Best of the Northwest 2014

I recently had the pleasure of once again visiting Oregon and Washington where I co-led two Photo Workshop with fellow photographer Alex Mody. This trip centered around photographing two distinct locations, the Columbia River Gorge and Washington’s Olympic National Park.  It was a great trip and a pleasure to be able to spend time with Alex, a long-time friend, who I only get the chance to see every so often these days. I also had the pleasure of running into fellow Dreamscapers Ian and Kurt and sharing late night beers and jokes with these jokesters after the workshop day’s work was complete. It was a fun, productive, and ultimately exhausting 17 day trip! I am still recovering from all the camaraderie!!

We started out in the Columbia River Gorge. We timed our shooting dates to coincide with the annual wildflower bloom that happens in the Columbia Hills near Dalles Mountain and Rowena Crest, and the wildflowers did not disappoint! In fact, the blooms where lush and expansive this year and we had several sessions of incredible light to boot.

Click on any image for a much larger view.

Dalles Mountain Sunrise, Dalles Mountain State Park, Oregon

I was so stoked to have the chance to start out the first workshop morning with this light! It’s always an added bonus when mother nature puts on such a dramatic show right at the get-go of a workshop! This shot is really quite simple and an often used technique in nature photography: the near/far flower composition. Without that amazing display of storm light, I fear the image would be just another in the vault of repetition from this area, which is a popular location, especially among the Pacific Northwest crowd, and of course for good reason! Hey I traveled across the entire continent to shoot here. If I lived only a couple of hours, or in some cases much closer, I would be here everyday when the flowers peak!  I tried to add a few subtle compositional elements to help push this image away from the throng of many other near/far flower comps. I intentionally placed the flowers below the tree as I was drawn to the symmetry of the their shape and how they mirrored the Oak Tree above. To balance the shot and move the eye towards the tree, I included the gentle curving shape of the small steam in the lower right that perfectly leads the viewer’s eye.

Emerald Rush, Gorton Creek, Oregon

My favorite conditions for shooting streams and waterfalls are immediately after a good rain and when the sun is clearly shining at a low angle, providing warm dappled light. I had just the perfect conditions on this morning at Gorton Creek. A heavy rain that morning gave way to clearing skies, and  the low-angle sunlight illuminated only the top of the canopy, allowing for an amazing glow to take place. I worked this section of stream for well over an hour moving around in the water looking for the perfect placement of rocks covered in moss. This was my favorite composition from that morning.

Wahclella Falls Rush, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Another favorite location we visited with our workshop group was mighty Wahclella Falls! I love this waterfall….it’s big, powerful and yet elegant at the same time. Alex and I urged our clients to get into the stream with us for this vantage point, which they did and we all had a go at shooting these falls from many different vantage points. This was my favorite from the outing. The intense green of moss covering just about everything that doesn’t move and the rush of the river make for an amazing combination. The hardest part of making this image was keeping my lens free of spraying water and my head above water out in the fast moving stream.

Vine Maple Embrace, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

After a week in the gorge, I moved North to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington for a couple of days of personal shooting before our second workshop began. I exclusively worked the Hoh rain forest before the workshop. If you’ve ever shot in the rain forest before, then you’ll know well how challenging it is to come away with a clean composition. The place is a cacaphony of green and utter chaos. I love it!!! Believe it or not, but this was my first shot in the Hoh on the first outing of my many days in the forest. It is also by far my favorite shot from so many days of shooting in the rainforest.  In fact this is the image that Ian referred to in his latest post, Comp Stomping. I think what I like best about shooting in this place is t that you can simply park your car at any point along the road that dives into the forest and walk through the woods looking for that unique shot. What drew me to this composition was the glowing maple leaves and new ferns in the foreground. I waited patiently here with my shot set up for a bit of light to break free from the clouds which cast a beautiful backlit glow into the maple leaves.

Sand Castles, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA

After many days of rain and forest photography, I was happy to be on the coast again with our workshop group at Rialto Beach. We hiked up the beach about a mile and a half to these awesome sea stacks and set up for what we hoped would be a great sunset. It was indeed the best display of light on the workshop and everyone had a blast shooting this location. I set my camera low and close to the breaking waves and shot a ton of images wanting to capture the perfect set of receding lines, letting Mother Nature dictate exactly what I would get from this outing. I used a 3 stop ND grad to hold back the sky and focused on shooting every wave that came in and out over the course of the best light, which lasted for some time this evening. This was my favorite from the shoot.

Rowena Blush, Rowena Crest, Oregon

After finishing up on the coast, I headed south again towards Portland for my flight the next day. I decided to take one more run at catching some light from Rowena Crest, spending the night in Hood River and shooting sunrise the next morning. While most of the wildflowers where past peak at this point, I was able to find a very healthy clump to frame a great display of light that morning. I packed up my gear feeling quite satisfied and exhausted and then made my way to Portland and my flight home.

All in all it was an amazing trip! I shot every day for over two weeks, came away with some new images for the portfolio, met up with old and new friends, shared many a good beer, and ran two very successful workshops. In fact, Alex and I just released our dates for our 2015 Best of the PNW Photo Tour last week and we are happy to report the tour sold out in less than 24 hours! We will be releasing dates and registrations for 2016 soon. If anyone is interested in joining us, make sure to sign up on my mailing list to get first dibs.