Thursday, June 21, 2012

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Cool places abound in the Mt Hood NF!

It seems everywhere you go, there are fun things to do and great places to explore.  And once you think you have found them all, you turn down a new road and "bam" there is something new to check out.

As a case in point, I give you the foot bridge in Rhododendron OR at the base of Mt Hood.

While out adventuring around one day taking the back road up to Trillium Lake, I drove through a little area of cabins just outside of town. As the road dead ended I saw what looked like a trail head so I hopped out to check it out. What I found was this cool foot bridge that lead from the cabins over the river and right into the center of town! As I crossed the bridge I couldn't believe I found my self standing practically right on HWY 26.  I had drove by this bridge well over 100 times over the years and had no idea it was there.

Well, the light was really bad but I went ahead and shot a few pics anyway. While the bridge was very interesting and unique, no matter what angle I shot from or what lens I used, the light  and the conditions were just to poor.

So after I worked it as much as I could, I gave up, telling myself I would need to come back when the conditions were better.

A few months later I had a day free and had dedicated it to shooting some new stock images. As the shoot day came closer, the weather conditions were looking prime for some great fresh snow shots and as I started to lay out a plan for where to shoot, I remembered that bridge.
Perfect I thought. Easy safe drive to the base of the Mt, and with Green River Canyon and "The Old Salmon River Trail"close by, I would have 2 locations to shoot that would offer totally different looks.
While it snowed heavy over night and was forecast to snow more throughout the day, I did not want to chance getting there and have the sun come out and have the same harsh light as before. Plus, the earlier I got there the fresher the snow would be with less chance of others messing it up.

So.......... at 0 dark thirty, I was loaded up and on the road. And as it turns out, it was a good thing I did.
I arrived just as it was getting light enough to shoot and the bridge looked perfect.
Grabbing my camera and leaving the tripod behind, I rushed out onto the bridge and shot a few quick shots. It was so pretty and the conditions were just amazing but I new it wouldn't last. Earlier, as I was driving out, I had passed some people walking towards the bridge and I wanted to make sure I got some shots before they got there. And, sure enough, just after I shot a few frames and was reaching in my bag to change lenses, two kids came running around the corner and proceeded to run across the bridge knocking off all the fresh snow, totally ruining the shot in a matter of seconds. BUT, by getting there early, and shooting quickly, I had got the shot that just moments later was ruined forever.

How to get there.....

Rhododendron is located near the base of Mt Hood, about an hour east of Portland OR.
The bridge is located on the SW side of HWY 26 just before you get to the Dairy Queen. There is a small gravel parking area just off the road and the bridge sits just a few yards back in the trees.

Pack light, but get a big production look!

A while back my friend Al wanted some portraits done, so he called me up saying he was looking for something a little different than the usual head shot.
After talking a bit and throwing around a few ideas, we decided to do some environmental portraits to showcase him out doing what he loves. 4 wheeling! Since his work requires him to wear a suit and tie, I suggested he bring that along as an alternative to the usual Carhart dirt cloths. I liked the idea of showing both sides of his life in one image.

Thinking about locations, I new I wanted an area that would offer lots of different set ups. Mud holes, forest trails and Mt viewpoints were all on my list, and there was one place that I new would work out great, Goat Mt! Located a little SW of Estacada OR, Goat Mt is little known, but offers a great variety of things to do. There are 4x4 trails, hiking trails, view points and a nice little lake at the base of the Mt. A perfect area for a fun off road shoot.

So a few weeks later we headed out in his old Jeep with a minimal amount of photo gear. I knew we would be getting dirty and muddy so I packed as light as possaible to keep the damage to my gear to a minimum. After stoping and shooting at a few different locations down low on the Mt, we decided to get out of the trees and head to the top to get some nice light.

Once to the top I found a nice open area and had him pull the Jeep into position first. I find it's always best to set the foreground subject up then work the rest of the shot after. Lighting was going to be an issue as I only brought one strobe, so it was time to brain storm a little and get creative. I could make the one light work, I just needed to shoot multiple exposures with the light positioned in different locations. Then later in post, I could put them all together and create the shot I envisioned, but did not bring the gear to create all at once.

First off, after the Jeep was in position, I moved Al into place and had the light set up. This first shot was to act as my base image that all the other exposures would be built around. A tripod here is a must! To shoot for a multilayered image, there must be no movement between frames. Otherwise the images wont line up correctly later in post.

Next came the light for the tire. Leaving the camera set, I had the light moved to a more incident angle. This way it offered much more shape and detail to the tread and gave the lighting a much better overall feel.

I also wanted to have a little more light in the front, but not so much that it drew to much attention. Just a little detail so that I could layer it into the final shot and give it some shape and deffinition. All the while making sure the original position of the camera stayed exactly the same.

 Once I felt I had all the lighting setups that I would need to create the final image, we packed up and headed home. I new that I would need a different sky, but no worries as I  had lots of sky shots to pick from back at the studio. So, once back, I searched some of my stock images and came up with a sky shot that I felt would work well, add some drama, yet still lend a natural feel to the over all shot.

Now for the tricky part. Once back at the studio and on the computer, I took my favorite peaces of each exposure and layered them together. By doing this I was able to create a much better shot than I would have been able to capture in one frame out in the field. With just a tripod, one light, some photoshop software and a little foresight, I was able come away with a shot that my friend was really happy with, and a nice addition to my portfolio.

How to get there.....

Goat Mt is located about an hour SW of Estacada OR off the Hillockburn RD.
There are many winding dirt roads in the area and its pretty easy to get lost. A good 4x4 or a dual sport motorcycle is the only way to get there.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Browns Camp Ride

So lets get this thing rolling!

Since a lot of my advertising photography work is for the motor sports industry,
we'll kick things off with a moto trip with some photo tips on shooting while out and about adventuring around on you bike.

Last Sunday my buddy Matt and I got a bit of a late start to the day, but we were both itching to ride. So since its the closest, we decided to hit the Browns Camp OHV area in the Tillamook State Forest. It's just one of the many OHV parks near the Portland area and has many great trails to choose from. Once we arrived at the staging area we quickly checked out the trail map and figured out a nice 40 mile loop that would cover some fun terrain but still get us back to the truck before dark.
Since this was a dirt only ride and would cover some tougher trails, I decided to leave my DSLR at home and just opted for my iphone to record images from the day. When used correctly and in the right locations, cell phone pics can turn out great, you just need to be picky about where and how you shoot.

About 20 miles into our wet and muddy, but really fun ride, we came up on this cool location.

Up until this point we had shot a few of the usual trail side pics, but I felt this was an extra cool spot and really wanted to capture a nice image to show off how unique it was. So we pulled off the trail and started walking around and looking at it from all angles. It was such a neat location, it looked cool from just about anywhere, but I kept going back to the big root system. I just loved how the roots looked so intricate, yet so old and moss covered. So, after playing around with a few ideas, I moved my bike onto the trail under the downed tree and composed a shot.

Next comes the tricky part, exposure! Its a dark grey day and i'm in a dense forest with no tripod. And I am using a cell phone. Aghh!!! Of course it would be nice to lean against something to help hold still, but the angle I wanted offered no such help. So, pulling a few tricks from my many years on location, I came up with 3 helpful ideas to make sure I got the shot. First, if you have a smart phone, use a timer. There are many apps out there that have a timer (I used Canopy for iphone for this) and they can really help out. By setting the timer to 5 seconds, I was able to settle down and hold still while the camera fired, thus eliminating the wiggle that always occurs when you hit the capture button.
Second, I picked a little darker exposure than the camera auto settings was giving me, thus getting a little faster shutter speed. I new as long as I could get it sharp, I could always make it a little brighter later. And third, I shot lots of pics. Ha, simple I know but effective. I figured I would have a better chance of 1 in 5 being sharp than 1 in 1. So I shot the same shot 5 times, hoping that one would come out good, and sure enough the 4th one was the winner.
After this shot, I played around with a few other angles but really liked this look for my favorite shot of the day. While it could have been just a quick snap shot, buy taking a few extra minutes to compose it, I was able to capture a really unique image that showcases why I love to ride and explore the back country.

Once back home I pulled the pic up on my computer and did a little post work to the shot. Cell phone's tend to wash out colors and seem to lack the punch of a DSLR. So I just went in and added a little saturation and contrast to liven it up a bit. This can be done many different ways and with many different software's, but I really like "onOne software" for enhancing these types of images. Within just a few minutes I was able to look through some of their presets in Perfect Effects, choose the ones I liked and apply them. Makes for a very quick and easy work flow.

After I was happy with the look of the shot, I went in and added a simple border (also from onOne)
to finnish it off.

Well, thats it for now. Hope some of these tips help you out in the future. And always remember, don't just take a picture, MAKE it. If its a nice shot, take the time to make it great.

If you would like to ride the Browns Camp area sometime, check out these links for directions and trail maps

If you want to check out the section of trail in the photo, it was shot on trail #13 named Ceder Tree.
If you go, have fun and ride safe!

Not sure whats up next? A climbing trip to smith rocks, a kayak trip down the Tualatin River or maybe a trip to the lava tube caves? Stay tuned because what ever it is, it should be fun!