[/caption] Over the years I have tried to find the best spot to take a photo of the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor in winter. However, I have never been able to get both of them in the same photo. I eventually found one of the best spots to attain these photos with little more than a 2 hour snow-shoe adventure that ends at the summit of Bates Butte. The butte is just a few miles southwest of Sunriver. The butte is right off the road, the elevation gain is only about 600 feet and you have a 360 degree view of the land. I had no idea that any of these buttes offered views like this. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. In fact, you can see Paulina Peak to the east and Mt. Scott, the tip of Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Peak to the south. Once I got home, I starting looking through my Oregon Atlas and Gazetteer and found that there are several buttes in the area that are easy to get to and may offer even better views. To get this shot I was using my Canon Rebel T1i along with my Canon 55-250mm telephoto lens. I also had my UV, warming filter and CIR-PL filter attached. The camera was set in Program/Normal mode and the aperture was at F-7. The ISO was at 100 and the white balance was set at -1.3 due to the bad lighting. The focal length was at 100mm and the shutter was opened for 1/250 second. Since the photo was taken at 12:52pm the lighting was pretty dull. However, I had to wait for the sun to creep around the mountains before I could get a descent shot that included some light against Mt. Bachelor.
[/caption] Finally, the first sunny day after 7 days of winter storms hammered the Cascades with fresh powder. I was expecting to be visiting the Cascades during white out conditions. However, the morning of my snow-shoe trip, I noticed that they had changed their report to sunny skies. The early morning saw some of the best weather since the sun was shining and there were only a limited number of clouds. However, just like clock work, the clouds began to white out parts of the sky by around 1:00 pm. I always find this frustrating since you only have a few hours of sunny weather during winter. I guess this proves that you really need to get lucky in order to find that epic shot that no one else will get. I started my day by photographing Mt. Hood from the west and then eventually moving to the east part of the mountain. I started my 8 mile snow-shoe adventure on the east part of Mt. Hood, which included traversing some very steep and tricky terrain. I’ve done this same snow-shoe trip before but this time the snow was particularly deep. There were several additional feet of snow that had drifted into the steep parts that I was climbing. I eventually ended up with cramps in my hamstrings but luckily I had plenty of water with me. Once I got to the top I found that the sun was getting lower and the clouds were moving in. The snow was absolutely epic and the scenery was even better. There is nothing more invigorating than fresh powder that is untouched and no sounds other than the wind and your snow shoes blazing through the snow. This is exactly why snow-shoeing is so awesome. I took this photo at 12:24 pm and that’s mostly why I chose this photo. The sky is still pretty clear and you can see the blue in the background. The sun is just to the left, which creates some really cool shadows from the trees in the left of the frame. I also wanted to show just how much powder was still resting in the trees as well as the untouched powder in the foreground. This day was unusually busy for a Thursday but I still found myself alone for 95% of the day. I didn’t bring my tripod since I didn’t want to carry the extra weight and I also wanted to cover as much terrain as I could without having to set my tripod. I normally use only one lens so I don’t have to take the risk of getting my sensor dirty. I also use a holster, which I attach to the front of my backpack. This way I can quickly take out my camera to take a photo and then quickly put it back in its holster. I find that this is the best and most effective way to take photos when snow-shoeing. I was using my Canon Rebel T1i and my Canon 18-55mm lens. I attached my UV, warming and CIR-PL filters and also used them throughout my entire trip. I had the setting at Program mode so the F stop was at F-9 and I had set the ISO to 100. The white balance was at -1.7 and the exposure speed was at 1/160 second.
[/caption] Who’s ready for the ski resorts in the Pacific Northwest to open already? After we received our first snow storm in late October we have been patiently waiting for the intense pounding of the fresh white stuff. However, we have been getting a mixed bag of rain and snow in the higher elevations. It’s only a matter of time before winter comes in full force but I’ve already completed my first snow-shoe journey and I’ve eagerly taken out my snow-board gear. I took this shot a few weeks ago while visiting Trillium lake. You can see Timberline lodge in the lower right side of the photo and you can see just how awesome Mt. Hood can look once it’s covered in snow. To get this shot I was standing on the far end of the lakes edge and made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any shake. I was using my Canon Rebel T1I and my Canon 55-250 telephoto lens. The focal length was set at 131mm in order to keep the mountain in the foreground without showing any of the green vegetation showing in the lower elevations. I was using my UV, warming and my CIR-PL filter since I took the photo at 11:20 am and the sun was fairly bright even though the edges of the lake were shadowed by the trees. The F-stop was at F-8 and the shutter speed was 1/400 second. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to 0. I again had the camera set in the Program mode. The best thing about this photo is that there are only a few shadow’s showing along the mountain. This allows you to see all of the crevices and little peaks near the higher elevations. You can see where the Palmer lift ends as well as the vapor vent in the upper right side of the photo.
[/caption] The best thing about snow-shoeing in fresh powder is that you can always find some great photo opportunities. I always try to include the snow covered trees, the untracked fresh powder and a mountain or hill in the distance. It’s also beneficial if you have a sky with a great personality in the background of the mountain. The is a great shot since it includes everything that I just mentioned. The sky is really cool since the blue sky had just given way to some high clouds that were moving in from the north. I was snow-shoeing up near Mt. Hood when I turned around to see this great view of the snow and clouds. I was lucky enough to not have tracked through this scene and was very impressed with the color of the clouds moving in. I’ve been to this spot several times but I’ve always been disappointed with the clouds in the background. However, this time I was very impressed. To get this shot I was using my 18-55mm Canon lens along with my Canon T1i Rebel. I wasn’t using my tripod since the lighting was pretty good. I had the camera in Program mode with the ISO set at 100 and the white balance at -1.3. The F stop was at F-9 and the shutter speed was at 1/160 second. I was using my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter and the focal length was at 55mm. The snow was so awesome that I could have spent all day photographing within just a 1/4 mile radius of where I parked. There is something magical about being the first person to snow-shoe during the first snow storm of the year. There is nothing better that knowing that you can just point your camera in any direction and know that you don’t have to worry about finding unwanted snow-shoe prints in your scene. Unless of course it’s of your own snow-shoe tracks.
[/caption] We are enjoying the last few days of sunny and warm weather in Oregon but I can’t wait for some snow to fall in the Cascades. The farmers almanac is predicting a snowy season in the higher elevations and colder temperatures in the lower elevations. Compared to our winter last year, I’m not going to argue with that. I’m hoping for snow during Christmas and some really good snow in the mountains by this Sunday. Snow-shoeing is by far the best way for me to travel to areas throughout the Cascades in order to get some really awesome photos. However, sometimes you can find some great photo opportunities in places that you would least expect. The photo in this article is a perfect example. I took this photo from the shoulder of Hwy 26, just before you get to Government Camp, OR. This spot offers some of the best views of Mt. Hood, looking from the west. Normally you find cars stopped at the shoulder putting on their chains or you may find the occasional tourist posing for pictures. I took this photo back in January 2009, after a huge blizzard. I was lucky enough to have the day off on the day the storm had broke just the morning before it snowed for 14 days straight. The mountain looks like a giant ice cream cone with no real visible bare spots. I ended up taking a 6 hour snow-shoe journey near one of the lakes that is surrounded by the presence of the mountain. Other than maybe x-country skiing, I can’t see anything better than snow-shoeing when trying to have an epic photography session after a massive snow storm. You may be able to go faster and cover more distance x-country skiing but you can go places on snow shoes that are impossible with x-country skis. I was using my 8 mp Panasonic DMC-FZ30 point and shoot digital camera. This was my first camera that I bought before purchasing my Canon T1i DSLR. I still have this camera and I’ve taken some great photos with it. I had the focal length set at 36mm and the ISO was at 80 and the white balance was at 0 step. I had the camera in landscape mode while in Program mode. The exposure time was 1/160 second and the F stop was at F-5. I don’t believe I was using my tripod but I was using my UV, warming and CIR-PL filters. I took several great shots on this day and I can only hope that this winter is half as good as the winter of 2009. I’m already dusting off my snow-shoes and going through my photos that I took during that winter.
[/caption] The best place by far to really enjoy the scenic wonders of Mt. Jefferson is at Jefferson Park, which is about a 10.2 mile hike with 1800 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts on the west facing side of Mt. Jefferson and the last 8 miles of the drive are on a well maintained gravel road. The entire hike is loaded with amazing scenery and it’s probably the most pristine place in the state of Oregon. I never saw any clear cut, heard any automobiles, nor did I hear or see any planes flying overhead. The only thing I saw was an awesome forest with miles of trees, dozens of views of Mt. Jefferson, as well as dozens of different types of wildflowers and alpine lakes within Jefferson Park. You also hike over several small creeks that make for a perfect spot to rest and soak in the pristine cold water. The trail is well maintained but it’s not as clearly marked as I would have expected. With Jefferson Park being hailed as one of the busiest trails in Oregon I expected it to be more clearly marked. I hiked the trail the day after we had two days of heavy rain showers and the higher elevations of Mt. Jefferson had received a good little dusting of snow. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn near the top of the first 1.5 miles and headed towards Triangulation Peak trail and ended up hiking about 4 miles total in dense forest with the rain water and dew clinging to the shrubs that had lined the narrow trail. Within 1/4 of a mile my socks, shoes and my entire lower body were soaked. I had almost decided to cancel my quest to Jefferson Park but I actually ended up missing the switchback that headed back to the parking lot and then again found myself on the Jefferson Park Trail. I was informed by some backpackers that I was now only about 2 miles from the Park at that point. I will for now on always make a copy of the trail and have it with me. The mountain finally made its appearance later in the afternoon and I was amazed at how close I was to it. I was able to see where the mountain had repeatedly sent an avalanche of snow throughout the years which had created a swath of downed trees that looked like a smooth carpet of grass with trees that looked like snapped twigs on the outer banks. Once you get to Jefferson Park you will see dozens of alpine lakes, wildflowers and thousands of vantage points. I could spend months photographing from within the park. However, there were several closed parts due to heavy traffic that had destroyed many of the Park’s fragile vegetation. The Sentinal Hills and Park Butte surround the outer parts of the Park which really gave it a true alpine atmosphere. I took this shot right in the heart of Jefferson Park and the small pond in the foreground didn’t have a name. You can see the alpine grass in the pond and the Paintbrush wildflowers teaming all along the Park. To get this shot I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I had the ISO set at 100 and the White Balance was at -1. I had the camera on Program Mode which allowed the shutter speed to run at 1/60 of a second. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and my UV filter in order to cut down on the glare and increase the warmth of the setting. I was using my tripod, bubble level and my remote switch in order to avoid any movement since I was concerned about losing some of my photos due to camera shake. I didn’t want to take any chances on this photo trip. I would highly recommend this hike and next time I hope to backpack here so I can have more time to really take in this amazing place. I can only imagine how beautiful the sunrise and sunsets are here.
[/caption] One of my more grueling hikes that I’ve done so far this summer. In fact, this was one of my most difficult and longest hikes I’ve ever done. I’ve done this hike before but I stopped near Lamerson Butte which is at 6500′ and there wasn’t any snow covering the trail. This time I hiked to about 8500′ and had to use my poles since the last 3500′ were covered in snow with only some bare spots along the trail. Even the main trail disappeared at about 5500′. This made it more difficult when I was coming down since I had to find the trail through the spotty snow trails made from myself and some other hikers. The last 1500′ feet was especially tiresome since I had to go off the trail and blaze up the snow banks. However, I always enjoy hiking in the snow during the month of July. Especially when its 80 degrees at the start of the trail. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was pretty relentless. I could see several pockets of water growing from the many snow banks around the mountain. At least the snow was solid enough to make my hike much easier. The hike is pretty much straight up and then straight down, when returning to the bottom of the trail. I probably hiked between 12.5 and 13 miles total and ended with about 3500′ elevation gain. To make this hike, its best to start near the Mt. Hood nordic center parking area. The trail starts just before you get to the nordic center and there is a parking area right at the head of the trail. It’s best to follow the Elk Meadow trail and then veer left at a trail junction towards the Gnarl Ridge trail. You can actually hike all the way to Cloud Cap and Cooper Spur but that would make for a really long day hike. You hike across several creeks, which makes for some really good stations to cool down. There is plenty of shade for most of the hike and you have some spectacular views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier to the north as well as Mt. Jefferson and parts of the Three Sisters to the south. I was standing just up from Lamberson Butte when I took this shot. You can see where Newton Creek is born in this photo. You can also witness many of the boulders rumbling down Gnarl Ridge and then crashing down to the bottom. Usually it starts with an echoing sound and then you just have to look for the dust high in the distance. The best part is watching the boulders cascade at high speeds and then crashing to a halt. There are several wildflowers at the high elevations. Once you get above the tree line, the vegetation takes on a whole knew personality. Lichen grows on the rocks and all kinds of crazy but colorful plants and flowers grow in the volcanic soil. To get this shot I had to be especially wary of the glare since there were no clouds and the sun was high in the sky which caused a lot of sun glare. I was using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens in order to capture as much of the panoramic scene as possible. The focal length was at 15mm and the F stop was at 8. I set the ISO at 100 and the exposure compensation/white balance was at -1. the shutter speed was at 1/125 second. I had my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter attached. Since the field of view was so vast and there were no shadows, I knew that I wouldn’t be needing my tripod. Which is a good thing since I didn’t bring it with me. This hike is a must if you really want to test your stamina and leg strength. It’s a very grueling hike but you could go even further if you have the ability. Sometimes having to carry all of my camera equipment along with my supplies makes these types of hikes especially difficult. However, I will do it again next summer for sure.
[/caption] Mt. Bachelor is a perfect lava dome mountain rising 9,060 ft in the Central Oregon Cascades. Its isolation from the the Three Sisters and Broken Top make it somewhat of a mystery to me. You would expect to see this much snow on the mountain in late May or early June. However, I took this photo of its western side in late June. Earlier in the morning I had climbed to the Pine Martin Express from the bottom of the chair lift and was met with more snow that I had anticipated. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of snow so I had to climb with nothing more than shorts and my hiking shoes. It made for a great workout but my legs got pretty sunburned due to the glare of the snow and sunny skies. As I sat at one of the lava fields just below the top of the chairlift, I thought about trying to summit but the snow was getting pretty soft and I wasn’t anywhere prepared for a summit trip. I got this shot while driving west on the Cascades Lakes Highway. There are several creeks that feed in to Sparks lake and I decided to hike along the creek and small meadows in order to get the perfect shot with the glare of the creek reflecting parts of Mt. Bachelor. The creek was so still at this point that I was able to take the shot without hardly any movement of the water. Goose creek is fed by one of South Sister’s glaciers and the water was ice cold. There were several wildflowers along its banks and all along the meadows surrounding Sparks Lake. Too get this shot I didn’t use my tripod since the sun was near its highest point and there were no shadows. I was using my ultra wide-angle lens and had the focal length at its maximum depth at 24mm. I was using my uv filter, warming filter and CIR-PL in order to keep the glare of the sun from washing out the color of the sky as well as the contour of the rocks in the creek. The warming filter helped bring out the rocks and and CIR-PL helped me capture the blueness of the sky without distorting the mountain. I had the white balance at -1 and the ISO at 100. I had the setting at auto so the shutter speed was 1/160 of a second. The F stop was at F8. Since the sun was directly above me I had to make sure and under expose as much as possible without losing the personality of the scene. Without my filters and the low settings, the picture would always come out over exposed. I was amazed with how much snow there was in the Central Cascades, even though it was near the 80 degree mark. Along my journey I met some skiers hiking down from the South Sister. I wasn’t surprised since all of the trails were covered within only yards from the start of each trail mark. I can only hope that this means the Cascades will have plenty of snow well into August.
[/caption] I can’t believe it but it seems like I took this photo many years ago. This winter has got to be one of the warmest winters that I can ever remember in the Pacific Northwest. This shot was taken near Johnston ridge just across from Mt. St. Helens. It took me several hours to hike to this spot from Coldwater Lake but I never had much snow to contend with. My snow-shoes weren’t required. I hope to hike hear again one more time before most of the snow melts. On my next trip, I hope to see more of Mt. Adams since it was mostly shrowded in clouds when I was here last time. I never used a tripod to get this photo since the wind was pretty strong and I was just as comfortable lying on my stomach while I rested my elbow in the snow. The view in the crater is awesome from this spot. I could see all of the volcano as well as the vicinity where Mt. Adams is. I used my warming filter and my CIR-POL filter to separate the blue sky from the snow and exposed rocks. The warming filter also helped bring out some of the personality of the rock. I used my 50-250mm telephoto lens at about 190mm. This is a great place to view the blast zone and all of the destruction that was caused when Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.
[/caption] Yesterday was a great day at the White River East snow park. As I drove from Portland, the entire west side of mt. hood was blanketed in clouds. However, as I neared closer to the Trillium lake snow park, I noticed that the trees in the higher elevations had a dusting of snow on them. I realized that the south and east part of the mountain had accumulated a few inches of snow. I quickly headed to the east snow parks. The day seemed like a spring morning….Sunny and 39 degrees. As I ascended towards the mountain, I again didn’t need my snow-shoes until about 1/2 mile up. The snow finally started to get deep and I could see several x-country and snow-shoe tracks. Once I got to the main lookout area, above the power lines, I noticed that the smaller creek just below was still covered. I decided to snow-shoe towards the higher elevations of the glacier on the south east side of Mt. Hood. I was able to shoe up the moraine, until I was met my a sheer drop from both sides and only about 2 feet of walking space. I decided to stop at that point. The day was epic. The mountain showed itself several times and the storm clouds continued to move north at light speed. The sun never left since the clouds were at a very low altitude. I would recommend this trip since it gives a much better perspective of the volcano and the sheer magnitude of the snow drifts on both sides of the mountain gave me some great photo opportunities.