Looks a lot like a Rose

[/caption] One day it’s snowing in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the next day its sunny and warm. It’s hard to believe that it’s already Spring but even harder to believe that we just received over 3 feet of snow in the Cascades the last few days. I guess this is why I love the Pacific Northwest so much. I just returned from a long walk with my dog, basking in the glorious sun and smelling the flowers in the air and now I’m getting my gear ready to go on a snow-shoe adventure. If the weather holds, I may even make a trip to the coast and try to get some sunset shots. The Pacific Northwest is known for its wildflowers and known even more for the many flower festivals and public gardens that sprawl all over the Northwest. This photo was taken at the Portland International Rose test garden last June and there are literally thousands of roses to photograph. I always take my Sigma 50mm prime/macro lens with me when I’m photographing flowers. Since I don’t use a tripod while taking macro shots I make sure to always remove the CIR-PL so the photos won’t turn out blurry or have any camera shake. However, I do make sure and attach my warming filter and UV filter. I can usually set the ISO at 100 and then just adjust the white balance to get the right amount of exposure. I rely on the histogram and always try to position myself in order to take advantage of the sun light.

Middle North Falls, Oregon- Tutorial on photographing waterfalls

[/caption] There are several necessary ingredients when photographing waterfalls or fast moving water: First, you need to find the perfect subject such as a waterfall or area along a creek or river that looks like a photogenic spot. You then need to be sure that the vegetation is at its peak. That means that there can’t be any of the vegetation that is still dormant, dead or brown. This means that you will probably need to wait until late Spring or early Summer. However, you also want to have the water level fairly high since a thundering waterfall is more photogenic than a trickle. Therefore, your best opportunity is to take your photos when the vegetation is at its absolute peak and the water level is high. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to go out on a overcast or even rainy day since A bright sun can prevent you from setting a long exposure as well as create too much glare. The photo that I posted is a perfect example. I included some of the overcast sky in order to show that you can set a longer exposure and still include some of the sky in the shot. I positioned myself at a spot where there was plenty of vegetation so I could enhance the effect that a succulent landscape provides. I was able to extend the shutter speed to 4 seconds without any glare, even though it was taken at 12:30pm in the middle of June. There are several things that you can do as well to ensure a good exposure. You want to set your histogram on your camera so you can play back each of your shots and ensure that it’s not over exposed or under exposed. I try to get the histogram in the middle of the grid. Since I always attach my ND filters when taking photos of moving water, I have an advantage of someone that isn’t using them. An ND filter is critical and you pretty much can’t take any descent photos of waterfalls without one. I normally attach my ND4, CIR PL and warming filter. However, I also have an ND8. I then adjust the ISO to 100 and then adjust the white balance. The correct white balance setting is critical and many people overlook the importance since taking long exposed photos during the middle of the day can ruin a good quality photo. Another very important thing to remember is to always use a tripod. I also attach my remote switch and bubble level since I don’t want to take any chances of jerking the camera when I take the shot. The bubble level ensures that it’s not crooked and I don’t trust using the power of thirds grid that’s available on your camera settings. I also never use manual mode since I’ve never had any problems with the automatic setting. I either set the camera in program/normal mode or shutter priority whenever I want to set the shutter speed. The shutter speed on this photo was set at 4 seconds and I’ve found out that any more than 4 seconds isn’t really necessary. You will still get the flowing motion of the waterfall over creek and eliminate the chances of ending up with water spray on your lens or blurry leaves in the photo. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 21mm in order to frame the waterfall with the vegetation surrounding the scene. The aperture was at F-13 and again I set the shutter speed at 4 seconds. As you can see, the vegetation is lush and green with no dormant plants and the waterfall is thundering over the cliff. Waterfalls can be one of the most frustrating subjects to photograph but they can also be the most exciting since the end result can really be spectacular. Another thing to remember is that photoshop is a great tool to use in order to saturate the vegetation but make sure that you don’t overdue it. Rely on your camera settings when your out in the field and only use photoshop to do some cropping and maybe add a little saturation. However, sometimes I will sharpen the photo if needed.

Cape Ferrelo along the Southern Oregon Coast

[/caption] With a view like this, who needs to ever leave Oregon if you want to visit one of the most beautiful places along the Pacific Ocean. Again, the Southern Oregon coast offers some of the most spectacular views on the edge of North America. The hiking trails are well kept and rarely over run with hikers. You can hike along the edge of the cliffs that separate you between the ocean and the Siskiyou National Forest. There are literally dozens of hidden beaches begging to be discovered as well as hundreds of rocks that shroud the rocky coastline waiting to be photographed. If you like to camp, you are really in luck since there are several campsites throughout the Southern Oregon coast. They are very well maintained and extremely quiet. You will also have access to some of the best scenery and beach access in the state. I took this photo looking north and away from the sun. This photo includes Cape Ferrelo and Whalehead in the far distance. The same trail will also take you to the secluded beach just below the cape. the Siskiyu National Forest borders the coastline and there are several creeks entering the ocean via the beach below. I witnessed several sea birds flying close to the rocks and could hear several sea lions just below from where I was standing. I was standing on a narrow cliff that juts out and stands over a hundred feet above the crashing surf below. I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 25mm. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch since the wind was howling and I was standing on an exposed ledge with no vegetation to block the wind. The camera was in normal/program mode and I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7. The aperture was automatically set at F-5.6 and the shutter speed at 1/100 second since I had also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to eliminate some of the sun glare. The sun was directly behind me and I took the photo at about 9:20am. If you plan to visit and take pictures I would recommend that you bring several batteries and memory cards. I took over 1500 photos in just three days and had to recharge my lithium batteries several time since the sunsets are fantastic and I took several long exposures.

Elliot Bay in Seattle, WA

[/caption] Kerry Park isn’t just known for offering stunning views of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle. While waiting for the sun to set, there are several opportunities to photograph Elliot Bay. Kerry Park offers stunning views of West Seattle, Elliot Bay and Bainbridge Island. This photo clearly shows just how beautiful and colorful this part of Seattle really is. The houses in the foreground have some of the best views in the city. You can watch the boats motor along the bay as well as dream about owning one of the condos that stretch along West Seattle and Alki Beach. I felt very lucky to get this photo since I wasn’t even thinking about aiming my camera in this direction since I was so content on photographing downtown Seattle as the sun was lowering in the west. I finally decided to take this shot when I noticed the last of the suns rays were shinning perfectly over the building and ship in the foreground. The entire scene is almost perfectly cast in the sunset with no real flaws in the lighting. The shadows and sun lit scenery is almost in perfect harmony with one another. Since the lighting was low I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. I attached my CIR-PL, warming and UV filter in order to saturate the sky and bring out the colors of the sun soaked buildings and boats in the bay. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 70mm. The camera was in Program/Normal mode and I set the ISO at 100 and reduced the white balance to -1.7. The aperture was automatically set at F-4.6 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second. This photo really shows the benefits of using the automatic setting rather than the manual setting since the sensor set the perfect aperture and reduced the stop down to 1/128 second. This photo was taken on 7/10/11 at about 8:45pm. I highly recommend spending several hours at Kerry Park and plan on thinking outside the box since there are so many photographic options that don’t only include downtown Seattle. However, you will find it really difficult leaving the park after sunset without taking a minimum of 150 photos of the city skyline.

Southern Oregon Coast

[/caption] Samuel H. Boardman state scenic corridor offers some of the best views along the Oregon coast. There are over 20 miles of trails that take you along narrow stretches of cliffs as well as private and seldom visited beaches. There are so few people that experience this part of Oregon that you can pretty much expect to have the entire trail system to your self. Only the most easily accessible parts of the trail system are populated with hikers or tourists. This photo was taken along a very unique part of the trail. The trail took you to the very edge of the cliffs and you could look directly down to the rough surf below. The views were awesome and there were dozens of wildflowers spread out along a bare stretch high above the cliffs. I decided to set up my tripod far enough away from the dangerous cliffs in order to try to get a good photo of the wildflowers and the streaming clouds high above. I was also wanting to include some of the rock islands and the ocean that seems far below. The winds were howling so I tried to position myself in order to avoid any camera shake. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch and set the camera to IS. I was hoping to have a short exposure and large field of view so I set my Sigma 17-70mm lens to 17mm and positioned the camera at about 45 degrees towards the wildflowers. The camera was in program/normal mode and I attached my CIR-PL and warming filter due to the intense glare. I also had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7, which caused the aperture to be at F-6.3 and the shutter speed at 1/160 second. I took this photo at about 4:30pm and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle, which helped me eliminate most of the glare. For the best photo opportunities you want to visit during late spring or early summer since most of the wildflowers are at there best during these months. The temperatures are perfect but the wind can be a little chilly.

A peony flower in the Northwest

[/caption] The peony flower can be a very difficult flower to photograph from afar but a close up view offers an entirely different aspect. Since the peony is so big and has so many different peddles, you have to really work hard to get a good photo. Luckily, you can break out your macro/prime lens and photograph the anatomy of the flower. This is where the true magic takes place since there are so many different types of the flower and so many different colors. I was using my Sigma 50mm macro/prime lens and was only about 1/4 of an inch from the flower. I wasn’t using a tripod or remote switch so I made sure to remove the CIR-PL and made sure that I kept a steady hand to ensure there wouldn’t be any camera shake or blur. I didn’t want any shade to obscure the photo but I also didn’t want any glare from the bright sunlight so I set the ISO at 100 and reduced the white balance to -0.7. I made sure to attach the warming filter in order to enhance the warming tones of the colors. The aperture was at f-8 and the shutter speed was at 1/400 second. It’s always best if you try to take advantage of the direction of the sunlight. I normally end up walking around the flower garden or wildflowers until I find the best lighting as well as the best flower to photograph. You also need to be aware of the time of day and the position of the sun. Sometimes it’s best to wait for the sun to go behind some clouds if there is too much glare. Since I don’t use a tripod or remote switch during any of my macro photography, it’s really important to ensure the the light is to your advantage and be sure to keep your camera steady and turn on the image stabilization.

Icelandic Flower in the Pacific Northwest

[/caption] I had never heard of an Icelandic flower until two years ago and I was amazed at how beautiful and awesome they are to photograph. They are so small and low to the ground that you have to really work to get a great shot but if you have a 50mm or a 100mm macro lens you can get in really close and photograph the intricate parts of the flower. I was using my Sigma 50mm macro/prime lens and got within an inch in order to get this photo. I wasn’t using a tripod so I just made sure to remove my CIR-PL and set the ISO to 200. Luckily the sun wasn’t too bright and I was able to find some shade in order to avoid any glare. The flowers only grow about 6 inches or so from the ground and I didn’t see any growing in pairs. I have only been to one place that have these flowers and if you’re interested in finding out where you can find them you can send me a comment or e-mail.

Mt. Hood, OR

[/caption] If you’re looking for an opportunity to view Mt. Hood while perched on a steep slope with forested trees vying for space, you will want to follow the snow shoe/x-country trails that take you along the White River West trail. Winter is the best time to visit since you are almost guaranteed to find yourself trudging through several feet of fresh powder. If you decide to go all the way to the top you will enjoy one of the most grueling days of your life. Not only is it steep but you have to navigate through the trees and the snow can be very deep. The top of the climb takes you smack in the middle of Timberline lodge on your left and the tallest chairlift at Mt. Hood Meadows on the right. There are several crevasses separating you from either of the two ski parks. The climb ends at about 6,500 feet and by the time your at the top, you’ve climbed close to 2,300 feet in elevation gain. You have a great view of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the south and the overall view is pretty spectacular.

Snow covered forest in the Cascade mountains

[/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.

White River snow park near Mt. Hood, OR

[/caption] The White River snow park trail system offers an opportunity to walk through an ancient forest as well as experience some pretty awesome views of Mt. Hood as well as Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the distance. However, you will need to prepare yourself for a very strenuous climb since it’s very steep and long. If you go to the top you will end up with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. they only thing that stops you is a huge cornice with a 500 feet drop off on both sides. You end up on the edge of a cliff with nothing but an eroded moraine below. Since you will have to navigate through the forest as well as climb some pretty steep areas, you will want to bring plenty of snacks and water. The trail is pretty much right in the middle between Timberline ski lodge and Mt. Hood Meadows. There are several different routes that you can take but snow shoeing through the forest is the most peaceful and rewarding way to go. During the summer months you can hike on some of the more popular trails but during winter you have the opportunity to make your own trails.