Category Archives: Travel

Total eclipse

Total solar eclipse viewed from South Carolina.
Total solar eclipse viewed from South Carolina. See the gallery for hi-res photos.

We traveled to northwestern South Carolina to visit family and view the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse – and were totally impressed!  We launched a boat onto Lake Keowee so we could view the partial eclipse and, if needed, relocate to avoid any late-arriving clouds that might obscure our view of the total eclipse.  Darkness arrived suddenly as the moon crept into place, lasting a bit longer than two minutes.  At this point we experienced a 360-degree sunset.

Although I made no specific plans to do serious photography, I found my Nikon D500 with 300mm telephoto was  capable of capturing decent shots of the eclipse, hand-held.  Looking forward to the 2024 eclipse in New Hampshire!

eclipse

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Niagara Falls

The ACM Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services gave me an opportunity to spend a lovely week in Niagara Falls.  I had only visited there briefly, 32 years before, so it was wonderful to have time to explore the Falls from various angles and various times of day.  It’s a bit touristy, to be sure, but it’s tastefully done – and the falls are so stunningly spectacular that it is worth visiting again and again.

My photo gallery includes shots of each of the three waterfalls, from both the American and Canadian side, and in both early morning, late afternoon, and at night during the fireworks display.   And, even from the Maid of the Mist tourboat that snuggles right up into the misty spray of Horseshoe Falls.

David at Niagara's Horseshoe Falls, as viewed from the Canadian side.
David at Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls, as viewed from the Canadian side.

The conference also hosted a banquet dinner at Old Fort Niagara, about 30 minutes north of the falls on the shore of Lake Ontario. The weather was perfect, the sunset beautiful, and the historical re-enactments fascinating.  Snapped some fun photos and videos.  Worth a visit if you have a chance!

Demonstration of firing at Fort Niagara.
Demonstration of firing at Fort Niagara.

South Carolina

We’re just back from ten lovely days in South Carolina on the shores of Kiawah Island near Charleston.  With lots of family nearby and abundant greenspace around the island, I had plenty of interesting opportunities for photography.

  • A general photo collection, including wildlife, family, and the launch of Chinese lanterns on New Year’s Eve: [smugmug].
  • A surprise encounter with bottlenose dolphins in the straights next to Kiawah Island, while they were strand feeding:  [smugmug].
  • An attempt at dark-sky photography of the new crescent moon, Orion, and the Milky Way:  [smugmug].

    Christmas sunrise on Kiawah Island.
    Christmas sunrise on Kiawah Island.

Mount Si

The 'haystack' summit of Mount Si.
The ‘haystack’ summit of Mount Si.

I was in Seattle for a visit to the University of Washington, and decided to extend the trip for a day so I could take advantage of the wonderful hiking opportunities nearby.   Overwhelmed by the number and variety of hikes in range of Seattle, I settled on a classic choice: Mount Si.  According to the statistics on that site, I was probably the 99,999th person to hike the trail this year.  Still, on a drizzly Friday in the off season, I figured it couldn’t be too crowded.

I left Seattle before sunrise, drove through a light drizzle (which, I gather, is the norm for Seattle) and reached the trailhead around 8am.   With 3,100′ of gain in four miles, this is no little walk in the woods – but it’s actually comparable to my benchmark, the Glencliff trail on Mount Moosilauke.  In fact, Mount Si barely tops 4,000′, shorter than Moosilauke.

An eery rainforest of moss and epiphytes covers the lower elevations.
An eery rainforest of moss and epiphytes covers the lower elevations.

In the mist and drizzle, the low-elevation forest was was verdant.  Moss and epiphytes covered every branch, and trapped the mist so it could drip on me as I made my way up the trail. The trail is well-built and well-maintained, generally steady going.  Numerous switchbacks meant the trail was never very steep.

The air cooled as I climbed and I finally started seeing patches of fresh (though wet) snow at around 3,800′.  I popped out into a clearing, where a large black Raven awaited me.  Clearly he had been there earlier, when today’s three early hikers paused to snack and turn around, and he was hopeful that I brought more goodies.

Gray Jays are an ever-present companion at snack stops at higher elevation.
Gray Jays are an ever-present companion at snack stops at higher elevation.

Four or five Gray Jays quickly detected my presence and snuggled together on snow-covered branches, ready at a moment’s notice for a dropped raisin or bagel crumb.

Here there was consistent snow cover, just an inch or two, and rather slushy.  In the clouds now, the viewpoint offered me nothing – but at least the precipitation stopped.  I pressed on, up and over a rocky outcrop, toward the true summit – a sheer cap called the “haystack” (shown above).  Remarkably, though I climbed only another hundred feet, the snow became deeper and more firm, as much as 6-18″ deep in the sheltered spots. The snow line from recent weather must have been close to this elevation.

I turn back from the near-vertical gully filled with snow and ice, and lots of exposure.
I turn back from the near-vertical gully filled with snow and ice, and lots of exposure.

I followed old tracks, covered in this morning’s snow, around the base of the Haystack.  The footsteps disappeared at the base of a steep gully, where tiny avalanches caused golf-balls of snow to roll down toward me.  Gosh, this gully is steep, and extremely exposed. I picked a line and tentatively began to climb, but thought better of it after a dozen yards.  I retreated and picked another line.  Going upward was easy, kicking steps in the wet snowpack.  About halfway up, though, I reconsidered the exposure.  A slip here would mean a long slide down the gully, ricocheting off the boulders.  Hiking solo, and with few other hikers visiting the Haystack today, I decided it’d be best left for another day.

 

The trip down was a cruise, back and forth on the switchbacks.  I quickly left winter behind, and emerged again into a verdant rain forest, pausing often to attempt to capture this magical place in photographs. I can see why this mountain is so popular, and really need to return when the sky is clear.

Check out the full photo album.

Singapore and Cambodia

After my trek on Kilimanjaro I had to attend the MobiSys conference in Singapore, so I sent my trekking gear westward with Ken while I headed east.  While planning the trip I realized that Cambodia and the famous ruins of Angkor Wat were a short hop away, so I extended the trip with a quick visit there.  What a contrast with Kilimanjaro and Tanzania – but what a great opportunity!

Continue reading Singapore and Cambodia

Kilimanjaro

Climbers are backlit by the sunrise.
Climbers are backlit by the sunrise.

With the rising of the equatorial sun, the undercast clouds climbed the slopes of Kilimanjaro and slowly enveloped us in an eery mist. We had begun our summit push about an hour before dawn, a line of bobbing headlamps weaving through the sleeping camp at Barafu, 15,200′ above sea level.  Now, as we ascended past 17,000′, pole pole (slowly, slowly), I was beginning to really feel the altitude. Despite six days of acclimatization and hiking along the Lemosho Route, all five of us were quietly focused on each slow step along the steep and winding switchbacks up toward the rim of Kilimanjaro’s volcanic crater; step, breathe, step, breathe.  A few trekkers were already descending – those who rose at midnight to make their entire summit push during the moonlit night, jubilant from reaching the summit – and those who looked quite pale and were gingerly being led down by a guide holding each elbow.  The altitude affects everyone differently, and the sick have to descend quickly.  We pushed on, hoping for clear skies at the summit and for weather good enough to stay overnight in the crater as planned.

But I get ahead of myself. This 11-day trip, including 9 days on the mountain, is a long story. As you read the trip description below, be sure to check out the photo galleries of the trek, of our two days pre-trek, of the flora and fauna, and of night skies on the mountain.

Continue reading Kilimanjaro