blue hour, chambers lake


Susan and I went camping in the Goat Rocks Wilderness in central Washington this past weekend; we were planning to do a 12-mile hike on Saturday with some friends and wanted to spend some time camping as well. It felt great to get out of town, although with the spread of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest right now, it felt as if we were surrounded by smoke, especially for the last two days we were there.

Our camp was on Chambers Lake–more a small puddle than a lake–a few miles from the Goat Rocks trailhead. When we arrived Friday night, the winds had kept the skies clear, so I went down to the lake to set up the tripod and grab a few sunset and dusk shots. It was too early for the Milky Way, but I was able to find some stars in that beautiful blue hour.

When we woke up Saturday morning, the winds had shifted: the skies were brown, and you could smell the smoke. The 12-mile hike was difficult (lots of ‘up, up, up,’ with what didn’t seem like comparable ‘down, down, down’) and quite beautiful. We need to go back when it’s clear, because some of the vistas were stunning, and you knew you would be able to see for miles across the Cascades.

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.)


rain in the valley


Went out into the Gorge yesterday with Duncan. As has been the case lately, we spent a good amount of the day dodging rain. That said, there’s a lot of green out there — spring will be here in full force any week now — and we found a few interesting places to shoot, both new and old.

This one is from an old standby: Cape Horn, on Route 14 in Washington. It’s a beautiful overlook, and we spent about 45 minutes hanging around, watching and waiting for something to happen.

In the end, there wasn’t a lot, but I did love the overwhelming amount of green floating up from the valley floor below.

where is this?

Shot with the Sony RX1, blended from a three-exposure set with HDR Efex Pro, then finished in Perfect Effects 4.

morning on the Columbia


Went for a long drive into the Gorge yesterday with Dan, one of my buddies from onOne. The weather had been beautiful here in Oregon over the previous few days, and we had hoped it might hold. There was no agenda; we were just out for a day of shooting, and I thought we might get some decent shots of Mount Adams or Mount St. Helens in all their snow-topped glory. Unfortunately, the beginnings of a classic winter Pacific Northwest storm front moved in, and we were socked in most of the day with crappy skies.

Regardless of the weather though, there’s always plenty to shoot in the Gorge. I was also looking to test the off-road capabilities of my latest camera accessory, which we were able to do, although the mythical Trout Lake was nowhere to be found on the roads we traveled. (A lot of my summer motorcycle roads a currently snowmobile trails, so there wasn’t a lot of off-road opportunity either…)

It was a good day; we drove about 250 miles along both the Washington and Oregon sides of the river, and I got to explore a few new places that will get the ‘revisit’ tag. We shot quite a bit, but true to form, the things I liked the most were the first ones I took, early in the day, before the clouds blew in completely. I owe this shot to Dan, who saw something in the channel as we were driving in this area. I parked to let him hike down for his shot (under the railraod trestle in the distance), and then clambered up over the railroad embankment to steal a few shots of the Columbia. The river was magically calm as daylight arrived; by noon, the usual Gorge choppiness had returned. I’m not completely satisfied with anything I shot yesterday, but this is one take in the right direction. I’ll head back here on a day with the promise of a better sunrise.

where is this?

268 miles and the ‘revisit’ tag

mt-adamsGot out on an all-day ride on the motorcycle for the first time in a long while yesterday, and ended up completing a very satisfying 268 miles through Southern Washington.[1. If you want to see (most) of the actual route I took, here’s a KMZ track file, which you can download and open in Google Earth.] Over the past couple of years, as I’ve been discovering the Columbia, I’ve also discovered much of the beauty that is in the corridor centered around the three Cascade volcanoes in Washington: Adams, St. Helens and Rainier (all the shots here with a mountain are of Mount Adams; click any image below to see it larger).


[where was this?]

I wanted to explore, but since I was alone, I had one main rule: no gravel.[2. If you look at the track in Google Earth, you’ll see one spot where I went north, stopped and turned around. You’ll also notice that I ended up riding within a hair’s breath of the final part of my ride. Next time, I’ll push on through the gravel.] I love riding on forest roads, but last year I got into a scary situation on the bike in one of the many “middles of nowhere” in Washington, and I really didn’t want to get back into that spot. Nothing kicks you out of a nice ride than that little bit of fear that you’re going down with a 550-pound machine you won’t be able to pick back up.[3. Ben has one of those Spot Locator beacons, which is sort of a motorcyclists’/hikers’ version of the “Help me. I’ve fallen down!” things they advertise on late night TV and in Reader’s Digest.]

I had the saddlebags loaded with my camera gear, but since I’d be riding during the middle of the day, I knew there wouldn’t be much in the way of photo ops. But, unlike years past, where I’d never pull the camera out, I’m now taking reference shots in places I think would be good candidates at times of striking light and weather, and geotagging the images with my trusty GPS logger [4. I use the Wintec G-Rays 2, but there are a lot of them that do the trick.] and Houdah Software’s excellent HoudahGeo app (Mac-only, sorry to say), which marries the GPS data from my trip to the shots taken along the way. And when I go through my photos at the end of the day, I tag those images taken in interesting places that I’d like to go back to with a ‘revisit’ tag.

I also use my iPhone’s camera and Instagram to help with this[5. Except for the GPS logging thing. Instagram tags the photo with the location where it uploaded the file, not where it took the photo, which is a problem when you’re in a place with no cellular service. (fixed) But I save the original photo on the phone, which saves the real location, and HoudahGeo lets me copy and paste the GPS coordinates.] I get some fun photos, and I don’t have to go to the trouble of taking off all my gear, digging out the camera, mounting a lens[6. Don’t ask. Since I bought the grip for my camera, I now have twice the battery life. Great for the whole time-lapse thing, but now I can’t fit the camera and a lens in my bag. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. ;)], and taking a picture of something that I know really won’t want to do much more with in the end.


[where was this?]

Of course, I do stop, break out the tripod and lenses, and try to capture something worthwhile. Take the image at the very top of this page. I took about 20 shots of various compositions, with different lenses and aperture settings, mumbling the whole time that I wouldn’t really get a great shot. But I knew I could get a good one, and the “working” part of being a photographer is still important; you have to shoot if you want to get better.[1. Years ago, I was talking with a friend of mine, who had been a National Geographic photographer. I told him how inspirational he had been to me, and how I longed to get to the point where I could literally ‘point and shoot’ to get that great image. He laughed and said that I would have been shocked at the sheer volumes of film that they took on an average shoot; most were miles away from being magazine-quality shots.] It’s not perfect, but I came close to what I saw in my head, despite the bright light of the day (Using a polarizer helped too.)[1. And, had I not stopped, I wouldn’t have had the lovely conversation with the man who farmed that land. It opened with, “You know when you want to take that picture? Dawn. I wake up every morning and marvel at how beautiful that mountain is.”]

The shot below was similar. I found this lovely plain[1. Part of the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge] late in the day, at a point when I knew I was quickly headed to that “I’ve ridden too much and need to stop” place. I found a turnout, and spent a good 35-40 minutes trying to get a decent shot.


[where was this?]

The light was better, since it was later in the day, but I couldn’t get the angle that I knew the shot needed. To be honest, this photo isn’t even halfway decent, but it’s been tagged with ‘revisit,’ and I like the fact that it’s on an ever-growing list of places to get back to. I’m not going to find those roads that fall in love with if I don’t try to drive 268 miles in a day, and I’m not going to grow as a photographer without actually shooting, no matter whether I think the light is right or not.