Crater Lake National Park

Snow-capped Wizard Island sits in the deep blue waters of Crater Lake
Snow-capped Wizard Island sits in the deep blue waters of Crater Lake

Last month my wife and I got a chance to visit Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. I had been several times before, but never armed with the digital equipment of today. Although I knew there would still be snow in July, I was surprised at how much was still there.

Even in July, snow covers the rim of Crater Lake.  Formed in the caldera of an extinct volcano, it is the deepest lake in the United States.  This depth accounts for the rich blue color of the water.
Even in July, snow covers the rim of Crater Lake. Formed in the caldera of an extinct volcano, it is the deepest lake in the United States. This depth accounts for the rich blue color of the water.

Snow was several feet deep in the forest, and drifts up to 10 feet deep still had the eastern rim road closed for the foreseeable future. In fact, it even snowed on us while we were there – something I was certainly not expecting in July. Thankfully I have a sensible wife who had booked us into a cabin – it saved us from camping in the mud between the snow drifts that covered the camp ground! And the snow really does add to the scenery.

The cinder cone of Wizard Island sits just off the rim of Crater Lake
The cinder cone of Wizard Island sits just off the rim of Crater Lake.

At night, the temperature dropped below freezing, and the wind picked up. While most sane people were in the lodge enjoying an after dinner drink around the fire, I was standing at the rim freezing while waiting for the sun to set. Luckily I got some nice colors that made the temporary discomfort worthwhile.

The orange hues of sunset light the overcast sky over Wizard Island, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
The orange hues of sunset light the overcast sky over Wizard Island, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake is most famous for its amazingly deep blue color. This color comes from the clarity of the water (the lake water comes only from rain and snow melt) and depth of the lake (over 1900 feet deep). Blue is the last color of the spectrum to be absorbed as light passes through water. It is this intense blue that is reflected up from the depths of the lake. In fact, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the clearest in the entire world.

Mount Mazama exploded nearly 8,000 years ago, creating an eruption 100 times larger than Mount St. Helens in 1980.  The mountain's summit collapsed, forming a caldera 6 miles in diameter.  Over time, rain water and snow melt filled the chasm, creating one of the 10 deepest lakes in the world.
Mount Mazama exploded nearly 8,000 years ago, creating an eruption 100 times larger than Mount St. Helens in 1980. The mountain's summit collapsed, forming a caldera 6 miles in diameter. Over time, rain water and snow melt filled the chasm, creating one of the 10 deepest lakes in the world.

It was a great trip, and inspired us to go back for some hiking when there is less snow. It might also be fun to do a multi-day cross-country ski trip around the rim. In spite of the weather (or maybe because of it), it was a pleasure to see Oregon’s only National Park. See the entire Crater Lake National Park gallery.

Mt Shasta (Photo of the week)

Mount Shasta looms over the surrounding landscape

This week’s photo was taken last month a couple of hours after sunrise, from the north of the mountain. The Mount Shasta area is very photogenic, with numerous waterfalls and views of the mountain.

I was blessed with a clear morning. I had planned on a sunrise shot, but my progress out of the Bay Area was severely hampered by a grass fire closing the freeway. As a result, my wife and I got into Weed extremely late the night before. Even though I missed sunrise, I managed to get the shot before the harshest light of the day.

Don’t give up – improvise

Have you ever gone out with a particular type of photography in mind (birds, landscapes, macro, etc), only to find a perfect opportunity for something complete different? The problem is that usually when this occurs, you have the wrong equipment. However, it is better to improvise with what you have with you than to miss that opportunity altogether. Below are two examples of when I ran into this exact situation.

Although I did not have my telephoto lens, using stalking techniques, I was able to get close enough with my wide angle to capture this egret and some habitat
Although I did not have my telephoto lens, using stalking techniques, I was able to get close enough with my wide angle to capture this egret and some habitat

The photo above was taken along 17-mile drive near Carmel, California. My wife and I were out for the day with nothing in mind – just being touristy. I had my SLR and a wide/mid range zoom with me – a decent walking around lens that could work for landscapes if needed. As we were driving along the coast, we saw this great egret very close to the road in beautiful light. Immediately I cursed myself for not bringing a longer lens, but I figured I’d try to see what I could do with what I had with me. We drove past the bird and I got out and slowly stalked back along the road toward it, trying to get as close as possible. Luckily the traffic was light this early in the morning. Obviously, I wouldn’t come away with a head portrait, but maybe I could get a decent habitat shot.

I slowly crept forward, hoping to intercept the bird if it kept moving in the same direction. Every few steps I’d stop and stand still, hoping the egret would not get spooked and fly off. Ultimately it payed off – the egret ended up walking very close to my position. I fired off a few shots of the bird with the ocean in the background. Through careful stalking technique, and by not giving up because I didn’t have the “perfect” equipment with me, I was able to capture one of my favorite shots of the trip.

This panorama of Mt. Lassen was composed of 26 separate shots using a long telephoto lens
This panorama of Mt. Lassen was composed of 26 separate shots using a long telephoto lens

Recently I was up at Lassen Volcanic National Park and I decided to take a walk around Summit Lake, hoping to get some shots of some forest birds. As a result, I had only my long telephoto with me (not a great walking around lens, as the lens alone weighs 3 pounds!) As I came around to the side of the lake furthest from Mt. Lassen, I found myself in almost the exact opposite situation as with the great egret shot above. I had a long telephoto, but I really needed a wide angle lens to capture the mountain, trees and lake.

At first I tried several compositions with my lens, but it was no good – only a small portion of the mountain was in frame at one time. Then an idea hit me – by combining many zoomed-in photos of the mountain and the surrounding scenery, I could combine them into a single panorama, mimicking the angle of view of a wide angle lens. I had shot panos before, but I was still too close in for my regular panning left to right method. However, if I created several rows of images, and I used a steady hand, it might work. I metered off the sky, set manual exposure and focus, and then spot metered several different areas of my scene to make sure I would stay within the dynamic range possible with the camera.

Starting at the upper left area of the scene I wanted to capture, I started taking photos (hand held), overlapping each by about 30%. Once I got to about the same distance from the mountain on the right that I started with on the left, I moved the composition back to the left, but slightly lower than my previous row of photos. The result was two rows of 13 photos each, creating a single panorama of 26 photos, and a 140 megapixel image. Thanks to Photoshop’s fantastic Photomerge technology, creating the final image was a snap (though my machine took a little time to crunch through the processing).

If I had planned for a panorama of the mountain from the offset, I would have used a much wider angle (and a tripod). However, I was quite happy with what could be done in a pinch with a little improvising.