[/caption] Massive storm clouds hovering over the Three Sisters! This photo was taken from Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon and there was a massive and impressive storm system that had been hovering over the Oregon Cascades for several day’s. Usually, the storm are held back by the Cascade mountains but this storm was no match for the mountains. This massive storm was worming it’s way through the snow capped mountains as well as around them and above them. To get this shot I hiked near the highest elevation in the Smith Rock Park and zoomed in to a focal length of 135mm in order to frame the entire storm clouds and mountains but still keep a descent field of view. I didn’t use a tripod and had the CIR-PL attached as well. I just made sure to change the white balance to 0 in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. I also set the ISO at 100 and the shutter speed was at 1/250 seconds. Normally I make sure to use a tripod whenever I max out the focal length of the lens I’m using but since I had hiked over 8.5 miles and was pretty well set with good light and plenty of sunshine, I decided to take a chance.
[/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] 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] One of the most photographed spots along the Smith Rock hiking trails is near the start of the trail that leads to the footbridge that takes you over the Crooked river. Looking west you can see the Cascade mountains as well as the most recognizable rock formations in Central Oregon. I have never posted this particular photo scene since I believe that there are just too many photos from this vantage point but I decided to finally post this photo since it really looks pretty cool. You can see Black Butte in the distance with just a little bit of snow on its summit. If you want to enjoy one of the best hiking trails in Central Oregon I would recommend visiting Smith Rock State Park. I’ve enjoyed hiking during the winter just as much as summer and you don’t have to worry about the heat or the summer crowds. It’s also one of the best areas for photographers with over 8 miles of scenic trails and every inch of the trails offering a photo opportunity. There is absolutely not a single spot in the park that doesn’t offer a great photo. I would highly recommend packing a wide angle and a telephoto lens as well as a CIR-PL and warming filter. I pretty much use my 17-70mm lens. I would also pack a tripod to ensure that you don’t end up with any blurry photos. However, you will be doing so much hiking that you will likely only use your tripod when needed since it would take you several days to hike the entire park while setting up your tripod for every photo opportunity.
[/caption] One of the best views from Smith Rock State Park is from the top of the Park which is about 3,250 feet. You have a 360 degree view and can see as far north as Mt. Hood and as far south as Paulina Peak. You also can see the Crooked River as it winds its way around the park which offers great spots to cool off from the desert heat. The summit of the park also offers several hiking trails that allow you to move about the entire top part of the park including the ability to look down at the rock climbers working their way towards the summit. You can also practically touch Monkey Face but I wouldn’t advise it since the fall would surely hurt. The great thing about this photo is that I was able to frame the photo with the rocks all around and then focus on the Three Sisters in the background. It also shows just how magnificent and diverse the Central Oregon topography is. To get this shot I wedged myself under a small area inside the rocks and made sure to include the climbing hooks in the bottom right in order to show the unbelievable climbing available at the park. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and made sure that I had attached my CIR-PL and my warming filter in order to saturate the sky and the red rocks without having any overexposure. Since I was hiking with my 1 year old and extremely hyper Australian Cattle dog I decided that I wouldn’t bring my tripod. Unfortunately, this meant that most of my photos were taken while only using my right hand and spending most of my time keeping an eye on my dog. However, sine the sun was extremely bright I didn’t have to worry about too much shade to cause underexposure along with camera shake. This shot was taken at about 3:00pm and the sun was bright, hot and creating a strong glare. I just made sure to point my camera in the opposite direction as we hiked around the park in order to avoid too much glare. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.3 and had the camera mode in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was set at F-6.4 and the shutter speed at 1/197 second. Since I wanted to create the most panoramic scene I set the focal length at 17mm.
[/caption] Having the opportunity to find water around Oregon’s desert landscapes gives a photographer several opportunities to take a dynamic photo. There always seems to be plenty of water surrounding the entire state of Oregon. I’ve driven and hiked through a good portion of Oregon and the one thing that I always seem to notice is that there is always a river or creek running through its valleys, mountains or even its deserts. Smith Rock state park is no exception to this. The Crooked River winds its way through the park and gives the hiker or rock climber plenty of opportunities to cool down during the sunny and hot summer days. Having a river in a photo with the desert rocks in the background allows for a terrific photo opportunity. I took this photo last June and I have a more detailed article from my 7/15/10 blog post. To get this shot I was using my Canon EOS T1i along with my Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens. The focal length was at 14mm in order to get as much of the rocks in this panoramic view. The time was 9:22am and the sun was directly behind me so the glare from the rocks and the river was pretty intense. However, my CIR-PL and warming filter was no match for this shot. The blueness of the sky and the warming tones of the rocks and vegetation would have been impossible without using these filters. Since I had the camera in Program/Normal mode the aperture was automatically set at F-6 and the shutter speed was at 1/83 second. I wasn’t using a tripod or remote switch so I had to be extra careful to avoid any camera shake. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.7 due to the sun intense sun glare.
[/caption] Smith Rock State Park is one of the most majestic and scenic places outside of Redmond and conveniently located off HWY 97. Whenever I’m visiting Central Oregon I always find time to hike the trails around the park in order to photograph these rocks. The entire hike around the park is over 7 miles but if you are limited on time and energy, the hike up misery ridge offers several panoramic views of the area as well as the Cascades. The Crooked River meanders around the entire park so there is no concern about overheating. I’ve hiked both in one day but that makes for a very long and grueling day. I also ran out of memory cards, which really ruined my day. There is a $5.00 park entrance fee but I believe you can still camp for free at the climbers campground. The park is well worth the money. You could spend all day photographing, hiking, climbing, mt. biking, fly fishing or rock climbing near or on its rocks. There are also several picnic tables and shade available. The air is dry so it never feels as hot as it really can get. Especially from the suns radiation baking the rocks. My favorite spots to photograph the rocks is on the south west side of the park. The sun is always at your back, which allows you to capture the deep blue color of the sky without any glare. The rocks are also looking down at you with there awesome crags and natural bridges eroded from wind and water. Its also the best spot to use your wide-angle lens since there is one solid area of the rock with little to no separation of rocks. The slopes also gently slope up towards the rocks with several scrub vegetation and wildflowers. It looks more like a gigantic city with numerous spires dominating the landscape. To get this shot I was using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens and wasn’t using a tripod. The focal length was taken at 14mm. Since the filed of view is so broad and there was no shade a tripod isn’t necessary. I had the camera set at auto and the ISO was at 100. I had the white balance at -1 due to the intensity of the sun. The F stop was at 7.1 and the shudder was taken at 1/100 of a second. Smith Rock State Park is a must visit for anyone visiting Central Oregon. It’s one of the best spots to really enjoy and marvel at the landscape domination the Central Oregon region.