adventure

I started vloggin!

Moonset at Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona

Yooooo! What's up, friends? I'm so excited to announce the MAX LEVEL ADVENTURE vlog! The first 4 episodes are out now on YouTube. Check them out here! I have an injured shoulder at the moment, but I'll have another video coming out next week. Don't you worry your pretty face. ;)

This photo was taken during episode one. That's actually the moon setting on the horizon! How wild is that?

You start the vicarious series below with episode one! If you like it, please subscribe because there will be plenty more coming and they're only going to get better!


Raw Sugar Logo v4.2.jpg

And, if that's not enough, I also started a podcast with my good friend Alyssa Rojas! It's called Raw Sugar and will be in a different vein than most things I do on social media. Our podcast will encourage discussion of all things nerdy, sexy, and controversial. We don't claim to have the right answers, we just want people to think critically while having a good time. I'll make another post with information about that when we start releasing those episodes. You can also get an early start by following us @rawsugarpodcast on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

There's almost an hour worth of content in my first 4 vlogs, so I'm gonna keep this post short and let you guys check that out. I've had positive feedback so far, but I'm always looking for ways to improve!

P.S. If you're interested in portraits, collaborating on a video, or would like to guest on the podcast, let me know!

 

Fossil Creek, Here We Come!

This is shaping up to be the first big event of the year! Paying to start a group on MeetUp brought 19 people to sign up that wouldn't have otherwise! That's probably more than any group I've ever had before - even before including the 7 people that signed up on facebook. I'm sure some people will bail before the final date, but I'm just excited to meet some new people!

I'm going to focus cinematic shots with the GoPro and some pictures for content production. I have some cool ideas for another video and the guide for this trip could use some better photos.

I'm not excited about the temperature of the water, but what can you do except enjoy the adrenaline and scenery! :D

Chiricahua: Arizona's Secret Beauty

As drives go, it wasn't a bad one: Chiricahua National monument is just three and a half hours southeast of Phoenix - 40 miles from the border. It was a bit bland on the approach; there are no major towns, just fields with softly rolling hills that blanket everything west of the mountains. A winding road leads you from the park entrance at the foot of the range into the steep slopes and tall alien-like spires. I was fortunate to arrive the day after a nice snowfall. I left Xaley in the car to get a map from the visitor center. The nice lady at the desk suggested a 3.6 mile loop based on the daylight left. It was a good suggestion... Xaley kept up without issue, despite the snow. In fact, she loved it! The hike became more beautiful as we hiked. A stunning view from one of the higher points in the park turned into a well-maintained path on the side of a steep slope with killer views of the countless unusual rock formations. The path wound slowly downward, providing views of itself beyond the switchbacks ahead. Then I entered "Echo Canyon". The echos weren't that great.

After ascending the switchbacks out of the canyon, we reached my favorite section of trail. The tall spires we had been admiring from a distance became obstacles. The carefully planned path wound through the amazing formations with grace. Remember, it had snowed the day before. Everything in shadow was freshly blanketed in snow and ice while the sun had already melted anything it could touch. This created a truly beautiful contrast that can't be fully appreciated in photographs.

Xaley and I finished the hike as the sun set behind us. It was a perfect end to another perfect day.

Happy adventures!

Grand Canyon, indeed.

I've lived in Arizona nearly 5 years before visiting the state's geological claim to fame. I generally avoid popular destinations as I find crowds distracting. However, like many other popular national parks I've visited, it is popular for a reason. We only had an afternoon to spend, but those few hours were enough to convince me I should get an overnight pass and return asap. We snapped a few pictures from the South Rim before hiking a mile down the South Kaibab trail. It was a beautifully maintained path with incomparable views and, despite my initial reservations, I could only wish I had more time.

As soon as I get my pass, I'll be hiking the 20 miles in and out of the world-famous canyon! I plan to descend the South Kaibab trail and ascend the Bright Angel trail.

If you haven't been, go! It's incredible! There are also some really cool places within a few hours if you have some extra time to spare. Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly are all fairly close and definitely worth checking out.

Happy adventures!

 

Camping at Elephant Arch

I guess, in a way, I'm spreading the word about another amazing place to check out! It's a wonderful side-effect of my tales and explorations. I found about this little hidden gem of the Superstition Mountains on Instagram. I wish I could recall the name of the account; I would give them credit for the inspiration. I was looking to increase my experience with my camera, so I planned an overnight stay to practice my night, sunrise and basic captures. I was joined by two good friends for the trip.

I didn't return from photographing in Sedona until 4, so it we had no daylight by the time we reached the coordinates I had for the arch. It was on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with no trail to the arch. After navigating various cacti species and steep rocky terrain, I spotted the arch 50 meters away.

We found a spot to set up the tent, so we went back to the car, grabbed our packs and hiked back up. There were so many cacti, that I had to carry Xaley in my jacket until we reached the arch. Eventually, we got everything set up, ate and spent the next hour or two just taking photos and enjoying nature.

Night Photography at Elephant Arch, Superstition Mountains, Arizona

We woke before sunrise and took photos until well after sunrise. We ate breakfast before packing up and heading back home. Overall, this has to be one of my favorite trips. I feel like I say that about every adventure, but I guess that just means I've having a good time.

Tomorrow I leave for 5 days. We're bringing the bikes and climbing gear to hit Joshua Tree NP, Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon! So pumped! I still have another batch of photos I took at Chiricahuah the day after Elephant Arch. I'll get those up when I return!

Happy adventures!

Doing Touristy Things in Sedona

I met up with a new face through the facebook page and headed north into Sedona. My goal this trip was to check two places off my list. They're pretty touristy, but Devil's Bridge and Red Rock Crossing still deserved a visit. First stop: Devil's Bridge. It was a nice day, despite being early December. When we arrived around 10AM, the main parking lot was already near capacity. You can take a dirt road to the trailhead, but I didn't risk it in my 2WD SUV. From the main parking lot, it was a 3.6 mile round-trip hike over mostly flat/easy terrain. My 3-month old puppy made it there and back without an issue! Despite the crowd, the bridge was quite pretty with some fascination rock formations around it.

Second stop: Red Rock Crossing. It cost $10 to enter the park and, like the rock bridge, it was also fairly crowded without too much to do. We walked along the footpath running parallel Oak Creek. The park has a great view of Cathedral Rock and some interesting rock cairn gardens. I will probably go back in the Spring just for some better pictures.

Afterwards, we returned home and I packed up for an overnight camp with some friends at Elephant Arch. That post is coming soon!

Happy Adventures!

Rock Climbing at Camelback

It's 8 am on Sunday morning; I'm searching for a harness and climbing shoes when I send a text my friend who gets a discount on this stuff. He calls me 10 seconds later and says, "we're about to go rock climbing; I'm coming to pick you up." Not a bad way to start a day. It has taken nearly a year, but I've managed to surround myself with others who truly love adventure - almost as much as I do. That's an amazing feeling. After the three of us stopped at REI for a few things, including a map of routes, we met up with a fourth for a beautiful winter day at Camelback Mountain. We headed for the Praying Monk based on a few tips and set to it! It was my first time sport climbing, so I was a little nervous about untying my rope 30 meters up to thread it through the bolt, but I didn't drop the rope and made it back down alive!

The last part especially opened me up to the excitement of rock climbing and I can't wait to climb some more this weekend!

Happy Adventures!

Touring the Apache Trail

Not every adventure needs to wear you out or empty your pocket. Sometimes it's nice to just fold the Jeep's top back and spend the day exploring dirt roads. I joined a couple friends for a tour of the Apache Trail (aka SR 88) that runs along the Salt River lakes. The initial plan was to turn back at Tortilla Flats, but we decided to keep going all the way to Roosevelt Dam. As usual, it was much cooler than expected. We happened upon a couple sights we did not expect... 4x4 is not required for this trip, but the pavement does turn to loose dirt a few miles east of Tortilla Flats, so it helps. Happy adventures!

Photoshop Workflow

I am by no means a professional (yet). I've only had my camera for 2 months, but I've learned a lot in that time and it's all credit to passion and consistency. Unfortunately, I don't edit most of my photos to the level they deserve. Most just get blanket adjustments because I'm editing 50+ photos at a time, but practice has made me more efficient, so I can do more in less time. Test

This example is why you should always shoot in RAW. The files are huge, but you get some much more to work with. I gave the details a little more attention here, but it still didn't take that long to edit. I've also stitched a few panoramas now and will be experimenting with HDR when I start on the most recent shoot from Elephant Arch in the Superstitions.

For this image, I imported the photo using Photoshop Camera RAW, applying auto adjustments, then slightly tweaking each one. Then I add levels, brightness/contrast and vibrance layers. I tweak each one, sometimes adding layer masks to target specific areas. I will usually add a color balance layer as well. Then I duplicate the background and apply shadows/highlights, auto color and/or auto tone to the copy(ies) so that the base layer is untouched. Finally, I play around with the opacity of each layer until I get a look that I like - adding layer masks if needed.

I learn something new with almost every batch of photos, so my workflow constantly evolves! Experiment and don't be afraid to use google if you get stumped! There's a tutorial for everything these days!

Exploring Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley!

It feels pretty amazing to be the person your friends seek when they need a getaway. I considered my list and picked a place that's been on it for a while: Canyon de Chelly (pronounced: shay). Rachel, Michelle and I packed our gear and headed north for the two-day trip. It was cold, rainy and snowy; I don't think I could have asked for a more beautiful weekend in the desert! There are a lot of overlooks, but not much else unless you take one of the guided tours into the valley - which we didn't do because there were none at the time. Still, it kept us busy for a whole night and the next morning. We drove around, took a lot of pictures, slept in the car, got harassed by rez dogs, played in the snow then took a detour to Monument Valley before heading back home. The girls had never been before and I was eager to return with a decent camera.

That's one more wonderful weekend in the bag! I definitely recommend visiting Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley if you haven't. Both are worth visiting separately, but close enough to make a great combo if you ever get the urge!

Happy adventures!

Don't Waste Time on the Details

Many of my favorite trips are ones that I didn't spend much time planning. I picked a destination and invited anyone who wanted to go, then I went - even if I had to go alone. Now that I think about it, that describes most of my trips in the last several months. I'm posting a little out of order. Chronologically, this should have been my first post after the road trip to Alaska, but this is how I began my first weekend back home.

I woke up Sunday morning and planned my day while cooking breakfast. After eating, I packed my bike and camera then headed north to Flagstaff. My plan was to hit the trail around Hart Prairie then stop in Sedona on the way back for some night photography. I knew there might be snow on the trail, but I would cross that bridge when I came to it. The conditions slowed me down, but it made for an interesting challenge! All-in-all, I'm so happy I went, as usual ;)

After driving an hour to Sedona, I discovered that my pack was nowhere to be found. I put it out of my mind for the moment and took a few pictures of the Milky Way at Cathedral Rock in Sedona. Check out this post for those photos.

Hoping it was still at the trailhead, I drove back to Flagstaff and found my pack right where I left it. Phew! I threw on a podcast and relaxed as I drove home at the end of another perfect day.

Summiting the Tallest Mountain in Arizona

Let's be real. Mount Humphreys is only 12,637 feet tall, but a 4,000ft ascent is still nothing to sneeze at! With no real plan or expectation, Andrew, David and I left for Flagstaff to summit the tallest mountain in Arizona! I don't know why I waited until it was covered in snow, but I'm glad I did. The hike was as challenging as it was beautiful! It's an in-and-out hike totaling 10 miles with 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The wind was a fiercely chilling bastard after we broke the treeline. Eventually, we reached the summit and took some pics before making our way back to the safety of the pines. We were reduced to traveling by ambient light before the end of the hike, but that's what I get for starting the hike late and leaving my headlamp in Oregon...

I plan to do this again in the Spring/Summer for a different experience. Keep an eye out for the event if you feel like joining me :)

Timelapse Crosscontinent Roadtrip

I thought this video would take a lot of time to edit, but it was actually fairly simple. After inspecting all 7,290 photos, I found the right speed and added some basic effects to clean things up. Now you can experience my road trip from Phoenix, AZ to Anchorage, AK and back from the dash of my car at 1,800x speed! Enjoy! :)

Success: One Step at a Time!

It is an awesome day! It's my first week since I quit the job with better pay and hours to force myself into seriously pursuing my passions. When I got off work today, I found out that InstagramAZ used my latest post for their photo of the day! It may not seem like much, but it's a sign that my dreams may not be as far-fetched as I thought... :) Original post: https://instagram.com/p/-kFh7aDevK/

Their repost: https://instagram.com/p/-mE9UYhKnz/

Cool Stuff Coming Up!

I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post, but I've been keeping busy in my absence! After the road trip to Alaska, I put my two week notice in at one of my jobs, took photos of the Milky Way in Sedona (more below), mountain biked in the snow at Hart Prairie in Flagstaff, summited the tallest mountain in Arizona, took a two-day road trip to Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley. I don't know how things are going to work out financially, but I'm okay with that. I'm just going to focus on my passions and see where they take me :)

Since I bought my camera just before going on the road trip, I had no time to practice with it, so I'm lucky my shots came out as well as they did. When I got back, the first thing I did was take it out for some night shooting to fool around with it. I'm stoked with the results and can't wait to refine my technique as time goes on!

I'll post again tomorrow with more on what I've been up to! Thanks for reading and happy adventures!

Photo Gallery Update!

I finally editing my favorite photos from the trip and posted them. The dashcam video is coming soon! I went on a snowy mountain bike ride in Flagstaff yesterday too so I'll post some photos from that soon! Tips and more cool locations to see coming soon!

Putting Things into Perspective. Literally.

Here's a cool perspective on my path of travel for the trip. The total mileage ended up being just over 9,000. It still seems a little crazy to me that I actually did it. For no good reason really - which is perhaps the best reason ;)

Adding a "Places Worth Going" Section

I've finally started working on a section to post descriptions, directions, pictures, tips, and reviews of my favorite places. My first one was for one of my favorite hikes: "Flat Iron"! I hope to build a list of cool places I've been for those looking to get into the adventure lifestyle or just looking for new places to check out. I have a lot of work to do, but you have to start somewhere! http://maxleveladventures.com/where-to-go/hiking/siphon-drawflat-iron-trail/