Dreaming Tracks

Reflections on the Endless Journey

Grace and Serenity
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 | Posted by Rakesh | Comments (0)

MLD Grace and Serenity, front viewMLD Grace and Serenity, Side View
After carrying a 65-pound pack all the way from the Snow Lakes Trailhead to the top of Asgard Pass and back (30 miles round trip, 7000 feet of elevation change from trailhead to summit), I started looking at ways to lighten my backpack.

The first thing to go was the Nikon D300. With it and a fairly basic 3-lens kit (28mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 105mm f/2.8 VR macro) and a teleconverter, it ended up weighing almost as much as my 4×5 with its 3-lens setup (80mm f/4.5, 135mm f/5.6, and 300mm f/8) and 4 cut-sheet film holders.

Next I started working on the shelter… I carried a 3-pound, 2-person tent, a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2, which doesn’t much of a vestibule. Now I’m using the setup shown here; a Grace Duo from Mountain Laurel Designs, and a Serenity net tent from the same.

The combined weight of the entire setup is around 18 ounces, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. Having the sides up so high isn’t required, but when you’re in a warm desert clime, the breeze feels rather nice.

The tarp is shaped, with Catenary curves along its ridgeline and edges. It’s designed to pitch in an A-frame shape like the one shown here, and it only took around 10 minutes to get a decent pitch, which isn’t bad given that it’s my second attempt at pitching it. The odd fabric is in large part the secret to its light weight. It’s made of a fabric called Cuben, which is very popular with sailmakers because of its high strength and low weight, plus its complete lack of elasticity. As far as shelters go, it also has the advantage of being entirely water and windproof if you pitch it properly, and since this model has a taped ridgeline rather than stitched, it doesn’t even require seam-sealing.

The Never-Ending Road
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Rakesh | Comments (1)

a road through a grove of aspens, with the distant figure of a young girl rounding the farthest curve, not looking back

The road curved sinuously through this aspen grove, so I asked Bailey to walk out toward the curve while I framed the shot. Even though it was mid-day, the light was pretty soft under all those trees, so I didn’t need to worry about dynamic range. The hardest part about this shot was communication, though. Bailey was pretty far away from me, and the road wasn’t far from the Rapid River, so we wouldn’t hear each other over its roar. We had to make do with gestures and a bit of luck :)

I have a black and white version of this image shot on 4×5, that I will post after I get the scanned image cleaned up to my satisfaction. I also learned that I am probably not loading my cut-sheet film holders correctly, leading to my chromes being underexposed by what looks like 3-4 stops, and also showing some severe (red) color casts, not at all typical for Astia. So I’ll fix that before I shoot again :)

This weekend I’ll be camping in Yakima, so I’ll be trying out my new camping gear; I’ve only pitched my catenary tarp once, and it was a pretty lousy pitch. Hopefully, I’ll get a better pitch out of this time… because the following weekend it’s going to be my shelter for a trip from Rainy Pass through Cutthroat Pass, and out to the Pasayten Wilderness. There should be plenty of photo opportunities on that trip!

For anyone interested in an easy, pretty desert hike, I’m going to be leading a photo safari in Cowiche Canyon on Sunday (info here).