Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is a must stop for anyone traveling through the Southern Oregon Cascades. In fact, if you live in Oregon and you haven’t visited and explored the park, you are not even considered an outdoor person. It would be like living in Washington State and never visiting Mt. Rainier National Park. If you enjoy the outdoors and you haven’t visited Crater Lake then you might as well just tape yourself to your couch and call it a day. There are endless opportunities at the park. The Southern Oregon Cascades offer some of the most spectacular views in the entire lower 48 states. The hardest part is to agree on your favorite photo from the park. You will literally end up taking well over 1500 photos and then spend the next several days deciding on when to stop going through them. Historically, most visitors to the national parks only spend a few hours at the park and very rarely even venture 300 feet from their car. However, if you expect to really enjoy and have the opportunity to really take advantage of the splendor’s of the park, you will need to put on your hiking shoes or snow shoe gear and spend one or two days exploring the park. The snow can linger all year at the park and if you plan on visiting during the early parts of summer or late spring I would pack your snow shoes. This shot was taken on 5/30/12 and the snow was pretty deep. Usually the east part of the road stays closed until July and the snow drifts can linger well into July. I made sure to head out with my snow shoes since you couldn’t get close to the rim without trudging through several feet of soft snow. You can also amuse yourself by watching the fair weather visitors spend only about an hour at the park as well as doing nothing more than venture a few feet from the parking lot and only taking a few pictures. This is also a benefit to the nature lovers since you can almost feel completely alone in the park even though the main parking lot can be completely full. Late Spring and early Summer can be sun drenched and the glare from the snow and lake can cause a very intense sunburn so I would recommend bringing a lot of sun screen and applying it throughout the day since you will also be working up a good sweat. If you are wanting to venture near the rim, I would be very careful since some of the snow cornices can be very unstable due to the intense sun and warming temperatures. I rarely get too close but I have always been able to get some spectacular shots where ever I go. You literally can’t take a bad shot unless the sun is too intense or you are using the wrong settings on your camera. To get this shot I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 28mm. Most of my shots are taken as a panoramic so I normally leave the rest of my lenses in the car. The aperture was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO at 100 due to the extreme glare. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. Normally I would use my tripod but since the sun was out and the thought of lugging it around, I decided to leave it in the car. You will end up taking so many photos and covering so much ground, you will find that your tripod will spend most of its time in your backpack. You just want to be sure to keep a steady hand and try to ensure that it’s level. I always make sure to review every shot, by using the histogram, in order to ensure that it’s level. If not, I just delete and take another shot.
[/caption] Evening photo of Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake on the last day of May. If you plan on visiting the Southern Oregon Cascades, during the month of May, plan on bringing a pair of snow-shoes or cross country skis if you want to get out and explore the wilderness. In fact, I’ve visited the area in late June and still had to put on my snow-shoes in order to explore the area. I took this shot at about 6:00pm and the sun was just starting to lower behind the mountains. The sun was too bright for me to set the camera in the shutter priority, even with my ND filter. I decided to take advantage of the bright sky and the saturation of the water.
[/caption] Mt. Thielsen with its incredible snow pack during late June. It’s hard to imagine that you can’t take more than 5 steps while hiking any of the Mt. Thielsen trails without running in to snow. You are well advised to bring your snow shoes if you plan on hiking near the higher elevations of the mountain. Most of the campsites within the Diamond Lake area are still closed due to the high snow pack and the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park isn’t scheduled to open until later this week. I took this photo near the snow park just south of Hwy 230 and about 1/2 mile south of Diamond Lake. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. It was about 8:35am and the sun was in the upper right hand of the photo which was creating a pretty intense glare unless you took cover in some shade. I made sure to attach my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to tone down the glare in the sky and warm the mountain as well as the forest in the foreground. I set the ISO to 100 and reduced the white balance to -1.3. I had the camera mode in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was automatically set at F-8 and the shutter speed at 1/320 second. I wanted to get as much of the mountain in the photo with the trees in the foreground so I set the focal length at 70mm. I was still able to have a really good depth of field since there were no distracting subjects too close to the main subject.
[/caption] The snow in the Southern Oregon Cascades are nearly 600% above normal and you will be sure to find that most of the hiking trails are completely covered in snow. You would be advised to bring some snow shoes and plan on having an epic time snow shoeing at Crater Lake National Park, Mt. Bailey or Mt. Thielsen. I spent one day snow shoeing on the south side and the next day snow shoeing the north side of Crater Lake and found myself amazed at the amount of snow there was. I camped at Diamond Lake and took this photo of Mt. Bailey just as the sun had set behind it. I was amazed at the amount of osprey and bald eagle that was flying along the lake as well as just over my head. I witnessed an osprey catching its dinner as it plunged towards the lake. I was using my Canon Rebel T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I was standing along the edge of the lake as thousands of hungry mosquito’s swirled around me. I took this shot at 8:58pm and the sun had just set to the right of the mountain when I noticed that some clouds were beginning to move over Mt. Bailey. I decided to set the camera mode to shutter priority in order to flatten out the water. I set the shutter speed at 4 seconds which put the aperture at F-18 since I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch to ensure that there would be no camera shake or blurs. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I had the focal length at 38mm in order to keep Mt. Bailey as the main subject. You would be advised to watch out for avalanche dangers since I noticed that all of the mountains had been experiencing avalanches during the mid afternoon.
[/caption] Spending only one day at Crater Lake National Park creates a very sad situation since I could spend over a week hiking, photographing and most importantly seeking out all of it’s treasures. I haven’t been to Crater Lake since 1993 but this time was especially awesome. There was plenty of snow surrounding it’s north facing banks and the entire Southern Oregon Cascades had well above 75% of their average. However, this did mean that only half of the Rim drive was open. As soon as I got out of my car at Merriam Point, I was quickly photographing the lake. I couldn’t believe how blue the lake was and how clear the skies were. I could see Mt. Shasta and Mt. McLoughlin to the south and Mt. Thielsen, Baily, Diamond Peak and two of the Sisters in the north. Mt. Scott, which is the tallest mountain in the Park, standing at 8929 ft, had a lot of snow on it’s north side but hardly any on its south side. There were also several other smaller mountains still covered in the snowy white stuff. This truly showed just how much colder and shadier the northern flanks of the Cascades can hold their snow but how soon their south flanks lose their snow pack. Crater Lake had also fallen victim to this vicious cycle since the northern rim, which was facing south was bare but the southern rim, facing north had snow reaching all the way to the lakes edge. The rim drive road was open north from the Cleetwood Trail and eventually ended south at the Crater Lake Lodge. We took the hike down the Cleetwood Trail and I was tempted to go for a swim but eventually I decided that my shorts wouldn’t dry fast enough. Going up to my knees was good enough at the time. We also hiked up towards 8,054 ft Garfield Peak but eventually had to turn back due to the snow on the trail. Maybe it was better that this was only a day trip since most of the trails were closed as well as half the drive around the lake. However, if I had brought my snow-shoes I could have again spent over a week here. I took this shot while hiking on the Garfield Trail. I made sure and lowered my camera enough so I could get the snow in the foreground. This picture truly shows how much snow was on the north side and how much less was on the side facing south. You can clearly see Wizard Island and Llao Rock standing behind it at 8,049 ft. You can just barely see Mt. Thielsen just to the right of Llao Rock. To get this shot I had the exposure at auto and set the ISO to 100. I never had to use my tripod all day since I was there during daylight and there were limited shady areas. However, I did set my white balance to around -1 for most of the day. The F stop was at 6.4 and the shutter speed was at 1/83 second. I was using my ultra wide-angle lens and had the focal length at 21mm. It was impossible for me to get the entire lake in view even when using my 12mm wide-angle lens. This place clearly shows just how limiting any type of lens is when trying to capture the entire lake in its view. Crater Lake NP is a must see for any photographer as well as any hiker or nature lover. I am all three so I won’t wait another 17 years before returning again.