Chasing Fall, Oregon

Cedar Creek Grist Mill

Changing Ferns

Tokatee Falls

Cedar Creek

Clearwater Creek Falls

For many photographers, fall is a time to scramble outside, and try to capture the changing of the seasons. This is true for myself included. I spent a few weeks researching several spots throughout the state that I knew would be rich with fall color. Everyday, I was watching the colors change on the trees outside of my house, and began to make a few short trips to go see what I could capture.

To me, this is a great example of getting out there to shoot, even when it takes a lot of effort, and the results are still unknown. What is interesting is that the pictures highlighted above are taken throughout the span of about five weeks, and potentially not in the order that would be expected based upon the colors that are seen.

My travels led me through Southwest Washington to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, where the colors were stunning! A great mix of yellows, reds, and vibrant oranges. The mill itself was an interesting old building, which made for a unique man-made presence in an otherwise pristine and impacted creek area. Though I went to this location with a plan on shooting the mill, I ended up really falling in love with the creek itself. There were lots of small cascading waterfalls, and stunning foliage. 

Another spot on my list was Golden and Silver Falls in Coos Bay, Oregon. This is by far my favorite waterfall in the state, and I had a thought that the colors would be quiet vibrant. This made for a long trip from Portland, but I am always impressed by this stunning landscape. It was slightly more yellow (a bit late for some of the more vibrant reds, and oranges) than I had desired, however I stayed here for several hours trying to capture the light in this rather difficult place to shoot. The lighting here is a challenge as there is a deep dark canyon with lots of foliage - which makes it dark - contrasting with a bright open top with lots of light on the waterfall. This contrast can be hard to capture, even during the "golden hours" of shooting, and this day was no exception. I was grateful to utilize some of my trusty filters, as well as the passing clouds to be able to capture several shots that I was quite happy with.

Tokatee Falls was another spot that I really wanted to go to. I had been here only once before, and actually was really interested in retaking a shot that I had taken in this area before, however I also thought that I might get lucky and capture some of the gorgeous colors at the falls themselves.

This ended up being one of the most wet couple of days that I have experienced in quite some time, but I was pleased with these images as well. This was one of those weekends where things were so wet, that I didn't even realize it after a point. My pants and sweatshirt were soaked, it seemed pointless to put on my boots as my feet were in a perpetual state of pruney, and even my camera had a bit more water all over it than I'd like, but it was worth it. Tokatee was gorgeous! (Just remember to drive carefully when the roads are wet!!!)

Nearby, I was also lucky to find a waterfall that I had never seen before. Just a few miles east of Tokatee was Clearwater Creek Falls. This was one of those places that was love at first sight. Gorgeous, luscious, cascading waterfalls, with lots of greenery surrounding. Though there weren't many deciduous trees to show the fall colors, there were tons of deep green mosses, and lots of small flowing streams nearby.

I mentioned before that this is a great example of getting out there and shooting. I had a plan, and certainly not everything worked out as expected, photography is one of those things where you can wait for conditions to be perfect, and plan your shoots and locations out, however at some point you ultimately have to get out there and take pictures. In doing so, I found some new locations, went to some old beloved spots, and was challenged to find new ways to capture the beauty around me. I was once again reminded of my love for Oregon (and Southwest Washington), and all that it has to offer!

Silver Falls

Dog Creek Falls, Columbia River Gorge

Dog Creek Falls

Cascading Falls Columbia River Gorge

August 5, 2014

Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to update the blog for quite some time. In fact around 7 months have passed since the last entry - not for lack of want, but rather the fact that I am a part time photographer means that I don’t always get to devote the time that I would like to shooting. Though I have been actively shooting in the past 7 months, to be honest, I haven’t shot as much as I would prefer (certainly not in comparison with last year).

As a full time teacher, there are two extremely busy times of year for me; both the end and beginning of the school year. This isn’t to say that time in between isn’t busy as well, however the school year creates a certain sort of rhythm with a wonderful endless tiredness that at some point just begins to seem normal.

This year, the end of school seemed to start a little bit earlier than normal for me. Having a student teacher for the first time (though a blessing in many ways) created some added stress and pressure. As always, state testing was a focus as our year ended, a full season of track with my 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, along with a load of interesting internal issues within our school and district. All of these things made life inside school challenging enough to stay sane - so needless to say, I didn’t add many trips to go out and shoot.

Though photography is a huge release of stress for me, it also generally requires a lot of preparation to go where you are headed, and hard work, early morning, late nights, and often many hours of waiting uncomfortably once you get out there. I made the choice to try other methods of relaxation as the year closed, attempting to not overload myself with additional pressures and stress on top of the end of the school year.

Since the (school) year has ended, I have taken two graduate level courses, resigned my previous position, found a new job, and relocated to Portland. Needless to say, this summer has not been full of many opportunities to head out and shoot. Its been chalked full of busy days searching for housing, doing coursework, traveling back and forth from Portland to Southern Oregon, and of course packing and unpacking boxes.

All of that said, I am finally home! I have been out of the Portland area since I went to college 11 years ago. For the first time in my life, the area code of my phone matches the city in which I live! Into August, and I am finally feeling like I have a brief window of time to do some shooting. When I say brief, I do mean brief as I am headed to Alabama within a week to visit a new nephew (hopefully his arrival is cooperative with my travel plans), and as soon as I return I will be starting work. Since time is definitely limited I have been planning some relatively short, and easy trips. This time of preparation has also given me some time to compile some other trip ideas for the upcoming year which is always exciting!

This leads me to Dog Creek Falls, on the Columbia River Gorge - one of my absolute favorite spots on the planet (second only to Crater Lake).

***Side note - If I were to express any two photographic goals, they would be to be the “premiere” photographer of these two beautiful Oregon locations, kind of like Ansel Adams with Yosemite.***

Dog Creek Falls was a location that I had never visited before - and I believe it is a “much less traveled” spot on the Gorge. First its on the Washington side, which tends to get much less traffic than the Oregon side with so many waterfalls jam packed together - along with several tourist stopping places like Hood River, and The Dalles. Second, driving by it you would never know it was worth stopping at. A small sign is the only clue that there is even anything there to stop and look at on this relatively unimpressive part of Washington’s Highway 14. Third, once you get out and take a very short hike to see the falls, it seems as if there isn’t much else to look at outside of a beautiful 25 foot waterfall. Though it was certainly a beautiful falls, with a nice little pool below for wading, it would hardly be worth a 60 mile drive just to see that, especially with so many much more impressive falls much closer.

However, I went here on a tip, that it was a great spot for some explorations, and so that's what I did. Packing all of my photography gear in a hefty drybag, I made a relatively “not-so-safe” scramble up the side of the waterfall and I realized that the tip was a good one. It was obvious once on top of the falls, that the real secret of this place (especially for photographers, as is so often the case) lay beyond where most people stopped. Once above the falls, there were countless little pools, and smaller cascading waterfalls. For a photographer, the pace where you could spend lots of time focusing on each little cascade just a little bit differently.

Some of these areas were lush with greenery, others were wide open, and beaming with sunlight. This exploration continued for hours (really only about 1.5 miles, but when you’re taking pictures every 200 feet it takes a while), until I reached a point where the trail was disappearing, the waterfalls were beginning to look repetitive, and I had slipped and fallen on wet rocks too many times in a row to justify continuing (that drybag truly came in really handy).

This was my first venture ever into this area, and I think I came away with some good shots. As I go through and cull the images, I am always reminded of the little things that make such a difference in the images. I continue to practice shooting contemplatively - which can be really hard in a place where literally everything looks like a beautiful scene to be shot.

Its nice to be in Portland again, and though this means I’m farther away from Crater Lake, it does mean I’m a lot closer to the Gorge. I guess I can’t have it all!

San Fransico, California

Janurary 17-20, 2014

Over Martin Luther King Day, I decided to spend some time in San Fransisco. Only having visited once, for a brief period, last year I have wanted to return for quite sometime. Though I had most definitely wanted to return for a while, the opportunity had yet to present itself to me. I didn't want to return for only a few hours like the first visit, so I decided to wait for a long weekend where I would have some time to spend exploring this beautiful city.

Leaving shortly after school on Friday, I made the trek down to the Golden City, a little over a 6 hour drive. Though the drive was quiet tiring, I was quickly reminded of why I had wanted to return. This place is truly breath taking.


I started out at Fort Baker Beach to shoot the bay bridge, and the skyline from the north. I stayed here for a bit over an hour shooting the skyline, and then made an exhausted haul to my camping spot for the night.

The next morning, as always I got up early to shoot some shots of the sunrise, also from the north side, with light that was less than cooperative. I then began wandering the city, and I do mean wandering. Beginning first at the  Golden Gate Park, then at Chinatown, I left my car and roamed the city for about 5 and a half hours.

Part of my journey was to challenge my photographic eye - to try to see shots where I normally do not. I walked the city with my camera in hand, and looked for anything that caught my attention. Sometimes it was color, other times lines and angles, but I attempted to look for things in places that I normally do not. I walked almost the whole city, heading down to the piers, up toward the ball park, then back down the pier toward Fisherman's Warf. There was tons of activity going on with farmers markets, and street performers, all of which was put to a scale that makes me miss the life in the city.

I was able to take some shots throughout the day, and I will need to look through them to see if had any real "keepers." After heading there, I was quick to find and set up for shooting the sunset of the Golden Gate.The light was not particularly cooperative once again, and after that, I headed back into the city for some night shooting. Ending at the Palace of Fine Arts, I was astounded at the "World Class City" that is San Fransisco. Sometime around midnight, I headed to bed, only to rinse and repeat the next day.


I had another sunrise full of uncooperative light that was a bit lackluster but still definitely tried to make the most of it while I was there. I got a couple of stunning images of the scale of the bridge, and some great ideas for other places to shoot from some "locals" (San Jose) that were up shooting the sunrise as well.

I wandered the city again, this time, quite a  bit less on my feet, and more in my car. My back and feet were both exhausted from the 8-10 hours I had put in the day before (my pedometer counted some 25,000 steps). There were many San Franciscan's out and about in their 49er gear, and sports bars were humming with people - even during the early AFC championship game. I wandered through some neighborhoods I hadn't been to before, and was, and still am amazed at the architecture in this city.

Shooting in San Fransisco is also needlessly frustrating as just about every neighborhood has stunning views, but are almost always blocked by buildings. I just need a connection or two to get atop some rooftops and I would be set.

I am certainly grateful that I don't have to find a place to park here on a regular basis, as that was a constant annoyance - though I am confident that the worlds best parallel parkers reside in SF.

Though once again the light was not as cooperative as I would have liked, I felt like I found some really fantastic locations - some on my own, just from wandering, and some with the advice from others.  I had originally planned to head up the coast and do some shooting at Point Reyes, but because of an errant piece of steal that sliced through one of my tires, I felt I should stay near the city as to minimize the driving on my spare.

I was grateful that I ended up staying. The photo above was taken at the advice of some photographers I had met early in the morning on Sunday while shooting the lackluster sunrise.This location was a great spot. After a piece of advice about which neighborhood, and then wandering for around an hour and a half or so I finally found this specific location which I was really happy about, and was certainly pleased with the results.

While here I also met a very nice fellow photographer (whose photo's of the city are truly amazing - check them out on his facebook page. He was gracious enough to give me some really stellar locations of the city as well. Unfortunately I didn't have the time, or energy to go and shoot from all of them that night, though I have them all marked down, and will be sure to make some specific plans for the future.

Thor's Well - Cape Perpetua, Newport, Oregon

The first image that I saw of this location years ago inspired me to go here. It wasn't until this year, however, that I finally made a trip here to take some pictures.

There are a few things that I will say to start: 1. There are some truly incredible images of this location out there, and I would encourage you to go look them up. 2. I was incredibly lucky and happened to be there on a really stormy day, which made for some interesting photos.

Like so many times when I am at or near the locations that I love to shoot, I don't understand how people can get so close but be so far away. In this spot there is a pullout off the side of the road, which many stop at. Few people head down the pathway that is about 1/4 mile to the edge of the rocky cliffs to view these things from up close. Fewer still get on their hip waders and head out into the waters of Lake Minatonka - or the Pacific Ocean for that matter.

I am sure that just as I think that those who get out of their cars, but go no further are crazy, they all thought that I was crazy, and to be honest, this is hands down the most scared I have ever been on  a shoot, and I've been through some pretty scary things on while shooting.

I think there is something about the pounding, and I do mean pounding, waves at this location. It is so incredibly loud here. There are four or five places where the water is literally crashing against the rocks non-stop. Scoping the area out, and setting up as tide is coming in on an incredibly stormy day, left me questioning my sanity. Doing my best not to turn my back to the Ocean, I was reminded of the power of the Ocean several times when knee high waves came crashing up to me. My first reaction of course is to protect the camera, but that reaction quickly changes to trying to keep balance, and control as the waves rocked my legs. I did my best, as always, to find the balance between getting the shots I wanted and being safe. I guess since I made out alive once again, I pulled out at the right time.

I was  pleased with how these images turned out. I stayed for sunset, which as you can see produced many clouds and interesting colors. I debated staying for sunrise as well, however decided to head off to another location in order to get some different sunrise shots, which the next morning I was very glad that I had made as the sunrise was incredible in the location to which I went.

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