[/caption] The Lava Butte Geological Area, just outside of Bend, offers a great spot to relish in Central Oregon’s volcanic past. The Deschutes river is hidden between the lava fields and the forest, which boasts some spectacular rapids and crystal clear water. You can also catch a great sunrise at this very spot since you’re pretty much looking directly east, with the desert mountains in the horizon.
[/caption] The glacial lake that is located on the northern flanks of Broken Top is absolutely stunning. I was disappointed that by the time we arrived at the lake the clouds had moved in and eliminated my attempt to gt a fabulous shot of the mineral laced lake with it’s beautiful turquoise color. However, I was happy to see that almost the entire lake was frozen and there was a large snow island that was tempting me to hike across. If you like hiking the Three Sisters wilderness, this place is a must see. You will also have great views of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and the surrounding area as far as Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielson in the Southern Oregon Cascades
[/caption] With its numerous craggy spires, Broken Top is one of my favorite Oregon Cascade mountains to photograph. On any given day you may hear rocks tumbling down either of its sides as the eroded volcanic rocks loosen from the steep terrain. The easiest routes to the the mountain are from either the north or east side since the paved highway is just to the north. The Cascades lakes highway offers several hiking trails that allow you to choose between coming in from the north or east. I took this photo while hiking along the east side of Broken Top on an alpine trailhead. We actually had to drive over 5 miles on a non maintained and very rough road to get to the parking lot. However, you park at about 6,900 feet and you have the choice of either taking the 2 mile trail to Todd Lake or traversing around Broken Top from either the south or north. We chose to hike north and I took this photo just before you get to the trial junction. You get to the parking lot by turning towards Todd Lake but instead of parking at the lake parking lot you want to continue up the rough road, which is Forest Road 370, and continue for about 5 miles. It seems like cheating but it gets you to the higher elevations sooner and we were short on time since it was already in the early afternoon and the sun was going to set around 6:00pm. However, you could start at the Todd Lake trail and continue the entire loop trail around Broken Top if you wanted to make it an all day and very grueling 15 mile hike. This hike is a must if you love the outdoors since you will experience every aspect of being in the high mountains. You will hike over creeks that are partially frozen, tarns, canyons, pumice, lava rock, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, lava domes as well as some spectacular views. This photo was actually taken from about the 1 mile mark and I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 28mm. I had the camera mode in Program/Normal and I wasn’t using my tripod since the lighting was descent and we were covering a lot of ground with limited time. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7 which caused the aperture to be at F-7 and the shutter speed at 1/125 seconds since I also attached the CIR-PL and warming filter. The sky was fairly saturated and the color was descent but the sun was fairly low and there were some clouds hovering below the sun. I was visiting the area on 10/27/11 and it was probably one of the last days to hike the trail since they close the HWY in October and the snow is just days away. I would put this hike on my short list and visit as soon as the snow melts and the HWY opens.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier National Park is an amazing place if you want to witness one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Pacific Northwest. The snow was still on parts of the trails which means that most of the trails are probably still impassable. The lakes are completely swollen as well as the many streams and rivers. Don’t expect to enjoy the park on a short day trip since there is over a week of exploring available at the park. Unfortunately, I was only able to spend about 4 hours at the park since my wife and I had started the morning by visiting the Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument and then driving north through Randle, WA and then heading towards the Stevens Canyon Entrance which is in the South East corner of the park. By the time we were done we had clocked over 200 miles and didn’t get home until about 11:00pm. However, I would recommend this road trip to anyone that is interested in one of the most scenic areas around. We didn’t even reach the Park entrance until about 2:00pm so I knew that I had to hurry many of my photographs. Luckily we were driving on the south side of the park with Mt. Rainier in the north. This way the sun was behind me and I didn’t have to worry about too much glare. It was also later in the afternoon so the timing worked out well. We ended up driving from the SE Entrance and exiting via the Nisqually Entrance which is in the SW corner. There are so many places to view the mountain while driving on the main park road that you can really hammer out some great photos. I lost count of the amount of streams and creeks that we saw as well as the many waterfalls cascading over the rocks. Reflections Lake and Louise Lake are two great places to stop and take some great photos. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to drive up to Paradise Park, which I’m sure would have added another hour to our trip. I hope to make a camping trip to the Park early next month and hope to photograph the entire NE and South part of the park. The Park is literally overwhelming and I could probably spend an entire month here. It truly is an outdoor enthusiasts dream and well as a photographers candy store. This particular shot was taken at Reflections Lake. When I first arrived at this spot Mt. Rainier wasn’t showing its reflection so I would think that you need to wait until later in the day for the sun to move further west. I took the photo at about 6:10pm and the sun was behind me and to the left since that was true west. The sun was at about a 90 degree angle which made for the perfect photo opportunity. I walked down from the road and set up my tripod at the waters edge. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -2 which caused the aperture to be set at F-4.6 and the shutter speed at 1/83 second since the camera made was in Program/Normal.
[/caption] Here is a shot that I took last July while hiking in the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. I had visited the Park from the east, which is a long drive that takes you through Cougar and then north up the 131. The drive from Portland is very long and twisty but you are more likely to see herds of elk than people. This was my first trip along the east part of the mountain and I have to say that its one of the most scenic and peaceful parts of the wilderness. The Park reminded me of a National Park but minus the thousands of visitors and campsites. You can make it a day trip from Portland, during the longer days of summer, but I highly recommend you leave before sunrise and pack a lot of food since there are no places to eat. I took this shot with my Canon EOS T1i and my Tokina 12-24 wide angle lens. I was using my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter to bring out the colors and tame to intensity of the glaring sun. I took this shot looking south at about 6:35pm and the sun was just to the right. I had to set my ISO to 100 and the white balance to -2 due to the glare. The focal length was at 15mm and the shutter speed was 1/100 second. I was standing directly in the path of the explosion that destroyed all of the timber in its path. There were several pumice fields directly below where I was standing and you can see that some of the vegetation was just beginning to come back. I was amazed at the amount of pumice that littered the entire north side of the park. It was like walking through time and you could physically see the destruction from the wrath of the volcano. You can hike to Spirit lake and view the thousands of trees littering the lake and photograph dozens of species of wild flowers that grow among the pumice fields. I highly recommend visiting the park from the north east side. There are dozens of trails to hike and the park is very well kept and there are numerous areas to picnic. You are also guaranteed to see some wildlife. I startled a herd of elk while hiking on one of the trails and watched as they scurried up the mountain. This was truly an epic day.