Photo Cascadia Blog
Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’
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.
Way down in the southeastern corner of Oregon lies a vast sagebrush sea. Driving through this endless high desert it is easy to assume there is nothing else to find. Outside of some hardy ranchers, truckers, sportsmen, desert rats and river runners, few people drive along southern Malheur County’s lone paved road, much less venture off of it. Highway 95 runs between Orovada, Nevada and Nampa, Idaho and passes through a single lonely town in Oregon; Jordan Valley, population 181. Thousands of square miles of the surrounding countryside are accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles, horses or on foot. Malheur County, Oregon’s largest, has a population density of just three people per square mile. However, at least 20,000 of the county’s 31,000 residents live in the northern reaches making the density of the lower 80 percent of the county almost devoid of people. That such a large area in Oregon is uninhabited and little known to the rest of the state is somewhat surprising. Learning that this same area houses a massive complex of deep river canyons, on par with canyons found in the US Southwest, is just plain amazing. The Owyhee River and its tributaries are responsible for creating the deep and winding system of canyons, some of which have headwaters in the Owyhee Range in Idaho while others come north from Nevada.
In 2011 I first visited the Owyhee Canyonlands and explored some of the better known areas to the north such as Succor Creek, Leslie Gulch, Jordan Craters, the Pillars of Rome and Birch Creek Ranch. Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to visit some of the more remote canyons, guided by members of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA). In four days I traveled over 200 miles of dirt roads, some little more than tracks through the sage, and hiked many more miles along canyon rims, and yet I still saw only a very small piece of all that is there.
ONDA’s mission is to protect, defend and restore Oregon’s high desert. The Owyhee Canyonlands are a priority. To quote from the ONDA website, “With over 1.9 million acres of wildlands and hundreds of miles of Wild & Scenic rivers, Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands represents the largest conservation opportunity remaining in the lower 48 states.
The Owyhee Canyonlands are home to the world’s largest herd of California bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, Rock Mountain elk, mule deer, 7 species of bats, sage-grouse and songbirds, redband trout, longnose snakes, and pygmy rabbits. Innumerable archaeological and historical sites are hidden in its canyons.”
In addition to the biological, geological and historical treasures found in the area, it “calls to those searching for solitude, self-reliance and unconfined space.” For someone in my line of work it offers the opportunity to explore and capture images of places rarely visited and seldom, if ever, photographed.
I hope that these images from the Owyhee will create new awareness and perhaps even inspire you to get involved. If you enjoy desert wilderness, are interested in visiting the Owyhee Canyonlands, would like to help protect Oregon’s high deserts or are interested to learn more about ONDA I encourage you to visit them on the web. The main ONDA site has information about the organization and all the regions in Oregon in which they work. They also maintain a website dedicated specifically to the Owyhee Canyonlands campaign.
In two trips to Owyhee country I have just barely become acquainted with it but it has made a big impression on me. A lifetime of exploring would still only reveal a fraction of what is there. The unique and rugged beauty is as captivating as just about any wilderness area or national park in the country. I hope to return many times to explore and photograph. I also hope that my images, along with the efforts of organizations like ONDA, will help to protect this area and keep it wild for future generations.
By David M. Cobb
A fellow photographer taught me a trick about a decade ago that I still use today. When shooting a landscape with flowers, I sometimes attach my Kenko Pro 2X to my Canon 16-35mm wide-angle lens. Why do I do this? It allows me to get inches away from the flowers, and it turns my 16mm lens into a 32mm lens and my f22 into f44 (or so I was told, and given the amount of spots I pick up on my image I believe it’s true). Then by focusing 1/3 of the way into the scene my foreground and background are tack-sharp.
Why not just use a wide-angle lens? Because sometimes I like the effect the doubler adds to my composition; it not only allows me to get extremely close to my foreground, but it brings my background mountain or waterfall closer. If I were to get that close to the flowers with a 16mm lens, the distant mountain would look like a pimple on the horizon – not good.
Why a Kenko Pro 2X? Because they not only make the best teleconverters out there, their 2X Pro teleconverter allows me to connect to my Canon 16-35mm lens – Canon and Nikon teleconverters will not allow this joining, because the glass impedes it.
What follows are a couple of samples where I used this technique.
The View By David Cobb
There is a place I go to photograph off a non-descript pullout on Highway 14. It’s found along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, it’s easy to get to, and I keep returning for the view. Mt Hood stands over the town of Hood River, Oregon and windsurfers and kite boarders ride the winds to skip across the summer swells of the Columbia River. Osprey, bald eagles, and vultures fly overhead and an occasional wild turkey gobbles from the nearby woods. It sounds idyllic, but it’s not. Cars speed by to someplace unknown, semi-trucks roar through with a blast of wind at their backs, and litter is scattered about the land. I come here to watch fireworks in July and I arrive for the view, but mostly I keep returning to photograph.
I love the view from here looking west down the Columbia River Gorge. I usually frame my image of the scene with 20% land and 80% sky, capturing the receding buttresses of the Gorge dwarfed by the skies above. In this transition zone from wet to dry, the heavens paint a different canvas each and every day—and so I return. Some days I arrive for sunrise, sometimes sunset, and other times to catch the drama of spring showers and rainbows, but everyday it’s about the view that is forever changing.
Do you have a place you keep returning to? Let me know in your reply.
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 Adrian Klein
It’s not just photographers searching for glowing sunrise and sunsets. As I had Pandora going the other day an electronic music artist I like came across the screen “In Search of Sunrise…” with a rich and warm glowing sky. Although the context is different it reminded me of this topic. Well when you are done clamoring over sizzling reds, spicy oranges and golden yellows then read on (and I am not talking about the peppers on your piping hot plate of Mexican food but rather the golden hour light). As I have mentioned before in all seriousness I do get excited when I am at a scene in the right golden hour light yet it’s not my sole goal anymore.
Before I dive in here is the link to the prior post for those that might have missed it. Now for a few more reasons (as if you needed more) why you can skip the golden hours and come home with amazing imagery.
5. Creativity Spark: I have found when I am free to wander an area during the day and think I won’t have anything to photograph I end up finding possibilities that I might not have thought about otherwise. Just a few of these included…
- Long Exposures: During the day with solid neutral density filters I have captured some work that I was rather pleased with going this route.
- Various Filters: Although I do more in the digital darkroom I still have a couple for the field from colored to graduated neutral density.
- Lens/Filter Limits: Forcing yourself to carry one lens and working with it for the outing. I do this when I go on a hike and feel like carrying a lighter load.
6. Natural Look: If you are a photographer that prefers the more realistic and documentary look then the daylight hours are likely going to be more your style. This relates some to what Kevin talked about in a recent post about how much Photoshop is too much. This is completely a personal preference. No matter what time of day the image is captured I enjoy viewing work from extreme HDR to complete plain Jane natural.
There is a very high use of filters from Smartphone apps to third party plug-ins for Photoshop that the majority of images these days have filters applied whether in the field or done in post. In the future I feel a number of us will start to move back to less. I relate this to a Bizarro cartoon in the paper a couple years back poking fun at tattoo-less people becoming the oddballs. The point being less can be more or unique.
7. Snap Shots: I like looking back at my very early days of digital photography when I knew next to nothing and I believed the camera was supposed to do it all. Most of these images will never been seen by others yet for me they snap shots of moments that I truly cherish.
I spent a number of years shortly after getting sucked into the DSLR portal taking almost zero snap shots. I have come to regret this. Now it’s usually my iPhone that acts as a tool for snap shots and composing a scenes potential to decide if the DSLR needs to come out.
Most of these snapshots (at least for me) are taken during the daytime.
8. Stormy Skies: This may be the last point to make in this series of posts yet it is certainly not the least significant. In fact it probably should have been first! Many trips at the start or end of storms have proven to be not only memorable experiences yet fine photographic opportunities.
Think about the unique storm photos you have seen whether in a physical gallery, the local news channel or online. They certainly grab your attention and likely were captured during daylight hours.
Now go ahead and throw caution to the wind skipping sunrise and sunset. I am sure you will surprise yourself with what you come home with.
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.
Photographing in the Wallowa Range
By David Cobb
They’re called the Alps of Oregon and lie in the northeast corner of the state, bordered by deep canyons, glacial moraines, and a few scattered picturesque barns. Near the town of Joseph you can photograph the mountains with a red barn in the foreground and maybe a few stray mares or you can use the crescent-shaped Wallowa Lake as a foreground leading into your mountain setting. I prefer to backpack into these mountains for the harder to get to wilderness view.
I’ve entered the 358,461 acre Eagle Cap Wilderness from different starting points and the easiest is just outside of the town of Joseph. I’ve hiked in from the west for a longer approach up the flower-filled broad valleys for a more gradual climb, but my favorite is from the more rugged south, catching a few views of the south’s craggy peaks and the handful of waterfalls that dot the area. After topping a pass or two you descend into the heavily visited lakes basin area for the stunning views of the namesake peak Eagle Cap. Pick one of the lakes for a base camp and photograph the Eagle Cap reflections from different points around the wilderness. Spend a few days at the higher elevation Glacier Lake for high-country views of Glacier Peak and Eagle Cap. An easy climb to the Eagle Cap mountaintop allows a stunning 360 vista of the wilderness and the outlying valleys and canyons.
I’ve brought a whole array of lenses into the Wallowas. I’m always packing my wide and medium-wide angle, but also a macro for flower photography, and I’ve packed my 70-200mm zoom in for more intimate scenes around the lake country. You can read more about backpacking with camera gear in my previous blog “Tips for Backpacking with Camera Gear (ultralight).”
Late July and early August are my favorite months to photograph here because snow still lingers in the mountains, but September is also nice for the bug-free air. If you decide on the earlier season, bring an ample amount of bug spray for the mosquito hoards. And if you’d rather not carry your gear on your back, stock or llama packing can be rented in the town of Joseph. If you forgot something at home, last-minute supplies can usually be found in Joseph or the larger town of Enterprise a few miles away.
So if you’re looking for a great backcountry experience with fantastic photographic opportunities this summer, the Alps of Oregon is the place to go.
By Adrian Klein
As the greens in the Columbia River Gorge start really showing their spring green glow I thought I would take a few minutes and share a few of my favorites along with some technical details to help provide some insight on how they were created. I might add a part II down the road with more favorites yet I thought narrowing it down to the top three was a good start. Hopefully this helps you out whether you are planning to photograph the Columbia River Gorge or any other lush rain forest. Happy reading and viewing.
Name: Geometric Nature
Location: Off trail deep in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Why this image? Finding the right composition in many cases is like putting together pieces of a unique puzzle, all of them different from the last. In this case the blocks or geometric shapes of the mossy rocks are what inspired me for this particular composition. There is green everywhere you turn in the Gorge yet not every image shows the endless sea of green as good as it can. I think this is one image that achieved this very well.
Camera Equipment: Canon 5D, Canon 17-40L lens, Hoya Polarizer and Induro Tripod
Camera Settings: ISO 100, Manual Focus, 19mm, f/13 and 8 seconds
Processing Software: Adobe ACR and Photoshop
Processing Details: Final image has spots of the water blended from a 5 second exposure where 8 seconds washed it out. These were blended with layer mask techniques in Photoshop. Localized adjustments for color and contrast using Levels.
Name: Forest Rain
Location: Creek along the trail to Gorton Creek Falls in Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Why this image? Standing in the cold wet rain with not a soul around is what inspired to keep me here until I captured something I was truly happy with. The heavy rains rolling through the area with water rolling off my hat, nose and camera gave the mood I was looking for. My feet completely numb after exiting the creek and my face filled with a smile knowing that I caught a keeper. I am sure this will remain near the top of my personal Columbia River Gorge favorites for years to come and remind me that although the rain can be cold and miserable, the outcome can certainly be worth it.
Camera Equipment: Canon 5D, Canon 17-40L lens, Hoya Polarizer and Gitzo Tripod
Camera Settings: ISO 200, Manual Focus, 23mm, f/16 and 3.2 seconds
Processing Software: Adobe ACR and Photoshop
Processing Details: Final image was created by blending the same RAW file several times over. The heavy overcast day allowed me to get away with only one file. These were blended with layer mask techniques in Photoshop. Localized adjustments for color and contrast using Levels. Very slight glow effect added using Gaussian Blur.
Location: Metlako Falls in Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Why this image? This waterfall has a perpetual fog cloud hanging over it for what seems like 365 days a year. That alone is beautiful yet when you have been here as many times as I have you are looking for more to take out the camera. When I saw the sun was trying to poke through I knew this was the “more” I was looking for. It did not last long however it was the inspiration I needed to make a more unique image from this popular location. Many say winter streams and falls images are not nearly as nice as spring. This image proves all season have potential. This was taken on a quiet winter morning when I was the only one around.
Camera Equipment: Canon 5D, Canon 70-200L lens, Hoya Polarizer and Gitzo Tripod
Camera Settings: ISO 100, Manual Focus, 73mm, f/18 and ¼ of a second
Processing Software: Adobe ACR and Photoshop
Processing Details: With this scene I had about 4 stop range of exposure from the dark areas to the sunlit fog. This required parts of three images to be merged together. These were hand blended with layer mask techniques in Photoshop. Localized adjustments for color and contrast using Levels.
You can find more of my work from the Columbia River Gorge and beyond at Adrian Klein Photography