Tag Archives: idaho

Looking back…

Elk Cow and Calf in the Idaho Wilderness

Elk Cow and Calf in the Idaho Wilderness

The year is almost over. It’s not though. I love Christmas and usually do a fair amount of shooting in december, but around thanksgiving I start thinking about next year…. Becasue this year is almost over. Though it’s not over yet. Almost. Not quite. Will be shortly.

I’ve been looking at random photos in my “2009” folder, as I look back through the year I’m happy to say I was able to do a lot of things I wanted to do, go places, shoot things. I’m happy to say that overall, my photos have gotten better. But it seems my todo list left for next year is longer rather than shorter. Next year, I believe, if I take off the months of February, April, May, July, August, September and  October… I may be able to shoot everything on my list, but something tells me that isn’t going to happen. Prioritization is in order. There are things, projects, that I want to try, new places I want to go, techniques that need tried and honed. It’s rather exciting really…

We’ve got a trip to Salmon at Christmas to see the family. Salmon is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so the camera is always handy, it’ll be a great no pressure photo trip and with that, 2009 will be over, done.

I’ve yet to plan anything major for 2010. Aside from a workshop myself and two friends, Johnny and David are organizing on January 16th, but beyond that it’s a blank page.

Speaking of blank pages, I am going to re-examine my website…  I’m asking it to do so much, that I end up not doing enough with it. I hope to roll out some structure changes around the first of the year that will make it easier for me to share my work as well as my tech and personal content without doing three separate websites. I’m constantly getting email and face to face comments (or even by proxy) about the photos I choose to post here and I realize I need to post more. So many of my photos I want to post just sit on my hard drive waiting for a blog post I can associate with them. I cant guarantee anything, but I’m gonna try my best to post the photos and let them speak for themselves without thinking I’ve got to comment everything. Though, google sure prefers I write about them 😉

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Sawtooth Lake Color Panorama

Sawtooth Lake

Sawtooth Lake (click image to see larger)

Been processing a few more photos from the Sawtooth Lake hike. This photo was actually from my second hike to the lake that week, when my Dad and I went up. I would really like to spend the night up there next year and do some predawn work around the lake; consider it added to the list.

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Sometimes they’re just sitting in the road

Sometimes they're just sitting in the road

Hawk on a dirt road at sunset

Some of the crazy places I’ve been, crazy things I’ve done… for photography.

I’m not a big fan of “Zoo Shots” but hate people calling it wildlife photography. Spending time at the Zoo is a great way to spend a day and take some pictures in a no pressure environment. I’ve been meaning to go to the Zoo here in Boise for some time. But what I hate is seeing a photo by a wildlife photog and thinking, wow, how in the world… Then learning that it was on a ranch where the photog had paid several hundred dollars for a few hours of guaranteed time shooting this animal. And what I hate more is I didn’t come up with the idea to pin in a bunch of animals, call it a game ranch and let photogs come in by the van load to pay me to see them. I don’t have a problem with the shots themselves, I’ve seen some good photos from zoos and game ranches, but it’s not WILDlife. My problem is when a wildlife photographer fails to mention that he paid money to photograph the animal in a controlled environment.

I used to live next to the Smokeys, now live near Yellowstone & The Tetons and enjoy going up to Glacier. I love shooting wildlife in the National Parks but still don’t get the same excitement photographing an animal in a park as I do out in the sticks. It still takes skill and persistence to get good photos and see the best wildlife in a national park (unless we’re talking Mountain Goats at Glacier). I don’t know, maybe it’s all the other people, more likely just the large majority of people who go to a big box retail store buy an expensive camera, go to Yellowstone take a few pictures and call themselves a photographer. Continue reading »

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Vacation 2009: Stanley

I'm Back: aka self portrait at Goat Falls

Self Portrait of me standing under Goat Falls

I’m not sure a photographer ever gets a real vacation.  If we do… this “vacation” was the closest I’ve come to a “real vacation” in a long time. Being half photographer half computer guy, I didn’t do any computer work while I was gone, so at least that half of me had a real vacation. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vacation, there were days where I could have fit the photos I took on one roll of 35mm. Other days were centered around photography and filled my largest memory card. My camera was never more than a few feet from me, ending up with over 1500 photos. Joy and I met my parents in the Stanley, Idaho basin for a week camping trip. Well, it was supposed to be a week, but we got there a few days early and left a day later clocking in at 10 nights in camp. The morning we left we were pulling out of camp and we both decided that it had been a good trip, but we were ready to go home; that is, for me, what made it a great vacation. I was actually ready to go home. We had an amazing trip though, I hiked thirty two miles of trails in the Sawtooth Wilderness plus a bit of bushwhacking here and there for large rocks and waterfalls. Hiking destinations in the Sawtooth wilderness included the breathtaking Sawtooth Lake and Goat Falls a spectacular (cold) 300 foot waterfall. (pictured).

In addition to hiking in the sawtooth wilderness, I also spent time in my old stomping grounds of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness; Dad and I caught a bunch of fish on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. I also took everyone up to the headwaters of the Salmon River where puppy could jump across the river.

I got most of my photo todo list done. There was one shot that I really wanted to get but the stars weren’t in alignment. Or rather the moon wasn’t. Many of you have seen some of my star trail photography. I scouted the place for my next major star trail photo, but the moon wasn’t cooperating within the time frame I had. I’ll be running the night sky simulator to find a couple days and times when I can travel back up to Stanley to take this three hour photo. The window is very tight and the weather will have to be perfect, and I have two months to take the picture or wait another year. hmmm.

The above photo was a self portrait of me at goat falls. I love waterfalls! nothing I’d rather photograph….   The perspective doesn’t do it justice as this was setup for the self port; Goat Falls is an amazing place, this torrent of water makes a 300′ fall from the top of the photo to my feet then continues on an amazing cascade down to the valley below.

This was the last of my hiking destinations in the sawtooth wilderness. One leg of the tripod was on a rock, the other two in a pool of water. Joy would have taken the photo except she was on a rock a couple hundred feet down the hill reading a book to the dog. Shortly before we got married her and I were climbing on a waterfall in Lemhi County near the Salmon River. She fell 90% of the way down it (30-40 feet). I thought she was seriously injured. We were ten minutes from radio coverage. An hour drive to the nearest paved road; another half hour to the clinic. Or lifeflight an hour to a real hospital. She wasn’t as badly injured as I thought, so we ended up not taking the helicopter ride that day, instead we bandaged her up, gave her some pain medication and made it back to town in record time to have my mom (a nurse) check her out. Nothing broken, major bruising, serious pain for a few days and some scars left, but we laugh at it now. Oh, but she’s banned from waterfalls.

Anyways, we got an daylight early start for this hike but it was still amazingly hot. So I was happy to pull the waterproof cover over the camera backpack and spend some time getting soaked.

It’s back to the real world now. I have 1500 more photos in my queue to go through and post process. I have a todo list a mile long from the next trip and I’m further behind everything I was behind on before we left. It was an amazing trip; I’m glad to be home.

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Coming Soon to Stanley


One of the most popular photo vantage points in Idaho. Sawtooth Mountains from Stanley, Idaho.

Stanley, Idaho is one of my favorite places on earth. If there were a college there that my wife could teach at, I’d live there. Course, it’d ruin the whole point of Stanley. It’s a little town in the middle of no where, close to a few major tourist destinations. It does get it’s fair share of tourist but the town winters about 50 people along with one hotel, a few cabins, one pizzeria, one restaurant, one gas station, one stop sign. I much prefer Stanley during the winter because you don’t have to put up with tourists and I love cold weather. We spend several days there every November for our anniversary we see maybe ten or twenty people a day that don’t live there. Last year we didn’t see any on two of the days. I spend a lot of time in the mountains surrounding Stanley, not as much as I wish I did, but quite a bit.

Luckily, Stanley is half way between where I live and my favorite place on earth. Which also happens to be half way between here and where my parents live. For the last several years we’ve spent a week camping together in the summer. We did Glacier a couple summers, last year we did Bear Valley (no, not the bear valley everyone in Boise knows about). This year, we will each drive two hours, meeting half way and spend the week camped near Stanley.  This is supposed to be a vacation and I guess it will be more of a vacation than the week in June I spent on the edge of the wilderness at bear camp with my Dad, Grandpa and a few other guys. But this will be a vacation but with quite a photo checklist. Much of the checklist depends on the weather. Last year my wife and I were there for Labor day and it snowed on us in the valley. There aren’t any fires, so visibility should be good so long as it doesn’t rain all week. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but this summer has been very, very wet in central Idaho.

This photo is one of the two most popular photo spots in central Idaho. Normally, I hate taking pictures from popular spots or angles. Can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been headed up to my parents hours drove right by this and thought. Wow, if so many people didn’t take photos from right there, that would be a cool shot. That’s part of the reason I hate photography in National Parks. You get more than one photographer shooting a subject and I’ll keep walking. It could be a bald eagle standing on a moose’s antler while it was swimming in an alpine lake with northern lights in the sky. Three photogs have lenses on it, I’ll keep walking. Well, coming back from bear camp it was such a pretty day and I happened to still have my wide angle on my camera with a CP and a ND Grad filter on it. So I stopped. I hated every second of standing on the side of the road taking the picture. But I stopped. Some pictures I post have stories of cold, hot, rain, dust, snow, miles of hiking, hurricane force winds, hours of boredom waiting, blood, sweat, broken stuff… This one, involves just as much pain. Standing on the side of the road.

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City Sidewalks

City Sidewalks

Christmas in Boise

It’s almost Christmas here in Idaho (and last I checked most other places). I spent some time running around town tonight trying to get some Christmasy shots. I’m generally unimpressed with the Christmas lights this year. Winter finally made it’s presense known in Idaho in the past week or two, a bit of a late start, but considering the snow in August. I guess it’s ok.

Took this shot downtown, apparently a hocky game was starting so parking was fun, but had enough time between groups of people to get some good shots. I particularly like this one. Which my wife informed me I had to title “City Sidewalks.” Fitting I guess.

We’ll be headed out of town for much of next week, but considering we’ll be seeing our new puppy for the first time… I’m sure you’ll hear from me. Merry Christmas.


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Stanley Lake Twilight Star Trails

Stanley Lake Twilight

Stanley Lake Twilight Star Trails

I recently posted this shot on a couple sites and was promptly asked the questions; how’d ya do it? So I wrote up a how-to and posted it in a couple of the forums where it was posted. I’ve added it to my flickr photo page and now cross posting it here for archival purposes.

I took this star trail shot from Stanley lake. A high layer of clouds that was moving in so the stars (planets) near the horizon had a halo effect and turned out quite large. but it added some color. this is a stack of around 80, 30 second photos at 200 iso and around f4.

Setting the scene: I was sitting on ice covered rocks on the side of a half frozen lake with wind blowing across it at me, it being 5 degrees, watching my camera blink off and back on every thirty seconds for two hours……. Continue reading »

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Teton Dam Failure. Actual Data for American Falls.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I like sources. And moreso, I like hard facts…

A while back I posted a story about Teton Dam and made several comments about American Falls Dam. These comments were based on other websites, the sites did not agree so I had to accept standard deviation. Wanting to have all the facts correct I sent in a request to the Bureau of Reclamation.

This morning I recieved the actual numbers in a very detailed response, Thanks goes to The Burley Office of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Thank you for your interest in getting correct information on American Falls Dam.

Reclamation’s first dam at American Falls was completed in 1927 with a capacity of 1,700,000 acre-feet at a normal maximum water surface of 4354.5 feet. Idaho Power Company had a smaller dam, just downstream, to divert water through their turbines before that time.

By 1973 the concrete of the dam was deteriorating from a chemical reaction between alkaline aggregate and the cement used in the original construction. At that time the capacity of the reservoir was restricted to 1,200,000 acre-feet. At 12:00 a.m., June 5, 1976, the reservoir held 1,145,060 acre-feet.

The following table shows the recorded flows and contents for the first 10 days of June in 1976. Hopefully our e-mail systems will allow the table to remain intact. Inflow and discharge are daily averages and content is the end of day, midnight, observation.

Date    Inflow       Discharge     Content
.         cfs         cfs        acre-feet
1-Jun    17,695      23,700      1,205,800
2-Jun    15,878      22,700      1,192,270
3-Jun    12,775      21,800      1,174,370
4-Jun    12,460      19,700      1,160,010
5-Jun    11,562      19,100      1,145,060
6-Jun    15,810      20,000      1,136,750
7-Jun    37,195      20,200      1,170,460
8-Jun    40,861      21,300      1,209,260
9-Jun    22,288      21,900      1,210,030
10-Jun   16,965      21,800      1,200,440

As you can see, the reservoir was full to restricted capacity, plus a little, on June 1 and began to draft. Inflow and discharge were decreasing. On June 6 discharge was increased slightly and that slight increased persisted until the reservoir returned to full.

The maximum content on June 9 resulted in a water surface elevation just .2 feet above the restricted level.

Reconstruction, completed in 1978, restored the capacity to the original water surface elevation of 4354.5 feet. In 1977, while the reservoir was drained, a new survey of the reservoir area was made.

Subsequently, the capacity of the reservoir was adjusted to 1,672,590 acre-feet. This is a small adjustment considering that more than 50 years passed between surveys.

So, contrary to what alot of other sites were saying, no they did not “drain” the lake. Intake had been decreasing till the event so discharge had been decreasing too, to 19,100 cfs before the event. Post event they increased the discharge, but since intake had been droping, they didn’t increase it much. Actual capacity was 1.2 million acre feet, the inital post-event discharge was maintained while and the lake dropped to 1.13 million acre feet before water arrived. Accroding to the data the water started arriving on the 7th with an AVERAGE DAILY INTAKE of 37,195cfs. I can only assume that for part of of the day, the intake was around normal (pre-event) and a rather large inital surge of water was well over 37,000. I did some checking and found the following data from the same 10 day period taken at a gauge on the river near Blackfoot, ID.

click to view

It shows very similar number to what was provided me in the email response. Though the gauge is upstream so the peaks and averages are going to be earlier than at the dam. This still gives us an average. I was hoping to find an instantaneous reading that would tell us what the inital surge (if any) was. I found the following data from the same gauge.

peak flow
click to view

This graph represents the peak flows for recorded years. Notice that 1976 is the highest year but has a couple of close years too. Not sure the story behind those years. But the corresponding data point for 76 indicates “June 7th 1976 Gague Height 15.44 feet – 53,500cfs (dam failure).”

It would seem we’ve found what I was looking for. Inital surge would have been near 54,000cfs averaging to 37,000cfs intake for the dam for that day.

The dam did fluctuate over capacity slightly as the discharge was changed to reflect the intake. Looks like by the 10th intake, discharge and contents had stabilized to about normal.

Thanks again to the Bureau of Reclamation, Burley office for the American Falls dam history and data. It really clears up descrepancies on other sites and news reports.



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Teton Dam Disaster: June 5, 1976

Teton Dam Rupture

The hole in the Teton Dam grows

June 5th, 2006; the 30 year anniversary of the Teton Dam Break.
UPDATED: This page has been updated to remove some erroneous facts sourced from other webpages. The data I obtained from the Bureau of Reclamation can be found here

The Teton Dam was built on the Teton River upstream from Rexburg, Idaho. at 11:57 am on June 5, 1976 the dam broke, the resulting flood killed 14 people and some estimates put the damage done by the colapse of the 100 million dollar dam, at one billion dollars. Actual federal approved claims totalled almost 400 million dollars. I know a few people who lived there at the time, the stories are incredible.

This is an amazing picture, it was taken by Eunice Olson as the dam broke. Her other shots are an entire sequence of the dam breaking. An arial shot of the break. Here are some great pictures of the flood damage. The next photo was taken sometime after the waters reached the town of Rexburg, photographer unknown.

Rexburg, Idaho after Teton Dam Breach

Rexburg Flood Water

I won’t post copies of all the accounts of the breach (links to those at the bottom) but the initial response of the Sheriff and others was very much disbelief. I have to say I probably wouldn’t have believed it at first either. The next day, the operators of American Falls Dam prepared for the incresed intake. It took almost two days for the 300,000 acre feet of water to reach American Falls. The American Falls Dam wasn’t in the best condition, and was in the process of being replaced. The old dam could hold about 1.2 million acre-feet the replacement dam was being constructed just downstream from the old one but wasn’t done yet. The water released was almost a quater of the capacity of American Falls, obviously it didn’t reach there all at the same time. Here is the data I recieved from the Bureau of Reclamation concerning American Falls at the time of the Teton Failure

A committe was formed in the late 80s to consider rebuilding the dam. To this day, the remains of the Dam are pretty much unchanged aside from

Google Image Search: Teton Dam

Bureau of Reclamation: Teton Dam

Other Sources:
Teton Dam Failure
Teton Dam – Wikipedia


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