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

Posts Tagged ‘central oregon hiking’

Photos from Three Fingered Jack and the Canyon Creek Meadow Trail

Three Fingered Jack has always been one of my favorite Central Oregon Mountains. Its accessibility, its interesting form, it’s location near to Bend, Oregon, and its sometimes stunning wildflower displays. Central Oregon’s easiest access point for Three Fingered Jack is through the Metolius Basin. For a more thorough trail write up for the Three Fingered Jack/ Canyon Creek Meadow trail visit the following link, Bend Wild.  When I visit Three Fingered Jack, we usually enter the high country through Canyon Creek Meadows and the Jack Lake Trail head. This particular trip was with my little family of Debbie(Mommy/Wife), Emma, and Me on one of our family backpacking trips/photography expeditions.

The Putnam Family eager to hike the Jack Lake Trail head into Canyon Creek Meadows

The Putnam Family eager to hike the Jack Lake Trail head into Canyon Creek Meadows

We quickly covered the two miles into the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow despite the many down lodgepole pines on the trail.  Sadly, this will probably be a recurring theme on this specific trail because of the recent fires and because of the mountain pine beetles which are devastating pine forests across the western United States.  We spent the night at the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow which was overflowing with wildflowers and has a couple beautiful streams flowing through it.  I spent most of the evening scouting in the upper meadow for the shots I’d work on the next morning.  I returned in time for the best freeze dried dinner(aren’t all meals in the backcountry the best ever?)  It was Chili Mac with beef made by Mountain House.  Delicious!  Fortunately, I also returned to the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow for a stunning sunset which is pictured below.

Photo of a stunning sunset from the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Are

Photo of a stunning sunset from the Lower Canyon Creek Meadow in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area

Landscape photography was unrewarding the next morning because of the heavily overcast skies and the very flat light.  It’s the curse of the Oregon Landscape Photographer.  Great effort combined with poor light is a frustrating.  It was also very windy, making it impossible to shoot any of the amazing flower scenes in the upper meadow.  As the photography conditions were poor, the day was dedicated to family.  We moved to a great campsite in area of the Upper Canyon Creek Meadow(but not in the meadow)  and spent most of the day playing in the frigid waters of Canyon Creek.  Below is a picture of Emma balancing above Canyon Creek, an activity that entertained her for hours.

Photo of Emma balancing high above Canyon Creek and Three Fingered Jack

Photo of Emma balancing high above Canyon Creek and Three Fingered Jack

Between the activities of balance beam competitions, chasing frogs, swatting mosquitoes, and lounging in the Alpine glory of Three Fingered Jack, the day quickly passed.  The next morning started a little windy and overcast, but the clouds blew over and the wind died down making for a landscape photographer’s nirvana.  Amazing wildflowers at their seasonal peak with the awesome backdrop of  the towering Three Fingered Jack.  Below are a few of the Landscape photos I captured that morning.

Photo of a wildflower laden alpine stream with Three Fingered Jack in the background

Photo of a wildflower laden alpine stream with Three Fingered Jack in the background

I shot the above scene extensively with my large format camera in hopes of capturing a winning fine art print.  To see some of my finished large format photographs from this trip to Three fingered Jack hike Canyon Creek Meadow.  The film isn’t finished developing but I’m optimistic!  The Following scene, was a little simpler, but no less rewarding because of its interesting clouds, excellent textures, colors, and impact.

Picture of Central Oregon's Three Fingered Jack with a colorful foreground of Lupines and Red Indian Paintbrush.

Picture of Central Oregon’s Three Fingered Jack with a colorful foreground of Lupines and Red Indian Paintbrush.

I took dozens of other photos of the amazing lupine meadows in the Upper Meadow.  If you are interested in seeing more of those images, please visit my personal website by visiting, Bend, Oregon Photographer.   After I finished photographing the Upper Meadow, we reluctantly packed up camp and headed for home in Bend, Oregon.  Below is one last photo of our little family leaving our camp site and hiking back home.

The Putnam family leaving camp and the Upper Canyon Creek Meadow.

The Putnam family leaving camp and the Upper Canyon Creek Meadow.

The Canyon Creek Meadows are not always as flower filled as they were this year, but they are always a beautiful destination.  If you care to backpack into this wonderful alpine basin, please respect the meadow and wildflowers and do not camp directly in the meadows as they are very fragile and will quickly perish with the pressure of camping.  Instead camp in the hills located east of the upper meadow or in the Lower Meadow of Canyon Creek. To view another more recent photograph of  Three Fingered Jack, captured in autumn, visit, Three Fingered Jack.

If you  are interested in licensing any of the images in this blog entry, or you would like to see more images from Canyon Creek Meadows, please contact us through our Pacific Crest Stock Website.
Thanks For Visiting,

By: Mike Putnam


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.  To read more about this beautiful image captured along the Cascade Lake Scenic Byway, Visit, Elk Lake  Photo.

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. To view a gorgeous sunrise shot that I captured from the shores of Sparks Lake, visit my personal website, Bend Oregon Photographer.

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