Wildflower Season and Leave No Trace

Balsamroot Sunflowers at Rowena Heights in the Columbia River Gorge

Wildflower Season and Leave No Trace

Well, it's February and, so far, a mild Winter. If this trend continues we will have an excellent wildflower season. An early Spring has two consequences for photographers. I beautiful wildflower season and a lot of mosquitoes and ticks.

The Columbia River Gorge has many beautiful fields of flowers. One of the most popular locations by far is Rowena Crest. Rowena is known for its fields of lupine and balsamroot flowers. The location is usually over run by photographers and hikers who love these fields. Because of this the wear and tear on the terrain, as well as newly developed trails made by off trail walkers, it's becoming pretty severe, especially in certain viewing areas. Beautiful foreground areas have been denuded and worn down to bare dirt.

Rowena is only one of the areas that are being affected by the increased use due to the popularity of photography today. Because of this I would like to remind everyone to do their best to Leave No Trace at these sensitive high use areas.

Walk on established trails. It's difficult sometimes to stay on the trail when you see a nice clump but there's a great chance that the trail is there due to its view and there will be many other flowers along the way. Once you mash the grasses down to resemble a trail, others will naturally follow.

Don't pick the flowers. It may be tempting to pick a few flowers to create an arrangement, to turn their faces toward the camera or to simply bring home a bouquet. Please reconsider. Once they're gone they're gone for others and their ability to go to seed to supply fresh flowers next Spring is gone.

If you go with friends please limit the size of the group. The larger the group size the more apt for the group to leave the trail. A group of photographers in one place can cause a lot of damage. I've seen a group come in to photograph a place and completely stomp the area down.

Although controversial, consider the practice of not sharing the location to a pristine area that has yet to be affected by this high volume traffic damage. Some call this elitist, but in my mind it's certainly not. If I'm able to explore to find my own little discoveries, others can make that same effort too. If I could trust my fellow photographers to actually be conscientious enough to not tear these areas apart, I'd be happy to tell the world. In the last 15 years of doing landscape photography I have seen so many of my favorite areas become overrun with non caring humans who have crowded these beautiful areas, tearing up the foregrounds that were once used in photos.

My message is simple and is not meant to be elitist. My message is simply to respect these places that we love to photograph. Preserve them for future photographers. Volunteer with local groups who are restoring or maintaining these areas. Keep these places from being closed down permanently. If you see another photographer off trail, consider mentioning in a nice way that they might consider staying on a trail. If you see others causing malicious damage, especially vandalism, consider reporting the action.

We all need to consider ourselves stewards of these lands. Most are public lands shared by all. Consider them something that you need to value and take care of.

Alaska Winter Bush Plane Glacier Adventure

Knik Glacier Alaska
Ice Columns of the Knik Glacier on an Alaska Winter Bush Plane Glacier Adventure. 
 
This photo is of the huge ice face of the Knik Glacier in Alaska. I was able to photograph this miraculous location due to my good friend Bill Nafus and his amazing new hand built Super Cub bush plane. Bill built the airplane from the ground up and it's perfect in every detail.
 
Our plan was to fly up the Knik River and then back down, not expecting to land. We flew across the face of the glacier, very near the surface below us when I noticed that Bill was throttling back and dragging the huge balloon tires across the snow. He then pushed into the gas and we lifted back up again, circled tight and then returned again to drag the tires through the same grooves made by the first pass. And we lifted off again, circled back and this time we dropped into the tire tracks and stopped.
 
I was stoked. Was this actually happening??
 
Bill and I hopped out of the airplane and we walked out across the snow covered Knik River braided riverbed, not knowing what was under it, testing it along the way. It could be sand, ice, overflow ice or even open water. As we walked we watched for anomalies in the surface that may indicate danger, we got closer to the big ice wall.
 
The light at the glacier was amazing in its smooth even forgiving nature. I was easily able to take the photos by hand without the need of a tripod. This allowed me to be able to keep walking and taking photos as I saw them. It also allowed me to keep walking to keep warm in the -5F cold. The moon would peek out from behind the top of the glacier as i walked. The ice walls were a deep blue and transparent and as shiny as glass with a web of cracks lacing it giving it texture and depth.
 
In about an hour we made our way back to the plane, got back inside and flew back to Bill's home in Palmer.
 
I was so excited! As we flew that day we saw moose, Dahl sheep as well as a Jeep Caravan that had made its way up the frozen river to a spot not far from glacier and was returning back to civilization. We flew above deep blue crevices, ice canyons and ice fields of no less than four glaciers. We flew through and past the jutting granite peaks of the Chugach Mountains.
 
Just the action of taking off from a frozen lake and flying around Alaska is sensational on a bucket list level, but to add the landing at a glacier to the trip made this day one that I will never, ever forget. I can't thank my friend Bill enough. He's a man that makes things happen.
 

I love Alaska, but I love her people even more.

 

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska 9/3/16 - 2:28 am

On this particular night Darlene and I were driving back toward Wasilla through Anchorage when I decided that I wanted to drive up to the Glen Alps to see if we could see the aurora over the city. Darlene wasn't feeling so well but agreed that it would be fun. I was driving and Darlene wasn't paying much attention to where I was driving so I ended up driving to the end of a road that I never intended to drive to. Whatever the road, it had a trailhead and a turnaround, so I turned around, which oriented my windshield directly north toward the lights of Anchorage so I pulled to the side of the road to take some photos. This is the result.

I may have got turned around but I ended up with some pretty cool photos. It's not often that I've seen a nnive aurora over city lights.

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon.

My friend Matt Payne and I were talking about this photo of The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon and how it's such a prominent in a sea of city lights, making it an obvious composition for a photographer with an eye for detail. I think that some who have photographed this overpass intersection have done it intentionally due to seeing the photo but others who may not have seen this previously just see it and do it.

I took this photo back in 2011 with my friend Bruce. He had seen this intersection in another photograph, perhaps not this exact composition, and wanted to try to get the shot. I was glad to come along, and am honest that I did not create this comp. I was unaware of it until Bruce talked to me about it.

in 2011 not many had photographed this intentionally but since then I've seen it pop up in a lot of photographer's portfolios, and rightfully so. The photos are certainly striking, especially if you've never seen it before.

I shot this at 300mm from the top of "Pill Hill at the OHSU Tram upper terminal. It was windier than the halls of hell, but it's a great place to view the city.

 

The Eye of The Tempest

Medicine Lodge and Lightning at Simnasho

The eye of the tempest.

This was the lodge that Darlene and I were privileged to have been able to stay in while we visited the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Central Oregon, thanks to my friends Vicky and Charles Littleleaf.

When we arrived to erect the lodge the sun was out and the occasional cloud was a welcomed break from the sunshine. Once the lodge was finished the clouds thickened and a storm of epic proportions moved in on us. Wind, rain and one inch diameter hail fell all while bolts of lightning struck in the hills surrounding us. At one point the lightning was directly overhead but didn't strike the ground around us.

The storm itself lasted well into the night time allowing us the opportunity to photograph it fairly easily. I heard that there were from 1500 to 1700 lighting strikes that night in Warm Springs alone. With the dry weather this could have been disastrous as the fire situation in Central Oregon has been perilous. The good news was that it poured rain. I mean it poured! Of the precipitation I enjoyed the hail the most. I had never seen hail so large. It was easily 1" in diameter. I was caught in it at one point and I can attest to the fact that when a 1" hail stone hits the top of your head it hurts. lol 😀

Later in the day Darlene and I hid inside of the tipi and had some snacks while the storm raged until we realized that the rain had stopped and it was completely quiet outside. Darkness had come while we were dodging the weather and so we didn't realize that the weather had changed in almost an instant. When we peaked our heads outside the lodge door all we saw as a blanket of amazing stars with the Milky Way stretching over the top of us like a crystal archway.

Darlene and I were able to get a couple pretty nice shots of the stars before the clouds moved back in on us signalling to us that it was time for sleep. What an incredible experience.

Vicky felt bad that the weather "ruined" our stay, but I tried to explain just how special it was that it happened. I always look for high adventure but never realized that it would find me on this particular day. I tried my best to explain to them just how special the storm was to me. Charles realized it though. He told Vicky that we were lucky to have experienced it.

I love my life and love the people that are a part of it these days.

Thank you Vicky and Charles.

This is a single exposure of two lighting strikes.

Top Ten of 2017

Panther Creek Falls Washington

This last year for me was a bit of a challenge when it came to photography, but it's been a great year businesswise. The carrot keeps getting a little closer each year. And 2017 was the year that I got married. As bittersweet as it was, I was still able to get out and take a few shots.

2017 was the year that I was repaired from all of the accumulated abuse that I've done to this body in the last few decades. Last December I had back surgery and was laid up longer than I had anticipated. I'm just now starting to realize an improvement in the pain, a year later. Once I was back on my feet from my surgery my mom had her shoulder replaced and no sooner than her shoulder had healed she went in for knee replacement. Because it's just my mom and I these days I am her moral support, and she mine, so I had little time to go and do any shooting this last year. But in 2018 this all will change.

I can't wait to get this year started!! Darlene and I are going to start the year out by heading up to Alasky this month and then a couple more plans for travel that we'll reveal come closer to the day.

And so, in light of all that, here are my favorite ten photos from 2017 in no particular order. I hope that you like them.

I promise to do better in 2018. 😉

A Christmas Cabin in The Woods

A Christmas Cabin in The Woods.

A Christmas Cabin in The Woods.

It was late in the day on the eve before Christmas Eve when I decided to drive up to the Little Zigzag River to get some fresh air and take a few photos of the creek in the snow. It was getting dark and I wasn't too pleased with the photos that I took there, but as I was driving back home I passed by this cabin in the forest. It was all lit up and it caught my eye. It was well into the Blue Hour when I stopped for this photo so the warmth of the interior lights contrasted well with the blue snow covered forest vignette.

It goes to show that when one sets his goals on something they ultimate goal may not have been achieved, but you usually get something for your effort.

Dew Drops in The Forest

Dew Drops in The Forest

"You're too close to the trees to see the forest." To which I reply, "Well, sometimes there's more to the forest than just the trees!" First I see a forest, then trees, then leaves, then bark, pine cones, moss, mushrooms, bugs, dew, grains of sand.

Landscape photographers in many cases have Ultra Wide Fever. The want to buy the widest lens that they can buy and include the whole forest sacrificing the complexity and beauty of the details.

Darlene and I were hiking back from a visit to Tamanawas falls when this leaf caught my eye. We stopped and switched our lenses to our macro gear and started shooting these amazing brown drops of water. Apparently a forest tea steeped from the dew from the morning and the juices of the maple leaf.

Sometimes one really should stop and savor the little things in life to be able to enjoy the big picture.

NIKON D350mmf/3.5 - 1/200 sec - ISO 1600. 

The Surge

Yocum Falls near Mount Hood Oregon

The Surge - Below the creek was cold from the melted snow that flowed into it no more than two more miles upstream and it was swift from the rain coming down from above. Standing in the creek seemed to be the best approach to this waterfall, so I pull my Wiggy's Waders on over my boots and rain pants and take my tripod and camera into the stream.

In front of me is the surging waterfall that seemed to send a steady mist toward me spraying the filter on the lens with drops that would accumulate in a matter of seconds. The best approach was to clean the lens with the camera pointed downstream, cover the lens with the rag, swing the camera around, remove the rag, take the shot and spin it back again in a vain attempt at trying to keep the drops out of the photo.

In time I was able to get the focus and the composition set so that when I could perceive the slightest slack in the breeze I could do my spin, reveal and shoot procedure described above. With that methodology, I was able to come home with a photograph.

This was made using my Nikon D810 and my 20mm f/2.8 - 1/8 sec - f/16 - 1000 Iso

Aurora borealis over Mount Hood

Aurora borealis over Mount Hood

The aurora borealis over Mount Hood at Trillium Lake August 2015. This was an incredible night. The skies were great and the lodge only had one invasive light that I was able to brush out of the photo easily.

I've been asked a lot about seeing the aurora here in Oregon after seeing one of these photos. I explain that although you can see them with the naked eye, the camera absorbs more light than you eyes are able to. Therefore, these photos don't represent accurately how you're able to see the lights. So don't be disappointed if you go in search of the aurora and you can't see it. If it's forecasted to be displayed that night take a test shot or two just in case.

It was this night when I met two young women that were there enjoying the stars with one of the women asking me questions about photographing at night. I had yet to start to take any photos and gave her a quick two minute night photography tutorial. We got her all setup with her camera and tripod, took the first shot and looked at the preview screen. The image showed the northern lights as they were just starting to flare up. The woman practically freaked out when she saw the photo. I had to explain to her what was going on. She was amazed.

Once I was done with the two ladies there I went to get a few photos of my own, this being one.

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