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

Sparks Lake and Early Fall Color along the Cascade Lakes Highway

The shoulder season between Summer and autumn is often a source of frustration for photographers in Central Oregon.  Alpine flowers are brown and dead, and fall color is yet to explode.  Flat gray skies often highlight an unattractive lifeless environment.  The first breaths of autumn always enliven a landscape photographer’ s soul.  One of the locations where I often find these first breaths of autumn is along the Cascades Lake Highway  southwest of Bend, Oregon.

Sparks Lake and its high elevation and its good southern exposure helps alpine ground cover to ripen to the height of its fall glory a bit earlier than the lower elevation hotspots such as the Metolius Basin, the McKenzie River area and the riparian areas along the Deschutes River.  For a small collection of photos from the Metolius River basin, visit this link. Metolius River Photos

Photo of a beautiful sunrise from Sparks Lake

Photo of a beautiful sunrise from Sparks Lake

Any pre-sunrise visit to Cascade Lakes area should start with a visit to the Ray Atkeson memorial viewpoint along Sparks Lake’s shore.  A visit to this location is something of a pilgrimage to a magical landascape photography location.  The lake’s surface isn’t always a glassy and reflective as it was in the picture seen above, but you never know if you are going to see the light show of a lifetime and there is no better place to seen it from than Sparks Lake.  While the photo seen above doesn’t have any fall color in it, it is somewhat typical of autumn in that there is fresh snow on our Central Oregon mountains.

After the pastel colors of this brief light show had faded, I packed up and went to a different area of Sparks Lake for an entirely different perspective and hopefully some fall color.

Frosted autumn colored ground cover along the shores of Sparks Lake in Oregon

Frosted autumn colored ground cover along the shores of Sparks Lake in Oregon

While scouting for a sunrise shot I peered down to capture the above image of frost covered alpine foliage.  I like how the frosty leaves add detail and texture to the interesting and colorful autumn foliage.   Eventually after some extensive frosty scouting and a frightening realization, I set up the shot below.  The realization is that hunting is allowed along the shores of Sparks Lake.  It strikes me as odd.  Sparks is essentially a playground for the city of Bend and hunting is allowed.  I recognize that hunting is a popular activity and it should be allowable on public lands, but Sparks Lake?  Regardless hunters were blasting ducks out of the air no more than 100 yards from me and a parking lot along the busy Cascade Lakes Highway.

Mt. Bachelor at sunrise with a foreground of frosty alpine ground-cover near the shores of Sparks Lake

Mt. Bachelor at sunrise with a foreground of frosty alpine ground-cover near the shores of Sparks Lake

They are subtle but hopefully you can notice the hints of frost covered fall color in the foreground of this image.  The stream channels help to break up the foreground and the sunburst  adds an extra element for the attractive background of Mt. Bachelor.

Fall color won’t last long in the Cascade Lakes area near Sparks Lake so hurry and take a hike before the snows cover this beautiful alpine area for the rest of the season.  for some attractive summer photos of Sparks Lake please visit the following link  Sparks Lake Photos.

For more beautiful Central Oregon Photos, please visit our main site at Pacific Crest Stock Photography

Thanks for visiting,

Mike Putnam

3 Responses Subscribe to comments


  1. MICHAEL ZAROCOSTAS

    Frosted autumn leaves were the best -great shot. Z

    Oct 19, 2009 @ 10:55 am


  2. Tiffany

    Just gorgeous Mike …I am always impressed by your skill to capture the Oregon Landscape so fabulously :)

    Oct 20, 2009 @ 3:04 pm


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