The Forger’s Spell; A Dutchman’s Brilliance at Lying Instead of Flying

Eighty years ago, the most famous work attributed to 17th Century Dutch Golden-Age Master Johannes Vermeer was “Christ at Emmaus.”  A consensus of art critics and art historians hailed it as Vermeer’s finest work. The painting (with other masterpieces) were sold to Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (Hitler’s #2) for approximately $35 Million in today’s dollars. Göring fancied himself as an art expert with the greatest of eye for brilliance and taste who could “plunder” the art -world.

After WWII, Dutchman Han van Meegeren was identified as the man who conducted these transactions which were deemed treasonous. van Meegeren was charged with the crime which included a death-sentence if convicted.  van Meegeren ultimately admitted to performing the transactions, but for a very different reason than plundering for the Nazi’s. van Meegeren claimed the works were fakes and part of a Con-game played against Göring. And how could  Han van Meegeren prove the art critics, historians, and  Göring had been duped? van Meegeren claimed he was the forger and repainted “Christ at Emmaus” while in police custody.

Edward Dolnick’s; The Forger’s Spell tells this true story and others related to it in a 349 page narrative that the best crime novelists would likely complement and applaud.  Throughout the book Dolnick asks and answers in great detail virtually all of the questions you might ask. Why would van Meegeren do it and how did he do it?

The Forger’s Spell is a superior and fascinating read.

As many of you know Johannes Vermeer is my favorite painter of art.  I have traveled the world to see his works in person.  As a gift Linda sent us to the Low Countries to his works and his studio.  The story is [here].

A Heist From a Different Mold: Widows

I like Heist movies – a lot.  I like the big noisy kind such as The Town, the predictable, such as the Italian Job (both versions) and sometimes the star vehicles such as Ocean’s [enter number in the series here].

My favorite Heist type films are the ones with less a violence and more guessing what’s next.  David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner and Heist come to mind first. Widows from Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Shame) is along this line of film.  It is not predictable and the lead characters play people who choose to perform a heist, against their better judgement, and are completely out of their element.  Instead of a comedic depiction of people out of their element McQueen delivers a serious take – deadly serious.  The reasoning for the heist provides a twist as well.

The screenplay for Widows is a collaboration between novelist screenwriter Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) and McQueen.  Flynn and McQueen have historically been excellent at depicting the tension of inequity especially if it involves race and gender. Widows does not fall short in this area.

As with most Heist type films Widows involves an ensemble cast – led by Viola Davis and Liam Neeson.  All cast members are solid in their performances.  Davis as we have come to expect is superb. Collin Farrell is excellent – what a chameleon.

While not perfect, Widows is worthy of a theater ticket purchase.

Late Fall in the Garden District

By Wood River Valley standards it is late fall. Sun Valley is making snow on Baldy and Dollar Mountain.  Because it has been cold and clear – there is a great deal of snow on the ski mountains.  There has not been much precipitation otherwise.  So I decided to head up high into the Hemingway-Boulder Wilderness for the afternoon into the Garden District.  I call it that because the area has The Rock Garden and The Secret Garden.  My buddy Nappy Neaman established the names.  Each Garden is home to the Mountain Goats of the Wood River Valley.  Fellow back-country explorer Crist Cook and I performed a bit of reconnaissance yesterday; to establish light patterns and snow levels.  We determined I would be good to go; up into peaks above the valley floor.  My goal was to grab some shots of goats and capture a sunset shot of the Garden District.

The mornings have been chilly – 11 degrees at the house on this day.  The temperatures got up into the mid 30’s in Ketchum during the day.  The temperatures at 9-10 thousand feet north of town, including the Garden District peaked in the mid 20’s.  Seeing it was cold and I was staying through sunset – I brought all kinds of clothing layers, energy bars, water and head lamp.  Kyle (my son and co-owner of MESH Art and MESH Art at Heritage Hall ©) had me pack some hand-warmers and a hot thermos of coffee.  The ascent into the Garden District is a solid challenge.  The travel is all off-trail that includes tall Sage Brush and a fair amount of scrambling.  We (actually Nappy) have five primary spots to look for Goats in the Garden District.  I decided to journey up to the mid-point.  This effort involves dealing with two steep sections in just a few miles of cross-country travel.  Travel for me on this day includes lugging up a 1,000 MM lens in addition to a 50MM and 200MM.

Notes on the Goats (aka things I learned from Nappy): The mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), lives only in northwestern North America, and is the only genus and species of its kind in the world. Its closest relatives are the chamois of Europe and the goral and serow of Asia. The domestic goat is not closely related to the mountain goat. The Mountain Goats of the Wood River Valley live at the very south-end of its native geographic range.  The Mountain Goats of Utah, Colorado, and even Glacier National Park are non-native transplants.

At birth, young goats or kids stand about 13 inches at the shoulder and weigh 5 to 7 pounds. Yearlings may average about 45 pounds and 2-year-olds about 55 pounds. Mountain goats continue to grow through their fourth year achieving average weights of 125 to 155 pounds for females and 135 to 180 pounds for males.

The breeding season occurs from mid-November through early December. Females (or nannies) do not breed until at least 2.5 years of age. After a gestation period of 6 months, kids are born in late May or early June and closely follow their mothers for the first year. Adult females rank highest in the social order. By association, kids also assume the superior status of their mothers who vigorously defend them until they are yearlings. Yearlings drop to the bottom of the social order and are forced to forage last in areas pawed out by other goats. Kid and yearling survival may be less than 50 percent depending upon the severity of the winter. If a goat survives weather, falls, and predation by cougars, eagles and other predators during its juvenile years, longevity is normally 10 to 13 years.

Female-juvenile (nursery) groups range in size from two to well over a dozen mountain goats, with some groups up to 70 animals. Large groups generally occur during early summer when goats congregate on prime feeding grounds or at mineral licks. As the summer progresses and the vegetation dries out, group size diminishes.

By the age of two, males or billies begin to disassociate themselves from nursery groups. Outside of the mating season, males tend to associate primarily with other males. Females normally inhabit the most desirable cliffs which are also often more visible and accessible than areas frequented by males. From late October to mid-December, males seek out females, so both sexes can be found together at this time of year.

Below are images from today’s adventure.

Late Fall Sunset on the Garden District – © Jeffrey H. Lubeck & MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Mountain Goat in the Garden District. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck & MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Mountain Goat in the Garden District. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck & MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

A Fall Stroll on Goat Creek

Goat Falls in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area of Idaho. © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved. Click on the image to enlarge.

After a late afternoon and early evening shoot on Friday on the upper-end of the Wood River drainage and the headwaters of the Salmon River – just below Galena Pass, I headed to our cabin located just west of Stanley in the Goat Creek drainage.

Technically in the Stanley City Limits (population 63) our cabin is on Goat Creek and completely surrounded by the SNRA and Sawtooth Wilderness.  While a real log cabin,we are on the grid with power, telephone, and high speed cable.  We have an easement agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to the property.  A small group of property owners pays to keep the Forest Service Access Road (Iron Creek Road) plowed in the winter. So we have year-round access.  The Lübeck’s use the cabin year-round.

The Forest Service keeps a few of the major drainage’s in the region trail-less and without a trail-head.  Goat Creek in one of them.  Direct access is allowed if it is not through private property – but you are on your own. That is unless you own the private property adjoining the SNRA and Sawtooth Wilderness.

Goat Lake, Goat Falls and Upper Goat Creek are accessible to the public via another route. That is the Alpine Way trail from the Iron Creek Trail-head a few miles west of the cabin. It adds a significant number of miles to the adventure.

On this day (Sunday) my neighbor friend Doug, his dog Lucy, and I decide we will meander up Goat Creek from our respective cabins to an overlook of Goat Falls and take in the last colors of the season.  The trip to the overlook and back is six miles.  Meandering on the creek adds some distance.

Goat Creek in Fall half way between the cabin and the Goat Falls Overlook. Click on image to enlarge. © Jeffrey H. Lübeck. all rights reserved.

Goat Creek in Fall half way between the cabin and the Goat Falls Overlook. Click on image to enlarge. © Jeffrey H. Lübeck. all rights reserved.

Color on High

Boulders Laced in Gold © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Fall colors on the north end of the Wood River Valley of Idaho traditionally hit their peak during the last days of September.  On occasion the first week of October offers a last bright burst of gold and deep reddish orange.  A Seattle type rain mixed with snow soaked the valley all day Thursday.  Seeing virtually no wind accompanied the storm; Kyle, fellow MESH Principle Artist Ed Cannady and yours truly discussed that the leaves might hit another gear of color before full dissipation.

A few miles north of Ketchum and just past the Headquarters of Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) Idaho State Highway 75 bends to the west – out of respect for the Boulder Mountain Range.  Just past Phantom Hill and Boulder Creek sits a lone Cottonwood tree.  The tree is way out front and away from its brothers and sisters that straddle Boulder Creek.  My initial memory of the tree was my first year as a resident of the Valley (1984).  Linda and I had taken possession of a Ranch Townhouse on my birthday in June and were repainting the inside during the last weeks of September.  Towards the end of each day we would tour our new home territory in our Candy Red Mazda RX7.  On one occasion we drove the RX7 as far up Boulder Creek as possible and hiked into the abandoned mining town of Boulder City.  On the return we stopped and I took a picture of Linda in her hiking gear sitting on the hood of the car with her arms wrapped around her knees.  The tree was out of the picture and off in the distance.

For 30+ years I have tried to capture the tree in full color with the other trees holding their leaves in similar condition and the peaks of the Boulders possessing a dusting of snow. Despite being on the lookout almost every fall – the combination has never occurred in my presence.  That is… until yesterday Friday October 5th, 2018.

The clear skies of the day were giving way to clouds.  The weather service was predicting a storm front would enter the region late in the day.  I had been shooting in the southern part of the valley earlier in the week, so I had not seen the Boulders and this area since the previous Saturday.  To my surprise was the tree in gold with all the other desired conditions in place.  I waited out at the tree for a little over an hour hoping to get late afternoon sun and interesting clouds with the hint of snow would present themselves.  Luck would have it all the factors came into play.

Out in Front © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Remembering Billy on a Fall Day © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

The trees in the picture above straddle the Wood River. On the other side of the river is the Fox Creek trail.  The location is just south of the Fox Creek Trailhead.

The Fox Creek and Chocolate Gulch trails have been a major part of The Lübeck’s life in the region.  I am not sure there is a person who has hiked The Fox Creek Chocolate Gulch Loop more than Linda Lubeck.  The trails have served us for our hiking, running, biking, and even cross-country skiing fixes.  In our first years in the valley, I would run in the back-country with my friend Bill Ayub.  The Lubeck’s and the Ayub-Collier clan were almost inseparable.  During this period there was no trail on the river between Fox Creek and Chocolate Gulch.  Also, there were only trail-heads at Lake Creek and Chocolate Gulch.  It was obvious to Bill and I that a trail on the river between Chocolate Gulch and Fox Creek not only made sense but would be spectacular in nature.  With talked about the idea with Butch Harper and John Phipps of the U.S. Forest Service.  Both said that not only was it a great idea, but there were plans in place to create the trail (known as the Fox Creek Extension) and eventually a trail-head at Fox Creek.  Bill and I donated a boat-load of hours towards building the trail.  We took great pride in that effort as would run and hike the trail together.  Bill Ayub was a warm, curious, and adventuresome soul.  I do not known many people who were a Marine Colonel and a hippy free spirit.  Bill was! Bill passed away from Pancreatic Cancer just over twenty years ago.  His brother Eddy (a nationally respected Sports Trainer and Therapist) uprooted his whole life on a moments notice to care for Bill.  This type of cancer is well known for being fast and painful.  Bill braved it all with nary a whimper or complaint.  I had the honor and fortune to hold Bill in my arms during his last hours on earth.  I left Bill heading to Seattle on an evening flight for business and to pick up computers as Christmas Gifts for his kids (Brisa and Kane).  I planned to return in two days.  Bill would pass away overnight.  As I look at the trees in the picture above they bring me fond memories of Billy.

Hold It You Said Harper Dog Was With You © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved

Sheep graze with an alert guard to protect them near the headwaters of the Salmon River (aka River of No Return).  Behind the sheep and the gurad dogs is Galena Pass (8,701),  Lower Titus, Titus, Bromaghin, and Saviers Peaks.  Bromaghin and Saviers are the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountain Range of Idaho.  Six years ago on this day, Kyle and I summitted all four in an out and back surgical strike.

Harper Dog is a 103 lb Great Pyrenees.  She is owned by our friend Danielle Andrews.  Kyle, Jeff and MESH Gallery functioned as baby sitters during the day in Harper’s first years.  Now Harper stays with us a few days a month and when Danielle travels out of town.  Harper spends many nights and weekends with Jeff & Linda at their home as well.

Red Letter Day in Ketchum © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC.

What a fall day.  Taken next to the MESH Gallery at Heritage Hall and Town Square.

Deep Red at the House © Jeffrey H. Lübeck MESH Art LLC.

The colors on the trees at our house in the Valley Club.

I am in the next foursome. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC. – all rights reserved.

I male moose stands next to the 1st tee of the South Course at the Valley Club.  He said he was about to tee off and was waiting on Jack Dies.

Labor Day – Origins and Impact

Wagon Days Ketchum, Idaho 2018

The first Labor Parade – New York, September 5th 1882




















Today is Labor Day.  In the current times it signals the official end of summer. Summer vacations are in the memory books and schooling has geared back into play.  College football uses the weekend to begin its season in earnest.  On some years it shares the day of the anniversary of my marriage to Linda Ruth Hutchins (September 4th 1982).  This year our 36th Anniversary is the following day (Tuesday).

In my native Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge closes to automobile traffic for walkers to cross.  It my home of the Wood River Valley of Idaho, Wagon Days – including the largest non-motorized parade in the United States – comes to an end.

Labor Day came to fore in the early 1880’s as a means for trade and organized labor unions to petition for the 8 hour work day and celebrate the hard work of general laborers.  Two versions of its origins – Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor – proposed in 1882 the first Monday of September be designated a national holiday.  Oregon was the first state to officially recognize Labor Day.  It became a U.S. Federal Holiday in 1894.  Canada celebrates Labor Day on the same day as the U.S.  About 80 countries celebrate International Workers Day or May Day (May 1st) to recognize the deadly Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886 (striking for the 8 hour work day).  Ironically, the U.S. eventually decided picnics, parades, and warm summer weather of early September was the better choice.

On this day, I plan on taking Sage of the Wood River Valley and Willow of the Wood River Valley through training exercises. They are our two Border Collies who joined the Lubeck family on Mother’s Day at the age of 12 weeks.  Shae dog (now age 15) will observe the endeavor.

Linda and I will go on a hike and a picnic with new some friends who moved to the valley this summer.

So what will you be doing this Labor Day?

Aretha See You on the Other Side

The Queen has passed on to the other side, and I hope that I have honor and pleasure to hear her perform in that venue sometime long into the future. Like my hometown of Detroit,  Aretha Franklin was a flawed soul that provided more to America than it could ever give back.  Aretha appeared to me as some who was big hearted, big bodied, naturally sexy, and completely confident.

Franklin, rightfully named the Queen of Soul passed away today.  She gave America music it would embrace without prejudice or condition.  Detroit, like Franklin, had problems and estrangement – but music has never been one of them.

While Franklin’s 1967 rendition of Otis Redding’s Respect is considered her signature song, I think Franklin’s version of Until You Come Back to Me [That is what I am Going To Do] is easily my favorite.  It was written for her by Stevie Wonder.  Franklin and Wonder were Detroit transplants (from Memphis and Saginaw).

Do you think Franklin’s voice and choices of music can be pigeon-holed or tied to a narrow genre?  Listen to her on Love is the Only Thing, Today I Sing The Blues, Think, and Freeway of Love.  What say you?

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia (and it is a Small World).

Aretha recorded A House is not A Home as a tribute to Luther Vandross at the Grammy Award winning Harmonie Park Studios in Detroit.  So why is the world small? Childhood buddies Brian and Mark Pastoria owned Harmonie Park Studios.  Brian founded the band Adrenlin – inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.  Adrenilin’s first performance?  Valentine’s Day 1975 in the basement of Jeff Lubeck’s home (aka Hilton-Londes Arena) First song? I’ve Got A Line on You Babe.  Lead Singer?  Ray Spitzley.

An Encounter With The Finger of Fate

Sunrise on the Finger of Fate © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes.  A picture can also change carefully established plans.  I am a living example.

The plan was a 2nd photo-shoot of the Warbonnet Peak and Monte Veritas region. However, my support team of Chris and Sara Lundy (co-owners of Sawtooth Mountain Guides) viewed Sunset Serenade in the Sawtooths after its posting and pointed out during a planning session that we had never photographed in this remarkable region.  A few weeks earlier, Claire Porter and I captured Devan Jackson’s herd heading out to pasture after a hard day of work. The image; Sunset Serenade in the Sawtooths features the high peaks of the mountain range – including Decker Peak, Finger of Fate, Sevy Peak, The Arrowhead and Mount Cramer. In short, these peaks and others in the line represent a wall of granite that reaches 4,000 vertical feet above the valley floor in less than six miles distance.

After 10 minutes of discussion, we change plans.  We decide to attempt to cover the terrain between two of the highest peaks in the Sawooths; #3 Decker Peak (10,704) and #2 Mt. Cramer (10,716) in four days. The highest peak in the Sawtooths – Thompson Peak (10,751 ft)  has been the subject of a number my climbs and photo-shoots. Summiting Mt. Cramer on this trip will only be possible if we find and navigate a descent from Dave’s Peak down to Profile Lake and back up Mt. Cramer at the end of the photo-shoot.

Hell Roaring Creek is the principle drainage up to the granite blocks we plan to traverse. The first 1.7 miles from the trail-head to Hell Roaring Lake is the only travel for the photo-shoot on a designated trail.  The remainder involves cross-country travel, boulder hopping, and climbing.  Hell Roaring Creek features 10 lakes between the valley floor up to the summit areas.

The Finger of Fate Tour

Waterfalls abound on the route to the Finger of Fate.

Hell Roaring Creek splits at Lake Clarice (8,200 ft). The drainage to the north features The Finger of Fate, Sevy Peak, and Red Bluff Peak (aka Birthday Cake) that also provides a means to climb into the Decker Creek drainage and summit Decker Peak.  The drainage to the south features The Arrowhead,  Sevy Peak, Daves Peak and a wall of spires topping out above 10,000 feet.  Sevy Peak is mentioned in both because it acts as the divider.

Our first efforts are hiking and scrambling up to the Finger of Fate.  The temperature on the trailhead is around 90 degrees.  Travel with heavy packs in these temperatures can prove to be demanding.  The Finger of Fate is among the most challenging rock climbs in the Sawtooths.  It was first summited in 1958 by Louis Stur and Jerry Fuller. All nine known routes are technical in nature and designated as Class 5.8 or above in the Yosemite Measurement Index.  In one word – incomprehensibly difficult to the average person.

Sara Lundy has climbed The Finger of Fate via The Book (II 5.8) which is effectively straight up the spine.  We reach the lake at 8,800 ft. which sits just below The Finger of Fate.  The camp acts as our base for the photo-shoot.  After a swim, and tour of the lake in our Alpaca Raft we climb up to our planned photo point, have dinner, and capture a sunset shot. The Finger of Fate has about 1,000 vertical of prominence.  In short, it is a big building 100 stories tall at almost two miles in the sky with no elevators or glass windows to ascend with the aid of suction cups.

Friday night at the Finger of Fate.

The next day we start out 90 minutes before sunrise for our next photo-shoot.  Our goal is to climb up to the saddle to the north and capture The Finger of Fate at dawn and sunrise. A heavy set of clouds puts us at-risk of capturing a quality image.  Patience and remaining at-the-ready from dawn through sunrise allows us to capture a winner (see photo at top).  Think – hurry up and wait… and wait… and wait.

Jeff Lubeck reaching the summit of Decker Peak. Behind to the South is the granite block skyline including; Red Bluff, Sevy, The Arrowhead, Daves and Mt. Cramer.

Next up is the summit of Decker Peak.  The ascent is a total grinder.  The route is almost all on granite with multiple sections consisting of formations of large loose boulders in Class 3+ terrain.  While all three of us have years of experience operating in this type of setting – it is one of Chris and Sara’s least desirable environments as guides.  Why?  A fall in Class 3+ terrain is often fatal.  A boulder can easily be dislodged by one member falling on another – resulting in a major injury or death.  Note: We have two satellite phones (Chris and Sara) and a GPS Emergency beacon (Jeff).

The onset of smoky conditions adds to the difficulty.  From our perspective smoke from fires is not uncommon and part of the deal.  Because of the Wild Horse (May) and Mountain Goat photo-shoot’s (June) I am recently conditioned to my heavy camera bag configuration and operating at 10,000 feet or above.

The north end of the Sawtooths from summit of Decker Peak. In the immediate foreground is The Elephants Perch, and Grand Mogul (far right). Behind them are the 10,000 ft + members; Mt. Heyburn, Braxon Peak, Mt. Iowa, Horstmann Peak, Baron Peak, Mt. Limbert Peak, Mt. Carter, Mickey’s Spire, Thompson Peak and Williams Peak. Heyburn, Braxon, Iowa, Horstmann, and Baron remain on my to-do list.

Upon reaching the summit of Decker the smoke is pervasive.  However, the views are superlative.  After taking time to photograph all 360 degrees of the region we depart. On the route down we often take a sketchy route established by goats instead of boulder hopping.  Descending on boulders is eminently more difficult than heading up.  Luckily the dirt in the goat route has enough moisture content to greatly improve the ease of descent.  If the moisture level is too low – it’s over to the boulders.

To gain a break from the heat we stop at, and swim in the lake at 9600 feet.  After a superb lunch of Salami, Swiss Cheese, Triscut, and apple we return to camp – arriving at 1PM.  The Base Camp Decker round-trip occurs faster than planned. This provides time for a swim, a trip around the lake in the raft, and a brief nap.  This kind if free time is exceptionally rare for us.

The lake at 9,600 ft is ready for all swimmers!

During the afternoon Chris, Sara, and I discuss the photo-shoot to-date and the next two days. We all agree that too many unknowns and possible bad downsides exist to think that summitting Mt. Cramer on this trip is a smart idea.  The reasoning:

#1. None of us have traveled in the south basin in the summer.  If the terrain is the same as the north side and we are also moving camp all of us could become too exhausted to complete the section in a reasonable time before having to descend to Profile Lake.

#2. The descent from the top of the Sawtooth Peaks ridge-line (i.e., 10,100 – 10,400 ft) down to Profile Lake (9,600 ft.) could be remarkably demanding on its own (60+ degrees at a few points). The difficulty is more pronounced given the weight and bulkiness of our packs.

Aqua Lake in the afternoon at 8,700 ft.

Based on our decision, we have for the first time ever (as a team) a full afternoon and evening of free time.  We decide to explore the area without the complications of heavy packs and camera equipment.  It is fun – but the feeling is a bit weird.

The night does not provide one of rest for me.  For some reason my air-mattress fails; leaving me to a night of sleeping on a hard surface.  We rise at 4:30 AM. SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE is in the air.  The three of us (wearing attractive looking head-lamps) sit up and discuss the implications.  Sara points out that “the basic rule is the three of us treat these efforts as adventures that happen to be photo-shoots, and adventure wins the day.”  I ask for the rule-book to establish a determination.  Chris points out that I am the designated rule-book carrier for this trip.  Neither the rule-book or my sixth grade book report on The Life of  The Mosquito At Elevation can be found.

So up we go into the smoke… climbing up and over the towers and ridge-lines above the Finger of Fate.  As we move up through the big granite slabs the wind picks up ever so slightly to pushing to the north.  The implication?  after about 15-20 minutes the smoke departs from our immediate area and adds to the color of a spectacular sunrise across the valley in the White Cloud Mountain Range.

Dawn at the Finger of Fate.

Sunrise on the Top of the Deck

We work our way up to the top of the deck through chimney like granite.  The sun through this period of time moves from early dawn through sunrise.  At sunrise we have 360 degree views from the top.

The Birthday Cake All Lit Up.

The Top of the Deck heading south is completely different that the terrain heading north to Decker Peak.  It contains huge terraces of granite interlaced with native grass, flowers, gently flowing creeks and brooks with ponds of water.

The greenbelt on the way to The Arrowhead.

The way to the Arrowhead.

Early morning haze in the White Clouds, Smokys, Boulders and Pioneers as seen from the Top of the of the Deck in the Sawtooths.


While meandering around on the Top of the Deck.  I established it would make for a great golf course with only Par 5’s and 3’s.

Sara, Chris and I went up to the area where we had originally intended to descend to Profile Lake and then up to the summit of Mt. Cramer.  We quickly reaffirmed our decision was correct.  The route were steep, narrow and full of lose rocks and boulders.  Looking at my maps also confirmed each of the two possible routes had significant portions where the pitch was over 60 degrees.

Our updated plan for this last day is a 9 mile and 4,000 vertical descent to the Sawtooth Valley.  Luckily we had time for a swim in the lake at base camp before packing up.  A nice surprise presented itself at the trail-head.  Sara had placed some adult beverages in Hell Roaring Creek.  I consumed one while taking a bath in the creek.

The Life of the Workers at a Horse Ranch

Sunset Serenade in the Sawtooths by Jeffrey H. Lubeck © MESH Art LLC and Claire Porter Photography – courtesy MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.

The 2nd phase of equine photography for MESH Art in 2018 involved photographing horses before and after their workday at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch (IRMR) in Stanley, Idaho.  Last winter Kyle and I reached out to Devan Booker at Pioneer Outfitters who runs the guide operations for IRMR to establish if a photo-shoot was in the realm of a possibility.  The answer was yes.  This spring MESH Art Gallery’s Equine Fine Art Photographer Claire Porter and I established some dates for possible photo-shoots.

A complicating issue is that from June 1st through Labor Day Devan (and his horses) have little if any free time.  IRMR is a popular place for people to escape. With help from Devan and his assistant Jenna, Claire and I decided we would photograph the horses before and after their workday.  IRMR and Pioneer Outfitters is about as good as it gets with this type of offering. It is a 900 acre ranch that has its operational aspects (e.g., stables, corrals, staff living quarters across the road and on the Salmon River.

Claire and I spent time at the corral talking with Devan and Jenna about the horses and learning what they do in the off hours. We walked the property to establish possible view corridors and sun location. Each day around sunset the horses are released into large open spaces from two different corrals.  One group heads north and the other south.  Both open spaces have the Salmon River running through the property with a spectacular view of the Sawtooth Mountains.  The available land, water, and fresh grasses for the horses is substantial.  At sunrise the horses return (on their own or with guidance from Jenna) to the corrals. Claire who has a supreme knowledge, affinity, and connection with horses said to me “expect the unexpected and no matter how well we plan – the opposite is likely to occur.”  Truer words have not been spoken! The approximately 50 horses exhibited a variety of behaviors.

As with the Wild Mustang photo-shoot Claire situated herself to be among the horses and I would be situated such that I could capture group and moving shots with the Salmon River and the Sawtooths in the background.

Morning Commute in the Sawtooths by Jeffrey H. Lubeck. © MESH Art LLC and Claire Porter Photography – courtesy of MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.

While the photo-shoot required effort late and early in the day, the location was only about 10-12 minutes from our cabin.  So Claire, Linda, and I could have meals and a semblance of normalcy while not shooting.

Jeff”s Worthless Trivia

Decker Peak (10,740) is the big peak in the center of things.  It is the third highest peak in the Sawtooth Range.  Decker can be summited via the south ridge (Class 3).  This route also offers three cool little lakes as you pass 9,000 feet on your way to the summit.  To Decker’s south are Red Bluff (10,280), Sevy Peak (10,480), Finger of Fate (9,760), The Arrowhead (10,250), Dave’s (10,579) and Mt. Cramer (10,704).  Mt. Cramer is the 2nd highest peak in the Sawtooth’s and can be summited via the east (Class 3).  The peaks mentioned in between provide some of the most demanding technical climbing ascents in the region.

My next photo-shoot will be conducted in the peaks of the Mountains displayed above.  Starting on Friday July 27th, I along with my long-time teammates Chris and Sarah Lundy (owners of Sawtooth Mountain Guides) will attempt to climb Decker and Cramer and traverse the ridge-lines and peaks in between the two all in a few days time.  We hope to get Finger of Fate photographed at dawn and sunset on the same day.

Photographing a fast moving object in low and highly variable light can be a challenge. Seeing I shoot with settings configured manually at all times obtaining an in focus image in usable light requires a great deal of fortune.  On this shoot I had both Nikon and PHASE ONE gear by my side.  Kyle’s special MESH Photopack bag proved to be a difference maker again. Any and all I wanted or needed was at-the-ready.

Ideally I am capturing landscapes in well orchestrated conditions and lighting.  While travel to this kind of photo location often involves multiple days and a highly demanding ascent with heavy gear on my back, I usually arrive hours before the shoot and have time for preparation and establishing the desired composition. The implication is I can be picky and demanding (tripod, ISO 50, 1/250th – 1/320th second, and at F2 to F11).

As for photo-shoots of horses… bye-bye landscape methodology.  Except for focus, manual configuration remains in place for me.  However, the camera gear and my ability to manipulate it are put to the test.  The Sunset Serenade shot was captured by the PHASE ONE (think heavy gear), ISO 1600, 1/2000th of a second and at F2.8.


Mothers and Their Babies

Tell me a Bedtime Story © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy of MESH Galley – all rights reserved.

Baby Mountain Goats begin to travel with their Mother and siblings just a few days after birth.  They are desiring of breast milk while the family members seek food and shelter in remote areas all the while the baby is subject to great danger.

As part of this year’s photo-shoot of Mountain Goats with Nappy Neaman,  I learned about the greatest threat to newborn Mountain Goats; Eagles.  Yes, Eagles.  I learned this fact from Nappy after asking him why are the Golden Eagles constantly circling above the canyon’s.  Spend more than 30 seconds thinking about it and a predator towards the top of the food chain seeking these tiny animals makes total sense.  Nappy explained that if the baby strays too far away from mom, an eagle will swoop down, collect the baby goat, carry it up high, drop it to the canyon floor below and begin its feast.  Ugh!

In a drainage Nappy calls Black Rocks we sight three different female goats with newborns and in two cases additional yearlings.  It is an interesting mix to watch interact.  Having arguably the nation’s top expert at my side for the play-by-play call and color commentary makes the experience about as good as it gets.  The feeling is similar to going to a live baseball game, sitting in field-box seats, and having Vin Scully next to you in person.

Nappy: “Here we go Jeff… mom on the move to the right on grayish red rock shelf with the baby two strides behind looking for its next milking…”

Vin: “Great to be at the goat sighting in the company of Nappy and Jeff … brought to you by Lean Farmer John Meats.  Interestingly enough… as rock falls below mom low and away… the canyon straddles two types of geological formations.  First and to the west is a collection of Eocene granite, pink granite, syenite, rhyolite dikes, and rhyolitic shallow intrusive rock.  Second, and slightly to the east begins what makes up the Boulder Mountains… Eocene granite, pink granite, syenite, rhyolite dikes, and rhyolitic shallow intrusive rock.”

These photo-shoots have been demanding on a host of fronts.  The hiking and rock scrambling at high elevation with a heavy pack is always a challenge.  Another challenge is trying to be close enough to observe but not interfere with the animals.  This approach requires us to sit on one side of a canyon looking for Mountain Goats on the other side.  The implication is I am constantly re-evaluating what camera and lenses I want available to me during a shoot.  For one portion it the the PhaseOne IQ and XF with prime lenses from 35-240MM.  For others it is a Nikon D810 with a 70-200 Zoom, 600MM, 800MM and 1000MM lens.  The photo’s on this post were shot with the Nikon and the big long lenses.  Therefore we had to identify and then photograph the animals from 2,000 to 4,000 feet away.  Add in dramatic shifts in the light from low and flat to bursting bright with animals constantly moving and you got yourself a tricky photo-shoot.


Follow Me Little One. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.


What’s Up Honey? – © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.


I’ll Just Stand Here Under You. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – Courtesy MESH Gallery – all rights reserved.