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 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.
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
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 stands sentinel over the Klamath Basin.
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.
I often browse the internet for inspiration and I’m moved by those who dare to do something different, dare to fail, and dare to have an original thought. I may not participate in their style of photography, but I appreciate it and it gets me thinking, “what if…”
Recently I became aware or four photographers who inspire me in different ways. The first is Gregg Kerber’stake on focus blur and photographing fireworks. By slowly sharpening his lens focus over a period of 2-5 seconds, Gregg is able to capture some astonishing images that look more like giant flowers in the sky than fireworks. These are truly inspiring and worth a try during my next fireworks photo shoot.
Then there’s Chris Friel, who I first noticed on Flickr. He decided to return to his painting days and incorporate a painterly style into his multiple-exposure photography. The finished affects are creative and stunning, and change a simple landscape image into abstract art. I admire the ability to experiment with new digital technology, and this sort of creativity opens up so many possibilities and hours of enjoyment with a camera.
Catherine Nelson comes from the world of painting and film. She’s worked creatively on some major motion pictures, but her photography is intricate and innovative as she blends together many images to create worlds of her own. The blending and painting are seamless in these small worlds of Eden, and the eye wanders about the landscape noticing the life and detail within. Her nature photography is expressed through these small globes of diversity.
For those of you who complain about too much Photoshop, take a look at Jessica Eaton’s work. She still uses film and does not use Photoshop, but her work with in-camera multiple exposure and darkroom techniques attest to what can and has been created without the digital darkroom. For her patterns of color and form one doesn’t need digital technology to be artistic, it only helps simplify and expand the process. The mind still holds the key to creativity, where there are simply no limits.
These are four photographers who have inspired lately, and their techniques will somehow influence mine in a small way. Their brilliant work has stirred my soul, moved me to photograph, encouraged me to experiment, and motivated me to create. And isn’t that what art is all about?
Like most people that enjoy the outdoors I like to visit new places as much as the next person. It’s the minority of folks that want to go to the same place over and over and over. There is this excitement that overcomes us getting the chance to take in foreign views, experience new adventures and photograph different scenery. It’s similar to when I was a kid growing up at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge on about 10 acres with surrounding forest area. I could always find new spots. That “little” area is now like being out in a large wilderness exploring as an adult.
I get people asking me if I get bored going to the same locations all the time. Honestly, not that much, usually I am thankful to be healthy and able bodied to enjoy it no matter where I am. Do I try to find beautiful photogenic places? Of course. Do I try to visit new places every year? You bet. Yet I think we can have a short sided view assuming we have captured all the great images that can be had after a few trips. We have all heard the statements before… “I have photographed that place to death” or “there is nothing left for me to photograph”. I admit to falling into that trap yet I do my best to remind myself that many places really have endless opportunities.
What are some advantages of visiting the same place after being there multiple times already?
–> I likely already have a great image(s); I feel less pressure to force a composition and more willingness to explore other possibilities on return trips. –> It can allow me to build up a portfolio of an area that might be used for a project or book. In today’s work I see this less and less because the majority get a couple nice images and move on. –> I try my best to be on my own mission for nature photography (unless on commissioned assignment), and not to feel the need to conform to those that choose to run around “bagging” as many locations as possible. –> Many locations I visit offer quite different photographic opportunities in different seasons. –> I get to know the area more intimately than others. In turn can end up helping me be the go to person for imagery or tours if I have a steady stream of work from a specific location. –> The window view in the outdoor “office” is still the best view I have found even on the worst day, and even in place where I might experience photography fatigue. If this happens the camera goes away and I take time to enjoy it.
I am sure at this point you are wondering a couple things. 1) Where are the images on this post anyway? 2) Where is your portfolio of work from visiting a location over and over and over? Well I am glad you asked. Let’s take a look at what I brought you today.
One place I have visited many times, and likely going back is Kauai, more specially the South Shore. In the last decade I have spent about 6 weeks in this area with all trips combined. This is one of the few places I travel with my family mainly for downtime as we try and avoid too much running around. With that said I have spent many weeks worth of sunrises and sunsets along less than a 5 mile stretch of ocean with most images coming from less than a 2 mile stretch. Below is a sampling of my work from the area. I tried to limit around 20 images as that is more than enough to get the point across yet I do have more.
Despite all those sunrises and sunsets I still look forward to heading out and seeing what I can come home with, stomping down the same sandy beaches and rocky shores. At this point I will let the images do the talking. I think you will agree there is diversity in this work despite the location repetition. Granted the ocean is one of the most dynamic landscapes you can photograph. That said the same type of portfolio can be built up with endless locations around the globe.
I am sure there is a place on your list that you have been before and are chomping at the bit to get back. Now you have the reasons to make it happen. What is your drive to go back to your favorite place(s) again and again?
Kauai - The South Shore
You can view a low res slideshow of the images by clicking on the image below:
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
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
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.
Here are we about to exit another year in life and usher in a new one. Always a time to reflect on where we have been and where we want to go. We want to take this time to thank the many viewers and readers of our blog. When we embarked on the Photo Cascadia path a significant part of the goal was to follow our slogan “Learn, Explore, Create”… helping others learn more about photography, explore areas for your next adventure and discover what it takes to create photos that fit your vision. Based on what we have heard in the hundreds of emails over the last couple years we seem to be doing just that. We enjoy the discussions and dialogue so keep it coming.
Without further rambling here is a quick blurb from each of the PC team members about their year in photography and anything else they felt like sharing. Plus a three minute slideshow with image favorites of 2011. Along with this post comes a two to three week winter break before we start bringing you new blog content in 2012. Thank you again!
It’s been a fantastic and busy year for me. I was able to get out and capture some fantastic images across the country. I was lucky enough to lead some great workshops this year. I was also privileged to get together with my fellow Photocascadia members and got to take a photo trip to the Desert Southwest with Sean Bagshaw. I’m now in the editing stage of my Multiple Exposure, and Tonality Control Photoshop video and hope to be done very soon. I’m also still teaching lots of online Photoshop Workshops, they’ve been a fantastic success this year. And to cap it all off, I’m expecting my second child, a baby boy due in March.
Life is good, and I feel my photography continues to grow. I hope to get out even more next year and continue my series of Photoshop video tutorials. Hope to see you all out in the field and online.
Well as 2011 rounds out and again I find myself asking where time went. So many journeys and things discovered in the past year with both challenges and rewards. This past year I have been lucky enough to travel to the Canadian Rockies, Colorado Rockies, Southwest, Southwestern BC, Oregon, and California. But my favorite part was I finally got to see Iceland after all these years of lusting to get there anyway I could. It did not disappoint, I also got to spend some good times with photography friends as well as well as my Photo Cascadia Group. It has been busy but another great year of photography. I have been so blessed to live out my passion and that I will always be grateful for.
2011 was all about experiencing new things for me. I winter camped at Mount Rainier for the first time, I explored the Broken Top area in Oregon’s Cascades, I backpacked to Spray Park for the first time, and my wife and I took an epic 3 week trip to explore the Southwest of England. I was also able to visit Glacier National Park during fall color and snow, and explore new remote regions of the Oregon Coast. I taught many successful workshops and made many new friends. I’m excited about my new collaboration with Amana Images in Tokyo, Japan. I bought a new large format printer, which is really inspiring my creativity as far as printing goes. I’ve been experimenting with putting prints on stretched canvas, and having images printed on sheets of metal for a really dynamic effect. All this plus another exciting year playing principal clarinet with the Spokane Symphony.
The year 2011 was a busy year of shooting for me. I got into the backcountry a bit, but most of the year was spent photographing Japanese gardens across North America for an upcoming book. I’ve included two of those garden images here. I hope you enjoy what I’ve picked as my favorites for the year, and I look forward to what lies in store for 2012.
Looking back each December on the year gone by is always fun. I’m a sucker for year end reviews: best photos, movies, books, songs, you name it. 2011 has been a year with some great events, memories and milestones for me personally; perhaps right up there with some of the top years in my life. I could write several different year end reviews for 2011. These are some memorable times I had photographing the landscape this year.
February: I spent a couple days skiing and camping in the frigid high desert environs of Hart Mountain with one of my oldest friends, Chuck (RokChuk) Porter.
March: I aborted a trip to Yosemite due to storms and instead had a great time photographing in Death Valley with Big Wave Larry Carpenter.
April: A canceled flight saw me stranded in SoCal for a few days, so Big Wave Larry and I headed to Joshua Tree and marveled at the daily morning light show in the cholla garden.
May: David Cobb and I had a tick nightmare while exploring the canyons of Oregon’s Owyhee country.
June: Between back to back workshops with Christian Heeb and David Cobb in Bend, Oregon, I made a cannonball run down to the California redwoods and back. Thanks to a tip from Big Wave Larry, it was best rhododendron bloom I’ve seen there.
September: Solo trip to the Tetons. The valley was full of smoke and hundreds of other photographers, but a 10 mile hike into the back country put me in clear air and beyond the crowds. I gave myself my semi annual dose of the willies by hiking in the dark in bear country. No bears spotted however.
October: Zack Schnepf and I had a surreal four days camping, cracking wise, photographing and breaking wind at White Pocket. When Zack headed home I met up with the sandstone Jedi, Tony Kuyper, and the desert adventure continued.
November: David Cobb and I taught a photography workshop on the Oregon coast. The photography and classroom sessions were great, but the best memory was having dinner at the Rogue Brewery and using iPhone camera tricks to make David appear four times in our “Last Supper” photo.
December: Kevin McNeal kept all of us bent over laughing at the annual Photo Cascadia gathering in Bandon, while clouds kept us from seeing the lunar eclipse.
All in all, some amazing times with the best people in the world. The photos I took are just the icing. Here’s looking to 2012!
2011 is yet another year in life that I had the health and ability to be in the outdoors which I am always thankful for, and oh yeah and I took a few photos while I was out. This year I stayed in the Northwest for most outdoor excursions which to be honest can fulfill me for years to come, it seems there are always new places to explore here despite being a home grown Oregonian. I explored more of SE Oregon including the peaceful Lake Abert. I made it back to Opal Creek Wilderness which was long over due. I did some new hikes from the coast to Mount Hood National Forest.
In the mix of all that was more successful group and private workshops as time allowed. I always enjoy seeing others learn and grow with their photography, something I try to do personally as well. I surely cannot forget taking my 5 year old daughter on her first backpack trip (As long as I can find pink outdoor gear I can likely get her to keep going). As the year started to wind down I was fortunate to spend a couple weeks in Kauai with my family, and yes more photography. Shortly after coming home from that trip was a few days in December with fellow Photo Cascadia members (it’s nice to see each other face-to-face after the hundreds of emails and phone calls throughout the year). I am fortunate to have a fine family and super friends. I hope you have the same and were able to enjoy the great outdoors with or without photography in 2011.
Before the Photo Cascadia group takes a short break for the holiday season, we’d like to share a few photos of our favorite waterfalls from around this region called Cascadia.
Zack: Wahclella Falls has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager. It’s not nearly as crowded as some of the more popular trails, and it’s one of the most beautiful falls in the Columbia River Gorge. I particularly like the view from up high, but there are a couple other good vantage points as well.
Zack: My favorite waterfall in the Gorge is Fairy Falls. It’s also my favorite teaching spot in the Gorge. It’s the best example of how slow-shutter speed affects the look of an image—and you can zoom in for many abstract compositions of the falls. It’s a steep (but relatively short) hike up Wahkeena Creek, but definitely worth the effort.
Chip: “Palouse Falls Sunset” is my title for this dramatic sunset sky over Palouse Falls in eastern Washington State.
Chip: “Mossy Elowah” is the title for this misty capture of one of my favorite waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.
Kevin: This foggy-day photo was taken in autumn at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. I had seen this waterfall before and it can be difficult to shoot in terms of composition. Positioning myself at the vantage point seen here in this photo was somewhat dangerous, but it was worth it. I was also lucky to be there just as the sun was breaking through.
Kevin: Myrtle Falls is an iconic waterfall located in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park in the Paradise area. I like this waterfall because it shows the majesty of Mount Rainier and its surroundings. To get this photo I had to stitch two images vertically to better capture depth and sharpness.
Adrian: “Enchanted” is the title for this image of Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge on a chilly still winter morning as sunlight pierces its way through the thick fog. I have photographed this scene many times with only fog, but this was the first time I was able to include sunbeams. It’s one of my favorite Gorge photos.
Adrian: “Forest Rain” is the title to this Columbia River Gorge shot of Gorton Creek in the cold spring rain. For me, it’s not only the flow of the image that works (pun intended), but also the falling rain. It adds additional mood and feeling to the scene that would not be there otherwise.
David: I loved photographing Outlet falls along the Klickitat River of southern Washington, because it is so dramatic and remote. There is no “official” parking area for this falls and no directional sign. A steep descent gets you to the bottom of the canyon, and some added fall color brings out the best in these falls.
David: Salt Creek Falls is another favorite of mine, located in southern Oregon in the midst of the Cascade Range. There are a few view points for this waterfall, but I prefer a bushwhack to the bottom for this front-on view.
Sean: Since I’m based out of Ashland, Oregon that means I don’t have the quick access to the well-known waterfalls of Silver Falls State Park and the Columbia Gorge that the guys from the north do. While the waterfalls of the southern rivers, the Rogue, and the Umpqua aren’t as numerous or as grand, there are still some very beautiful cascades. Best of all, there aren’t the crowds of people that you get in the upper part of the state.
Near Union Creek on Hwy 62, the Rogue River spills into the narrows of the Rouge Gorge in a series of rapids and short drops, with one final big plunge. I love photographing at this Gorge because there is a lot to see in a condensed area. Over time, the river has carved a deep channel in the volcanic basalt and connected a series of lava tubes to create the gorge. The resulting eroded rock formations make excellent foreground elements. At the top of the gorge, the river fans out over the basalt and spills into the narrow chute in multiple locations. There are many different compositions that can be made from various spots along the rock shelf next to the river.
Light at the Rogue Gorge can be challenging, and I waited several years to get my chance to be there during this spectacular sunrise. The bright red and orange sky shed a warm glow across the entire scene and completely transformed it. Using a polarizer helped cut reflections and saturate the color on the rocks. I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance to photograph the Rogue Gorge with light like that, but that one experience is etched in my memory.
Sean: Another favorite waterfall of mine is Triple Falls in Montana’s Glacier National Park. I first became aware of this falls from Galen Rowell’s iconic image of it. In a high alpine bowl, several small creeks converge and drop over the edges of a narrow canyon carved out of the red stone commonly found in Glacier. With sheer Rocky Mountain peaks as a backdrop, it is a uniquely beautiful natural formation. The falls isn’t located on a trail, nor is it marked on any maps that I have seen. In order to reach it by sunrise requires a cross-country hike through grizzly country in the dark. The day we photographed it, David Cobb and I walked cautiously through the pre-dawn gloom. We stuck to patches of snow and exposed rock so as not to walk on the delicate alpine foliage. We were sure that every boulder and bush along the way was a bear. We arrived just before sunrise and prepared for the light to come. Earlier in the summer when the snow is melting, there are three distinct waterfalls that plunge into the canyon. When I photographed it in the autumn, one of the falls was nothing more than a trickle so my image is titled “Double Falls.” The stormy sky that morning added shadowy dramatic light to the scene. At that time of day, the sky was so much brighter than the depths of the canyon that two exposures needed to be blended in order to contain the wide dynamic range.
There you have it, a few of our favorite waterfalls from Cascadia. We’ll be back with more blogs and information in the New Year, so until then have a happy Holiday season, from all of us at Photo Cascadia.