Liking Lichens

Liking Lichens

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensLichens #59874

One of my favorite quirky subjects I love to photograph are lichens. Lichens grow just about everywhere but unfortunately are unappreciated by most people. They are some of the oldest organisms found on land, dating back perhaps 600 million years. They live in some of the most extreme conditions and are an important food source for animals such as caribou. For humans they are a natural source of antibiotics and pigments. Lichens are also an indicator of clean air as they will not grow in the presence of  pollutants.

During my recent visit to Cottonwood State Park in Oregon I saw some outstanding lichen colonies. A large outcropping of columnar basalt which remains in shade harbored a beautiful display in many striking colors. Juxtaposed against the interesting patterns and cracks of crystallized basalt, the lichens made a wonderful abstract study.

Admittedly this kind of subject matter isn’t appealing to everyone, but I had a great time picking out interesting compositions.

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensBasalt and Lichens #59895

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensLichens #59869

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensLichens and Basalt #59897

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensBasalt and Lichens #59881

Liking Lichens

How to Boost Your Creativity Back to the Basics

How to Boost Your Creativity Back to the Basics

Purcell Mountain Storm Clouds, British Columbia  #25556r

How to Boost Your Creativity  Back to the Basics :  You hear it all the time in every field, from sports to science and everything in between. When you’re having difficulty working something out or getting more creative it always helps to start fresh and get back to the basics.

One of the first assignments I had way back in my days of art school was to go out and create images with only one lens on the camera, a 50mm focal length often called a normal lens. In addition the camera was to be set only on manual. Back then it wasn’t difficult to do since I only had one lens and my Nikkormat 35mm camera was manual only.

The point of this assignment was of course to learn the basics of exposure by adjusting shutter speeds and f-stops on your own and not relying on technology to do the thinking for you. Limiting your choice of lens to only a 50mm also forced you to visualize your subject matter and compose more carefully.

Try this, find a small object, a flower, trinket, door knob, whatever, set it up on a table and try photographing it with a normal lens, no filters or special lighting techniques allowed, just room or daylight. See if you can photograph it in a way that brings out an interesting aspect of the object. I  once worked with a woman who photographed through the bottom of drink glasses, a pretty dull subject matter that she brought to life in a very creative way. I’ll always remember those beautiful colors and patterns.

In my art school drawing class we once had a pile of randomly arranged chairs which we had to draw over and over again for what seemed like forever. The point was to see shapes and patterns of interest in a seemingly mundane object, not a lesson we enjoyed but effective nonetheless.

During my years working with large format view cameras these and other lessons paid off and further honed my skills. View cameras are basically just large boxes with a lens on one end and they have no form of auto exposure or auto focusing. In addition each sheet of film can be very costly both in itself and with processing, the result being a very much forced slowdown in methodology which sharpened my way of seeing more carefully.

Today with digital cameras sporting multiple exposure and autofocus modes, gps, and setup with a zoom lens it’s hard not to just jump in and let the camera do all the creative work for you. However if you want to be more creative turn off all those whistles and bells and put yourself in the driver’s seat for a change.

Another basic way to learn to see more creatively is to work in black and white. Monochrome photography strips the image down to the most basic of elements and forces the viewer to see the subject in a more pure state. Take a look at your photos and do a quick conversion to black and white, you may notice that some images are pretty dull and lifeless when you strip out the color. You may also see flaws in the composition that aren’t as apparent with color distracting them.

Now this isn’t to say that monochrome is superior to color photography or vise versa, it’s just another way of seeing and a powerful tool creative every photographer can benefit from.

Of course boosting your creativity by getting back to the basics can be extended to post processing the film or digital files but that’s a big topic for another post.


Little Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains

Little Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area Idaho #56173Sunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  #56173

Another great spot for photography in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho is Redfish Lake and Little Redfish Lake. While both lakes have spectacular views Little Redfish is smaller and offers better intimate compositions than its bigger neighbor.

After my success at having good light at Stanley Lake several days before I didn’t think that luck would strike twice in the same trip, but it did. The first evening I scoured the lakeshore for good compositions and found the best spot was one that obviously was used by photographers in the past, you can always tell by the small patch of ground  worn bare and hardened. The light was nice and I got a few good shots but evening light puts the range mostly in shade, morning would be a better time for photos, if the light was good.

As always I got up before sunrise and set up in my spot and waited. Like several days prior at Stanley Lake fog threatening to obscure the view, but the stillness of the air meant the surface of the lake was mirror still and I kept my fingers crossed. Also the sky was cloudy and it didn’t look like the sun would break through. Luck was with me though and as you can see from these photos the fog held off and the clouds began to clear just as the first predawn light began paint the sky with purples and reds.

The clouds and atmosphere that morning were just right to keep the light and colors going long after the sun had risen. As the light began to wash out the fog came back and closed off any views until the heat of the day burned it off. I packed up  and decided to check out the bigger Redfish Lake, there the fog was also thick but there was a couple of surprises for me which I’ll save for the next post.

The images appearing in this post are available as Fine Art Prints and for commercial licensing.  Click on an image and then ADD TO CART to purchase.

Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area Idaho #56184Sunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  #56184

Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area Idaho #56197Sunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  #56196


Canadian Rockies New Images

Canadian Rockies New Images

The Ramparts Jasper National Park Canadian Rockies New Images

Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park Alberta #54753

Please take a few moments to view a selection of exciting new images from our recent photo shoots in the fabulous Canadian Rockies. This trip encompassed nearly a month of hiking and driving to some of the most scenic areas of this majestic mountain range.

Locations included in this portfolio are:
  • Mount Robson Provincial Park
  • Tonquin valley of Jasper National Park
  • Lake Louise and Vermilion Lakes of Banff National Park
  • Floe Lake along the Rockwall of Kootenay National Park
  • Burstall Pass and Kananaskis Lakes of Kananaskis Country Alberta

Click here to view the portfolio

The images appearing in this portfolio are available as a Fine Art Print and for commercial licensing. Click on the  image and then ADD TO CART to purchase.


Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope Ridge

Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope Ridge

Mount Baker North Cascades_54421 Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope RidgeMount Baker North Cascades_54421

Summer is nearly over, and now that we’re in that exciting pause before the coming fall season I have some time to catch up on a few posts I’ve been too busy to work on. If you’ve been following my updates here and in my New Images Portfolio you’ll know that most of the height of  summer was spent close to home, specifically the Mount Baker Wilderness of the North Cascades. Fortunately for me this wilderness is only an hour or two drive from my home, practically in my backyard. During the month of August I photographed the following areas accessed via the Mount Baker Highway:

  • Church Mountain
  • Skyline Divide
  • Hannegan Peak
  • Heliotrope Ridge
  • Heather Meadows Recreation Area


During the last week of August I was hoping to visit one more spot that might offer good displays of wildflowers and almost forgot about Heliotrope Ridge. It has been around twelve years since my last visit and twenty or so since I taught a weekend photography workshop there through the North Cascades Institute. Heliotrope Ridge trail is extremely popular due to the easy and close access to views of the sprawling Coleman Glacier on the slopes of Mount Baker, and also because it is the start to one of the main climbing routes to the summit of Baker. Since I’ve been there before I knew that the best wildflower meadows were up high near the climbers camps near the edge of the glaciers and snowfields, and also that I would have the place to myself if I went during the week. Sure enough during my three nights on the ridge I saw only one other person wandering around, and the few climbing parties that set up camp stuck to the glaciers with eyes on the summit.

The wildflowers of Heliotrope Ridge were markedly different from those on the hikes to Skyline Divide and Hannegan Peak. There I came across fields mainly of valerian, lupine, corn lilies, and heather, but on Heliotrope there was a greater variety of flowers with an emphasis on yellow arnicas. Also since this area is so close to Mount Baker it receives much more snow, therefore the plants had just escaped the confines of winter and began blooming in late August while other subalpine ridges in the area were already well past peak and had gone to seed.

Another thing to do aside from gawking at the views and wildflowers is to wander cross country, there are no trails at this point. Going west along increasingly barren slopes of mixed volcanic rock and crumbly slate there are numerous rushing snowmelt streams. If you are prepared for steep snowfield/glacier travel then continue higher up to the actual crest of Heliotrope Ridge. Here the ridge consists of a wild display volcanic cinders jagged blocks of andesite and lava bombs, looking like it just cooled yesterday. Even better though is the view from the ridge of seldom seen Thunder Glacier and basin below Colfax and Lincoln Peaks, this is truly a wild and lonesome area of Mount Baker!

Coleman Glacier Heliotrope Ridge Wildflowers 54533 Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope RidgeColeman Glacier, Heliotrope Ridge Wildflowers #54533

Mount Baker climber camp on Heliotrope Ridge #54432 Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope RidgeMount Baker climber camp on Heliotrope Ridge #54432

Coleman Glacier climber camp Mount Baker #54518 Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope RidgeColeman Glacier, climber camp Mount Baker #54518

The images appearing in this post are available as a Fine Art Prinst and for commercial licensing. Click on the  image and then ADD TO CART to purchase.


Second Beach La Push Olympic National Park

Second Beach La Push Olympic National Park

Second Beach La Push Olympic National Park 54007Second Beach La Push Olympic National Park #54007

Moving on to the coast portion of my last trip this image is from the much photographed Second Beach near La Push in Olympic National Park. This beach was my first ever view of an ocean when I moved to Washington from Chicago back in 1980. While my recent visit unfortunately didn’t coincide with a minus tide to photograph the fantastic tide-pools I did receive some very nice lighting to work with.

I’m hoping to have all the editing and processing from this trip finished in a few days and all the images then posted into galleries here. Check back soon!

This image is available for commercial licensing and fine art prints. Click on the image and then the Add to Cart feature to select and purchase.



Methow Valley Washington Wildflowers

Methow Valley Washington Wildflowers

Methow Valley Wildflowers 53749 Methow Valley Washington WildflowersMethow Valley Balsamroot and Lupines #53749

One of my favorite areas in Washington is the Methow Valley. At the east gateway to the North Cascades Scenic Highway this valley is an idyllic getaway for all types of outdoor activities. In winter it’s home to one of the largest networks of groomed cross country ski trails in the country, and in summer there is access to hundreds of miles of hiking backpacking and horse packing trails leading into the Pasayten Wilderness. Opportunities for biking, trail running and rock climbing abound. If you’re not that energetic there is also a vibrant arts community, several wineries and music festivals in the valley to check out, along with lots of top notch restaurants resorts and cabin rentals. In the fall the colors change on stands of aspen and cottonwood trees and farm stands offering freshly picked fruit and locally produced treats. Spring in the Methow Valley  can be a quiet time, with the mountains locked in winter snows the North Cascades Highway is generally closed until mid-May. This means the nearest mountain pass access from Western Washington is Stevens Pass, over 100 miles south.

This year at the last minute I decided to forego my plans to return to the Columbia River Gorge for wildflower photography and instead check out an area in the Methow Valley I haven’t visited in over 12 years. While the Gorge is beautiful in spring it’s so well known for its wildflowers that it can be very crowded with individual photographers and group workshops and tours. In the Methow Valley I knew the greater distance from Portland and Seattle would result in few other visitors. I was spot on with this prediction, for during my four days of photographing I did not meet one other photographer, just an occasional bicyclist, trail runner and curious deer.

Late April through the first week or two of May is the best time to see wildflowers along the eastern slopes of the Cascades, with higher elevations blooming last. At first I was a bit disappointed because although the yellow Balsamroot flowers were at their peak and blooming everywhere the Lupines still had about another week to go. However the next few days saw very warm sunny weather and to my great surprise the Lupines began to bloom en masse. Since my days were bookended at sunrise and sunset with photographing I had the whole middle of the day to enjoy a few low elevation hikes along the Lost river and Chewuch River, and also to engage in hunting morel mushrooms, supposedly found in many of the pine forest bottoms. Unfortunately my searching yielded nothing but pine cones.

For everyone reading this, if you are interested in visiting the meadows in these photos all I’ll say is that it’s not a secret area on a hidden road, it is on public land and will be fairly obvious to spot from a quick drive west of the town of Winthrop. For me part of the fun in photographing landscapes like this is doing the legwork and finding it on your own.

Scroll down to see more photos, plus there are even more here!

Methow Valley Wildflowers #53757 Methow Valley Washington WildflowersMethow Valley Balsamroot #53757

Methow Valley Wildflowers #53718 Methow Valley Washington WildflowersMethow Valley Wildflowers #53718

Methow Valley Wildflowers #53730 Methow Valley Washington WildflowersMethow Valley Wildflowers #53730


Skagit Valley Daffodils

Skagit Valley DaffodilsSkagit Valley Sunrise

Skagit Valley Daffodils : Daffodils are in full bloom right now in the Skagit Valley. On Saturday I got up early and made the drive down to catch a nice sunrise. There were only three other photographers taking advantage of the nice light. It looks like this year the tulips have been planted in some locations that are composition friendly, hopefully I’ll get some nice light to photograph them. However it will probably be another two weeks before they are in bloom.

Prints and licensing for the image in this post are available by clicking on the photo


Three Sisters Wilderness Oregon

Three Sisters Wilderness Oregon: I’m a little behind in my travel updates, this post was made in Pinedale Wyoming after just finishing an eight day backpack into the Wind River Range. The last location I photographed while in Oregon was the beautiful Green Lakes Basin in the Sisters Wilderness. This is my favorite backcountry destination in the Oregon Cascades and it’s hard to beat for photographic opportunities. With three lakes sitting at around 6500’ the bulk of South Sister is on one side and Broken Top Mountain is on the other. The park-like meadows are mostly composed of ash and pumice with a sprinkling of wildflowers and the trees are spaced nicely for endless compostions. The best lighting here is in the early morning since therising sun illuminates South sister and casts great reflections on the lakes. In the evening however you can make some nice images of Broken Top.

South Sister Middle Green Lake Oregon Cascades #49022 Three Sisters Wilderness Oregon

South Sister from Green Lake 49022


Broken Top Mountain Oregon #49063 Three Sisters Wilderness Oregon

Broken Top 49063

Since this location is very close to Bend and is well known throughout the state, try to visit during the week when it is less crowded. Finding a good campsite on a summer weekend can be very difficult with restrictions in place on where camping is allowed.

Many of the photography tips I mentioned in my previous post on jefferson Park can also be applied here. Bring your graduated neutral density filters tripod and wide angle to normal lenses. I didn’t find the need for any lens over around 70mm. The next post will be from the spectacular Wind River Range in Wyoming.


Mount Jefferson Oregon

Mount Jefferson Oregon: Living in the Pacific Northwest has many advantages, aside from great coffee one of them is the wealth of diverse landscapes. This year I’ve been lucky enough to spend a considerable amount of time photographing in Oregon, a state that exemplifies this diversity perhaps more than any other. Earlier in the year I traveled through the Columbia River Gorge, the Alvord Desert and Owyhee Canyons region, and finally the iconic Oregon Coast.

Mount Jefferson Oregon #48855 Mount Jefferson Oregon

Mount Jefferson Oregon 48855

One of the first destinations of my current trip was Jefferson Park in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness of the Central Oregon Cascades. A moderate hike takes you to a beautiful subalpine meadow system holding three large named lakes and numerous ponds and tarns, all backdropped by the snow clad north face of Mount Jefferson, one of the volcanoes of the Oregon Cascades. This was my second visit to Jefferson Park and I had hoped to photograph the extensive display of wildflowers. This year’s wildflower season however is turning out to be a little later than normal and I was greeted with more lingering snowfields than flowers. Switching creative gears I was able to use some of the partially melted lakes and some of the other available elements for compositions and came away more than satisfied for my efforts

Mount Jefferson Oregon #48923 Mount Jefferson Oregon

Mount Jefferson Oregon 48923

For photographers thinking of visiting this special area here are a few tips to keep in mind. It’s about 5.5 miles with a little less than 2000’ elevation gain to the first lake and main meadows. Try to avoid visiting on weekends or at least get there early as this is a very popular destination and most of the campsites will be taken. Plan on spending a couple days to allow for a relaxed experience and hopefully varied lighting. Bring several graduated neutral density filters to help handle the contrast during early morning and evening light, you also will be using mainly normal to extreme wide angle lenses here, I brought a 70-200mm zoom and did not use it at all. Lastly bring insect repellant, alll tose lakes and meadows are prime breeding ground for biting insects!