Photo Cascadia Blog
Archive for the ‘Fall Color’ Category
Autumn is a favorite time for photographing in the Pacific Northwest. There are so many places to capture fall colors but nothing quite compares to photographing Mount Rainier in autumn. The Pacific Northwest and Mount Rainier make the perfect combination of elements needed for stunning images of fall photography. Not only is Mt Rainier known for its larger than life size but it picturesque lakes, waterfalls, meadows, and tundra. Although it varies year to year I find the best time for fall colors is the last week of September to Mid-October. But the color usually lasts until the first week of November when the snow first starts. Check fall reports on the Internet and the Mt Rainier website for more up to date information. There are two main areas to visit when going to Mt Rainier, which are the Paradise side and the Sunrise side. Both have excellent fall color and a host of different aspects to photograph. In my experience the fall colors start a few weeks earlier on the Sunrise side. The best places to photograph on the Sunrise side are Yakima Peak, Emmons Glacier (Silver Forest Trail), and the Tipsoo Lake area. Take time to explore around Tipsoo Lake especially the Naches Peak trail and both the Upper and Lower Tipsoo surrounding lakes. Early morning around Tipsoo Lake usually has a host of colors and mist that make for excellent atmospheric images. When photographing in late September the stunning sunrises make for great fall conditions. In terms of the foliage high elevation red huckleberry and larch is what you can expect to find on Mt Rainer. The other types of foliage you see are cottonwoods, willows, elderberry, aspen, tamarack (western larch) and deciduous trees. Although there are several types of foliage to shoot in autumn on Mt Rainier my personal favorite is the Red Huckleberry. The red is visually very impactful and always sticks out above other fall foliage. Look to incorporate the red huckleberry when combining it with areas of water like lakes and ponds that mirror the color of red. The red huckleberry is the first sign of fall color followed by larches, which tend to occur at the later stages of autumn.
When it comes to photographing on the Paradise side of Mount Rainier I always like to start off looking for fall colors at the Paradise Inn which has a great view of the mountain and the best displays of fall color right at the visitor center. Heading up the pathway to Myrtle Falls the views only getting better as well the color. Look to incorporate waterfalls as well as the mountain when making your way up the mountain from the Paradise side. Although the hike can be somewhat strenuous the hike is worth it. If you keep along the paths they converge into the Paradise Valley where the mountain is in full view but also if you turn 180 degrees away from the mountain you get grand views of the Tatoosh range. The Tatoosh Range looks best at sunset. The Paradise Meadows also makes a great sunset spot when the weather looks active and the clouds are moving in. Sometimes the clouds move over Mt Rainier making it impossible to see but the action on the Tatoosh Range gets color. So in essence it’s your safest bet if you are looking to capture some fall colors on the mountain.
If you continue up the hill past Myrtle Falls you will eventually reach the Mazama Ridge. It’s my favorite area to see the mountain and fall color. With wide-open meadows of fall color and full views of the mountain it makes for an excellent combination. The total hike in and out from the Mazama Ridge is about 4 miles but there are several areas to stop along the way for fall colors. If you like to shoot reflection images of the mountain you can’t do better than both the Reflection Lakes and Bench Lake areas. I always make an annual stop at these lakes early in the morning to capture both atmospheric mist and fall colors.
Another favorite of mine for great views of the mountain is the hike up to Pinnacle Peak saddle and the surrounding areas. There are great views of Mount Adams as well from up here. The hike is short but steep. Once at the saddle I explore around the area for good compositions and color.
The hikes around the lake also present many possibilities to shoot more intimate shots of autumn. If you are looking to capture images of fall color and forest scenes then head into the Grove Of Patriarchs. Many short hikes in this forest provide stunning forest views of the tall trees and fall colors. To get really creative try photographing really low to the ground and look straight up with the camera and shoot fall colors and the trees together. With so many places to photograph on Mt Rainier you always have many options available.
If you are lucky enough to live close to the mountain September is a great time to watch the mountain for unusual weather activity. Because the elevation of Mt Rainier is so high it creates its own weather system. So your chances of seeing unusual weather patterns like lenticular cloud buildup is quite possible. In layman terms lenticular clouds are those clouds that look like UFO’s in the sky but are caused by encounters with obstructions in the sky like very high mountain peaks. Known also as “wave clouds” they make for very interesting patterns and when combined with fall colors make for ideal conditions. In autumn I check the webcams quite often looking for a buildup of these clouds as it takes often several hours to buildup. The Paradise Valley makes for one of the best spots to see this unique weather pattern. The other place that I will often head to if I see these weather patterns is along the Silver Forest Trail, which is about .5 of a mile from the parking lot at the Sunrise Visitor Center.
With so many options on Mt Rainier to photograph as well as the diversity of colors it makes for the perfect place to photograph. Combine all of the elements of unusual weather, stunning sunrises, and atmospheric conditions and Mt Rainier makes for the perfect autumn spot to photograph.
I did a blog post a number of years back on abstract nature photography yet it’s been a long time and thought I would revisit this topic. I really enjoy this type of photography especially when you find hidden gems that others may not have seen or might have passed over many times before you. Often what ends up being the final photo doesn’t jump out at you without surveying a scene for potential compositions. Sometimes I dig in and strike it rich finding those gems and other times I come up empty handed which is part of the fun.
Rather than a lot of typing for this post I will let the video do most of the talking this time around. I am not normally the video tutorial kind of person yet I am getting myself to branch out into this type of work. Below is the video and three photos I discuss in greater detail. For each scene I show several compositions I took leading up to the final to help understand my thought process to build a compelling abstract or intimate nature photo.
Standing Tall – In cold wet forest of the Columbia River Gorge in early winter
Desert Lizard – In the dry cool desert Southwest in Fall inside Zion National Park
Final Flames of Fall – Above a forest in the Columbia River Gorge during the final days of fall
Video covering the three photos above in much more detail. Happy viewing!
Welcome to 2016 on the Photo Cascadia blog. I have the distinct honor of being chosen to write the first article of the new year. Actually I drew the short straw, but either way I’m excited to be kicking off Photo Cascadia’s sixth year of sharing, learning, exploring and inspiring here on our blog.
Back in October of 2015 I lead a photo tour in the Eastern Sierra through the Cascade Center of Photography with Christian Heeb, one of the most versatile professionals and experienced travel photographers around. The two of us, and our intrepid group of photographers, spent a memorable week exploring the mythical landscapes along Highway 395. The following is a photo journal of the trip. All of these photos were taken by Christian and myself. Christian is the people photographer, so he’s not in many of them.
The Eastern Sierra is a land of legends. Every landscape evokes geologic and volcanic legacy, Native American history, explorers, pioneers, the gold rush, famous mountaineers and one of the birth places of the American national parks and environmental conservation movement. The expanses are big, the mountains are grand and the landscapes are varied. Of course, the Sierra Nevada has inspired some of the most well known American photographers, Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell not the least among them.
The area is so large and parts are so remote that a lifetime of exploring wouldn’t allow you to see it all. Some of the most scenic and photogenic locations are in the high mountain wilderness, deep in canyons or far out in the remote desert and only accessible by those who are especially adventurous and fit. However, it also has many world class photography locations which are accessible by car or with short hikes. This makes the Eastern Sierra a great destination for any photographer and a popular area for photography workshops and tours like this one. There are so many good locations which can be accessed by a group workshop that one week almost wasn’t long enough.
Christian and I planned our tour to be timed with the peak of autumn aspen color. Like anywhere, the fall color quality and timing varies from year to year, but most often it peaks near the third week of October. During our visit some of the highest elevation groves were past peak, but the middle and lower elevation colors near Lee Vining, June Lakes and Bishop Creek were at their height. During the fall season the temperatures are generally very pleasant. Mornings at the higher elevations can be below freezing, but daytime temperatures were quite comfortable at 60-75 F (15-22 C). The busiest time in the Sierra is summer when it is overrun with tourists, backpackers, mountain bikers, climbers and campers. In October, some areas still get quite a few visitors, but nothing close to the crowds of summer, and we were the only people at several of the places we went.
Our trip covered the region between Mono Lake on the north and the town of Lone Pine on the south. The distance between is over 100 miles, so we based out of a few different towns during the trip to minimize driving time to our sunrise and sunset locations. As you can see from the images, we had some spectacular light and weather conditions.
Most important of all is the fun we had. We had a wonderful and diverse group of talented photographers. People came from all over the west and as far as Florida, Maryland and Switzerland. Everyone was enthusiastic, positive and energized. I think everyone learned a lot, made new friends and had lifetime experiences. We also laughed a lot and captured some spectacular photographs. Photo credit for this next collection of workshop images goes to Christian Heeb.
I work with Christian and the Cascade Center of Photography regularly. They are one of few dedicated photography centers in the Western US and a great resource for all types and levels of photographers. Each year they offer a wide selection of classes, workshops and tours. Classes for all levels and genres of photography are held in Bend, Oregon, where the center is located. They also lead tours all over the world. Christian and I will be taking a group to Patagonia and Easter Island in March and they have trips to Cuba, France and Morocco on the calendar, just to name a few.
All of the locations in this article are open to the public, have good access and ample information can be found on them with quick web searches. Following are some additional resources for the Eastern Sierra you may find helpful.
- Michael Frye’s Sierra Blog Articles. Michael is one of the most knowledgeable, experienced and talented photographers currently in the area.
- Photo Trip USA’s Photographing California Volumes 1 and 2 by Garry Crabbe and Jeffrey Sullivan.
- Mono County Eastern Sierra Fall Color Report
- Sierra National Forest
- Inyo National Forest
Late last year we were out as a Photo Cascadia group along the Oregon Coast when the idea was brought up to head to the Canadian Rockies for fall 2015. I was in! I had not been there while it sat on my list of must see places to visit for too long. Fast forward to the last week of September 2015 and we were off for a one week trip.
After the first 6 hour leg from my house in Portland, Oregon I met up with Chip in Spokane, Washington to finish out the next 6+ hours to our destination and meet up with Sean and Zack who had already been there a day. After a long day we arrived at Lake Louise Campground shortly after sunset. No sunset photos that night. We pulled in. Hung out with Zack and Sean for a bit while eating dinner then off to catch zzz’s for sunrise.
Getting up this time of year for sunrise feels like a treat after the droopy tired eyes of summer. We made our way to our first photo stop, sunrise at Moraine Lake. I expected busy. It was a little more than I expected. Far and away the most crowded location on this trip photographing with 100+ of my closest friends. Amazing to see yet it loses the appeal a little for me with that many photographers all jockeying for limited space. I kept setting up high in the trees, in the dark, only to find someone else eventually moving around already setup in my shot. One gal was getting aggressive when a photog got too close and he wasn’t moving. I was waiting for a fight but he eventually moved. I left the main viewing area on the top to join my peeps along the shore where I had a great rest of the morning with this splendid view!
This trip would not involve lollygagging around the same campsite for multiple nights. We had breakfast in town, back to camp to pick up Chip’s trailer and then off to the next location, Yoho National Park. A rather short drive away (~ 20 kilometers) we checked in at Kicking Horse Campground which was a good location in the middle of Yoho Park.
We spent the afternoon checking out Takakkaw Falls, walking part of Emerald Lake shoreline and then finishing with sunset at Emerald Lake. It’s only seconds after arriving here to know how it got it’s name. “Hiking” around the lake is more like an extended nature hike. At least the section we did was pretty flat yet very scenic. As we all know not all great scenic photos require long bouts of strenuous activity.
Up plenty before daylight and off to Bow Lake for sunrise. The drive was about 50 kilometers. The wind was whipping pretty good. I was not happy with any of my images from this morning yet we had a fun time regardless. The clouds rolled in and we could tell things would get wet later in the day. Back to Kicking Horse for breakfast at camp, fill up on water and off to the next campsite closer to the Bow Lake area.
Our next stop was Mosquito Creek Campground on Ice Fields Parkway. We filled up on water before arriving as this time of year it’s a dry campground because overnight lows dip below freezing. By the time we arrived the rain had already started dropping. We spent the afternoon chilling in our campers reading, listening to podcasts and napping. Having warm dry shelter was very welcome at that moment.
After getting bored we decided to drive and see if could find a place to have a beer. First stop was Bow Lake restaurant. The lady at the desk was indirectly kind in trying to say the restaurant was for guests only yet suggested we head a ways down the road for a bar. Mind you this is National Park with few places to stop and all tree lined roads. After driving another 40 km in the pouring rain at dusk we arrive at the mildly depressing oasis called Saskatchewan River Crossing. We were happy to have this place pretty much to ourselves sitting on couches drinking a beer and snacking on mediocre wings. Out into the rain and 50 km later we are back at camp. Rain still pouring outside we eat dinner in the camper then hit the hay.
I wake up shortly before dawn. I step outside the camper and can see nothing but endless grey with rain still coming down. Feels like home. We decide to bag sunrise and go back to bed. What seemed like 5 min later, in reality over an hour, I wake up and look out the window to see a huge patch of blue sky. Shorter than the click of a shutter I yell for Chip to wake up and jump out the camper. No courteous knock, I whip open the door to Sean’s camper and say “get up now, we need to leave!” Minutes later we are on the road. It did not take long to see this was going to be a fantastic morning. The snowline went down low overnight but only brought a dusting. With the sun coming over the horizon and quickly clearing skies we had to act fast. After pulling into Peyto Lake we made a short hike to an area with a perfect view and away from the main viewpoint.
While still on a morning high from the scene at Peyto Lake we make our way down to wander around Waterfowl Lakes. After breakfast back at camp we decide very early tomorrow is the time to make it up into Lake O’Hara with the slowly clearing weather pattern.
Midday we head back into Lake Louise Village for supplies. Mainly the $6 dollar bear spray rental since I left mine back home. I know now I can take it across the border next trip. As the kid in the store weighs the bear spray he proceeds to tell me that if I end up using it and the weight is not the same upon return I will have to buy it. My response “if I have to use this I have much bigger concerns than the retail price of a can of bear spray!”
That night we photographed sunset along Waterfowl Lakes. The partly cloudy skies made for a really nice scene. We don’t stick around long as we need to hit the sack early since wake up will be 3:15! No time for s’mores or kumbaya this trip.
My soothing alarm ring goes off at 3:15 am. Surprisingly I slept better than expected and feel pretty good. We eat a quick breakfast, as much as my body wants to eat this early in the morning and out into the morning cold crisp air we head as we start our trek to Lake O’Hara.
Spots in and around Lake O’Hara are amazingly scenic like out of Lord of the Rings or where you truly might find that pot of gold with a leprechaun. This is the reason it’s not easy to get there. For most normal people there are two options; camping or the lodge. Both options book up months in advance. Our plan would be to hike the 11 km gravel road in the dark to make it by sunrise. You can see why I rented bear spray. Although we were a group of four it’s prime bear country. With our head lamps moving around like the light in a lighthouse and plenty of “hey bear” shout outs we arrive at Lake O’Hara shortly before sunrise. I would not necessarily recommend this approach yet it worked for us.
We quickly find out the hiking is not over. We have at least a few more kilometers of all steep terrain to make it where we want to go. I am on a high and power through the next part. The sky starts getting lighter to slowly reveal this magical landscape. We spend a couple hours hiking around and taking photos. Honestly it’s a place you could stay all day with the perfect conditions we had yet we needed to ensure we could get a bus out. We leave it behind taking our photos as constant reminders for years to come.
We decide our next stop is Kananaskis. Kananskis Country is known for large photogenic groves of aspens. After the 160 km drive (about 2 hrs) we were pretty wiped considering the early morning wakeup call and long hike. We pull into a campground in Kananaskis area and take a long nap.
We decided on Wedge Pond for sunset, a short jaunt from camp. The golden aspens line the pond and do not disappoint. Not only did we have a beautiful view yet on the other side of the pond were what appeared to be two female yoga instructors doing poses in a wildly colorful yoga pants while a male photographer taking the shots was cheering them on. They were the only people there besides us.
Up the next morning and fortunately another not too far away drive which allowed for a more normal wake up time. It was a nice little marshy pond area not far from the road with a perfect view of Mount Kidd. A thin layer of ice continued growing on the small ponds as we photographed which was all we needed to tell us the temperature outside.
After that we spent the next few hours chasing around different aspen groves before the light got too harsh. Daytime photos are beautiful with golden aspens mixed with blue skies yet we had other plans in mind given it was our last day.
A late breakfast and on the road to the town Banff we go. There is a campground just outside of town where we setup camp. After “roughing” it for the week we decide an evening on the town is in order to finish this phenomenal trip. I highly recommend a soak in Banff Hot Springs and grabbing a beer with dinner at Banff Brewing Company. The next morning before dawn we head home.
If you have not been it’s a must add to your bucket list. In my home state of Oregon I feel lucky to live near mountains to play and photograph yet in all honesty they feel less dramatic in scale and size when comparing the endless large mountains around every turn in the Canadian Rockies.
Timing: The first part of any fall color foliage trip is timing. We all had it Sharpied in our calendars many months in advance and while peak fall colors certainly change every year none of us had much wiggle room. Fortunately our timing could not have been better. Normal peak for this area is middle to late September. As a side note you can easily spend a couple weeks in the Canadian Rockies and still feel like you are only scratching the surface.
Transportation: Living in the Pacific Northwest we are in reasonable driving distance. I only lug all my camping or backpacking equipment at 30,000 feet when necessary. The drive was about 12 hours, pushing the envelope to do it one day. Flying you will likely need to come through Calgary, the closest International airport at 120 kilometers from Banff.
Weather: This time of year you need everything from t-shirts to thick down jackets. We experienced snow, rain, wind and bright blue sky mild days. Be prepared for it all. Our coldest morning was about -3 degrees and our sunny warmest day about 15 degrees Celsius.
Lodging: There are plenty of options from budget camping to deluxe pampering hotels. We would be camping the whole time which made it very cost effective. Campgrounds we stayed at in Yoho and Banff ranged from $18 to $27 Canadian a night with additional $8 if you want to have a campfire. Beautiful Lake O’Hara I mentioned, lodging is a mere $600 to $900 CA a night for two.
Locations: Overall there many different parks and places that are part of Canadian Rockies yet we had no problem filling the days with our focus on three of them…Kananaskis, Banff and Yoho National Parks.
Physical Activity Level: You can make it as adventurous as you want from photographing out the window of your resort room to backpacking deep into the mountains. If money is no object then the best of both by staying at mountain lodges in the back country. Given we had only a week most of our locations were short hikes to nature walks with one long strenuous hike.
By David Cobb
A decade ago I traveled through Iceland exploring and planning for my 2006 walk across the island. I marveled at the stark scenery and the long hours of beautiful light-a photographer’s paradise. Today, you can’t fling a spoonful of Slátur (blood pudding) in Iceland without hitting a photographer. Those early feelings in an earlier day I had for Iceland rose again on a recent trip to Slovenia, but on this trip I felt I had barely scratched the surface of discovering the beauty of Slovenia.
The Slovenian photo opportunities are much more than the beautiful Church of Assumption atop an island of Lake Bled–waterfalls abound, gorges seemingly are everywhere, the Julian Alps are spectacular, and the countryside is filled with vineyards farms, and picturesque landscapes.
My trip began in the capital city of Ljubljana (a place I joked was the only city with more coffee shops and bicycle riders than my hometown of many years Portland, Oregon). The streets of old town are attractive and easy to wander with a camera and tripod, and at night they truly become alive with lights reflecting onto the river below. And like many European cities, Ljubljana is topped with a castle that you must explore.
Next on the list was a trip to Lake Bled which is truly in a fairyland setting. From here short trips can be made to the popular sites of Lake Bohinj, Vintgar Gorge, Savica Falls, and other parts of Triglav National Park. I’m sure there are more than a million places to discover, explore, and photograph here, but I only had time for a few as we moved on to our next destination east to the town of Ptuj which is surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards that reminded me a bit of Tuscany or even the Palouse. The rural countryside, green grasses, and fall color combined with the soft light to make for some enjoyable photography. The small city streets are also quite photogenic, and the morning city fog adds an air of mystery to it all. From here we left to explore the northern section of Croatia, a country I’ve visited in the past but wanted to see more. We returned to Slovenia along its small coastline and stayed in the town of Piran–a lively coastal city and photogenic along the harbor.
A two-hour drive brought us back to Ljubljana and completed our loop of the country. The people here were always friendly and knew English well. The food ranged from very good to excellent, so I never had a bad meal. Like I said, I barely scratched the surface of this country’s photo opportunities. Fellow Photo Cascadia member Sean Bagshaw also vacationed here in 2014 and we’re planning to conduct a fall color photo tour of this country with Slovenian photographer Luka Esenko in 2017, so stay tuned for updates.
Four Takes on the Same Scene: Getting Creative
By David Cobb
This fall I conducted a photography workshop in Glacier National Park through the Pacific Northwest Art School, and the fall color was some of the best I’ve seen there in years. One afternoon we headed out to an aspen grove to capture fall color and I used the opportunity to practice pans, zooms, and multiple exposure images, which I like to do in the fall when the light is still bright on the trees. I also figured it would be a good time to teach these techniques to those interested. I remembered reading a book by photographer Freeman Patterson, who would throw a hoop in his backyard and then try to come up with original images while staying within that hoop. To help expand our creative thinking, I thought I’d try a similar exercise while keeping my tripod in place.
I first started with multiple exposure images and set my camera to three images on one frame, then took three shots while moving my camera slightly (between each shot) in the shape of a V. Depth-of-field is of little importance here, since you’re going for the “impressionistic look.” Three images weren’t enough to capture the impressionist “feel” I was after though, so I increased it to five images on one frame, taking each shot in the shape of an X and moving my camera each time no further than one-quarter of the distance of my baby fingernail. That did the trick, and I was able to capture the impressionist “feel” I was after.
Next I started to pan my camera up and down while taking a shot. Each person moves differently, so a time that might work for me might not work for you. Instead, concentrate on your follow-through with the camera. If you anticipate stopping when you hear the shutter click, the image will look a lot less fluid and probably won’t be very good. Once everyone got the hang of that trick, we moved onto another–this time zooming while shooting. You can get some interesting results with fall color when you zoom and shoot, but I have learned that when you zoom in on a solid object (like tree bark) your image will be more successful.
Once the sun set over the distant ridge, it was time to take a “normal” shot. I framed the image in my usual way by using my live-view in conjunction with the zoom to make sure of my focus. This automatically turns on camera lock-up, so the image should be tack-sharp. With aspen leaves I often turn up the ISO, since the leaves are quaking, and I pull the trigger. This image can be used as a reference shot to compare against those more “creative” images taken earlier.
People in the group were learning and having fun and I walked away with an idea for a blog. I think that’s a good day of photography.
Tips for Photographing Waterfalls
By David Cobb
Last fall I spent the day with Outside Explorer in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. The finished video below supplies a number of tips and tricks to photographing waterfalls.
Photographing the Klamath Basin
By David Cobb
One of the West’s great photographic treats is visiting the Klamath Basin on the Oregon and California border during the fall or spring bird migration. I’m not a birder, but the site of so much wildlife surrounded by a beautiful stark landscape always makes me excited to take photographs. My recent spring trip with Sean Bagshaw was brief, but the birds were ample, the light fantastic, and we were able to break in his new camper on its maiden voyage.
I’ve photographed here during the fall and spring migrations, and I find the success rate as a photographer better in the spring than the fall due to fall hunting. When the hunters are out the birds are more wary and skittish, and who can blame them? I also find the water reflections more abundant and interesting during the spring migration, which helps with landscape photo opportunities. Fall light offers nice rust tones in the trees and fields for colorful background, but I still prefer photographing here during spring.
During my fall visit a few years ago, I paid for a permit to the wildlife refuge which allowed me to reserve time in different photo blinds. There is a raptor blind, a cramped songbird blind, a water fowl blind, and a wading-bird blind. Some are better at sunset or sunrise, and some are better in spring than fall, so choose your blind accordingly. (For example, the wading-bird blind is better in the spring, since the area can dry out by fall and then wading birds are elsewhere.) If you schedule a blind for the morning expect to be there before sunrise to escape the watchful eyes of your subjects. You may also apply for an afternoon session, but there are limits on how long you can stay in any one blind.
For this spring season visit, Sean and I drove the back roads of the refuge looking for flocks. We traded information with other photographers and locals, and then relocated as necessary to find the next flock. Usually a drive along Stateline Road is a good starting strategy. Local etiquette asks that you keep your distance from the birds, so bring a lens with enough power that you’re not chasing the birds away. And remember to be respectful of the other people who are there to observe.
During sunset we found some ponds which offered opportunity for reflected light, and for morning we chose to photograph a flooded field with Mount Shasta standing sentinel in the distance. At the southern end of Tule Lake, you’ll find Captain Jack’s Stronghold where the Modocs defended themselves for a year against soldiers and settlers until surrendering in 1873.
I haven’t been here for the winter raptor photo opportunities, but I’ve heard it’s a regular smorgasbord of birds. If you’re interested in photographing raptors feasting on waterfowl, the best time to arrive is February. The “Winter Wings” festival is usually held mid-February, so around this time you’ll be there near peak.
If you’re planning a trip here, there are neighboring camping opportunities and the nearby town of Klamath Falls, Oregon offers ample lodging. Also note that many of the parking areas require permits, which can be picked up from most of the surrounding markets.
By David Cobb
The last week of January, I stepped out to photograph the first wildflowers to rise up on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. After so many gray days, the splash of color lifted my mood.
Color was the first thing that attracted my eye in photography. When I walked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in the 90s, my eyes and my trusty point-and-shoot seemed to be attracted to nothing but color. I guess that’s what started me with garden and flower photography in the first place.
So when I look for photographic possibilities, I tend to look for color and how those colors on the opposite ends of the color wheel attract each other. Whether it is a field of flowers or a sandstone arch against a blue Utah sky – I look for opposite colors to attract. Claude Monet said “Color owes its brightness to force of contrast rather than to its inherent qualities … primary colors look brightest when they are brought into contrast with their complementaries.” Look at a Monet painting and you’ll notice the cool tones in shadow next to the complementary warm ones in light. At Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France he intentionally had plants in the complementary scheme planted next to each other. It’s a good trick to use in photography as well. In this image of the Palouse at harvest time, I used a Singh-ray Gold-Blue filter to accentuate the colors and help those opposites attract.
When photographing flowers, it’s easy to find their opposite color on the color wheel. The two examples below feature poppies next to bachelor buttons, and a red poppy surrounded by green grass. The opposites help make each other pop.
The image below may be two boats, but what I was really thinking about was color. This was true as well with the grand landscape of Waimea Canyon on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The canyon image was less about the landscape to me and more about the interplay of those tropical greens and rich reds of the volcanic soil.
Sometimes the color just isn’t there in my images, so I paint it in later with Photoshop. The image below of Wahclella Falls in the Columbia River Gorge had some nice fall color, but it needed a little more. By going to my blue channel, I added more blue to the image and then hit: Edit>Fill>Black to bring the image back to its original form. With my brush tool, I then painted blue back into the basalt cliffs at about 6%. This subtle touch of blue gave the illusion of adding more pop to my yellows. Again, opposites attract.
Color is what brought me into photography, and it’s color that keeps me interested. By paying attention to what colors surround you and how that can be used to your advantage, you’ll become a better photographer.
Tips for Photographing Fall Aspen
By David Cobb
It’s that time again in the Pacific Northwest when I’m on the search for fall aspen. The season usually runs from mid-September to late October, depending on the elevation and whether the aspen stand is in the eastern or western sections of the Pacific Northwest. Even though I seem to photograph aspen every year, I never tire of the challenge–and challenging it is. What follows are a few ways I’ve found to improve your chances of taking an aspen image you’ll like.
First, USE A POLARIZER! This not only cuts down on the leaf reflection, but also adds to the pop and warmth of the leaves. When shooting fall aspen, also pay attention to your histogram’s red channel, because your RGB average may indeed seem inside the histogram but that doesn’t mean you’re losing information on the red channel and detail on your leaves.
You’ll need to find an interesting stand when photographing aspen, because color alone doesn’t cut it. Look for interesting trunks and avoid deadfall. Ask yourself if the trunks have an interesting form? Are there corridors within the forest that will lead the eye into the scene? Another way to add interest to an aspen scene is to photograph the smaller trees among the larger. This adds color and interest to the lower sections of the stand, and breaks up the monotony.
With most forest photography of fir and pine, I often climb a hill and shoot towards the middle section of the forest. Not so with aspen. With aspen I find myself shooting more level or sometimes uphill. I also climb a hill and shoot down, but only if I want to include the color of leaves for a golden background behind nicely formed trunks.
Another tip is to shoot aspen from far above. From here, the color itself can create interesting patterns and become form. Fallen aspen leaves shot with a macro lens can have a similar effect and pattern, especially when dotted with water droplets.
I find a zoom or medium-wide angle lenses works best when photographing aspen. This doesn’t cause too much distortion in the trunks, and easily frames the interest of the shot. I also use these lenses when creating an aspen panorama in order to avoid image distortion while stitching. Of course, image blur may be what you’re after with a forest pan. Aspens are great for that when the light is at higher contrast. I often use this technique with a shutter speed between ¼ and 1 second, and simply pan vertically while shooting. The results are a crapshoot, but you’ll find yourself getting more successes with practice.
The best aspen stands to be found in the Pacific Northwest are scattered about the region, and here are a few of my favorites:
1) The Steens Mountains in eastern Oregon are known for fall aspen, so arrive for some early season practice.
2) The road between East Glacier and Saint Mary, Montana has wonderful craggy aspens, and these often change the third week of September.
3) There are some great stands near Stanley, Idaho, but you’ll need to search them out and recent fires have hurt some areas.
4) Check out Washington’s Columbia River Plateau near Mount Adams for some great fall aspen amongst ranchland.
5) Also the road between Leavenworth and Lake Wenatchee in Washington supplies a variety of aspen color including deep red.
6) In southern Oregon near the Klamath Basin, you’ll find a few stately groves which look best in the snow.
There are still a few weeks left to take part in the fall aspen shoot, and hopefully these tips will prove handy.