I like to remind my friends in Oregon that I’ve seen more of their state than they have, and I haven’t even officially moved here yet. This Sunday was my third trip out to Crater Lake. I’ve seen it covered in snow, where you can’t even drive around the rim. I’ve also seen it almost completely free of snow (this trip.) The other trip, was somewhere in between, where there was snow, but you could drive around the rim.
I was hoping some of the thunderheads that have been passing through the Rogue valley would be over the lake when I went with my friend. No such luck. There was, however, plenty of thick smoke from a few fires in the area. The smoke was so bad that it blocked the sun for the majority of the golden hour. There was a small sliver between the smoke and the horizon, where the sun peeked through for a few minutes before it finally disappeared for good.
As you can imagine, these weren’t the best conditions for shooting. I tried my best to anticipate the light. I thought the sunset would be most interesting west of the lake, looking out over the landscape that features open spaces and some gnarly looking trees. I expected all of the smoke in front of the mountains to glow, but it didn’t happen when the sun disappeared behind the thicker smoke.
As we packed my gear back in the car, I was thinking it was probably time to just head home, when I saw the sky light up over the lake. I parked at the next turnout and ran up a hill, with my gear, to get a shot. The light only lasted about a minute, and then it was over. Luckily, I got 5 exposures of this scene and blended them to create the image above. It was a lot of work to capture the pastels in this scene!
Unfortunately, I missed the most amazing sunset by a few days. Fellow photographer, Mark Metternich, got an amazing shot (below) just a few days before my visit. After seeing his shot, I was a little deflated, because I knew I wasn’t going to get anything near as good. Oh well, it was still a fun experience exploring the area again. Plus, it was 30 degrees cooler than the valley 🙂
My shot info: Nikon D7000 with Tokina 11-16mm, @11mm, mounted on my CF manfrotto tripod.
1 second exposure (for the middle exposure that I used to blend the HDR with)
The sky was tricky, so I processed 5 images in Photomatix, then blended that TIF with one of the properly exposed files. I basically kept the HDR sky and painted in a little detail in a few trees. Then, I used luminosity masks, dodging, burning, and light painting to fine tune it all.