A Wider View

Photography has many facets, and like most photographers I have my strengths and my weaknesses. I love shooting still life, I could spend all day behind a macro lens, shooting just about any animal challenges and excites me. There’s one type of photography that totally intimidates me. Landscapes.

I know a good landscape when I see one. I admire it when a photographer can capture the whole horizon and direct my eye to just that right spot. I can stand in the woods and be in awe of the sheer volume of trees, but when I try to capture that it’s just a mass of vertical lines. I will hike for miles to see a waterfall, but my photos have never quite capture the serenity my eyes see.

I just got back from a cross-country adventure with my sister. We call it “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. This year we even added a boat to the mix. We each flew to Chicago, took a train to Portland, and rented a car and managed to get to five National Parks in the Pacific Northwest – all in 10 days. Somewhere along the way we even took a ferry. The places we saw were amazing.

Last year we took a similar trip into the central plains and saw so much wildlife, that I almost forgot about taking photos of the places. This year we saw very little large wildlife, I had upgraded my long zoom in preparation for this trip – and I used it to capture some birds here and there, but mostly this trip was about the places, beautiful places – I was going to be forced to shoot landscapes.

What follows are some of my better attempts. This is my photographic journey across the Pacific Northwest.

20130523-212053.jpgThe surf at Cape Disappointment. This is the spot where Lewis and Clark finally reached the Pacific Ocean. They had such depressing names for places – Dismal Nitch, Point Disappointment, and the Cape. They missed a supply ship by a couple of days, a ship had waited for months for them. After an upstream journey of a couple of years, the name seems to fit.

20130523-202058.jpgLongmire Ranger Station, Mount Rainier National Park. Several of the shots at Longmire were taken after sunset, this one was taken about an hour after sunset with a long exposure. I braced the camera on a fence post. Shoulda packed a tripod.

20130523-201145.jpgA huge Douglas Fir at the Fort Klatsop National Monument in Lewis and Clark National Park. This was one of the first mossy trees I saw and it was stunning. I decided that rather than shoot a mass of woods, that I would focus on one tree. For me this seemed more familiar, getting close is my thing.

20130523-201750.jpgFort Klamath, Oregon – the last outpost in the high desert. I lived about 30 miles south of here for about 10 years and I miss these wide open spaces and rugged mountains. In truth, I found it challenging to shoot and capture the feel of the place, it’s flat there was no way to get close without losing the feeling of space.

20130523-201204.jpgAn unnamed waterfall just below Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. In May the snow melt races downhill to fill the Nasqualy River. I had been wanting to try a long exposure on moving water and this trip gave me lots of opportunities. I have never used a neutral density filter, but I have been reading on their use in shooting moving water, I think this is something I want to work on. A side note, I participated in an art sale last weekend and this was one of my most popular prints. I almost didn’t show it because I see a hundred things wrong with it.

20130523-201643.jpgA small creek at Longmire, Mount Rainier National Park. I shot this right after sunset in the woods, and without a tripod I had to brace the camera on my knee for a long exposure. It took several tries to get the grass in focus – I found that in leu of a tripod, holding your breath helps.

20130523-201236.jpgHiking trail at the Hoh Ranger Station, Olympic National Park. We got to this station hoping it would be open, but it was still shuttered for the winter season. The green here was just so stunning. I shot lots of close things, but this was the one place that gave me the sense of entering the rainforest.

20130523-201312.jpgThe birth of a river – this is where the Nasqualy River begins. Snow and glaciers melt at high altitudes – this small trickle will become a raging torrent as it descends. Mount Rainier National Park.

20130523-201336.jpgBirds on the beach below Cape Disappointment, Lewis and Clark National Park. I once gave my mom grief about shooting white caps on an overcast day on a white sandy beach in Oregon – I was similarly drawn to the scene, despite its lack of contrast.

20130523-201419.jpgDeception Pass, although the name sounds like it, this place was not named by Lewis and Clark. I have read the plaque on the bridge, a Wikipedia article, and a brochure, and I still don’t understand why it’s named that. Oh well, I loved the green water and the eddy at the shoreline.

20130523-201506.jpgMount Hood, in Oregon. This peak is snow covered all year round. Over the course of our trip we passed it three times and its not easy to find a good angle to shoot it from. This was one of very few pull outs on the southern side of the mountain. I took some shots on the train and from other vantage points, but found then uninteresting, the sense of scale just wasn’t there.

20130523-201947.jpgSkunk cabbage in the creek, Longmire, Mount Rainier National Park. I shot this after sunset, but opened the aperture and didn’t increase the shutter speed very much. This was my first attempt at shooting in the dark and that open aperture meant less bracing, but also less focus.

20130523-201616.jpgThe Pacific Ocean at Kalaloch, Olympic National Park. This shot is all about scale – those driftwood logs are just huge. I shot this spot and walked away. When I noticed the hikers below I shot it again. It had no sense of scale without the hikers.

20130523-201715.jpgThe Nisqualy River, below Mount Rainier. The sound of this place was amazing, the view was pretty special too. A park ranger gave us directions to this spot when he saw our camera bags. I have recorded video of the spot, mostly to relive the sound of the river.

20130523-201736.jpgWizard Island – just off the west shore of Crater Lake. Full disclosure, Crater Lake is my absolute favorite place on the surface of this big blue marble. I hadn’t been there in 20 years and the first sight of it made me tear up. The beauty is overwhelming, and I know I am ill-equipped to capture it in a way that adequately conveys it. This shot has not been edited at all, the water is that blue, the sky is that stunning. I could have sat in that spot for weeks.

20130523-201804.jpgMount Rainier Guide Service. The snow was still 14 feet deep on the slopes here. There were people in shorts snowshoeing with the rangers. Paradise, Mount Rainier.

20130523-201540.jpgChristine Falls, Mount Rainier National Park. These falls are glacier fed and this is just the top two tiers. It’s named for a disabled 8-year-old girl who managed to climb to the 10,000 foot point on the mountain in 1889 – I love that. She may not have conquered the mountain, but she conquered something bigger by tackling the beast. I wish the sun had not been so direct, I would loved to have shot this earlier or later in the day. I braced myself against the bridge wall and took a long exposure on this one, the lights are too bright, but I like the effect of the long exposure on the water.

20130523-202010.jpgKalaloch, Olympic National Park on the Pacific coast.

20130523-201256.jpgThe Hoh River in Olympic National Park. A river filled by snow melt – we actually got into this river and it was unbelievably cold. The river channels here were so much wider than those in the Ozarks – and there were lots of huge logs along the banks. It looked like massive earth moving machines had been down there, but this was all created by moving water.

20130523-201830.jpgThe eastern edge of Crater Lake – its surface like glass. Bliss.

20130523-223218.jpgQuinault National Forest in Washington. We turned down this road because we saw a National Fishery sign. The top of the photo is not sky, it’s actually clouds that are lower than the treetops.

My natural inclination is to square up – but on this trip I looked for diagonal lines, hoping these would draw the eye into the image. Sometimes I think it works, and sometimes I’m not so sure. I know that a tripod could have improved many shots, but I haven’t invested in a good travel-weight one yet. The sky in the west is so much bluer more consistently than it is here, so there weren’t a lot of white washed out skies. The wide open spaces allowed me to focus a bit more on parts of the scene than I could have here in the hills and hollows.

All in all, I think this trip pushed me to try new things, to make myself solve some problems. I don’t think landscapes are my thing, but I did my best and think I did OK. I will always prefer getting close to my subject, it’s more intuitive – very right-brained. Landscapes take more thought.

I can’t imagine having seen all this beauty and not having tried my best it capture it.

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62 thoughts on “A Wider View

  1. Beautiful shots! Thanks for sharing them! And thanks for liking my work on 5280lensmafia! I have more stuff on wabisabiimages.wordpress.com that you might also like. Photography is my passion and I too tend to shy away from the big sweeping landscapes. But it looks like you’ve got it down now! Good work!

  2. Superb shots, makes me very homesick. Landscapes are difficult, so much that goes into finding the ‘perfect’ place to shoot, and then waiting for the magic to happen, whether it is great light, mist, or something that makes the shot just right. Looks like you did quite well! Cheers.

    • Thank you – the weather was very cooperative – no rain for a whole week, and there is no better scenery than the parks in Oregon and Washington. We really didn’t have the luxury to wait for the light so I just had to shoot when I could, except at Mount Rainier. We stayed at the lodge there and got to experience more time.

  3. Pingback: An Even Wider View | the eff stop

  4. Simply stunning! All of them. I feel the same way about my inability to capture landscapes. What I see so much more beautiful than what I am able to capture on a camera. I loved looking at these photographs, and it makes me antsy to get out west!

    • Thanks Jolene – that’s exactly it – I see more beauty than I can capture. The west is amazing, especially the Northwest. Beauty around every corner.

  5. In the book “The Neverending Story,” Michael Ende speaks of an island which is very delicate. I can imagine, looking at those pictures, that he would have referred to Wizard island as such a place and drawn some inspiration from it. The pictures are very beautiful.

  6. My head is spinning, I can’t believe how much ground you and your sister covered, Lorrie. Crater Lake is one of my favorite places in the world, too. I went there a bunch when we used to live in Eugene. A photographer of your caliber, imho I think what you think of as your strength lays where your interest does. Plus, for this trip–you saw so many dang things, I don’t know how you kept from being utterly overwhelmed. Sensory overload! NIce photo tour…..

    • We really did have a lot of variety – 6600 miles total. The northwest is just so filled with stunning places. It was dizzying, but it was amazing – we really had no deadlines, except that we had to get to Crater Lake and to the airport on time. We went a bit to far north to do some things we had wanted to, but it was amazing nonetheless.

  7. Dude, what do you mean you are intimidated by landscapes?! Those are some of the most gorgeous landscapes I’ve seen in my life!

    I love shooting landscapes, and I find them relatively simple compared to other photography. After all, all you have to do is be in the right place at the right time. The landscape is the art. It doesn’t pose. It doesn’t move (usually, if it does you can blur it). It isn’t wearing the wrong color. It didn’t have too much sugar and won’t sit still. It doesn’t have red eye. It just IS.

    Your photos are lovely. You should be proud.

    • You know, out west where there is more room to find a vantage point I did much better than I do at home. In general I find it harder to find a unique point of view in an iconic place. You are right about the variables though. If the light is right it’s there.

      Thanks for the kind words. I think I did OK, but these are not in my wheelhouse. I’m glad to be home shooting birds again 🙂

  8. Being from Western Washington (Hoquiam, not far from the Olympic Natl. Park) I loved these pictures!! Klaloch is my favorite beach… thanks for sharing. Hope to get back to those places someday soon!!

    • I loved Klaloch too, I shot those images from the inn above the beach. They had so many birds there – swallows, hummers, finches. This was my first trip to Washington and the coast was spectacular.

  9. Stunning images, especially the landscapes. Out of all these beautiful images (and therefore scenery), I think the only shot which looked in the least bit ordinary was the 4th photo down (taken in Oregon) and even this would have great meaning for you having lived nearby.

    I think you take an excellent landscape, but I understand what you’re talking about when you mention taking close-ups and finding landscapes difficult.

    How lucky to spot those 2 hikers in that photo of the driftwood and fallen trees at the coast – they sure do make the sheer enormity of those trees clear.

    I would be more than happy to have many of these images framed and hanging on my wall, but I would really love to have taken the journey with you and experienced all this spectacular scenery myself. Nothing beats the real thing – standing there – right in the middle and breathing the fresh air in.

    • I agree that the Fort Klamath image is the weakest and it most accurately shows my difficulty – I can’t tell you where your eye should go. Here in the Ozarks out hills and hollows are tight together so there are few vistas until you find a clearing on high ground, so shooting landscapes is quite difficult. Having lived neat Fort Klamath, I was always drawn to the pine covered mountains – so that’s what felt important.

      The hikers really were a lucky find. Sitting above the scene, I really didn’t get how large those trees and logs were. I agree too that being there is the real thing is best – the sounds, the sights, the air – being there is amazing.

  10. I second Diana, you must come to Alberta and photo the rockies! You would love it. We could make a trip all 3 together! 🙂 I love, Hiking trail at the Hoh Ranger Station, I would love to have that as a picture. I would stare at it all day and drift away. 🙂

  11. When I first clicked on this post, I thought, what a beautiful new picture at the top (Crater Lake). Little did I know I was in for a wonderful treat as I scrolled down.

    I love the eddy under the bridge and Christina Falls (because I am a sap) the best. But I don’t really have to choose, do I?

    • Thanks Elyse, there is no need to choose 🙂 When we crossed that bridge and looked down I just had to stop – that place was beautiful. People get married up on the bridge and on the rocks where I was shooting from. I’m kind of a sap too – that story just got to me.

  12. “shooting any animal excites me….” “I could spend all day with my macro lens…..”
    Hmmmmm, you sound just like me! LOL!
    Your photos are awesome, including the landscapes…….

  13. So much beauty and so many good landscape shots. For some reason the eddy at the bottom of the bridge grabbed my eye the most. That was obviously a great trip for the scenery but I have some understanding on the feeling on missing out on wildlife.

    I certainly commiserate with your challenge with landscapes. When I see a wonderful place and feel it, I want the photo to show that but it rarely does. Your comment about waterfalls sure resonated – I have almost given up on them since they look so normal in my photos and they are not.

    Great post. I liked the introspection. Perhaps it’s because I default to wildlife when I get the opportunity.

    • We saw hundreds of elk on the train, eagles fishing in the Columbia River – a bounty of wildlife – but when we got onto solid ground I saw mostly birds and 4 deer eating in a farmer’s field. Not at all what I expected. I did get to see an eagle while we were crossing a bridge with no shot at photographing it and an osprey nesting on a power pole at noon – I thought about your scale and birds of prey – I didn’t get great shots of either but they were amazing to see in person.

      The Northwest is so stunning though – what’s there to complain about 🙂

  14. I have always loved the Pacific NW, but we couldn’t afford to live there. Thank you for sharing its loveliness with us through your photographs!

  15. Wonderful photos. It’s all about getting the right light. I don’t have the patience to wait for that or return at different times of the day to catch that light unfortunately.

    • I think you are right about that. I went to a class recently that was taught by someone specializing in landscapes – he said he visited the same place dozens of times hoping for the right light. On a trip like this the time is too short for that.

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