The Story Behind The Photo – Mt. Hood

I got some great feedback from the photo I posted the other week with the Nikon 18-35mm lens, so I thought I’d talk a little about the story behind the photo.

On my last trip out west, I knew I’d be near Portland, OR. I love that area so I’m always looking for places to photograph, and I made sure to plan my trip with enough time to shoot a sunset. I jumped on and started searching. One of the places that came up in the search was called Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain. I really liked the photos I saw of the area so I set my sights on getting there.

I found a hiking website that showed how to get to the top. It was about 6 miles round trip. It looked like it would take about 2 hours to get up there and the site even had pictures of key areas to look for when you were hiking up.
Recap: It ended up taking me just over 90 minutes to get to the top. And I was moving at a good pace the entire time. So if you ever get out that way, adjust accordingly. Coming down took about 60 minutes in the dark.

The Equipment and Camera Settings
I knew I was hiking a long distance, and I knew I was mostly going to be shooting with a wide angle lens. So I didn’t bring much gear.

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 18-35mm
Aperture: f/16
Shutter Speed:
ISO: 400
Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-33
Ballhead: Really Right Stuff BH-55

Who Turned On The Heat?!
On a side note, when I landed that day my rental car thermometer read 101 degrees. It felt like an oven (and I’m from Florida!). But as I drove up the mountain to the trail head, it cooled down into the low 90′s so it wasn’t too bad. Still hot though.

Starting Out
Sunset was around 9pm. I wanted to give myself two hours to get there, and of course time to set up and walk around, so I set out at the trail head at 6pm. There’s a parking lot at the trailhead, and it’s pretty well marked (you do need a pass though).


The trail was fairly simple at first. The first 10-15 minutes winds through the forest and there’s some nice little streams and waterfalls to shoot if you have the time. Then you move to an area where the trail switchbacks and zig-zags back and forth up the mountain for another 15-20 minutes. Along the way, I saw lots of people coming down but I was the only one heading up. After about 30-40 minutes you come to Reflections Lake which is actually a great shooting location by itself.

(Here’s a few iPhone photos)


Once you pass the lake, you start up the trail again. There were some absolutely beautiful views of Mt. Hood along the way.

(iPhone photo I took really quick)

It’s hard not to stop and just stare at it for a while. Wait… who am I kidding?… it wasn’t hard at all. By that point I was ready for a break so I stopped and grabbed my water bottle for a drink. Speaking of water… by this point I looked like I jumped in the lake as I passed by it. Little known fact about me (that probably should remain little known), is that I sweat a lot. Just put me outside in the heat and I’ll be soaked in 10 minutes, even if I’m not moving. I exercise a lot, so I wasn’t even winded by this point, but you’d never know from looking at me. All I can say is “dry-fit” my a$$!!! ;)



Anyway, after about 90 minutes I finally hit the summit. It was at the very moment I walked across the top of the rocks and felt the cool wind, that I was thankful I brought a jacket with me… sadly that jacket was sitting in the passenger seat in my car because, and I quote myself, “there’s no way it would have ever be cold enough to need it” :-) It was a beautiful view though. You could see every mountain in the area off in the distance which made it even better.

I had about 30 minutes before sunset. While battling some bugs that were the size of a small bird, I walked around a bit and started looking for for the place I wanted to be when the sun went down.

The Sunset Spot
I almost immediately found the spot I wanted to shoot the sunset at. Because the view in front of me was so wide, I always look for a foreground object of some sort to place in front. This helps put the viewer in the place that I was in, and let’s them see the entire scene as I saw it. The spot I found was this small bush with a few flowers near it. So I set my tripod down and starting composing the photo to include both the bush in the foreground, as well as Mt. Hood in the background.

(click to see the photo larger)

Dealing With The Wind
One thing that was different here, was that the wind was blowing a bit and the flowers kept moving during the exposure. Since I wanted to keep my aperture at f/16, the only way to make the shutter speed faster was to increase the ISO. So I moved it up from 100 to 400 and was able to get a shutter speed fast enough to capture the flowers so they weren’t blurry.

One Last Thing…Turn Around!
As I’m sure many of you have learned in your own photography, turn around. Just when you think the shoot is over, you turn around and see this. I did have my Nikon 28-300 with me. So I put it on, zoomed out to 300mm and capture this photo. It’s not winning me any awards, but I’m a total sucker for clouds and sun beams and when I saw this I couldn’t resist.


Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good one!

  • Ginny T

    Gorgeous shots and I disagree that the last one wouldn’t win any awards – I’d vote for it. I like the “real” shot, too, though! It is helpful to hear what gear you use and the problems you come across, like the wind blowing the flower. Fun story, I felt like I was right there.

  • benstephens

    Thanks for the story, you need a copy writer. I only caught one error – not too bad.

    • Matt Kloskowski

      Why do I need a copy editor if you only caught 1 error. Dude, that’s my best post yet if there’s only 1 error ;-)

      • A.G. Photography


    • A.G. Photography

      Then for sure don’t visit my blog…mine needs a team of editors…LOLOL

  • Ginny T

    Question: where did you focus in the shot? Did you use “live view”? Any links to info on how and why to use that? I’ve played with it but found it frustrating and not helpful but I’m sure I’m doing it wrong.

    • Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Ginny – I focussed just past the bush up front. However, I did some other techniques on some other versions of the photo that I’ll share as soon as I can put it together. And yes, I use “live view”. Its tricky but it works when you get used to it. I’ll write up something on that as well.


      • Ginny T

        Thank you, I’ll be looking forward to the posts when you get the chance.

  • Catherine Martin

    Totally loved reading this Matt. Loved both of those last two photos. Thanks for taking us on the journey!

  • jcruzfotodotcom

    Thanks for sharing Matt! It’s comforting to hear that even fit people sweat. There’s a spot in my pack reserved for an extra shirt. It doubles as an extra layer in case it gets chilly. If you’re ever in my neck of the woods (Alberta Rockies) let me know, would love to go shooting with you.

  • A.G. Photography

    Was it scary at night when you went back? how come you didn’t stay there to get a sky shot after dark?

    • Matt Kloskowski

      It was dark. Only about 25% moon that night so I was definitely glad I had my headlamp. I didn’t stay past dark for star photos because 1) the milky way wasn’t in the right place and that’s really my favorite night sky to photography and 2) it was late. I was still on East Coast time and I knew I had to get down in the dark. At least by leaving right after sunset I still had a little light for part of the way going down the trail.

      • A.G. Photography

        Ohh….Were you alone? Was that a marked trail, or was it pure wilderness?

        Any animal encounters?

        • Matt Kloskowski

          I was alone, though some one at my hotel knew where I was going and that I would check back with them by a certain time. The trail was marked too. Not really treacherous either – demanding, but as long as you stayed on the trail (which wasn’t hard to do), you were safe.
          The trail also passes a campsite along the way so you’re not out there alone.
          No animal encounters. Though when you’re walking through the forest in the dark you do get this feeling that you’re being stalked. I’d stop every now and then and turn off my headlamp once the light was totally gone, and it was pretty much total darkness. If I didn’t have the light with me I’d have been in big trouble (or I would have had to borrow one from one of the campsites when I got closer) :-)

          • A.G. Photography

            “Though when you’re walking through the forest in the dark you do get this feeling that you’re being stalked.”

            That was what I was referring to…That’s exactly why I asked….I got that feeling once when we were going on a ferry between Sicily and Mainland because it was late at night, and you couldn’t see anything around…except a bit of the moon coming from the clouds here and there…very eery feeling…

  • smilingmike

    Hi Matt. Enjoying the blog. You’ve mentioned a few times about using to scout out locations. Can you explain how what search terms you use to find a location–are you just putting in a city? Or are you more specific? I’m guessing you didn’t know the name “Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain.”

    I’m going to the Netherlands, and would love a way to seek out good photo ops. Many thanks.

  • John Havord

    Matt, have you ever used or considered using, the wireless mobile adapter (wu-1b) to help with the setting up / composition, rather than using liveview?

  • Dennis Zito

    Hi Matt,

    Excellent post as always! Man that must have been scary coming down the trail at night! I read a post below where you mentioned you shot this with Live View. Was there enough light to see to focus? That must have been tricky. Did you have a flash light or something? Anyway, nice job on the Photos … Great Photos for the effort!


    • Matt Kloskowski

      Thanks Dennis – wasn’t too scary – knowing that there were people camping nearby and knowing that the trail was easily marked so I wouldn’t get lost helped a lot. I’m very careful that way. I would never have embarked on it had I not been sure where to go and that civilization was nearby. Even had I been caught out there for the night, the weather wasn’t threatening, nor were the conditions.
      As for live view, yes there was plenty of light. I took the photo while the sun was still up so it would cast light on the mountain. So there was no problem focussing. But yes, I did have a flash light (actually 3, just in case) :)

  • DaniLew

    Great story, Matt, and awesome Mt. Hood image. I definitely loved the “turn around” image as well. TMI on a sweaty you but I hope the Dri-Fit people see this post.

  • gerry slater

    Hey Matt..Would you consider doing a course or an article reviewing the best apps for iPhone pics. There seems to be a ton of photography apps, and I am sure they run the gamut of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I love my Nikon D7100, Lightroom 5, and Photoshop CS6, and I am just starting to use my iPhone5 for pics. I have to guess that there are a lot more people out there with my question. Thanks for all your great teaching.

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