Mei Xu Photography: Blog en-us (C) Mei Xu Photography [email protected] (Mei Xu Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:37:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:37:00 GMT Mei Xu Photography: Blog 120 120 Ice Lake Backpacking After conquered two 14ers in one day, my husband and I gained some confidence and decided to try something we had never done before: backpacking and camping above timberline. Our friend Bob, an experienced hiker and photographer, gave us some suggestions for the locations and equipment required for backpacking. After a few trips to REI, we were ready to go. The destination of our first backpacking trip was Ice Lake of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. We chose Ice Lake over other locations because of its elevation gain (2430 feet) and its distance (3.5 miles) which we believed would not be too difficult for backpacking. Ice Lake is also one of the most popular trails in Colorado with many wildflowers blooming in the summer.

On July 26, 2013 we left home in the early morning; on the way to the trailhead of Ice Lake we had a very good Chinese buffet at a Chinese restaurant in Montrose. During the lunch, we joked we would miss those nice food in next two days. After almost 7 hours driving, we arrived at the Ice Lake trailhead. When we got off the car, mosquitoes gave us a lot of welcome hugs. Fortunately we had mosquito repellent "off!" with us and were able to scare them away.

We started our two days journey at around 2:30 PM. For the first half mile of the hike, the trail was not steep and we enjoyed the valley view along the trail. Then we got into the forest and the trail became much steeper. With the weight of my camera, tripod, and camping equipment, I had to stop quite often to catch my breath. The steepness of the trail and the load of the equipment really made the hike more challenging. After 2 hours into the hike, we arrived at the lower basin of Ice Lake. I was so exhausted that I tempted to put everything down and camped at the lower basin. But we did not feel the view around the lower basin was good enough for photographing, after 20 min break, we decided to march on and continued our hike toward the upper basin, no matter how exhausted we were.

From lower basin to upper basin, the trail is non-stop zig zig, it is very steep with elevation gain of 700 feet in just 0.6 mile. We had hiked 14er and 13er in the past with the same or longer distance and more elevation gain but we never felt this tired. After another 2 hours hiking from lower basin, we finally reached our destination.

WOW was the word we used when we first saw Ice Lake. The view was amazing. Ice Lake with emerald blue waters was nestled in a magnificent cirque of sculpted ridges and peaks soaring well above 13,000-ft. Our efforts definitely got rewarded.

After quickly setting up our tent around Ice Lake, we continued hiking to Island Lake. I read some nice comments about this lake on the web, so I would like to check it out to see if it would be good for sunrise shooting. Island Lake is 0.7 mile away from Ice Lake. It is called Island Lake because there is a small island in the middle of the lake. It is a beautiful lake, but the color is not as blue as Ice Lake. I also was not able to find a nice angle for photo shot so we headed back to Ice Lake.

It was getting dark. We cooked some instant noodle and had a quick dinner with our headlamps. After we finished the dinner, the stars came out and the Milky Way was so clear that it illuminated the mountains and Ice Lake. It was our first time to see the Milky Way at such high altitude with zero pollution. It was fantastic. I couldn't wait to setup my tripod and started shooting.

It was an amazing night. At the very beginning the sky was cloudless, the Milky Way was strong. After a while, the moon and clouds came out but no wind. The upper basin under the moonlight were so gorgeous. Unfortunately I was the only one seeing it, other people including my husband were in their dream and missed out this beautiful phenomenon.

After a few hours shooting, I went to sleep and got up at 5 am for sunrise. I went to a small pond a few hundred yards from the Ice Lake for sunrise shooting. The light was not great at the first touch on the mountains; I was a bit disappointed and thought that was all I could get in the morning. So I took my camera off the tripod to review the pictures. A minute later, I removed my eyes from the monitor and looked up at the mountains, I was shocked. The mountains already turned to golden red. I never would have thought the light changed so quickly. I put my camera back onto the tripod as fast as I could, reframed and shot. Even though I got some trouble with my lens and filter because of the mist, I finally captured the beautiful moments.

It was an unforgettable morning.

After the breakfast (of course it was instant noodle again), my husband and I debated if we should finish shooting and go home. Eventually the weather made the decision for us. It was monsoon season, the rain started hard around noon. We had to hide in the tent for hours. It was non-stop raining, lightning and thundering. It was a bit scary because we were above the tree line and exposed to lightning with no protection. Many people who camped around us had moved down to the lower basin to avoid the storm. While in the tent I still dreamt of seeing rainbow after the rain stopped, but this dream never came true. It was raining the entire afternoon and into the night with no sign of letting up. We were cold and hungry. We couldn't cook in the tent and just ate energy bar for the dinner. Although we were a bit scared with the storm and thunder and a few occasions of coyote hauling, we eventually fell to sleep.

The next morning it was still raining, we had no choice but headed down in the rain. The rain was cold and the creek became river after almost 20hr of rain. Instead of crossing the creeks like we did 2 days ago, we now had to walk across the rivers. The waterfalls by the lower basin were weak 2 days ago and now became very strong. They looked prettier, but I had no mood to shoot them. It took us about 3 hours to get to the trailhead and when we finally got to the car, we were proud of ourselves and said we did it.

It was a total different experience with backpacking than one-day hiking to 14er. What an experience! We will do it again this summer.


[email protected] (Mei Xu Photography) Colorado Ice Lake backpacking hiking Wed, 19 Feb 2014 03:27:29 GMT
New Year, New Beginning To celebrate New Year’s Day of 2014, we went to RMNP for snowshoeing. It was our first snowshoeing trip. I was afraid I would not know how to walk on snowshoes, but as it turned out, it was much easier than I thought. Walking on two pairs of shoes was actually fun.

The trip was from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake.  We have been there many times in summer and fall but never had hiked there in winter. The view looked totally different and more beautiful compared to the views in the summer.  

When we arrived at the Dream Lake, it was snowing and windy; because the visibility was very poor for ideal photo shoot, we decided to continue the hike toward Emerald Lake.  

At about 4:10 pm, we were back at Dream Lake. The snow storm was getting worse and temperature was frigidly cold. While snowshoeing on the lake, I didn’t want to give up and kept looking back to see if Hallett Peak was visible. Suddenly the magic happened; I not only saw the top of that famous peak, but also saw the warmer sky. I set up my tripod and camera against the wind as quickly as I could and captured this image below. After a few shots, Hallett Peak disappeared again. The color version of this image is in my Colorado gallery and it won “Photo of the Day” contest on

Snow Storm at Dream Lake (BW)Snow Storm at Dream Lake (BW)


[email protected] (Mei Xu Photography) Dream Lake Rocky Mountains National Park snowshoeing winter Sat, 04 Jan 2014 23:04:25 GMT
Explore the Canadian Rockies As I was sitting in the helicopter, watching the blue sky and lakes outside, I felt like I was flying into a dream. I was getting closer and closer to the paradise all photographers dream about.

After a few months of preparation, we finally breathed the air and touched the ground of beautiful Canadian Rockies. The most impressed destination of our 13-day photography journey was Mt. Assiniboine.

Mt. Assiniboine is the highest peak (3,618 m or 11,870 ft) in the Southern Continental Ranges of the Canadian Rockies. The pyramidal shape of Mt. Assiniboine is pretty similar to the Matterhorn which is a mountain in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Thus, Mt. Assiniboine is also known as the "Matterhorn of North America”. Conversely, I wonder if Europeans call the Matterhorn the "Mt. Assiniboine of Europe".

Mt. Assiniboine is located on the border between Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, in British Columbia, and Banff National Park, in Alberta. The park is not accessible by car and can only be reached by hiking, skiing (17 mi), or helicopter. You can find some information about helicopter ride, lodge, camping and hiking on this website:

The best view of Mt. Assiniboine is from Nub Peak which is about 5km or 3 mile hike from Mt. Assiniboine Lodge. The fantastic overlook view includes Mt. Assiniboine, Sunburst Peak, Magog Lake, Sunburst Lake and Cerulean Lake. With the morning and evening light, the scenery looks like heaven. Moon Burst at Sunburst PeakMoon Burst at Sunburst PeakMt. Assiniboine is always beautiful at any time in all of seasons. Here is another view at a beautiful moon night. To shoot this picture, we had to stay late on the mountain with headlights. People who lived at the bottom of the mountain saw our headlights and wondered an emergency happened since it is a bear country and nobody stays late over there.

The image above was taken after sunset. The mountain with the moon behind is the Sunburst Peak. It is aptly named Sunburst, due to the peak's change in color to orange when the sun shines at it in late afternoon.  Although we didn’t see this phenomenon during our 4- day trip in the area, we were fortunate enough to see the moon burst behind this mountain. This picture is two images blended together. One was taken just after sunset, the other one was taken about half an hour later. This shot won “Photo of the Day” contest on Cloudy NightCloudy NightThe Milky Way was barely seen at that night, but I still attempted to shoot it. Here is what I got: no clear Milky Way, but beautiful clouds over Mt. Assiniboine.

The above picture was taken in front of Mt. Assiniboine Lodge. The sky was not clear and the Milky Way could barely be seen by the naked eyes, but I still gave a try. Although I eventually didn’t get clear shot of the Milky Way, the texture of clouds made this picture even more unique and interesting.  Mother Nature is always doing magical thing, rewarding us.  If we didn’t press the shutter at right moment, we would miss it.  This shot also won “Photo of the Day” contest on

The other amazing place in our journey is the Wedge Pond. Most of the lakes are usually suitable for shooting from only one side, but Wedge Pond is available for all sides. The backgrounds around Wedge Pond are filled with fabulous mountains.  We were so regretful that we just scheduled one evening and one morning of a photo shoot at this location.  Since our time was very limited at Wedge Pond, in order to shot from different angles we had to run along the lake as quickly as the light changed.  Fortunately in that tranquil morning I got a few beautiful shots from different angles. Here is one of them. Autumn Morning at Wedge PondAutumn Morning at Wedge Pond

Before I went to Vermilion Lake, I saw lots of gorgeous pictures about it on website. To shoot it in different ways, we went there after midnight. The lights from Banff city initially seemed to be a little bit of an interference; it did change the color of the image and made it more romantic.  After I took this picture, I realized then that the light pollution was not always bad for star shooting. This shot won “Photo of the Day” contest on A Night at Vermilon LakeA Night at Vermilon LakeVermilion lake is beautiful as we have seen in lots of pictures. To shoot it in different way, we went there after midnight. The lights from Banff city made the night at Vermillion Lake more romantic. I learned at that night that light pollution was not always bad for star shooting :=).

Moraine Lake is a very prominent and popular lake situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park.  When the morning lights hit the peaks, I decided not shooting the lake like most of photographers have done; instead, I changed my 17-35mm lens to 24-70mm lens, zoomed in to emphasize the lights and clouds. Here is it.  Morning Light at Ten PeaksMorning Light at Ten Peaks

While being a landscape photographer is fun, it also requires hard work, patience and endurance. To take good landscape shots, more often than not, you have to get up earlier and go to bed later, or just not sleep at all.  You sacrifice your rest time for a chance of good shot but reward is not always guaranteed.   What is certain though is that you will definitely have much more chances than other people to see the magic moment.  And when the magic moment appears, everything you have done is worthwhile.  




[email protected] (Mei Xu Photography) Canadian Rockies Mt Assiniboine Vermilion Lake Wedge Pond Wed, 11 Dec 2013 18:04:00 GMT