“Morning Elegance”, Sparks Lake and South Sister
Otters cavort and Eagles alight
South Sister with a foreground of Western Columbine seen from Central Oregon’s iconic Sparks Lake. Central Oregon’s beloved Sparks Lake is adjacent to Mt. Bachelor, South Sister and Broken Top Mountain, offering sweeping Mountain views from its placid shores. Located just 25 minutes from Bend, Oregon, Sparks is the city’s most convenient recreational lake. While paddling is popular at Sparks Lake, it is a shallow lake with a maximum depth of 7ft and is quickly evolving into an alpine meadow.
Sparks Lake, the fine art photograph
This gorgeous fine art photograph of Sparks Lake was captured from an island within the lake. A pre-dawn paddle to the island preceded my photographic efforts that morning. I had visualized the composition I wanted years before and had made countless scouting trips to Sparks with this fine art print in mind. A windless morning, affording an elegant reflection of South Sister was mandatory. I had been tracking the maturity of the bold and intricate Western Columbine from afar( special thanks to Swarovski, the manufacturers of my favorite binoculars!) and knew their bloom was peaking. As fortune would have it, Peak bloom of the columbine was forecasted to coincide with a calm, windless morning.
While enjoying the pre-dawn paddle to the island I was serenaded by songbirds and waterfowl and the only movements on the Lake’s surface were created by my ancient sea kayak. Conditions for fine art photography were excellent. I composed the scene with my trusty 4×5 film camera, which offers ancient technology but magical, high resolution results. This seemingly simple scene required some refined focusing techniques involving tilts and shifts of my lens plane in order to get the salient elements precisely focused. Small errors in composition lead to huge deficiencies in large fine are prints, making technical perfection critical in my photographic process. All this technicality is time consuming.
The morning was sublime and the photographic conditions were stunning with a mirror-flat Lake surface and motionless Western Columbine in my composition, Until….the splashing started. Uggggghhhh! Sparks’ mirror-flat surface was disrupted by periodic playful plunging. I visualized a labrador retriever and its owner enjoying a very early morning game of lakeside fetch. I was stymied. The composition of my image was being ruined and the elegant light would soon fade. I stumbled to the opposite side of the island to find the offending Labrador retriever and its owner, to no avail. I only found the wavy surface of Sparks Lake. Frustrated, I waited, not knowing what I’d do, perhaps buy them a coffee and a bone if they would stop fetching for 15 minutes. Moments later, a very large River Otter emerged from beneath the lake’s surface, right at my feet! I was startled, the Otter was startled, I leaped back in fear, the Otter swam away in disgust and moments later the Mirror-flat surface of Sparks had returned! I had achieved my peak heart rate for the day and my wishes had been granted!
I immensely enjoyed photographing this scene and eventually realized I had adequately captured what I was after and I began to pack up my camera gear. While I packed, a big Bald Eagle swooped into the scene and landed at the top of the tallest tree in the image you see here. I nearly panicked with excitement! My large format camera system is big, bulky, and very slow to focus, making it exceptionally inefficient for capturing fast moving wildlife. I decided to go for it. I very quickly re-composed the scene precisely as I had earlier that morning, stopped my aperture, dialed in my exposure time, inserted a film holder with my last unexposed sheet of 4×5 film and frantically depressed my shutter release triggering an agonizingly long whirring noise. The Bald Eagle immediately flew away….had I gotten the shot? A flying eagle would register as a blur on my transparencies . I didn’t know for sure. Regardless it had been a glorious morning shooting. I waited for over a week before my processed film returned to me and I GOT THE SHOT! One exposure with an impatient eagle and I got the shot. I was and am still thrilled! In the larger prints of this image, a handsome Bald Eagle is clearly visible at its momentary perch at atop the tallest tree in this elegant scene!
“Morning Elegance” , like many of my best selling fine art prints, is a culmination of countless scouting trips, seasonal timing, weather patterns, technical photographic precision, and sometimes….. good fortune!