Post-processing symposium

DSC03347smThis weekend the Teton Photography Group is hosting their 3rd symposium, Post Processing for Digital Photography in the Black Box theater at the Art Center in Jackson Hole.

If you have taken many photographs but aren’t sure how to process them to get them to the next level, this is the event to attend.

Many photographers take shots and then just email/print/post them as is and they receive a tepid response. Why is this? Because they aren’t sure what their final image was going to look like when they took the shot. Visualization of what the final product is going to look like is of the utmost importance when photographing. Otherwise you end up with shots looking like they were taken in a parking lot.

You will be motivated and excited by the speakers, as all of us have experience in how to make images better. But it’s not about our ability to make images better, it’s about us teaching you how to make YOUR shots better. All of the speakers are entertaining, educational and, most importantly, accessible. We do our best to answer questions and to help guide you through the labyrinth of photo editing.

9 panel, 3-d panorama stitch
9 panel, 3-d panorama stitch

This symposium will cover some shooting and composition with respect to post processing, that is, what you do after you click the shutter. How do you use Lightroom, what’s the best way to edit your shots, and more advanced techniques for:

  • Panorama multi-image shooting
  • HDR (high dynamic range) images
  • Focus stacking
  • Black and white processing

These symposiums have been very well received because attendees get a lot of education for their time and the nominal cost. If you have ever wanted to learn the basics of how to make your photographs look better, this is the event to attend.

Click here for the symposium link and become a better photographer today.

Jackson Hole Daily news article about the symposium
Jackson Hole Daily news article about the symposium


Death hike into Grand Teton National Park

For the first night in nearly a week, the sky was clear in Grand Teton National Park.

Questionable weather
Questionable weather

With the storms and snow blowing through in late September, hiking up and around the Teton Crest Trail had looked pretty dubious from continuous poor weather.  But there was a break.  It was supposed to be clear for two days and then a storm was to move through the area.  I had a very short window to make this happen.

I had wanted to hike the Teton Crest Trail straight through from the Granite Canyon trailhead to Jenny Lake via Paintbrush canyon for some time, as I am training to climb two 18,000′ volcanoes in Mexico.  It required me to do a death hike, that is, a hike that is done straight through without camping or sleeping.  I’ve done two in my life.

Grand Canyon
Notice the tiny trail on the right side cliff face. That goes up the north rim.

The first was hiking the Grand Canyon rim-rim-rim in 2006 from the south rim to the north rim (8,000′) and back to the south rim (6,000′) in 24 hours.  This is a classic must-do for distance runners.  Using the Bright Angel trail both down and up, I completed the 49 mile round trip in exactly 24 hours, starting at midnight and finishing at midnight.  I had to stop and tape up my ankle on the way back down from the north rim, as I had twisted my ankle on a rock.  That was by far the longest distance I had ever hiked in 24 hours.

My second death hike was off Highway 395 in California, just south of Independence and Lone Pine in 2010.  After chaining my bike up at the Onion Valley campground, I drove back around to Symmes Creek.  Starting at 7am, I hiked from the Symmes Creek trailhead, over Shepherd Pass (12,050′) , to Tyndall Creek

Forester Pass at midnight
Forester Pass at midnight

(10,870′), to Forester Pass (13,160′), past Kearsarge Lakes, over Kearsarge Pass (11,823′) and arrived in Onion Valley at 9am, a full 26 hours straight hiking.  I then picked up my bike, rode it down the massive hill and back to Symmes Creek.  Even though this trip was only 26 miles, it had far more vertical relief and higher altitude than Grand Canyon.

Now, I wanted to do the Teton Crest Trail as a straight through hike in 2013 (I had backpacked it in 2007). Realizing my time was very short, I went over to Smith’s in Jackson Hole and bought a small mountain of food to fuel me.  I had lots of calories in a relatively compact form.  I did not take any butter with me this time, though.  Lara Bars, Pringles, Smokehouse Blue Diamond almonds, Chex Mix, and a few more food bars made up the $33 of 3,200 calories I took with me.  All I had to do was fill up my Platypus water bladder, a generic 0.5L bottle and I was ready to go.  That was, except for sleep.

This week is the series of talks at Photography at the Summit.  I did not want to miss the

Teton Village streaking clouds
Teton Village streaking clouds

speakers that evening, meaning I wouldn’t get home until at least 10pm.  Heck, I had traversed the Grand Canyon on 4 hours of poor sleep.  I figured I might do it again.  And, I wanted to do it in the same style as I had done the Crest Trail before, leaving from the trailhead rather than cheating and starting off on the Jackson Hole Resort Tram.  As I was leaving early, the tram was not an option anyway.

Granite Canyon morning
Granite Canyon morning

Leaving Jackson, my girlfriend Kelly dropped me off at the Granite Canyon trailhead at 6:15am and I was off like a shot.  I had a lot of miles to cover and the sun had just begun to barely brighten the sky.  Wandering through the brush with a headlamp and a bottle of bear spray was fun but disconcerting.  Even though I had the bear spray in my hand, ready to fire off at a moment’s notice, the early morning sounds of the forest spooked me.  There have been a few grizzly attacks lately and my biggest fear was running into one in my haste.  So, every minute or two, I yelled out, “No Bears!”  The best part was the bold warning sign about being bear country right at the trailhead warning not to hike alone.  Yet, here I was.  I couldn’t scare anyone else up for a death hike, so this was a solo activity.

The hike up Granite Canyon is pleasant compared to Death and Paintbrush canyons.  The

Thin clouds coming in
Thin clouds coming in

grade is evenly spaced, so as to not feel like going up a massive set of stairs.  I spent the first 45 minutes in the dark, listening to the elk bugle.  It’s an ethereal sound normally, but by yourself going into the dark woods, it’s downright spooky.  It did not take too long to make it into the canyon and begin ascending the long grade.  The weather was pleasant for the first few hours.  But soon, a thin layer of clouds came in from Idaho.

On the way up, I ran into an entire herd of moose with one bull.  They were quite close to

Bull moose stealthing around
Bull moose stealthing around

the trail and I did not even realize I was in their midst until one of them spooked.  The sudden motion spooked me, too.  With bears on my mind, I was vigilant.  But moose are not to be trifled with, either.  Telling the large beasts, “Nice moose, I just have to slowly pass by you, moose,” I tried to charm them and let them know I was no danger to them or the two calves wandering around.  It was good none of them flicked their ears or stomped, as there were not too many trees to hide behind.

As I reached Marion Lake at 1030am, thicker clouds had begun to move in, cooling the

There are bears out there
There are bears out there

temperature down considerably.  It felt like when I was in Antarctica.  The moment the sun’s warmth is taken away, the perceived temperature drops rapidly.  I was doing pretty well on 4 hours sleep thus far.  I found dog tracks (coyote, wolf?) of some sort following deer and also a single bear track.  That was rather disconcerting.  Though the paw mark looked more like a black rather than grizzly bear.

I forged on toward Fox Creek Pass.  Hiking up Snow King with a 35 pound pack 3-4 times a week was really paying off, as I was able to push and hoof it without having my legs burn out.  Very soon, I started to get into a little bit of snow.  With only trail gaiters on, I knew that if it got too deep, there was no way I was going to make it very far.  But I had hopes.  Then, one of the trail drops had a cornice of snow and I went in up to my bare knees.  That was not very pleasant.  And, by this time, even thicker clouds had rolled in, the type that portend snow.

Fox Creek Pass
Fox Creek Pass

At Fox Creek Pass, I had to make a decision.  With satellite phone in hand, I was able to connect with Kelly and get an up-to-the-minute forecast.  Not good.  There was an increasing chance of rain in the valley with highs in the 40’s.  That meant there was going to be freezing rain or snow up at this elevation.  Even though I had all the right gear with me, I was still pretty cold due to the lack of sleep.  I wasn’t sure of the intensity of the storm coming in and didn’t want to get buried.

Even though I had been over Paintbrush Divide in a storm, I was not sure how deep the

4 backpackers on Paintbrush Divide in a storm, 2007
4 backpackers on Paintbrush Divide in a storm, 2007

snow was going to be on Hurricane Pass.  If Hurricane was impassable, I would have to backtrack 4 miles to reach this junction again.  Looking north, I saw snow and knew that it was pretty risky.  The trail going up Hurricane was tight, so with snow on it, there was real danger, as I had never been on it with ice before.

The lateness of the season conspired against me.  It had snowed a week before and had melted off pretty well.  But the farther north I looked, the worse things looked.  I just didn’t want to get trapped with no way out.  As I was lightly geared without a shelter, I would be in trouble if I got stuck.  So, I decided it was time to cut this one short and head down Death Canyon.  As I had wanted to take this route at one time or another, it was a bonus.  Plus, I had recently read a geology report of the area and learned of several caves on Death Shelf, so had the chance to scout those out.

For the sinister name, Death Canyon is beautiful
For the sinister name, Death Canyon is beautiful

After slipping on one steep, snowy slope, I felt better about my decision.  Getting smashed up prior to a big trip was no way to go.   I knew I had been over the north side of Paintbrush in snow with a backpack, but the forecast freezing rain was another matter.  I had no backpack to keep me warm, even if it slowed me down.  I’d rather have it snowing and 20 degrees than raining and 40 degrees.  It’s much easier to deal with blowing snow than rain.

On the way down Death Canyon, I ran into a small group of deer.  And I saw one pika, though I heard several higher up.

Late season flowers
Late season flowers

They’re just so fast I only hear and rarely see them.  By the time I exited Death Canyon neared Phelps Lake, the rain had started coming down, making me quite cold.  I decided to head toward the park’s south entrance to be picked up around 730pm, as Kelly was unable to come much earlier anyway.  Moving fast kept me warm, though barely.  It was ironic that carrying a pack made me slower but kept me warmer.  For a death hike, I need to move fast but can’t generate as much body heat.

The rain went from a drizzle to a steady gentle stream.  With the wind, it was getting a bit

We see you...
We see you…

unpleasant.  When I stopped to prepare for night travel by pulling out my headlamp, I was able to get a cel phone message to Kelly.  She would be able to meet me at just the right time when I would be coming out of the park.  Since my shorts were fairly wet by this point (yes, shorts….it seems crazy but it’s not that bad), I had to put away my camera to prevent damage.  I mentioned in the last video recording that once I put the camera away, something interesting would happen.

Sure enough, I ran into a bugling bull elk with six cow elk.  Classic.  It was so dark I would

Phelps Lake color
Phelps Lake color

have had a grainy, cruddy picture, so I just enjoyed the sight.  I wondered how they dealt with sleeping in freezing rain.

Reaching the Granite Canyon trailhead again, I began walking toward the south entrance in hopes that Kelly would find me.  Sure enough, her FJ’s headlights shone through the rain and I was out.  The thermometer showed 38 degrees F.

It was only a trip of 26 miles over 13 hours.  It wasn’t nearly the 35+ miles I had hoped to do.  But with sketchy conditions and a very long walk back

The pika's view
The pika’s view

through the park, I thought it was the prudent thing to do.  I’ll just have to wait for a better weather window next time.  Much to my surprise, I only ate two Lara bars, a Ziplock full of Chex Mix and half a Ziplock full of Pringles.  When I’m going downhill, I hardly stop to eat.  Knowing this, I’ll carry far less food next time.  As a bonus, the next morning I saw I had shed a full pound just from this hike alone.  This is a way better way to lose weight instead of dieting.

Death hikes rule.

Great bungee inline technique

After a lot of punishment to my back last summer prior to my expedition, I was getting tired of having expensive bungees wear out, get snagged, and crank on my body.

After research and seeing what other people have done, I cut this little video to show how the bungee is actually integrated with the line, cutting the hard edge of having the rope hit you.  It’s easy to do.

For those towing tires or sleds for cardio and leg training, this is a great way kick your butt and get it in shape.  And, you won’t hurt your back from rope shock in the process.

Running oh running

Oh running, how I missed thee.


Shakespeare, I am not.  However, I am exceedingly happy to be able to run at least short distances again!  Granted, I’m not up for half marathons yet.  But, I will be.  Last summer, I’d go out and do a 12 miler almost every weekend to get my body used to being out for long periods.

For polar expeditioning where you don’t have any choice but to keep trekking, staying inside isn’t an option.  That is, except when the winds get above 50 knots.  Then, I just can’t walk.  Getting hit in the face or other valueable places by ice isn’t a fun activity.

Montgomery Memorial Park, CA Historic Marker 711
Montgomery Memorial Park, CA Historic Marker 711

I’m enjoying the time I’ve been spending with my dad out at Montgomery Waller park, running up and down those hills.  It’s not like running at the beach, but the ocean can be seen from the top of the park.

Now, I’ve added wind sprints (suicides) to the mix to up the leg agility.  That’s one thing I learned in Antarctica – being able to handle incessantly varying landscape is important.  My ankles took a constant pounding from the skis slipping down the edges of sastrugi.  The Alfa Mordre Pro boots were excellent but they just don’t offer ankle support.  As a consequence, I had to strengthen them up doing ankle alphabets.

Bungee in harness trace for pulk or sled

One problem I’ve had with my harness traces is loading shock to my back.  I’ve tried a loop and drop method like this.

Bungee Harness trace loop drop method
Bungee Harness trace loop drop method

Whereas in the below video I show a harness trace design that doesn’t put a static line shock into my back.  This method is much nicer because the bungee almost completely prevents the line from ever becoming taut, the source of the shock.

When I’m towing my tire on a surface with a large drag force, above about 30lbs, having a bungee in the trace line is actually annoying no matter what.  The tire doesn’t slide at all, so with a smooth walking or skiing motion, there’s never any read shock.  But in the 5-25 pound drag force realm, where I expect to be in Antarctica, the sled or tire slides forward with my motion all the time, causing this problem.

With really heavy bungee, this seems to work quite well.  Also, another bonus is the line

Coiled bungee harness trace method
Coiled bungee harness trace method

and bungee don’t get snagged on anything, as they’re not dangling as in the above photo.  I definitely prefer this coiled trace harness bungee line method.

This is now my preferred method for reducing shock in a tow line.

Add more rocks


Since I had a short tow time today, I decided to add even more rocks. I loaded enough so that I was just able to flex my legs and move uphill. Then, once I made my hour 15 uphill, I loaded even more rocks to ensure that my downhill speed was just like going uphill.

I tested and figured out that I could actually crawl on my hands and knees and move quicker. And that was crawling backwards, too. The whole point of this exercise, besides the heavy workload on my legs and joints, is to prepare me for the psychology of feeling like I’m going nowhere fast.

When you are looking at an infinite plane of ice and blue sky, it is difficult to feel as though you’re making progress.

Until I begin passing mountains, it will feel like I’m going nowhere real fast. I need to be mentally prepared to deal with such circumstances. Adding incredible weight to the tire, up to 40 pounds of rocks, gives me that sensation.

I can stare at the trailhead for a good 15 minutes before I finally arrive. The final curve revealing the end is only 200 yards away. That really does do a number on your head.

That is exactly what I want.

Add rocks

To make towing up the mountain more difficult, I’ve added 8lbs of rocks to my tire. I was afraid it was getting too easy.

The rocks are a nice addition for the psychological component as well. The first time I had them in there, I wanted to throw in the towel. The drag force was strong enough that I could still flex my legs to pull, yet not so much that the only thing to do was to lean forward and hope it slid. It was just right.

These rocks allow me to regulate the difficulty both going uphill and downhill. I can make going downhill more difficult than having an empty tire going uphill.


Mountain Athlete

Thank you very much to Jordan Smothermon at Mountain Athlete for the great training session.


The facility has all of the classic materials expected a real training gym. No hokey machines – just old school material. It was much more effective I think. I do have to agree with their philosophy that having isolating machines doesn’t really do you a lot of good for the amount of time that you have to put in them.

Kettle bells, barbells, dumbbells, lifting rack, things to stand on, and pads are all around. I saw there were some other tools for more specific training but the basics will take you far, so unless you need something specific, it’s all good.

Jordan was quite good at observing my dead lift technique, so he help me work on that quite a bit. As I have not really done that exercise much at all, it will take some work.

I’m going to do a running session up the local ski mountain and then hit the gear. My goal is to get everything weighed and measured out to make sure I’ve got all my basics and that nothing is missing or needs replacing.

Time is growing short.

Attempted 2 tires up the pass

Today, I attempted to drag both of my tires up Old Teton Pass Road.  It was

2 tire drag force downhilll
2 tire drag force downhilll

a valiant attempt. But, in the end, I didn’t even make it to Crater Lake.  The drag force was so incredible that I was able to only take heal to toe steps.  It was barely possible to even keep both tires moving.  Each time I stopped, I had to break the static friction of the tires on the road – even more of a challenge.


Towing uphill, I experienced drag force in excess of 60 pounds.  At that point, I could lean forward 30 degrees and the tires didn’t budge.  Without trekking poles to stabilize and provide the extra little forward force, I would not have even gotten half way to Crater Lake.

2 tire drag force uphill
2 tire drag force uphill

Dragging 2 tires downhill was more difficult than dragging a single tire uphill.  This really surprised me.  I anticipated that the downhill portion would be easier, yet it wasn’t.


The effect ended up being that though the drag force was increased by up to 50%, the speed reduction was 7-to-1.  It took me 4.5 hours to travel 4 miles (1.125MPH) uphill with a vertical ascent of 2,000′ with a single tire.  With 2 tires, I was able to travel roughly 0.6 miles in 3.5 hours (0.17MPH) with an ascent of 150′.


I wanted to see how much load I could really handle and how far I would get if things got to the nearly impossible level.  Now I know where that point is, what it feels like, and what’s going to happen.  Also, knowing how much strain my tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles could take was important.

Looking up Old Teton Pass Road
Looking up Old Teton Pass Road

What I found was that above a certain drag force level, I’m reduced to standing up and then leaning over to move the whole mass rather than using my legs to lift the tires forward.  Essentially, this ended up being a mechanical strain test rather than a heavy muscle workout.  This wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  But now I know how it feels and what the effects are.

This was a great experiment but I won’t be using two heavy pickup tires again, as I put more strain on my body than I did working out my muscles.