Smith Rock Sunset – Here’s the photo that I was referring to in the video that I posted previously. Go check it out to hear the story about this great Central Oregon evening.
I thought that I would post one of the very first digital landscape photos that I made. Anything that I did prior to this was terrible due to the primitive cameras that I had. And the photo can’t be truly appreciated without a side story about Fishing with Meadow Muffin.
This photo struck me when I looked at it on the computer. This is before I was using any post processing software on my photos, and I certainly had not discovered raw files. I took this on Auto as a jpeg. But it stirred something inside that I have yet to recover from. I’ve been chasing digital landscape photography with vigor ever since. This is why I tell people that settings matter little. Go out and take pictures.!!
This photo was taken in September of 2003. I was fishing on the Columbia River near Sundial Beach with my good friend Ron “Meadow Muffin” McComber. We were sturgeon fishing. As we were coming back to the boat launch the sunset exploded in this amazing red. I had to get some photos of it. My life has never been the same since that day.
Some may question Ron’s nickname. Ron and I go way back. His family and my family were neighbors back when we lived in the little Columbia River Gorge town of Bridal Veil. Back then sturgeon fishing and drinking cans of Hamm’s was our favorite past time, both of which we’ve grown out of, well Ron still fishes but his Hamm’s days have passed. But either way, we all had nicknames for each other. We never called each other by our real names while we were fishing, and everyone that we went with had one. I can’t attest to how he got the name because I didn’t give it to him, but I can tell you how I got mine.
My nickname back then was Hairball. Yep… and back then I had short hair. The name didn’t come from my hair, or any hair for that matter, but it came from the first time that I tried casting a 12 foot bank rod with 100# test nylon monofilament and a glob of rag mop (pickled herring) and some earthworms on it. For those unfamiliar with casting with a levelwind the size of a truck winch, let me try to explain.
The first thing that you have to realize is that you have to cast wayyy out there. I’m talking a cast that’s about 20 or 30 yards or more, depending one one’s ability usually. For that you have to really have your technique down to a science to get the fishing rod to throw the bait that far. While you’re casting the line out of the reel you have to make sure that the spool doesn’t get ahead of the line that’s paying out because if you do you are liable to get the nickname “Hairball”. The line going out meets the line wrapping the other way and you end up with this huge ball of twine and a sore thumb.
That’s exactly what happened to me. Nobody warned me that the 100 pound monofilament line creates a lot of friction between it and your thumb while you’re trying to keep some drag on it. It heats up to somewhere a few degrees less than the sun, and when it did I picked up my thumb from the reel and all kinds of fishing hell broke lose. I had loops of fishing line flying in all directions until it all wound up in a knot the size of my fist.
Needless to say I had a mess to sort out. Luckily a sturgeon didn’t grab the bait or it would have brought me in… or most likely my friend’s fishing rod. I learned quickly why Ron had a crochet hook in his fishing tackle box. They come in handy when trying to disassemble a hairball in a fish reel.
I need to call up my buddy Meadow Muffin and see how he’s doing. We always have fun dredging up the past.
To learn more about Gary CLICK HERE.
The mountain is such a beautiful place to explore with all that it has to offer the outdoor enthusiast and landscape photographer. With unmatched scenery that includes scenic vistas, old growth forest groves, moss lined creeks and majestic waterfalls there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery. There’s really no reason to go far to find a world class photograph, especially during beautiful conditions.
In landscape photography the weather affects and in some ways regulates when we are able to make the most striking images. Some seasons are certainly more photogenic than others. A creative mind can usually find beauty in the most mundane or challenging conditions, but even the most creative mind can get weary of the weather, especially when they’re patiently waiting for Springtime and all that it brings.
We are in a unique position here on The Mountain in that we’re able to travel east a relatively short distance and find fairer weather. I always keep this in mind come April or May. On those gray rainy days when I feel captive in my own home I am known to head east.
On one particular day in May, after a long Winter that pushed snowfall into the days that are typically conducive to wildflower blooms, I had had enough. It was past lunch time. Half of the day was gone so I thought for a minute. The Painted Hills came to mind. The Painted Hills are only one example of the amazing scenery that we have at our doorstep. Being only three hours from home I packed my gear, my dog and a lunch and headed out.
As I drove the rain seemed to follow. My best consolation was that it was a great Sunday drive. It was doubtful that I would get any photos that surpassed anything that I had taken there in the past, but it’s better than sitting in my living room watching TV. I love the open road, a brown bag lunch and a full tank of gasoline.
I arrive mid afternoon in the midst of a rain squall. There were several other photographers there hooded and hunkered over their tripods. I sat in my dry, warm rig wondering if I should even get out, but I figured that if I was going to drive all the way out here I was going to, at least, eat my lunch.
I sat in my rig and watched as each of the other photographers gave up, got back into their cars and left. In time the park ranger came by. I got out and walked over to have a chat and explained that I was there for the sunset. He looked at me, then looked up into the sky and said, “Well, stranger things have happened I suppose”, before he wished me luck and went on his way.
As the afternoon progressed and it got closer to sunset it didn’t look good, but in time I could see a narrow slot of an opening in the clouds on the horizon to the west. I made a little wish and set up my tripod and camera just in case.
Sure enough the sun moved down to the horizon and to the opening in the clouds and as it did it shown this amazing orange light on the scenery around me. As I stood there looking to the west, with the Painted Hills behind me I started shooting the horizon. My heart was beating as I shot a few scenes. I never expected this show at all. A moment later it occurred to me to turn around and look behind me at the scenery that I had really come to photograph. “Holy macaroni!” The hills were painted with this amazing vivid orange light. I could hardly believe it. I ran around photographing the scene as if it were a super model.
As I photographed the scene it changed and morphed into an incredible light show. As the beam of light moved into the clouds above the hills a rainbow appeared above the scene. As I stand there my in awe of what is happening in front of my camera the only thing that I figure would make the scene better would be a pegasus flying through the sky or a unicorn grazing in the foreground.
I left that day with some of the best photographs that I have ever made, and I almost missed it. I learned a lesson that day. If you don’t go out you won’t get the photograph. A second lesson is that I wouldn’t make much of a meteorologist.
Don’t discount those days that aren’t obviously epic. At the least you will go for a nice drive in some beautiful countryside. At the most you will experience something epic. And don’t forget your camera.
Alvord Desert Sunset – I had a great time shooting these amazing mud tiles at the Alvord Desert with my friends Jason Brownlee and Matthew Grimes.
I had an excellent time visiting with about 40 of the Pacific Northwest’s best photographers this last weekend. It was an honor to have been invited to your get together folks!! I’m sorry that I left a bit early. I couldn’t fathom enduring the heat any longer without some sort of acceptable shelter… like a travel trailer. I think I need one of them. 😀 Does that make me old? Sleeping in the back of the PPV seems to be getting harder and harder lately. lol
If I could have handled the heat better the photo ops at the Alvord would have been incredible. There was a reflection in the last of the standing water lake on the playa. There were amazing cracked mud tiles. The stars are completely unencumbered by light pollution. They are some of the most amazing star filled skies in the state. The nearest town with a light bulb is 200 miles away. We’re talking remote. And completely awesome.
After this trip I am more motivated to save up for a 500mm lens to take wildlife photos, especially birds. The incredible variety of birds that I saw non the drive there blew me away. And I have lived among millions of birds while living at Midway Island. I got to see a pair of Sandhill Cranes. I think that I saw some great egrets but they could have been white herons. I saw blue herons too. I saw yellow headed blackbirds and red wing blackbirds. I saw kerlews and sandpipers and pipits. I saw pigeons and mourning doves. I saw vulchers and some hawks and crows of course. I also saw antelope and wild horses and various rabbits and rodents.
It really is one of my favorite places, but I like it when it’s not over 100 degrees fahrenheit. 😀