Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Solstice in the Owyhee Canyonlands

Antelope Canyon, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon
 Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42
Last month I spent my birthday backpacking with fellow photographer, Jim Davis, through Oregon's Owyhee Canyonlands. The Owyhee's narrow rhyolite canyons, carved into 3 million acres of sagebrush, juniper and and grasslands, make up one of the most remote and inaccessible landscapes in the Lower 48. The Owyhee River meanders for 346 miles from its source in northeastern Nevada, through southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon. On this trip we visited Antelope Canyon, a rarely visited tributary. My first visit to the Owyhee Canyonlands took place last February amidst freezing temperatures. Now, 5 months later scrambling through the warm desert oasis at the bottom of Antelope Canyon my mind drifted back to those nights of single digit temperatures last winter. It's a much friendlier place in the summer. We spent four days and three nights exploring and photographing its ubiquitous caves, reflection pools and secluded meadows. With no easy way out, we were cut off from the rest of the world. Time was measured by the play of light and shadow on the canyon walls; distance, by the next bend in the river. We explored just a tiny fraction of the 1.9 million acres that make up the Oregon portion of the Owyhee Canyonlands. While we barely scratched the surface of this vast landscape, the experience changed my definition of what it means to be in a truly wild place. The feeling was wonderful. These canyons, the surrounding grasslands and sagebrush plateau's belong to the bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, sage grouse and innumerable other wildlife. We were just visitors passing through. 

The descent into Antelope Canyon via Twin Springs Gorge
Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42
Antelope Canyon
 Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42
The terrain was a mix of knee deep pools lined with lush vegetation. The cliff swallows were constant companions throughout the trip. 

The water level was very low this year; a more typical year may have involved some swimming.
 Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42
  Cliff swallow reflection
Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42

 On dry land we found ourselves thrashing through desert rose thorns and stinging nettles when the going was tough; other times it was a pleasant stroll through gardens of aromatic mint and peaceful meadows. There were a few climbs mixed in to keep it interesting.

The Jim Davis,
Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42
At night the sky glowed with soft moonlight, but not once did we get a glimpse of the moon itself. From the depths of Antelope Canyon the moon arched at its low summertime angle staying well behind the rim. I learned this the hard way after attempting a moonlight time exposure with my 8 x 10 setup. The east facing cliffs received some moonlight, but our camp remained in darkness all night long. I was hoping for a little foreground detail.
Moonlight in the canyon
Gowland Lite 8 x 10, Schneider Super Symmar 150, 6hrs @ f22
Zen Pool
Gowland Lite 8 x 10, Fujinon 250, 13 sec @ f45

I  focused more on the intimate details as we made our way up the canyon

Reflection Pool
Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42 

I found these rock patterns underneath a recessed cliff several feet from the creek. In winter and early spring the water can sometimes reach the underside of this 5ft overhang.
Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42
Enjoying some cold ones after the hike
 Olympus E-PM1 micro 4/3, Olympus 14-42


Monday, June 3, 2013

A winter trip to the Owyhee River

I know, summer is here, time to begin planning trips that involve being outside in the warm sun. I, for one, am very anxious to begin my summer backpacking adventures. Before I fully commit to the change in seasons, however, I'd like to share a few more images from my 2-week trip down to the southeast corner of Oregon last winter.

The trip culminated with this sunrise view over the Owyhee River. I scouted the high rimrock above the canyon the day before, startling a golden eagle from this very perch. After studying the landscape I decided I would return to this spot the next morning. I awoke early and could smell the change in the weather from inside my tent. The previous 10 days had been clear and sunny; but overnight it snowed lightly, dusting the landscape in a powdery white veil. I put on my headlamp and hiked a mile or so through the darkness from my riverside camp to this incredible vista. I quickly set up my 8 x 10 view camera, shielding it from the intermittent snow showers passing over the canyon below. A low band of isolated clouds brushed past, dissipating as the sun rose and the coyotes began to sing. This was my favorite image of the trip; in fact, it may very well be my favorite 8 x 10 thus far. The extra effort involved in creating a meaningful landscape photograph with a large and cumbersome view camera makes the reward that much more sweet when the conditions come together.

Owyhee Winter, Owyee Canyonlands, Southeast Oregon. Gowland Lite 8 x 10, Schneider Super Symmar 150 lens, Center Filter, Lee .6 hard grad, 12 sec, f64, Tango Drum Scan
I had to pack up quickly as snow began to fall more heavily. The 30-mile drive out can turn into an undrivable mucky quagmire this time of year if temperatures rise above freezing and there is moisture like this on the ground. Well, I was also craving a cinnamon roll and coffee from the Rockhouse Cafe, in Jordan Valley, so I was extra motivated. By the time I rallied my subaru back to civilization, 3 or 4 inches of snow had fallen.
The road to the Owyhee River. Olympus E PM-1, Olympus 14-42 lens

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Leslie Gulch

I spent 4 amazing days exploring and photographing Leslie Gulch during my southeast Oregon trip. This area was carved out after the eruptions of the Mahogany Mountain and the Three Fingers calderas over 15 million years ago. The rhyolite ash was deposited up to 1000 ft thick and is now seen as colorfully sculpted formations. 

My first night there I decided to do a quick overnight trip to a ridge a few thousand feet above the gulch. With this being my first time to the area I wanted to gain some perspective on the landscape. I almost always climb high when I'm new to a place.

While I typically put my camera away during the afternoon hours, I was particularly impressed with the way the midday light made the formations glow a vibrant orange.

A distant honeycombed tower of Leslie Gulch Tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) glows under late afternoon light. I liked the way this particular crag resembled a temple. Olympus E-PM, Olympus 14-42 lens 

In the image below, I was drawn to the different layers of contrasting color and geology. I liked the reflected blue light in the shaded folds of the distant hills and the way it complemented the orange hues in the honeycomb formations. 

The honeycomb formations of Leslie Gulch photographed from a prominence high above the valley floor. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens
Lone Juniper - one of my favorite images from Leslie Gulch - photographed on my way back down to the bottom of the gulch. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens

The next 3 days were spent exploring the various side canyons that lead into Leslie Gulch. 

An abstract rendition showing the northern face of probably the largest crag in the area as seen through a natural window in the tuff, Timber Gulch, Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens

I was able to climb through the natural window shown in the above image and gain this up close view of the cliff face.
Leslie Gulch Tuff abstract, Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens
In the coming months I will also be sharing two additional images made with my 8 x 10 film camera.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mickey Basin Mud Abstracts

My first stop on my southeast Oregon trip was Mickey Basin, located on the east side of Steens Mountain. After photographing sunrise over Mickey Butte with my 8 x 10 camera, I began noticing some really intriguing ice/mud formations alongside a small stream. The sun had just come up and was brushing the frozen landscape with golden light. I spent about an hour experimenting with different compositions. Here are my 3 favorites.

Olympus E-PM 1, Olympus 14-42
Olympus E-PM 1, Olympus 14-42
Olympus E-PM 1, Olympus 14-42

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Holga Landscape

During my recent trip to Oregon's remote southeast corner I decided to add my Holga to my arsenal of camera gear. In today's world of complicated digital everything it sure is nice to take a break and shoot a simple film camera such as this. I've been using this camera off and on for the past 3 yrs or so. What I've found is that I'm photographing scenes that, for one reason or another, I usually dismiss or don't see at all. The feedback I've gotten thus far has been encouraging. I'm slowly putting together a gallery of my strongest work, which I will begin selling through my website as smaller sized prints.

So here are five of my favorite Holga images from the trip. Two of them may make the cut for my new Holga gallery. Thanks for having a look.

I used a flashlight to illuminate the foreground bushes during this 10hr exposure of Mickey Butte, located near Steens Mountain. This was my first Holga time exposure and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with the way it held up.

Dawn near Three Forks on the Owyhee River after a light dusting of snow.

I saw this scene while driving past the Badlands Wilderness area outside Bend. The light was golden and soft with some beautiful storm clouds to complete the scene

A time exposure from an area known as the 'Pillars of Rome'. I made quite a few images of the 100ft high columns resembling Roman ruins. I was going for something a little different in this rendition. I made one exposure while the moon was over the silhouetted cliff; after the moon set I made a 10 hour exposure for the stars and a bit of light painting on the foreground sagebrush. I'm not sure what the light is in the upper left; that's the fun part about shooting with a camera that isn't always light tight.

This shot may not be for everyone. It's just a simple self portrait of me standing behind my campfire. I liked the interesting light leaks as well as the word 'Kodak' in the upper right.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ready for warmer weather

As it's still very much winter here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought this would be a good time to post some warm weather imagery from the amazing island of Kauai.

The rugged Napali Coastline, Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens
The Napali Coastline as seen from the Kalalau Trail, Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens
Waimea Canyon - the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens
The Napali coastline as seen from the northern section of the Kalalau Trail, Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Headed home

After 2 epic weeks spent exploring the southeast Oregon desert, I think I'm ready to head home. I explored some amazing places for the first time: Leslie Gulch, Three Forks on the Owyhee River and the Pillars of Rome. I have many new and exciting photos to share in the coming weeks. Capturing the sunrise light over the Owyhee River this morning after a light dusting of snow has to be one of the highlights of my photographic career. Hearing the coyotes howl while watching the rugged canyon walls and sagebrush slopes come alive with winter light is an experience that will always stay with me. I exposed 6 sheets of 8 x 10 film. Lets hope I got the exposures right....

Now that my sights are set for the west side of the Cascades, I thought I'd share an image I took of a good friend while we were backpacking the Oregon coast last month. He is always a good sport when I ask him to pose in one of my photos. He was recently featured in Natures Best Magazine when a photo I made of him on top of Mount Mcloughlin won a highly honored award.

Sunbeams filter though the coastal fog along the Oregon coast, near Cape Perpetua. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life above the fog

After living in the Portland area my entire life, I've gotten used to those long gray Oregon winters. Often times it's sunny a few thousand feet up, but in the Willamette Valley it remains socked in with fog that the soft winter sun is unable to burn off. After recently moving 2 hours south into the hills above Silverton, near Silver Falls State Park, I've been able to experience what an Oregon winter is like at 2000ft. Two weeks back the Willamette Valley was stuck in a particularly strong and persistent inversion. While daytime temps remained below freezing down in the valley, up high it was sunny and warm - the conditions were almost springlike. One evening some of the fog drifted into the higher hills at sunset. I noticed the convergence of golden light and mist and quickly ran up the hill behind our house and captured these images. Enjoy!

Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens
Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens
Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Years on Three Fingered Jack

As you can see, it's been a while since I've posted anything. I do, however, have some new images to share; it's just a matter of getting caught up with prepping my modest backlog of images for print and the internet. I thought I'd start off with sharing 2 of my favorite shots from a trip I took up to Oregon's, Three Fingered Jack over New Years. It was a great way to bring in 2013! 

While hiking back down through an area of forest burned back in '03 I stopped to photograph the scorched tree shadows being projected across the rolling, sunlit snow. I thought the contrasting lines made for an intriguing abstract, Cascade Mountains, Oregon. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 Lens
Morning alpenglow illuminates windblown snow and the eastern face of Three Fingered Jack, Cascade Mountains, Oregon. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus 14-42 lens