Central Oregon Road Trip

I've been back from a road trip for a little over a week now. One of the primary goals of this trip was to spend time on the road and create a photo journal to document the places and people we saw and met. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, though the culling and editing process is a little overwhelming.

We started at Crater Lake and though Shaun and I have lived in Oregon our whole lives, it was a first visit for both of us.

We arrived just shortly before Sunset the first evening of our trip and quickly sussed out the optimal location on the East rim. We figured we didn't have enough time to go find a camp spot before sunset and just hoped we'd be able to find a place to camp.

We set up cameras and tripods and then just as the sun went down, a young guy road up on a bicycle and asked how far it was to the Lodge. We were easily 8 miles or so of windy hills away and the dark was coming on quick. He introduced himself as Jimmy and told us he was working at the campground and had started riding the entire rim road at around 2pm. He had no light and looked pretty tired. We offered to help out, but he insisted on continuing on.

As soon as he rode away, I turned to Shaun and said, "We're totally gonna be picking that guy up on the way up that nasty hill."

After the sunset light was totally gone, we packed up and headed back towards the campground and halfway up a brutal hill there was a pickup with hazards flashing and Jimmy standing to the side of the road, done. A nice older couple had stopped and were trying to fit his bike into the back of the truck to give him a lift back to the campground. They had room for him but not his bike and we were able to squeeze his bike on top of all our gear. Luckily, this is how we found a great campground for the night.

We rolled into the campground and there were smiling faces that knew Jimmy and welcomed him back. The guy attending to the campsites checkin kiosk just chuckled when he saw him and then said he was gonna work Jimmy hard the next day. We found out that Jimmy is from Tawain and is here on a hospitality job program for a few more weeks. We exchanged Facebook info and turned him loose to rest while we set up camp in the dark.

As has become standard on our dude camping trips, I was up well before dawn and drove the 7 miles back up to the West rim for sunrise. It was crystal clear and came up nice and slow.

I rolled back into camp after the morning show was over and shortly after Jimmy came by while cruising the campground on his rounds to say hi. He told us more about how he hadn't really spoken much English at all before a couple months ago. Needless to say, we have a place to stay when we visit Taiwan.

As we were setting up camp the night before we'd met our camp neighbors; a couple from Germany that were on their way up the west coast visiting national parks. Milan and Elvira came over in the morning (I'm pretty sure it was the smell of bacon cooking) and we invited them to join us for breakfast. We shared our eggs, bacon and coffee. They brought PB&J, cucumber and cheese.

Elvira, (who also goes by Elly) is orginally from Bosnia and was just a child when the ethnic conflicts drove her family to relocate to Germany. She is Muslim by culture and it was interesting to hear how the she views the difference between the culture and the faith of Islam. It was clear that most Americans have a small much smaller view of the world.

Instead of parting ways, we decided to hang out and go for a hike together. They were already planning to hike the trail to the top of Garfield Peak. It's a fairly intense 3.5 miles, but the view from the top is totally worth it.

Though I've seen hundreds of photos over the years and the occasional over the wing view when flying to California, I had no idea how big it really is. You need a really wide lens to capture the whole thing. In fact, I didn't bring one wide enough, so I created a 3 shot 86 Megapixel pano in Photo Shop.

After the hike, we hugged our new friends, exchanged phone and facebook details, gave them some advice on places to visit and parted ways. We were headed to Smith Rock and they were likely headed to the painted hills...or maybe Smith Rock.


A trip like this requires a bit of fuel, so for our second gas stop, we hit the Chevron in Chemult and met Crystal. We ended up talking for awhile as the pump was having some issues and she mentioned that she is from Portland and had moved out here to help manage her family's nursery. She also mentioned that she's a pretty social person and needs the contact with people that she gets working here. She mentioned that she'd had a pretty rough morning, but she had the cheeriest smile and was so friendly in spite of it all.

After fueling up, we pushed on to Smith Rock and got there with enough time to scope out camping and then scope out the views. After a few Golden hour shots, we headed back to the campground and met up with Milan and Elvira who decided to join us.

Once the sun went down we shared some beers and bourbon and got our fair share of awesome Germany stories. Did you know that there's a game in Germany called "Mensch ärgere dich nicht" that is played almost exactly like the American game Sorry? Milan says that the Translation is "Buddy, don't be pissed off".

Also, Milan gave us a thorough list of youtube links to check out and they both gave us their versions of the drunk camp Britney guy story.

After everyone went to sleep I set up the tripod. I also woke up around 4 am and stumbled out of the tent to catch the last little bit of the Milky Way over Smith Rock.


I dragged everyone out of tents 30 minutes before sunrise and we headed over to the classic sunrise viewpoint. I wouldn't usually post two photos that are so similar, but I love the contrast and the crazy pink/purple glow on the Western horizon that happens just before the sun rises. It does the same thing on the other horizon just after sunset by the way.

After packing up our tents we decided to hang around Smith Rock for awhile and met a few more people. Matt works for the State Park Service and was doing some fantastic work to balance allowing public use and keeping the natural environment intact. He commutes from Bend and said that its nice to have a dilineation between home and work, but the commute can be a bit much at times. I made two photos. After the first, he commented that he had the classic government worker pose leaning on his shovel - so I made one more to provide evidence of work. Keep up the good work Matt!

Gabe and Ram were just wrapping up some climbing at Rope de Dope Block which is across from the main face. They were headed back to camp to get some lunch when I met them on the trail. Gabe told me that he had gotten heavy into rock climbing about two years ago and that it's sorta all he thinks about now.

After leaving Smith Rock, Shaun and I headed to Bend for lunch and thanks to Yelp, we had an amazing meal at a place called Chow. I had a Benedict called the Sampson, with Crab cakes and their own home made bread. Dang Son!

After eating we headed towards Mt. Bachelor and the Cascade lakes. We hiked the trail around Todd Lake and avoided stepping on the tiny Cascade Frogs on the trails. The lake sits beneath the view of a snow-less Mt Bachelor and is everthing a high mountain lake should be.

We then visited Sparks lake where camping spots near parking are scarce. Tyler gave us some great advice which we almost accepted, but we were a little nervous about hiking a mile away from the car with most of our gear still there (lazy man's camping trip = no back packs = only take the essentials = potential of being quite stranded and carless). Thanks for the advice Tyler, we'll give it a shot next time!

So, with camping off the table, we inprovised and settled for the Holiday Motel in Bend. It's owned by Mukesh and Neena whose family has owned and operated this and a few other motels in the Bend area for 20+ years. If you are staying in Bend, I recommend it. Nice, Clean and very affordable. Oh, and did you see the cool sign?

We checked in pretty early so we figured we'd better find some good beer. We chose Crux Fermentation and by chance, sat down across from Ben and Karin, a couple from Portland, by way of many other places. He works in Technology like Shaun and she's a nurse. Shaun and he were like 2 peas in a pod, nerding out over sci-fi books and computers.

The next morning, we hit a great local coffee place and went back to the same place for brunch. I had the same thing...being a creature of habit and all. After chowing down and a great, long conversation, we headed back towards Portland. We stopped to see the Head of the Metolious (Much better in winter btw) and then hurried back to Portland.

It was a short, but fantastic trip. Shaun is an amazing friend and it's so good to spend time talking about life while surrounded by nature. When do we start planning the next one?

Technical Notes: As you can see, I have EXIF data for all the photos embedded into the black frame at the lower right hand corner. I mainly used my Sony A7, also known as the ILCE7. When the lens isn't notated, it's because I was using a manual lens with an adaptor. For this trip I used the Olympus OM mount Zuiko 24mm, f/2.8 and a borrowed Olympus OM Zuiko 55mm, f/1.2. I also had my Film Olympus OM1, but only made aobut a dozen photos with it. Unfortunately I haven't found an easy way to add the lens data manually to EXIF.

You'll also probably notice that I used the Sony Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 which is an APSC mount lens. It crops to approximately 36mm on this camera and gives a lower megapixel image. I'm not displeased with the images, but would still like a 35mm lens that covers the whole sensor...seems like a bit of a waste to crop out all that beautiful potential. That said, I'd love to hear any thoughts on the quality of the images.

I also used the Kit 28-70 Zoom and it did a great job overall, but is still a little bulky, slow and inelegant for my tastes. Ultimately I think I'd like to end up with a wide angle prime or zoom for landscape work, a true fast 35mm for everyday and a fast 50mm or longer for portraits.

There are also a couple other shots in there from my iPhone 5S (Shaun holding the bottle of Bourbon in the dark- damn!) and my Sony NEX 7 (the deer). I also had my GoPro and took a couple timelapse sequences, but I'm still working on those.

Processing was all done in Lightroom, with one detour to Photoshop for the Pano.

Summer 2014 by Film

I don't shoot a lot of film- maybe a roll of 36 frames every 4 weeks or so. I continue to do so, primarily because it has a different feel, a different color pallette than I'm used to with digital. I also wait for the right timing. There is also a palpable cost with each frame, so I'm not going to just fire away.

Because I shoot so sparingly, I often wish for smaller rolls of film. 12 would seem about right. I'm also a little spoiled by the resolution and latitude I get with my digital cameras so there's a thought of experimenting with medium format film eventually.

Either way, the types of film I shoot are either hard to get or unavailable in smaller rolls. These were made with Kodak Portra 400, but I set the camera to 200 on the advice of a couple great photographers.

Film compared to Digital- Sunset Light

I just got a roll of film back from development and matched up a couple photos with their digital counterparts taken back in July. (I don't shoot a lot of film) I thought it would be interesting to post them here so you could see the difference.

Technical notes-

The digital photos were made with the Fujifilm X100s, with the aperture set at f/2. This camera has a 23mm lens (35mm equivalent). I shot RAW as usual and processed to my memory with a couple small adjustments to exposure.

The film is Kodak Portra 400, over exposed by one stop and the camera/lens is my Olypmpus OM1 with the 50mm set at f/1.8

Testing out the Sony Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 on the A7


I've been thinking about upgrading to the Sony A7 for a few months now, but I've had a few questions about the compatability of the lenses I already own for the APSC Sony NEX7.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really have fallen in love with the 24mm, f/1.8 Zeiss lens that I started using about a year ago. I hate to see it go, so I'm spending time really looking at it closely to see if it will have a long term place in this new kit.

As you can see in the above crop, I'm able to still get a pretty useable square format shot if I choose to crop manually after the fact. There's a bit of extra brain power needed when composing, but the final size of the image is roughly 14-15 Megapixels vs the 10.3 that is yielded when the camera does it's own 2x3 crop.

For those of you that are picky- yes, there are still some bits of darkness in the corners.

Below is the same photo, but cropped to the standard APSC size that the camera chooses automatically if you don't turn this feature off. Obviously I would have backed up had I been in the crop mode to begin with. This field of view is my favorite. Very close to 35mm. I'll probably end up with a fast true 35mm lens for this camera as that's how I see everything.



I made a quick stop at Cathedral Park this afternoon and met MaryLou who said hi and immediately asked if I'd take her picture. She let me know that she spends a lot of time in the park feeding the birds and that she recently got out of a relationship with someone who hurt her badly.

We talked for a few minutes before she packed up her things and headed down to the waterfront and I headed back to my office. I asked if she would mind me putting her photo on my site and she said that she loved the idea and hoped that I'd let people know that its important to look out for yourself and stay away from people who hurt you.

The Band

Last night there was an epic party for my good friend Roger Porter who recently tested negative for cancer after a heavy duty few months of radiation and the crazy amount of tired that goes along with killing it and moving on.

As part of the celebration, some fine gentlemen from the band Vagabond Opera came out and made the night perfect!

Classic Gavin Smile and a New Camera

This kid has such a classic smile and it fires up anytime he sees the camera pointed his direction. It just so happens that it's a new camera pointed his direction here.

I haven't mentioned it on the site here, but I sold my Fujifilm X100s a few weeks ago and I replaced it with a Sony A7. It came in the mail yesterday and I'm running it through its paces. I bought it with the 28-70 kit zoom as I'm not quite ready to invest in any of the FE primes that are available. It just so happens that 2 new Zeiss lenses were announced this week and at least one of them is of particular interest for me.

It uses the same lens mount as my NEX 7 so for the time being, in addition to the zoom, I'll be using my favorite lens, the APSC specific Sony Zeiss 24mm f/1.8. It's not designed to cover the Sony full frame sensor and there is a prominent black ring vignette that shows in the corners and sides, but the A7 has the ability to shoot in a crop mode. This gives a 10.3 megapixel image and the same field of view as I get on my NEX7 of 36mm. Obviously I'm giving up some of the benefit of the larger sensor, but there's still a noticeable difference compared to the NEX 7. This photo was taken in crop mode with this lens.

I'll be looking to add a native E Mount 35mm lens that covers the full frame sensor, but I'm going to take my time in making that decision. Although Sony already offers a 35mm, it's aperture is f/2.8. Though sharp and high quality, really doesn't offer the shallower depth of field or low light capability that I want from this new sensor.

I'm pretty pleased with the images I've taken so far and will post a side-by-side comparison between the NEX 7 and the A7 soon. I'll also include some non-crop mode photos of my current APSC Sony lenses on the A7.

Real Pink

Like most photographers who aren't taking photos professionally, there are sometimes days that go by when I'm either not inspired to take pictures or I'm just so overwhelmed by other things (like work) that the camera just never makes it out of my bag. This two week stretch was like that for me.

We're heading out this afternoon to rejoin our kids who have been with their grandparents for the past week in Coos Bay. I'm really hoping to get out and make some great images while we're there.