Archive for the ‘Mount Hood’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk: Keepin’ it Fresh   5 comments

Fog over the Forest, Rocky Mtn. foothills, Montana.

Fog over the Forest, Rocky Mtn. foothills, Montana.

It happens to all of us, and we’re usually in deep before we even realize it.  I’m talking about stagnation, burnout.  It happens in life and it happens in photography.  You’re comfortable, producing some nice shots, even a few great ones.  You got this down, right?

Not so fast!  One day you wake up and realize you’ve been in your comfort zone for way too long.  Maybe you’re not strictly bored with photography.  But you’re not happy with where you are either.  You’re simply not growing as a photographer.  If you’re not growing you’re stagnant.  And that stinks.

This is where I’ve found myself lately.  Too many landscapes.  Not too much nature, but too many similar images of nature.  I’ve been trying to get more wildlife images, and that has helped.  But it’s not often enough.  Getting back into shooting macro has also helped.  But that feels too familiar.  I needed a real shake-up.  To find out what I did, go to the end of the post for an ‘Extra’.

A duck does some early-morning grooming at Hosmer Lake, Oregon Cascade Range.

A duck does some early-morning grooming at Hosmer Lake, Oregon Cascade Range.  Shot from kayak w/600 mm. lens, 1/640 sec. @ f/8, ISO 400.

What I call a semi-abstract, this type of picture is a way to straddle the boundary (and thus break it down) between two types of photography.  I like "semi-candid" portraits too.

Shot the other day at Devil’s Lake, Oregon, this “semi-abstract” is a way to straddle the boundary (and thus break it down) between two types of photography. I like “semi-candid” portraits too.  90 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/10, ISO 400.

So has your image-making become staid or even boring?  Here are a few ways to fight that tendency:

  • Keep Learning:  The most obvious strategy is to keep learning about all aspects of photography.  Especially if you’re still a relative novice, this is a sure-fire way to stay interested.  But again, it shouldn’t be about spending a lot of money.  So be careful of workshops that might be more about going to a beautiful place than really learning something.

 

  • Practice another Type of Photography:  If you’ve been doing mainly landscapes, corral someone to act as a model and do some portraits.  You can do a lot with natural light, so don’t think you need to buy or rent artificial lighting.  On the other hand, if you want to learn about artificial lighting techniques, renting is a great option.  In fact, this weekend I’m going to shoot some senior portraits of a friend’s son.
Another friend's son, but this one has a ways to go before his senior pictures.

Another friend’s son, but he has quite a ways to go before his senior pictures.

 

  • Practice with Different Exposure, etc:  If you’re a nature photographer and haven’t gotten into it yet, macro (close-up) photography is a gimme.  You can do it without buying an expensive new (macro) lens.  Just get a Canon 500D close-up filter that fits a lens you already have (it works best with telephoto zooms, such as 70-200 mm.).  Or get a set of extension tubes.  If you haven’t done any very long exposure photography, get a neutral density filter or two and go for it!  If you’ve mostly done standard portraits at long focal lengths, practice environmental portraiture, where you get up close with a wide-angle lens and emphasize backgrounds more.

A water lily in the same lake as the above duck, shot from boat hand-held: 100 mm. macro lens, 1/800 sec. @ f/14, ISO 500.

 

  • Practice another Style:  If you already have a well-developed style of your own, dive into another one or two that you admire.  But if you aren’t confident of your style I don’t recommend this.  You don’t want to be an imitator after all.  You can stretch both your capture and post-processing skills this way.

 

  • Go Mono:  Shooting in monochrome (black and white) is a simple way to fight boredom.  Set your camera to display what you shoot in B&W for a session or two.  You can still shoot in RAW so that the capture is in color, but your LCD shows each picture in black and white.  If you instead shoot Jpeg, you’ll end up with only black and white photographs.

 

This old lookout at Cape Perpetua on the Oregon Coast was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930s as part of Franklin Roosevelt's jobs program.  21 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200.

This old lookout at Cape Perpetua on the Oregon Coast was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930s as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s jobs program. 21 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200.

  • Teach Someone:  If you know a budding photographer volunteer to take them out shooting.  Follow up later and help them to evaluate & process their images.  Playing off a newbie’s enthusiasm is a tried and true way to get jazzed back up.

I’m sure you can come up with other ways to stretch your skills and freshen up your photography.  Please don’t be shy about sharing them in the comments below.  Have a fantastic weekend and happy shooting!

EXTRA: MY SOLUTION

I recently purchased a waterproof housing for my camera, plus a kayak.  The kayak is also great for wildlife, along with fishing and just plain fun!  I bought both the housing and kayak used; both can be quite spendy!

But a caveat: mine may not be the best example in one respect: money.  Although freshening up your photography is very worthwhile, both for personal growth and for the diversity of your portfolio, it is most definitely not about spending a lot of money on new gear.  Still, depending on your particular solution to burnout, a purchase or two may be necessary.  For me, taking it under water has been playing on my mind off and on for a couple years.

A verdant alcove in OIympic National Park hosts Merriman Falls.  Wonder what it'd be like to shoot it from underneath!

A verdant alcove in OIympic National Park hosts Merriman Falls. Wonder what it’d be like to shoot it from underneath!

Now I’m not talking here of shooting clownfish and coral while on vacation.  Although I’d love to combine scuba diving with photography at some point, images from warm ocean environments are just too common.  Standard scuba photography may not be a new enough thing to be a burnout-buster, and I can’t afford tropical getaways right now anyway.

What I plan to do is snorkel and free dive in fresh water ecosystems closer to home: clear lakes and rivers.  Getting good images of unusual subjects under water promises to be difficult.  But that’s the point.  If it were too easy it wouldn’t be challenging enough.  Stay tuned.  Soon you’ll see my trials, errors and (hopefully) successes right here!

A paddle then a sunset at Lost Lake, Oregon.  21 mm., 5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50, tripod.

A paddle then a sunset at Lost Lake, Oregon. 21 mm., 5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50, tripod.

Friday Foto Talk: One Rule for Creative Compositions   24 comments

The White River Valley, living up to its name, and Mt. Hood at sunrise.

The White River Valley, living up to its name, and Mt. Hood at sunrise.

I have noticed a trend in photography-related tips on the web lately.  It has gotten somewhat away from the nuts and bolts of exposure, etc. and gone in two directions.  One is tricks and tips to get certain looks.  If you want your pictures to look like this, do this or that with filters or on the computer.  The other is sort of a reaction to the plethora of similar-looking images we see on the internet.  It involves composition, specifically how to compose pictures in a creative way.  This second trend is more interesting and relevant than the first.

Morning sun hits fir trees on Mt. Hood, which got a late-season snowfall earlier this week.

Morning sun hits fir trees on Mt. Hood, which got a late-season snowfall earlier this week.

Once you’ve got the basics of photography down – being very familiar with your camera and lenses, knowing the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed & ISO), and knowing how to control sharpness and depth of field – it’s time to learn how to make compelling images.  The way I see it, great images depend on three things:  Subject, light and composition.  Putting yourself in front of interesting subjects is the most important, but it’s also the most subjective.  One person’s fascinating subject is another’s boring one.  Light I’ve blogged about before, and it is certainly important.  Even so-so subjects can look good in great light.  And good subjects look spectacular in great light.  But even though it helps if you can put all else in your life aside to go out when the light is good, quality of light is largely outside our control.

Water flows down and disappears into a mossy carpeted hillside in Oregon.

Water flows down and disappears into a mossy carpeted hillside in Oregon.

The third key to great images, composition, is definitely within our control.  A huge amount of information is available on composition:  rules, reminders, do thises and don’t do thats.  A lot of it is repetitive, and I’ll admit to blogging about some of these tips.  But I was thinking yesterday about how I learned good composition, and how I became able to shoot creative compositions (something I’m still learning).  I am very sure my way is not the only way to learn composition, but I think it is simpler than most.  Most important, it leads to developing your own unique style.  Nobody wants to follow along and copy the images of other photographers, at least nobody who is honest when they say that photography is an art.

The countryside outside of Portland, Oregon is used to grow all sorts of shrubs and trees used in landscaping.

The countryside outside of Portland, Oregon is where all sorts of shrubs and trees used in landscaping are grown.

My way to creative composition involves only one ‘rule’, if I can even call it that.  It’s a rule you follow whenever you are around things you may want to photograph, a rule you practice whether or not you have a camera in your hands.  It is practicing enthusiastic observation.

I’ll give an example from my own experience.  I never learned any of the rules or methods behind good composition prior to getting into photography.  Way before I got my first camera I was very interested in nature and the way people have influenced and been influenced by it.  I was an enthusiastic reader.  I wanted to know natural history in the same depth as those poets and writers:  Thoreau, Emerson, Aldo Leopold, Stegner, Muir.  I wanted to know people and the way they interacted with nature like Hemingway, Steinbeck, Ed Abbey and Annie Dillard.  I looked carefully at everything I saw.  I stooped down, climbed trees or got on top of rocks, walked around to see things backlit by sunlight.  I drew close and almost touched things with my eye.  I turned over rocks and logs.

The upper Sandy River on Mount Hood in Oregon.

The upper Sandy River on Mount Hood in Oregon.

When I got a camera, almost immediately I noticed that these different viewpoints yield different pictures, even though the subject was the same.  Even the mood or the story of the picture was changed with viewpoint slightly shifted.  I also learned that most pictures look better when you place important things off to the side somewhat, or when you don’t run the horizon straight across the middle.

Believe it or not, you can learn all the rules and methods behind good composition on your own, and you can learn them much better than reading or having someone tell you.  You only need to open your eyes and really look.  You need to be observant, especially during shooting but also when you view the pictures afterwards.

A church in the small town of Camas, Washington.

A church in the small town of Camas, Washington.

Being observant takes practice, and it requires a sort of relaxed focus.  Your body is relaxed but your eyes are most definitely on-the-job checking out anything and everything.  Your mind is both relaxed and focused.  To give a non-nature/landscape example, if you’re a very astute people-watcher, you’re likely to be a good street or portrait photographer.

By the way, I have seen a lot of photographers moving around with the camera up, trying out possible pictures.  And photography teachers encourage this.  I think this takes away and distracts from observation, which should have priority.  For me, observation comes first, then a decision to take a picture, then the camera comes up to my eye.   I prefer to get the broader view and mentally zoom in and out with my eyes/brain.

The western Cascade Mountains of Oregon filters moisture out of clouds coming in from the Pacific.

The western Cascade Mountains of Oregon filters moisture out of clouds coming in from the Pacific.

When I decide to take a picture, I have in mind a general focal length.  So I choose a lens (or zoom in/out) and frame the picture, making sure to look carefully at the edges and corners for “junk” that doesn’t add to the picture.   Of course my approach is different if I already have in mind the picture I want from a previous visit.  But I still practice observation, I expect pictures other than the one I’m going for to present themselves.  Among other things, the fickle nature of light and weather conditions can change things greatly.

The second part of the rule, being enthusiastic, is what I blogged about in one of my first Friday Foto Talks.  If you are curious about your subject and enthusiastic about shooting it, your images will be that much better.  If you love photography enough to spend all kinds of hard-earned cash on spendy cameras, lenses, tripods, backpacks, etc., then you must really love photography, right?  It means when you’re out shooting you are really into it – both the subject matter and the total immersion you get from the act of photography.

Mount Hood peeks out from low clouds on a frosty morning after overnight snowfall.

Mount Hood peeks out from low clouds on a frosty morning after overnight snowfall.

My opinion of a person who walks up to a viewpoint and plops their tripod down, waits for the light to get good, then shoots a bunch of pictures with very similar composition (perhaps with his camera taking pictures automatically every few seconds, ugh!) is that that person must not really like photography much.  Why get into such an expensive hobby (or a career that is anything but lucrative) if you don’t really love it?

But if you like it, really like it, you’re going to be a bundle of energy, always trying to see what other compositions are available.  You’ll move around a lot before really starting to shoot (a common tip).  You’ll get low or high to change viewpoint (another common tip).  You will work the subject (that’s another).  You will zoom in because you’re interested in the ‘picture within the picture’ you just captured (yet another).  You’ll draw ever closer, even creeping along on your belly if your subject is some furry critter (recall the quote, “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”).

Spring runoff flows down the Salmon River in Oregon.

Spring runoff flows down the Salmon River in Oregon.

See the trend here?  There are many tips and rules that can be boiled down into one principle:  enthusiastic observation.  Don’t hold anything back; open your eyes wide and go for it.  Put your soul into it!  It’s how I learned all those things without ever picking up a book.  If you combine enthusiasm with well-practiced observational skills, I really think that good, creative compositions will come naturally.

So that’s all there is to it.  Get out and shoot this weekend.  And have fun!

The setting sun lights up Mount Hood as it watches over the Columbia River.

The setting sun lights up Mount Hood as it watches over the Columbia River.

Wordless Wednesday: Winter’s Last Act?   8 comments

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Wordless Wednesday: Sleeping Volcano   1 comment

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Single Image Sunday: Fearless   27 comments

Like many Sundays I am posting an image that dovetails with this past Friday’s topic on negative space.  This is not a particularly great photo but it certainly draws your eye.  It’s also a reminder to myself that I do not include enough negative space in my people pictures.  In this picture the negative space is perfectly placed in the upper left quadrant.

A friend of mine brought his girlfriend along on a hike high up on Mount Hood and she turned out to be a mountain goat, totally fearless.  And it’s not like she’s particularly young (hope she’s not reading this!).  I used to have similar inclinations, but I’ve certainly mellowed.  Here she simply wanted to perch somewhere with a good view of Hood.  She seemed so relaxed up there, which you absolutely need to be in order to do it safely.  It made me very nervous!  I hope your weekend is going well.

On the Knife Edge

Spring Pastures   2 comments

Mount Hood rises beyond rural pastureland in western Oregon.

Mount Hood rises beyond rural pastureland in western Oregon.

Whenever I head out to the barn where my horses are kept I pass through a very pastoral stretch of countryside.  The pictures here are from an area southwest of Portland, Oregon.  It is what the rest of the city’s surrounding areas used to look like before all the development.  For instance, there is a mall and freeway now where in the late 1970s when I first moved here there was country much like you see in these pictures.  But this kind of beauty is still accessible.  You simply have to drive further from town now.

I hope you enjoy the images.  They are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  If you click on an image you will be taken to the high-res. image where purchase of print or download, along with things like mugs and T-shirts, is simply a matter of clicking “add image to cart”.  It won’t be added right away; you will get the chance to see prices and options.  Thanks for your interest, and please contact me if you have any questions at all.  Thanks for visiting!

Khallie the filly enjoys some nice thick green grass.

Khallie the filly enjoys some nice thick green grass.

After a healthy grazing session, Gold Dancer finds all the new spring grass too tempting.

After a healthy grazing session, Gold Dancer finds all the new spring grass too tempting.

The area around Corbett, Oregon grows and glows under a spring sunset.

The area around Corbett, Oregon grows and glows under a spring sunset.

Friday Foto Talk: Shooting at Sunrise & Sunset – Part I   7 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.

I moderated a discussion last night with my photo club, all about photography at sunrise and sunset.  Not surprisingly, I found it difficult to narrow things down so we could avoid talking all night.  Photographing at sunrise and sunset covers a lot of ground: things like technique, equipment and style, along with issues like safety and locations (including avoiding over-photographed subjects).

In this first part of a two-part post, I’ll go through some important things to think about when planning and setting out to shoot at sunrise and sunset, things I’ve learned over the years, and equipment to bring along.  Tune in next Friday for Part II, which will cover what types of things to shoot when the sun is low, plus tips on how best to capture them.

Sunset is not just for landscapes: Portland, Oregon's street fair known as First Thursday.

Sunset is not just for landscapes: Portland, Oregon’s street fair known as First Thursday.

Tips

      • Planning – The Photographer’s Ephemeris:  Google and download this free application (there is a charge for mobile versions) so you can see rising and setting times for both sun and moon, along with a map-based view of rising and setting directions for any location you specify.  
      • Planning – Research:  While you’re traveling about your local area, be aware of where the sun has risen and will set, and whether it offers some opportunity for nice shots in good light.  Read about nice viewpoints on hiking websites or guidebooks.  Talk to friends.  But don’t stress on planning things to a tee; get out and see what happens (see Location below).
      • Planning – Timing & Scouting:  For sunset, when the light builds in quality and then after sunset slowly transitions to the subtle beauty of blue hour, it’s okay to not have a specific location picked out.  Pick out a general area and see how things shape up light-wise when you get there.  But leave plenty of time, arriving up to a couple hours before sunset time.  For sunrise, it’s important to scout beforehand (the day or weekend before).  You want a more specific idea of where you’ll shoot from compared to sunset.  Still, arrive anywhere from a half hour to an hour before sunrise.  The progress of the light is the reverse of that at sunset, so things happen more quickly to start out, with blue hour being first to appear and the light quality fading more slowly.
      • Location – Where?  I’ve found this to be something many photographers have trouble with – where to go?  Although you can certainly get recommendations from photog. friends as a way to start out, I recommend finding your own spots.  Drive out to areas you know are scenic late in the day towards sunset.  Stop and take pictures at places you find compelling or beautiful.  While you’re doing that, try to imagine if it would be good for sunrise too.  Go anywhere you know has a relatively clear horizon towards the east and/or west, someplace scenic.  This is winging it I realize, but it works to get you away from over-shot locales.  Use others for inspiration or information of course.  And there’s nothing wrong with photographing a popular spot in great light.  But you will benefit in the long run to find your own compositions.
      • Location – General:  For me at least, bodies of water nearly always help a picture, especially at sunrise or sunset.  Because of its reflectivity, water helps with contrast, and it can also act as a beautiful mirror.  Also look for relatively un-vegetated areas (such as desert or grassland).  As with water, the bright, reflective nature of these landscapes help with contrast, especially when shooting into the sun.  As you get better at exposure and use of filters, go for darker landscapes.
      • Location – Elevation:  An elevated position (your classic viewpoint) is always worth looking for, though shooting from lower down, next to water or down the length of a valley framed by trees for example, is also a good plan.
The sunflower-like arrowleaf balsamroot blooms in profusion below a darkening dusk sky in the rocky terrain of the eastern Columbia River Gorge in Washington.

The sunflower-like arrowleaf balsamroot blooms in profusion below a darkening dusk sky in the rocky terrain of the eastern Columbia River Gorge in Washington.

      • Light:  This is of course one of the two most important things that will determine how good your photos turn out (the other being your subject/composition).  Clouds and unsettled weather are good for a number of reasons.  But when the sun sets into a thick bank of clouds well before the light gets good, I don’t think you’ll tend to agree with this wisdom.  I always consider clouds better than a clear sky, but whether this turns out to be the case for any given sunset or sunrise is another thing.  One thing is certain: when the sun peeks out from beneath gorgeous, colorful and dramatic clouds just before setting, putting forth beautiful crepuscular rays (a.k.a. Jesus rays), you will thank yourself for ignoring the threatening weather or rain earlier and heading out.  Clouds can also turn outrageous colors after the sun sets.  But good luck predicting any of this hours before sunset.  Believe me I’ve tried.
      • Composition – Elements:  Picking out silhouettes is a great idea when shooting toward the sun.  They must be recognizable and nearly black to work (expose for the bright sky behind the silhouetted object).  Also worthwhile during iffy weather is keeping an eye out on the scene away from the sun.  Golden light and rainbows are not an uncommon reward.  Reflections are also worth looking for, either in water or (in the case of cityscapes) on buildings.
      • Composition – Depth:  As any photography 101 book will tell you, try to find beautiful or interesting foreground elements to put in the bottom or at the sides of your frame, and get close to them (a few feet is not too close!).  Try for a photo with great depth, your aperture at f/22 or similar.  But never think this is always the best choice.  Other types of compositions, say with the closest elements a hundred or more yards away or even an image that is all background and sky, are not “amateur” or the lessor image in any sense.  They will provide variety to your pictures, and often have more impact (and sharpness) than photos with a lot of depth.
      • Composition – Your Frame:  You’ve heard of the rule of thirds, and not centering elements in the middle of your frame.  When you’re shooting at sunset or sunrise, the sky and landscape often contrast greatly with each other.  Unless you have strong subsidiary layering (such as a strong line of hills or trees, a reflection), it’s usually not a good idea to center the horizon line.  Decide which is more interesting, above or below the horizon, and shoot with that taking up roughly 2/3 or more of the frame.  If your decision here wasn’t a slam-dunk, quickly raise or lower the camera so you’re emphasizing the opposite section.  There’s nothing wrong with hedging your bets!
The Painted Hills in central Oregon takes on deep hues at dusk.

The Painted Hills in central Oregon takes on deep hues at dusk.

      • Equipment:  

Bring a good solid tripod with ball-head.  And use it!  If you don’t like using your shutter-delay mode, also get a cable release.  

A wide-angle lens, offering a focal length no longer than about 27 mm. (35 mm equivalent) is really necessary for most landscape photography, including sunset and sunrise.  A focal length on the order of 15 mm. or so will give you an ultrawide view and help to make everything in your frame sharp from front to back (if you use a small aperture – f/22 for example).  Don’t leave your normal or long focal-length lenses home however.  Many of my best sunset and sunrise photos were taken at focal lengths of 50 mm., 100 mm., even 200 mm. or more!  

For filters, bring a graduated neutral density filter or two, the rectangular (not screw-in) type.  Singh-Ray makes an excellent one, and a 3-stop grad. is a great first purchase.  Also I highly recommend a circular polarizer.

Bring a flashlight or headlamp whether doing sunset or sunrise.  There’s nothing worse than dropping an item and not being able to search for it in the grass because of low-light.

Totally optional but nice to have are knee pads for getting down low near your foreground without denting your knee on a sharp rock.  Also if you’re anything like me and love to get very near to a watery foreground, bring or wear rubber boots (“wellies”).  Some photogs. even bring hip waders.  Or you can do what I often do and simply wear warm wool socks, old sneakers and quick-drying pants.  It will toughen you up getting your feet and legs wet, and you can then claim that you “suffer for your art”.

The sun goes down with a show of glory along the Redwood Coast, northern California.

The sun goes down with a show of glory along the Redwood Coast, northern California.

Cross-country Skiing at Mt Hood   14 comments

Mount Hood peeks above the fir trees during a cross-country ski outing in Oregon's Cascade Mountains.

Mount Hood peeks above the fir trees during a cross-country ski outing in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.

It grew cold and snowed in our mountains during the first week of spring.  When the storm broke I took the opportunity to go up to Mount Hood and ski.  Whenever I tell somebody I have gone skiing they immediately assume downhill skiing.  I mostly cross-country ski nowadays, though I still love downhill.  It was a beautiful day.

If you are looking for a good place to begin your winter exploration of Mt Hood (on skis or snowshoes), I think Trillium Lake is a good choice.  Those who know the area well might scoff at this choice.  After all, it is fairly popular and can get crowded.  It is very easy to find, however, and offers the option of quickly losing the crowds to ski very beautiful terrain.

Mount Hood stands near snow-covered Trillium Lake on a full moon ski.

Mount Hood stands near snow-covered Trillium Lake on a full moon ski.

Trillium Lake Snowpark lies just a few miles east of the pass at Government Camp, along Highway 26.  Coming from Portland it is on your right.  You immediately descend into a beautiful basin.  On skis it is quite an exciting descent, but because you are following a wide snow-covered road, there is plenty of width to snowplow.  From the bottom you can do like 95% of folks do and circle Trillium Lake.  This is a fantastic option for a beginner (who would probably take off skis and walk down the big hill).

Ice clings to moss along a cross-country skiing trail in Oregon.

Ice clings to moss along a cross-country skiing trail in Oregon.

If you are more of an intermediate, or adventurous novice, go straight ahead at the bottom of the hill.  Then take your first left, climbing up a hill, still on a logging road, to start the Mud Creek Loop.  You will leave most other skiers and shoers behind.  From this loop, you have a couple other options aside from staying on the loop road.  About a mile up, you will see the signed Quarry Trail take off to the right.  This fairly narrow trail descends through open areas and shortens the loop.  You can leave the trail and cut long beautiful turns if you have the ability.

There are plenty of beautiful details to admire on a cross-country ski outing.

There are plenty of beautiful details to admire on a cross-country ski outing.

On Saturday I did a favorite trail of mine, the Lostman.  Other than the name, I like this narrow loop trail for its beauty and generally great snow conditions.  Look for the signed trail leaving Mud Creek Road on the left.  The trail is narrow but not steep, only about a couple miles in length.  You will invariably have it to yourself.  Keep a close watch on the blue diamonds though, because the trail’s name is very appropriate.  You come back out on Mud Creek Road, where you can either turn right to retrace your route back to Trillium Lake or continue the main loop by turning left.

Beautiful Mount Hood is illuminated by alpenglow.  Mirror Lake is at bottom.

Beautiful Mount Hood is illuminated by alpenglow. Mirror Lake is at bottom.

After doing Lost Man, I headed up to Mirror Lake specifically for taking sunset photos of Mount Hood.  This is a short climb on a popular summer trail that leaves Highway 26 just west of the Ski Bowl ski area.  I climbed above Mirror Lake for these last three shots.  The powder snow was deep!  It kicked my butt!  I was a bit too late for perfect light, as the sun set into a cloud bank along the horizon.  But I was happy to have made it in time for a good picture of Hood.  I swept several telemark turns down through the powder under a nearly full moon, as the temperature rapidly dropped.

A crystal-clear and cold evening under the moonlight skiing near Mount Hood, Oregon.

A crystal-clear, cold evening under the moonlight skiing near Mount Hood, Oregon.

What a day!  I hope you enjoyed the pictures.  Click on any of them for purchase options, and to peruse the main portfolio section of my website.  These versions are low-res and are not available for free download anyway (they’re copyrighted).  Thanks for your interest and cooperation.

Mount Hood stands alone, surrounded by forest, during the beginning of dusk.

Mount Hood stands alone, surrounded by forest, during the beginning of dusk.

Friday Foto Talk: Disappointment   6 comments

Frozen Mirror Lake in Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon.

Frozen Mirror Lake in Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon.

My goal with these weekly topics is to cover things that are not covered well in other photo blogs, but which nevertheless must be faced and dealt with by every photographer.  So many photography blogs tend to be a little too technical (hello, it’s an art form!) or at the opposite extreme so filled with attempts to elicit chuckles that you wonder at the end if there was anything useful to take away.

When I first started taking pictures there were a few photography classes (which I couldn’t afford), and that was it.  Sure, a few photo how-to books were on the shelves, but I wasn’t into reading books on how to take pictures, I was into taking pictures!  Nowadays of course there are a bazillion ways to learn about photography.  The dirty little secret?  There is not all that much to learn (in a hushed voice); the rest is gained by doing.

So with that little dig directed at the photography education “industry” I will talk about something near and dear to my heart: disappointment.  Last Friday’s topic was on technique, this one isn’t (I like variety, what can I say).

If you are just getting going with photography, particularly landscape and/or nature photography, you will soon be very familiar with disappointment.  You’ll realize being skunked when you go out to get that epic shot is a more common occurrence than being blessed with a special image or three.  The key is to give yourself permission to be disappointed, but not to feel discouraged.

As you go along, you’ll naturally want certain pictures, and it’s often very specific light, foreground, etc. that you imagine capturing.   I live in Oregon and though I have 50 or 60 of my framed photographs on the walls, I don’t yet have a picture of Mount Hood.  Sure I have good shots of Hood, but I haven’t captured Oregon’s highest mountain in its snow-clad, alpenglow-tinged, crystal winter-light magnificence.  I might print and frame a shot of some monastery high in the Himalayas that is merely good.  The exotic location makes it worth framing, despite minor flaws.  But I somehow can’t allow an iconic mountain so close to home to be displayed in any other way than pure excellence.  Some days the mountain never crosses my mind; on other days it’s all I can think about.

That was the case today when I saw the perfect weather conditions developing.  I wanted a snowy winter portrait of Hood with plenty of clouds in the sky and the kind of light pervading the atmosphere that only cold weather can provide.  I drove up in the afternoon and parked near a trail that heads up to a frozen lake directly southwest of the mountain: Mirror Lake.  The exact viewpoint I was headed for, being halfway up a steep slope, is not one used other photographers.  A similar photo can be captured higher up at the top of Tom Dick & Harry Mountain (nice name, huh?), and this is a fairly popular place with local photographers.  But my hopes were for a better foreground.  Since the sun sets south of west these days, and since the snow gave easier access to the bouldery slope, I was destined to be in the right place at the right time, just before sunset.

Tom Dick & Harry Peak.  Actually this is Dick, one of the triple peaks.  They stand above Mirror Lake near Mt Hood, Oregon.

Tom Dick & Harry Mtn. Actually this is Dick, one of the triple peaks. They stand above Mirror Lake near Mt Hood, Oregon.

I donned cross-country skis and set out.  I climbed up to the lake, took a few shots, and continued up the steep slope behind the lake.  It got steeper and steeper, and I struggled a bit.  All the while, I noticed the mountain was peeping in and out of dramatic clouds.  I had high hopes.  Just as the light started turning golden, I grunted up the last few yards before it leveled out.  I’m not one to wax on about great dangerous adventures while taking photos, but the avalanche danger was definitely very near my comfort limit.

I began to notice some clouds coming in.  It had been showing signs of clearing, so I ignored the ominous grey blobs in the sky.  But as I crested the top, it began to snow, and I looked over to see…nothing.  Actually there was something, a dull grey expanse where there should have been a mountain.  I could even see, peeking through, swatches of perfect magenta light on one ridge of Hood.  But the clouds formed a very effective shroud.

I waited for a miracle, but it didn’t happen.  I had been clouded out.  After having spent time, money (for gas) and sweaty effort, I had nothing to show for it – zip, zilch, nada!  I had little time to sulk though, because it began to get dark.  I quickly realized my vulnerable position and skied back down to the lake.  A dozen or so nice powder turns was my reward, and this was certainly something!  After all light had gone but a dull red glow on the western horizon, the clouds quickly dissipated and the mountain came right out.  So typical!

Skiing out on Mirror Lake as the sun goes down.

Skiing out on Mirror Lake as the sun goes down.

Here is the lesson you might have learned already.  Unless you set up lights and can control most aspects of the shoot (except for which side of the bed your model woke up on), you will be forever at the mercy of capricious mother nature.  You will do best to get the pictures you can, but there is no avoiding the desire to capture some favorite subject in a specific way.  That’s when you are set up for the big D.  Just as with life, it is important to take all of your photography disappointments in stride too.  Get a few pictures if you can, but learn that you can live to fight another day.

Whatever you do, don’t give up.  Return to that spot again when the weather conditions are dynamic and unpredictable.  Do not return when the skies are impossibly clear and there is no chance for getting clouded out.  Why?  Because that will not give you the picture you really want.  You see, what we really want is something on the edge of being there and not there.  This diaphanous thing will only exist one day out of a hundred, and only for a few minutes at that.  Remember that persistence will eventually give you a picture that is worthy of hanging on yours or anyone else’s wall.  And most important, you will have earned it through your own dogged determination, all the while having the odd adventure and more than one brush with disappointment.

Mount Hood is completely covered with clouds just in time for a glorious sunset.

Disappointment: Mount Hood is completely covered with clouds just in time for a glorious sunset.

A Winter Stay on Mt Hood   2 comments

Mount Hood catches alpenglow from a setting winter sun.

Mount Hood catches alpenglow from a setting winter sun.

 

I spent a night on Mount Hood a few days ago, and the weather, people, skiing, everything was perfect.  It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up on the mountain.  It is about an hour and a half to get up to Mt Hood from Portland, so it’s not that far.  But staying up there is a totally different experience.  You get to play in the snow until dusk, mellow out and drink hot chocolate in front of a fireplace, and go out under the stars.  You get to go right from breakfast to skiing or snow-shoeing.  The car can stay parked or you can make very short drives to Timberline Lodge or one of the nearby trailheads.

Two subalpine firs stand out against a purple dusk sky near timberline on Mount Hood, Oregon.

Subalpine firs stand out against a purple dusk sky on Mount Hood, Oregon.

We stayed at Tyee Lodge, a purpose-built place just above Government Camp run by the Trails Club of Oregon.  In wintertime you need to hike from the parking lot up a trail cut into the snow, but since it’s only 200 yards or so that’s certainly no problem.  The lodge is right on a cross-country and snowshoe trail that leads up to Timberline Lodge and Ski Area.  Also, a sledding hill is a short walk away.

If you become a member of the Trails Club, it’s easy to stay here.  If you’re not, get in touch with the Trails Club and if you bring a few guests, you can stay here on weekends when the club opens it to members.  The cost is $25/person per night, and that even includes dinner and breakfast.  Such a deal!  There is a group dining room, and a large living area.  There’s a big stone fireplace, with games, books, all you need to be cozy.

Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood at blue hour.

Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood at blue hour.

Male and female dorms with bunk beds are rustic but easy to handle given the cheap cost.  There is also a large staging room downstairs where skis, snowshoes and sleds are kept, and an adjoining drying room for wet gear.  There’s even a game room with ping-pong table.  The nearby Mazama Lodge, run by the venerable climbing club of the same name, is somewhat bigger and a little fancier.  But Tyee is really perfect, in a perfect spot for all sorts of snow-play.  Try renting a condo or house in Government Camp, or a room at Timberline Lodge, and $25/night looks like a steal.

Looking south from Timberline Lodge, the Cascade Range volcanoes stretch away into a clear dusk sky.

Looking south from Timberline Lodge, the Cascade Range volcanoes stretch away into a clear dusk sky.

I had a great time with a small group of fellow meetup friends.  I cross-country skied up to Timberline one day, and up above tree line the next.  Then I did my first real telemark turns of the season on the descents.  The weather was dominated by an air inversion, where the valleys below are cold while the upper elevations bask under a layer of warm air.  It cracked 50 degrees in the afternoon, and I even took off my shirt while climbing to Timberline.

By the way, the public is welcome in Timberline Lodge, where there’s an enormous multi-story stone fireplace, restaurant, and bar upstairs with a drop-dead view of the mountain.  I’d do this again in a  heartbeat.  What a nice way to spend a weekend.

View across one of Timberline Lodge's snow-covered roofs to the setting January sun.

View across one of Timberline Lodge’s snow-covered roofs to the setting January sun.

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