Golden light. That is what most landscape photographers will tell you. Shoot in the golden light. It makes everything look better. I have never appreciated this tenet of shooting landscapes more than on my recent scouting trip to the Oregon Coast with Jeff Clow. Up to the point of the trip, we had been in Oregon praying for any type of light instead of raindrops and bleak skies. Sure, we took a few photos along the way, but we both knew that most of them would never see the light of day. Unexpectedly, we checked into our hotel in Bandon and saw that the sky was clearing and that we might actually see the sun (we hadn't for five straight days) and headed to the beach. Just as we got there, I shot this photo where you can see the clouds moving east, allowing the sun to light up the seascape. A welcome sight for sore eyes. The evening kept on getting better and better and we were quite thankful that we were able to see the Oregon Coast as it should be seen -- in great evening golden light.
On my scouting trip to the Oregon Coast with Jeff Clow last week, we actually hit one evening where we had that elusive magical light that had abandoned us on the other nine days of the trip. If I could have picked in advance just one place for this to happen, it would have been here. We had just arrived in Bandon, which I will now refer to as Oregon's sea stack heaven. It had rained off and on during out drive and we had just checked into our hotel. We decided to check out the beach as it began to clear up. Once there, the evening just started getting better and better. We hadn't planned on staying there long as we were both pretty hungry, but as we shot the scene from the overlook, I turned to Jeff and said, the light is too good, I am heading down to the beach if you don't mind. He didn't, so off I went.
One of the sea stacks that I wanted to shoot was Wizard's Hat, pictured here. Each of the sea stacks have their own names, such as Face Rock and Howling Dog. If it were not for the hotel clerk that checked us in, I might not have found it easily. The reason is that when looking from the sea stack from the south, it resembles a howling dog. When looking at it from the north, it resembles a Wizard's Hat. Since I approached its stack from the south, I might have looked for another sea stack had she not informed me of that fact. Anyway, the light was great, the clouds were amazing and no matter which direction I shot it from, it was going to be a good shot.
After Jeff Clow and I reached our last stop on our Oregon scouting trip, we actually had some free time to do whatever we wanted to. Before the trip began, we resolved to ourselves that we would try to visit Redwood National Park if we had time. The hidden benefit to experiencing bad weather on the trip was that we had an afternoon to do just that. What we didn't realize was that the redwoods stretch for about 470 miles down the coast of California (there are some in the southernmost part of Oregon) and that the National Park was simply too far away to visit. We didn't know that until we reached the Jedediah Smith Redwood State ParkVisitor's Center and found out that there are several State Parks that surround the National Park and they are all run as one big park.
After talking with the Park Ranger there, we decided to visit Stout Grove, which wasn't too far from where we were. The road there has pretty narrow dirty holes with quite the number of potholes. Once there, the parking is limited but there were a couple of spots still open (good thing we weren't there in the summer). The trail is a loop trail that is a little over a half-mile long and pretty flat. There we were treated with the tallest trees in the world. The tallest redwood in Stout Grove is 342 feet tall (the tallest known one is 380 feet tall) and it is extremely difficult to convey their size through a photograph -- I know we tried. It is safe to say that you must see them in person to get a sense of how big they really are. I liked this particular tree, as the light was really nice on it, which I hopes accentuates on how tall it is.
Many of those who follow me on social media were able to hear about the weather challenges that Jeff Clow and I experienced on our ten day scouting trip to the Oregon Coast. Along the 362 mile coast, we were subject to rain (lots of rain); snow, hail and gale force winds. Jeff had found out that the region had thirty-eight straight days of rain on the day we got there, and I can safely say that that number totaled forty eight on the day we left. We added up the time that we actually saw the sun and I think it totaled maybe a day and a half, most for just an hour before the deluge would start again.
Since this was a scouting trip for one of Jeff's future Photo Tours, it wasn't all bad. We accomplished what we had set out to do -- visit over two hundred possible photo locations and rated each one for it's worthiness to visit during the tour. It would have been nice to get some great photos had the weather cooperated but the main goal was accomplished. The one thing we learned for sure, the tour will not be held in April.
I shot this photo during one of the periods where we actually had a little sun. I particularly liked how the tree at the end of the cliff looked like it was ready to fall into the Pacific Ocean below.
A funny thing about the Palouse. You start looking on back roads for certain types of subjects and you discover very different ones. We had started down a dirt road east of Steptoe Butte looking for some possible sunrise spots that would show a different side of the butte. We found what we were looking for with some great vantage points to revisit in the mornings (we have yet to shoot at sunrise but will next month). After finding these spots, we decided to keep driving on the dirt road and came upon this old granary sitting all by its lonesome. The sky and clouds provided a great background, and the ground behind the granary was golden due to the fact that it was harvest time. A nice unexpected find.
I have been in Oregon most of this week, and will be there all of next week scouting the Oregon Coast with Jeff Clow for an upcoming photo tour (yet to be scheduled). There are so many places across the US that are simply beautiful in their own right. Just before I headed out on the road, I accidentally came across this photo that I took when I was in Colorado a couple of years ago on a photo tour with Rick Louie and Chris Nitz. Talk about a beautiful location. We had headed out from Telluride and headed through and over the San Juan Mountains. We stopped at the top of Ophir Pass and this view just captivated me and the foliage was peaking. It was just one of the many amazing scenes that we saw that day. After crossing the San Juan's, we jumped on the Million Dollar Highway (It is aptly named) for further exploration.
No, this isn't the iconic Thomas Alma Barn that is visited by photographers from around the world. This is just up the street from that barn on his brother John's homestead. John's homestead is best known for his pink house, even though he also has a barn. The brothers arrived in Jackson Hole in 1907 and settled on two parcels of land. The log cabin in the foreground was built by John where he lived for ten years and then with his wife and family for another seventeen years (the famous pink house was built in 1934). John built the cabin in the background in 1945 for his son and his wife, but they only stayed in it for a year. It served as a bunkhouse after that. In 1953, he sold the property to Grand Teton National Park, but retained a life lease until his death in 1990 at the ripe old age of 103.
I wanted to make the first cabin the subject of this photo to show what it must have been like when John settled there in 1907. No electricity, water or any modern conveniences. I can't imagine it was an easy life, but who needs them when you have the Tetons as your back yard? Just think about this. Photographers flock to this area (known as Norman Row) to capture the amazing sunrises. John spent 83 years there and was able to see over 30,000 sunrises during his life there.
Why do landscape photographers get up at o'dark thirty, hop in their cars and drive sometimes long distances to take photos? To experience this scene is why, and maybe you are able to capture a few good photos while you are there. You won't get this photo at any other time of the day, except maybe for sunset and the experience will not be the same. Why won't it be the same type of experience? My answer is twofold.
First, most popular sunrise locations are virtually deserted and you often are sharing it with no one else. On this morning at Sprague Lake, I was the only one there. As a result, there were no distractions, no people talking or running around, just me enjoying the tranquility and oneness with nature. I am pretty sure that during sunset later that day, I would have encountered a lot of people and the experience would not be of the same quality. Secondly, landscape photographers know that the best time to get a smooth-as-glass lake that perfectly reflects the subject is extremely more likely during sunrise. Once sunrise occurs, you can usually bet that you won't see mirror-like reflections the rest of the day. So, when you think that landscape photographers are a bit crazy to get up so early, keep thinking it, because we think everyone else is a bit crazy for missing these experiences.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a very different kind of national park from others that I have visited. Located just south of Cleveland, Ohio, it started out as a a recreational area in the 1870's, and later became a National Recreation Area in 1974. It was later designated as a national park in 2000. The park is nestled in and out of communities, and to get from one part of the park to another, you actually drive through neighborhoods. There are no spectacular formations or mountains that you find like those in the west. It is a quaint park, with lots of hiking trails, waterfalls, hills, and a river running through it (Cuyahoga is a Mohawk word meaning crooked river).
This photo depicts the park's most famous waterfall, Brandywine Falls. There is a nice boardwalk trail that takes you to the falls, but it only gives you a fixed view. Leaving the boardwalk is not permitted, so it is hard to shoot it from other angles without being significantly blocked by trees and branches. Nonetheless, it is quite a relaxing and tranquil location.
I have done my share of hikes in the west and most of them are memorable for different reasons. Some are exhilarating due to their difficulty or heights that give you wondrous views and vistas. Others are favorites because, as you traverse the trail, there is beauty all around you. Some are memorable because you shared the experience with close family or friends. No matter what the reason, they are experiences that you never forget.
The Park Avenue Trail in Arches National Park is not overly difficult (mostly flat), nor is it overly long (1 mile one way), but the scenery along the way and in front of you is beautiful. It got its name due to the sandstone walls that tower over you, reminding one of walking on Park Avenue in NYC. The rock formation at the end of the trail (pictured here) is known as Courthouse Towers. I love this hike because of these formations but, even more so, is that I first shared it with my son after he graduated from college. We spent two weeks exploring Utah together and this was the very first hike that we did together. I will always remember that hike and him whenever I am there, and it makes it one of my all-time favorites for that reason.
If you haven't figured it out by now, Gold Beach is my favorite spot on the Oregon Coast. Are there other spots along the coast that rival it? Sure, but if you like sea stacks (like I do), this is the place to go. Interestingly enough, the town did not get its name for the golden light that lights up these stack daily but rather the discovery of gold near the mouth of the Rogue River in the late 1800's. No gold remains in the mines, but there still is photographer gold in those hills (okay, beaches).
Most of the photos that are taken of the Palouse are of beautiful rolling landscapes featuring some of the most fertile farmland in the world. If not the landscapes, then it is the many barns in all type of conditions, from brand new to falling down and dilapidated ones. Maybe a few abandoned farmhouses or farm machines that are found down some the roads throughout the Palouse. The one subject that you don't see are many photos of the granary. Why? The simple answer is that most granaries aren't that attractive. They are an essential part of making the Palouse one of the largest producers of wheat in the world but aren't built for beauty. The granary's role in the production of wheat is simple, it is a facility where harvested and threshed grain is stored.
When we came across the granary in this photo, it was in the middle if the harvest season. If not for the beautiful wheat crop in the foreground and the great blue sky and cumulous clouds in the background, I wouldn't have taken the photo of the granary. Taken as a whole, however, makes a terrific statement about the relationship of the crop to grain production process.
Just south of the town of Yachats on the central coast of Oregon is the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area that is a must stop to explore destination. Containing some great coastal views from above, there are some very unique features along the coastline to explore, namely Thor's Well, the Spouting Horn, and Devils Churn, pictured here.
Devils Churn is a narrow inlet where the tide comes in and often throws spray several hundred feet into the air when the waves hit the back of the churn. The height of the spray depends on how rough the waves are -- the rougher the incoming waves are, the higher the spray. Devil's Churn was actually a cave that was formed by the waves, and through the constant pounding of the water over thousands of years, the cave's roof collapsed, thus forming the inlet.
One of the signature sea stacks on the Oregon Coast, the Haystack Rock towers 235 feet above the beach, seemingly reaching out to the sky from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Along with its proximity to the city of Portland, this rock formation has contributed in making Cannon Beach a tourist destination. It is accessible from the beach and can be walked to during low tide. The saying, "you can look but you better not touch" applies to this iconic rock formation. It is protected, as it is a national wildlife refuge and one of seven protected intertidal areas along the Oregon coast.
My first visit to Cannon Beach was back in 2004 and I was able to shoot it in excellent lighting conditions. Unfortunately, the resulting JPG file was edited poorly and the original was lost. I have been back many times since then and have had poor weather conditions every time. I was able to take this photo on my last visit and had to shoot in in the rain. I am determined to get to capture this rock in the golden sunrise or sunset light next week.
I have been doing a lot of planning for my upcoming scouting trip next week to Oregon with Jeff Clow, as well as for a Palouse Photo Tour in May that I am co-hosting with him. These two locations are very much on my mind, so I will be posting images from my past trips there this week.
If one word can describe the Palouse, it is undulating. Other than Steptoe Butte and Kamiak Butte, there is no significant part of the Palouse with any altitude. Instead of just being flat land, the landscape rolls up and down, creating little pockets of light and shadow. They are much more pronounced when the sun is lower in the sky. When the sun is high, the whole landscape is lit and the undulations appear less undulating.
When Jeff and I scouted there last August, the color of the landscape was golden, as the harvest was underway. Some areas had golden wheat swaying in the wind, while others were devoid of wheat as they had already been harvested. It is in the spring when the landscape changes to all shades of green, as you can see from this photo that I took during my first visit there.
One of the best things about the Oregon Coast are its sunsets. Pick any beach along the 363 miles of coastline, add some clouds and you have the recipe for a terrific photo. The bonus from shooting from a beach is that you are almost always assured of getting a reflection that amplifies the beauty. Of course, one of the challenges of any coastline is the possibility of fog, many times thick fog. Why are coastlines susceptible to fog? Coastal fog usually results when warm, moist air passes over a cool surface. Coastal fog usually occurs when conditions begin to warm up but the sea (which warms more slowly) stays relatively cold. If that's the case, why isn't the coastal fog more consistent during these times? The easy answer is the wind that can blow the fog out to sea. What do you do when shooting in thick fog? Be patient and hopefully it will clear that day. On the day that I shot this photo, the morning was totally fogged in and I was unable to get anything. By the afternoon, the fog had cleared and, as you can see from this photo, was nowhere to be seen at sunset.
Last week, I posted a photo of the elegant stairway at the entrance to the Oliver Bronson House. The stairway goes to the top of this once magnificent house. After seeing it in it's current condition, it is still hard to believe that it was built in 1812. In any case, each floor has its own specific look and feel. For this photo, I climbed to the third floor and checked out what we called the "blue room" (for obvious reasons). You might think that this is a simple shot, but a lot of thought went into its composition. Making this a challenge was the dynamic range of the scene. It was dark in the corners and bright near the windows. Coupled that with whether the doors should be closed, partially opened or fully opened. I must have tried at least ten compositions with all of the possible combinations. I finally decided that this one was "the" composition for several reasons. First, I wanted to show the rails of the stairway to be prominent and appropriately lit. Second I wanted the light to gradually brighten as you look through the doors. That forced me to open the door of the room in between the blue room and the stairway. Next was the decision to leave the closet door partially open, hopefully adding a mystery of what might be in there. That decision led me to have the door to the blue room being partially opened. So this seeming simple shot required a lot of thought.
In less than two weeks, I will be headed to the Oregon Coast with my buddy, Jeff Clow to scout for a future photo tour. Jeff has never visited Oregon but he has always wanted to. I have been fortunate to have visited there a number of times and it is one of my favorite locations (read: I never tire of it). I have convinced Jeff that it is a "target rich" location that is always a requirement for one of his photo tours.
I have a list of over 200 photo locations to scout over the 363-mile length of the coast. In addition, we will be scouting the Mount Hood area, as well as the gorgeous Columbia Gorge with all of its amazing waterfalls and scenery. To say that I am pretty excited about our trip would be an understatement. I think he will love it as much as I do.
This photo is an early morning shot showing some of the sea stacks south of Gold Beach. I had headed out before sunrise but I wasn't able to shoot this until the sun cleared the mountains about an hour later.
Testing out DNG files taken on my iPhone.
On my trip to Sanibel last month, I brought my camera equipment with me, but I rarely took it out. This was more of an escape from the winter cold and rest and relaxation with old friends. I am pretty committed to walking five miles a day, but I seem to slip up when I am traveling. I resolved that this year would be different and, so far, it has been. Every morning in Sanibel, I headed out at 6:30am to log my miles in before everyone else was up. Since it was before sunrise at that time, I considered taking my camera with me to catch some of the great sunrises that Sanibel has to offer. Instead, I thought I would test out the DNG option in the iOS Lightroom app to see how well it worked.
Well, after shooting a bunch of photos, I edited this one on Lightroom Mobile, and then when I got home, I did some final tweaking on my desktop version of Lightroom and sent it over to my finishing app, OnOne Photo RAW. The good news was the files held up so much better than the JPGs that I used to shoot on my iPhone. It was really apparent when I used the Shadow and Highlights sliders. I was impressed on how much I was able to do with the DNG file. The bad news? I knew that I wasn't working with a photo that was taken on a 24 megapixel sensor. I couldn't push it as far as I could on my Fuji XT-2 photos. That is what I expected given the difference in sensor size. But, if I just don't feel like carrying that bigger camera on occasion, I will not hesitate on using the DNG option in Lightroom Mobile, knowing that I can now get a very respectable image from it.
Where does the time go? I was going through some photos and came across my Badlands trip images. I was amazed that the trip was almost four years ago. It seems like a short time ago. I visited this amazing park for the first time as part of a cross country trip with my son. We stayed at a hotel just outside the eastern entrance to the park. Talk about remote! Only one restaurant for 30 miles (and it was one of the worst I have been to) and no stores either. The only advantage was that I had the park almost to myself at sunrise. One of the classic scenes to shoot in the park is this one at Norbeck Pass. I remember getting up and driving about 20 minutes to shoot this scene. I was the only one in sight and there were some great clouds that lit up as the sun came over the rock formations. I love how most of the formations in the park have the layers of strata that show how these might have been formed.