We’ve recently uploaded some new landscape photographs to our Main Pacific Crest Stock Photography website. Please visit the following link to visit our New Oregon Landscape Photography Gallery. Below you can find a sampling of some of our newest additions. Enjoy and please let us know which are your favorite landscape photographs in the comment section at the end of this entry. Many of these Oregon Landscape Photographs are available as fine art prints at the following links. Bend Oregon Photographer- Mike Putnam
There are several different crops available for the above Mt. Washington Image including ones with plenty of text space if necessary.
The above macro image of swirling autumn ground cover taken at high elevation in the Central Oregon Cascades offers a more intimate view of autumn in Oregon.
A more thorough description of how I captured the above Sparks Lake Sunrise Photograph is available at the following link. to Purchase this Sparks Lake photo, visit my personal site, Sparks Lake Photo.
The above picture of Central Oregon’s Three Fingered Jack was taken at one of my favorite back country location at the peak of summer wildflower season.
The above photo of Bend Oregon’s Shevlin Park can currently be seen in a fine art version at the Sage Cafe in Bend Oregon’s Northwest Crossing neighborhood. Finally one last image of Central Oregon’s beloved Three SIsters Mountains during a beautiful winter sunrise.
The above photo of the Three Sisters Mountains near Bend Oregon, can be seen at the Mountain Gallery of our Main Pacific Crest Stock Photography site by visiting the following link. Oregon Mountains. Please do visit our site to see more of our new images. Pacific Crest Stock Photography
As Always, Thanks for visiting,
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.”
This winter in Central Oregon has been fairly unpredictable and uneventful for me in terms of photography. I’ve gone out with good intentions on several days, but I just haven’t been able to capture many landscape photographs worthy of including on our Pacific Crest Stock photography pages. After a couple of failed attempts early in the season, I decided to try out some advice that I received from Dan Bryant, a good friend of mine who works in the advertising world. Dan and I have been best friends since we were kids. Today, he owns make-studio in Portland, Maine. Make-studio has worked with some of the country’s best photographers and they have done advertising and branding for many high-profile companies like Simms Fly-Fishing, Orvis, Nike, Nikon, Nordstrom, BMW, MTV, Timberland, Telluride Tourism, and the American Skiing Company. Given that Dan has had a very successful career as an art director, I figure that I should probably listen carefully to any and all advice that he offers. In one of our conversations this year, he mentioned that I should start trying to incorporate the human element into some of my stock photographs.
This concept of putting people into my shots is not something that comes easily for me. I’ve always been a nature and landscape photographer, and in fact, I have often gone to great extremes to make sure that I haven’t accidentally framed any people into my photographs. But then again, I haven’t had any other luck this winter, so I figured that I might as well give it a try. Since I’m not really sure what I’m doing at this point, I’ve basically just started dressing myself in a red or orange shirt for every photo expedition, just in case the conditions or locations don’t lend themselves to nature photography. I realize that the whole red shirt concept is a little trite (kind of like the requirement that all canoes used in advertising need to be red), and even though I’m certainly not ready to be America’s Next Top Model yet, I am starting to have some fun experimenting with this idea.
On my first “red shirt day,” I drove over to Santiam Pass in hopes of hiking into the slopes of Three Fingered Jack, but when I got there, the clouds were not cooperating. A large collection of fluffy clouds seemed stuck on the mountain’s pinnacles, so rather than spending six hours hiking through knee-deep snow just to get blanked by low-hanging clouds, I decided that I would take a shorter ski into the backcountry areas near Mount Washington. Once again, the clouds moved in and obstructed my views of Mount Washington, but since I was prepared with my nice shiny red shirt, I decided to set up my tripod in the snow and start experimenting with ways to incorporate myself into the shot. My favorite advertising photos are the ones where there is a hint of someone being there or doing something, but where the picture itself is not necessarily focused on the person. That was the main idea that I played around with while I was skiing, and although I didn’t get anything too magical, the chance to experiment with different positions at least opened up some photo opportunities that would not have otherwise been there on this particular day.
After skiing back to the Jeep that day, I decided to take advantage of the clouds—and our unique Central Oregon geography—by leaving the mountains and driving into some nearby desert rock formations for a few more shots. I found a nice collection of rocks above the Crooked River that provided open views back toward some of Smith Rock’s most dramatic cliffs. I balanced my tripod on one of the larger rocks, set the 10-second timer, and then scrambled out onto one of the other rocks overhanging the river. It took me about 11 seconds to get there on my first few attempts, but with some perseverance, I eventually got fast enough to get fully into frame. I didn’t really capture anything all that original in the desert either, but still, I wasn’t too disappointed since it was just my first day playing with this idea.
One of the nice things that I’m beginning to appreciate about this experiment is that it allows me to get out and photograph on days that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise tried. For example, I had some free time on one cold and rainy weekend in February, and even though there wasn’t really much of a draw to do anything outside, I decided to drive into Lake Billy Chinook and explore around some of the cliffs overlooking the lake. I knew that it was much too early in the season for pure landscape photography, but I loaded up my camera equipment anyway and went out with the idea of experimenting with the human element concept a little more. While I was there, I found several nice scenes that I would like to shoot later this year when the balsamroot flowers are blooming, and before I left, I took a few photographs of myself perched on the edge of one of the steep drop-offs. The composition isn’t quite as interesting as I would have liked, but then again, I didn’t trip and launch myself off of the cliff during any of my hurried attempts to get into the photograph, so I figured that was enough of a success.
One of the other good things about trying to include people in my images is that it opens up some locations that I would not have otherwise gone to because the scene itself would have felt too empty without someone in the picture. For example, there are several areas along the Middle Deschutes where I’ve always enjoyed hiking, but the scenes are not quite “full” enough for a good landscape photograph. They’re absolutely beautiful when you’re there, but they just don’t photograph that well unless you add something else interesting to the scene. The next two photographs were taken in one of those areas on the Deschutes River. I wish that I would have brought my fly rod with me (which I will do when I go back to re-shoot these later in the year), but I think these initial attempts are at least a good start, and they help demonstrate the value of adding the human element to an otherwise average-looking scene.
Sadly, this is just a small sampling of my winter failings. There were many more days this winter where my red shirt ended up being the only interesting thing in the scene. It happened again last weekend, when I tried once more to climb up onto the shoulder of Three Fingered Jack. After 4 hours of climbing up through deep, soft snow I ran out of time and I had to turn around. I was less than a mile from the top, but that last mile was straight up, and I knew there was no way I could make it to the summit and then back to the Jeep before dark, so I just took a couple of bad photographs of me and my red shirt standing in front of the ridge and headed back home.
That day at Three Fingered Jack would have been much better from a photography perspective (and probably from a safety standpoint) if someone else had been there hiking with me. The more I play with this experiment, the more I realize that it’s really difficult trying to be the photographer AND the model. My 40-yard dash time isn’t quite what it used to be, and there are many times that I simply can’t shoot the scene the way I would have liked because I can’t get to where I need to be in the 10-second time lapse before my shutter releases. If you live in the area and you feel like you would like to get in touch with your inner Zoolander, please send me an email. It would be really nice to have someone else to work with as a model. I suspect that it will involve a fair amount of suffering, and I can’t promise that you will end up on the cover of Outside magazine anytime soon, but I am fairly confident that we will at least have some fun. All you need is a red shirt.
Posted by Troy McMullin
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.