Best Adventure Photogrpahy of 2013 | A Year in Review

Although winter seems to have forsaken us all, I am hopeful it will return with feet and feet of snow.  While I spend most of my days right now pining and moaning over the lack of fresh pow, or really, any pow at all, this was at least a nice little reminder that the snow was here before and that, most importantly, it will come back.

I’m pretty jazzed to announce that I’m a contributing photographer to Ski Lake Tahoe for the 2012-13 season.   This means that starting in the 2013-14 season you might see some of the photos I took for them on their website, facebook page, or blog.   Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be like LOOK THERE’S MY PHOTO if one ever shows up somewhere and I know, a whole year is an awfully long time to wait but wait we shall.  In the meantime, peek at these images, which I consider to be some of my best adventure photography of 2013.  Accompanying my favorite ski and snowboard photos is a handful of images from the Tahoe Kids Tri and Fun Runs Series, all of which make me smile.



Becker Peak

Megs and I are on a mission to get as many awesome photos as we can this year.  We went out twice last week to work on our mutual goal, first to Kirkwood for some sidecountry pow shots, and then again to Becker Peak.

Becker Peak, Meghan Kelly, Tahoe Backcountry, Backcountry Skiing, Powder

We have collectively decided that Becker Peak will be our new playground: it is ideally situated for easy and quick access over Echo Lakes.  There are tons of huge boulders to play on with a great vantage point of both Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness.  It’s a super short easy hike in (great for me when I’m carrying a snowboard and camera gear) and has tons of steep aspects, pillow lines and drops to get photos on.  It was a bit windy the morning we were out but it was a good scouting session for future photo shoots.

Becker Peak, Tahoe Backcountry, Backcountry Skiing, Meghan Kelly, Becker Peak, Desolation Wilderness, Echo Lakes, Tahoe South

Special Christmas Delivery

Santa brought us a shit-ton of white stuff and I don’t mean the kind that the kids at Snowglobe are going to be snorting up their nose this weekend.

There is already so much snow in my yard that the pile is taller than me.  Pretty soon, you aren’t going to be able to see our front door.  I’m not even remotely exaggerating.

We received over five feet of snow in the span of four days and then another two feet or so on Wednesday.  It’s borderline out of control and I love it.  We spent most of the last week enjoying routine powder days like it was no big deal and then spent Christmas Day shredding at Kirkwood with all of our friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful holiday.  That night we celebrated with a pot luck dinner over at Rose’s house with puppies underfoot and a gift exchange that ended with quite a bit of excitement.

We already have more snow this winter season than we received all year long last season.  WINTER IS BACK.  I am so in love with it all over again that I can hardly ascertain how I managed to make it through last year without this glorious freezing cold white stuff.  It’s SO FLUFFY!

In between all the shredding, Christmas parties, and the retailing of spandex I’ve been doing, we’ve been hanging out almost every night for a week with some amazing Airbnb house guests that I’ve now told are required to be my friends forever.  I haven’t taken many photos over the last week, but here are a few of my favorites.

Cali Rush

My friend Mikey Wier is pretty awesome. While Mikey calls Tahoe South home, he travels the world filming movies about snowboarding, splitboarding, and fly fishing. If I had remained in the film industry after college, Mikey is the person whose job I would want. Most recently, Mikey and his Tahoe based production company, Burl Productions, produced the well received fly-fishing adventure film SoulFish which featured some of the most talented anglers in the world. Patagonia, who sponsors Mikey, claims that the movie is fly fishing’s answer to The Endless Summer.

Mikey Wier White Water Rafting the Middle Fork of the American River

Mikey is currently raising capital to complete post production on his new film Cali Rush. Mikey envisions Cali Rush as a celebration of California’s “most adventurous and talented athletes that are in search of a more harmonious relationship with nature through sports, lifestyle, recreation and environmental technology.” It features the place that I call home as well as a number of my good friends: Tahoe South locals Joe Markus, Tarren Closson, Mark Hamm, Mike Olson, Dan Durkin, and Josh Daiek who won the 2012 Suburu Freeskiing World Tour this past weekend (a post on that to come!). In addition to all these folks that I am lucky to call friends, the film features a number of other Tahoe South locals like Pat Quinn and Pat Bonzer, front runners of the snow skate scene.

[vimeo w=500&h=281]

I’m pretty excited for Mikey and his new movie. He has only 19 more days to raise the money on Kickstarter and could use every Tahoe local’s support! I encourage you to to support him and his awesome efforts.

“Join our community and let’s help shape the future and increase environmental awareness through sports, music, art, lifestyle and conscious energy.”

The Meghan Kelly Project, cont.

About two weeks ago, Megs and I went out a few times trying to score great photos for her mitten sponsor. We had a great time but there were a few things I wasn’t happy about, like not being able to freeze snow sports action and blowing out the sunrise. Shooting on snow is hard. Shooting action on snow is even harder.

We slept in and thankfully so because we woke up to super overcast skies. By the time Megs came to grab me at 11 AM, it was bright, sunny and blue. There were SO many tourists in town for the President’s Day Weekend. I am so glad I didn’t try to head out to any of the resorts this weekend.

We’ve done three shoots now and we learn new stuff each time. I managed to get one shot I really love today and a few I that I like but wish things were different on.

My 2nd favorite shot from the day. It's a bit grainy and I wish Meghan was about three feet back in the right corner of the frame.

Things we learned today:

1. Of course when we want it to be super Mr. Blue Sky sunny and also want to be on north facing aspects, the sun will disappear early in the afternoon casting shadows that are not conductive to my photography wishes.

2. There are more people in the Tahoe backcountry in the last two weeks than we could have ever imagined.

3. Hiking with my snowboard and camera gear is not fun. Thanks Megs for carrying it up.

4. My method of using an altered version of the sunny 16 rule was the right way to go, I was just running too low an ISO/exposure last time. So, this time, I tried a mix of: f/22 and f/16 with an ISO of 3200 @ 1/3200 and 2500 @ 1/2500. This is one of the times it would be nice to have a D700. It gets a little grainy on the at 3200 but the shots at 2500 were pretty good.

5. There is nothing easy about being a mitten model.

6. There is nothing easy about being a mitten model photographer. Especially when you don’t have mittens.

Favorite shot from the day. Not too grainy, great color, frozen action, snow is white. Success.

You can check out all the photos from our ongoing project here.

The Meghan Kelly Project

Megs picked up a new sponsor with Astis Mittens this month. They are working on an article for Ski Magazine and asked all their sponsored athletes to submit photos. Unfortunately, they really want some big mountain pow photos and that is something that we can’t give them due to our current state of winter or lack there-of. I think we did pretty good with the little snow that we have.

Shooting snow is really difficult. Megs and I headed out into the Tahoe backcountry on Thursday morning to get some sunrise shots and although I disliked most of what I got, there were a few gems in there.

Meghan Kelly: February 2, 2012 Tahoe Backcountry

Meghan Kelly: February 2, 2012 Tahoe Backcountry

Meghan Kelly: February 2, 2012 Tahoe Backcountry

Hoping to get more action shots, I met up with her at Kirkwood yesterday morning for another photo session. We had a super great time. The lack of snow makes it a little difficult to get jazzed on driving all the way out there but the project made it extra fun.

I took a completely different approach on Saturday, running all my shots based on the “Sunny 16” rule but instead shooting them at f/22. It seemed to work better and I’m happier with the snow and the sky overall.

Meghan Kelly: February 4, 2012 Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Meghan Kelly: February 4, 2012 Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Meghan Kelly: February 4, 2012 Kirkwood Mountain Resort

So, I’m sorta happy with these shots, but mostly unhappy and I need lots of practice for snowsports. Very difficult! You can see all of the shots here.

Dawn Patrol

I am SO excited to wake up at 5:45 AM every day and hike up a groomer to get turns. You have no idea. We have now hiked three mornings like this and they’ve all been amazing. Our 2nd day out I wasn’t too jazzed about the photos so I’ll spare you those. It was crazy windy, super cold, and there was a really bizarre fog and snow blowing at the top of the mountain so we actually bailed a little earlier than our intended destination point. That day there were three of us.

Our third morning hiking our little crew grew to seven plus two dogs. It was a crystal clear sky – you could still even see the moon as we began our ascent. I hoofed it quickly up to the top of the first hill so that I could capture a photo of everyone hiking with the sunrise and valley behind them. Hard work paid off:

Stagecoach Dawn Patrol Day 3

The colors were absolutely incredible as we hiked up to the ridgeline. It’s really hard not to love what you’re doing when it’s this gorgeous out.

My Life > Your Vacation

A view of Lake Tahoe as the sun crests the ridgeline.

We’ve now been out to dawn patrol 3 days, which brings my riding tally up to 5 days for the season. Not bad for the first week and no snow to boot. I was seriously thinking that I wouldn’t get 60 days in this year, but if I dawn patrol every morning up Heavenly groomers next week, 60 days is completely in the realm of possibility.

The other bonus to trekking up a groomer at the crack of dawn: I can take the dogs I’m dog sitting and wear them out so much that they don’t even blink an eye for the rest of the day.

Briana at the summit of Heavenly's Olympic Chair.

Spring Backcountry

A few of my friends and I woke up at the crack of dawn on Monday to head out and do some laps in the backcountry. We met for breakfast at 6:30 AM, which unfortunately, never seems that early to me now that I just wake up at 5:50 without an alarm thanks to all the swim training I’ve been doing.

We had planned on hiking Angora Peak and shredding up a sunny chute before hiking back up again to the infamous Hall of the Gods.

We were hiking up the hill by 8 am and it was already sunny and pleasant out.

It took half of our party longer than to hike up than expected, though, to their credit, Doug and I were estimating our hike times on our pace, not other folks’ pace. We’re pretty quick hikers. I was proud of myself. Doug, who is an exceptionally fast hiker, was hungover that day and while he usually hikes circles around me, I beat him to the top.

Quite a bit of time later, our friends rang from another location on the peak and told us they were bailing. Brit had some pretty intense blisters from snowshoeing up the steep hill and wanted to call it an early day. I think Doug and I would have continued onto Hall of the Gods if he hadn’t been not-so-sparky. I was feeling flexible and thus said that I was okay with just riding down the ridge line, which was, honestly, absolutely breathtaking. The only other time I’d been on Angora, we’d been through Secret Chute, which was adventurous and ice-filled. It was indescribably amazing to ride as if you were going to plummet into Fallen Leaf Lake.

The best part is that it was still so calm and clear by the time we were headed out at noon, you could see Mt. Tallac reflected in Fallen Leaf Lake. Awesome!!

You can see all the pictures here.

Maggie’s Peak

>Yesterday was a pretty amazing day. When my friend Dan told me they were heading out to do some backcountry at 8 AM from his house, I seriously doubted that I would wake up after the OK GO show to meet them. True to my prediction, I woke up at 7:47 AM and sent him a text that said, “Not organized enough to get there in time. Let me know next time.” He immediately called and clarified that by 8 AM he meant, meet at his house around 8, leisurely lay around and drink coffee while he made his world renown Eggs Benedict and leave for the yet-to-be-determined trailhead around 9:30. Yes please.

So I gathered all my stuff up really fast, leisurely laid around at Dan’s while he cooked us breakfast and we collectively decided to head out to Maggie’s Peak, which we decided would offer the best reward for the hike, best snow in the north bowl, and best views of Lake Tahoe on a crisp clear day. It was amazing.

We parked the car at the Emerald Bay / Inspiration Point trail head and there was about an hour and a half hike in. Most of the bottom half was pretty tame and it became considerably steeper towards the ridgeline of the saddle with a serious east wind blowing around. The peak offered amazing 360 degree views of the lake and Desolation Wilderness.

Dougie really wanted to drop into Treth’s chute, but we collectively decided that dropping into the north facing bowl and saddle of the peak would be a safer bet. While the snow was good, as soon as we hit the lower lake, we collectively decided that we really needed to hike back up to the peak and drop into the chute. So we did.

It got a little narrow and hairy in there at one point. It was wide enough to make turns all the way down except for one point with a really large ice bubble that was a little nerve wracking. Despite that section, which we all managed just fine, the snow was totally worth the curse words I was hearing in my head as we hiked up the ridge line a second time. It was steep, fun, and adventurous, but not too much.

The view looking up from the bottom from where we came. We cruised down the chute from the top of the peak just to the lookers right of that huge granite cliff band in the middle of the picture:

By the time we got out to the car it was already 4:00 and we were starving. Beer and burgers at The Getaway Cafe never tasted so good.


>I already mentioned a few posts ago that we had our first few snowstorms of the season. While the resorts aren’t quite open yet, the coverage is good for those willing to put in the effort, so since we’re desperate for pow, we’ve been hiking. And it’s awesome.

I am super bummed to have realized that I somehow miscounted, or misremembered, the total number of days I have snowboarding in my lifetime. For some reason, I had 92 in my head at the end of this past season – this is completely and totally wrong. While I came in just a day shy of my 60 day goal this past year (I am SO getting 60 days this year!!), I’ve only been snowboarding a total 0f 80 days in my life.

That means this day was day 81 and I have 19 more days to go to hit 100 – not the 7 that I thought I had. Maybe I’ll go recount all those days again, just to be sure. Even though I’ve counted them up like 9 times and only gotten to 80. Perhaps I can do some fuzzy math?

Sierra went out back country skiing for the first time in her life. I usually don’t take her because deep snow is hard on her hips, but since we were just taking laps up Sentinal Bowl at Kirkwood and I knew there was a cat-track half way up, I thought she would enjoy it. I had to seriously coax her to follow be back down the mountain – she had NO clue what we were doing. To complicate the situation, Buddy went a different way and half way down the run, she could hear his voice from the top of one of the nearby cliffs and didn’t want to keep going without him. Once she sorted out that following our tracks that we used to get up was also the best way to get down, she did much better. Even so, she was so from hauling full speed after us that I had to carry her down the bottom half. Still, she seemed really happy and good and tired afterward.

Sadly, since I have to actually work most days a week, that’s the only day I’ve gotten in so far, though the crew has been out 2 or 3 other times. We’re supposed to get a big storm this coming weekend so I’m planning on coming home from Tucson on Saturday now so that I can head out Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before my crazy Thanksgiving madness begins in the store.