June 2022

“Lost and Found”

The first Milky Way photo of 2022, taken at Lost Lake in early June.


THE PREAMBLE

Faithful readers of these monthly moments know all too well how much Sophie and I have struggled to get out and shoot this year.  Between the joys and stresses of moving into our first home together, what seems to be an eternal spring here in the PNW fraught with perpetual rain, high gas prices, and the need to build out our website into a sustainable source of income, motivation to load up the van and go capture some new landscapes has been lacking.

Now, what is worth mentioning is that we have a folder full of places we want to go and shots we want to get, but the forecasts have been wretched more often than not and our calendars have been a bit full.  

On Sunday, the first weekend of June, we were about to go to bed when I happened to check the forecast for tomorrow and noticed it was expected to be clear at night for the first time in months.  Intrigued, I checked to see if the Mt Hood region had a similar prediction; it did!

There was one particular shot I have had in mind for years, but it required a spring Milky Way shoot.  Annoyingly, the weather in spring is unpredictable at best, and the snowfall at this elevation tends to be problematic.  But there was one clear night surrounded by another week of gloom.  It was maybe a bit late for the shot, but should be fine…. One last thing to check, the moon cycle.  

You see, the lunar light is absolutely stunning to shoot with when it is in the right location and small enough.  The trouble with large moons is that they wash out the stars and Milky Way and often over-expose the foreground.  Some of our full moon photos have even been mistaken for daytime composites due to how bright they are, with many viewers unaware of how cameras collect light different from human eyeballs.  

The moon was 40%… we had never shot Milky Way with more than 30% or so, so this was pushing it a bit.  However, we thought back to one of our favorite photos at a similar snowy-mountain scene which we had shot at a similar time and managed to get something we loved.  Also, it was going to be on the opposite side of the sky, which would help quite a bit.. maybe we should just give it a try and learn from the experience?  Maybe new skills and tools would allow us to get a shot we would have been unable to 5 years ago the last time we tried something like this at Mt Cook in New Zealand…?

Perhaps most importantly, it had felt like we had done nothing but cite the reasons NOT to load up the car and chase a moment lately.  We were becoming too content with routines and safe plays, and a fear of stagnation and missing out played a strong part in our last-minute, midnight decision.

Tomorrow, we’re loading up the car and heading out into the Mt Hood wilderness.

THE STORY

Knowing it would be a late night of shooting, we allowed ourselves to sleep in a little.  This was going to be Sophie’s maiden voyage with the camper I had converted about 18 months ago and had only recently gotten back into working order.  Even I had only been able to take it on two short camping trips before winning the Michelob contest and it had been over a year since I had used it for this purpose.

It took some time to load up everything we needed.  There was a lot of camping equipment that had to be pulled out, camera gear that had to be charged and packed, and several different clothing options to deal with the warm and cold climates we would be experiencing.  Then there’s bedding, cookware, and all the little things.

By the time we got out, it was about 1pm.  We drove straight out to the forest, expecting to stop more along the way but never once seeing the mountain along the drive.  The morning was cloudy but supposed to clear up by now!

While the rest of the sky slowly conquered its cloudy oppressor,  a stubborn layer maintained its strangle hold on Mt Hood.

We began to get discouraged after several hours.  It seemed the forecast was going to be both right and wrong; “mostly clear” doesn’t mean “completely clear”, and it just so happened that the thing we had come to shoot might be the one place that remained hidden.

We debated cutting our losses and going home.  We had no service here nor WiFi access to check weather maps and see if something had changed.  It felt like a waste of time that could be spent more productively than sitting on a picnic bench staring at nothing.

A bit of hope came with the evening golden hour.  We began to catch our first fleeting glimpses of the peak of Mt Hood.  Most of the mountain was still covered, but every now and then a window in the clouds would reveal our prize.  All we needed was one moment tonight to get the shot – maybe it would give us that?

Sunset was a bust but things looked to be improving as night fell.  Finally, around 11:30pm right as Astronomical Twilight ended and true night began, we looked out at a completely calm lake with the majestic Mt Hood towering before us.  It had all been worth it!

The 40% moon proved to be a wonderful thing.  While a 20-30% would have certainly been preferable, the lunar light reflecting off the snow of the mountain was absolutely magical.  Sophie and I mindfully acknowledged how nice it was to be out shooting the stars again and how this moment made it all worth it.  

After waiting almost 8 hours for this moment, we were done in about 10 minutes.  Often you just keep shooting to see what else you can get, but we didn’t need to this time – we knew we had it.

Elated, we went back to the car and drove down the road where we found a place to park up and sleep for the night, falling into slumber with two Cheshire smiles.

THE AFTERTHOUGHTS

The forecast for the following morning held true.  We woke to a beautiful, sunny day with the Mt Hood forest alive and singing.  We spent the morning exploring “the fruit loop,” so named for the numerous vineyards and orchards in the region built at the base of the mountain.  It was a morning of sampling locally grown and produced ciders with unbeatable views.

After scouting the area thoroughly for future photoshoots, we finally returned home.  It felt like some small weight had been lifted; an itch had been scratched.  We went back to work feeling balanced and whole again.

Sophie and I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how things are finally starting to feel “right.”  For the first time since meeting, we feel like there is some harmony in our days. 

As the saying goes, “all things in moderation” and finally it felt like we had some.  In the past week, we had spent a few nights together fully present in each others’ company, but also had a couple nights playing board games and sports with friends.  We had formed new friendships, strengthened old ones, worked hard, and taken time off.  And now, we had had our first photography adventure here at home.

FEATURED PHOTOS

Click on any of the images in the gallery below to showcase the featured photos for June in full-screen mode.

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RELATED GUIDES

We have created a ton of guides to Oregon and the PNW. Whether you are a local or planning a visit, you may want to bookmark some of our top guides:

ANNOUNCEMENTS

We have one massive, exciting announcement to make this month: on June 8, Sophie finally received her Green Card in the mail!!

Like everything else in this process, this required more effort than it ever should have. After receiving official approval during our immigration interview, a month went by with no updates. Only upon contacting the state senator’s office for the second time did we finally receive any update. A formal inquiry was made on our behalf and a day later, the status was updated to approved and the card was mailed.

It is horrible that this is what it takes to allow two people to share a life in this country, and while this is a massive day for us, it is not over. In 2 years, we will have more proceedings to go through. But, for now, we are once again allowed to travel and explore this beautiful world and Sophie is finally able to come and go as she likes.

In other words, I feel an international trip may be in our immediate future!

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WE TRULY HOPE YOU’VE ENJOYED A BEHIND-THE-SCENES, GENUINE LOOK AT THE LIFE OF TWO FULL-TIME TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHERS.

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