First Winter storm in the Cascades

[/caption] The Pacific Northwest received its first early winter storm of the year and I wanted to make sure and capture the aftermath. the weather service was calling for partially sunny skies on Wednesday so I decided that it would be the best day to try and get some great photos of the fresh snow along with untouched powder. I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how awesome the day was as well as surprised that the east side of Mt. Hood was completely untracked. The temperatures were rising as the day moved along but the snow was still hanging on to the trees and the snow was still pretty solid. Earlier in the day, the wind was howling near 50 mph on the west side of Mt. Hood and the snow was thick from Timberline to the summit. However, as the day progressed, the snow started to melt a little, which caused several of the jagged rocks on the volcano to show several bare spots. The morning was the best time to get shots of the mountain when it still looked like an ice cream cone. The snow was as low as Government Camp as well as Trillium Lake. The gate at the Trillium Lake entrance was open so we were able to drive right to the lakes edge. I felt as though I had cheated some great shots of Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake in the foreground since I normally have to make the 5 mile round trip trek from the sno-park. We later traveled east and found that the wind on the White River East trail was non existent and the conditions were epic. Fresh powder, snow covered trees and a great view of the mountain. Our tracks were pretty deep since the temperature was rising and we were the first to snow-shoe the area. As the day progressed, the clouds started to roll in and the winds started to pick up. We finished the day at Timberline lodge where we warmed up with some great strong hot drinks at the Ram’s Head Bar and watched most of the snow near the summit disappear. I hope that the next storm brings in even colder temperatures and more snow to the Cascades. I took this photo near the White River East Sno-Park at 1:05pm. The sun was fairly low in the background, which created a nice glare along with some shadow’s from the trees as well as the clouds just starting to approach. The snow is completely un-tracked and the trees are still pretty well covered by snow. I was using my Canon T1I Rebel along with my Canon 18-55mm lens. I was using my UV, warming and CIR-PL filters since the glare was pretty intense and the filters helped create a much softer image. I set the White Balance to -0.7 and the ISO at 100. The shutter speed was at 1/200 second and the F stop was at F-9. I also had the focal length at 27mm. I brought my tripod on my snow-shoe trek but I didn’t end up using it while snow-shoeing. Therefore, this photos was taken without a tripod. Nothing is worse than carrying your tripod on your pack while you’re snow-shoeing. I did lighten my load by only taking two of my lenses but I always end up with additional weight once I factor in all of the survival gear and additional clothes that you carry with you when snow-shoeing.

Mt. Hood, OR winter scene

[/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.

Oregon wineries in Yamhill County, OR

[/caption] My wife and I have now completed our second winery tasting tour and this time we visited several wineries within Yamhill County. Each of the wineries that we visited were also in the small town of Dundee, which is just a short drive from Portland. The weather the previous days were cold and wet but on this day the sun had come out in force and it ended up being a fantastic day to taste wines. Most of the wineries were gearing up for their first day of harvest. Dundee offers some of the most impressive rolling hills in the Willamette Valley and some great views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson. The first winery that we visited was at Sokol Blosser winery. We were welcomed by a very charming and open tasting room. There are several seating areas outside near the vineyard as well as a patio that overlooks the vineyards. The wines were awesome and we were also able to walk around the grounds and had the opportunity to watch them weigh the grapes in 500 lb tubs and then slowly place them on a moving belt so they could be inspected before preparing to process them. The staff was pleasant and very knowledgeable. Our second stop was at Winderlea tasting room, which was on a slopping hill that overlooked several of the vineyards in Dundee. The building was very modern and had a very urban feel to it. Again, the staff was very polite and was dog friendly. They offer a spectacular view from their enormous deck and on a clear day you could see the Cascades in the distance. You were basically right over the top of the vineyards. We then decided to walk up the hill just yards from Winderlea and visit our third winery…. Barrel Fence Cellars. This winery also has a vineyard in New Zealand as well in Oregon. The tasting room sat near the top of the hill and also offered a great view of the vineyards surrounding the area. There is a also a very pleasant patio seating area outside. Our 4th winery was just 1/2 mile up the road and it was Maresh winery. You can see the top of the barn in the photo that I’ve posted highlighting this article. We were told that the tasting room was at one time a working barn several years ago. They also had used the old Tigard high school basketball court as their flooring inside the Red Barn tasting room. Maresh vineyard had a real country feel to it. It was the most unique winery that I have visited since it reminded me of an old farm house rather than a winery. However, the wine was fantastic and the hospitality was awesome. Our fifth and final winery was at Bella Vida Vineyard. This winery was at the top of a winding hill and offered the most panoramic views in the area. The picture that I posted in this article was taken near their tasting room. I took most of my photos from this area since it offered so many photo opportunities. The tasting room was still under construction but they still had their tasting room open. It was very spacious and the hospitality was wonderful. We were told that once the construction is completed, they will have the tasting room on the second floor with ample seating and even better views. On this day I didn’t use my tripod, bubble level or my remote switch. I found that I needed to move around too often and my tripod would be too cumbersome and time consuming. To get get shot, I was using my 55-250mm Canon telephoto lens. I was also using my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3. The focal length was at 90mm and the F stop was at F-4.5. I was using Program mode and the shutter speed was at 1/50th of a second. The sun was fairly intense even though I took the photo at 4:15pm. The clouds were hit and miss but the vineyards created a very translucent glow. I was really concerned about having my photos turn out blurry since I wasn’t using a tripod and I was using my telephoto at a high focal length. If you love wine and wine tasting, I would recommend visiting any of the wineries surrounding Yamhill County. I believe there are close to 100 wineries throughout the Willamette Valley and I would surely recommend the ones that we visited.

October sunshine on the Oregon Coast

[/caption] There is nothing better than going to the Oregon Coast in October and finding that it’s 75 degrees and the sand and water are almost tropic like. I was able to wade out to my knees in order to take some photos of the Pacific Ocean while the tide was receding from the beach. You don’t see too many Oregonians wearing swim trunks and bikinis at the beach in October but this was no ordinary day. You could also see several swimmers body surfing with nothing more that their swimsuit. This was truly an epic day to be a sunbather but most importantly a photographer. The sand was perfectly smooth and there was hardly any sea weed or shells to get in the way of my photographs. Normally I set up my tripod to ensure that I don’t have any camera shake but this afternoon I found that it would be more exciting to get near the surf and try to capture the personality of the moving tide. To get this shot, I was using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens and I made sure to attach my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter. I made sure to have my lens hood attached in order to avoid any sun glare due to the intensity of the sun bouncing off of the water and the sand. I had the focal length at 17mm and the F stop was at F-7. The ISO was at 100 and the white balance was at -0.3. The sunset was scheduled at 6:50pm and this photo was taken at 4:07pm. This caused a lot of sun glare so I had to be sure to constantly adjust the white balance and the ISO. Since I was mostly shooting due south, I was able to use the intensity of the sun glare to my advantage. Early Fall seems to offer some of the best sunsets and driest weather along the Oregon Coast. However, you really have to watch the weather forecast and expect it to change at a moments notice.

Haystack Rock, OR

[/caption] This photo was taken two days from the time of the photo that I posted yesterday on 10/4/10. This was my second trip that I made. The photo that I posted on 10/4/10 was taken last Tuesday and this photo was taken on the following Thursday. I had to return to the coast since they were calling for even warmer and sunnier weather than my trip on Tuesday. I am very glad that I decided to make the additional trip since the sunset was spectacular and the afternoon was near 80 degrees. Each sunset was totally different than each other, which made it even more spectacular. You never want to pass up an opportunity to visit the Oregon coast when they are calling for nice weather in late September or early October. The sunsets are always remarkable and the days are shorter. There are also less photographers and tourists flocking to the beach. During this photo, the tide was very high, so I wasn’t able to get as close to the rocks as I normally do. I again was using my tripod, bubble level and my remote switch in order to ensure a crisp and shake free photo. The photo was taken at 7:14 pm, which was about 20 minutes after the sun had already set. I was able to take the photo without using an ND filter. I was using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens and I had my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter attached. The focal length was at 14mm since I wanted to have Haystack rock and the Needles in the field of view. The F stop was at F-22 and the white balance was at -2. I was using shutter mode and set the shutter to 3.2 seconds. Because the glare was fairly high and the sun had just set, I wasn’t able to increase the shutter speed without using an ND filter and risk causing too much grain to appear against the rocks. There was a fog lingering along the Needles, which did cause them to look somewhat grainy but I tried to darken the rocks to eliminate this. However, many of my photos did come out looking grainy along the rocks. The popcorn clouds really glow with red as the sun had just set and the glare from the sand created a really nice reflection. The clouds in the background as well as the fog also created some personality. These are the type of photo opportunities that you wish you could always have. Sometimes I wish that I could live on the coast so I would never miss sunsets like this one. Just another reason to love the Pacific Northwest.

Cannon Beach, OR

[/caption] Photographing the Needles during sunset is one of the best places to photograph along the Northern Oregon Coast. You can always find a way to use the rocks to shield the sun and create some great personality of the sunset and the beach. The Needles, as well as Haystack rock are at the perfect distance from the beach, which allow you to usually get the moving surf in the foreground without having to stretch your filed of view. However, sometimes high tide will require you to photograph at a further distance. At low tide, you can walk along the many rocks on the beach and use them to create an impressive setting. Sea birds that nest and feed along the beach and rocks also offer some great opportunities to include in your photograph. I took this particular shot during low tide and I was able to get the surf in the foreground as well as the beach. You can just see some of the spray of the water on the far left side of the rock. I also always take a shot of the sun just creeping over the smaller rock in the middle that looks like a ship. Again, there are so many areas to move about during sunset that you usually run out of time as well as risk getting in someone’s way that is also taking sunset shots. I usually try to get here early enough so I can gauge the best place to be when the sun is beginning to set. The tide usually dictates where I plan to position myself. During this particular photograph, I was using my ND4 filter along with my CIR-PL, warming and UV filter. Again, I would recommend using a CIR-PL if you expect to use the shutter mode. You can’t take these type of shots without first eliminating some of the harsh light due to the intensity of the sun’s rays at sunset. The ND4 also allows me to open the shutter in order to get the mirrored image of the water while the sun was still somewhat high above the horizon. I was still only able to have the shutter open for 1.61 seconds but without the ND filter I wouldn’t have been able to use the shutter at all. The F stop was at F-36, the ISO was set at 100 and I set the white balance to -2. I was using my Canon 18-55mm lens and had the focal length at 49mm. I was also using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. This shot would be impossible without a tripod. Cannon beach is one of my favorite places to get these types of shots when visiting the Northern Oregon coast and I would recommend Cannon Beach to anyone that may be visiting Portland since it’s an easy 80 minute drive.