How I fell in love with a camera: a trip up Flat Top Mountain.

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by kimo, Dec 14, 2013.

  1. kimo

    kimo Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Dec 4, 2013
    Oahu, Hawaii
    I want to share some images from a recent hiking trip. Sometimes after a good trip, I post a photo report to a hiking forum called If you're interested, here's a link to a report from my pre-MTF days, documenting a trip to Great Basin National Park where I slept on a summit with my old D7000:

    But as time went on, I grew tired of the size and weight of my Nikon D600. It performed tough as nails in adverse conditions, but I came to realize it was a lot of horsepower for a day's walk in the woods. I wanted something smaller and lighter to carry on 90% of my hikes.

    And that's when Olympus walked in the door.

    I want to start sharing some of my trip reports here, because like some others around here, I have fallen for the charms of the E-M1 and 12-40 f2.8 lens as a hiking rig. I thought some folks on this forum might enjoy seeing the pics. The camera is fun to use and not a burden to carry. The image quality is fantastic, and at typical web image viewing size, the output seems to match what I receive from my D600 when I hand carry it.

    A few weeks ago, my lady and I drove from our home on the Front Range of Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah, where we hiked to the top of the ultra-prominent Flat Top Mountain in dynamic weather conditions, an exciting mixture of fast-moving clouds, snow flurries, and blue sky.

    The trip would be my first time out with the E-M1 and 12-40. Last night, I finished reviewing all of the pics and converted the good ones with LR 5.3. I don't know much about using Lightroom since I bought it new when I bought the camera. I created a user preset and treated all of the images equally, for better or worse. I'm completely open to suggestions on how to improve my photography or workflow.

    The fluid, ever-changing light gave the sensor a chance to stretch its dynamic range, and it performed just fine. But I think I'm most impressed with how sharp the 12-40 is from edge to edge. I was also pleased with how well the system resolved details in high-contrast images, with few chromatic abberations and strange behavoirs.

    Anyhow, enough of the camera talk. I tend to post a lot of pics when telling the story, so my apologies if there are too many. I'm terrible at self-editing. Photo captions are on top of the photos.

    Our journey begins with the second photo taken with the E-M1, from somewhere along Interstate 80 in Wyoming, on our way to Salt Lake City, a 500-mile drive from our home in Colorado.


    The drive is long but it goes remarkably fast. Still, we arrive in SLC after dark. We find cheap but comfortable lodging and carb load on beer and burritos from the El Pollo Loco drive-thru window.


    Our goal for the next day is Flat Top Mountain, marked by the red triangle on the map. The trailhead, near the old town of Ophir, is about an hour's drive from the Salt Lake City area.


    A storm moves in overnight and drops a few inches of fresh powder. We drive slick roads in the early morning twilight, arriving at the Lion Hill trailhead around 730 AM. The weather forecast is for clearing skies by noon.


    This is the trailhead. We would soon learn how Lion Hill earned its name.


    Our lofty goal for the day is hidden high in those clouds.


    We hike up the snow-covered road as passing snow flurries come and go. We are the first people up here today.


    The exquisite pleasure of falling snow.


    All quiet on the western front.


    The quiet is broken when we encounter fresh cougar tracks along side the road. The animal is big, and it has walked up the road ahead of us.


    We timidly follow the cougar tracks for a half mile. The tracks disappear into the forest at a switchback in the road. We continue to hike up the road, pausing to take an occassional glance over our shoulder. Although close to the Salt Lake City metro area, the Oquirrh Mountains are still active with wildlife, as seen in the countless animal tracks in the snow.


    We've walked over two miles and gained a thousand vertical feet of elevation.


    A little closer to the sun.


    We reach the hiking trail at the top of the road. From this point we will gain another three thousand vertical feet of elevation over 4 miles of hiking.


    We begin our ascent in earnest. The snow gets deeper.


    Veiled by the clouds.


    We gain the snow-covered west ridge trail and follow it up the mountain.


    The trail drops below the ridge and crosses a steep exposed slope. We look back at where we came from.


    The view up slope.


    The snow deepens. We work hard to regain the ridge.


    Rugged cliffs fill the view on our right.


    To our left is a steep forested slope covered in snow. We stay close to the ridge top.


    Nature's way.


    The view looking back down on our ascent route.


    The view looking up at where we need to go. It's been steep, and it's about to get a lot steeper.


    Anna approaches the top of Lewiston Peak, a lower subpeak on our way to the summit of Flat Top Mountain.


    The summit has a register enclosed in a water-proof tube. We sign in. Could we be the last people up here in 2013?


    We look apprehensively at the route toward Flat Top Mountain. Our goal is cloaked in thick cloud. On this side of the mountain the snow is even deeper.


    Not knowing what lies ahead helps make the adventure fun. We descend toward the saddle with Flat Top.


    We reach the low point between the two peaks. It's all uphill from here.


    The clouds break apart for a moment, and I catch the view to my right.


    We turn around and catch a fleeting view of Lewiston Peak.


    We continue along the ridge.


    And after hours of difficult hiking, we approach the summit of Flat Top Mountain, elevation 10,620 feet.


    A solar-powered equipment shelter sits on top of the mountain.


    The equipment shelter up-close.


    There's a mailbox on the summit. I wonder what's in it? Hey, it's a Jimmy John's sub sandwich. Just what the doctor ordered!


    But wait, there's more...

    p413648138-5. marmot has my arm!


    The old peak registers are filled with tidbits of wisdom followed by frequent laughs.


    We add our names.


    Our time on the summit has come to an end. We pack our gear and prepare to descend.


    We follow our tracks down the mountain.


    Back into the cloud.


    Steep slopes drop on our left.


    The clouds break apart and we catch a glimpse of Lewiston Peak.


    Up we go, one last time.


    Laying tracks.


    The going gets steep.


    And after a few minutes of difficult hiking we reach the summit of Lewiston Peak once again. This time the clouds have passed and we are blessed with an incredible view that stretches for miles in every direction.


    It feels like we are on top of the world.


    The view looking east toward the Wasatch Range.


    The view looking west toward Deseret Peak.


    The view looking north at Flat Top Mountain, still cloaked by lazy clouds.


    The view looking south.


    We are intoxicated by the incredible views, and we linger on top but not for long. We are chasing sun light, and the fear of encountering a cougar in the dark puts quickness in our steps.


    Down we go...


    Our route followed the tree-covered ridge line on the left.


    We cross the slope over to the far ridge.


    The view down slope is incredible.


    We turn to look up at the mountain and say "thanks". Our shadows get long as the light turns golden.


    We reach the road at sunset. We walk fast and cover two miles in forty minutes. We reach the car soon after dark.


    Along the way, I stop and snap one last picture of Flat Top Mountain. It marks the end of another fun mountain adventure.


    I grew up with In-N-Out burger. It's a treat that I don't get to enjoy in Colorado since there are no locations within the state. However, Salt Lake City is home to the delicious burger chain. And the best thing after a long day in the backcountry is a cold beer and a juicy burger.


    The End.

    • Like Like x 41
  2. MacBook

    MacBook Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    South Carolina
    Thanks for the photographic essay. It was wonderful, and it looks like the E-M1 and 12-40 were the right equipment to have along.
  3. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Amazing expedition and views! Must have been one of the best burgers and beers ever after a trek like that :smile:.
  4. RamblinR

    RamblinR Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 16, 2012
    Qld Australia
    Great series. Thanks for sharing.
  5. bipinsnair

    bipinsnair Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 7, 2012
    Herndon, VA
    Bipin Nair
    Thanks for sharing :) Beautiful pictures
  6. PatrickVA

    PatrickVA Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 31, 2012
    Central Virginia
    Terrific photos - it's posts like this that keep me coming back to this site. Thank you!
  7. shutterduster

    shutterduster Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 8, 2013
    Keremeos, BC. Canada
    Dave T
    Welcome to Micro Four Thirds

    That was quite a hike. Really good to see the gear suits your needs.
    You might want to take a look at Amin't post with regard to post processing using LR.
    Hope to see more posts in the near future.

    Dave T:2thumbs:

    TEAM KEN Mu-43 Rookie

    Sep 26, 2013
    New Orleans area
    I enjoyed your journey.
    Now I;m cold, and tired, just from reading :)
    Thanks for sharing.
  9. emptysensor

    emptysensor Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 8, 2011
    What a great hike and beautiful shots. Thanks for posting.
  10. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Gorgeous country there...
    Gorgeous shots...

    Wonderfully told...

  11. mcrosa

    mcrosa Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Miami, Florida
    Mike Crosa
    Great photos and terrific account of the journey. Thanks for sharing.
  12. Great! Looks like an amazing time. Great photos too.
  13. 50orsohours

    50orsohours Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 13, 2013
    Portland Oregon
    Wonderful series! Thanks for posting.
  14. FastCorner

    FastCorner Mu-43 Veteran

    May 28, 2011
    I really like this shot, but did you use AE? Cameras tend to severely underexpose bright white scenes and it would be difficult for this scene to escape that fate with automatic exposure.
  15. 350duser

    350duser Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, QLD
    Great photo story.

    Loved the snaps.
  16. dogs100

    dogs100 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2011
    N Devon UK
    Brilliantly told, great photos.
  17. aaronlongphoto

    aaronlongphoto Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 2, 2013
    Louisville KY
    Aaron Long
    Thank you so much for sharing your images! My goal for 2014 is to start backpacking and your images inspire me more to go out there and get started! Looking forward to your next post!

  18. aaronlongphoto

    aaronlongphoto Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 2, 2013
    Louisville KY
    Aaron Long
    Thank you so much for sharing your images! My goal for 2014 is to start backpacking and your images inspire me more to go out there and get started! Looking forward to your next post!

  19. icolquhoun

    icolquhoun Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 18, 2013
    Long Valley, NJ
    nice trip report and glad the EM1 worked for you!
    Some good pics in there. I esp like some of the summit shots
  20. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    Thanks for sharing - felt like I was hiking with you, wish I had some In-n-Out in front of me now! :smile:
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