Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A foggy day at Saddle Mt

Well, after many a failed attempt, I finally got out to hike the Saddle Mt trail near the Oregon Coast last weekend. Weather and free time always seemed to be an issue, but last weekend it all worked out.

While I did want to see the view offered from the summit, I was just as interested in shooting the forest, flowers and trails as well. So a simple clear and sunny day was not what I had in mind.
So, keeping a close eye on the forecast, I headed out on a free Sunday when the forecast was for fog and clouds in the morning and sun breaks in the afternoon.

Ya, I know its the NW, so good luck with that right! But hay, it's kinda like the lottery. If you don't by a ticket, you got no chance to win.

So like usual, dark and early, I was loaded up with my rain gear and camera and headed towards the coast.

As luck would have it, the weather turned out about perfect. It never really rained on me the whole day, and while it never totally cleared off, I did get a few peaks of the coast through the quickly changing mist and fog.

The hike up is pretty steep, gaining about 1,700 feet elevation in under 3 miles, and really slippery in lots of places. If you have them, bring along some trek poles. I brought mine and am really glad I did! Just walking with a totally rebuilt right side is hard enough some days, but hiking up a steep and slippery trail with a load of camera gear would have been brutal for me without trek poles.

Once on the trail, the mist and
fog was really nice. It added such
a great mood to the forest.

At about the half way point, you come out of the trees and hit some really nice open hillsides, which i'm sure, on clear days would offer spectacular views. I was loving the look of the fog so I wasn't to worried about the view, and just kept shooting as I slowly moved my way up the Mt.

As you get higher up, there are some neat old sections of trail that they route you around, and they offered some great photo ops.

I liked having something man made up there to incorporate into the photograph.
It offered a little variety from the usual scenic shot.

As you near the top, the landscape offers a little of everything. There are lots of wild flowers, grassy hills, open views and big cliff drop offs. 
A tip for those that are afraid of highs, you may want to forget this hike. While not to bad, there are a few places that could freak someone out. 

When I reached the summit, the mist cleared off for a few minutes and I was able to see to the coast. And while i'm happy it did, i'm also glad it only lasted a few minutes, because when it cleared up, the area lost all it's mystery. I had really liked not knowing what was out there and felt the images would be more powerful if they held that mystery as well. So, I was really pleased when the mist rolled back in thicker than ever. It just gave the area this quality of drama that a clear sky never could. 

How to get there.....

Saddle Mt is located near Cannon Beach, about 1 1/2 hr west of Portland OR,
off of HWY 26. Take lots of water and trek polls if you have them. And unless your in great shape, pack light on the camera gear.

A long day in the Gifford Pinchot

Just before winter hit last year, I loaded up my bike and some cameras and headed to the Gifford Pinchot NF for what was sure to be the last high altitude Mt ride of the year.
Weather forecast showed a huge storm coming in later that night and the weather man had promised a few feet of snow in the Cascades. I had the day off and was itching to ride and shoot some pics, so by 5am I was all loaded up and on the road.
Having ridden and hiked in this area many times before, I was really looking forward to heading back. The Gifford Pinchot / Mt Adams area is such a beautiful place. The trails run across many hi ridges with amazing views, and there are also quite a few lakes for camping and fishing. In the middle of summer the misquotes are brutal, but come Fall, you would be hard pressed to find a more peaceful, scenic place anywhere in the country.

After about a 2 1/2 hr drive from my home in West Linn, I made it to my staging area for the day at
"Lower Lewis River Falls"

As soon as I arrived, I grabbed my camera and headed down to the falls, hoping to get there before the sun got to high and the hard contrast ruined the shot.

The falls can be shot from many angles, as the trail offers lots of different views, but this location was my favorite. The surrounding trees and bushes really help to frame the falls and add some nice depth to the image.

While I for sure wanted to get some ridding in, photography was my main focus for the day. So I continued to shoot around this area for a little while. But once the sun came up, I packed up a pretty full load of camera gear, along with a tripod into my backpack, hopped on my bike and headed for the hills.

The motorcycle trails in the Mt Adams area offer about as good of riding as anywhere in the country. The trails are steep and at times very difficult and dangerous, but you are reworded with scenery on a grand scale. Which of course, is why I chose to go there. Great ridding along with amazing scenery makes for a happy adventure photographer!

My plan for the day had me leaving the falls and heading East to a nice viewpoint near Sunrise Peak, and then even more East to Takhlakh Lake. I would be hitting a mixture of roads and trails and planned on getting to the Lake a little before sunset, so if the conditions were good, I could get in some nice late light shots of the Mt.

Well, right off I realized I had to change my plain a bit. I was ridding solo and had quite a load of gear, so hitting some of the expert trails was not going to be such a good idea, especially with a major storm coming in later that night. So, after hitting a few of the lower easier trails, I stuck mostly to the back country roads and zig zagged my way over to Sunrise.

Pulling off the twisty gravel road and onto trail #262, there is a really nice steep section of single track that travels about a mile up through the trees and pops you out on the side of a cliff, rewarding you with an amazing view of Mt Adams.
Once there, I shot this and a few other stock images, then figured I better get moving if I wanted to get down to Takhlakh Lake before sunset.

I arrived a little later than I had hoped, and as I pulled up to the lake, the sky and the Mt were already bathed in a beautiful late light. There were some really nice clouds and the light on the Mt was amazing.

But, I new the light would be gone quick, so I didn't waist any time. I grabbed my gear, headed to the edge of the lake and shot a few images right away that didn't need any setup. I didn't want to miss out on the nice light and figured something simple would be better than nothing.

Once I new I had a few good shots in the bag, it was time to set up the shot I had planned on all along, but was already a bit late for when I first arrived. I had all the gear I needed, but by getting there a little late, I new it would require a little photoshop trickery later in post. Not to be fooled by mother nature, I went straight to work.

First off, I needed to set it up quick and get a shot off while there was still a little light on the trees and nice light on the Mt. With the camera on a tripod, I shot the dark exposures first so I didn't loose the light, and bracketed in 1/3 stops with the shutter speed. It's important when creating a layered image this way that you use the shutter speed, not the aperture for the exposure bracket. Changing the aperture can cause the multiple images to not aline correctly.

As you can see here, since I arrived a bit late and the sun was gone from the foreground, there was a massive exposure difference between the foreground and the background. So, once I had the dark exposure for the sky and the Mt, I then shot a much lighter exposure for me, the bike and the campground. Again, I shot in 1/3 stop brackets so I could later pick the best exposures to blend together.

Once I felt I had all the exposures I needed, I packed up and headed back to the truck. It was a long cold ride but I was excited to get off the Mt before the storm hit. Plus, I couldn't wait to get back and create the final image from all the exposures I had made. I new it would take a little while at the computer, but I felt the final image could be really nice.

Back home, I opened up a few different light and dark exposures in
onOne software's "Perfect Layers". 
I was quickly able to blend the images together and come up with a final image that, while on location, my eyes could see, but just simply could not be captured in one exposure.

Then once I had the base image done, I went in and stylized it a bit with some saturation and contrast to give it a little punch, then added a simple border to frame it up nice. Overall, I was really happy with the day and the images I came back with were a nice addition to my stock files.

How to get there......

The "Lower Lewis River Falls" is located on HWY 90 (FS90) about 1 1/2 hr east of Woodland WA.
There is a nice campground there and its a great spot to stage for motorcycle trails (trail #80) as well as great Mt biking and hiking on the Lewis River Trail.

Takhlakh Lake is about another hr or so further east off of NF23

The Sunrise Peak Trail #262 is another hr, and a bit farther north of the lake off NF23