Oregon’s Alvord Desert

An Alvord Desert sunset

Alvord Desert Sunset - I had a great time shooting these amazing mud tiles at the Alvord Desert with my friends Jason Brownlee and Matthew Grimes.

I had an excellent time visiting with about 40 of the Pacific Northwest's best photographers this last weekend. It was an honor to have been invited to your get together folks!! I'm sorry that I left a bit early. I couldn't fathom enduring the heat any longer without some sort of acceptable shelter... like a travel trailer. I think I need one of them. 😀 Does that make me old? Sleeping in the back of the PPV seems to be getting harder and harder lately. lol

If I could have handled the heat better the photo ops at the Alvord would have been incredible. There was a reflection in the last of the standing water lake on the playa. There were amazing cracked mud tiles. The stars are completely unencumbered by light pollution. They are some of the most amazing star filled skies in the state. The nearest town with a light bulb is 200 miles away. We're talking remote. And completely awesome.

After this trip I am more motivated to save up for a 500mm lens to take wildlife photos, especially birds. The incredible variety of birds that I saw non the drive there blew me away. And I have lived among millions of birds while living at Midway Island. I got to see a pair of Sandhill Cranes. I think that I saw some great egrets but they could have been white herons. I saw blue herons too. I saw yellow headed blackbirds and red wing blackbirds. I saw kerlews and sandpipers and pipits. I saw pigeons and mourning doves. I saw vulchers and some hawks and crows of course. I also saw antelope and wild horses and various rabbits and rodents.

It really is one of my favorite places, but I like it when it's not over 100 degrees fahrenheit. 😀

The Aurora over the East Fork of the Hood River

The Hood River Oregon

The Aurora over the East Fork of the Hood River on the east side of Mount Hood, Oregon.

Some people enjoy a nice Sunday drive. One that's warm and sunny where you can just relax, roll the window down, put your elbow on the door sill, crank the music up and hit the open road, destination not required... worries be damned.

I enjoy that too, probably more than the average person, and thankfully so does Darlene, but we do it in the middle of the night a lot of the time. Last night was one of those nights. Darlene came and picked me up at 10:30 pm to go look at the night sky.

My Jeep has been at the Jeep Whisperer being attended to and so I have had no wheels for the last couple of weeks. Thankfully I get it back today, but in the meantime I have missed a few things that I would have liked to have been a part of, including the amazing aurora show the night before last. I think Darlene could sense my anguish and felt sympathy for me. 😀

It was a beautiful night. We were in communication with another night owl photographer, Erika Eve Plummer. who got some incredible aurora photos the night before. Darlene and I decided to get out from under the clouds that were over us here on the rainy side of Mount Hood and go east where we ended up standing in hurricane force gorge winds at Rowena Crest, near The Dalles.

We set up and took a few test shots and the aurora was faint at best, so we took off and headed back toward Mount Hood, not hoping for much as we headed back toward the clouds, but as we approached Mount Hood we stopped at a little spot that we like to go to pee in the woods, and decided to take a photo or two to see what kind of color aht we could see in the sky.

This this photo. The time stamp is 1:17am. The aurora was glowing again, although not near as strong as the night before, but it still set a nice mood for this simple photo.

We drove back home on deserted highways, after visiting beautiful places, with no people. I can't understand why more people don't take their Sunday drives at Midnight. 😀

#oregon #randallpics #aurora

Silver City Idaho

Silver City Idaho Saloon Girl

Silver City Idaho - Where time stands still.

I had the opportunity to visit Silver City Idaho this last June for a day. I'm still in a bit of disbelief that this kind of place still exists in today's modern world.

My friend Bruce and I packed our gear and headed to southeastern Oregon where we explored several places that we've been curious about, so on this trip we drove past the familiar scene of the amazing Alvord desert, after a burger and a shake at Fields Station, and headed north in to the Jordan Valley area including The Pillars of Rome and Leslie Gulch. After a side trip in toe Nampa Idaho to get a tire repaired, we made the side trip through the beautiful southern Idaho area to Silver City.

Once we arrived in the little town hidden back in the hills we knew we were some place special. After traveling over an hour on back country, single lane dirt roads of varying condition, we arrived to a large sign stating, "Welcome to Silver City Idaho. All property is privately owned. Please do not destroy or trespass. Violators will be prosecuted. Signed the Owyhee County Sheriff". Fair warning I thought. 🙂

We traversed the dirt streets past old well kept 19th century buildings, daring not to exceed the 5 MPH posted speed limit, and pulled up to the Idaho Hotel as if we were riding up to the hitching post on our horses after a long ride on the dusty trail. We walked inside and found the proprietor busying himself inside. We were glad to see that he was open for business and sold cold beer. Bruce and I each ordered a cold one and proceeded to engage the keeper in interesting conversation concerning the history of Silver City.  Established in 1863 the hotel has changed little in character through the years. The old building showed obvious wear from an untold number of foot falls and activity through it's 150 year history.

Once we finished our refreshment and a series of interior photos, we left the building to roam the streets, guided for a time by our new found friend. As we explored the town I photographed a few of the details in the quaint little city. There are so many different views and details to be noticed and creatively photographed.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Silver City and feel adventurous enough to travel the old back road to the little town, take a day and go take a visit. Remember that this is a real town and not an amusement park. People live there. They enjoy showing a stranger around but appreciate their privacy.

Below are a few of the variety of black and white photos that I made while exploring the beautiful little "ghost town" of Silver City Idaho.

Oregon Aurora

Oregon Aurora over Mount Hood 10/24/2011

Oregon Aurora - The Northern Lights in the Pacific Northwest - There once was a day when I was asked, "What would be your dream shot?" I replied that my dream shot or the impossible shot would be the aurora over Mount Hood, Oregon.

Since then Earth has passed into the peak of the solar cycle known as solar maximum and camera sensors have become much more sensitive to light allowing myself and many other photographers to be able to photograph the event when it happens, and it has happened quite a bit the last three years.  The first time that I photographed the aurora I had no idea that I had captured it in the shots that I had made the night when I went to photograph Trillium Lake, but when I looked at the photos when I had returned home I noticed a green glow on the horizon. Granted, it wasn't columns and ribbons of light, but a soft green glow. That was October 24th, 2011. Four years ago.

Since then I have been able to catch the Northern Lights in the area and snap a few photos. It's not as easy as just taking a chance and going and to get a photo. They only come after a solar storm and typically happen from a day or three afterward. I use an application for my phone called Aurora Notifier that signals me when the Kp level, the strength, of the aurora rises above 4Kp. Once that happens, if it's a dark night, I grab my gear and go.

Once out in the dark one must realize that at this latitude the light is dim and difficult to see with your eyes, but if it's a strong enough display you can see the light pillars dance on the horizon once your eyes are adjusted. You must get away from any sky whose darkness is diluted by any affect from town or city light. Even the light from the moon can wash out the northern lights. Choose a dark sky with a view toward the northern horizon. Set your camera on a tripod and set your aperture wide open to allow as much light in as possible. Then set your ISO high, it will vary depending on how dark the sky is or how bright the aurora is. Then set your shutter speed for at least 20 seconds. This long exposure is only for the aurora at this latitude. When photographing the aurora in the northern latitudes where the aurora is much brighter a much shorter exposure is called for.

Once you have your camera set take a shot and see how it looks on your preview screen. If it's too dark raise your ISO or extend your shutter time, from 20 sec to 25 sec for instance. If it's too bright lower your ISO. That should get you started. There are challenges that you will run into but in time you will get some northern light shots for your own.

Below is a collection of some of my Oregon Aurora photos. I hope that you enjoy them.

No color was added to any of these photos.

Enjoy!

Gary =0)

 

The Fortress of the Night Sky

McKenzie Pass Oregon

The Fortress of the Night Sky - The Dee Wright Observatory at Night

The car doors closes with a thud and the interior light's soft glow that's been allowing us to prepare our gear turns off in an instant leaving our senses to rely on sound as all sight goes away in the black of the night. I put my arm out to reach for Darlene​ as we both let our eyes adjust to the night sky. The summer breeze wisps softly around us as the stars appear as our eyes adjust. Darlene was the first to break the silence when she lets out a sigh as the Milky Way appears in front and above us. "Wow" is all she says.McKenzie Pass Oregon

We lock arms and shoulder our gear, turn on our headlamps and walk into the night and up the path jagged volcanic rock bordered path to the rocky structure that is the Dee Wright Observatory on the McKenzie Pass through the Cascade Mountains in Oregon.

The structure was built in 1937 and is made from the lava rock chunks that make up the surrounding area. The observatory sits amid a barren rocky ancient lava flow very much like the black basaltic a'a lava flows in Hawaii. Because it's made from the area on which it sits it looks as if it is rising from chaos to be assembled in a wholly organic yet orderly fortress like structure. it was made as a place where people can come to view the beauty of the area from a majestic prominence, and yet we couldn't see past the light of our lamps.

The arched openings showed the warm flickering light from a candle that was placed inside by another visitor for the purpose of making photographs. How fortunate we think as we walk up to get a view of the Milky way in the south sky shooting up and over the observatory.

I'm fortunate that Darlene likes the night time outdoors as much as I do. We decided to pose her inside of one of the arched openings. We get a few shots until the other photographer takes her candle and leaves at which point we start using a flashlight. We light paint the outside for a while. We go inside and we light paint inside for a while. We're taking shots, checking them out on the backs of our cameras, adjust and try to perfect it before moving on the the next shot. We're like kids in a playground.

We finished the shoot on the observation deck at the top of the structure, in the center of which stood a raised pedestal with a 36" diameter bronze azimuth-like "peak finder" compass. On its face are lines that help the observer find prominent landmarks, such as the incredible volcanic peaks of the Central Cascade Mountain Range. Belknap Crater from which the lava which flowed over the area is where the rock that made the lava flow came from. Then there is North, Middle and South Sister Mountains to the south, the amazing jagged peak of Mount Washington, the scenic Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood, to the north and Black Butte to the east. Several more are marked on the circular bronze disc with an arrow pointing in their direction.

I light paint the disc as a foreground for a Milky way photo and then we decide to just turn off the lights and look at the stars for a few minutes before heading back down the rock path and back into the glow of the light of the car.

I love the night.

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