Monday, April 13, 2015

From Film to Print: An quick overview of my process

It's been a while since I added any new film images to my galleries. While I've been enjoying the ease of shooting digitally the past few years, I still plan on keeping my large format film images coming. After all the work that goes into creating a single image, I find it tremendously rewarding to place a well exposed sheet of 8 x 10 film on the light table and explore the fine detail with my loupe. The next step to fully expressing what I envisioned when I tripped the shutter is to scan the original film. I carefully package my film and mail it to my favorite lab, West Coast Imaging, based out of California. Scan master Jeff Grandy has scanned dozens of my images to perfection, so I feel good about handing my film over to him. After I receive my film and digitized files back from the lab, I go to work bringing the raw scan back to life. Using my film as a reference, I adjust the white and dark points, the overall color balance and carefully dodge and burn selected areas. If the image still needs more work, I like to use luminosity masks. The luminosity mask actions produced by Tony Kuyper are sold through his website at an affordable price. I highly recommend them! They allow one to make targeted tonal based adjustment to the image. I enjoy using some of the actions to make contrast adjustments and isolate certain elements within the scene for more impact. My final image will sometimes match my original transparency perfectly, but that usually isn't my goal. My aim is to create an image that represents my interpretation of what I saw and felt at the time while maintaining the integrity of the scene. 

Whether you shoot film or digital, the process after image capture is the same. The medium you choose is up to you, the artist.

Steens Spring Sunrise II

This photograph was taken on the far side of the Alvord Desert below Steens Mountain. The cracked mud was only beginning to dry out after the long winter and many pools of milk chocolate colored water remained. I found this neat zigzagging channel of water one afternoon and felt it would make for a strong photograph if made under the right light. I returned the following morning while it was still dark and waited for sunrise to work its magic upon the landscape. Moments before the sun touched the eastern face of Steens Mountain, the scene was bathed in an amber glow. It was more than I could have asked for and speaks to the power of the desert and the need to protect these wild places. Alvord Desert, Oregon, 2012

Gowland Lite 8 x 10, Schneider Super Symmar 150 w/center filter, Lee .6  hard grad, 8 sec @ F45, Fuji Provia 100F

Broken Top Peak

A creek lined with summer wildflowers flows through a lush sub-alpine meadow below Broken Top. Three Sisters Wilderness, Cascade Mountains, Oregon, 2013

Gowland Light 8 x 10, Schneider Super Symmar 150 w/center filter, 1/15th sec @ F32, Fuji Provia 100F

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Silver Falls Blood Moon

I stopped and made this image on my way to work the other morning as the blood moon began to emerge from behind the earth's shadow. A light was used to bring out detail in the trees. I was over an hour late for work but it was worth it. While I'm well versed in creating night images using film as my medium, this was my first try utilizing digital techniques in the capture process. In post processing, I combined 3 images to achieve what I was envisioning. One image was for the sky and stars, the next was for the moon, and the final image was for the trees. The tripod was not moved during the shots. All three were taken within about a minute of each other. If I'd shot this on film, it would have required more planning. I would have made my first exposure for the trees and sky much earlier in the night when the moon was not yet in the image. Then without moving my tripod, I would have made a second exposure on the same frame of film once the moon moved into the image. The results would have been similar, but I would have been up a good part of the night waiting for the moon to move into position.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Into the Smoke on Middle Sister

I had a great time last month climbing with some friends up Middle Sister in the Three Sisters Wilderness. My old climbing route which passes through the popular Obsidian area is now limited entry, so we chose to hike in on the Pacific Crest Trail instead. It was roughly 10 miles in and another 3 or 4 miles to the summit. The conditions weren't the best for views and photography but there was still plenty of beauty to be had.

Summit crew with Little Brother in the background
Headed down to camp as the sun sets into the smokey haze
Chuck scrambling down lava and scree. In the distance: North Sister, Middle Sister and the Collier Glacier

View of North Sister from the summit of Middle Sister. One can usually see as far north as Washington's,  Mount Adams, but on this day we could barely see beyond North Sister.

Collier Cone as seen from Little Brother
 I tried to take advantage of the soft, smoke filtered afternoon light and photographed this eroding cliff painted in burnt orange.
An ancient white pine amidst a garden of lava rocks and indian paintbrush.  I photographed the tree from up close using my wide angle lens. My goal was to exaggerate the size of the pine and really show what caught my eye in the first place - the lined trunk, exposed roots and red lava.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Owyhee Canyonlands, Rim to Rim to Rim

Summer is in full swing here in Silverton hill country. Creeks are beginning to run low, the tiger lilies are waving in the breeze above purple lupine and the garden is finally starting to come in. It seems it was only a few weeks ago that I was wandering the forests of Silver Falls photographing the bright green buds emerging from their winter sleep. Farther away on the eastern side of the Cascades, the high desert regions are heating up. In the driest areas, like the Owyhee Canyonlands in southeast Oregon, creeks have likely slowed to a trickle, leaving behind deep pools lined with lush vegetation. Though no less beautiful, it's a very different world than the one I travelled through last February. 

Until a few years ago I'd only heard of the Owyhee Canyonlands' legendary network of canyons. It's remoteness and isolation was somewhat intimidating, but now that I have made a few visits, it's become an unlimited source of inspiration from which to dream up the next big trip. From a photography standpoint, the Owyhee's is more or less an open palette. On my first trip in the winter of 2013, I photographed the orange/yellow towers of Leslie Gulch shining like gold under midday light. A few days later I was standing on a basalt ledge dusted with snow, photographing the Owyhee River above Three Forks while coyote's yipped into the morning air.

While it's possible to drive to many scenic vistas throughout the Owyhee Canyonlands, I chose to travel by foot on this trip. My destination was Three Forks, the same place I'd driven to the previous winter. This time, however, I backpacked in along the rim of the Owyhee River

River of Light, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
While camped high above the Owyhee River I witnessed this display of golden sunset light along the upper reaches of the canyon rim.
I began my journey outside the small town of Rome, where highway 95 crosses over the Owyhee.  For ten days and 80 miles I followed the meandering course of the rim as it dove in and out among open promontories and small isolated side canyons. My route stayed close to where Golden Eagles perch among basalt rimrock and Bobcats visit hidden springs in stealthy silence. Strong winds, snow, sleet and rain prevailed as I hiked along what felt like the shoreline of a sagebrush sea.  

  I enjoyed some very nice weather as well.

Camped among a red rock garden, high above the Owyhee River, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
While walking the rim, I quickly learned that views of the river itself are sometimes few and far between. Slopes of grass lined with rimrock ease downward and then suddenly plummet, hiding all but a small hint of the river off in the distance. 

Rim Light, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
Light and shadow drift across the steep slopes above the Owyhee River as it carves a deep and winding channel below.
But I could hear its low echo off the canyon walls as it flowed chocolate brown with snowmelt through lonesome shadows. Like walking the ocean shores, its melody was my companion while I trekked deeper into the wilderness. 

Then it would reveal itself, carving its way through the most amazing landscape imaginable. 

Light the Wind, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
Golden light breaks though a gap in an approaching storm front, lighting up the far rim above the Owyhee River. Increasing winds eventually brought in heavy rain and then snow during the night. I woke up the following morning to coyotes howling into a winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow.
Fractured, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
A high angled perspective showing the meandering path of the rim. 
I was delighted to find flowing water at the bottom of this narrow slot canyon - a rarity in these parched canyons. Alone and feeling the warmth of the February sun radiating off the canyon walls made me want to sit for days and soak in the remoteness and isolation of this spot.

Loveland, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
An orange hued rhyolite tower absorbs the afternoon sun as wispy clouds drift overhead.
I scrambled down to this creek one evening to scout for potential photos and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. I brought my camera, but unfortunately left my tripod back at camp. I improvised by balancing my camera on a low rock ledge and successfully made a series of long exposures.

Canyon Song, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
A small creek, full from recent snow and rain, flows through a steep and narrow canyon lined with vibrant mosses and lichen.
I then hustled back out of the canyon to my ridgetop camp and photographed this sunset over a beautiful bend in the Owyhee River.

Owyhee Bend, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
The Owyhee River carves a horshoe bend through the juniper studded landscape while sunset light paints a colorful sunset over Idaho's Owyhee Mountains
Downriver from Three Forks the following evening.

Crimson Perch, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon,
 Looking down on the Owhyee River from a high knoll as warm light highlights the sculpted rock formations along a rocky section of ridgeline.
On the fifth day, Three Forks came into view. It is here that the North and Middle Forks of the Owyhee emerge from their tight canyons and flow into the Owyhee River. As bright blue birds flitted about hillsides laced with springs sparkling in the afternoon sun, I began my descent to the river. Following an old military road, I switchbacked to the bottom and into a maze of red willows swaying in the breeze.

Owyhee Crossing, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
After floating across the Owyhee by packraft, I began the 40 mile return trip along the opposite side of the river.

Me and my shadow, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
Long shadows and late evening light.
I could see this juniper for miles and made it my goal for the evening. When I arrived I was delighted to find this healthy spring flowing though the grass and over the edge of the canyon.

Blue Dawn, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
Strong winds and blowing snow powered through during the night, leaving this wintery scene in its wake. I rendered this image before sunup as the moon set into the deep blue horizon and blustery winds raked the bows of this lone juniper.
Owyhee Morning, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
Juniper with a View, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
Light and shadow dance across the landscape under pillowy soft clouds.

Nearing the end of my hike, I photographed these lenticular clouds over Little Grassy Mountain.

Little Grassy Mountain, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
I've spent most of my adult life exploring and photographing our wilderness areas. The more time I spend in the Owyhee Canyonlands the more surprised I am that it does not yet have formal wilderness protection. Only 4 percent of Oregon is set aside as wilderness. Protecting the Owyhee's would add another 2 percent. 

Oregon guidebook author, William Sullivan, recently wrote an excellent article in The Register Guard about the Owyhee's. If you get a chance, give it a read!