mt. adams pastoral


I was in the Hood River area yesterday, enjoying a rare outing on the bike. The weather was lovely for riding, although there was nothing exciting about the skies, so I shot almost nothing throughout the day. I planned on staying in the area until sunset–which, thanks to the northern climes of Oregon and Washington, meant 9 p.m.–and I was hoping that we might end up with a little bit more drama.

I wandered around Mt. Hood for part of the afternoon, and decided to try and head up by Mt. Adams for the end of the day. Adams is a much prettier mountain to my eye, and it’s particularly beautiful in the late spring, as the snow starts to melt.

I drove by this location about 6, and made a mental note of its beauty. Just the look of the valley, with the fresh-cut bales of hay and the mountain in the background, said that it would be perfect as the sun dropped behind the hills (which are off to the left of this frame).

After exploring some locations in Trout Lake, the last town south of Adams, I headed north on a forest road to see if I could find an overlook, when I decided to hightail it back down to the farm in the valley. I got to the spot with literally minutes to spare — after six frames, the sun completely disappeared from the valley. Adams continued to glow, but the valley was dark.

Of course, there’s no sky to speak of here, just some end-of-the-day stratification and haze, but I’ve now got a pretty cool place to keep checking out. One of these days, there will be a prettier sky, and I’ll scout it out a bit earlier.

[where is this?]

If you want to see how much difference an hour made to the light, check out the shot below, which I took up in Trout Lake about 55 minutes before the shot above. I didn’t do anything to the color in either image; when the sun’s going down that quickly, it does some wonderful things with light. (Click the image to see it bigger.)


Vaux’s swifts


Every fall, during their annual southern migration, thousands of Vaux’s Swifts roost in an abandoned chimney at a school in Northwest Portland. They perform an intricate aerial dance at dusk, which lasts a little more than a half hour.

First, a small group of swifts–really, a dozen or so–appear and start circling in the sky. Then, magically, and a bit mysteriously, swifts start flying in from all directions, adding to a growing swarm. The swarm expands and contracts in diameter as it moves across the sky, always keeping the chimney in sight and range. After about 15 minutes or so, the swarm closes in on the chimney and a group of swifts peels off and spirals down inside. They then repeat the process a few times, with the group’s size gradually winnowing down.

The swifts’ dance by itself is cool enough to entertain multitudes of Portlanders through many September evenings, but, this being nature and all, you get added drama: hawks. Once the swarm builds to a critical mass, hawks will dive-bomb into it, trying to pull off a swift or two for dinner. Sometimes, a small group of swifts will break off and chase the hawk away, which is hilarious to see, and raises a cheer from the crowd on the ground. Sometimes, a hawk will get a swift, also to a rousing cheer. Then, at almost exactly the time it goes from dusk to dark, the last of the swifts dive into the chimney to a round of applause, and the audience packs up and heads off to their own roosting place.

It’s a lot of fun, and, if you live in Portland, it’s worth going to at least once in your life.