Photography Tales 2

Phelps Lake from high on trail
Phelps Lake from above on the trail to Death Canyon

We were 2 miles into our hike from the trailhead that marks the start of the trek into Death Canyon here in the Tetons.  I had not yet taken any photos, concentrating instead on just hiking – as I often do during our ascent of a trail otherwise we will never get anywhere!   Some ripening huckleberries caught my eye on the uphill side of the trail, though, and I decided to snap some pictures of these delectable fruits.  I took a couple of shots, and then a short distance along the trail, we came to the Phelps Lake overlook – and I raised the camera to my eye once more.   This time, however, I noticed something I had not noticed on the previous shots, that pesky little icon displaying in the viewfinder indicating I did not have an SD card in the slot!  My heart sank!

View along Death Canyon trail
Much of the trail resembled this stretch – with massive views of the valley and Phelps Lake

Let me give you some history here.  When I was researching cameras to upgrade to a better piece of equipment, I purposely chose a camera that had “two” SD card slots for a very good reason.  I had once forgotten to replace my camera card in my old Canon, leaving it in my computer when I was transferring pictures.  I left for a hike one day, and I did not have a replacement card handy, and found myself unable to use the camera when I needed it.  I vowed this would never, ever happen again.  (Yeah, right….)

Rubus parviflorus – Thimbleberry – growing en masse along the hillsides in the steep canyon

My Nikon D750 has two card slots.  The purpose for this is simple.  Picture-taking capacity is much expanded, and  (most important for me obviously) one also has a back-up card in the camera just in case.  My plan was to always keep a card in the second slot as added insurance against failure.  And for a while, I did just that.

Jim on Death Canyon Trail 2
Jim is my favorite subject along the trail – he gives the landscape scale!

Don’t ask me why I all of the sudden found myself with no cards in my camera on our Death Canyon hike.  Oh – “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that I had relied on the back-up card at some point, and then had forgotten to replace it, or I had removed it to use in my Canon when realizing I was without a card in that camera!  Who knows?  Pure conjecture now – and it does not really matter anyway, right?  I was card-less – no explanation would change that.   To make matters worse, I also neglected to follow one of my golden rules to always check my camera before starting off to make sure I had a card IN the camera.  So, I failed on two counts.

Death Canyon trail
The canyon follows this cascading creek for much of the way – and there was an incredible series of waterfalls and pools along the hike.  At one point, when we stopped for a bite to eat, we watched an American Dipper (an aquatic songbird) frolicking in a small series of waterfalls – diving under for food, and showing an amazing amount of finesse in the swift-moving water!

I did have some extra cards in my camera bag back in the truck.  Positive points for that, but it was two miles to return to the trailhead and that was not happening.  Luckily, we have these things called smart phones with built-in cameras that do not require an SD card!  I was forced to store my Nikon in my pack and use my cellphone for this hike.

I was feeling pretty foolish that I had let this happen a second time but I was not going to let that ruin my hike.  It was a beautiful day!  My only regret was lugging my heavy Nikon up the steep trail for no good reason.  (Actually, truth be told, Jim took pity on me and offered to carry the camera in his pack – and I relented!  So, he ended up with the load with the promise that it never happen again!)

Indian paintbrush
Cannot get enough of the Indian Paintbrush that grows everywhere in the Tetons

I happily started just snapping pictures with my cellphone, and all was good until I met a fellow photographer along the trail.  This guy was carrying a serious camera with a monster telephoto lens up a pretty steep trail.  (And I thought my camera was heavy for a long, steep hike!)  I started chatting with him while I was waiting for Jim to catch up to me (remember he was carrying extra weight), and made a remark about being resigned to using my cellphone for this hike.  I was looking for a little sympathy – and maybe, some comradery that perhaps I was not the only photographer who treks off on a hike minus an SD card in the camera.

So, I confessed to him that I was forced to put away my camera  because I realized I had left my SD card in my computer at home.  I was hoping that he would say – “oh yeah, that happens to all of us once in a while.”  But, instead – he gave me this eye-brow raised look and said he’s never done that before – in a way that made me feel completely sheepish and inferior!

I was secretly hoping that he might offer me a spare card but I could see this conversation was going nowhere in that direction.  He went on to tell me about all the great shots he was getting – and I decided it was time to hit the trail and put some distance between he and I – small talk had ended for me!

Weather moving in along trail
Some storm clouds started descending upon the canyon as we were on our way down.  We got enough of a sprinkle that it forced us to don our rain gear, and then, 10 minutes later, it stopped and the sun appeared for the rest of the hike down.

The first thing I did when I got off the trail was round up all my spare SD cards and immediately put two of them in my Nikon.  One to be entirely for the purpose of back-up, and to never, ever leave the camera.  (I’ve heard that one before!)  Why is it I never learn my lessons the first time around??

Columbine Aquilegia flavescens
Yellow Columbine – Aquilegia flavescens

I still managed to get some okay pictures from our Death Canyon hike but my smart phone is no match for the Nikon.  Sorry, One Plus….






4 Comments on “Photography Tales 2

  1. Some cell phones take pretty good photos, and you seemed to have done just fine on this hike with the substitute. I might not have known, had you not “fessed up”! Stewart


  2. Yes I have to agree the pictures were great from your phone. Can’t wait to get to the Tetons ourselves. Maybe next year……… Have fun!


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