Photographing The Columbia River Gorge Oregon.
Columbia River Gorge Spring Wildflowers and Shallow Depth of Field Landscape Photography – In this day and age of hyper sharp, focus stacked photos, how do you feel about shallow depth of field landscape photographs?
When I’m photographing the wildflowers in the gorge I can almost always expect a wind or at least some sort of a breeze that tends to toss the flowers around. When you’re trying to increase your depth of field the breeze makes stopping down more difficult to do. An aperture lets more light in when open wider but the depth of field narrow, blurring the background. In many cases most photographers try their best to maintain a deep focus, but when that’s not possible the next step is to photograph multiple exposures at different focus points into the scene until frames are captured with each area in focus. After which these frames are combined to create a full focus from front to back.
But what if you are unable to focus stack or simply do not want to? In that case you will, most likely, deal with an area in the photo that’s out of focus. This can be used to a certain effect to create a feeling of depth. It can also be used to isolate an area in the scene that the photographer wants to make the subject of attention. In the case of the photo that is included with this blog post the foreground is in focus but it trails off to the soft glow of the sunshine in the background.
It’s not often thought of in landscape photography to use a shallow depth of field, but it’s used a lot in macro photography. But using a shallow depth of field is always an option that shouldn’t be completely ignored when the photographer is trying to be creative with their work. Does it work effectively every time? No, but there are times when we are challenged with capturing a scene, such as a windy day, when we can try to create something artistic instead of giving up and going home with nothing.
Sometimes super sharp focus from front to back isn’t necessarily the best approach to landscape photography. So keep this in mind on those windy or even on dark days. Perhaps it will eliminate a little stress or maybe produce a more creative image.
Eagle Creek Fire Verdict – Here’s my statement concerning today’s court hearing concerning the teen who started the Eagle Creek Fire.
I feel that this is fair and I’ll tell you why.
I have been as angry as anyone about this. I think that you all know that. I have family and friends in Cascade Locks and the Stevenson area who were affected directly by this fire. The fire will ultimately cost me money as my guide business in the gorge is, essentially, shut down. I have a lot to be angry about.
With that being said, I must remove the vitriol, vindictiveness and emotion from my thinking to see this logically. This, I feel, is what the law is required to do in these emotional cases. The job of that judge was to put all emotional arguments aside while all of the facts are considered.
Prior to this day we’ve had some lively discussions about this on my Facebook page. Some have called for extremely severe punishment while others want to pass it off as just a bad decision by a child who didn’t know any better.
The consensus seemed to be to have this teen serve a ton of community service working to correct what he spoiled and to have him serve some sort of probation. That’s just what he received. It was also the maximum that the judge could rule in a juvenile court.
The hearing scheduled in May to determine restitution will be nothing more than a formality and nothing less than a lesson in futility if collection from the family is expected. The cost of fighting the fire is close to $20,000,000 and each person who was affected by the fire has a right to sue the family for up to $7500 each in damages. This will all go unpaid and the cost of fighting the fire will be paid for by the taxpayer.
This teen will receive almost 2000 hours in community service working directly with the US Forest Service. It is my hope that during this 2000 hours he will find a mentor who will direct his attention to the importance of conservation as well as community. If we can trust the system these things will be addressed during his time serving the community.
Although the letter of apology was finely crafted, or at least refined by his lawyers, I believe him. I believe that he understands now the enormity of his actions. I feel that he truly realizes that his actions can affect so many more than just himself.
It is my reasoning that if the system would have sent this teen to a jail situation he would come out bitter. I’m hoping that his sentence of community service and monitoring through the probation system that he will come out of this a better human than he would have otherwise.
It’s now time to heal. It’s time to heal our anger. It’s time to heal the losses that those who have been affected have felt. It’s time now to heal the Columbia River Gorge and go forward in the future with an increased level of awareness of how fragile this land is and how easily we all affect the land when we recreate there.
Wildflower Season and Leave No Trace
Well, it’s February and, so far, a mild Winter. If this trend continues we will have an excellent wildflower season. An early Spring has two consequences for photographers. I beautiful wildflower season and a lot of mosquitoes and ticks.
The Columbia River Gorge has many beautiful fields of flowers. One of the most popular locations by far is Rowena Crest. Rowena is known for its fields of lupine and balsamroot flowers. The location is usually over run by photographers and hikers who love these fields. Because of this the wear and tear on the terrain, as well as newly developed trails made by off trail walkers, it’s becoming pretty severe, especially in certain viewing areas. Beautiful foreground areas have been denuded and worn down to bare dirt.
Rowena is only one of the areas that are being affected by the increased use due to the popularity of photography today. Because of this I would like to remind everyone to do their best to Leave No Trace at these sensitive high use areas.
Walk on established trails. It’s difficult sometimes to stay on the trail when you see a nice clump but there’s a great chance that the trail is there due to its view and there will be many other flowers along the way. Once you mash the grasses down to resemble a trail, others will naturally follow.
Don’t pick the flowers. It may be tempting to pick a few flowers to create an arrangement, to turn their faces toward the camera or to simply bring home a bouquet. Please reconsider. Once they’re gone they’re gone for others and their ability to go to seed to supply fresh flowers next Spring is gone.
If you go with friends please limit the size of the group. The larger the group size the more apt for the group to leave the trail. A group of photographers in one place can cause a lot of damage. I’ve seen a group come in to photograph a place and completely stomp the area down.
Although controversial, consider the practice of not sharing the location to a pristine area that has yet to be affected by this high volume traffic damage. Some call this elitist, but in my mind it’s certainly not. If I’m able to explore to find my own little discoveries, others can make that same effort too. If I could trust my fellow photographers to actually be conscientious enough to not tear these areas apart, I’d be happy to tell the world. In the last 15 years of doing landscape photography I have seen so many of my favorite areas become overrun with non caring humans who have crowded these beautiful areas, tearing up the foregrounds that were once used in photos.
My message is simple and is not meant to be elitist. My message is simply to respect these places that we love to photograph. Preserve them for future photographers. Volunteer with local groups who are restoring or maintaining these areas. Keep these places from being closed down permanently. If you see another photographer off trail, consider mentioning in a nice way that they might consider staying on a trail. If you see others causing malicious damage, especially vandalism, consider reporting the action.
We all need to consider ourselves stewards of these lands. Most are public lands shared by all. Consider them something that you need to value and take care of.
2018 Columbia River Gorge Calendars and Note Cards
2018 Columbia River Gorge 12 Month Calendar – $20.00 <– CLICK HERE
4-Packs of photo note cards – $10 <— CLICK HERE
In light of the recent Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge I have decided to dedicate my 2018 calendar to all gorge photos. There are certain places that will never look the same as they did before. I still have some left so gt them while you can. These calendars are of a very high quality offset printing. They come saddle stitched so they lay flat. The photos are 8″ x 10″.
The note cards are 4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″. They’re blank inside so that you can write your own message. They come four to a package, with envelopes. Each card has a different scene.
- Punchbowl at Eagle Creek
- A Fisherman at Trillium Lake
- Mount Hood with rhododendrons
- Multnomah Falls
Supplies are limited so act now.
Thank you all so very much for your support. 🙂
Photographing the Columbia River Gorge – A day Photographing the Columbia River Gorge with my client and now friend Chris Byrne from Chris Byrne Photography. This was a great day for a photography adventure.
This video was taken a couple season’s ago prior to the recent Eagle Creek fire that devastated the Columbia River Gorge. Most all of the trails in the gorge are now closed for the foreseeable future. The last that I had heard, as of the writing of this blog post, Multnomah Falls trail will be closed for a year minimum while the area is stabilized and trails cleared.
In this video you will visit Latourell Falls, Shepperds Dell, Ponytail Falls (Upper Horsetail, Elowah Falls, Wahclella Falls and seen from a photographer’s perspective.
Grizzly Giant – Carleton Watkins – I want to tell a story while It’s on my mind. Something that is becoming more relevant in my life as time goes on. A story of a well intentioned photographer and a giant Sequoia called Grizzly Giant – Carleton Watkins.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the late 19th century photographer Carleton Watkins. His life was filled with hardships but his passion was the natural world and photography. I’ve found inspiration in his work and his life. He was also the first person to photograph the gorge.
Carleton Watkins was born in New York but moved to California in 1851 to find gold. He had never taken a photo before but was asked to tend to a shop for a daguerreotype photographer. He learned photography from his employer and by 1858 he had his own photography business. Most of his photos were commissioned work including one that took him to Mariposa.
In 1861 he made a trip to Yosemite that would change his career. Carleton used a huge view camera that used 18” x 22” glass plates. This allowed him to take much larger and more detailed views. When he returned from Yosemite he had made 30 huge glass plate photos and a hundred stereoview images. The photos were some of the very first photos that anyone had seen back east.
One of his photos was of the Grizzly Giant sequoia tree. His huge 18×22 camera captured the whole tree, which was the first time that it had ever been done. Between making a photo that had never been done before and his fame the photo went 19th century viral.
Watkin’s intentions were to photograph the trees to protect them but what happened was quite the opposite. More exposure led to more tourism and with more tourism came more commercial exploitation of the resources he intended to protect.
Today in the 21st century we’re going through a similar situation with photography. With digital cameras comes with more photographer taking photos of these amazingly beautiful natural places and with more people comes more wear, tear and damage from overuse or bad decisions.
I can’t help but think that I can understand how Carelton Watkins feels, especially in the aftermath of this senseless fire in the precious, fragile and sensitive Columbia River Gorge. I have spent over ten years innocently posting photos from the gorge not realizing how it could help cause such an influx of people both caring and uncaring.
It hurts me inside that my intentions would have some part, even in a small way, in causing harm to a place that I love so much.
It’s pushing midnight as I finish processing the last photo for a client photo shoot the previous day. I get up from my desk and walk over to the gear that I have set on my couch. My backpack is full of the required equipment for a day in the field. My camera is charged up with an extra battery. My memory cards are clear and installed into the camera. My clothing is ready to go for the next morning and my alarm is set for 4:00 am. These are the moments when one can easily justify turning the alarm off and just calling the next day off completely. The temptation of sleeping in is almost overwhelming.
The alarm rings and in a daze I hit the snooze alarm. Five minutes later the familiar but unwelcome sound of the alarm sounds off but with an increased intensity. It’s at the moment that I realize why it’s ringing. Spinning around while sitting upright my feet hit the floor. Heck, I need to visit the bathroom anyway. Maybe I’ll just get up, take care of some business and look outside to see how the weather looks.
As I go to the front door and let my dog Betty outside I stand on the porch and watch the drizzle as it saturates everything. A typical Oregon Spring day, I think to myself as Betty and walk back inside to decide that because I’m up anyway, I’ll just make some coffee and get into my rain resistant clothing and head out to see what the day will hold.
It’s dark and with just enough time to get to the gorge for sunrise I put my gear into the Jeep, load up Betty and head out to drive over Mount Hood and over Highway 35 in the pouring rain. At that time of the day there are very few people on the road. It’s my favorite time to drive. I sip from my travel mug and watch for errant deer crossing the road in front of me.
As I drop down into the Hood River Valley I notice that the rain has stopped and the clouds are thinning. My heart starts to pump with a bit more vigor with the realization that the morning may turn out to provide the conditions for a photograph that I am seeking, and perhaps the effects of the coffee. I turn east and travel down Highway 84 and then take the exit at Mosier before heading up to Rowena Crest. As I drive up the old Columbia River Highway toward my destination there are still a few sprinkles as the twilight starts to illuminate the horizon to the east, but it’s looking very promising.
Driving into the parking area at Rowena I grab my gear and and run to the spot that I have in mind for the composition that I seek. I have been here several times in the past and have photographed the area with varied luck, typically with mediocre skies, and am hoping that this will be the best moment yet. Within moments the light from the sun over the horizon starts to shine light under the clouds in the sky. I immediately start photographing the scene while blocking out all other thoughts or worries from my mind. I am in the moment. I’m in the groove.
That morning turned out to be one of my best days of photographing wildflowers in the gorge. I came home with a big bag of great images. This, the morning when I was riding a razor’s edge in deciding if I should even go or not, turned out to be amazing. It would have been so easy for me to just turn that alarm off and roll back over and sleep for another few hours. It would have been so easy for me to just come back inside after seeing the rain from my porch and hop back into bed. It would have been so easy to justify missing this amazing experience. I certainly had more reasons to not go than I had to go.
I think about this a lot and have this notion ingrained into my thinking now so that I am more apt to think about these experiences when that alarm rings on those early mornings. I don’t know much about gambling but I’m sure that certain principles that apply to it might apply to outdoor photography in Oregon and around Mount Hood. You don’t win the majority of the times that you play, but if you don’t play you will never win. Take that gamble. What do you have to lose but a little sleep? And the Photography Gamble just may pay off. You may end up photographing A Gorgeous Columbia River Gorge Sunrise.
Oregon Wildflower Photography Season is here.
It’s time to go act like a bumble bee and flit from flower to flower, cameras in hand. Here in the Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge area especially as we have so many options as well as a very long season to photograph them. Oregon Wildflower Photography Season is here.
Early in the season the flowers such as the purple lupine and bright yellow balsamroot sunflowers start in the lower elevations, especially along the east end of the Columbia River Gorge. Places such as Rowena Crest or Dalles Mountain on the Washington side of the river are both very popular locations for those who seek these wildflowers in the Springtime. As the season progresses the flowers work their way up into the foothills of Mount Hood and in time onto the slopes of the mountain during during the summer months. Most of the best wildflowers on Mount Hood are accessible from the many hiking trails available to us but a drive on some of the forest roads will be lined with everything from lupine and paintbrush to a wide assortment of orchids and lilies.
When photographing the flowers I like to get up before sunrise to be able to be there during the best light available to me, especially for my landscape photos, but a sunset can be just as nice. I typically avoid the light of mid day but a nice blue sky with some fluffy clouds is also striking. As the light changes I like to take more close up photos of the flowers. Macro photography is fun, but bring some knee pads. I spend a lot of time on my knees during wildflower season.
When out in the wild and roaming among the fields of flowers be aware of your surroundings so as not trample or destroy any plants or areas surrounding them. Don’t break new trails as there will be many opportunities for photos along the pathways and trails. As outdoor enthusiasts we need to practice and preach proper stewardship of the lands, especially in these days of increased usage.
Some of my favorite secret locations:
Rowena Crest Viewpoint, Mosier Oregon early season.
Rowena Crest Viewpoint is located on and is a part of the old Historic Columbia River Highway. Located between Mosier and The Dalles it gives you a commanding view of the Columbia River Gorge, especially to the east which makes it a great place to photograph a sunrise. Lupine and balsamroot sunflowers dominate the scene but it is home to an amazing variety of native wildflowers. There are great trails through the area, including the Tom McCall Preserve.
Columbia Hills State Park – Dalles Mountain Washington early season.
Across the Columbia River from The Dalles Oregon lies a whole world of exploration. One of my favorite places to photograph is Dalles Mountain Ranch near Dallesport. It once was a ranch and several of the buildings, including barns and the original farm house are still there and a part of the historical history of the area. With views over fields of wildflowers in the Springtime that overlook the southern skyline including Mount Hood amazing photos are made here.
Mt Hood National Forest roads any time that they’re clear of snow.
I love to just go for drives on many of the roads that are open for travel that are on National Forest land, especially while the rhododendrons and bear grass are blooming. Many of these roads come to views of Mount Hood. As you drive you will also notice a wide variety of wildflowers that grow along the road. Just pack up your camera and go for a drive.
Mount Hood’s Wy’east Basin late season.
For those who enjoy a beautiful hike that will get you onto the upper slopes of Mount Hood I recommend a hike up Vista Ridge to Wy’east Basin. It can be strenuous to some but if you pack a lunch and water, take your time and stop and photograph the flowers along the way a wonderful day can be had. The trail weaves its way through the ghost forest created by the Dollar Lake fire, the floor of which can be covered in flowers including beautiful white fawn lilies. As you break out of the forest to views of Barret Spur and Mount Hood bear grass and rhododendrons line the trail. When you arrive above the timber line and into Wy’east basin you will be greeted with areas covered with beautiful mountain heather.
Mount Hood’s Elk Meadows late season.
For a less strenuous hike go to the east side to Elk Meadows trail. A large variety of flowers can be found in these meadows, from phlox, shooting stars, elephant heads and lilies. This trail makes its way to several trails that network this area that allow loops hikes including a trip to Umbrella Falls which can be surrounded by fireweed.
These are only a small sample of the amazing scenery that can yield amazing wildflowers and, consequently, amazing photographs. Grab your gear and hit the road.