Thursday, August 16, 2012

After the Storm

After hearing that thunderstorms were predicted for the Central Oregon Cascades, I packed my bags and headed up to Broken Top Peak. I brought my 8 x 10 gear with me, hoping to photograph some lightning strikes over the striated northern face of Broken Top and the Bend Glacier. It was my first time to this area of the mountain. While no trails led to where I was going, I'd seen the lush basin the year before from high up on Tam McArther Rim and knew where to go. I made it to the high basin by late afternoon and set up camp next to a stream running gray with glacial silt. Wildflowers were beginning to emerge as the last bit of snow melted into the rushing waters below Bend Glacier. As the clouds slowly thickened, thin iridescent veils of magenta, yellow and green drifted in front of the sun. I began to hear the first rumbles of the approaching storm. Within an hour thunder was crackling, followed up by some really close lightning bolts. It was the most intense lightning storm I'd ever been in. I was set up next the the creek with my 8 x 10 doing the best I could to get a shot off but the rain and wind made it impossible. Not wishing to get struck by lightning I retreated to the trees and watched the show from there. It was pretty amazing. The storm cleared overnight and by the next day there was no sign it even occurred. The sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I awoke early and set my 8 x 10 up once again. I waited until first light brushed Broken Top to make my first exposure.

Here is a sneak peek at my original 8 x 10 film, exposed the morning after the storm. I included a 35mm slide for scale. I still need to make a high resolution drumscan and edit the file for print.
With the whole day ahead of me I decided to soak up the summer sun with a run around Broken Top. It started with a quick ascent of a couple snowfields and some scrambling over loose rock until I was on top of Tam McArther Rim.

Wildflowers, Middle and South Sister as seen from the top of Tam McArther Rim. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 @ 20mm, F14, ISO 200

Looking down towards the Bend Glacier from the top of Tam McArther Rim. South, Middle and North Sister to the north. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 @ 14mm, F13, ISO 200
Though smoke from a distant wildfire was beginning to limit visibility, the views were still pretty amazing.  Several feet of snow still clung to the red volcanic rock along the 8000 foot rim.

Broken Top and Bend Glacier as seen from Tam McArther Rim. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 @ 14mm, F8, ISO 200
Broken Top and Bend Glacier as seen from Tam McArther Rim. I set my camera to a 10 second timer and jumped into the scene to give it some scale. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 @ 14mm, F22, ISO 200
 I then descended over snow to a glacial lake below the northeast flank of the volcano.

Surrounded by moraines, a glacial lake below Broken Top slowly thaws out. In the distance is Broken Top. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 @ 24mm, F8, ISO 200
 After descending a feint trail I ran over open slopes and then dropped down onto the eastern aspect of Broken Top. From here I followed a nice trail into the popular Green Lakes area. Beyond Green Lakes I ventured off trail trying to stay as high as possible. I was pleasantly surprised with how great the footing was through this section. I had no problem at all maintaining a running pace. Far below I could see Golden Lake and its surrounding meadow. It was a sparkling jewel of blue and green amidst the broken volcanic landscape. Shortly before I arrived back at my base camp I came across a beautiful display of mountain heather. The angle of the late afternoon light gave the pink and purple flowers a special glow. Despite being thirsty and sunburned, I spent over an hour photographing this scene.
As clouds danced over the distant peaks of Middle and North Sister, I found this arrangement of layered color. This was my favorite shot of the run. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 @ 38mm, F10, ISO 320

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bloomsday Blues

Late afternoon light casts a rainbow below Palouse Falls as it rages with spring snowmelt, Central Washington, Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42, 16mm, F8, 1/640 sec, ISO 200
On our way to the Lilac Bloomsday Run in Spokane, Washington a few weeks back, my wife and I took a short detour to Palouse Falls. It was a warm spring day and the falls were raging. This 200ft waterfall exposes the layered Columbia River Basalt lava flows that were carved out by the great Missoula Floods thousands of years ago. It was fun to check this place out for the first time, as well as snap a few pics. In the end I liked this vertical composition the best. As tempting as it was to camp out at this spot, we were still a few hours from Spokane and I had to be ready to race early the next morning. It was hard to go, as it was the night of the full Super Moon and I'd brought my 8 x 10 camera to photograph it.

Pre race photography with my Olympus E-PM1. I love that little camera. Photo by Katie Rablin

Until last summer I thought I was completely done with competitive running. I left it behind in '98 after quitting college and never looked back. I think I had a hard time with the structured training required to compete at a high level. It didn't help that the majority of my runs were on roads instead of trails. I wanted to backpack, travel and learn the art of photography. Perhaps it wasn't my time to be a student/athlete. Now, at 33, after backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail (a lifelong dream of mine) and many other trails in the Pacific Northwest, my love for wilderness adventure has led to trail running. I've recently begun combining this with photography and it's like a whole new world has opened up for me artistically and athletically. As someone with a fairly high competitive spirit, my desire to see how I fare running against others is a natural progression of my development as an athlete. Trail running is growing by leaps and bounds here in America and there are more opportunities that ever before to take part in organized races. Distances range from a couple miles to over 100. Some races, such as the Western States 100, have been around for over 30 years. With only a few years left to hopefully compete at a high level, I'm finding myself putting in more miles than ever before. The only reason I find any interest in doing this is that it allows me to be out in nature doing something I love. I wish I could say my first year of real training has resulted in competing in new races and posting fast times, but it hasn't. Yes, I've been on some epic runs and captured some decent pictures, but for the most part it's been a very bumpy road. I had 3 minor soleus strains last fall/winter which kept me out for 4-5 days at a time; a minor strain to my inner quad left me unable to run for a week; and then the "barefoot incident" last January set me back almost 2 months. I had a very good base going into winter so I was able to start back up fairly quickly. After 2 weeks of training I was able to run the Portland Shamrock Run 15km, where I placed 10th. I followed that up with the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 miler a month later, where I placed 4th. If you don't count the Wilson Creek Frozen 50km, in which I stopped at mile 20 after running 12 miles barefoot, Peterson Ridge was my first ultramarathon. It was also the farthest I'd ever run by about 3 miles.

While the Lilac Bloomsday Run was an awesome event, it wasn't a race I was all that focused on. I was simply using it to work on my speed for future ultra's. I was confident I could maintain 5:15/mi pace for the 12km course so I asked to get placed up front with the elite runners. I provided the race director with a link showing my two best times in the Portland Shamrock Run. This qualified me for elite seeding. With 50,000 finishers, the Bloomsday Run is one of the largest runs in the nation. There might have been 50 elite runners up front, some of whom were from Africa. Some of the fastest runners in the world run this race as it offers decent prize money to the top finishers. Feeling more at home running steep mountain trails, I felt way out of my league among many of the runners. That being said,  I still felt I had a decent chance of finishing in the top 20 or 25 which would have required close to 5:00/mi. over the 12km course.

We started off at what felt like a sprint. While my legs weren't used to the pace, I felt quite good aerobically. I hadn't done any speedwork leading up to the race, just hills, hills and more hills, often times with my camera. The small amount of extra weight when running with my camera adds just enough difficulty that when I run without it I feel a little lighter on my feet. The fastest runners immediately sped ahead. I found my place somewhere in the middle of the pack I started out with. The weather was sunny and the air was cool. It was a perfect day for a race. At 5 miles I was feeling awesome. I felt like I actually had something left for a strong kick over the remaining 2 miles. Then at 5 1/2 miles I felt a sudden tinge of pain in my right calf. I wasn't sure what it was at first. I thought it might be a cramp. But over the next 1/2 mile it gradually got worse and I was eventually forced to stop. I felt pretty defeated. It's frustrating when the body doesn't work like it's supposed to. I looked up at the clock and I'd done 6 miles in close to 30 minutes. I was stoked about my time but totally bummed I couldn't continue.

It's been just over two weeks since the race and I still can't run. I found that out the other day by running a mile and having to walk back. To say that it's been a rough start to running competitively would be an understatement. Out of the six races I've signed up for in the past six months I've only been healthy enough to run two. It does make me question what I'm doing. For now I'm going to continue trying to figure out how to get my miles in while staying healthy. As for Bloomsday, I think I underestimated what racing on the roads would do to me when my training has been completely geared towards mountain/trail running. Lesson learned. Next time get at least some speedwork in on the roads or track.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ruckel Ridge-Ruckle Creek Loop

The Ruckel Ridge route up to Benson Plateau was one of the more interesting and fun trail runs I've been on in the Columbia River Gorge. The trail is a consistently narrow, moss covered, basalt ridgeline in the middle of the forest. It climbs 3700' over 4 miles, before leveling out on Benson Plateau. It was my first time tackling the exposed, precipitous route. The trail was primitive but easy to follow. Most of it, while technical and steep, was still runnable; the other 10 percent or so was a scramble. There were a couple really nice hanging meadows lower down which afforded some nice views of the Eagle Creek drainage. These meadows were completely covered in wildflowers when I went up.

Due to the weather and the fact that I was underdressed, it wasn't the most comfortable run I've done. I was soaked and shivering most of the time. Temperatures were in the low 50's down low and low 40's up top. The snow level hovered around 4000'. Wind, showers and hail prevailed, save for occasional sunbreak. During these short sunbreaks Eagle Creek Canyon would come alive in swirling streams of sunlit mist. The last 1000' up to Benson Plateau was steep and unrelenting. The trail was white with hail and the forest was thick and very dark. Once on top I lost the trail under a foot or so of winter snowpack. I went cross country for a quarter mile or so to Ruckel Creek and then up the other side. The snow wasn't as deep here and I could easily see Ruckel Creek Trail. It was a cold and very wet run back down. Here are a couple quick snaps from the climb up.

Eagle Creek Canyon as seen from Ruckel Ridge, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm, F7.1, 1/200sec, 42mm, ISO 200

A fir along the rugged slopes of Ruckel Ridge is momentarily backlit against the shaded western slope of Eagle Creek Canyon, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm, F5.6, 1/160sec, 42mm, ISO 200

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Presley's Meadow

I found this small meadow covered in Grass Widow's while on one of my weekly long runs in the Columbia River Gorge. These beautiful flowers added some nice color to the otherwise, cold, soggy, gray day. I stopped to photograph them right in the middle of a 3000 ft climb up Casey Creek Trail. After shooting for about 20 minutes I willed my heavy legs to continue on up to Nick Eaton Ridge. Once on top the narrow 4000 ft ridge I descended through patchy snow back down to Herman Creek.

I'm naming this meadow after my niece, Presley, who came into this magnificent world early this morning. Welcome Presley Renee Fisher!!

Grass Widow wildflowers, drooping from the cold, rainy conditions, carpet a small hanging meadow in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, Olympus E-PM1, 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R, F11, 1/60th sec, 23mm, ISO 320
Grass Widow wildflowers, speckled with raindrops from a passing shower, show off their vivid color under a light overcast sky, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, Olympus E-PM1, 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R, F11, 1/60th sec, 42mm, ISO 400

Friday, April 27, 2012

Amazing Steens

My recent trail running adventure on the east side of Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. It's hard to believe the Secretary of the Interior recently approved a plan allowing a developer to build up to 70 wind turbines and a high-capacity transmission line not very far from this beautiful place. It makes my heart sink to think about it. The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and the Audubon Society of Portland are challenging the decision.

An amazing view looking into the glacially carved interior of Steens Mountain, as seen from a ridge high above the Alvord Desert. As a storm approached from the west, small lenticular clouds began spinning off the main front and floating over the snowcapped summit to my north. To give the scene some scale I set my camera to a 10 second timer and scrambled as fast as I could to this large rock. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 14mm, F11, 1/1320 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher

An amazing view looking into the glacially carved interior of Steens Mountain, as seen from a ridge high above the Alvord Desert. As a storm approached from the west, small lenticular clouds began spinning off the main front and floating over the snowcapped summit to my north. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 24mm, F8, 1/1500 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher
On my descent this small disc shaped lenticular cloud drifted over the distant playa lake bed near Mickey Basin. To me it almost appeared as though the cloud was rising up out of the lake. I was running with my camera in hand and was able to quickly snap this image before the cloud lost some of its form as it drifted on. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 35mm, F8, 1/1500 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher
On my descent I stopped to shoot this scene as sunset cast a warm glow on the ridgeline east of the Alvord Desert. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 42mm, F8, 1/60 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher
Coffee on the Playa, Alvord Desert, Oregon Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 14mm, F10, 1/640 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Peterson Ridge Rumble

Photo By Michael Lebowitz
 Last weekend I participated in the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 miler, outside Sisters, Oregon. It turned out to be a perfect day for trail running. Temps were in the upper 40's starting out and then gradually warmed to almost 60 degrees. After taking almost 2 months off from late January to early March due to a pretty severe injury to both my feet I was happy to have even finished the race. It was my longest run to date by about 3 miles. To be honest, it was probably a little too much too soon, but I'm still glad I ran the race. It gave me a taste of what to expect later this summer when I run the White River 50 mile. I'm very accustomed to spending many hours at a time out running in the mountains; however these runs are much more relaxed. I like to take pictures; rest at the best viewpoints and springs; and really just soak in the beauty of my surroundings. Racing for several hours is so very different. It requires an enormous amount of strength and mental toughness to maintain pace and form when the body starts hurting later in the race. I feel I had a good race - I didn't bonk at least. I managed to finish in 4th place, about 13 minutes behind the winner, Max King. Max seems to win just about every race he enters. In 2011, he added to an already impressive resume by winning the world mountain running championships. It seemed that at each aid station he would wait for us to refuel before setting off again. He finally began joking with us saying we were the slowest people he'd ever seen at an aid station. He was using a small hydration pack, while 90 percent of the other runners, including myself used a small water bottle. After running with Max and Zack, the second place finisher, for about 20 miles they opened up a small lead. We turned off a dirt road and onto singletrack that paralleled a small creek. I was so focused on the creek that I missed a turn to the right and ran at least 1/4 mile in the wrong direction. Damn. I retraced my steps and got back on course. The course had been relatively mellow up until this point. It then began climbing very steadily for 3 miles to the 26 mile aid station. I had to stop halfway into the climb and dry heave repeatedly. This has never happened to me. Although I seldom eat gels, I had one at almost every aid station. I'm pretty sure they were the culprit. I spent the rest of the race with an annoying side stitch on my right side. I don't think it slowed me down that much but it didn't make the rest of the race very fun.

Mount Jefferson from the course high point. Photo by Michael Lebowitz
When the course topped out at around 4200' the views were spectacular. The snowy mantles of Broken Top, the Sisters, Mount Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack were all visible. The race finished up after one loop around the track at Sisters Middle School. There was a great feast afterward of salmon, burritos and desserts catered by Longboard Louie's and Nancy P's. Sean Meissner organized the race which benefits the Sisters Cross Country team. Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors for making the race such a success. I'm really glad I took part.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mount St.Helens Climb

One of my first trips into the backcountry after an injury left me housebound for 2 months. It was about a 3.5 hr climb through swirling snow, clouds and filtered sunshine to the frigid summit rim. By sunset I was on top watching the clouds fade away as the moon rose over Mount Adams. It was a beautiful hike down under the light of the full moon.

Clouds roll over Monitor Ridge on the southern aspect of Mount St.Helens. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 14mm, F11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher

Although it's difficult to tell if these tracks lead up or down amidst the clouds and diffused light, they do in fact lead down. I turned around and snapped this image of my snowshoe tracks 1000ft below the summit. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 14mm, F11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher  
Falling snow near the summit of Mount St. Helens almost resembles a starry night sky as it catches the diffused glow of the late afternoon sun. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 42mm, F11, 1/800 sec, ISO 200.  ©Tyson Fisher       
A very feint spectre and glory - a phenomenon caused by the diffraction of light when the sun shines from behind the observer casting his/her s shadow forward onto a cloud bank - briefly appeared while awaiting sunset on the summit rim. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 14mm, F9, 1/250 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher 
A very feint spectre and glory - a phenomenon caused by the diffraction of light when the sun shines from behind the observer casting his/her s shadow forward onto a cloud bank - briefly appeared while awaiting sunset on the summit rim. Although one of the less intense spectres I've seen, I felt the soft light, curving lines of light and shadow and the rising moon made for a compelling photograph. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 14mm, F9, 1/250 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher

Looking north across the crater of Mount St.Helens towards Mount Rainier.  Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 35mm, F11, 1/40 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher
Last light on Mount Adams as seen from the summit rim of Mount St.Helens. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 28mm, F10, 1/40 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher
Moonrise over Mount Adams at sunset as seen from the summit rim of Mount St.Helens.  Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R @ 14mm, F8, 1/40 sec, ISO 200  ©Tyson Fisher

Monday, March 5, 2012

New 8x10 Release

Gowland Lite 8 x 10, Fujinon 250, 3 Stop Hard Grad, 10 sec @ F64

 A mountain stream flows through a high meadow as evening light casts its warm glow upon an unnamed peak several thousand feet above. I backpacked with my 8 x 10 camera for several days, not making a single image until we arrived at this spot. My hiking partner and I spent the next two nights camped in this remote basin enjoying its magical solitude, wildlife and amazing views. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winter's Touch

Holga, Kodak Ektar 100

A window to the winter sky from beneath the snow-covered trees of Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

I spent about 4 hours last winter wandering through Forest Park after a few inches of snow fell the night before. I've found Forest Park to be a pretty challenging place to photograph throughout most of the year. It usually requires just the right light to render a composition that is free of distracting elements while also conveying the wonder and awe of being deep within the forest. After a fresh snowfall, however, this visual chaos merges and becomes a little more cohesive. Snow-coated branches begin to show their form, soon giving trees that once blended in with the forest a chance to stand out in all their glory.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Autumn Beauty

Holga, Exposure 1/2 sec, Kodak Ektar 100

The last bit of color on a brisk autumn morning in November, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Friday, February 3, 2012

Moonlit Alders

Holga, Exposure 3-4 min, Kodak Ektar 100

After finishing up a night run in Portland's, Forest Park, last December, I grabbed my medium format Holga camera and walked to this spot a short distance from my vehicle. Portland was under an inversion at the time, which made for some extremely calm and foggy conditions. I was standing at 1000ft in elevation, the transition zone between the dense clouds and the starry night sky. The diffused glow from the moon intermittently illuminated this stand of alders, making for some interesting photo opportunities. I almost always find myself shooting alder forests using a low-angled perspective such as this. This particular exposure was right around 3 or 4 minutes. © Tyson Fisher

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Published Work

Here is the new Ansel Adams Wilderness map guide. I licensed a few images for use on the inside and cover. I made the cover shot way back in 2003, while I was thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I set my Nikon N80 film camera to a 10 sec timer then jumped into the scene. I frequently did this during my journey to give vast wilderness landscapes a human feel while also providing a sense of scale for the viewer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Netarts Bay and Neahkahnie Mountain Trail Run

Over New Years I went on a couple trail runs along the northern Oregon Coast. Running the coastal trails and beaches is always an exhilarating experience. One of my runs, which happens to be a new favorite, took me up and over Cape Falcon via the Oregon Coast Trail, down to Short Sands Beach, up Neahkahnie Mountain, and finished in Manzanita. If you can arrange a shuttle or are willing to hitchhike, doing a point to point run like this is the way to go.

The silhouetted outline of a fir tree set against the glowing Pacific as seen from the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain. To the left of the tree a small fishing boat makes its way to the south, Oregon Coast

Olympus E-PM1, Olympus m.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R, F22, 1/200 sec, ISO 200, 42mm

My other run was an out and back. I started in Oceanside and ran the beach south to Netarts Bay. I then ran the road which parallels the bay for several miles. I timed the run to coincide with sunset. A good point to point run I'd like to do would continue south to Cape Lookout and finish up in Pacific City. When I hiked the coast from north to south several years ago I was able to catch a boat ride across Netarts Bay to the end of the spit. This eliminated having to walk the road. I then timed my crossing of the Sand Lake outlet on the south side of Cape Lookout for the minus tide. This would be the ideal way to run this section if you're lucky enough to score a boat ride across the bay. What a great section of coastline this is!

Rippled sand patterns and reflective pools bathed in evening light, Netarts Bay, Northern Oregon Coast

Olympus E-PM1, Olympus m.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R, F11, 1/50 sec, ISO 400, 42mm

While running a along Netarts Bay I stopped to photograph this meandering stream as it lazily made its way through the exposed sand. Under most circumstances a tripod (which I seldom bring with me on runs) would have been required to photograph the landscape at this hour. Due to the nature of this scene I only needed to expose for the highlights. This allowed me to shoot hand held at a relatively low ISO, thereby maintaining an acceptable level of image quality.

Olympus E-PM1, Olympus m.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R, F8, 1/50 sec, ISO 500, 37mm