Star photography on Mt Hood, March of 2013 retro-blog

One of my 2014 resolutions is to do more blogging about my night photography, so I’m going to get an early jump and coin a new (to me, anyway) term: retro-blogging!

The night in question? March 3, 2013. Gary Weathers and I charged the camera batteries, layered up, and strapped on some snowshoes for a sunset-to-night hike in the Mt Hood National Forest. The purpose? Some night photography of Mt Hood.

I had night hiked to Mirror Lake before, but I had always wanted to keep charging up the ridge by Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain (also known as TDH). This adds in about another 900 feet of elevation gain (making the total elevation gain 1,700 feet). But it also adds in nearly unequaled views of Mt Hood, with Mirror Lake below.

The hike wasn’t too intense, although the elevation gain was enough to cause me to start peeling layers in an attempt to avoid sweating too much. A late start (as a result of having to park about a mile away from the trailhead) meant that we were about to miss sunset, so we paused halfway up the ridge for some photos. The skies were a little too “clean” (free of clouds) for our liking, but the soft contours of untracked snow made some interesting leading lines in the foreground.

Mt Hood in the snow, at sunset.

A sunset shot on the way up. 14mm, 1/15 sec, ISO 100, aperture unrecorded

After our break, we re-packed our gear and continued up the hill. As soon as the sun set, the temperatures dropped noticeably, and the wind at the top of the ridge almost instantly froze the sweat on my skin. A thin veil of haze moved into the valley, softening the landscape. This haze was one of two endless sources of frustration for Gary and I–the second being the extraordinarily bright lights all over the mountain, which were even more obnoxious when reflected in the haze.

We spent about three and a half hours at the top of the ridge, freezing, trekking dangerously close to cornices, exploring different compositions, and waiting for the haze to clear. We had clearer moments, for sure, but it never did really lift. Lamenting our fates, we headed back down the mountain, pretty sure that we hadn’t gotten anything really usable that night.

A snowy shot of Mt Hood at night, with stars above.

Exploring the ridge, near TDH. 14 mm, 30 sec, ISO 3200, aperture unrecorded

I pose for a photo at night with Mt Hood in the background.

Gary helped me light a selfie before we headed back down. Before you make fun of the look on my face, you should try posing for a photo for 30 seconds WHILE NOT MOVING. 14mm, 30 sec, ISO 1600, aperture unrecorded, lit by Gary Weathers with a flashlight

The words "Mt Hood" are light painted at night, with Mt Hood in the background

What mountain is this again? Oh okay, now I remember. 14mm, 30 sec, ISO 1600, aperture unrecorded

On the way back down, we stopped mid-way, at the same point we had stopped on the way up. For some reason, the air seemed to have cleared slightly. We found a couple of small trees, half-buried in the snow (we had both photographed them on the way up), and we took several minutes to shoot photos. I liked the way the light pollution played on the frost in the trees, but I had a terrible time working with the ambient lighting. The lights from Government Camp lit the hillside almost to daylight, and nearly all of my photos from this spot were ruined by unfixable lens flare (one of the problems with shooting with an ultra-wide lens). In fact, only one was usable.

Light pollution domes over the city of Portland, Oregon at night.

This is looking back at Portland. You can see our trail heading up the ridge. You also get a good idea of just how much light pollution the city puts off. 14mm, 30 sec, ISO 4000, aperture unrecorded

A snowy Mt Hood sits with stars above it.

My only “clean” shot of the mountain from this spot. 14mm, 30 sec, ISO 3200, aperture unrecorded

This was my least favorite of the five images I submitted to The World at Night’s (TWAN’s) Earth and Sky Photo Contest, and it was the one that did the best. Go figure.

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