July 08, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

                                                       MT. TALBERT NATURE PARK : FINAL VERSION

The other day Fran and I and our friend Kathryn took a walk in the woods. I hesitate to call it a hike, since it was only three miles long, and my pace these days, especially with my camera, constitutes a stroll at best. On the other hand, though it was rated as "easy", it was clearly "moderate", though any route that is labeled the "Summit Trail" should have foreshadowed something a little harder than "easy." Fortunately the hardest part of the trail was right at the start, so at least it did get easier as we stretched our legs. And the summit was only 600 feet higher than the the parking lot.

                                                       MT. TALBERT NATURE PARK : B&W VERSION

The nicest thing about this walk, besides the company, was the implausibility of the setting. Mount Talbert Nature Park is almost a prototypical Oregon woodland, but it's survival in suburban Clackamas County outside of Portland, just off one of our horrible highways, I-205, was very surprising, at least to yours truly. I instantly decided that this natural area, set aside by our Metro taxes, was probably about the only thing that anyone should care about in this particular suburban setting. Happy Valley is a neighborhood that offers nothing to the greater Portland Metropolitan area - a creation of the home builders' industrial complex that builds horribly designed McMansions over anything they can get their hands on. It is one of those areas where they can plant subdivisions without any further thoughts about their connection to the region, much less the city. Happy Valley, in my humble opinion, is one of those places whose very existence is problematic at best. While of course I'm sure there are very nice people in Happy Valley, they choose to live there mostly because they believe Southeast Portland is an urban hell-hole. You might understand our mutual disdain as I write this essay in my 110-year-old bungalow, secure in the knowledge that the urban/suburban split might even be more important than Oregon's incredible urban/rural conflicts. What is even more ironic is that the preserves that our Metro taxes create are mostly supported by the more urban areas, where parks are harder to come by. So this section of woods was an unexpected delight. While you this hill seems pretty remote, it is the largest undeveloped butte in the area, an ancient subsidiary volcano of Mt. Hood. It is only what we call a very young Old Growth Forest. These woods were clear-cut about 100 years ago, and they would be cut again if they weren't preserved. Too many of the rolling hills of Happy Valley's subdivisions resembled this area long after my family showed up in Oregon in 1992.

                                                        FERN FOREST : PRIMEVAL OREGON, COLOR AND B&W

I think that these images, culled from about two dozen photos that I took over a couple of hours, can illustrate the value of taking your camera along on a walk. I had very low expectations when we set out, but found that this woodland offered some very nice prototypical "Oregon" images that closely resembled those found much deeper in the woods, hundreds of miles away from my house. These first two images show key components of our woods - evergreen trees ranging in size from large to gigantic, above groves of ferns that were around in the age of the dinosaurs. Once you realize that the color photos are largely monochromatic shades of green, you can try black and white versions that tend to show more details. The important tip that I might suggest is to avoid any significant areas of sky in your image, since the brightness of the sky will distract your viewers away from your subject, the forest. Remember that a desire to show the entire scene can detract from the important parts of the scene that led you to push the shutter button.

                                                        THE FOREST FLOOR : COLOR AND B&W

Here I've gotten even closer to those ferns, with only a hint of the big trees. Natural groves of ferns like this can be truly overwhelming, far surpassing any display at the garden center, and all without any intervention by mankind, thank you very much. The choice of color or black and white is very much one of personal taste, though close inspection will see that the black and white versions can allow for more manipulation of the scene than we can accept in color.


Occasionally only color will do, because the primary reason for the image itself is color. This blossom deep in the woods shows off its colors to attract pollinators, not photographers, it attracts us just the same. If I had gone even further in for a macro shot, then there would be enough floral structure to justify a black and white version, but at this size the color really helps. This already is only a very small part of the actual original shot, so you can see what even a fifteen-old camera can accomplish. Of course the Iphone in my pocket would have done even a better job on a flower, while it can't hold a candle to a larger scene. Post processing increased the seperation between the flower and the background by selectively sharpening the flower, and blurring and de-saturating the background.

                                                       LACY BUSH - ALYSSUM, ACCORDING TO GOOGLE : FINAL VERSION

We came along this showy shrub which we had not encountered before, with very white and lacy flower fronds that stood out in the woods without any need for color. This really benefits from the black and white conversion, which allows for a very dramatic rendition that would not pass the smell test in a color photograph.

                                                       THE BURNING BUSH : FINAL B&W VERSION

The bush is now clearly ready for its close-up, and the forest can be reduced to a very dark bit player. The structure of the lacy fronds is more clearly delineated even while they positively glow under my artificial, but realistic spotlight. The black and white version more clearly shows what I felt about the bush in its environment - I can leave the documentation to Dr. Google.

I hope you've enjoyed this short walk in the woods. Nature can enrich our lives even if it is not as dramatic as a National Park - especially if we encounter beauty in such an unexpected place.