Backcountry Bliss


Backcountry skier under Banner and Ritter Peaks, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
Skier under Banner and Ritter Peaks, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Backcountry skiing in the Sierra Nevada is a perfect winter counterpart to the Desert Solitaire of Edward Abbey’s Utah. This popular and often crowded summer destination takes on another form during the shortest days of the year where deep in the wilderness that rare form of quiet is still plentiful.

Whether you want to ski your own private bowls or just enjoy the tranquility and unique photographic opportunities, it’s all there for the taking. Proper equipment and skills are obvious requirements and outdoor retailers like REI not only sell all the appropriate gear, but also offer classes in technique and safety. Enjoy the season!

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Grand Staircase-Escalante

Slot canyon in Spooky Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)
Spooky Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

One of the largest yet least explored parks in the country, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a vast desert landscape of mesas, slot canyons, petrified sand dunes, archaeological treasures and American history. Divided by a single long ridge called the Kaiparowits Plateau, this remote region was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped and is a wonderful destination to find that desert solitude that Edward Abbey so passionately wrote about.

From the south, the Vermilion, White, Gray, and Pink cliffs rise to form the giant multi-hued terraces of the Grand Staircase. And to the east the Escalante Canyons are a labyrinth of geologic wonders slowly winding their way down to Lake Powell. Together these escarpments expose 200 million years of the earth’s history in a visual feast for the eyes, and contain the most continuous record of Late Cretaceous terrestrial life in the world.

For the photographer, the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument is a sublime location where the possibilities are endless and the light, which seems to glow from within, is worthy most anytime of day. I’ve often said you could spend your whole life in southern Utah and not see it all, but that might just be true of this very special park. The temptation to try is always present.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Kauai’s Kalalau Trail

Lush vegetation along the Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii USA (© Russ Bishop/
Lush vegetation along the Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

The Kalalau Trail along Kauai’s verdant north shore is arguably one of the finest hikes in the world. Originally built in the late 1800’s to link early Hawaiian settlements along the rugged coastline, it is still the only land access to this remote part of the Island.

The trail, which starts at the end of the road at Ke’e Beach, hugs the sheer cliffs and traverses 5 valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach where the pali (Hawaiian for cliffs) create a natural terminus.

Along this mystical journey you pass verdant spires, wander through lush valleys, and are left with the feeling that you’ve truly entered the Lost World (not surprising since both King Kong and Jurassic Park were filmed here).

Whether you cover the entire 11 mile distance and camp at Kalalau Beach or take an afternoon hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach, this is the quintessential Na Pali Coast experience.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Soft Water

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Shooting water in all its endless variety is one of the creative pleasures of nature photography. From drops of dew reflecting a crisp autumn morning to the power of cascading falls frozen in time, the camera allows many unique perspectives of our most abundant resource that are seldom seen in a passing glance.

A polarizing filter is a favorite tool for photographing water as it slows exposure and increases contrast, both of which serve to enhance the emotional response to a scene. While some may say this is altering reality, it’s good to remember that art is more about personal expression than documentation.

“Most creative photographs are departures from reality and it seems to take a higher order of craft to make this departure than to simulate reality.” ~Ansel Adams

This image of Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was made on an overcast day with a long exposure of 20 seconds. The cloudy sky diffused the harsh mid-day light and saturated the colors of the moss covered rock, while the slow shutter speed gave the falls a silky look.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved