Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

Unknown Oregon – Owyhee Canyonlands Proposed Wilderness

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

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.

Owyhee-Oxbow

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.

Campfire

Photography-on-the-Edge

Canyon-Arch

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.

Canyon-Detail

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.

Early-Morning

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.

Night-Canyon

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.

Deep-Owyhee

 

 

Double-wide by David M. Cobb

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Double-wide

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.

Paintbrush Moraine

Paintbrush Moraine

Ridgeline Glow

Ridgeline Glow

 

The View by David Cobb

Monday, May 6th, 2013

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.

Spring Showers

Spring Showers

Columbia Gorge Sunrise

Columbia Gorge Sunrise

 

Columbia Gorge Sunset

Columbia Gorge Sunset

Columbia Gorge Showers

Columbia Gorge Showers

Columbia Gorge Morning

Columbia Gorge Morning

Columbia Gorge Barge

Columbia Gorge Barge

Photographing the Klamath Basin by David Cobb

Monday, March 25th, 2013

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.

 

Sean browses information.

Sean Bagshaw at an information booth.

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.

Photographed from the raptor bird blind.

Prairie Falcon

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.

Flock of Snow Geese

Flock of Snow Geese

Snow Geese Reflection

Snow Geese Reflection

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.

Mount Shasta and Klamath Basin

Mount Shasta stands sentinel over the Klamath Basin.

Reflective pond at sunset.

Sunset over the Klamath Basin

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.

Forget About the Golden Hours of Light – Part II

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

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.

 

Coastal Blues

A two minute exposure during midday along the Oregon coast using a 10 stop neutral density filter and polarizer. Simple yet effective. I decided to play around with this scene while sunning my face in the dappled sunlight.

 

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.

 

Sierra Waving

“Sierra Wave” clouds forming midday over Green Lakes in Three Sister Wilderness during a backpack trip in 2011.

 

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.

 

Mt Hood - Mount Hood Wilderness

Mt Hood in the Mount Hood Wildness in midday light. I did end up pulling out the DSLR for this one and it’s snap shot I am glad I took.

 

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.

Wind Swept - The Painted Hills, Oregon

Bunch grass blowing hard in the clouds and wind coming through on this midday storm system rolling through. Additionally I used a longer shutter to allow the grass to move as much as possible.
Painted Hill National Monument – John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

 

Golden Trees - Rural Highway in Montana

During a drive from The Tetons to Missoula, Montana I came across this amazing light from a storm system about to take me over. Slowing down from 75 mph to final shot was all less than two minutes. Who says this can’t be an action sport!

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

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

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

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

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.

 

Eagle Cap and Glacier Peak from Glacier Lake

Eagle Cap and Glacier Peak from Glacier Lake

 

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).”

 

Mirror Lake & Eagle Cap

Mirror Lake & Eagle Cap

 

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.

The Gorge Waterfalls and Streams – My Favorites

Monday, May 21st, 2012

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.

 

Geometric Nature - Columbia River Gorge, OR

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.

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Forest Rain - Columbia River Gorge, OR

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.

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Enchanting - Columbia River Gorge, OR

Name: Enchanting
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

Tips for Photographing in the Rain

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Tips for Photographing in the Rain

By David Cobb

So what if it rains? This is the Pacific Northwest after all and rain is part of life here. I guess that’s why I have a plan B and C during my workshops, to take care of such eventualities. Last weekend was “Dave’s Worst-Weather-Ever Workshop” along the northern Oregon and southern Washington coastlines. The rain and wind storms were pretty bad. A lot of people thought the sun came with me for all my workshops, and I was getting pretty cocky after continually seeing the clouds part at the beginning of a session and close up when it ended. In lieu of staying indoors a bit more and concentrating on processing (which we did), here are a few photo tips for when it rains along the Oregon and Washington coastlines. (Canon and Nikon seal their cameras pretty well, other makers seal them tightly to not-so-much, so know how well your camera does before taking it out in the rain.)

1) Carry a good camera bag and rainfly: I have to admit I love the back access on the f-Stop camera bags during a rainstorm. I just set the bag down on the wet sandy beach, rainfly side down, and access all my equipment. When I put the pack back on my back, the muddy side is on the outside and the clean side is against my back. That way my rain jacket keeps me dry a lot longer. A good rainfly for your camera bag can be picked up at any outdoor store.

2) Use a rain cover for your camera: I often opt for the cheap grocery store plastic bag version with a hole cut in it, but there are a whole host of good camera rain covers out there. Simply Google “camera rain cover” and you’ll have a variety to choose from. They vary from the cheap homemade versions like mine to the bomb-proof Think-Tank Hydrophobia.

3) Find a sea cave: Sounds simple doesn’t it? The other day during a rain storm on the Oregon coast, I just wandered into a really cool cave and let my eyes adjust. Watch for the tides, but otherwise you can work for hours coming up with some interesting compositions while staying dry.

4) Bring an umbrella: An obvious point, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bring an umbrella along while photographing.

5) Stay in your car and photograph abstracts through the soaked windshield: A couple of people did this during the last workshop at a harbor and they got some fantastic results. The last time I used this technique was from a taxi cab in Albania, and I wish I had remembered to do it for the harbor shots this time around.

6) Go to a bunker: There are World War II bunkers all over the coastline, and they really have quite a bit of character with their rusty doors, stark hallways, old ladders, and walls filled with moss and lichen. Best of all, they make a great wind break and are not only bomb-resistant, but rain-resistant too.

7) Point your lens downward: I use my lens hood not only for sun protection, but rain protection. During those dreary winter days, I’m less likely to look for the grand landscape and more likely to look for the small scene. I often start to think and see in black and white too. By keeping my lens pointing down, I keep it free from those pesky rain drops.

8) Go to the forest: The coastal forest is a great place to shoot on a rainy day. The trees block the wind, keep me drier, and the forest light can be amazing or moody.

9) Dry off your gear: I carry a facecloth in my bag and I’m constantly giving my camera a pat down and dry off. I make sure I do this at the end of the shoot when I put my camera away, and I do it again when I go back inside. I also extend my tripod legs when I return inside and give them a wipe-down too.

There you have it. The next time it rains, quit your whining and head for the coast – I’ll be there with a smile on my face and staying dry.

Opal Creek Wilderness – Long Overdue Return

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

By Adrian Klein

Over eight years ago Molly and I took my son Logan on one of his first backpacking trips. I had just bought my first DSLR that summer but knew nothing about photography. The trip was certainly more about checking out a new location and getting out for a weekend in the woods than anything else. I remember the trip well, a fantastically beautiful place relatively close to home that I had not heard of before. We still have a photo up in the house of three of us sitting on a large boulder in the creek near camp playing the card game Uno.

This year I looked at the images I captured back in 2003 and realize I have come a long way with my photography skills. Almost all of them would not make the cut today. Having a large gap of many years since visiting allows for a worthwhile retrospective to see how my work has changed. It was indeed fascinating.

Fast forward and it’s 2011. For years I have said I would go back and I put it off to go elsewhere. This year I had the perfect excuse to go. Abnormally high snow fall last winter in the Northwest kept the snow packs solid and deep on the mountains well into summer. Although there are a several “summits” in the 4,500 to 5,500 feet range the falls and creeks are located around 2,000 feet which makes them accessible most of the year.

Fortunately I was able to coax my now teenage son to go back to Opal Creek with me for a 3 day trip. We got the packs stuffed and headed out to reminisce and create new experiences. Below are some of the images I captured and details about the area.

Forest Gems

Getting There:
There are several ways to get in but only one that is realistic for most. The others are longer multi-day trips. From Portland, Oregon it’s less than a couple hour drive to the main trailhead. Directions: http://www.opalcreek.org/experience/directions.aspx

Dazed N Confused

The Hike:
The majority of the hike in I would classify as easy. The first few miles are only a few hundred feet elevation gain on dirt and gravel road. This means expect summer weekends to be busy. I have seen even jogging strollers with families making their way. That all comes to an end at Jaw Bone Flats, the old mining town converted to nature education center and a handful of cabins for visitors and residents. After that it’s a regular narrow hiking trail with a 2nd log bridge that needs to be replaced (you can still cross at your own risk which we did). After the bridge the numbers dwindle. We camped 4+ miles in from the trailhead and saw few over the 3 days. If you are camping there are numerous spots near Jaw Bone Flats, much less after that but they are there if you look. More details about getting here and the hike: http://www.oregon.com/Hike_Opal_Creek

Hues of Green

When To Go:
Considering the majority of locations around 2,000 feet elevation and below in the Northwest are accessible most of the year there are not many limitations when to go. I have seen images taken in the area with fresh snow on the ground. I would prefer early summer with the rich fresh greens if I had to pick one. As for time of day, you are down in a canyon which means you have ample shade. Expect to be in full shade for the remainder of the day by 3 or 4pm, even in summer, which obviously has benefits allowing photographs whether it’s overcast or sunny.

Opal Creek Wilderness

Photography:
This post would not be complete on this blog covering a location without discussing the photography aspect. As you can already see by the images in this post there are many opportunities and they will differ based on when you are there.

Color Depth: The images show how much color can change based on water depth, camera angle and light. It can vary from too deep to stand in to no more than ankle deep. With all of them giving various shades of opal color.

Man & Nature: If photographing man made items in nature tickles your fancy then you have a number of possibilities. The image I included of the old US Navy fire truck is one of my favorites in Jaw Bone Flats. There are other old cars, woodstoves, mining tools and more.

Reflecting Light: The light reflecting from the foliage covered walls and forest can be rather intriguing, as seen with the abstract image in this post. It may look like a bad acid trip from a Grateful Dead show. I can assure you it’s not. Many opportunities like this exist in the area when the sun is coming into the area or leaving.

Challenges: Whenever you have rushing water in a canyon the foliage is rarely completely still. Even when the wind was calm in the area I often found brush moving somewhere in the image near the water. Despite bumping up to say ISO800 I had still had movement issues most of the time.

The Shallows

S Falls

Final Words:
If forests and streams are your interest when it comes to hiking and photography, this place is a must. It’s certainly a gem in more ways than one and is hard to believe this area almost met it’s demise to logging less than a couple decades ago. I know we need wood in this world but we can certainly learn to conserve to help protect spectacular places that would be completely altered for generations to come if logging came to town.

Dinner and a warm fire at camp w/ my son Logan