[/caption] One of the best panoramic views of the Wallowa mountains can be found along the northern banks of Wallowa Lake. There are numerous miles of hiking trails that travel deep within the mountains but if you’re short on time or energy you can get some fantastic photos by driving just south of Joseph, OR and then stopping along the lake for some great views. I would recommend spending a few days in this part of Oregon since it’s very hard to get to and the drive from Portland is over 6 hours. However, you will be amazed at the sheer beauty and solitude of the Oregon, cowboy and very western feeling, part of the state. You can expect to see a lot of wildlife such as black bear, deer, elk, bald eagle, hawk and maybe even a wolf. You don’t have to travel to the Rocky mountains to see some of the most amazing and isolated mountains in the country.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier is one of the most photographic mountains in the Cascades and September is one of the best times to visit. You are more likely to see a fresh dusting of snow along the lower elevations and the wildlife is teaming with activity. You will also find only a few crowds along the most popular spots and you will be completely surrounded by solitude along the many less traveled trails. The mornings are also much cooler and the air is crisp but you will also be surprised with how warm it can be by the afternoon hours. This photo was taken from the southern highway and the mountain is north of this less popular pull out spot. You can see the huge forest in the foreground as well as the canyon far below. There are several rivers cutting through the trees and you can still hear the water raging below even though you’re a thousand feet above. This photo was taken at 8:12am and the sun was directly behind me but somewhat low in the sky since I was visiting the park on 9/20/11 and the Tatoosh mountains were creating the shadows that you see in the foreground of the photo. It had snowed just the day before so there is a dusting of snow along the lower elevations and the air was crystal clean without a cloud in sight. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo. I was using my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to warm the scene and saturate the sky as much as possible without overexposing the snow-capped mountain. The aperture was at F-4.6 and the shutter speed at 1/83 second since I had the camera in Program/Normal mode as well as set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2. I could just imagine what kind of photo you could get during the middle of winter just after a huge snow storm and on a crystal clear blue sky day. Unfortunately, the chances of getting up to the mountain are pretty slim and you are even less likely to get the perfect day since the mountain is so unpredictable.
[/caption] The sky is turned into an amber colored glow as smoke fills the sky and suffocates the forest. Cultus Lake was almost spooky quiet as a controlled fire was burning only miles from the lake. This seen almost looks like a foggy morning but as you can see the amber colors truly shows that something just isn’t right with this picture. I made very little changes with the color in photo-shop and almost no cropping since I was able to frame the photo with my telephoto lens. I was actually standing on the north side of the lake and the scene was taken from the south side. The forest service was conducting a controlled burn about 3 miles away and the wind was blowing the smoke directly into our path. The glow emitting from the lake and sky really adds to the interesting contrast of the trees and water. The day was actually cloudless and rather warm and it was right in the middle of the afternoon hour. However, the sun was cut off from the intense smoke but was able to help create the amber colored reflection in the water. If you look closely you can see several tall trees hiding in the background of the lake front trees. My trip to the lake was pretty much ruined since I was limited on my photo opportunities and I could hardly breathe since the smoke was so thick. However, I found that there are some great mt. bike trails at Cultus lake as well as Little Cultus lake. They are only a few hundred yards apart and they are joined by a trail that offers great mt. biking and hiking trails.
[/caption] One of my best snow-shoe adventures was when I visited Big Lake, which is just a short hike from the Ski Hoodoo parking lot. Big lake is actually frozen in winter so you could take your chances and x-country ski or snow-shoe over the lake since I saw several snow-mobile tracks x-crossing the frozen lake. However, during my visit it was rather warm and the edges of the lake weren’t frozen but I was able to cross over the lake in some areas. The trek around the lake is pretty easy and you get some unbelievable views of Mt. Washington. There are also areas where you can try to climb towards the snowy banks of the mountain. However, I ended up turning around after about an hour, of trudging up its steeps banks, since I was more interested in visiting the lake. I actually underestimated the magnitude of the uphill trek and expected to get above the treeline rather quickly but was sorely mistaken in the difficulty. If you had all day and have some luck with sunny skies you will have a great opportunity to see Three Fingered Jack towards the north. I would also think that if you could snow-shoe up one of the many lava cones you would get a descent glimpse of the Three Sisters in the south and Mt. Jefferson in the north. I hope to visit Big Lake and Mt. Washington this winter and will post some photos if I get any of these views.
[/caption] Some of the best photographic opportunities are along the walking and bike trails that span between the Hawthorne bridge and the Steal bridge on the east side of the Willamette river. However, you have to get a little help from the light and the season. That’s because some of the hardest photos to get are also along the same exact stretch of walking/biking trails. I find that early Fall and late Spring offer some of the best opportunities since the sun is lower in the sky and the vegetation is at its best. I took this shot near the steal bridge and I was riding a bike so I didn’t have a tripod. The lighting was excellent and it was late spring so I was lucky enough to have the best photo opportunity. The sun was at about a 90 degree angle and the date of the photo was on 5/20/11 and the time was 10:33am. The sky was perfectly saturated and the buildings had a warm glow with very little overexposure. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to take advantage of the lighting. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 38mm. I had the camera in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-7 and the shutter speed at 1/200 seconds. I also set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7 due to the brightness of the morning.
[/caption] The glacial lake that is located on the northern flanks of Broken Top is absolutely stunning. I was disappointed that by the time we arrived at the lake the clouds had moved in and eliminated my attempt to gt a fabulous shot of the mineral laced lake with it’s beautiful turquoise color. However, I was happy to see that almost the entire lake was frozen and there was a large snow island that was tempting me to hike across. If you like hiking the Three Sisters wilderness, this place is a must see. You will also have great views of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and the surrounding area as far as Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielson in the Southern Oregon Cascades
[/caption] If you stand near the southern most edge of Sparks Lake you will be able to get a fantastic photo of Broken Top and its reflection. However, you need to be be patient since it can be rather windy which will cause the reflection to disappear. You will also want to visit just prior to sunset and plan on chasing the best photographic opportunity. late Summer or earl Fall is one of the best times since the sun is lower and the lake is quiet. The lake will also be about 5 feet shallower so you will be able to walk around parts near the lake that are normally flooded and unobtainable. Make sure and bring your tripod, bubble level and remote switch since you don’t want any camera shake and you will be very impressed with the photo opportunities. I would also recommend attaching a CIR-PL and warming filter in order to maximize the color saturation.
[/caption] With its numerous craggy spires, Broken Top is one of my favorite Oregon Cascade mountains to photograph. On any given day you may hear rocks tumbling down either of its sides as the eroded volcanic rocks loosen from the steep terrain. The easiest routes to the the mountain are from either the north or east side since the paved highway is just to the north. The Cascades lakes highway offers several hiking trails that allow you to choose between coming in from the north or east. I took this photo while hiking along the east side of Broken Top on an alpine trailhead. We actually had to drive over 5 miles on a non maintained and very rough road to get to the parking lot. However, you park at about 6,900 feet and you have the choice of either taking the 2 mile trail to Todd Lake or traversing around Broken Top from either the south or north. We chose to hike north and I took this photo just before you get to the trial junction. You get to the parking lot by turning towards Todd Lake but instead of parking at the lake parking lot you want to continue up the rough road, which is Forest Road 370, and continue for about 5 miles. It seems like cheating but it gets you to the higher elevations sooner and we were short on time since it was already in the early afternoon and the sun was going to set around 6:00pm. However, you could start at the Todd Lake trail and continue the entire loop trail around Broken Top if you wanted to make it an all day and very grueling 15 mile hike. This hike is a must if you love the outdoors since you will experience every aspect of being in the high mountains. You will hike over creeks that are partially frozen, tarns, canyons, pumice, lava rock, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, lava domes as well as some spectacular views. This photo was actually taken from about the 1 mile mark and I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 28mm. I had the camera mode in Program/Normal and I wasn’t using my tripod since the lighting was descent and we were covering a lot of ground with limited time. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7 which caused the aperture to be at F-7 and the shutter speed at 1/125 seconds since I also attached the CIR-PL and warming filter. The sky was fairly saturated and the color was descent but the sun was fairly low and there were some clouds hovering below the sun. I was visiting the area on 10/27/11 and it was probably one of the last days to hike the trail since they close the HWY in October and the snow is just days away. I would put this hike on my short list and visit as soon as the snow melts and the HWY opens.
[/caption] Sparks lake offers some of the best lakeside views of South Sister and Broken Top and early Fall is one of the best times to visit the lake since its usually calm and there are almost no crowds of people. Due to the low water level you can also hike farther into the lakes beaches and get a better view and photo of the mountains. I took this photo on 10/27/11 at about 5:20pm so the light was very low to the horizon and made for the glare from the lake create an exact image of the landscape. I was fortunate to find little wind and very few distractions in the water. However, parts of the lake were frozen so I had to move around the lake until I found the best place to photograph. The sun was mostly behind me and relatively low so I was able to take advantage of the color and lack of overexposure. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I also made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. I set the FL at 17mm in order to create the most panoramic scene since this photo would be a great candidate for a ultra panoramic photo and would allow you to crop out some of the water and sky. The aperture was set at F-4 since I also had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3.