By Michael Lanza
After plowing through several thousand photos taken over the course of about 15 trips last year, I selected the following 10 that represent, for me, either the essence of each adventure or a moment when light, landscape, and composition came together just right. At this coldest and darkest time of year, kick back for a few minutes and daydream over these possibilities. You’ll find links in a few of the descriptions below to existing stories about these places at The Big Outside, and I’ll eventually post stories with many more photos from all of them.
Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT
Lower Calf Creek Falls lies at the end of a popular, fairly flat, 5.5-mile, out-and-back hike in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. My kids and I hiked there with another family on a windy, chilly morning in late March—so we didn’t take a dip in the gorgeous pool at the waterfall’s base. But the view of the falls in this colorful, sandstone amphitheater was worth the walk. Read my story about that trip and see more photos from it.
Below Jacob Hamblin Arch, Coyote Gulch, UT
On the final morning of a three-day, two-family backpacking trip in spectacular Coyote Gulch, I asked a friend to use my camera to get a shot of me silhouetted in Jacob Hamblin Arch. When my then-12-year-old son said he wanted to join me scrambling up under the arch for the photo, I came away with one of my favorite pictures of 2013. Read my story about that trip and see more photos from it.
Cross-country Traverse of the Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, UT
In early April, my friend David Gordon and I made a three-day, mostly off-trail traverse of Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold, a befuddling maze of canyons, cliffs, and sandstone towers. Fortunately, we were following a route sussed out over many years by another friend and Backpacker Magazine colleague, Steve Howe, owner of Redrock Adventure Guides in nearby Torrey, Utah. I could have picked any of about a half-dozen photos from this trip to illustrate its incredible scenery—but this one, taken at an overlook above an unnamed canyon, does the job pretty well.
Atop Zeacliff, White Mountains, NH
New Hampshire’s Whites, where I first fell in love with mountains, will always hold a special place in my heart. I get back there almost every summer, as I did for an overnight hut trek in June with my friend, Mark Fenton. Here, Mark soaks up the view from atop cliffs high above Zealand Notch in the magnificent Pemigewasset Wilderness. Read my story about that trip and see more photos from it.
Chamberlain Basin, White Cloud Mountains, ID
This view of the Chamberlain Basin below 11,815-foot Castle Peak, which hikers come upon abruptly upon cresting a low pass, embodies the feeling this mountain range engenders among Idaho locals who’ve grown to love this place. I grabbed this shot in the afternoon on a 28-mile dayhike loop through the White Clouds with two friends in July.
My Mom Hiking Mount St. Helens, WA
This image of my 76-year-old mother hiking up Monitor Ridge on Washington’s famously active, decapitated volcano last July, shot in early morning above a sea of clouds, captures the determination she exhibited in reaching the mountain’s crater rim on a 10-mile, 4,500-vertical-foot day that stretched out over 11 hours.
Sunset over Upper Lyman Lakes, Glacier Peak Wilderness, WA
There’s nothing like sunset light setting a tumult of clouds ablaze—especially when you have the patience to wait for the right moment, when the shades of light and color contrast sharply across the span of clouds. Minutes after I shot this image of the sky above our campsite in the Upper Lyman Lakes basin, the light faded to gray.
Alpenglow reflected in Precipice Lake, Sequoia National Park, CA
Our six-day, family backpacking trip in Sequoia was one of the most photogenic trips I’ve ever taken. But the alpenglow on the north ridge of Eagle Scout Peak, reflected in the glassy waters of Precipice Lake, provided one of the highlights of a beautiful hike.
Hiker on the “Diving Board” atop Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, CA
This is the classic shot that hikers grab when tagging the coveted summit of Half Dome, and it requires no words to communicate the thrill and audaciousness of standing on that perch nearly a vertical miles above Yosemite Valley. I shot my friend Todd Arndt standing out there on the first day of a three-day, 65-mile backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows through the park’s southeastern quadrant.
Backpackers in the Bottom of the Grand Canyon, AZ
I always like capturing people at a distance in a landscape to convey the scale of a place. This shot of two of my companions on a November backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon did that, partly because, during editing, I “dodged,” or brightened them in the photo to make them stand out from the deep morning shadows. I also like how this stretch of the Tonto Trail above the Colorado River traces an exciting path along a narrow ledge above a cliff.