Photo Cascadia Blog
Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’
There are a number of reasons I’m drawn to photographing ghost towns. Perhaps it’s something to do for a change of pace, maybe it’s photographing the history of a bygone era, or possibly it’s my fascination with dystopian literature. But mostly it’s just fun. I’ve photographed ghost towns from Alaska to Mexico. Most of them exist from the boom-and-bust of the mining era, while others are from the days of Manifest Destiny gone awry; leftovers from a time when Americans thought if we moved to arid lands for cultivation then the rain would follow.
The ruins these people left behind are in different states of disrepair. Some are preserved as parks, some are not and are left to crumble, and others are resurrected as artist colonies for an affordable place to work and live. Whatever their state, there is always something to explore and photograph.
I’ve explored and photographed the well-known ghost towns (i.e. Bodie) to the little-known towns (i.e.) Farlin. Hell, I even did a ghost town long-distance walk across the Yukon and Northwest Territories on the 221 mile (355km) Canol Heritage Trail, and followed a World War II oil pipeline through the wilderness. The walk past little-used and abandoned autos, pump-house towns, and work stations was fascinating. Additionally, I walked the 33-mile (53km) Chilkoot Trail from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett, British Columbia that follows a land of artifacts and relics from the Klondike Gold Rush. But you don’t need to walk long distances for most ghost towns; they’re on maps and a good AWD vehicle will get you to most of them. Just remember that the majority of ghost towns are at a higher elevation and not lowland valleys, so you might need to wait until summer for access.
Upon arriving for the first time, I like to get that establishing shot. Maybe it’s an overview of the entire town from a nearby highpoint, or possibly it’s a shot of one of the more prominent buildings in town like the mine itself. If the light is not right, I’ll come back to that establishing image as the light improves, but at least I’ve found what represents the town as a whole. Once I have the establishing shot, I begin to look for the intimate. Ghost towns are known for what’s left behind. It could be a table setting, an old poster still on the wall, or implements hanging from the ceiling, but I look for those things that might tell more of the story of the place I’m photographing.
Ghost towns usually have plenty of texture and plenty of rust that can create interesting patterns of shape and color. I look at the old boards for details of pattern and rusted old cars with peeling paint can offer a myriad of abstract compositions too. If artists are moving into the area, look for the weird. Near a Nevada ghost town I photographed, there was a whole field of cars planted in the ground grill first. The exposed sections of the autos were covered with graffiti art exploring life, politics, and the exotic.
Since this is a ghost town, also look for the creepy. I had one ghost town all to myself in the middle of Montana. I walked into an old abandoned hotel to look around and then heard something upstairs. When I walked upstairs I just saw a long hallway of light and dark, and thought to myself, “I’m not going down there.” But I did try to capture in a photo the way I felt at the time.
Also when you’re visiting a ghost town look for the cemetery; there is always one nearby. Some can be quaint, others historic, and still others a bit spooky. Any way you capture them, the images can be interesting and will also help tell the story of place. Ghost towns are also a great place for night photography, and light painting the old buildings while photographing the stars overhead can make for a fun evening shoot. If you’re photographing at night, use common sense and leave the steel wool at home. Sparks from these efforts can level a whole town, and enough historic relics from California to Florida have already been lost to photographer’s fire.
In 2017 I’ll be returning to Montana to conduct a photographic loop of the western ghost town locales. I hope you can join me. You can click here for more information.
Yet again another year has flown by which brings time to look back on the past and what might lie ahead for the new year. Going strong for six years with no signs of letting up on the gas. We grew by a whopping 16.6% with Erin Babnik joining our crew. We continue united with our mission “learn, explore, create” as we intended from the beginning. Just like a rock concert I was at last week when the band said they would not be where they are without their fans, a similar statement could be said for all of you. A sincere Thank you to all of our subscribers and viewers to the newsletter, blog, social media and any other rock you lifted up to find us!
It’s always a good time looking back at the photos each of us from Photo Cascadia captured over the last year. Wherever the road took you in 2015 for your photography we hope you enjoy looking back at what it means to you while giving a chance to reflect on what life is all about and what matters most. Photographing what mother nature has to offer reminds us that we learn as much or more from simply being out and about than anything we could read or watch online. This quote says it best.
“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”
- John Lubbock
As we wrap up the year and take a few weeks off from the blog we invite you to take a few minutes to view a few of our favorites from the team this past year. Slideshow is best viewed in HD. Happy Holidays and New Year!
In this online world of the selfie crazed photo posts there is still the more classic selfie of putting up a tripod with camera for setting up the perfect scene. I like to say I have a selfie stick and jokingly point to my tripod. Taking a more old school approach I feel it can tell a better story to the viewer of what the place is like and how it might have felt. I do realize selfie as the word is coined for photos of today means holding the camera yet I am not covering big in your face shots here, it’s more nature self-portraits with purpose.
You might think it’s as easy as setting up the camera for the nature scene in front of you, setting the timer, jumping in front of the camera and waiting for the shutter to trip. Well sometimes it is, yet often it’s not. For those that have done them you know what I am talking about. Many takes to get one image that works well can get frustrating. The angle was off with your body, the way you were stepping on the trail doesn’t look natural, you are too large… or too small compared to the rest of the subjects, and the list goes on.
Why do I take these shots? Simply put because I want a human in the scene for one of a variety of reasons and in these cases I am typically the only one around or the only one willing to take the time to get the image I am after. I am not taking them for an Instagram account filled with selfies although don’t let me stop you if that is your cup of tea.
Here is me and my “selfie stick” just playing around during a hazy forest fire smoke sunset on the Oregon Coast. It usually gets some interesting looks when I use it. A family member off in the distance said “Is that Adrian taking photos with a selfie stick!” There you go… a tripod and selfie stick in one.
Now to more worthwhile information. Here is a list of things to think about I have learned over the years when trying to setup and pose myself into a scene with some example photos.
- You will want the basics. By basics I mean setup of camera, tripod and timer remote is essential. Without these you may find it very tough to impossible to get what you are conceptualizing.
- Does it look natural or too set up, the composition just like without people in the photo is critical to get right. Ask yourself how the scene balances with you in the shot and where you plan to stand, sit or do some awesome jumps!
- Besides composition of the scene the placement and body stance is very important. It should look pretty natural. If it looks overly posed or contrived you won’t be as happy with the photo in the end. You won’t know what this feels like until you practice and look at the results.
- Are you using newer equipment that allows you to see the scene in real time such as apps on phones with WiFi or Bluetooth. This way you can stand a ways from your camera to click the button when it looks right on your phone instead of setting a timer, running and stand still just in the nick of time for ‘click’.
- Show a much more of the scene and a lot less of yourself. You will see in the many examples below I am only a fraction of the scene. Sometimes you can see it’s me and other times I am small enough you can’t tell.
- Look away from camera vs always looking at camera. A viewer will tend to look more into what the image is about and what you are looking at if you are not staring at the camera.
- Bright colors might be better or worse depending on what you are after yet it’s good to think about this before you head out. Are you looking to stand out or blend into the scene.
- Buckles, straps, zippers should be checked before taking the shot. I can’t count how may times I looked at the image after the fact to find I had undone sagging buckles or straps that drew attention to what I was wearing or carrying not in the way I had hoped.
Golden Rays – While teaching a workshop a number of years back I was showing participants how putting themselves in the photo might be another composition to think of. I kept a strong composition with leading lines from the bottom corners with the road, placed myself in the power point and let it snap when it was to a natural looking position in my walk.
Mount Rainier – This is a case where color helps. It is an amazing scene yet if I had a pack that blended in the scene it would not be as dramatic. Notice the way I am positioned at an angle towards the mountain with a step up on the edge of the trail.
Alvord Desert – Notice where my right foot is placed. It’s right where the larger crack starts giving it a stronger look. The cloud also appears to stretch from the top of my head. These combined with my stance I feel provide a stronger image than simply standing anywhere on this playa.
Mount Adams – It was a fine morning along this lake and I wanted to capture what I was feeling eating breakfast and drinking coffee. Again I positioned my self in a power point and looking towards the mountain making sure none of the trees are spearing my head. This is a case where I used the app on my phone to look at the composition and then clicked the 2 second timer on my phone, very handy!
Broken Top – The intent here was to keep myself small and have a big open sky as I was staring off into it just day dreaming . I don’t like I how left the branch of the tree poking in the back of my head yet it’s less of an issue with how small I am in this image.
Walchella Falls – Notice I placed myself in one corner and the falls in the opposite corner to help create balance from those two sides. Notice the un-clipped buckles on the left side of my pack. I forgot in this case and did not notice until later.
Abiqua Falls – This was a tough one. I wanted to get myself in the stream of the falls get the side stream in the foreground. It took a number of takes to line myself up right. How did I avoid standing in the same spot each time in a sea of rocks that look at the same and about 40feet from the camera? I purposely marked each spot with a wet rock before I went back to my camera so I knew if it didn’t look quiet right to move slightly next time.
All of these images and others I have taken of myself, other objects and people can be found in my adventure gallery. If you have further thoughts to add around this topic please share them here for others to see.
I often get asked which is the best time to visit the Oregon Coast and why. Most people believe that would be the summertime when the sun is out and the days are filled with blue skies. But as a photographer we don’t want the clear blue skies that most ordinary people would want. This could not be more true for the Oregon Coast as the summers are usually filled with no clouds and just boring blue skies. In the winter is when you get the best sunrises and sunsets which make for great dramatic photos. Yes it is true this is when you get the most rain as well but it as the tail end of these weather systems that you are likely to get these amazing weather patterns that make for great photos. So when choosing a time to hit the Oregon Coast it is best to allow some extra time in the vacation to ensure you allow for some bad days. I usually like to go at durations of week or more to ensure I allow for all kinds of weather.
The motto as most photographers know is that the more unstable the weather is the more likely the sunrises and sunsets will be good. So next time the rest of the world takes cover from the rain this is the time to be ready to capture the best photos especially along the Oregon Coast.
Another advantage to shooting on the Oregon Coast in the winter is the extra amount of rain which makes for better reflections and tide pools. This is especially true after a recent rainfall that make for great reflections of the clouds in the tide pools. I time these with low tides where the beach is more likely to be exposed and add a variety of tide pools and beach patterns. The tide pools really add another dimension to the coastal images along the Oregon Coast.
The tide pools add foreground interest which really pulls your viewer into the image. That immediate draw tells a story by combining a foreground with the background through juxtaposition of elements. The tide pools also add a natural mirror to the scene and double the color and beauty of the scene.
This also adds depth to the image and really enhances the illusion of the 3-D in your images. Another advantage to photographing right after a rainfall is the sand and rain together create nice patterns in the sand. I looks for these patterns in the sand in relation to sand ripples and the way the lines lead through the image. I compose my images so that the ripples and patterns lead to the subject I am trying to highlight in the image. If you carefully compose your images at certain angles you can really take advantage of reflective color off the side of ripples that really draw converging lines toward the subject.
With so many images from the Oregon Coast you really need to think carefully how you are composing your images and making them stand out from other images from the coast.The rain adds a great reflective element to the beach and makes for great reflections. By using the weather elements of winter to your advantage you can really create unique compositions that stand out.
Another advantage to photographing the Oregon Coast in the winter is there is the number of people are much fewer. To photographers this is important as nature can best be viewed when one admires nature in solitude. I am a firm believer in this and that whenever I can get somewhere and be with myself I can connect with nature more. It is important to really figure out what each scene is telling you and then try to convey that in the story of the image. The absence of people also means the lack of footprints in the sand around your composition which is almost impossible in the summertime. I like the fact that when shooting after a rainfall the beach is again in pristine condition and lacking footprints.
Winter photography along the Oregon Coast also allows for the change of ratio and rule of thirds when composing images. To be more specific when i shoot during the summer months along the coast I am forced to compose an image where I try to not include much sky. Because there is never anything much interesting going in terms of just blue skies it forces me to compose the image to be one-third sky or even less and two-thirds foreground (beach). This really limits what I can do in terms of compositions and really hinders my creativity. In winter, with dramatic skies I can change my ratio to either emphasize the sky or foreground and that choice is mine. Using the mood of the sky I can really add creativity to the images with long exposures, reflective ripples, reflecting tide pools, and mirror reflections off the sand.
With so many advantages to shooting coastal images along the Oregon Coast with winter weather conditions make it a priority this winter to get out and do some shooting.
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.