Archive for the ‘beautiful scenery’ Tag

Mountain Monday: The Mogollons   20 comments

This post is one day late for International Mountain Day.  But right on time for Mountain Monday!  It highlights a relatively remote place in western New Mexico.  I’d been wanting to go to this part of the southern Rockies for a long time, and earlier this year I finally made it.  I drove up a dirt road that ended at a gate marking the boundary of the Gila Wilderness.  The road continued beyond the gate, growing worse and clinging to the side of a mountain.

I parked and began to hike along the rough jeep track, recognizing it as an old mining route.  I followed it toward the head of a canyon.  Poking around I found some weathered shacks, a couple adits and other remnants of the gold & silver boom of the late 1800s.  There is a ghost town not far from here called Mogollon.  On the way back, as the sun sank lower, the air cooled and fog began to form over the mountains to the west.  It made for a mystical scene.  The sunset that followed was nice, but this shot was my favorite because of its mysterious feel.

The Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico's Gila Wilderness march off into the distance.

The Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness march off into the distance.

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Weekly Photo Talk: Reflections   25 comments

Mount Rainier, Washington is reflected in the blue waters of Bench Lake.

Mount Rainier, Washington is reflected in the blue waters of Bench Lake.

This post dovetails with the weekly photo challenge – Reflections.  I’ll be brief and to the point.  Here are some things to keep in mind when photographing reflections.  By the way, all of the images here are copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission.  If you are interested in one, just click on it to go to the gallery part of my website.  If you have any questions or special requests, please contact me.  Thanks for your interest!

One of my favorite night images, the moon and Jupiter times two in Mt. Rainier's Reflection Lake.  Please click on image if interested in it.

One of my favorite night images, the moon and Jupiter times two in Mt. Rainier’s Reflection Lake. Please click on image if interested in it.

      • Seek out reflections, especially when the light is nice.  Don’t worry about being cliche or boring.  Reflections multiply a beautiful sky or other nicely lighted subject.  They add zing to any photo.  They also help to control contrasts, evening out the light and making exposure easier.
This scene had subtle, rather dim but beautiful light, and Lake Crescent (Olympic Peninsula, Washington) reflecting that light made the shot.

Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.  Light was subtle, rather dim but beautiful, and the reflection multiplied that light and made the shot.

      • Reflections can close shapes or complete patterns.  Just look at the image below and imagine how the shadow and mountain would look without the reflection.  They would make half a shape.
Appropriately named Blue Lake near Mt. Rainier, Washington.

Appropriately named Blue Lake near Mt. Rainier, Washington.

      • As always, variety is the spice.  In order to avoid the same old look of upside down subjects, move in close, angle your camera down to take in only the reflection, work the light and subject both.  Do abstracts and close-ups.  Try reflections off buildings and use bright rocks too.  For times when the reflection is disturbed by wind, view them as opportunities to get a different kind of shot.  Watch carefully what the light does as the wind blows.
These trees along the Columbia River are flooded in spring's high flows, creating the opportunity for an abstract-like composition.

These trees along the Columbia River are flooded in spring’s high flows, creating the opportunity for an abstract-like composition.

      • When you have a fairly standard situation, like for example a reflection of a mountain off a lake, try exposing for the reflection.  Put your camera on manual and point the center of frame at the brightest part of the reflection (or if that is very bright just to the side of it).  Set the aperture you want and then adjust shutter speed to center your light meter reading.  Then move the camera to recompose and get the shot you want.  Shoot and then review the image on the LCD, paying attention to the histogram.  You want to make sure the histogram isn’t climbing up the right edge (overexposure) or way too far over to the left (underexposure).
The Grand Tetons in Wyoming are reflected in a high alpine tarn.

The Grand Tetons in Wyoming are reflected in a high alpine tarn.

      • In general, reflections are a little dimmer than the light source.  Remember that when you’re using a graduated neutral density filter, whether in the field or on the computer later.  Using the example from the point above, keep the reflection from becoming brighter than the brightest areas of the sky.
Don't forget night-time reflections:  Milky Way over Mt. Adams, Washington.

Don’t forget night-time reflections: Milky Way over Mt. Adams, Washington.

      •  When the sun glints directly off the water, those often beautiful highlights are normally the same or very close to the brightness of the sun.  So if they are blown out, so that they make the histogram hit the right edge, don’t worry about it.  Just like you don’t worry about blowing out the sun, who cares if those details lack highlights?
A winter sunset from Timberline on Mount Hood, Oregon reflects from the snow.

A winter sunset from Timberline on Mount Hood, Oregon reflects from the snow.

      • When you are shooting reflections in windows or mirrors out on the street, pay special attention to everything in the frame.  Of course this is always a great idea, but it’s even more important with street shooting.  Now I know it’s very cool to be surprised later on the computer when you see something you hadn’t noticed at the time.  But in general you want to control what is appearing in your composition.  It pays to be very observant with reflections.

I hope you are blessed with great reflections on your upcoming photography forays.  In my opinion, they are worth their weight in gold.  I also hope your weekend is as beautiful as ours is in the Pacific Northwest.  The first weekend of spring, yippee!

This house and the Mendocino Coast (California) headland it sits on are reflected beautifully off wet sand.

This house and the Mendocino Coast (California) headland it sits on are reflected beautifully off wet sand.

Fall along the Animas River of New Mexico.

Fall along the Animas River of New Mexico.

A glorious sunset sky is reflected from the Columbia River in Oregon as a seal cruises by.

A glorious sunset sky is reflected from the Columbia River in Oregon as a seal cruises by.

Friday Foto Talk – Patterns I: Line   7 comments

A short hike will take you to beautiful Elowah Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A short hike will take you to beautiful Elowah Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.  This is an example of very subtle use of line and pattern in an image.

This Friday Foto Talk let’s think about the very basics of composition.  Patterns are definitely worth seeking out in your photography, and this applies especially to nature and landscape photography.  The most essential part of patterns are the lines that define them.  Lines can lead you into a scene, point to your subject, mimic the shapes of your main subjects, and frame your composition, among other things.  They’re very powerful parts of an image.

Tall grass is reflected in a pond in the Potholes area of eastern Washington.

Tall grass is reflected in a pond in the Potholes area of eastern Washington.  Abstracts like this one often make use of repeating lines.

Think about looking out at a landscape.  There is a winding river or roadway stretching toward some overlapping hills.  The ridgelines that define the hills are slightly curved.  And wouldn’t you know it, the clouds above are in gentle arcs as well.  Perhaps you got lucky and sitting in the grass alongside the road or river there is an old abandoned car.  It’s from the 1950s and has nice gentle curves that define its fenders and hood.  These curves are outlined by a bright backlight from the setting sun.  This image draws your eye partly because of the beautiful light of course.  But it is the lines which lead the eye and clouds and hills that mimic the gentle shapes of the car that makes you stand and stare.

The narrows at Oneonta Gorge in Oregon are here full after spring rains.

The narrows at Oneonta Gorge in Oregon are full after spring rains.  The curved lines in the water contrast with straight and jagged vertical lines of the canyon walls and falling water.

A photograph I’ve always believed is effective if it captures what you would stop and look at even without having a camera.  I always try to keep this in mind: would I stop and admire this even if I wasn’t out shooting pictures?  Lines that make up patterns draw our eyes because of our evolutionary history.  We evolved in semi-open areas where picking out patterns from the background of grasses and trees really mattered.

One of the many lakes in the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington is calm and colorful at sunrise.

One of the many lakes in the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington is calm and colorful at sunrise.  The curved shoreline and angled lines of the orange sky help this simple image.

Lions and other predators, I found out during my recent trip to Africa, blend in very well to their surroundings.  I drove right by one in Kruger, South Africa.  She was crouching at the roadside only a few feet from my open window as I passed slowly, scanning for wildlife.  I stopped to look at something else (a rock it turned out) and caught a tiny movement out of the corner of my eye.  That’s the only reason I saw her, and she was actually in plain view.  Our ancestors, already very visual creatures, developed even greater ability and passed this acuity on to us.

The Columbia River where it passes through the gorge along the Oregon/Washington border forms wetlands along the river bottom in springtime.

The Columbia River where it passes through the gorge along the Oregon/Washington border forms wetlands along the river bottom in springtime.  Reflections can often get you a two-for-one, doubling the lines in the landscape to make a closed shape.

Often the most interesting photos are those that mix and match different line patterns.  Straight lines combined with curved, horizontal combined with vertical, or slightly curved combined with tightly curved.  You only need to see these patterns and photograph them in the kind of light that brings them out.  Some amount of contrast can be added later in software, but you need light with depth and clarity to really bring line patterns out.

One of the many wetlands in the Potholes area of eastern Washington, a paradise for waterbirds.

One of the many wetlands in the Potholes area of eastern Washington, a paradise for waterbirds.  The think lines of the grass are fairly subtle but contrast with the overall horizontal nature of the image.

For me, I think I like gently curved lines the best.  I normally seek out peaceful settings, and gently curved lines help to establish that mood.  The image at top shows an obvious gentle arc (the falls), repeated by the more subtle curve of the tree’s left side.  The rock at right also has a similar angle.  Very dramatic and imposing  mountain or desert scenes may benefit from a different type of line pattern.  When photographing these scenes it is natural to go for sharply angled or jagged lines.  Maybe you like different kinds of subjects.  Whatever you are photographing, think about the kinds of lines that will both help to define the mood of your image and also lead the viewer’s attention to your main subject(s).

A double rainbow appears as a spring storm clears over the lush Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

A double rainbow appears as a spring storm clears over the lush Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.  I loved how the arcs of the rainbows were so close to the forested walls of the Gorge, and also at a similar angle.

The photos here are all very recent, captured during my recent trip to eastern Washington and in the nearby Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.  I hope you enjoy them.  Remember they are copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission.  These versions are much too small anyway.  If you’re interested in high-res versions just click on the image.  Then once you have the full-size image on the screen click “add this image to cart”.  You will then get price options; it won’t be added to your cart until you make choices.  If you don’t see an option that matches what you want to purchase, just contact me with any special requests.  Thanks for your interest.

The sun goes down over the wheat fields of the Palouse in eastern Washington.

The sun goes down over the wheat fields of the Palouse in eastern Washington.  The subtle lines in the rows of wheat lead into the scene, and the angled line of clouds helps to frame the sun (which has its own radiating pattern of lines).

Mount St Helens – Early Season   4 comments

The Hummocks near Mount St. Helens is an area filled with remnant debris from the devastating eruption of 1980.

The Hummocks near Mount St. Helens is an area filled with remnant debris from the devastating eruption of 1980.

I visited the north side of Mount St. Helens yesterday with my uncle and my dog.  St. Helens is a sleeping volcano, by far the most active in the Cascade Range.  It erupted with extreme violence on May 18th, 1980, killing 57 people.  Now it is a National Monument managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and is in full-on recovery mode.

Since the monument is only partially open now, the snow just having recently melted off the highway, we had it to ourselves.  And what a gorgeous day to be there with only a few other lucky souls!  The mountain was glittering with rapidly melting snow, the water was pouring down through creeks and over waterfalls, and the birds and amphibians were busy with their lives on the shores of full lakes and ponds.

Beautiful Coldwater Lake at Mount St. Helens in Washington state.

Beautiful Coldwater Lake at Mount St. Helens in Washington state.

GEOLOGY

This whole area was transformed by the eruption of St Helens in 1980.  The volcano awoke on March 16th of that year with a series of small earthquakes.  A week and a half later the mountain erupted, blasting a small crater out of the snow-covered summit.  The mountain then proceeded to work up to its big blast 8 weeks later.  The north flank of the mountain slowly bulged outward as magma moved upward.

Finally, on that beautiful Sunday morning, while folks were in church or tending their gardens, the bulge gave way and history’s largest recorded landslide occurred.  The volcano was essentially uncorked, and as the massive debris avalanche slid toward Spirit Lake (where Harry Truman – the old character who refused to evacuate his lakeside cabin – awaited his fate), the mountain erupted in a powerful lateral blast.  It had the force of 24 megatons, 1600 times the energy released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.  Whole forests were mowed down and the mountain’s height reduced by 1300 feet.

The mass of rock, mud and ash cascaded down the North Fork Toutle River valley, burying the river and damming Coldwater Creek.  These types of debris avalanches typically form mounds (hummocks) where the debris comes to rest, and this is what happened here.  Erosion by streams further sculpts the landscape.  Actually, this strange hummocky terrain, which occurs in places worldwide, was a bit of a puzzle to geologists before St. Helens showed geologists how it is formed.  Beautiful Coldwater Lake, along with the adjacent hummocks and melt-water ponds with their unique ecosystem, owe their existence to the 1980 landslide and eruption.  Volcanoes destroy, but they also create.

Coldwater Creek at Mount St. Helens near its confluence with the Toutle River.

Coldwater Creek at Mount St. Helens near its confluence with the Toutle River.

We hiked partway around Coldwater Lake.  We had planned to make the 12-mile loop around this rather large lake, which was created when the debris avalanche from the 1980 eruption dammed Coldwater Creek.  But a wide, tumbling creek stopped us.  I hopped across, getting my feet wet.  Seeing my uncle hesitate, I built a very rough bridge out of logs for him to cross.  But at age 73, he has gotten very cautious.  He just doesn’t like doing anything even remotely hazardous.  And stream crossings are something he REALLY does not like on a hike.  So we turned back.

The beautiful Coldwater Lake near Mount St. Helens was formerly covered with huge trees before the devastating eruption of 1980.

The beautiful Coldwater Lake near Mount St. Helens was formerly covered with huge trees before the devastating eruption of 1980.

I was pretty disappointed.  The hike around the lake was promising to be one spectacular trek.  I’ll just have to get back up there soon to do the whole thing.  But I snapped quickly out of my funk when we found a great alternative just across the road from the lake.

Trees are reflected in one of the many ponds at Mount St. Helens' Hummocks area in Washington.

Trees are reflected in one of the many ponds at Mount St. Helens’ Hummocks area in Washington.

The Hummocks Trail is a very interesting 2.5-mile loop through strange mounds created by the 1980 debris avalanche.  At this time of year there are beautifully full ponds trapped between the hummocks, alive with frogs, toads and salamanders.  The trail also passes a couple fantastic viewpoints up the Toutle River to the hulking volcano, with its horseshoe-shaped crater and (often steaming) lava dome.  Interpretive signs along the trail teach about the eruption and formation of the hummocks.

Algae combined with bubbling oxygen from a meltwater pond at Mount St. Helens forms fascinating patterns.

Algae combined with bubbling oxygen from a meltwater pond at Mount St. Helens forms fascinating patterns.

After a late picnic at Coldwater Lake, where we did some birdwatching and general lazing about, I headed back up the Hummocks Trail to one of the ponds for sunset pictures.  We made a full day of it after all, and didn’t get back to Portland until near 11 p.m.  It had been a couple years since I had been up to St. Helens, and I am determined to not let that much time go by again.  It is just too nearby, too special and beautiful a place to neglect.

The rapidly melting foothills near Mount St. Helens in Washington are reflected in meltwater ponds.

The rapidly melting foothills near Mount St. Helens in Washington are reflected in meltwater ponds.

To get there, travel north on I5 from Portland, Oregon (or south from Seattle).  Get off the freeway at the exit for Castle Rock and travel east on Highway 504 about 45 miles to Coldwater Lake.  During the summer season, this highway is open all the way to it’s end at Johnston Ridge Observatory, 7 miles on from the lake.  Find the trail around the lake either from the boat ramp or the Science & Learning Center up on the hill above the lake.  The Hummocks Trail is directly across Hwy. 504 from the turnoff for Coldwater Lake.  This part of Mount St. Helens is open from about late April until the snow flies in November.  Johnston Ridge is open from mid-May until late October.  There is an $8 fee to use Coldwater Lake or Johnston Ridge Observatories during the summer season.

Sundown at Mount St. Helens from the beautiful Hummocks area.

Sundown at Mount St. Helens from the beautiful Hummocks area.

Rowena Plateau is Blooming   8 comments

Dawn breaks on Rowena Crest in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

Dawn breaks on Rowena Crest in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

 

Rowena is one of my favorite places to hike and photograph in springtime, not only in Oregon but anywhere.  Around Easter the showy yellow blooms of the arrowleaf balsamroot appear, and they are soon joined by lupine, paintbrush and other more subtle flowers.  It’s a show that shouldn’t be missed if you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest in spring.  It is very popular with photographers and hikers both.

Early morning dew coats arrowleaf balsamroot at Rowena Crest in the Columbia River Gorge.

Early morning dew coats arrowleaf balsamroot at Rowena Crest in the Columbia River Gorge.

To get there, take Interstate 84 east of Portland all the way out past Hood River to the town of Mosier.  Get off the freeway and turn east on the Dalles-Mosier highway.  This is an extremely scenic two-lane that winds up through the hills toward Rowena Plateau (also known as Rowena Crest).  When the road tops out and the trees thin out, look for a turnoff and parking to the right.  What a view!

Note also that there are wide spots to pull off along the road before you get to the official viewpoint.  But please don’t drive off the gravel; this is fairly delicate terrain.  After your visit, you can keep going on this road as it winds spectacularly back down to the Columbia River, where you’ll be able to access the freeway again for the return.  I’ve seen car companies shooting commercials here.  It will take about an hour and a half to drive here from Portland.

Mount Adams is visible on the hike up to Tom McCall Point at Rowena Plateau in Oregon.

Mount Adams is visible on the hike up to Tom McCall Point at Rowena Plateau in Oregon.

Trails head in both directions from the viewpoint at the crest, and you can’t go wrong with either one.  If you take the trail that heads north toward the river, you’ll pass fields of wildflowers and a small lake.  It’s less than a mile to the cliff-edge, where you can look straight down on the freeway and the river.  Use caution!

If you go the other direction, toward the south, wildlfowers will again greet you as you climb toward McCall Point.  Making the short <2-mile climb to this point will reward you with views of both Mounts Hood and Adams.  Please stay on the trail, and avoid stepping on the plants.  Some are quite rare, even endangered.

Doe and yearling mule deer are curious to see who is visiting at Rowena Plateau near the Columbia River, Oregon.

Doe and yearling mule deer are curious to see who is visiting at Rowena Plateau near the Columbia River, Oregon.

This whole area is a preserve named for Tom McCall, a former governor of Oregon known for his environmental stewardship.  He was also famous for his unofficial motto “Oregon, enjoy your visit but please don’t stay!”  He did not want his beloved state to become California, and a sign was even posted with this motto on the main highway near Oregon’s border with our southern neighbor.

The area is preserved because of its unique botanical treasures.  The showy sunflower-like balsamroot and lupine are very common of course, but there are smaller, less noticeable plants here that are rare and make botanists go giddy with pleasure.  It’s a gorgeous place, especially at sunrise.  I camp here in my van so as to be here at daybreak.  It’s one of the few places I go that I share with a good number of other photographers.  It’s just too good to miss.

Mount Hood stands beyond the spring blooms on Tom McCall Point in Oregon.

Mount Hood stands beyond the spring blooms on Tom McCall Point in Oregon.

If you come here note that it can often be very windy (see image at bottom).  When the sun shines and temperatures rise (which often happens on this drier side of the Cascades), watch for snakes.  Rattlesnakes, which are potentially dangerous, are not as common as gopher snakes but the two can be hard to distinguish.  This is not least because the non-venomous gopher snake has some tricks up its sleeve that it uses to mimick the venomous rattler.  The triangular-shaped head of the rattler, along with its well-known method of warning hikers, should be enough to tell the difference.  Various birds (including raptors), lizards, wild turkeys and deer also frequent the area.

Rowena would definitely be high on my list if I was visiting the Hood River/Columbia Gorge area.  I hope you enjoy the images.  Please be aware that they are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  Click on any of the pictures to go to the main part of my website, where there are purchase options for high-resolution images.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks a lot.

A very stiff wind blows the balsamroot and lupine at sunrise on Rowena Plateau in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A very stiff wind blows the balsamroot and lupine at sunrise on Rowena Plateau in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

 

 

Yellowstone & Grand Tetons Sampler   6 comments

The Snake River's Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming reflects autumn colors.

The Snake River’s Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming reflects autumn colors.

I am in the process of updating my website with pictures I’ve made in the past few months.  Yes, I know.  I have been suffering that most common of website owner maladies: utter neglect!  I guess I don’t really love my website.  All I like is the color of the background and the photos, of course.

The Lamar River Valley in Yellowstone National Park is a peaceful place at dusk.

The Lamar River Valley in Yellowstone National Park is a peaceful place at dusk.

Here are a few of the shots I have re-edited, spruced up, and made ready for the world.  All are from the first leg of my recent trip around the American west, of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

White Dome geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupts under a starry night.

White Dome geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupts under a starry night.

If you are interested in prints or downloads just click on the picture.  The versions here are very low-resolution, but when you click you will have the option to purchase high-res. versions.  All of the images are copyrighted and thus illegal to download, sorry ’bout that.  Please contact me for more information or special requests.  The direct link to my main website: MJF Images.

 Hope you enjoy them.

The Grand Tetons are a must-stop on any road trip through America's Rocky Mountain states.

The Grand Tetons are a must-stop on any road trip through America’s Rocky Mountain states.

An icy early autumn morning along Yellowstone's Firehole River and the enormous steam plumes rising from Grand Prismatic Spring.

An icy early autumn morning along Yellowstone’s Firehole River with colorful steam plumes rising from Grand Prismatic Spring.

Bare trees and a frosty meadow form a dramatic setting for lifting morning mist at Yellowstone National Park.

Bare trees and a frosty meadow form a dramatic setting for lifting morning mist at Yellowstone National Park.

Bison roaming the road at Yellowstone, and a tourist who had no idea they were that big.

Bison roaming the road at Yellowstone, and a tourist who had no idea they were that big.

 

The marvelous Swan River Wildlife Refuge in NW Montana, at the foot of the purple Swan Mountains.

The marvelous Swan River Wildlife Refuge in NW Montana, at the foot of the purple Swan Mountains.

 

Sulfur Springs, a remote thermal area in Yellowstone National Park, reflects the pale light of evening.

Sulfur Springs, a remote thermal area in Yellowstone National Park, reflects the pale light of  a crescent moon.

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