A VARIATION ON "THE SHOT" FROM THE BRIDGE ACROSS THE SALMON RIVER
This week I would like to return to the topic of photographic explorations of familiar stomping grounds. I believe the best way to overcome the problem of "finding something to shoot" in a place that you have explored many times is to simultaneously lower expectations, be willing to wildly experiment, and concentrate on details in the environment that you might have previously overlooked. When you have already gotten the shots that are "standard", it is time to expand your photographic possibilities. And to hone your post-processing skills. Even the "money shot" that I and several other thousand people have taken over the years relies almost as much on Lightroom as it did on my choices when I held the camera. The scene's severe exposure variations required multiple graduated filters to both bring down the brightness of the river while lightening up the forest. Then you have brush in smaller exposure variations within these areas to really make them come alive. Thus you can transform an almost unusable snapshot (no fault of your camera) to a compelling image.
IT'S SO GREEN!
We took our visiting East Coast friends for a quick day trip into the forest about forty miles East of Portland. Here they could get a short taste of Wet Oregon before we headed to the Dry Outback of Central Oregon later in the week. The Wildwood Recreation Site is 550 acres of protected land along the Salmon River in the midst of the Mt. Hood National Forest. it is adjacent to Highway 26 on the way to Mt. Hood, just past the last real town on the route, Sandy, Oregon. While the hierarchy of National Park, National Monument, National Forests, Wilderness Areas, and such can be very confusing for new visitors, it is safe to say that at the bottom lies Wildlife Preservation Reserves and Bureau of Land Management land. Only Westerners frequently encounter the Bureau of Land Management, which seems to somehow be in charge of most Federal land that has not been designated as something else. BLM land is sometimes very beautiful, but is frequently remote. So it is somewhat surprising to encounter BLM land so close to Portland. Once you have visited Wildwood a few times, it might finally occur to you that it in fact functions as a City Park for Sandy, albeit at the edge of the woods. It is exceedingly easy to pass up and pass by on the way to the mountain.
LIGHT IN THE FOREST
BLACK AND WHITE FOR EMPHASIS
Once you have happened upon it, it will easily warrant return visits. The park is mostly a "day use" area, with no individual campsites. Their are some group campsites, but they are located pretty far from the day use areas and probably mostly serve people from Sandy that are in the know. There are two main hiking trails, although these "hikes" are really only walks in the woods. One is in fact an exceedingly tame boardwalk that winds it's way through wetlands, providing about the closest view of a swamp that you can get without getting your shoes wet. The other trail that I will concentrate on today is a route that runs along the bank of the Salmon River and allows views of the river and the forest while probably amounting to less than a mile walk no matter how much you wander around. There are dozens of turn-offs with picnic tables for a protected lunch or snack off the trail. Most even come with grills, although this level of preparation is far beyond my organizational skills.
THJE RIVER THROUGH THE TREES
The Salmon River is designated as a "Wild and Scenic River" which ensures that it will always seem pretty untouched by man, despite a few bridges across it and even a delightful aquarium-like viewing area that allows you to see under the water at one point on the trail. The trail allows for views both above the river and right alongside it, providing many places for my favored "intimate" landscapes. At least on a random Friday, there was really no danger of a random series of strangers intruding on your shots.
WE'RE JUST FRIENDS
The series of images that I have highlighted today are my attempts to capture the spirit of the Oregon Forest without documenting this particular walk in the woods. I have tried to concentrate on specific encounters along the trail that illustrate the quality of light in the woods. One hint is to avoid including the sky at almost all cost, since it's distracting brightness will only lead your viewers outside of the frame. Do not be afraid of only including parts of trees or scenes just like I advise about buildings in the urban environment. This is your view of the forest, not an entry in a documentary of Wildwood. Several examples show how black and white imagery can provide intriguing variations, since you are usually only exchanging monochromatic grays for the monochromatic greens of the natural environment. Black and white can be especially effective in back-lit scenes where it allows for more dramatic silhouettes that can be achieved realistically in a color rendition. Since you are already going "abstract" by removing color, viewers seem to allow for more lightening and darkening of parts of scenes than they might find "unrealistic" in a color image. Instead of just raising or lowering the overall exposure, subtle brushing along light and dark areas can really bring out shape and form. If you can keep these brush strokes at about 10% power, you will be amazed at the dramatic improvements in the image even when you really didn't see what you were doing while you were brushing. It is only when you do a "before and after" that you can see the power of this subtlety.
OREGON FERN BAR, WITHOUT THE BEER
When all else fails, go for the details. We can find beauty in particular close-ups of an Oregon forest way before we have to go all the way to Macro photography. In fact, your iPhone is actually more useful for this type of image than your "real camera", unless you have brought along the tripod and invested several thousand more dollars than even Apple has extracted from your wallet.
A VINE MAPLE AT THE EDGE OF THE RIVER
ANOTHER SEARCH FOR THAT FOUR-LEAF CLOVER
I hope that this little portfolio encourages you to get out of the house, even if you are going to a place that you know as well as your own backyard. There is always something new to find if you allow yourself to look.