Multnomah Falls through the Columbia River Gorge mist
Multnomah Falls is more than iconic and easily recognized by most anyone who sees it. Even if they don’t know the name, there’s a good chance that they’ve at least seen the waterfalls in a painting or a photo before.
I find that the one best variable in determining how beautiful the waterfall is on a particular day is the weather. And in the case of Multnomah Falls, sometimes bad weather is good. On this particular day the waterfall was emerging from a low layer of clouds and everything was lush and wet and green. The rain had dominated that day but it certainly didn’t hinder our photography.
Here’s my first photo of 2020… and the first photo after my stroke, taken not far from where I live.
It’s kinda funny but while I was going through the stroke I was thinking of potential consequences from the damage that the stroke could cause and if I would still be able to go out and stand in a creek and take a photo. I’m serious. I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was afraid of living but without photography. Thankfully I’ve been blessed to be able to go back to what I love with, perhaps, a new and fresh purpose.
This is a photo of a creek in the Mount Hood National Forest. The moss is in its Winter color and the leaves have left the trees, but the forest is no less beautiful than it is any other time of the year.
I had an exceptional this day with my good friend Chris Byrne and his friend Bronwyn. I needed this day so bad. I was back in my realm doing what I’m meant to do. I was so happy. Thank you Chris. I appreciate all that you do for me.
Christmas Valley Oregon – I love the diversity of landscape in Oregon. We have most everything that a landscape photographer could want to photograph. Oregon has a pretty awesome ocean coastline abutted against forested mountains and hills, valleys, glacial peaked mountains, sage and juniper high desert plains, low elevation desert mud playas and a canyon that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon – Hells Canyon on the Idaho border. We also have windswept sand dunes, not just along the coastline, but right in the center of the state in Central Oregon.
Christmas Valley Sand Dunes in Central Oregon are some of the remnants of the catastrophic volcanic explosion of Mount Mazama just 7000 years ago that blew 1600 meters (almost a mile in elevation) of the 12,000 foot (3700 meter) mountain completely off, creating a caldera that contains the iconic 1,943 foot (592 meter) deep Crater Lake, that we know today. The Christmas Valley sand is composed of ash and pumice that was ejected during the eruption. Although the dunes are majestic on their own, they’re only a small part of the evidence of an event that changed what we know as Oregon forever, and greatly affected the people who lived there.
What’s thought provoking to me is the fact that humans were in the area and were witness to this event. Incredibly preserved reed sandals have been unearthed in a cave near the little town of Fort Rock not far from Christmas Valley that have been dated from 9000 to 13000 years old. Life for the native Klamath people in the area changed forever after the massive eruption. Their legends tell of an angry battle between Llao, their “Chief of the Below World” who inhabited Mount Mazama (Giiwas in the Native American Klamath language), and his rival Skell, their “Chief of the Above World”. Llao fell in love with a beautiful Klamath maiden but she refused his offer of immortality if she would become his wife. This angered Llao and he rained rocks and fire down from the sky onto the people below. During the battle Skell tried to protect the people from above while standing atop Mount Shasta. The battle ended when Skell was able to force Llao back into the mountain. All of this commotion formed the crater on Mount Mazama which filled with torrential rains that followed the battle.
The mountain became sacred ground to the natives and the people were forbidden from going there. Some shaman forbade them from looking in the direction of the mountain. 7000 years ago, all of this would make perfect sense. The human catastrophe and the pure terror that they witnessed must have been something that we as modern humans can hardly understand.
Today we can still witness the effects of the massive geological battle that forms so much of the landscapes that we photograph. I feel that understanding the science as well as the legend of these areas works to enhance our appreciation for them and allows us to better translate their meaning and message through our photos.
The winds in Central Oregon blow with some regularity in this area and create dunes as well as ripples in the sand. The patterns that they create are perfect for a photographic foreground. Unique conditions such as a vivid sunrise or sunset can complete a breathtaking scene.
Christmas Lake, Christmas Valley and nearby Peter’s Sink and Peter’s Creek were named for pioneer stockman Peter Christman, who grazed his cattle there and had a house at Silver Lake, 18 miles (29 km) to the southwest. The name “Christmas” was an early corruption of the name Christman that became entrenched in the vernacular by 1900.
The Christmas Valley Sand Dunes are administered by the Bureau of Land Management and are easily accessible and are designated as a recreational area for campers and wanderers as well as OHV use. Camping areas are available for extended camping stays. If you find yourself wandering in Central Oregon exploring our amazing public lands a trip to Christmas Valley should be on your list of places to stop and experience.
Some days I feel that I’m blessed with an inordinate amount of amazing light when I go out to make photos. I can’t explain it. I’m not boasting but am simply acknowledging how blessed that I feel. I’ve never been a very lucky guy. Perhaps I’ve been saving up my luck to be used where it will make the biggest difference in my life. Certainly photography has brought to me some of the most meaningful returns in all of my life.
I just spent a couple of days at the Oregon Coast with one of my repeat clients this last weekend. What I found remarkable about the reason why he wanted to spend more time with me was that, according to him, all of the photos that he took during his time with me stood out well over those that he took alone or with other guides that he had hired. I was almost speechless. All I could do was thank him while he was thanking me. 😀 “Aww, thank you.” “No, seriously, thank you”. “No I really mean it. Thank you.” “No, thank you.”…. 😀 lol
This was the one segment of time that he and I had planned where I was hoping, wishing and praying a bit that the light would arrive on cue, and it certainly did. We were hoping for the best at Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock and it certainly did NOT disappoint with this amazing Cannon Beach Oregon Sunset.
I’ve been confident of very little in my life, but I have great confidence in the work that I’m doing at this point in my life.
There once was a time when I would stay up for several nights in a row and had no stories worth telling. These days I stay up for one night and have a wonderful story that I could tell.
I could tell about enjoying this warm, calm dark Summer night with a sky full of stars and a snow capped mountain so close it seems as if you can reach out to touch it, with the Milky way above it like a feathery plume from a hat, and then coming home with a photograph that needs no description.
I have so many wonderful stories that I could tell, and so many photos that need no words.
We’re focusing on focusing this month. How do I focus my photos is one of the most asked questions of me by other photographers. It’s a great question, and one that one would think would be pretty basic and simple. It’s usually the last skill that a beginning photographer considers when starting out but seems to be the toughest to master. I mean it seems that it would be pretty basic, what with the sophistication of the Auto Focus features in modern digital cameras, but once one takes a few photos and is let down by the Auto Focus Mode it’s easy to see why in many cases, especially landscape and portraiture, you will want to manually focus your photo.
There are several things that will affect the focus or clarity of our photos including a completely out of focus image, one where the focus is so far off that nothing is clear or in focus. That issue is obvious, of course, so we won’t discuss this in depth. We will assume that we are focusing but want to refine the clarity and focus of the shot. I’m going to try to proceed without citing mathematics or terms and theories such as Hyperfocal Distance, Circle of Confusion etc. The purpose of this article is to just understand the basics enough to understand how to overcome a common problem with focusing. Trust that this could become so lengthy that it would require another ten pages of the Mountain Times to cover it. Sometimes when someone is learning something new more information beyond what it takes to understand the concept causes confusion and discouragement. Once the basics are learned the understanding can be broadened in the future. I always tell people that if it requires mathematics to take photos I’d be a C-Minus photographer.
First let’s consider blurring caused by the camera moving or objects in the scene moving. This is not a focus issue but it can affect the clarity and areas of focus in the photo as you affect it. If movement is causing problems then your shutter speed is too slow. You’ll need to make sure that your shutter speed is sufficiently fast to freeze the movement. There are times where a slow shutter blur effect is desirable such as in creeks or waterfalls. This typically requires one to make an aperture adjustment to vary the shutter speed. Opened more to make it quicker and closed more to make it slower, but the depth of field will change with each aperture change.
So what’s this depth of field of which you speak you ask? The depth of field is how deep the area that will be in focus is from front to back. The wider your aperture the shallower or narrower your depth of field will be and then when you stop down, or close the aperture down, the depth of field becomes deeper. Remember that the larger the aperture opening the smaller the f/stop number and the smaller the aperture opening is the larger the f/stop number. Something to consider when you’re trying to maximize your focus is that the closer you are to the subject or foreground narrower your depth of field will be as well. If you’re having trouble getting everything in the scene within acceptable focus stand back a little. The same with portraiture. If you’re shooting with a wide aperture to blur the background intentionally you may have trouble getting the person’s whole face in focus. There’s not a lot worse in portrait photography than having the eyes in focus but the nose out of focus or vice-versa. Either stop down (close down the aperture) or stand back a little further or both. This works best with a zoom lens so you can recompose as you move away.
Hyperfocal Distance – I know. I said that I was going to try not to mention this but I think that curiosity will eventually lead a photographer to wonder. Simply and basically, the hyperfocal distance is the point where you will focus to allow everything from the foreground to the background to be in “acceptable focus”.
There’s a mystical mathematical formula to determine what that the hyperfocal distance is, but if you remember this advice you will get by like I have been for a long time without taking a calculator into the field with me. Here goes – I remember that I want to be in my lens’s sweet spot, which is the upper and lower limit of the aperture’s clearest settings. Each lens is different but the average lens is approximately f/8 to f/14. Compose your shot but try not to get too close to the foreground unless you don’t mind the background to be soft – Remember the closer to your foreground the less likely the object in the background will be in focus – And then focus to infinity on your lens focus ring and then focus back until the foreground just comes into focus. Then you will usually have the depth of field maximised and pushed out as far as possible while still maintaining a focused foreground. It’s easy to understand once you try it.
That may have been a long road to a short conclusion but just a basic understanding of how your aperture and depth of field affects focus allows you to take control of exactly how you will focus your photo. I hope that I made that as clear as possible.
Here’s a photo that I made yesterday while guiding my friends Al and Kathy Baca, from Long Island New York, around the Mount Hood National Forest. We spent a day in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and a day in the Mount Hood National Forest with a day of post processing between. It was a great time.
This photo was made while they were photographing bugs, flowers. lichen and moss with their macro lenses. I let them be for a few moments while I dove into the forest to get to this area. The roots captured my attention immediately. While I was there I felt as if I was in the realm of the forest sprites and gnomes.
This whole forest is in it’s Springtime best. All of the deciduous leaves are fresh green as well as the mosses. The forest is moist right now and emits a primordial essence and exudes an aura of primal simplicity. Life in its most primitive and its most beautiful.
I love the Pacific Northwest rain forests, especially in the Springtime. Consider a private Oregon photography exploration tour with Gary Randall Photography some day to explore some of the less visited places in this incredible state. I think that you’ll be glad that you did.
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.