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

Spring wildflower photos of Oregon landscapes

Elk Lake, Sparks Lake, and Todd Lake. Stock photos from the Cascade Lakes Highway

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!

Photo/picture of Mt. Bachelor as seen from along the Cascade Lakes Highway

Photo/picture of Mt. Bachelor as seen from along the Cascade Lakes Highway

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

Photo of Elk Lake with South Sister in the background, along Central Oregon's Cascade Lakes Highway.

Photo of Elk Lake with South Sister in the background, along Central Oregon's Cascade Lakes Highway.

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.

Photo of the Elk Lake resort and marina, along the Cascade Lakes Highway

Photo of the Elk Lake resort and marina, along the Cascade Lakes Highway

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.

Me holding a small Western toad along the shores of Todd Lake.

Me holding a small Western toad along the shores of Todd Lake.

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.

Photo of a small stream meandering through the meadow adjacent to Todd Lake, with Mt. Bachelor in the background

Photo of a small stream meandering through the meadow adjacent to Todd Lake, with Mt. Bachelor in the background

Along the southern edges of Todd Lake, there are often thick stands of marsh marigolds, an early indicator of spring in the Oregon Cascades.

Picture of marsh marigolds along the shores of Todd Lake

Picture of marsh marigolds along the shores of Todd Lake

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.

Photo of Todd Lake and Mt. Bachelor in the Central Oregon Cascades.

Photo of Todd Lake and Mt. Bachelor in the Central Oregon Cascades.

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.

Photo of Central Oregon's Broken Top Mountain with a foreground of Jeffrey's shooting stars near Sparks Lake

Photo of Central Oregon's Broken Top Mountain with a foreground of Jeffrey's shooting stars near Sparks Lake

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.

Photo of Mt. Bachelor at sunset along the shores of Sparks Lake

Photo of Mt. Bachelor at sunset along the shores of Sparks Lake

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


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


Visit Bend Tourism Guide now available, Go see our Photo!

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.  

Visit Bend Mt. Jefferson Cover Shot, now in visitor centers near you!

Visit Bend Mt. Jefferson Cover Shot, now in visitor centers near you!

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!

Posted by 

Mike Putnam


Mt. Hood, Hood River and seasonal photo vacations

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?

 

Photo/picture of Mt. Hood and spring wildflowers high above the Hood River Valley in the Columbia River Gorge

Photo/picture of Mt. Hood and spring wildflowers high above the Hood River Valley in the Columbia River Gorge

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.

 

JoJo and Emma giggling in the wildflowers high above the Hood River Valley

JoJo and Emma giggling in the wildflowers high above the Hood River Valley

     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.  

Photo/picture ofMt. Hood and wildflower meadow in the Columbia River Gorge

Photo/picture ofMt. Hood and wildflower meadow in the Columbia River Gorge

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

photo/picture of Lupines and Balsamroot in the Columbia River Gorge

photo/picture of Lupines and Balsamroot in the Columbia River Gorge

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.  

Emma on a sunny spring day in the Hood River Valley

Emma on a sunny spring day in the Hood River Valley

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   mike@pacificcreststock.com or call (541) 610-4815

Posted by Mike Putnam

All images are copyrighted and exclusively the property of Mike Putnam/Pacific Crest Stock


Three Fingered Jack: Beware of the Greener Grass

Everyone has heard the saying about how “The grass is always greener on the other side.”  Well, this overly optimistic outlook is one of the problems that I often struggle with when I’m out scouting for pictures.  On one recent expedition, it almost cost me my life.   

 I wanted to do some scouting around Three Fingered Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, so I hiked into Canyon Creek Meadows (alone).  When I arrived in the upper meadow, it was absolutely gorgeous. 

 

Sunrise photo of Three Fingered Jack mountain with the wildflowers of Canyon Creek Meadows in full bloom.

Sunrise photo of Three Fingered Jack mountain with the wildflowers of Canyon Creek Meadows in full bloom.

 But for some reason, that wasn’t enough.  Despite standing in one of the most spectacular spots in the whole world, I couldn’t help but wonder what the views were like on the ridge to my immediate left.   I just knew that if I could find a way to get up on that ridge, I was going to find some unique and dramatic landscape shot that would be better than any that I have ever taken before.  The urge to climb that ridge was just overwhelming, and so I threw my camera gear into the backpack and started trekking toward the tree line.

As I approached the base of the ridge, the pine trees grew more and more dense until they became almost impassable.  The trees were only about 10 or 12 feet tall, but they had grown so close together that it was almost impossible for anything bigger than a rabbit to walk between them.  I began grabbing low hanging branches and with as much strength as I could muster, I started pulling myself through the wall of trees.  My backpack and tripod must have gotten hooked around a thousand different branches, and I swore that there was no way I would ever go back through this part of the forest again.  A few hundred vertical feet later, I finally popped out of the trees and found myself standing on a steep rocky slope. I attempted to traverse the slope, only to find that the boulders were incredibly unstable.  As they slipped and rolled under my feet, I started scrambling on all fours until I eventually made my way up to more solid ground.  From there, I could see a rock tunnel that spiraled up to what appeared to be an easy route to the top, so I did my best spider-man impression and wedged myself up through the winding rock tunnel.     

  

Winter photo of Three Fingered Jack. The ridge where I almost died is just out of frame to the left.

Winter photo of Three Fingered Jack. The ridge where I almost died is just out of frame to the left.

 It was at this point that I should have remembered the other saying about how “appearances can be deceiving” because once I made it through the tunnel, that apparently easy route to the top completely disappeared.  I was now standing on a ledge that was a little more than one-square foot around.  The ledge was too small to turn around on; the way down was much too steep to go back; and the only way up was via another ledge that was sticking out about 5 feet away.  In a bit of a panicked haste, I decided that my only option was to jump up and over to the other ledge.    

To lighten my load for the leap, I took off my backpack and tossed it and my hiking poles up to the ledge above me.  I then took another look at the distance, and this is when I began to have some serious doubts about whether or not I could actually make the gap, especially since the fear running through my body was causing my legs to grow weaker and weaker by the minute. On level ground, I wouldn’t have thought twice about jumping up and over to the other ledge, but with a few hundred feet of vertical relief below me, the whole idea of it was becoming rather unsettling. 

I stood there, trembling on the tiny ledge for several excruciating minutes trying to find another way out of the situation.  I looked down at the route I had taken up to this spot and started to imagine what it would feel like to have my body ricocheting down through the rocks.  I even remember staring down at the rock slide below me trying to calculate where my body might stop rolling if I couldn’t hold on to the ledge after jumping.  None of these thoughts were all that comforting, and as I started contemplating calling for an emergency rescue rather than attempting to make the jump over to the other ledge, I realized that a rescue call was no longer an option because my cell phone was already resting comfortably in my backpack on the other ledge.  That was the final straw and when I realized that I really had no choice at this point but to jump.  I focused my eyes on the exact spot where I thought I needed to land, and then I crouched down and quickly lunged across the gap reaching out as far as I possibly could.  I didn’t breathe for a few seconds until I finally realized that my fingers had firmly grasped onto the ledge above me and that my feet had found a hold on the side of the rocks.  Immensely relieved, I scrambled on to the top of the rocks, rolled over to my back, and swore that I would never again climb up something that I couldn’t safely climb back down.

The trip was rather uneventful from this point.  After a few more relatively easy scrambles, I made it to the top of the ridge.  The views from the top certainly weren’t worth dying for, but they were pretty spectacular–with the pinnacles of Three Fingered Jack towering directly overhead and wide open views of Mount Jefferson to the north, and Mount Washington and the Three Sisters Mountains to the south.  I found several interesting compositions up on the ridgeline, but unfortunately, the light was too harsh by the time I arrived to really do them justice with a camera.  Plus, to be honest, I felt like I had kind of lost my appetite for exploring any more on that particular day.  After 4 hours of hiking and climbing up to this spot, I probably spent less than 10 minutes on the top of the ridge, and then I turned around; found an easy way back down to the meadow; and hiked out to my truck—just happy to be alive.

  

Happy to be alive! Three Fingered Jack high in the Central Oregon Cascades.

Happy to be alive! Three Fingered Jack high in the Central Oregon Cascades.

 

Posted by Troy McMullin  

PS: Although I haven’t returned to the ridge since nearly being stranded on that ledge, I have a photograph in mind that I hope to capture later this Spring.  With any luck at all, it will soon be posted on our Pacific Crest Stock photography website.   We’ll keep you updated.


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


Mt. Bachelor snow photos and summer photos

 

    As part of our launch of Pacific Crest Stock, I thought that a small photo review of Central Oregon’s favorite alpine ski mountain might make an appropriate blog entry.  The images in this entry were obviously not captured on the same outing.  In fact, they required many separate outings for their capture.  All of you who are photo editors or image buyers have seen countless wintery images of Mt. Bachelor clad in snow but you may not know what goes into capturing those images.  Start with about 40 lbs of camera equipment, a 4AM wake up call, and sub zero temperatures (coffee is a vital element in this equation!).  Then proceed with 28 inches of fresh powder at Tumalo Mountain and a grueling and sweaty hour long snowshoe climb to get yourself into position.  Then you cross your fingers and hope that you can find an acceptable foreground.  After you stop climbing, your sweat quickly freezes on any exposed skin so an extra layer of clothing is a necessity.  Once you are in position for nature’s grand light show, you hope that there are no low clouds on the eastern horizon that will block the pink alpenglow from illuminating Mt. Bachelor’s eastern flanks.  You will struggle to keep your tripods legs from shifting because the powder snow is so deep that you can’t find a solid base to stabilize your camera during the long exposures required by a low light capture.  If you are lucky, you get to enjoy the warm pink glow of morning’s first light bathing you and everything around you.  If you’re really lucky, you skillfully expose the scene, you don’t get any snow on your film plates, you get to enjoy a beautiful Central Oregon Cascades sunrise and you get to share an image like the one below with your friends.

Mt. Bachelor in winter bathed by the pink alpenglow of sunrise

Mt. Bachelor in winter bathed by the pink alpenglow of sunrise

I shot this image with my trusty but heavy (explaining my 40 lb pack weight) 4×5 camera.  The finished prints of this image are so detailed that one can actually see several snow cats grooming Mt. bachelor’s ski runs.  It gives me a greater appreciation of the hard working people who do the grooming every winter morning so that we can have a better down hill experience.  Cheers to the groomers and may they always have warm fresh coffee!

     The next two images are taken from the Three Sisters Wilderness area.  Summer photos of Mt. Bachelor have their own set of challenges.  Everyone has seen summer scenes of Mt Bachelor shot from the sides of Tumalo Mountain but you rarely see any of those images with an attractive foreground.  Finding those attractive foregrounds takes lots of exploration, which I love, but frankly it is physical work as it always involves a heavy pack.  The following image was captured with my intrepid daughter, Emma.  I’d been to this same area several times in the preceding few days and realized that sunset would provide the best light quality, so I loaded up Emma, lots of bug dope, camera gear and enough snacks to keep up with Emma’s speedy metabolism.  I love the fullness of the foreground, flowing with red Indian Paintbrush.  I also enjoy the lines of the small streams threading through the scene and the one large boulder in the mid-ground.  Perhaps the most rare and un-repeatable part of this scene is the cloud caps over Mt. Bachelor.  Plain blue skies tend to be a bit boring while a pleasant cloud formation tends to add to an image and make it a bit more unique.

Central Oregon's Mt. Bachelor with a foreground of Red Indian Paintbrush as seen from the Three Sisters Wilderness Area

Central Oregon's Mt. Bachelor with a foreground of Red Indian Paintbrush as seen from the Three Sisters Wilderness Area

The next image was also taken from the mountainous area adjacent to Mt. Bachelor.  This photo required a long off-trail hike with some accurate GPS coordinates to find and capture.  The hike was a little too far and rugged for Emma, so I went solo on this particular shoot.  Once again, I was fortunate to have some interesting clouds that added interest to the scene.

 

Mt Bachelor and wildflower meadow in the Central Oregon Cascades

Mt Bachelor and wildflower meadow in the Central Oregon Cascades

 The following image was taken at Central Oregon’s beloved Sparks Lake near the Cascade Lakes Highway.  It is an exceptional location for both spectacular views and mosquitos the size of small aircraft.  If you visit in the early spring, take lots of bug dope and your camera.  This corner of the lake has lots of small islands covered in mountain heather, and at sunset, it can offer some stunning color on Mt. bachelor.  

Mt. Bachelor sunset reflection as seen from Sparks Lake near the Cascade Lakes Highway

Mt. Bachelor sunset reflection as seen from Sparks Lake near the Cascade Lakes Highway

If you have any interest in licensing these or any of our other Cascades  Mountain images, please visit the  Mountain Gallery of our new stock photography website, Pacific Crest Stock.  If you have any comments or questions about these images, you can contact us through the contact information at the top of this blog or through the comments area at the end of this blog entry.  

Posted by Mike Putnam