Burnt Lake

Burnt Lake
I realized it has been a couple of months since my last post.  Between shooting, editing, work, and my everyday activities, its all too easy to forget to update the website.

Fall is long past now and winter has arrived.  The leaves are long gone and my attention is now fixed on ice and snow.  A friend recently suggested that I visit Burnt Lake on Mt Hood, a destination I had not previously heard of, so I decided to give it a shot.

There are several different trail-heads that can be used to access the lake.  I didn’t know what would be open with the recent snow storms, but I decided to drive to the Lost Creek Trailhead.  Despite a nice covering of snow and ice, I was fortunate to find the road to the trailhead unlocked.  I switched the truck into 4wd and drove forward, making fresh tracks in the snow as I went.  About a quarter mile before the actual trailhead a large tree had fallen down across the road, so I parked there and began my hike in.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of snow already on the mountain so early in the season.  Starting at just a couple of inches at the trailhead, it steadily grew to about 8-10″ by the time I reached Burnt Lake.  Nearly the entire lake had iced over, except for a small patch on the southern edge of the lake.  I composed my shot to include the reflection of Mt. Hood in the water and included some of the dead grass along the lake shore to help anchor the image.  I would have preferred better skies, but I did what I could with it.

Posted in Mt. Hood, Oregon

Oregon Fall Colors

A touch of FallSalmon River.jpg
It’s Fall again in Oregon and the leaves are finally beginning to change colors.  This is by far my favorite season and is a fantastic time to get out and explore new locations.  Looking back on last years photos, I really only walked away with one image of fall that I was proud of.  This year, I am making it my goal to get out more frequently and capture more images of locations I have never explored.

Today I headed up to the Salmon River on the west side of Mt. Hood.  Although its just off the main highway, I have never actually bothered to check out the Salmon River- despite hearing good things about it from friends.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was hoping that the leaves would have already begun changing.  I was in luck- many of the trees were covered in golden leaves and there were even a couple of trees showing off vibrant reds.  Despite being a Sunday afternoon, there were not too many people out and I still had a sense of solitude.

I had planned on driving up Still Creek after the Salmon River, but I lost track of time and ran out of daylight.  Hopefully I get an opportunity to drive Still Creek before the season is over, but I do have lots of other locations I still need to hit!


Posted in Misc

Death Valley Adventures

Among the AncientsCelestial PlaygroundGateway to the StarsMobius
I recently got back from a week long vacation through Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevadas.  I flew into Vegas, rented a car, and spent the week visiting locations that I have always wanted to photograph: Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, and the Ancient Bristlecone Forest.  Along the way I also visited some of my favorite locations that I am intimately familiar with, like the Trona Pinnacles and Alabama Hills.   Although I had a good time overall, the trip was not without its challenges: the weather was either blistering hot (Death Valley) or freezing cold (Bristlecone Forest), my camera and tripod fell over and were damaged in windy conditions, and I got 2 flat tires at separate times in remote locations without cell service!

Despite the many issues I encountered, I made the most of the trip and was able to come back with some phenomenal photos.  The skies were almost always crystal clear and provided a fantastic opportunity to work on Milky Way photography in some of the darkest skies in the US during a new moon cycle.  I spent almost every night camped out in some of the most scenic locations in the Eastern Sierra enjoying the darkness as I watched the Milky Way move overhead.

Although I had wanted to visit Racetrack Playa during this trip, things did not pan out and I did not get a chance to see the sailing stones.  However, I choose to look at the bright side of things and figure it just gives me another good excuse to head back to Death Valley during better weather to try again!

Posted in Night Sky, Travel Tagged , , , , , , , |

Chapman School Swifts

The Flock
Every September, thousands of Swifts roost in the chimney of Chapman School in Portland during their annual fall migration. The birds flock to the school grounds at sunset as they prepare to enter the brick chimney. For almost an hour, they provide an amazing show as they mass together in the sky to form beautiful, seemingly random patterns, before finally spiraling into the chimney together.

This year marked my second and third time returning to the Chapman School to watch the Swifts.  It is a fun atmosphere with hundreds of people gathered on the grounds of the school to watch the show.  As the birds dive into the chimney the audience will even cheer and clap for them.  And more often then not, a hawk will show up partway through the festivities to grab a bird or two, much to the disdain of the audience.

Photo Tip

Photographing the swifts is a fun experience and there are often many other people snapping pictures of the birds. But the birds move very fast and many people walk away with pictures of blurry Swifts.  In order to keep the birds as sharp as possible, I recommend sticking with a fast shutter speed. Personally, I find that a shutter speed of 1/200 or faster will keep most of the birds sharp. Sometimes I will dip to 1/160, but I find anything lower is unacceptable for my purposes. While shutter speed isn’t an issue early in the evening, its usually pretty dark by the time the real show starts and the birds begin to enter the chimney. Make sure you bump your ISO and stick with a fast aperture and monitor your shutter speed as the evening progresses.

For more info on the Chapman School Swifts, check the Audubon Society Switch Watch

Posted in Oregon, Travel Tagged , , , , , |

Mt Saint Helens

Yesterday evening I drove to Mt Saint Helens to photograph the Milky Way over the crater.  The forecast was for clear skies and it was a new moon- so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to try it.

I battled my way through Portland rush hour traffic and arrived in the blast zone about an hour before sunset.  I checked out a couple of vista points and wandered along a short section of trail by the Johnston Ridge Observatory before settling on a spot to set up.  Despite the clear conditions and beautiful weather, there was only one other photographer set up to shoot the Milky Way and we chatted briefly as we waited for the Milky Way to rise.

The Milky Way rose just on the west side of St Helens Crater where the light pollution from Portland and Vancouver was most evident.  Although I was initially disappointed with this, looking at my image now I am pretty happy with how it turned out.  The Milky Way appears to explode outward from the glare of the city lights and looks pretty good.

Unfortunately, the Milky Way moved quickly and soon rotated further west and quickly became obscured by the city glow- ending my night much earlier than anticipated.  I hope to head back in the near future to hike some of the surrounding trails, and possibly try to shoot the Milky Way from Windy Ridge.

Posted in Mt. Saint Helens, Night Sky Tagged , , |

Eastern Oregon

A Night to RememberMidnight MassTest of Time
This week provided some beautifully clear nights to head out towards Eastern Oregon and test out my new Rokinon 14mm f/2.8.

I departed Portland late Monday evening after traffic died down and headed east on the I-84.  My first destination was the Maryhill Stonehenge outside of Goldendale, Washington.  I arrived just after sunset and spent some time arranging a good composition.  It was a bit more challenging than I expected- the orientation of the Milky Way was not favorable, the nearby wind turbines that line the surrounding hills are covered in flashing red lights.  Nonetheless, I had a good time and got a couple shots I was happy with.

Next I drove south on Hwy 97 towards the Locust Grove Church.  I have been dying to visit this place for awhile, and this was the night!  It was past 11pm when I arrived and super dark, but the Milky Way was clearly visible overhead.  I shot the church from various vantage points, finally settling on a spooky image of the church framed by the fence of the neighboring property.

After the church, I drove along some backroads to an old rundown farmhouse.  The stretch of highway it was located on was completely void of traffic and it was eerily quiet.  The only noise was the occasional sound from a nearby windmill groaning as it turned in a light breeze.  I enjoyed my time exploring the property and watching the stars slowly rotate above the land before I called it a night and drove home.

Posted in Gear, Night Sky, Oregon, Travel

Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens

Rokinon 14mm

I have been looking for a good ultra wide angle lens to compliment the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 that I have been shooting with for the last couple months.  I researched my many options, and although I was tempted by the Nikkor 14-24mm and 16-35mm, I finally settled on the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens.

The lens is extremely affordable and gets fantastic reviews online.  It is incredibly sharp and the distortion is minimal for such a wide angle lens.  Although some of the reviews I encountered criticized the quality control for the manufacturing process and complained that some of the lenses have focus issues, I have tested mine out and am happy with the results so far.  My only complaint is that the glass element is bulbous and makes it impossible to mount standard threaded filters to the front of the lens.  This will make it impossible to use the common screw on neutral density or polarizer filters that I have become so accustomed to using.

I intend to use the lens primarily for star photography and am now just waiting for a couple of really dark nights to get out and test it.  Next weeks looks promising and I hope to head out towards Eastern Oregon to a couple of locations I have been intending to visit.  Lets just hope the weather cooperates!

Posted in Gear Tagged , , , |

Yale Lake Washington

Low WaterMcBride Lake Outlet
For the past year, I have had a plan to photograph the tree stumps at Yale Lake  under a star filled sky.  Now that summer is in full swing, I decided it was finally time to take advantage of the low water level and clear skies to head out for a photo shoot.  I arrived at the lake early enough to scout out an ideal location, then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the back roads around Mt. Saint Helens.

My previous visits to Saint Helens all happened during my childhood, so it was a very new experience for me.  I started out taking a drive up to the climbers bivouac to see where the climb to the top starts (while wishing I had a permit).  From there, I circled west around the base of the mountain.  I followed various dirt roads and walked short distances on several trails to get a feel for the area.  It was a beautifully clear weekday afternoon and I saw very few people the entire time.

Once the sun set, I turned south and drove back to Yale Lake for my photo shoot.  I navigated by headlight as I worked my way over driftwood and downed trees that are typically submerged.  I set up my gear and made several test shots while waiting for complete darkness.  Once the milky way was visible overhead, I did my best to find a composition that framed it just right.  I was a little disappointed the best composition I could find was washed out a bit by the city lights of Vancouver and Portland to the south, but it just gives me an excuse to go back and try it again.

Posted in Mt. Saint Helens, Night Sky Tagged , , , , |

Mt Hood Wildflowers

Meadow's Last Light

Over the past several weeks I have not been posting to this site as frequently as I used to.  I have been taking a short break from photography to get out and hike without the extra weight of my camera gear.  Sometimes it can be a bit too cumbersome to carry my camera and tripod if I am setting out for a long distance hike, or doing something that is already extremely tough.  I also find it necessary to step away from the camera occasionally to get back to the basics and enjoy the outdoors without thinking of everything in terms of photography.

However, this past week I happened to leave my camera gear in my truck while I went hiking.  When I was done with my hike, I played around on some forest roads near mount hood as the sun slowly set.  With no real destination in mind, I enjoyed the solitude of the road as my truck wound its way through the forest.  I ended up stumbling on this beautiful wildflower filled meadow right as the sunset peaked and quickly jumped out to take a couple shots.  While I got bitten up pretty well by mosquitoes, I think the effort was worth it.

Posted in Mt. Hood, Oregon Tagged , , , , |

Columbia River Gorge

Creekside ParadiseFairy Falls SpringOneonta Creek Bridge
Now that spring is here in full force, I am finding it hard to make the time to post.  The weather outside is gorgeous and its the perfect time to explore the Columbia Gorge.

I have spent the last couple of weeks visiting as many waterfalls as I can in the Gorge.  I have even been making repeat trips out to some of my favorite falls: Fairy Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.  Almost every time I head out the falls are more attractive than my last trip.  I simply cant get enough.

If you want to make the most of a trip to Portland and see as many waterfalls as you can- you should definitely hit up the Historic Columbia River Hwy.  Take I84 east from town and take exit 28 for Bridal Veil, turn west (right) at the stop sign and drive 3 miles to Latourell Falls.  After visiting Latourell Falls, head back the way you came and enjoy the numerous waterfalls.  Most falls are easily visible from the highway, however some require easy/moderate falls in order to reach them.  Have fun!

Posted in Columbia River Gorge Tagged , , , |