While Pacific Crest Stock focuses on licensing images to other entities, we occasionally do have our own outside projects and this is a fun one. Mike Putnam has released his own Mt. Bachelor poster. The poster is big, 24inches tall x36 inches wide. The printing quality is excellent and the colors printed very accurately from Mike’s beautiful original Mt. Bachelor Photo. so far, the posters have been a big success at local ski shops and at Mt. Bachelor’s very own Gravity Sports.
This stunning Mt. Bachelor Poster was captured after a heavy winter snow fall in the Central Oregon Cascades. Winter images with barren trees are one of my pet peeves in the landscape photography world. images with barren trees simply look like the photographer didn’t care how the scene looked, they just wanted to take a shot. I have returned to this location countless times, at sunrise in an attempt to capture a beautiful, snowy image of Mt. Bachelor. The wonderful clouds in the background, enlivened by warm sunrise colors, finished off this beautiful image and make it the best Mt. Bachelor Poster we’ve ever seen. The poster is available for $20 and at wholesale rates for retailers who are willing to make larger orders. If you’d like to place an order, don’t hesitate to call us at 541-610-4815.
We have recently developed a great relationship with the good folks at The Nugget in Sisters, Oregon. The staff who puts together the Sisters Oregon Guide is personable, efficient and very professional. We’re excited to note that two of our images are on the cover of the the guide and that several more are inside of the new Sisters Guide. I’ve always liked the image that was selected for the cover shot which was taken fro Tumalo Reservoir and features the Three Sisters Mountain in the background and colorful sunset light. We think the image works perfectly for their needs and it showcases the beauty of the Central Oregon area very well.
On a fun side note, the little girl in the photo in the lower left hand corner of the guide is my daughter Emma who thinks this might be her big break! Thanks again to the staff at The Nugget and the Sisters Oregon Guide!
I am proud to announce that Bend ,Oregon’s premier tourism guide once again has one of our images for a cover shot. The “Visit Bend” guide has established itself as arguably the most informative , attractive and well organized guide in Oregon. Our ongoing relationship with Visit Bend, is an honor that we hope will continue long term. The Visit Bend Tourism Guide cover can be seen below.
Doug, Lynnette, and the rest of the crew are excellent to work with and they are great ambassadors for our city. Visit Bend has done an excellent job of bringing in events such as the 2010 Cyclocross National Championships, The 2010 Road riding nationals, and the 2011 Mountain Bike National Championships. All great events that fit well with the personality Bend.
The above image of South Sister from Sparks Lake is one of my personal favorites. To learn more information about this beautiful landscape photo and to see the whole image, visit my personal website by visiting the following link. Sparks Lake!
Thanks for Reading,
After living in Central Oregon for about a decade, Mike Putnam and I have managed to compile quite a collection of photographs for our Pacific Crest Stock photography company. As 2010 starts, it’s fun to look back and think about some of our favorite photographs from the last ten years. The New Year also marks the end of our first year of being in business together. It was an exciting year to say the least, and thanks to readers like you, our blog site has steadily grown through the months to the point that we are now getting nearly 4,000 visitors per month. We are very grateful for all of the clicks you’ve given us through the year, and for all of the other support and feedback that we’ve received from our friends, families, and customers. We truly appreciate it.
Although it’s nearly impossible to pick out our true favorites, the following photos have a certain level of sentimental value as they often represented significant milestones from our early photography careers. We hope you enjoy them.
1. Summit Sunrise
2. Strawberry Mountains
3. Sparks Lake Sunset
4. Skier on Three Fingered Jack
5. Mount Jefferson Wildflowers
6. The Monument at Smith Rock
7. Aspen Leaves
8. Mount Hood from Lost Lake
9. Basalt Columns
10. Oceanside Sunset
Thanks for all of your support through the year, and we’re looking forward to another exciting year in 2010. Cheers!
Posted by Troy McMullin
I always hike with the hopes that there will be a story to tell, but even under the most optimistic scenarios, there’s never any guarantee that the experience will actually be worthy of its own blog entry. This entry is an example of what happens when I go out on a photography mission, and miraculously, everything goes as planned. No mountain lions, no getting trapped high up on a cliff wall, and no sliding out of control down a steep backcountry slope. Just a simple, well-timed hike into a beautiful area to take pictures, and then an uneventful hike back out. Boring, but productive.
If you want to see more photos from my recent adventures, check out the New Images gallery on our main Pacific Crest Stock photography site. This gallery contains several hundred new images that Mike and I have taken over the last few months.
Posted by Troy McMullin
The shoulder season between Summer and autumn is often a source of frustration for photographers in Central Oregon. Alpine flowers are brown and dead, and fall color is yet to explode. Flat gray skies often highlight an unattractive lifeless environment. The first breaths of autumn always enliven a landscape photographer’ s soul. One of the locations where I often find these first breaths of autumn is along the Cascades Lake Highway southwest of Bend, Oregon.
Sparks Lake and its high elevation and its good southern exposure helps alpine ground cover to ripen to the height of its fall glory a bit earlier than the lower elevation hotspots such as the Metolius Basin, the McKenzie River area and the riparian areas along the Deschutes River. For a small collection of photos from the Metolius River basin, visit this link. Metolius River Photos
Any pre-sunrise visit to Cascade Lakes area should start with a visit to the Ray Atkeson memorial viewpoint along Sparks Lake’s shore. A visit to this location is something of a pilgrimage to a magical landascape photography location. The lake’s surface isn’t always a glassy and reflective as it was in the picture seen above, but you never know if you are going to see the light show of a lifetime and there is no better place to seen it from than Sparks Lake. While the photo seen above doesn’t have any fall color in it, it is somewhat typical of autumn in that there is fresh snow on our Central Oregon mountains.
After the pastel colors of this brief light show had faded, I packed up and went to a different area of Sparks Lake for an entirely different perspective and hopefully some fall color.
While scouting for a sunrise shot I peered down to capture the above image of frost covered alpine foliage. I like how the frosty leaves add detail and texture to the interesting and colorful autumn foliage. Eventually after some extensive frosty scouting and a frightening realization, I set up the shot below. The realization is that hunting is allowed along the shores of Sparks Lake. It strikes me as odd. Sparks is essentially a playground for the city of Bend and hunting is allowed. I recognize that hunting is a popular activity and it should be allowable on public lands, but Sparks Lake? Regardless hunters were blasting ducks out of the air no more than 100 yards from me and a parking lot along the busy Cascade Lakes Highway.
They are subtle but hopefully you can notice the hints of frost covered fall color in the foreground of this image. The stream channels help to break up the foreground and the sunburst adds an extra element for the attractive background of Mt. Bachelor.
Fall color won’t last long in the Cascade Lakes area near Sparks Lake so hurry and take a hike before the snows cover this beautiful alpine area for the rest of the season. for some attractive summer photos of Sparks Lake please visit the following link Sparks Lake Photos.
For more beautiful Central Oregon Photos, please visit our main site at Pacific Crest Stock Photography
Thanks for visiting,
For Oregon landscape photographers like Troy McMullin and I here at Pacific Crest Stock Photography there is a frustrating shoulder season during which the forces of nature conspire against us. The alpine flowers are brown and dead, fall color has not yet arrived and our beloved Central Oregon Cascades are largely devoid of snow. This combination is a virtual trifecta of photographic frustration. We eagerly await fall color to arrive and with a strong dose of good fortune, Alpine snows will arrive simultaneously. My natural optimism leads to nightly weather analysis. Will it be cold enough to snow in the mountains? Will there be so much snow that I can’t get to the trail head? These issues occupy an unhealthy percentage of my time. My wife can attest to this! Below is a primer image for you to enjoy while you wade through my story?
Recent weather patterns turned for the better and I saw a window of opportunity to capture an elusive oregon landscape photo that I have pursued for years. That night I began my planning process for the next morning. Winter gear for warmth, loading too much photography gear, GPS, headlamps, rain gear, hiking boots, gas up my truck, set the coffee machine timer to 4:30 AM. The list of preparatory activities was less than exciting. While going through my night before check list, I was listening to an IPod mix with the following song on it, Country Music Promoter-OX(the play button is in the upper right hand corner of the page) It is a great song about the hard-scrabble life of a country music promoter. Coffee, trucks, bad hours, lots of travel. The song distinctly reminded me of the less than glamorous but rewarding job of being an Oregon Landscape photographer. While I don’t pinch waitresses like the promoter in the song does, the feeling of the song is what is familiar. Hard dirty work doing a job that you love. Not a bad combination but it is arguably less than glamorous, and it truly is work. Don’t get me wrong, life as a landscape photographer takes me to some beautiful places, like the one seen in this blog entry but sadly it is more than that. The above image of Mt. Washington is one I am truly excited about. Fresh snow, great fall color, interesting clouds, nice warm sunrise light and an awesome mountain make me very optimistic about this landscape photo.
This particular lake is very hard to get to, requiring a long bushwack through thick and in this case wet undergrowth to get it. Actually getting the shot makes it all worth while, perhaps like when a show really goes well for a Country Music Promoter. I have to thank Old Mike for accompanying me on this outing. His company and sherpa like load carrying capacity were both a big help on this backcountry adventure. Below is a slight rewind in that it was actually the first shot of the morning but I did want to get credit for reaching this spot in time for sunrise!
The light on Mount Washington was beautiful and the lake had a appealing mist rising off of its surface but unfortunately, it was too windy for any real reflection. Frustrating. With time and help from the warming sun, the scene enlivened and the wind even died down allowing me a few images like the following one with a nice alpine reflection of Oregon’s Mt. Washington.
I was in my own world during the height of that morning’s light shown not noticing what Old Mike what up to. Evidently he was busy taking photos of me while I was taking photos of Mount Washington. Below is a cool image that he took with me and my large format camera silhouetted against the lake’s shore. I really like the use of contrast and the swirling mist in the background. Thanks Old Mike!
I’m no model but I do like the shot and the memory of a great morning, Kind of like when the show really goes well for the Country Music Promoter!
Eventually the light show harshened making the scene less attractive and the glorious part of my day was over. I gathered my gear after my photographic flurry and Old Mike and I made a long wet inglorious bushwack through dense Cascade undergrowth. Not he most glamorous part of the day but it was hard work worth doing.
A special thanks goes to Pacific Crest’s very own Troy McMullin for allowing me to pirate this scene and hopefully capture the next great Oregon fine art photograph. To see some more work done with my Large Format Camera, visit the following link Oregon Fine Art Photos. Troy, I’ll buy you a beer!
The images from this blog entry and all of our Oregon stock photos can be viewed and licensed through our stock photo website, Pacific Crest Stock
Thanks for Visiting,
I will be celebrating the 24-month anniversary of my 39th birthday in the coming days. Reflecting on this past year reminded me of last year’s big birthday bash when our families and friends threw a surprise party for Mike Putnam (who also turned 40) and me. Looking back now, there were numerous hints that should have clued me in to the fact that everyone around me was planning a party, but like a pawn in a game, I just went blindly through the day enjoying what I thought was a routine day in the life of a lucky man.
For example, I remember waking up that morning and having Julie (my wife) encourage me to go take some photographs. Now bless her heart, my wife has always been very supportive of my photography hobby/habit, but on this particular day, she actually seemed to be pushing me out of the door. That should have been my first clue that something strange was happening, but to be honest, it never even dawned on me. Instead, I hurriedly packed up my camera gear and headed out of the house before she could change her mind. I didn’t even know where I was going when I left the house. I just knew that Julie was giving me a hall pass, and that I wasn’t about to pass that up. Within a few minutes of pulling out of the driveway, I decided that I would drive south to see if there was any fall color around Salt Creek Falls, which at almost 300-feet tall, is the second tallest waterfall in Oregon.
When I first arrived at Salt Creek Falls, the sun was shining through the trees and directly into my eyes. Shooting waterfalls on sunny days is not exactly ideal photography conditions, and having the sun pointed directly into the lens of the camera is about as bad as it gets, so rather than setting up the camera, I decided to scout around the area for awhile in hopes that some clouds would eventually roll in. I fought my way through a thicket of dense trees and found a good location along the slope at the bottom of Salt Creek Falls, but every time that the sun would move behind a cloud, a small breeze would blow up from the base of the waterfall and shake all of the leaves in my foreground (which makes them appear blurry in timed-release waterfall photographs). I played this little game with the sun and wind for more than hour before finally deciding that this just wasn’t my day, and that it would probably be better for me to start heading back home so that I could help my wife with our kids. I hiked out of the woods and started driving over Willamette Pass when I realized that I had lost my sunglasses somewhere along the way. Then, as I was mentally re-tracing my steps, I remembered that I had actually lost my sunglasses the week before at the coast, which meant that today, I had actually managed to lose my WIFE’S sunglasses!
I called Julie and explained that I was going to be running later than expected because I needed to backtrack to find her sunglasses. Julie seemed almost relieved to hear the news, and she encouraged me to take as much time as I needed. That should have been my second clue that something strange was happening, but I didn’t get it because at the time, I was just feeling kind of bad for losing her sunglasses, and my mind was frantically trying to piece together all of the places that I had gone that day. I turned the Jeep around and started driving back toward the trailhead. I wasn’t exactly sure where Julie’s sunglasses might be, but I figured they were probably laying somewhere on that steep slippery slope near the base of the waterfall. I fought my way through the trees again, and as I popped out onto the slope, I noticed that the lighting conditions had improved considerably since I was there earlier in the day. A thick fog bank had moved into the valley, which created nice soft light on the foreground and waterfall. I quickly set up my tripod and composed a few shots. Then I looked down at my feet, and saw that I was standing about 4 feet away from a nice shiny black pair of Oakley’s. Sweet! I re-packed the camera and stuffed the sunglasses inside my backpack and then hiked back up to the parking lot at the top of Salt Creek Falls.
When I got home, Julie told me that Jake Bell (one my best friends) had called to see if I wanted to go have a few beers at Deschutes Brewery and then go back to his house to watch a football game. Apparently, two other good friends (Mike Putnam, My partner in Pacific Crest Stock and Max Reitz) had already agreed to go and Julie had told them that it was OK for me to go along too. I told Julie that it was nice for her to let me go, but that I didn’t really feel the need to go, especially since she already let me have the whole day off for picture-taking. I told her that I would be more than happy to watch the kids for awhile if she wanted to take a break, but she insisted that it was alright with her—and since I’ve never been one to turn down a little beer and football, off I went . . . completely clueless again.
At the pub that night, I learned that Max (who lives in Hood River) and Mike had spent all day hiking around Three Fingered Jack. We had a couple of beers and shared some photography stories, and all the while, Jake kept looking at his watch. Jake seemed nervous as a cat, and he kept prodding us along so that we could get up to his house before the game started. At one point, Mike left the table and Max asked Jake what time we all needed to be up at his house. I had just lifted my pint glass to take another drink, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see Jake immediately making some sort of awkward hand gestures to Max. Again, that probably should have been a clue . . . . but it wasn’t, at least at the time.
When Mike got back, Jake and Max immediately herded us out of the door and up to Jake’s house. Jake pulled into his driveway, and then he got out of the truck and started acting like he was getting something out of the back, knowing full well that Mike and I wouldn’t wait or offer to help him, but that instead we would head directly for his front door (and his fridge) and make ourselves at home. When Mike and I opened Jake’s door, we were immediately greeted with a big “Surprise!” . . . and then whole day began to a make a little more sense.
Posted by Troy McMullin
For those of you who haven’t already visited Broken Top via the Broken Top Trail, shame on you! It is stunning, has wonderfully varied terrain, and is right in your backyard if you are a Central Oregon resident. It is truly one of the great alpine playgrounds in Oregon. The Broken Top Trail starts high and offers a very mountainous experience with relatively little suffering. Perhaps the most difficult part about this hike is actually driving there. The famous forest service road number 370 is rugged, narrow and long. It is no place for passenger cars and takes a good 25 minute drive beyond the Todd Lake trail head. For a more detailed trail description of the Broken Top Trail, visit the following link. Broken Top Trail
The following Photograph is the kind that keeps me re-visiting Broken Top year after year. I captured this photo with my 4×5 camera two years ago and
the wildflowers were not as spectacular this year. There were plenty of other worthy spots that I found along the Broken Top Trail this summer. Because the flowers in Broken Top’s lower canyon were not optimal, I visited the upper crater, an arduous hike and caught the next two images.
This image and the next were both captured during an overnight backpacking trip I took with Debbie and Emma, who loved playing in the small streams that wind through Broken Top’s lower crater. The following image is of Mt. Bachelor as seen from Broken Top’s upper crater at sunset.
The lunar landscape in Broken Top’s upper crater make it well worth the strenuous climb to get there. Small streams emanating from the Crook glacier provide moisture for late blooming wildflowers.
Another favorite area along the Broken Top trail is “N0-Name Lake” which is located on Broken Top’s Northern slope. The lake holds ice bergs all summer and is a remarkable turquoise color. The glacier made basin which holds the lake also has an interesting array of late blooming wildflowers such as the red Indian Paintbrush seen in the following image I recently captured at sunrise.
East of the location where I shot the above photo is the outflow stream for No-Name Lake. Because of prominent wind patterns, this end of the lake often holds large ice bergs throughout the summer. Below is a photograph of Broken Top’s pinnacles and the icy No-Name Lake as seen from that corner of the Lake.
The following images of Mt. Bachelor were also taken from along the Broken Top Trail and they are a strong testament to alpine change. I’m consistently impressed by how quickly flower groupings change from one year to the next. These two photos of Mt. Bachelor were taken from approximately the same location but two years apart. Note the huge variation in flower varieties.
Regardless of whether you are a photographer or not, it is hard to argue with the belief that the Broken Top Trail area is an amazing area for exploration. If you are a hiker,backpacker, or trail runner, you might be interested in the more detailed trail description found at the following link. Broken Top Trail
Thanks For Visiting,
Landscape photography is an unpredictable adventure. Sometimes, everything goes as planned and other times, nothing does. This story is about the latter.
It was late summer in Central Oregon, and while the flowers in many of our lower meadows had already burned up, I knew that I could still find some huge stands of monkey flowers in the higher elevation meadows on the north side of Broken Top Mountain. I had been to the meadows a few years earlier, but had problems nailing the focus on this dramatically vertical shot. Armed with a new camera and a wider angle lens, I figured I could go back and perfect the photo if I was given a second chance.
I carefully studied my topography map, and calculated that the quickest way into the meadows would be to find the streams running out of Broken Top Glacier somewhere near the Park Meadow trailhead and then follow them cross-country until I got above the tree line. Based on the sun’s recent positioning, I also figured that I should be able to get some decent evening and morning light, and therefore, I planned on hiking into the meadows in the late evening and setting up camp so that I would be there for sunset and sunrise.
I drove up to the Three Creeks Area, and as I steered my Jeep onto the narrow, rutted road leading into the Park Meadow trailhead, I found three backpackers hugging the side of the road. Knowing that it was a long way to the trailhead (and guessing that they must be from out of town), I stopped and asked them if they wanted a lift. They were somewhat surprised to hear that they weren’t actually on the trail yet, so they happily climbed in. On the drive to the trailhead, I learned that they were here visiting for a few days from Idaho, and that they had read somewhere that Park Meadow was a nice hike. I tried to be polite, but I also felt somewhat compelled to explain to them that the Park Meadow trail is perhaps one of my least favorites in all of Oregon. While the meadow itself is beautiful, the approach is absolutely horrible. Hikers are basically stuck in the woods on a deep, dusty, horse-trodden trail for 4 viewless miles until they finally reach the meadow—which this late in the year probably wasn’t even going to have flowers.
I reviewed several other trail options with them during the drive, and explained that I had found a new way into some different meadows which were equally pretty. I invited them to tag along with me if they wanted, but I also warned them that the route would be almost entirely off trail and that I wasn’t actually 100 percent sure where I was going. They quickly weighed their options and decided that since they only had one day of their vacation remaining, a dusty viewless hike was probably going to be better than getting lost in the wilderness with some stranger. I can’t really blame them for that.
The Idahoans and I wished each other luck and then we parted ways at the parking area. I was still thinking about what a nice conversation I had with them when my views opened up from the back side of Broken Top all the way across to the Three Sisters Mountains. I had walked less than a half-mile, and I was already getting good views confirming that I had indeed made the right choice. In another mile or so, I found the stream that I was looking for and began my cross-country trek up to the meadows.
The stream was much prettier than expected. There were Indian paintbrush and monkey flowers flanking both sides of the stream and although this was not my primary destination, I knew that the scene was just too beautiful to pass up. I swung my backpack around, unloaded my tripod, and then tip toed across the water to a large collection of flowers situated in the middle of one of the upstream forks.
Recognizing that the sun was dropping low on the horizon, I snapped a few quick pictures and then started hiking briskly up toward the meadows. When I arrived in the meadow, I saw the same large stands of monkey flowers that I had found on my last visit. I hurried over to them so that I could get my camera set up before the light faded, but unfortunately, the closer that I got to them, the more confusing the whole scene became. The stands of monkey flowers were at least 3 feet across, but all of their blooms were gone. I just stared at them for awhile, dazed and wondering why in the world someone would pick all of the flowers from the bushes when it finally dawned on me that I wasn’t the first one to find the flowers. Deer had obviously gotten to the stands before me and they had eaten every last bloom off of my precious bushes. I searched around the area and found a few small stands of flowers that the deer had apparently left behind for a midnight snack so I did the best I could with the scene and then started adjusting my plans.
Knowing that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to spend the night in this area, I decided that I would hike across the high alpine meadows and then drop down into Golden Lake, which is a somewhat secret spot located above the Park Meadow area. The hike was longer than I remembered and by the time that I started my descent into the meadows around Golden Lake, the sun had already sank into the ocean on the backside of the mountains. I set up my tent in the pitch black darkness and quickly fell asleep, exhausted and somewhat frustrated that the day had not worked out as planned—but also hopeful that when the morning arrived, I would be able to shoot Broken Top mountain reflecting in a calm Golden Lake.
The next morning, I awoke with a chill. I stepped outside into the below zero temperature and shivered over to the lake’s shore only to find that my reflection picture was not going to happen either. The lake’s surface had frozen solid over night. Determined to find something worthy of shooting, I worked my way down the lake’s outlet stream to a spot that has been reliably good to me in the past, but again, I found that the normally abundant monkey flowers were mostly missing.
The light that morning wasn’t really as good as I wanted either, so I went back to camp, swallowed a few cups of coffee, and then started working my way back to the Jeep via the dreaded Park Meadow trail. The hike out was at least as bad as I remembered and by the time I reached the parking area, I began to wonder whether I had sufficiently described the disappointing nature of the trail to the backpackers that I met on my way in. Then, as I approached my vehicle, I could see something scrawled into the dust on my back window. As I got closer, I could see that it was the panhandle shape of Idaho and that it had a huge smiley face in the middle of it with a note that read “We had a wonderful time. Thanks for all of your help.”
That’s when I remembered just how lucky we are to live in Central Oregon. We have so many wonderful hiking options here that even some of the places that don’t rank among our favorites will still be considered beautiful by people who live in other areas of the country. I climbed smilingly into my vehicle and then realized that actually, I had managed to have a pretty good time too. I didn’t get the money shot that I was hoping for, but I was lucky enough to spend another night in the mountains and that’s nothing to complain about—even if it requires a hike down the Park Meadow trail.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: After my trip, the road leading to the original Park Meadow trailhead was closed. Hikers are now required to park along Three Creeks Road and walk down the rough, dusty road to the old trailhead. The new trailhead location adds about 2.5 miles of suffering to what is already a very arduous hike, and I suspect this decision will significantly reduce the number of people willing to hike on this trail (or ever recommend to anyone else). If you’re not happy about the new trailhead location, I strongly urge you to contact the Forest Service and let them know how you feel.
This is an announcement that we’ve have been waiting to make for quite some time. Pacific Crest Stock has recently created a new Outdoor Adventure gallery that includes images of people interacting with the natural environment. At this point, we’re limiting our collection to photos of people participating in human-powered sports, such as hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and fly fishing. We’re working hard to expand our collection, and anticipate that we will be adding to the list of outdoor adventure sports in the near future. Just to give you a hint of what you’ll find in the new gallery, we have posted some of our favorite new Oregon stock photos below.
Sample Backcountry Skiing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Mountain Biking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Backpacking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Fly Fishing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Hiking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
We’re very excited about our new collection of stock photos, and we hope that you will be too. If you like what you see, please bookmark the new Outdoor Adventure gallery and check back often as it will be updated frequently. For licensing information, call us at 541-610-4815.
We quickly covered the two miles into the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow despite the many down lodgepole pines on the trail. Sadly, this will probably be a recurring theme on this specific trail because of the recent fires and because of the mountain pine beetles which are devastating pine forests across the western United States. We spent the night at the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow which was overflowing with wildflowers and has a couple beautiful streams flowing through it. I spent most of the evening scouting in the upper meadow for the shots I’d work on the next morning. I returned in time for the best freeze dried dinner(aren’t all meals in the backcountry the best ever?) It was Chili Mac with beef made by Mountain House. Delicious! Fortunately, I also returned to the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow for a stunning sunset which is pictured below.
Landscape photography was unrewarding the next morning because of the heavily overcast skies and the very flat light. It’s the curse of the Oregon Landscape Photographer. Great effort combined with poor light is a frustrating. It was also very windy, making it impossible to shoot any of the amazing flower scenes in the upper meadow. As the photography conditions were poor, the day was dedicated to family. We moved to a great campsite in area of the Upper Canyon Creek Meadow(but not in the meadow) and spent most of the day playing in the frigid waters of Canyon Creek. Below is a picture of Emma balancing above Canyon Creek, an activity that entertained her for hours.
Between the activities of balance beam competitions, chasing frogs, swatting mosquitoes, and lounging in the Alpine glory of Three Fingered Jack, the day quickly passed. The next morning started a little windy and overcast, but the clouds blew over and the wind died down making for a landscape photographer’s nirvana. Amazing wildflowers at their seasonal peak with the awesome backdrop of the towering Three Fingered Jack. Below are a few of the Landscape photos I captured that morning.
I shot the above scene extensively with my large format camera in hopes of capturing a winning fine art print. To see some of my finished large format photographs from this trip to Three fingered Jack hike Canyon Creek Meadow. The film isn’t finished developing but I’m optimistic! The Following scene, was a little simpler, but no less rewarding because of its interesting clouds, excellent textures, colors, and impact.
I took dozens of other photos of the amazing lupine meadows in the Upper Meadow. If you are interested in seeing more of those images, please visit my personal website by visiting, Bend, Oregon Photographer. After I finished photographing the Upper Meadow, we reluctantly packed up camp and headed for home in Bend, Oregon. Below is one last photo of our little family leaving our camp site and hiking back home.
The Canyon Creek Meadows are not always as flower filled as they were this year, but they are always a beautiful destination. If you care to backpack into this wonderful alpine basin, please respect the meadow and wildflowers and do not camp directly in the meadows as they are very fragile and will quickly perish with the pressure of camping. Instead camp in the hills located east of the upper meadow or in the Lower Meadow of Canyon Creek. To view another more recent photograph of Three Fingered Jack, captured in autumn, visit, Three Fingered Jack.
If you are interested in licensing any of the images in this blog entry, or you would like to see more images from Canyon Creek Meadows, please contact us through our Pacific Crest Stock Website.
Thanks For Visiting,
By: Mike Putnam
I made several trips to the Cascade Lakes Highway this spring, as I do every spring. For those of you who haven’t made this short drive(about 20 miles from Bend, Oregon) you should do it. The highway is lined with beautiful lakes such as Todd Lake(the highest of the Cascade Lakes), the famed and very photogenic Sparks Lake, and the often under appreciated Elk Lake. While my father in-law, Kenny Scholz was in Bend earlier this spring, I coerced him to join me in an evening photo shoot which involved Sparks Lake and Elk Lake. One of the earliest and best photography scenes to develop along the Cascade Lakes Highway, is along the exposed shores of Sparks Lake. This area gets lots of sun and in its marshy areas, it usually has a profusion of yellow buttercups covering that area. Well, I think that is changing. This particular marshy area along Sparks Lake is changing rapidly. The buttercups are being replaced by grasses which I assume is part of an evolutionary process. Regardless, I didn’t get my yellow buttercup flowers this year!
While I didn’t have great flowers for this shot, I did have nice clouds, making this photo worthy of this beautiful area of Central Oregon. Mt. Bachelor with a fair amount of snow makes for a pleasant backdrop for this photograph. Next up for Kenny and I was a quick stop at Elk Lake where, years ago , I shot the following photo with my 4X5 camera. To read more about this beautiful image captured along the Cascade Lake Scenic Byway, Visit, Elk Lake Photo.
Unfortunately, this scene no longer exists, as this particular flower meadow has largely been replaced with non-flowering grasses. Instead of visiting this changing meadow, I took Kenny to the Elk Lake Resort. Elk Lake has a long history of boating and particularly sailing, which I understand my photo partner, Troy has taken up since his recent housing move. Below is a photo of the marina at Elk Lake with Mount Bachelor in the background. As you can see, Mount Bachelor was well covered with a rapidly changing cloud cap.
I like the texture and color that the canoes and kayaks lend to the foreground of this Elk Lake photo. The sail boats in the mid-ground also add another attractive element. I’m not sure which sail boat is Troy’s. Kenny and I thoroughly enjoyed our stop at the marina which is a great place to visit for kids and families when driving the Cascade Lakes Highway.
Another of my favorite locations along the Cascade Lakes Highway is Todd Lake. Todd lake is the highest of the Cascade Lakes at 6,150 feet of elevation. It requires a short and non strenuous 1/4 mile hike to view its 29 acres of alpine beauty. It is stocked with Brook Trout and can offer some exciting fishing for 8-10 inch fish. My most recent visit to Todd Lake was made with my daughter and hiking buddy, Emma. She and most kids are fond of Todd Lake because of it’s many streams, and the proliferation of small toads along it’s shore line which I believe are referred to as “Western Toads”. Not a terribly exciting name but they are cute and fun for kids.
Regardless of photographic conditions along Todd Lake, it is a beautiful and simple Lake to explore. During our visit, we found some pleasant clouds hovering about Mt. Bachelor, so that was the object of much of my photo efforts. While were there, it was still fairly early in the wildflower season, so some of the species we saw blooming included Marsh marigolds Jeffrey’s Shooting Stars, and lots of buttercups.
Along the southern edges of Todd Lake, there are often thick stands of marsh marigolds, an early indicator of spring in the Oregon Cascades.
Marsh Marigolds are one of my favorite early spring flowers because of their delicate appearance and because they suggest that dramatic alpine flower meadows will soon start to bloom. If anyone knows what kind of bug is in the above photo, please let me know. After cavorting around along Todd Lake’s shores, Emma and I hiked upward for an overview of Todd Lake. Because of the large number of dead lodgepole pine trees around Todd Lake and all of the Cascade Lakes, it is becoming more and more difficult to capture great photos in this area. These pine trees are being killed by the mountain pine beetle which bore through and under the pine tree’s bark, weakening the tree’s natural defenses. These beetles are considered to be part of the natural life cycle of the lodgepole pine. They are not considered to be part of the life cycle of the ponderosa pine and we are beginning to see a few ponderosa trees killed by this destructive creature. This is a huge concern for foresters and any outdoor advocates that enjoy healthy stands of native trees. Below is a photo largely devoid of any dying or infested lodgepoles. Unfortunately, I anticipate that this rather pristine scene will become less common in the next couple years as the mountain pine beetle continues to infest a wider area.
The following set of photos was captured at Sparks Lake while I was being swarmed by flesh ripping mosquitoes. If you go to Sparks Lake or any of the Cascade Lakes, bring some heavy duty mosquito repellent as they are horrendous this year. The following image of Broken Top Mountain has a foreground of Jeffrey’s shooting stars in the foreground. I’m fond of their vibrant colors and distinctive shapes.
Part of the beauty of exploring Sparks Lake is that one can make a new discovery with every new visit. I had intended to shoot from the Ray Atkeson memorial trail on this particular evening but it was somewhat windy, eliminating any chance of a reflection in Sparks Lake, and there were no clouds around South Sister to lend interest to the scene. Extensive exploring and wading through very cold waters eventually led me to this scene, one I wasn’t expecting but that I enjoyed very much, despite the ongoing mosquito assault on my DEET covered skin. Wading through some of these streams did take some commitment. As any man can attest, wading in cold water beyond a certain depth can become acutely uncomfortable. Well I exceeded that depth! In other words, I earned these shots with some level of physical suffering. The following shot of Mt. Bachelor was captured from the same general area of Sparks Lake. To view a gorgeous sunrise shot that I captured from the shores of Sparks Lake, visit my personal website, Bend Oregon Photographer.
If you have any interest in licensing these or any of our many other images from the Cascade Lakes Highway area, please visit our primary stock photography website at Pacific Crest Stock .
Thanks for Visiting,
By: Mike Putnam
Henry David Thoreau once said, “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” If Thoreau was correct, then I think Oregon’s Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area could be considered a virtual fountain of youth, because in my experience, it is almost impossible to visit this area without being overwhelmed with enthusiasm. In fact, anyone who peruses our photo galleries on Pacific Crest Stock probably can’t help but notice that Mike Putnam and I have a great deal of enthusiasm for the meadows and valleys surrounding Mount Jefferson. It really doesn’t matter if you are hiking into Jefferson Park, Coffin Mountain, or the Cathedral Rocks Canyon, there is almost no way to go wrong . . . as long as your camera works when you get there.
A few years ago, I was hurrying around in preparation for a day hike into Jefferson Park. It was mid-August and I knew that the meadows around Russell Lake would be overflowing with flowers. As I ran frantically from room to room in the house gathering up all of my equipment, I set my camera backpack on the kitchen counter. On one of my passes back through the kitchen, I quickly filled a Nalgene bottle, and slid it into the mesh pocket on the side of my backpack. The weight of the water bottle immediately caused my backpack to shift and tumble from the counter top down to the hard slate floor. I lunged to catch the pack, but by the time I had a grasp on its top strap, the bottom of the bag had already crashed into the ground. I said a few choice words and then gave my camera a quick inspection. Everything looked fine. Whew!
I loaded my gear into the Jeep and started making my way to the Whitewater trailhead just up the road from Detroit Lake. I ended up starting the 10-mile round trip hike later than anticipated and after a steep climb to the top of the first ridge, I realized that I needed to run if I wanted to make it to the meadows and still have time to get out of the woods before dark. NOTE: Now is probably a good time to mention that I really despise running. Many of my friends are exceptional runners; they actually claim to love it. But me, I’m just not a runner. Give me a bike or some skate skis, but please never ask me to run.
I reluctantly jogged a few hundred yards up the trail and then I temporarily slowed to a brisk hike as I contemplated whether or not I really had enough time to cover all of the ground in front of me even if I was able to run the whole way. But then, images of Jefferson Park in full bloom consumed my thoughts and convinced me that I could definitely make it . . . as long as I would be willing to run. And with that, I picked up my trekking poles and started the very miserable task of trail running up 1800 vertical feet of backcountry trails with a heavy backpack and worn out boots. Up over the ridges; around the corners; and through the creek crossings. I ran the whole way into Jefferson Park.
As soon as I got to the meadows in Jefferson Park, I could see that my timing was perfect. The purple lupine and Indian paintbrush were in their most glorious states. I rushed through the maze of flower-filled trails that lead to Russell Lake and found the perfect spot along one its tributaries. Mount Jefferson was being gently lit by the westerly sun, and with that majestic mountain looming directly overhead, I carefully set up my tripod, composed the shot, and pressed the shutter button. But nothing happened. I checked the power button; the camera was on. I took the camera off of the tripod and checked the battery compartment; the battery was where it belonged. I took the battery in and out and turned the power switch on and off multiple times, but nothing could bring my camera back to life. Then, as I was spinning the camera around, I noticed that one of the bottom corners was badly dented and I remembered how my camera had fallen off the kitchen counter earlier in the day. Realizing that the camera had been ruined and that I jogged all of the way into Jefferson Park for nothing, I took my cell phone out of my pocket, pointed it at the mountain, hung my head in disgrace and clicked a single low-resolution digital phone picture.
Then, I started walking—not running—back to my Jeep.
NOTE: If you want to see additional images from the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, you can browse our pictures in the Mountain gallery on Pacific Crest Stock or search the site for “Mount Jefferson.”
Earlier this spring(2009) My daughter, Emma and I had one of our many Daddy/Daughter days when My wife, Debbie was working . As is often the case, we decided that a hike would be a pleasant way to pass the day. I noticed some interesting clouds in the area slightly northwest of Bend, so I decided that a drive to Tumalo Reservoir would be a worthwhile journey for both Emma and I. The views of Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Mountains are great from Tumalo Reservoir and from some areas of the reservoir, the Sisters are nicely reflected in the water.
The above photo of Tumalo Reservoir taken on a different morning shows the Three Sisters nicely reflected.
Part of the reason that I felt Tumalo Reservoir would be a good destination was because Emma enjoys playing around water and the last time she and I had been there, we had seen several snakes which frightened but intrigued her. She’d been pining to see the snakes again but from a distance.
As we drove into the area, we crossed over a bridge at the east end of the reservoir where I stopped and captured the following image.
Pleasant clouds and an interesting shoreline had already made this a worthy day-trip. Only one thing troubled me. There was a mother and two children playing along the shores of the lake, occasionally interfering with my landscape photography. They seemed to be pleasantly playing but they weren’t helping my cause. Emma and I hiked along the southern edge of the reservoir until the mother and children were out of the way. The photos from that part of the hike were not inspirational but we did have a bit of excitement. First, I’ll give you a bit more background. My daughter, Emma is definitely a Girly-Girl. I mean this in the sweetest way possible. She loves clothes, she loves dolls, she fusses with hairstyles constantly. To sum up, she is no Tom-boy. Despite her girly ways, she does enjoy controlled adventures. Well on this day, the banks of the Reservoir were especially muddy. While I was taking pictures of the Three Sisters, Emma got bogged down in mud and lost a shoe. We were both entertained and decided it was best to not get too close to the water’s edge. After I’d gotten the photos I wanted, we worked our way back to where we’d parked. Along the way, I scouted some more photos. While taking one last shot, I heard a feminine screech, which could only come from one person and it could only mean one thing. Emma had seen a snake! She was simultaneously terrified and thrilled. Unfortunately, I was too slow with my camera and I missed this hilarious photo opportunity. With my moral support, she wanted to find another snake. She soon got her wish! As this snake wasn’t a surprise, there were no shrill screeches to fill the air!
As we approached the canal at the east end of the reservoir, we once again saw the Mother and her two children, the oldest of which was a little girl about Emma’s age. They were on the opposite side of the muddy canal when the older child said what I thought was “should I catch them a snake, Mommy?” Knowing that my ears had deceived me, we continued on towards the car. The little girl began scurrying along the the shore and in the water with a flurry of activity. Emma and I were intrigued. The little girl then proceeded to wade waste deep across the mud bottomed canal. The same canal that held shoe-sucking quick sand and flesh eating snakes! She was absolutely intrepid and totally indifferent to any aquatic obstacles in her way. As she neared us, Emma’s eyes widened to unprecedented widths! The little girls hands were full of sticks, No……They were full of snakes!
Keep in mind that I don’t have any kind of snake phobia, but I don’t like them surprising me either. Well this enchanting and fearless little girl was completely unfazed about the snakes writhing around her arms. As she shared her find, the snakes became completely calm in her hands. She explained that they were very friendly and that we should hold them. Emma almost had a heart attack! Eventually I worked up the courage to hold one snake and indeed it eventually calmed in my hand. Emma took a little more cajoling. Below is a photo of Emma building the courage to touch one of the snake charmers’ pets.
Obviously, Emma is excited and hesitant while the snake-handling nymph is completely at ease with the snakes. I was astounded! After many minutes of confidence building exercises, Emma eventually summoned the courage to hold a solitary snake.
I was very proud of her and I was simply amazed by the unknown little girl who was fearless and charming at the same time. For entertainment purposes, scroll up to the snake charmer and back down to Emma to assess their different comfort levels.
If anybody who reads this blog entry happens to know who the snake charming nymph of Tumalo Reservoir is, please contact me as I’d like to thank her and her mother for sharing with us. She was enchanting, charming, polite, personable, fearless, and entertaining. She truly brightened our day and the whole event was something that Emma and I will remember forever. Thanks!
To view more Central Oregon landscape photography of the Three Sisters and Tumalo Reservoir, please visit our stock photography site, Pacific Crest Stock Photography
by: Mike Putnam
The climb up to the South Face of Three Fingered Jack is one of those ruggedly difficult hikes that is better measured in hours than miles. I have attempted to summit this ridge many times over the last few winters, but Mother Nature has always intervened in one way or another to keep me from making it to the top. My first few attempts were thwarted by disastrous route choices in which my journey ended abruptly at the bottom of cliffs that could not be navigated, and my next several trips ended a few feet from the summit when clouds or storms moved in that either covered the mountain or tried to blow me off of its edge. I tried again a few weeks ago (see previous blog entry), but the conditions were too difficult on that day and it ended up taking me much longer than anticipated. After many hours of tough climbing, I was forced to turn around less than a mile from the top.
Determined to finally make it to the summit before sunset, I drove over to Santiam Pass and started hiking around noon. My ultimate goal was to be on the summit for sunset pictures, but honestly, the conditions didn’t look that great from a photography perspective, and secretly, I was really just hoping to finally make it to the top . . . even it mean that all I could do was scout around for future photo expeditions. Because I couldn’t camp on the summit overnight, I also knew that being there for sunset meant that I would need to hike out long after dark. While packing up my gear, I decided to bring skis with me figuring that skiing back down the slopes would save me precious time on my return trip. That decision was probably a good one, but the added weight from my skis and boots came with consequences. Consequences that occurred to me as I took my first step and felt my snowshoe sink through the soft, Spring snow. The whole idea of snowshoes is that they help distribute your weight over a greater surface area, which allows you to float on top of the snow rather than post-holing through it. Each snowshoe has a certain weight limit though, and once you throw a heavy pack onto your back and start hiking through warm, mid-day slush, all bets are off on whether or not the snowshoe will actually be able to hold up its end of the bargain. On this day, the snowshoes did not necessarily work as designed. They functioned fine some of the time, but I could never allow myself to get fully confident in them because every fourth or fifth step, the snow would give way and I would suddenly feel my weight dropping into a knee-deep hole.
The added difficulty from repeatedly sinking through the snow was further compounded by the fact that there is no trail leading to the summit. There are occasional views of the mountain during the approach, but for the most part, it’s just a gamble on whether or not you are actually heading in the right direction. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I have done the hike enough times in the winter to know that the most direct route is not the correct route. Through repeated trial and error, I have learned that the best way to reach the summit is to hike several miles to the east before ever attempting to go north toward the mountain. Heading straight toward the mountain only ends in frustration at the fore-mentioned cliff band, while looping around from the east allows you to get on top of a ridgeline that winds its way to the summit. After about two hours of climbing through open glades, I finally made it to the top of this ridge where I was greeted with a partial view of Three Fingered Jack.
When looking at the picture above, it is important to remember that distances can be incredibly deceiving in the mountains. It’s kind of like being in Las Vegas and thinking that the casino “just over there” is within walking distance. Anyone who tries to walk around in Vegas soon realizes that the casinos there are so massive that the distances between them become nearly impossible to judge. Even after an hour of walking toward the casino that you thought was just a few minutes away, it seems as if you are no closer to it than when you started. That’s what it’s like in the mountains, except that the mountains are even bigger than casinos, and sadly, there are no cocktail waitresses when you finally get there.
Although it doesn’t look like it would be possible, the summit of that snow-covered ridge in front of Three Fingered Jack is almost three hours away. And those last three hours are some of the most difficult and challenging hours of hiking that you will find anywhere. One of the features that makes the hike so difficult is that the route to the top is littered with hundreds of strange and impossible-to-navigate snow formations. Winter storms fill the backcountry with winds blowing at incredible speeds, and over time, these winds sculpt the snow drifts into all sorts of bizarre shapes. There are snow fields on this ridge with huge waves of snow that look like something from a Dr Seuss movie. Each wave is like a 12-foot ocean swell that is frozen in place. And there will be one wave after another, with no way around them but to backtrack and find a new route. The photo above shows one example of what I’m talking about. It also demonstrates how the waves are topped with huge cornices of snow. These cornices are incredibly unstable and can break off and bury you without a sound if you make the foolish mistake of trying to climb up and over them rather than going around them.
In addition to all of the extra time and effort that it takes to backtrack around the snow swells, it becomes almost impossible to maintain a decent pace because the general pitch of the climb increases dramatically near the top. After seeing the cornices precariously perched on the open-side of ridge, I decided to make my approach from within the tree line shown in the left-hand side of the photo above. I chose this route because I was fairly concerned about avalanche conditions on the open, wind-packed side and because the trees gave me something to grab on to when the pitch became too steep to otherwise climb. I spent the next few hours rhythmically working my way up through the trees. Basically, I would make a series of kick steps into the vertical face of the ridge until I had a solid foot hold, then I would drop down to one knee for added stability in the snow while reaching my opposite hand up to the nearest tree branch in an attempt to pull my body up the hill as far as possible, all of the while trying to keep my skis (which were strapped to the outside of my backpack) from getting tangled in all of the other low-hanging branches. Trust me, it was about as much fun as it sounds . . . but eventually, I made it to the top.
I was immensely relieved to have finally made it to the summit. Unfortunately, high clouds had moved in from the West and partially covered the sun, and there were gale force winds howling along the top of the ridge. No matter, though. I was on top and that was all that mattered to me at the moment. Since the clouds were producing flat lighting conditions when I first arrived, I spent some time exploring along the top of the ridge in an attempt to find some interesting foreground compositions.
I eventually found a spot I liked and set up my tripod. Then, I sat down and took a well-deserved rest while listening to The Tallest Man on Earth on my iPod and hoping that the sun would eventually break through and give me some warmer light on the mountain. Unfortunately, the light never got better than “lukewarm” and after an hour or so of waiting in the wind on top of the ridge it looked like my chances for a good sunset photograph of Three Fingered Jack were diminishing.
Rather than waiting for sunset and then needing to ski out at midnight, I decided that it would probably be best for me to start my descent early. I followed my snowshoe tracks back down below the avalanche line and with the sun setting behind Maxwell Butte, I changed out of my snowshoes and into my ski boots. I had some doubts about this decision after the first few tele-turns flooded my sore leg muscles with lactic acid, but over time, I eventually grew numb to the burning pain in my legs and I started enjoying some of the best (if slightly wobbly) glade skiing that I have done in years. I survived a few close encounters with trees on my return trip, but overall, it was a very enjoyable ski and it suddenly seemed worthwhile to have packed my heavy skis and boots all of the way to the top. I arrived at the Jeep about an hour after sunset, and even though I didn’t quite get the photos that I was hoping for, I was filled with the satisfaction of knowing that I finally made it to the top. And now that I know that I can make it to the top, there’s nothing stopping me from trying it again. I’ll keep you posted.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see more pictures from this day, you can browse our “Cascade Mountains” gallery or search the main Pacific Crest Stock photography site for “Three Fingered Jack.”
I just made a trip down to the Visit Bend Office in downtown Bend, Oregon to pick up a copy of their new Bend, Oregon visitor’s guide. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, one of our photographs graces the cover of this year’s guide and the whole thing looks great! To visit the previous blog entry regarding the cover shot which is of Mt. Jefferson and a gorgeous meadow of alpine wildflowers high up in the Mt. Jefferson wilderness area please click here. Mt. Jefferson cover shot . A sincere thanks goes out to Doug, Lynnette, Laurel, and the rest of the team at Visit Bend for selecting our image for their cover shot and for being great people to work with during this project. They have all proven to be personable, efficient, and talented people to work with and to know. I also mentioned in a previous blog entry that this cover is a special honor because both Troy and myself are both such big boosters of Bend and the entire Central Oregon area. For people like us who love the outdoors, there is no finer place to live and to represent the area we love in some small way is a huge honor.
The Visit Bend offices are located at 917 NW Harriman St. in Downtown Bend Oregon. They are a great resource for information about the whole Central Oregon Area so stop by say hello to their friendly staff, view some of their beautiful art work (My Fine art prints are displayed there!) and grab a copy of their new bend area tourism guide with one of our Pacific Crest Stock images on the cover. We hope they are as excited about the cover as we are. Also you can visit their very attractive website at Visit Bend. to see more of our grat landscape images, please also visit our main stock photography site at Pacific Crest Stock. Thanks for visiting!
It was a simple plan, really. Backpack into the base of Three Fingered Jack for a little snow camping, and hopefully get some good sunrise photos. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a bloody tree-riddled ride down an icy slope for one. Hmmm . . . I didn’t really see that coming.
Summer had arrived early in Bend, Oregon and I had the itch to go exploring in the backcountry. From a photography perspective, it is always tempting to get into the high alpine areas in early summer while there is still a lot of snow on the mountains, so I did a little scouting along the forest service roads outside of Sisters, Oregon and determined that I could drive most of the way into Jack Lake, which is the primary access point for Canyon Creek Meadows and Three Fingered Jack Mountain. The southeast-facing road leading up to Jack Lake is usually one of the first to melt off every year, and in early summer, hikers can usually drive up to the last big north-facing curve in the road– which is only a mile or two short of the trailhead. While going early in the year adds a few extra miles to the total hiking distance, it’s not a bad trade off for the added solitude that it provides. Plus, it’s always kind of fun knowing that you are one of the first to make it into the area for the year.
I parked the Jeep at the curve where snow was still drifting across the road, creating a steep ramp that sloped off the edge of the hill. I contemplated trying to 4-wheel it through the corner, but the sloping angle of snow and ice just looked a little too intimidating and I could easily picture the back of my truck loosing grip and sliding off the edge of the cliff and down into the valley below. It didn’t seem worth the risk just to save a few extra miles of hiking so I strapped on my snowshoes and started hiking toward Jack Lake. There’s a nice view of Three Fingered Jack from the lake, after which, the trail climbs gradually through a relatively dense forest of Fir trees and into the meadows near the base of the mountain. Although the trail was completely snow-covered, I have been fortunate to make this hike many times in the past and I have several waypoints saved in my GPS, which makes it very easy to find my way into the meadows.
I arrived in the lower meadow a few hours before sunset, but while I was hiking through the forest, thick clouds had moved in from the east and completely obstructed my view of the mountain. The clouds were hanging just a few hundred feet off of the valley floor, and as I started trying to formulate a backup photography plan that accounted for the possibility of morning clouds (i.e., no sunrise picture opportunities from the meadows), I remembered that the Pacific Crest Trail runs along the top of the ridge to my immediate right and that there were some really interesting views of Jack’s pinnacles from up on that ridge. I have a waypoint saved in my GPS of a “secret” climbers trail that traverses from the far end of the upper meadow to the ridge top, but this time of year, I knew that there was no way I would be able to make it up the steep climb and I was a little worried that I might trigger an avalanche if I attempted that route. Rather than taking the route from the upper meadow, I decided to try to find an easier way to the top by approaching the ridge from the lower meadow.
Within a few minutes of leaving the lower elevation meadow, I had climbed my way into the overhanging clouds. The temperature dropped precipitously inside the cloud bank, and I soon found myself covered with a fine, frozen mist. Fortunately, the heat that I generated while struggling to climb up the steep pitch with a 40-pound backpack more than offset the drop in external temperature. I picked and chose my way to the summit, hiking in and out of woods and rock slides until I finally made it to the top of the ridge. With virtually no visibility on top, I started hiking blindly west along the ridge top, sometimes following a knife-like cliff band that dropped several hundred feet on both sides. Given the steep exposure on each side of the cliff, I was frequently forced to take off my backpack and heave it up and over various ledges rather than attempting to awkwardly navigate the rocky scramble with it on my back. I finally arrived to an area that I recognized, and just before sunset, the clouds parted around Three Fingered Jack long enough for me to capture the following image.
Soaking wet and exhausted from the climb, I searched around the edge of the ridge until I found a small, fairly level snow-free area for me to set up my tent and then I crawled in and immediately crashed for the night. It seemed like I had just fallen asleep when my watch started beeping–alarming me that it was time to peak outside to check sunrise conditions. It was a bitterly cold morning, but fortunately, the prior night’s clouds were completely cleared out and the mountain was rising above me in all of its glory. I reluctantly crawled out of my toasty warm sleeping bag and into ice cold boots to start scouting the area for the best sunrise compositions. I was barely awake, so I collected up some coffee and my backpacking stove, Java Press, and camera gear and then stumbled toward the mountain until I found an attractive composition. I had just begun trying to warm my hands around a fresh cup of coffee when the first light of the day landed on the pinnacles of Three Fingered Jack.
It was the perfect morning for taking pictures. I hiked back and forth along the ridge line shooting the mountain from every conceivable angle until I felt as if I had done all I could with my current location. Then, I went back to camp, loaded up the rest of my gear and started mentally planning my return trip. I wasn’t too excited about trying to re-negotiate my way along the knife-thin ridge that I had followed the previous night, and after seeing the hard-packed snow on the slopes closer to the mountain, I was much less concerned about triggering an avalanche there, so I decided that I would make my way down the westerly route and into Canyon Creek Meadows for a few final photographs and then back out to the Jeep.
My plan worked fine for about 5 or 10 minutes until I lost focus, and accidentally stepped onto the back of my own snowshoe while descending the steep slope. That little misstep immediately sent me hurling head first down the hill. My water bottle shot out of the side pocket on my backpack and rocketed past my head and down the slope in front of me. As I watched it ricochet off of the trees a few hundred feet below, I fought to roll myself over to my side and dug in the edges of my snowshoes to stop my sliding. Both forearms were bleeding from scraping along the ice, but otherwise, I had escaped without any serious injury. Still, I was in no hurry to repeat that episode, so I left my water bottle to fend for itself and started traversing across the slope, using short careful steps. Traversing the steep, icy slope was much easier said than done, and less than half away across the open snow field, my left snowshoe lost purchase and I again found myself sliding uncontrollably. I shifted all of my weight uphill as I started to slide and between the force of losing my balance and the added weight of my backpack, the hiking pole in my right hand dug into the snow just enough to bend it at nearly a 90 degree angle.
Within seconds, I had slid into the tree line below, bouncing feet-first off the trees like a pinball. As I bounced off of the trees, my eyes quickly took turns between focusing on the next tree in my path and shielding themselves from the tip of my newly bent, L-shaped aluminum hiking pole, which kept flirting dangerously close to my retina with each impact. I pin-balled off of four or five smaller trees until gravity eventually deposited me into a deep snowy tree well. Bloody, but relieved that I had survived without breaking my leg or piercing an eyeball, I strapped my snowshoes onto the back of my pack and eased my way down the rest of the slope . . . this time, staying in the trees and using them for balance as I worked my way down reaching from one branch to the next. I followed my GPS coordinates to the bottom of the climbers trail and then limped out to the upper meadows.
As I stared at the mountain from its base, I could see the southern ridge on the opposite side where I had almost died on a previous hike (see previous blog entry) and then I re-played the events in my mind that occurred to me that morning. I just sort of smiled and shook my head in disbelief as I thought about myself pin-balling down the slope in the distance, and then I hiked out to the Jeep singing ““Always gets a replay, never see him fall, [the pinball wizard] sure plays a mean pinball.”
Posted by Troy McMullin
This winter in Central Oregon has been fairly unpredictable and uneventful for me in terms of photography. I’ve gone out with good intentions on several days, but I just haven’t been able to capture many landscape photographs worthy of including on our Pacific Crest Stock photography pages. After a couple of failed attempts early in the season, I decided to try out some advice that I received from Dan Bryant, a good friend of mine who works in the advertising world. Dan and I have been best friends since we were kids. Today, he owns make-studio in Portland, Maine. Make-studio has worked with some of the country’s best photographers and they have done advertising and branding for many high-profile companies like Simms Fly-Fishing, Orvis, Nike, Nikon, Nordstrom, BMW, MTV, Timberland, Telluride Tourism, and the American Skiing Company. Given that Dan has had a very successful career as an art director, I figure that I should probably listen carefully to any and all advice that he offers. In one of our conversations this year, he mentioned that I should start trying to incorporate the human element into some of my stock photographs.
This concept of putting people into my shots is not something that comes easily for me. I’ve always been a nature and landscape photographer, and in fact, I have often gone to great extremes to make sure that I haven’t accidentally framed any people into my photographs. But then again, I haven’t had any other luck this winter, so I figured that I might as well give it a try. Since I’m not really sure what I’m doing at this point, I’ve basically just started dressing myself in a red or orange shirt for every photo expedition, just in case the conditions or locations don’t lend themselves to nature photography. I realize that the whole red shirt concept is a little trite (kind of like the requirement that all canoes used in advertising need to be red), and even though I’m certainly not ready to be America’s Next Top Model yet, I am starting to have some fun experimenting with this idea.
On my first “red shirt day,” I drove over to Santiam Pass in hopes of hiking into the slopes of Three Fingered Jack, but when I got there, the clouds were not cooperating. A large collection of fluffy clouds seemed stuck on the mountain’s pinnacles, so rather than spending six hours hiking through knee-deep snow just to get blanked by low-hanging clouds, I decided that I would take a shorter ski into the backcountry areas near Mount Washington. Once again, the clouds moved in and obstructed my views of Mount Washington, but since I was prepared with my nice shiny red shirt, I decided to set up my tripod in the snow and start experimenting with ways to incorporate myself into the shot. My favorite advertising photos are the ones where there is a hint of someone being there or doing something, but where the picture itself is not necessarily focused on the person. That was the main idea that I played around with while I was skiing, and although I didn’t get anything too magical, the chance to experiment with different positions at least opened up some photo opportunities that would not have otherwise been there on this particular day.
After skiing back to the Jeep that day, I decided to take advantage of the clouds—and our unique Central Oregon geography—by leaving the mountains and driving into some nearby desert rock formations for a few more shots. I found a nice collection of rocks above the Crooked River that provided open views back toward some of Smith Rock’s most dramatic cliffs. I balanced my tripod on one of the larger rocks, set the 10-second timer, and then scrambled out onto one of the other rocks overhanging the river. It took me about 11 seconds to get there on my first few attempts, but with some perseverance, I eventually got fast enough to get fully into frame. I didn’t really capture anything all that original in the desert either, but still, I wasn’t too disappointed since it was just my first day playing with this idea.
One of the nice things that I’m beginning to appreciate about this experiment is that it allows me to get out and photograph on days that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise tried. For example, I had some free time on one cold and rainy weekend in February, and even though there wasn’t really much of a draw to do anything outside, I decided to drive into Lake Billy Chinook and explore around some of the cliffs overlooking the lake. I knew that it was much too early in the season for pure landscape photography, but I loaded up my camera equipment anyway and went out with the idea of experimenting with the human element concept a little more. While I was there, I found several nice scenes that I would like to shoot later this year when the balsamroot flowers are blooming, and before I left, I took a few photographs of myself perched on the edge of one of the steep drop-offs. The composition isn’t quite as interesting as I would have liked, but then again, I didn’t trip and launch myself off of the cliff during any of my hurried attempts to get into the photograph, so I figured that was enough of a success.
One of the other good things about trying to include people in my images is that it opens up some locations that I would not have otherwise gone to because the scene itself would have felt too empty without someone in the picture. For example, there are several areas along the Middle Deschutes where I’ve always enjoyed hiking, but the scenes are not quite “full” enough for a good landscape photograph. They’re absolutely beautiful when you’re there, but they just don’t photograph that well unless you add something else interesting to the scene. The next two photographs were taken in one of those areas on the Deschutes River. I wish that I would have brought my fly rod with me (which I will do when I go back to re-shoot these later in the year), but I think these initial attempts are at least a good start, and they help demonstrate the value of adding the human element to an otherwise average-looking scene.
Sadly, this is just a small sampling of my winter failings. There were many more days this winter where my red shirt ended up being the only interesting thing in the scene. It happened again last weekend, when I tried once more to climb up onto the shoulder of Three Fingered Jack. After 4 hours of climbing up through deep, soft snow I ran out of time and I had to turn around. I was less than a mile from the top, but that last mile was straight up, and I knew there was no way I could make it to the summit and then back to the Jeep before dark, so I just took a couple of bad photographs of me and my red shirt standing in front of the ridge and headed back home.
That day at Three Fingered Jack would have been much better from a photography perspective (and probably from a safety standpoint) if someone else had been there hiking with me. The more I play with this experiment, the more I realize that it’s really difficult trying to be the photographer AND the model. My 40-yard dash time isn’t quite what it used to be, and there are many times that I simply can’t shoot the scene the way I would have liked because I can’t get to where I need to be in the 10-second time lapse before my shutter releases. If you live in the area and you feel like you would like to get in touch with your inner Zoolander, please send me an email. It would be really nice to have someone else to work with as a model. I suspect that it will involve a fair amount of suffering, and I can’t promise that you will end up on the cover of Outside magazine anytime soon, but I am fairly confident that we will at least have some fun. All you need is a red shirt.
Posted by Troy McMullin
We just opened a new image gallery on our main Pacific Crest Stock Photography site titled Oregon Winter Landscape Images. Because we’ve had some requests for scenic Oregon winter landscape images from photo editors, graphic designers and photography lovers we decided we’d better oblige. Some of the winter images are recent and some are from previous years but few have them have been licensed with any restrictions so if your interested in usage please contact us. Below are a few teaser images with some background information regarding what sacrifices in sleep, limbs, marital bliss, etc went into making the images. Below is one of the scenic stock images found in our new online gallery at Pacific Crest Stock. I captured this image at Tumalo State Park after a heavy winter snowfall. I chronicled this image in a previous post but the salient fact is that there were lots of big snow covered boulders and they frightened me. Frankly I don’t think I’d do it again especially since I already covered the scene pretty well during that expedition and dying alone is not my thing. If I do go back I would probably take Troy and have him go first.
The snow coverage on the trees and riparian bushes is great, the curvature of the Deschutes River adds an artistic touch and the ponderosa trunks in the background add some color and texture to the scene.
The following image requires a sad story, one of obsession and a forbidden lust for a familiar location. This image is Troy McMullin’s, my partner in Pacific Crest Stock. It’s a very attractive image of ”The Monument” at Smith Rock State Park. That’s not the sad part. The sadness lies in the fact that Troy has captured over 1,000 images from this exact same location over the last 9 months. It’s not healthy. He’s living in a self imposed photographic version of the movie Groundhog’s day and he doesn’t want the movie to end. I’m considering an intervention of some sort. If anyone has any suggestions as to how I might help my good friend Troy, please leave a comment at the end of this entry. Here is the image of beauty and sadness.
Enough of sadness and unhealthy obsessions. The following image is one of mine from near Sisters, Oregon. It is my favorite grove of ponderosa trees. They’ve got great color to their bark and have grown in a nice arrangement and the snow around them gives a great wintry feel to this scenic winter photo.
This shot was actually more difficult to capture than one might think. It was snowing very hard at the time I was taking pictures of this ponderosa grove and I was constantly fighting snowflakes and fog on my lens. because my exposures were relatively long the snow falling snow isn’t visible. This image and all of my images included in this entry are available as fine art prints on my print site at Mike Putnam Photography.
The next shot is another one of Troy’s which he captured high on the flanks of Mt. Washington. You might recognize it as it was previously included as a banner shot on the front page of this website. It is a very unique stock image in that very few people have ever been to this area of the Mt. Washington in winter. In fact, Troy’s image is the only one I’ve ever seen from this location. The reason that few if any other shots have been taken from here in winter is that it is really hard to get to and there are no good trails accessing the area. Troy gave a good accounting of what went into capturing this image on a previous blog entry, Troy’s Mt. Washington Story.
It really is a pleasure to discuss one of Troy’s images that don’t make me worry about his psychiatric health. The image above was simply an instance of Troy exploring a dangerous alpine area off trail in winter without telling anyone where he was going after taking my canon 5D camera without telling me. No need to worry about him , his lovely wife, or his adorable kids, right?
The following Oregon stock image is a hard earned photo of Central Oregon’s Three Sisters mountains and Broken Top as seen at sunrise from Tumalo Mountain, near Mt. Bachelor. I recounted what went into capturing this stock image in a recent blog entry Three Sisters Sunrise.
Last up is one of my not at all crazy image of a Red Osier Dogwood along the Deschutes River. I actually scouted this shot several times(not an unhealthy number of times) before I captured it in the middle of a winter snow storm with my large format 4×5 camera.
All of the images in this gallery are available for licensing as are many other great winter photos in out new Winter Stock Photos Gallery at Pacific Crest Stock. Please visit to see how beautiful our little corner of the world is in winter!
By: Mike Putnam
It’s been quite some time since I visited one of my favorite winter photo locations, Tumalo Mountain near Mt. Bachelor off of the Cascade Lakes Highway. Tumalo Mountain has long been a favorite of backcountry skiers and snowshoers for winter time fun and it’s also no secret amongst photographers. It’s location is key for all of these outdoor enthusiasts in that is located right next to Dutchman Flat snow park which incidentally is very close to the Mt. Bachelor ski area. Because Tumalo Mountain is very accessible by backcountry standards there is a common perception that it is an easy hike to the top and therefore a pleasant little stroll to the summit. For my purposes, this could not have been more wrong. Because I’m naturally an optimist my mind always manages to block out all the difficulties associated with stock photography in this or any winter location. I’ll walk you through what I consider to be a successful winter landscape photography outing and start off with the first image I captured last weekend.
It all starts the night before with checking my film supplies, laying out lots of extra layers of clothing, checking batteries, hand warmers, and most importantly setting the coffee maker timer to start brewing at 3:00 AM. I had been following the weather patterns for over a week and this appeared to be the only clear day in the immediate future so if I over slept, there would be no re-shoot for quite some time. This is why coffee was so important. I find that having the aroma of coffee emanating from my kitchen, I’m much more likely to get out of bed in a timely fashion. I call this an “Alpine Coffee Start”.
The wake-up went as well as can be expected with a 3:00AM alarm. I woke, embraced my favorite mug full of heavenly Java roasted by the good people at Strictly Organic Coffee right here in Bend and checked the weather. Yikes, it was Zero degrees at the base of Mount Bachelor where I’d start snowshoeing up Tumalo Mountain. I fought the urge to hop back in bed and drove to Dutchman’s Flat and started my climb. I knew it was cold when I climbed with all my layers, a fourty pound camera pack through 25 inches of cold,dry,fresh powder up hill and still couldn’t get warm until I put on my Down Jacket which is usually held in reserve until I stop climbing and start getting cold. I also activated three different handwarmers which were almost as pleasant as my coffee from 20 minutes before. I huffed and puffed and eventually sweated, perhaps cursed and kept climbing until the snow on the trees got better, making for an eye catching foreground. Luckily I’d given myself 90 minutes to climb and scout a location and set up my first shot of the day. It took every one of those 90 minutes to find my first and only photo location of the day which is not too bad for an 87 year old man in those difficult and frigid climbing conditions. The embarrassment lies in the fact that I’m not 87 years old! Below is probably my favorite composition from that morning on Tumalo Mountain.
I like how the sunlight had changed to a warmer, more yellow color between the first and second images from this morning. I also prefer this second image because of how nicely the snow flocked tree frame the distant mountains but most of all I like the trees themselves. A secret of winter photography is good snow. I know this sounds obvious but it is very true. Anyone can take a winter photo but it takes work and planning or lots of luck to get a great winter photograph. Most great images need a foreground of some sort. Winter images need a winter foreground. If the snow has melted off or blown off of the trees then you lose much of the punch in any winter image. This means that your best chance of a great winter image is probably immediately after a winter storm and hopefully not too windy of a storm. It should also be at sunrise or before as the sun will quickly warm the trees and melt off the snow that helped complete the image.
Minutes after I composed and captured this landscape image a heavy cloud bank began to swirl around Tumalo Mountain and obscure my view of both Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters. With the clouds came a stiff, frigid wind and rime ice began forming all over my outer layers of clothing. An already cold outing developed into what my in-laws from New England would call a “Wicked -Cold” outing. I quickly snapped the following image of Broken Top in between cloud swirls and retreated down the mountain as I began loosing the feeling in both my fingers and toes.
I had hoped to capture a few photos of Mt. Bachelor that morning but it was not meant to be as the only cloud in Central Oregon was positioned between Tumalo Mountain and Mt. Bachelor, completely obscuring my view. As I descended the hand warmers brought a tingle back to my fingers but my toes continued to be lifeless bricks. At that point I vowed to get some warmer boots for snowshoeing. I made the parking lot as the first few backcountry skiers of the day were pulling into Dutchman Flat snow park. With my photo day complete, I headed home excited about the images I’d just captured and about getting the feeling back in my toes!
To view more Central Oregon Mountain Images, please visit our Stock photography Website, and check out the mountain Gallery at Pacific Crest Stock.
By Mike Putnam
I have genuinely loved Bend and the Central Oregon area ever since moving here more than 10 years ago. I enjoy our Central Oregon mountains, the Deschutes River, the high desert, old growth ponderosas, Drake Park, the local trail systems, Downtown Bend, the restaurants, and the breweries (not necessarily in that order). The natural beauty of Central Oregon is what inspired me to take up photography on a professional level. To have so much geographical diversity in the same region is truly wondrous. My partner in Pacific Crest Stock, Troy, is also a big fan of Bend. Many friends have suggested that we should be on the payroll for the Bend Chamber of Commerce or one of the tourism boards because we are both such big boosters of Bend and the whole Central Oregon area.
When we first conceived of Pacific Crest Stock, we both thought it would be a tremendous honor to have one of our stock photos appear in one of the Central Oregon tourism publications because it would be an honor to represent the area in print. Well, with that thought in mind, we have a big announcement to make. It has recently been formalized and one of our landscape images will grace the cover of the Visit Bend‘s tourism publication, which is due to be released this spring. The exposure of having the cover shot will be great, the link on Visit Bend’s very attractive website which has been promised will certainly be helpful, but most of all, it is an honor to represent Bend and Central Oregon in a more formal way. Having met with Lynnette and Laurel at Visit Bend several times, I can confidently say that it is a well run, personable and efficient organization. Lynnette is clearly a skilled Web master, and graphic designer. She was courteous enough to provide me with the following image file, which will be the cover of their glossy magazine style publication.
Yeah that’s my Mt. Jefferson Photo and yeah I’m pretty excited!
Mt Jefferson is one of the most photogenic mountains anywhere and because it is visible from much of the city of Bend, it has long been one of my favorite photography destinations. This image, like most great images, required lots of work. I’ve been to Jefferson Park and the Mt Jefferson Wilderness many times before and have always been moved by its beauty, but. I had often been frustrated in that I always thought there was a shot I was missing in this beautiful area. The year I shot this photo, Troy and I went backpacking in the Jefferson Park area and we captured lots of good Stock photos including the following shot of Troy’s ,which is a fan favorite on Panoramio and Google Earth.
It is clearly a great shot. Mt Jefferson towering high above the mid-ground clouds with a stunning foreground of Troy’s favorite flower and the only one he knows the name of, the Red Indian Paintbrush. During our trip, we scouted and shot on and off trail from many different locations including the one that will serve as Visit Bend’s Cover shot. When we arrived at the “cover location” the light was harsh and the alpine wildflowers hadn’t quite peaked for the year but the location was clearly special and I knew I had to return in a few days so I did. To see more great Mount Jefferson images, please visit our stock site’s Mountain Gallery.
On my return trip, I made a day trip of the outing carrying my heavy pack nearly 10 miles and several thousand feet of vertical gain to the same location as a few days before. I quickly set up my tripod and my 4×5 camera and composed a beautiful scene at a stunning location when something unexpected happened. A small wisp of clouds appeared over Mount Jefferson’s summit and it gradually evolved into the awesome lenticular cloud cap that you see in my cover shot from that second day. The scene went from a great one to one of the best fine art landscape shots I’ve ever taken. It is one of my favorite images because Mount Jefferson’s amazing presence, the outstanding wildflower combinations (the equal of which I’ve yet to find in Oregon) and the mystical cloud cap which really brings the whole image together. I hiked out the last six miles with my headlamp beaming and my mind reeling with excitement about the great shots I’d just captured. Without the cloud cap it’s a great stock photo, but with the cloud cap, it becomes a great fine art print. So I worked hard and I got Lucky. I’ll take that combination any time!
My thanks go out to Lynette at Visit Bend for the image file and to my loving wife for letting me go out and take photos in places I love.
To view my fine art prints, including the soon to be cover shot, please visit my fine art site at Mike Putnam Photography where you’ll see this lucky Mt. Jefferson Photograph and many others.
Sometimes, strange things pop into my head when I think I’m about to die. On one recent close encounter, I muttered the words “Wer sprecht that,” which was a phrase I had not used in more than a decade. This poorly composed German-English hybrid-of-a-phrase was originally coined many years earlier by Eric Poynter–one of my very best friends in college.
Eric was just shy of 6’3.” He had curly red hair and freckles, and he almost always had a big giant smile draped across his face. When I first met him, he was wearing a somewhat undersized baby blue sweatshirt with bright yellow iron-on letters arching across its chest that read “Yo Mamma!” He was the unique kind of guy who could wear a shirt like that through the inner city neighborhoods where our school was located, and actually get away with it. He was also one of those crazy college kids who would chew and swallow plastic beer cups, press his tongue against frozen flag poles, or put a mound of mousse on his head and light it on fire just for laughs. Eric had a ton of hilarious one-liners and in many socially awkward moments (e.g., when certain bodily sounds escaped anonymously from a crowd), I remember him just openly and honestly asking “Wer sprecht that?” Loosely translated, it means “Who said that?”
Before attempting to explain the attack that I survived near North Sister in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area, I feel like I should warn you upfront that this frightening experience is going to be somewhat difficult for me to put into words. Not for emotional reasons, but mostly because I’m not exactly sure which letters best represent the sound of a huge mountain lion. To adequately follow this story, you will need to do your best to imagine the meanest growl you’ve ever heard in your life every time that I type the letters “GRRROOOOWWWWL.”
OK, now that we’ve established the rules for reading, I’ll get on with it. This experience started late one winter when my wife made the mistake of leaving me home alone for a week while she visited family in St Louis. After a few days of living like a drunken bachelor, I decided that I was ready for a little winter photo adventure. I have always had a hefty dose of affection (some might call it an affliction) for North Sister, and so I decided that I would try to do some exploring around the Millican Crater area. I had been off trail in this area once before, and I remembered thinking that there were some pretty wide open views of North Sister along one of the ridges to the East. I figured I could probably find my way back to that general area and get some nice stock photos of the mountain around sunset. It was still wintertime up in the higher elevations of the Cascade Mountains, so I packed up the camera and snowshoes and headed out for a solo exploration.
Not long after leaving the Jeep on snowshoes, I found the ridge line and started trekking cross-country into the forest of Ponderosa and Lodge Pole pines. I climbed along the cliff band, zigzagging over downed trees and in and out of snow for about an hour or so before I was finally forced to admit that the mountain views were not as open as I had remembered. I was very close to the mountain, but I couldn’t find a photo composition that wasn’t at least partially obstructed by tree branches. Determined to find an open spot along the ridgeline, I continued deeper into the woods until I realized that the weather was beginning to turn on me.
The light was fading quickly and the wind had started to pick up. As the wind whispered through the trees, it would occasionally release an eerie, screeching sound as the taller pine tops rubbed against one another. The screeching sounds were kind of creeping me out, and the farther I went into the forest, the more nervous I got about whether or not I was going to be able to find my way back to the Jeep in the dark because the patchy snow melt meant that I was not going to be able to simply follow my snowshoe tracks out of the woods as I had originally planned. With darkness settling into the trees and the air getting noticeably colder, I decided that it was probably safest for me to abandon my photo expedition and head back home.
Just then, as I started to reverse direction, I heard the loud “GRRROOOOWWWWL” of a mountain lion standing directly behind me. I spun around as quickly as I could, and with eyes the size of ping pong balls, I began frantically scanning the woods for the source of the sound. Finding no hairy beasts behind me, my mind jolted to a story that I had recently heard about some people who spotted a cougar perched in the trees while hiking on Pilot Butte. I jerked my neck toward the sky, focusing my gaze from branch to branch in the trees overhead but I still couldn’t make eye contact with whatever it was that had just growled at me. The fear was now pulsing through my bloodstream, and as I started mentally re-tracing my actions, I came to the realization that I had made several fatal mistakes. With my wife out of town, I had gone into the woods alone without telling anyone where I was going or when to expect me back. Even if I was to survive the imminent attack, I figured there was very little chance for rescue.
I decided there was no time to waste. I picked up my hiking poles and held them like two aluminum spears as I started making my way back to the truck. Panicked, and panting very loudly, I moved slowly through the dark woods using a sort of spinning motion every few steps to make sure that nothing could sneak up on me from behind. Unfortunately, with all of the spinning, I didn’t notice that I was approaching the edge of a nearby embankment. My snowshoe slipped off of its edge, and in a split second, I was sliding helplessly down the slope. To make matters worse, the lion let out another fierce “GRRROOOOWWWWL” at the exact moment that my weight slid out from under me. I rolled to the bottom of the hill and landed in a fetal position. Laying there, curled up in the snow, I knew that I probably looked like a small child to whatever huge creature was stalking me, and having just heard the second ““GRRROOOOWWWWL,” I fully expected to feel the weight of the cougar pouncing onto my back at any moment. I quickly rolled over, and as I fought to get back onto my feet, my snowshoe broke through the crusty snow below me releasing an eerily familiar “growling” sound. I paused for a second, and then I twisted my other snowshoe through the crust . . . again simulating a “growl.”
And that’s when it occurred to me that there never was a mountain lion. It was simply my mind playing tricks on me. The entire episode was just a by-product of my imagination, and probably at least partially related to the fact that subconsciously, I must have been a little panicked about being so far back in the woods alone after dark without any back up disaster plan. As I re-played the episode in my head, I realized that the first growl occurred as I shifted directions in the snow and the second happened as my foot slipped down the slope. Convinced that the all of the sounds had simply come from my snowshoes breaking though the crusty snow (and not from a huge hungry cat), I let out a nervous chuckle and thought to myself, “Wer sprecht that?”
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see additional pictures of North Sister, you can browse the Mountain gallery on Pacific Crest Stock or search the site for “Three Sisters.” If you want to see pictures of the stalking mountain lion, you can visit the Atlas Snowshoe site.
As winter starts to drag in the High Desert area of Central Oregon around Bend, I tend to day dream about photo trips elsewhere in Oregon where the winter season doesn’t seem to extend quite so long. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Bend but our relatively high elevation make for consistently cold nights which seems to extend our winters longer than my perpetually cold wife would prefer. One of our favorite getaways involves visiting our friends, the Reitzs in Hood River, Oregon. Hood River tends to be more gray than Bend in the winter but spring comes considerably earlier there and the wildflowers in the Hood River are often stunning. The Hood River area simply has a better climate for spring flowers. One of my favorite Hood River Photography locations is the East Hills area of the Hood river Valley. The wildflowers in the east hills vary from year to year, they don’t last very long but they are absolutely phenomenal in some years. The first year My good friend, Max insisted that I consider taking some photos from the east hills area, I reluctantly obliged. I initially felt that I would have already been familiar with the location if the wildflowers were as attractive as Max suggested. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They were simply amazing. I drove into the ill defined parking area for sunrise and I was so impressed that when I returned to our home away from home at the Reitz home I insisted that we all go back for a hike in the East Hills where I’d just returned from. For another adventure that we shared with Max and Chris Reitz, check out our Italian Adventure photos. The following image is one of my favorites from that morning photographing in the East Hills of the Hood River Valley. Mt. Hood is seen in the background the flowers in the foreground include balsamroot, Indian paintbrush, and lupines. Doesn’t it seem like this wouldd be a perfect cover photo for a Columbia River Gorge tourism brochure?
I like the contrast between the agricultural Hood River valley and the wild and beautiful east hills wildflower display which were pretty amazing during that year. Mt. Hood is always a photo worthy mountain, especially when snow covered as in this image. Part of what makes the Hood River valley so scenic is the fact that it is near sea level and that Mt. Hood is visible high above at 11,240 offering some very impressive vertical relief. The following photo is one I’ll include simply because it makes me happy. It is of my daughter, Emma and JoJo Reitz . I love their laughing and smiling faces and all the happy wildflowers surrounding them. I took many family photos this morning but this one seemed especially playful and captured the feeling of spring the best.
Another one of my favorite photo locations lies slightly east of Hood River in an undisclosed location. It has a slightly different photo appeal to me because it is distinctly less developed than the Hood River area. I tend to avoid man made structures in my landscape images but that can be very difficult in Hood River because of its famed agricultural production. The following photo is also of Mt. Hood. I find the vast flower meadow with little indication of farming or agriculture makes for an attractive picture.
This Image and the previous photo were both taken with my large format 4×5 camera which necessitated fairly long exposures that can be frustrating because of the famed Columbia River Winds which can wreak havoc on a large format landscape photograph. I was fortunate to avoid the winds on both of these photo outings. The next image is one of the first I ever took as a professional photographer. I also captured this image with my 4×5 camera on a rare windless day. At the time I was still struggling with focus, perspective control and exposure balance associated with using my old Wista 4×5. Most of the images from this morning ended up in my circular file but this one photo came out nicely and is still a part of our Pacific Crest Stock Wildflower Gallery
This last image takes me back to the Hood River Valley. The wildflowers are a little ragged in this image but I still love it because of the sweet expression on the face of my favorite model, Emma.
If you would like to see more images from our many visits to the Hood River area of Oregon, please visit our stock photography site, Pacific Crest Stock . To get licensing information about any of our images, please contact us through email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (541) 610-4815
Posted by Mike Putnam
All images are copyrighted and exclusively the property of Mike Putnam/Pacific Crest Stock