With the New Year starting, it’s fun to think back over the past few months and reflect on what was another great season of adventure in Central Oregon. This past summer started out a little rough (e.g., watching my camera and tripod tumble off of a 200-foot cliff), but it eventually gave way to a reasonably fruitful year. My efforts did not produce as many pure landscape images as I would have liked, but I tried to keep my options open and find a few good photos on every hike. That typically defaulted to me striking a pose in front of various Central Oregon landmarks–which is not exactly the fine art I would have liked to capture, but then again, I have a tough time passing on an opportunity to add to Pacific Crest Stock’s ever-growing Outdoor Adventure Gallery . . . so, here is a brief summary of some of my favorite hikes from 2010.
Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area: This was one of those impossibly challenging cross-country (i.e., “no trail”) treks that I planned (rather poorly) using Google Earth and a hefty dose of optimism. Although the approach looked fairly easy online, I quickly realized that I had been deceived and within a half-hour of leaving the Jeep, I was decidedly happy that I had chosen not to invite anyone else along on this little adventure. Anyone else would have surely killed me for dragging them up and down these remote valleys in what turned out to be a failed attempt to reach a never-before-visited viewpoint of Mount Jefferson. I thought for sure I was going to be killed and eaten by bears before making it out of the Wilderness on this day. About mid-way through the hike, I changed course and headed for the safety of the Jefferson Park area. This viewpoint isn’t quite what I planned, but then again, dying in the jowls of a hungry bear wasn’t necessarily part of the plan either.
Ochoco Mountains: This hike started out as a fairly nice evening stroll up along a wildflower-filled trail in the Ochoco Mountains. There’s a great viewpoint at the top of Lookout Mountain, but if you stay to take sunset pictures (like the one below), you better have a headlamp or be prepared to trail run out in the dark. Guess which one I did. Yep, I found myself sprinting back to the Jeep in total darkness. Real smart.
Smith Rock: These photos were taken on a great mountain biking trip to Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, Oregon. If you haven’t ridden at Smith Rock, put it on your list of 2011 Resolutions. It’s one of the most surreal places you will ever ride.
Three Sisters Wilderness: I was fortunate enough to get into the Three Sisters backcountry area on several different occasions in 2010. Each of these trips ranks among my favorites for the year.
Crooked River Canyon: Central Oregon has so many great desert scenes, it’s hard to choose where to go first. I spent quite bit of time this past Spring exploring the peaks and valleys surrounding the Deschutes River and Crooked River. Here are a few photos from some of my favorite desert hikes:
Other Miscellaneous Trips: There were lots of other great days in the past year where I was lucky enough to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Here are a few miscellaneous photos from some of those days:
I hope that 2011 is as good to me as 2010. Cheers!
Posted by Troy McMullin
This is an announcement that we’ve have been waiting to make for quite some time. Pacific Crest Stock has recently created a new Outdoor Adventure gallery that includes images of people interacting with the natural environment. At this point, we’re limiting our collection to photos of people participating in human-powered sports, such as hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and fly fishing. We’re working hard to expand our collection, and anticipate that we will be adding to the list of outdoor adventure sports in the near future. Just to give you a hint of what you’ll find in the new gallery, we have posted some of our favorite new Oregon stock photos below.
Sample Backcountry Skiing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Mountain Biking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Backpacking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Fly Fishing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Hiking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
We’re very excited about our new collection of stock photos, and we hope that you will be too. If you like what you see, please bookmark the new Outdoor Adventure gallery and check back often as it will be updated frequently. For licensing information, call us at 541-610-4815.
I made several trips to the Cascade Lakes Highway this spring, as I do every spring. For those of you who haven’t made this short drive(about 20 miles from Bend, Oregon) you should do it. The highway is lined with beautiful lakes such as Todd Lake(the highest of the Cascade Lakes), the famed and very photogenic Sparks Lake, and the often under appreciated Elk Lake. While my father in-law, Kenny Scholz was in Bend earlier this spring, I coerced him to join me in an evening photo shoot which involved Sparks Lake and Elk Lake. One of the earliest and best photography scenes to develop along the Cascade Lakes Highway, is along the exposed shores of Sparks Lake. This area gets lots of sun and in its marshy areas, it usually has a profusion of yellow buttercups covering that area. Well, I think that is changing. This particular marshy area along Sparks Lake is changing rapidly. The buttercups are being replaced by grasses which I assume is part of an evolutionary process. Regardless, I didn’t get my yellow buttercup flowers this year!
While I didn’t have great flowers for this shot, I did have nice clouds, making this photo worthy of this beautiful area of Central Oregon. Mt. Bachelor with a fair amount of snow makes for a pleasant backdrop for this photograph. Next up for Kenny and I was a quick stop at Elk Lake where, years ago , I shot the following photo with my 4X5 camera. To read more about this beautiful image captured along the Cascade Lake Scenic Byway, Visit, Elk Lake Photo.
Unfortunately, this scene no longer exists, as this particular flower meadow has largely been replaced with non-flowering grasses. Instead of visiting this changing meadow, I took Kenny to the Elk Lake Resort. Elk Lake has a long history of boating and particularly sailing, which I understand my photo partner, Troy has taken up since his recent housing move. Below is a photo of the marina at Elk Lake with Mount Bachelor in the background. As you can see, Mount Bachelor was well covered with a rapidly changing cloud cap.
I like the texture and color that the canoes and kayaks lend to the foreground of this Elk Lake photo. The sail boats in the mid-ground also add another attractive element. I’m not sure which sail boat is Troy’s. Kenny and I thoroughly enjoyed our stop at the marina which is a great place to visit for kids and families when driving the Cascade Lakes Highway.
Another of my favorite locations along the Cascade Lakes Highway is Todd Lake. Todd lake is the highest of the Cascade Lakes at 6,150 feet of elevation. It requires a short and non strenuous 1/4 mile hike to view its 29 acres of alpine beauty. It is stocked with Brook Trout and can offer some exciting fishing for 8-10 inch fish. My most recent visit to Todd Lake was made with my daughter and hiking buddy, Emma. She and most kids are fond of Todd Lake because of it’s many streams, and the proliferation of small toads along it’s shore line which I believe are referred to as “Western Toads”. Not a terribly exciting name but they are cute and fun for kids.
Regardless of photographic conditions along Todd Lake, it is a beautiful and simple Lake to explore. During our visit, we found some pleasant clouds hovering about Mt. Bachelor, so that was the object of much of my photo efforts. While were there, it was still fairly early in the wildflower season, so some of the species we saw blooming included Marsh marigolds Jeffrey’s Shooting Stars, and lots of buttercups.
Along the southern edges of Todd Lake, there are often thick stands of marsh marigolds, an early indicator of spring in the Oregon Cascades.
Marsh Marigolds are one of my favorite early spring flowers because of their delicate appearance and because they suggest that dramatic alpine flower meadows will soon start to bloom. If anyone knows what kind of bug is in the above photo, please let me know. After cavorting around along Todd Lake’s shores, Emma and I hiked upward for an overview of Todd Lake. Because of the large number of dead lodgepole pine trees around Todd Lake and all of the Cascade Lakes, it is becoming more and more difficult to capture great photos in this area. These pine trees are being killed by the mountain pine beetle which bore through and under the pine tree’s bark, weakening the tree’s natural defenses. These beetles are considered to be part of the natural life cycle of the lodgepole pine. They are not considered to be part of the life cycle of the ponderosa pine and we are beginning to see a few ponderosa trees killed by this destructive creature. This is a huge concern for foresters and any outdoor advocates that enjoy healthy stands of native trees. Below is a photo largely devoid of any dying or infested lodgepoles. Unfortunately, I anticipate that this rather pristine scene will become less common in the next couple years as the mountain pine beetle continues to infest a wider area.
The following set of photos was captured at Sparks Lake while I was being swarmed by flesh ripping mosquitoes. If you go to Sparks Lake or any of the Cascade Lakes, bring some heavy duty mosquito repellent as they are horrendous this year. The following image of Broken Top Mountain has a foreground of Jeffrey’s shooting stars in the foreground. I’m fond of their vibrant colors and distinctive shapes.
Part of the beauty of exploring Sparks Lake is that one can make a new discovery with every new visit. I had intended to shoot from the Ray Atkeson memorial trail on this particular evening but it was somewhat windy, eliminating any chance of a reflection in Sparks Lake, and there were no clouds around South Sister to lend interest to the scene. Extensive exploring and wading through very cold waters eventually led me to this scene, one I wasn’t expecting but that I enjoyed very much, despite the ongoing mosquito assault on my DEET covered skin. Wading through some of these streams did take some commitment. As any man can attest, wading in cold water beyond a certain depth can become acutely uncomfortable. Well I exceeded that depth! In other words, I earned these shots with some level of physical suffering. The following shot of Mt. Bachelor was captured from the same general area of Sparks Lake. To view a gorgeous sunrise shot that I captured from the shores of Sparks Lake, visit my personal website, Bend Oregon Photographer.
If you have any interest in licensing these or any of our many other images from the Cascade Lakes Highway area, please visit our primary stock photography website at Pacific Crest Stock .
Thanks for Visiting,
By: Mike Putnam
Henry David Thoreau once said, “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” If Thoreau was correct, then I think Oregon’s Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area could be considered a virtual fountain of youth, because in my experience, it is almost impossible to visit this area without being overwhelmed with enthusiasm. In fact, anyone who peruses our photo galleries on Pacific Crest Stock probably can’t help but notice that Mike Putnam and I have a great deal of enthusiasm for the meadows and valleys surrounding Mount Jefferson. It really doesn’t matter if you are hiking into Jefferson Park, Coffin Mountain, or the Cathedral Rocks Canyon, there is almost no way to go wrong . . . as long as your camera works when you get there.
A few years ago, I was hurrying around in preparation for a day hike into Jefferson Park. It was mid-August and I knew that the meadows around Russell Lake would be overflowing with flowers. As I ran frantically from room to room in the house gathering up all of my equipment, I set my camera backpack on the kitchen counter. On one of my passes back through the kitchen, I quickly filled a Nalgene bottle, and slid it into the mesh pocket on the side of my backpack. The weight of the water bottle immediately caused my backpack to shift and tumble from the counter top down to the hard slate floor. I lunged to catch the pack, but by the time I had a grasp on its top strap, the bottom of the bag had already crashed into the ground. I said a few choice words and then gave my camera a quick inspection. Everything looked fine. Whew!
I loaded my gear into the Jeep and started making my way to the Whitewater trailhead just up the road from Detroit Lake. I ended up starting the 10-mile round trip hike later than anticipated and after a steep climb to the top of the first ridge, I realized that I needed to run if I wanted to make it to the meadows and still have time to get out of the woods before dark. NOTE: Now is probably a good time to mention that I really despise running. Many of my friends are exceptional runners; they actually claim to love it. But me, I’m just not a runner. Give me a bike or some skate skis, but please never ask me to run.
I reluctantly jogged a few hundred yards up the trail and then I temporarily slowed to a brisk hike as I contemplated whether or not I really had enough time to cover all of the ground in front of me even if I was able to run the whole way. But then, images of Jefferson Park in full bloom consumed my thoughts and convinced me that I could definitely make it . . . as long as I would be willing to run. And with that, I picked up my trekking poles and started the very miserable task of trail running up 1800 vertical feet of backcountry trails with a heavy backpack and worn out boots. Up over the ridges; around the corners; and through the creek crossings. I ran the whole way into Jefferson Park.
As soon as I got to the meadows in Jefferson Park, I could see that my timing was perfect. The purple lupine and Indian paintbrush were in their most glorious states. I rushed through the maze of flower-filled trails that lead to Russell Lake and found the perfect spot along one its tributaries. Mount Jefferson was being gently lit by the westerly sun, and with that majestic mountain looming directly overhead, I carefully set up my tripod, composed the shot, and pressed the shutter button. But nothing happened. I checked the power button; the camera was on. I took the camera off of the tripod and checked the battery compartment; the battery was where it belonged. I took the battery in and out and turned the power switch on and off multiple times, but nothing could bring my camera back to life. Then, as I was spinning the camera around, I noticed that one of the bottom corners was badly dented and I remembered how my camera had fallen off the kitchen counter earlier in the day. Realizing that the camera had been ruined and that I jogged all of the way into Jefferson Park for nothing, I took my cell phone out of my pocket, pointed it at the mountain, hung my head in disgrace and clicked a single low-resolution digital phone picture.
Then, I started walking—not running—back to my Jeep.
NOTE: If you want to see additional images from the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, you can browse our pictures in the Mountain gallery on Pacific Crest Stock or search the site for “Mount Jefferson.”
Earlier this spring(2009) My daughter, Emma and I had one of our many Daddy/Daughter days when My wife, Debbie was working . As is often the case, we decided that a hike would be a pleasant way to pass the day. I noticed some interesting clouds in the area slightly northwest of Bend, so I decided that a drive to Tumalo Reservoir would be a worthwhile journey for both Emma and I. The views of Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Mountains are great from Tumalo Reservoir and from some areas of the reservoir, the Sisters are nicely reflected in the water.
The above photo of Tumalo Reservoir taken on a different morning shows the Three Sisters nicely reflected.
Part of the reason that I felt Tumalo Reservoir would be a good destination was because Emma enjoys playing around water and the last time she and I had been there, we had seen several snakes which frightened but intrigued her. She’d been pining to see the snakes again but from a distance.
As we drove into the area, we crossed over a bridge at the east end of the reservoir where I stopped and captured the following image.
Pleasant clouds and an interesting shoreline had already made this a worthy day-trip. Only one thing troubled me. There was a mother and two children playing along the shores of the lake, occasionally interfering with my landscape photography. They seemed to be pleasantly playing but they weren’t helping my cause. Emma and I hiked along the southern edge of the reservoir until the mother and children were out of the way. The photos from that part of the hike were not inspirational but we did have a bit of excitement. First, I’ll give you a bit more background. My daughter, Emma is definitely a Girly-Girl. I mean this in the sweetest way possible. She loves clothes, she loves dolls, she fusses with hairstyles constantly. To sum up, she is no Tom-boy. Despite her girly ways, she does enjoy controlled adventures. Well on this day, the banks of the Reservoir were especially muddy. While I was taking pictures of the Three Sisters, Emma got bogged down in mud and lost a shoe. We were both entertained and decided it was best to not get too close to the water’s edge. After I’d gotten the photos I wanted, we worked our way back to where we’d parked. Along the way, I scouted some more photos. While taking one last shot, I heard a feminine screech, which could only come from one person and it could only mean one thing. Emma had seen a snake! She was simultaneously terrified and thrilled. Unfortunately, I was too slow with my camera and I missed this hilarious photo opportunity. With my moral support, she wanted to find another snake. She soon got her wish! As this snake wasn’t a surprise, there were no shrill screeches to fill the air!
As we approached the canal at the east end of the reservoir, we once again saw the Mother and her two children, the oldest of which was a little girl about Emma’s age. They were on the opposite side of the muddy canal when the older child said what I thought was “should I catch them a snake, Mommy?” Knowing that my ears had deceived me, we continued on towards the car. The little girl began scurrying along the the shore and in the water with a flurry of activity. Emma and I were intrigued. The little girl then proceeded to wade waste deep across the mud bottomed canal. The same canal that held shoe-sucking quick sand and flesh eating snakes! She was absolutely intrepid and totally indifferent to any aquatic obstacles in her way. As she neared us, Emma’s eyes widened to unprecedented widths! The little girls hands were full of sticks, No……They were full of snakes!
Keep in mind that I don’t have any kind of snake phobia, but I don’t like them surprising me either. Well this enchanting and fearless little girl was completely unfazed about the snakes writhing around her arms. As she shared her find, the snakes became completely calm in her hands. She explained that they were very friendly and that we should hold them. Emma almost had a heart attack! Eventually I worked up the courage to hold one snake and indeed it eventually calmed in my hand. Emma took a little more cajoling. Below is a photo of Emma building the courage to touch one of the snake charmers’ pets.
Obviously, Emma is excited and hesitant while the snake-handling nymph is completely at ease with the snakes. I was astounded! After many minutes of confidence building exercises, Emma eventually summoned the courage to hold a solitary snake.
I was very proud of her and I was simply amazed by the unknown little girl who was fearless and charming at the same time. For entertainment purposes, scroll up to the snake charmer and back down to Emma to assess their different comfort levels.
If anybody who reads this blog entry happens to know who the snake charming nymph of Tumalo Reservoir is, please contact me as I’d like to thank her and her mother for sharing with us. She was enchanting, charming, polite, personable, fearless, and entertaining. She truly brightened our day and the whole event was something that Emma and I will remember forever. Thanks!
To view more Central Oregon landscape photography of the Three Sisters and Tumalo Reservoir, please visit our stock photography site, Pacific Crest Stock Photography
by: Mike Putnam
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
In the mid-ground of the above high desert photo are some yellow flowers which are shown in the following photo.
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.
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.
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,
I’ve often struggled with photos of our very own Three Sisters Mountains. Although they form the dominant and very scenic backdrop for the city of Bend and the Central Oregon area, I’ve found it difficult to make more of a thin panoramic out of this iconic Central Oregon Photo subject. A friend, Veronica, recently tipped me off that there were some nice lupines blooming along the shores of Tumalo Reservoir. I immediately took a drive there and she was certainly correct. I would like to thank her for the tip and if any of you readers have any other given locations that are particularly stunning, please let us know so we can quickly take a visit.
As you can see, the view of the Three Sisters is pretty stunning from this area of Central Oregon and the flowers aren’t bad either. As these are desert lupines, they are a bit small, but very attractive. There is some great hiking and horse back riding in this area and there’s no better time than now, before the trails get too dry and dusty, as they will later in the summer. Next up is an image from the bridge at the east end of Tumalo reservoir. My timing was good on this shot, in that there was some very attractive pre-dawn light filling the scene, and the shrubs in the foreground add some form and texture to the scene.
I’ve been to Tumalo Reservoir countless times but I’ve not seen a pre-dawn sky so pink and pleasant before. In the following image, you’ll seen a solitary grouping of yellow flowers which have a short but vibrant life along the banks of Tumalo Reservoir. After a bit of research, I’ve concluded that they are probably tansy leaved evening primrose. They are a small beautiful flower that will only be around for a short time before the harsh desert heat cooks the life out of them, so go visit them soon.
Finally is one last photo of our beloved Central Oregon volcanoes, the Three Sisters as seen with what I think are Tansy leaved evening primrose in the foreground. If any botanists are reading this blog entry and happen to know that I’ve mis-identified this flower, please contact me and let me know.
The above photo, another of the Three Sisters Mountains of Central Oregon, has nice balance between the floral foreground and the alpine background. All of the images in this blog entry and many others are available on our primary Stock Photography site, Pacific Crest Stock .
The climb up to the South Face of Three Fingered Jack is one of those ruggedly difficult hikes that is better measured in hours than miles. I have attempted to summit this ridge many times over the last few winters, but Mother Nature has always intervened in one way or another to keep me from making it to the top. My first few attempts were thwarted by disastrous route choices in which my journey ended abruptly at the bottom of cliffs that could not be navigated, and my next several trips ended a few feet from the summit when clouds or storms moved in that either covered the mountain or tried to blow me off of its edge. I tried again a few weeks ago (see previous blog entry), but the conditions were too difficult on that day and it ended up taking me much longer than anticipated. After many hours of tough climbing, I was forced to turn around less than a mile from the top.
Determined to finally make it to the summit before sunset, I drove over to Santiam Pass and started hiking around noon. My ultimate goal was to be on the summit for sunset pictures, but honestly, the conditions didn’t look that great from a photography perspective, and secretly, I was really just hoping to finally make it to the top . . . even it mean that all I could do was scout around for future photo expeditions. Because I couldn’t camp on the summit overnight, I also knew that being there for sunset meant that I would need to hike out long after dark. While packing up my gear, I decided to bring skis with me figuring that skiing back down the slopes would save me precious time on my return trip. That decision was probably a good one, but the added weight from my skis and boots came with consequences. Consequences that occurred to me as I took my first step and felt my snowshoe sink through the soft, Spring snow. The whole idea of snowshoes is that they help distribute your weight over a greater surface area, which allows you to float on top of the snow rather than post-holing through it. Each snowshoe has a certain weight limit though, and once you throw a heavy pack onto your back and start hiking through warm, mid-day slush, all bets are off on whether or not the snowshoe will actually be able to hold up its end of the bargain. On this day, the snowshoes did not necessarily work as designed. They functioned fine some of the time, but I could never allow myself to get fully confident in them because every fourth or fifth step, the snow would give way and I would suddenly feel my weight dropping into a knee-deep hole.
The added difficulty from repeatedly sinking through the snow was further compounded by the fact that there is no trail leading to the summit. There are occasional views of the mountain during the approach, but for the most part, it’s just a gamble on whether or not you are actually heading in the right direction. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I have done the hike enough times in the winter to know that the most direct route is not the correct route. Through repeated trial and error, I have learned that the best way to reach the summit is to hike several miles to the east before ever attempting to go north toward the mountain. Heading straight toward the mountain only ends in frustration at the fore-mentioned cliff band, while looping around from the east allows you to get on top of a ridgeline that winds its way to the summit. After about two hours of climbing through open glades, I finally made it to the top of this ridge where I was greeted with a partial view of Three Fingered Jack.
When looking at the picture above, it is important to remember that distances can be incredibly deceiving in the mountains. It’s kind of like being in Las Vegas and thinking that the casino “just over there” is within walking distance. Anyone who tries to walk around in Vegas soon realizes that the casinos there are so massive that the distances between them become nearly impossible to judge. Even after an hour of walking toward the casino that you thought was just a few minutes away, it seems as if you are no closer to it than when you started. That’s what it’s like in the mountains, except that the mountains are even bigger than casinos, and sadly, there are no cocktail waitresses when you finally get there.
Although it doesn’t look like it would be possible, the summit of that snow-covered ridge in front of Three Fingered Jack is almost three hours away. And those last three hours are some of the most difficult and challenging hours of hiking that you will find anywhere. One of the features that makes the hike so difficult is that the route to the top is littered with hundreds of strange and impossible-to-navigate snow formations. Winter storms fill the backcountry with winds blowing at incredible speeds, and over time, these winds sculpt the snow drifts into all sorts of bizarre shapes. There are snow fields on this ridge with huge waves of snow that look like something from a Dr Seuss movie. Each wave is like a 12-foot ocean swell that is frozen in place. And there will be one wave after another, with no way around them but to backtrack and find a new route. The photo above shows one example of what I’m talking about. It also demonstrates how the waves are topped with huge cornices of snow. These cornices are incredibly unstable and can break off and bury you without a sound if you make the foolish mistake of trying to climb up and over them rather than going around them.
In addition to all of the extra time and effort that it takes to backtrack around the snow swells, it becomes almost impossible to maintain a decent pace because the general pitch of the climb increases dramatically near the top. After seeing the cornices precariously perched on the open-side of ridge, I decided to make my approach from within the tree line shown in the left-hand side of the photo above. I chose this route because I was fairly concerned about avalanche conditions on the open, wind-packed side and because the trees gave me something to grab on to when the pitch became too steep to otherwise climb. I spent the next few hours rhythmically working my way up through the trees. Basically, I would make a series of kick steps into the vertical face of the ridge until I had a solid foot hold, then I would drop down to one knee for added stability in the snow while reaching my opposite hand up to the nearest tree branch in an attempt to pull my body up the hill as far as possible, all of the while trying to keep my skis (which were strapped to the outside of my backpack) from getting tangled in all of the other low-hanging branches. Trust me, it was about as much fun as it sounds . . . but eventually, I made it to the top.
I was immensely relieved to have finally made it to the summit. Unfortunately, high clouds had moved in from the West and partially covered the sun, and there were gale force winds howling along the top of the ridge. No matter, though. I was on top and that was all that mattered to me at the moment. Since the clouds were producing flat lighting conditions when I first arrived, I spent some time exploring along the top of the ridge in an attempt to find some interesting foreground compositions.
I eventually found a spot I liked and set up my tripod. Then, I sat down and took a well-deserved rest while listening to The Tallest Man on Earth on my iPod and hoping that the sun would eventually break through and give me some warmer light on the mountain. Unfortunately, the light never got better than “lukewarm” and after an hour or so of waiting in the wind on top of the ridge it looked like my chances for a good sunset photograph of Three Fingered Jack were diminishing.
Rather than waiting for sunset and then needing to ski out at midnight, I decided that it would probably be best for me to start my descent early. I followed my snowshoe tracks back down below the avalanche line and with the sun setting behind Maxwell Butte, I changed out of my snowshoes and into my ski boots. I had some doubts about this decision after the first few tele-turns flooded my sore leg muscles with lactic acid, but over time, I eventually grew numb to the burning pain in my legs and I started enjoying some of the best (if slightly wobbly) glade skiing that I have done in years. I survived a few close encounters with trees on my return trip, but overall, it was a very enjoyable ski and it suddenly seemed worthwhile to have packed my heavy skis and boots all of the way to the top. I arrived at the Jeep about an hour after sunset, and even though I didn’t quite get the photos that I was hoping for, I was filled with the satisfaction of knowing that I finally made it to the top. And now that I know that I can make it to the top, there’s nothing stopping me from trying it again. I’ll keep you posted.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see more pictures from this day, you can browse our “Cascade Mountains” gallery or search the main Pacific Crest Stock photography site for “Three Fingered Jack.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I feel the need to write this blog entry because my friend and partner in Pacific Crest Stock , Troy McMullin, is shy. OK, maybe not shy but he is humble. If you’ve read any of his blog entries here on the Pacific Crest Stock Photography Blog, you’ll notice a theme of self-deprecating humor. Despite his many talents, Troy has always been humble almost to a fault yet his passion for Oregon stock photos drives him to continue to improve his photography. Despite being one of the smartest people I know, very quick witted, a dedicated family man, a home improvement wiz(this might be an exaggeration, but he did repaint some of his house last weekend!), and a remarkable endurance athlete (he’s consistently finished well in the Central Oregon Pole Pedal Paddle race in the individual men’s category), he is also an excellent photographer. It’s been fun watching Troy’s progression from a tiny point and shoot camera to the Pro-Canon 5D that he currently shoots. His work has improved accordingly to the point that he is a highly talented Professional Photographer. It’s pretty Cool! To support my argument that Troy, despite his arguments to the contrary, has become an excellent photographer, I give you the following evidence!
Yeah, that is Troy’s photo on the cover of the newly released annual report for PremierWest Bank. The shot looks great, the cover looks great, and the graphics are great. The back cover(which I might like even better) is also pretty exceptional. It is seen below.
I love how the fence on the back cover draws me into the image. When the annual report is opened up you can see the entire image, which doubles the effect of this Oregon Stock Photo. Troy took this image while on a photography journey in the Strawberry Mountain area of Eastern Oregon, which he recently documented in a Blog entry and which can be found here, Eastern Oregon Gems. Please visit that link to read Troy’s story about capturing this excellent stock photo. Troy will argue that this image is a result of an impulsive reaction to an attractive cloud formation but I beg to differ. I think that this is the sort of shot that only a great stock photographer captures. He recognized great photographic subject matter that was not his target for the day. He then temporarily changed his plans, and worked with what was available (great field, great fence, great clouds and great mountains) to capture a great stock photo. Frankly, this is one of the best Eastern Oregon photos I’ve ever seen!
A special thanks goes out to the good people at PremierWest Bank for licensing our image. Kaleene Connelly and the rest of the PremierWest team were great to work with as they were professional and personable throughout the whole licensing process. Thank You PremierWest Bank!
Incidentally, I’d like to thank another contact at PremierWest, Deanna Crouser. She is the Manager of the Redmond, Oregon branch of PremierWest, another very professional, organized and likable PremierWest employee. I’m not sure if she had any influence on the good people in the PremierWest graphics and marketing department finding us at Pacific Crest Stock but if she did, Thanks to her too! A couple of years ago I negotiated with Deanna regarding some Fine art prints for their Redmond branch. The Prints did not work out but Deanna did buy a print for her personal fine art collection. Thanks to Deanna for that and thanks for the possible referral!
Finally, congratulations to Troy for a great cover shot and another great Oregon Stock photo in his collection. Troy, don’t be so humble! To see more of Troy’s excellent photos, please visit his portfolio on our Pacific Crest Stock website. Troy’s Portfolio
I just made a trip down to the Visit Bend Office in downtown Bend, Oregon to pick up a copy of their new Bend, Oregon visitor’s guide. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, one of our photographs graces the cover of this year’s guide and the whole thing looks great! To visit the previous blog entry regarding the cover shot which is of Mt. Jefferson and a gorgeous meadow of alpine wildflowers high up in the Mt. Jefferson wilderness area please click here. Mt. Jefferson cover shot . A sincere thanks goes out to Doug, Lynnette, Laurel, and the rest of the team at Visit Bend for selecting our image for their cover shot and for being great people to work with during this project. They have all proven to be personable, efficient, and talented people to work with and to know. I also mentioned in a previous blog entry that this cover is a special honor because both Troy and myself are both such big boosters of Bend and the entire Central Oregon area. For people like us who love the outdoors, there is no finer place to live and to represent the area we love in some small way is a huge honor.
The Visit Bend offices are located at 917 NW Harriman St. in Downtown Bend Oregon. They are a great resource for information about the whole Central Oregon Area so stop by say hello to their friendly staff, view some of their beautiful art work (My Fine art prints are displayed there!) and grab a copy of their new bend area tourism guide with one of our Pacific Crest Stock images on the cover. We hope they are as excited about the cover as we are. Also you can visit their very attractive website at Visit Bend. to see more of our grat landscape images, please also visit our main stock photography site at Pacific Crest Stock. Thanks for visiting!
The Pacific Crest Stock photography team recently received a very special request from one of our biggest fans, Mrs. Jewel Carmody. Jewel is a wonderfully nice 85-year-old lady who used to live in Bend, Oregon many years ago. Although she now lives in Arkansas, she still has a great love and admiration for all of the wilderness areas in Central Oregon and she frequently visits our blog site and main gallery pages in an effort to stay connected to the area. Jewel has sent us several complimentary messages over the last few months, and in a recent correspondence, she mentioned that she would like to see some photos from Paulina Lake and the Newberry Crater area, which was one of her favorite places to visit when she and her husband, Dewey, lived here in the late 1950’s.
For those of you who are not familiar with Central Oregon, Paulina Lake and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument are located just a few miles south of Bend and Sunriver. Although lesser known than nearby Crater Lake National Park, the Newberry Crater area actually shares many similar features with Crater Lake and was also once considered a leading candidate for National Park status. This geological wonderland was formed thousands of years ago when the 500-square-mile Newberry Volcano erupted and collapsed on itself, creating a huge caldera. Today, the caldera contains two incredibly deep and beautiful snow-fed lakes, a scenic creek with dozens of drops and waterfalls, and one of the largest obsidian flows in the North America. Despite its unique characteristics and the fact that I have hiked, biked and camped in the Newberry Crater area many times in the past, I have rarely gone there specifically for photography purposes, and unfortunately, I have a surprisingly small collection of pictures from this area to share with Jewel.
One of my favorite destinations in the Newberry Crater Area is the Peter Skene Ogden Trail. This wonderfully scenic trail is open to hiking, mountain biking (uphill only), and cross-country skiing. It climbs rather steeply for about 8 or 9 miles along the north side of Paulina Creek, passing many small waterfalls and natural rock waterslides (including the famous “Paulina Plunge” slide and swimming hole). The photo above was taken last year on one of the rare occasions that I happened to have my camera with me. In order to capture this photo, I had to take off my boots and wade out across the slippery rocks with bare feet through a thigh-deep, ice-cold creek. I’m not really sure what compelled me to carry my non-waterproof camera out into the middle of the creek, but I can tell you that I definitely second guessed myself—and the general soundness of my decision-making skills—several times as I was standing in the middle of the frigid water, fighting to prevent the current from sweeping me, my tripod, and camera downstream with it. After a handful of awkward and wobbly shots, I quickly decided that it would be wisest for me to take my camera back to the safety of dry land.
The Peter Skene Ogden Trail passes many impressive waterfalls along its path, but none of the others quite compare to Paulina Creek Falls, which is the final waterfall at the top of the trail. Paulina Creek Falls has an impressive 100-foot drop that comes off the ledge in two different spots creating a “double falls.” The photo of Paulina Creek Falls that is posted below was taken the same evening as the lower falls photo above. When photographing, I always like to find new and unique compositions that no one else has shot before. In this case, I happened to arrive while the fireweed was blooming and so I fought my way across the stream and up along the far edge of the waterfall to create this Pacific Crest Stock “original.” I like the composition of this photo a lot, but I’m not entirely happy with the lighting in the scene. Since we always strive to capture the “best possible” images for our Pacific Crest Stock galleries, I’ll probably go back later this year and try to re-capture this scene when the lighting is a little softer.
Just past Paulina Creek Falls, the Peter Skene Ogden Trail reaches the outlet from Paulina Lake. From here, hikers can enjoy a nice breakfast or lunch at the rustic Paulina Lake Lodge or continue hiking along the 7.5-mile trail that circles Paulina Lake. The mostly-level Paulina Lake Trail is a popular place for trail running and/or hiking. Despite its popularity, the trail can provide some well-earned solitude in the more remote areas of the lake and it frequently offers great shore-side views of Paulina Peak toward the south. There is also a natural hot springs located half way around the lake, which is the perfect place for a short break or a relaxing soak.
The Paulina Lake Trail is also a great place to take the kids for an easy out-and-back family hike. My wife, Julie, and I took our oldest daughter here for a hike when she was a toddler. Ella fell asleep while she was riding on my back in a Kelty Kid Carrier and when she woke up, we realized that Ella’s pacifier had fallen out of her mouth while she was napping. Ella was very distraught at losing her favorite thing in the entire world, and so we quickly diffused the situation my telling her this long convoluted story about how we saw a mother squirrel pick up something from the trail and climb up to her baby, which was sitting on a high branch in one of the trees overhanging the lake. We thought the mother squirrel had a nut in her mouth, but as she got closer to her baby, we could see that the mother squirrel had actually picked up Ella’s pacifier and was trying to give it to her baby. During the transfer, the baby squirrel dropped the pacifier, which landed in the lake and was then immediately swept up by a huge rainbow trout. The trout sucked the pacifier into his mouth . . . smiled . . . and then swam away with it. To this day, Ella makes us tell her that story every time that we hike at Paulina Lake and she asks every fisherman she sees whether they have caught any fish with a pacifier in its mouth. So far, no one has caught that magical fish, but one day we’ll get Ella’s grandpa to bring his fishing gear out here with him. Ella is absolutely convinced that her Poppa can catch that fish because he is the best fisherman in the whole world.
Mountain biking is not allowed on the Paulina Lake Trail, but there are also plenty of biking opportunities in the Newberry Crater area. For the more adventurous types, I would recommend biking from the lake up to the top of 8,000-foot Paulina Peak. The views into the 250-foot deep, azure-colored Paulina Lake below and out toward the Three Sisters Mountains can’t be beat. On a clear day, you can see all the way across Oregon and into California to the south and Washington to the north. If you still have lots of energy in your tank after climbing to the top of Paulina Peak, drop back down a few hundred feet and turn left onto the Crater Rim Loop Trail. This 25-mile single-track trail circumnavigates the entire caldera, including Paulina Lake, East Lake, and the Big Obsidian Flow. The Crater Rim Loop Trail can be fairly exhausting (especially if you started at the Peter Skene Ogden trailhead more than 10 miles below), but this trail provides an absolutely epic day of Central Oregon mountain biking and the final descent back to Paulina Lake is one of the best down-hilling experiences in the entire area.
Well, that’s just about the extent of my photo collection from Paulina Lake and the Newberry Crater Area. I’m not really sure why I haven’t taken more photos from this area in the past, but thanks to Jewel’s request, I think I will try to focus more on this part of the region in the coming year. I guess that illustrates one of the reasons why Jewel loved living in Central Oregon so much. There’s just so much to do here, it seems like you couldn’t possibly cover everything this area has to offer, even if you had two lifetimes to do it.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: To really experience Paulina Lake at its best or to learn more about the history and geology of this area, I would highly recommend scheduling a day trip through Wanderlust Tours. Their excellent tour guides provide a wealth of fun information and a unique perspective that will leave you with a much greater appreciation for the area than what you would have been able to otherwise experience on your own. I have heard many families say that the day they spent here with Wanderlust Tours was the best day of their entire vacation.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
It’s been quite some time since I visited one of my favorite winter photo locations, Tumalo Mountain near Mt. Bachelor off of the Cascade Lakes Highway. Tumalo Mountain has long been a favorite of backcountry skiers and snowshoers for winter time fun and it’s also no secret amongst photographers. It’s location is key for all of these outdoor enthusiasts in that is located right next to Dutchman Flat snow park which incidentally is very close to the Mt. Bachelor ski area. Because Tumalo Mountain is very accessible by backcountry standards there is a common perception that it is an easy hike to the top and therefore a pleasant little stroll to the summit. For my purposes, this could not have been more wrong. Because I’m naturally an optimist my mind always manages to block out all the difficulties associated with stock photography in this or any winter location. I’ll walk you through what I consider to be a successful winter landscape photography outing and start off with the first image I captured last weekend.
It all starts the night before with checking my film supplies, laying out lots of extra layers of clothing, checking batteries, hand warmers, and most importantly setting the coffee maker timer to start brewing at 3:00 AM. I had been following the weather patterns for over a week and this appeared to be the only clear day in the immediate future so if I over slept, there would be no re-shoot for quite some time. This is why coffee was so important. I find that having the aroma of coffee emanating from my kitchen, I’m much more likely to get out of bed in a timely fashion. I call this an “Alpine Coffee Start”.
The wake-up went as well as can be expected with a 3:00AM alarm. I woke, embraced my favorite mug full of heavenly Java roasted by the good people at Strictly Organic Coffee right here in Bend and checked the weather. Yikes, it was Zero degrees at the base of Mount Bachelor where I’d start snowshoeing up Tumalo Mountain. I fought the urge to hop back in bed and drove to Dutchman’s Flat and started my climb. I knew it was cold when I climbed with all my layers, a fourty pound camera pack through 25 inches of cold,dry,fresh powder up hill and still couldn’t get warm until I put on my Down Jacket which is usually held in reserve until I stop climbing and start getting cold. I also activated three different handwarmers which were almost as pleasant as my coffee from 20 minutes before. I huffed and puffed and eventually sweated, perhaps cursed and kept climbing until the snow on the trees got better, making for an eye catching foreground. Luckily I’d given myself 90 minutes to climb and scout a location and set up my first shot of the day. It took every one of those 90 minutes to find my first and only photo location of the day which is not too bad for an 87 year old man in those difficult and frigid climbing conditions. The embarrassment lies in the fact that I’m not 87 years old! Below is probably my favorite composition from that morning on Tumalo Mountain.
I like how the sunlight had changed to a warmer, more yellow color between the first and second images from this morning. I also prefer this second image because of how nicely the snow flocked tree frame the distant mountains but most of all I like the trees themselves. A secret of winter photography is good snow. I know this sounds obvious but it is very true. Anyone can take a winter photo but it takes work and planning or lots of luck to get a great winter photograph. Most great images need a foreground of some sort. Winter images need a winter foreground. If the snow has melted off or blown off of the trees then you lose much of the punch in any winter image. This means that your best chance of a great winter image is probably immediately after a winter storm and hopefully not too windy of a storm. It should also be at sunrise or before as the sun will quickly warm the trees and melt off the snow that helped complete the image.
Minutes after I composed and captured this landscape image a heavy cloud bank began to swirl around Tumalo Mountain and obscure my view of both Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters. With the clouds came a stiff, frigid wind and rime ice began forming all over my outer layers of clothing. An already cold outing developed into what my in-laws from New England would call a “Wicked -Cold” outing. I quickly snapped the following image of Broken Top in between cloud swirls and retreated down the mountain as I began loosing the feeling in both my fingers and toes.
I had hoped to capture a few photos of Mt. Bachelor that morning but it was not meant to be as the only cloud in Central Oregon was positioned between Tumalo Mountain and Mt. Bachelor, completely obscuring my view. As I descended the hand warmers brought a tingle back to my fingers but my toes continued to be lifeless bricks. At that point I vowed to get some warmer boots for snowshoeing. I made the parking lot as the first few backcountry skiers of the day were pulling into Dutchman Flat snow park. With my photo day complete, I headed home excited about the images I’d just captured and about getting the feeling back in my toes!
To view more Central Oregon Mountain Images, please visit our Stock photography Website, and check out the mountain Gallery at Pacific Crest Stock.
By Mike Putnam
I have genuinely loved Bend and the Central Oregon area ever since moving here more than 10 years ago. I enjoy our Central Oregon mountains, the Deschutes River, the high desert, old growth ponderosas, Drake Park, the local trail systems, Downtown Bend, the restaurants, and the breweries (not necessarily in that order). The natural beauty of Central Oregon is what inspired me to take up photography on a professional level. To have so much geographical diversity in the same region is truly wondrous. My partner in Pacific Crest Stock, Troy, is also a big fan of Bend. Many friends have suggested that we should be on the payroll for the Bend Chamber of Commerce or one of the tourism boards because we are both such big boosters of Bend and the whole Central Oregon area.
When we first conceived of Pacific Crest Stock, we both thought it would be a tremendous honor to have one of our stock photos appear in one of the Central Oregon tourism publications because it would be an honor to represent the area in print. Well, with that thought in mind, we have a big announcement to make. It has recently been formalized and one of our landscape images will grace the cover of the Visit Bend‘s tourism publication, which is due to be released this spring. The exposure of having the cover shot will be great, the link on Visit Bend’s very attractive website which has been promised will certainly be helpful, but most of all, it is an honor to represent Bend and Central Oregon in a more formal way. Having met with Lynnette and Laurel at Visit Bend several times, I can confidently say that it is a well run, personable and efficient organization. Lynnette is clearly a skilled Web master, and graphic designer. She was courteous enough to provide me with the following image file, which will be the cover of their glossy magazine style publication.
Yeah that’s my Mt. Jefferson Photo and yeah I’m pretty excited!
Mt Jefferson is one of the most photogenic mountains anywhere and because it is visible from much of the city of Bend, it has long been one of my favorite photography destinations. This image, like most great images, required lots of work. I’ve been to Jefferson Park and the Mt Jefferson Wilderness many times before and have always been moved by its beauty, but. I had often been frustrated in that I always thought there was a shot I was missing in this beautiful area. The year I shot this photo, Troy and I went backpacking in the Jefferson Park area and we captured lots of good Stock photos including the following shot of Troy’s ,which is a fan favorite on Panoramio and Google Earth.
It is clearly a great shot. Mt Jefferson towering high above the mid-ground clouds with a stunning foreground of Troy’s favorite flower and the only one he knows the name of, the Red Indian Paintbrush. During our trip, we scouted and shot on and off trail from many different locations including the one that will serve as Visit Bend’s Cover shot. When we arrived at the “cover location” the light was harsh and the alpine wildflowers hadn’t quite peaked for the year but the location was clearly special and I knew I had to return in a few days so I did. To see more great Mount Jefferson images, please visit our stock site’s Mountain Gallery.
On my return trip, I made a day trip of the outing carrying my heavy pack nearly 10 miles and several thousand feet of vertical gain to the same location as a few days before. I quickly set up my tripod and my 4×5 camera and composed a beautiful scene at a stunning location when something unexpected happened. A small wisp of clouds appeared over Mount Jefferson’s summit and it gradually evolved into the awesome lenticular cloud cap that you see in my cover shot from that second day. The scene went from a great one to one of the best fine art landscape shots I’ve ever taken. It is one of my favorite images because Mount Jefferson’s amazing presence, the outstanding wildflower combinations (the equal of which I’ve yet to find in Oregon) and the mystical cloud cap which really brings the whole image together. I hiked out the last six miles with my headlamp beaming and my mind reeling with excitement about the great shots I’d just captured. Without the cloud cap it’s a great stock photo, but with the cloud cap, it becomes a great fine art print. So I worked hard and I got Lucky. I’ll take that combination any time!
My thanks go out to Lynette at Visit Bend for the image file and to my loving wife for letting me go out and take photos in places I love.
To view my fine art prints, including the soon to be cover shot, please visit my fine art site at Mike Putnam Photography where you’ll see this lucky Mt. Jefferson Photograph and many others.
Sometimes, strange things pop into my head when I think I’m about to die. On one recent close encounter, I muttered the words “Wer sprecht that,” which was a phrase I had not used in more than a decade. This poorly composed German-English hybrid-of-a-phrase was originally coined many years earlier by Eric Poynter–one of my very best friends in college.
Eric was just shy of 6’3.” He had curly red hair and freckles, and he almost always had a big giant smile draped across his face. When I first met him, he was wearing a somewhat undersized baby blue sweatshirt with bright yellow iron-on letters arching across its chest that read “Yo Mamma!” He was the unique kind of guy who could wear a shirt like that through the inner city neighborhoods where our school was located, and actually get away with it. He was also one of those crazy college kids who would chew and swallow plastic beer cups, press his tongue against frozen flag poles, or put a mound of mousse on his head and light it on fire just for laughs. Eric had a ton of hilarious one-liners and in many socially awkward moments (e.g., when certain bodily sounds escaped anonymously from a crowd), I remember him just openly and honestly asking “Wer sprecht that?” Loosely translated, it means “Who said that?”
Before attempting to explain the attack that I survived near North Sister in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area, I feel like I should warn you upfront that this frightening experience is going to be somewhat difficult for me to put into words. Not for emotional reasons, but mostly because I’m not exactly sure which letters best represent the sound of a huge mountain lion. To adequately follow this story, you will need to do your best to imagine the meanest growl you’ve ever heard in your life every time that I type the letters “GRRROOOOWWWWL.”
OK, now that we’ve established the rules for reading, I’ll get on with it. This experience started late one winter when my wife made the mistake of leaving me home alone for a week while she visited family in St Louis. After a few days of living like a drunken bachelor, I decided that I was ready for a little winter photo adventure. I have always had a hefty dose of affection (some might call it an affliction) for North Sister, and so I decided that I would try to do some exploring around the Millican Crater area. I had been off trail in this area once before, and I remembered thinking that there were some pretty wide open views of North Sister along one of the ridges to the East. I figured I could probably find my way back to that general area and get some nice stock photos of the mountain around sunset. It was still wintertime up in the higher elevations of the Cascade Mountains, so I packed up the camera and snowshoes and headed out for a solo exploration.
Not long after leaving the Jeep on snowshoes, I found the ridge line and started trekking cross-country into the forest of Ponderosa and Lodge Pole pines. I climbed along the cliff band, zigzagging over downed trees and in and out of snow for about an hour or so before I was finally forced to admit that the mountain views were not as open as I had remembered. I was very close to the mountain, but I couldn’t find a photo composition that wasn’t at least partially obstructed by tree branches. Determined to find an open spot along the ridgeline, I continued deeper into the woods until I realized that the weather was beginning to turn on me.
The light was fading quickly and the wind had started to pick up. As the wind whispered through the trees, it would occasionally release an eerie, screeching sound as the taller pine tops rubbed against one another. The screeching sounds were kind of creeping me out, and the farther I went into the forest, the more nervous I got about whether or not I was going to be able to find my way back to the Jeep in the dark because the patchy snow melt meant that I was not going to be able to simply follow my snowshoe tracks out of the woods as I had originally planned. With darkness settling into the trees and the air getting noticeably colder, I decided that it was probably safest for me to abandon my photo expedition and head back home.
Just then, as I started to reverse direction, I heard the loud “GRRROOOOWWWWL” of a mountain lion standing directly behind me. I spun around as quickly as I could, and with eyes the size of ping pong balls, I began frantically scanning the woods for the source of the sound. Finding no hairy beasts behind me, my mind jolted to a story that I had recently heard about some people who spotted a cougar perched in the trees while hiking on Pilot Butte. I jerked my neck toward the sky, focusing my gaze from branch to branch in the trees overhead but I still couldn’t make eye contact with whatever it was that had just growled at me. The fear was now pulsing through my bloodstream, and as I started mentally re-tracing my actions, I came to the realization that I had made several fatal mistakes. With my wife out of town, I had gone into the woods alone without telling anyone where I was going or when to expect me back. Even if I was to survive the imminent attack, I figured there was very little chance for rescue.
I decided there was no time to waste. I picked up my hiking poles and held them like two aluminum spears as I started making my way back to the truck. Panicked, and panting very loudly, I moved slowly through the dark woods using a sort of spinning motion every few steps to make sure that nothing could sneak up on me from behind. Unfortunately, with all of the spinning, I didn’t notice that I was approaching the edge of a nearby embankment. My snowshoe slipped off of its edge, and in a split second, I was sliding helplessly down the slope. To make matters worse, the lion let out another fierce “GRRROOOOWWWWL” at the exact moment that my weight slid out from under me. I rolled to the bottom of the hill and landed in a fetal position. Laying there, curled up in the snow, I knew that I probably looked like a small child to whatever huge creature was stalking me, and having just heard the second ““GRRROOOOWWWWL,” I fully expected to feel the weight of the cougar pouncing onto my back at any moment. I quickly rolled over, and as I fought to get back onto my feet, my snowshoe broke through the crusty snow below me releasing an eerily familiar “growling” sound. I paused for a second, and then I twisted my other snowshoe through the crust . . . again simulating a “growl.”
And that’s when it occurred to me that there never was a mountain lion. It was simply my mind playing tricks on me. The entire episode was just a by-product of my imagination, and probably at least partially related to the fact that subconsciously, I must have been a little panicked about being so far back in the woods alone after dark without any back up disaster plan. As I re-played the episode in my head, I realized that the first growl occurred as I shifted directions in the snow and the second happened as my foot slipped down the slope. Convinced that the all of the sounds had simply come from my snowshoes breaking though the crusty snow (and not from a huge hungry cat), I let out a nervous chuckle and thought to myself, “Wer sprecht that?”
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see additional pictures of North Sister, you can browse the Mountain gallery on Pacific Crest Stock or search the site for “Three Sisters.” If you want to see pictures of the stalking mountain lion, you can visit the Atlas Snowshoe site.
I was driving around the other day scouting for some new winter photographs and listening to my iPod when a song shuffled on by The Shaky Hands, one of my favorite local bands from Portland, Oregon. The song is called “Summer’s Life.” It is a happy little tune that leads off with simple strumming, some well-timed handclaps, and the following lyrics:
The summer’s life is good . . . We ran down on the path in the woods . . .
To that old swimming hole . . . where we laugh and sing . . . and stories are told.
We lived like children do . . . . kind . . . . and so brand new.
With my thumbs drumming along on the steering wheel, I started thinking back to last October when I hiked into Tamolitch Pool, perhaps the most scenic swimming hole in all of Oregon. It’s also the day that I met Jim Blanchard, an older retired photographer who was genuinely living a youthful “summer’s life.”
That day, I had checked online and saw that it was raining in the Willamette Valley. Knowing that the fall foliage always looks best when it’s saturated with rain, I loaded up my camera gear and headed over to the McKenzie highway hoping to get some new fall-time pictures. Mike Putnam and I usually make this trip at least once each year. If you look at Mike’s collection on Pacific Crest Stock, you can see that he has been quite prolific at capturing Autumn’s colors—some might even say he’s a little bit obsessed with it. In fact, Mike has so many colorful shots from previous years that I could probably just slip my name onto some of his cull shots rather than worrying about getting any photos of my own.
The rain was flooding off my windshield wipers as I veered onto Highway 126. It was raining so hard that I could barely see well enough to drive–much less effectively scout for stock photos. I could tell that tons of color had started to emerge along the roadside, but I couldn’t really make out any of the shapes or textures through my fogged up windows, so I decided to pull off the highway and take a closer look at one of the lava flows just north of Clear Lake. This particular lava flow has a nice smattering of vine maples and lichen-covered Fir trees, and while it normally has plenty of potential this time of year, the rain was coming down so hard that I opted to not even take my camera outside with me as I scouted around.
Cold and soaking wet, I climbed back into the Jeep, and drove another mile or so down the road until I spotted another potential shot along the bank where the McKenzie River crosses under the highway. I got back outside and braved the weather for awhile, but after scouting the scene closer, I decided that the bank’s pitch was going to be too steep and slippery to get to where I needed to be for a satisfactory shot. As I started back toward my truck, I spotted an older gray-haired gentleman hiking out from the other side of the highway. He had a heavy backpack and a big, bright yellow umbrella and I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy is hardcore.” We had a brief conversation outside in the rain and then I offered him a ride down the road. Given the current downpour, he accepted my offer.
In the dry confines of the Jeep, we started talking about the weather outside and at some point, it became obvious that we both happened to be there on photography missions. That is when Jim introduced himself, and told me that although he is partially retired, he still occasionally teaches photography through Oregon University’s Outdoor Pursuits Program. In addition to decades of experience working as an outdoor photographer, Jim tells me that he also teaches a variety of backcountry survival and mountain rescue classes, and in the summertime, he leads tours though the Alps. I remember thinking, “Holy Cow! I want THIS guy’s job.”
Given all of his years of experience in photography Jim asked me my name (as if he was going to recognize it). I kind of laughed and explained that I was actually just an amateur hack of a photographer, but that I did occasionally hang out with some non-posers like Bruce Jackson and Mike Putnam. He knew Mike’s work and explained that Mike’s fine art website is one of the sites that he references in his Outdoor Photography class. I then mentioned the fact that Mike and I were hoping to start Pacific Crest Stock, and I explained our general mission of trying to offer only the highest quality images—rather than uploading thousands of mediocre shots like most stock agencies. He offered me some good advice about the stock business and gave me a few helpful hints about how to effectively photograph in adverse weather conditions (e.g., to keep one of those little hand warmer packs in your bag next to your camera so that your lens doesn’t fog up every time you remove the cap).
It was a fascinating conversation, and before I knew it, I had driven many miles farther than anticipated. I think Jim started to feel a little bit bad about me abandoning my goal of shooting that day, and with the rain letting up a bit, he politely offered to hike the rest of the way downstream. We shook hands and wished each other luck. Then, I turned around and backtracked up the road to a place where the McKenzie River Trail bisects one of the forest service roads. I knew that Tamolitch Pool was a just a few miles upstream from this spot so I finally got out of the truck and started hiking.
Tamolitch Pool, which is also known as the “Blue Pool,” is one of the most unique places in all of Oregon. After cascading over several famous waterfalls (Koosah Falls, Sahalie Falls), the McKenzie River actually disappears and runs underground for awhile before finally re-surfacing at this spot. I suspected there would be good color around the shores of the pool, and with it overcast and raining hard all day, I knew that the blue water and fall colors would be completely saturated. However, as optimistic as I was about the picture, I was also quite worried that the rain was going to be hammering down into the pool, keeping me from getting a decent reflection of the trees that surround the pool. Without the reflection, I knew the picture would be incomplete. But still, I started hiking through the drizzle hoping for the best.
Within a few minutes of leaving the Jeep, the drizzle turned to downpour, and my hopes for Tamolitch Pool began to fade. There were many other pretty spots along the trail, but with the heavy rain, I was reluctant to even pull my camera out of the backpack. I continued along the waterlogged trail, trudging through ankle-deep puddles and over slippery roots and rocks until I finally made it to the pool. I was sitting on the cliffs above the pool, catching water on my tongue as it dropped off the brim of my cap and wondering how much longer it was going to rain when the magical moment finally arrived. The rain stopped and the trees’ reflection began to take shape in the pool.
Altogether, I had less than 5 minutes of dry time, and then, the rain started again just as quickly as it had stopped. But that was enough of a break. I captured the image above and grinned all of the way back to my vehicle.
I was still feeling fortunate about my timing at Tamolitch Pool when a few miles down the highway, I looked over at the trail and noticed that big, bright yellow umbrella again. I swung the Jeep around and saved Jim from another cold, soaking rain. We talked about the photos we had taken in the last few hours and then I dropped him off at the McKenzie Ranger Station. I drove away inspired, thinking about what a lucky life Jim was living. He was in the golden years of retirement, and even on this rainy October day, he was out taking pictures and living the “summer’s life.” I can only hope that I am lucky enough to have someone rescuing me from rain on this same hike another 30 years from now.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see additional images from the McKenzie River area, you can browse the pictures in the Trees gallery on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site or search the site for “fall foliage.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Oregon coast is an absolutely extraordinary place, especially if you happen to enjoy taking pictures. With a tide table and a little bit of luck, a photographer can find endless opportunities to capture that perfect shot. I recently had one such opportunity while visiting the quaint little town of Oceanside, Oregon.
Oceanside, which is located along the Three Capes Scenic Loop just west of Tillamook, has one of the most unique beaches on the coast. While it may seem relatively ordinary from the main parking area, a short walk reveals a rock tunnel that cuts through the huge headwall at the northern end of the beach. On the other side of the tunnel, photographers are greeted with gorgeous views of the Three Arches Rocks and another big collection of sea stacks that are part of the Oregon Islands. If the tide is low enough, you can also climb around the northern-most part of the Islands to another hidden beach that is normally blocked by the tide line.
I’ve been to Oceanside many times in the past, and although I’ve made it to the hidden beach a few times before, I’ve never had the timing that I needed to really get the photo that I was wanting—until recently. On my last trip to the coast, I checked the tide tables and noticed that there was going to be a negative tide (-2 feet) occurring in Oceanside around the time that the sun would be setting. If everything worked out well, I knew that I should be able to get around to the hidden beach and shoot the sea stacks as they were silhouetted against the setting sun.
My mother happened to be out visiting from St Louis, Missouri and since she had never been to Oceanside before, I thought it would be a nice place to take her. She and I packed up my two older kids and we made the short trek from our beach house in Pacific City up to Oceanside. As we arrived, I noticed that the clouds had started to form out at sea and I became very optimistic that I was finally going to get the photo that I had wanted since the first time that I set foot on this beach a few years earlier.
There was about an hour remaining before sunset, so I spent a little bit of time playing with the kids and taking pictures of them as they splashed around the tide pools . . .
. . . and then I put on my “serious photographer” hat and went to work. I grabbed the tripod, and in a very organized fashion, I began methodically moving my way up the beach looking for interesting ways to frame the ocean and the various rock formations.
As the sun got lower and lower, I got farther and farther up the beach until I had finally reached a spot where all of the sea stacks lined up in a way that gave me a nice balanced composition. I positioned my tripod in the sinking sand and tried to steady it as best as I could for what I knew was going to be a very long exposure. I clicked the shutter button and waited patiently until the image was finally revealed on my camera’s LCD panel. I looked at the image and then let out a big smile and a sigh of relief, satisfied that I had finally captured my long-awaited image.
Not long after looking at the image above, a wave came up and tickled my toes. It kind of caught me by surprise and when I looked back along the shoreline, I noticed that the tide had started coming back in. My previously wide open beach was getting progressively narrower and narrower and I realized that if I didn’t start making my way back toward the tunnel, I was going to get trapped on this side of the rocks. But as I hustled back down the beach, the sunset was getting more and more dramatic, and I just couldn’t resist the temptation to take a few more photographs. At one point, I climbed up on a rock with the intent of using it as foreground material when a sneaker wave rushed in and completely surrounded me with water. I was now standing on a rock, thirty feet out into the ocean, with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment and a rising tide. Slightly panicked, I stood my ground and watched as several more waves rushed in and swirled around my little island of a rock. The waves would come in, crash up against the shoreline, and then just as one wave was about to subside, another would come in to take its place. I was trapped.
Eventually, I began to recognize the timing of the wave pattern. I waited for the right moment, and with a big breath, I leaped out into the receding water and then high-stepped it back to dry land while holding my camera and tripod over my head. That little episode was enough of a wake-up call for me, and without any further ado, I packed up my camera and jogged around the rock wall and back through the pitch-black tunnel.
The sun was completely under water by the time that I made it back to the parking area, and as I approached the Jeep, I could see my mother waiting there and two tiny shadows racing toward me on the beach yelling “Daddy, Daddy!” My children have started doing this every time that they see me returning from a photo expedition, and it always brings a huge smile to my face and reminds me of just how lucky I am. As happy as I was to have gotten some beautiful photos on that night–and to have escaped the rock incident without soaking any of my camera gear–neither of those compared to the joy that I felt when I saw my children running up with excitement as I returned. Without a doubt, that was the most rewarding part of the entire experience, and the one that I will remember long after the photo files have faded.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see additional pictures from Oceanside, you can browse our Pacific Coast gallery on the Pacific Crest Stock photography site or search the site for “Oceanside.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I’m amazed that I don’t see more pictures from the Mount Washington Wilderness Area, which is located just outside of Sisters, Oregon. It is one of my favorite places in Central Oregon; a virtual Mecca of possible explorations.
Perhaps one of the reasons that few photographers have experience with Mount Washington is that there are almost no trails leading into its base. To get to the cover shots, it takes a moderately good fitness level, some very good navigation skills, and a ton of patience. For example, two of my favorite approaches into Mount Washington require 10-mile cross-country slogs through a maze of beetle-downed lodge pole pine trees. To say that the terrain is “littered” with downfall is a gross understatement. There are sections where you literally hike for an hour on nothing but downed trees. With every exhausting stride, you are either stepping up onto a fallen tree or down off of a fallen tree. One gap in concentration, and you run the risk of twisting a knee and being stranded in the very dense (and non-cell-phone- friendly) forest.
But still, the rewards are totally worth it. In all of my trips into the backcountry surrounding Mount Washington, I have never seen another soul. I’ve occasionally heard the voices of climbers on the upper slopes, but I’ve never run into anyone. I think it is one of the most isolated and beautiful settings in all of Oregon.
In some ways, this area is even more inviting and easier to access in the winter or early spring because huge snow drifts cover most of the fallen trees. Each year, I like to wait for the forest service roads to melt off a little (so I can drive in as far as possible), and then I snowshoe or ski into the Eastern or Northern faces of Mount Washington. This time of year, snow and ice still cling to the mountain’s huge rocky face giving it an even greater sense of awe. Standing at its base, the Teton-esque vertical rise from the valley below is nothing short of spectacular.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see additional images from the Mount Washington Wilderness Area, you can browse the pictures in the Mountain Gallery on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site or search the site for “Mount Washington.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
After countless days of hiking together and talking about starting a new stock photography agency, Mike Putnam and Troy McMullin have finally started to make some serious progress. The Pacific Crest Stock website is nearing completion, and with this entry, our photography blog has become a reality. We hope that you will sign up for the RSS feed or check back regularly as we will use this blog to share new stock images and a variety of interesting stories from our adventures as landscape photographers. From stories about being stranded high on the cliffs of Three Fingered Jack to near-death mountain lion attacks, this blog will hopefully be an entertaining way to stay abreast of what’s new and exciting in the lives of a few hard-working photographers trying to start a new business.
For a sneak peek at the Pacific Crest Stock website, follow one of the gallery links on the right-hand side of the blog page.
Thanks for visiting, and please stay tuned!
Mike and Troy