waldo sunset (nos. 1 and 2)

630-pm-waldo-lakeSusan and I went back to Waldo Lake this past weekend with the travel trailer; she in need of a connection to one of her sacred places, and I in search of foliage, woods and water. (We also wanted a good shakedown cruise with the trailer before winter sets in.) It was beautiful most of the time we were there, and with evening temperatures in the low 30s, we were glad for the heat and comfort of our new little house.

Photographically, I didn’t find much: we were at 5,500 feet, and most of the trees were evergreens, although there were stretches of vividly colored scrub brush sprinkled around the lake. In addition, the wind also kept the lake fairly choppy, which was disappointing, given how calm it was when I was there in late August.

I lucked out the last day we were there, as the winds died down and the late-afternoon skies had the promise of a spectacular sunset. Ultimately, however, the infamous “Kloskowski effect” wiped most of the clouds from the skies at about 6 pm. (“Damn you, Matt!”) Not long before the sun dropped below the horizon, I thought about returning to camp, but I told myself that it was worth the exercise of composing and exposing. It was also a beautiful night, regardless of the photo op, and when I did go back to the trailer, I came away with two images that I liked, taken about 30 minutes apart.

The first one was taken at 6:30, and there were some gorgeous pinks and blues in a small group of wispy clouds that had remained on the horizon (to the left of the setting sun). With the calm lake in the foreground, I underexposed a stop, to get some deeper color, and I ended up with what you see above.

I liked what I saw on the screen of my camera, and I kept shooting, but the best shots were still those first ones, so I started packing things up a little bit before 7 pm. The clouds had dispersed and there was only a fairly generic yellow glow where the sun had gone down, but the lake was still calm, and the blues of the skies were starting to contrast quite beautifully with the greens (and colorful scrub brush) of the pines along the shore. I ended up taking this shot (below) at 7:03, overexposing slightly to pick up some of the color in the trees.



It always amazes me how much the skies can change in hue in the space of an hour (or less) at sunset, and it was good that I kept at it. I’m not sure which photo I like better, but I am glad I at least stuck to my guns: I walked out of the woods with something.

sunset, south waterfront

south-waterfront-sunset-panoramaI’m just now getting around to processing some of the images I’ve shot in the past year (things have been really busy), and this morning, I came across this one, a two-image panorama taken in February from the balcony in our old place. I loved (and still miss) the Richard-Scarry-esque views we had from the apartment; it truly was like watching the city pass by every day.

I did some lens correction on this inside Photoshop, to take the bend off the shed at the bottom of the frame. (I had to be careful, though; it’s easy to overdo the distortion correction.) I also worked with a few crop variations here–the original images had the OHSU building looming at the left of the frame–and this one seems like the best fit overall.

sunset, mykonos

sunset mykonos

I didn’t exactly know what to expect when we went to Mykonos; I knew there would be beautiful blue water, beaches, and a quaint old village somewhere with white-washed exteriors and blue doors. I didn’t expect gorgeous rolling, arid hills with rock walls coralling sheep, goats, and the occasional cow or horse.

Our lodgings were an old windmill high up on a hill overlooking a gorgeous bay (stocked with expensive yachts and sailboats, no less), and we didn’t have to go far to find photo opportunities. The previous shot, at sunrise, was a short hike away from our windmill. This one was on the ridge opposite ours. We were hoping that we would get a beautiful full moon rising over the island, but it was too hazy on the horizon for that, so I changed my view, back along the stone wall in front of me. I snapped a few shots, and then, Hudson and I high-tailed it to the other side of the ridge to see if we could get a shot of the setting sun. I don’t think I really got anything post-worthy there, but I think Hudson did. I’ll post a link when he does, but, in the meantime, please check out his slideshow of photos taken so far on his European adventure — he is an unbelievably creative photographer, and I learn something every time I go out into the field with him.

the shot that was

hood-sunset-2015Sometimes, the shot you see in your head doesn’t show up until after you’ve packed up and headed back down the mountain. Last Sunday, at sunset, I shot the crazy clouds around Mount Hood for about an hour, before turning my attention to the actual sun setting in the west (see the previous entry). It was getting cold, and the light was draining from the sky, so I carefully packed my gear back into my bag and started walking down the stairs to the car. As I turned towards Hood one last time, I saw this scene and snapped a few quick shots with my phone, which I had in my hand.

Of course, once I got to the car and looked at what I had, I cursed quite loudly to myself. Why I didn’t take the time to set up the shot with my “real” camera, carefully on the tripod? Then, I certainly would have gotten the photo that was in my head.

Clearly, I’m not the photographer I think I am. Well, here’s the reality of that moment: it was dark; I was tired from the day’s 200-mile drive through the Gorge; my shoulder was screaming at me; I was chatting with a photographer I had just met; I wasn’t sure there was even a picture there; et cetera et cetera. So I clicked a few frames and moved on.

All of that angst was for naught, however: this is a good shot. And who cares that it was taken with an iPhone? Would another 12 megapixels made it that much better of a shot? No, because I would have lost the rapidly dwindling light of the blue hour, and would have taken too long to figure out which lens to use and set up the scene. And, the painterly quality of this photo gives it a glow that might have been lost with a 24-megapixel camera and fine Zeiss glass. (Plus, I got to put a version of this shot up on Instagram right away.)

I’ve been going up to Larch Mountain for more than 10 years, and what’s really funny is that I can’t find a single image in my photo library taken from this vantage point. It is probably the stairs, which are quite busy at sunset, but you’d think, after all the times that “Use the foreground!” has been pounded into my consciousness by photographers better than me, that I would have tried it once or twice. It took a cameraphone to help me think a bit differently about a place I’ve been shooting for years.

Now, of course, I’ll be checking this viewpoint every time I go to Larch. I’ll mark the photo in my library with the ‘revisit’ tag, but, like many of those images, the best ones are always the original.

larch sunset (2015)

larch-sunset-2015Sunday was my first time up Larch Mountain this year. It’s always a lovely thing to do, that 14-mile ride through the forest, followed by the short, slightly steep walk up to the top of the mountain. A lot of nights, it’s like a party, especially with a beautiful sunset like this one.

Of course, as much as I love the silhouette shots, it really makes me nervous to see the kids scampering up on the rocks, especially when they appear to have been imbibing (or smoking) something. One of the days, I fully expect to hear about a mishap up on Larch.

Click the image to see it full-size. And don’t forget about this guy, who I met first atop Larch back in 2012.

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.)


moonrise, mt. hood


Over on his blog, Duncan has great post — ‘An Evening with Mt. Hood‘ — about our adventure the other night. It sums up the nature of the evening quite well, and reminds me that, while photography is primarily about light, it’s also about patience and practice.

I have a bunch of shots from the night that I like, but none of them as yet really jump out. The changing light on the mountain was beautiful, but there was still something missing; if the lenticular clouds had been a bit more full, or the sky a bit deeper blue, I might have gotten an image that moved into the portfolio queue. But over the next month, I’ll continue to work through my picks from this night, and I very well might find something that sticks.

For now, I like the one above. It’s a bit dark, and as I have tried to push the tones around, it all seems to fall apart. However, this is one of those images feels like it will work best in print: the forest ridges have just enough depth to them to lead you to the horizon; the moon is light and delicate enough to hang effortlessly in the sky; and Mt. Hood has just the right amount of glow on it as it sits above that cloud bank.

[see ‘Moonrise, Mt. Hood’ bigger]

The one below is also nice, even if it’s very similar to the ones taken by my friends on the mountain (click the image to see it bigger):


hudson henry, larch mountain


Larch Mountain is one of those places in the Columbia River Gorge that few people seem to know about, largely because it is a bit of a one-trick pony: there’s a single, small viewing area at the top of the mountain, a short 5-minute hike up from the parking lot. It’s out of the way if you want to do the Vista House/Multnomah Falls route, and, if you’re looking to make a day of it, there aren’t any simple hiking trails or picnic areas with sweeping vistas. (You can, however, go for the 14.4-mile ‘difficult’ trail from Multnomah Lodge, if, unlike me, you’re sufficiently in shape.)

However, the drive up the mountain is a beautiful winding ride (also 14 miles) through dense forest, and I never tire of it, especially on the bike. If you’re there on a clear day, what you get is a stunning panoramic view of five mountains in the Cascade Range: Jefferson, Hood, Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens. And, at 4,000 feet, the summit of Larch is also much cooler than the river floor, which is one of the reasons I head up here frequently during the summer.

Last night, Duncan and I decided to drive up to the top of Larch. A full moon was due about 25 minutes before sunset, and we were hoping that we might get a shot of the moon coming up alongside Mount Hood. (I was also itching to try the Nikon D800, which I’m evaluating to see if I’m up for the switch from Canon, but that’s a post for another day.)

Unfortunately, the moon came up about 40 degrees to the north of Mt. Hood, so epic moonrise shots weren’t in the cards, but it was still a lot of fun. The top of Larch was like a party, with a large group of folks hoping to watch (or photograph) a lovely sunset in a beautiful place while there was still a hint of warmth in the air. There were photographers with big-ass tripods and others with cameraphones. There were people with friends from out of town, and couples with glasses of champagne toasting the moon. Duncan and I had a great time shooting and chatting in the midst of all this, with the added bonus of meeting the photographer Hudson Henry, who was a blast to be around. And, as it turned out, fun to shoot as well, while he jumped on the bluff atop the mountain to grab some shots of the Columbia valley below. I grabbed the one above and the one below, and couldn’t really decide which one I liked better.

(You can see larger views of either photo by clicking on it.)


[Duncan has a couple of great shots of Hood over on his blog.]

While you’re at it, check out Hudson’s shot of the Enchantments; it is quite beautiful.

(Yes, this shot is very similar to this one from a couple of years ago. I like that one too.)