning blue hour mt baker

Mt. Baker during the morning Blue Hour

Yellow Aster Butte

Venturing further north, just east and up the Mt. Baker Highway from the village of Glacier, is the trailhead for Yellow Aster Butte. This is another relatively short hike that makes it easy to carry the extra camera and tripod pounds, with less than 4 miles up and a bit over 2,000 feet elevation gain. The destination here is not going to the top of the butte but to the tarns and ridges just below. 

alpine photography with mt. shuksan at sunrise

Mt. Shuksan just before sunrise

This area features a plethora of tarns and rocks and incredible views of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. I found the most idyllic flat spot to pitch my tent right next to a small tarn. I had my alarm set for 6 am and when I poked my head out of my tiny shelter I got a glimpse of the snowy north side of Mt Baker in morning Blue Hour splendor. Needless to say, I was a bit frazzled trying to rapidly get dressed and put on my hiking boots before the Blue Hour glow disappeared. Grabbing my small tripod and camera and stumbling up about 20 feet above my tent I was able to capture both Shukan and Baker. 

hiker with tent

Notice that I am wearing lightweight kneepads which are great for use with a small tripod. This is me next to my cozy little “home” in the Park Butte area.

The Equipment | Simplicity, and lightweight are key

alpine photography with high alpine tarn and mountain

The glorious Tapto Lakes at sunset

hiker along ridge with glacial mountain behind

Frits Habermann motoring up the last stretch to Tapto Lakes

Tapto Lakes in a remote area of the North Cascades National Park

I must confess that I did a third much longer 5-day hike in the North Cascades with my friend and fellow photographer Frits Haberman. We ventured 17 miles up (and 17 miles back) to the glorious Tapto Lakes. This is an incredibly beautiful backpacking trip into a remote area of the North Cascades National Park, also near Mt. Baker. For this 5 day trip, I carried my lighter APS-C, Fuji camera, and lens.

Alpine lake reflection with mountain

Whatcom Peak and Mt. Challenger from the Tapto Lakes

I was hoping to squeak out one more journey into the high country before November, but with the end of October approaching and very cold and wet weather prevailing, I think I will have to wait until the fall of 2022 to return. In the meantime, Magrit and I are looking forward to resuming traveling in Europe this coming March to conduct a record 10 Photo Tours. We do indeed have a very busy schedule after a two-year hiatus.

We hope that you can travel and photograph with us in 2022. You can view our lineup of exciting photo tours here: Photography Travel Tours.