Behind the Scenes of Our Funtivities

Learn more about our adventures when we are out Browning Around!

What we Learned on our Iceland Adventure

We decided to go to Iceland for our honeymoon!!  We got engaged in June 2018 on our way to our Canadian Adventure of 2017.  Wasn’t too long after we decided we wanted to spend our honeymoon in another country and Iceland became top of the list.  The reasons are clear, such a beautiful country that is a short hop away from Portland, OR.


Going to another country wasn’t going to be easy and there was a lot of work ahead.  We bought a couple of maps of the island and taped them together on large cardboard sheets and circled all the spots we wanted to go.  Then Natalie worked her magic and started to plan our airfare, lodging, site seeing, excursions, transportation and everything else in between.  She became a student of traveling to Iceland.  I would say she probably spent 6-8 months planning the trip; reading travel books almost every night forwards and backwards.  It showed when we put boots on the ground….. 

 We arrived in Iceland on May 10, 2019 via Icelandair direct from Portland Oregon.  We left Portland around 3:30pm and arrived in Iceland at 6:30am. It was about an 7.5 to 8 hour flight to Iceland.  Pretty smooth flight too.

 I am not sure what to write about Iceland that the photos won’t tell you….  I think in this case the photos will speak volumes about the country and what we saw.  In addition to the photos, I have listed some notes I took on what we wish we would have known (good or bad) and what we learned along the way…  We knew most of it, but there some small pearls of wisdom. 

 What we learned on our trip to Iceland:

**Check what credit card has no additional fees for international charges – use that one.

**Look into whether or not you want to rent a WIFI hotspot or use your data plan.  Verizon will charge up to $10/day for each phone.  The WIFI hotspot is $10/day and you can take it with you and charge it in the car. Maybe make one of your phones a mobile hotspot for the other phone?!

**To get the WIFI hotspot, you go to a computer terminal just outside a grocery/market just past the last check point.  Then you go to the counter where the hot food is to get it from the clerk.  You will mail it back when you are all done and it comes with a stamp on it.  There is a red mailbox in the airport near oversize baggage and Icelandair to drop it in. 

**Gas stations are where you will eat most of your meals outside of major cities.  The food is actually pretty good. 

**Restaurants in some part of the island are few and far between.

**To save money split meals.  Food is expensive.  We had fish and chips and one coke and it was about $42.00 (just a café)

**When you stop for gas, get snacks for the road.  There can be a bit of time between stops and some gas stations are just pumps and no store.

**Follow the speed limit.  There is no point in wasting money on getting a ticket.

**Speed camera signs are along the ring road, but isn’t until you get closer to Reykjavik that there are actual cameras.  (at least we didn’t see any and they are pretty obvious)

**Check which tunnels have fees.  You can pay them online that day or 3 hours after.  If you don’t the rental company will charge your card. At this point there was only one tunnel that had a fee.

**There are some roads that are paved and some that are like fire service roads; so don’t panic that you have made a wrong turn.

**Bring a cigarette adapter to charge multiple items in the car.  You will spend a lot of time in your car and there is just one charging port in some cars.

**Bring a small converter if you need to charge camera batteries or drone batteries. Amazon has plenty for $30.

**Not all stops allow the use of drones.  Download “AirMap” and it will help you figure out where you can fly your drone.  You cannot fly them in national parks or Reykjavik.  Be sensitive to the locals, as they are not big fans of drones. 

**Look into getting a camping van and exploring Iceland all on the road.  They have vans or RVs ready to rent and there are places to pull over for the night all over.  A very cool way to explore Iceland.

**There isn’t a charge to stop at any of the locations, except Stokksnes.  It is private land and they you have to buy a day pass to walk and drive through the park.  Be sure to walk down to the old farm.

**Carve out some time to explore the small towns. We arrived too late and I was disappointed we didn’t get a chance to see the small towns.

**The towns on the ring road open late and close early, so plan accordingly.  A lot of places closed between 8-9pm and open around 10am.

**Purchase a big plastic bottle of water and then refill it at your hotel.  The water is so good and clean from the taps, there isn’t a need to buy any.

**Anything and everything is expensive.

**There are not many bathrooms on the road or even at some of the attractions.  Some of the gas stations will charge if you are not a patron.  There are no trees or hills to hide behind and so you may just have to hold it.

**Bring a towel and swimsuit.  There are thermal pools in random spots.

**Keep your passport out and available until you get onto the plane.  We needed it several times throughout the airport in Iceland.

**You can make your seat assignments 24hr in advance of your flight and can do it on a mobile device.  Just need your reservation number.  We found there weren’t any real selection on the way to Iceland, but more options on the return home.

**The duty-free shop is big and they have carts for your shopping experience.  It seems to mainly be booze, perfume and candy.  You won’t get staples here. 

**You have to pay for your groceries before you can bag them otherwise an alarm goes off.

**You have to buy shopping bags.  So if you have those reusable shopping bags, bring those.

Hope this helps and feel free to to reach out with questions. Also visit my portfolio to see many more images from Iceland.

Chasing the Perfect Image

I was asked to take engagement photos of a couple I have known for a few years through the fire department. I was super excited they asked me to be their cameraman. As we talked I knew we would have some great photos. I knew we would certainly be doing some photos at the fire station and as we talked we would be heading to Bend, OR - specifically Smith Rock. Smith Rock is the birth place for sport climbing and the Misery Trail takes non-climbing adventurers to the top of the rock. Smith Rock would be my crux shoot on this Grand Session. This would be where the best images would come from, if Mother Nature wanted to show off for the camera.

Steve and Ashley at Eugene Fire on the Tiller

Our day started off at The Eugene/Springfield fire department training center where they pulled out the tiller for us. The tiller would offer a great backdrop due to its length and give us plenty of other options. We had to move quickly to beat some of the rain that was teasing us. I had forgotten my phone in my truck back at Steve’s house so I had to go off memory. But I powered through, falling back on my fire experience and other portrait sessions I had done. We narrowly beat the rain and got some great shots in the can.

Steve and Ashley at Sahalie Falls on the McKenzie River Trail

Our next stop in this Grand Session was to head up the McKenzie River trail to Sahalie Falls. I had just bought a 10 stop ND filter for Iceland and knew it would play here. My goal was to have them in front of the waterfall and have the water silky smooth. This required a long exposure and for them to remain still. Out of a dozen photos I got 2 that brought all the elements together. What I didn’t take into account is how much Steve’s jeans would soak up the spray from the waterfall. Oh well, it is a memory now! Just as we finished and got back to our car, the skies opened up and it poured. Pretty much knew our time on the river trail was done and we were onto Sisters for a burger, fries and a shake.

Along the way to Sisters, we stopped and drove down a fire service road to get into a grove on Ponderosa Trees to get some shots in more western wear. I knew I had great coloring and lighting to work with. One challenge was that Steve’s wardrobe pretty much blended in like a hunter. So getting him to stand out was tough. I worked to contrast him against some of the patchy snow on the ground. I also had Ashley change into something more colorful to help her standout too. The maize yellow sweater she brought really matched the tint of the pines. It worked so well with the surroundings. Next was to switch lenses to my 70-200mm to get some compression from the photos. I shot at 2.8 to get the depth of field + the compression. I did some static shots with them, then also did some moving, flowing pieces to get a different look. I her to grab him by the hand and take him behind the tree. All they are not actors by trade, they did an excellent job.

After a burger, fries and a shake we moved onto the grand location - Smith Rock. This is where I was going to bank everything on. These images could not fail and would be the best of the group - or so I hoped. Natalie and I packed our bags full of gear. My camera bag was the heaviest it has ever been. I always measure it against an SCBA pack a firefighter wears. This was pretty close to the same weight.

Toasting to a great day!

Misery Ridge lived up to its name with the weight of the pack. I have been running and really hoped for a better showing, but being dehydrated and working off a burger I was struggling a little. We still made good time to the top despite my slow ascent. I knew roughly where I wanted to go, but still wasn’t sure if Mother Nature was going to show off for us, or if she was going to be shy. I knew if anything we had the rain band that was behind to the west. That in itself will be a great back drop. I found a large, flat table top rock for them to stand on. I gave them a few cues and hiked my way back to get everything into frame. Mounted the 70-200mm and put my camera on a tripod for the best possible image. I didn’t need it based on the shutter speed, but I didn’t want to chance anything. A couple pops of the shutter and I knew I was on my way to perfection. Once I told them to dance and for Steve to twirl Ashley I knew I had photographs that nobody had and that I had achieved something I had been chasing - perfection. It was the crossroads of location, backdrop, Steve and Ashley, gear, my vision and faith. I don;t think I could have pulled this off with anyone else. I makes it even more special reflecting back on the day we spent together and our friendship. I always tell Natalie to “just believe” and have a little faith. I always have faith that Mother Nature will show off for me when we are on a photo shoot like this. For a very brief moment she showed us her colors and it was amazing.

Steve and Ashley dancing on top of Smith Rock at sunset

The Perfect Image and Perfect Moment

Why Engagement Photos are Important

Until this weekend I felt engagement photos were something to add to the wedding photo package and part of the memories. Reflecting back, not too many couples select to do engagement photos. Probably a cost thing and also they know the wedding day will produce several amazing photos.

I think there are a couple of factors that make the engagement session so important.

Jeff and Aida

The Hunts

  • You don’t have the pressure of your wedding day. Your wedding day is full of seeing old relatives and friends, dancing, eating and of course photos! You don’t get a chance to slow down and breath. Engagement photos allow you to slow down and just be the two of you plus the cameraman.

  • You have the option of going to a couple of different locations. There might be a place that holds a special place in your relationship and wouldn’t it be nice to have professional photos done there. Even if there isn’t a special place, there are so many amazing locations just around the Portland and Columbia River area or the coast.

  • Engagement sessions allow you to have different outfits and perhaps adding props. Let’s say you both kayak together, bring the boats and paddles. If I can photograph you on the river, I will. I always encourage my clients to bring a couple of different looks depending on where we are going

  • Not too many people have their wedding photos up around their house. But they do have photos up of their adventures and fun times. I always include in my final product what I call are the outtakes - the funny moments.

What really got me thinking today was the story behind each photo that made me realize the importance of the engagement session. It doesn’t have to be one of my Grand Sessions, it can be a local session done at Cathedral Park or some other great Portland location. Every Grand Session I have done, we all walk away with some funny memory from the day together. Perhaps it is falling in the snow, the champagne bottle that got dropped or getting soaked by the waterfall…..

If you are on the fence about engagement photos, lets talk and make it happen!

Ashley and Steve at Eugene Fire

Flash on a Bright Day

I admit flash is a new tool in my tool bag, both on a bright day and a low lit event. I never liked those professional images that you could tell the subject was hit with a flash. I didn’t understand why on a bright sunny day would you use a flash on a subject. Most of the subjects I am referring too are those athlete shots, like a mountain bike rider, runner or motorcycle rider.

Mailbox Peak - Flash on a bright day

Mailbox Peak - Flash on a bright day

Another hurdle I had a hard time figuring out was the high speed-snyc on my Nikon SB800 flash. For those of you wondering what that is, I will explain. Normally your flash will snyc with your shutter at a max shutter speed of 200. If you have ever shot motion, you know this isn’t fast enough. For me I like to be at a shutter speed above 600. If you were to shoot at 600 with the flash set normally you will get banding in your images from the shutter doors. Changing your flash to manual you will now be able to achieve HSS. This will allow you to fire your flash at those higher shutter speeds for sports or whatever.

Catch light in Kelly’s eyes

Catch light in Kelly’s eyes

I am not sure the first time I used it outdoors on a bright day, but once I got it dialed in I fell in love. There are a couple of reasons why I love to carry a flash on our adventures. One is it gives your subject (human or animal) a drop of catch light in their eyes. We all have those shots where it is a little dark and the person’s eyes seem to be missing a little life. This will give you a drop of light from the flash reflecting off their cornea. It is a subtle thing, but once you start to see it, you will like it. If you watch just about any movie, indoor studio or not, you will see the lighting rigs reflected in the actors eyes. I see that all the time. IN older movies that lights are pretty obvious. Now with CGI, it is hard to tell what is real anymore. The other piece that HSS flash does it is fills in the shadows that are cast by a high sun. Through adding a flash on bright days I don’t have harsh shadows on the subject or surrounding areas. In post production I have found it really helps make the colors pop and gives you some more editing possibilities.

A wedding at Montage in Laguna Beach during the brightest part of the day. Sun behind them and a full power flash on my hot shoe.

A wedding at Montage in Laguna Beach during the brightest part of the day. Sun behind them and a full power flash on my hot shoe.

I am still learning the possibilities of HSS flash and haven’t mastered everything. There are so many different ways to fire a flash and places to set it up. Because we hike a lot and I don’t want to carry a tripod for off camera flash, I just use it on the hot-shoe of my Nikon. It becomes a heavy rig to be carrying so be prepared. I also recommend to bring extra batteries; especially if you are firing off bursts at 1:1 flash power. It will drain the batteries and you will be slowed down to being able to use the flash just every 10 seconds or more.

Flash is a great tool to have in your bag, but it does require a lot of learning to master it. Lighting is different every time you pull out your camera. Could be the coolness or warmth of light that is a factor, or the amount of available light in the surrounding area. The other piece that is hard to control without soft boxes and a big set up are shadows. Put a subject too close to a wall and you will stamp their shadow onto the wall, not to mention on their face.

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It is easy to get it out and practice with it and become familiar with it. Even if you have a built in flash without HSS, it can be a great tool.

Every Photograph has a Story #2 - Where it Began

I have always felt that a photograph is just a photograph until you here the story behind it. You talk to any photographer about the images they are proud of and I bet they will talk to you for 10+ minutes about each image. Even as I photograph people, there are stories behind the image that I love to share. Could be intimidated by the subject matter, the effort to get there or just what happened as the subject was being photographed.

This is the image that really started it all for me. It was shot at Newcastle Golf Course in Newcastle, WA. During the summer at sunset they have a tradition of a bagpiper playing as the sun goes down. I happened to be there with some friends finishing a round of golf and saw him on the hill with Lake Washington and Seattle in the background. I grabbed my Nikon D70 and fired a few shots - hand held. I think I edited it in Photoshop CS5 and just hit auto edit.

I submitted the shot to the GC photo contest and won. Couldn’t believe it. This really inspired me to get into photography.

I realized that I didn’t need to buy other artists work, I could make my own. I bought a laptop, some additional lenses and started to learn what it takes to be a great photographer. It has taken me several years to feel like I can hold my own and that I produce great photographs. I eventually started to call my business “Exit 38 Productions” for a area off I-90 that I loved to photograph. There were waterfalls, train trestle bridges, snow, trails and just a great place to spend an afternoon. Eventually BlackFire Photography was born to achieve a more unique name than “R.Brown Photography”. Talk about a boring name for a photography business!

Every Photograph has a Story #1- White River Falls

I have always felt that a photograph is just a photograph until you here the story behind it. You talk to any photographer about the images they are proud of and I bet they will talk to you for 10+ minutes about each image. Even as I photograph people, there are stories behind the image that I love to share. Could be intimidated by the subject matter, the effort to get there or just what happened as the subject was being photographed.

Joe and Tracy at White River Falls Park in Dufur Oregon

Here is one such image that has a fun story behind it. A month prior, I photograph Joe and Tracy’s wedding reception in downtown Portland. For the first time I had camera issues, location challenges and prop issues. My game was thrown and I was not sure what to do after i built myself up. Eventually I rallied and got through the night, but felt bad I didn’t give them all of what I was hoping for.

After I delivered the final product, I asked them if they wouldn’t mind getting back into their outfits and come with my wife and I to White River Falls out in Dufur, Oregon. I was looking for a couple that I could stage a photo shoot and not be under any pressure at all. Where I could slow down and direct the scene how I wanted. In return they would have a fun time and get some photographs they would enjoy.

They were such sports and we switched between formal wear and casual dress. We even enjoyed some Buffalo Trace and Flaming Hot Cheetos for our efforts. We used the river, the waterfall, the drone and the pump house as backdrops.

Framed through the pump house window

At the end of the day it was so nice to slow down and enjoy the moment and set a photo like this up. I was balancing on a railroad tie about 8ft above the ground. I told them to dip for a kiss and just be themselves. No real instruction as I wanted it to look natural. We got natural and a beautiful image for them and my portfolio. This really taught me to be more of a director; afterall my customers are paying me to play the role of director and photographer. The photos from this day have taught me to have a different approach to my engagement sessions and senior portraits.

Silver Star Mountain - Wow!

Natalie had researched Silver Star Mountain hike for a little while. Silver Star is outside of Battle Ground Washington and with traffic I think it is about a two hour drive from Portland. We knew it was something we wanted to do for sure, but there was a challenge just getting to the trail head. Road #4109 was in bad shape and required a high clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead. But how bad could it be?? It isn’t always smart to go alone on a challenged road incase you run into an issue. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and we had beer and each other.

Looking back from where we came up the trail.

Looking back from where we came up the trail.

This was a hike I wanted explore later in the day to perhaps catch a sunset. We picked a day during the middle of the week and planned to leave early to get to the trailhead around 3pm or so. After battling Portland traffic we arrived at the high clearance road. As we climbed we saw someone in a Honda Accord trying it. Seemed odd to me based on what everyone was saying on social media. Wasn’t long and I realized he was going to get very far at all. The road was washed out, big boulders and certainly took patience to climb in my Tacoma. The road was just 4 miles long, but it felt like it took forever to get to the top.

We arrived at the parking lot and found only one other vehicle, so we knew we would have the mountain to ourselves. The hike to the top has two routes. One is a steady climb and is on the west side of the mountain. Almost like a fire service road all the way to the top. The more eastern route is probably the best route. It took us through some beautiful wild flowers and green grass to a rock arch we passed through. We also had a view or Mt. Hood as we traveled. There were a couple of steep traverses that required all 4 appendages and some focus, but nothing too bad - it was a long way down.

Ed’s Arch

Ed’s Arch

Once out to the clearing you think you must be near the summit, but you still have some trail ahead of you. The trail takes you around the mountain and back into the trees for a short stint. You then climb up a fire service looking road to the top. Once at the top you have 360 views and you can see all the mountain peaks. My mistake was just hiking in a tee-shirt and not bringing a coat. There was a cold wind blowing that day, plus a cold Citrus Mistress I was shivering a bit. We knocked out our photos and dropped down in elevation just a little and the breeze was gone and I was perfect temp.

As we got down to more of a plateau and the west facing trail I launched the drone to get some aerial shots of the mountain. The sun was starting it’s sunset show at this time and the video and stills from the drone were amazing. I felt like we were on some Austrian mountain and not in Battleground Washington.

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We sat and enjoyed the sunset with a little Fireball, but now it was time to beat feet and get back to the truck. I did come prepared with a flashlight and headlamp, but we did have some thick overgrowth to walk through. Flashlights were not going to show if something was lurking in the trees. I certainly had a quick pace back to the truck and when we arrived at the truck we still had a band of sunset glow and city lights on the horizon to watch.

Silver Star Mountain is an excellent hike and only about 50mi from Beaverton. There are two routes to get there and one is vehicle friendly and the other one is not. Bring supplies and notify friends if you take the high clearance trail to the top. There are no services around for some distance if you should have a problem. Try to get a sunset hike in and enjoy the views as they are outstanding.

Mini-moon Canada Bound

Get Outside:  Minimoon in Whistler

September 3, 2018 we were married at Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon.  My wedding gift to my wife, Natalie, was a mini-moon to Whistler with a couple stops along the way.  I wanted it to be a surprise so I made her guess where we were going.  I made her guess the location using a couple props.  Didn’t take long with the black comb and the whistle. 


Wednesday night we headed for Bellevue, WA to spend the night with my parents.  This was a chance to say “hi” and also to a way to save some time traveling to Canada the next day.


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Walking back across Capilano Bridge

Walking back across Capilano Bridge

We got an early start to avoid some of the horrible traffic around town.  Fortunately, our early start and heading out of town while people were heading in, we made good time.  Natalie had a surprise stop for me at the Capilano Suspension Bridge park.  It was busy, but we found a convenient parking spot and crossed the street to check this place out.  I had never heard of this place and was thinking it was just one suspension bridge.  Well yes, it is, but there is a cliff walk and a tree to tree park. 


We went right for the suspension bridge and wow was it high above the river below.  Our first obstacle was an older gentleman that had collapsed on our side of the bridge.  He was blocking everyone’s access to the bridge.  I immediately shoved my camera and pack into Natalie’s arms and rushed over to help.  I knew from his appearance that it wasn’t a major medical problem it was something else.  He had collapsed from over exertion and needed help getting to his feet.  I called over for a wheel chair and for some water to get him into a more comfortable position.  The benefit of helping is we got to the first of the line and were allowed out on the bridge all by ourselves for a brief moment.


Sea to Sky Gondola ride - worth it!  Open year round too.

Sea to Sky Gondola ride - worth it! Open year round too.

This bridge is 459 feet long and supported on land anchors.  Once you start walking on the bridge with a bunch of other sightseers the bridge gets to swinging.  It is like your worst drunk walk that you have ever had just to cross the bridge.  Once you get to the other side; look up!  There are many tree to tree adventures awaiting you.  We spent some time in the trees and then crossed back over to go to the cliff walk.  This is pretty cool and makes you think from an engineering perspective, how is this staying attached to the granite. 


Our next stop on our journey was to stop at the Sea to Sky Gondola ride.  This is a 10-minute gondola ride just off the Sea to Sky highway.  It climbs about 2500 feet up a steep granite wall to the restaurant at the top.  It is a breath-taking ride to the top with amazing views of Howe Sound and some of the surrounding areas.  The gondola is open year around despite the weather.  When you get to the top take a moment and walk out to the decking and enjoy the view of Howe Sound.


A hike behind Sea to Sky Gondola

A hike behind Sea to Sky Gondola

We took the suspension bridge across to the hiking trails and started to explore.  There are a few hiking trails, some being short and easy and others that require a little more out of you.  We certainly got our steps in and stopped back at the snack shack for a bit of liquid refreshment to fuel up for another trail. 


Sea to Sky Gondola ride is a must see and worth the price of admission.  You can save a few dollars by purchasing the tickets ahead of time, if not you can purchase them there - $42.  The parking is also plentiful and free.  If you are up for a little more of an adventure, park at Shannon Falls and walk to the ride – it is a short hike.  You can also hike to the top, but it is steep and a not for the faint of heart.


From Sea to Sky we hit the road to get to Whistler Village and get checked in to our hotel.  I had booked ahead and found prices pretty fair for being across the street from the village.  I Aava hotel was just about $100 a night for a ground floor room with two beds.  I will say parking was a potential issue.  But for a bit of a sum you can get a pass and park underground.  This is not for tall vehicles as the ceilings are pretty low.  I think I could have reached out the window of my truck and touched the ceiling.  It was a little unnerving to drive through there.  I was just hoping that all the sprinkler heads and other plumbing were all at the same height.


That night we hit the village and got some dinner and a few drinks.  I reminisced about when I was here during the new year around Y2K and the interesting nights we had.  Not sure we would get away with some of that stuff now😊


The next morning, I had planned for us to go do the Superfly zipline tour in Cougar.  It was a short ride out of town and so we hoped in the truck and made our way to their basecamp for instructions.  I had never ziplined and Natalie had a little experience.  For both of us this was different; ATV side by side ride to the top and 5 ziplines to get you back down the mountain.  With the first one being 8 tenths of a mile and 600ft above the trees and the rest shorter, but each different in speed, length and views.  They tell you to allow 3 hours with travel to and from Cougar and the zip lines.  We were in a group of 4 other couples and had a great time. 


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Superfly gives instructions on safety and operation of the apparatus you are attached to.  I will say they do a great job keeping you safe and making sure you have fun.  I did take my GoPro Hero 4 camera with me so we could record everything.  The part to keep in mind is when you hit the braking mechanism on the landing.  It can be a pretty abrupt stop and if you have anything loose in your hand it may get launched.  I had my GoPro tethered to my wrist so I could put both hands on the apparatus upon stopping.  So, keep that in mind if you grab your phone and want to record it.  You really aren’t in a position to put the phone back into a pocket due to the riding position you are in. 


A flag that I had made to add to our photo sessions outdoors.

A flag that I had made to add to our photo sessions outdoors.

Following the zipline tour we headed out for another hike at Joffre Lakes.  This is a hike that includes 3 lakes and some amazing teal blue water.  This first lake is a short 5-10 min hike from the parking lot.  We found the signs detailing the trip to the first lake kind of funny.  It said 15 min hike to the first lake, when in reality it is much more like 5 min.  We think it was in tourist time and not actual time.  We of course pressed on to the second lake which was more demanding.  As with most hikes it is a climb and this was the same.  I don’t have the stamina that Natalie has and it gets a little frustrating at times.  Both our packs are about the same weight, just I am packing up a few extra pounds on my mid-section.  All the staircases and switchbacks are all worth it when you see the lake.  Absolutely amazing and takes your breath away.  As usual we packed a couple beers and sandwiches with us to keep us fueled up.  After we spent some time at the lake, we were told of a cascading waterfall not too far up the trail.  It was getting late and we still had to get down so the third lake was out of the question.  We decided to crack our beer and sandwiches at the waterfall and even shared a sandwich with a stranger.  This is a must see if you are in the area and have some time to hike. 


On the way home, we made a couple of other waterfall stops to maximize our trip.  But we did have a ferry to catch at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island and needed to be smart with our time.  This would be the next leg of the adventure – Mt. Ellinor.


We did make the short ferry ride to Port Townsend and took 101 south to Hoodsport where I had booked a room at Glen Ayr.  We arrived around 9:30-10pm and had to ring the bell to get service.  A very nice man came down and greeted us and got our room squared away. 


The next day we awoke to a light mist and fog.  We had planned to climb Mt. Ellinor at the end of the summer, but were met with a stomach bug that prevented the climb.  This time we were all good and just had to work around Mother Nature’s decision to make it cold and foggy.  We questioned attempting it, but we were there in the area and might as well give it a try. 


We took the fire service road to the trailhead and were immediately met by cold and fog.  But we packed our bags and geared up for a climb.  That climb starts as you leave your parking spot and does not stop.  You continue to climb through the trees pretty much to the top.  We made it worth it was the quiet, the cool air, the brilliant fall colors and that we practically had the place to ourselves. 

Mt. Elinor hike….

Mt. Elinor hike….


I have always believed you don’t need to always wait for the best weather to hike or explore.  This time we missed the big sweeping views, but we had these amazing fall colors – almost looked fake.  Plus, the fog limited your view of what was ahead on this steep climb and just gave a different perspective.  Days like this are almost more of a mystery and I prefer that.   

We didn’t stay too long at the top because were exposed to the winds and the wet from the fog.  Plus, we still had to drive back to Beaverton after we got down.  I will say the climb down was much quicker and seemed to fly by.  We passed a few other hikers, but again pretty much had the place to ourselves. 


We had an amazing mini-moon packed full of funtivities and memories.  We never really seem to waste a minute or leave any stone unturned.  There is a pro and a con to this for sure.  I crashed on the way home and Natalie crashed a day later from all the fresh air and hiking around.  We certainly love Canada and all the beauty it has….  I would almost venture to say, we wouldn’t mind moving there!





Unplanned Funtivities with Walmart Christmas Onesies

We decided to spend a couple of days in Hood River and get in a couple hikes before we head north to Bellevue for the Christmas holiday.  We had looked at going to Cougar or down to the southern coastline, but decided the shorter drive after work and snow was what we wanted. 

Natalie having fun in the fresh snow

Natalie having fun in the fresh snow

Thursday after work we headed out for the slow drive out I-84E to Hood River.  But this drive was much better than the +4hr drive down to southern Oregon like we planned.  Natalie booked a familiar hotel for us to spend a couple nights in.  We don’t ask for much and really just need a place to feel safe and hang our coats.  The Sunset motel seems to be perfect for us.  Only a mile from down town Hood River, just off the freeway and right across the street from a Safeway and other stores.  The room isn’t big, but enough room for us to spread out. 

The weather was not supposed to be great in the afternoon so we weren’t sure how to spend our Saturday afternoon.  We wanted to go somewhere with a view of Mt Hood and maybe not too many people.  We settled on Chinidere Mountain; a hike we have done during the summer with some amazing views of hood and the forest below.  We thought there might be a light dusting of snow, but nothing we couldn’t hike through. 


We arrived on FSR 1310 and began to ascend.  There was a sign mentioning that there was “no winter maintenance” on the road ahead.  With a lifted 4x4, I wasn’t too worried about the road.  Our first obstacle was a rock slide that threw some rocks and boulders onto the road.  We took a few minutes to clear out the worst of the rocks and boulders and then pressed on.  We then started to hit snow, which got deeper as we ascended.  As we trail-blazed and the snow got deeper the truck started to hop and bounce around.  The truck was working harder to get through the snow and I started to question if we should try and go another 2.5mi in the snow to the trail head.  The only tracks in the snow were from a fox and my Goodyear tires.  This meant we were alone!  Great for the solitude and quiet, but not so good if we have a breakdown or get stuck.  It was time to pause and come up with a new plan.  Looking up towards where we would probably be hiking, the clouds started to roll in and we would not have a great view from the top.  On top of that I didn’t bring a sweatshirt or something to wear under my jacket, so I would have been cold the whole way. 

Our new plan was to get out the Walmart Christmas onesies, crack a beer and take some funny photos.  I had this idea in mind of story-boarding the photos when I shared them on social media.  I tried to craft them around a naughty elf breaking into my cooler.  Having fresh snow and the place to ourselves we had a blast.  We ended spending 2 hours goofing around. 

This was an unplanned spontaneous afternoon in the snow with Walmart onesies and had a blast.  We seem to always structure our outings and they are pretty much predictable.  But days like this are my favorite; where we make something out of nothing.  These are probably some of my favorite goofing around images that we have done.  So, get out there and don’t be discouraged if everything doesn’t go as you planned.  Sometimes those unplanned afternoons are the most memorable. 


Get Outside:  Metolius River Trail

We followed up the Tam McArthur Rim trail with the Metolius River trail on Sunday.  A couple years ago we had a hiking adventure from trailhead following the river downstream to the hatchery at Wizard Falls and then back to the car.  This time we drove to Wizard Falls at the Hatchery with the thought of getting a photo of the blue water that flows under the bridge and then go see the fish at the hatchery.  Such a beautiful drive through Camp Sherman down to the hatchery.  The area was empty and so there was no traffic to distract me as I drove us to our destination. 

The weather was having some fun with us.  Sprinkling on and off with the sun and blue skies poking through every now and then.  The question became do we bring the rain jackets or not.  Ultimately being from the Pacific Northwest, we erred on the side of caution and brought our coats.  Seemed like we would put them on and then the sprinkling would stop.  Take them off and then it would start sprinkling again. 

Fly Fishing 2.jpg

Our hike took us upstream a mile or so in search of some fly fisherman.  I really wanted to photograph fly fisherman out in the river.  I was rewarded on this trip with 4 fishermen on various parts of the river.  Although I was happy to exercise my 24-70mm 2.8, in some instances I wish I brought my other heavyweight the 70-200mm 2.8.  I needed a little reach through some of the tree branches.  Regardless I was not disappointed by what I put into the can. 


Hiking off season has some benefits – no crowds.  We probably saw a total of 10 people on the trail system.  There were a few more visiting the hatchery, but that was it.  Once we returned to the hatchery, we decided to keep hiking and exploring down the river.  Neither of us had done the whole trail and the weather was looking promising enough.  I believe it is 6mi roundtrip from Wizard Falls.  You hike down one side of the river and then cross the bridge to travel upstream on the other side.  Downstream we found a couple fisherman that I could get a good angle on and photograph.  I was in photographer heaven because of the fall colors still hanging around, the peaceful nature of the Metolius river and catching people out doing what they love – fishing!

He had the river to himself

He had the river to himself


Once back in the car we saw the large dark cloud that was hanging over Hwy20 and our route home.  Although I was grateful it held off on dumping on us on the trail, I knew we were in for a long ride home.  Sure, enough the heavens opened up and the wipers were on full speed.  Thankfully we had to slow our pace due to a severe accident near the junction of Hwy20 and 22 involving 4-5 vehicles.  Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to driving down the curves in the pouring rain.  A lifted truck with knobby tires doesn’t instill confidence around wet corners.  Thankfully we made it home in good time and in one piece. 



I really am glad we took the time to explore down stream and enjoy the fall colors.  We were thinking of hitting a trail on the way home instead.  But we would have missed having the river to ourselves and being able to enjoy those lasting fall colors.  If you go bring a few quarters to feed the fish in the pond. It is fun to see all those fish swarm to the food.