Archive for the ‘Oregon’ Category

Single-Image Sunday: The Fog Returns   17 comments

I spent a night up at Lost Lake this past week.  It’s a beautiful place to camp (or rent a cabin), surrounded by forest and with a postcard-view of Mount Hood.  They’re getting set to shut things down up there – the snow is not far away now – so it was quiet.  Weather was sunny and warm everywhere but in the mountains fall has come. That means it got downright cold at night.  As a result the fog moved in overnight and this was the scene at dawn.  If it weren’t for the fog, the frame here would nearly be filled with Mount Hood.  But the fog quickly lifted and the mountain emerged in all its glory.  Fog is scarce in these parts during summer, and its return is a definite sign that fall is here.

I like to relate these posts to the previous Friday’s Foto Talk topic.  In this case it’s actually more relevant to next Friday’s continuation of Sharpness vs. Depth of Field.   This is an example of an image where depth of field is not important.  With some images, like this one, perfect sharpness as well is not all that important.  Let me know what you think about this image, and be sure to read up on this stuff in last Friday’s post plus the second part next week.  Hope your weekend is going well!

Dawn at Lost Lake, Oregon.  100 mm., 1/15 sec. @ f/10, ISO 100.

Dawn at Lost Lake, Oregon. 100 mm., 1/15 sec. @ f/10, ISO 100.

Quick Trip to the Coast: Part II   8 comments

Low tide at the Oregon Coast

Low tide at the Oregon Coast

This is the second of two parts on a section of the Oregon Coast between Cannon Beach and Depoe Bay.  It’s a part of the coast where you can make a sort of loop from Portland.  Just take Highway 26 west from town and head all the way over to Cannon Beach.  Then travel south on Highway 101 through Tillamook (did somebody say “cheese tour”?) and on to Lincoln City.  Past this large town is a beautiful stretch of coastline to Depoe Bay.  From here you can backtrack to Lincoln City then take Highway 18 back to Portland.

Perched Gull

On the way south to Depoe Bay, a beach stop I can definitely recommend is Fogarty Creek.  This state park has two access points about 1/4 mile from each other; turn east off the highway.  Either one takes you to a large grassy and treed area where you can park and picnic.  But the real show is out on the beach.  Walk the short trail along the pretty creek to a wild beach where you can explore for fossils and agates.  It’s easier to walk north; southward you’ll soon be blocked by a headland in all but very low tides.  The fossil clams and other concretions are very easy to find in the rocks along the beach.

Exploring somewhat inaccessible rocky areas of the Oregon Coast is my favorite thing to do there.

Exploring somewhat inaccessible rocky areas of the Oregon Coast is my favorite thing to do there.

Depoe Bay is one of those little towns that make the Oregon Coast popular with those who like cute towns and plenty of gift shops.  It has an excellent little whale-watch museum/station where volunteers are very eager to show you gray whales if they are visible.  There are also whale-watch tours that leave from the snug little harbor.  You can see them year-round, but spring and late fall are probably best.

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Boiler Bay is a great place to explore.  You will see a sign for it on the left as you drive out of Depoe Bay heading north.  You can pull off and get a view of the bay.  This is a good place to watch for whales.  But to access the shore of the bay for its excellent tide-pooling and exploration you’ll need to do a little more work.

Working your way down this is the first sight of Boiler Bay.

Working your way down this is the first sight of Boiler Bay.

Boiler Bay

Boiler Bay

 Access is impossible from the viewpoint, but if you’re adventurous enough to handle the slippery rocks, you can certainly handle finding the access.  So I won’t spill the beans here (I might anger a local!).  This is the second time I’ve explored down here.  There were a healthy number of tourists up above, but despite the fact they could see me from the viewpoint, I had the bay to myself.

Tidepooling!

Tidepooling!

I see you sea anemone!

I see you sea anemone!

The rocky coastline at Boiler Bay is really only navigable during low tide, and my timing was good in that respect.  Making my way over slippery rocks, around small headlands and into coves where you never know exactly what you’ll find, peering into tidepools at sea-stars, anemones and crabs: this is what I love best to do on our coast.  The old rusty boiler for which this place is named has been sitting in this spot since 1910 when the ship it came from exploded and sank.  For me it made a good subject despite average light for photos.

Boiler Bay

Seastar not starfish!

The old boiler in Boiler Bay is used as a perch by seabirds.

The old boiler in Boiler Bay is used as a perch by seabirds (murres I believe).

What a spectacular place and day!  A couple gray whales were spouting just offshore of the bay mouth.  I watched them for awhile but they were too far for pictures.  This is a fine spot to go tidepooling, and I want to come back for sunset pictures someday, hopefully when we have unusually low tides.  All in all a great foray to the Coast.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures and story.

Edge of Kiwanda

Quick Trip to the Coast: Part I   8 comments

Cannon_Beach_7-17-13_5D3_001

I rarely go to the Oregon Coast during summer, since it tends to be too busy and also because other times of year (especially early Spring) are generally better for photography.  Recently it’s been on the brain, however, so I decided a quick trip was in order.  I went during the week, but it was still as busy or busier than I like it.  The weather was sunny but windy and a bit on the cool side.

Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach.

Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach.

The typical summertime weather pattern for the coast is morning clouds breaking for brilliant sunshine by mid-day.  The closer to the ocean itself you get, the cooler it is.  Drive inland for 20-30 minutes and the temperature jumps a good 15-20 degrees.  On the beach itself the wind makes it a little chilly but hide behind a dune and you can be in shorts with no shirt and not feel cold.  The highs adjacent to the beach were in the mid- 60s to low-70s (Farenheit) during the day.  At this very same time much of the rest of the U.S. was suffering through incredible heat.  And even Portland just over an hour away was in the mid-90s (but with low humidity).

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In other words, our coast was the place to be, despite the fact that it would have been perfect had it been 10 degrees warmer.  I’d rather be someplace where you need to move it out to feel comfortable in shorts and T-shirt than be where you make any movement whatsoever and you’re drenched in sweat.

I only spent two nights, heading over to Cannon Beach for sunset then down the coast to the Depoe Bay area before heading back.  This section of our north-central coast includes some great natural sights along with several cutesy towns for strolling.  Cannon Beach is scenic but a bit too popular for me.  I headed down to the Manzanita area to spend the first night.  This is not far south of Cannon Beach yet is less crowded and with a bit more of a natural emphasis.  The huge bulk of Neahkahnie Mountain guards the north side of the little town of Manzanita, where you can rent a house for a weekend or week and enjoy a super-wide beach.

Coarse Sand

The hiking here is among the best on the Oregon Coast.  You can do a short but fairly steep hike up Neahkahnie Mountain from either the south or north.  The south side access is up a little dirt road just south of Highway 101’s high point as it traverses up and over the mountain.  The north side trailhead is on the highway across from a pull-out.  You can also hike the opposite way from this point toward the high sea cliffs and down a switchback trail that eventually leads to spectacular Short Sands Beach.

A pond just inland from the coast has abundant water lilies.  Or are these lotus flowers?

A pond just inland from the coast has abundant water lilies. Or are these lotus flowers?

A much shorter trail to Short Sands starts from a bigger and busier parking lot not far north along the highway.  In either case, a trail continues from Short Sands a couple more miles out onto Cape Falcon.  This is a fantastic hike, well worth it.  Short Sands, which has become quite popular with surfers in recent years, occupies a rocky cove marked by dramatically tilted layers of sandstone.  In summer the beach is plenty wide for standard beach goings on.

I like to combine Neahkahnie and Cape Falcon in a longer hike.  A car or bicycle shuttle makes it a very feasible dayhike.  Leave a car at the main Short Sands parking lot then start at the south trailhead for Neahkahnie.  Hike up and over the mountain down to the north trailhead.  Cross the highway and continue down to Short Sands Beach, then out to Cape Falcon.  Return to the Short Sands parking lot where you left your shuttle vehicle.  This  9- or 10-mile hike gives you an outstanding taste of the wilder side of the Oregon Coast.  It’s just the ticket if you have spent too much time wandering through gift shops in Yachats, Seaside or Cannon Beach.

Gray volcanic rocks are smoothed and polished by the surf.

Gray volcanic rocks are smoothed and polished by the surf.

I drove part of the wonderful Three Capes route, a detour from 101 that takes off from Tillamook & rejoins 101 further south.  For photos, I think Cape Kiwanda is the best of the three.  But Cape Lookout certainly has a lot going for it, including a hike out to the tip of the cape and a great campground & beach.  At Kiwanda, I hiked over the big dune marking its south side, where it’s two steps up and one step down.

The view south from Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.

The view south from Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.

I scrambled down to the two rocky coves incised into the soft rock of the cape.  This “almost-sandstone” is buff and orange in color, which is partly why this place is so popular with photographers.  In the largest (and most difficult to reach) rocky cove, a spectacular tall archway is only visible if you walk all the way to the northern tip of the cape.

A nice sunset captured earlier this past spring down in one of Cape Kiwanda's rocky inlets.

A nice sunset captured earlier this past spring down in one of Cape Kiwanda’s rocky inlets.

Your reward is a running and hopping descent of the huge dune on the south side of the cape.  A real return to childhood it is, and since it faces the beach you’ll have an audience!  A further reward is had adjacent to the beach, where friendlies at Pelican Bay Brewery are ready to pour you a mega-pint of IPA (the p standing for pelican not pale).  This little travelogue of the Oregon Coast continues next time with the second of two parts, so stay tuned.  Thanks for reading!

The sea stacks just offshore of Cannon Beach, Oregon are set against a peaceful summer sunset.

The sea stacks just offshore of Cannon Beach, Oregon are set against a peaceful summer sunset.

Quest for the Crescent   5 comments

A beautiful sunrise over the Columbia River Gorge, with Beacon Rock just visible through the mist.

A beautiful sunrise over the Columbia River Gorge, with Beacon Rock just visible through the mist.

I’ve been sort of fixated on photographing the crescent moon lately.  I wanted to capture it at sunrise (i.e. when it rises just before the sun on the day or two before new moon), but clouds interfered.  Instead I got a pretty nice sunrise shot (see image above).  Then I set my sights on the setting crescent after new moon.  Coincidentally, this moon when it is first sighted marks the beginning of Ramadan, the month of daily fasting & prayer for muslims worldwide.

On the day after the new moon, the crescent was exceedingly thin, only 5% illuminated.  Further complicating matters, it was due to set less than half an  hour after the sun.  These factors make it very difficult to sight.  You can make it easier by getting up in elevation with a clear view of the western horizon, and scanning with binoculars.  I almost went this route, but I wanted a different sort of picture of it.  I wanted some interesting foreground that included water.  So I set up at river-level in the Columbia Gorge near home.  While sharp-eyed muslims sighted this moon and Ramadan began, I failed.

A photo captured at dusk but with something missing - the crescent moon.

A photo captured at dusk but with something missing – the crescent moon.

I was disappointed but not beaten.  The next evening I knew the crescent would be easier to sight and probably make a more beautiful picture.  I went back to the same spot in the Gorge, Rooster Rock State Park.  The image at bottom was the result.  Hope you enjoy it.

If you’re interested in any of these images, just click on them.  They are not available for free download without my permission, sorry.  Go ahead and contact me if you have any questions.  By the way, I wrote a post on capturing the crescent moon (with a photo not a lasso!).  Check it out.  Thanks for the visit!

Success!  A peaceful crescent moon sets at dusk over a small inlet of the Columbia River, Oregon.

Success! A peaceful crescent moon sets at dusk over a small inlet of the Columbia River, Oregon.

Single Image Sunday: A New Friend?   5 comments

This is the second time I’ve risked my skin climbing up Rooster Rock to get eye level with my new friend, the osprey.  The nest is at the top of a big fir tree that has had its crown lopped off by lightning.  The view over the river for sunset was my original motivation, but I think now it’s really about the fish hawk.

Osprey_6-21-13_5D3_002

She was not happy the first time I did it, and this time she was only slightly less noisy.  I can see progress though.  Sorta have to cling to a perch while taking the picture, so I’m glad the Mister was far too busy fishing to pay me much mind.  He did do a flyover however, to see what she was squawking about I suppose.

I’m definitely thinking of returning at least a couple more times.  I want to see the chicks when they hatch.  Of course her gradually increasing comfort with me might vanish when the little ones appear.  We’ll see.

Friday Foto Talk: Getting Familiar with your Camera   13 comments

A fading day illuminates colorful skies and the basalt cliffs at Crown Point in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A fading day illuminates colorful skies and the basalt cliffs at Crown Point in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

This subject is one of those in photography that everybody just assumes is true but many don’t put it into practice with enough rigor.  Getting familiar with your camera and lenses, along with your tripod and other accessories, is key to capturing your best shots.  This is tops on my mind right now since I just bought a new camera.

If you are a novice, or even beyond novice, photographer, I have to say right here that there is only one author that I’ve read who really dives into this subject with some detail.  That is longtime photography teacher Brian Peterson.  His Understanding Photography Field Guide should be required reading.  He does not go deeply into the idea of getting familiar with your camera, since beyond saying you should do it, there’s not much to mention that is not brand dependent.  But he does detail great ways to get familiar with your lenses.  So go read that book and I won’t go into lenses much here.

A quiet dusk evening along the Columbia River.

A quiet dusk evening along the Columbia River.

Nobody would argue that learning how to use a new piece of electronics is important, whether computer or phone or camera.  But I’m going to argue here that most people tend to do the minimum amount of learning when it comes to their camera.  They read the manual (maybe) and then begin using the camera.  They don’t go back to the manual, trying to figure out the best way to set it up.  But this is the best way to make sure you are doing things in the most efficient way.  It’s important to do this early on so you don’t get locked in too much to a less-efficient way of doing things.

Once you go through this somewhat clunky period of feeling out your camera with help from the manual, then you should just shoot shoot shoot.  This is the only way to get to the point where everything is second nature, where you never have to look at your camera to do anything.  Your eyes belong on the scene before you, not on your camera (except for reviewing the image on the LCD when necessary).

 By the way, regarding the plethora of books that come out on each new model of camera: I don’t see them as very useful.  They are basically extended user’s manuals, which you get for free with the camera.  Much of what you’ll learn is what that photographer does with that camera.  So long as you don’t let that influence you too much, there isn’t much harm in reading one.  I prefer reading the user’s manual and developing my own system.

Dusk descends on the Columbia River in Oregon.

Dusk descends on the Columbia River in Oregon.

When you get to the second-nature stage of using your camera, lenses and tripod, you can do things very quickly.  This allows you to take advantage of quick-changing light.  You can switch subjects quickly.  You can get that wide-angle shot PLUS the zoomed in composition.  When photographing people, you can capture quickly changing expressions and body postures, allowing much more natural looking pictures.

Don’t get me wrong.  You’ll still miss plenty of shots.  You will get set up and trip the shutter a few seconds after the golden light fades, you’ll be ready to photograph an animal just as it passes behind some brush, etc, etc.  I’m actually talking about minimizing the missed shots, not adding opportunities.  For that you’ll need to simply get out in front of interesting subjects and shoot more often.

My previous camera (one that is in the shop right now) is a Canon 5D Mark II.  I just bought a new 5D Mark III, and so there is a lot of overlap.  All the shots here were captured with my new camera.  I’m very familiar with my Mark II, so how different could the Mark III be?  Unfortunately it’s not a completely seamless transition.  That’s because it’s difficult to get used to those things that have changed.

One example on my new camera is the different button used to magnify images on the LCD screen.  This is a feature I use all the time, in composing and focusing images using LiveView, and in reviewing images on the LCD for good focus.  The magnify button on the 5D III is in a different place than it is on the 5D II.  Doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but when your fingers are very used to going to a certain place, it requires retraining to make the change.

New camera models will often have wholly redesigned features.  Autofocus is one example on the Canon 5D III.  Inherited from the 7D and 1D model series, there is a brand new autofocus system to learn.  Compared to the 5D II, it is quite complex, with many different possible settings.  Something new to learn for sure.  Expanded capabilities will just remain unused if you don’t learn how to use them.

Thus far I have only shot a few pictures with my new camera, so I’m sorry for not having a lot of images in this post.  I will post more new pictures as I take them.  In fact, I’m going out right after finishing this post!  Now I’d like you to really examine how familiar you are with your camera gear.  Could using it be more intuitive for you?  If so, get out there and shoot!  Perhaps go back and read that manual one more time.   And by the way have fun!  Thanks for reading!

One of the many old pile dikes sticking out into the broad lower Columbia River right at the edge of magic and blue hours.

One of the many old pile dikes sticking out into the broad lower Columbia River right at the edge of magic and blue hours.

The Cascades I: Volcanoes Give and Take Away   16 comments

Sunrise on the north side of Mt Hood from the pastoral Hood River Valley, Oregon.

Sunrise on the north side of Mt Hood from the pastoral Hood River Valley, Oregon.

This is the mountain range I’m most familiar with, my home range.  I’ve climbed all of the high Oregon Cascades and many of the bigger Washington ones as well.  So I have personal experience and knowledge of these peaks.  Named for the many waterfalls that tumble over their volcanic cliffs, the Cascades are essentially a northern analogue of the Andes in South America.

The waterfalls for which the Cascades are named occur all through the range, including here at Toketee Falls.

The waterfalls for which the Cascades are named  include Toketee Falls.

GEOGRAPHY

The Cascades are volcanoes that still erupt from time to time, but with the exception of a single mountain are not the most active volcanic chain in the world by any means.  More on the exception below.  The Cascade Range, which stretches for 700 miles (1100 km.) in a north-south direction from Mount Garibaldi in Canada to Mount Lassen in California, is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire (see below).  This whole region of the western Pacific Northwest is often called Cascadia.

The Cascades are dotted with beautiful mountain lakes.

The Cascades are dotted with beautiful mountain lakes.

The dramatic and beautiful mountains that make up the Cascades in most cases exceed 10,000 feet (3000 meters).  The high peaks are generally well-spaced, with many miles of forested lower mountains and hills between each snow-capped peak.  Oregon’s Three Sisters area (which actually includes 5 big volcanoes) is an exception to this wide spacing.  The bunched-up and much more rugged North Cascades in Washington are a whole different range geologically, one that happens to coincide in space (but not time) with the volcanoes of the Cascades.

A wet meadow in Crater Lake National Park blooms with pink monkeyflower, among other flowers.

A wet meadow in Crater Lake National Park blooms with pink monkeyflower, among other flowers.

GEOLOGY

The highest peaks in the Cascades are quite young, most less than 100,000 years old – a moment in the earth’s 4.5 billion-year history.  They are built upon a much older eroded volcanic range, arranged along an axis situated slightly to the west of the present locus of volcanic activity.  These older volcanoes began erupting some 37 million years ago.  It’s lucky for life (including us) that these older, heavily eroded volcanoes are around.  It’s the reason we have those lush forests, those cold streams that nourish the region’s great fish runs, and the habitat for the region’s other wildlife.  And let’s not forget the many waterfalls!

From high on Cooper Spur at Mount Hood, Oregon, the view north includes Mount Adams in Washington.

From high on Cooper Spur at Mount Hood, Oregon, the view north includes Mount Adams in Washington.

The older ancestral Cascades are also responsible for the region’s enormous timber resources plus the very rich soils that drew settlers west along the Oregon Trail.  Volcanoes combine with ample rainfall to make rich soil for farming.  By the way, many often wonder why so many people, worldwide, live near dangerous volcanoes.  It’s simple:  the rich soils around volcanoes, the productive farmland.  There is really not much choice.  We must eat, and so we must live near volcanoes.

While the Western Cascades are responsible for many of the Northwest’s assets, let’s not totally dismiss the younger High Cascades.  Their snowpack, lasting well into summer, gives farmers and ranchers (especially those to the east) water for their crops through typically dry summers.

The older western Cascades are very different in character than the high Cascades.

The older western Cascades are very different in character than the high Cascades.

The Cascades are stratovolcanoes (aka composite cones).  These are the steep-sided, conical volcanoes you drew as a kid in school.  They are made of alternating layers of lava-rock and pyroclastic (ash) deposits.  The volcanic rock is characteristically lighter colored than the basalt which covers the region to the east of the Cascades.  A typical volcanic rock for the Cascades is andesite (named for the Andes), which flows over the ground in a somewhat stickier manner than more fluid basalt (Hawaiian volcanoes erupt basalt).  The Cascades do have their share of basalt too, along with dacite and a few other types of volcanic rock.

An uncommon volcanic rock of the Cascades is obsidian.  It is very rich in silica (SiO2), which is also what quartz is made of.  In liquid lava, dissolved silica acts to make it stickier, more viscous.  Water does the opposite, makes lava less viscous – more fluid.  Obsidian is so rich in silica and erupts so dry that it literally squeezes out of the ground like thick toothpaste, heaping up into mounds and ridges.  Once cooled, obsidian is a beautiful natural glass, normally black, that can be sharp enough to serve as surgical instruments.  Obsidian arrowheads left along old American Indian trails and hunting grounds can still be found throughout the Northwest.

Admiring the view while on a climb in the Cascades.  That is Mount Adams in Washington.

Admiring the view while on a climb in the Cascades. That is Mount Adams in Washington.

THE RING OF FIRE AND PLATE TECTONICS

The Pacific Ring of Fire is that huge circle of volcanoes and earthquake activity that circles the Pacific ocean basin.  Some of the world’s most spectacular eruptions and devastating earthquakes happen along the Ring of Fire.  Truly an enormous geologic feature, it exists because the earth’s tectonic plates rub against and collide with each other (see addendum below if you don’t know about plate tectonics already).  Although they act slowly, the forces are gargantuan.  And something has to occasionally give.

The big snow-capped peaks of the Cascades are classic strato-volcanoes.

The big snow-capped peaks of the Cascades are classic strato-volcanoes.

One example of the power and beauty of the Ring of Fire lies in the remote Aleutian Islands and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.  Here the huge Pacific Plate dives under the North American continental plate (plus a smaller one called the Okhotsk Plate) along a so-called subduction zone.  The plate partially melts as it descends, because of the heat of course – but also because of it is loaded with water (which acts as a flux).  Plumes of magma rising from the descending and melting plate eventually erupt into some of the world’s most active (and thankfully remote) volcanoes.  In the Southern Hemisphere on the opposite side of the Ring of Fire, the oceanic Nazca Plate subducts under the South American plate to form the longest volcanic range in the world, the Andes.

Crater Lake in Oregon fills the collapsed caldera of Mount Mazama, which blew its top about 7000 years ago.

Crater Lake in Oregon fills the collapsed caldera of Mount Mazama, which blew its top about 7000 years ago.

All throughout the Ring of Fire there are earthquakes.  Some of the largest happen as a result of subduction and are called megathrust quakes (how’s that for a name!).  The earthquake that caused the destructive Japanese tsunami of 2011 was of the  megathrust variety.  This enormous earthquake happened where the Pacific Plate subducts beneath Japan’s Honshu Island.  The Pacific Plate moved as much as 20 meters (66 feet) west during the minutes-long quake.  Honshu drew closer to America by about 2.5 meters (8 feet).  The equally destructive Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 was also generated by a megathrust quake along a subduction zone.

Other earthquakes happen when two tectonic plates slide past each other.  The San Andreas in California is the most famous example of this so-called transform boundary.  Because these earthquakes happen on land and have fairly shallow epicenters, they can be very destructive.  This is despite the quakes being generally smaller than subduction-zone, megathrust earthquakes.

Climbing in the Cascades.  Mount Adams (right) and Rainier are visible.

Climbing in the Cascades. Mount Adams (right) and Rainier are visible.

ADDENDUM: PLATE TECTONICS

The crust of the earth (plus some extra beneath it) is broken into enormous semi-rigid plates.  Over time, the plates move across the planet’s surface, on average about as fast as your fingernails grow.  That’s an average; during big quakes they can move up to a hundred feet!  But overall it’s a very slow process.  It can take over a million years for a plate to move 50 miles.  They ride atop enormous convection currents in the semi-molten part of the upper mantle.  The mantle is that layer that lies directly beneath the earth’s crust.  The weight of tectonic plates as they descend into the mantle along subduction zones (like the one that lies just off the Pacific Northwest coast) helps to pull the oceanic plates along.

Why do we have tectonics while the other planets don’t seem to?  For one thing the energy that drives the convection currents comes from heat given off by the still cooling interior of the earth.   Mars is too small to have much heat left.  For Earth, much of the core is still molten, and our fast spin sets up complex circulation patterns (which cause our magnetic field).  Combined with heat from the decay of radioactive elements, this gives rise to huge, slowly rising zones of heat.  When they hit the colder, more rigid upper parts of the earth, the crust, the currents spread outward horizontally.

Silver Star Mountain in Washington, after a heavy snowfall.

Silver Star Mountain in Washington, after a heavy snowfall.

But there’s another reason for plate tectonics.  It is because we are a water planet that all this partly molten rock is around.  Venus is much too dry for plate tectonics to get going.  Without water the pressures deep below would not allow enough melting.  Water essentially lubricates the earth’s tectonic system.  And without plate tectonics complex life would most likely not be possible, yet another way water is crucial to a living earth.

This series will continue.  If you are interested in any of the images, just click on them.  They are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for reading!

Sunset over the Western Cascades, as viewed from Mount Hood in Oregon.

Sunset over the Western Cascades, as viewed from Mount Hood in Oregon.

Friday Foto Talk: Does the Camera Matter?   5 comments

This shot of the Columbia River in Washington under morning light was made with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens.

This shot of the Columbia River in Washington under morning light was made with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens.

I normally try to stay away from talk of gear.  This is the only day of the week in which I ever blog strictly about photography matters, but even here I stay away from gear reviews and the like.  Last Friday I looked at how water and your camera get along (or not!).  I suppose I dipped my toe into the gear waters when I did that.  So today I’m going to go in a little deeper.  But don’t worry, I’m not about to sell out.  I’ll keep it gear-neutral, and you won’t see any cheerleading.

I’ve been a Canon user since I switched to digital.  Nothing against Nikon, Sony, etc. of course.  I simply looked at the lens lineup, cost of a good camera to begin with, and went for it.  It happened that Canon’s 5D Mark II was the best value at the time I was purchasing, and Canon’s lens choice seemed a tad better than Nikon’s.  I shot Nikon film cameras, and could easily switch if a compelling reason came up.

Phantom Ship is a rock island sticking up in one corner of Oregon's Crater Lake.

Phantom Ship is a rock island sticking up in one corner of Oregon’s Crater Lake.

After I purchased the 5D Mark II I did not want to spend a lot more right away.  So I bought a Sigma lens with it, then a couple cheaper Canon lenses.  I wasn’t happy with the quality, in general.  So it wasn’t long before I took the plunge and bought a few Canon L lenses.  I also bought a Canon 50D as a backup, then a zoom lens that is specific to that camera type (crop-frame).

Through all this, I learned one important lesson: Next to the photographer and subject/light, the lens (not the camera) makes the most difference to the quality of image you get.  The camera does matter, don’t get me wrong.  I used a super-zoom point and shoot camera for some years when I was not seriously into photography.  Although the colors were okay, the images tended to be plagued by digital noise.  Noise tends to reduce clarity and make colors look unnatural.  Essentially, noise can ruin an image.  In general, the more expensive the camera, and the larger its sensor, the better it handles noise.

A viewing platform hanging over the lip of Multnomah Falls in Oregon is not for those afraid of heights.

A viewing platform hanging over the lip of Multnomah Falls in Oregon is not for those afraid of heights.

There are plenty of other reasons to get a nicer camera.  Ergonomics is important.  The way the camera feels in your hands and how easy it is to reach and naturally operate the controls is a factor, but depending on how outside the norm the size of your hands are, it’s my experience that you get used to whatever you use.  More important for me is a viewfinder that you can put your eye up to.  I have a point and shoot and use it when I’m in situations where the only camera I want to have needs to fit into my pocket.  This little camera (a Canon S95) handles noise amazingly well for its small sensor size, but I will never like using a screen to take a picture.  I just can’t compose as well.

A great pyrenees (Pyrenean mountain dog) appears to be having trouble staying awake.

A great pyrenees (Pyrenean mountain dog) appears to be having trouble staying awake.

One reason I don’t think is a good one to consider when shopping for a camera is the brand’s “cachet” or name recognition.  Nobody wants to admit they pay attention to this kind of stuff, but deep down we all know we do.  When I’m around other photographers, I’ve noticed other Canon shooters are more likely to strike up a conversation with me than are folks with other brands.  Silly huh?  I know one thing for sure.  If I had the money to go out and buy a Canon 1Dx, or a Nikon D4 (the two full-pro models), I might feel pretty cool around most other photographers.  But there will come that moment when somebody with a Hasselblad H5D (40K) or a similarly priced Leica S with fancy lens will show up.  Then what do you do?  It’s keeping up with the Joneses, a game you can’t win.

A red-winged blackbird sings in an eastern Oregon marsh.

A red-winged blackbird sings in an eastern Oregon marsh.

So back to the question: does the camera matter?  The short answer is yes but not as much as most think.  Glass (lenses) is always more important to the quality of your images, as is your overall skill and comfort with the camera.  The best camera is the one you have with you when you are presented with perfect light and subject.  This is an old truism that will always hold.

All of that said, today I have on the way a brand new Canon 5D Mark III.  I pulled the trigger yesterday and took advantage of a free one-day shipping offer.  It will replace my beloved 5D Mark II, which took a bad fall and bath last week.  That camera is at Canon’s repair, and will be fixed, but not cheaply!  Now I have 3 DSLRs and need to sell one.  My previous backup, the 50D, might be the one to go.  But that camera has given me nothing but sterling service for 3 years and is still going strong.  I might instead sell the 5D Mark II.  I’m not really sure.

Fairy Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge appears to glow in sunlight diffused by the deep forest.

Fairy Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge appears to glow in sunlight diffused by the deep forest.  This was captured with my Canon 5D Mark II and Tokina 16-28 mm. f/2.8 wide-angle zoom.

The Mark II is a full-frame camera with video while the 50D is a crop-frame without video.  The Mark II is a 21 MP camera while the 50D is a 15 MP camera.  But you have more reach with a crop-frame (it basically gives you extra zoom capability), nice to have when your main camera (in my case a 5D Mark III) is a full-frame.  I think most people would sell the crop-frame and keep the Mark II as a backup.  But for me it isn’t so simple and I haven’t made up my mind yet.  So feel free to give me your opinion if you have one.  Let me know if you are in the market and are interested in either camera.  Maybe you can help me make up my mind.

Have fun shooting!  I’ll post pictures from my new camera soon.

This image of a fisherman beneath Crown Point in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge was captured with my Canon 50D plus Canon EF-S 17-55 mm. f/2.8 IS lens.  Not bad for a backup!

This image of a fisherman beneath Crown Point in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge was captured with my Canon 50D + Canon EF-S 17-55 mm. f/2.8 IS lens. Not bad for a backup!

Spring in the Pacific Northwest – Part II   5 comments

This is an impressive waterfall in Washington's southern Cascade Range, near Mount St. Helens.  Here you see it in full-on spring flood.

This is an impressive waterfall in Washington’s southern Cascade Range, near Mount St. Helens. Here you see it in full-on spring flood.

One Soggy Rose.

One Soggy Rose.

This is the second of two parts on what regions to visit and when in the Pacific Northwest.  The recommendations are particularly relevant for nature and landscape photographers, but anyone who plans to visit during spring or early summer will find it useful.  Since I’m going to just jump in where I left off, it’s best to check out Part I first.

POPULATED AREAS

Speaking of spring flowers (I was actually speaking of them in the 1st part!), let’s not forget the gardens and cultivated areas through the western valleys and cities of the Pacific Northwest.  The tulips bloom starting in April and there are several farms that welcome visitors.  The area around Woodburn is very popular; so popular with photogs. in fact, that I’ve stubbornly avoided taking one picture there!  I do love tulips, and there are plenty around town to photograph.  The roses for which Portland is famous bloom about the time of the city’s signature event, Rose Festival (go figure!).  This is late May into June.  A visit to Portland’s Rose Garden during a cloudy day right after rainfall can yield amazing flower pictures.

Neighborhood_Flowers_4-20-12_5D_003

At Portland's Rose Garden, spring showers linger into the season of bloom.

At Portland’s Rose Garden, spring showers linger into the season of bloom.

For people pictures, head down to the waterfront for the Rose Festival itself, or to one of the street fairs such as Last Thursday (Alberta Street, last Thursday of every month, May – October).  Or just go to one of our “hip” neighborhoods and hang out.  There is always something going on in this town.

The cherry blossoms and unsettled weather go along with Spring in Portland, Oregon.

The cherry blossoms and unsettled weather go along with Spring in Portland, Oregon.

Portland's Rose Festival is a great place to stroll around, enjoying the perfect weather and comfort food.

Portland’s Rose Festival is a great place to stroll around, enjoying the perfect weather and comfort food.

The street fair in Portland known as Last Thursday attracts thousands of artists, musicians and spectators.

The street fair in Portland known as Last Thursday attracts thousands of artists, musicians and spectators.

THE COAST

At some point in springtime, hopefully during the kind of off and on weather that the season is known for around here, you’ll want to visit the coast.  The greening up does not skip this part of Oregon, and spring storms can bring great wave action as well.  Extra-low tides are great for exploring (and photographing) the fascinating sea life in tidal pools.  The Oregon Coast is simply one of those places you should try your level best to see at some point.

Big waves pound the tilted layers of an ancient delta at Cape Arago on the central Oregon Coast.

Big waves pound the tilted layers of an ancient delta at Cape Arago on the central Oregon Coast.

And while you’re at it do the northern California coast and/or the Olympic Coast in Washington.  These are just as beautiful as Oregon, since it’s really just a continuation.  Have to admit I’m partial to our coast though.  For one thing, you’ll see no private property signs or fences blocking access to a beach in Oregon.  That would be against the law, since every bit of coast up to high-tide line is public property.  For another, the whole coast is beautiful, from one end to the other.  It’s one long continuous stretch of pretty little towns, capes and sea stacks.  The Olympic Coast is wilder though, being in a National Park.

The sun goes down as wading birds forage for tiny crustaceans along the northern California coast where a creek enters the ocean.

The sun goes down as wading birds forage for tiny crustaceans along the northern California coast where a creek enters the ocean.

Spring used to not be my favorite season around these parts.  I still don’t really like how long it can be. Enough already!  But with the flowers and generally good weather conditions for photography, with the lush green forest and filled-to-the-brim waterfalls, with all the days conducive to rainbows, I’ve come around to liking this season..a lot.  There must be some reason I tend to stick around the Northwest during this time of year.

A small barn in rural western Oregon, at day's end on a typical spring showery day.

A small barn in rural western Oregon, at day’s end on a typical spring showery day.

A perfectly symmetrical daisy blooms in Portland, Oregon.

A perfectly symmetrical daisy blooms in Portland, Oregon.

Of course we have beautiful (but much shorter) autumns.  And summer is filled with near-perfect days and breezy nights (generally too clear for a photographer’s liking though).  Come November now, I’ll be itching to get out of Dodge.  But spring and early summer are really when the Pacific Northwest shines.  The only problem?  There is much too much to do, and with the year’s longest days to do it in.  Spring is also the time to kayak and raft the whitewater on the smaller, undammed rivers.  It’s the time to climb (and ski down) the snow-clad volcanoes.  It’s time to join in the fun of outdoor festivals and outings.  It’s a time when you wonder if sleep really is overrated.

Thanks for looking!

A spring storm clears at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon coast just in time for sunset.

A spring storm clears at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon coast just in time for sunset.

Single-Image Sunday: Rainy Oregon   4 comments

This Sunday I thought I’d post a black and white image.  I don’t do a lot of black and white.  Perhaps that’s why I like it so much when I do capture an image like this one.  Then it’s back to the computer to see if I can bring back the mood in the scene.  I’ve found especially with black and white that RAW digital captures can take away some of the subtle contrasts and tones and make them feel a little lifeless.  I processed this with Nik Silver Effex Pro.

This little outing was really sort of a bust.  I arrived in the Columbia River Gorge (Oregon) to get some pictures at sunset.  Unfortunately a rainstorm timed its arrival for sunset too.  It was a race to get a picture before the deluge, a race I lost.  As I set up it began raining.  So I grabbed a few shots and quickly put my camera away.

The light was rapidly fading with the building clouds, robbing the scene of what a minute before was a very vibrant green.  I thought immediately that it might make a good black and white landscape image.  A minute or so after I captured it the rainstorm grayed out the nice shadows and highlights on the water.  So this was definitely one of those pictures that straddles the edge of changing light and weather conditions.  I think that’s the reason it turned out well.  What do you think?

Rainy weather descends on Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

Rainy weather descends on Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

Simply click on the image for pricing options.  You’ll go to the high-res. version.  Click “add this image to cart” to get a tabbed price chart.  The picture won’t be added to your cart until you confirm your choices.  Sorry but the image is copyrighted and not available for free download.  Please contact me with any questions.  Thanks for your interest.

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