[/caption] Park Butte offers a great vantage spot to view Mt. Jefferson as well as the rest of the Oregon Cascades. However, you can also get some great views looking north from Russell Lake and Park Butte is a great photo subject with the vast forest lingering below. Russell lake looks like a refreshing swimming hole with dozens of beaches lining the alpine lake. This photo was taken from the south side of Russell Lake with Mt. Jefferson directly behind me. The sun was also behind me and the glare was pretty strong so I decided to get some photos looking away from the sun where there was less glare. If you’re only doing a day hike and you decide to hike towards the summit of Park Butte, you want to make sure and bring plenty of extra water and food since it demands and additional 1000 feet of elevation gain and an additional grueling 3 miles of switchback trails. The view is absolutely amazing but you will have to pay the price to get there unless you are backpacking and camp somewhere in Jefferson Park.
[/caption] Early Fall at Jefferson Park is sure to provide the best photography opportunities since the late Summer wildflowers are still in bloom as well as the red huckleberry leaves blanketing the alpine carpet. Since many of the trails have been closed in order to try and restore the park, you have to really look for opportunities to photograph Mt. Jefferson with the foliage in the foreground. There are still dozens of trails to suite your needs but you do want to stay focused since its easy to miss a terrific photo opportunity. It’s especially true since you will find yourself immersed in the sheer beauty of the area. I almost missed the opportunity to take this photo since I was heading towards the opposite part of the park in order to hike above the alpine lakes and I was worrying about running out of daylight. This photo was taken between Russell Lake and the mountain and I really liked the view of Mt. Jefferson with the foliage, trees and rocks in the foreground. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch but placed it low to the ground in order to get as much foliage in the photo without reducing the field of view. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get a panoramic shot so I could include as much of the mountain and foliage as I could. Since I had attached my CIR-PL and warming filter as well as set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -1.3 the aperture was at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second since the camera mode was in Program/Normal. The photo was taken at about 1:20pm and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle above the mountain so the saturation was nice.
[/caption] Russell lake is the largest and most predominant alpine lake in Jefferson Park. If you hike up the PCT that summits near Park Butte, Russell lake stands out like a soar thumb and creates a fantastic image in the Park below. Even if you only have the energy or time to hike just above the Park you can get some awesome photos of Mt. Jefferson and Russell lake. However, you really need to make sure that you are at the lake at the right time if you’re wanting to get a good shot with Mt. Jefferson and the lake. The late afternoon or early evening seems to be the best time since the sun is lower and at about a 90 degree angle. This is especially true if you are there during Fall. You are more likely to have some shadows around the mountain and the lake will create a better reflection. I took this shot using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo as possible as well as ensure the largest field of view. I was standing right at the lakes edge and made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. It was about 2:45pm and the sun was at a 90 degree angle and the water was fairly calm. However, I still wasn’t able to get a reflection of the mountain in the lake. But at least the glare from the sun created a great color in the right side of the lake. Since I had the camera mode in Program/Normal the aperture was at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter and set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7.
[/caption] The best place by far to really enjoy the scenic wonders of Mt. Jefferson is at Jefferson Park, which is about a 10.2 mile hike with 1800 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts on the west facing side of Mt. Jefferson and the last 8 miles of the drive are on a well maintained gravel road. The entire hike is loaded with amazing scenery and it’s probably the most pristine place in the state of Oregon. I never saw any clear cut, heard any automobiles, nor did I hear or see any planes flying overhead. The only thing I saw was an awesome forest with miles of trees, dozens of views of Mt. Jefferson, as well as dozens of different types of wildflowers and alpine lakes within Jefferson Park. You also hike over several small creeks that make for a perfect spot to rest and soak in the pristine cold water. The trail is well maintained but it’s not as clearly marked as I would have expected. With Jefferson Park being hailed as one of the busiest trails in Oregon I expected it to be more clearly marked. I hiked the trail the day after we had two days of heavy rain showers and the higher elevations of Mt. Jefferson had received a good little dusting of snow. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn near the top of the first 1.5 miles and headed towards Triangulation Peak trail and ended up hiking about 4 miles total in dense forest with the rain water and dew clinging to the shrubs that had lined the narrow trail. Within 1/4 of a mile my socks, shoes and my entire lower body were soaked. I had almost decided to cancel my quest to Jefferson Park but I actually ended up missing the switchback that headed back to the parking lot and then again found myself on the Jefferson Park Trail. I was informed by some backpackers that I was now only about 2 miles from the Park at that point. I will for now on always make a copy of the trail and have it with me. The mountain finally made its appearance later in the afternoon and I was amazed at how close I was to it. I was able to see where the mountain had repeatedly sent an avalanche of snow throughout the years which had created a swath of downed trees that looked like a smooth carpet of grass with trees that looked like snapped twigs on the outer banks. Once you get to Jefferson Park you will see dozens of alpine lakes, wildflowers and thousands of vantage points. I could spend months photographing from within the park. However, there were several closed parts due to heavy traffic that had destroyed many of the Park’s fragile vegetation. The Sentinal Hills and Park Butte surround the outer parts of the Park which really gave it a true alpine atmosphere. I took this shot right in the heart of Jefferson Park and the small pond in the foreground didn’t have a name. You can see the alpine grass in the pond and the Paintbrush wildflowers teaming all along the Park. To get this shot I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I had the ISO set at 100 and the White Balance was at -1. I had the camera on Program Mode which allowed the shutter speed to run at 1/60 of a second. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and my UV filter in order to cut down on the glare and increase the warmth of the setting. I was using my tripod, bubble level and my remote switch in order to avoid any movement since I was concerned about losing some of my photos due to camera shake. I didn’t want to take any chances on this photo trip. I would highly recommend this hike and next time I hope to backpack here so I can have more time to really take in this amazing place. I can only imagine how beautiful the sunrise and sunsets are here.