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West Coast (Part 2): Crater Lake

The Pacific Northwest is known for a few things. One of those things is the scenery, hence all of the photos. Another is beer! When we last left off, we were just leaving the magical hide-and-seek Mt. Rainier (if you missed part one you can check it out HERE). The next couple of days involved driving down into Oregon and drinking some great beer. We stopped in Portland for a full day and hit up some other, smaller places along the way too.

When it was time to start heading back to the photography our destination was Crater Lake. To be honest, I "discovered" Crater Lake on the Facebook. One of the amazing things about this country is that it's so big and there are so many beautiful things that something as special as the deepest, clearest lake in the country can essentially hide out. Crater Lake sits nestled in the Cascades of eastern Oregon and gets its name from the fact that the lake sits in the caldera of a collapsed ancient volcano. It is truly a special sight, more vast than you can imagine and definitely worth a trip.

I always try to travel with a Delorme road atlas and again, like so many times in the past, it served me well. These atlases are for a single state and are incredibly detailed. Some of my best photographs have come from road tripping with my atlas, seeing a crazy dirt road going off into the distance on the map and then following said road just for fun. This is basically what happened here. We set out for the lake early in the day so we had plenty of time to get there before sunset, my buddy Chad was driving and I was looking at the map when I spotted Toketee Falls. I looked at him and asked if he wanted to check it out. Chad gave his customary shrug and "it don't matter..." so we set course for the falls not really knowing what to expect. After a short hike down a very well maintained trail we got to a viewing platform and this is what we saw...

Toketee Falls, Oregon

Toketee Falls, Oregon

Toketee Falls, Oregon

We stuck to the viewing platform for this trip, but when Googling the falls a little later there were definitely some angles that would be impossible to get from the trail. There must be some way down to river but we weren't willing to figure it out that day. I would love to do some more exploring around there though, and try to get a really unique shot of these falls.

We got back in the car and once again set our sights on Crater Lake when I stuck my nose back into the map and found another waterfall listed. Shrug, "it don't matter," Clearwater Falls was our destination. Once again this little detour did not disappoint.

Clearwater Falls, Oregon

Clearwater Falls, Oregon

We got back in the car one more time and set our sights on Crater Lake for the final time. When we got there it was a bit windy and even though it was August, at around 7000 feet above sea level, it was a little chilly. We bundled up a bit and then hit the trail climbing to the Watchman Overlook nestled in the rocks a lofty 8000 feet above sea level and nearly 2000 feet above the surface of the lake. I want to put this in perspective for you so you can get a sense of the scale of this place when I now tell you that even with a 24mm lens (that is decently wide for you non-photographers) I couldn't capture the entire lake. This place is huge. Down below when you see a shot of the whole lake, that is a panorama stitched together from either 2 or 4 individual shots.

Watchman Overlook, Crater Lake, Oregon

Watchman Overlook, Crater Lake, Oregon

Watchman Overlook, Crater Lake, Oregon

Looking back west from the Watchman Overlook

Watchman Overlook, Crater Lake, Oregon

As night fell, we got ourselves together, scraped some dinner together and drove to the other side of the crater rim to set ourselves up for the morning. As we were driving, we noticed the absolutely incredible amount of stars. Even with a nearly full moon, we were so far from any cities that the sky was incredibly dark. When we got to the place we wanted to park and got out, we were treated with one of the most amazing skies I have ever seen. The kicker for me was the perfectly timed clouds that moved in front of the moon just as it was setting behind the crater rim. With my ultra-wide 14mm lens strapped on, I was able to capture one of my favorite photographs of all time as well as some others that aren't too shabby if I do say so myself.

Milky Way Moonset

After what both of us thought was a successful night of shooting, and after the main stem of the Milky Way had dipped behind the crater rim, we settled in for sleep. The next morning sunrise was pretty disappointing. The sky didn't really do much for us but such is the life of a photographer. With the totally unexpected win from the previous night, I can't really complain. Driving through the park one last time I was able to snap off one more shot of the lake and Wizard Mountain sticking its head up from the surface before we hit the road, heading back to the coast, California, and more beer.

Until the next time,


As always, if you are interested in the conclusion of this series as well as any of my future posts subscribe below. I'll send out an email letting you know when new posts are up and that's it. No spam, I promise.

If you liked any of these shots and are interested in making a purchase you can find almost all of the photos from my blog posts HERE.


Camera - Nikon D3

Lenses - Nikkor 24-70 f2.8, ProOptic 14mm f2.8

Tripod - Slik

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