Dec 042013
 
Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes on vine

Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes on vine; Valley View Winery, southern Oregon.

Announcing my annual Holiday Sale: 20% off on all fine art photographic print orders. For the widest variety of print types and framing options, visit my gallery at FineArtAmerica. To get the discount, enter coupon code AYDTSH at checkout. Ordering from my collection at FineArtAmerica gives you the option of ordering print only, matted print, matted and framed print, canvas gallery wraps, prints on metal or acrylic, or even notecards.

Virtually every photograph on my website, www.GregVaughn.com, can be ordered as a print. Click on the “Buy” button on any image, select the “Prints” tab for prints on standard photographic paper, or select the “Products” tab for canvas gallery wrap prints. For images ordered via the online cart use coupon code HOL2013.

I’m also offering the 20% discount from the prices listed on http://www.gregvaughn.com/prints.html for my personally-crafted custom archival prints.

If you find an image on my website that isn’t in my collection at FineArtAmerica, but you’d like to order from that site so that you can get the complete matted and framed package or one of their other options, let me know and I’ll upload the photo to FAA.

The sale price is good through December 31, 2013, but please order by December 15 if you want it delivered before Christmas.

Nov 282013
 
Hot air balloons ascending during Red Rock Balloon Rally

Red Rock Balloon Rally, Gallup, New Mexico.

The annual Red Rock Balloon Rally is the second largest balloon rally in the world, surpassed only by the much more famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This rally has been held every year since 1981, and this year’s event, December 6-8, 2013, is expected to draw over 200 hot air balloons to Red Rock Park just outside of Gallup, New Mexico.

first balloons ascend at dawn from Red Rock Park

Dawn Patrol at Red Rock Park

One of the highlights of the rally is Dawn Patrol on Saturday morning. Pilots and their crews start inflating the balloons in the dark and begin their ascent just before sunrise. The balloons glow beautifully when the burners are fired up to fill the balloons with hot air.

Hot air balloon touching a sandstone canyon wall.

Hot air balloon touching a sandstone canyon wall.

The Red Rock Balloon Rally is especially great for photographers, not only because of the spectacular landscape of Red Rock Park, but also because there is easy access to the balloon launching area and to a variety of viewpoints. There is no admission charge for the event, and you might even be able to score a ride in one of the balloons. I had a thrilling ride aboard the balloon Aeolos, courtesy of pilot and owner Sam Tzamaloukas. Photographers need to note that space is extremely limited in the balloon baskets. You will not be able to bring a bag full of gear, and you won’t be able to move around much. My advice: one camera body with the widest lens you own and another body with a mid-range wide-to-tele zoom. Put a lens hood on each lens to prevent flare and to protect the lenses when they bang against the basket.

Here’s a link for more of my photos the Red Rock Balloon Rally.

Have you been to a hot air balloon festival?  Been up in a balloon?  On your bucket list?

Nov 062013
 
Ponytail Falls photograph from behind the waterfall

Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

The current generation of digital camera sensors have an amazing dynamic range. Coupled with the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, the available technology now gives photographers the ability to render contrasty scenes in a way that were next to impossible when shooting film. I was able to pull this image of Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge out of a single capture on a Nikon D600. No HDR apps, no time-consuming multiple frame blending.

The scene looking out from the alcove behind the waterfall had an extreme range of contrast, from the almost black rocks in the foreground to the bright light coming through the forest and the whitewater in the pool. I wouldn’t have even tried shooting such a contrasty scene with a transparency film like Velvia.

The very first time I shot with a pro-level DSLR, I was hooked on digital. My first captures showed me that I was no longer so constrained by the limitations of film. I finally had control of both contrast and color rendition. In the ten years I’ve been shooting digitally I’ve seen enormous improvements in image quality. And as we’ve all seen, photographers can now produce images that would have been impossible just a few years ago.

Do you think we’ll continue to see improvement on such a scale as the last decade?

Oct 232013
 
Multnomah Falls with trees in fall color

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, in Autumn.

The peak of fall color is hitting the lower elevation areas of western Oregon this last week of October, which is pretty typical for this area. I paid a quick visit to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area on Saturday, 10/19/13, and found the the bigleaf maple trees throughout the the waterfall section of the Gorge have some good color. On some trees, the leaves had already turned brown or fallen, but on many others, the golden yellow foliage was just starting to happen. As seen in the photo above, the color at Multnomah Falls is fairly good; it should be even better in the next week or so. For nature and landscape photography in Oregon, the Gorge is the place to be from now through the first week of November.

On my way to the Gorge, I drove Highway 35 from the eastern slopes of Mount Hood down through the Hood River Valley. There is very little color at the high elevation areas like Mount Hood Meadows, but further down towards the valley the western larch or tamarack trees were starting to turn. They were more green than gold on Friday (10/18), but should also be looking very good in the coming days. Most of the vine maple along the highway was well past prime, but there were still a fair number of trees with brilliant reds and oranges.

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

South Falls in Silver Falls State Park

On Tuesday, 10/22/13, I visited Silver Falls State Park, and found, much to my chagrin, that there is very little fall color left around the waterfalls. The leaves were gone from almost all of the bigleaf maple trees, and those that still clung to the branches were mostly brown. The good folks at the Friends of Silver Falls State Park Nature Store in the park told me that strong winds a couple of weeks ago had knocked down a good portion of the leaves, so it hasn’t been a great year for autumn color there. Even if the photo conditions weren’t great, it was great to walk the trails and enjoy the waterfalls on a cool, crisp autumn day.

In the Willamette Valley, ornamental maples and other landscape trees are looking great and there is spectacular color throughout parks and gardens. Grape vines in Wine Country are starting to turn, so the vineyards will soon be good photo subjects as well.

Where will you go for fall color photography – or where have you been?

Oct 162013
 
vine maple leaves with fall color

Vine maple in autumn, McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.

Autumn just may be the very best time of year for landscape and nature photography in Oregon. Every region of the state boasts locations with vivid fall color. As a bonus, the season for prime color is spread over a period of a couple of months, depending on elevation and region. Vine maples kick in with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows as early as late August in the high Cascade Mountains, while in the Columbia River Gorge the colorful foliage can last into early November. Bigleaf maple, with their large, golden- to lemony-yellow leaves are the predominant species for colorful foliage west of the Cascade crest, and pockets of aspen and cottonwood light up canyons and river sides east of the Cascades. Here are some suggestions for where to go to photograph the season’s wonders:

Multnomah Falls and Multnomah Falls Lodge in Autumn

Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is a perennial favorite for fall color. Bigleaf maple line the Historic Columbia River Highway and brighten the forest at almost all waterfall sites. Peak color is generally late October through the first week of November.

Portland Japanese Garden with fall color

Portland Japanese Garden.

Just minutes from busy downtown, the Portland Japanese Garden is an oasis of serenity – well, except maybe on fall weekends, when throngs of visitors flock the garden in Washington Park. Nearby Hoyt Arboretum and Forest Park are also great places to find colorful foliage.

Torii Mor Vineyards driveway in the Dundee Hills.

Torii Mor Vineyards driveway in the Dundee Hills.

How about combining fall foliage photography with a little wine tasting? In late October the rows of grape vines turn yellow, and majestic oak and maple trees line the roads in Willamette Valley Wine Country .

Aufderheide Drive in Autumn.

Aufderheide Memorial Drive in Autumn.

The West Cascades Scenic Byway offers a route through the Cascade Mountains traversing north-south between Estacada and Oakridge. The southernmost leg of the route follows Forest Road 19 between the McKenzie River and Westfir. This section is also known as Aufderheide Memorial Drive, after a former USFS Willamette National Forest supervisor. The road passes through a forest of towering old-growth Douglas-fir trees, interspersed with plenty of bigleaf maple and vine maple.

South Falls in Silver Falls State Park

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls State Park is a favorite of Oregon photographers in both spring and fall. Ten beautiful waterfalls are easily accessed from a loop trail. South Falls is perhaps the most photogenic, with several viewpoints for varied photo compositions. Get there mid- to late-October for the best color.

Ranch buildings and cottonwood trees in eastern Oregon.

Fall ranch scene in eastern Oregon.

Over in eastern Oregon, quaking aspen and cottonwood trees line meadows, canyons and river banks, and high up in the Blue Mountains the needles of the western larch (tamarack) trees, a deciduous conifer, turn yellow and orange. Fall color is best on this side of the state from mid-September to mid-October, depending on elevation.

Looking for places to photograph the season’s splendor a little further north? See my blog post from last year Top 10 Places for Fall Color Photography in Washington.

For more detailed information about locations for shooting fall color in the Pacific Northwest, see my books Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington.

Where are your favorite places for making photos of the autumn hues?

 

Oct 112013
 
Vine maple and Douglas-fir trees in the Willamette National Forest.

Vine maple and Douglas-fir trees, Willamette National Forest.

Yesterday I drove Oregon Highway 58 up into the central western Cascade Mountains and found that the fall color is fantastic right now. Plenty of golden bigleaf maple and vine maples with foliage ranging from lemony yellow to reddish-orange. The autumn color is great all the way from Lookout Point Reservoir up to Salt Creek Tunnel, just west of Willamette Pass. Google Map

This part of the Willamette National Forest ranges from about 1000′ to 4000′ elevation, and based on what I saw, I’d guess the areas of similar elevation in the western Cascades have similar conditions. I hope to travel Aufderheide Memorial Drive (West Cascades National Scenic Byway) and to visit Silver Falls State Park, two of the best places for fall color in central western Oregon, in the next week.

close up of coral mushroom

Bear’s-head tooth fungus (AKA coral mushroom).

 I also visited Salt Creek Falls and hiked the Diamond Creek Falls Trail. Almost no fall color in that area, but there are plenty of mushrooms. I probably saw a dozen species of fungi along the Diamond Creek Falls Trail. One of these days I’m going to learn to reliably ID the edible ones!

Oct 072013
 
Triple Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

Triple Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

Fall color is just starting to happen in the Columbia River Gorge. The bigleaf maple and vine maple leaves are taking on autumn hues, but right now there is as much brown as there is the golden yellow that nature and landscape photographers are hoping for. Two weeks from now, it should be looking a lot better and conditions will be prime for photography – peak time for fall color in the Gorge is typically the last week of October through the first week of November. This photo of Triple Falls on Oneonta Creek taken October 6th gives an idea of the current status.

Looking for ideas of where to go on your next photo trip?  Click the link for my post last year about Top 10 Places for Fall Color Photography in Washington.

Let me know what you find in the Comments and we’ll pass along the information.

 

Sep 162013
 

cover wrap of Photographing Washington guidebook for photographers

It’s finally here! Photographing Washington has arrived and I can now sell and ship autographed copies. This travel guidebook for photographers covers the best places for landscape, scenic and nature photography in The Evergreen State.

I logged countless miles on roads and on trails over the past few years doing field research and photography for this book, as well as spending untold hours researching locations on the internet and reading other books about Washington. I also got some great tips from some of the top photographers in the Pacific Northwest. The result is a guide that covers the entire state and includes information on not just where to go, but when is the optimal time to be there in order to get the best photos.

Initial reviews of the book have been very positive, and as with my award-winning book Photographing Oregon, I’m certain that photographers and travelers in general, whether out-of-state visitors or longtime Washington residents, will find it a valuable resource.

A sample chapter from the book is available on the publisher’s website at www.PhotoTripUSA.com.

If you’d like to order a copy of the book, please click on this link to buy Photographing Washington.

Aug 282013
 
False Kiva, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

False Kiva, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Prior to leading a photo tour to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in Utah a couple of months ago, I spent a few days exploring the Moab area and doing some photography for myself. One of the first hikes I did was to False Kiva in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. The circle of stones in a cliffside cave certainly resembles the spiritual sites of the Pueblo and Hopi cultures, but apparently it is not an authentic kiva.

When I arrived at the site, I spent some time walking around the shallow cave looking for a good angle and figuring out how I was going to photograph scene. After trying several viewpoints, I decided to position myself directly behind the circle or rocks and partially frame the scene with the overhang of the cliff above. Even with a very wide angle lens, I was backed up right against the rear wall of the cave.  Once I decided on this composition, I bracketed exposures over a 5-stop range, figuring I’d have to use some HDR processing in order to hold the range of contrast. When processing my trip photos, I was surprised and pleased to find that the sensor of my Nikon D7100 was able to hold enough detail in both shadows and the bright white clouds to produce this image from a single capture. I had to make some heavy adjustments in Lightroom with the Shadows and Highlights sliders, and I’m sure that when I blend the bracketed exposures I’ll find less noise in the shadows, but I find it remarkable that our modern cameras can handle scenes like this. I don’t think there is any way this photo would have been possible shooting Fujichrome Velvia film in a 35mm camera.

You won’t find False Kiva on the Canyonlands park map, partly I think because the trail is a bit sketchy in some places (loose rock, slippery sand and sheer drop-offs) and partly because of sensitivity for the native culture. Nobody wants crowds here like there are every morning at Mesa Arch. Those who can respect both of those factors can find directions to the site in Laurent Martrès’ excellent guidebook Photographing the Southwest, Volume 1 (this is part of the series of award-winning guides for photographers that includes my books Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington).

False Kiva makes an excellent photo subject, but also is one of those special places to just sit quietly and contemplate the spectacular scenery, the incredible geologic processes that formed this dramatic landscape, and the culture of the native people who lived in this amazing area.

 

 

 

Jul 122013
 
View of Windward Oahu at sunrise

Windward Oahu Sunrise

The Windward side of Oahu has always been one of my favorite places in the Hawaiian Islands, and I was fortunate to live there for a good number of years. This view is from the beach at Waiahole, looking across Kaneohe Bay to Mokoli’i Island (aka “Chinaman’s Hat”) and the Ko’olau Mountains at Kualoa Point. The windward coast is particularly lovely at sunrise.

 

 

 

 

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