Oregon Rain Forest

Oregon Rain Forest

The Oregon Rain Forest – This photograph speaks of what Oregon means to me. My earliest memories are of sitting at the edge of an Oregon creek fishing for trout with my father and the smell of the forest and the sound of the creek as it tumbles over the top of mossy rocks and logs. It hasn’t mattered where I have been in the world in my life Oregon was still home to me. These creek side memories had a lot to do with my yearning to return home. They’re a peaceful place and make wonderful landscape photos.

This photograph was taken in the Mt Hood National Forest near the little town of Rhododendron Oregon. It was made on May 21st of 2016. This shows the lush green moss covered forest at it’s Springtime prime.  It’s a time of the year that the forest is the most alive. It’s as if everything that lives there is celebrating the warmer weather and the passing of Winter. Everything from the smallest insect to the largest bear, moss to trees they all are reaching for the light. It’s the lushest and the greenest. The creeks are full and the leaves fill the voids of every corner and every gully. I love photographing the forest in the Spring time.

This shot was made with my Nikon D810 with a 24-85 f/3.5. The exposure was 0.8 sec at an aperture of f/20 and 800 ISO. I used a polarizing filter to reduce glare. Raw conversion was in Lightroom with basic exposure and contrast adjustments, lens correction, CA correction and basic sharpening and NR, and the processing was then finished in Photoshop with a thin Orton layer and final sizing and sharpening.

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Just another day in Photography Paradise

Just another day in Paradise

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Just another day in Photography Paradise.

Considering 2016

Mount Hood in Black and White

It’s been another great year here at Gary Randall Photography. I hope that it was for you all as well. After all setbacks are considered, we’re thankful for the growth and progress that has taken place in life and business, including being included as a writer for the Mountain Times.

As I look back on 2016 I thought that I should share a few of the photos that were made and share what it took to get the shot. The photos might not be my most beautiful or technically brilliant but combine my memory of the moment with the resulting image and they’re some of my personal favorites. Consider this a year in review. I hope that that non-photographers enjoy them and that fellow photographers and photographic artists can learn or be inspired to push their work to be the best that it can be.

I hope that 2017 brings good health, happiness and many photographic opportunities to you.  

Mount Hood in Black and White
Mount Hood in Black and White

I started the year out near home with a monochromatic photo of Mount Hood from Timberline Lodge. Although this looks as if it was taken at night it was made on a bluebird day. The snow had been rained on causing these channels of water runoff creating the lineal patterns in the snow. After the patterns were made another snow storm came and covered them back up again but left them soft like folds in fine white fabric.

To get the photo I had to blaze a path through the deep snow to the point of view that I wanted. Of course I didn’t have my snowshoes, but luckily this was only about 20 yards from the Timberline Lodge parking lot.

Processing involved was simple using Adobe Lightroom. For the dark sky I polarized it to a darker blue with my circular polarizing filter. I then localized the exposure and contrast to the blue and darkened the zone to pure black. I then brought the whites and the zones between 0% and 100% to a point where the brightest was at 100% with each level between that would allow for the texture of the scene to be represented. You can see all of the detail including a sandy texture in the foreground of the freshly fallen snow.

Mount Hood Oregon
Moon at Mount Hood Oregon

This photo is one of my favorites from this past year. After getting the previous Black and White  photo of Mount Hood I decided to return again after dark to see what I could do with the scene at night, especially under the moonlight. This photo might be considered an unexpected benefit of looking all around me while I was photographing the mountain. This scene was behind me.

To get this photo I used my tripod to be able to extend my exposure to 20 seconds. I stopped down to f/22 to allow the light to play off of the aperture blades which created the light star from the moon’s light. A snowboarder had cut a line through the scene that aligned with the shadows of the moonlight. I felt that the simple composition created a much stronger image than a wider view of this scene.

Alvord Desert Oregon
Alvord Desert Oregon

Early Spring is a good time to explore those places that heat up during the summer. The Alvord Desert is a great example. The mud tiles of the playa start to form as the mud starts to dry and the skies give you a good chance for a sunset at that time of the year as well.

To get this photo I had set up for a sunset and then waited. The sunset was nice that night, but the color didn’t come on in a dense colorful way until after I watched the “first sunset” fade and I had started to pack my gear into my Jeep. This second sunset is the result of the last beams of light shining from below the horizon and up under the clouds that were in front and above us. Always stay until the end of the show.

Rowena Crest Oregon
Rowena Crest Oregon

As the year progressed the anticipation of flowers increased. Not every year is a good year for flowers in the Mount Hood area, including the Columbia River Gorge. Weather can take its toll on their fragile petals. It can also affect the timing of which bloom when. When it all comes together like it did this last Spring it creates perfect conditions for beautiful wildflower photos. The lupine and the balsamroot bloomed in unison.

To get this photo I got up before dark and drove from my home here on The Mountain over Highway 35 through the Hood River Valley in the rain. I didn’t hurry because of the weather. I did not anticipate a sunrise, but the closer that I got to The Gorge the more that it looked like the clouds might part so I decided to head to Rowena Crest. I arrived just in time for this sunrise. I was also fortunate that there was hardly a breeze in the air which helped me to get this photo without the struggle of needing a super fast shutter speed or an open aperture. This allowed me to get a clear and sharp image through the scene.

Smith Rock Oregon
Smith Rock Oregon

I like sunrises. I just wish that they weren’t in the morning, but that they are limits the amount of people there to photograph them. I love Smith Rock any time of the day. I wanted to get the morning light as it shown onto the rocks I also wanted to take advantage of the foreground in this spot at this beautiful location.

To get this photo I drove out in the dark to the Smith Rock State Park and found these cracks that I found from a previous trip. This photo was all about composition and, of course, the warm light as it painted the side of the cliffs beyond. I set my tripod up to bridge the crack allowing it to move through the center of the photo, and took care not to fall down into the approximately 15 foot drop below. Because the foreground is so prominent I maximized my focus by stopping (smaller aperture opening) down and then made sure that it was in sharp focus.

Wildflowers Washington
Wildflowers Washington

The Columbia Hills of Washington, with views of Mount Hood and the Columbia River beyond, is one of my favorite places to go run through fields of flowers in the Springtime. Columbia Hills State Park is located in Dallesport Washington. It includes the historic Dalles Mountain Ranch and fields and fields of flowers. This old car makes a great subject of interest in photos made of it, especially on a beautiful sunny day with cotton ball clouds floating by.

To get this photo I was able to hand hold my camera due to the bright light of the sunshine. With such bright light my shutter speed was fast enough that it was just a matter of walking around and looking for thoughtful compositions.

Central Oregon
Central Oregon

I’m a guide and photography instructor. I love taking people from all over the world to places in and around the Mount Hood area. Less than an hour away we have a whole different world to explore by heading east toward open skies and Central Oregon. This photo is one that I used to demonstrate my focusing techniques. My goal was to get the wheat in front of the camera as well as the house behind in perfect focus.

To get this photo I set my camera on my tripod to give me a stable platform to allow me to take my time with my composition and adjustments. There was also a bit of a breeze so it allowed me to repeat the shot if it didn’t turn out the first, second or third try. I stopped down my aperture to maximize the focal distance, moved my focus out to infinity and then focused back until the wheat became tack sharp. Set my exposure and took the shot.

Perseid Meteor Shower 2016
Perseid Meteor Shower 2016

Every year I do my best to get a photo of the Perseid Meteor Shower. I enjoy photographing it because it happens in a arm time of the year and I stay up all night doing it. Sitting out on a dirt road in a lawn chair, under a blanket watching falling stars is a great way to spend time.

To get this photo I literally stayed up all night. This is a composite of about four hours of meteors that fell in front of my camera. Each photo is a 30 second exposure which allowed me to give the camera time to catch the falling stars. To get a constant sequence of images to cover the whole time I set the interval timer to take one shot after the other. Once I got back home I selected each of the photos that had a meteor in it and then layered each one on top of another as layers in Photoshop. I then masked out everything but the meteor. I then rotated each one according to the amount of time that had lapsed to compensate for the rotation of the Earth. The last step was to combine them all into one base image of Mount Hood taken that night. There’s a lot of work to get a photo like this but in the end I find it worth the effort.

A selfie under the Northern Lights in Alaska
A selfie under the Northern Lights in Alaska

Standing under the Aurora Borealis is an incredible experience. All of my life it has fascinated me. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Alaska to see them this year as a part of a Photography Workshop that I hosted there.

To get this photo I used my tripod and remote shutter release. Because this was a night with no moon the only light was from the northern lights above me. I put my camera on the tripod, set it to a fairly high ISO, opened up my aperture to about f/3.5 and my exposure to about 10 seconds and then attempted to stand still while the camera exposed the image. I wouldn’t recommend standing in the middle of a road to get a photo, but this was Alaska. We saw no other cars at all that night.

And speaking of Alaska, here’s a photo of my workshop members. I took this photo as we were making our way across the ice of the Matanuska Glacier. In all we spent three days exploring this amazing place. As tour leader I was able to lead everyone out to a spot inside the heart of the ice to get amazing photos of a real Alaskan glacier up close and personal.

To get this photo I turned behind me to see them all coming over this crest of ice. I asked them to stop as I set my camera to Aperture Priority, opening my aperture and setting my ISO at about 800 to insure a fast enough shutter and then snapped a series of photos, taking this one as the best of the group. Although Landscape photographers typically prefer to set their cameras manually, there are times when you have to work quick so it’s perfectly acceptable to switch to a more automatic mode such as Aperture or Shutter Priority to insure that you get the photo.

Matanuska Glacier Workshop 2016
Matanuska Glacier Workshop 2016

Gateway to Cold Spring Creek

Cold Spring Creek

Gateway to Cold Spring Creek

I stand at the window to the light of the universe, the smell of the earth, the sound of a dynamic reality and the sight of beautiful, precious life.
This is only one of many spots to get a shot along Cold Spring Creek beside the trail to Tamanawas Falls, a 100 foot tall waterfall in the Mt Hood National Forest on the east side of Mount Hood. As an outfitter and guide, this is only one of the many creeks and waterfalls that I am able to take my clients to.

Alaska Glacier Workshop 2016

Matanuska Glacier Workshop 2016

Alaska is an amazing place. It’s so expansive that the scale is nothing that can be imagined but needs to be experienced to comprehend. Even the travel from location to location can be challenging in its distance. There is so much to see in Alaska that careful planning or a lot of time to wander is required.

Darlene and I have just returned from our trip to Alaska. We were there to conduct a workshop at the Matanuska Glacier. I guided seven photographers out and onto the ice for a four day Alaska workshop, and what a time we had. Everyone was blown away by the experience and the photos. The chance to explore a glacier is one that is not experienced by many.

The months prior to our arrival were unseasonably wet in Alaska. We were fortunate that the weather cleared up to provide optimal conditions for the workshop. The skies cleared and the temperatures become quite moderate which made walking around on the ice much more comfortable. Nobody was uncomfortable the whole time.

Our home base was the Long Rifle Lodge in Glacierview. The food was great, the view of the glacier from the dining room is breathtaking. A couple of the attendees stayed there as well. The rooms there were quite adequate, clean and comfortable especially considering that during the workshop all that one has time to do in them is sleep. Other’s stayed in various cabins or bed and breakfasts in the area.

On day three we all decided that the conditions for Autumn colors was optimal so we all decided to go to Hatcher Pass. While there we all wandered through the tundra, photographed arctic ground squirrels and explored the old historic Independence Mine with a side trip to Summit Lake and the amazing highland views through moving clouds and mist that created beans of heavenly light. It was a truly incredible day and a good call to go there.

Everyone was tired at the end of the four days, but were all left wanting more.

If you’re interested in an Alaska adventure please consider joining us next season.

Mount Hood Wildflowers

Jacobs' Ladder

Well it’s shaping up to be a great year for wildflowers on Mount Hood. The flowers are about gone at the lowest elevations but they’re moving their way up the side of the mountain. We had a great year for snow and a wet and cool Summer so far, generally speaking. The flowers seem to be taking advantage of the conditions.

I started this year in the Columbia River Gorge photographing Rowena Crest and Dalles Mountain Ranch on the Washington side of the river. I photographed balsamroot and lupine there. In time the dogwood and rhododendrons in the forests became my game and my primary pursuit, as well as the bear grass. This year’s bear grass bloom was a fraction of last year’s amazing bloom. It was incredible last season but a bit disappointing this year and understandably so considering it’s irregular bloom cycle. Now that the rhododendrons are about finished my next wildflower pursuit are macros of the little flowers that tend to be a bit more singular in their dispersion. These are the ones that I enjoy photographing close up. At this time the lower meadows are blooming and in time the upper alpine meadows will be covered with flowers as well.

Here are a few photos that I have made so far this season. Most are close up shots, I love macro photography, but I plan on getting up to those upper meadows soon for some nice photos of Mount Hood so I hope to have more landscapes with nice flowers in the foreground. We’ll see how that goes.

I have plans for a wildflower workshop next Summer. I hope to be able to use it as a venue to show my macro photography techniques. Stay tuned for news about that when I post next year’s schedule. Look for it soon.

Thank you for all of your support everyone.

Accessories That Make a Difference For Your Camera

Camera Accessories
Camera Accessories

Last month I shared a few thoughts to consider when choosing the right digital camera for your use. I mentioned how one can easily get by with just their cell phone camera, while others will consider much more when deciding on a camera and will decide on a Digital Single Lens Reflex or Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses.

This month I want to cover a few basic accessories that you will need sooner or later when taking photos with a DSLR camera.

First a couple basic lenses. I recommend a wide angle to mid range zoom such as an 18-55mm and a 55-200mm will also come in handy. Many times a camera kit will come with both lenses as a package. One can get spend a bit more and get an 18-200mm. Then you will have the most common range in a single lens.

A good backpack. Your backpack will be your first line of defense from damage to your gear. Make sure that you get one that’s well padded and has partitions for your body and lenses. I like to make sure that I have one that has an extra compartment for a lunch or a jacket.

A solid tripod.. A tripod is used as a steady platform to place your camera one while taking a photo, typically during a longer exposure. You usually don’t need to use a tripod if your shutter speed is fast enough to keep the shot from blurring due to motion. Examples of when you would want to use a tripod is if you’re taking a photo in dim light, or if you are taking a longer exposure of a waterfall for instance. Don’t scrimp on a tripod. You don’t need an expensive one, but don’t get a cheap wobbly one that will fail in the field or shake at the hint of a wind.

A couple of words about filters. The only filter that I can’t live without is a circular polarizer to reduce glare or to enhance the blue of the sky. Many people use a UV, or Ultraviolet filter, but because digital cameras have a filter on the sensor to do it, a UV filter is now used to protect the front element of the lens. A warning about using filters at night or with bright lights. You can get light refracting between the lens and the filter. City lights are a good example where you would want to remove your filter.

Good cards. Get good memory cards that have good read/write speeds. It helps the camera write the photos to the card quicker as well as downloading to your computer. A fast card will help a lot if you’re doing a burst of a continuous sequence of photos. A better care will be less apt to fail on you. There’s nothing worse that losing a whole memory card of irreplaceable photos.

Camera Accessories
Camera Accessories

Camera strap. A good camera strap will save your camera from hitting the deck. If you’re walking around with it, sling it around your neck. I buy neoprene straps with buckles that allow me to remove the strap from the camera while it’s on the tripod. It keeps the strap from getting caught on my arm and knocking the tripod over, plus if it’s windy it keeps the camera steadier without the strap flapping in the wind.

A remote shutter release. It’s very easy to get shake and slight motion blur in your photos by simply pushing the shutter button down while mountain on a tripod. A remote shutter release will keep this from happening. You can get them that connect via a wire or via remote. I use the wired type because I find them more reliable.

A good computer and storage. These days the digital cameras are making some amazingly fine and detailed photos, but that quality can come with a price. Processor speed, memory and storage will be taxed if you have an older computer. Make sure that you have plenty of room to store your photos on your machine, and consider backing them up to a separate external hard drive in case of computer failure. I recommend deleting any photo that you deem a failure to save hard drive space. Today’s cloud storage services provide a great place to backup your photos. Another practical solution is to sign up to sharing sites such as Flickr or even printing sites such as SmugMug to store your photos.

The bottom line concerning accessories. My approach to photography, and most things in life, are to keep it all simple. You don’t need a truck full of doo-dads, gizmos and what-nots to take a good photo. You best accessory to your photography is going to be your knowledge of your camera and how to use it on manual to have control of the light that makes your photos.