Stock landscape and outdoor adventure photos from Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Northwest

High Desert Photos

Sisters Oregon Tourism Guide!

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.

Cover Photo for the Sisters Oregon Guide!

Cover Photo for the Sisters Oregon Guide!

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!

Mike Putnam


Troy “Desert Dog” McMullin has added some great new images to our High Desert Gallery!

Please check out the High Desert Gallery at our main Pacific Crest Stock website.  Troy recently uploaded some new images that are ripe for licensing.  He has been hard at work this spring and summer shooting some of the best desert scenery in the inter mountain west.  The following image is just one example of the amazing topography and rock formations that can be found in Oregon’s High Desert.  This particular image was captured in the “Blue Basin” which is located in the John Day Painted Hills area of Eastern Oregon.

Hiker in the "Blue Basin" located in the John Day area of Eastern Oregon

Hiker in the "Blue Basin" located in the John Day area of Eastern Oregon

Oregon's Painted Hills

Oregon's Painted Hills near the John Day Fossil Beds

Hiking into Oregon's Blue Basin

Hiking into Oregon's Blue Basin


Troy has been working particularly hard at capturing images from some of Central Oregon’s newer trails.  In the Crooked River Ranch area there are several great new trails worth checking out.  These new trails can be preview by visiting the following link to our Pacific Crest Stock website.  Pacific Crest Stock.  The following images were captured at a few of these new trails.  There are many more like it viewable at our website!

Mountain biking the Otter Bench Trail near Crooked River Ranch

Mountain biking the Otter Bench Trail near Crooked River Ranch

Cliffs along the Opal Pool Trail near Crooked River Ranch

Cliffs along the Opal Pool Trail near Crooked River Ranch

Hiking at Oregon's Scout Camp Canyon Trail

Hiking at Central Oregon's Scout Camp Trail Canyon

Hiking in Central Oregon's High Desert

Hiking in Central Oregon's High Desert

View from the Pink Trail as it drops into the Crooked River Canyon

View from the Pink Trail as it drops into the Crooked River Canyon

Hiker surrounded by Central Oregon's desert cliffs

Hiker surrounded by Central Oregon's desert cliffs

Troy has also been busy exploring around Smith Rock, which is Central Oregon’s most famous desert destination. We think these images are definitely ripe for licensing.

The Monument at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon
The Monument at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon
Hiker high on the cliffs of Oregon's Smith Rock State Park

Hiker high on the cliffs of Oregon's Smith Rock State Park

Dinner high on the cliffs above Central Oregon's Crooked River

Dinner high on the cliffs above Central Oregon's Crooked River

If any of our readers have suggestions as to where Troy should go for his next great High Desert image, please leave a message at the end of this blog entry!

Thanks for Reading,

Mike Putnam


Tragic Loss for Pacific Crest Stock. An Ode to My Dear Departed Friend.

I started a recent blog entry with the words, “I always hike with the hopes that there will be a story to tell.” Well, here’s a story that I was never hoping I would have to tell. It’s one in which my trusty old Canon 5D camera was sent plummeting off of a 200-foot cliff to its death.  

 

The day started off like many other photography mission days. It was a beautiful Spring morning, and my loving wife had given me clearance to spend the entire day hiking, biking, skiing or doing whatever I wanted to do. I noticed some great cloud formations stretching across the northern skyline, so I decided to take my trusty friend into the desert canyons near Crooked River Ranch to take pictures. I had scouted these areas several times earlier in the year and I was calculating that the deserts should be pretty close to reaching their peak (i.e., as green as they get and full of balsom root flowers). Based on the positioning of clouds, I figured my first stop should be Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River. This deep desert canyon has lots of interesting hoodoo formations and traditionally good flowers about this time of year. Add in a good collection of cumulus clouds overhead, and its pretty hard to beat.  Unfortunately, when I hiked into the waterfall, I found that the balsom root and Indian paintbrush were still on the early side . . . and, there was a fierce wind moving through the valley, which meant that I had virtually no chance of capturing any decent photographs of flowers anyway (because they would all be blowing around like mad).

 

Photo of balsom root near Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River.  This photo was taken on an earlier trip when there was no wind.

Photo of balsom root near Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River. This photo was taken on an earlier trip when there was no wind.

I did the best I could with the situation at hand, and then decided to move a few miles farther downstream to the Camp Scout Trail. The Camp Scout Trail is a recently opened section of trail that descends through a steep, rugged canyon to the lushy confluence the Deschutes River and Wychus Creek. I’ve been there a few times since it has opened, and I think it’s one of the best desert hikes in Central Oregon, especially in late-April and early-May. After a level half-mile section, the trail opens up to dramatic, big-Western-style views.

 

 Mike Croxford and I hiking at Camp Scout Trail earlier in the year . . . when my camera was still alive.

Mike Croxford and I hiking at Camp Scout Trail earlier in the year . . . when my camera was still alive.

As I followed the trail downstream from the fork, I was pleased to see that the balsom root flowers were much farther along in this area than at Steelhead Falls. I scouted around and took about a dozen photographs that I was very excited about, but then the wind started gusting again and it became clear that I was not going to get any more good photographs from this area. Rather than hiking the entire 3-mile loop, I decided that I would wait and bring the family back here a different day for a more extensive photographic experience.

 

 

  Deschutes River and cliffs from the Scout Camp Trail.  This photo was taken earlier in the year, before the big balsom root bloom and fatal camera incident.

Deschutes River and cliffs from the Scout Camp Trail. This photo was taken earlier in the year, before the big balsom root bloom and fatal camera incident.

 

 

I hurried back the Jeep, and then drove a few miles down the road to some other new trails along the Crooked River canyon.  The Lone Pine Trail, Otter Bench Trail, and Opal Canyon Loop Trail are located just past Crooked River Ranch. Like Steelhead Falls and Camp Scout Trail, they offer incredibly scenic views, but parallel the Crooked River instead of the Deschutes River. My plan was to hike a short ways up Lone Pine Trail for a few quick photographs and then come back and mountain bike the 7-mile Otter Bench/Opal Canyon Loop network. 

 

Crooked River Canyon from the Lone Pine Trail.  This photo was taken earlier in the year, during happier times for my camera and I.

Crooked River Canyon from the Lone Pine Trail. This photo was taken earlier in the year, during happier times for my camera and I.

 

 

 

I left the Jeep and started up the Lone Pine Trail on foot, oblivious to the tragedy that was about to happen. At the first good viewpoint of the canyon, I dropped my backpack and unloaded my camera and tripod as I have done hundreds of times before. I started to compose the shot through my viewfinder, but then realized that the photograph I really wanted to get was going to require me to move a few more feet to my right . . . which, unfortunately, was going to put me dangerously close to the edge of a 200-foot cliff. I nervously inched toward the edge of the rock knowing that the cliff dropped off immediately behind me and to my right. With barely enough room to turn around on, I leaned over to check my lens and saw a bunch of debris clinging to its center. I carefully maneuvered around the tripod leg and started to reach for my backpack to get a clean lens cloth when a surge of wind came gusting up the canyon. The strong wind caught the lip of my cap and as I reached both hands to my head to keep my cap from blowing away, I saw that the wind had also caught hold of my camera.  I looked back just in time to see my dear old camera and tripod go somersaulting off the cliff.

 

It was like one of those moments you see in the movies where everything is moving in super slow motion.  Imagine a slow frame-by-frame scene with me on top of the cliff lunging for the foot of my tripod as it tumbles out of view and my mouth opening wide to scream “Nooooooooooooooooo!” That’s pretty much how it happened.  After witnessing the unfathomable, I just dropped to my knees in disbelief and hung my head . . . unable to look up. After a few moments of dumbfounded silence, I rolled to my side and then crawled over to the edge to see if I could catch a glimpse of my camera’s corpse on the rocks below. I expected to see it and my tripod in a mangled heap of carnage at the bottom of the cliff, but I didn’t see it anywhere below.

 

Always an optimist, I decided that I would gather up the rest of my gear and then try to find a way down to the bottom of the canyon to re-collect any pieces of my camera gear that were still intact. It didn’t take long for me to locate a game trail that worked its way down a steep rocky outcropping and into the rattlesnake-infested area at the bottom of the cliffs that I had been standing on a few minutes earlier. As I approached the scene of the crime, I noticed a piece of carbon fiber legging that once belonged to my tripod. A few feet from that piece, I found the rest of my tripod. The tripod was no longer usable in any way, but all things considered, it had actually taken the fall quite well. One piece of the leg was missing and the ball head had broken off upon impact, but otherwise, it looked much better than expected.

 

My next task was to try to find the camera. Given that the camera is much heavier than the tripod, I figured that it had probably ricocheted farther down the slope. After a few more minutes of searching, I spotted my camera wedged underneath a twisted section of sage brush about 50-feet below the place where my tripod had come to rest. The entire right side of the camera had split open during the fall, and my $1500 lens had disengaged itself somewhere during the tumble. I knew there was no way that my lens would be salvageable, but in trying to give myself at least one small nugget of hope, I thought that maybe, perhaps, through some small miracle, that I might be able to at least re-use my polarized filter, which was attached to the lens before it fell. I searched high and low, under each and every brush pile looking for my lens, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Using my best CSI skills, I backtracked and zig-zagged the entire area between where I found the tripod and where I found the camera, trying to cover every imaginable scenario. Just as I was about to give up, I caught a glimpse of that signature “L series” red circle. At nearly the same moment that I spotted my lens, it dawned on me that the lens cap was in my pocket before my camera blew off the cliff, which of course, meant that there was no way the polarized filter was going to survive the tumble. Sure enough, the filter was scratched beyond belief.

 

I then thought about all of the nice photographs that I had taken earlier in the day at Steelhead Falls and Scout Camp Trail, and let out a little smile thinking that since I had found my camera, I would at least be able to get those photographs off of the memory card.  But even that small feeling of relief was short-lived because as I looked closer at my camera, I realized that the memory card had also ejected itself sometime after impact.  I spent another 30 minutes looking for that tiny (but precious) memory card before I finally had to admit that it had been nearly a complete loss.  With one fleeting moment of indescretion, I had lost my camera, lens, filter, memory card, and tripod.

 

And so with that, I packed all of the different pieces into my backpack and started hiking back to the Jeep, thankful that I still had a perfectly good lens cap in my pocket. . . and that it wasn’t me that had blown off the cliff instead.

 

The carcass of my dear old friend.

The carcass of my dear old friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Troy McMullin


Late Pictures of Fall Color in Central Oregon

As is usually the case I made a long list of fall color images that I wanted to capture this year and time flew, weather was uncooperative and I missed many of my dream shots but did get some Oregon fall color photos worthy of sharing.  The following group photos have little to with one another aside from the fact that they are all from Central Oregon’s High Desert vicinity.  In general, I didn’t find this fall color season to be remarkable.  The early snows dampened expectations but some late color did burst out, especially in the riparian areas of lower elevation.  The first group of photos is from a location where I’ve never gotten any worthy images and frankly This fall offered the best color I’ve ever seen along the Crooked River.  These images are from the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint, which is located where Highway 97 crosses the Crooked River North of Terrebonne, Oregon.

Fall color in the riparian area along Central Oregon's Crooked River.

Fall color in the riparian area along Central Oregon's Crooked River.

According to my keen recollection of American History(and the big sign in the parking lot) Peter Skene Ogden was working for the Hudson’s Bay  Company in 1825  when  he led the first recorded journey into the Crooked River Basin not far from the current Crooked River Bridge.  I presume that is why this viewpoint is  named after Ogden rather than something catchy like “Pacific crest Stock Scenic Viewpoint”!  The yellow fall colors were more vibrant than I’ve ever seen in this location and the reds weren’t bad either!  The rock pattern also helps with this otherwise simple image.  Facing in the opposite direction and downstream, the Crooked River Canyon  carves a deep serpentine path through 300 foot tall basalt cliffs.  Some great clouds, the distant Black Butte, and the previously mentoned fall color make this a worthy photograph.

The Crooked River carves its way through basalt cliffs with a distant Black Butte in this photo

The Crooked River carves its way through basalt cliffs with a distant Black Butte in this photo

Looking back upstream from the same Crooked River Bridge which is closed to cars but open to people( this made me nervous at first!) One sees the obvious yet attractive Rex T. Barber Memorial Bridge.  Rex was something of a Hero during world War II.  He was born in nearby Culver, Oregon and was drafted into World War II.  Rex T. Barber was an ace fighter pilot who is widely credited with shooting down and killing Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto who was the planner of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor thereby initiating WWII.  In other words, Rex really was a hero.  Rex served in the military for 20 years and after a very successful stint flying P-38 lightnings, he was eventually shot down over China.  He survived the crash and five weeks later he was escorted back to allied forces by Chinese civilians.  Rex returned to Central Oregon after the war where he was an insurance agent, judge, mayor of Culver and a huge civic booster.  I don’t usually get moved by these Memorial plaque tales by this one really was somewhat touching to me.  I also am hesistant to include man made objects in my landscape photographs, but for Rex T. Barber I’ll make an exception.  Below is the handsome Rex T. Barber Memorial Bridge high above the Crooked River canyon and it’s luminous fall color.

Picture of the Rex T. Barber Veteran's Memorial Bridge high above the Crooked River Canyon, in Central Oregon

Picture of the Rex T. Barber Veteran's Memorial Bridge high above the Crooked River Canyon, in Central Oregon

Another High desert Photography favorite , Smith Rock State Park also had some great fall color this year.  Below is an attractive sunrise casting a delicate pink glow on one of the main rock formations at Smith Rock.  It may not be as stunning as Troy’s sunset image from this same location found in this blog entry  Smith Rock Photos but the delicate predawn light works well with the fall color in the riparian areas at the base of Smith Rock’s massive rock formations.

Picture of early morning light at Central Oregon's Smith Rock State Park

Picture of early morning light at Central Oregon's Smith Rock State Park

Slightly to the North of this scene lies the famed Morning Glory wall and “the Dihedrals”,  favorites of rock climbers around the world.  I’ve been to the morning glory wall area many times but I’ve struggled with lighting there.  The following image of the Morning Glory Wall and the dihedrals with fall color and cumulous clouds makes for a good stock photo.

Photo/Picture of Morning glory wall and the dihedrals at Smith Rock State Park

Photo/Picture of Morning glory wall and the dihedrals at Smith Rock State Park

On the same pleasantly cloudy day I shifted over a touch and took an obligatory photograph from the main viewpoint at Smith Rock State Park.  Normally I avoid this spot as it is a bit cliched but I couldn’t resist because of the great clouds that were floating above the scene.

Picture/Photo from the main viewpoint at Smith Rock State Park

Picture/Photo from the main viewpoint at Smith Rock State Park

Finally We’ll leave Smith Rock behind after one more image.  This rock formation is referred to as “the Monument”  Stunningly vertical, is calls to some like no other rock formation in Central Oregon.  I merely think of it as the scene that launched a thousand psychiatric evaluations for my Pacific Crest partner, Troy.  To learn more about Troy’s struggles, visit this previous blog entry.  Smith Rock Photo phychosis.  It’s a good shot but mostly I included this image in this particular blog entry in an effort to torture Troy.  He’ll be back at the monument later today nervously composing scenes and incoherently mumbling to himself like Milton in the classic movie, “Office Space”.

Troy's Folly, sunrise light on the  monument at Smith Rock State Park

Troy's Folly, sunrise light on the monument at Smith Rock State Park

I’ve included this next and final photo of aspen trees with some great color not so much because I love the image but because I felt obligated to mention it.  I’ve been there so many times that it feels like a distant cousin who I feel obligated to invite to Thanksgiving dinner because they live two blocks away.  Anyway, here are my distant cousin aspen trees!

Central Oregon aspen trees in full fall color

Central Oregon aspen trees in full fall color

If any of our blog readers have fall color suggestions for next year please let us know.  For some of our other fall color images, please visit our main Pacific Crest website by following the following link Pacific Crest Images .   Thanks for visiting our photo blog!

All the Best,

Mike Putnam


New Outdoor Adventure Gallery at Pacific Crest Stock Photography

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:

Hiking up the south face of Three Fingered Jack Mountain near Sisters, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Hiking up the south face of Three Fingered Jack Mountain near Sisters, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backcountry skiing near the Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backcountry skiing near the Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Mountain Biking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

Mountain biking near Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking near Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Biking at Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Biking at Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking above Tumalo Falls near Bend, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking above Tumalo Falls near Bend, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Backpacking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

Backpacking in the Mount Hood Wilderness Area near Government Camp, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking in the Mount Hood Wilderness Area near Government Camp, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking near Mirror Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area near Joseph, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking near Mirror Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area near Joseph, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.


Backpacking near Camp Lake and South Sister in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking near Camp Lake and South Sister in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Fly Fishing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

 Fly fishing at Paulina Lake in Central Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Fly fishing at Paulina Lake in Central Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Fly fishing at Aneroid Lake in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Fly fishing at Aneroid Lake in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Hiking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

Hiking near the Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Hiking near the Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

 Hiking in Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area near Bend, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Hiking in Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area near Bend, Oregon. Image available at 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.


Photos of Desert Wildflowers at Central Oregon’s proposed Badlands Wilderness Area

This blog entry is more of a public service announcement than an overwhelming show of photographic talent.  My daughter, Emma, and I recently hiked the Flatirons Rock Trail in the proposed Badlands Wilderness area located about 16 miles East of Bend, Oregon and desert wildflowers there are about as good as I’ve ever seen them.  It is a perfect time for a hike in the Badlands so that you can appreciate how beautiful of an area it is.  Local groups, including the good people at ONDA-Oregon Natural Desert Association have done an immense amount of work to establish this wonderful place as a fully protected wilderness area.

Stock Photo of Desert wildflowers glowing in the Badlands area East of Bend, Oregon

Stock Photo of Desert wildflowers glowing in the Badlands area East of Bend, Oregon

It is my opinion that this special area of Central Oregon should be protected as soon as possible.  Lots of good reasons back up my opinion  on this issue, including:  1. It is beautiful and accessible for a huge portion of the year as it’s desert climate usually keeps this area free of snow in the winter when alpine trails are only available to hardcore backcountry skiers.  2. A huge majority of the residents of Bend and Central Oregon support the idea of this area becoming an official Wilderness Area.  3. This area is much better protected now that it is a proposed wilderness area than it probably was previously.  I’ve spent lots of time in many of the desert areas around Bend, Oregon, mostly scouting for stock photos.  Virtually everywhere in the desert areas I’ve been to, with the exception of the Badlands study area, I’ve been shocked by the amount of garbage that has been dumped randomly around these otherwise beautiful areas.  I’m of the opinion that garbage begets more garbage.  When a place becomes downtrodden with debris, a misconception develops that it is OK to litter and otherwise pollute in that area.  I don’t know how the Badlands study area looked 15 years ago, but is virtually free of any sort of debris currently and I do know how non-study desert areas look today, and it’s not good.

 Photo/picture of Old Growth Juniper Tree in the bend Badlands Area
Photo/picture of Old Growth Juniper Tree in the bend Badlands Area

If establishing any desert area as preserves it as well as the Badlands area has been, then I am in favor of the protection.  I won’t go into the nuances of what activities are restricted and which are not in Wilderness areas but I will say that wilderness areas are open to all people but not necessarily all uses, which is more than fair.

Photo of desert flowers blooming in the Badlands area east of Bend , Oregon

Photo of desert flowers blooming in the Badlands area east of Bend , Oregon

The entire sixish mile long loop trail to flatiron rock was decorated with pockets of color like the wildflowers shown above, which I think are some sort of desert aster.  There were also countless old growth juniper trees along the trail.  Their ancient and severe form  exude character and determination.  Their ability to defy time and the harsh high desert climate in the Oregon desert should earn them the respect of any in tune naturalist.  I’ve heard that some of the older juniper trees in this area are over 1,000 years old.  Amazing!

Photo of an old growth juniper snag in the Badlands area near Bend Oregon

Photo of an old growth juniper snag in the Badlands area near Bend Oregon

As the desert is a…..desert, you’ll want to bring sunblock and water and snacks for the family.  As summer is beginning to heat up, I’d also recommend you plan your trips in the morning or evening as your hiking will be a bit more pleasant if you can avoid the mid-day heat.  The following photo is of a wildflower that I believe is called a “phacelia” which has beautiful lavender colored blooms and like many of the desert wildflowers, it has a very short blooms season, so go for a hike soon if you want to see the phacelia in bloom this year.

Picture of a phacelia blooming in the Badlands area east of Bend, Oregon.

Picture of a phacelia blooming in the Badlands area east of Bend, Oregon.

This pretty little flower fades from lavender to a lighter lavender to a light green on the inside of the bloom and it has a pleasing glow about it, making it one of my favorite desert wildflowers.  The following flowers in the foreground of a classic desert scene are desert monkeyflowers.  Their rich pink blooms with yellow centers provide a striking display of color in what would otherwise be an earth-toned palette along the Flatiron trail. This appears to be a great year for monkeyflowers in the Oregon high desert.

Image of monkeyflowers blooming in the high desert area of Central Oregon

Image of monkeyflowers blooming in the high desert area of Central Oregon

In the mid-ground of the above high desert photo are some yellow flowers which are shown in the following photo.

Photo of "Oregon Sunshine" blooming in the Badlands area near Bend Oregon

Photo of "Oregon Sunshine" blooming in the Badlands area near Bend Oregon

The above flowers, “Oregon Sunshine” are some of the happiest flowers anywhere.  In years of high spring precipitation, like this one, they can almost form mats of cheerful yellow flowers.  They are another of the bonuses found along the Flatiron trail if you can get there soon.  The next to last image in this blog entry Taken in the Flatiron rock formation is of my favorite photo model and hiking, partner, Emma, who also happens to be my daughter!  She was a wonderful companion throughout the hike, as she always is.  She was also very patient with my photographic habits.  All these traits plus she makes me smile everyday, make me feel very lucky.

Emma in the Flatiron rock formation east of Bend, Oregon

Emma in the Flatiron rock formation east of Bend, Oregon

I should mention that the brief hike to the top of the Flatiron rock formation is well worth the extra effort as the views of the Central Oregon Cascades over the high desert are stunning.

The take home message from this story is that  if you live in Central Oregon, now is a great time to experience the beauty of the the proposed Badlands Wilderness area east of Bend, Oregon.  The wildflowers won’t last long so get out soon and when you return from your desert adventure, contact your senator and tell them that The Badlands should be permanently protected as a fully designated Wilderness area!  For more info regarding the Badlands, please visit ONDA’s website.

Photo of dwarf monkeyflower in the proposed Badlands Wilderness Area East of Bend, Oregon

Photo of dwarf monkeyflower in the proposed Badlands Wilderness Area East of Bend, Oregon

For more photos of the beautiful desert areas of Central Oregon, please visit our main stock photo website, Pacific Crest Stock by clicking the following link….High Desert photos.

Thanks for visiting,

Mike Putnam


The Best Smith Rock State Park and “Monkey Face” Photos You’ve Never Seen!

OK, I know that the title of this blog entry doesn’t totally make sense, but hopefully you get the idea.  We’ve recently taken some new Smith Rock State Park Photos that I’m very proud of and we haven’t been able to find a simple way to fit them into our blogging schedule.  These images haven’t ben shared with the public and therefore they’ve never been licensed and seen in print.  I strongly suspect that you will soon see some of these images in local ad campaigns and tourism offerings as they are great pictures of  a special and unique Central Oregon Location.  First I’ll start with a couple of my images.

 Photo of Smith Rock State Park, the Crooked River and the "Monkey Face" rock formation

Photo of Smith Rock State Park, the Crooked River and the "Monkey Face" rock formation

For quite some time now I’ve wanted to add a “Monkey Face” photo to my fine art print collection.  The above image is definitely my best effort to date.  I plan on printing it in a large format version and adding it to my fine art offerings.  Mike’s Fine Art Prints I’ve seen hundreds of different Monkey face images but most offer washed out noonday light and plain blue skies.  Those are fine for snap-shots but not for fine art prints or great stock images.  I knew I wanted a shot with interesting clouds and warm late evening light.  I also got the Crooked River in the scene as a bonus which adds another attractive element.  The above image was captured with my large format 4×5 camera in hopes of making it into a fine art print.  I also shot many other great images on that beautiful evening  with my canon 5D camera.  The following picture is a closer view of Monkey Face with some interesting cloud formations to liven up the scene.

Monkey Face and evening light from Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon

Monkey Face and evening light from Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon

On the enlarged version of this photo, you can actually see climbers in the mouth of “Money Face”.  Cool!  I like how my relatively wide angle lens slightly distorted the scene giving it an abstract feel.   I also like how the hiking trail in the foreground leads the viewer to the base of Monkey face.

The following Smith Rock State Park picture was taken on a different evening but helps to show the diversity of our Smith Rock portfolio.  I took the following shot at the end of a long photography day during which I chased clouds all over Central Oregon.

Picture of Smith Rock State Park at sunset

Picture of Smith Rock State Park at sunset

It may have been good fortune that allowed me to catch this scene with the colorful cloud formation hovering over Smith Rock’s summit but I certainly don’t mind being lucky!    I’ve seen countless photos taken from the viewpoint at Smith Rock, most of which are uninspiring, but I couldn’t resist on this evening.

Now for the grand finale of our mini Smith Rock State Park tour.  I’d like to give you a preview of what I predict will be the next great cover shot for the Central Oregon tourism industry.  My good friend, Troy McMullin took the following outstanding Smith Rock State Park photo.  I think it might be the best Smith Rock photo I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen thousands of them!  I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t licensed for a cover shot in the very near future, and whoever licenses it will have the good fortune to associate themselves with this  stunning image.

Smith Rock Sunset photo with the Crooked River in Central Oregon.

Smith Rock Sunset photo with the Crooked River in Central Oregon.

There are countless reasons why I think this image makes a great landscape  photo but I’ll just cover a few of them.  1. Great subject matter.  Smith Rock is veery recognizable and obviously stunning.  2. excellent composition. 3. lots of interesting elements including the impressive rock formation, awesome clouds, great color in the sky, the gently arcing Crooked River below and the distant South Sister to the left of the rock formation and Mt. Jefferson to the right.  Wow!  Like I mentioned, I’ll be very surprised if this image isn’t licensed in the near future.  Please leave any comments in the comments section at the end of this entry, and don’t forget to tell your photo editor and graphic designer friends that you’ve just seen the next great Central Oregon cover shot!  For some more great Smith Rock State Park Stock Photos, please visit our new Smith Rock gallery at Pacific Crest Stock.

Posted by Mike Putnam


Off-Season Photo Expeditions: The Red Shirt Days of Winter

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.

 

Backcountry skiing near Oregon’s Mount Washington Wilderness Area.

Backcountry skiing near Oregon’s Mount Washington Wilderness Area.

 

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.

 

Hiking among the boulders at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon.

Hiking among the boulders at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon.

 

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.

 

 The cliffs above Lake Billy Chinook in Central Oregon.

The cliffs above Lake Billy Chinook in Central Oregon.

 

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.

 

Overlooking one of the waterfalls on the Middle Deschutes River.

Overlooking one of the waterfalls on the Middle Deschutes River.

 

 

Hiking along the Deschutes River canyon in Central Oregon.

Hiking along the Deschutes River canyon in Central Oregon.

 

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.

 

Photo of my good friend, Jake Bell, doing the classic jump scene near the base of Mount Washington.

Photo of my good friend, Jake Bell, doing the classic jump scene near the base of Mount Washington.

 

Posted by Troy McMullin


Eastern Oregon Gems: Painted Hills, Blue Basin, and Strawberry Lake Photos

Bend, Oregon is perfectly situated in the middle of the state where the Cascade Mountains transition into the High Desert.  In addition to having great mountains, streams, alpine lakes, and desert rock formations right here in our own backyard, we are also amazingly close to some of the country’s most scenic waterfalls, old growth rain forests, and coastline.  A short drive to the west over Santiam Pass, McKenzie Pass, or Willamette Pass offers a mind-boggling range of outdoor activities, including hundreds of miles of rugged alpine and ocean-front parks.  With so many gorgeous opportunities for exploration to the west, it is often easy to forget about all of the wonderful and unique geography that lies out in the valleys to our east.

If you want to see Eastern Oregon at its best, I would suggest planning a trip in early spring when the deserts and hills come alive with fresh color.  I was fortunate enough to make such a trip last year during a short period of unexpected bachelorhood.  My wife and I were planning to go see family in St. Louis, but the flights worked out in such a way that she and the kids ended up flying out a few days before me.  Armed with a guilt-free hall pass, I knew there was no time to waste.  I kissed her and the kids good-bye at the airport, and then I raced home, launched Google Earth, and began taking a virtual tour around the state in hopes of planning the perfect get away.  I knew it was too early in the year for most of my favorite Central Oregon locations because snow drifts were still blocking access to most of our backcountry regions, and after checking the forecast, it looked like the weather was going to be too unpredictable to plan anything off to the west.  Then it dawned on me that it had been awhile since I ventured out into Eastern Oregon, so I loaded up my gear and started driving out into the deserts and rolling farmland near the John Day River and Strawberry Lake.

Just past the historic town of Prineville, Oregon, I started climbing up through the Ochoco National Forest on highway 26.  This is one of my favorite stretches of road in the state.  The narrow two-lane highway winds along a small meandering stream that is surrounded by nice groves of aspen trees and huge, perfectly spaced ponderosa pines.  It is an idyllic drive up to the 5,000 foot pass, at which point, the geography immediately transforms from lush open meadows and alpine forests to arid deserted hills.  I was fortunate enough to be there on a blue bird day, which means that I was greeted with stunning southerly views of the Ochoco Mountains as I made my way over the summit and dropped down toward the tiny town of Mitchell, Oregon and the Painted Hills.  The Painted Hills are part of the John Day Fossil Beds, and without a doubt, they are some of the most unique and colorful formations in the country. As a photographer, it is practically impossible to drive past the Painted Hills without stopping, and my trip was no exception. 

Fortunately, I had visited the Painted Hills several times in the past and I knew that Mike Putnam and I already had a fairly large collection of photos from this area available on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site.  While the Hills are always spectacular to visit, they are best photographed at sunset or when there are interesting cloud formations off to the east.  I didn’t really have either of those conditions to work with at the time, and since I knew I couldn’t add anything meaningful to our existing collection, I just got out and walked around for awhile and then drove back out to the highway.  If you’d like to purchase a beautiful fine art photograph of the Painted Hills, visit, Bend Oregon photographer.

 

Sunset photo of the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds.  One of several pictures of the Painted Hills that is available on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site.

Sunset photo of the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds. One of several pictures of the Painted Hills that is available on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site.

 

 

 

Just a few miles down the highway, there is another interesting collection of fossils and strange geologic formations called the Blue Basin.  I had only visited the Blue Basin once before, so I was fairly excited to explore this area in a little more detail.  I decided to hike around the 3-mile Overlook Trail, which climbs up and around the rim of Blue Basin and provides nice views into the canyon and its surrounding valley.  After circling around the higher cliffs, the trail drops down into a valley where it joins the “Island in Time” interpretive trail for awhile before dead-ending at the base of the blue-green canyon.  Standing at the end of the trail, staring at these strange hoodoo-like formations, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported to a different place in time—if not to a completely different planet.

 

Photo of the Blue Basin in the John Day Fossil Beds.  Several additional pictures of Blue Basin are available on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site.

Photo of the Blue Basin in the John Day Fossil Beds. Several additional pictures of Blue Basin are available on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site.

  

 

 

I had a lot of fun exploring the Painted Hills and the Blue Basin, but as I turned back onto the highway, I recognized that it was getting late and that I wasn’t going to be able to stop at any more trails if I wanted to make it to the Strawberry Mountains before dark.  I cranked up the music, and hustled down the highway, through Picture Gorge and past the farmland towns of Dayville, Mount Vernon, and John Day until I finally made it to the charming little town of Prairie City, Oregon.  Prairie City is one of my favorite towns in Eastern Oregon–not only because it is close to the Strawberry Mountains, but also because it has one of the neatest little Mom-and-Pop restaurants I’ve ever seen.  The Oxbow Coffee House and Restaurant is almost a destination of its own.  In addition to the bar and restaurant, the old stone building also happens to be home to the North West Big Game Museum.  They have a ton of trophy-sized deer, elk, ram, and other big-game heads hanging on their walls and a beautiful 130-year-old mahogany and rosewood bar.  Knowing that the bar usually has at least one beer on tap from Deschutes Brewery, I couldn’t help but stop in for a quick drink. 

I ordered a Mirror Pond Pale Ale and then sat down at the bar next to a big, burly, and long-bearded gentleman. Within a few seconds, I pretty much figured out that he was a “local” and he quickly surmised that I was not.  I told him that I was planning on hiking into Strawberry Lake that night and asked him if the road to the trailhead was open yet. He quickly scanned me over from cap-to-boot with his eyes as if he was trying to figure out whether or not I was capable of making the trip, and then in a rugged smoker’s voice he said “Well, that depends. . . What are you driving?”  I explained that I had a four-wheel drive Jeep and that I had brought snowshoes in case the road was still blocked with snow.  He told me that I could probably make it to the lake, but that I had better finish my beer quickly because the sun was going to be setting soon and there was a good chance that I was going to need my snowshoes. I took his advice, bought his next round, and then hopped back in my Jeep.

The road from Prairie City to Strawberry Lake winds along open farmland for about 5 or 6 miles, and then it climbs more than 1,500 vertical feet up through a dense forest of pine, spruce, and fir trees for another 5 or 6 miles until it eventually dead-ends at the trailhead.  As I started driving toward the lake, I noticed a nice collection of cumulus clouds starting to form over the Strawberry Mountain range, and even though I knew I was running short on time, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a few shots.

 

 Photo of Cumulus clouds over the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area in Eastern Oregon.

Photo of Cumulus clouds over the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area in Eastern Oregon.

 

 

 

Given the great collection of clouds that was forming, it was tough not to stay down low and explore the farm roads for longer, but I still wasn’t exactly sure what kind of adventure was waiting for me ahead, so I hopped back in the Jeep and continued up the gravel road.  Within a mile or so of entering the thick forested section, I noticed that there was much more snow starting to accumulate along the sides of the road and before long I got to the point where the road was completely blocked by snow.  I parked the Jeep, loaded my gear onto my back, and started snowshoeing in the general direction of the trailhead.  Although the road winds around quite a bit as it climbs up to its end, I was able to follow the general direction of the road fairly easily and before long I reached the sign marking the beginning of the trail. 

By this time, the sun had started its final descent and the cumulus clouds that I had taken pictures of earlier were just beginning to catch their color for the night.  I knew that I was only about a mile or so from Strawberry Lake, but I also knew that I was going to need to find my own way into the lake because the trail was still under several feet of hard-packed snow and ice.  I raced past the trailhead sign and forced my way up the steep, slippery hillside following my best guess for where the lake might be located.  As I struggled to navigate through the thick and cold forest with a 40-pound backpack, two things dawned on me.  First, I was quickly running out of daylight which meant that I might not be able to make it to the lake before the sunlight faded off of the clouds, and second, there was a very good chance that the lake was still going to be frozen from the winter.  The latter thought had not occurred to me when I was planning my trip, and since my primary mission was to photograph the mountainous headwall reflecting in Strawberry Lake, an ice-covered lake would be completely devastating.

With these two competing realizations, my mind started fighting with my legs and lungs about whether or not it was really worth it for me to hurry.  My mind was basically saying “Look, it’s a really tough climb up to the lake, and you’re going to need to work very hard if you expect to have any chance at all of making it there before dark” . . .  and my legs and lungs were countering by saying “But if the lake is frozen, there’s really no reason to push that hard because it will all be for naught anyway.”  In the end, I took the optimistic approach and pushed up the steep climb as quickly as I could.  I made it to the top of the ridge just as the clouds had started to brighten with shades of red and orange and I found a fully-thawed . . . but ripple-filled . . . lake. My legs and lungs were not at all happy that my mind had not anticipated the chance for a windy, reflection-killing night.  But, there was nothing they could do about it now.  Since the wind was not cooperating with my plans for a reflection, I dropped my backpack, watched the sun set behind Strawberry Mountain, and then set up camp for the night. 

After a cold night of snow camping and listening to the wind howl through the walls of my tent, I awoke the next morning and looked outside to find a perfectly calm lake.  I laced up my frozen boots and hiked to the lake shore where I took the following photo.

 

Picture of Spring sunrise on the Headwall at Strawberry Lake near Prairie City, Oregon.

Picture of Spring sunrise on the Headwall at Strawberry Lake near Prairie City, Oregon.

 

 

 

Knowing that I had completely lucked out and accomplished my goal of capturing the Strawberry Lake reflection, I took it easy the rest of the morning and then I leisurely hiked back down the canyon to my Jeep.  I stopped back by the Oxbow Coffee House and Restaurant for brunch and a celebratory beer and then drove back into Bend with a rejuvenated appreciation for all that Eastern Oregon has to offer.

Posted by Troy McMullin

NOTE: Special thanks go out to PremierWest Bancorp, which recently licensed one of my photos from this trip to use on the cover of their annual report.


New Central Oregon Winter Image Gallery

     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.

 

Stock image of Central Oregon's Tumalo State Park after a heavy winter snowfall

Stock image of Central Oregon's Deschutes River in Tumalo State Park after a heavy winter snowfall

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.

Stock image of Troy's mistress, "The Monument" in winter at Smith Rock State Park

Stock image of Troy's mistress, "The Monument" in winter at Smith Rock State Park

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.  

Winter Stock Picture of snow covered ponderosa grove near Sisters, Oregon

Winter Stock Picture of snow covered ponderosa grove near Sisters, Oregon

 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.

Troy's stock Image of Oregon's snow covered Mt. Washington

Troy's stock Image of Oregon's snow covered Mt. Washington

 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.  

 

Stock image of alpenglow on the Three Sisters and broken Top as seen from Oregon's Tumalo Mountain

Stock image of alpenglow on the Three Sisters and broken Top as seen from Oregon's Tumalo Mountain

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.

Image/picture of snow covered red osier dogwood along the Deschutes River in Central Oregon

Image/picture of snow covered red osier dogwood along the Deschutes River in Central Oregon

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


The Magic of Smith Rock: A Memorable Mountain Biking and Photography Mission

As I peered out of my window at the cumulus clouds that were beginning to stack up in the skies overhead, I realized that this might be the day that I needed to finally capture one of the photographs that I had been hoping to get at Smith Rock State Park.  There had been a string of brilliant red and orange sunsets earlier in the week, and I was optimistically hoping that the pattern would repeat itself again tonight as I was perched on the cliffs along the northern ridge of the park.  I hurried to pack up my Canon EOS 5D camera, loaded my mountain bike on the top of the Jeep, and headed out for another trip to the world renowned rock climbing destination a few miles away in Terrebonne, Oregon.

As I got closer to the park, the clouds seemed to be arranged in a perfectly orchestrated position with just the right amount of spacing above the park’s rock spires.  Based on the sun’s position, I decided to ride into the park from the Canyon Trail on the south side of the Crooked River, not realizing just how steep and difficult that descent was going to be with a full-sized backpack.  As I dropped into the rocky and rutted trail, the pitch immediately forced me backward, but as I was attempting to get my weight adjusted to the rear, the bottom of my backpack got wedged against the bike saddle and me and my camera equipment were promptly ejected over the handlebars.  Fortunately, the trail was steep enough that as I went over the bars I was able to simply step forward and land on my feet in a running escape while I watched my Yeti spiral down the hill without anyone attached.

I was in no hurry to repeat that episode, so I chose to walk my bike for a while until the trail leveled out.  As I neared the bottom, I noticed that the sunlight coming in over my left shoulder was warming the cliffs on the opposite side of the river so I unloaded the tripod and wandered out through a clearing to get a better view.  Happy that the view toward the Christian Brothers formations was a relatively unique one, I set up the camera and shot a few images.  It was also at this point that I had two revelations.  First, the sun was setting quicker than expected and I needed to cover about 5 more miles in a hurry or I wasn’t going to get to where I needed to be for the photograph that I had been planning, and second, my perfectly arranged cloud formations had already begun to thin out.

 

Stock photo of the Christian Brothers rock formations in Smith Rock State Park.

Stock photo of the Christian Brothers rock formations in Smith Rock State Park.

 

After re-packing my equipment, I hustled along the rest of the Canyon Trail, crossed the footbridge to the other side of the river, and pedaled as quickly as I could toward the Mesa Verde Trail on the opposite side of the park.  As the trail steepened, I peeked at the sun behind me and realized that I was not going to make it to my planned destination in time.  Rather than leaving empty handed, I dismounted my bike and set up the tripod right there.  Although not quite the scene that I had anticipated, it was a beautiful sight looking back toward Monkey Face and Asterisk Pass with the rocks reflecting in the Crooked River below.  I took a few pictures and then sat there for awhile enjoying a peaceful (if cloudless and non-red/non-orange) sunset.

Sunset photo of Monkey Face and Asterisk Pass in Smith Rock State Park. One of several Smith Rock stock photos of that is available on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site.

Sunset photo of Monkey Face and Asterisk Pass in Smith Rock State Park. One of several Smith Rock stock photos of that is available on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site.

With the light fading and the temperature dropping, I started my return trip back along the edge of the river, frequently dodging rabbits as they darted from the bushes just inches away from of my front wheel.  Worried that one of these little games of “chicken” with the rabbits was going to launch me over the handlebars again, I slowed my cadence and began to focus more on the trail in front of me.  In fact, I became so focused on the ground that I almost forgot to look around and enjoy what was becoming an almost mystic riding experience.  Here I was . . .  all alone in Smith Rock State Park, after dark, riding next to a meandering river under towering cliffs and rock formations.  It dawned on me that this was perhaps one of the most memorable mountain bike rides I had ever taken, and then to make things even better, I glanced up and found a full moon rising above the Morning Glory wall.  I don’t know for sure whether it was the cool air coming off of the river or the scenery itself, but I suddenly felt chills go up and down my spine.  I got off my bike, and in an almost trance-like manner, I set up the camera, took a few deep breaths, and then waited for the shutter to close.

 

Stock photo of the moon rising over the Morning Glory Wall in Smith Rock State Park.

Stock photo of the moon rising over the Morning Glory Wall in Smith Rock State Park.

 

Looking back, this was definitely one of my favorite photographic experiences of all time.  It also demonstrates how you might not always capture the images that you are hoping for, but if you keep your eyes open, you can sometimes find an even better opportunity just around the corner.  Photographers often say,”The key to good landscape photography is getting there,” and in this case, I feel very grateful that I was able to be there.

Posted by Troy McMullin

NOTE: I would like to thank Matt Lathrop of FOCUS Realty for licensing one of the images from this day for his new website.  If you are interested in seeing other images from Smith Rock, you can browse our High Desert Gallery on the main Pacific Crest Stock photography site or search the site for “Smith Rock.” 


Killer Rattlesnakes and Photos from Central Oregon’s Alder Springs Trail!

One of my favorite  and lesser known Central Oregon destinations for hiking and Photography is the Whychus Creek canyon, which is best accessed from the Alder Springs trail head south east of the city of Sisters, Oregon.  This beautiful area is monitored and maintained by one of my favorite non-profit groups, the Deschutes Land Trust.  It offers classic high desert views of sagebrush seas, the Three Sisters Mountains, and the Whychus Creek Canyon.  Below is an image of the Three Sisters and Broken Top as seen from near the Alder Springs Trail head.

The Three Sisters and Broken top as seen from near the Alder Springs Trail Head

The Three Sisters and Broken top as seen from near the Alder Springs Trail Head

 

 

      This area is accessible for much of the year because it is lower in elevation than many of the more popular hiking areas of Central Oregon.  Trail details are available from many different local hiking guides and from the Land Trust’s website.  Parking is available at the trail head and the trail is easy to navigate but is not  handicap accessible.  Initially the trail skirts along a high desert ridge with some views of the surrounding buttes, the distant Oregon Cascades, and Whychus Creek far below.  Below is an image of the Whychus Creek Canyon from the Alder Creek Trail.  

Moody skies over the Whychus Creek Canyon along the Alder Springs Trail

Moody skies over the Whychus Creek Canyon along the Alder Springs Trail

 

 

I’ve been to the Alder Springs area many times but I’ve rarely seen the dark and moody skies like those in the above image which help to add interest to this photo.  In addition to the brooding skies, I love the big western feel of this photograph with its raw and rugged canyon zig-zagging into the distance between high desert mesas and the sparse details of junipers and sagebrush dotting the scene.  In early spring during certain years, you might be lucky enough to find a floral gem of the desert, the ephemeral Bitterroot flowers.  Below is one of my favorite groupings of Bitterroot blossoms seen along the Alder Springs trail.  

Bitterroot blossoms as seen along the Alder Springs trail in Central Oregon

Bitterroot blossoms as seen along the Alder Springs trail in Central Oregon

 

 

These delicate flowers seem to glow from within as if they have their own inner light source.  They are a favorite of my farrier friend, Big Todd, because I think they appeal to his delicate and sensitive side.  High along the canyon you can find all sorts of surprises.  I’ve made many trips there in early spring to capture the flamboyant accents of Balsamroot in full bloom.  If you want to enjoy these early season beauties, you should arrive before the deer herds as they seem to be a favorite snack for these foraging ungulates.  Perhaps, more importantly, you should only venture off trail to view these flowers with the knowledge that you will have a good chance of encountering Rattlesnakes fresh from their winter slumbers!  In all seriousness, I’ve noted a very strong correlation between these balsamroot being in bloom and Rattlesnakes coming out of hibernation.  On the day that I shot the following photograph of Balsamroot and basalt columns, I was “rattled” twice by the local serpents.  I was hiking off trail along a steep slope near a big drop down into the canyon floor.  As I crossed a rocky area, I heard a faint rattling noise.  A primal impulse triggered my flight or fight mechanism and I quickly chose the flight option!  As panic ensued I quickly leaped out of the area. During my less than grand exit, I spotted the fluttering tail of the rattlesnake disappear into a rocky crevice directly beneath my dancing feet!  Please keep in mind that I am not especially afraid of snakes, unlike my mother who seems to think they are the devil incarnate.  I simply don’t like being surprised by poisonous snakes while crossing rocky and exposed slopes.  After I’d cleared the area and my heart rate dropped to a reasonable level I rounded a canyon edge and saw another rocky slope I had to cross.  I conjured unhealthy visions of Indiana Jones in Raiders surrounded by viscous asps in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I mentally gathered myself and selected the least exposed route across what the dark side of my imagination perceived as a giant rattlesnake breeding ground.  Mid route I stepped on a loose rock which toppled into an adjacent area and sure enough, RATTTTTTLE!  Panic!  To make matters worse, I was unable to spot my angry foe amidst all the plate sized rocks surrounding my nervous ankles.  I blindly bounded out of the area never seeing the offended serpent.  Perhaps, understandably, it took me a bit longer to compose myself after my second scare of the day.  Eventually I gathered myself and captured the following image of Balsamroot flowers backed by some beautiful lichen covered basalt columns high above Whychus Creek.  

 

Balsamroot flowers and Basalt columns along the Alder Springs Trail near Sisters, Oregon

Balsamroot flowers and Basalt columns along the Alder Springs Trail near Sisters, Oregon

One of my favorite images from this area also involved an adventure into this rattlesnake infested location.  The following image captures some of the most colorful rock formations I’ve ever found.  The brilliant orange and yellow lichen growths are simply stunning and when combined with the vertical accents of the basalt columns they make for a very surreal scene.  I’ve seen few images from this area probably because of the very real threat of rattlesnakes and because of the treacherous locations in which these beautiful rock formations seem to be found.  During the process of capturing the following scene, I was precariously balanced on the very edge of a 50-foot cliff with my left foot  and two legs of the tripod holding my 4×5 camera balanced on loose rocks. On multiple locations my tripod slightly slipped allowing me to experience a different form of terror than that offered by the hidden rattlesnakes!   Eventually I captured the following photo and then took a longer but rattlesnake-free route out of the Whychus Creek Basin.

Lichen covered basalt columns at sunset high above Whychus Creek along the Alder Springs Trai

Lichen covered basalt columns at sunset high above Whychus Creek along the Alder Springs Trail

 

 

The stunning color combinations, the vertical accents and the warm evening light make this one of my favorite fine art images.  

     In regards to the Alder Springs Trail, it really is quite special.  From desert mesas to cold flowing springs, beautiful sights are everywhere.  The trail passes through a spring laden oasis of plant life and eventually to the confluence of Whychus Creek and the mighty Deschutes River.  The take home message from this trail is that if the balsamroot have begun to bloom and you are wary of rattlesnakes, you should consider staying on the trail!  If you are interested in licensing any of these images, please visit the High Desert Gallery of our stock photography site, Pacific Crest Stock.  

By Mike Putnam


Smith Rock Photos: Desert Snow Adventure

 Approximately mid-way through this hike, I began to think that it might have been optimism that killed the cat rather than just curiosity.  After all, that cat must have been more than just a little curious.  I suspect that he—like me—was simply a bit too optimistic that somehow the reward was going to be worth the risk.

Any time that thoughts like these begin to creep into my head, I know that I must be having fun, and indeed, I was definitely having a blast on this beautiful winter hike along the Crooked River canyon that runs through Terrebonne, Oregon.  Suspecting that the desert rock formations were going to be blanketed with snow, Mike Putnam and I decided to make a quick trip to Smith Rock State Park in hopes of expanding our High Desert Gallery on our new Pacific Crest Stock website.  The sun was higher than expected when we arrived, so we decided to split up in an effort to maximize the limited amount of remaining good light.  Mike would work around the ledges on the top of the canyon, and I would go explore around the Crooked River and the meadows in the bottom of the canyon.

 

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Smith Rock, the Crooked River, and blue skies after a fresh winter snow

 

My unexpected adventure started about 50 feet from the truck when I realized that I was not going to be able to find the normally easy trail that traverses down from the top of the cliff because everything on the ground was covered with several inches of fresh powder.  After spending a few futile minutes searching for the trail, it became obvious that I would need to find my own way down the 30 percent grade, all of the while trying to carefully pick my route through the hidden rock fields.  It took much longer than expected to reach the river’s edge and on more than one occasion, I found myself in an awkward telemark-like position, using my poles for balance as I clumsily boot skied down the slippery slope. 

After I had safely made it to level ground and was able to look around, it was absolutely beautiful.  I was surrounded by towering cliffs, all of which were draped with a light snow that was trying desperately to cling to the near vertical faces.  I realized right away that this was one of most spectacular days that I have ever spent at Smith Rock, and I began thinking about how pretty the snow must be upstream near the currents across from the Monument (one of my favorite rock climbing formations in the park). 

I have hiked up near the Monument many times in the past, and as luck would have it, my current level of excitement seemed to have obscured my memory of just how difficult it was to access—even when there was no snow or ice.  As I struggled to make my way over the huge slippery boulders lying upstream, I began having strange conversations with myself about cats and curiosity and then flashes of Mike’s recent blog entry about a wintery boulder-filled hike along the Deschutes River filled my head.  Unfortunately, by the time that I remembered reading about all of the dangers that he had encountered, I was already trying to navigate my way through my own ice-covered rock garden.  Each step seemed to present new challenges, and on more than one occasion I found myself knee deep in what had been a previously snow-covered crevice.  With a little bit of luck (and a whole lot of optimism), I managed to avoid getting myself tangled into an eternal figure-four-leg lock and I arrived at my final destination with a huge smile on my sweat-drenched face. 

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The Monument at Smith Rock State Park with snow covered boulders in the Crooked River in the foreground

 

The boulders along the river’s edge were stacked high with bright new snow and the rocky spires rising on the other side of the river seemed magnified against the backdrop of a brilliant clear blue sky.  Standing there, I realized that all of my optimism had been fully rewarded, and the hike was already worth the risk, even if I didn’t end up with a single photograph for the website.   Of course, I also knew that Mike and his unique brand of humor would embarrass me beyond belief if I was to let that happen, so I quickly scurried around the icy river bank framing various angles and water patterns, and then I started my way back–following my previous zigzag of foot prints until I had made it to the safety of the wide open meadow. 

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Snow covered rock formations and the Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park

 

In the time that it took me to negotiate less than a mile of rough terrain, Mike had thoroughly covered the upper ridges extending along the entire border of the park.  Altogether, we captured at least a dozen stock-worthy images.  While driving home along Highway 97, we talked optimistically about the future of our new stock agency and we began planning our next adventure into other local snowscapes.  We’ll keep you updated.

 

Posted By Troy McMullin

 

NOTE: If you are interested in seeing other images from this day, you can search our Pacific Crest Stock website for “Smith Rock” and “Snow.”