[/caption] Wildflowers with Mt. Hood in the distance. Late August is the best time to witness the millions of wildflowers growing along the western side of the Cascades. From Mt. Baker, Washington to Mt. Shasta, California, you can smell the wildflowers while you view a snow capped volcano. You may even see some of the dozens of wildlife that live among the wilderness as well as photograph the hundreds of waterfalls and creeks that swell beneath the alpine glaciers.
[/caption] One of the best hikes in the Mt. Hood wilderness is the Timberline Lodge Trails that follows north along the PCT and then connects to the Paradise Park trail. The hike starts at Timberline lodge and all of the trails are clearly marked just north of the lodge. The entire loop is over 12 miles and has over 2300 feet of elevation gain. However, the most difficult part of the hike isn’t the distance or elevation gain but the volcanic ash that you have to hike on. It’s like hiking on sand but very steep and hard on your pelvis. Your recovery time is almost double as any other long and steep hike that you have ever done. It doesn’t help that the trails have been trampled by millions of hikers but to make matters worse is the amount of ground up ash left by the activity of Mt. Hood’s violent history. You will have to navigate down and then up again through two canyons that are 200 feet and 700 feet respectively. That’s 1800 feet of elevation change from just two of the canyons alone. The trail is very dusty and dry but there are dozens of creeks that flow through the trails so there is no shortage of water to cool off or clean the sand from your body. If you make the hike in late August you will be surrounded by millions of lupine and other wildflowers. You will literally smell the wildflowers for most of the hike and it will literally smell like your standing in a flower shop. The hike itself parallels the mountain but due to the deep chasms the hike is very difficult and grueling. However, you will be glad that you made the hike since you have the opportunity to hike up to some of the mountains most spectacular scenery. There are several waterfalls cascading down the steep canyons that are almost impossible to get to but close enough that you can get some great photos. There are also thousands of butterfly’s and bees engulfing the flowers.
[/caption] Reflection of Mt. Bachelor at Sparks Lake, Oregon. This photo was taken from the southern most part of the lake with the contrails and smoke from a controlled wildfire in the right hand corner of the photo. To get this shot I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo as possible. I was visiting the lake during a weekday and it was past 5:00pm so there were no crowds of people other than a few people fishing near the lake. The lake was glassy and the winds had died down so I was able to get a really good reflection of the mountain and the contrails. If you visit during the afternoon to late afternoon you can expect quite a bit of wind so you will have a harder time getting a good reflection. Early morning and late evening is the best time to experience a glassy lake.
[/caption] Smith Rock State Park is located in Central Oregon and is a short drive from Highway 97. If you plan on hiking around the trail system that encompasses the park you will want to bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and lots of camera gear.
[/caption] One of the best parts of the Misery Ridge trail is that once you’re at the top you can venture around parts of the summit and explore the unique geology and vegetation as well as look for some pretty spectacular photo opportunities. This photo was taken near Monkey Face and looking directly west towards the Cascades. The drop off just past the shrub is several hundred feet and you can see the cliff edge in the shadows just above the shrub. I wanted to create a very unique and dynamic shot so I tried to incorporate as many subjects as possible. There aren’t a lot of shadows but the shadows from the cliff and shrub create the perfect image. The blue, green and brown colors are almost in perfect harmony with the snow capturing the essence that is truly Central Oregon. There are several desert wildflowers that bloom during summer as well as dozens of raptors soaring high above. If you’ve never visited Smith Rock State Park I would plan on spending at least 2-3 days in order to experience the entire park as well as the high mountain desert that surrounds the park.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier was literally sucking this cloud formation and pretty much spitting it out on the other side. One of the most spectacular things about Mt. Rainier is watching the clouds form and then disperse around the mountain. Most of the clouds that form near the park eventually end up near the summit of the mountain and then evaporate after the mountain finishes eating them. You can spend several hours or days watching some of the most spectacular displays of clouds dancing around the mountain and then almost becoming lunch like a Venus fly trap drawing in flies. If you look closely you can see a long and narrow white streak shooting from the clouds and up into the sky. That’s actually the clouds being sucked in by the mountain. I’m not sure of the meteorological term but as I was photographing I noticed that it started at the base of the mountain, while it lured in the cloud and then the streak grew and split the cloud. There is no denying that Mt. Rainier is the most behemoth mountain in the lower 48 states and demands the most respect due to its enormous size, enormous glaciers and its incredible ability to devour entire cloud systems. I have never been disappointed when visiting the park and I can assure you that you will enjoy one of the most spectacular photography session of your life.
[/caption] Smith Rock State Park is located in Central Oregon and offers some of the most diverse and breathtaking geology in America! Smith Rock offers over 8 miles of hiking trails with dozens of switchbacks as well as marathon trails that will suite anyone’s needs. You will also enjoy hiking along the Crooked River and taking in views of the snow capped Cascade mountains. The best way to take advantage of the lighting is to start the hike no later than 8:30am and take a left along the river trail once you cross the river bridge. The sun will now be at your back and you can take photos of the rocks with the sky looking as blue as a tropical ocean. As you hike along the trail it will eventually curve around the park, which will put you on the north side of the rocks with the sun being blocked by the massive rocks. This will allow you to take some great shots of the park looking north and northeast and you won’t have to worry about the glare. This shot was taken just about a 1/4 mile from the main trail and I hiked to the rivers edge in order to get this shot. I was facing north with the sun behind me at about a 90 degree angle. I didn’t bring my tripod so I made sure to keep a steady hand and turned on the IS in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. I also set the camera mode to Automatic focus in order to have several subjects in focus since there was a large field of view and lots of subjects in the photo. I just made sure to constantly check the histogram and reviewed each photo before I settled with the best one and then moved on.
[/caption] The highway of an Alpine Glacier… Nothing but gridlock and congestion! This photo was taken on Mt. Rainier.