Featured Photos

  • My Favorite Photographs From 2014

    As 2014 draws down to it's final day, I'm reminded that it is time to write this once yearly article and share my favorite images from the last 12 months. All credit actually must go to Jim Goldstein, who for the past eight years has curated his now famous and highly anticipated Best Photos project. Every year Jim invites photographers from around the world to look back at their year, reflect on their images and agonizingly select just a few that feel significant. Over 300 photographers contributed last year alone. The 2014 edition will come out the week after New Years and the previous seven editions of The Best Of articles are always available on Jim's blog.

    It is a great tradition on many levels. Looking back at one's work over an entire year is a valuable exercise for a photographer. It is a challenge to look through hundreds, or thousands, of images and decide which ones call out for a closer look, remind us of memorable moments, mark milestones or communicate something that will impact others. Being included in Jim's list is also a fun way to participate in the photographic community, contribute to the growing interest in photography as an art form and connect with other like minded people who share a passion for outdoor photography. Furthermore, I look forward to spending a good evening, or three, exploring the photography of others who contribute their year's best. Every year I am introduced to compelling imagery by people I wouldn't otherwise know about and I learn from and get inspired by the creativity and adventurous spirit of others.

    Without further rambling, I present my favorite photographs (and some short narration to go with them) from 2014. I hope you enjoy and I wish you many life affirming adventures in 2015! Please share which ones you like best, or anything else for that matter, in the comments below. (You can click on images if you would like to view them larger)

     

    Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Big Island of Hawaii

    Inlet

    I enjoy the warm, saturated light, the symmetry of the rocks and the dynamic water motion in this scene I found just hours after arriving on the Big Island of Hawaii in February.

    Hala Trees, Waipio Valley, Big Island of Hawaii

    Hala Trees

    I was fascinated by the Seussian character of this forest in the Waipio Valley on Hawaii. Intrigued by the shapes, tones and subtle light, I chose to showcase these features and go without color.

    Lands End

    Land's End

    The rugged coastline of Southern Oregon is some of the most dramatic on the planet as far as I'm concerned. One evening in March, after many previous visits to this spot, David Cobb and I were treated to a sunset that helped convey its beauty in a photograph. I particularly like the tree on the headland in the distance.

    Eclipse Over Mt. Shasta Revisited, Shasta Valley, California

    Lunar Eclipse Revisited

    In 2007 I first photographed a lunar eclipse over Mt. Shasta. Since then my technique and equipment have improved but I had been waiting for a chance to revisit the theme. My opportunity finally came in April, with a total lunar eclipse on a cloudless night.

    Now Comes Spring

    Now Comes Spring

    Lupine may be my favorite flower on the earth so this meadow took my breath away. When I saw the sun sinking through a layer of thin clouds I knew the conditions for photographing the lupine with back light would be optimal. Their slender height makes them very challenging to photograph since the slightest breeze sets them swaying.

    06-The_Gift_Tree

    The Gift Tree

    My favorite rhododendron in my favorite redwood grove. Myself and others have photographed it many times, but one evening in May all the elements for magic came together: flowers, light fog and soft, warm light from the setting sun.

    Storybook Land, Lake Bled, Slovenia

    Storybook Land

    Slovenia is perhaps the most picturesque small country I have visited, with craggy Alps, lakes, medieval villages, castles, church spires, waterfalls, canyons and enchanted forests. My childhood storybook vision played out in front of my camera one morning at Lake Bled.

    08-Piran

    Piran

    Piran is a classic walled village on Slovenia's coast. At night, light, shadow, color, setting and mood all play together. Through my camera I was transported to a past time.

    09-Autumn_Thunder

    Autumn Thunder

    Zack Schnepf and I were constantly on the job in Colorado during the fall this year. Out of all the memorable scenes we photographed on that trip, this sunset storm light in the Gothic Valley near Crested Butte stands out.

    10-Reunion

    Reunion

    Aspen trees, in addition to having brilliant fall color, have a cartoonish, human quality. To me this grove looked like a group of old friends getting together.

    11-True_Grit

    True Grit

    Another spectacular light show in the mountains of Colorado. The quality of light combined with the dramatic peaks, dusting of snow and yellow aspen made this one of the best outdoor visual experiences I had all year.

  • My Favorite Images of 2013

    Another wonderful year of traveling, exploring, searching, watching, waiting. These are the photographs I took in 2013 which are my favorites. Which is your favorite? (Each image can be viewed larger by clicking on it.)

    Lonely Coast. Late twilight on cliffs edge somewhere on the southern Oregon coast. March. Lonely Coast. Late twilight on a cliff edge somewhere along the southern Oregon coast.
    Fortuna-Falls March. La Fortuna Falls, Costa Rica.
    The-Mighty-and-The-Meek April. The Mighty and The Meek. Trillium growing in the shadow of a towering redwood.
    Tattered-and-Swift May. Tattered and Swift. Thunderstorms looming over Steens Mountain.
    Shadows-Call May. Shadows Call. Spring lupine beneath the stars in the Shasta Valley.
    Gates-of-the-Imnaha June. Gates of The Imnaha. Fleeting spring green in the Imnaha River Canyon.
    Reflection-Lake August. Reflection Lake. A classic sunrise view and reflection of Mt. Rainier.
    Two-Guardians-of-Cape-Arago September. Two Guardians of Cape Arago. Intricate sandstone formations on the Oregon coast illuminated by a fantastic sunrise event.
    Panther-Creek-Falls October. Panther Creek Falls. One of the most delicate and beautiful waterfalls in the Northwest.
    Stillness-and-Light October. Stillness and Light. Compelling geometry, light and color at one of Oregon's most loved landscape scenes.
    Golden November. Golden. A country road disappears into the colors, light and mists of fall in the Rogue Valley.
    Early-Winter December. Early Winters. Alpenglow light at dawn in the central Oregon Cascade Range.
    Sharpened-version December. Ice and Fire. Delicate ice and reflected sunrise light on the Crooked River after an early winter cold snap.

     

    December 31. The final hours of 2103 spent on the Oregon coast. December 31. End Of A Year. The final hours of 2103 spent on the Oregon coast.
  • Anatomy Of A Sunrise

    Have you seen the time lapse twilight and night photography of Terje Sorgjerd? In his film, The Arctic Light, he shares a gorgeous high speed chronology of extended magical twilight hours he finds in the far reaches of Norway. In the spring sunsets and sunrises at this latitude can last for many hours.

    Not counting people who live in such extreme latitudes as northern Norway, I don't think we get frequent chances to carefully study a magnificent twilight sky show these days. Many of us aren't awake and outside early enough in the morning to witness the sunrise. Much of our day in these modern times is spent indoors or within an urban landscape which significantly reduces how much time we spend viewing the sky. I have often noticed a faint warm glow coming through my east facing living room windows only to find I was missing a brilliant sunset in the sky to the west. Additionally, opportunities to linger in the twilight are commonly sacrificed to the pace of life, rushing from office to car with heads down or eating dinner while reading an iPad, sorting through junk mail and sending texts. Many of us can only remember a handful of times when chance and circumstance have enabled us to be in the right place at the right time to look up at the sky and be amazed.

    As an outdoor photographer I have learned to revel in the light at the edges of day. I devote many mornings and evenings to searching for the conditions that will allow me to have an exhilarating sunrise or sunset experience just one more time. The process of photographing at the edges of day motivates me to watch with great interest and concentration. Some sky shows last for mere seconds, while others will linger for many minutes, colors changing and moving around the sky. I can only imagine witnessing a twilight that lasts for many hours, such as the ones Terje records in Norway.

    Recently I came across a series of photographs I took during a spectacular sunrise in North Cascades National Park in Washington in the fall of 2010. It was one of those rare occasions in which the event played out over many minutes, allowing me to photograph it several times from slightly different vantage points. While I worked on each image individually I didn't notice how, as a series, they illustrate the anatomy and progression of light, color and pattern in a way that is hard to share any other way.

    This is how that morning unfolded. Chip Phillips, David Cobb and I had camped in a dense wood below Cascade Pass near Sahalie and Pelton peaks and the stunning Sahalie Arm trail. The night before we had been dismayed at the sight of a fallen climber's body being lifted out of the mountains on the end of a rope beneath a rescue helicopter. It was still replaying in my dreams when Chip rose at 3:00 AM with the intent of hiking high above the pass before sunrise. David left camp second, about an hour later. I was last out of camp and wasn't far up the trail when the sunrise light began to show itself.

    Cursing myself for sleeping too long, I made this photograph along the trail still low in the valley in near darkness. The first light was just beginning to illuminate the clouds and the dark features of the land. A long 15 second exposure at f/13 and ISO 640 recorded the dim landscape much brighter than it appeared to the eye. A second exposure of just 4 seconds captured a good exposure for the sky and the properly exposed areas of each were blended together using layer masking techniques.

    Aware that the best light would come rapidly and that I wasn't in the ideal location, I ran up the trail, stumbling in the dark and breathing hard. The color intensified and I frantically searched for something to anchor the foreground of my next photo. I found a small mountain ash tree turning red with the coming autumn. At the same time I noticed the stream in the valley beginning to reflect the red-orange of the warming sky. Radiant light reflecting off the undulating under surface of the clouds back lit the foliage making it appear to be glowing from within. This wide angle, vertical composition turned out to be my favorite from that morning. I titled it Unforgettable Fire and it is now part of my print collection.

    Satisfied that I had managed to take a good photo despite my late start I relaxed a bit. However, to my surprise, the color showed no signs of abating. I continued up the trail looking for other perspectives from which to photograph the scene. I scrambled around, struggling to find a composition as compelling as the last. While I didn't find another that felt as good, I kept stopping to shoot because the color in the sky continued to spread and intensify, accentuating the shapes in the clouds. In this image the brilliant reds and oranges overpower the rest of the scene.

    Further along my ascent of the pass the colors began to shift from deep reds to lighter oranges and yellows and cool light began to filter through the cloud layer from above.

    Finally, as the day brightened, the sun rose above the cloud layer. The under-lighting faded along with the color, leaving the clouds flat and gray from below but giving a glimpse of blue sky and higher clouds above.

    That morning, as well as many others, have become important and indelible parts of my consciousness. Through photography I have become better at being acutely present and attentive during such magical twilight events, making them that much richer, meaningful and memorable. Having the photographs as keepsakes gives me the opportunity to relive the experience and see it again in ways I wasn't able to as I witnessed it.

  • My Favorite Images From 2010

    Despite their ubiquity this time of year, I always look forward to year end reviews in which we, as a society, look back at the previous year and what came of it. There is something intrinsically valuable about the practice of remembering the year gone, both personally and as a community. I appreciate the sense of closure it gives; a sort of taking stock and clearing of the air, a brief pause before barreling toward the future again. We do this for all aspects of life. The media loves to inundate us with lists and images recalling the year in politics, movies, economics, environmental crises and sport. Many of us take stock of what our personal lives brought in the past year as well.

    Like many of my photographer colleagues, much of my year is wrapped up in the places I traveled and the photographs I made. Much effort and time is spent in pursuit of those few defining images that rise above the rest. They alone tell the story of my success or failure to communicate the vision I strive to capture and share. Despite success or failure, it is really about going for the ride. Whatever the outcome I take heart in adding another year to my photography story.

    With those thoughts in mind I share some of my favorite images taken in 2010. Enjoy.

    Camino de Oro

    Camino de Oro, Guanajuato, Mexico

    Lost In A Winter Forest, Crater Lake, Oregon

    Copper Coast, Puerto Escondido, Mexico

    Shasta Lavender, California

    Sparks Lake Columbine, Oregon

    Twilight Grove, Redwood National Park, California

    Unforgettable Fire, Cascade Pass, Washington

    Mineral de Pozos Doorways, Mexico

    Teardrop Of Sky, Bandon, Oregon

    Starvation Creek, Columbia Gorge, Oregon

    Thanks for looking. I'd love to read any comments questions you might like to share, so please post those below. If you're feeling it, please share this blog on your social media site of choice. Here's to 2011!

  • Photographing in Lassen National Park

    Mt. Lassen National Park in northern California seems to be one of the lesser known and visited national parks. It make lack some of the panache, history or supreme grandeur that the better known parks have. However, as a photographer, I really enjoy the diversity, volcanic activity and wilderness feel it has. On my most recent trip, in addition to some of your more standard nature images, I was able to take some photos that I feel are truly unique and artistically intriguing.

    Burney Falls State Park is less than an hour's drive north of Lassen

    Burney Falls State Park is less than an hour's drive north of Lassen

    Several lakes in the park provide views and reflections of Mt. Lassen and other peaks.

    Twilight glow, Mt. Lassen, Chaos Crags and Manzanita Lake

    Twilight glow, Mt. Lassen, Chaos Crags and Manzanita Lake

    The boiling mud pots in Bumpass Hell are a sight you won't see outside of Yellowstone. With some special light or atmospheric conditions they have the potential for some very interesting photography.

    Bumpass Hell boiling mud pots and pools, Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Bumpass Hell boiling mud pots and pools, Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Kings Creek Falls is just one of many along a spectacular stretch over a mile long that drops steeply into a canyon.

    Kings Creek Falls

    Kings Creek Falls

    But so far, the area around Butte Lake, in the north east corner of the park is my favorite for photography. The large cinder cone makes a great photo subject in itself, and from its summit one can photograph the surreal Painted Dunes and lava beds. The forest of ponderosa pine and carpets of pine cones also make interesting photography subjects.

    The Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park

    The Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Painted Dunes, Lassen National Park

    Painted Dunes, Lassen National Park

    Sunrise light on the Painted Dunes

    Sunrise light on the Painted Dunes

    Ponderosa pine cones

    Ponderosa pine cones

  • Jefferson Wilderness, Jewel of the Oregon Cascades

    The Jefferson Wilderness in the Oregon Cascades, located to the north of Santiam Pass, east of Salem and West of Sisters, is one of the most amazing natural mountain environments on the west coast. Mt. Jefferson itself is awe inspiring as the second highest peak in Oregon and host to the largest glaciers in the state other than those found on Mt. Hood.

    Warm sunset light on Mt. Jefferson and Bays Lake

    Warm sunset light on Mt. Jefferson and Bays Lake

    In days past I have trekked into Jefferson Wilderness on several occasions, either backpacking or to climb Three Fingered Jack or Mt. Jefferson itself. This was my first time to visit specifically to take photographs. The wilderness is home to some extremely photogenic countryside. For the dedicated photographer willing to backpack in with camera gear and spend a couple days exploring it is a wonderland.

    In July I spent a memorable week with fellow photographer, David Cobb (www.dmcobbphoto.com), photographing in two different parts of the wilderness area.

    Mt. Jefferson reflected in Rock Lake

    Mt. Jefferson reflected in Rock Lake

    First, we backpacked in to the popular Jefferson Park area via the Woodpecker Ridge Trail which is accessed by a forest road (road 040) a few miles to the east of the town of Detroit. Jefferson Park can be overcrowded on weekends in August, but midweek in July, when there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground and the mosquitoes are at their peak, we only saw three or four other parties in three days. Jefferson Park is popular for a reason. The flat alpine basin at over 6,000 feet of elevation has several lakes and numerous small tarns that reflect some of the best views of the mountain available. As the snow melts wildflowers carpet the marshy meadows. The position of the Jefferson Park area on the north side of the mountain means that in summer the peak gets great side light for photography at both sunrise and sunset.

    Snow filled tarn in Jefferson Park

    Snow filled tarn in Jefferson Park

    After three days on the north side of the wilderness we hiked out, drove over Santiam Pass and down the east side of the cascades where we drove along more forest roads (road 12 to 1230 to 1234) to reach the Canyon Creek trail head. The Canyon Creek trail starts at Jack Lake ascends toward Canyon Creek eventually arriving at Canyon Creek Meadow at the base of the north east side of Three Fingered Jack. Three Fingered Jack isn't the highest of the Oregon Cascades, but it is one of the cragiest with the most interesting geologic patterns of colors and layering. Canyon Creek Meadow is located in a glacier carved basin directly at the base of the sheer north face of Three Fingered Jack. In late July it is home to one of the most amazing wildflower blooms in the state. We were a week or two too early for the peak of the flowers, so I look forward to getting the timing better next year. Even still the early morning light on the peak with winding streams, reflecting pools and green meadows below made it one of the more memorable campsites and photography locations I have had. A high ridge blocks the late evening light, so we cooked dinner and hid from the voracious mosquitos in the tent. However, the morning light is sublime. We spent over an hour finding one composition after another as the warm glow of the rising sun slowly progressed down the mountain face.

    Paint brush in Canyon Creek Meadow below Three Fingered Jack

    Paint brush in Canyon Creek Meadow below Three Fingered Jack

    Greg Vaughn gives good directions and photography suggestions for both these locations in his book Photographing Oregon.

    Three Fingered reflection

    Three Fingered reflection

  • Photographing the Columbia River Gorge in Spring

    Wildflowers at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Wildflowers at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    The Columbia River Gorge and corresponding scenic areas and monuments is one of the most varied and visually compelling natural locations in North America and it is an icon of the Pacific Northwest. Photographically, a visit to the "Gorge" is worth it any time of the year, although summer weekends can become notoriously overcrowded. As with so many locations, the height of spring and fall color are often the best for photography.

    0018935-20090405

    Bike racers descend the Rowena Curves during the Cherry Blossum Stage Race.

    This spring I had the fortune to visit the Columbia Gorge two times and photograph some of the waterfalls found along the Oregon side as well as some of the best wildflower locations found further east near Mosier and The Dalles. This entry in my blog features several of my favorite images from my two spring visits this year. These photographs are new enough that they have not been added to my site yet, but they are available upon request. I hope you enjoy!

    Mt. Adams from near the town of Trout Lake

    Mt. Adams from near the town of Trout Lake

    Metlako Falls

    Metlako Falls

    Punchbowl Falls

    Punchbowl Falls

    Hiking along Eagle Creek

    Hiking along Eagle Creek

    Elowah Falls

    Elowah Falls

    Upper Horsetail Falls

    Upper Horsetail Falls

    Rowena Hills Sunset, Tom McCall Preserve

    Rowena Hills Sunset, Tom McCall Preserve

    Mosier Cherry Orchards

    Mosier Cherry Orchards

    Small wildflower with an even smaller spider

    Small wildflower with an even smaller spider

    Sunrise at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Sunrise at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Out to pasture at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Out to pasture at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Earthbound Sun, balsamroot and lupine

    Earthbound Sun, balsamroot and lupine

  • Photo Tip: Blurry Trees


    Much of my photography is of the greater landscape and I'm often trying to present sweeping vistas with sharp detail. However, I also like to photograph more intimate scenes and abstracts. One of my favorite abstract techniques is motion blur. This can be achieved a few different ways and is a particularly good technique for emphasizing leading lines in a photo while smoothing out distracting elements. The final result can often look more like a painting than a photograph.

    I really like to use motion blur with trees that have staight trunks. The technique is more an art than a science, so a lot of experimentation and throw away images are required to get something that I like. I start by setting a relatively slow shutter speed and making a vertical pan (movement) with my camera. I have found that shutter speeds between 1/4 of a second and 1/20 of a second work best. I move the camera up or down, in as straight a line as possible and depress the shutter release as the camera is moving. At slower shutter speeds I pan slower and at faster shutter speeds I pan faster. It is hard to know exactly what will be in the frame so I repeat the process over and over so that I will have many images to select from. Panning the camera while it is on a tripod can help keep the motion steady and smooth, but also limits flexibility.

    Physically panning the camera is often all I need to do to achieve the abstract look I'm going for. Other times I selectively add more blur by using the Motion Blur filter in Photoshop (Filter>Blur>Motion Blur). To do this I'll create a duplicate layer of the background image and blur the duplicate. Then I'll add a layer mask to the blurred layer and paint with a black brush on the mask to bring through any detail from the original image that I want to keep. This digital blurring technique can also be applied to images that were taken in focus without panning the camera. Digital blurring often takes just as much trial and error as panning the camera.

    Several of my favorite photographers have used these techniques to create some wonderful abstract images, including Jesse Spear, Eddie Soloway and William Niel.

  • Creating Mystery With Motion And Blending

    Griffin's Dream 1

    One of the goals of my photography is to create images that have a sense of mystery and the surreal. Photography is so often based in pure realism, but I find that I am attracted to images that give a glimpse into fantasy or imaginary worlds. Many of my friend DAVID WINSTON'S photos have such a quality and I have also mentioned MICHAEL KENNA more than once. Although their subject matter is very different from my own, I am inspired by the photography of NICK BRANDT and GREGORY COLBERT.

    Dark Places

    In my photography I am often trying to show familiar subjects and locations in a way that is familiar while at the same time mysterious and fantastical. Unique perspectives, purposeful composition, extreme weather, motion and magical lighting can often create something extraordinary in an ordinary setting, but such conditions are not always available. Recently I have been experimenting with some techniques, both in the camera and in the computer, that give me more options when trying to achieve something mysterious and stylized.

    Lunar Eclipse

    Three of the oak forest photos accompanying this article are from a series I call Griffin's Dream. I used a slow shutter speed (about .4 seconds or more) and panned my camera vertically during the shot. This caused the trees and grass to blur into streaks of light and dark that look somewhat like brush strokes and help to remove fine details from the scene, leaving only the main elements of form and color.

    Griffin's Dream 2

    In the right kind of light, panning, zooming and other camera motion effects can create a great final image. However, for the Griffin's Dream series the light was very flat giving the scene low contrast and washed out colors, so I employed a second technique to arrive at the final interpretations. In order to increase saturation, contrast and dynamic range in the initially lifeless images I used different combinations of blending modes in Photoshop. Darkroom technicians first developed the practice of stacking transparencies or negatives in various ways to produce different effects, and similar effects can be achieved with blending modes in Photoshop. To use blending modes you start by creating one or more layers that are exact copies of your original image (Layer>Duplicate Layer). Then in the Layers Pallet select each layer in turn and change the blending mode in the drop down menu at the top of the pallet. The blending mode defaults to "Normal", which means that no blending between layers is taking place. For low contrast images I find that a combination of Multiply, Overlay and Soft Light blends work the best, but you have to experiment and see what works for each image. I also individually control the degree of each blend using the Opacity slider on each layer. I think the final result is painterly, surreal and fantastical, more like an impressionistic painting or a forest vision from a child's dream.

    Griffin's Dream 3

  • Featured Photo: Remains Of The Day

    remains of the day

    In the Rogue Valley we get a serious vetch bloom in May. There isn't a lot of color variety, but it covers large areas of the surrounding hills, literally turning them purple.

    One evening in mid spring this year I was frantically driving around attempting to be in the right place for the best light during an approaching thunderstorm. I missed catching a rainbow and lightning and several other locations just didn't pan out. I finally was forced to pull over, jump a fence and run up a hill at the last minute to grab this shot right before the sun went down. Then it started to rain. I like working under pressure if I can come away with a shot...otherwise it makes me want to huck my camera off a cliff.

    Canon 5D, 16-35mm f/2.8 @ 16mm, 3 stop NDG, dual exposure manual blend of .5 sec @ f/18 and 1/8 sec @ f/18.

    More...

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