Are We There Yet? (Part 3)

Lighthouse on the Rocks

Lighthouse on the Rocks

You’re probably wondering if this trip is ever going to end.  Dad’s epic photo adventure through Northern California, Oregon and Washington state lasted six weeks.  Up and down the mountains, to the coast and over the river the little Mouse House (the folks’ Casita) rolled.  Today we’ll explore Oregon and Washington’s treasures before heading home to Texas.  (Yes, Jimmy we’re almost there!)

The Umpqua River Lighthouse stands on a bluff near the Umpqua River on Winchester Bay in Oregon.    It’s surrounded by a caretaker’s house, other buildings and a black fence.  It’s really not all that picturesque, but it has an interesting history.

The first lighthouse was built on the sandy banks of the river in 1857.  Apparently no one realized the river flooded during gales and when heavy storms hit the mountains.  The foundation gradually wore away until the whole thing collapsed in 1864 while the workers were taking apart the iron lantern room.  The workers barely escaped with their lives.

The Lighthouse Board wised up and built the next lighthouse on the bluff in 1894. It stands 64’ tall and still uses the original Fresnel lens that provides both red and white flashes of light.  At one point the lighthouse was an active Coast Guard station, but it’s now run by the Douglas County Parks Department.

Fascinating.  But it didn’t change the fact that the lighthouse lacked a certain photographic punch that Dad wanted.  However, he had an image in mind.  He just had to capture the pieces and then he could put them together in Photoshop. 

First, he eliminated as many of the buildings as he could and the fence surrounding the lighthouse by leaning over the fence and shooting low with a wide-angle lens.  This gave the lighthouse a looming quality because wide-angle lenses distort straight lines.  This distortion is neither good nor bad.  It just depends on the photographer’s intensions.  

In this case, Dad liked the distortion created by the wide angle.  You’ll see the base of the lighthouse seems to be quite large in relationship to the top of the lighthouse.  Those lines draw your eye into the photo.

Dad also photographed some interesting rocks in the area.  As he said, “They forgot to build the lighthouse on top of rocks that looked cool, so I helped them out.”

He already had a blue sky at home in his photo stockpile, so he was able to merge the three pictures together to produce his unique interpretation of Umpqua Lighthouse.

Photo Lesson:  Sometimes it’s necessary to eliminate background objects that can ruin your photo.  You can do that while photographing or in Photoshop.  Here Dad worked to find an angle and a lens that would cut the “noise” so the lighthouse “popped” out of the photo.  He then used Photoshop to create a rock base and add a blue sky to further enhance the image.

To plan your visit to the lighthouse visit  .

Haystack Rock, Canon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Sunset

Haystack Sunset

After leaving the lighthouse, the Mouse House rolled on to a very famous West Coast icon, Haystack Rock at Canon Beach.  This monolithic rock sticks up 235’ above the water and serves as a home to nesting sea birds as well inspiration for artists.

At low tide you can actually walk out to the rock, although climbing the rock is forbidden.  Dad photographed in the morning as well as at sunset. That’s when things got interesting.

Dad was mulling over his recent sunset photo as he was walking back to his van when he suddenly noticed a big dog running toward him.  It wasn’t on a leash.  The closer it got, the bigger the Doberman looked.  

Dad stopped in his tracks when it became apparent that the owners had no control over the animal whose focus was locked on to Dad like a heat-seeking missile.  Quickly taking stock of his gear, Dad formulated a plan to whack the dog with his Gitzo tripod.  Yup.  That should do it if things got ugly.

Right about that time the Doberman noticed a couple walking their small dog near Dad.  The Doberman was torn.  Camera guy or little dog?  Camera guy or little dog?  Hmmm…

Thankfully we’ll never know which one the dog would have chosen because his absentee owners finally caught him and put him on a leash.  It looked like Dad and his photo were saved at the last moment.

Photo Lesson:  Always be aware of what’s happening around you.  While it’s important to focus on the details of taking your pictures, you never know when a rampaging dog or other animal may take an unusual interest in you.  In a pinch your photo gear can double as a weapon.

To learn more about this classic sea stack at Canon Beach (minus the Doberman) visit //

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge



The next stop on the epic photo journey held great promise.  Dad hoped to find hundreds of wintering waterfowl like ducks, geese, swans and cranes in the 5,300 acre Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge near Ridgefield, Washington.   

Alas, the birds had flown the coop about a week earlier.  Timing really is everything with wild animals.  By timing, I mean the wild animals keep their own schedule.  Even though they were supposed to hang around a week or two longer, they decided to check out early.  Despite that disappointment, Dad gave it his best shot.  He spent several days combing the refuge looking for pictures.  

One day he found mom and dad geese with their goslings out on the water, but he couldn’t get close enough even with the equivalent of a 800mm lens. Canoeing is not allowed at the refuge, so even with a super long lens photographing waterfowl would be challenging.  

Dad did see several hawks and a bunch of nutras eating along the shores.  Sometimes everything comes together to give you an easy shot.  Other days nothing works out.  It was cold, rainy and he was having trouble finding clean shots to showcase the birds and animals.  If he’d had more time at the refuge, perhaps he would have found those winning shots.

Photo Lesson:  Some things sound better on paper than in reality.  This refuge probably has plenty of wintering birds, but Dad missed them by about a week.  There’s no way to really know if a location will work photographically without checking it out in person.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you loose.

You can find out more about Ridgefield at .

Waterfalls Galore

Multnomah Waterfall

Multnomah Waterfall

Heading east, the folks traveled along the historic Columbia River Highway, a part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.  This road is loaded with waterfalls.  The first stop was Multnomah Falls, a mere 611’ foot drop from the top to the bottom.

Unlike many waterfalls, this puppy runs year round thanks to underground springs at Larch Mountain.  Because it’s easy to access and always flowing this is a busy, busy scenic point.  Another challenge is the Benson Bridge that runs smack dab in the middle of the falls (photographically speaking).    In order to show both tiers of the falls, you have to include the bridge, well at least until you decide to Photoshop it out of the picture if you are so inclined.

Horsetail Waterfall

Horsetail Waterfall

Not too far down the road is Horsetail Falls, not to be confused with the falls from last week of the same name.  This Horsetail Falls is 176’ tall and not nearly as crowded as Multnomah.  Photography is much easier here.

These two waterfall photographs are nice, but Dad really took them for their “parts”.  As I mentioned at the lighthouse, Dad used his stockpile of parts to create his own version of Umpqua.  You just never know where these waterfalls might turn up next. 

Photo Lesson:  Always keep your eyes open for photo “parts”.  Dad will often take pictures of things like skies, waterfalls and forests.  Alone the pictures may not be so impressive.  But he uses them to create fantastical photo illustrations.  

To learn more about the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area visit  .

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  After six weeks of memorable West coast adventures, the Mouse House headed back toward Texas, dodging torrential rainstorms, bouncing over some really awful roads and finally arriving back in time for Dallas’ rush hour.  Yup.  Vacation was over.  

Just to make sure the folks knew the vacation really was over they returned to grass over 3’ tall in the backyard, a burned out TV (literally) and a Mac that refused to work when Dad wanted to download all those photos from the trip.  It was enough to make them look forward to the next trip and ask “Are we there yet?”