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

Posts Tagged ‘Mike Croxford’

Oregon Landscape Photos and the life of an Oregon Landscape photographer.

For Oregon landscape photographers like Troy McMullin and I here at Pacific Crest Stock Photography there is a frustrating shoulder season during which the forces of nature conspire against us.  The alpine flowers are brown and dead, fall color has not yet arrived and our beloved Central Oregon Cascades are largely devoid of snow.  This combination is a virtual trifecta of photographic frustration.  We eagerly await fall color to arrive and with a strong dose of good fortune, Alpine snows will arrive simultaneously.  My natural optimism leads to nightly weather analysis.  Will it be cold enough to snow in the mountains? Will there be so much snow that I can’t get to the trail head?  These issues occupy an unhealthy percentage of my time.  My wife can attest to this!  Below is a primer image for you to enjoy while you wade through my story?

Oregon's Mt. Washington in autumn with fresh fallen snow

Oregon's Mt. Washington in autumn with fresh fallen snow

Recent weather patterns turned for the better and I saw a window of opportunity to capture an elusive oregon landscape photo that I have pursued for years.   That night I began my planning process for the next morning.  Winter gear for warmth, loading too much photography gear, GPS, headlamps, rain gear, hiking boots, gas up my truck, set the coffee machine timer to 4:30 AM.  The list of preparatory activities was less than exciting.  While going through my night before check list, I was listening to an IPod mix with the following song on it, Country Music Promoter-OX(the play button is in the upper right hand corner of the page)  It is a great song about the hard-scrabble life of a country music promoter.  Coffee, trucks, bad hours, lots of travel.  The song distinctly reminded me of the less than glamorous but rewarding job of being an Oregon Landscape photographer.  While I don’t pinch waitresses like the promoter in the song does, the feeling of the song is what is familiar.  Hard dirty work doing a job that you love.  Not a bad combination but it is arguably less than glamorous, and it truly is work.  Don’t get me wrong, life as a landscape photographer takes me to some beautiful places, like the one seen in this blog entry but sadly it is more than that.    The above image of Mt. Washington is one I am truly excited about.  Fresh snow, great fall color, interesting clouds, nice warm sunrise light and an awesome mountain make me very optimistic about this landscape photo.

This particular lake is very hard to get to, requiring a long bushwack through thick and in this case wet undergrowth to get it.  Actually getting the shot makes it all worth while, perhaps like when a show really goes well for a Country Music Promoter.  I have to thank Old Mike for accompanying me on this outing.  His company and sherpa like load carrying capacity were both a big help on this backcountry adventure.  Below is a slight rewind in that it was actually the first shot of the morning but I did want to get credit for reaching this spot in time for sunrise!

 Photo of Alpenglow on Mt Washington in the Central Oregon Cascades

Photo of Alpenglow on Mt Washington in the Central Oregon Cascades

The light on Mount Washington was beautiful and the lake had a appealing mist rising off of its surface but unfortunately, it was too windy for any real reflection.  Frustrating.  With time and help from the warming sun, the scene enlivened and the wind even died down allowing me a few images like the following one with a nice alpine reflection of Oregon’s Mt. Washington.

Oregon's Mt. Washington reflected in an alpine lake in the Oregon Casc

Oregon's Mt. Washington reflected in an alpine lake in the Oregon Cascades

I was in my own world during the height of that morning’s light shown not noticing what Old Mike what up to.  Evidently he was busy taking photos of me while I was taking photos of Mount Washington.  Below is a cool image that he took with me and my large format camera silhouetted against the lake’s shore.  I really like the use of contrast and the swirling mist in the background.  Thanks Old Mike!

Mike Putnam and his large format camera during a sunrise shoot.  Photo Credit: "Old" Mike Croxford

Mike Putnam and his large format camera during a sunrise shoot. Photo Credit: "Old" Mike Croxford

I’m no model but I do like the shot and the memory of a great morning, Kind of like when the show really goes well for the Country Music Promoter!

Eventually the light show harshened making the scene less attractive and the glorious part of my day was over.  I gathered my gear after my photographic flurry and Old Mike and I made a long wet inglorious bushwack through dense Cascade undergrowth.  Not he most glamorous part of the day but it was hard work worth doing.

A special thanks goes to Pacific Crest’s very own Troy McMullin for allowing me to pirate this scene and hopefully capture the next great  Oregon fine art photograph.  To see some more work done with my Large Format Camera, visit the following link Oregon Fine Art Photos.  Troy, I’ll buy you a beer!

The images from this blog entry and all of our Oregon stock photos can be viewed and licensed through our stock photo website, Pacific Crest Stock

Thanks for Visiting,

Mike Putnam


Photos from Eastern Oregon and the Wallowa Mountains

The stars recently aligned in a strange and unexpected way. My wife (Julie) and Mike Putnam’s wife (Debbie) both planned trips to take the kids out of town during the same time period, and in an unprecedented move, Mike and I actually got organized enough to plan a vacation of our own. It just so happened that one of our favorite musicians (Josh Ritter) was playing a concert at the Egyptian Theater in Boise so we talked a few more friends (Mike Croxford and Jake Bell) into joining us for a road trip across the Idaho border and then we all headed up north to the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon. The Wallowa Mountains—also known as the “Oregon Alps”—are quite different from the mountains we have in Central Oregon. While the Central Oregon Cascades are formed by a chain of distinct volcanoes, the Wallowa Mountains are an honest-to-goodness mountain range, like the Rocky Mountains, Sierras, or North Cascades.

Although we had some idea of where we wanted to go when we got there, we didn’t actually formulate a complete plan until we were a few miles outside of Joseph, Oregon. After looking at the map and several guide books, we decided that we would start the trip by heading into Aneroid Lake via the trail along the East Fork of the Wallowa River. We started hiking from near Wallowa Lake in the late afternoon and arrived at Aneroid Lake just before sunset. Mike and I quickly dropped our backpacks and started scouting for sunset pictures. Unfortunately, the light was a little quicker than us and it faded before we found a decent location. We spent the rest of night swatting at mosquitoes and watching Jake catch trout with his newly purchased Snoopy Zebco fishing rod.

Fisherman extraordinaire, Jake Bell with lunker Brook Trout caught at Aneroid Lake in the Wallowa Mountains

Fisherman extraordinaire, Jake Bell with lunker Brook Trout caught at Aneroid Lake in the Wallowa Mountains

The next morning, Mike and I rolled out of the tent about 5 a.m. and headed off in opposite directions in hopes of finding good locations for sunrise photos.

Photo of sunrise over the meadow at the south end of Aneroid Basin in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon

Photo of sunrise over the meadow at the south end of Aneroid Basin in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon

Mike started circling the lake in a clockwise direction and I took the counter-clockwise approach. Mike shot the image above in a nice big meadow at the south end of Aneroid Lake and I took the image below from the north shore.

Sunrise reflection on Aneroid Lake in Eastern Oregon’s Wallow Mountain Range.

Sunrise reflection on Aneroid Lake in Eastern Oregon’s Wallow Mountain Range.

After the sun got higher, we spent a few more hours fly fishing and then we packed up camp and started heading for Tenderfoot Pass. The hike up and over Tenderfoot Pass went without a hitch, and after a short break at the top, we continued along the trail toward the top of Polaris Pass. I’ve been to a lot of pretty places in Oregon, but I think the view from Polaris Pass is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. The entire Wallowa Mountain range spreads out before you, with Cusik Mountain and Glacier Lake off to the left and Eagle Cap Mountain and the Lakes Basin off to the right.

Photo from the summit of Polaris Pass in Eastern Oregon’s Wallow Mountain Range.

Photo from the summit of Polaris Pass in Eastern Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness

It’s a spectacular sight, and one that is relatively easy to stay and stare at because, as it turns out, there isn’t really a trail down the back side of Polaris Pass. Oh sure, it looks like there’s a trail on the map and the guide books talk as if there’s a trail there, but don’t be fooled. There is nothing even closely resembling a trail, at least not at the very top. You can see that a trail starts several hundred vertical feet below the summit, but unfortunately there’s no obvious way to get down to it. Determined to find a route, the four of us started precariously making our way down the steep rocky slope, taking short careful steps and always keeping an eye downhill at the edge of the cliffs that were sure to be our death should we slip. We slowly zigzagged our way down the rock slides for the better part of an hour before we finally got to solid ground and were able to remove the handfuls of boulder-sized rocks that had collected inside our boots. The grade eased considerably once we got below the rock slides, but the trail was still fairly spotty and was frequently overgrown with bushes and a huge display of wildflowers. There were meadows clearly visible in the base of the valley a few thousand feet below us, but even after several additional hours of hiking, it seemed as if we weren’t getting any closer to them. The trail would run the entire width of the ridge, and then drop by maybe two or three inches with each switchback. It was unlike anything I have ever seen, and we all started thinking that we were never going to get to the bottom.

Photo of Mike Putnam, Jake Bell and Troy McMullin hiking down the back side of Polaris Pass.  Photo by Mike Croxford.

Photo of Mike Putnam, Jake Bell and Troy McMullin hiking down the back side of Polaris Pass. Photo by Mike Croxford.

After more than 10 miles of parched hiking with no fresh water source, we finally arrived at a stream and were able to re-stock our water bottles. Everyone soaked their sore feet in the stream for a while, and then we continued down the evil, never-ending collection of switchbacks until we eventually made it to Six Mile Meadow and set up camp for the night. The next morning, our group took a short hike up to Horseshoe Lake and while the rest of the guys hung out swimming and fishing, I decided to forge ahead for another 11 miles of hiking so that I could see the other parts of the Lakes Basin. I have wanted to see Mirror Lake and the Lostine Valley ever since I moved out to Oregon, and even though I was fairly exhausted from the prior day’s adventure on Polaris Pass, I felt like my trip wouldn’t have quite been complete if I didn’t’ get to visit this part of the Wallowa Wilderness Area.

 Photo of the author, Troy McMullin, backpacking near Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap Mountain in Eastern Oregon.

Photo of the author, Troy McMullin, backpacking near Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap Mountain in Eastern Oregon.

The Lakes Basin definitely held up to the hype. The area contains a beautiful collection of granite-lined lakes and meadows, all set up against the base of Eagle Cap Mountain. Just past Mirror Lake, the trail either drops down into the classic U-shaped, glacier-carved Lostine Valley or returns via the Hurricane Creek drainage. I spent some time exploring each of these areas, and I’m not really sure which one is prettier. They are both fantastic.

Image of Eagle Cap Mountain from the Lostine Valley in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountain Range.

Image of Eagle Cap Mountain from the Lostine Valley in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountain Range.

After several hours of backcountry bliss, I started making my way back to Horseshoe Lake. I drug myself into camp just before sunset, and just in time to try out some of Mike’s freshly-caught (and Cajun-spiced) trout. While I was gone, Mike apparently set the world record for the most trout ever caught in a single day . . . while Jake’s Zebco was not quite as prolific this time around. Luckily, someone in camp stayed focused on our photography mission and Croxford was able to document the entire experience with his trusty camera.

hoto of Mike Putnam landing a lunker at Horseshoe Lake in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountain Range.  Photo by Mike Croxford.

hoto of Mike Putnam landing a lunker at Horseshoe Lake in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountain Range. Photo by Mike Croxford.

We all turned in early that night, and then Mike and I got up the first thing the next morning to scout for sunrise photos around Horseshoe Lake. We split up again so that we could cover more ground. Mike set his sights on a nearby pond that had a nice collection of lily pads and I stayed along the main shore side trail. There’s no shortage of scenery in any direction within the Lakes Basin so it didn’t take too long for us to capture a handful of new stock photos for the Pacific Crest Stock site.

Photo of the Wallowa Mountains in the Eagle Cap Wilderness at sunrise

Photo of the Wallowa Mountains in the Eagle Cap Wilderness at sunrise

Sunrise reflection on Horseshoe Lake in the Lakes Basin of Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountain Range.

Sunrise reflection on Horseshoe Lake in the Lakes Basin of Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountain Range.

Then, we packed up camp and started heading back out to Jake’s truck via the long dusty trail that follows the Western Fork of the Wallowa River. Having covered more than 40 miles in 4 days, it’s probably no surprise that we talked incessantly that morning about what kind of food and beer we were going to have when we finally got out of the woods, and sure enough, our first stop involved a pitcher of Red Chair IPA and a couple of half-pound hamburgers from the Embers Brewhouse in downtown Joseph. We then made our way over to Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise, Oregon and finally to Barley Brown’s Brew Pub in Baker City, Oregon. After that, we did a little breaking-and-entering (not really, but we definitely surprised an unsuspecting house-sitter in one of our friend’s houses in Baker City), and then we headed back home the next day . . . putting an end to one of the best road trips I’ve had in a long time.

Posted by Troy McMullin