Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is a must stop for anyone traveling through the Southern Oregon Cascades. In fact, if you live in Oregon and you haven’t visited and explored the park, you are not even considered an outdoor person. It would be like living in Washington State and never visiting Mt. Rainier National Park. If you enjoy the outdoors and you haven’t visited Crater Lake then you might as well just tape yourself to your couch and call it a day. There are endless opportunities at the park. The Southern Oregon Cascades offer some of the most spectacular views in the entire lower 48 states. The hardest part is to agree on your favorite photo from the park. You will literally end up taking well over 1500 photos and then spend the next several days deciding on when to stop going through them. Historically, most visitors to the national parks only spend a few hours at the park and very rarely even venture 300 feet from their car. However, if you expect to really enjoy and have the opportunity to really take advantage of the splendor’s of the park, you will need to put on your hiking shoes or snow shoe gear and spend one or two days exploring the park. The snow can linger all year at the park and if you plan on visiting during the early parts of summer or late spring I would pack your snow shoes. This shot was taken on 5/30/12 and the snow was pretty deep. Usually the east part of the road stays closed until July and the snow drifts can linger well into July. I made sure to head out with my snow shoes since you couldn’t get close to the rim without trudging through several feet of soft snow. You can also amuse yourself by watching the fair weather visitors spend only about an hour at the park as well as doing nothing more than venture a few feet from the parking lot and only taking a few pictures. This is also a benefit to the nature lovers since you can almost feel completely alone in the park even though the main parking lot can be completely full. Late Spring and early Summer can be sun drenched and the glare from the snow and lake can cause a very intense sunburn so I would recommend bringing a lot of sun screen and applying it throughout the day since you will also be working up a good sweat. If you are wanting to venture near the rim, I would be very careful since some of the snow cornices can be very unstable due to the intense sun and warming temperatures. I rarely get too close but I have always been able to get some spectacular shots where ever I go. You literally can’t take a bad shot unless the sun is too intense or you are using the wrong settings on your camera. To get this shot I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 28mm. Most of my shots are taken as a panoramic so I normally leave the rest of my lenses in the car. The aperture was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO at 100 due to the extreme glare. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. Normally I would use my tripod but since the sun was out and the thought of lugging it around, I decided to leave it in the car. You will end up taking so many photos and covering so much ground, you will find that your tripod will spend most of its time in your backpack. You just want to be sure to keep a steady hand and try to ensure that it’s level. I always make sure to review every shot, by using the histogram, in order to ensure that it’s level. If not, I just delete and take another shot.
Another spectacular shot of Mt. Hood taken from the Fanning, Oregon. Just another example of how photogenic Mt. Hood is when you have a stunning blue sky in the background and snow covered trees in the foreground. It also helps when the mountain is completely white and resembles a giant vanilla snow cone. This photo pretty much sums up that if you want to enjoy an epic snow journey, you only have to drive about 1 hour from downtown Portland, Oregon. However, the best kept secret is to visit one day after a massive snow storm blankets the Cascades and then check the weather and see if Government Camp is expecting sunny skies. Since the forested trees sometimes have a difficult time holding up the weight of the snow, you have to be pretty quick or you may have some spotty snow covered trees. I usually try to get up as early as possible in order to avoid the afternoon sun or the rising of the temperatures. However, even if you can’t get up at the best possible time you are still going to have a great time skiing, snow-boarding, snow-shoeing, cross country skiing, sledding or any other winter activity that you enjoy. Either way, Government Camp is a great place to visit and it’s especially magical during the winter months.
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] Beautiful sunny afternoon after a huge snow storm blanketed the Cascades with fresh powder. A great time to head out into the Cascades is just after a huge snow storm covers the forest with fresh powder. You will want to make sure that you bring some snow-shoes or cross country skis if you want to take advantage of the solitude that the forest offers. I usually don’t bring a tripod with me since it can really weigh me down and cause me to lose valuable time while photographing the area. However, sometimes I will bring it along just in case I need it or if I don’t have too much gear with me. I’ve learned that you don’t have to bring along a tripod if the skies are completely clear and the sun is at it’s highest point. However, once the clouds come over and the light starts to decrease, you are pretty much done for the day unless you plan on increasing your ISO, turn on your IS and increase the white balance. I can especially get more creative whenever I’m not attached to my tripod while snow-shoeing since I can get into some really precarious positions in order to get the best photo. Attaching your CIR-PL also allows you to saturate the sky no matter if it’s blue or overcast. You just want to make sure that you always check your histogram after every shot to ensure that it’s not too over saturated or over exposed. The snow can cause your shot to be either over exposed or under exposed so you want to make sure that you review each shot that you take and then adjust your settings accordingly. This will allow you to delete the bad ones and ensure that you only keep the very best. I’ve also learned that you will want to invest in a front camera harness so you can protect your camera from the elements as well as give you quick access to your camera without having to take off your camera bag every time you want to take a shot. Sometimes I don’t even bring my poles, which can slow me down when I’m grabbing for my camera.
[/caption] The higher you climb near the summit of Mt. Hood, the darker the sky becomes. I slowly realized this as I trudged my way up the west side of the mountain. I began my snow-shoe journey from the parking lot of Timberline lodge and I was able to make it just below the hogs back when I started cramping and realized that I was getting pretty dehydrated. I was forced to turn back but not until I got some pretty amazing photos of Mt. Hood completely covered and crusted over with wind blown snow. It was pretty amazing to see the blue sky turn more and more dark blue as you increase in elevation. I spent most of my time adjusting the ISO and white balance in order to eliminate the photo from being under exposed or completely dark. The sky was epic and almost cast the mountain as a moon scape looking out into outer space. I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Canon 55-250mm telephoto lens. I wasn’t using a tripod and since I extended the focal length at 250mm, in order to get some really close up shots of the summit, I had to make sure that I kept a steady hand and allow enough light so the photo wouldn’t come out blurry or shaky. I was able to set the ISO at 100 but had to set the white balance at 0. The camera was in normal/program mode and the aperture was set at F-8 and the shutter speed at 1/500 second. I did attach my CIR-PL in order to saturate the sky and eliminate too much glare caused by the snow.
[/caption] Even the tallest fir trees can’t escape the huge snow storms that dominate the Cascade mountains. The best time to snow shoe along the forest of the Cascade mountains is on a sun soaked day just after a massive snow storm dumped several feet of powder. Once you get inside the forest, you can look towards the skies and try to find the perfect photography scene. I took this shot while snow-shoeing in the Mt. Hood forest. I was trying to get a good panoramic photo of the tree tops and the blue sky in the background without any clouds. I was very lucky on this photo so I made sure to set the focal length at 17mm and bent down as much as possible so I could frame as many trees as possible as well as the blue sky.
[/caption] A rare view of the snow covered trees with its reflection from the lake. Normally the Fanning is completely frozen after a good winter with only a few spots where the creeks meander along the lake. I was surprised by this opportunity to get a photograph like this. I normally end up trying to get some panoramic shots of the snow covered lake with the creeks slicing through the snow. However, this scene gave me a great opportunity and I ended up noticing that the trees were being reflected from the lake and luckily it was calm enough to get a pretty descent reflection since the water wasn’t moving too much. I’ve actually very gingerly snow-shoed over this very same area and never saw any openings like this. This is especially surprising since this winter has seen way more snow and cooler temperatures than the last two years. You can actually snow-shoe around the entire perimeter of the lake as well as cut through parts of it only if it’s covered with enough snow. Since the light was very unbalanced I made sure to use my tripod and bubble level in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. I was shaded from the sun by the forest but the lake was sun drenched. This created a really nice opportunity.
[/caption] If you haven’t been watching the snow report, along the Pacific Northwest recently, you probably aren’t aware that Mt. Bachelor received 35 inches of snow yesterday and Mt. Hood received over 4 feet of snow over the last two days. And that’s just in Oregon. Washington state has been reporting historic epic snow falls since they’ve been keeping records. The next 2 weeks is looking like more historical amounts of snow in the Cascade mountains. Now is the time to dust of your snow-shoes or cross-country skis and head up to the snow parks that line the Cascade mountain range. Make sure to bring your snow shovel and don’t forget you GPS and survival gear. This is shaping up to be one of the most amazing winters yet in the Pacific Northwest.
[/caption] Trillium lake offers a great place to view snow-capped Mt. Hood just after a snow storm. The lake is about 2 miles from the Trillium lake snow-park and it will take you about an hour to snow-show but even less time if you’re x-country skiing. There are several areas where you can explore and you may even spot some wildlife along the way or near the lake. The best times to visit is either during mid winter, after a big snow storm, or during Spring, when there is still plenty of snow on the mountain and the skies are clear. The lake can get pretty crowded during the summer months so I would try to visit on a weekday. There is an endless amount of trails beckoning you once you’ve reached the lake. You could spend days or weeks exploring the Mt. Hood National Forest if time and weather permits.