[/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] Recently I’ve had the opportunity to shoot Portland at night. I’ve been photographing the downtown area for several years but I had never been given the opportunity to take a photo at night looking east and at an elevated position. This spot puts me just over I-5 and just east of the Willamette river. This provides me with one of the best vantage spots in the city. I wanted to set my shutter long enough so I could get the best flash movements of the headlights and tail lights of the traffic moving about the city. The colors of the bridges as well as the many other on ramps and roads really gives this photo a lot of personality. To get this shot I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens. I had the focal length at 24mm in order to get as much in the scene as possible. Since the sun had set over an hour ago, I made sure to remove my warming filter and CIR-PL. I was using the shutter priority and had the shutter set at 30 seconds in order to capture as much of the streamers from the cars as possible. The F stop was at F11 and the ISO was at 400. The Exposure Compensation/White Balance was at -.3.
[/caption] One of the best areas to visit Mt. St. Helen’s is via the Windy Ridge viewpoints and trails. It’s the furthest from any of the other areas but it’s well worth it. Since there are no roads that connect the Johnston Ridge and the Windy Ridge area, you have to make the long drive from either the south or the north. It’s 128 miles, one way, from Portland, which made this the longest one day drive I’ve done so far. However, it’s well worth it. I passed several camping areas, which would make for a great couple of days. There are endless amounts of trails throughout the entire wilderness area. The Windy Ridge highway have close to a dozen viewpoint areas that have trail access. Every parking area was in fantastic shape. The highway was clean and smooth and the viewpoint areas had ample parking and some had picnic benches and bathrooms. I was extremely surprised at how well it’s maintained. It had a National Park feel and look. However, the drive is very long and windy. There are several twisty areas that cause you to slow down a lot. This will add an hour to your drive. I also found a small herd of elk standing on the highway at one point. You really need to be cautious when driving here. There were three hikes that I did on this day. The picture shown was taken along the Independence trail. On this trail I came upon a large herd of elk that were resting under some trees. I watched them scurry up the hillside. It’s also amazing how much pumice lay within the wilderness area and the amount of wildflowers scattered within them. The trail leads to an awesome viewpoint of Mt. St. Helen’s, Spirit lake and a panoramic view of the logs in the lake. You can also see just how immense the destruction of the landscape was. The entire wilderness was stripped of its trees and now lays in Spirit lake. St. Helen’s caused the largest landslide in recorded history and it hit Spirit Lake at some 150 mph with a tree-clogged, toxic mudflow that sent the lake sloshing more than 800 feet up the opposing bank. What had been a pristine, alpine lake ringed by old-growth conifer forests suddenly became a hot, toxic sludge hole. You can also see Mt. Hood in the distance as well as Mt. Adams. Mt. Rainier can be seen at the top of Windy Ridge viewpoint, which is a steep but short hike up the hillside. To get this shot I made sure to attach my UV filter as well as my warming filter and my CIR-PL. It was around one o’clock, so I was having to adjust my white balance quite a bit. I never used my tripod due to the huge field of view and the brightness of the sun. I had the ISO set at 100 and the aperture at F-8. I had the camera set at Auto Exposure, the shutter speed was at 1/600 second and the white balance at -.7. I was using my 12-24 wide-angle lens and had the focal length at 14mm. This wasn’t my best shot of the day but I wanted to show as much of the area as possible. Everywhere around you allowed for a great photo opportunity. The Harmony Falls trail allows you the only trail down to the edge of Spirit lake and it’s worth it. You can feel the warmth of the lake as well as the frigid cold creek bubbling out of the earth. There is a small waterfall which allows for a great place to cool down but the water is frigidly cold. I had collected some pumice stones and waited to see how long it took them to sink in the lake and suddenly a huge trout swam from beneath the logs to investigate. The Windy Ridge trail is the start of the volcano and the glacier hikes as well as several other shorter hikes within the wilderness. If you live in the area and don’t have the time to visit a National Park, I highly recommend this area. It’ had National Park written all over it and offers some of the most unique sights that other Parks can only dream of.
[/caption] Smith Rock State Park is one of the most majestic and scenic places outside of Redmond and conveniently located off HWY 97. Whenever I’m visiting Central Oregon I always find time to hike the trails around the park in order to photograph these rocks. The entire hike around the park is over 7 miles but if you are limited on time and energy, the hike up misery ridge offers several panoramic views of the area as well as the Cascades. The Crooked River meanders around the entire park so there is no concern about overheating. I’ve hiked both in one day but that makes for a very long and grueling day. I also ran out of memory cards, which really ruined my day. There is a $5.00 park entrance fee but I believe you can still camp for free at the climbers campground. The park is well worth the money. You could spend all day photographing, hiking, climbing, mt. biking, fly fishing or rock climbing near or on its rocks. There are also several picnic tables and shade available. The air is dry so it never feels as hot as it really can get. Especially from the suns radiation baking the rocks. My favorite spots to photograph the rocks is on the south west side of the park. The sun is always at your back, which allows you to capture the deep blue color of the sky without any glare. The rocks are also looking down at you with there awesome crags and natural bridges eroded from wind and water. Its also the best spot to use your wide-angle lens since there is one solid area of the rock with little to no separation of rocks. The slopes also gently slope up towards the rocks with several scrub vegetation and wildflowers. It looks more like a gigantic city with numerous spires dominating the landscape. To get this shot I was using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens and wasn’t using a tripod. The focal length was taken at 14mm. Since the filed of view is so broad and there was no shade a tripod isn’t necessary. I had the camera set at auto and the ISO was at 100. I had the white balance at -1 due to the intensity of the sun. The F stop was at 7.1 and the shudder was taken at 1/100 of a second. Smith Rock State Park is a must visit for anyone visiting Central Oregon. It’s one of the best spots to really enjoy and marvel at the landscape domination the Central Oregon region.
[/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] Spending only one day at Crater Lake National Park creates a very sad situation since I could spend over a week hiking, photographing and most importantly seeking out all of it’s treasures. I haven’t been to Crater Lake since 1993 but this time was especially awesome. There was plenty of snow surrounding it’s north facing banks and the entire Southern Oregon Cascades had well above 75% of their average. However, this did mean that only half of the Rim drive was open. As soon as I got out of my car at Merriam Point, I was quickly photographing the lake. I couldn’t believe how blue the lake was and how clear the skies were. I could see Mt. Shasta and Mt. McLoughlin to the south and Mt. Thielsen, Baily, Diamond Peak and two of the Sisters in the north. Mt. Scott, which is the tallest mountain in the Park, standing at 8929 ft, had a lot of snow on it’s north side but hardly any on its south side. There were also several other smaller mountains still covered in the snowy white stuff. This truly showed just how much colder and shadier the northern flanks of the Cascades can hold their snow but how soon their south flanks lose their snow pack. Crater Lake had also fallen victim to this vicious cycle since the northern rim, which was facing south was bare but the southern rim, facing north had snow reaching all the way to the lakes edge. The rim drive road was open north from the Cleetwood Trail and eventually ended south at the Crater Lake Lodge. We took the hike down the Cleetwood Trail and I was tempted to go for a swim but eventually I decided that my shorts wouldn’t dry fast enough. Going up to my knees was good enough at the time. We also hiked up towards 8,054 ft Garfield Peak but eventually had to turn back due to the snow on the trail. Maybe it was better that this was only a day trip since most of the trails were closed as well as half the drive around the lake. However, if I had brought my snow-shoes I could have again spent over a week here. I took this shot while hiking on the Garfield Trail. I made sure and lowered my camera enough so I could get the snow in the foreground. This picture truly shows how much snow was on the north side and how much less was on the side facing south. You can clearly see Wizard Island and Llao Rock standing behind it at 8,049 ft. You can just barely see Mt. Thielsen just to the right of Llao Rock. To get this shot I had the exposure at auto and set the ISO to 100. I never had to use my tripod all day since I was there during daylight and there were limited shady areas. However, I did set my white balance to around -1 for most of the day. The F stop was at 6.4 and the shutter speed was at 1/83 second. I was using my ultra wide-angle lens and had the focal length at 21mm. It was impossible for me to get the entire lake in view even when using my 12mm wide-angle lens. This place clearly shows just how limiting any type of lens is when trying to capture the entire lake in its view. Crater Lake NP is a must see for any photographer as well as any hiker or nature lover. I am all three so I won’t wait another 17 years before returning again.
[/caption] I spent only one day visiting the John Day Fossil Beds and even though there are 3 different units throughout the area I only had enough time to visit one of them. The Painted Hills are the closest from Central Oregon and the easiest to get to. I also figured that the Painted Hills were the most interesting to photograph and I wasn’t disappointed. If you haven’t ever been here, I highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t a photographer, this is a spectacular place to visit. There is a hike that takes you about 3/4 of a mile above the Painted Hills and provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire area. You would never imagine that you’re in Oregon when visiting this place. It looks more like a colorful image of what the moon might look like. The colorful striped Painted Hills began as ash that erupted from the ancestral Cascades 33 million years ago and eventually settled in a massive lake here. The red color is from iron and the black from manganese and the yellow claystone was colored by trace minerals. Since you aren’t allowed to hike among the Hills, you can see several trails cut by the wildlife that lives in the area. I spent most of the day trying to figure the best position and area to photograph the Hills. In this photo, I made sure to get spectacular Sutton mountain in the background as well as the blue sky hovering above this ancient land. I’m not sure of the elevation of Sutton mountain but I’m pretty sure it’s at about 5,500 feet. I took over 1500 pictures and I’m still going through them but I thought this best shows the color of the Hills as well as the mountains that dominate the Painted Hills Unit. I never used my tripod since the sun was pretty bright and most of my shots were panoramic shot. I also didn’t have the patience to set up my tripod since I was constantly moving. I was like a kid in a candy store on this trip. I was using my uv filter as well as my warming filter and my CIR-PL. I had my 18-55mm lends on my Canon and had the focal length at 55mm. I had the ISO at 100 and I had to have the white noise menu at -1 due to the brightness of the sun. I had the auto setting on and the shutter speed was taken at 1/200 second. I was near the top of the upper part of the plateau when I took this shot and there was no shade to block out the sun. I pretty much had to just mess around with my camera when trying to get the best shots possible. If I had the time, I would have spent an entire week visiting the entire John Day Fossil Beds as well as many of the old ghost towns in the area.