As some of you already know, I just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania. I didn’t have as much down time as I had hoped and that which I did have was taken up with cat naps. I had a tummy problem the whole trip. This put a damper on my hike in to Ricketts Glen, which was a hike that I had been so looking forward to. Bad tummy or not, I was going to attempt this.
For me this was more of a trip to spend time with my buddy Chris Byrne my new friend Neven Dries and to meet up with another new found friend, Zachary Bright. When we arrived at the park it was closed to the general public but the ranger allowed us in as long as we had crampons, the cleats that you put on your boots to keep you from slipping, ice axes and a section of rope. So we outfitted ourselves in anticipation of the hike.
Truth be told I was hoping for inclement weather, and the weather leading up to this morning promised some beautiful conditions at it had snowed the day before down in Reading. I was hoping to hike in fresh fallen snow, but when we got there the bright sun was shining and the temps were starting to push 40° F. This made for a beautiful walk, but challenging conditions for photos what with bright highlights and deep shadows, but I had to get some photos.
Once I was in the creek and trying to find my comp I regretted lightening my pack by taking out my Neutral Density filters. I did have my circular polarizer with me thankfully. By lowering my ISO, stopping down and adding the CP I was able to get some photos that were acceptable, but certainly far from optimal image quality. Here in Oregon I prefer to shoot creeks and waterfalls in the rain or soon after a rain, ideally under an overcast sky. This is one of the photos that I took that morning.
In this photo you may notice that There’s a lot of complexity. There’s a lot going on in it. I did my best to compact the comp and to balance the light. It was a struggle, but I hope that I pulled it off. I’m imagining this same place in the Spring or in the Fall.
Although I love the Pacific Northwest, it was a great adventure for me to explore these Atlantic Northeast locations. I really, really can’t wait to return.
Thank you Chris. You’re a good friend. Thank you Zachary. You’re a good man and I can’t wait to shoot with you once more. I appreciate all that you guys did to make this happen.
And most of all Neven Dries who helped facilitate this trip, the primary purpose of which was to talk to the amazing people from the Berks Camera Society of Reading Pennsylvania. I will never be able to repay your kindness. I’m so glad to have met you my friend.
Please, once you find some time, go check out their work. You won’t regret it.
Nikon D810 – Nikon 20mm f/2.8 prime – 0.6 shutter – f/22 – ISO 64
“You’re too close to the trees to see the forest.” To which I reply, “Well, sometimes there’s more to the forest than just the trees!” First I see a forest, then trees, then leaves, then bark, pine cones, moss, mushrooms, bugs, dew, grains of sand.
Landscape photographers in many cases have Ultra Wide Fever. The want to buy the widest lens that they can buy and include the whole forest sacrificing the complexity and beauty of the details.
Darlene and I were hiking back from a visit to Tamanawas falls when this leaf caught my eye. We stopped and switched our lenses to our macro gear and started shooting these amazing brown drops of water. Apparently a forest tea steeped from the dew from the morning and the juices of the maple leaf.
Sometimes one really should stop and savor the little things in life to be able to enjoy the big picture.
The amazing Oneonta Gorge is the incredible Columbia River gorge on a sunny day.
This is an area of exceptional beauty, but it’s one that’s being loved to death. The hoards of people that have been visiting this location have been having a negative impact on this special place. The last time that I was in there I saw graffiti scraped into the moss and lichen on the face of a rock. I have taken out garbage and broken glass. It’s sad that people can go out to see this beauty and want to damage it. There are things in this life that I’m sure that I will never understand.
The last that I heard the US Forest Service is trying to come up with a plan to try and mitigate the damage from the volume of traffic in there during the summer months. They have yet to come up with a plan.
If you are going out to the gorge consider coming out before 10am. The crowds seem to sleep in. Consider carpooling or using transit buses. Stay on established trails and avoid “user trails”. Not only do they cause damage to the forest, they can lead you to dangerous areas.
If you see people abusing the gorge suggest to them the proper way to enjoy the area. If they’re causing trouble and you don’t feel comfortable note details and report them to the US Forest Service.
Enjoy but protect our amazing Columbia River Gorge.
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.
Landscape Photography Ethics and Stewardship of our public lands.
If you haven’t noticed lately, our public lands have become quite popular in the last decade. Many of the folks that are visiting them are inspired by the photos posted on social platforms such as Instagram or Facebook.
We have all seen that epic photo of someone standing on a hill in the foreground with their hands up in the air as if victorious after an epic journey. Behind them you see a sweeping view, idyllic light and a towering snow capped peak in the distance. These photos inspire those who yearn to express the human spirit of adventure and exploration. It also causes an increased number of people trekking to these locations. When I post a photo online the most asked question is usually, “Where is that?”
No longer is there an attitude that you should go out and explore the world and find these places. In this day and age it’s about the image and not the adventure. The location that’s easy to get to and to take a striking photo of especially. The result of this is that these iconic, beautiful and many times environmentally sensitive locations are being overrun by folks that may be inexperienced in the outdoors. Many that I have met seem to have the attitude that they are in a landscaped and maintained city park or, with some, an amusement park for extreme outdoor sports. At the end of the day it really is but a way to make an awesome photo to post online in attempt to feed their own vanity.
This may sound harsh, but as a professional outfitter and guide as well as a photographer and social media practitioner I experience this frequently. You may think that this is about me railing against the virtues of humility but it is not. The purpose of this is to point out that this activity on public land is causing it harm. With the increase in use of the trails and facilities it is more important than ever before to realize our effect on the land. Therefore I feel compelled to make a list of suggestions that will help to minimize the effects of this increased usage. This applies to us all, not just photographers.
Don’t create new trails in established trail areas. Stay on the existing trails. If you can see that someone has already been to an area, look for a trail to it before you cross virgin territory. I was at Elowah Falls one day and observed two photographers looking down and over the embankment to a spot in the creek below. As I approached I could tell that they were considering trailblazing their way to it. I walked up and started a friendly conversation about how beautiful it was there. I told them that there’s a great little trail just behind us that will take them there. They thanked me and took the trail. They were unfamiliar with the location, but if they would have taken just a few more minutes looking they would have found the trail.
Pick up other’s trash. We’ve all heard the saying, “Pack it in. Pack it out”. In this day and age it should be, “Pack it in, pack it… and other less considerate people’s trash, out. I always carry a kitchen trash back and some ziplocks in my backpack. They can come in very handing for this and other purposes. If you’re hiking with a dog pick up the poo with a plastic baggie and do not leave it along the trail with the intent of picking it up on the hike out. Put it in it’s plastic bag and then put that into the trash bag. If you’re still worried about getting poo in your pack, double bag it.
Don’t pose in sensitive areas. I have seen people standing in or erecting their tents in places off trail just for a photo. This sends a message that this location is fine to walk to which will cause damage in time. Choose a location that a trail already accesses.
Be original. With the sheer amount of people accessing these areas think about why you would want to go to the same location to get the same photograph. This mindset creates a herd. And with any herd it causes a swath of wear to these places. I’m not saying not to go but think about all of the other less photographed areas left to explore. If we as photographers seek out new locations it will scatter the herd and at the same time you will create more unique photographs.
Buy trailhead or commercial use permits. There’s a purpose to purchase forest passes or commercial use permits beyond paying another tax. It’s also a way to help regulate the use of these areas. If you’re hiking frequently consider a season pass. It’s convenient because you don’t have to buy one every time that you go hiking, and it saves you a lot of money. I’m one of a mind that this land is ours to use freely, but in the 21st century we have a few harsh realities that a permit system addresses.
Volunteer. The Forest Service or many social or civic clubs have ways for one to volunteer to clean trails and trailheads. This gives you a chance to give back all that our public lands provide. Contact the US Forest Service office to inquire about how you can help. Join a meetup group and go out for a walk with new friends and teach by example how easy it is to clean a trail as you hike.
None of these points are abstract or obscure concepts. This was how my parents raised me as we hiked on Oregon trails as a boy. I’m not one to claim that we’re doomed in this day and age because of the deterioration of society. Even when you toss that out of that argument there’s one glaring fact that can’t be ignored. There are more and more people coming to these places and just that fact alone dictates that we treat our trails and public land with even more respect.
Landscape Photography Ethics and Stewardship should be all of our responsibility.