Just when I thought that the Pacific Northwest was doomed to fall victim to one of the worst winters on record I am beginning to believe that we still may be able to avoid that horrible fate. The extended forecast is calling for a lot of snow, starting on Saturday and continuing for several days. This may be the beginning of our winter. However, I’m not totally convinced since Saturday is still 3 days out and I will be holding judgment on the weather experts until then. Even the metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon has been getting a light dusting of snow today. Not much to get too excited about but this is how winters are supposed to be in the Pacific Northwest. Even the Coastal Mountain’s are getting some of the magical white stuff and maybe even parts of the valley’s can partake in some of the wintery mix. I still haven’t had my snow tires put on yet but if the extended snow forecast is correct I will be putting them on real soon. I even think my Australian Cattle Dog is more excited to go snow shoeing than me. Normally by this time we would have made at least 15 trips to the Cascades.
It’s official! Winter has officially avoided the entire state of Oregon! Unfortunately, it’s also possible that the state of California and Washington may be facing the same fate. I never thought that I would be regretting purchasing my annual snow park pass. However, at least I never had my snow tires installed. Nothing worse that driving around on some meaty snow tires inside the urban jungle and getting even worse gas mileage. However, I haven’t totally given up hope. We’ve had some pretty late storm surges during the months of March in the past decade or so and maybe we are heading towards it again. If not, we are doomed to face the fate of Southern California and maybe even worse. I still have faith that the great state that is known for it’s heavy rain totals and mucky reputation will once again bask us in the glory of some heavy snow with scary rainy weather along the valley’s below. I do though, will never take up snow dancing again since I’ve worn out my snow dancing shoes and must now just put my faith in mother nature to remember how beautiful the Cascade mountains looks after an abundance of snow has draped it’s peaks.
Even though parts of the Pacific Northwest has been experiencing some sunny and warmer than expected weather, we are still on track to have some pretty good snow pack this winter. There early storm that brought snow to the higher elevations over the past week have offered some pretty spectacular views as well as some angst to get the winter started. This photo was actually taken last winter and is just a few yards from one of the ski runs at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl. Sometimes you can get some pretty cool photos by just wondering just a few feet from the hustle and bustle of the winter traffic. I actually went out looking for this type of photo and ended up spending several hours snow shoeing through the powder until I was satisfied. The only thing that makes it really difficult is if you plan on snow shoeing with your camera attached to a tripod. This makes it especially difficult if you have to use your poles to keep your balance as you trudge through deeps pockets of snow. To avoid this type of hassle or pitfall, I suggest that you instead remove your CIR-PL and turn on the IS. You then just need to plan on utilizing your histogram in order to ensure that you’re only saving the photos that aren’t blurry, shaky, level or over/under saturated. Leaving your tripod behind allows you more time to explore and really put on some miles. However, sometimes I still pack my tripod and store it in my pack and then only take it out when I come to a spot that I really think deserves it. Practice can sometimes make perfect and learning how to take a good shot without using your tripod can surely help make that happen.
This is one of the most iconic winter scenes ever…. Blue sky, volcanic snow capped mountain and snow covered trees in the foreground. This photo pretty much wraps everything up in a perfect little bow. There aren’t very many places in the lower 48 states that offer this type of landscape but the Pacific Northwest will always offer the best. The best thing about this photo is that the mountain is completely covered in snow, with no bare spots and the sky is as blue as a tropical ocean. I would never argue that this photo is my best work but I just wanted to add this photo to my blog so I can try to explain that it includes all of the ingredients that make for a perfect winter setting as well as the most iconic photographic opportunities. To get this shot, I stood on the west side of the mountain and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle in the upper right of the photo. Days like this are pretty common in the Cascade mountains, especially after a massive snow storm. You just want to get out before any of the snow has enough time to fall from the trees. Snow covered trees are one of my favorite things to photograph and unfortunately it doesn’t take long for the weight of the snow to cause the snow to fall from the branches.
[/caption] A view of the North Sister mountain as you hike down one of the many cinder cones dotting the north side of the Three Sisters Wilderness. If you’re looking for a long day hike that will provide you with a taste of what the moon may look like, I would recommend that you hike some of the many trails on the north side of the Three Sisters wilderness. To get to one of these hiking trail’s, you will want to drive along the McKenzie highway (hwy242) and just look for a sign that shows the start of a hiking trail. One of my favorite hiking trails is the Scott Trail that starts near Scott Lake and is about 5 miles west of the Dee Observatory. You will want to make sure and bring plenty of mosquito repellent since the best time to hike the trail is July and the mosquito’s will eat you alive if you don’t come prepared. However, once you leave the meadows and forest floor and start to climb higher in elevation, the mosquito’s disappear. The official name of the Scott Trail is Four-In-Once Cone and it’s about a 9 mile round trip hike. However, you may want to continue hiking past 4 in 1 cone and continue until you get to the intersection of the PCT. You then have two options of either heading south towards the North Sister glacier/collier cone or heading north towards Yapoah Crater. If you’re doing a day hike, you will only have about an additional 1 or 2 miles of energy left so you’re pretty limited in your distance. Trust me, you will be pretty well spent and you have to make the journey back the same way you came. However, it’s mostly downhill but you will be pretty tired. You will also spend at least an hour taking photos of the ghostly and amazing landscape. You can see as far north as Mt. Adams if the sky’s are clear.
[/caption] One of the best and easiest places to get some great shots of the Central Oregon Cascades is right in the middle of the small town of Sisters. You don’t need to even get your shoes dirty of break a sweat. However, you do want to make sure and pick the right time of day to take advantage of the lighting. Normally, early morning or early evening is the best time since the sun passes towards the south of Broken Top and the Three Sisters and if it’s during mid afternoon it can look washed out. I took this photo at about 11:41am and you can see that the photo is fairly washed out and there is very little personality in the shot. The trees look pretty cool but unfortunately the mountains seem a little lifeless. However, I could have picked a worse time to get this shot. I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Canon 23-135mm lens and made sure to attach my CIR-PL, warming and UV filter. I set the ISO at 100 and kept the white balance at 0. The aperture was at F-7 and the shutter speed was at 1/250 seconds since I had the camera mode in Program/Normal.
[/caption] A summer storm creeping ever closer towards the summit of Mt. Hood as I dangle along the edge of the glacier. They say that late summer can be a tricky and somewhat dangerous time to summit tall mountains since there are more chances of electrical storms to develop and I guess I am now a firm believer in that saying. This photo was taken on 8/24 and the day had started out cloudless and very warm but as we crawled our way towards the summit we noticed that a huge cloud was forming in the southern part of the Oregon Cascades. This photo paints a clear picture just how massive and potentially dangerous these storms can grow within just a short amount of time. This photo was taken just above the Hogs Back, as you can see it in the right corner of the photo with its sulfur gasses streaming out of its vent. Mt. Jefferson is to the right and just below the storm cloud and I’m assuming that the storm developed near the Three Sister and Mt. Jefferson. We really lucked out since we were able to descend and get to the Timberline Parking lot before we noticed lighting near the summit. We truly dodged a bullet and I won’t be heading anywhere near the summit during late summer.
[/caption] The views from Mt. Rainier National Park are pretty awesome but having a view like this with the moon high above makes it even more spectacular. The photo was taken from just above Paradise Ridge and only a few hundred feet from were the bare trail meets snow. The Tatoosh Range is in the foreground with the rest of the Washington Cascades far in the background. You also have great views of Mt. St. Helen’s and Mt. Adams as well. To get this shot I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 50mm in order to eliminate too much of the trees from appearing in the photo. The aperture is at F7.1 and the shutter speed at 1/200 second. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at +0.3 since the sun was directly in front of me but at least high above. I took this shot on 7/26/12 at about 5:00 pm and the wildflowers were awesome.
[/caption] Even early March offers some epic snow conditions in the Cascade mountains. You will find more bare spots along parts of the spiny and craggy mountain tops but there is still plenty of snow to go around even the most experienced mountains climber. During the winter months, the entire mountain of Mt. Hood is completely covered in snow with no bare rock visible but around early March the warmer temperatures and gravity begins to loosen the grips of old man winter clinging to the volcanic rock. This shot was taken around 11:30am and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle just to the right of the photo. The higher rocks were still creating a shadow but the sun was quickly creeping higher in the sky and the shade was disappearing fast. The elevation of the trees in the foreground are at about 3600 feet but there was plenty of fresh powder on the floor of the forest. I took this shot with my Sigma 70-300mm telephoto lens and set the focal length at 160 in order to include most of the mountains as well as plenty of the blue sky and parts of the lush green forest in order to create a really nice photo. I wasn’t using a tripod so I had a hard time increasing the focal length past 250mm without showing camera shake or blur. I also attached my CIR-PL, which didn’t help with the blur problem when zooming in too close. I did make sure to turn on the IS in order to help eliminate any camera shake.
[/caption] Western storm clouds hovering over Mt. Washington as Central Oregon basks in sunny skies! This photo pretty much sums up why Central Oregon gets over 250 days of sunny weather while the Willamette Valley and the rest of Western Oregon gets so much rainy and cloudy days. Mt. Washington was holding the storm clouds at bay as the rest of Central Oregon was sunny. The storm clouds were literally being turned away by the Cascade mountains like a giant upside down u-turn. The clouds were lucky to make it a few hundred yards from the mountains and then only to be turned around and stuck behind the mountains. There are several areas to get this shot but you can just pull off highway 22 and get some great shots from the pull off area. You can see the North and Middle Sister on a sunny day, which offers some great shots. The bare looking stands of timber in the foreground were caused by a massive forest fire that devastated the area about 10 years ago.