A Quick Mess & A Waterfall

I hadn’t really taken a photo excursion since my daughter Olive was born in February. I was breaking a very important promise I had made to myself about focusing on a photo career, and had been working far too much in the film industry. While I made the promise once again, I decided to do one more film starting in late October. So the week before it started, I planned a quick trip away to Central Oregon, to see some fall colors. My daughter had been struggling at night as well, causing me to not sleep, so I was also hoping to get one good night in at a hotel. I forced myself to take two days off, and went for it.

I had asked a forum online a while back about ideas for this trip, and someone had suggested Mackenzie Pass. That was near Proxy Falls, which I had been wanting to visit for years, so I made a plan. Another had mentioned the Highway 35 path from the Columbia River Gorge to Mt Hood, conveniently on the way to Mackenzie Pass. The Gorge is known for being a great place to shoot autumn colors, so I decided to start there, go south behind Mt Hood, stop by my friend Deans place near Madras, and continue to Sisters, Oregon for the night. The next day I would go over Mackenzie Pass, and back up west to Portland, stopping by a couple other waterfalls on the way.

It was Wednesday morning. I took Olive to day care at 8, and hit the road. I had been working so much I had little time to pack and go over my gear, so I had just thrown some stuff together that morning. At about 10 am I had reached Latourell Falls in the Gorge. I hadn’t shot out here since the Eagle Creek Fire, so I was excited to see the conditions. The colors had not quite turned, but the Gorge is a beautiful place any time of the year.

Right as the trip began, I mad a horrible discovery. I had recently made the switch to Sony cameras, after shooting Canon for years. Most of my lenses were still Canons, most importantly my 24-70mm f2.8L ii. It was by far my favorite lens. And it required an adapter to work on my Sony camera. Too bad I left the adapter at home in my rush to get on the road! I still had a decent Sony lens with me, so I started shooting while deciding whether to go home and lose several hours, forcing me to abandon the Highway 35 route, or continue on without the lens. I decided I would proceed to Multnomah Falls with what I had, head home, and then start over taking a shorter route to Central Oregon.

Very frustrated and on little sleep I moved forward toward Multnomah Falls. A little over a mile before the falls, the road was closed. Shit. Well no big deal I would get back on the Interstate and get there that way. So I followed the only road, and it put me back on the interstate heading back to Portland! Shit. Well no big deal I would go to the next exit and turn around. The next exit had no on ramp going the other way. So I decided it was not meant to be, and I headed home to reassess the whole trip.

I got home, hung out a bit, and after having second thoughts decided I needed to push through and head back out. So I did. I went the short route to make up some lost time, and stopped at my friend Deans house in Madras to catch up. From there it was off to Smith Rock for sunset. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so I knew the conditions would not be spectacular. But Smith Rock is still incredibly beautiful, so I had no problem hanging out for a bit to relax.

Smith Rock Sunstar

Smith Rock-Sony a7riii, Sony FE 16-35mm f4, 1/100sec, f16, ISO100

Off to Sisters! I made it about 5 miles before I got pulled over. Fortunately it was for a dead head light, and the very nice state trooper gave me a 20% off coupon for a new one, and sent me on my way. I headed to Sisters, and before checking in to my hotel, stopped by the local brewery for dinner. I hadn’t yet decided if I would sleep in, or shoot sunrise, but just in case I asked the bartender for a spot. I went back to my hotel and promptly crashed, though it was already past 10. I woke up at 4am out of habit. Bummer! But I did figure that left me zero excuse not to shoot sunrise. I was lazy about it, so I made it to the spot and had to rush a bit, but it was worth it. Once again, no clouds, but beautiful nonetheless.

North Sister

North Sister-Sony a7riii, Canon 24-70mm f2.8L ii, 1/60 sec, f16, ISO100

Leaving the sunrise spot I drove back through Sisters, seeing it in the daylight for the first time this trip. It is a wonderful town. I had driven through before, but never stayed, and am really excited to bring the family back here.

I headed up Mckenzie Pass. Lets just say I was confused. I was told to come here for the autumn colors, and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Dead and Standing

Mckenzie River Pass-Sony a7riii, Sony FE 16-35mm f4, 1/40sec, f8, ISO100

I kept climbing the pass and eventually reached the summit and the Dee Wright Observatory. Very cool. As I made my way down the other side of the pass, I started to see what all the fuss is about. The trees were gorgeous. I made it down to Proxy Falls pretty early, so luckily there was just me and one other person. I put on my waders, made the hike in, and had a blast for the next couple hours.

The falls were very dry, compared to photos I had seen. I also had some struggles getting used to a new camera. I shoot with a histogram, basically a chart showing your exposure, and although while shooting it looked great, many of these first shots came out a bit overexposed. Fortunately I was able to get a few to a place I was happy with.

I continued up the path to Upper Proxy Falls. Once you reach the lower pool, the upper falls are still quite a dangerous trek, so I snapped a couple shots from the area around the lower pool and called it good. There was some good color on the path, and some gorgeous trees standing among it.

After Proxy Falls my next destination was Downing Creek Falls. Somehow I had stumbled across an article about these falls a while back, bookmarked it, and it happened to be located on my path between Proxy Falls and home. I drove until I had cell service again and then stopped to read the directions on how to get to the falls. The lighting was awful, but the drive was mind blowing. I was in a bit of a rush to get home at this point, with a big day at work tomorrow, so I didn’t shoot much. Im planning to go back next year with a tent and some time.

I read the article for the first time in several months, and it seemed the falls were a bit of a hidden gem. No people, but that also meant they were tricky to find. I followed the directions very specifically, and my trusty Prius got me up the logging road to where I needed to be. I had save the article on my phone, so although I had no service, I was able to follow the authors very specific directions on how to find the spot on this tiny trail.

Downing Creek Falls 2

Downing Creek Falls Trail- Sony a7riii, Canon 24-70mm f2.8L, 1/50 sec, f8, ISO640

I was tired. I hadn’t had a good night sleep in over a week. I was bummed out by the super sunny conditions, but more so that I had a huge day at work tomorrow, and was starting a job on Monday that I knew would kick my ass. Fatherhood has been the greatest addition to my life. But it has also seriously put me in check. I’m used to working long days, and I’m pretty proud of my capabilities. But I’m tired. Really tired. I had no idea where the closest person was. The only sound I could hear was the creek somewhere hiding behind the foliage. And that brought a peace upon me that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I missed my family. But I also miss this peace. I know I can find a balance. In due time everything will come back together.

I followed the sound of the creek until I came upon the falls. The short time I spent here made the whole trip worth it. It was so peaceful. Somewhere new. Taking photos of a place I had only seen one photo of, which always adds some excitement for new compositions. I had a blast. I’m also really happy with the shots that I came away with.

I stopped one more time. There was a moment when Mt Jefferson peeked through over the colorful autumn highway. It was a hectic stretch, so I had about a second and a half to get a shot, but I was happy with it. On this trip I wouldn’t quite say I got the relaxation that I needed, but I had a quick reminder that life is too short to spend it all at work. That photography connects me to a peaceful aspect of this world that is essential to my existence, especially with the current climate of our country. Next year I will get a little bit closer to the overwhelming happiness I see with my family and lifestyle I am moving towards. Im excited to share those times with you!

Mt Jefferson

Mt Jefferson-Sony a7riii, Canon 24-70mm f2.8L ii, 1/60, f20, ISO800


Rock ‘n Roll


As a musician for over 25 years, music was a large part of my life as I started dabbling in photography. To a certain extent, photography pushed music aside as my form of artistic expression. It was a bit odd, going from late nights in dark, loud, drunken rock clubs, to early mornings in serene, completely silent, peaceful landscapes. When I first started shooting, I was really into the idea of shooting shows. That presented quite a challenge for me with smaller clubs being very dark and difficult to shoot in, and me not liking the attention of walking in front of the crowd to snap the bands photo. So I played with it a little bit, but not too much. I have however always been a huge fan of high production light shows, and those who know me know my strong taste in very emotional dramatic music.

Since my daughter was born my travels into the wild have been few and far between. I spend hours looking at landscape photos on instagram, but it actually started to impact my desire to go out. Seeing 3,000 photos of the same scene, and many times the ones getting most of the attention were far from what I consider good work (not that my opinion matters). Even when I had occasional opportunities to go out, I didn’t find I had the desire.

In the middle of this, I treated myself to a performance of one of my favorite bands, Russian Circles. They put on a tremendous live show, and it got my artistic blood flowing a little, thinking about shooting them. I had developed an online friendship with a local photographer who had been shooting a lot of bands, and he gave me some tips on getting in. So I started researching. And about a month later I saw Russian Circles were coming back. So I said screw it and reached out to their publicist. She checked out my work, I assured her I wasn’t expecting free entry and had a ticket, and she agreed to put me on the photo list for their upcoming show. I was thrilled! Until the day of the show.

I found myself incredibly nervous. I wasn’t being paid, so I knew her expectations weren’t incredibly high, but thats a huge part of the reason I haven’t done much portrait work. People expect things. I would be in the photo pit right in front of the band. I had done hours of research on my cameras settings. But there was no way to practice, as the lighting in a larger venue is significantly different than a small one. And the band would be moving, as would the lights. Fog. Lots of fog. I didn’t know what to expect, and I’m somewhat of a worry wart, so it had me going. I didn’t even want to do it anymore. But I sucked it up, packed my gear, and headed to the Crystal Ballroom here in Portland.

I was way early, so I wandered around the beautiful club shooting some test shots. As time got near I made my way to the photo pit and chatted with the security a bit. The rule of thumb is you only get three songs. So I had a lens planned for each song. And I was saving the best for last. I knew these guys would do a short intro, and their songs tend to be in the eight minute range, so I made sure to ask whether the intro counts. I was told it did not.

Before I knew it the house lights went down. Security came and grabbed myself and the other couple photographers and led us in to the pit. The intro passed in what seemed like a few seconds and I frantically started shooting. I was half crouched, scurrying around the other photographers, with my legs literally shaking. After what I thought was a minute or two, the first song was over. And I knew their songs, so I was surprised how little attention I was able to pay to the music. Change lenses. Here we go again. Same thing, before I knew it, it was done. I looked over and saw I was the only one left in the pit. Sweet! I pulled out the lens I was saving for last, just as security came up and said “Time to go man!”. What?! “That was only two” I said back. “Those are long ass songs, time to go”. So off I went.

I spent the next hour walking throughout the club taking distant shots. My longest zoom lens isn’t great for low light being an f4, so my expectations for these shots were pretty low. I looked down at one point and noticed I had taken 1150 photos so far. Damn. One band, 1150 photos. There had to be some keepers in here! After the last song, and seeing I had totaled over 1200 photos, it was time to go.

Despite my early rise for work the next day I had to start digging in to the shots right when I got home. I went through about 200 that night, being happy with around 180. I was pretty surprised with the results. Understand that I would have 20 or so shots of the same scene, using burst mode on my camera. That would give me a lot of options, but also make editing and sorting take a really long time.

All my free time in the next couple days went to narrowing the shots down to 85 I would send to their publicist. At the end of the experience, I found myself incredibly fulfilled. A few weeks later would be my first landscape trip in a while, and I suddenly found my excitement for that had drastically shrunk. This had been a completely different animal. High speed, intense, and just a new experience. It was great. I feel like I need to start doing more of it, but most places won’t permit you unless you are shooting for a blog or publication. So the search begins!

Im writing this a few days after the shoot. My stomach is already starting to turn as in an hour I will be leaving to go back to the Crystal Ballroom to shoot my friends band All Souls opening for The Jesus Lizard. We’ll see if I feel the same about it tomorrow…..



Crater Lake 2018- A Battle With My Mind

I had a vacation planned for January of 2018 to travel to Maui to spend some time with friends. Kind of my last hoorah before the arrival of my daughter in March. There were some complications, and I realized that I wouldn’t really be able to relax with a seven and a half month pregnant wife at home. So I decided to cancel a week before the trip. In substitute, I decided to take a much shorter trip, to Central Oregon, staying much closer to home.  Continue reading

A Cold Journey East

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Eastern Oregon for the first time. It was the day after Christmas, and my mother, brother, and two and a half year old nephew were going to visit our friend Jeff at his place near La Grande. I love shooting the snow, and its been insanely warm this winter around Portland, so I thought I would go the distance.  Continue reading

Tales from the Punchbowl December 2017

My photo trips I take on my own are incredibly important to my well being. One of the best things about my relationship with my amazing wife Elizabeth, is our mutual respect for the time we need on our own. I’m fortunate to have photography to take me to amazing places for much of this solo time. I’m also fortunate to live in a very beautiful place, and surrounded by many more. The Oregon Coast is just a short jaunt away, and one of my favorite places to shoot, and relax.

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St Johns in the Fog

RIsing Above the Fog

Rising Above the Fog

A couple weeks ago I was set to go check out a new spot for a Portland sunrise. I do struggle with finding new places to shoot in town so this was really exciting for me. I use an app that helps predict sunrises, and this one was supposed to be amazing. That morning I woke up at 5am , but just wasn’t feeling it. I told myself I’d go tomorrow. So I went back to bed.

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