This past week I sumitted Old Rag Mountain and spent the night up top with friend and fellow photographer Chris Kayler. This is not the first time I have done this hike to the summit of Old Rag, but was in fact the first time for me to sleep on the summit. In fact, this hike is featured in my book 50 Amazing Things You Must See and Do in the Greater D.C. Area: The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Guide . In hopes of getting away from the record high temps and humidity crippling the DC area, we picked a day that forecasted a cold front moving in across the mountains in hopes of cooler temps in the mountains and the chance of thunderstorms at or near sunset.
We started the hike in the afternoon and quickly realized just how hot and humid it still was! With the temp hovering around 90 degrees and the humidity at 85%, we knew we were in for a long and hot haul up the trail! As soon as I hoisted my 45 pound pack filled with camera gear, sleeping bag and pad, overnight food, rain gear and 5 liters of water for an overnight on a dry summit, we quickly hit the road on the 1/2 mile approach to the actual trailhead. By the time we arrived, I was already drenched in sweat and decided to take a did in the swimming hole along the river to cool off before tackling the upward climb towards the ridge and the approach to the summit proper.
After about 2 mile of an upward climb through the sweltering heat of the forest, we arrived at the summit ridge and were greeted with the most refreshing breeze sweeping from west to east across the ridge line. It was just what the doctor ordered! In contrast to the cooler temps and great vies now comes the most challenging section of the hike, a .9 mile summit approach across a boulder strewn ridge that involves constant rock hopping, over hand climbing, bouldering, chimneying and in a few spots crawling on your hands and knees through rock cuts and small caves. This is usually a pretty moderate climb with a day pack or just camera gear, but add-on an 45 pound overnight pack and it becomes strenuous and in some cases very difficult. Below are a few shots I snapped of our climb across the ridge towards the summit.
We arrived on the summit of the mountain after a long and exhausting 2 hour climb across the ridge and were greeted with an afternoon thunderstorm raging across the mountains and huge thunder heads to the east. It rained but briefly over the summit followed by strong 30 to 40 mile an hour winds. We had some nice although brief light at sunset. I found a nice composition of a jumble of car sized boulders on the summit with dramatic sunset skies and painted light at sunset. After the light faded, we settled down into a rock depression of the summit for a quick diner of freeze-dried Chili Mac and then a long night under the stars. Myself or Chris did not get much sleep over night due to the constant battering of the wind sweeping across the summit. I awoke around 3am and spent the rest of the night until civil twilight watching shooting stars and the constellations track across the night sky.
After a great sunrise session and feeling really exhausted from lack of sleep and a hard climb the day before, we settled back down at our camp for some calories and bit of caffeine before packing the gear and tackling the summit ridge back down into the woods. The temps were pleasant that morning and we arrived back to the trailhead parking a little before noon. It was a great little adventure and yielded some new images for me! All in all, a great time in the back country of the mountains.
Summer is ending and autumn is beginning to take over in the Appalachian Mountains. This shot is from a favorite location at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park from this past weekend. I took my family camping and hiking on Saturday and Sunday. I managed to steal away for a bit and was rewarded with some great light at sunrise.
This is a manual blend of 2 exposures (Adobe CS4).
Thanks for your feedback! Joe
Finally finished processing most of my A+ images from the past 2 weeks in Shenandoah National Park. The spring conditions were absolutely amazing this year with lots of interesting weather, light and rain. The number f bad rainy days, this equals great conditions for nature photographers by the way, was like 2 to 1. I spent much of time deep in the many hollows of the park during the mid day shooting waterfalls and streams and hiking out to summits and overlooks in search of good light at sunrise and sunset.
Here are a few of my favorites:
This nice little cascade is found deep in lower Whiteoak Canyon. In order to gain the most dramatic perspective on the falls I climbed down the steep slope and got in the water mid thigh. The camera was just about 2 feet away from the cascade and I had to remember to keep wiping off the filter and water was constantly spraying the front element.
On the second morning of my workshop, I got the group on the road at 4am for the long haul down the the southern end of the park to be at the trail head in time to make it onto Blackrock Summit at first light. I found my favorite rock formation and composed this super wide angle landscape. in order to balance the exposure, I used my Singh Ray 3 stop ND grad (hard). Hand holding the filter and moving up and down over the course of the exposure allowed me eliminate the hard grad line which would have showed up in the stack rock.
The zig-zag flow of the water lend-ed itself perfectly to a tight and intimate composition of the falls. The neon green moss reminded me of a scene from the Columbia River Gorge. The western guys are so lucky!
I had photographed this scene about 2 weeks ago and was mostly happy with the results although I felt the comp in the first was not quite a dramatic as it could be. On the last day of my trip in the park it was raining and completely overcast, so I decided to give this image one more try. I got low and close to the fallen log and with the use of my wide angle I was able to really exaggerate its length and size. The leading line of the tree pulls the eyes deeper into the comp and up into the lush woods.
Off to Cape May, NJ for the weekend to lead a workshop that will center itself around the primordial ritual of the annual Horseshoe Crab spawning. This event is like no other in the eastern United States where you have a chance to shoot hundreds if not thousands of crabs storming the beaches for as far as the eye can see. In the morning, the crabs that were not lucky enough to make it back to sea become an all you can eat buffet for hundreds of shore birds. I sight to see! If anyone is interested, we still have 2 openings for this workshop. http://www.mountaintrailphoto.com/workshops_8.htm
May 15-17, 2009
Instructor: Joseph Rossbach
In May the forests of Shenandoah along Skyline Drive come to vibrant life with the warm color of fresh spring buds. I will get you to the very best scenic overlooks and some secret spots for sunrise and sunset.
- Dark Hollow Falls
- White Oak Canyon
- Skyline Drive
- Big Meadows
- Lewis Falls
- Wildflower Portraits
- Hawksbill Summit (sunset)
- Scenic Overlooks
Email me to register and inquire if you apply for a discount price!
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 443-942-2717