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Backpacking to Wing Lake

October in the Washington Cascades.  If you’ve spent time there while the larches are turning yellow and the weather starts to take on a slight chill, then you know just how special this place is.

I’d like to share with you all some select images from this trip – I hope you enjoy them!

Wing Lake & The North Cascades, October 2013

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My Top 10 Photos from 2012

To say that 2012 was my best year ever would be an understatement!  The pursuit of exploration and adventure has taken me to places I had never thought I’d be.  I’m left wondering, what will 2013 bring?

In January, my good friend Don and I went to the Northwest Territories on a 10-day, 3500-mile road trip.  You can read my feature article about that trip in the Dec/Jan issue of Photolife magazine.  The first image you see below was made the night of my birthday, January 19th standing on the frozen Great Slave Lake, probably about a mile or so out on the ice in the most miserable conditions I have ever experienced outdoors.

Bursts of greenish-blue color from the Northern Lights illuminate the night sky above the Great Slave Lake in Northwest Territories.

These are by no means in chronological order, so if you need to see things in the order they were taken, I’m sorry. 🙂

The image below was made as the moon was rising to the left of the frame, illuminating the landscape while stars were still visible.  This was about a 10-minute single exposure (not stacked) on the Alvord Desert in Southeast Oregon.

The stars and Milky Way galaxy are seen above curving tracks in the desert playa in the Alvord Desert, Southeast Oregon.

The lovely sunrise you see below was made on a trail in the North Cascades near Wing and Lewis Lake.  There is an interesting story on this trip which I will be sharing in a future post which some may find amusing!

The sun slowly creeps over the horizon as seen from a trail in the North Cascades of Washington State.

This homestead image is near and dear to my heart for several reasons.  First, it was a friend of mine’s first trip with me on a photography expedition, and second, we found this 100% by luck while exploring the Cascade County area of Central Montana.

An abandoned homestead in Cascade County, Montana is seen near sunset with a warmly-lit mountain in the background.

I call the one below, “Storybook Lane”, and I’m not sure why.  As I was driving up the Fields-Denio road in Southeast Oregon, I saw this tree and fence next to the road with Steens Mountain in the background and was compelled to get out and look around to compose a shot.  As I was selecting the focus, a Golden Eagle flew into the frame and I waited for a split second for him to open his wings before I clicked the shutter.  It was like he intended to be in the shot!  Even if no one else ends up enjoying this shot, it will forever be one of my all-time favorites, just because of the experience!

A golden eagle soars above a pastoral scene in Southeast Oregon along the gravel Fields-Denio Road.

During springtime, I made a trip over to the Columbia River Gorge area, spending probably an equal amount of time on both the Washington side as well as the Oregon side.  This was taken on the Oregon side, not far from the Rowena area while the Balsamroot was in bloom.

The sun descends behind the hills, casting its warm light among a grassy hillside covered in balsamroot flowers along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

One thing I promised myself I would do this year is to make images that many would feel simply wouldn’t be possible.  I had more than one person tell me that trying to take pictures of horses under starlight just wouldn’t work.  In some cases, motion blur is totally natural and expected, this being one of those times. I waited for about a one-half to three-quarter moon and then drove into Montana toward Cascade County to make this as well as other shots under starlight.

Seven horses gather along a barbed-wire fence in Central Montana under the light of a full moon with a highway stretching off into the distance.

The Maligne Lake Road in Jasper National Park is well-known for spotting wildlife at any time of year.  A light snow was falling and I caught this young moose creeping out of the forest through the snow in search of food.  I felt that a black and white conversion with some toning would really bring out the contrast of the snowflakes against the dark fur of the moose.  This looks fantastic on canvas as I just had a 36×24 made.

A young moose stands in the snow among the trees in winter.

This tang-colored guy was also spotted on the Maligne Lake Road in Jasper.  As with nearly all red foxes I have been in contact with, this one was pretty indifferent to my presence.  He went about his way, digging in the snow and listening for rodents tunneling.  As crazy as it sounds, I’d love to have a domesticated red fox as a pet!  My wife isn’t exactly on board with this idea unfortunately, so we’ll just have to make due with our German Shepherd.

A red fox digs in the snow near a small tree in Jasper National Park near the treeline.

This year I started taking my son and daughter on short day trips to begin to help them learn some skills and get some experience in the outdoors.  A side benefit is the ability to shoot some outdoor lifestyle pictures of them as a part of it!  My son looked up in this tree toward a noise right as the sunlight peeked through the branches, creating a very nice rim-lighting situation that I saw immediately.

 

A young boy and his sister hike in North Idaho.

 

I look forward to 2013 with excitement, and I am already making plans for a trip into Yoho National Park, Kootenay Flats, and surrounding areas next week!

Thank you for taking the time to look at my selections this year, and please stay tuned by subscribing to my newsletter!

Happy New Year!

Ben

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Solitude in Southeast Oregon

I believe there is something different about photographing areas that are sparsely populated or generally devoid of people. Isolation helps to clear my mind.  The experience of photography as a whole is much more meaningful to me if I’m not totally surrounded by technology or civilization. These days, I’m seeking out places where it’s expected to see less people.

Southeast Oregon is such a place, but isolation does not come without a few concessions.  Consider that Oregon does not permit pumping one’s own fuel and stations often close early in the evening. Also, there may be 50-100 miles between fuel stations in a few areas so you can see that being isolated in this area requires some forethought and planning.

A dimly-lit sign illuminates a remote gas station in Southeast Oregon.

Harney and Malheur County are true gems that show just how much beauty Oregon contains within its borders. I’m pleased to share the “Beauty of Southeast Oregon” gallery and hope that some of you will experience the uniqueness that this place has to offer. Cattle ranching is one of the major occupations here and this is one of the few places you can still see legitimate cattle drives coming down the road.

The long gravel Fields-Denio road in Southeast Oregon parallels the Steens range and vanishes off into a curve in the distance seen right after sunrise. (Benjamin Chase)

The long gravel Fields-Denio road in Southeast Oregon parallels the Steens range and vanishes off into a curve in the distance seen right after sunrise. (Benjamin Chase)

The Fields-Denio road is a long stretch of gravel road that parallels Steens Mountain on one side and the Alvord Desert on the other.  You can’t really go wrong when it comes to deciding where to explore here.

On the Steens side, you have a multitude of canyons and views at altitude.  On the Alvord side you have the hot springs and the desert playa itself where you can find everything from people speeding across the desert in their land sailers, to people finding a nice quiet spot for some overland camping.

Great people, great scenes, and a great experience.  I look forward to what visual candy this area will bring in Winter.

 

 

 

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Hiking to Harrison Peak

A hiker's view just a few feet from the top of Harrison Peak in North Idaho's Selkirk Range.  Harrison Lake is seen below. (Benjamin Chase)

A hiker’s view just a few feet from the top of Harrison Peak in North Idaho’s Selkirk Range. Harrison Lake is seen below. (Benjamin Chase)

It’s becoming more and more difficult to find true solitude in the backcountry today, requiring more of a trek to reach places devoid of people.

A solitary man carries a hip-mounted pistol and hand-carried shotgun for protection while hiking in North Idaho to Harrison Peak of the Selkirk Range. (Benjamin Chase)

A solitary man carries a hip-mounted pistol and hand-carried shotgun for protection while hiking in North Idaho to Harrison Peak of the Selkirk Range. (Benjamin Chase)

Living in a sparsely-populated area in North Idaho, you would think that I would know the area I live in “like the back of my hand”, but the truth is, I’m guilty of not spending a lot of time in my area, preferring to travel to locations such as Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, or up North to a variety of beautiful locations in Canada.  This year, I decided to spend a little more time exploring the area where I live.

After some quick research on summitpost.com, I decided to head up to Harrison Peak with my friend.

While not a difficult hike, there is some steep cross-country hiking to the peak after you reach the lake.  This leads to a boulder field that I would recommend spending some time traversing to the eastern side instead of ascending on the western side, unless you intend a more technical climb.  Routefinding is not terribly difficult here given the visibility that you have once you’re near the ridgeline that leads to the summit.

With the tufts of cotton-like fur stuck to the small tree branches, I was half expecting to be greeted by some friendly mountain goats, but unfortunately there were none.

We didn’t summit the peak due to the fact the approach we made would have forced us to make a fairly technical ascent which we were not properly prepared for.  That being said, the views certainly did not disappoint from this height!  It was a beautiful clear day, albeit a bit windy at the top.  M spent some time putting waypoints into his GPS before we started back down toward the trailhead.

A male adult hiker checks his GPS position a few feet from the top of Harrison Peak in Northern Idaho's Selkirk Range. (Benjamin Chase)

A male adult hiker checks his GPS position a few feet from the top of Harrison Peak in Northern Idaho’s Selkirk Range. (Benjamin Chase)

I was fairly convinced this was going to be a good place to explore without seeing a lot of other people as the trailhead is at the end of a fairly rough road.  While it wasn’t entirely devoid of people, we only encountered a few people on the way up (mostly at Harrison Lake), but on the way down I was shocked to find the trailhead surrounded by cars as well as a bunch of people heading up.

I guess everyone had the same idea we did that day.

See the entire gallery here.

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Sky Drama

Today I’d like to talk about something that I believe is very important in landscape photography.

“What’s that?”  You ask?  Simple.  Sky drama.

 

Naturally-occurring animal shapes in clouds adds a touch of drama to the sky.

I can assure you there are no “shenanigans” in the above photograph.  I’ve seen some pretty awesome clouds before, but never clouds that look like ghostly, ethereal animals materializing out of the water vapor!

Clouds can often add the finishing touch to what would normally be an ordinary photograph.

A few weeks ago, I made a trip to the Columbia River Gorge area bordering Washington and Oregon with the purpose of capturing wildflowers and the surrounding landscape.On this one particular day while I was in the gorge, I came across so many different varieties of interesting clouds in a short time that I could hardly believe it.

Mare's tails dance across the sky in the Columbia River Gorge.

All of the images in this post were taken within a 24 hour period.  If only most spring and summer days could be like this!

Out of all types of clouds, I would have to say that either Mare’s Tails or Nacreous (Mother of Pearl) clouds are probably my favorite.  Nacreous clouds are pretty rare, but Mare’s tails occur fairly often and have produced some of my favorite landscape images.

Yellow balsamroot flowers are seen on a bright sunny day with swirly white clouds.

While this image of yellow balsamroot flowers would probably look good with just a blue sky, I believe the patterns in the clouds give it a finishing touch that works well.  I was lying on some rocks near these flowers so not to disturb them, but I have to admit I was very tempted to take a nap at this location.

The wind in the gorge area can be incredibly fierce, but fortunately we have modern DSLR sensors like the Canon 5D Mark II & 5D Mark III that perform well at higher ISO values, allowing faster shutter speeds.

White feathery clouds decorate the sky above the Columbia Gorge on the Washington and Oregon Border.

I can only imagine seeing this landscape back before it was settled by non-natives, or being a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition into the West.  I have to imagine the members of the expedition were speechless upon seeing these lands for the first time.  How would you tell others what you saw upon your return home?  You can only write so many words for what one has to see with their own eyes.

Green foliage surrounds a cliff side at the Columbia River Gorge area.

Stay tuned for more upcoming work from the Columbia River Gorge area in the next week!

Ben

I offer three styles of prints for those who enjoy decorating their home or office with landscapes from the Northwest U.S. and Canada.

I can help you select artwork that matches a specific color palette to brighten up your space or a variety of black and white fine art to create the right atmosphere!

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Anaconda and Mt. Haggin Scenic Area

Montana has been called, “The Last Best Place”.

After having spent quite a bit of time photographing different parts of Western and Central Montana, I’ve come to understand just why that term was coined.  Not only do you find yourself  surrounded by huge rolling prairies and towering mountain ranges, but also the people there are just great folks and hard workers.

Coming up, I’ll be sharing my recent work at the Bowman Cherry Orchards, located along Flathead Lake on the Eastern side.  But for now, let’s take a trip to one of the more uncommon locations that is in the Anaconda area.  A few miles south of Anaconda, just past the smelter stack, you start what’s known as the Mt. Haggin Scenic drive, which is officially MT 569 and runs 22 miles into the intersection of MT 43.

The iconic Anaconda Smelter Stack is seen near sunset with bright light rays bursting through the clouds, illuminating the surrounding landscape.

Along the drive you can expect to find few other cars.  Traffic is light, but not totally absent.  If you’re looking for true solitude, just drive off one of the dirt roads that line the sides of the highway that take you into the Mt. Haggin Wildlife Management area.  Found along one of these roads is a group of old structures sitting mostly undisturbed in the Montana prairie with the Anaconda Mountain Range in the background.

A dirt road curves off into the distance under a blue sky with puffy clouds in Western Montana.

While I didn’t see any wildlife on my recent trip to the area, but moose and mule deer are known to frequent the areas and hunting is available in the area.  Further down the highway, a lonely and decaying old cabin is sitting right next to the road, begging to be photographed.

A derelict cabin sits near Anaconda, Montana as storm clouds move in.

You can see my gallery of select images from this trip here.

Have a great week!

Ben C

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Mammatus Clouds in Coeur d’Alene

As if I needed another reminder why I should always keep my 5D Mark II with me when driving around town,  I was on my way home and noticed that just after a heavy downpour, some mammatus clouds appeared in the sky in Coeur d’Alene, ID.

The sunset lights up mammatus clouds as seen driving in Coeur d'Alene Idaho.

I’ve only seen these once before ages ago and I am pretty sure I was just as surprised then as I was today.  What a pleasant end to the day!

It’s safe to say these are a pretty rare occurrence in the Spokane / Coeur d’Alene region.

Ben

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Cascade County, Montana

2000 photographs comprising stills and 3 time-lapse sequences in 2 days.  I can’t remember when I had done so much shooting in so little time.

Throughout the entire Northwest Territories trip, I probably snapped off about 1900 photos in 10 days.  What was different about this trip?  Well, first was the fact I had literally no plans, schedule, or shot list for this trip.  I was just ready for some good exploring without any time commitments.  Antsy from having been out of the field for almost 6 weeks and eager to make a worthwhile trip somewhere, I decided that Cascade County in Montana was going to be my destination.

Situated nearly smack-dab in the middle of Montana, only a short drive from Great Falls, Cascade County consists of a variety of buttes, rolling pastures, and other farmland.  During my previous trip here, I shot a time-lapse sequence here of the total lunar eclipse that ended up being in my “Surreal Journey” HD time-lapse compilation on Vimeo.  I also took a picture of Crown Butte with the full moon just out of the frame, that I like to call, “Moonshine”.

A full moon just out of the frame casts a swath of light onto Crown Butte, Montana, near Simms. (Benjamin Chase)

On this trip, I drove down nearly every dirt road I could find, totaling nearly 900 miles in two days.  Sleep is of secondary concern to me on most of my trips and a series of 20-60 minute naps tends to keep me going.  One image that I’ve wanted to make for some time is a group of horses together under the stars.  Fortunately with modern digital sensors, this is achievable now, assuming the horses feel like cooperating and standing still!

Horses by Moonlight

I probably spent 45 minutes waiting for the horses to stand still enough, but it was definitely a memorable experience!  Our equine friends were very interested in what I was doing next to them with a camera and tripod.

Moonlit Equine Gathering

One other great find in Cascade County was an abandoned homestead, devoid of signs or a gate.  It is rare to find structures in this condition that have not been marked with graffiti, so this was a pleasant surprise indeed!  I ended up shooting a time-lapse sequence here that will likely become a part of my next video project.

Abandoned Homestead

Abandoned Montana Homesite

In short, the two days I had to photograph the area ended up being a great success, probably one of my best ever within that time frame.  If I had made definite plans for my trip that weekend, I likely would have never captured these images.  So next time you are planning to take a photography trip, ask yourself, “Do I really need to plan everything to the Nth degree?”

I offer three styles of prints for all of my photos, all are offered as open editions and use the best technology available on the market today.  If you’d like to brighten up your home or office space with some great landscape or nature artwork, give me a call or send me an e-mail and we can work together to make your space shine!

I also offer private instruction within a reasonable distance of the Spokane, Washington region.  Please contact me for details.

Cheers!

Ben

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A Surreal Journey

Greetings friends!

It’s been a long couple of months and several thousand miles of travel to capture the footage and time-lapse frames needed to produce my latest clip, but the experiences have been more than worthwhile.

Here it is:

And now for the rest of the story…

I experienced everything from photographing the northern lights while standing on the frozen Great Slave Lake in -30F and wind, to driving on unmarked forest roads in the middle of a blizzard with heavy snow.

Some experiences were shared with my friends and family, and others required me to walk alone right up to the edge of sanity and back.

A special thanks to my friend Don Pratt for his assistance with some of the video clips and for accompanying me on many of these travels.

Music is “Scorpio” by Simon Wilkinson.

From the late-night departures in inclement weather to the exploring of distant unmarked roads, my pursuit of photography is often a “Surreal Journey”.